Trevin Wax

The Lord Sees: Learn to Rest in God’s Justice

Jesus assures us the Father sees not only when we’re wronged but also when we do right, when we practice our righteousness in secret. The reason he tells us not to perform righteous acts before others is because, once again, the Father is El Roi: the God who sees. We live for the Lord, trusting that the Father who sees in secret will reward us (Matt. 6).

The longer I live, the more often I whisper to myself, “The Lord sees.”
It’s a biblical truth repeated throughout Scripture. The psalmist sees all of life taking place coram Deo: before the face of God. “The LORD looks down from heaven,” he writes. “He observes everyone” (Ps. 33:13). Nothing escapes God’s notice. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry for help” (34:15).
The heart’s silent cry, giving rise to tears of anguish no one else sees—the aloneness compounds the heartache. In those moments when you’re wronged, or your name is slandered, or your intentions are questioned . . . In the times when you feel alone or abandoned . . . In the aftermath of saying what’s true and paying a price, when you’ve experienced the deep wounds of injustice or betrayal . . . the Lord sees.
The Lord is the One who untangles all our hidden motivations, the Shepherd who knows our hopes and fears. The Lord knows our desires. The Lord sees the quiet suffering we endure when others sin against us. The Lord sees us in troubled times, notes every unmerited slight and insult flung our way, and observes the chill that descends when those around us fall short of Christ’s call to love.
El Roi: The God Who Sees
“El Roi” is a name given to God in the Old Testament, a source of comfort and peace in times of distress. It first falls from the trembling lips of Hagar, the enslaved woman driven into the wilderness after being caught up in the sinful designs of her master and his wife. There she kneels, despondent and despairing, ready for life to come to an end. And there in that desert of sorrow, the Lord sees. Transformed by the gracious presence of the God of all justice and mercy, Hagar speaks with surprising confidence. She names the Lord who spoke to her: “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” (Gen. 16:13).
El Roi. The God who sees.
It’s the tender nature of our Father to speak to us in the wilderness of pain, to come alongside us when we feel the sting of injustice, the sadness of lost love, the sorrow of dried-up friendships, the hurt of neglect and rejection.
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Remember the 4 ‘Alls’ of the Great Commission

The call of discipleship includes teaching everything Christ taught. The goal isn’t just a cognitive level of doctrinal understanding but total obedience. To obey all that Christ teaches. Nakah and Poobalan comment: The Great Commission forbids a selective attitude to Christ’s demands on all who follow him. We cannot pick and choose or add what we like. His instruction is to teach “all that I have commanded you.” As beautiful as it may be to see the explosion of Christian witness in many parts of the world, we must recognize the importance of deep discipleship and lament its absence.

In the Great Commission Report, issued ahead of this year’s meeting of the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization in Seoul, South Korea, Victor Nakah and Ivor Poobalan offer a theological basis for “the Great Commission” as one of the most-used phrases within global Christianity today.
Matthew 28:18–20 records the mandate King Jesus entrusted to the church through his apostles in the period between his ascension and return. (Also important are Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46–49; Acts 1:8; and John 20:19–23.) It’s a climax to a summons issued by God in the Old Testament, a theme evident in the call of Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3) that unfolds throughout Scripture. “The Great Commission was issued as a directive to follow, a command to obey, and a decree to execute,” Nakah and Poobalan write.
I’m grateful for this contribution in their introduction to the Great Commission Report, especially for opening my eyes to the four “alls” in the missionary mandate Jesus gave his disciples, as seen in Matthew’s formulation.
1. All Authority
The Great Commission begins not with a command but with a coronation. Jesus makes the stunning claim that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to him. He didn’t grasp or steal such authority; it was granted as part of his exaltation (Phil. 2:9–11). Nakah and Poobalan comment,

That the Great Commission is premised on this authority says a lot about the intent of God in getting the work done. With this authority, not only are we sure that we will be delivered from harm, but we are confident that when it matters most, we will not be let down, since the Father has put “everything in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:8).

2. All Nations
The Great Commission has a worldwide scope. The assignment is global and cross-cultural. Here we see God’s passion for all peoples, tongues, tribes, and languages of the world.
We’re called not only to proclaim the gospel but to make disciples.
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Gen Z and the Draw to Serious Faith

In a world marked by coddling and canceling, let’s call up the next generation. The gospel is true. God is real. The church that reaches the next generation will not be riddled with insecurity but will hold out, with confidence and humility, a serious faith.

Not long ago, I sat across from a pastor of a church known for its attractional (church growth) ministry philosophy. We discussed the methods common to seeker-sensitive megachurches in the 1990s and early 2000s—the attempt to find points of connection with the culture through sermon series based on popular movies or TV shows, the edginess of starting a service with a secular song to demonstrate cultural IQ (and how rocking the worship band was!), and the strict policing of language that could come across too “churchy” or off-putting to the newcomer.
Many of these well-intentioned efforts were built on showing how “relevant” or “in touch” the church was with the world around it. Today, these methods are cringeworthy. Young people who visit a church expect to experience, well, whatever church is. The strangeness is the appeal. Now that fewer people have any family background in church, no one hears a worship band cover an Imagine Dragons song and thinks, “Wow! This isn’t my Grandma’s church!”—in part because Grandma is in her 60s and never darkened the door either.
Young Churchgoers Today
Listen to Gen Z churchgoers today and you’ll hear conversations about powerful worship songs that facilitate an experience with God, about the realness of the preacher who just “tells it like it is” from the Bible, and about the beauty of church architecture and older traditions and recitations.
When young people accept the invitation to visit a church, they’ve already committed to experiencing something unusual. Attempts at being overly accommodating or making the church seem “cool” come off as desperate and insecure. If your ministry is seeker-sensitive and attractional today, remember that the churchiness of church is a draw, not a turnoff.
Unfortunately, many pastors have yet to figure this out. Too many churches still think the way to reach young people is to replicate the entertainment you can get anywhere else, or to lean into the social activism you find at the local university, or to offer the practical advice a podcaster delivers better.
Serious Faith
Young people are swimming in pools of superficiality, with torrents of information flooding through their magical devices. Adrift in a sea without navigation, in a world where moral strictures have been blown up in the name of freedom, many long for paths of formation, growth, and maturity.
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Let’s Talk About How Good God Is

God is the fountain, the storehouse, the depository of all goodness; the cross is the key that unlocks the inexhaustible, boundless riches of his grace. His goodness is pursuing us, running after us like the father hot on the tracks of the prodigal son. And so, “With every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

Recently, a pastor friend asked me what comes to mind when I think of God’s goodness. My first thought was God’s goodness to me personally, the countless reasons I have for gratitude, all the blessings of God that have flowed into my life.
Not even a minute passed before the words and melody of the worship song “Goodness of God” were in my heart. It’s a song I’ve come to love. A couple years ago, my brother sang that song as he walked through every room of the house he’d just moved into, a quiet expression of gratitude for God’s provision of a new home for him and his family. It’s a song I sang last year at the funeral of a children’s minister I had the honor of serving alongside for several years. “I have lived in the goodness of God.” It’s no surprise we think first of God’s blessings or that our gratitude wells up into song.
Goodness to the Undeserving
The longer I reflected, the larger the circle of God’s goodness grew. It’s good to exist. It’s good to be. Every breath we take testifies to the goodness of creation and the goodness of a Creator. And this fatherly benevolence flows to undeserving, often ungrateful creatures.
Jesus remarked on the Father’s goodness when he spoke of both righteous and unrighteous people enjoying sunshine and rain. Everyone on earth is a beneficiary of God’s goodness, whether they acknowledge him as the source of their blessings or not. God is so good that he sustains the breath of even the person who defies him. He grants life to men and women who deny his existence. He’s the fountain of all that’s good, the source of all life and love.
Compared to God’s magnificence, we’re mere ants, and yet God is good to us, small and weightless though we might be. It’s only because of his goodness that we have value and worth. We’re dust. We came from the ground and will return there. And yet, wonder of wonders, God is a dust-lover.
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Rumblings of Revival among Gen Z?

The old way of thinking about apologetics or seeker ministries was to avoid the hot topics. But Vance can testify that young people aren’t put off by these conversations. On the contrary, they lean into them because they’re hot. The cultural craziness of the moment is an opening.

I love Tim Keller’s definition of revival: “The intensification of the ordinary operation of the work of the Holy Spirit, occurring mainly through the ordinary ‘instituted means of grace’—preaching, pastoring, worship, prayer.” It’s broad enough to not overly specify the forms a revival might take while narrow enough to give you a sense of God at work, helping you identify the signs of revival when you see them.
Today, I wonder if we’re seeing the beginning of a revival among Gen Z, particularly those in college. As I survey the landscape, I see signs of hope and renewal that strike me as unexpected and remarkable.
Generational Awakening?
Late last year, Kyle Richter and Patrick Miller reported on the renewed interest and enthusiasm of the college students in their area and pointed to similar outbreaks of spiritual fire elsewhere. They believe this generation may be primed for spiritual renewal.
Gen Z is spiritually starved. The disorienting circumstances of the last three years—a global pandemic, countless mass shootings, the woke wars, a contested election, rapid inflation, and widespread abuse scandals—created a famine of identity, purpose, and belonging. Gen Z is hungry for the very things the empty, desiccated temples of secularism, consumerism, and global digital media cannot provide, but which Jesus can.
As I meet with pastors and church leaders or visit churches and universities, I see signs of this spiritual hunger. The Asbury Awakening in 2023 was a big news story—an ordinary chapel turning into an ongoing service of praise and worship, confession of sin, and celebration of salvation, which garnered attention from all over the country and sparked similar stirrings of spiritual intensity in other colleges and universities.
I pondered the question Asbury presses upon us, and I noted Asbury Theological Seminary president Timothy Tennent’s wise hesitation to call the awakening a “revival.” “Only if we see lasting transformation,” he wrote, “which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say ‘yes, this has been a revival.’”
In the last two months, I’ve spoken at two churches associated with The Salt Company—City Church in Tallahassee, Florida, and Cornerstone Church in Ames, Iowa. Both churches are teeming with students—passionate, spiritually hungry, mission-minded. “On fire for Jesus,” as we used to say. Cornerstone Church has experienced tragedy in recent years. In 2022, two young women were shot and killed before the start of a Thursday night service. The church has come through a season of grief, but God has been at work in it all, bringing about evangelistic fruitfulness.
Signs of God at Work
During my visit to Cornerstone, I asked pastor Mark Vance, who’s in contact with a wide range of leaders in churches and ministries across the country, what he’s seeing. What are the signs that God is up to something?
1. Conviction of Sin
Vance notes intensified conviction of sin among believers. Repentance is normal. Consistent. There’s deep remorse and a heartfelt desire to turn from sin.
Some of the repentance stories are remarkable, including a girl who was living with a boyfriend and came under conviction during a message on holiness—and decided to move out that very night. The church scrambled to facilitate lodging for her so she could follow Jesus in this area. Vance can recount many stories. Conviction of sin, assurance of salvation—these are the signs that sleep-walking Christians are waking up.
2. Heightened Desire for Spiritual Disciplines
Another rumbling of revival among young people is the yearning for spiritual discipline, for an encounter with God through ordinary means, such as deeper study of God’s Word, and a yearning to pray well and often.
Old traditions are back. Fasting during Lent. Rituals deeply rooted in church history. Kneeling prayer. Prayer at fixed hours of the day.
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Evil Doesn’t Always Show Up Waving a Flag

It’s not hard to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are when watching a movie about the Nazis. But it’s a little harder to recognize evil when it’s closer to home, when it appears respectful and reasonable, urbane and sophisticated.

You’ve probably heard of Godwin’s Law—the idea that as an online discussion progresses, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler increases. Godwin’s Law is meant to be humorous, but it says something serious about our society that one of the last remaining vestiges of moral coherence is that we all know Hitler was wrong.
Richard John Neuhaus once described the Holocaust as “our only culturally available icon of absolute evil.” We may not know what’s good anymore, but we know that is bad. This is why many rush to Hitler as a shortcut to or substitute for making a moral argument.
The often tenuous attempts to link certain attitudes and actions to Hitler—as if we can’t name something as bad unless it’s tied to our culture’s agreed standard of what constitutes evil on a massive scale—signal that many in our society are increasingly incapable of recognizing evil unless it shows up without ambiguity, perpetrated by people already in the category we’ve deemed “morally problematic.” Our moral imagination is impoverished. And this may be why we have a harder time recognizing evil deeds by people who don’t seem to be villains.
Heroes and Villains
I recently watched Netflix’s adaptation of All the Light We Cannot See, a book by Anthony Doerr I appreciated several years ago. It’s been too long since I read the book to remember how the German villains were portrayed in the original text, but the miniseries made them out to be sadistic animals, gleefully inflicting terror and trauma wherever possible. It’s as if the German commanders know they’re the bad guys. They seem to relish their role.
The truth is scarier. Yes, the historical record reveals the brutality of some of the worst officers in the German army (the entire enterprise was evil through and through), but most soldiers believed they were on the right side of history. They were the heroes, preserving their fatherland by eliminating the Jewish menace and paving the way for their superior race to install a new kingdom in Europe. Don’t forget: for the highly educated, culturally sophisticated, technologically advanced German society in the 1930s, Hitler was a hero.
The Germans saw themselves as the good guys. That’s why a clip from the British sketch comedy show That Mitchell and Webb Look went viral, where one Nazi looks to the others in a moment of self-assessment and says, “Are we the baddies?” It’s funny, but the point is serious.
Frighteningly Ordinary Face of Evil
Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland is a deeply unsettling book about WWII. Browning reminds us of the sheer scale of the killing that took place in Eastern Europe, much of it outside the concentration camps and most of it done by ordinary people without much investment in the fight—simple men and women conscripted into Hitler’s killing machine. Browning claims the majority of individuals in this particular battalion weren’t zealous Nazis. They were ordinary, middle-aged, working-class men who nevertheless perpetrated heinous acts.
Browning’s book shows three distinct groups emerging within the battalion: a core of enthusiastic participants, a majority who executed their responsibilities reliably but lacked initiative, and a small minority who avoided involvement in the acts of violence but were engaged in other activities that did nothing to diminish the battalion’s overall efficiency in carrying out atrocities. Hardly anyone seriously resisted. Ordinary Men shows how easy it is for people to yield to the influences of those around them, leading to actions they’d never consider otherwise.
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The Internal Contradiction in Transgender Theories

It doesn’t take long to recognize the internal inconsistency between these two narratives. The first depends on maleness and femaleness being something real, for a binary must exist for it to be transgressed or transcended. The second questions reality altogether, falling for a radical skepticism that reimagines the world in terms of linguistic power plays.

One of the most remarkable women in history, Joan of Arc, has long been at the center of various conversations and controversies because, while no one can deny her significance, the meaning of her words and actions eludes easy explanation.
Was she, as Shakespeare cast her, a witch? Were her visions heretical, as church leaders at the time concluded, or was she the saint the later Catholic Church canonized? What do we make of her commitment to a shining chastity and her insistence on her physical virginity? How should we interpret the rationale for wearing men’s clothing while leading armies into battle? Was she a reluctant warrior who wished for an ordinary life or an ambitious girl who desired the spotlight? What do we learn from her martyrdom?
In First Things, Dan Hitchens reflects on recent attempts to enlist Joan of Arc for the LGBT+ cause. Many today want to reimagine her as a nonconforming, prototransgender revolutionary. Hitchens reclaims Joan for a conservative and biblical understanding of sex and gender, as opposed to the cultural trend that makes her a founder of trans identity.
The questions about Joan of Arc’s life and legacy fascinate me, but they go beyond my purpose here. Instead, I want to lean on Hitchens’s description of the most important yet often unnoticed contradictions at the heart of today’s transgender theories. He believes one of the transgender movement’s most remarkable achievements has been to conceal the internal division at the heart of gender theory. “There is no single trans narrative,” he says. There are two, “wholly incompatible and mutually destructive, which have somehow been fused into a single, all-conquering cause.”
“Wrong Body” Narrative
Here’s how Hitchens describes the first narrative:
The first narrative holds that there are two realities, maleness and femaleness, and that some people are tragically exiled from their true states. Jan Morris, in the opening lines of the only trans memoir written by an acknowledged master of English prose, puts it like this: “I was three or perhaps four years old when I realized I had been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl. I remember the moment well, and it is the earliest memory of my life.” This kind of story is compelling at an emotional level: It speaks to the universal feeling of dislocation, of alienation, of longing for completeness, and at the same time resonates with the hope of the oppressed for justice, with the sorrows of every human being denied true flourishing by prejudice and fear.
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The Spiritual Promise the Cinema Can’t Deliver

The inability of entertainment to deliver on its promises gives us the opportunity to do something different, to live and worship in a way that resolves the paradox of the AMC ad. The high priestess of Hollywood assures us we can be reborn together, but there she sits—alone in a cold, dark theater. Meanwhile, the church lifts up the Great High Priest who made it possible for us to be truly reborn—

The past five years have been challenging for the box office. The pandemic turned theaters into ghost towns. More and more people stream movies online nowadays. Production delays, and now a writers’ strike—all this has slowed the output from Hollywood.
Moviemakers have done their best to beckon us back to the theater, lifting up the big screen as a place to set aside distractions, gather with friends and family, and immerse ourselves in the stories being told.
Nicole Kidman and AMC
The cinematic promise is epitomized in AMC Theatres’ one-minute spot featuring Nicole Kidman. It begins as she strolls through a rainy night to the theater, gently lifting her hood as if she were a Jedi. Meanwhile, her voice describes the “magic” of the cinema, where we learn to laugh, to cry, and to care. As she ascends the stairs, she celebrates the “indescribable feeling as the lights dim” and we get the chance to go to another world. Kidman is the high priestess of this spiritual experience. We’re not there “just to be entertained,” she says, but to be “somehow reborn, together.”
The AMC ad was an unexpected hit, its rhapsodic script inspiring a parody on Saturday Night Live that expanded Kidman into a superhero and surrounded her with moviegoers who salute the screen as new adherents to this quasi religion. The ad elicited numerous memes and good-natured ribbing, especially for the unintentional campiness of the line “Heartbreak feels good in a place like this.”
Deeper Longing
Every effective marketing campaign taps into deeper longings than the surface-level issues it addresses. It’s a running joke every year when Super Bowl commercials wow us with attention-grabbing humor or inspiring stories that often have little to no connection with the brand being represented. (A longer Christmas ad for Chevy last year, a tearjerker if ever there was one, emphasizes the nostalgic power of the brand while implying a Chevy truck can reverse dementia.)
It’s no surprise, then, that AMC wants to portray itself as more than a place where you can see a good movie at a decent price with comfortable seats; the theater offers an experience that fulfills a more profound need. Something deeper than mere entertainment. Rebirth is the goal.
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The Danger of Self-Soothing through Social Media

Social media self-validation enshrines bad behavior as a sign of goodness. The very attitude or action that may be your problem, something to work on or try to modify, gets turned into proof of your goodness. Are you stubborn and obstinate? No, you’re standing strong when everyone else is trying to take you down. Are you manipulative and crafty? No, you’re shrewd in navigating relationships so no one can take advantage of you. Are you too sensitive and anxious? No, you’re rightly attuned to personal slights and the atmosphere of injustice that surrounds you. That’s the biggest problem with therapeutic crowdsourcing online. We take comfort in the idea that all our problems and challenges can be attributed to other people, to injustice, to the sins and selfishness of others—whatever keeps you from being your true self.

Not long ago, I came across an insightful column in the print edition of Wired that spoke of our generation’s penchant for “self-soothing” on social media by “crowdsourcing therapy.” As people turn to their online “community” for validation, they increasingly turn to “therapy-speak” as a means of understanding and expressing themselves. This tendency is downstream from therapy influencers who may or may not be real practitioners but have gained an audience online.
Just as perusing WebMD engenders false confidence when we quickly diagnose ourselves or our family members after a cursory look at medical symptoms, we’ve become overly trusting of the self-help gurus and self-proclaimed therapists online who give advice about various psychological maladies. There’s an audience for this, as confirmed in The Atlantic, which notes that many social media feeds are now crowded with “therapy influencers who tell us to be more aware of our anxiety, our trauma, our distress. Instagram is full of anxious confessions and therapy-speak. The TikTok hashtag #Trauma has more than 6 billion views. . . . More than 5,500 podcasts have the word trauma in their title.”
No one can deny there’s such a thing as real trauma, and abuse, and depression, and anxiety, and toxicity, and all kinds of social and psychological challenges that deserve attention. But surely we should differentiate between therapy with trained professionals who take an individual interest in your life and what The Atlantic dubs “Therapy Media,” an ecosystem filled with nonexperts broadcasting their thoughts about mental health for strangers. “The way we talk about the world shapes our experience of the world.”
Recent studies show it’s possible for people to “consume so much information about anxiety disorders that they begin to process normal problems of living as signs of a decline in mental health.” Surely that’s a factor when we consider all the dumbed-down diagnoses and simplistic solutions on offer.
Self-Soothing and Relational Breakdown
Nowhere do we see this problem more clearly than in the attempt to apply online therapy-speak to real-life relationships. The Wired column notes how the world of social media gives you the illusion of community while you burrow further and further into yourself. And self-indulgence these days shows up whenever you privilege your sense of identity, what you feel, often to the detriment of your relationships.
Not surprising, then, that we see relational breakdown as the result of some of the pop-level therapy-speak out there—suspicions that heighten interpersonal tension and raise the stakes in every interaction.

“She didn’t just lie to you or mislead you. She’s gaslighting you.”
“That person isn’t just wrong. His take is harmful.”
“The reason you don’t see eye to eye with him is because he must be a misogynist.”
“She doesn’t get along with you because she’s racist.”
“Your boss says ‘You’re difficult to work with,’ but that just means ‘You’re difficult to take advantage of.’”

When you’re safely cocooned in an online world that constantly validates your perspective, you interpret the words or actions of people in the real world in distorted and damaging ways.
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Is Sunday Still the First Day of the Week?

We’re Christians. We follow King Jesus. We mark out one day a week—the first, not the last—to worship the risen Lord. We sing of his goodness and grace and trust his promise to return and blast away death forever. Sunday is his day. And he comes first.

Maybe you’ve noticed it too. On various apps and sites, the calendar has shifted to Monday as the first day of the week. If you want to keep Sunday as Day 1, you can sometimes tailor the calendar to your preference, but the default has changed.
This comes as no surprise. Most people look at Saturday and Sunday as a pair—two days at the end of the week. “What is a weekend?” asked the elderly Lady Grantham in Downton Abbey, delightfully clueless as to how the working class a century ago conceived of time. Since regular business hours are Monday to Friday, it makes sense when people assume Monday is the best candidate for Day 1. It’s the start of the workweek.
But that’s just it. Collapsing the week into the workweek is what troubles me.
Week and Workweek
The way we orient ourselves in time—how we think of our days—makes a difference in how we conceive of our life and purpose. Our choices in how we order time contain moral instruction.
Starting the week with Monday indicates we see our lives primarily in terms of work. Productivity matters most. Contrast a Monday-first mindset with a Sunday-first outlook. When the week begins with worship and rest, everything that follows gets cast in the light of grace and gratitude. Work becomes a subset of worship. We begin not with what we do but with who we are in Christ.
Are Sundays Special?
But Trevin, you say. Sundays aren’t that different anymore. So the calendar shift doesn’t matter that much. True, unfortunately. Even for many Christians, aside from an hour or so spent in church, the rest of the day slips into the same leisure activities as Saturday—or for some, becomes just another day of work at one of the countless places open all week long.
But the way we treat Sunday puts us out of step with our forefathers and mothers in the faith. The original consensus statement adopted by Southern Baptists nearly a century ago, The Baptist Faith and Message, not only devoted an entire article to the Lord’s Day but also specified what proper stewardship of Sunday looked like:

The first day of the week is the Lord’s day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.

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