The Message In Your Misfortunes

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts

Recently, in preparing the content for one of the chapters of the study guide I’m writing for my book, The God I Won’t Believe In: Facing Nine Common Barriers to Embracing Christianity, I came across this quote from Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

Justice Roberts was asked to give the commencement speech for his son’s graduating class, but the speech he gave was different than the advice and platitudes commonly given at such events. Rather than wishing them good luck, he essentially told them that he wished they would experience hardship, because of the important things which can only be learned through these experiences.

Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why.

From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted.

I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time,

I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.

Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

What John Roberts says here is true. Some of the most formative moments in my life have been as a result of experiencing pain and hurt from other people. Sometimes we develop our most deeply held convictions and values as a result of negative experiences.

In ministry, I know that some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been from negative examples and experiences, which I then determined not to replicate or perpetuate.

Sometimes we learn to treat people well, as a result of being treating poorly and realizing that it isn’t right.

If we are able to turn those negative experiences into positive lessons, rather than becoming bitter, it can be something that helps us grow more into the image of Christ.

This is why James is able to say: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

It’s why Paul is able to write that we, as Christians, rejoice not only in the hope of the glory of God, but we can also “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

May the pains things we experience in this life be used by God to shape us more into the image of Christ, to the glory of God, and may it better equip us to show the compassion and love of Christ to others.

Writing Update: Study Guide and New Book on the Way

Since my book, The God I Won’t Believe In: Facing Nine Common Barriers to Embracing Christianity came out in March of 2022, I have been encouraged and glad to hear from many people who say the book has been a helpful resource and an encouragement to them.

Several groups have told me that that they have used the book for group studies, for small groups at their church and for youth groups. One person told me about a lunchtime study group she started at her workplace using the book.

Study Guide Coming Soon

To help those who want to use the book for group studies, I am currently writing a Group Study Guide resource to be a companion to the book, and I’m doing it by teaching the youth group at our church, White Fields Community Church. I’ve had some great help in creating the content from some of the excellent leaders at White Fields.

When the guide comes out, each session will include a group activity, a synopsis, and several study questions which correspond to the content of each chapter. Additionally, we are planning to create a series of videos which can be watched along with the study guide, for groups to use.

That study guide should be coming out in early 2023.

New book in the works

Additionally, I am working on another book called, So That You May Believe, which will be based on the evidence given in the Gospel of John about who Jesus is, and why you should believe in him.

Since my first book was The God I Won’t Believe In, hopefully this next book will be a good follow-up or companion, showing people the evidence for who Jesus is and why he came, So That You May Believe.

I hope to be able to release that book by the end of 2023.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

What Is Your Soul, and How Can It Flourish?

In this week’s episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I speak with Dominic Done. We talk about what the Bible means when it talks about the “soul,” and what God’s vision is for how your soul can flourish.

Dominic is a pastor and author based out of Colorado Springs, where he leads a ministry called Pursuing Faith.

Dominic has served as Professor of Applied Theology at George Fox University, lead pastor of Westside: A Jesus Church in Portland, Oregon. He has a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of Oxford and is currently working on his PhD at the University of Oxford under Alister McGrath. 

He has written two books. His first book, When Faith Fails: Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt, addresses the topics of doubt and deconstruction. His latest book, Your Longing Has a Name: Come Alive to the Story You Were Made For, was just released in April of this year.

Dominic was recently a guest on Unbelievable? in which he debated with an atheist philosopher on the origin of virtues. 

For more information about the Calvary Global Network (CGN) conference taking place in Costa Mesa, CA from June 26-29, at which Dominic will be speaking, visit conference.calvarychapel.com

If you find this episode interesting or helpful, please share it with others and leave a rating and review on your podcast app, as that helps other people discover this podcast and its content.

Click here to listen to the episode, or listen in the embedded player below.

What is Your Soul and How Can It Flourish? – with Dominic Done Theology for the People

Dominic Done is a pastor and author based out of Colorado Springs, where he leads a ministry called Pursuing Faith. Dominic has served as Professor of Applied Theology at George Fox University, lead pastor of Westside: A Jesus Church in Portland, Oregon. He has a Master’s Degree in Theology from the University of Oxford and is currently working on his PhD at the University of Oxford under Alister McGrath.  He has written two books. His first book, When Faith Fails: Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt, addresses the topics of doubt and deconstruction. His latest book, Your Longing Has a Name: Come Alive to the Story You Were Made For, was just released this year. Dominic was recently a guest on Unbelievable? in which he debated with an atheist philosopher on the origin of virtues.  For more information about the Calvary Global Network (CGN) conference taking place in Costa Mesa, CA from June 26-29, at which Dominic will be speaking, visit conference.calvarychapel.com

The Purpose and Power of Fasting

In this week’s episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I speak with Conor Berry about the topic of fasting.

Conor is the Lead Pastor of Calvary Chapel Santa Maria on the Central Coast of California. 

Recently, a listener reached out to me asking if I had any resources on the topic of fasting. I remembered that, several years ago, I had picked up a book from a church book store titled, “A Hunger for God,” thinking that the title sounded like something I would be interested in – but when I got home I took a look at it and realized, much to my dismay, that it was a book about fasting! So, I left it on my bookshelf and never read it… until this week!

It isn’t that I was opposed to fasting. I have, and do, fast occasionally. It’s just that I assumed the book would be a downer, and would basically just tell me that I needed to fast more. Well, this week, in preparation for this episode, I read the whole book in one day, and actually loved it! Here’s a link to the book, if you’re interested in checking it out: A Hunger for God by John Piper

In this episode, Conor and I discuss what the Bible has to say about fasting; what is the purpose of fasting? How does it work? What is the relationship between fasting and prayer, and what is the “reward” of fasting mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 6:16?

We seek to answer these questions with consideration of how Christians throughout history have understood fasting, and finally, Conor gives some practical recommendations for people regarding the duration and regularity of fasting, as well as what to fast from.

The book Conor references in this episode is: Fasting by Scot McKnight (Ancient Practices Series)

And as a bonus, at the end of the episode, we give a recommendation for those looking for a church in Cork, Ireland.

If you find this episode interesting or helpful, please share it with others and leave a rating and review on your podcast app, as that helps other people discover this podcast and its content.

Click here to listen to the episode, or listen in the embedded player below.

The Purpose and Power of Fasting – with Conor Berry Theology for the People

Conor Berry is the Lead Pastor of Calvary Chapel Santa Maria on the Central Coast of California.  In this episode we discuss what the Bible has to say about fasting. What is the purpose of fasting? How does it work? What is the relationship between fasting and prayer, and what is the "reward" of fasting mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 6:16? We seek to answer these questions with consideration of how Christians throughout history have understood fasting, and by looking at a few modern resources as well. Books referenced in this episode: A Hunger for God by John Piper Fasting by Scot McKnight (Ancient Practices Series) If you find this episode interesting or helpful, please share it with others and leave a rating and review on your podcast app, as that helps other people discover this podcast and its content. Make sure to visit the Theology for the People blog at nickcady.org

Sin Makes You Weird

Several years ago, I remember talking with my pastor, Tom Stipe, and discussing something I had observed: Sin makes you weird, but walking with Jesus makes a person increasingly healthy and “normal.”

Who Defines What is “Weird”?

Some people might bristle at the terms “weird” and “normal,” wondering whose definition of “normal” we should use, but in this case I use it in the sense of the healthy standards for behavior and attitudes that are laid out in the Bible, and which have shaped global society in a pervasive way.

For more on that, see Tom Holland’s incredible book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World. Holland is not a “Christian author” per se; he is a historian who has spent most of his life studying history as relates to other topics, but he has admitted that his research for this book profoundly impacted his life and faith personally. I read it last year and would recommend it.

So, when I say “normal” in this sense, I am referring to virtues which are not only biblical, but which are affirmed by the majority of cultures worldwide. Things such as goodness, kindness, charity, graciousness, and the like – in contrast to abuse, usury, envy, pride, and so on.

Brain Scans

My conviction that “sin makes you weird” is not new to me, but it has been verified through the ever-increasing use of brain scans which show how certain behaviors affect brain activity.

One of the chief among these, and most reported on, is the use of illicit drugs, including marijuana, and pornography.

This article published by Inverse is just one of many on this topic which give empirical proof that pornography usage has negative effects on brain function and produces problematic behavior, as it changes the way a person thinks, views others, and relates to the world. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON PORN: Casual porn watching changes the brain a lot more than you’d think.

Do Other Sins Make You Weird? What’s the Solution?

I would venture to guess that other behaviors have similar affects on behavior, outlook, and the brain, such as lying, jealousy, and other attitudes and actions.

Here is a discussion I had with Pastor Michael, our Worship Pastor at White Fields Church about this topic, in a follow-up to a sermon from John 15:1-11 called Jesus Is: the True Vine.

In it, importantly, we talk about the solution to the problem, which is: abiding in Christ, which Jesus defines as living in abiding relationship with him, by obeying his commandments (John 15:10).

Here’s the video of that discussion:

Book Review: Jesus and John Wayne

Several months ago I read Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation.

I found the book to be an interesting history of some parts of American evangelicalism. I emphasize that the book is about some parts of American evangelicalism, because the author focuses her writing specifically on a particular corner of the evangelical Christian world: a particular subculture within American evangelicalism associated with Jerry Falwell, the Moral Majority, and militant masculinity. This part of evangelicalism has less to do with the core evangelical beliefs and convictions, and more to do with a culture propagated by certain people.

For this reason, while I found Kobes Du Mez to be an excellent writer, and found her book to be an entertaining read, I also found it incredibly frustrating because it feels that she paints evangelicalism with too broad of a brush, and in some cases she seems to misrepresent certain groups and events in an attempt to bolster her main thesis that Christianity in America has been coopted and altered by men, who have changed it into something it was never meant to be, namely: militaristic, and a tool for white male hegemony.

Not My Evangelicalism

Here’s the thing: Kobes Du Mez isn’t completely wrong in this thesis. However, it must be noted that her scope is very limited.

The fact is: evangelicalism is not monolithic. Evangelicalism is a movement which began in Germany in the 16th century, and is about restoring the place of the Bible to its rightful place of primacy in our theological method, and about “religion of the heart,” AKA: a personal relationship with God.

The word “evangelical” comes from the Greek word euangelion (gospel). An evangelical Christian is a “gospel Christian.”

This definition from Wikipedia is cobbled together from different sources, but accurately summarizes what evangelicalism is, and what its core values entail:

Evangelical Christianity is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel consists of the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, solely through faith in Jesus’ atonement. Evangelicals believe in the centrality of the “born again” experience in receiving salvation (see Jesus’ words in John 3:3), in the authority of the Bible as God’s revelation to humanity, and in spreading the Christian message.

It is important to note that Kobes Du Mez is a Christian, and admits that she herself would be categorized as an evangelical. What Kobes Du Mez takes issue with in this book is a particular subculture which developed within American evangelicalism. She rightly points out that many of the behaviors of those in this subculture differ from the teachings and heart of Jesus.

British evangelicalism, the setting in which I did my theological studies, embraces the core values listed above, without the cultural trappings of this particular corner of American evangelical subculture which Kobes Du Mez criticizes.

Furthermore, the particular churches I have been a part of in the United States have not aligned themselves with characters like Jerry Falwell, or many of the things which Kobes Du Mez talks about in her book. Part of the reason why I found the book interesting was because much of the what Kobes Du Mez talks about, which she portrays as normative for evangelical Christianity in the United States, was foreign to me and my experience.

I would challenge Kobes Du Mez to keep in mind the fact that evangelicalism is not an American phenomenon – neither in origin, nor in majority. Most evangelicals in the world are not American. Where anyone has created an aberrant form of Christianity, it should be called out. This applies to evangelicals, and it also applies to all other movements and groups. This is, actually, the heart of the Reformation, the adherents of which were the first to call themselves “evangelicals”!

Stretching It…

One of my biggest qualms with the book is the number of ways in which the author attempts to strengthen her point by using examples which may sound convincing to the untrained eye, but which are actually a bit misleading.

For example: Kobes Du Mez critiques evangelicals for using sports and military analogies to describe and explain Christianity. The problem with this critique is that the Bible itself uses military and sports analogies to describe the Christian faith! (See: Philippians 2:25, Philemon 1:2, 2 Timothy 2:3-4, 1 Corinthians 9:7, Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Timothy 2:5, and others)

Kobes Du Mez dedicates an entire chapter to the Promise Keepers movement of the 1990’s. She seems to only reluctantly admit that this evangelical movement contradicted her entire thesis about American evangelicalism, in that it emphasized servanthood, love, and kindness over militarism and dominance, and focused on racial reconciliation. At one point, in what seems like a desperate attempt to find something wrong with the Promise Keepers, Kobes Du Mez states that at the height of the Promise Keepers in the 1990’s, only about 10% of their members were African American. What she doesn’t point out is that, at the time, African Americans made up 12% of the US population. In other words, Promise Keepers’ membership closely resembled the ethnic makeup of the country at the time.

Additionally, Kobes Du Mez criticizes American evangelicalism for seeking to reach men with their messaging, by trying to show that following Jesus isn’t contrary to being masculine. Having spent over a decade in Europe, where many churches are small and made up mostly of elderly women and girls, I have to say that I don’t see anything wrong with seeking to reach men by showing them that following Jesus isn’t contrary to being masculine. I remember hearing from many men in Hungary that “religion is for women and the weak.” I don’t believe this is true at all, and countering this narrative is simply a form of apologetics and evangelism.

The author also claims that the focus on Jesus as a warrior is a uniquely American evangelical aberration of Christianity, and that it would be better to focus on other aspects of Jesus instead. Once again, the problem with this is that the Latin term and concept of Cristus Victor has a long history, predating the United States of America, and even the Protestant Reformation. Misguided militarism in the name of Christianity has cropped up at various times in history, such as the obvious example of the Crusades, and is not an American evangelical invention. Furthermore, the Bible itself, in both the Old and New Testaments, foretells the time of “the great and terrible Day of the Lord,” when God will come to wage war against those who do evil and oppress. This is not an American concept, it’s a biblical concept, and highlighting it is not an American novelty, but has much historic precedent.

A Question for the Author

My question for the author would be how much of her thesis is shaped by biblical concerns, and how much is shaped by current popular discourse in American culture?

Conclusion

In conclusion, I will say once again that I found the book to be an enjoyable read, in that it introduced me to a part of American evangelical subculture that I had only heard about from a distance, but with which I was not very familiar. I agree with many of the author’s critiques, and think they are necessary.

However, I would not encourage others to read this book, because I feel that too much of what Kobes Du Mez writes is potentially misleading in its tone, and what it seeks to imply. It’s not so much what she says, it’s what she leaves out, which I think makes the book unhelpful.

Most Popular Articles & Podcast Episodes of 2021

On this last day of 2021, it’s nice to stop and reflect on the past year. While many tragedies took place over the course of our last trip around the sun, there is much to celebrate and reason to give thanks for God’s faithfulness.

Rebranding & a Podcast

This year, prompted by my friends at the Goodlion Podcast Network, this blog was rebranded from The Longmont Pastor to Theology for the People. Along with that came the introduction of the Theology for the People podcast.

Increased Readership

Readership of this site grew this year by 130% to over 100,000 page views.

Top 10 Articles from 2021

  1. Remembering Tom Stipe
    • On December 30, 2020 – my pastor, Tom Stipe passed away. He is sorely missed, but he left behind a legacy which will bear fruit for generations to come, particularly here on the Front Range of Colorado.
  2. Will God Remove the Holy Spirit from a Person Because of Disobedience?
  3. Reader Questions: Why Was Eli Judged for the Sins of His Sons?
  4. Did Jesus Heal a Centurion’s Same-Sex Partner?
  5. Was Jesus Racist? Why Did He Call a Gentile Woman a Dog?
  6. Why Did Jesus Say that “No One Has Ascended Into Heaven?” Did He Forget About Elijah?
  7. Reformation Day: Martin Luther, the Bible, & the Gospel
  8. Kay Smith & Should a Church Have a “Women’s Ministry”?
    • Kay Smith, the wife of Pastor Chuck Smith (the leader of the Calvary Chapel movement) passed away this year. She left behind an incredible legacy.
  9. What Does It Mean to be “Born Again”?
  10. Bible Translations: Translation Philosophy, Textual Criticism, & Source Documents

Top 5 Podcast episodes from 2021

For this first season of the Theology for the People podcast, I published 35 episodes. Here are the top 5:

  1. Theological Method: Sources of Theology and Why People Arrive at Different Conclusions About Matters of Faith and the Bible
  2. The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 1 – Nicaea, Constantine, & Conspiracy Theories
  3. The Formation of the New Testament Canon: Part 2 – Recognition, Disputes & the Gospel of Thomas
  4. If “It’s All Gonna Burn” Then What’s the Point? – How the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Work & Art
  5. Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Roy Collins: Guidelines for Correctly Understanding & Faithfully Applying God’s Word

What to look forward to in 2022

  1. I will be publishing a book in the first quarter of 2022! It’s called I Could Never Believe in a God Who ______. More information to come soon!
  2. Season 2 of the Theology for the People podcast

Guidelines for Biblical Interpretation – with Dr. Roy Collins

This week on the Theology for the People Podcast, I sat down with Dr. Roy Collins, a recently retired professor of theology at Colorado Christian University (CCU).

Roy attends White Fields, the church I pastor, and he leads an adult Sunday School class which is studying through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM.

Prior to his retirement, Dr. Collins served as a pastor, consultant, and most recently as a professor at CCU, where he primarily taught Biblical Interpretation.

In this discussion, Roy gives some helpful book recommendations and a 5-step process for correctly handling a Biblical text in order to make accurate interpretation and correct application.

Two books Roy recommends in the episode are:

You can listened to the episode by clicking this link, or by listening in the embedded player below:

Biblical Interpretation with Dr. Roy Collins: Guidelines for Correctly Understanding & Faithfully Applying God's Word Theology for the People

Dr. Roy Collins (DMin) has served as a pastor, consultant, and professor of theology at Colorado Christian University, where he taught Biblical Interpretation. In this episode, Dr. Roy shares with us the key to unlocking the meaning of any given passage of the Bible, as well as a 5-step system of guidelines for how to exegete a given passage. The books recommended in this episode by Dr. Collins are:  Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, by Duvall & Hays The Gospel and Kingdom, by Graeme Goldsworthy Dr. Collins leads a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM (Mountain Time) at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Check out the Theology for the People blog site, and please leave a review on your podcast app if you've benefited from this content.

A Theology of Music: Discussion with Jon Markey and Michael Payne

Jon Markey and Michael Payne are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in the latest episode of the Theology for the People podcast, I sat down with them to talk about the theology of music.

Michael is the Worship Pastor at White Fields Community Church in Longmont, Colorado. Prior to coming to Longmont, he spent 21 years as a worship leader and missionary in Hungary, and prior to that he served in the US Marine Corps.

Jon is a pastor and missionary in Ternopil, Ukraine. He moved to Kiev, Ukraine with his family in the 1990’s, when he was 5 years old, and earned a masters degree from the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music.

Jon has been a guest on the podcast before, in fact his episode is the most-listened to episode on the podcast to date: If “It’s All Gonna Burn” Then What’s the Point? – How the Resurrection Gives Meaning to Work & Art

We recently had the pleasure of having Jon and his family visit Longmont and lead worship at our church, and while he was here, I got to sit down with him and Mike to discuss what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the “song of creation,” and how it serves to counteract pagan origin narratives, as well as Jubal: the first human musician, mentioned in Genesis 4, as well as other practical discussions which have modern application.

Check out Jon’s ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine)

Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page.

The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card

A Theology of Music: with Jon Markey & Michael Payne Theology for the People

Michael Payne and Jon Markey are accomplished musicians, songwriters, and producers, and in this episode they talk with Nick about the theology of music. Listen in to this discussion of what the Bible has to say about music: its purpose, uses, and significance – including the "song of creation," Jubal, and practical discussions for today. Check out Jon's ministry: Room for More music on YouTube and his church: Calvary Chapel Ternopil (Ukraine) Check out Michael on Spotify: Michael Payne and you can watch him on the White Fields Community Church YouTube page. The book mentioned in this episode is Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card Visit the Theology for the People blog.

Atheists Have Doubts Too

Doubt is an inherent part of having faith. Faith, the Bible tells us, is having convictions about things which you cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). This extends to things which cannot be empirically proven through scientific method. If you can see something and prove it, there is no need for faith. Doubt therefore, is not how faith ends, but is the occasion where faith and trust begin.

But it is not only “believers” who have doubts. Studies have shown that professing atheists also have doubts about whether they are right.

CS Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity said, “When I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.”

A recent poll from Newman University and YouGov found that one in five British atheists and over a third of Canadian atheists agreed with the statement: “Evolutionary processes cannot explain the existence of human consciousness.” [1]

In his book The Reason for God, Timothy Keller challenges those who doubt to “doubt their doubts,” i.e. to consider to the faith and beliefs (the assumptions which cannot be empirically proven) that underly their doubts, and to honestly question whether they actually stand on firm ground. His conclusion is that faith is God is actually more plausible than the alternative.

This week in our Sermon Extra, Pastor Mike and I discussed the role of doubt in faith, the fact that atheists have doubts too, and what we should do with our doubts. Check it out here:

In this week's sermon extra, Pastors Nick Cady and Michael Payne discuss reasons why people doubt Christianity and what the Bible says about it.   I Could Never Believe in a God Who… https://whitefieldschurch.com/media/series/i-could-never-believe-in-a-god-who/  The Trouble Is… https://whitefieldschurch.com/media/series/the-trouble-is/  To listen to Sunday's sermon: https://whitefieldschurch.com/sermon/from-doubt-to-belief/ — Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/whitefieldschurch/support