Dr. Ray Pritchard

Author, Speaker, President of Keep Believing Ministries

Don't Brag About Your Faith. Live it!

“Are you a Christian?”

That’s what the gunman asked the students at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. If they answered yes, he shot them in the head. If they answered no or didn’t answer, he shot them in the legs. (See You’re Going to See God for details.)

It is often said that a crisis never made any man. It only reveals what he already is. That thought is both comforting and frightening because we all wonder how we would react if everything we held dear was really on the line.Our family…Our health…Our career…Our future…Our life…We wonder—would we have the faith to make it? Or would we collapse? All the things we say we believe—would they still be enough when the crunch comes? You never really know the answer until that moment arrives, as it did for the students in Oregon a few days ago.

Would there be enough evidence to convict you?

For most of us, the tests of life will not be so dramatic, but they come nonetheless. Many years ago I heard it put this way: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The application is always the same. Live so there can be no doubt.While preparing this message, I found this headline: Syrian Christians Cry ‘Jesus!’ Before ISIS Mass Beheading. The story begins this way:

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) executed 12 Christians, including a 12-year-old boy, after they refused to abandon their faith and convert to Islam. The murders occurred on August 28 outside of Aleppo.

“In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam,” revealed Christian Aid Mission. “When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.”

Those of us who live in the West need to read stories like this, in part so we will remember to pray for our brothers and sisters undergoing such torture for their faith. Hebrews 13:3 reminds us to “remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” By remembering those who have suffered so much, we are made strong in our own faith. We stand firm because they stood firm through their fiery trials (1 Peter 5:9).

It is against that backdrop that we consider James 2:14-17. Given the pressures to compromise our faith and the rising tide of persecution against believers around the world, we need to hear again the bracing words of James, the brother of our Lord. In a very real sense, he is asking us a question as vital today as it was 2000 years ago. “You say you are a Christian. Talk is cheap. Where is the evidence?”

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When the Foundations are Destroyed

“When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”Psalm 11:3

We don’t know exactly when David wrote this psalm. Many writers connect it to the time when Saul chased David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23:13-14), but we can't be sure. We know the psalm comes at a desperate moment when his enemies seemed to be closing in on him and his friends encouraged him to run away.

The psalm breaks naturally into two parts. The first three verses describe David’s predicament, and the last four verses reveal his deep faith in God despite his circumstances.

This psalm is best known for the question in verse 3: “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Many preachers have taken this text and used it to show that when the foundations are destroyed, there is nothing the righteous can do. They are left in a hopeless situation.But that is not what David says.

When the foundations are destroyed, there are many things the righteous can do, but above everything else, they must first get a right view of God. It happens that I am writing this sermon in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. It’s not that we didn’t see it coming. The larger culture has been trending that way for years. Perhaps the shock is the speed of the change. Many believers feel that this decision is a decisive attack on the very foundations of society itself.

I happen to agree with that assessment and believe that hard times are upon us.When a nation celebrates what God condemns, judgment from on high must eventually come. No one can say how or when or where that judgment will come. But as certainly as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, as certainly as the great empires of history have fallen, even so no nation is promised exemption from judgment.

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Not long ago a distraught mother contacted me about her adult son who is divorcing his wife and has announced to the family that he is gay. This seemed to come out of nowhere. After her initial response to her son was not well-received, she wrote asking for my advice. I pass along my answer because I think the key question here is not “How do I change my son?” but rather, “How should I respond to his announcement?” Perhaps these thoughts will be helpful to you.

Dear Friend,

First of all, I am very sorry about what you are going through. There is no way to prepare yourself for the kind of call you got. I think the most important thing I can say is not about your son, it’s about you.

1. You’re a good person, a good mom, and a good wife. You and your husband have worked hard to raise your family together and you have done a wonderful job.

2. You’re not responsible for the choices your son has made and is making. You’re not the cause of him announcing he’s gay any more than you are the cause of his divorce.

3. The great challenge here is not about you and your son. It’s about you and your own heart. Unless you are careful, Satan will end up with two victories, not one. He will harden you in despair, anger, fear and bitterness that will end up turning him away from the family altogether. I know that’s not what you want.

So take a deep breath. It’s okay. You can exhale and say, “The Lord is still on his throne” because he is. Nothing about God has changed as a result of what your son said. Think of it this way. Long before he was born, God in heaven knew him through and through, loved him, knitted him together in your womb, called him, planned for him, and loved him with an everlasting love. The Lord knew that he would one day call and say, “I’m gay.” God knew all of that—and he made him anyway. And he loved him anyway. And loves him still. Nothing has changed about God. All that you have ever believed is still true tonight.

That being said, you must give yourself time to grieve, to weep, to pour out your heart to the Lord, to deal honestly with your fears . . . and that will take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight. You reacted as you did precisely because you love your son so much. You reacted out of love mixed with fear and anger and a sense of despair.

What matters most is that you and your husband stay close together, grow ever closer to the Lord, and that you stay away from blaming anyone. As the wise man said, it is what it is. That’s where we start. As a side note, I think it’s generally fruitless to inquire too deeply into how or why this happened. It’s generally not one thing that pushes a person in that direction. Usually it’s a variety of things over a period of time. The one thing that’s changed is that the gay rights movement has created an atmosphere where it’s more acceptable for men and women to do what your son did.

So where does this leave us?

1. You must decide in your heart not to yell, threaten, scream, shout, or to use tears as a tool. Also you must not do what loving Christian parents often do—lob Scripture verses like hand grenades. If he’s been listening to certain writers who claim that homosexuality is not sinful, then he knows the arguments. Remember that those writers couldn’t convince your son of anything against his will. They just gave your son a reason to justify his sin.

2. And it is a sin. Nothing has changed about that. So we can call it what it is. Love is good, male friendship is good, and sexual desire is good—all of that is good if channeled in the right way. But for some people, things get “disordered” on the inside and they make choices that ultimately lead into a sinful way of life.

3. Which leads to a key insight. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. I hope you’ll read my sermon on Praying for Your Prodigal because it deals with this very point. The issue isn’t homosexuality. The issue is that the eyes of your son’s heart are closed to God’s truth. As long as his eyes are closed, he will make any number of bad decisions. We must pray that God will open the eyes of his heart so that light from heaven will come flooding in.

4. What matters is that you find ways to tell your son that a) you love him, b) you disagree with him, c) you still love him, d) you still disagree, and e) A-D are true always and at the same time. You need to put the onus back on him. If he demands that you “accept” his choices as good and right, then he will end up cutting himself off from his own family. If any shunning is to be done, let it be him who shuns you and the rest of your family. As for you, keep the doors open and the welcome mat out as much as you can.

5. Give God time to work. Don’t assume that what is true about him today will be true a year from now or five years from now. God is at work in his heart even at this very moment.

6. Remind yourself that God is a better parent that you are. He knows your son even better than you do and he loves him more than you do. That’s a huge insight that flows from what we believe about God.

So remember . . . don’t argue, shout, plead, beg, threaten, cajole, or otherwise do what loving moms tend to do when their children disappoint them. He already knows how you feel. He knew before he called. At some deep level, he knows what he is doing is wrong. Leave room for God to work in his heart.

He’s definitely wrong about one thing. He thinks he can never change. That’s a terrible deception that the enemy uses to trap people into bad choices. He doesn’t have to stay the way he says he is. He can be changed at a deep level.

In times like these, we must go back to good theology. As long as you focus on your son, you will feel angry and defeated. So lift your eyes to God above and consciously remind yourself of all that you know to be true. Read the Psalms out loud. Speak to your own soul about God’s truth until it is quiet within you. A quiet heart is a beautiful thing and, oddly enough, it’s your best weapon when dealing with your son. Your agitation feeds his rebellion, but a quiet spirit is so beautiful that he will wonder why you are responding with grace and not with anger.

Remember Isaiah 26:3. Fix your heart on the Lord and not on your son. Let God be God—even over your son. That is the real battle. Remember, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. So let God work in your heart, and pray that he will do that as well for your son.

Keep me posted on how things go.
God is not finished yet!

Ray Pritchard

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Atlanta or Miami--How Do I Decide?

The following email arrived a few days ago. I have changed the city names for the sake of privacy, but the overall question has not been changed.

Dear Mr. Pritchard,

Right now I am trying to figure out God's plan for my life. Recently I was asked to move to Miami for work, and after much prayer I still don't know where He wants me. There are many arrows pointing toward going, but I feel no peace whatsoever about leaving Atlanta. Do you have any advice on how to distinguish whether I'm just nervous about the move, or if God is perhaps really telling me to stay?

Here is my answer :

Dear Friend,

Thanks for your note and for your question. I think the answer goes something like this: There is no way to be certain in advance about Miami vs. Atlanta. Sometimes we want something God never promised. We want certainty in advance about how our decisions will work out. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us not to “lean on our own understanding” but to trust completely in the Lord. I take that to mean that you should use your mind, research your options, consider the pros and cons, pray over it, think about it, discuss it with friends, and ask God for wisdom. But having done that, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can figure out your own future. No one can do that.

At some point you simply have to decide.
No one can do that for you.

Years ago I heard a wise man say, When facing a big decision, ask yourself, “What difference this make in 10,000 years?” That’s helpful. What difference will it make in 10,000 years whether you lived in Miami or Atlanta?” Answer: none at all. Doesn’t mean your decision doesn’t matter, but what matters far more is your heart attitude toward the Lord. If you truly want to serve him, you can do that equally well in Miami or Atlanta. And if you want to disobey, you can do that in either place as well.

My only other suggestion is to set some sort of time limit for wrestling with this. Set a date certain when you will decide. Then make your choice and go with it. Will it work out? Who knows? Maybe so, maybe not. Remember, you have the whole world in front of you. If Miami doesn’t work out, try Paris or Singapore or Rock Springs, WY or Yorkshire in England or South Africa. If your heart is open to God, you can go literally anywhere and serve him. I urge you to seek that sort of openness, then make your choice, go with it, and then see what happens next. If it is true that “He will direct your path,” then you can trust God to take care of you wherever you happen to be.

I hope this helps a little bit.
10,000 blessings,
Ray Pritchard

You can reach the author at [email protected]. Click here to sign up for the free email sermon.

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