Key Life Magazine - 2018 B

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10 Times Jesus Wasn’t Nice NICE & GOOD AREN'T ALWAYS THE SAME Andrew Petiprin, pg. 5

Don’t Rot the Gospel


Dark Night of the Soul


By Steve Brown Are you wandering around a spiritual wilderness and dying of thirst? Does it feel like God has gone away on vacation to Bermuda? I’ve been there and still go there on occasions. And more than once, I’ve had someone ask me in a very pious way, “Who moved?” In other words, all you have to do is to simply move back to Jesus and become more religious…then you and God, hand-in-hand, will walk off into the sunset together. That is stupid and comes from the heart of the Try Harder heresy of our faith. It smells like smoke and comes from the pit of hell. It is simply not true. Some of the closest times I’ve had with God happened when my devotional life stunk, I was too depressed to pray and I didn’t want to give up my sin. God showed… when I wouldn’t have. There have also been times when I did everything right, read and studied my Bible, prayed for all the missionaries, preached to God’s people and sinned less than most times…and it felt like God didn’t give a rip and essentially “left the building.”


Sometimes God moves…or at least it certainly feels like it. St. John of the Cross, the sixteenth century Carmelite monk, coined the phrase “the dark night of the soul.” He said that the “dark night” represents the hardships and pain the soul meets on the way to God. This experience is normal. It is not caused by something we do or don’t do. It is simply a part of the way God works. For the record, if you find yourself going through the dark night, Christ can identify with your pain and suffering. He can identify with your dark night of the soul. There is hardly a single place in your life right now where Jesus doesn’t say—sometimes with tears—“Yes, child, I know.” But if you really haven’t moved (at least not much) and yet God seems to have left you alone, I want to help. The Psalmist went through the dark night of the soul and was commissioned by God, in Psalm 22, to tell us of his experience. Psalm 22—and indeed most of Scripture—is a surprise. The principle is this: Almost all of God’s truth seems, on the face of it, foolish, obtuse and strange. A corollary of that principle: The essence of Christian maturity is often the recog-

nition that if it feels right…it is probably wrong. Paul said, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). So when it hurts really badly and you’re going through the dark night of the soul, everything you want to do or think you should do will only make it worse.

Run to the Dark

Our natural tendency is to run from the dark. We should run to the dark instead. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (Psalm 22:1-2). Larry Crabb says that when it hurts, keep probing the pain until it hurts more…and when it hurts so much that you can’t fix it, Jesus will come. And ironically when God seems to have left, we want to run away from him. I know I do. I want to quit praying and to run away. But that’s not what the Psalmist did and that’s not what Jesus did either. In the midst of his loss and on the cross, Jesus prayed (quoting this Psalm), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If you’re going through the dark night of the soul, don’t run away. Sit still, be

quiet and wait…even if you have to wait a long time.

Turn to the Past

Our natural tendency is to turn from the past. We should turn to the past instead. The Psalmist affirms the past: “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them, To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame….For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him” (Psalm 22:3-5, 24). God has given you two great gifts—your family’s history and your personal history. Hanging in my study are photos and actual letters written by Charles Spurgeon, Dwight L. Moody, C.S. Lewis, Billy Sunday and William Booth. I have an impressive gallery and an impressive library (I used to save money for books and now publishers send me books for free). They all remind me of my family and my heritage. I spend a lot of time in my study. Sometimes late at night, those guys talk to me: “Where do you think you’re going?” “You’ve gone too far to get out.” “We’ve all been there. We’ve been through what you’re going through.” “Sometimes we’ve wondered where God was too.” “Hang tough and stop complaining.”


I get that. What I don’t get is that Jesus stayed on the cross.

vacation to Bermuda?”


Don’t forget about your past too. The times when you thought you wouldn’t make it, but you did. The times when you thought you would die, but you didn’t. Remember the times of God’s kindness, love and faithfulness. The world says, “Have a drink and forget.” Jesus says, “Drink and remember.” You will have the past to look forward to.

Quit Looking for Alternatives

Our natural tendency is to look for alternatives. The Psalmist knew he didn’t have any: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help” (Psalm 22:9-11). Where are you going to go? Jesus forgives, accepts and loves me… and you. Who else is going to forgive you that way? Who else is going to accept you that way? Who else is going to love you that way? God keeps us and holds us. The last spiritual thing Job said was, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Job cussed, spit, complained and whined…but he didn’t leave. Job didn’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t have anywhere else to go. You don’t have anywhere else to go.

Affirm the Truth

Our natural tendency is to discount the truth. We should affirm the truth instead.


“All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:27-28). Don’t ever doubt in the dark what God has taught you in the light. Whatever you’re going through, the truth is still the truth. Remember that what we believe is true. It is objective truth, what Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” No matter what I feel about it or anything else, it is still true. And once you see truth, you can’t unsee it.

Praise God

Our natural tendency is to complain. We should praise God instead. “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” (Psalm 22:2223). “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Nothing is an accident in your life. Jesus is always in it…even in, especially in, the dark night of the soul. So be still, don’t run, and wait.


JESUS WASN’T NICE By Andrew Petiprin

sus isn’t nice, but he’s good. Indeed, he is goodness incarnate. He would never remove the football right before the kick, as Lucy meanly does to Charlie Brown. But he never minces his words about how to live.

My two small children have a knack for boiling all virtue and vice down into two categories: “Nice” and “mean.”

For our edification, in descending order, here are ten times Jesus wasn’t nice, but is always good.

I’m no grouch about that. I want nice children. And as basic civic values go in a diverse society, decency, courtesy, and tolerance are important. “Nice” works a lot of the time. But when more serious matters of discipline and formation arise, we see its limitations. It is well and good to avoid the meanies on the playground; but it won’t do to say “You’re mean!” when loving parents deny children a third scoop of ice cream or won’t let them knock holes in the wall for fun. Nor is it faithful to diminish Gospel truth for the sake of not seeming “mean.” On the other hand, some things that might be labelled “not nice” are actually willfully malicious or downright psychopathic: e.g. everything from physical assault or cruel insults to spitting gum into a urinal or borrowing someone’s car and returning it with an empty gas tank.

10. The woman caught in adultery

9. The rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18). This guy gets everything right until Jesus asks him to give up all of his wealth. He can’t do it, and he goes away “sorrowful.” Nice people don’t let their friends stay sad! Moreover, when rich Zacchaeus decides to follow Jesus (Luke 19:1-10), he only has to give up half of his horde. Unfair! 8. Family hatred (Matthew 10:3738, Luke 14:26). There’s nothing nice to say about the cost of discipleship: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sister, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). This even applies to the Holy Family (Mat...CONTINUED ON PAGE 7


But typical niceness is a far cry from true Christian virtue. We need look no further than Jesus himself, who, like the prophets of Israel, is rarely ever nice, easy-going, or even safe. As Mrs. Beaver says about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “He isn’t safe, but he’s good. He’s the king.” Je-

(John 8:1-11). It may seem nice to save a woman from being stoned until we consider Jesus’s impossible challenge: “Go, and from now on sin no more” (v. 11). Jesus saves the woman from her accusers so that he may save her from doing whatever has pleased her. For all the marvelous “love” talk in John’s Gospel, it doesn’t always mean what we want it to mean.

In most of Jesus’ Key Life Authors relationships with people, he didn’t have a hidden agenda. His only agenda was love, and that was worn on his sleeve. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will

thew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:19-21). Mary is the highly favored God-bearer, but when Jesus needs to make a point about belonging to the family of God, she has to wait outside.

7. James and John want good seats

(Matthew 20:20-28, Mark 10:35-45, Luke 22:24-27). Who wouldn’t want to be close to Jesus? In Matthew’s Gospel, James and John even get their mom to ask for them. A nice guy would say, “Hey, plenty of room up close for everyone!” Jesus instead shows them how foolish they are: “You do not know what you are asking.”

6. “Shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). Preaching the Gospel isn’t easy, or at least it shouldn’t be. Most people want to stay the way they are rather than change. They will settle for nice. Jesus says, move on from them.

ruined the teaching moment. By grace, we dogs get to go to heaven too.

3. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Jesus’s opponents take it in the teeth here in the conclusion to his “woes.” Even Jerusalem herself receives Jesus’s curse (23:37-39). Politeness or agreeableness? Nope. Jesus even goes after their attire (23:5) – definitely not nice.

2. Jesus’s words to the churches

(Revelation 2:1-3:22). To the Ephesians, Jesus offers a dire warning, along with one word of not nice solidarity: “This you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (2:6). As for the prophetess of Thyatira, Jesus promises to “throw…into a sickbed…and strike her children dead” (2:2223). Of the lukewarm Laodiceans he says, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (3:16). Yuck!


5. Cursing the fig tree (Mark 11:1225). It’s not even fig season, and Jesus lets this poor tree have it: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again” (v. 14). The lesson, on the other side of cleansing the temple (another mean moment!) is wondrously baffling. The word of God is powerful and true.

4. Canaanite/Syrophoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-


30). Jesus at his initially exclusive and later reluctantly inclusive best. The woman calls herself a dog, and Jesus agrees with her. The polite thing would have been to redirect: “But what a cute dog!” But again, niceness would have

1. “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). This is the granddaddy of all biblical rebukes, and the epitome of not being nice. Peter no sooner confesses his faith in the God-man than reverts to his usual misfiring. Our disagreeable savior says and does whatever it takes to transform Peter and us for life in the kingdom. Thank God.

Honorable mentions: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born!” (Mat-


Sinners, Sufferers, and the Gift of Grace At Key Life, we believe the deepest message of Jesus and the Bible is the radical grace of God to sinners and sufferers.

“God bless you for offering free resources. Not everyone can afford many ministries’ resources.”

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“I started listening to you in the mornings at 6:30 when my husband was sick. You got me through a really awful time. I wanted to thank you for reminding me that God is there when things go wrong and still cares for us.”

Grace means that because of what Jesus has done, when you run to him, God’s not mad at you. On the radio, in print, and online, Steve Brown and his motley band of misfits are dedicated to communicating that life-changing message.

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thew 26:24) If not for its recipient, this one would have to be high up in the top ten. But it’s Judas. Even the tenderest hearted among us knows he had it coming.

Improper banquet garb (Matthew 22:1-14). Luke leaves the final detail out, but Matthew is clear. You have to follow Jesus’s dress code to come to Jesus’s party. No nice-guy exceptions. “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:2123). Nice people give A’s for effort. Not Jesus. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Our best intentions and our hardest strivings won’t be enough to hide a rotten heart.

“I have come not to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Nice

people value keeping the peace over deciding on truth: What is so important we have to fight about it? Jesus is having none of it.

“I am not praying for the world…”

(John 17:9). Get in line behind Israel, Gentiles.

The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). How impolite to bring up all those exes?!

Everything about Gehenna (Matthew 5:22, Luke 12:5, etc…). Jesus does not joke around about what life without him is like. It’s not nice. Don’t try it. It wouldn’t hurt for most of us to be a little bit nicer.


But the next time your kids are overly concerned about who is being nice, remind them that the Lord and Savior of the universe wasn’t usually nice. But he is good.

Andrew Petiprin is one of our new Key Life authors, and we’re excited to announce that his first Key Life book will be released in September, 2018. Mark your calendar to drop by the KeyLife. org/store and look for Truth Matters: Knowing God and Yourself. Andrew is Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Tennessee. For six years he was rector of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Orlando, Florida, and before that he trained for ordination at Yale Divinity School. He was a Marshall Scholar at Magdalen College, Oxford from 2001-2003. Andrew and his wife, Amber, live with their two children and two cats in Nashville, Tennessee. In Truth Matters, Andrew helps readers ground their lives in the ancient truths of the Bible and journey on with meaning and purpose. As it champions the authentic teachings of the Christian faith (it really is all about grace), Truth Matters points to doctrine, liturgy, and tradition as a way to discover not just the truth about God, but to actually encounter God himself…and be forever changed.

Look for Truth Matters by Andrew Petiprin in September at


by Marci Preheim


ell, well, well, we got another professional babysitter here don’t we?” He said, as he perused my half-page resume. “Okay, you’re hired. Go get a uniform from the back office. You start tomorrow.” These were the words I heard from my soon-to-be manager at a popular fast food restaurant. I was sixteen years old and the proud owner of a brand new car payment, thus the need for more than a dollar an hour to watch kids on Friday and Saturday nights.

I soon discovered, however, that if I tomato clip art:

The last time I was in my hometown, I drove by that restaurant and chuckled to myself. I hadn’t thought about that place in a long time. Funny, they don’t have a salad bar there anymore. I wonder if it’s because other sixteen-yearolds with car payments and cash-register dreams took the same shortcuts that I did back in the day. The thought of that salad bar started morphing into a metaphor of my years in the evangelical church. I thought about all that rot under the appearance of goodness. What if we avoid acknowledging all the crap we’ve been teaching people, and cover over it with new and better teaching? Can we slowly and subtly stop putting people under law, and start teaching gospel freedom


Every time I clocked-in at my new job, I hoped my manager would put me on the cash register, where the playful banter of my fellow teenage workers made time pass quickly. Every time, he put me on the salad bar instead. I hated that salad bar. Not only did I have to keep the ice and kale garnish looking perfect, but also, all the toppings had to be full and fresh at all times. So many little crocks of food, and so many people messing it up. When the crocks got low, It was my job to take them to the back, get new clean crocks, fill them three quarters full with fresh food, and put the remnants from the old crocks on top.

just put new fresh food on top of the old, no one would notice—at least until they got home, or the next day. What could go wrong? My time-saving system seemed to work fine for the carrots and onions, but the ham cubes and hardboiled eggs? Not so much. When I actually cleaned out the old crocks, which was hardly ever, I saw some nasty, slimy stuff. Denial is a powerful force when you don’t care about the wellbeing of others. In my mind, the appearance of fresh food was just as good as fresh food.


instead? Maybe we could ignore the things we got wrong, and correct our error by covering over it with a fresh word of grace? What could go wrong? At the restaurant, a few finicky people stirred up the food in the salad bar crocks, causing my cover-up efforts to seep to the surface. One or two of them complained to my manager who then called me to his office to reprimand me. He warned me of the implications to the company if someone got sick, and suddenly my job was on the line. I was so annoyed with those people who tattled. What an inconvenience it was to have to do my job right.

If evangelicals won’t bring their rot into the light and acknowledge it themselves—it will come into the light some other way. The thing about rot is that it festers, spreads, and becomes a toxic, uncoverable problem. You can keep it buried for a while, but it permeates and eventually infects everything around it. If evangelicals put new and better gospel teaching on top of the unenlightened legalism, racism, misogyny, and abuse that has festered in our midst for years, it won’t purify the rot. It will pollute the gospel.


All these years later, I get it. Now I’m the finicky person digging deeper and discovering that something is not right here. Someone is not doing their job right and people are getting sick. If those of us who have been injured by the dark underbelly of evangelicalism don’t say something, more people will get sick. I’ve witnessed many trends, move-

ments, conferences and celebrity pastors. I’ve bought into many of them. It seems like every couple of years someone comes along and sprinkles some new teaching on top of the old. They say: “Now this is what Christians do,” and then everyone does it. Never mind that the last trend has run its course and left a bunch of victims in its wake. The gospel isn’t about doing anyway. It is about receiving. But we don’t talk about that. We just stuff down our messes and tell ourselves that the next thing we are told to do will bring fulfillment, formulas to live by, and guaranteed blessing. If we refuse to say something, the implications are much more serious than lost jobs, books sales, platforms and warm bodies in pews (which is what many Christian leaders seem to be most concerned about). We lose credibility, and the good news we have to share will turn into another empty religion, void of love and grace. It will have the appearance of life and health, with putrefied decay just beneath the surface. If evangelicals won’t bring their rot into the light and acknowledge it themselves—it will come into the light some other way. Say something evangelicals. We’re giving up on you. John 3:19-21 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Erik Guzman The Seed: A True Myth

Matt Johnson Getting Jesus Wrong

We've all had the feeling that something's not quite right with our lives. It's bigger than any specific failure or disappointment. It's bigger than any person. No matter what you achieve or how much you drink or sleep, you can't shake it. It haunts you—night and day— and propels you to do something. So you build. You build and build the maze that is your exhausting life. Sound vaguely familiar?

Jesus is not a life coach, a movement leader, a cultural visionary, or a blessing dispenser—but you might not know that by listening to many Christians talk about their faith. Feel-good slogans promote a caricatured Jesus made in our own image who cannot save us and leaves us feeling guilty for not saving ourselves. Following the wrong Jesus disappoints us and produces anxiety, pride, and despair.

The Seed: A True Myth is a journey into the personal labyrinths we create to protect ourselves and those we love from the pain of living in a broken world. Erik Guzman's "true myth" takes the reader on an unforgettable journey that is, in essence, the grand narrative of God's redemptive work in the world. This page-turning Christian fantasy tale is packed with mystery and drama, and readers will feel the weight and power of redemption as they journey alongside Guzman's characters in their epic battle.

Pete Alwinson Like Father Like Son

absentee father.

If you don’t know what it means to be a “real man,” there are approximately 2,341 books out there. But many of them will leave you burdened with a masculine to-do list, resigned to passivity in the face of impossible expectations, or convinced that your manhood has been indelibly marked by an

So how do you figure out who you are and who you are meant to be? Knowing God’s fatherly love changes everything for a man. Like Father, Like Son is an invitation to men to recover and reclaim an intimate, growing relationship with their heavenly Father and live out of that biblical, core identity in their particular calling as sons, fathers, brothers, friends. A man who is forgiven and accepted by his heavenly Father is free to become like him. God’s grace alone turns them into real men.

In Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity, pastor and new Key Life author Matt Johnson is genuinely funny and transparent as he shares his personal encounters with a string of false saviors and shows us what it looks like to get Jesus right. The message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to exhausted and disillusioned disciples as we are and offering a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (a rich exploration of the depths of gospel love).

Kendra Fletcher Lost and Found Kendra Fletcher, homeschooling mom of eight, took pride in having it all together— the right schooling, the right theology, the right church, and the right mealplanning, home-managing, keep-it-all-together parenting. Then it all fell apart. Three of Kendra’s children were taken to the brink of death in a period of 18 months. As wave after wave of crisis hit her family, she learned that doing life and religion “right” was a poor substitute for a living relationship with a loving God. More than a memoir, Lost and Found will help you find your value, worth, significance, hope, and identity in Christ alone. Experience the freeing grace that only Jesus can give! To order these books, call 1-800-KEYLIFE, write to, or order online at

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