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Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Aren’t Christians Smarter?

Andrew Tallman

"The Andrew Tallman Show," KPXQ-Phoenix


Have you ever wondered why Christians aren't smarter? I mean, we have the only true religion, we have a Book which is responsible for all of Western Civilization, and we serve a God who can safely call Himself the supreme champion at every trivia contest. So why aren't we smarter? Well, the reasons are many, but the goal of changing that condition is the driving passion of my life. Having taught college philosophy, my background is in equipping people to think better, and I used to think that talent was best used in the secular world. Three years ago, however, I was persuaded by some good counsel to turn my attention toward the Body of Christ, and that's why I came to Phoenix to do my radio show weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m. on AM 1360 KPXQ.



Not thinking well is a sin.

God commands us very simply: Love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind. Catch that last part … with all our mind. This means thinking is not optional for the Christian. Thinking, and thinking well, is a form of worship of God which is nothing short of obedience to His primary command. Hence, if we do not "use the brain God gave you," (my mom's favorite rhetorical chastisement), we are sinning.



Not thinking well is a scandal.

The most pervasive myth about Christianity is that it is incompatible with intelligence.


This is what I believed before I became one, and it made me not want to be one. I say it is a myth both because nothing demands more thinking capacity than being a faithful Christian and also because our history is rich with intellectual giants.


Nonetheless, Christianity has a reputation as a religion for fools, and this is at least partially our own fault. By offering empty platitudes such as, "Well, you have to have faith," when challenged with difficult questions, outsiders can be forgiven for forming the impression that what we really mean is, "Well, you have to be stupid." This puts people in the painful situation of feeling like they have to choose between their mind and God. Also, it makes Christianity offensive to the smartest people in society, who tend to be culture's greatest influencers. Thus, simply showing non-Christians that one can be both smart and faithful is a powerful form of evangelism.



Fishers not just fish-eaters.

"If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." Simple. Obvious. But, all too often, it's not the guiding principle of Christian education.


Christians can be so concerned about having the right answers (good doctrine), that we fail to teach people the thinking skills and patterns which would lead them to these and other true conclusions. They may have the unreliable dogmatism which comes from mere repetition, but they lack the true confidence which comes from deep and honest examination of an idea. Sadly, it also means they do not have the ability to discover new answers for themselves in novel situations.


On my radio show, I deliberately do not provide people many answers because I am more interested in helping people learn how to think than I am in telling them what to think. My confidence is high that such ability will ultimately get them to the right place, and it will be a place of true security as well.



Disciples, not an audience.

Jesus mentored His disciples. He interacted with them. He answered their questions. He joked with them. And He corrected them. He didn't lecture them. He lectured the masses. And I think the reason is simple. A lecture is not the ideal form of education.


The reasons are many. If a listener doesn't like what is being said, he can simply ignore it. If he doesn't understand or if he disagrees, he cannot easily inquire of the speaker. Because such questions go unanswered, other people miss out on having these questions answered. When the teacher fields questions, he replaces his own assumptions about his audience with real knowledge and can more accurately tune his teaching to the real needs they have.


Finally, I believe in collaboration rather than solo performances. Although I think I have many reliable insights worth saying, I'd rather talk with people and work together toward truth instead of just trusting in my own ideas too much. So my show is built around discussion rather than presentation. I am working with my listeners to fashion a product together rather than simply distributing to them a prefabricated one.



Haggling, not purchasing.

In the Mediterranean culture of the Bible, haggling was a way of life—and such negotiations provide a great way of coming to know someone. The process of haggling gains both friends and sharper minds. We are often baffled by this when we travel to that part of the world because Americans are so transaction oriented. "I agree," "I disagree," "I will buy," or "I will not buy." We are very comfortable with these types of shallow interactions. In the Mediterranean, the sellers understand that the product is insignificant compared with the relationship its sale can create.


In contrast, I think Americans are too concerned with conclusions instead of relationships. Thus, the key in my show is to find stimulating topics which cause people to want to talk with each other and build friendships. Whether we agree is not so much the issue, but whether we are able to love each other while we disagree and talk about it. That matters.



In conclusion

I was concerned when I took this job—concerned that my fellow Christians wouldn't endure me because they wanted their own ideas reinforced rather than examined and challenged. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered vast numbers of Christians who were excited about the prospect of being made to think, even if they didn't always agree with me. And so my audience and I have created an environment where we love each other not because we agree all the time, but because we enjoy the experience of talking it over together. Every day we collaborate to show that theology, like a good relationship, is not something to be purchased or rejected, but something to be enjoyed … together.

Andrew Tallman is the host of The Andrew Tallman Show and a columnist. Andrew's show is heard daily on KPXQ in Phoenix. Contact him at This commentary originally posted on January 8, 2008.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Let Go of Your Burdens

Whitney Hopler/Crosswalk

The following is a report on the practical applications of Sheila Walsh's new book, Let Go: Live Free of the Burdens All Women Know, (Thomas Nelson, 2008).


God stands ready to deliver you from whatever burdens you're carrying – from health struggles to financial problems. But unlike the sudden rescue you may be hoping for, your deliverance may come in the form of a process instead. Yes, God could intervene just once and remove your problems. Often, though, He chooses to walk beside you as you carry your burdens, helping you gradually learn to trust Him enough to give them over to Him.


Here's how you can let go of your burdens:


Be open to any outcome. Rather than trying to convince God to answer your prayers in a certain way, tell God that you trust Him to do what's best. You can't know what your deliverance will look like or when it will come, but God does. Imagine Jesus hanging on the cross, and yourself approaching Him while carrying your burdens. Then, in prayer, leave those burdens at the foot of the cross for Him to handle.


Eat fresh-baked grace every day. God will give you fresh grace for each day that will strengthen you to overcome whatever challenges you face. Pray for His grace each morning. Remember these graceful truths: God loves you as you are right at this moment; He knows all about you and loves you anyway; He forgives you even when you can't forgive yourself; and there is nothing you can do to make God love you any more or less than He already does.


Break free of judging. Stop judging other people, and don't let other people's judgment of you make you feel condemned. Instead, embrace the grace that God so freely offers to you, and extend grace to others. Ask God to heal your heart from legalism and shame. Enjoy the freedom that God's grace makes possible in your life.


Give up what should have been for what is and what can be. Don't be so preoccupied with regretting your past that you can't fully live in the present or move into the future with confidence. Pursue healing for your pain from the past. Ask God to help you change negative habits into positive ones. Pray for the discernment you need to identify evil lies and reject them in Jesus' name. Ask God to redeem your scars from past wounds for the sake of His kingdom.


Look at reality. Let go of what you wish was true and accept what actually is true about your life right now. Hold onto the reality that God is with you in the middle of your circumstances. Ask Him to help you become more aware of His presence and notice His work in your life, even though all is not as you'd like it to be right now.


Forgive others. Get rid of bitterness that poisons your soul by forgiving people who have hurt you in the past. Rely on God's help to go through the process; you can count on Him to empower you. Let your gratitude for all that God has forgiven you for motivate you to obey His command to forgive other people. Renounce your right to get even with those who have hurt you and choose to forgive, no matter how you feel. Trust God to heal you as He helps you forgive.


Forgive yourself. Confess your sins regularly, repent of them by turning away from them and toward God, and accept the forgiveness God offers you as a result. Whenever you remember your sins after that, view them simply as reminders of God's grace and mercy to you.

Resist temptation. Ask God to help you avoid going down easier paths than the ones that will truly honor Him. Realize that giving into temptation will harm you and cause you to lose the opportunity to invite God to work for a greater good in your life. Be alert to the specific areas in which you're the most vulnerable to temptation, and guard against temptation especially in those areas of your life. Surrender every part of your life to God and ask Him to help you grow stronger and more spiritually mature. Whenever something that you want conflicts with God's will for you, be willing to choose God's will instead of your own.


Overcome fear. You never need to fear anything, because God has your best interests at heart. Make God your absolute top priority by placing Him at the center of your life and basing all your decisions on your relationship with Him. Get to know God's Word well through frequent Bible reading, reflection, and study. Whenever you encounter evil lies that will trap you in fear if you believe them, counter them with biblical truth that will lead to freedom. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind every day and help direct your thought process.


Break free of shame. The purpose of guilt is to bring you to God to deal with your sins. Once you've done that – through confession and repentance – you don't need to feel ashamed anymore. Identify moments in your life when you've felt shame and what you told yourself as a result. Then pray for God to heal your soul from the damage that shame has caused. Ask God to help you see yourself as He sees you – a valuable person worth of great love. Thank Jesus that He actually became shame as He died on the cross for the world's sins, so that He could offer you true freedom from shame once and for all.


Discover your purpose. No matter how inadequate you may feel or how disappointed you may be with your circumstances, nothing about your life is an accident. Look beyond what you can see to God and ask Him to show you His purposes for your life. Pray for the ability to see the great value in your life and to love your life as God loves it. Ask God to help you fulfill your potential in every part of your life. Know that you are chosen and loved. Your life matters. Embrace God's call, despite difficult circumstances, and follow wherever He leads you so you don't waste any of your great potential here on earth.



Trust more deeply. Whenever you need to risk trusting God more, remember who it is that you're called to trust: the One who created you, the Source of all love and power, and the One who wants the best for you. Be willing to follow Him step by step.


Enjoy God's love. Embrace God's limitless love for you, and let His love compel you to let go of whatever burdens you're holding onto so you can hold on only to God. Stop trying to find in others what can only be found in your relationship with God. Every day, ask God to give you a fresh revelation of His love for you, and thank Him for it.


See yourself as God sees you. Write a list of all the negative things you can remember people saying about you in the past – things that made you feel bad about yourself. Then pray over the list, asking God to heal your hurt and forgive those who hurt you. Tear up the list or burn it afterward. Ask God to help you view yourself accurately – from His perspective.


Embrace the hope God offers you. You are never too far away for God to reach, and your life is never broken beyond repair. Even when you've wandered away from God or felt abandoned, God had still been present with you. The very cells that hold your body together are in the shape of a cross. Reflect on that fact and let it lead you to the real hope God offers you because of Jesus' death on a cross. No matter how hopeless your current circumstances may seem, you always have hope because of your relationship with God through Jesus. Trusting in that hope will bring you the ultimate deliverance. Tear down strongholds of evil's influence in your life, invite the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts, and make a habit of responding to God's hope by living faithfully for Him each day.


Adapted from Let Go: Live Free of the Burdens All Women Know, copyright 2009 by Sheila Walsh. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn.,   

Sheila Walsh, a successful speaker, is author of the award-winning Gigi, God's Little Princess series, and other books such as The Heartache No One Sees, and Get off Your Knees & Pray. Sheila lives in Frisco, Texas, with her husband, Barry, and son, Christian.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lessons in Contentment

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
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Here are four steps to develop contentment in your life.

1. Stop comparing yourself to others. When you compare your life with someone else's, the only place it can lead is toward discontentment. There will always be people who appear to be better off than you, but you don't know their real circumstances.
I recall counseling a husband many years ago, and he said he wished his wife could be more like so-and-so, and he named a woman in our congregation. What he didn't know is that the woman was a functioning alcoholic causing incredible heartache and stress for her family and for her husband.

That's why the Bible teaches it is unwise to compare (2 Corinthians 10:12).

2. Be grateful for who you are and what you have. Learning to be content requires that you stop any "when and then" thinking – "When I am ___________, then I'll be happy." (You fill in the blank.)

The reason we fall into this trap is that we may actually be content for a little while but it won't last. But, more than likely, someone else or something else will come along and drain the contentment from your life.

But listen, you are unique. God created you to be like nobody else, so why would you want to be anyone else. God is perfect, and you were his perfect choice to be you. Understanding that is a huge step toward being content with your life.

And then look at all the things God has given you. So often we allow what we don't have to so dominate our focus that we forget the many wonderful things we already have, not only material blessing, but far more important things, such as family and friends.

3. Give yourself to others. If you will begin giving yourself to others, sharing what things you do have, sharing your time and your talents, you will find yourself learning to be content. Helping others will give you an appreciation for what you have and who you are, but more importantly, you will find yourself growing content. Why? Because God designed us to serve and share with others, and until we do that, we will feel great discontent.

4. Focus on things with eternal value. The real secret to becoming content is to focus on the things that have eternal value. It may be a familiar teaching to you, but Jesus said we should store up our treasures in heaven, and not on earth "where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

Think about the things in your life: What will last forever? What will last at least for your lifetime? What will last a few short years, or months, or days? Based on eternal value, what things are most important in your life? Where – and with whom – should you put your most time and energy?

By re-organizing your life around eternal priorities, you'll find yourself growing in contentment as you live according to God's design and purpose.

© 2008 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved.

How to Be Thankful in Tough Times

Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6 (NLT)

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1. Don't worry about anything. Worrying doesn't change anything. It's stewing without doing. There's no such thing as born worriers; worry is a learned response. You learned it from your parents. You learned it from your peers. You learned it from experience. That's good news. The fact that worry is learned means it can also be unlearned. Jesus says, "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today" (Matthew 6:34 NLT).

2. Pray about everything. Use the time you've spent worrying for praying. If you prayed as much as you worried, you'd have a whole lot less to worry about. Some people think God only cares about religious things, such as how many people I invite to church or my tithing. Is God interested in car payments? Yes. He's interested in every detail of your life. That means you can take any problem you face to God.

3. Thank God in all things. Whenever you pray, you should always pray with thanksgiving. The healthiest human emotion is not love, but gratitude. It actually increases your immunities; it makes you more resistant to stress and less susceptible to illness. People who are grateful are happy. But people who are ungrateful are miserable because nothing makes them happy. They're never satisfied; it's never good enough. So if you cultivate the attitude of gratitude, of being thankful in everything, it reduces stress in your life.

4. Think about the right things. If you want to reduce the level of stress in your life, you must change the way you think. The way you think determines how you feel, and the way you feel determines how you act. So if you want to change your life, you need to change what you're thinking about.

This involves a deliberate, conscious choice where you change the channels. You choose to think about the right things: focus on the positive and on God's Word. Why? Because the root cause of stress is the way you choose to think.

When we no longer worry, when we pray about everything, when we give thanks, when we focus on the right things, the apostle Paul tells us the result is, "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7 NLT).

What a guarantee! He is guaranteeing peace of mind.

© 2009 Purpose Driven Life. All rights reserved