I have worked in a school almost exclusively my entire adult professional life. I was a teacher, a daily substitute, a long-term substitute, and now I’m a teacher’s aide.
I love kids very much. They are my favorite people. I love how they are so open, and loving, and funny. I love their quirks, and their knock-knock jokes, and their earnest attempts to please. I love how when they arrive at school they’re all dressed and combed and tucked in. By the end of the day they’re a wreck, ketchup stains on the shirt, shoes untied, hair bow gone, things spilling out of unzipped backpack as they plod to the door at car riders. Life hits little kids hard.
I love helping them in any way throughout the day. When a friend hurts their feelings, I cheer them when they cry. To see that smile break through is heart-melting. When they struggle with tying their shoe, or can’t open a mustard pack at lunch, or when the door is too heavy, I can help them. When they need help sounding out a word or adding some numbers, I can help them. I can smooth their path throughout the day, in big or little ways, as they contend with all the little-kid obstacles in front of them.
After the two-week Christmas break or on the first day of school, when we haven’t seen our kids for a long while, it’s exciting to be reunited.
They come thru the door from the car or the bus, down the long hallway, and they spot us on duty. They start running. They throw themselves full bore around our waist and fling their arms around us. We hug back, and look down into their little faces, smiling ear to ear. “I love you!” “I missed you!” we say. We bend down to hear all their little stories about the puppy they got or the tooth they lost. Hugs pile-up as the momentum of the kids streaming back into the school increases, and we love it. We eagerly look down the hall to see the next child come through the door, listening for the door squeak to know it’s opening again. The relief we feel when we see they are safe and happy and back in our school again is a precious feeling.
When the National Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, it was a surprise. The kids left school on a Thursday in advance of a three-day weekend due to Friday being a Teacher Work Day. But then the leaders decided to close school for disinfecting and to comply with guidelines for no gathering, so as not to spread the virus. We’d said goodbye on Thursday like usual, but then it felt like we fell off a cliff. We took for granted that we would see them again a few days later. We cling to the school year calendar as a given, in cement. But it wasn’t. For the first time, it was an unexpected closure, and not for a snow day.
Had we known we would not see our children for over a month, would we have given a more fervent goodbye? Looked a little longer in their eyes as we said ‘see you later!’ Hugged them a little tighter? We have regrets. We can’t wait to see them again.
One thing that is common to all of us educators and bus drivers is that we MISS THE KIDS. We long for the day when we are reunited and see their little smiles and know they are back into a routine. Kids thrive on routine. We want them to thrive and learn, and know they are loved by the other adults in their life.
OK, all this earnest emotion and angst and feels is for a reason. If we who work with children feel so eager to see ‘our kids’ again, imagine how Jesus feels. He is a Father, waiting to reunite with his children. He is a Teacher, we are His kids, and He is longing to see us, be with us.
In Matthew 23:37 Jesus lamented over Jerusalem, saying He had longed to gather His children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings..
The Bridegroom anticipates His bride,
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:5).
He is waiting for us until that time, (Hebrews 10:13). He is expectantly waiting for the Father to say ‘go get your Bride’. And when God does, the picture of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son comes to mind,
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20).
He runs to us.
He is going to rejoice over us with gladness; He will quiet us by His love; He will exult over us with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17; Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 32:41).
No matter how lonely you feel in your place during this isolation time, remember that as much as you long to see your adult kids, grandkids, colleagues, extended family, students…Jesus longs to see you even more! He anticipates that great reunion, when we will look up into His face as the children we are, and eagerly tell Him of our lost tooth or our new puppy, and He indulgently has all the time in the world to listen, love, and be with us.
The introduction will be a bit long. This is for two reasons. In case the reader is not familiar with the movement of IF:Gathering, and also for the reason I’ll state in the conclusion.
Jennie Allen, founder of IF:Gathering, and Beth Moore, founder of Living Proof Ministries, recently sat together in Jennie’s living room and recorded their conversation about Jesus, trials, and living out their passion for God. Jennie assured viewers at the opening of the video the in-person sit-down occurred prior to the mandated stay-at-home quarantine. The one-hour discussion was posted at the IF:Gathering’s niche inside the RightNow media host of streaming Bible studies.
IF:Gathering is a digital para-church ‘discipling’ movement founded by Jennie Allen in 2014 after she heard, in her words, “a voice from the sky” that instructed her to “gather and equip this generation.” The first conference was held in 2014.
That initial conference was touted mainly on digital media with a vague motto, “If God is real, then what?” with no speakers announced. Interest was sparked on Christian blogs, other social media, and word of mouth. This digital approach worked- the initial conference sold out in 42 minutes, surprising organizers, so digital-savvy founders quickly set up local watch parties across the U.S. and 22 other countries to allow for participation via simulcast.
Reportedly, over 40,000 people watched and 1200 attended in person, and the hashtag #IFGathering trended to the top on Twitter. Initial speakers of this below-the-radar movement busy gathering and equipping your women were Allen, of course, Ann Voskamp, Christine Caine, Shelley Giglio and Jen Hatmaker. Original advisers to Allen and other leaders in the of the corporation were Christine Caine, Shelley Giglio, and Debbie Eaton- all women.
Six years later, the corporation is a 501(c)3 non-profit with recent revenues standing at 3.6 million dollars (but net assets of half a million). Their stated goal for the annual conference held in Austin at that time, was, “If Austin: a two-day gathering that brought thousands of women together in Austin and at local gatherings across the globe. The gathering is a fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: if God is real… Then what?” and for the rest of the year, “If Equip: a holistic, strategic, deep way to connect online with a like-hearted community and relevant resources. We hope to prepare women around the world to know God more deeply and to live out their purposes by sharing comments and feelings about daily passages posted online”.
Thus, If Equip is centered around local gatherings studying IF-written devotionals and discussing their feelings about the verses outside of the church and apart from pastoral oversight.
The movement is ecumenical, not mentioning any particular denominations specifically but stressing that women “from different traditions” or “different camps” are welcome “for the sake of unity.”
Jennie opened the Webinar conversation by relating a story of her earliest memory of meeting Beth Moore. It was early days, Jennie said, she was in college and Beth had just started. She said she wept hard during Moore’s talk to about 300 women, because she connected with the passion and love for Jesus that Moore displayed. Allen said it was a relief to meet someone who felt the same way about Jesus that she did. As that long-ago event concluded, Allen approached Moore and stated that she felt about ministry like Moore does. Moore put her hands on both Jennie’s shoulders and proclaimed, “I affirm that calling of God in your life. Now go and learn your Bible.”
The webinar conversation published this week began with Moore talking of the importance of fulfilling one’s gifting to communicate, if that is the gifting, but on a larger scale for women to find traction in their walk of faith. “Fulfilling that place that God has for them. I believe with all my heart Jennie that we really get into the momentary that seasonal place God wants us to be,” Moore said.
Jennie shared that she worries that the generation coming up has made an idol out of their phones and digital life. (?! A startling admission from the founder of a movement whose promotion and existence is almost entirely digital.)
Jennie asked Moore how do we do ministry well. Moore answered that “it’s much more compelling that it’s harder than ever. That we have taken out everything so seeker friendly, fun, and comfortable, that we have taken out everything that is compelling. Are we ready to come forward and die? What is worth it to them to give everything?”
Jennie affirmed that the enemy is ‘getting us’ through distraction, numbness, and comfort. That said, how does Moore choose to follow Jesus in a better way and not get distracted? (and not too comfortable was tacitly hanging in the air). Moore said that it’s Jesus Himself that is the reason she is ‘still in it.’ She is still extremely interested in Him and is still extremely compelled by him, and mesmerized by him, and that is the reason she is still ‘willing to take the risk.’ In this numb, drunken sloppy culture that’s lulling us into self fulfillment Moore said, she is still willing to lose herself to find herself, to do the opposite of what the culture and even the Christian culture is asking us to do.
Moore stated the obvious, that women in other cultures might not have what we have, noting that they were sitting on a couch and many other women don’t even have that. “We’re not suggesting we don’t have those things, but…” and continued.
I’d like to insert here, in the discussion about ministry v. comfort, that Moore owns 4 homes, one is a ranch in Menard TX, and another more than a three-quarters of a million dollar home on a rare double waterfront lot on Galveston Bay, complete with private dock and a boat. She flies private jet to venues, a perk for which Lifeway pays half and her own ministry pays the other half. Moore’s salary is a quarter of a million dollars. She is more than comfortable. Allen herself is a successful multi-book author and is at this moment on a book tour for her latest book. Also, please don’t forget that last year Moore was asked a very simple question, whether she believes homosexuality is a sin, and Moore refused to answer. This in my opinion contradicts her statement that Moore is willing to be counter-cultural and take a risk in ministry.
Jennie asked Moore about finishing well after “so many years” in the ministry. Moore said, and I’m quoting,
“I’ve told Him, I said if you give me presence of mind in my last moments, I want to see my, in this order, my grandkids, then I want to be with my daughters, then I’d like to be with my husband, then let me have 30 seconds where I’m aware before I go home, and let me be able to say to Him, ‘I’ve had the biggest blast with you. In the midst of so much crap, yeah, I’ve had this insane adventure with him.”
Jennie asked about retiring. Moore’s reply was that she wanted to do what Jesus asks her to do, whether public or private, and if it’s private she is ready for that. But she also said she does not want to succumb to a failure due to spiritual warfare.
Their conversation ranged from there to the dark night of the soul, in which Jennie shared that she is deathly afraid of the dark and shared that she had an 18-months season of doubt so severe she thought she would lose her faith completely. They spoke of persevering, fame, impact in ministry, promoted each of their new books, fruitfulness, and generally continued in this manner with Allen asking and Moore answering, for the rest of the hour.
The conversation was genteel and wide-ranging. Allen asked Moore questions of ministry and Christian life, and remained quiet, allowing Moore to answer expansively. For this reason, I noticed that Moore’s answers were more disorganized than usual. She answered in circular fashion, interrupting herself, inserting parenthetical comments, and occasionally even losing her train of thought. I also noticed that Moore’s answers were vague than ever. It seemed like she was being extraordinary careful with her answers. As casual as the conversation was, Moore was picking and choosing the most high-emotion but most drained of meaning words she could. Here is one example. It does not make sense,
“I believe with all my heart Jennie that we really get into the momentary that seasonal place God wants us to be.”
By contrast, Jennie Allen seemed sincere and eager. She was like a puppy looking up to her idol, and bounding from one topic to another with joy and a delight that was endearing. I was affected when she shared the depth to which she dislikes the dark and really felt empathy when she described her season of doubt.
Nevertheless, it saddens me to see the pairing of the two women, who talk of handing the reins to new generations, because both do not teach rightly. Yet both combined have a digital footprint and a resulting following of millions. I am talking millions. As an aside, Joyce Meyer is 76, Beth Moore is 61, Christine Caine, who claims Meyer as her ‘spiritual mother’ is 53, and Allen, who idolizes Moore, is 41. They have sparked generations of women all the way down the line, as influencers but went more and more unorthodox, as this insightful article unintentionally makes the point of, the rise of the female influencers. Who will be the next influencer coming up the ranks? Who is Allen influencing?
I am against Allen’s IF movement specifically because it draws women away from their home churches and creates a ‘community’ based on feelings about the Bible and not the theology of the Bible. I am against its main premise, “IF God is real”. I am against it because it seems not to have any male oversight. (Though Allen’s husband Zac is on the corporate board now). I am also against it because IF’s self-stated emphasis on social justice and spiritual formation.
I am against their secretiveness. They aren’t secretive as in dastardly, but secretive as savvy protectors of their digital content. Being mainly digital, they’re fiercely protective of their content behind their paywalls. They also don’t post a list of scheduled speakers before the annual gathering. You must buy the ticket based on the concept, not the speakers. To me this is backward, you want to know whose content you will be absorbing, and not blindly ingest. This is likely the reason many pastors are unaware of the influence from this movement on their women.
The Big Announcement
Jennie Allen’s organization sent out a follow up to the webinar announcing that since the quarantine time has hit, they wanted to help. So they developed IF:TV. Allen said in her announcement video,
We have a new dream. It’s called IF:TV. Because, what we’re good at is coming to you with content, with experiences around God, bringing together your people, while you’re in your pajamas! It’s our expertise.
The first IF:TV program is called MADE FOR THIS- Live with Jennie Allen. Beginning Wednesday, April 1st at 7pm CT I’m going to share the stories we need right now and have some fun! We’ll have a free resource each week to work through with your people from afar!
The second IF:TV show will be THE BEST OF IF:GATHERING -Your Favorite Messages, Beginning Friday, April 3rd at 12pm CT, Features some of your favorite moments from IF:Gathering over the years. We’ll give you conversation cards to start convos with your people.
Allen’s sincerity is evident and her joy seems boundless and undiminished after several years of nurturing her movement and corporation along. I give her that. It is true that given their shrewdness in managing content through digital media they are more prepared than most to share what they have to offer on their various platforms via a screen during this coronavirus time. But that, as we know, is not the church. Yet IF:Gathering now has another digital platform on which to send out their poorly constructed Bible studies and false conclusions.
Because their main thrust is digital, they capitalize on a well-known phenomenon called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Wikipedia describes it as
a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. This social anxiety is characterized by “a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing”.
Their promotions usually include tantalizing phrases such as ‘don’t miss out’ or ‘be the first to sign up’ or ‘get early access’, ‘be the first to know’, or ‘want to learn more? sign up below!’ In my opinion they trade, probably unwittingly, on the FOMO many younger people deal with these days.
I agree with Carol Coppens’ assessment of Jennie Allen here expressed in her review of Allen’s 2018 book Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul at Michelle Lesley’s website-
This is not a book that will help you to dive deep into the character of God and to know Him better but instead, Jennie’s book is a tedious, self absorbed, experience driven, hermeneutically unsound, over-stepper of scriptural boundaries, mish-mash of emotionalism and repetitive “wrecked-ness”.
In the research I’ve done in listening to Jennie Allen’s speeches and interviews, such as the above webinar, my opinion is the same as Ms Coppens’. Bad hermeneutics, drawing away from the local church, emotionalism, and not to mention Allen’s “voice from the sky” that directed her to found the corporation and audibly delivered the motto. The entire movement is founded on doubt, which they elevate to an exalted position, as many post-modernists do. As Phil Johnson said, emergents often “doubt seeking justification”. Please avoid IF:Gathering, IF:Equip, IF:TV and all the other IF’s, which have grown tremendously since 2014, as you see below from their website.
It’s a beautiful day out there. The birds are singing, they’re building their nests. They don’t know there’s a pandemic. They don’t know to quarantine. But the Lord takes care of them, dumb beasts though they are. How much more does He take care of His children? He gives good gifts. He brings all things about for the good of those who love Him. He sent His Son for us so we could have a relationship with Him (if we repent).
Even the ‘negative’ things are to give us the gift of reflection so as to humble ourselves, rely on Him all the more. He gave the wandering Hebrews clothes and shoes that didn’t wear out during Exodus. (Deuteronomy 29:5). He gave them bread when they were hungry. (John 6:31). He gave them water when they were thirsty. (Exodus 17:6). Will He do less for His children on the other side of the cross? Continue reading “Encouragement: You’re not a bird”→
Everyone knows Solomon asked God for wisdom. However people forget that he actually asked God for two things. The second thing was discernment. Here is the verse:
Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9)
So Solomon asked for an understanding mind to govern and discernment to distinguish between good and evil, or right and wrong as some translations go.
Solomon’s request was not only spiritual, for he already had a measure of discernment given his relationship with God and having learned from David, his father. But Solomon’s request also related to civil and governing capacities. A total package- he was to be able to judge people rightly in matters, to solve controversies, and to be fair to one and all.
Solomon didn’t consider himself and ask for a long life or wealth or health. He asked God for the tools to help him help God’s people.
The LORD was greatly pleased with Solomon’s request.
James says that if anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God and He will give it without reproach. (James 1:5). God was pleased with Solomon’s request, because at root, it honored God and served His people. The Spirit breathed inspiration to James that anyone could and should ask for wisdom. The Lord is not stingy with handing out wisdom or discernment. If you do not have the particular gift from the Spirit of discernment, you can simply ask for more discernment/wisdom in your daily life, and He will increase you. The intent is, you’ll use it for God’s glory and to help His people.
There is a flip side to this also. Solomon dissipated. When it was time for Solomon to build the Temple, the LORD had told Solomon in 1 Kings 6:12 that IF Solomon “will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father.”
The glory that was Israel’s military might, wealth, protection, and increase were onerously placed on Solomon’s shoulders. As Matthew Henry said, “None employ themselves for God, without having his eye upon them. But God plainly let Solomon know that all the charge for building this temple, would neither excuse from obedience to the law of God, nor shelter from his judgments, in case of disobedience.”
Luke 12:48b says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required,”
Gill’s Exposition says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall, much be required: the more knowledge a man has, the more practice is expected from him; and the greater his gifts are, the more useful he ought to be, and diligent in the improvement of them”
The LORD reiterated the condition when Solomon prayed the dedication prayer at the newly built temple.
“But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins.” (1 Kings 9:6-9)
So with all Solomon’s wisdom, he still backslid. With all his discernment, he allowed paganism into his heart in marrying over 700 women and having over 300 concubines. They were from foreign lands and they persuaded him to turn away from God and commit spiritual fornication with false gods.
Having wisdom and discernment is no guarantee that without all due purity in public and private life, you won’t be turned away from God.
But do ask God for wisdom. If you dare! Wisdom is knowing how to apply your knowledge. Discernment is detecting not just right from wrong or good from evil, “but right from almost right” (Charles Spurgeon).
It goes without saying the discernment and wisdom that we yearn for and live by are God’s truths, not man’s. Live by His statutes and His paths, and ask for the wisdom and discernment to always remain there, walking uprightly in His wise ways. Discernment is a bestowal from the Lord which honors Him and serves the brethren. And it greatly pleases the Lord when we ask for it.
*This essay first appeared on The End Time in September 2013
These days are certainly strange. Mandated home sheltering, no going out except for minimal and pressing reasons, economy shuttered, the world staggering from a virus that sweeps through a population like wildfire.
For many people, it’s strange to be at home for these lengthy times. No school, no work, being apart from extended family, uncertain financial future.
I took that picture 15 or 20 years ago. It’s still one of my favorites. I had it enlarged and framed. It hangs on my living room wall.
It’s a photo of a B&B along Water Street in Lubec, Maine. The street is so named, as you might guess, because it faces the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, it’s on a narrow inlet and a stone’s throw across the inlet is Canada. The town is in a region of Maine that Mainers call Downeast. Far away and the edge of nowhere, but a small city that enjoys the spring and summer, short as it might be. The town is very close to the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the north pole. Continue reading “Be like the poppies”→
As we are forbidden to gather today to worship our Lord with joy and companionably as a Body, we might be feeling sad. I know I am. We might be feeling worried about elderly parents or grandparents we cannot visit. We might be anxious about not being able to get to our adult children who live far. We ourselves might be lonely in our abode, alone and not being able to see our friends in person.
I think of Hagar often. She was badly used, rejected, mocked, and cast out. She ran off, and sat down all alone in the wilderness. Yet, despite being alone, the Lord (in a pre-incarnate visit) personally attended to her. He reassured her. Continue reading “You are not alone”→
Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture. Continue reading “Sunday Martyr Moment: Mark and Peter”→
The rate at which false teachers reveal themselves these days is staggering. The rate at which false teachers apostatize is amazing. The rate at which a good teacher begins to adopt some troublesome philosophies but largely remains above reproach in life & doctrine is frequent and puzzling.
It used to be that one could trust a teacher for long periods, their ministries would stay clean for years or even decades. Only rarely would a teacher reveal himself as false, holding aberrant or unorthodox doctrines.
Today is one week since we heard that school would be closed for a lengthy period, and a week since the President called a National State of Emergency, a week since coronavirus patients started exponentially increasing.