To The Novice Reader of Christian Books

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a novice reader of Christian books. That’s okay! Seriously, The Hatchet is the only book I recall reading before I came to faith in Christ. This means I read a total of ONE book from the time I was born to the time I was eighteen years old (that’s kind of humiliating. . . . I know!). But I wasn’t interested in reading. I was all about myself, baseball, working out, television, and Call of Duty.

This all changed about eleven years ago during my freshmen year of college. In 2010, while I was at Faulkner State Community College in the little town of Bay Minette, Alabama, God decided to graciously call me to Himself through faith in Christ. In other words, I became a Christian. And as a new and ignorant follower of Christ, I began reading books.

I read ten to twelve books the first couple of years of my Christian life (some of which were really bad—I remember reading Heaven is for Real and The Shack—praise the Lord for increased discernment!). And for the last nine years or so, I’ve read anywhere between thirty to fifty books a year. So, even though I’m not a very impressive reader of Christian books, I’ve consistently read a decent number of books over the last eleven years. And my aim in this blog is to give novice readers of Christian books some helpful advice.

1st – Read Good Books

We “are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We have a limited amount of time here on this vast, beautiful earth, so we don’t have time to read everything that’s been written. To be honest, with the ample responsibilities that we have, it’s really not even a good idea to spend most of our time reading books.

So, if we’re going to spend some of our brief lives reading books, and we should, then we need to make sure that we read good books. As a matter of fact, we should carefully choose the books we read like we choose the friends we hang out with. Here’s a few easy ways to do this:

  • Read books that are recommended by trustworthy Christians.
  • Read books that reputable Christian scholars wrote in their field of expertise.
  • Read books that have impacted Christians for centuries.
  • Read books that are historically proven.
  • Read books by a Christian author you’ve grown to love.

2nd – Don’t Finish Bad Books

You may not have thought about this, but books have been published every single day. . . . for thousands of years! It’s mind boggling to think about how many books are out there. I remember walking into the library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and being overwhelmed by the amount of Christian literature shelved in there. I was dumbfounded when I thought about the small percentage of Christian books I’d be able to read in my life. Just imagine how I’d feel if I walked into the Library of Congress—a library containing over 170 million works!

And trust me, all these books aren’t good. As you strive to strictly read good books, you’ll discover that some of the books you thought would be good are actually bad. When this happens, don’t try to muster through it so that you can check that book off your list. Just put the bad book down and start another book that you think will be good. Honestly, why waste countless hours reading a bad book when there are so many good ones out there?!

3rd – Quality over Quantity

For a long time, I thought that the quantity of books I read was more important than the quality. I’d finish any book I started because I wanted to make sure I read a certain number of books in a year. I’d also gravitate away from larger books because I knew it would take me longer to read them . . . which would then cause me to read less books throughout the year. This was spiritually immature thinking (looking back, I was being pretty legalistic—as though God’s approval of me increased based on the number of books I read)!

I no longer have this thought process. I’ve learned that the quality of the books we read far outweighs the quantity of the books we read. The return of perusing a lengthy, historically proven book is way better than the return of reading many short, unproven books. For example, reading Spurgeon’s Lecture to My Students and Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry is more valuable that reading every present-day book on pastoral ministry out there (and there are some really good contemporary books on pastoral ministry out there!).

4th – Read to Learn

It’s so easy to think that a well-stocked library leads to a well-furnished mind—that a vast amount of reading entails vast amounts of learning. This, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply reading a book doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve learned what the author is teaching.

Instead, it is important to digest the material we read so that we can really wrestle with the information the author is trying to teach us. We don’t simply want to be parrots that repeat what the writer says. We want to think and meditate on the material to such an extent that we’d be able to converse with the author about the arguments he’s making. Essentially, we want to read to learn, not read to read. And as we do this, let us keep in mind that one book mastered is better than a hundred books skimmed. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Pause and reflect on profound sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
  • Write reviews on what you read.
  • Evaluate the authors arguments with the Bible.
  • Read numerous books on the same topic.
  • Don’t be obsessed with finishing books. Let your curiosity push you to read all types of material on the same topic.

5th – Use What You Read

All learning, especially the accumulation of Christian knowledge, should lead to application. Some books will lead us to thank God. Others will encourage us to begin practicing a discipline that we’ve long forgotten. Others will motivate us to strengthen our marriages and our parenting. And other books will help us have rock solid biblical arguments against unbiblical teachings. So don’t just let the knowledge you gain through reading lie dormant in your mind. Insofar as the author is using biblical truth to impact you, make good use of what you read. Here’s how this might look practically:

  • Read books with other people.
  • Teach, if you have an avenue to teach, on what you read.
  • Talk about what you read with other people throughout the week.
  • Neatly summarize what the author was hoping to get his/her readers to do, and, insofar as it’s Biblical prudent, strive to do it.
  • If the book is really good, buy an extra copy and give it to a friend.

A Final Word

As you become more intentional in reading good Christian books, never forget to spend time mastering the Bible. The Word of God is more valuable than gold. The fact that most of us have it within arm’s reach is astounding. With that said, be sure to visit all kinds of good Christian books, but make sure you live in the Bible.

2021 in Books

One of my favorite times of the year is when prominent Christian pastors, theologians, and websites begin posting their top ten book lists. This allows me to peruse these lists in hopes to find some good books to read in the upcoming year.

In what follows, I’ll post the ten books that I enjoyed reading the most this year (in no particular order), and then I’ll post a link to top ten book lists from other pastors, theologians, and websites. My list will include books from any particular year, while other people’s lists will usually pertain to books that were published in 2021. My hope is that you’ll find some good Christian books to read throughout 2022 that will stir your affections for Jesus.

My Top 10

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College by Michael Kruger – Overall, I’ve been doing college and youth ministry for a little over five years. I can honestly say that I haven’t read a more important book to put into the hands of 17-25 years olds. Dr. Kruger wisely addresses topics that college professors, and our culture at large, consistently bring up to derail young people’s Christian faith. If you have children between the ages of 17-25, you’ll certainly want to buy them this book and read it along with them!

The Christian Ministry: With an Inquiry into the Causes of its Inefficiency by Charles Bridges – When Charles Bridges (1794-1869) wrote this book in 1830, he unknowingly wrote a definitive work on pastoral ministry. Throughout the years, I’ve read many books on Christian ministry that deal with the call to ministry, the qualifications of being a pastor, pastoring, and preaching. This book, however, outranks them all. If you’re a pastor, or an aspiring pastor, then you need to take time to read through this book (even the footnotes are field with treasure!).

The Glory Now Revealed by Andrew Davis – In this book, Andy Davis gives his readers a foretaste of heaven. In doing so, he focuses in on the topic of heavenly memories. Essentially, he is addressing what we’ll remember when we have resurrected hearts, minds, and bodies. He argues against heavenly amnesia (where we won’t remember anything), and he argues for a robust remembrance of all that happened in this life. As we live our days on the New Earth, we will not be omniscient. Therefore, the triune God will masterfully educate us in all that he did during our time here to bring Himself maximum glory.

He will unveil his providential governance of human history, the workings of the spiritual realm, well-known heroes from church history, unknown and obscure heroes from church history, why we suffered in this life, and so on and so forth. This is a thought provoking book that makes us increasingly interested in what God plans to reveal to us when He comes back to establish a New Heaven and a New Earth. And since many Christians conceive of heaven as a disembodied existence where we’ll skillfully play harps to the glory of God with little knowledge of people we knew in this life, this is an important book to read. It will correct many of contemporary Christianity’s misconceptions about heaven.

Christianity & Liberalism by J Gresham Machen – This book was originally published in 1923. Since then, it has been named one of the top 100 books of the millennium by World magazine and one of the top 100 books of the 20th century by Christianity Today. In this work, Machen sets orthodox Christianity against Christian liberalism in hopes to reveal that Christian liberalism isn’t really Christian! And since liberal theology is still taught and widely promoted, Machen’s voice still needs to be heard. With this in mind, I encourage you to buy this book, begin reading it, and discover more about the difference between orthodox Christianity and Christian liberalism.

Yours, Till Heaven: The Untold Love Story of Charles and Susie Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. – I’m a lover of all things Spurgeon. Because of this, I was eager to read Ray Rhodes’ newest book that takes a close look at Charles and Susie’s love story. Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed. Both Charles Spurgeon and Susie Spurgeon are fascinating individuals. They just seem so well-rounded in the Christian faith. This becomes particularly evident when you look at their marriage. And as I read this book, I couldn’t help but desire to better love my wife. Perhaps MacArthur said it best when he recommeded this book saying:

There are many books that tell us how to have a good marriage. But here is something unique: a book that shows us what such a marriage looks like. . . Husbands and wives will do well to read this book and emulate the loving marriage of Charles and Susie Spurgeon.

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed by John Owen – I tried to read this book a long time ago but I lacked the mental capability! This year, however, I picked it up and worked my way through it (though I still lacked some mental capability!). And, as was expected, it was a brilliant argument for definite atonement. Though this is a very difficult read by a brilliant Puritan, it deserves to be read by both advocates of definite atonement and opponents of definite atonement. Advocates of definite atonement ought to read it because Owen gives us a great example on how to refute arguments for general atonement with biblical texts. Opponents of definite atonement need to read it because Owen’s arguments in favor of definite atonement are hard to refute.

William Carey by S Pearce Carey – William Carey (1761-1834) is largely regarded as “the father of modern missions.” S Pearce Carey was his great-grandson. In 1923, S Pearce Carey wrote this phenomenal biography of his great-grandfather, William Carey. And it is my personal opinion that well-written biographies of faithful Christian missionaries are the most soul-stirring books any Christian can read. This is most certainly the case with this biography. As you read about Carey’s heart for the nations, his relentless work and toil, his endurance through suffering, and his genius in translation, you’ll thank God that He sent this faithful laborer to Calcutta in 1793 to advance the kingdom of Christ.

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn – I really enjoyed this biography on Elisabeth Elliot. I’m just going to let the back of the book speak here:

Elisabeth Elliot was a young missionary in Ecuador when members of a violent Amazonian tribe savagely speared her husband Jim and his four colleagues. Incredibly, prayerfully, Elisabeth took her toddler daughter, snakebite kit, Bible, and journal . . . and lived in the jungle with the Stone-Age people who killed her husband. Compelled by her friendship and forgiveness, many came to faith in Jesus.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray – John Murray (1898-1975) originally published this book in 1955. Since then, this book has been both very popular and highly recommended. Speaking about this book Carl Trueman says, “The book you have in your hand is a miniature masterpiece of theology, dealing reverently on every page with matters of great theological significance.” I think Trueman is right. Throughout the pages of this book, Murray will give you a more robust understanding of the atonement and how it is applied.

Men and Women in the Church: A Short, Biblical, and Practical Introduction by Kevin DeYoung – I’ve found Kevin DeYoung to be a reliable Christian voice that’s always clear, succinct, and biblical. In his newest book, he once again demonstrates these characteristics that I’ve come to appreciate so much. With that said, here’s a brief look at what to expect when you read this book:

There is much at stake in God making humanity male and female. Created for one another yet distinct from each other, a man and a woman are not interchangeable―they are designed to function according to a divine fittedness. But when this design is misunderstood, ignored, or abused, there are dire consequences.

Men and women―in marriage especially, but in the rest of life as well―complement one another. And this biblical truth has enduring, cosmic significance. From start to finish, the biblical storyline―and the design of creation itself―depends upon the distinction between male and female. Men and Women in the Church is about the divinely designed complementarity of men and women as it applies to life in general and especially ministry in the church

Other People’s List

The Gospel Coalition’s 2021 Book Awards

21 Top Biblical Counseling Books of 2021

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s List

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s List

World Magazine’s List

The London Lyceum’s Top Books of 2021

More people and websites will post their lists. I’ll add their lists to this blog as they do so!

Counsel from John Stott

Since we are talking about books, here’s a quote from John Stott that I love. I hope it encourages you:

For there is something unique about books. Our favorite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers and their library. I have made it a rule not to quote from any book unless I have first handled it. So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace.

Things I’ve Learned

I went to church sporadically growing up. I remember occasionally going to a small Southern Baptist Church about fifteen minutes from my childhood home when I was in elementary school. While I was in middle school, I remember intermittingly going to a larger Southern Baptist Church in West Mobile. And by the time I entered high school, I was rarely going to church at all . . . I only went to church when I was dating a girl that had a family that was going to church (how pathetic is that)!

Needless to say, I didn’t grow up with a relationship to pastors and deacons. Nor did I have any familiarity with AWANA, VBS, youth summer camps, mission trips, or anything along those lines. Really, regarding church life, I didn’t know much of anything.

Growing Familiarity with the Church

By the time I entered college, God began to graciously call me to Himself. Deep into the fall semester of my freshmen year, He mercifully saved me and freely gave me the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. With a genuine work of God in my heart, I began to become more active in the local church.

This allowed me to get close to pastors and deacons, to become familiar with Vacation Bible Schools, youth summer camps, mission trips, and other church related things. And though I wasn’t knowledgeable of all that was going on in the church that I was attending, I started becoming more familiar with the church.

Much More Familiarity with the Church

After college, my wife and I moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina, in January of 2015. On August 16, 2016, I was hired on full time as the Director of College Ministry at First Baptist Church of Durham (a healthy local church in downtown Durham). This was my first ever ministry position, and I joyfully served in this capacity for three and a half years.

While I was doing college ministry, a friend of mine from Louisiana asked if I would be interested in being his associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Longville. This seemed like a good opportunity to serve the people of God, so in December of 2019, I moved to Longville, Louisiana, to begin serving full time as an associate pastor. I’m still serving in this capacity. This means that, as of August 16, 2021 (today), I’ve been doing full time ministry for five years. And at twenty-nine years old, I’m much more familiar with the church than I was in my childhood and teenage years.

Things I’ve Learned

Though five years isn’t a very long time, I thought it’d be neat to reflect on some things that I’ve learned while serving in full time ministry. Since ministry largely involves ministering to people, most of the things I’ve learned have to do with people. So, here we go:

People Need Christ

Christ is the incarnate Word, the image of the invisible God, the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, and the light for the nations. He is the only mediator between God and man, and it’s only in Christ that one can find reconciliation and peace with God. Jesus is a never-ending source of other-worldly satisfaction and joy, and it’s Jesus that people need. 

After five years of ministry, I’m even more mindful that one of the most important things that I can do is place Christ before people’s eyes. And no, I’m not merely talking about placing Christ before unbelievers’ eyes. I’m also talking about placing Christ before believers’ eyes. I’ve learned that the children of God desperately need to behold and savor Christ afresh every day.

People Love Handwritten Cards

We live in a day and age where our emails are bombarded with advertisements, and where our cell phones are constantly receiving mostly insignificant messages from friends, family members, and acquaintances. And even though communication is remarkably easy, people are rarely receiving well thought out handwritten cards that are expressly written for the purpose of encouraging others.

This means that when people do receive a handwritten card, it is both encouraging and memorable! In all seriousness, I don’t believe I’ve ever had somebody thank me to my face for an encouraging text (though I’ve sent many). But almost everybody that I’ve written a card to goes out of their way to thank me. It’s evident that people love handwritten cards!

People Need to be Encouraged

There are people in the church that sacrifice their time, energy, and money for the cause of Christ. They give up their weeknights and Sundays for the purpose of sacrificially serving others. They diligently study so that they can properly teach the Word of God. They read books and listen to podcasts so that they can better counsel folks that are hurting and suffering. They open their homes to get to know other members of the church. And these people need to be encouraged. They need to know that I, as their pastor, see their ministry, am grateful for their ministry, and that our church is better off because of their ministry.

People are Hurting

Sure, people put on a socially acceptable smile on Sunday mornings, but deep down inside most people are hurting. And they are hurting because of their own sins, someone else’s sins, or because of all that comes with living on a cursed earth. There’s a family unit that has a rebellious child. There’s a marriage that is on the brink of disaster. There’s a youth that’s beginning to indulge in sexual sin that will have consequences for decades to come. Somebody has gone to the doctor and received a life altering diagnosis. A couple is doubting if they will ever be able to get pregnant. A widow is trying to figure out how to go to sleep by herself every night. All over the church, people are hurting, and they need other brothers and sisters in Christ to help them.

People Need Parlor Preachers

We don’t really hear the term “parlor” anymore, but most churches in the old days had them. It was a room in the church that was especially constructed for receiving guests. And a parlor preacher is a Christian that can speak about heavenly things in social settings (not just from the pulpit). Charles Bridges defines it as “the ability to introduce the subject of religion seasonably and acceptably into social discourse.”

It’s important to be able to do this as a pastor, and it’s important to have fellow church members that can do this as well. Reflecting on the importance of this Spurgeon says, “To be a holy talker for Jesus might be almost as fruitful an office as to be a faithful preacher.” In five years, I’ve learned that we vastly overestimate what people learn from their pastor in the pulpit, and that we vastly underestimate what people learn from a spiritual conversation in the parlor.

People Need Church History

The Catholic Church teaches that both Scripture and tradition are equally authoritative. While the Baptist Church has rightly rejected this, most Baptist Churches have made an equally deadly error by flat out rejecting church history and tradition. There are so many people that are ignorant of the early church and its creeds, the Reformation and its confessions, the historical development of Baptist ecclesiology and doctrine, the Great Awakening, and so much more. 

This means that, within many Baptist Churches, most people’s concept of church is built around the church that they grew up in rather than the historic church that has existed for thousands of years. This isn’t healthy at all, and it leads to a multitude of problems. People really need church history.

People Need Sound Doctrine

This should not surprise anyone because one cursory reading through the Bible reveals that sound doctrine is important. Nevertheless, when I ministered to college students in North Carolina, and as I’ve ministered to people in Louisiana, it has become clear that many people grow up in Baptist Churches that are indifferent to doctrine. And it seems like most churches promote doctrinal indifferentism for the sake of maintaining unity. It’s as though pastors think to themselves: “If I don’t preach meaty doctrine, then my people won’t divide over anything.” 

What these pastors are failing to realize is that keeping people ignorant of doctrine cultivates what J.I. Packer calls “a deceptive appearance of unity.” Just because a church seems to have inter-party peace doesn’t mean they’re unified. Instead, it means that division is right around the corner. . . .as soon as people start talking about doctrine! So, people need sound doctrine, and Baptists Churches would be better off if they made every effort to cultivate doctrinal unity within their congregations rather than a deceptive appearance of unity.

Church Family IS Family

Kahlie and I both have awesome families. As a matter of fact, almost every vacation we take involves going to see our families because we enjoy being around them so much! With that said, one of the things that God has really taught us since we have moved away from our families for the sake of the church is that church family IS family! We knew this mentally before we moved away from home. We understood that other Christians were our brothers and sisters in Christ. We knew that older Christians could become spiritual fathers and mothers to us. We could mentally assent to these truths.

But once we moved away from home, we quickly came to understand this experientially. While we were in North Carolina, Kahlie and I immediately had our hearts joined together with other Christians. We were eating at each other’s houses, celebrating holidays together, serving together, serving each other, praying for one another, learning from one another, taking vacations together, helping each other bear up under trials, and so on and so forth! Older Christians invested in us, discipled us, cooked for us, and counseled us. And sure enough, when we moved eighteen hours from North Carolina to Louisiana, we immediately had our hearts knitted together with other Christians here. As we have moved across the Southeast, it’s become clear that church family is family. Thank God for the church!

Church Friendly Families are Awesome

Most families are looking for family friendly churches. This is completely understandable. It’s good to look for a church that’s going to strategically strive to serve each member of your family in a manner that’s worthy of the Lord. But as a pastor, one of the greatest blessings to the church is a church friendly family—a family that prioritizes healthy involvement in the church over athletics, hobbies, and other extracurriculars. In both churches that I’ve served in, I’m always blessed and encouraged by healthy family units that make healthy involvement in the church a main priority.

Godly Deacons are a Blessing

I’ve had the pleasure of getting close to godly deacons at both churches that I’ve served at. The deacons I’m talking about account their lives of little value, have hearts that go out to the hurting, and see it as their God given role to glorify Christ by fulfilling both menial and significant tasks for the church and the community. About these men, I echo Spurgeon’s words: 

“The church owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to those thousands of godly men who study her interests day and night, contribute largely of their substance, care for her poor, cheer her ministers, and in times of trouble as well as prosperity remain faithfully at their posts…Deprive the church of her deacons and she would be bereaved of her most valiant sons; their loss would be the shaking of the pillars of our spiritual house and would cause desolation on every side.”

Still Learning

I could keep going. I’ve learned a great deal about people and ministry over the past five years. But, like I said early, I’m not so naïve to think that five years is a long time. It’s very brief in the grand scheme of things. With this in mind, I’m still learning, and I’m greatly anticipating God to continue educating me.

Red, White, & Due

Before Kahlie and I got married, we did what any smitten couple aspiring to have a godly marriage would do — we both printed and filled out John Piper’s Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage. As we worked our way through Piper’s questions, we came to the one about adoption that asked, “Would we consider adoption?”

At twenty-one years old and lacking wisdom I answered, “I desire to have biological kids first, but then, once financially stable, I wouldn’t mind pursuing adoption.” Kahlie’s answer was similar, but much shorter — I have always been the long-winded one! She wrote, “I would love to adopt one day.” We knew that, through faith in Christ, God had adopted us into His family, and we were eager to imitate our heavenly Father by adopting children into our family.

Trying to Grow Our Family

After filling out the questionnaire, we discussed these things, continued pursuing one another, and then tied the knot on November 23, 2013. By February of 2015, we were living in Wake Forest, North Carolina, I was attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and we were actively trying to grow our family. This proved to be much more difficult than we’d originally thought it’d be.

Not as Easy as we Thought

At twenty-one years old (when we filled out the questionnaire), we assumed having biological children and then adopting would be pretty easy. Sure, we knew our Bible clearly taught that the Lord is the one that opens the womb, creates and fashions babies within the womb of their mothers, and fills people’s quivers with children. And we knew that our Bible also taught that the Lord closes the womb. We were well aware of all the times the Lord plunged certain women through the trial of infertility in the Bible. What we didn’t really consider, though, is that the Lord would thrust the trial of infertility upon us. This is the nature of trials, isn’t it? Even though we know certain trials are possible, even likely, they still seem to come upon us unexpectedly.

“But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her” (1 Samuel 1:5-6).

Some Fertility Treatments

By 2017, Kahlie started going to a Duke fertility clinic. Since Kahlie has a hard time regularly ovulating, they prescribed her with certain medicines that would help her. Even though the medicines helped, our gracious God was still closing the womb. 

Shortly after this, in 2018, we found out that Kahlie had a minor case of endometriosis. Even though it was minor, our fertility doctor said that it could be contributing to our infertility. So Kahlie scheduled an appointment, went under the knife, and had the cysts removed. With the cysts gone, we were hopeful that we’d be able to get pregnant. Our infinitely wise God, however, continued to keep us in the furnace of infertility. 

With this, our hope began to fade. The feeling of discouragement kept welling up inside of us. Would we ever be able to have children? Would Kahlie ever experience the joy of holding our newborn baby? Would I ever feel the happiness of cradling my child?

And at times there was a feeling of bitterness. Pregnant women were frequenting the Planned Parenthood in Durham, NC, to have the life of their babies snuffed out every single day. People that were having pre-marital sex were frequently getting pregnant. And here Kahlie and I were, following Christ, serving the church, evangelizing unbelievers, and we couldn’t achieve pregnancy (terribly unbiblical thinking . . . WE KNOW)!

“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3).

As we continued to consult with our doctor, he informed us that the next step would be intrauterine insemination (IUI). An IUI is a medical procedure that basically takes the healthiest of my sperm and places it directly into Kahlie’s uterus around the time that she is ovulating and releasing eggs. The hope is that the healthy sperm will swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize an egg. In 2019, we had three IUIs done. None of these, however, enabled us to get pregnant. Our great God kept this trial on our shoulders, and He faithfully enabled us to have the strength to bear up under it.

“He will put his silver into the fire to purify it; but He sits by the furnace as a refiner, to direct the process, and to secure the end he has in view.” John Newton

We Didn’t Pursue IVF

Shortly after our last IUI, Kahlie and I moved to Longville, Louisiana, for an associate pastor position at First Baptist Church of Longville. As we moved to Longville, growing our family unit was still on our mind. If we wanted to have biological children, our next step would be in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is when they take mature eggs from the woman, healthy sperm from the man, and then seek to fertilize as many eggs as possible in a test tube.

There are a couple ethical reasons Kahlie and I didn’t want to do IVF. In a typical IVF cycle, they seek to fertilize as many eggs as possible so that they have the greatest chance of getting the most viable embryos (sometimes they end up with twelve to fifteen viable embryos). They then transfer one or two embryos into the uterus. The remaining embryos are then frozen until the couple decides they want to transfer one or two more.

The problem with fertilizing as many eggs as possible, though, is that human life begins at the moment of conception. Those embryos are babies at their earliest stage of development. Therefore, those frozen embryos that may never be transferred to the uterus, and most of them will never be transferred, are babies. And if those embryos are never transferred, they will remain frozen until they are discarded. To discard embryos is abortion. 

Because of this, Kahlie and I had an ethical problem with IVF. The only way we could do IVF in a way that would honor the Lord is if we only sought to have a couple eggs fertilized. Though this was doable, it doesn’t have near the success, and it’s very expensive.

Looking at Adoption

With this in mind, we put a hold on trying to grow our family through fertility treatments (Kahlie did make me use essential oils at one point………I know I know)! Instead, in the tumultuous and chaotic year of 2020, we started looking at adoption. As I noted at the beginning, this is something we had the desire to do ever since our engagement. Now, in 2020, we were finally going to pursue it.

“Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. . . To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.” J.I. Packer

Domestic Adoption

One of the first options we looked at was domestic adoption. Kahlie and I had two good friends that had just gone down the domestic adoption route, were placed with a beautiful baby girl, and were enjoying the sweet snuggles of a newly born baby! This was enticing, though we knew that it didn’t always work out like this. But as we considered the price of domestic adoption, we decided to look at other options.

Foster to Adopt

The second option we looked at was foster to adopt. Some couples in our church had fostered to adopt, and informed us that it was basically free. With this in mind, Kahlie and I signed up for a foster to adopt class. At this class, the social worker informed us that the primary goal of the foster system was reconciliation with the family. As Kahlie and I reflected on her statement, we began thinking that this may not be the best route for us since our main goal wouldn’t align with their main goal (though the reconciliation and restoration of broken families is a good thing).

Embryo Adoption

At this point, we didn’t really know what to do. However, in God’s mysterious providence, I was scrolling through Facebook one night in March 2020 and saw where some friends of ours from North Carolina were four months pregnant. As I read their announcement, they mentioned an adoption process that I had never heard of —embryo adoption. So, embryo adoption was the third option we began to look at.

Embryo adoption is the process of adopting other people’s embryos. Earlier, I mentioned the ethical problem that comes with IVF. Well, just as domestic adoption is one of the God ordained solutions to abortion, so embryo adoption is one of the God ordained solutions to all these frozen and leftover embryos being discarded (aborted). 

After a couple decides that they are not going to use their remaining viable embryos, they can donate them to fertility clinics. At these fertility clinics, couples like Kahlie and I can adopt them. And what makes embryo adoption unique from other forms of adoption is this: you get to give birth to your adopted baby!

We Pursued Embryo Adoption

As we studied up on embryo adoption, we began to get excited. With God’s guidance, around May 2020, we began the process of embryo adoption with the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. NEDC is a faith based non-profit embryo donation center that came highly recommended.

So we began the process, had home studies done with an awesome social worker that we grew to love, made our first visit to NEDC for consultation, selected embryos, and selected a date to go back to NEDC for transfer day. For us, transfer day was scheduled for December 2020.

Transfer day is the day you go in to have your selected embryos transferred. If the embryos implant in the uterus, then you are pregnant. If the embryos don’t implant in the uterus, then you are not pregnant. However, you don’t really know if the transfer is successful until 10-12 days after your transfer. So we went in on transfer day, had two embryos transferred, and then drove back to Louisiana and waited to see if the transfer was successful.

Our First Attempt Didn’t Work

Sadly, right after News Years Eve, we found out that the transfer wasn’t successful. We lost our two adopted babies. This was grueling. Nevertheless, even in the midst of the loss, Christ was faithful. He drew near to us, comforted us, and reminded us of all His promises. 

On to Our Second Attempt

For couples that didn’t have a successful transfer, NEDC allows them to schedule another transfer day at basically half the price. So Kahlie and I scheduled another transfer day for February 2021. The deacons of our church were led by the Lord to give us three thousand dollars. A friend in our community was led by the Lord to give us a thousand dollars. With this, we had the transfer day scheduled and we had the money we needed to make it happen. GOD IS SO GOOD!

So in early February, Kahlie and I hopped in my truck and made the long drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, again. NEDC transferred three embryos, we got back in the truck, and headed back to Louisiana…and waited, again. After ten days we found out that the transfer was successful. We were pregnant! PRAISE THE LORD!

We are Pregnant!

At our first ultrasound (they do these regularly after you find out that you’re pregnant so that they can monitor everything), they found out that two of the embryos had successfully implanted in the uterus. It was a twin pregnancy. As we continued to get ultrasounds, though, it became increasingly clear that one of the embryos was not developing or growing. It was a non-viable pregnancy. Though this was tough, we were thankful to God that one of the babies was doing really well!

And as I write this, Kahlie is now twenty-one weeks pregnant with our adopted baby girl. We have decided to name this little girl Elizabeth (Eliza) Jane McDuffie. Our hearts are full!

Things We Learned

Our heavenly Father has taught us a lot through all this. He has taught us about His faithfulness, goodness, grace, and mercy in the midst of trials. He has shown us that He is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. He has taught us how to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice regardless of our own life circumstances. He has taught us even more about the value and dignity of human life — even a little frozen embryo! He has revealed to us the importance of being persistent in prayer. And most of all, He has given us a little better knowledge of the great sacrifice He made when He willingly gave His only Son up to death on a cross so that, through faith in Christ, we might become adopted children of God. 

Get Self-Control!

A man without self-control 

is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

Proverbs 25:28

The Bible teaches that we have three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. These three adversaries have done more damage to the human race than all the communist regimes throughout history. The world, this godless age that we live in, is a prostitute constantly seeking to allure and entice us to commit spiritual adultery on the Lord (James 4:1-5). The flesh, our sin nature that rages against all that’s godly, is consistently seeking the fleeting pleasures of sin (Romans 8:5-8; Hebrews 11:25). And the devil, that fierce nemesis of our souls, is actively tempting us to rebel against God. These enemies are forcefully trying to infiltrate our souls, to corrupt every aspect of our being, and to leave us desolate before God. 

A City Without Walls

And the proverb above teaches us how instrumental self-control is when these adversaries rage against us. You see, when we possess self-control, we can exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. On the other hand, when we lack self-control, we cannot exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. As you can see, without self-control we lie open to our enemies’ every attack. We are “like a city broken into and left without wall” (Proverbs 25:28). A city without walls is a city without a defense. It is easily taken, plundered, and conquered. This is how it is when we lack self-control. We have no line of defense against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Perfect For Conquering

When we cannot control our sinful passions and desires, every worldly enticement can lead us into spiritual adultery, every fleshly desire can lead us into heinous sin, and every temptation can lead us to rebel against God. Periods of anger have potential to lead to murder (Genesis 4:8). Moments of inward lust can lead to acts of adultery (2 Samuel 11:2-5). Envy and jealousy can lead to gossip, slander, and false accusations (Matthew 27:18). Desire for worldly glory, honor, and power can lead to genocide (Esther 3:1-6). Unrestrained sensual passions can lead to incestuous rape (2 Samuel 13:11-14). A desire for continual pleasure can lead to poverty (Proverbs 21:17). Though more examples could be given, it should be apparent by now that without self-control, the world, the flesh, and the devil arrive at the city of our souls to find it lacking walls and ready to be easily taken over!

Where Do I Find Self-Control?

But how are we to get self-control? And we are not talking about the self-control it takes to wake up early in the morning to go to the gym. We are talking about the self-control it takes to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God — to say “no” to worldly enticements, the lust of the flesh, and the temptations of the evil one, and to say “yes” to righteousness, holiness, purity, and godliness! How are we to get this kind of self-control?

The Spirit of God

First, the Bible teaches that we must be born again by the Spirit of God. Apart from the new birth, we are in the flesh, and we live in accordance with our fleshly desires (John 3:6; Romans 6:5-7). And to be in the flesh and living in accordance with our fleshly desires is to be hostile to God (Romans 6:7), enslaved to sin (Romans 6:15-19), and under the dominating power of sin (Romans 6:6-11). 

However, once we are born again by the Spirit, we are in the Spirit, liberated from slavery to sin, and released from the dominating power of sin (Romans 8:1-11). By the Spirit of God, we are enabled to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God. Simply put, we are enabled to have self-control when it comes to saying “no” to worldly enticements, the lust of the flesh, and the temptations of the evil one, and “yes” to righteousness, holiness, purity, and godliness.

Secondly, as the Spirit of God leads us, we are to “walk by the Spirit,” and to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25). As we do this, the Spirit of God will increasingly produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). So, as we “walk by the Spirit,” and “keep in step with the Spirit,” we will progressively have the Spirit empowered ability to exercise control over our sinful desires and passions. Rather than being like a city without walls, we will be like fortified city with impenetrable walls. 

Thirdly, we must know what it means to “walk by the Spirit,” and to “keep in step with the Spirit.” I mean, how are we to live in such a way that the Spirit will increasingly produce His fruit in our lives? And I think J.I. Packer is particularly helpful here, so I am just going to let him teach us:

The Spirit works through means—through the objective means of grace, namely, biblical truth, prayer, fellowship, worship, and the Lord’s Supper, and with them through the subjective means of grace whereby we open ourselves to change, namely, thinking, listening, questioning oneself, examining oneself, admonishing oneself, sharing what is in one’s heart with others, and weighing any response they make. . . . Habit forming is the Spirit’s ordinary way of leading us on in holiness. . . . Love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are all of them habitual. . . . ways of thinking, feeling and behaving.

Packer goes on to emphasize that, “Holiness by habit forming is not self-sanctification by self-effort, but simply a matter of understanding the Spirit’s method and then keeping in step with Him.” Essentially, Packer is teaching us that the Spirit works through means. The more we make use of these means, the more the Spirit produces His fruit in our lives. Therefore, if we want to grow in self-control, lets habitually make use of the means the Spirit has promised to bless.

A City With Walls

This is the key to having ever increasing self-control in the Christian life. And if we are faithful to do this, the world, the flesh, and the devil will show up at the city of our souls to find unscalable, impenetrable, and sturdy walls built around it. These ancient foes will not find a city without a defense. They will find a city aware of their schemes, defended on every side, and ready to make an offensive attack by the power of the Spirit of God.

Don’t Overstay!

Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, 

lest he have his fill of you and hate you.”

Proverbs 25:17

Just the other day I was meditating on this proverb while I was sitting in my office. As one of our custodians came in to straighten up, I mentioned it to her to see what she thought about this bit of proverbial wisdom. Let’s just say that she was tickled by it. She had no idea that the Bible directed us in such small and seemingly insignificant matters of the Christian life. But this is an amazing aspect of the Bible, isn’t it? The Word of God expounds great and glorious doctrines like the Trinity, and it also give us seemingly insignificant instructions that aid us in our relationships with others.

Enjoyment to Hatred

When the proverb above tells us that our foot should “be seldom in our neighbor’s house,” it is telling us that we shouldn’t frequent our neighbor’s house too regularly. Solomon then gives us the reason for this when he says, “lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” And this idea of having one’s “fill” of something was just used in the prior verse when Solomon said, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit” (Proverbs 25:16). The idea is simple — eating just enough honey brings sweet contentment, while eating too much honey brings disgust. Considering verse 16, it is evident that verse 17 is teaching us not to overstay our welcome.

Though we may think spending significant amounts of time with ourselves is a foretaste of heaven on earth, our neighbor may not think so! In fact, overstaying our welcome may lead our neighbor out of the realm of love and into the realm of hatred. Just as too much honey may lead out of the land of enjoyment and into the land of to vomit, so too much Philip may lead my neighbor from delightful enjoyment of me to an utter hatred for me.

Considering our Neighbor

This wisdom, however, was not given to keep us out our neighbor’s house. God would never instruct us to do something that would halt the flow of neighborly love. Instead, God is teaching us that, in all our interactions, we must show consideration for those whom we are interacting with. 

Our neighbors typically have a spouse that needs to be loved, children that need to be cared for, business that needs to get done, and a good night’s sleep that needs to be enjoyed.  Aside from these, our neighbors may simply want to enjoy the creaturely comforts of being in their home without hosting a guest. Moreover, even the godliest of neighbors still have a sin nature that rears its head from time to time. 

If we frequently enter our neighbor’s house without due consideration of these things, then they may become weary of us —perhaps even degusted with us! However, if we enter our neighbor’s house giving due consideration to these aspects of our neighbor’s life, then we won’t overstay our welcome.

Frequently Come Before God

Though our neighbors may have their fill of us, God will not. Our neighbors have a sin nature and creaturely limitations, but God is a perfectly pure being that has no creaturely restrictions. While God causes the grass to grow, provides food for the birds of the air, and sustains the life of every human being, He can still give undivided attention to all who enter the throne room of grace. Though millions pray to Him at the same time, He can give wholehearted attention to each one with loving care. This led Charles Bridges to say:

Blessed be God! There is no need of this caution and reserve in our approach unto him. Once acquainted with the way of access, there is no wall of separation. Our earthly friend may be pressed too far. Kindness may be worn out by frequent use. But never can we come to our heavenly Friend unseasonably….The more frequent the visits, the more welcome, and the more fruitful.

What an incredible thought! May we never forget that this kind of access to God the Father is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16).

Two Hopes

“The hope of the righteous brings joy, 

but the expectation of the wicked will perish.”

Proverbs 10:28

Hope is grounded on the certainty of future blessing. It springs up inside of people as they think about all the good that is going to come to them at a later date. And to some extent, everybody has hope. Everybody expects that, at some point, things are going to get better. . . . either now or after death. Biblically speaking, though, there are only two types of hope — a definite hope and a fabricated hope.

The Definite Hope of the Righteous

For the righteous, those who believe in Christ and are spiritually enabled to walk in accordance with His commandments, our hope is certain. The certainty of our hope is grounded on the very nature of our God. For our God is a God who cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2), and He has promised His people an unspeakably bright future.

The Bible teaches that our exodus from this cursed earth to a new heavens and a new earth that is filled with the knowledge of the glory of God is right around the corner (Luke 21:28; Romans 13:11). Before long, Christ will descend from the heavens with the sound of a trumpet. At His command, we will receive imperishable resurrection bodies that are raised up in power, honor, and glory (1 Corinthians 15:42).

These future resurrection bodies will enable us to dwell on the new earth with our Triune God forever (Revelation 21:2-3). Sin and its devastating effects will be done away with. As we dwell with God on the new earth, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). The blessed happiness that comes from perfect communion with the one True God will constantly fill our hearts. It will be both euphoric and Edenic. This is why “the hope of the righteous brings joy” (Proverbs 10:28).

The Fabricated Hope of the Wicked

For the wicked, those who are apart from Christ Jesus and living in darkness, their hope is a fabricated hope. They fool themselves into thinking that their future is bright when, in reality, it is unbearably dark. This is certainly the case for religious hypocrites. Though religious hypocrites walk contrary to God’s will, they convince themselves that they are heirs of the kingdom of God (Matthew 7:21-23; 25:11-13). As they perpetually sin against the Lord, they hear words of both promise and warning and say, “I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart” (Deuteronomy 29:18-19).

This false sense of hope remains with the religious hypocrite all the way to the great white throne judgment. As they stand before Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, they will sincerely believe that they are about to receive the blessings of the righteous (Matthew 7:21-23). This will not be the case though. Christ, with blazing eyes of omniscience, will reveal to them that he never knew them in a covenantal way (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:22-30). 

After revealing to religious hypocrites that they had a fabricated hope, Christ will publicly condemn them before the eyes of all. He will then justly sentence them to a life of eternal conscience torment. They will never know the blessed happiness of perfect communion with God. All they will ever know is “the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger” (Revelation 14:9-11). As they perish eternally, their fabricated hope will perish with them.

What A Nuisance!

“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, 

so is the sluggard to those who send him.”

Proverbs 10:26

Throughout the book of Proverbs, the sluggard is actually portrayed in amusing and pitiful ways. The sluggard is depicted as a person who is perpetually lazy and inactive. He does not have any discipline, self-control, or initiative. He has a hard time both starting and finishing his work (Proverbs 19:24; 21:25; 24:30-34; 26:15). Instead of starting his work, he voices excuses so that he can postpone his labors (Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:15). And whenever he actually does start his work, he has a difficult time doing his work well (Proverbs 10:26).

This humorous and pitiful depiction of the sluggard is not meant to minimize the sin of laziness. Instead, it is to heighten the seriousness of it. God wants us to know that the sluggard is someone that lacks biblical wisdom (Proverbs 24:30). He wants to teach us that laziness is a moral failing (Proverbs 15:19; Matthew 25:26).

An Annoying Employee

With this in mind, in our proverb above we are given a “lively figure of the vexation of the sluggard to his employers!” Those who send the sluggard are those who employed the lazy bones and sought to put him to work. While the sluggard works, though, he is a constant nuisance and hindrance to his bosses. He is pictured as “vinegar on the teeth and smoke to the eyes” (Proverbs 10:26) – both of which are very irritating and agitating!

The sluggard does not “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). While a Christian has the glory of God as his commanding interest in all his labors, the sluggard has no commanding interest. The sluggard’s chief desire is the gratification of his own sinful flesh.

This leaves his bosses constantly concerned about him. They have to constantly ask themselves, “What is the lazy bones doing? Is he doing what he is supposed to be doing? Is he doing it well? Will he ever finish?” As bosses spend countless hours concerned about the sluggard, they find that hiring a sluggard is like drinking vinegar. They find that employing a sluggard is like having smoke constantly agitating the eyes.

Diligence that Adorns

The Spirit filled Christian should not be like the sluggard though. Rather than being like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, an employed Christian should be like a well-oiled machine. They should show up to work with an earnest desire to bring glory to God, to labor for Christ, and to love their neighbor. Their reputation for working diligently should allow their employers to rest well knowing that the job is being done in an honorable way.

This type of diligent labor allows Christians to adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ while they are at work. Through their diligent labor, they are sincerely loving their employers. Even more importantly, they are showing their employers that they genuinely believe Christ’s Lordship extends to every aspect of their lives – even to their daily labors.

It’s God’s Fault

“When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, 

his heart rages against the Lord.”

Proverbs 19:3

In the beginning, God made us upright (Genesis 1:26; Ecclesiastes 7:29). Ever since the fall of Adam, however, we have inherited a sin nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:19). With this sin nature, we live out folly. According to the book of Proverbs, folly is what happens when we act without heavenly wisdom and knowledge – it is what happens when we give full reign to our sinful passions and begin to obey them (Proverbs 5:23; 12:23; 13:15; 14:1). And though living in folly may lead to momentary pleasure at times (Hebrews 11:25), it ultimately leads to ruin (Proverbs 19:3). This is clearly seen in the first three chapters of Genesis.

Adam’s Folly Leads to Ruin

God created Adam and Eve to be vice regents, to rule over the world, and to exercise a god-like dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30). At the outset of their rule, however, God gave them one prohibition. God prohibited Adam and Eve from eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). This prohibition was wisely given by God in order to keep Adam and Eve in their proper place. As they functioned as vice-regents of the world, this prohibition reminded them that they were not THE REGENT of the world. It reminded them that they were always to use their kingly rule in a way that honored the one true king, the Lord God Almighty.

Before long, though, the tempter came tempting Eve to disobey this wise prohibition that God had given to her husband (Genesis 3:1-5). I mean, why be a vice regent when you could usurp God’s regency and become THE REGENT? The more Eve thought about this, the more her eyes were captivated by the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food” and “desirable to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6). 

Desiring to have this luscious fruit burst in her mouth, she disobeyed God’s command, laid hold of the fruit, and partook of it (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6). As the juices landed on her palate, she enjoyed the savory flavor. She then took the forbidden fruit and handed it to Adam. Adam, too, acted without heavenly wisdom and knowledge. He foolishly took the fruit from Eve’s hand and began to partake in it himself (Genesis 3:6). Little did they know, though, that their foolishness had already begun to lead to their ruin. Though they thought this would allow them to usurp God’s regency, it ultimately led to their alienation from God.

His Heart Rages Against the Lord

Not long after this the Lord approached them in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. At this point, it would have been wise for the heart of Adam to rage against itself. After all, it was Adam’s own folly that led to his own ruin. Therefore, he should have expressed displeasure in himself, humbled himself, turned away from his sin, and turned to the Lord. Sadly, this is not what happened.

Rather than raging against himself, Adam’s cold dead heart raged against the Lord . . . . just as our proverb above talks about. Even though he was the very author of his own ruin and misery, he laid the charge against God. When the Lord approached Adam inquiring about what had happened with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed the Lord for his very own foolishness by saying, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). This shows “the foolishness of Adam! First he perverted his way; then he charged upon God its bitter fruit.”

Still True Today

As we saw above, our proverbial teaching is perfectly illustrated in the life of Adam. And even though we are far removed from Adam, this proverbial teaching captures exactly how we are prone to respond when our own folly leads to our own ruin. When we begin to suffer some of the ruin that was inevitable based off the sin we were indulging in, our first sinful inclination is to rage against God. We want to blame and be embittered towards the Lord. This is not the way of wisdom.

When we endure any type of ruin, heavenly wisdom would have us examine ourselves to see if there was any known foolishness that led to this ruin. If we discover that our own folly led to this particular ruin in our lives, we ought to repent of our sin, turn to the Lord, and plead for His mercy and grace. This will keep us from raging against the Lord when we should be sorrowfully raging against our own hearts.

Hear Both Sides!

“The one who states his case first seems right, 

until the other comes and examines him.”

(Proverbs 18:17)

Within our sin nature, that old self that we inherited from Adam, there is a tendency to deceive others. This is especially true when we state our case to other people with the aim of getting them to agree with us about someone that we are not particularly happy with.

In an intense desire to get somebody to agree with us, we passionately pour out our case to others. Our hope is that they will see that we are in the right and that the other person is in the wrong. We want them to join us. We want them to defend us and accuse the other person. We passionately want other people to begin viewing us as the innocent party and the other person as the guilty party.

We Seem Right

However, in doing so, we deceptively and perhaps unconsciously “cast a shade over, or even omit, what might seem to balance on the opposite side.” Because we are so zealous in our effort to get others to agree with our case, we deceptively portray the other person in such a way that those who are listening to us will inevitably agree with us. And because we are the lone person that has stated our case against this particular person, those who listen to us think that we are right. They do exactly what we were hoping they would do – they begin thinking that we are innocent and that the other person is guilty.

Until Cross Examination

Until, as the proverb says, “the other comes and examines him.” Those who are acquainted with both the person and situation come and shed light on everything that we misconstrued and omitted. Perhaps even the person that was originally being talked about comes to give their side of the story.

This reveals to all that we were not as in the right as we originally seemed to be. As Charles Bridges said, “The first tale is good, till the second is heard.” The verdict changes once all the facts are known. Through our deception, they joined us for a while. With increasing clarity, however, they begin to realize that everything isn’t as it originally seemed.

Played Out Everyday

Because this is the inspired word of God that exegetes the sinful nature of man with incredible precision, we see this played out every single day. Cops see this played out during arrests. Judges see this played out in court hearings. Marriage counselors see this played out in sessions with embittered married couples. Parents see this played out with their children. And pastors see this played out within the church. When the first person states their case, there is almost always truth mixed with error – there is almost always just enough deceit to get the other person to agree with them! God is not ignorant of this. This is why Proverbs 18:17 is in the Bible.

Applying This Today

First, if we are stating our case, we must realize that it is very difficult to “state facts and circumstances with perfect accuracy where our own name, or credit is concerned.” More often than not, our sin nature wants to portray facts and circumstances in such a way that we appear to be absolutely right and others appear to be absolutely wrong. We must realize how susceptible we are to this and strive to fight against it. We can do this by distrusting ourselves, examining ourselves to uncover any prejudices that we have, and asking God to search our hearts for any hidden evil that lies within. In turn, this will rid us of deceit and lead us to increasing truthfulness.

Second, we must not establish a verdict too quickly when we are listening to someone make their case. We must hear both sides before we come to a verdict. This is something we have heard since we were children, but it is something we still need to hear today. It is always wise to postpone the casting of a verdict until both sides have been heard. This will keep us from being deceived and led astray. This will also keep us from viewing a particular person wrongly. Therefore, when somebody makes their case, be sure to search for another person that can shed further light on both the person and situation being talked about. Perhaps even approach the person that was being talked about directly to get their side of the story. This will ensure you have all the facts before you cast a verdict.

Applying this proverb in these two ways will allow us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. For in seeking to apply this proverb in these two ways we ensure that we are loving our neighbor well. I’ll end with some advice from Charles Simeon. The more he aged in wisdom and grace, the more he sought to abide by these rules that he laid down earlier in his life.