Reading Recommendations

What Is a Girl Worth?

What Is a Girl Worth?

In What is a Girl Worth?, Rachel Denhollander exposes the truth about her perpetrator, Larry Nassar, and the institution that covered it up, USA Gymnastic.

While it takes lots of courage, strength, and vulnerability for a survivor to tell their story of sexual assault, it takes even more to report that crime and sin to the legal authorities and the church. Rachel’s story reveals why so many sexual assault survivors do not report the sin and crime perpetrated against them.


With regard to the reporting or sexual assault, there are two major issues to consider—false-reporting and under-reporting.  While under-reporting is a major concern, false reporting is not. Actually, false reports are quite rare.  The figure often used by sexual violence experts for estimating falsified reports is two percent, which is a lower rate than other crimes.

Given the horrific nature of sexual assault and the shame it brings to survivors, it is not shocking that it is one of most underreported crime. The fear of intrusive and re-victimizing court procedures prevents many survivors from reporting their assaults.  Most survivors choose not to report their assaults. According to the FBI, sexual assault is “one of the most under-reported cries due primarily to fear and/or embarrassment on the part of the victim.”

Under-reporting is because of the unique shame, fear, and embarrassment that sexual assault victims experience. All of this is then compounded by a victim-blaming culture in which survivors are often said to be “allowing it” (by not resisting strongly enough) or “asking for it” (by dressing too provocatively, going out alone too late at night, or drinking). The victim-blaming impulse shows up frequently when a story of sexual assault appear in the news or is disclosed in a church.

Rachels tells about the victim-blaming she experienced directly and sometimes more subtly. This takes place in numerous ways.  A major way this can be done is by asking suspicious questions: “Why did you wait so long to tell anyone” or “How did you let them happen to you?” or “Couldn’t you have done something to avoid it?”

Rachel’s story is very familiar to other survivors who have been asked suspicious questions or have been ignored or avoided once they’ve dared to report what had been done to them.

Social psychology research on attitudes toward sexual assault demonstrates that our culture holds prejudices and negative views of survivors. Thus, survivors suffer from the trauma of the assault itself as well as the effects of negative stereotypes. The result is that after an assault, victims feel socially derogated and blamed, which can prolong and intensify the psychological and emotions distress of survivors.

Because sexual assault victimization is stigmatized in American society, many suffer silently, which intensifies a victim’s distress and disgrace. There appears to be a societal impulse to blame traumatized individuals for their suffering. One rationale is that this provides nonvictims with a false sense of security if they can place blame on victims, rather than on perpetrators. Negative reactions to sexual assault victims, such as attributing blame or responsibility to the victim, generally have been found to be greater for assaults by an acquaintance and supposedly “non-resisting” victims.

Blaming victims for post-traumatic symptoms is not only erroneous, but also contributes to the vicious cycle of traumatization. Research has proven that victims who are believed and listened to by others adjust better than those who are not. Victims that experience negative social reactions have poorer adjustment.

Many survivors know how unlikely they will succeed in their quest for justice if they do report sexual assault. The statistics from the Department of Justice are staggering. Only 4.6% of reports lead to an arrest and less than 1% of cases are referred to prosecutors. Only .5% of reported sexual assaults will lead to a felony conviction or incarceration. Perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Even if a perpetrator serves jail time, the frequently serve ridiculously short sentences.  Therefore, survivors feel little incentive to report from the criminal justice system and feel every reason not to report from this same system and victim-blaming culture. For many survivors, corruption, laziness, and/or lack of investigative ability makes reporting not worth the trauma.

In addition to being grateful for Rachel’s description of the difficulty of reporting, I appreciate What is a Girl Worth?because it serves as a testimony to trauma, tells the truth about perpetrators, and serves as a warning to institutions.


An important part of Rachel’s story is the trauma she suffered. It is very difficult to read about the heart-wrenching evil that Nassar and others perpetrated against Rachel. Seeing darkness that up-close will affect most readers. It should. I recommend that survivors be attentive to their own emotions, healing, and trauma if they consider reading the book.

The only thing more staggering than the number of occurrences of sexual assault is the acute damage done to the survivor. The effects are physical, social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Sexual assault causes harmful psychological effects that are more severe than effects of other crimes. Abuse survivors experience the second highest prevalence rate for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—only exceeded by survivors of war. The best word to describe abuse is “traumatic.” “Trauma” is a state of being negatively overwhelmed. It is the experience of terror, loss of control, of helplessness during a stressful event.


Rachel describes well the intentionality and manipulation of Larry Nassar as he perpetrated against young girls under his medical care. These girls and families trusted him and his response was to reinforce their trust only to violate it and assume the benefit of the doubt when accusations mounted against him. Perpetrators devastate lives, sin against God and their victims, commit crimes, violate trust, deceive, and blame their victims.

Like Larry Nassar, most child sexual offenders, are known by their victims. Only 10% of child sexual offenders abuse children they do not know.  Like Larry Nassar, most offenders have many victims. Those who sexually victimize children likely have victimized dozens of even hundreds of other children during their lifetime. Like Larry Nassar, many offenders offend with other child and even adults in the room. According to one study, 54.9% of child molesters offended when another child was present and 23.9% offended when another adult was present.


Rachel tells how USA Gymnastics protected Larry Nassar and covered-up the abuse done to her and many other girls. It was systematic institutional suppression of anything that might threatened to derail them from their goals. And this is done at the expense of young girls’ lives—bodies, minds, and souls.

Regardless of the institution—USA Gymnastic, churches, schools, business, families, tend to rally around the accused, minimize the offense or cover it up completely, blame the victims, avoid transparency, mock justice, and cause survivors to feel that their only option is to suffer alone in silence and shame because nobody will believe them.

For churches, consider what Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Churches must recognize that they need to be proactive in keeping children safe and to be communities of hope, healing, and good news to those that have suffered sexual assault. Failure to do so will result in additional cases of abuse, and in lifetimes of agonizing physical, emotional, and spiritual damage. God calls his people to be agents of good news and tell people that Jesus responds to their pain and past. We get to remind survivors that their story does not end with the assault; that their life was intended for more than shame, guilt, despair, pain, and denial; that the assault does not define them or have the last word on their identity.

Not the Final Word

Sexual assault is part of Rachel’s story, and it is an important part of her story, but she is very clear that it is not the final word of her story and it does not define her.

Evil and abuse are not the final word. They are not capable of creating or ultimately defining reality.  That is only God’s prerogative.  However, evil and violence can pervert, distort and destroy.  They are parasitic on the original good of God’s creation. In this way evil serves as the backdrop on the stage where God’s redemption shines with even greater brilliance and pronounced drama. What evil uses to destroy, God uses to expose, excise, and then heal.

Both What is a Girls Worth? and How Much Is a Little Girl With?, the children’s book she also wrote, offer hope, healing, and worth as our individual stories are brought into God’s larger story of dignity, value, rescue, healing, wholeness, redemption, and shalom. God redeems what has been destroyed and to their sense of disgrace, God joyfully applies his mercy and grace.  Rachael captures this message well in How Much Is a Little Girl Worth?:

“No one has the power to change what God’s done,

And He says you’re worth everything, even His Son.

Worth all the pain, worth great sacrifice,

Worth leaving heaven, worth giving His life.”


The Justice Calling

The Justice Calling

The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance is a comprehensive biblical theology of justice that is practically engaging. Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson bring together their deep study of scripture and their direct engagement with human trafficking and slavery, their scholarship and their activism.

To give you a glimpse of the book, here are two brief excerpts that reflect its theological richness:

“The source of justice in the midst of even the most heinous injustice in our world is Jesus Christ. God’s very character is one of justice, and he has given us Jesus as the manifestation of his justice both now and for eternity. God is the one who reveals the justice calling upon our lives, because God is the source of justice.

I have been on a journey to discover justice rooted in Jesus, to know this call that comes first from God, and to navigate the brokenness of this world with biblical hope as my sure-footed guide. Justice rooted in Jesus broke open for me the possibility and promise of persevering hope—the possibility that I could shed my paralysis and actually move forward one small step at a time because there is a God who is and will be victorious over injustice. And while God certainly could and does act on his own, God beckons us to join him, calling us into his family to be part of his work of redemption and healing through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.” (pages 3-4)

“In the light of Christ, we come to see that we are all poor, wretched, helpless, and utterly dependent on God’s saving grace to rescue us. Outside the grace of God, we are incapable of getting right with God, others, ourselves, and the rest of the created world. As slaves to sin, we find it impossible to be holy, to act justly, and to love mercy, but thanks be to God that Jesus Christ came to this earth to find the lost and free the enslaved. Through Christ’s righteousness we can become righteous and be restored to right relationships. Because of this grace, we can live the way of life God intended for his holy people, the way of justice and righteousness, the way of shalom.” (page 28)

I appreciate how Bethany and Kristen explore the convergence of justice and spirit formation. This excerpt from an interview with them capture this well:

You speak about this idea of moving into the darkness, how would you encourage someone who longs to do so but is paralyzed by fear?

Bethany: I think there is a temptation to despair or even to be apathetic and draw back and embrace cynicism rather than believing anything can change or holding onto hope. What we learn from the prophets, especially Habakkuk, is that we can contend with God. We can argue, wine, ask questions of God, and we can know that He sees everything we see in a far more specific and complete scale than we ever could. He invites us to bring our questions to him and to wrestle with him. Just the act of questioning, rather than an affront to God—even if we are angry, is still us coming to God. And God longs for you to talk to him and tell him all the details, to leave nothing spared of what weighs on you and to let him enter into it with you. There is a beauty that he brings from even the most devastating ashes.

Throughout the book, justice work is defined as being long and hard, what would you say to someone who is burnt out from justice work?

Kristen: We know that burn out is very common for those who long to see justice in this world. That’s a big reason we wanted to write this book–to explore what it would take to seek justice as people with deep roots that are sustained and nurtured by the living waters of Jesus Christ. We believe that what we do is supposed to flow from who we are – so that our work of justice, ideally, flows from the grace we have been given in and through Jesus Christ that enables us to become God’s children. This same savior, Jesus Christ, is the one responsible for reconciling all things (Col 1:20).  We are invited to share God’s ongoing commitment to reconciliation and justice, but this work ultimately depends upon God, not us. We hope that by looking deeply at God’s commitment to justice and righteousness throughout the whole story of Scripture and by being reminded of the centrality of Jesus Christ for the reconciliation of all things, you might find strength to continue on in the journey. We hope that the practices of Sabbath, lament, worship, and Eucharist might be ways the Spirit can revive you as you are reminded of the beauty of God’s vision for the world along with your own identity in Christ and your reliance on him for all things.

Click to download a free sampler of Chapter 1.


God Made All of Me is Available Now!

God Made All of Me is Available Now!

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies is available now.

Do you have children or do you have friends with small children? This is a book that will benefit parents for years to come, so please help get the word out.


It’s easy to convey the message to children that their bodies or particular parts of their bodies are shameful. This misconception fuels confusion, embarrassment, and secrecy, and often prevents children from recognizing or reporting sexual abuse.

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help families talk about these sensitive issues with two- to eight-year-old children. Because the private parts of our bodies are private, the home is the ideal environment where a child should learn about his or her body and how it should be treated by others.

God Made All of Me starts from the fundamental truth that God created everything and applies that truth to kids and their bodies. It equips parents to talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch of others. God Made All of Me allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes.

This simple and relatable story, designed to help children protect their bodies, will be an important resource for every family with young children.

  • Simple, relatable story for two- to eight-year-old children, designed to help them protect their bodies.
  • Includes colorful, age-appropriate illustrations.
  • Conveys a clear message that God made every part of the human body and that every part is, therefore, good (the doctrine of creation.)
  • Gently opens the conversation about sexual abuse that every family needs to have.
  • Facilitates open conversations about appropriate and inappropriate touch.
  • Overcomes confusion, secrecy, and embarrassment about bodies with truth.

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Purchase God Made All of Me

Here are the citations for the infographic:

  • “About one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused during childhood.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “A child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a recognized, trusted adult than by a stranger.” —Roland C. Summit, “The Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome,” Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 7, 1983: 182; and Jon R. Conte, ed., Critical issues in Child Sexual Abuse (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications), 122.
  • “Most victims of child sexual abuse know their attacker; 34% of assailants were family members, 58% were acquaintances, and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.” —US Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement (2000), see Table 6 on page 10.
  • “Incorporating parents into prevention efforts makes child safety training most effective.” —National Sexual Violence Resource Center, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: Programs for Children, 2011.
  • “Involvement by parents is crucial because 65% of social workers, 53% of doctors and 58% of physician assistants do not report all suspected cases of child maltreatment. Several studies document that even medical professionals often miss cases of child abuse or fail to report suspicions.” —Steven Delaronde et al, Opinions Among Mandated Reporters Toward Child Maltreatment Reporting Policies, 25 Child Abuse & Neglect 81, 88 (2000); David Finkelhor, Is Child Abuse Overreported? 48 Public Welfare 22, 25 (1990); E.G. Flaherty, et al, Pediatrician Characteristics Associated with Child Abuse Identification and Reporting: Results from a National Survey of Pediatricians, 11(4) Child Maltreatment 361 (2006); E.G. Flaherty, et al, From Suspicion of Physical Abuse to Reporting: Primary Care Clinician Decision-Making, 122  Pediatrics 611 (2008); and V.l. Gunn, et al, Factors Affecting Pediatricians’ Reporting of Suspected Child Maltreatment, 5(2) Ambulatory Pediatrics 96 (2005).
  • “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed. In addition to teaching the children personal safety, it is important to provide instruction to the parents so that they can reinforce these lessons at home and will know how to respond if a child makes a disclosure. Many teach fire safety, school crossing safety, or even swimming safety and yet bristle at the thought of personal safety designed to empower children to protect themselves against offenders.” —Victor I. Vieth, “Suffering the Children: Developing Effective Church Policies on Child Maltreatment,” Jacob’s Hope (Vol. 2, Issue 1, June 2011).
Sample of God Made All of Me

Sample of God Made All of Me

Download a preview of God Made All of Me!

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help parents talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate touch.

Do you have children or do you have friends with small children? This is a book that will benefit parents for years to come, so please share!

Our goal is to help parents in protecting your child from sexual abuse. In this post, we discuss:

  • What parents need to know about sexual abuse offenders?
  • Why is it important to teach personal safety to children?
  • Why is it so important for Christians to be educated about this issue?


Order our new children’s book God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

Jesus and Children

Jesus and Children

In his ministry, Jesus showed striking interest in and love for children. To the surprise of his disciples, he often including them in his teaching: “Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’” (Matt 19:13–14). When the disciples came to Jesus asking him which one of them was going to be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus called a child to himself (Matt. 18:2) and said, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:4). Jesus went on, telling his followers that part of their duty is to receive little children: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matt. 18:5).

In Mark 10, Jesus upholds childlike faith as admirable: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15; cf. Luke 18:17).

Jesus wants his followers to honor, protect, and care for those among them who are small and vulnerable, especially children. Part of Jesus’ ministry on earth involved healing children. In Mark 5:39, Jesus came into the house of a ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter had just died. Jesus said that she was not dead, but only sleeping. After they laughed at him, Jesus said to the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41; cf. Luke 8:54). Mark recounts what happened next: “And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mark 5:42). Similarly, in Mark 9, Jesus encounters a young boy who had been having demonic attacks. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him (Mark 9:25) and the boy fell down as if he were dead. Jesus took him by the hand and he was healed (Mark 9:27). Jesus, who calls himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), brings life and healing to children.

The tenderness and care Jesus showed for children is an expression of God’s heart toward the small, the weak, and the vulnerable. Judith Gundry-Volf, also points out the ways Jesus’ teaching and practice highlighted the importance and significance of children:

  1. “He blesses the children brought to him and teaches that the reign of God belongs to them.”
  2. “He makes children models of entering the reign of God.”
  3. “He makes children models of greatness in the reign of God.”
  4. “He calls his disciples to welcome little children as he does and turns the service of children into a sign of greatness in the reign of God.”
  5. “He gives the service of children ultimate significance as a way of receiving himself and by implication the One who sent him.”
  6. “He is acclaimed by children as the ‘Son of David.’”

Jesus’ love, honor, and care for children leads us to imitate his care for children and take action to protect them from those who try to harm them.


Pre-order our children’s book: God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

No One Is Lost Beyond Hope

No One Is Lost Beyond Hope

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.” -Acts 9:1-9

In the book of Acts, God’s gospel not only overcomes formidable ethnic and geographical barriers but also breaks through the most formidable barrier of all: human sin. Saul learns firsthand how closely Jesus identifies with his church, here described as “the Way.” In persecuting those of the Way, Saul was persecuting Christ himself. In response to the question, “Who are you?” Saul would have preferred any response to the one he receives: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In opposing God’s people, Saul has opposed God himself (cf. 5:38–39).

Saul is blinded by the magnificence of this appearance of Christ, and his physical blindness allows him to see himself truly. He finally recognizes his own powerlessness and weakness, and accepts his blindness in humility. Before commissioning Saul to take the gospel to the Gentiles, God tears down his reliance on his religious zeal. Only after being brought to a position of abject humility is Saul ready for the uplifting gospel of Jesus Christ. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).

Saul was at his worst, overseeing the murder of men and women in the church, with no sign of repentance, when Jesus met him on the Damascus road. Here again we are admonished against condemning anyone as lost beyond hope, and this includes ourselves. God will reach to his farthest-out enemies, he will defeat the uttermost human rebellion, but in doing so he does not crush these rebels but loves and converts them into chosen instruments of the good news (Acts 9:15). In Saul we see a rebel against God, an enemy of the long-promised Messiah. Yet Saul is reconciled to God through Jesus and is called God’s ambassador, through whom God makes his appeal to the entire world (2 Cor. 5:20).

This post was adapted from my notes in the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. For more on Acts, you can get my book Acts: A 12-Week Study.

Why We Wrote A Children’s Book

Why We Wrote A Children’s Book

GMMcoverGet our new children’s book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.


We wrote God Made All of Me as a tool so you can explain to your children that God made their body. Because private parts are private, there can be lots of questions, curiosity, or shame regarding them. For their protection, children need to know about private parts and understand that God made their body and made it special.

God Made All of Me is a simply-told, beautifully-illustrated story to help parents talk with both boys and girls about their bodies and to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch. It allows families to build a first line of defense against sexual abuse in the safety of their own homes. Our goal is to help you in protecting your child from sexual abuse.

Why is this book important?

Most victims of child sexual assault know their attacker. According to the U.S. Department of Justice,  34.2 percent of assailants were family members, 58.7 percent were acquaintances, and only 7 percent of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Of child sexual abuse victims, approximately 10 percent of victims are age three and under, 28 percent are between ages four and seven, 26 percent are between ages eight and eleven, and 36 percent are twelve and older.

What do parents need to know about child sexual abuse offenders?

Although strangers are stereotyped as perpetrators of sexual assault, the evidence indicates that a high percentage of offenders are acquaintances of the victim.

Most child sexual abuse offenders describe themselves as religious and some studies suggest the most egregious offenders tend to be actively involved with their faith community.

Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, says it is important for parents and child-serving organizations such as churches to avoid “high risk situations.” This is because “we cannot detect child molesters or rapists with any consistency” and thus “must pay attention to ways of deflecting any potential offenders from getting access to our children.”

Victor Vieth, senior director and founder of the Gundersen National Child Protection Training Center, writes: “Many youth organizations have prevented the abuse of children in their care simply by limiting the access of potential offenders to boys and girls. Child abusers count on privacy to avoid detection of their criminal behavior. When churches or other faith institutions remove this privacy it becomes more difficult for the offender to succeed.”

Why is it so important to teach personal safety to children?

Victor Vieth explains: “Personal safety education involves simply telling children that the parts of their body covered by bathing suits are not supposed to be touched by others and, when they are, they should tell someone. If the person they tell doesn’t believe them, they should keep on telling until they are believed. In addition to teaching the children personal safety, it is important to provide instruction to the parents so that they can reinforce these lessons at home and will know how to respond if a child makes a disclosure. Many teach fire safety, school crossing safety, or even swimming safety and yet bristle at the thought of personal safety designed to empower children to protect themselves against offenders.”

Why is it so important to Christian to be educated about the issue?

Dr. Anna Salter, a sexual offender treatment provider, writes: “If children can be silenced and the average person is easy to fool, many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Salter quotes a convicted child molester: “I consider church people easy to fool . . . they have a trust that comes from being Christians . . . They tend to be better folks all around. And they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people . . . I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words.”

Child molesters are skilled at deception because, in part, they have considerable practice at lying to their families, their victims, their friends, and to themselves. Anna Salter describes the abilities of molesters to lie convincingly in this way: “You are never going to run into a child molester who is not a practiced liar, even if he is not a natural one.”

Not only are child molesters skilled at lying to pastors and parishioners alike, they are often proud of their abilities to fool the leaders and members of their congregations.

“Many child molesters,” writes Victor Vieth, “put a great deal of time and thought into selecting the children they will violate. There are two reasons for this. First, sex offenders often look for the easiest target. Second, sex offenders often look for the child or children least likely to be believed should he or she disclose the abuse.” An offender convicted of sexually abusing children at church was asked how he selected his victims. He icily responded:

“First of all you start the grooming process from day one…the children that you’re interested in…You find a child you might be attracted to…You maybe look at a kid that doesn’t have a father image at home, or a father that cares about them…If you’ve got a group of 25 kids, you might find 9 that are appealing…then you start looking at their family backgrounds. You find out all you can…which ones are the most accessible…you get it down to one that is the easiest target, and that’s the one you do.”

Based on her experience with child sexual abusers, Anna Salter concludes: “Child molesters are very professional at what they do and they do a good job at it.”

Because of this reality, parents need to be smarter and better prepared than those who would want to harm their child.


Get out new children’s book God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

What Do You Do For A Living?

What Do You Do For A Living?

“What do you do?”

That question intimidated Joshua Millburn. It wasn’t that he had a bad answer. He enjoyed his job as a regional manager and he liked the people he worked with. He earned a great salary doing something that gave him money, respect, and outlets for his talents.

The problem was the question. “On the surface, it seems like an ordinary question, one we ask each other every day . . . so we have something—anything!—to talk about,” he wrote cynically. But there was more to it than that.

“Sadly, what we’re actually asking . . . is: How do you earn a paycheck? How much money do you make? What is your socioeconomic status? And based on that status, where do I fall on the socioeconomic ladder compared to you? Am I a rung above you? Below you? How should I judge you? Are you worth my time?”

For Joshua, the question and its implications kept pushing him to compare himself to others and reminding him that he was being judged by others too. To free himself from a deepening depression, he decided that the only solution was to free himself from conventional work. He quit his job, gave away many of his possessions, and became a writer and blogger advocating a minimalist lifestyle.

Maybe you aren’t ready to change everything like Joshua did, but you’ll probably agree that, for better or worse, work is one of the biggest elements in your life. If you have a job you probably spend most of your waking hours working, getting ready for work, or commuting to and from your workplace. The activities you do most often are the ones you do at your job. The people who take up most of your time and attention are probably not your family and friends, but your boss, your clients, or your coworkers.

And the real problem is even more than the amount of time, isn’t it? The question What do you do? is what our culture uses to define ourselves and other people—to determine Who are you? How valuable are you? Many of us see work as a key part of our identity. Our work makes us feel useful—or not, which is why many unemployed and retired people can fall into despair. Our work can make us feel successful or worthwhile, not just in the moment, but in the whole trajectory of our life—or not. In a culture that says you can do anything you set out to do and the door is open to achieve all your dreams, it’s hard not to believe that when things go well, it means you’re really worth something, and when things go wrong, it means something is wrong with you.

As a result, work makes up more of our identity than it was ever meant to—and that is not doing most of us much good. We are offered lots of conflicting advice about how to get the most out of our work life. Some people say that work is straightforward—find a career that will make you a lot of money and climb the corporate ladder. Others say that corporate careers are stifling—real work is about finding your passions. Money doesn’t matter as long as you are in control of your life and enjoy what you’re doing. Advice from Christian sources sometimes draws from one or both of these beliefs, or tells you that your only legitimate work option involves some sort of religious ministry.

What we often fail to see is that God can redeem our understanding of work, whether we’re sitting in an office or picking up the garbage—or even if we can’t find work at all. It is a perspective on work and identity that finds value in work, no matter what kind it is, yet keeps work from having too much power over us as we find our value and identity in Christ. God’s Word gives us a framework to think about what we do for a living and how it relates to him. Even more than that, the Bible shows us how to find our value and identity in Christ rather than in our work.

This is an excerpt from my minibook, What Do You Do for a Living?, which you can get here.

Why Study the Book of Acts?

Why Study the Book of Acts?

In addition to writing the notes on Acts for the Gospel Transformation Bible, I also wrote Acts: A 12-Week Study.

Author and Purpose

Acts is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Both were written by Luke, a physician who traveled with the apostle Paul. Luke’s purpose for writing his Gospel (see Luke 1:3–4) applies to Acts as well: to give an “orderly” account of the early church after Christ’s resurrection. Acts is a historical account of how the resurrection of Jesus changes everything through the birth of the early church.

Geographical Expansion 

Acts is the story of God’s grace flooding out to the world. Nothing 
is more prominent in Acts than the spread of the gospel. Jesus promises
a geographic expansion at the outset (1:8), and Acts follows the news of his death and resurrection as it spreads from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and the faraway capital of Rome.

This is why Acts 1:8 is a key verse to understanding all of Acts: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”


The preaching of Jesus’ death and resurrection is central in Acts. The Greek verb for “preach the gospel” (euangelizo) occurs more in this book than in any other in the New Testament. About a third of the book of Acts consists of speeches, and most of these are speeches of Peter or Paul proclaiming the gospel. The good news of the salvation accomplished in Christ and applied by the Holy Spirit extends to the “ends of the earth” through preaching.

God is central to the gospel’s expansion. He is at the heart of the gospel message, the news that reconciliation with the Father is now possible through Jesus Christ. God the Holy Spirit is responsible for the growth of the church and its remarkable expansion.

God’s Passionate Pursuit

In Acts, “grace” is a parallel for “the gospel” or “salvation.” Jesus’ message is summarized as “the word of his grace,” believers are said to have received “grace” or to be “full of grace,” and they are challenged to continue in “grace.” The missionaries in Acts proclaim the grace of God, and it is through this grace that people are able to respond with faith.

Acts reveals God’s passionate pursuit of his people, beginning with his followers in Jerusalem, expanding to Samaria, then to the rest of the world. By the end of the book we see Paul living in Rome “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31).

The gospel draws people in, constitutes them as the church centered on the grace of Jesus, and then sends them out in mission to the world. The new group of believers is marked by the Holy Spirit, who creates such a distinctive community that others are drawn in, experiencing God’s grace. At the same time, they take the gospel message to new people and new lands, making God’s grace known to the ends of the earth.

Barriers, Weakness, Opposition, and Persecution

The gospel spreads despite barriers of geography, ethnicity, culture, gender, and wealth. Many of these barriers appear so inviolable that when the gospel is preached to a new segment of society, riots ensue. But Luke makes clear that no one is beyond the scope of God’s saving power, nor is anyone exempt from the need for God’s redeeming grace.

In Acts, the gospel expands not through human strength, but through weakness, opposition, and persecution. Demonic forces, worldly powers and authorities, governmental opposition, language and cultural barriers, intense suffering and bloody persecution, unjust imprisonment, unbelief, internal disunity, and even shipwrecks and snakes all threaten to slow down the gospel’s advance. But opposition and suffering do not thwart the spread of Jesus’ grace; rather, they only fuel it.

Acts and the Rest of the Bible

Acts shows that the new Christian movement is not a fringe sect, but the culmination of God’s plan of redemption. What was seen only as shadows in the Old Testament, God reveals finally and fully through Jesus Christ. The book of Acts does not primarily provide us with human patterns to emulate or avoid. Instead, it repeatedly calls us to reflect upon the work of God, fulfilled in Jesus Christ, establishing the church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The gospel’s expansion is the culmination of what God has been doing since the beginning. Acts consistently grounds salvation in the ancient purpose of God, which comes to fruition at God’s own initiative. This reveals God to be the great benefactor who pours out blessings on all people. Even the opportunity to repent is God’s gift.