Lessons we Failed to Learn From two Years of Misery-

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees- Psalms 119:71 NIV

This past week I had a moment of clarity that just sort of led to a whole bunch of other moments of clarity, some good, some profoundly unpleasant.  

It all began when it dawned on me life is back to normal.  Church is back on. Traveling is back on. Eating out is back on. Having friends over is back on.  Concerts are back on. Life is back on.  

I was so happy I celebrated shamelessly for about ten solid minutes. 

It also dawned on me most churches are back to normal as well. Most Christians are doing exactly what they did prior to March 2020.  Churches are doing the same events, preaching the same types of sermons and running all the same programs they did before the world went to hell in a handcart.  The only thing Covid seems to have changed forever was church bulletins. Bulletins are officially dead. 

Anyway.  

If we are collectively doing all the same things we did before the world literally went to pieces it most likely means we did not learn all the lessons God wanted us to learn from the world literally going to pieces. I’m just spit-balling here but it simply makes no sense God would allow all the misery we collectively experienced in 2020-2021 then be okay with His people coming out of it unchanged in any significant way.    

Choosing not to learn is never a viable option with God. He will keep going back to the same lessons over and over again until we get it. He’s relentless.  Trust me. I know. I am convinced there are three things God wants the church to learn from the events of the last two years. We will forget these lessons at our own peril. 

First: 

Community is the core of the Christian experience-

When Christians are deeply connected to other Christians they engage nonbelievers more confidently, absorb the truth of scripture, love each other sacrificially, and grow into the image of Jesus (Acts 2;42-47). It’s just how God designed the whole Christianity thing to work.  Unfortunately, the pandemic unearthed a shocking lack of authentic community in Christian circles. When the going got tough most Christians turned to Netflix, food and their PlayStations instead of the body of Christ for support and comfort. Everyone bemoans the lack of community in churches. There have been volumes written on the subject. However, little has actually been done to deal with the problem. Solving the problem will mean slowing down and stepping out of our collective comfort zones. No one can run from activity to activity in a frenzied fashion and expect to build deep, lasting relationships with other people in whatever time happens to be left over. Stepping out of our comfort zones means becoming a lot more welcoming and open to those who come to our churches. We need be intentional about developing the kind of friendliness that is genuinely curious about others. We need to seek to learn about others instead of simply hoping they will want to learn about us. Building community means inviting others in and making space for another seat at the table, even when it’s inconvenient (Hebrews 13:2). Without genuine community the body of Christ will find itself woefully unprepared for whatever comes next. 

The fear of man is a snare- 

 The pressure to conform to the morals of our time is nearly overwhelming. We have all seen what happens when someone is foolhardy enough to share an unpopular opinion or refuse to tow the party-line on some issue related to morality. As a result, we have all been tempted to keep our heads down and our opinions to ourselves in an effort to stay out of the line of fire. Consequently, evil has gained lot of ground politics, education, sexuality and law. It’s time for the body of Christ to suck it up and start being brave again (no matter the cost) because the fear of man is trap that will steal our spiritual effectiveness and our joy (Proverbs 29:25)

We have to live like the end is near

Seriously.  

This is the biggie.  I do not know when the end will be. Nobody does (Matthew 24:35-37, Ecclesiastes 8:7). That said, God commands His people to live like the end is going to be tomorrow. If we want to be sincerely obedient to Jesus we need to wake up every day and ask ourselves what would I do today if I knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? Then we need to do those things (Matthew 24, Matthew 25:1-13, 1st Thessalonians 5:1-3). 

Thankfully, covid is no longer dominating every aspect of our lives. However, our world and the people in it are not (for the part) moving towards better things. Instead, governments are becoming more corrupt, evil is gaining ground, deception is getting stronger and hearts are growing colder. Hard times and evil days give God’s people an opportunity to shine, but in order to do that we must join together, practice bold faith and live like the end is near. 

What Happens When we Refuse God-  

The waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm- Proverbs 1:32-33 NIV

The pages of Scripture are filled with uplifting, encouraging and inspirational verses. 

We eat that stuff up.    

We put those verses on tee-shirts, paint them on walls, embroider them onto throw pillows and turn them into magnets to slap on our refrigerators. Passages like Psalm 23:1-4 and Deuteronomy 31:8-9 are the warm-fuzzies of Scripture. Reading them is like drinking a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day.  It just feels good. The feel-good verses are our go-to’s anytime we want a warm comforting cup of spiritual goodness.    

To be fair: 

There are also some scripture passages that hit more like a bucket of icy cold water thrown on us in the middle of a dead sleep.  No one has ever put Matthew 7:21-23 or Jude 14-16 on a tee-shirt. Nor do emotionally healthy people paint those verses on their walls. We all know this world is full of trouble but nobody wants to wear it on a tee-shirt or be reminded every time they step into their living room.  

However.

 Those icy-cold water kinds of verses do serve a critical purpose. The hard words of Scripture remind us God is more than our own personal blessing machine and that we exist for Him, not the other way around (Acts 17:24-28).  Scary verses make us think about our spiritual walk and remind us to examine ourselves. No one is ever mature enough or righteous enough to grow past needing those reminders.

Hebrews 12:25 is one of those icy-cold water verses that immediately snaps us to attention. It’s says:

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.

Part of what makes this verse scary is all the stuff that surrounds it. The better of Hebrews twelve is a reminder God is the biggest of big deals and not to be trifled with. 

Yikes.  

Most of us are familiar with how God communicates. He communicates most clearly and most often through the Bible. He also speaks through wise people and the circumstances of our lives. Anytime we hear the same thing repeatedly from different people we should assume God is attempting to get our attention. Hardship and trouble in our relationships, finances and work are another way God communicates with us.  Anytime we humble ourselves, self-reflect and pray we are opening ourselves to be led by the God’s spirit. 

Refusing God comes in many different forms. 

We refuse God anytime we shut off some part of our lives to God or when we willfully choose to do the opposite of what we know He wants us to do.  There are five primary ways we refuse God. Each is an easy trap to fall into (Ephesians 4:16-17). 

First. 

We refuse God when we hide sin rather than confess and repent of sin. Sin must be dealt with decisively. There is simply no other way except confession and repentance to effectively get free of the effects of willful disobedience (Matthew 3:8, Acts 2:38, James 5:16, Psalm 32:5, Psalm 38:18, Ezra 10:1). When we refuse to confess and repent of our sin, we are basically telling God through our actions we believe He’s wrong about the whole subject of what sin is.  

Second.

We refuse God when refuse the correction he brings into our lives (Proverbs 12:1). No one gets it right every time. We all act stupid, make mistakes and do the wrong thing from time-to-time. God frequently uses the rebukes of other people to speak to us about the rightness and wrongness of our choices. When we ignore Him, we risk being turned over to the consequences of our choices. This is never a pleasant experience (Romans 1:18-32, Acts 7:42-43).

Third.

We refuse God when we make judgments about other people without clear understanding of their situation (Job 38:2). There is little God hates more than when one-person judges another without taking the time to hear their story (Proverbs 18:17, Matthew 7:1-5). Making ill-informed judgments about people and situations means we think we are too wise to consult God or others. 

Fourth. 

We refuse God when we refuse to forgive others. If forgiving other people is a perquisite for salvation, and it is, then refusing to forgive is pretty much the ultimate in refusing God. Refusing to forgive is also the fast track to all kinds of spiritual trouble (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:34-35, Luke 17:4). 

Fifth.

We refuse God when we refuse to grow and change. The Christian life is a life of transformation and growth (Romans 12:1-21). No one ever grows past the need for change. When we refuse the changes, God wants to make in our attitudes, opinions or behavior we refuse God and stunt our own spiritual development (Hebrews 5:11-14). 

Here’s the thing about refusing God:

 Anytime we willfully refuse God we run the risk of what the writer of Hebrews calls “falling short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). Falling short of God’s grace means we voluntarily forgo the blessing and peace that being in right relationship with God brings. Furthermore, we risk cursing ourselves and our generational line through our willful disobedience.

Holy-Moley.  No one wants that. 

Q&A Friday- Is it okay for Christians to Use Marijuana Recreationally?

Is it okay for Christians to use weed recreationally?

Just a few years ago this would have been a very easy question to answer. Marijuana was illegal.  Christians should never willfully break laws that don’t contradict God’s laws so using marijuana (an illegal substance) would be wrong for Christians. Period. End. Of. Debate. 

However.

Laws have changed radically in recent years. Marijuana is now legalized or decriminalized in thirty-three states, marijuana use is entirely prohibited in only four. This makes the rightness and wrongness of marijuana use a much more complex issue for serious Christians. The real question is not whether or not Christians CAN smoke weed it’s whether or not Christians SHOULD smoke weed. 

The Apostle Paul says this about Christian freedom:

 I have the right to do anything, you saybut not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others-1st Corinthians 

Using marijuana is lawful for Christians. Nonetheless, marijuana use not beneficial or constructive because:

  1. Christians are told to be sober minded (1st Peter 5:8, 1st Thessalonians 5:6-8). Marijuana clouds judgment. It’s tough to be sober on weed.
  • The Bible warns Christians against drinking alcohol to the point of impairment (Ephesians 4:8, 1st Corinthians 5:11, Titus 1:7, 1st Peter 4:3). It is true that weed and alcohol are different but they both lead to impairment. It is possible to drink a small amount of alcohol without becoming impaired. It is much more difficult, if not impossible, to use any amount of marijuana in a manner that does not lead to impairment. 
  • Using marijuana is not a good example for Christians to set for others. Christians are commanded not to do anything that might cause another person to sin or “stumble” (Matthew 18:7, Mark 9:42, 1st Corinthians 10:32). Marijuana is a known gateway drug. This means marijuana use makes people more comfortable with other, stronger drugs. Doctor prescribed drug use aside, drug use does not typically lead to full, abundant, law abiding life. When non-Christians, or newer Christians see mature Christians using marijuana it sends the clear message that drug use is okay and no one is lives their best life on drugs. 

And finally. 

  • We live in times that require Christians to be alert, holy and entirely present (Ephesians 5:15-17). God wants His people to be clear-minded and ready to fight the spiritual battles that come our way (Ephesians 6:10-17). Drug use of any kind does not help us to be alert, righteous and entirely present. Therefore, it should be avoided.  

Christians Screwed-up Understanding of Authority is Literally Wrecking Christianity-

If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit- Matthew 15:14 NIV

Christianity has a leadership problem.

Accounts of bullying, embezzlement, adultery, duplicity, abuse, control and even pedophilia involving high profile pastors, churches and entire denominations have become routine. The Catholic Church, Jim Baker, Mars Hill, Ted Haggard, Bob Coy, Willow Creek, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mike Warnke, Hillsong, Josh Duggar and The Southern Baptist Convention are just a few of the leaders, churches and organizations whose names have become synonymous with corrupt Christian leadership.  Leadership problems aren’t restricted to high profile pastors, mega churches or big-name Christian ministries. Many churchgoers have experienced hurt at the hands of insensitive pastors or pastors who acted much more righteous in public than in private. 

Sigh. 

Experts blame the rise of bad leadership on an increase of narcissism in churches and Christian organizations.  A narcissist has a strong sense of entitlement, is extremely self-focused, has an unusually high need for attention, is overconfident and a has profound lack of empathy. Christians can be narcissists. Narcissists have enormous blind spots where their behavior is concerned. Narcissistic Christians can justify almost any action, including actions they know are sinful. Narcissistic Christian leaders truly believe God will overlook their sin because they “do so much for the kingdom”.  Narcissists do not understand how their behavior affects other people. Therefore, they can do a great deal of harm to people without even knowing it. Most experts believe narcissism is a growing problem among Christian leaders. This is concerning considering the contrast between a narcissistic leader and the model Christian leader described in Titus 1:7-9, Timothy 3:1-3 and 1st Peter 5:1-5. 

This begs some hard questions: 

Why is there so much bad behavior in Christianity? 

What does the church do to produce and attract narcissistic leaders? 

How do average Christians enable narcissistic leadership?  

Christianity is plagued with narcissistic leadership because Christians have a flawed understanding of what New Testament authority should look like.

Here’s what I mean:

Most Christians form their views on spiritual authority from Old Testament stories, principally from the system of Kings found in the Old Testament. Old Testament Kings had absolute God-given authority. This is most famously played out in the story of Saul and David. Saul was an awful king. Saul was evil, volatile, selfish, and guided almost entirely by pride and sinful passions (1st Samuel 16:14, 1st Samuel 18:14, 1st Samuel 19:4, 1st Samuel 15:22-24).  

However.

 Because Saul was anointed King, David faithfully submitted himself to Saul’s authority. David did not disparage Saul, physically harm him or challenge his authority.  Christian teachers (including myself) universally applaud David’s submission to Saul’s authority. It’s an example of Old Testament obedience God clearly blessed (1stSamuel 26:9-11, Acts 13:22). 

Many Christians apply the same concept of anointing to present-day pastors. Many deacons, board members and elders flat refuse to question or correct a pastor even when they know the pastor is wrong because they view the pastor as God’s “anointed” and therefore unchallengeable, regardless of their behavior. Many Pastors, especially narcissistic pastors tend to see themselves as having the same unchallengeable authority as Old Testament Kings. The rotten fruit of this understanding of authority is at least partly to blame for the large numbers of people who have left the church in recent years. It’s also literally obliterating the churches ability to do our one job: reach the lost (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians understandably see leadership situations like the ones at the Southern Baptist Convention, Mars Hill and Hillsong as unacceptable, indefensibly gross and entirely inconsistent with the whole notion of a good God. 

Here’s the thing. 

There are to be no human kings in the Church. 

Jesus is the only King among His people. Period. End of story. Jesus is the only leader who can demand or who deserves absolute obedience. Pastors are simply not anointed to lead churches the same way kings were anointed to lead Israel in the Old Testament. The word anointed or anoint in reference to people and/or Jesus is used a total of eleven times in the New Testament. Eight explicitly refer to Jesus (Mark 14:8, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:46, John 11:2, John 12:3, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9). The remaining three teach all Christians are anointed for ministry, not just a few specific leaders (2nd Corinthians 1:21, 1st John 2:20, 1st John 2:27). 

All Christians are given gifts to benefit the church (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1st Corinthians 12:7-11, Romans 12:3-9). Some spiritual gifts have a leadership component to them (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, overseers). The New Testament commands Christians to treat these leaders with respect, to make their task joyful rather than difficult (Hebrews 13:17). Christians will be judged for how they treat their spiritual leaders. Therefore, any challenge to a leader’s teaching or behavior must be prayerfully contemplated before action is taken. 

 However.

Pastors simply do not have the same authority as Old Testament Kings. Instead, the Bible promises leaders and teachers will be judged at a higher standard than other Christians (James 3:1). ALL Christians will be accountable to God for how they use or misuse their authority in the home, workplace or church. Christians are called to humble servanthood, and specifically commanded not to lord their authority over others (Matthew 20:25-26). 

Truth-be-told narcissism has taken root in churches because too many pastors have been given unchallenged authority and too many Christians have foolishly chosen to follow human leaders more closely than they follow King Jesus.  

Q&A Friday-

Today’s question comes from a reader in Georgia:

Should Christian parents consider taking their kids out of public schools? 

YES. YES. YES.

Just a few years ago, my answer would have been far more nuanced.  

However, times have changed dramatically. 

Public schools have become monolithic machines that churn out leftist anti-God propaganda aimed at indoctrinating children with progressive ideas about sexuality, the climate, history, race and God.  Very few public schools teach children how to think about issues.  Instead schools teach kids what to think. This has produced a generation of young people who lack basic academic skills, have few morals and zero wisdom and discernment about the most basic of issues. 

Furthermore. 

God gave parents not the state ultimate responsibility for training and teaching children. Very few public schools respect the authority of parents anymore. In many states (including my own) a child can change genders, get an abortion, or obtain birth control without so much as parental notification. 

Sadly.

 Public schools are not spiritually safe for children. Public educators assert public schools are value neutral, meaning schools don’t teach values, they simply give information. Unfortunately, the information schools choose to give on sexuality, justice, genders and religion communicate progressive, anti-God, anti-parent, pro-transgender, pro-sexual experimentation values.  It is very difficult for Christian families to effectively counter the ideas and philosophies given at public school given the sheer number of hours kids spend there. 

I do understand private schools or even homeschooling are not always viable options for every family. Christian schools are expensive and homeschooling requires a large investment of time. That said, I urge Christian parents to explore the options. There are wonderful video options available, home schooling co-ops and some Christian schools offer discounts based on income. 

What’s Next for the Pro-life Movement?

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord- Romans 12:9-11 NIV

Last week God graciously answered almost fifty years of heartfelt prayers in one fell swoop when Roe vs. Wade was miraculously reversed by the Supreme Court. Like all pro-life Christians, I rejoiced at the news. There are no words for how good it feels to have a wrong that’s led to the death of sixty-million human beings righted by the courts after so much evil and injustice. 

However. The reaction from abortion supporters was far less joyful. 

It was Crazy Town.

 Seriously. 

There was literal wailing and literal gnashing of teeth and I mean that literally.  Mothers marched in protest to the ruling, some with their children wearing signs saying things like: “don’t force anyone into this” (meaning motherhood). Other protesters wore t-shirts saying: “I hate babies” or “I’m not pro-choice I’m anti-baby”. News anchors immediately began making wild predictions about all the other rights (birth control, gay marriage, interracial marriage) that will vanish into thin air because Roe has been repealed. A parade of women shared their personal abortion stories in glowing terms. Some openly lamented there will be women who won’t get the opportunity to abort their offspring like they did. Activists vowed to help women living in states where abortion is banned get abortions, using any means necessary. Joe Biden promised the federal government would do everything within its power to make chemical abortions readily available to every woman in every state in America. Elizabeth Warren and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez want the federal government to set up pop-up abortion clinics on federal land and inside national parks in states that outlaw or place limits on abortion. The governors of Washington, Oregon and California formed a creepy little alliance aimed at making the entire left-coast “abortion welcoming”. One governor even promised to do everything he could to make abortion free in his state. God help us all. 

The whole spectacle was sad and gross and disheartening.

Legalized abortion has created a culture of irresponsibility around sexuality. As a result, abortion has become something many people see as a need. Overturning Roe vs. Wade will not miraculously make men or women more sexually conscientious. Nor will it change the “children are messy, gross, fun-wrecking little liabilities” outlook that’s taken over our society by storm. Overthrowing Roe won’t make the baby haters love children. Nor, will it make abortion go away. In fact, reversing Roe will likely make abortion more common, at least in some places. There will be states where abortion laws become even more permissive than they were before. 

The pro-life movement still has a lot of work left to do.

Federal law may have changed, but hearts remain hard towards unborn children and minds remain closed to truth. Sex is a creepy little idol in our culture. The average person has bought into the belief that having sex is the thing that makes us fully human and the only route to true happiness and fulfillment.  That belief that is at the root of our culture’s willingness to sacrifice the unborn on the altar of their own happiness. Idols are not easily displaced in the lives of worshipers.  

We have to get busy. 

Changing a human heart is the most difficult thing in all the universe. In this case it simply will not happen without a literal miracle. Therefore, prayer must be our first order of business. Christians must pray diligently God does whatever it is that needs to be done in the hearts and mind of our friends, neighbors and family members to give them compassion and empathy towards unborn children and a desire to be more responsible in their sexual lives.  Without genuine, heartfelt, attitudinal transformation abortion numbers will remain unchanged despite the change in the law. We must pray diligently God will help those on the other side of the abortion divide understand the nature of the abortion “choice” once and for all.  

Change is neither free or easy.  

Changing hearts and minds takes time energy and money. Lots and lots of it. Please continue to donate open-handedly to pro-life organizations, especially pregnancy resource centers. The workload for these centers will get larger rather than smaller with the repeal of Roe. In the states where abortion remains legal centers will need to double down on their efforts to help, support and educate both Mothers and Fathers on what abortion is and why parents should choose life for their child.  In states where abortion is banned or limited there will be an army of women needing help, support and care with their unplanned pregnancies. 

This is an opportunity for the church to be the church. Let’s get it done.   

Q&A Friday-

Do You really think the world is under judgement? If so, why? 

As a matter of fact, I do.

Here’s why:

The breakdown in law and order, ongoing apostasy in the church, sinful church leadership, weird weather, outbreaks of disease, a move towards more authoritarian governments and worldwide food shortages are all indicators of judgment.

However,

The latest and most flagrant indicator of judgment has been the reaction to the Roe vs. Wade court decision in the United States. It is natural for those who disagree with the decision to be disappointed and angry. No one rejoices when their side loses. That said, the response has gone way beyond unhappiness or disappointment into the demonic. Threats have been made against the justices who made the decision. Protests have erupted with people wearing “I hate babies”, “I’m not pro-choice I’m anti-baby” as well as “motherhood is servitude” and “I hate children” T-shirts. Mothers have taken to marching their children around wearing signs that say “don’t force anyone into this” (meaning motherhood).

A lack of desire to have or care for children is a sign of society that has given itself over to complete depravity (Isaiah 57:5, Jeremiah 19:5, Leviticus 20:1-3) Depravity is not just a reason for judgment it is a sign of judgment (Romans 1:18-32). 

The Surest Sign of Salvation-

The testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing– James 1:3-4 NASB

Anytime a Christian makes the choice to persevere or endure through hardship, difficulty, injustice or pain in a way that leaves their faith intact and their hearts free from bitterness good things happen in that person. Enduring through the hurt of life builds emotional strength, develops grit in us, causes us to grow spiritually, makes us wiser and transforms us into the kind of people others can learn from (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-5). 

There are at least a million different types of experiences a human might have to persevere through. Some are “life in a fallen world” kinds of things, painful but random events we all experience at some point in our lives. Things like cancer, the death of a spouse, friend or child, accidents or financial calamities. Then there are the “people are crappy” sorts of experiences like religious persecution, being cheated on, being lied to or about, or being treated indifferently or with disdain by people who should care about us.

Sigh.

Persevering is made tougher for Christians because hard things naturally cause us to doubt the goodness, faithfulness and sometimes even the very existence of God. It is true that pain and difficulty can drive us towards God but hurt and struggle can also drive us away as well. The effect pain has on us depends entirely on how we choose to respond to it (1st Peter 15-6).  There are things we can do that will ensure pain, grief, trials, and difficulty make us better as opposed to bitter and more miserable. Following are four of them:

Take your focus off of people-

By far, the worst and most excruciating pain in life comes when we’re victimized or mistreated by people.  The pain of personal betrayal is compounded a million times over if the person who harmed us is a Christian. Sadly, it’s impossible to avoid being hurt by people because people, even Christian people, are at their core sinful, broken and sometimes even cruel and malevolent. For whatever reason, most of us lay the blame squarely on God when people hurt us. This is a huge tactical error. Humans have free will and can do whatever they choose with their free will. They can even be horrible, sinful, disgusting people if they want to. It doesn’t mean God approves of their actions or that there won’t be a price to be paid for their conduct, it just means God will not force anyone to be nice, honest, or just. That being said, the biggest problem with blaming God for the actions of people is that we deny ourselves access to the only one who can give us comfort, peace and the power to persevere through whatever horrible thing we are dealing with (Psalm 23:4, Psalm 86:17, 2nd Corinthians 1:3). Sigh. 

Take the long view-

The apostle Paul lived most of his Christian life in what most of us would consider absolutely unacceptable conditions (2nd Corinthians 11:21-29).  Literally, everyone hated him. The Jews hated him. The Romans hated him. The Greeks hated him. Sometimes even other Christians hated him (Galatians 4:16-18).  Paul went hungry, spent time in prison, was beaten, stoned and betrayed by people who pretended to be his friends (2nd Timothy 4:14). Nevertheless, none of this injustice appears to have bothered him because he was able to view all of these situations as temporary problems that would be righted by God at some point in the future. He believed with all his heart his trials were actually preparing him for future ministry and making him more fit to spend eternity with God (2ndCorinthians 4:17, 1st Thessalonians 3:2-3). One “key” to persevering and enduring through pain is to make the choice to believe pain that is stewarded well will make us better, wiser, more insightful and more like Jesus. 

Know that Jesus gets “it”- 

He does. Whatever “it” is. Jesus gets it. I promise. Jesus experienced the same types of things we experience. He knows exactly what temptation, betrayal, loss, loneliness, hurt feelings and personal pain feels like (Hebrews 4:15). This makes Jesus the perfect one to run to anytime the heaviness of life becomes too much too bear (2ndCorinthians 1:5). 

Don’t let yourself get hung up on the issue of fairness- 

Getting hung up on what’s fair or unfair in this life will literally drive a Christian insane. This is because life at least, in the present, is not fair. People “get away” with crappy stuff all the time. If we choose to focus on what kind of punishment people are getting right now in this life we will lose our faith and our minds in that order. Instead of worrying about what’s fair and unfair, God wants us to believe in Him and trust that He will make things right and just in His good time. Anytime we’re hurt we have to remember the Bible is clear: NOTHING is in all of creation hidden from God and there is nothing that will not be publicly disclosed (Matthew 10:26, Hebrews 4:13). Sin that is unrepented of will be made public and punished in time. Period. 

Ultimately, choosing to persevere through the pain of life means clinging to our faith and choosing to tenaciously love God no matter what goes wrong or who hurts us. Faithful endurance through hurt, loss or persecution is the hard route but God promises rich rewards for those who choose it. 

Q&A Friday

This week’s question comes from a reader in Florida.

Is it okay for Christians to consult horoscopes and/or practice astrology?

Uh. That would be a hard no. 

While I don’t personally believe Christians will go to hell for reading their horoscope or practicing astrology, neither do I believe the practice of astrology is a biblical, wise or appropriate thing for a Christian to do. 

Here’s why: 

First of all:

God’s people are commanded in the Old Testament to stay far away from diviners, witches or soothsayers (Deuteronomy 18:10). The Hebrew word for astrology or astrologer is “diviner” or “conjurer”.  

Second:

The Bible commands Christians to learn wisdom and obtain direction from God, His word or from wise people (Proverbs 2:6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 13:20) rather than from the stars, fortune tellers and astrologers.  

Third:

There is a harmful spiritual component to astrology, witchcraft and divination. These activities unknowingly give the devil a foothold in our hearts (Ephesians 5:7, 1st Peter 5:8). This open us up to deception, sin and even Satanic influence.

And finally:

God wants us to seek Him, to know Him and to fear Him. As we grow in our relationship with God He becomes our friend.  As we become God’s friend He reveals truth to us (Psalm 25:14).  Divination is shortcut to knowing God. It’s a way to gain information about life and the future without knowing the author of life or developing a friendship with Him (James 2:23). 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Christian Political Involvement-

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare- Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

There are a growing number of Christians who are very much against believers taking an active role in politics.  Few, if any, have an issue with Christians voting. However, some believe Christians supporting a particular party or candidate, running for an office or vocally supporting and/or sponsoring legislation is counter-productive to the growth of Christianity. The concern comes from a good place. It’s simply a fact that Christianity has already become linked to a particular party in the minds of a lot of non-Christian people.  As a result, politics has become a handy excuse for some to dismiss the claims of Jesus. This sad state of affairs will have eternal consequences. 

Nobody wants that. 

But, maybe, just maybe, it’s not the involvement that’s the problem. Maybe, it’s how we’ve been involved that’s the problem. Maybe God is calling Christians to be involved in politics, just in a healthier and more life-giving way than in the past. It’s just true that anytime Christians bow out of any aspect of the culture that part of the culture loses the very thing (Christian influence) that could bring health to it (Matthew 5:14-16).  For that reason, Christians who live in a democracy should do everything to make the democracy they live in as healthy as possible. This might mean running for the school board or city council or some other office.  It might mean choosing to support a particular candidate or piece of legislation that brings about a better and more just world. 

However. 

Just because we should do something it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about HOW we do that thing (Colossians 4:5). In that vein I have a couple of cautions for Christians thinking about getting more involved in the world of politics. If these cautions are heeded, it will make Christians a force for good in the world. They will also go a long way in preventing Christianity from being negatively connected to politics in the minds of non-Christians. 

 We have to:

Understand the limitations of politics- 

Politics can do a lot.  Politics can promote justice, encourage the common good and foster wise behavior in the lives of citizens. Politics can even save lives. However, there are some critically important things politics cannot do. Politics can’t stimulate spiritual conviction and politics don’t have the power to change a human heart. Politics will never lead anyone to Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can do those things. For that reason, Christians must not give conservative political change the same status as preaching the gospel or promoting Christianity. It’s critical we understand that without the spiritual change that comes with preaching the gospel any political change we get will be subject to the whims of the next political administration and therefore, short-lived. 

Understand the corrupting nature of political influence-

Politics are ultimately all about power and power is the most corrupting force on earth (Ecclesiastes 7:7) and Christians are in no way exempt from the corrupting power of politics. Christians who go into politics have to understand there will be huge temptations to compromise their principals for the sake of just a little more power and a little more influence with those who have money and or power. This means Christians who go into politics need to be open to accountability and Christians who support political candidates need to be ready to move on from any candidate who professes Christ as Lord but who’s actions prove they love power more than God. 

Commit to being the influencer not the influenced- 

Charles Dudley Warner once said politics make strange bedfellows. What he meant was that sometimes people with little in common will come together purely for the sake of shared political interests. This has never been truer in conservative political circles than it is today. The right-wing now include the anything-goes libertarians, those who buy into some rather questionable viewpoints regarding race along with conservative believers in Jesus. This group dynamic makes it critical Christians involved in politics be very careful about what and who they support.  

Know biblical principles and understand what the Bible teaches- 

In order for a Christian to be spiritually useful, we have to know what the Bible says and understand the principles underlying the commands. It’s also critical we are able to make a case for why those principles make good policy for everyone.  For example, the Bible says nothing specifically for or against recreational drug use. However, the Bible does have a lot to say about being wise, sober-minded and thinking clearly about life (1st Peter 5:8, 1stThessalonians 5:5-6, 1st Timothy 3:2-4, Ephesians 5:18). These commands make it highly unlikely God is going to bless recreational drug use. Furthermore, a sober population is a healthy population.  The bottom-line is a good Christian politician knows how to take God’s word and apply to life without broadcasting to whole world that’s what they’re doing (Matthew 10:16)

If we are going to influence the world of politics it is critical we remember whose we are and what we are supposed to be all about. As Christians we are not our free-agents (1st Corinthians 6:19-20). We belong to Jesus and our mission is to reach the people in the culture for Jesus.