America is a Dumpster Fire: Here’s what Christians can do About it-


Repent
, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord– Acts 3:19 NIV

America is in decline. 

Once trusted institutions are now looked at with scorn, cynicism and even fear. Many politicians have become corrupt, narcissistic and self-serving.  The economy is in crisis. Inflation is raging. Crime and violence are becoming disturbingly routine events.   Personal freedom is often a cover for evil and selfishness. Government has responded by restricting and regulating personal freedom at every turn.  The military is weakened. A once robust educational system is collapsing. Families are broken. Children are confused about who and what they are.  Drug use is endemic. Men and women are literally fighting for the right to kill their own children.  Truth tellers are despised. These ugly, irrefutable, painful realities clearly point to a state of growing decline. 

Sigh. 

What the heck? How on earth did the freest, richest and overall greatest nation (in my humble opinion) on earth transform into such a raging dumpster-fire so quickly? 

 As tempting as it is we cannot in good conscience lay the blame for the chaos entirely at the feet of our increasingly inept and morally bankrupt political leaders. In a democracy decline is never entirely the fault of the people in charge, voters get what they accept and vote for. Additionally, from a biblical standpoint bad leaders are always an indicator of judgment and are therefore just a symptom of a greater problem.   

Sin is the problem. 

Sin is always the ultimate cause of moral and spiritual decline (Romans 1:18-32). If an individual, family or nation is deteriorating or declining you can bet sin is at the root of the issue.  Anytime anyone turns away from God and starts to do their own thing they separate themselves from God and the moral code faith in God brings with it.  Eventually, the whole memory of that moral code fades and the person, family or culture is left with the ethical equivalent of a raging dumpster fire. What we’re looking at in the world today is what you get when people turn away from God, reject His moral code and choose to do their own thing. 

Unfortunately. 

Our situation will not be improving anytime soon. The decline America is experiencing will continue until we have a massive revival that fundamentally changes our trajectory or the eventual end of America as we know it. Obviously, we are all rooting for a revival. Here is what we need to do to get it:

Stand up the right way- 

 Christians are frequently told everything will improve when they “stand up” and “fight” for what’s right.  The problem is that no one can really explain what that means or how to do it in a way that brings God glory and facilitates change in the culture. Do we lead an insurrection? Do we focus on the political realm? What exactly does standing up for our faith look like in 2022? I believe this is where we can take a page from the early churches’ handbook. The early church didn’t take a political or even a moral stand against the Roman government. They didn’t rally or rage against anyone or anything— no matter how wicked or evil that somebody or something was. As a powerless minority rallying and raging would have done little good, it might have even gotten them killed. Instead they simply refused to conform to the culture around them (Romans 2:12). They lived such good, right and moral lives within their culture that they slowly won the culture over to their way of thinking, believing and behaving (1st Peter 2:12). We must seek to do the same. 

Have a realistic perspective on the limits and potential of politics-

Politics are important in a democracy and we have to remember that living in a democracy is a gift from God. Nevertheless, it is critical Christians understand all political leaders (including conservatives) are flawed and cannot be depended on to bring about ethical change.  Every Christian living in a democracy or a constitutional republic is biblically obligated to do their part for the country they live in. That includes praying fervently for political leaders, choosing to vote only for the best and most principled candidate available. Doing our part means being a good citizen who follows all laws that do not contradict God or His laws. We must do our best to improve the political realm but politics should never take the place of God in our lives. Nor can we depend on human leaders to bring righteousness, justice or peace to our land. Only God can bring healing to our world. 

 Take spiritual risks- 

This is not the time to sit back and hope good wins out in the end. This cultural moment requires Christians be spiritually proactive. We become proactive by sharing our faith boldly, loving the lost boldly and doing what’s right in God’s eyes no matter the cost to us personally.  

Our job as followers of Jesus is not to demand our rights or spend our time cursing the darkness (1st Corinthians 4:12) . Our job is to be Jesus to our world. We must seek to represent Him well in our homes, churches and communities.  

How to Survive the Topsy-Turvy, Rabbit Hole World of Post-Truth-

They refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false– 2nd Thessalonians 2:10b-11 ESV

Craziness is being taken to whole new level these days.

Consider these current realities:

  • A male is now the number one female swimmer in America. 
  • It is no longer true that being born with a particular set of chromosomes (XX or XY) determines gender. 
  • Feelings are every bit as valid and important as facts. 
  • Words are violence.
  • It is possible to say, write or post something inoffensive in a “mean way” instantly making the inoffensive thing “mean” and “aggressive”. 

Furthermore:

Humans routinely look at long lists of facts proving something to be true. After viewing the evidence (much of it airtight) they will assert that all those obvious and incontestable facts are simply not true.  They conclude the truth is in fact the exact opposite of what the facts say they are.  This makes it official: our culture has fallen down the rabbit hole. Good has become evil, right has become wrong, and lies have become truth. Literally.  

There is nothing stranger than watching a seemingly rational and apparently functional person deny the clearly obvious without any apparent misgivings. It feels like you’re witnessing someone morph into a pod person right before your very eyes. It FEELS as if you’re being willfully gaslighted. However, I am convinced that is not the case most of the time. The pod people really believe the lie.  They imagine that men can really be women, feelings are as important as facts, words are every bit as harmful as a weapon in the hands of a killer and intent is irrelevant. 

Interestingly, the Bible does provide an explanation for this lunacy. 2nd Thessalonians tells us that as the world winds down and we near the “end of the age” (Matthew 13:39-43, Matthew 24) there will be “a great delusion”. The delusion will come because people will refuse to believe the word of God and be saved. The delusion will cause many to believe things that are simply not true. In Luke twenty-one Jesus warns of something similar. He tells His disciples that in the end false prophets and teachers will deceive many. Jesus warns that the delusion will be so powerful that even some of the “elect” or those who have a relationship with Jesus will be tempted to believe the lies.

The delusion appears to be gaining ground. It’s the only rational explanation for the madness currently running amok in our culture. Furthermore, the monkey business we’re experiencing will not end until we have a massive revival that impacts the majority of the population or Jesus returns.  Seriously. Once a civilization collectively hops on a bus to Crazy Town there is little chance of turning the bus around without divine intervention. 

This means believers in Jesus must get busy figuring out how to deal with the current reality in a way that reveals truth to the world around us and honors God. 

Sigh. 

 Nothing is impossible with God. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything God calls us to do will be easy. Living for God in a topsy-turvy rabbit-hole world of post-truth is no easy task. That said accepting the following realities will make it easier. 

First:

We must question everything- 

Seriously. The ideas and philosophies  taking root in our culture are not all obviously insane, some clearly are, but some aren’t (Colossians 2:8). Sometimes the deception is subtle. Some lies have a little truth at their core. Others seem good true on the surface and it isn’t until you carefully examine the fruit of the idea that you see the idea really is toxic. This means Christians have to practice wisdom and discernment (Psalm 119:125, Job 34:4) in every circumstance.  

We have to learn to pray about everything-

We do not live in a time and place where can pridefully “lean on our own understanding” about anything and survive spiritually (Proverbs 3:5-6). This a time to humbly acknowledge the reality that God knows more than we do about everything and ask Him for wisdom about everything even the things that feel right to us (Proverbs 14:20)

We have to be okay with not being liked- 

The days of being an esteemed majority are all but over for Christians, at least for the foreseeable future. The sooner we get comfortable with the reality of not being liked the sooner we can get on with learning how to live spiritually productive lives in a post-Christian culture. This reality does not give us permission to be rude, unpleasant or lacking in grace but it should give us the courage to say what needs to be said and to defend what’s good and true. 

Hard times are upon us. 

I don’t know if the hard times are the beginning of the end or simply a blip on the radar that will lead to a revival. That question is way above my current paygrade.  I do know our call in this cultural moment is to be faithful in all things and trust God with the rest.  

The Risky Path of Spiritual Pragmatism-

Once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light– Ephesians 5:8 NLT

I’m currently in Turkey with The Center for Holy Land Studies (a group I highly recommend) touring New Testament sites with a heavy emphasis on the seven Churches of Revelation. The guides have done an outstanding job of piecing together secular history, geography and Biblical history in a way that has brought the experiences and practices of the early to church to life. One theme has come up over and over again: 

Syncretism. 

 Syncretism is not a Bible word. However, it was a relentless temptation in Bible times. Syncretism is the blending of different systems, practices and ideas. Most paganism practiced by God’s people in the Old Testament was actually some sort of syncretism—a mingling of the worship of Yahweh with the worship of other gods such as Baal and Moloch. 

Syncretism was an enormous temptation for the early church. Early Christians were steeped in a culture of paganism.  Many early believers were saved out of pagan religions. Additionally, Christians were under relentless social and governmental pressure to conform to the systems of paganism. Earning a living, being considered a good citizen and sometimes even just staying alive demanded paying homage to various pagan gods and goddesses. Rather than conforming fully to paganism many simply combined the two. They worshiped Jesus AND participated in the customs of paganism. 

However.

Jesus had nothing positive to say about their practicality. Like. Seriously. Nothing. It was a major theme of the letters to the seven churches, it was at the core of the criticism aimed at most of the churches. 

Most Christians do not see syncretism as a contemporary problem. But it is. It just looks a little different in our world. In the ancient world syncretism always involved idol worship. Christians would attend Christian meetings AND burn incense (worship) the emperor or honor a deity tied to their profession. This allowed early Christians to stay alive, feed their families and live at peace with their culture. 

Contemporary Christians do not bow down to idols or politicians to stay employed or alive. However, Christians are constantly tempted to syncretize secular morality, practices and ethics with Christian morality, practices and ethics. We do this to avoid being “canceled” or rejected by “polite” society and live at peace with our culture. Many contemporary believers will pay lip service to the idea of homosexuality being an acceptable lifestyle, mostly as a way of “loving” a practicing homosexual or to avoid the sin of “judgement”. Some have acquiesced publicly to the notion of multiple genders. Christians don’t conform because they really believe there are sixty-four genders or because they think God changed His mind about homosexuality sometime in the recent past. They do it because its practical and expedient. It keeps the woke censors at bay and makes life easier and from a human perspective easier is always awesome.  

Please understand. 

I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit Christians ought to treat every human being on earth with the dignity and respect due a person made in the image of almighty God. It’s categorically not okay to be unkind. Furthermore, I believe God is the only being in all of creation with the ability to rightly judge the heart of another human. However, being kind and treating others with dignity does not mean we can verbally agree with every deviant behavior under the sun in the name of “loving our neighbor”. 

Jesus hates syncretism. Passionately. He has no patience for it at all. Jesus knows the human heart is bent towards evil and sin even post salvation. Syncretism is a problem because the sin of syncretism transforms us into the image of whatever culture we happen to be living in and when we become like the culture we become spiritually useless. Sin is not limited to participating in sinful behaviors it also includes accommodating sinful ideas and practices in the name of “loving one’s neighbor” or “fitting in”.

Syncretism is something we must actively work against. The spiritual practices of prayer, Bible study, church attendance and Christian community are critically important because those practices sharpen our spirits and make us more aware of right and wrong and more willing to stand against wrong. We cannot lean on our own understanding where culture is concerned. We need constant dependence on the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and show us where our thinking has become morally muddled and in what ways we are acquiescing to cultural patterns of behavior or thinking rather than biblical patterns. And finally, and most critically we have to stop marinating in the culture if we want to think and live counterculturally. We have to turn off our televisions and put down our phones. We have to shut off the noise so we can hear God’s voice. 

I am convinced the enemy loves syncretism almost as much as Jesus hates it. Satan knows that when we make space for sin of any kind it clouds our thinking, weakens our ability to share our faith and makes spiritual growth pretty darn close to impossible. Therefore, anytime we begin to really think and live counterculturally we inevitably face hardship and trouble just like the early church did. But we are also given the peace we need to withstand the pressure and the power necessary to change hearts and minds. 

Just like the early church did.

Four Mistakes Christians Must Stop Making-


Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name
– Psalm 86:11 NIVUK

Sadly, there has been a lot of failure in Church world over the course of the last forty years or so:

 The vast majority of Christians who identify as “committed believers” attend services a pathetic and measly 1.3 times a month. Fewer than forty percent of all Christians have actually read the Bible all the way through. Between sixty and eighty percent of the children who grew up in church over the course of the last three decades have left the church. Precious few of have returned in any sort of a meaningful way. Infidelity, spiritual abuse, embezzlement and tales of narcissistic behavior have become so commonplace among clergy that even Christians are no longer appropriately shocked by shocking reports of misconduct and sin.  

All serious signs of dismal failure. 

It’s simply a fact that churches have made some tragic mistakes in recent years. As a result, the Church is shrinking and the culture is floundering. Conversions are down and “deconstructing” one’s faith is trending. Thankfully, our God is not reliant on on the perfection of His people to get His will accomplished. That being said, it is always beneficial to His overall plan when His people choose to do life and ministry His way. There are at least four mistakes the Church has made that we cannot afford to keep making if we want to see health in our churches, transformation in our lives and revival in our world. 

Those mistakes are:

We have failed to equip the saints-

Biblical illiteracy is a serious issue in Church world. Few Christians can name all the books of the Bible. There are church-goers who actually believe the Bible promises God will never give us more than we can handle and that cleanliness is next to godliness.  However, lack of biblical understanding is not the only problem we have. Many Christians do not know how to define personal holiness, or how Christian maturity is achieved (2nd Peter 1:3-11, Romans 12) Nor, are most believers able to articulate what a healthy Christian life should “look like”.  These are all basic concepts every Christian should understand. 

Churches have encouraged congregants to depend on external sources for food-

For decades now, sermons have been tasty and easy to digest, but seriously lacking in any real nutritional value. Essentially, the spiritual equivalent of chocolate pudding. The goal of these Sunday morning offerings has been attracting unbelievers and keeping them in the church by not offending them in any way. At the same time many discipleship programs have been eliminated and small groups aimed at satisfying one’s personal preferences and helping people “do life together” were put in their place. All of this was well-intended but it produced a situation where many Christians began depending on outside sources like prerecorded Bible studies and podcasts for their spiritual growth. The unintended consequences has been a serious drop in church attendance. Many have quit church altogether, or they simply pop into an occasional service when the mood strikes them. Covid accelerated this trend as more and more churches began offering online viewing options on Sunday mornings. Human beings were made for community. We learn and grow by being with and interacting with others (Proverbs 27:17). Anytime Christians remove themselves from community they short-circuit their growth.  

Bible teachers have failed to teach a theology of hardship-

The Bible is clear: trials and hardship are formative to the Christian experience (John 16:33, 1st Thessalonian 3:3, 1st Peter 1:6). Jesus experienced hardship and suffering in this life and one aspect of becoming like Jesus is doing the things He did and experiencing the things He experienced (Hebrews 5:7-9, Hebrews 13:11-13). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract unbelievers many Pastors and Bible teachers have taught a theology of easy believism and guaranteed material blessings. This has caused many to become disillusioned and leave the church when it became obvious (as it always does) that the Christian life is a blessed life but not necessarily an easy one.  

We have forgotten that spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual maturity-

Knowing what the Bible says or even being able to quote an excess of verses does not make one spiritually mature. In order to be a mature Christian we have to know what the Bible says and be able to manage our own emotions, treat people the way we want to be treated and forgive others from the heart (Psalm 119:11, Titus 2:12, Galatians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). If we can’t do those things we aren’t spiritually mature no matter how many verses we can quote. 

The solution to all of these problems are simple. Churches must leave behind old models and pivot to a culture of discipleship and community. Leaders must let go of the desire to make churches big at the expense of making them strong, healthy and deep. Individual Christians must prioritize biblical learning, personal growth and relationships in the church over all else. 

Five Things Christians can do to Keep Speech Free-

`The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 NIV

It is becoming increasingly more obvious western society has gone off a cliff and lost its collective mind. How we approach speech these days is just one example of this phenomenon. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the right to speak freely was considered sacred and unquestioned. Free speech was thought to be, by everyone except a few morons, the holy grail of freedom and democracy. There were of course, limits. It was never okay to yell “fire” in a crowded building. That being said, unless a person’s words were likely to cause real physical harm to a large number of human beings the speech was allowed. Not all speech was valued or appreciated. Some speech was simply endured, some was loathed but it was all okay. Those folks in the not-so-distant past were clever enough to understand that political and religious freedom and the democracy that undergirds political and religious freedom rests entirely on a person’s ability to say what they want to say when they want to say it. 

Unfortunately, that ship has officially sailed.  

In recent years some speech has been stifled, some has even been forbidden. All of this has taken place under the watchful eye of the news media and with the blessing of social media capitalists and many in government. Ironically, this squashing of speech has been done in the name of protecting people. There are those who sincerely believe words have the power to cause irreparable harm to others and therefore should be monitored for appropriateness and censored when found to be unsuitable. 

Here’s the thing:

Appropriateness of speech is totally subjective. The speech one person finds acceptable someone else might decide is wildly unacceptable.  It’s nearly impossible to find two humans who fully agree on every aspect of what’s okay and what isn’t okay to say. However, the biggest problem is with who gets to decide what’s okay and what’s not. Somebody has to be the decider. It’s simply a fact that anyone who believes they are qualified to decide what should and should not be said is very likely a narcissistic monster with a colossal god-complex.  

Sigh. 

The right to speak freely matters. It really is the foundation of every other human right. Furthermore, we live in a time when dangerous ideas about life, sex, and even what is real are being promoted almost everywhere. Someone has to be the voice of reason (Ephesians 4:15 and 25) as Christians we are obligated to be that voice because Jesus called us to co-labor with Him in setting the captives free from the lies of the enemy (Luke 4:18, Matthew 10:8). Furthermore, the ability to share the gospel, call out sin and preach the Bible hinge on the right to speak freely and without fear of government interference and/or retaliation.  It’s just a fact that all Christians are called to be a protective and healing influence in the society they live in (Matthew 5:13-16). This means all Christians in a free society play a part in keeping speech free. We can do our part to keep speech free by adopting the following five policies. Starting with:

Don’t be dumb-  

Seriously. There is a lot of unadulterated idiocy in this cultural moment. Christians should work really hard to not contribute to any of it. Pray fervently, do research on issues and train yourself to think deeply about all sides of an issue before you speak on ANYTHING (Proverbs 10:19). 

Learn to separate an opinion from a fact, only argue with facts- 

When doing research on a subject look for verifiable facts rather than just accepting someone else’s assessment of a subject. Remember, facts can be verified and repeated. Opinions are what one person thinks. An opinion formed using facts is okay, an opinion formed without verifiable facts backing it up should never be used in a discussion or argument. 

Don’t allow fear to control your tongue- 

Too many Christians with good ideas and well-formed opinions have kept their thoughts to themselves out of fear of not being liked.  This is a big part of what got us to where we’re at in this sketchy cultural moment. Change will only come if smart believers speak start speaking their minds on the issues in a respectful way. 

Don’t be a jerk-  

Don’t name-call, demean or disparage anyone while speaking out on issues. It’s tempting to be rude in a world where there are so many incredibly stupid opinions literally running amuck. Just don’t. It’s not Christ-like and won’t change anyone’s heart or mind. 

Be respectful- 

 It’s critical we remember the battle we find ourselves in is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The people are not the enemy. Our job is to free people from the real enemy. We won’t do free anyone being disrespectful.   

Avoid contributing to the problem with your dollars- 

This is two-fold, first believers should make every effort to avoid entertainment with themes that promote sinful messages. When we do we are literally being entertained by the very things Jesus died for and we are bankrolling an industry that cares nothing for our values or our God. Second, we should avoid purchasing from businesses that intentionally crush free speech.   

The world has never needed Jesus more than it does in this moment. It’s our job as Jesus followers to declare truth as winsomely as we possibly can. We can’t do that if we’re contributing to the foolishness. 

Here’s Why our Broken Political System Could Actually be a Good Thing-

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fearhating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh- Jude 21-23 NIV

Life is becoming more politized and deeply divided with every passing day. Even Canada, the one nation on earth whose citizens could always be relied on for their graciousness, civility and ability to get along with others is a political powder keg teetering on totalitarianism at this writing.  

Sigh.

The partisanship and division have created a space where political chaos and social anarchy are flourishing. No one on either side of the political divide is speaking to one another because cooperation is now equated with sedition. As a result, nothing sane is taking place in the political realm. A loosening of moral standards has further complicated an increasingly complex situation resulting in a death spiral of lawlessness which has caused people to become more contentious and even downright feral at times. The over-all lack of self-control is causing politicians to feel justified in taking a more despotic approach to policymaking which has led to even more anger, division and lawlessness.

SIGH.

No one in their right mind would celebrate the incredibly volatile cultural and political moment in which we find ourselves. Political unrest, social chaos and anarchy are never really good for anyone but a few tyrants. That being said, I suspect there might be a potential spiritual win in this political division for the Church.  

Here’s why:

In the west at least, our ugly cultural and political muddle can be traced back to a turning away from God and the values that accompany faith in God. This turning away happened slowly over the course of the last century or so with the last two years being a tipping point towards society-wide secularism and atheism. Here’s the thing though: it’s just a fact that human beings were made to believe in something bigger than themselves (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So, when society turned away from God most people did not simply embrace humanism or atheism with open arms. Instead most turned to something just as foolish. Politics.  Politics have become the hope of mankind. 

This is the real reason politics are no longer something most folks can agree to disagree about. Politics are no longer simply trivial matters of policymaking or a matter of personal opinion.  Politics are the new religious dogma. Humans have historically had a hard time agreeing to disagree on matters of faith and dogma. 

We just aren’t built that way. 

The results of all of this have been mostly awful. However, there is some good news in the midst of all the bad, first off truth is being revealed (Hebrews 4:13). 

We are seeing in real time that politics are a rickety and cruel faith system to put our hopes in. We can no longer deny the reality that the cult of politics has made people much meaner and less tolerant of others. This has made our world a much more dangerous and unpleasant place to live and do business. We are learning that without fear of God tempering political views people become myopic and selfish. This makes them dangerous and cruel and society seriously unstable. 

The even better news is that Christians can use this reality to start spiritual conversations with their friends and neighbors. We have all the proof we need that politics are not the answer.  This means God will can use us to show the world where the real answers lie. If people grasp hold of that truth I believe with all my heart we will see revival in our time. 

But before that can happen Christians need to do a little soul searching and scrutinize their own beliefs where politics are concerned. We need ask ourselves if we have been guilty of putting more faith in politics than in Jesus. We must be willing to let go of any idolatrous views we hold that the right politics will ultimately fix the mess we’re in. We have to pray for good leaders but abandon the notion that any human leader holds the answers to our problems.  Christians have to really grasp hold of the truth that what we see in the world right now is our own doing. Even many of God’s people have placed their hope and faith in a manmade system. That system has produced what human beings always produce in their own power and wisdom: division, oppression, human misery, suffering and foolishness.  

Transformation is never fast or easy especially when we’ve messed things up as badly as we have. In order to get the political and societal change Christians universally crave our repentance must go beyond words into action. We have to live what we say we believe. Christians must dedicate their lives to holy, joyful living. We must learn to model biblical truth and invest our time and treasure in the things that really matter. Things like our families, our local churches and our communities.

When God’s people do those things, we will finally get the win we all want so badly.  

The One Question Everyone Needs to Ask-


But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God
– John 3:21 NIV

Everyone wants THE THING. The thing is that special something will give us the growth, maturity and self-awareness that will make us a better version of ourselves. Longing for the thing is why the self-help section of any bookstore anywhere in the western world is always the biggest and best stocked in the store. It’s why so many watch Dr. Phil and why we read Malcom Gladwell and listen to Adam Young. We all want the magic bullet that will make us a better more lovable version of ourselves.  

We want the thing because we know growth, self-awareness and maturity are the fast-track to all the other things we all want in life. Things like healthy friendships, successful careers and happy families. For believers in Jesus the thing is also the path to spiritual growth and wisdom. Those blessings inevitably lead to deeper understanding of our faith and greater intimacy with Jesus (2nd Peter 1:5-8, 2nd Peter 3:18, 2nd Corinthians 3:18)

Humans are hard-wired to want all that. If a person has stopped caring about healthy relationships, career success and a happy family it is likely they experienced some sort of trauma that caused them to give up the fundamental part of what makes us human.  

However. 

Few actually get the thing. Even most Christians fumble around hoping to find the answers to this longing we have to become a better version of ourselves. 

The good news is the secret isn’t really a secret. Getting in on the thing is easy. Literally, anyone can do it.  That said few want to do what needs to be done to get it. All it takes to achieve real growth and lasting change comes down to asking one simple question and really wanting to know the answer to that one simple question: 

“What don’t I want to see about me?” 

We all have something we would rather not see about ourselves. It might be we’ve been running from God or we suffer from a stubborn refusal to confront sin in our own life or the lives of those we love. It might be a mean streak or a raging pride problem. It might be an anger issue or an inclination to take the easy way out of every situation. Or, perhaps we want to think the best of other people even when all the evidence is tells us not to.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit fault or we have a habit of taking more than we give.

The bottom line is those issues inevitably lead to problems that appear at least on the surface to be unrelated to the thing we don’t want to see. Those problems could include but are not limited to unhealthy dynamics in our closest relationships, a lack of friends, persistent financial problems, bratty children, a stalling in our professional lives or a stubborn lack of spiritual growth.  

We typically call the things we don’t want to see blind spots. They are not blind spots. A blind spot is something we CANNOT see. The things I’m talking about are all things we simply don’t want to see. As a result, they would be better categorized as intentional blindness as opposed to a blind spot. The problem with calling something we refuse to see a blind spot is it neatly removes personal responsibility from the equation. Without understanding and owning our role in the problem nothing will change in our lives. We will be doomed to stunted growth, stalled careers and screwed-up personal relationships.   

Sigh. 

The good news in all of this is that God loves each of us more than we can measure or even understand. God is constantly rooting for all us to become the best version of ourselves. He wants us to succeed in all the things that matter. Because He loves us and wants the best for us He longs to show us the things we don’t want to see.  He knows that seeing the things we don’t want to see is the first step in the kind of change that leads growth, maturity and self-awareness.  

So, here’s the thing.

If you feel stuck in some area of your life or keep running up against failure it’s not because of how your parents raised you, or because you married the wrong person or the temperament you were born with and it’s not because you were denied opportunities others had. It’s because there is something you refuse (consciously or subconsciously) to see about yourself.  Because God is the maker of you and the ultimate authority in life, solving the problem ALWAYS begins with asking Him the question. 

If we ask and actually want to know the answer God will tell us.  Honesty is His jam. He literally cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). The answer might come in a still small voice. It might come in the form of some angry words from a loved one. It might come in the form of a bad review at work. But it will come. 

We just have to be willing to do something about it.  

Beware of the Expert Trap-


“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”- Luke 11:52 

I have had a number of curious interactions both online and in-person recently. The finer points of the conversations vary but ultimately, each ends the same way. It begins when I say something that is in my opinion an innocuous common-sense kind of an assertion. These statements have included but are not limited to statements such as: online school is tough on kids, vaccinated people catch and spread Covid-19 and it’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster. 

At this point the smug little wisenheimer I’m conversing with demands in a very chippy way I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, degree in immunology, law.  I then point out, as politely as I am able—that no one really needs a degree in a particular field—or any field for that matter to know whether or not whatever statement I made is true. The statement clearly falls under the heading of common sense, common knowledge or empirical wisdom. Nine times out of ten at this point in the conversation the smug little wisenheimer will tell me to come back when I have a degree in whatever field they deem essential to continue the conversation. 

Insert angry face here.

I hate these exchanges with a white-hot passion. These folks believe the only people who have any right to speak into or on any subject are those who are an “expert” in the field in question. If you take this lunacy to its logical end-game it means that, in order to make a statement like “I had a dog with the exact same problem and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or to say “children ought to eat something besides candy and cake three meals a day” one would have to be a nutritionist or have a degree in early childhood development.

I have nothing against knowledge, education or experts. In fact, I am all for knowledge. I love education. Experts are great and certainly have their place. Additionally, I believe wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their paygrade or outside of their wheelhouse. Smart people consult multiple counselors before forming an opinion or making a decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6). 

However, 

There are a lot of potential problems with choosing to only take advice from an expert. For one thing, who exactly gets to decide who the expert is?  Do we all get to pick our own expert?  Or are the people in power the people who decide who the experts are? Or is it the people in the media? 

It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier. However, education alone cannot be the only deciding factor in what constitutes an expert, there are lots of folks who have similar or even identical educational experiences who have differing opinions on nearly every subject.  Who is or is not an expert in a particular field can be and often is politized in our increasingly political culture. It’s just a fact that one political administration may have an entirely different take on what makes a person an expert than the one before or after it. 

Furthermore.

Experts are only useful if they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind.  This never happens because experts aren’t robots or computer programs.  Experts are just fallible human beings who spent a lot of time in school being taught by other fallible human beings. Unfortunately, people—even people with a great deal of education can be corrupted by money, media attention and/or the promise of power.  Experts can easily be bought.  Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts can be also swayed towards a particular perspective by peer pressure.  

Moreover.

Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century who claimed the certain races were genetically inferior.  This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts who assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was experts in theology during the middle ages who claimed the Bible was unnecessary for the common man or woman. 

But, by far the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is that doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves, and sadly not thinking has become endemic in our society. Many have simply shut off their brains and let the experts decide what’s best and it’s not working out real well for anyone. Our society is falling apart at the seams in spite of all the “experts” we have advising us. 

 We have forgotten the hard truth that each one of us is ultimately responsible before God for the choices we make. No one gets to blame an “expert” for the consequences of a poor choice on judgment day. God gave us brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and realize anytime we stop thinking for ourselves we become a sitting duck for those looking to deceive.  Instead of placing our trust in the experts we ought to go back to the age-old practice of seeking out a multitude of opinions, analyzing the data, praying like crazy for wisdom before deciding for ourselves.  

Where Real Life is Lived-


How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you
– Psalm 31:19 NIV

My Dad died over the holidays. 

Death is never pleasant or easy. The Bible teaches death is not something human beings were created to experience (Genesis 2:16-17). Therefore, every death is grim, traumatic and depressing on some level. All that being said, as far death goes, his was less terrible than many. My Dad died quietly and peacefully in our home two days after Christmas. He didn’t linger on the edge of death for weeks or months as some do, nor was he terribly uncomfortable as he neared the end as some are. 

We were fortunate to have all four of our children with us the night he passed. Each shared something they loved about my Dad or a fond memory they had about him then we all prayed for him. A few minutes after we were done praying he breathed his last breath and that was it.

He was gone. 

The next day I gave information so his death certificate could be filed with the state. The woman filling out the paper work asked all manner of questions about my Dad’s life. Among other things, she wanted to know: where was he born?  What kind of career did he have? How many years was he married? How many children did he have? What level of education did he receive?  

On paper my Dad’s life looked pretty good.  

He graduated from college. He remained married to the same woman for forty-two years. He had a rewarding career in entomology. He travelled extensively and lived in a number of interesting places.  He fathered six children: four boys and two girls. At the end of the conversation the woman gathering the information commented that it sounded as if my Dad had lived a full and happy life. The reality of his existence was a bit different. My Dad was not a horrible man. He wasn’t evil and I doubt it was ever his intention to cause harm.  

However.

My Father did live a life that was unaltered in any conspicuous way by the restorative and redeeming work of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying my Dad was an unbeliever. I honestly do not know if he was or he wasn’t. His spiritual state was a bit of a mystery. I do know he and I talked at length about a commitment he made to Jesus shortly after my Mother died. I also know that over the last few years my husband and I and many other Christians attempted to have a number of spiritual conversations with him. However, in his later years’ dementia became an ever-increasing issue in his life so it was hard to know exactly where he stood spiritually. I do know after his “conversion experience” he never really grew spiritually or allowed his attitudes and behaviors to be transformed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:5-16, 2nd).  Like so many people in this world who commit their lives to Jesus my Father remained exactly what and who he had been all of my life. In his case this meant he was a hard man with a bad temper and a whole slew of bad habits, who judged others with a measuring stick he refused to use on himself.  Sadly, he had few friends as he neared the end of his life. He died estranged from four of his six children and his two brothers. 

Sigh.

For the sake of my own sanity I choose to believe the best about my Dad’s eternal state. The mercy of God is great and the word of God never returns void (Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 55:11). Therefore, I am choosing to believe I will see my Dad again someday. He will be an entirely new man and we will have the relationship we were always meant to have (2nd Corinthians 5:17)  

That being said.

In my more navel-gazy moments of grief and loss I wonder what my Dad would say now that he is firmly on the other side of the great divide that exists between the living and the dead (Luke 16:26).  

If he could I believe my Dad would say that a life lived for self is ultimately a wasted life. He would advise the living to mend fences and build bridges with the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so because there will come a day for all of us when those opportunities will be gone forever. He would likely have a lot to say about the importance of avoiding bitterness and not sinning in fits of anger (Ephesians 4:26, Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 4:31. Most significantly, I believe with all of my heart and soul my Dad would tell us all to take any commitment we have made to Jesus seriously. He would advise us to do the things the New Testament tells us to do so we will grow into the people God designed us to be.  Because then—and only then—we get the full and abundant life Jesus promises those who believe enough to put God’s words into action. 

Because that is ultimately where real life is lived. 

How Christians Become the Worst Version of Themselves-

 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead- Acts 17:30-31 ESV

We all know that person.

The man or woman who has somehow managed to achieve the unenviable feat of becoming the very worst version of themselves imaginable. 

Perhaps the person is hostile, mean, judgy, bitter, prideful and/or self-serving. (Hebrews 12:15, Hebrews 3:12, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:8-9). It could be they are just so oblivious to the needs and feelings of others they just go around unknowingly causing the poor hapless souls unfortunate enough to be caught in their orbit immeasurable hurt and pain. It might be they are sexually immoral in some way. Perhaps they are addicted to pornography or they cheat on their spouse or they just sit around indulging in lecherous thoughts about the opposite sex all the time. They might lie or cheat or steal or go around boasting about their own awesomeness to anyone who will listen. Maybe they drink themselves into oblivion routinely or are addicted to drugs. To some degree the sordid details of their behavior is less significant than the fact that they have chosen to indulge their very worst tendencies and character traits.    

No one is exempt from becoming the worst version of themselves (1st Corinthians 10:12). It happens all the time. It happens to famous mega-church pastors like Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ted Haggard. It can also happen to local pastors, ministry leaders, their spouses as well as your average Joe or Jane church attenders. It’s horrifying anytime anyone becomes the worst version of themselves. It’s extra gross when it happens to a Christian.   

Here’s how it happens:  

The whole messy mess starts out innocently enough, just like almost every other messy mess on planet earth. The slide begins with a subtle shift in behavior or attitude that gradually transforms into a habit.  The person knows what they’re doing or thinking is sinful. However, because no one says anything and nothing truly catastrophic happens they keep doing their thing in spite of any reservations they may have.  

Then God gets involved in His indirect but distinct little God way. 

The person hears a guilt-producing sermon, or a reads a convicting blogpost, or perhaps a friend or spouse, gently, or not so gently confronts them with the problem. At this point things go one of two ways: the person might choose to get offended. When a person chooses offendedness  its not long before they begin the process of actively shutting out anyone who is isn’t either one-hundred-percent supportive of their behavior or willing to ignore it.

  Sometimes, the person just goes into full-on denial mode concerning the seriousness of their behavior. They assure the person challenging them they have a handle on things.  Then the sinner slowly convinces him or herself their behavior isn’t really a problem. The same behavior might be a problem for other people but not for them.  They have so many other awesome qualities they are above being destroyed by the petty little sins that doom other Christians. Besides, they tell themselves: they’re a Christian, God loves them. If God wasn’t okay with what they’ve been up to He would force them to stop.  He hasn’t so He must be okay with it.

So, the behavior or attitude persists.  

At this point, things get interesting, in a very bad way. Blindness sets in and the behavior takes firm root. They spend more time looking at more porn, they think more lecherous thoughts more frequently. They get to the place where can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. They go into full-scale addiction. They lose the ability to even muster up false humility.  At the same time, they become increasingly more oblivious to the effect their behavior is having on others. They become harsher and meaner and less concerned with the feelings of others.  Ironically, at the same time they become much more judgmental towards other people, especially towards those who have the same problems they do (Matthew 7:2-3). They become a twisted version of what they could have been, a parody of their sin and a sad joke to non-Christians. 

So. Here’s the thing:

No Christian is doomed to becoming the worst version of themselves. It is a fully preventable tragedy.  However, we have to understand that the devil wants more than anything in the world to see every Christian on earth become the very worst version of themselves possible (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves it when Christians fall into this trap. It ruins the believer, their ministry opportunities and their Christian witness. This is a triple win for Satan.  To avoid this trap, we must understand that even in our redeemed state we are capable of great sin and self-deception. To avoid the self-deception that makes becoming the worst version of ourselves possible we have to make every effort to grow in our knowledge of God and nurture the Christian virtues of faith, goodness, humility, godliness and self-control in our lives (2nd Peter 1:3-10). We must make a regular practice of examining ourselves honestly before the Lord (1st Corinthians 13:5) and we must listen when other people try and speak truth into our lives.