Why Do I Do What I Don’t Want to Do? Jonathan Pokluda
Stuck in habits and vices you hate? Speaker and bestselling author J.P. Pokluda knows there's a better, more fulfilling way to live, and it doesn't involve looking inside yourself for the answers--because that's not where you'll find them. With his signature wit and wisdom, he explains, unpacks, and expands on the age-old virtues Scripture tells us to pursue. Far from being restrictive, these God-given goals for living free you to love and live as you wish you would.
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Stuck in habits and vices you hate? Author J.P. Pokluda knows there’s a more fulfilling way to live.
Why Do I Do What I Don’t Want to Do? Jonathan Pokluda
Dave: Here’s a question I’ve never asked you before—43 years of marriage—never asked you ever. I have no idea what your answer might be. [Laughter] How many times a day do you think you sin?
Ann: What?! [Laughter]
Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: The reason I’m asking that: we’ve got a real sinner on the air and in the studio. [Laughter]
Jonathan: That’s right! That is a fact: chief of sinners. [Laughter]
Dave: No, I’m kidding. Jonathan Pokluda is with us, JP.
Jonathan: I recently had that conversation; in fact, polled the audience on Instagram.
Dave: You did?
Jonathan: “How many times do you think [you sin]; what would you guess?”
Ann: Come on!
Jonathan: “Is it less than …?” or “Is it more than …?” I’ve got a hamartiology, the study of sin. [Laughter] I’ve got a lot of thoughts, hot takes on that.
Ann: I want to know the response. What did people say?
Jonathan: Most people—in my opinion, to show you my cards—shoot really low. And I’m like, “Oh, more than you could ever imagine”— your thoughts and the thoughts that you give way to. Sometimes, it’s not a fleeting thought, but a thought that you entertain and all of the things. I think we are much bigger sinners than we realize.
Dave: I got the idea when I read the title of your book—your latest book, Why Do I—Why Do I—
Jonathan: It’s the longest title in the history of books.
Dave: Here we go! I’ve got to do it right: Why Do I Do What I Don’t Want to Do? I thought, “Is this your memoir?” Is this what this is?
Jonathan: Yes, yes; that’s right.
Ann: No, it’s Paul’s from Romans.
Dave: Actually, when I saw that, I thought, obviously, Romans 7.
Jonathan: I thought, “I’m going to write Dave’s biography.”
Dave: There you go! That’s it! [Laughter]
But I thought, “That’s exactly the question!” And I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. I didn’t come to Christ until I was a junior in college, raised by two alcoholic parents; so I was a wild man. I came to Christ, and I really had this thought as a junior in college—I’m on the football team, and I’m thinking: “I am so much worse than all these Christians” (when I started to go to the Cru® meetings). I didn’t know what Cru was [before that]. I just thought, “They are so much better than I was and am.”
And then, when I read Romans 7 for the first time—I can almost tell you where I was in my dorm room—I did not know that’s in the Bible, where Paul says, “I do what I don’t want to do.”
Jonathan: Most relatable chapter, for sure.
Dave: Yes! The subtitle—and you’ve got to tell us what this all means, even though we’ve read it, but our listeners haven’t—Replace Deadly Vices with Life-Giving Virtues. I love the way you balance the vice and the virtue.
You know what? Some people don’t even know what you do. You’re down in Waco at Harris Creek Baptist Church. Tell our audience what you do.
Jonathan: Yes, in the past, I got into ministry, focused on young adult ministry. A lot of what I do today is helping parents relate to their Gen-Z or Gen-Alpha child. Now I pastor a church, for the past five years, in Waco, Texas.
Ann: You’ve been married how many years?
Ann: You have two daughters and a son; Weston’s with you here today.
Jonathan: That’s right.
Ann: That’s fun.
Dave: I heard you married somebody just like my wife.
Jonathan: They’re twins, man. [Laughter] You wouldn’t believe!
Dave: They’ve got to meet! They’ve never met.
Ann: I need to meet her!
Jonathan: You don’t need to—
Dave: You need to bring her next time. I know that would be fun.
Ann: What’s really fun is you are on our new Art of Marriage®.
Ann: We’re revamping that.
Dave: Yes, we’ll talk about it a little bit later, but man, what a resource. It’s going to change marriages.
Jonathan: It’s going to serve marriages all over the world; all of the country for sure.
Dave: Let’s talk vices.
Jonathan: You’ve got a long list?
Dave: You go through ten, right?—
Jonathan: That’s right.
Dave: —from the seven deadly sins? Where did that come from?
Jonathan: That was the inspiration. [When] I grew up, there was a movie that came out about The Seven Deadly Sins. That’s not in the Bible in the way that was packaged. It actually comes from a monk, Evagrius Ponticus, [who] packaged it. Thomas Aquinas re-packaged it. You kind of come up with the seven that we had.
Here’s the inspiration behind the book: when you’re doing ministry, you have a front-row seat to people wrecking their lives. You realize it’s not a long list of vices that people choose from. It’s not lists of hundreds or even dozens. It really is the same mold that they return to. There’s a lot of overlap as you turn to the chapters. I think people pick up this book and think, “Maybe there’s going to be one or two chapters that relate to me.” The number-one feedback that I got was, “I didn’t realize every single chapter was going to relate to me.” It’s because these are the ten vices that we come face to face,with every single week. These are the temptations that the enemy [often] uses to try to take out believers.
We talk about the ancient battles and the modern wars as well; the book is split into the two. That’s less relevant—I mean, sin’s always been sin; there have always been struggles; there have always been things that the enemy’s used to try to take us out.
Dave: As you think of answering this question—I know you could go right to
Romans 8: “There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”—but how would you answer it? Why do we do what we don’t want to do?
Jonathan: I think of the ancient narrative—of what I call “The Original Fall”—that angels are created beings and that God made angels as objects to worship Him. There was one who said, “Hey, I don’t want to worship You. I want to be like You. I want to be God.” He’s sent to the earth, and that’s the spirit of the air. The Scripture calls him ”the god of this world” the little “g” god of this world; the prince of the air. The Satanic influence of the world is: “Hey, I want to be a god.” We go through life trying to be a god; we try to be as comfortable as we possibly can; to experience as much temporary pleasure as we possibly can; and to be as famous or known and respected as we possibly can.
The interesting thing is, when you turn to Genesis 2, you see that God made us to be like Him. He made us in His image. Not just are we image-bearers, but really, we’re rulers. He said, “I want you to rule over the creatures of the land, the birds of the sky. I want you to name them; I want you to cultivate the land.” You turn to the New Testament, and we’re called to be reconcilers. He says, “This whole thing was lost because you sinned. I want you to begin to put it back together, to begin to show the world what was meant to be.”
I think that sin nature in me is still there; that every now and then, it shows up as selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, self-loving, self-exalting: “I want to be God. I don’t want to worship God.”
Dave: I remember I was in seminary, decades ago. I don’t know how I ended up in this little house outside of San Bernardino, California to lead a high school Bible study. I don’t know why I remember this, but I sit down with these 16- and 17-year-old kids. I say, “Okay, guys, let’s talk about sin.” It was just boys. I say, “Why do we sin?” It got really quiet. Finally, one guys says, “Well, because we have a sin nature; and we’re depraved,. He had all the theological answers to it. I say, “That’s not the answer I thought you’d give me.” They’re like [sounding surprised], “What do you mean?” I say, “We sin because we like it!”
Jonathan: Yes, we love it.
Dave: It’s fun! There’s something in us that’s drawn to that. That’s what you’re saying: it’s probably that desire to be in control: “I want to be the god of my life,” right?
Ann: I don’t know if you guys have seen this, but I thought, “I’m pretty decent.” I gave my life to Jesus in high school, and I’m thinking, “Okay, I’m getting this down,” and then I get married.
Jonathan: Yes, yes. [Laughter]
Ann: And I’m thinking,—
Dave: —I know where this is going!
Ann: —“Dave has made me become this different person!” Because I’m realizing I have this anger; I have this frustration; I have control issues.
Jonathan: It’s a mirror, yes.
Ann: It’s a mirror. Did you ever see that? in your marriage?
Jonathan: Yes; I was told marriage is a mirror to show you how selfish you are. To experience that was like, “Whoa, I got hit in the face.” We almost didn’t make it, year two. It’s a part of our story.
Ann: Did you think it was your problem or her problem?
Jonathan: No, I thought it was her problem. [Laughter] I mean, all the things! I just remember I thought thoughts that are so embarrassing. And then, we had kids. We had a kid; our first kid.
Jonathan: That mirror got so big. It was like marriage put a mirror in front of me, and then we had a kid, a singular child. It was like you put four other marriage mirrors around you.
Jonathan: Now, all of a sudden, anywhere you look, it’s like, “I’m the most selfish human being ever!” [Laughter] The wife and the child just want to take away from my happiness. That’s what it felt like. [Laughter]
Ann: And you know what I did, as a wife? I thought, “Dave is the most selfish creature on the planet.”
Dave: And she was right.
Ann: But it was me! I
Ann: So, I think you are right. I think it is a mirror.
Dave: We’re talking about why we do what we do; there’s definitely a sin nature that’s there.
Dave: But when you come to Christ, you think, “It’ll go away.”
Jonathan and Ann: Yes.
Dave: Hopefully, we’re better; but it doesn’t go away. I remember one time, we had an electric fence for our golden retriever. Duke, as we used to call him, was our homecoming queen; just this most obedient, wonderful dog. That electric fence worked; he never left the yard.
Dave: Well, our neighbor gets a dog and puts an electric fence, literally, a foot on their side. They have a fence; we have a fence. Their dog was Rusty; this was years ago. Rusty would come out in the backyard, and never cross over, but would just bark. Duke would get over there, and you could tell he wanted to go over and play with Rusty, but they both—so, they just sit there and bark at each other. One day, I’m not kidding, I look out—I think I called you over and I said, because Duke kept getting closer, I said: “I think he’s going!” It just looked like, “I know this will hurt, but—
Jonathan: —“I’m going to do it.”
Dave: And he did; he just sort of backed up, and he started sprinting, and he jumps in the air. He literally—you can tell he’s—bzzzzz—and then, he’s [trying to shake it off] running around. I sat there, and I thought, “He literally did that!” Now, I don’t know, but he literally decided—
Jonathan: —he counted the cost.
Ann: —he counted the cost!
Jonathan: —counted the cost, yes.
Dave: —“The pain is worth the pleasure!”
Jonathan: That’s right.
Dave: I, of course, as a preacher, I say, “We do that every day;—
Jonathan: Oh, man.
Dave: —“but the consequences are a lot worse,” right? We just don’t do it [refuse to act]. Here’s the question: “Why don’t we get better?” I mean, we do; we’re redeemed. We’re being sanctified, but we still do what we don’t want to do.
Jonathan: I’ve heard it explained as the carrot, the stick, and the donkey. If you think about the cartoon picture of someone dangling a carrot off a stick to make the donkey go, the donkey is our flesh. There’s something in us that wants the carrot. The carrot is actually all that the world has to offer. We’re in this temporary place, and the lusts of the flesh, right? the pride of life? the things that we’re looking around, and we’re saying, “I want that.” We have this flesh. You’re baited with everything the world has to offer. The stick is the enemy.
Jonathan: The enemy comes along and sets it in front of you, and just says, “Here, take and eat. Why wouldn’t you?” Like he does with Jesus when He's in the desert; he says, “Why don’t You eat this bread? Look, all of this could be Yours!” He’s still running the same offense.
I think, as long as we’re under the sun—until we’re in that glorified state, until we’re in the presence of God—that temptation never goes away. There’s always going to be the desires of the flesh [and] the enemy who lures us with the things of the world.
Jonathan: I think that’s why it feels like we’re not getting better. Also, experientially, I find this to be true: it seems like the closer we grow to Christ, the more we realize our sin.
Jonathan: It’s kind of like, when you start off, you’re like, “Oh, I’m not that bad. I’m not that bad of a person.”
Jonathan: And then, as you grow closer and closer to Him—as you begin to compare yourself to Him—you’re like, “Wow! I’m really depraved. I’m really fallen. I really need a Savior.” Hopefully, our appreciation for Him, and the work He did on the cross, grows. We say, “Man, I’m so thankful that God rescued me from my depravity.”
Ann: Me, too. Let’s talk about the ancient battles, Part One of your book. Let’s go through some of those.
Jonathan: Yes, let’s go.
Dave: You start with pride.
Jonathan: I think C.S. Lewis said, “It’s the vice or the sin that made the devil the devil.” That’s that narrative that we covered. I think it’s still foundational to everything we do. All of these vices have overlaps. This one, especially, bleeds into every single one of them. If you think about why we get drunk, or why we’re greedy, or why we lust—or any of it—pride is foundational to all of it.
Dave: So, how do we get to—the virtue is humility. How do we get there?
Jonathan: I think the reason why it’s bifurcated in that way. Every chapter deals with the vice and the virtue. I know you guys have a lot of exposure to church and have done ministry for a while and led churches. The way I think about is: so often, in church, it’s like God is the God of “Don’ts.”
Dave and Ann: Yes!
Jonathan: You know, “Thou shalt not…”
Jonathan: “Thou shalt not have fun,” “Thou shalt not do this…” [Laughter] “Thou shalt not watch R-rated movies,” “….curse,” “…consume alcohol,” “…dance,” or whatever the thing is. But what if we focused on—and sometimes, I think we get stuck on defense.
Ann: Me, too.
Jonathan: “Thou shalt not…” is the defense. It’s like “I’m putting up my shield; I’m praying; and I’m just trying really, really hard not to sin.” In trying really, really hard not to sin, I’m not doing anything.
I’m thinking, “What if, rather than trying hard not to be prideful, you just sought out to be humble?” You said, “Hey, I’m going to be as humble as I can. I’m going to pursue humility.” Rather than trying not to do this, “I’m going to pursue the virtue that God calls us to,” and you stay in that world. That’s where you turn to 1 Peter 5. He says, “Clothe yourself, all of you, clothe yourself in humility, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God so that, in due time, He may lift you up.”
God’s going to lift you up as you clothe yourself in humility. Why would I want to stay in this place where I’m just trying not to be prideful? Why not try to be humble? That’s the premise.
Ann: How did you do that? What did it look like in actuality?
Jonathan: Just to pursue humility?
Jonathan: Yes, I talk about a friend of mine, who, every day, he wakes up; he stands in his closet, and as he’s getting dressed, he thinks about: “What does my calendar look like today? What are my meetings? The Scripture calls me to clothe myself in humility.” He looks at them, and he says, “I’m going to have to wear a lot of humility to that one.” He kind of goes through [his schedule]. He says, “What does that need to look like? What does it look like for me to be humble in those meetings?” He lives in that future reality of, “What does it look like for me to pursue humility with that person? Who is God calling me to be with that person?” That’s one of the practical things.
Secondly, I would just say, “Serve.”
Ann: Oh, that’s good!
Jonathan: Jesus says in Mark 10:45: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The antidote to trying to be God is to say, “I don’t want to be God! God is God! He’s a better God than I will ever be. He’s all-knowing; He’s all-powerful. I’m not all-knowing or all-powerful. He’s got that job covered. How about I be the chief servant?”
He leads His disciples through this narrative. He says, “You know those who are considered as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.” They’re like, “Yes! The Romans: they just want power.” He says, “But not so with you.” He says, “Whoever wants to be first must be last. Whoever wants to be the chief has to be slave of all. The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.”
Somehow, that falls out of Sunday school or something. [Laughter] I think, as we seek to be Christians, we forget: “Oh, a bullseye for us is to be the chief servant,” to literally go through life with eyes to see, “Who can I serve?”
Ann: And you may not feel like doing it or want to do it.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s right!
Ann: You’re saying, “No, I’m going to make these steps to do it.” I love the closet idea.
Jonathan: Yes, yes.
Ann: He’s getting ready, thinking through; to me, that’s really praying.
Dave: I’m thinking about you, JP. You’re the lead pastor of a church; you’re at the top. It’s an easy place to be full of pride, because the lights are on you.
Dave: You know, the people are looking at you. I remember I was teaching with my cofounder of the church back in Michigan, years ago, at a pastors’ conference.
Dave: [Laughter]I’m laughing because of what happened. I’m telling these guys, “Hey, people are going to want to crown you king—it’s Old Testament—we want a king. People crown a king; they just want—"
Jonathan: Yes, honor culture.
Dave: I said, “When that happens, you got to reject it. You’re not the king...”—blah, blah, blah. I’m not kidding! The next day, somebody posts on Twitter® something [about] my cofounder, Steve. They said, “Steve Andrews said, ‘Yesterday was this great quote, “Somebody is going to crown you king.” I said, “I said that! Steve didn’t say that.” [Laughter] There it was! I’m like, “Look at me!”
Jonathan: Yes, yes.
Dave: Who cares who said it? But I was like, “I should get the credit for the quote.”
I thought, “It’s still in there.” You’re right; I think the antidote is [to] serve. Set up the chairs; tear the chairs down. Don’t just be the guy behind the mic, getting all the—am I right?
Jonathan: Yes! And I want to be king. I want to be king. I just want to confess to the world that there’s a part of me that wants to be king. The church that we now lead is this amazing gathering of a group of people, God’s people, in the country outside of Waco. [We’re in an] almost 150-year-old Baptist church in the country.
As we moved there—and it’s such a big shift for us—I got on that stage with my family. I said, “If you are tempted to put me on a pedestal, I promise you, I’m going to fall off. Because what you see is what you get, and I’m not going to tell my kids that they need to act right in front of you.”
Jonathan: “I’m going to raise them to be respectful, but there’s a difference.”
Dave and Ann: Yes.
Jonathan: “I don’t want to teach them perception management. Our family is going to disappoint you. We’re not going to manage perception.”
I’ll give you something really practical, to go back to your question of, “What does it look like?” And this I’ve missed way more than I’ve gotten this right; but just this morning, we pulled into the parking lot. There’s a front-row spot. There’s two ways to think about that, right? I can think, “Oh, look at the Lord! Won’t He do it?”
Ann: Sorry, but that’s what I do, JP! “Thanks, Jesus!”
Jonathan: “He gave me a front-row seat, man.” [Laughter] I can take that spot, or something that is even better—and I think God made us for this—is, I can say, “Oh, man, somebody is going to get that!” (Maybe it’s you!) [Laughter] “Somebody’s going to be so excited they got that front-row seat. I want them to have it.”
Then you take that next—I said seat; parking spot—you take that third or fourth [spot]; maybe you walk a little bit and get some exercise. You give it to someone else, and no one knows that.
Jonathan: I mean, now, we’re telling the whole world, but before this, no one would have known that, right? That’s what it looks like! Those kinds of decisions; God is calling us to be a servant. “How can we serve others?”
Dave: Let me ask you this—
Ann: —well, let me say, too, first: that reminds me of Paul saying, “I beat my flesh and make it my slave.” It reminds me of that.
Dave: —"so I won’t be disqualified from the race.”
Dave: I was thinking this, JP: I have found it is easier for me to do that at church, as a leader, than it is in my home.
Dave: I walk in my home, and there’s a part of me that wants to be king.
Jonathan: Right, right.
Dave: It’s like, “Hey!”—I don’t snap my fingers, but it’s like—“Hey, is anybody going to make me a Coke®?” And yet, of all the places to serve, and to model for my kids what it looks like to be a servant-leader husband,—
Jonathan: —you sound like my wife right now. [Laughter]
Dave: What’s that mean?
Jonathan: “We need to teach them to do chores,” right? She’s like, “Well, the way to teach them to do chores is to do chores.” [Laughter] I think she, appropriately, said, “If you just kind of bark at them to do the chores, I think that is going create some bitterness.” And I’m the same way. It’s like I want that in my home—I want to teach them respect; I want to teach them. . . —that’s how you do it. She said, “I think you’re going to have to lead by example here, too.” That’s my job.
Ann: Well, you know what? You must be doing a decent job, because at lunch today, there were a lot of us. Your 11-year-old son, Weston, gathered all the plates at the table and took them to the sink.
Jonathan: But you know who didn’t? This guy, right? His dad!
Dave: His mom’s a good teacher. [Laughter]
Ann: No, I was thinking, “He’s probably watched both his mom and his dad serve.” That was pretty telling to me.
Dave: You can tell lot about a person from their kids! Not that that’s the only—but it’s an indicator.
Jonathan: Sure, it’s not the only way.
Ann: People are cringing just now, like, “Is it right now?”
Jonathan: We all know it’s a lot of grace.
Ann: JP, just give us a baby step. You’ve given us a bunch of really practical things, but just for right now—a person’s like, “I don’t know,”—give us a little baby step.
Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott. You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jonathan Pokluda on FamilyLife Today. You’ll hear more from Jonathan about the next baby step you can take here in just a second. But I wanted to let you know that JP, or Jonathan Pokluda, has written a book called Why Do I Do What I Don’t Want to Do? Sound familiar? It’s from Scripture. The subtitle of his book is called Replace Deadly Vices with Life-Giving Virtues. It gives you some practical advice on how to do that to overcome the cycle of self-destructive bad habits you have.
This book is going to be our gift to you when you partner with us financially. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Feel free to drop us something in the mail if you would like to also. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832.
Have you ever wondered what your marriage is for? “What is it actually for?” Are you wanting to get more out of what you’ve got? Almost everybody would answer, “Yes,” to that. Well, you can join Aaron and Jamie Ivey, Vivian Mabuni, and other Art of Marriage contributors this Wednesday, November 1st. It’s going to be a night of marriage enrichment that you don’t want to miss. You can register at FamilyLife.com/ComingSoon or at the link in our show notes.
Okay, here’s Jonathan Pokluda about a baby step you can take to overcome the cycle of bad habits in your life.
Jonathan: It’s changing the way you think. Think about that sin, that vice, that’s eating your lunch right now, that you’re thinking, “I’m just having the most difficult time getting on top of this. It feels like I’m going to struggle with this forever. I feel so defeated in this area.”
It might be materialism: you go on Amazon®, and you just can’t resist clicking; you can’t resist buying. You see the sales, and you can’t resist walking in [the stores]. It may be lust. You’re chasing hash tags; you’re going to websites you know you shouldn’t; or you’re constantly having the second looks, or you’re fantasizing in your mind, right? It might be alcohol. You know that you’re drinking more than you should. You’re getting to this place where you’re trying to hide it, and you’re sneaking it.
Whatever it is, you’re keeping a secret. Think about what the counterpart to that is: “What is the life that God is calling you to?” Because if you stay in that mindset of sin, you begin to think, “Man, God wants to rip me off. He wants to keep good from me.” But if you can really embrace this idea that: “No, He wants to set me free. He wants to give me something better than what I have. He wants to give me—or restore—what the enemy is trying to take from me right now. What is it that He is calling me to? What is the virtue—the virtuous life—that He is calling me to?” You begin to pursue that.
You see this in James 1:19. He says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for a person’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” When I give into these vices, I’m actually missing out on the righteous life that God desires. I’m not talking about the salvific truth. We understand Christ’s righteousness is imputed upon us because of His work; but He calls us to live life by the Spirit and to put to death the deeds of the flesh. That’s where the practical—it’s a little bit ethereal; it’s a little bit of a mind work, but I would begin to think: “What is the counterpart to the thing that I continue to fall into, and how can I pursue that?”
Shelby: The battle with lust, embracing authenticity, and overcoming cynicism with optimism—those sound like problems that maybe a lot of us have. Well, JP did as well. Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be joined by him in the studio again tomorrow to talk about all that and much more. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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