Issue #100

Confronting Spiritual Abuse, How to Talk with Your Kids about Transgender Ideology, The (Un)Definition of Marriage, and more...

Issue #100
Photo by Marcel Eberle / Unsplash

Wow. Issue #100. I wouldn’t have imagined that it was possible that I’d still be writing The Garden Weekly nearly two years later and hit triple-digit issues. I’m thankful for each reader and pray for you regularly. I hope and pray that this little weekly letter impacts you in some small way to keep your eyes on Messiah Jesus and to think about your faith in both old and new ways.

It’s often been tempting to try to make TGW a more extensive “thing.” A regular YouTube channel, podcast, and more are often on my mind. Yet it's not really possible because of my various stations in life. In fact, the increased burdens on my time have made even doing the bare minimum difficult.

With that said, after next week's issue, The Garden Weekly will be on indefinite hiatus. I write these words with incredible sadness. I've been writing this weekly letter non-stop for 100 weeks—nearly two years. The discipline of spending time each week to find, consider, and write about these articles, podcasts, and videos has been immensely beneficial to my spiritual life.

It is possible that weekly TGW issues will return in the future, but only God truly knows if or when that might happen. There will likely be the occasional blog, shared links, or book recommendations, which I may turn into the occasional e-mail, but these will be sporadic.

I hope and pray that you have been able to meditate on God's word and world in new ways through the links and commentary that TGW has provided.

Thank you for reading. To God be the Glory!

Church History Corner ⛪️

250 Years Ago: John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” First Sung | Bruce Hindmarsh 📃 →

On January 1, 1773, “Amazing Grace” was first sung.

It didn’t become popular right away. But gradually it spread among churches of all denominations in America. It became a revival song on the western frontier and an African American spiritual in black churches and a standard in 20th-century hymnbooks. Then it crossed over into the commercial marketplace in the age of radio with recording artists like Mahalia Jackson in 1947 and Judy Collins in 1970.

Since then, it has become the most popular and well-known hymn in the world. And it has gone not just wide but deep. It’s to this song that people turn when tragedy strikes. When all hope is lost, we sing “Amazing Grace.”

For all its familiarity, though, there are still many things you probably didn’t know about “Amazing Grace.”

Life in the Church ⛪️

Confronting Spiritual Abuse | Michael Kruger and Collin Hansen 🎧 →

Spiritual abuse is a hot conversation in evangelical circles right now. Michael Kruger’s new book Bully Pulpit: Confronting the Problem of Spiritual Abuse in the Church, which we have referenced in several previous issues, is interviewed on the GospelBound podcast.

They talk about whether this is a unique problem for Evangelical churches, why it’s coming to light now, and how to train and hire pastors that won’t abuse their positions of power but will lead in humility as followers of Christ.

For More:

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Family Focus 🏡

How to Talk with Your Kids about Transgender Ideology | Josh Glaser and Paula Rinehart 📃 →

Last spring, Helena Kirschner’s story of de-transitioning made waves. Helena detailed what lured her into gender transition—and how she got out. She had felt insecure about her body and was struggling with an eating disorder. She became estranged from friends and family. A few clicks on Google opened her up to an online community ready to welcome and accept her. Eventually, she recognized that questioning her gender identity elevated her online social status even more. She changed how she dressed and started binding her chest, and when she turned 18, she began taking high doses of testosterone.

Through all this, the refrain she heard from social workers, psychologists, and friends was that gender transition would eventually make her depression disappear. Helena writes now, however, that the real result was “an even wider disconnect from understanding the conditions that led me to feel such sadness, fear, and grief.”

As parents, how many of our kids could voice the same insecurities and struggles Helena had? Now imagine that when your child felt these things, someone promised her that gender transition would let her trade awkward loneliness for belonging? Can you feel the pull? Our kids are particularly vulnerable at this stage in life, at this time in history. What can we do?

As I’ve mentioned before in "Family Focus" articles, this isn’t just for parents. It’s for any Christian who is involved in the lives of young people. I’m convinced that for many (though not all), the pull of transgenderism is the pull of a community of belonging—precisely what the Christian church ought to provide, but has often failed to give well.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

The Indispensable Lives of Ordinary Christians | Greg Morse 📃 →

You listen to the preacher every Sunday, and you know he is being used of God. You see the young couples raising children in your local church; you pray for more of God’s fingerprint upon their lives. You intercede for missionaries risking life and limb in foreign lands, lost in the blinding light of the Great Commission. You realize you have never lived twenty miles from your hometown.

You serve the Lord Jesus, but you can’t escape feeling like a background character — cast as “baker #3” — in the unfolding story all around you. More prominent actors live. Compared to them, you merely exist. Maybe you feel it keenest around a friend or family member who eclipses you in Christ. “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother,” you remain. Every other puzzle piece seems to fit. If you went missing from the congregation, would any take notice? Are you just “singing and praying churchman #13”?

Raise your hand if you’ve felt like this. I’ll raise mine ✋🏼 In some ways, it feels a bit like being not one of the 3 closest disciples, or the 12, or even the 40, but just one of the nameless, faceless disciples who followed Jesus around. I know that even pastors often feel like this in our megachurch-obsessed culture.

So, brother or sister in Christ, you may not be able to teach like him, or share your faith like her, or show hospitality quite like them, or pray like that, or shine as brightly with good works. You may feel like the baby toe of the gathered assembly. The eye of the body beholds hidden glories, the mouth proclaims Jesus with boldness, the fingers perform great acts of service — you feel as though you rest in your shoe and darkness. You feel sweaty, stuffy, unventilated. Yet if Christ’s Spirit dwells in you, hear him proclaim over your gifts, your service, your membership in the body, indispensable. One whom we simply cannot do without. The church of Christ needs you.

And although countless ways exist for you to walk more faithfully to your calling and live more boldly for the common good of the church, remember that Christ did not save you with an eye toward what he might get from you. The good shepherd has no need of any from his flock. He did not peer into the future and decide whether you were worth the bother of the cross. He does not now look upon you with indifference or wait for you to earn your keep. Treasured saint, before he works in and through you for his own good pleasure, he forgives you, and clothes you, and calls you indispensable — a member of himself already. We put on our new lives and new works of service “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12).
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Explore the Scriptures 📖

Exile in the Bible: An Ethic of Loyalty and Subversion | Cheree Hayes and BibleProject Team 📃 →

The opening creation account in Genesis 1-3 shows how God wants humans to live in a Heaven-and-Earth space—a good and beautiful place where humanity’s way of life and God’s way of life overlap. This is a type of home where everyone belongs—where strangers become friends and friends become family, and there is peace between everyone.

But that’s not where we live right now. We live in the painful reality of a world that is far from God’s ideal. Living outside of that good home, we tend to fear our enemies and be suspicious of strangers. Our families divide and break, along with our hearts. There is so much pain, and it can remind us of the pain of the people in the Bible who experience exile.

Are we in a sort of exile right now? Is there hope of healing? And for exiled people in the Hebrew Bible, such as Jeremiah and Daniel, what does it mean to live in exile?

When you see the theme of exile in scripture it’s hard to stop seeing it. This theme stretches from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22. The theme of exile shapes how we see our lives in the age between Christ and New Creation. I cannot think of a Biblical theme that bears more on our lives today than this one.

Christianity Is True ✝️

The Resurrection of Jesus in Dialogue | Mike Licona, Dale Allison, and Sean McDowell 📽 →

In this dialogue, Sean McDowell moderates Mike Licona—a more conservative scholar who believes in the physical resurrection—and Dale Allison—a more liberal scholar who struggles to believe in the physical resurrection. Both are irenic and give great push-back on the other.

If you've enjoyed reading this letter, please share it with others and help us grow. We exist to help Christians grow in their faith and to make the name of Jesus Messiah glorified in all the earth. We grow thanks to readers like you sharing what we do with others. Thank you!

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

The (Un)Definition of Marriage: A Response to Matt Walsh and Joe Rogan | Patrick Miller and Keith Simon 🎧 →

Catholic conservative commentator was recently on Joe Rogan’s podcast, the most popular podcast in the world (as far as I’m aware). As part of that podcast, Rogan and Walsh spent some time talking about marriage. Rogan is firmly on the side of accepting and celebrating homosexual marriage, while Walsh is against it.

Miller and Simon take clips from that podcast and critique both Walsh and Rogan. They critique Rogan because they think his position—that love is love and as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else it’s fine—ultimately fails. They critique Walsh because they don’t think he presents the strongest Christian case for promoting exclusively male-female marriage.

I found the podcast really entertaining and enlightening. It helped me to think through my Christian position on marriage, which goes way beyond male-female exclusivity in its mirroring of Christ and the church.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away — it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.
— Matthew 18:6 (CSB)

Joel Fischer

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