How our Beliefs About the End-times can Actually Shake our Faith-

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths– Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV 

Theology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

The study of the nature of God and religious belief.

I am an unapologetic fan of theology. I have spent the better part of my life studying God and attempting to understand Him better. I firmly believe most of the problems and struggles of this life would evaporate if people simply understood who God is and applied His principles and wisdom to all of life. 

That being said. 

There are times in life when tightly held theological beliefs can actually get in the way of seeing what God is up to in the world. Christians can become so rigidly fixated on a single theological perspective they actually miss what God says or does not say in His word. Such was the situation with many first-century Jews. Their rigid belief the Messiah would be a military leader after the pattern of King David caused them to disregard the suffering servant right in front of them (Isaiah 42:1-2, Isaiah 53:4-6, Acts 4:11, 1st Peter 2:4-7). 

I am convinced some twenty-first century Christians are falling into the same trap with the second coming of Jesus first-century Jews did with first coming of Jesus. Too many Christians on all ends of the eschatological (end time) spectrum have embraced such a rigid perspective of what the return of Jesus will look like that they are rapidly losing faith in the goodness of God because events are not shaking out exactly the way they thought they would. 

Most American Christians fall into one of two categories when it comes to eschatological beliefs. Premillennialism and amillennialism. Premillennialists believe Jesus will return visibly to the earth after a period of evil and unrest known as the tribulation. There are two popular variations on this view:

The premillennial pretribulation rapture of the church-  

This is the most popular American position on end time events. Those who hold to this view believe Christians (those who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as savior) will one day be taken from the earth all at once and go straight into the presence of God (1st Thessalonians 4;13-18). This event known as the rapture signals the beginning of a seven-year period of evil and chaos called the tribulation (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Revelation 2:10). The tribulation will be followed by a thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ on the earth. 

Post or mid-tribulation rapture of the church- 

This is a variation on the first view. Those who believe this version of end time events agree with almost everything their pre-tribulation premillennialist counterparts believe except they believe the rapture will take place after or at some point during the great tribulation. The pre-tribulation rapture theory means that the return of Jesus will be an entirely separate event from the rapture while the post-tribulation theory assumes these two events will take place at more or less the same time.   

Post or mid-rapture Christians believe the church will suffer but grow before the return of Jesus. Pre-tribulation rapture Christians believe Christians who are saved prior to the rapture will be spared the intense suffering that will take place during the tribulation. This view holds fast to the idea there will be a huge spiritual revival that takes place during the tribulation and most of those who become Christians during the tribulation will be martyred for their faith   

 Amillennialism 

Amillennialists do not believe in a tribulation or a rapture per se.  Instead they believe that Christians are called to live in such a way that their actions bring about righteousness and justice on the earth. As people become more righteous and justice becomes more pervasive the reign of Christ will manifest itself over time. Amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ rather, they believe the earthly reign of Christ will be strictly figurative. 

It’s just a fact that adherents to each end-time perspective feel equally strongly their interpretation of Scripture is correct and the interpretation best supported by Scripture.  However, in my experience all end-time views can lead to practical theological and/or spiritual problems of one kind or another. Premillennial, pre-tribulation Christians tend to become troubled at the idea there will come a time when the church will universally suffer extreme persecution. This is despite the fact Christians have suffered persecution since the beginning and there are a myriad of Bible verses promising Christians will experience suffering and persecution (John 16:23, Matthew 13:21, Matthew 24, Acts 14:21-22, 1st Peter 1:6, James 1:2, 1st Thessalonians 3:1-4). The post-tribulation rapture theory tends to lead to anxiety and an emphasis on making physical preparations for the tribulation (prepping) rather than on reaching the lost for Jesus or being spiritually ready for the return of Jesus. Amillennialism trusts sinful humans to do things only God’s spirit can do, such as bring about righteousness and justice.  

Our world is getting weirder and scarier everyday it is critical we focus on what we do know.   We know Jesus IS coming back and it appears He will return after a period of moral decline, persecution and apostasy (2nd Timothy 3:1-5, Matthew 24, 2nd Peter 3:3). It is critical we be spiritually and morally prepared for and enthusiastically await the return of Jesus even in the face of ongoing evil and unrest (1stCorinthians 1:7, Hebrews 9:27-28). It is every bit as critical we not allow our own rigid ideas of what the end should look like to shake our faith in the goodness of God. 

Some Words to A Worried Church-

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him- 2nd Kings 18:5-6a NIV

Most church people would probably agree the outcome of the latest election was not exactly a win. At best, it was a colossal disappointment, at worst it could indicate some tough times ahead. The whole messy mess was kicked to the courts and it’s possible mandated recounts could result in a surprise turn in the election results. In the unlikely event that happens, no one will be more joyful than this girl. 

In the meantime. 

Believers should do a little soul searching and self-examination. Self-examination empowers the Church to move forward from disappointments and setbacks in a way that better equips us for whatever happens to be next on God’s agenda. Christians have historically believed God is ultimately sovereign over the affairs of men and women (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10, Revelation 22:13). We believe nothing on earth happens without God’s foreknowledge and the only thing that takes place without His explicit consent is sin. 

Therefore.

The results of this election are no accident. We cannot blame the outcome entirely on cheating and other shenanigans. Cheating is not outside of God’s purview. Therefore, if there was cheating involved then God allowed the cheating to take place. If we believe in the sovereignty of God then we also have to believe the outcome of the election is in the will of God. Like it or not  

Sigh. 

 This turn of events does beg some questions, like: what now? What are we supposed to conclude from this outcome? Does it mean God is on the side of abortion, censorship and a castration of the U.S constitution? Did this occur because God loves socialism or because He thinks court-packing is a good idea or because He wants churches shut down? 

Nothing I have learned about God from Scripture or personal experience would indicate any of those things are true. 

However, sometimes God wants His people to get hold of truth so badly He will bring difficulty into our lives to get us to turn to Him for wisdom and help rather than looking to the world for insight, wisdom or help. There are at least three takeaways God wants His people to glean from the current political situation. If we don’t come to understand these truths quickly we could be stuck in this uncomfortable place longer than any of us would like.  

The first is: 

We cannot depend on government to be our source of security-

 I do not think of myself as a person who places an inordinate amount of hope or faith in the authorities, documents or institutions of this world. If someone had asked me a month ago how much faith I put in the constitution or the president to make me feel safe and secure, I would have smugly replied that my faith is in God alone. Thank you very much. However, after some serious post-election prayer I realized that I felt significantly safer and more secure as a Christian last month than I do this month. There is nothing wrong with wanting a leader who protects our values and way of life. However, it is categorially un-wise to expect real security of any kind in a world broken by sin. It is even more foolish to trust anyone or anything more than we trust God. If you felt safer last month than you do this month it means you’ve put your trust in something or someone besides God. God wants us to ask ourselves what would happen to our faith in God if America ceased to exist. If that would cause your faith to disappear your faith is not really in God it’s in America and the security America provides. 

Even if everything is not okay it will still be okay- 

We all want everything to be okay and for good reason. No one in their right mind actually LIKES difficulties, pain and suffering. That said, knowing Jesus as our Lord and savior means that even if the worst happens we will be okay because to be absent from the body means we will be present with Jesus (2nd Corinthians 5:7-9). It is critical we remember this truth the next time our anxiety about the current situation starts to get the better of us (Isaiah 35:4) Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6).  

This world is not all there is- 

 This generation is overrun with modern conveniences that provide regular people with luxury and comfort previous generations never could have imagined.   The problem with all this ease and comfort is it’s made life on earth a little too agreeable and most Christians are a lot fonder of this world than our spiritual ancestors were (1st John 2:15, John 12:25). As a result, many Christians love the world more than is spiritually healthy or wise.  I suspect God is using the discomfort and fear many of us feel over our current political situation to remind Christians we are to long for heaven rather than look for a political leader who will create a utopia here on earth.

Barring some sort of a miracle life will not be getting any easier for the body of Christ anytime soon. That does not mean life won’t be good. Life will be good because our God is good. If our faith is in Him, and only Him there is no way we will be shaken.     

What to do When too Much Becomes too Much-


Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test  yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2nd Corinthians 13:5 NIV 

2020 has been a bumpy year for everyone and it’s not getting any smoother. A contentious election, endless social strife, race riots, job losses, censorship, lockdowns, school closures and the weirdest pandemic in history have made for a season unlike any anyone has ever experienced.  No one has come out of this crazy-town year without a story to tell and few of them are amusing. Lamentably, there’s almost two months left to go before the stupid thing is finally over. God in His sovereignty is the only one who knows what will happen between now and then.  

Sigh. 

Times like the ones we live in take a toll, psychologically, emotionally and financially. All that can affect us spiritually if the tough times drag on for too long (like say ten solid months). It’s not always easy to know when stress has become too much for us and we have stepped over the line into a place of spiritual unhealth. In 2nd Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “examine themselves” frequently. Times like ours demand frequent self-checks. Following are five indicators all is not well on a spiritual level. 

Beginning with:  

Prayer is a struggle or worse yet you gave up long ago-

Christians are commanded to pray continually about every issue under the sun (Romans 12:12, 1st Thessalonians 5:17, 1st Timothy 2:1-3). This is not because God needs our prayers. God has no needs (Acts 17:24-25). Christians do need to pray because prayer builds connection with God. Ongoing connection with God transforms how we think, feel and behave over time. Prayer also empowers fallible human beings to see people and events the way God sees those things. Without a regular prayer life spiritual health becomes nothing more than a pipedream. A weak or non-existent prayer life is proof positive a spiritual realignment is needed.   

You have morphed into worst version of yourself-

Everyone has a unique worst version of themselves. Mine is introverted, distrustful, and weirdly obsessed with minor details. Yours might be dramatic, braggy and fixated on personal pleasure. Another person might be critical, unforgiving, and intolerant of differences of opinion when they are at their worst. Someone else might be fearful and closed off to new experiences.  It’s vital we know who we are, and have a firm grasp on what our “normal” looks like. When our normal morphs into something different and less than healthy than our best selves it’s a sure sign we need a spiritual readjustment. Pronto.  

Politics take precedent-

Politics are not trivial. There is little in this life not touched in some way by politics. Furthermore, one facet of being a good Christian is being an involved citizen, which means taking our civic responsibilities seriously, that cannot be done without some understanding of politics. (1st Peter 2:13). That said, earthly kingdoms will all pass away eventually. Politics are strictly an earthly issue.  (Philippians 3:20).  God calls you and I to adopt an eternal perspective and remember it is only what we do in and for the Kingdom of God that truly has an impact. If you find your attention is entirely focused on the political realm God wants you to change your focus. 

You’re afraid all the time-

Fear and anxiety are a little bit like the check engine light in a car. Feelings of fear and anxiety are not the real problem. They are just an indicator there is another problem that needs to be found and addressed. Sometimes Christians get far too focused on the emotions of fear and anxiety and don’t stop to ask God why to reveal to us the real reason those volatile emotions are out of control. Fear and anxiety are almost always a sign there is an area of our lives we haven’t completely surrendered to God. 

Spiritual community is not a priority- 

Spiritual community is mandatory for followers of Jesus (2nd Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25). Christians are called to meet together regularly, care for each other in times of trouble and love one another other deeply and sacrificially. The only way to do those things effectively is in spiritual community. Community is about more than church attendance although church is the place to begin building spiritual community. Spiritual community forms when a group of Jesus followers commit themselves to the good and growth of the rest of the group. There are layers to community. Every Christian should attend a local church. Christians should also have a group of fifteen to thirty Christian friends they routinely fellowship with. Christians also need a smaller group of three to five people we can go deep with and be real with on a regular basis. If any of those layers of community are lacking, there is a problem. 

Any one of the above is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. All have the same simple solution: a shift of priorities to make more time for the things that God says matter most. This might mean disconnecting from 24/7 news or social media for a while. It will likely mean cutting activity to make space for spiritual community. It definitely takes more prayer, more reflection and more repentance. It takes more of what feeds our souls and less of the things that leave us feeling spiritually tired.  

Four Things That Will Still Be True no Matter who Wins the Election-

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus– Philippians 4:6-7 NIV


By the time this post is published our nation will be on the cusp of election eve. Most votes will have been cast and the undecided voters will have made a decision.  The election results will be all but a done deal. 

May the Lord show us mercy we haven’t earned.  

To my chagrin, the weightiness of this election season has had me feeling anxious and navel gaze-y (Matthew 6:25-34).  It is not an overstatement to say this is the most critically important election since Lincoln versus McClellan in 1864. Like that election, this election will determine the direction of our nation and what kind of people we will be (Matthew 6:43). Will we remain a stanchly capitalist country or will we dive headlong into socialism? Will we be a people who value life at every stage or will we continue down a trajectory of moral ambiguity and Moloch worship?  Will we be a people who value order and justice or will we devolve into further violence and chaos?  Will we bow to “science” or follow the God who created science? Will we seek racial harmony? Or will we continue to splinter off into tribalism and continue to embrace identity politics? 

 Only time will tell.   

Whatever happens on election day, some truths are eternal and will remain in play no matter who wins. No matter what happens on November 3rd (or in the weeks that follow) these four things will still be true: 

God will still be on His throne- 

God will not be going anywhere November 4th.  This will be true no matter who is elected president.  God will remain firmly in control and He will still love His people and He will continue to hold us in the palm of His hand (Psalm 45:6, Psalm 111:5).  Christians are meant to be a source of hope to others in all of life’s circumstance. If we lose sight of God’s sovereignty we will lose our ability to be propagators of hope and agents of reconciliation (2nd Corinthians 5:18-19, Romans 5:5, Romans 15:4). 

God will still be good- 

Seriously.

God will still be good no matter what happens in this or any election (Psalm 73:28). No doubts allowed.  Even if our worst nightmares become stone cold reality in this situation our God will still be good (John 16:33). Even if every bad thing we fear could happen actually happens in the coming years God will still be good.  Truth-be-told, if our worst fears come to fruition we may uncover a whole new side of God’s goodness. It would not be the first time in history God revealed Himself in a deeper and more profound way through the pain of adversity or the challenges bad leadership inevitably bring (2nd Chronicles 6:26-31, Isaiah 30:20). We cannot lose sight of the fact it is our responsibility to reflect God’s goodness no matter what the political landscape happens to look like. 

God’s will for His people will still be God’s will for His people- 

Let’s say the “right guy” wins big on November 3rd. Big. Like sixty percent of the vote big. If by some miracle that occurs, I guarantee you it will not be because God is delighted with how things are going in our world. We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking otherwise. If the “right guy” wins it will not be because God wants to bless our socks off for another four years.  It will only be because God is merciful and He wants to give His people a window of opportunity to show His love to the world and do the work of evangelism (Luke 6:35, Matthew 28:19).   

Our biggest problems will still be our biggest problems- 

Elections determine direction. Elections don’t rid societies of deeply-rooted problems. Contrary to popular belief the biggest problems in our society are not racial injustice, poverty, sexism, weak preaching, progressive Christians or the liberal news media. All of those are just are symptoms of the real problems.  Our biggest problems are hard hearts, lack of faith, disobedience to God and a desire to do our own thing rather than God’s thing.  This will still be true no matter who becomes president. Sadly, church people have a history of resting on their spiritual laurels anytime one of “their guys” is elected president.  That will not work this time around. We cannot return to business as usual. Instead we must seek the Lord and ask Him to change us so we can be a force for healthy, life-giving change in our world.  Without the real and lasting change that only comes through genuine heart change that only revival can bring, our culture will continue to devolve into the madness that has become a defining feature of our society.   

Perhaps the thing that will be the most true no matter who is elected, is that our nation will still need healing.  We will need God’s grace and mercy to make us healthy, united and good again.  

Six Super Dumb Ideas Making us All Dumber-

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature– 1stCorinthians 14:20 ESV 

 Dumb ideas have been around since the dawn of the human race (Genesis 3:6) However, it certainly feels as if there are more dumb ideas in circulation than ever before. 

There are several possible reasons for this feeling:

It is certainly possible people are actually getting dumber. If that hypothesis is correct it would stand to reason that because the earth’s population is growing at a rapid clip there are simply more dumb people running around than in past generations. Obviously, more dumb people would mean a multiplying of dumb ideas (Romans 1:20-22). It is also possible people are just as dumb as they have always been and the invention of the internet and social media has simply made it easier for dumb ideas to spread faster to more people than in past generations. It is also possible there are exactly the same number of dumb ideas and dumb people as there has always been and I am just more judgy than I used to be. 

Whatever the case may be.

I spent time scrolling through the comments sections of some news stories this week and was blown away by so many dumb ideas in such a small space.  Sigh. The good news is the absurdity was weirdly inspirational.  I decided to highlight a few of what I personally think are the dumbest ideas out there. Honestly, there are so many it was no easy task narrowing the field down to a manageable number for a blog post. 

I finally decided the following six deserve some sort of recognition:

All love is equal and should be equally celebrated-  

Nope and nope. Much of what passes for love these days is just a silly, selfish and fleeting emotion that bears no resemblance to the real deal (1st Corinthians 13:1-13). Unfortunately, even more of what passes for love in our world is cruel, exploitive and hurtful. Nevertheless, human beings are capable of loving in a way that is self-sacrificing, patient and beautiful and reflective of the love God has for us.  That is the kind of love that should be applauded and celebrated. 

People are essentially good-

More nope (Mark 10:18). Human beings are born with a sin nature that causes them to be bent towards evil and injustice (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9). Without the redeeming presence of Jesus in a person’s life there will always be a tendency for people to be selfish and exploitive of others. It is true that on some level most people really do want to be good but few are willing to do the one thing that has the power to make people truly good: submit to the rule and reign of Jesus in every area of their lives.  

Christianity always leads to some sort of weird oppression of women-

This ridiculous idea comes out in books and television shows like The Handmaids Tale. The assumption of the author or the producer is that if Christianity were to gain a foothold in the culture the world would inevitably devolve into a weird dystopian nightmare where women would be oppressed in very creepy ways. Those who hold to this line of thinking willfully forget it was Christianity that eventually freed women from the bondage of the pre-Christian world. One need to look no further than any Islamic country to see that the countries where Christianity has had the biggest impact are also the places women have the most protections, respect and personal freedom. 

Salvation is in politics- 

All human beings are born with a God-sized void in their hearts. Therefore, if people spurn faith in God the hole we all have always gets filled with something else. For many in our culture politics has filled the void where devotion to God belongs. This is why so many usually mild-mannered people are literally becoming unhinged over their political views. There have actually been threats made against those who vote or believe the “wrong’ way.   Sadly, politics is a horrible little god that promises much and demands much of its worshippers but delivers very little.  Without a return to biblical faith the political climate will only grow more toxic and dangerous. 

Most people are racist- 

It is true some people are racists. Most are not. One needs to look no further than the riots that have gone on in major cities to know believing the worst in people never leads anywhere good or healthy.

Science is settled- 

This idea is more than just dumb. It’s alarming because for many “science” has become their god.  Real science is NEVER really settled. What is true today could easily be disproven by breakfast tomorrow. For example: when I was a teenager, scientists were concerned about the earth becoming an artic wasteland, now global warming is thought to be a problem. For some mysterious reason many have bought into the notion that once science “proves” something true it will always and forever be true.  This dumb idea is dragging society back to an era when “unbelievers” were punished for stating an opposing view or believing something that was contrary to accepted dogma. This dumb idea could easily lead to a new dark age and an end to real science. 

As Christians we are called to develop our minds (Matthew 22:37) and be lovers of truth (John 8:32) so that we can lead the world to the truest truth of all: that without God even the “wise” become fools (Romans 1:22)

Leveraging Your Vote to do the Most Good for the Most People-

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper– Jeremiah 29:7 NIV

Back in the dark ages before March 2020 I genuinely loved politics, elections and pretty much everything associated with the election process. I would eagerly await the presidential elections every four years the way Linus would await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin every Halloween Eve. I loved learning about each of the candidates and watching as the field narrowed through the primary process. I relished watching the candidates duke it out (metaphorically speaking) during the debates. I enjoyed anticipating the results on election night to such an extent that this avowed morning person would cheerfully stay up into the wee hours of the night just to learn the results. 

That ship has officially sailed. 

Over the course of the last year the realm of politics has become so vile, toxic and obnoxious that for the first time in my adult life I have found myself wishing the whole stupid thing would just be over all ready. I have literally considered finding a cave out of range of wi-fi to hide in until after the election is over. 

 Insert sad face here. 

Unfortunately, God does not allow His people the luxury of hiding from difficult or unpleasant situations.  Rather, Christians are commanded to take on the challenges of life directly with courage and confidence that God is both good and ultimately in control of every situation (Joshua 1:9, 1st Timothy 6:12, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10).  It is not my business (or anyone else’s) to tell people who they should or should not vote for. It is the responsibility of individuals to research candidates and decide for themselves who is the best man or woman for the job. 

That said. 

I am deeply convicted Christians should view the whole issue of voting differently from our non-Christian counterparts. With only a few short weeks left we should see our vote as an opportunity to make a difference and bless the lives of both present and future generations. Voting is a task that should be stewarded prudently and prayerfully especially in a year where so much is at stake.  In that vein following are three do’s and two don’t of voting. 

Do: 

Leverage your vote for the Kingdom of God- 

As Christ’s ambassadors in the world (2nd Corinthians 5:20), Christians should always attempt to leverage all of our rights for the good of the Kingdom.  This includes the right to vote.  Christians should vote for the candidates and platforms that value family, believe in the free exercise of religion and support people of faith as they live out their religious convictions in a peaceful manner (1st Timothy 2:2).  Leveraging a vote for the Kingdom also means choosing the candidate with a proven track-record of protecting people of faith from governmental persecution. 

Vote with the future in mind-

Christians are called to consider not just their own situation but also the health and welfare of generations of people they will never know (Joshua 22:27, Psalm 22:30). This means voting for the people and platforms that believe life should be protected at every stage. Believers should support the candidates who promise to enact and enforce laws that permit innocent people to live, work and learn in peace. Perhaps most importantly, it means voting for those who care about issues of justice. Men and women who will do their best to see the guilty punished and the innocent defended within the legal system (Exodus 23:6-8, Proverbs 17:15, Proverbs 18:5, Proverbs 24:24). 

Vote for platforms not just people- 

The platform of a political party reveals a great deal about both the party and the politicians who sign on to the platform. Party platforms tell us the values each party holds to and the agenda candidates will be pressured to pursue. Christians should carefully read the platforms of both political parties and compare those platforms to what the Bible has to say about issues.  It is critical we remember that no matter how neutral or reasonable a candidate may appear to be during election season; ultimately, that candidate will feel pressure from party leadership to support the values and policies their party advocates.   

Now some don’ts: 

Don’t vote only for your own interests- 

No one in their right mind wants to pay higher taxes and a Christian should never waste their vote on a candidate with a proven track record of wasting or misusing taxpayer funds.  However, Christians should vote with more than just their tax bracket in mind. Christians should look at candidates holistically and choose the man or woman who will do the most good for the most people. Period. 

Don’t vote with your feelings- 

Seriously. Just. Don’t. Voting is not about how warm, squishy and happy a candidate makes you feel when they speak.  It’s about who can actually get the job done and make a difference. For that reason alone, voters should be wary of any candidate who makes appeals based on emotion rather than facts or concrete plans for the future. 

Finally.  

PRAY. We need this year more than ever. 

Seriously.

How we Got Here and What Will Bring Change-

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins– James 5:19-21 NASB 

Sometimes writing about one thing will cause me to think more deeply about another thing. 

Such was the case this past week. 

Last week’s post was all about “the new normal” and my own stubborn resistance not just to the expression “the new normal” but also to all the changes the “new normal” has brought to everyday life. It has been tough for me to accept that the way we do life has changed dramatically all because of a stupid germ and our weird response to that germ.  However, over the course of time I have come to accept the reality that life will be different for a while, perhaps even forever. 

I do not believe the “new normal” is an accident of fate. It is the direct result of God’s judgment and rebuke. We are where we are due to the moral rebellion of those outside the church as well as the complacency and disobedience of those inside the church. Much of the “new normal” including the fear, political division, confusion and loss of freedom is simply the result of a loving God working overtime to get our attention before we destroy our stupid selves. It’s time we started paying a little closer attention.   

The world is a mess:

 We live in a time and a place where basic knowledge concerning God and morality is still very much part of the Western cultural norm. Thanks to the internet there has never been a time when more people had more access to the Bible and Christian teaching. Sadly, all this access to information has had little impact on how most people approach life (Romans 1:18-21, 2nd Timothy 3:5). 

Most non-Christians view themselves as free moral agents who are unaccountable to anyone or anything. The mere suggestion of God’s existence raises the hackles of some. The God our culture does embrace bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. He is weak, tolerant, unfailingly nonjudgmental and very kind. As a result, most non-Christians have literally cast off all restraint. They fight against the notion that anyone, including God has the right to tell them what to do or how to run their lives.  It is routinely argued by politicians, thought leaders and “average Joes” that anything God has declared to be true and good is actually wrong, stupid and repressive. The mere suggestion there should be moral limitations in any area but especially in the area of sexuality is met with open outrage and hostility (Romans 1:21-32). 

The church has its own set of issues. 

For the better part of the last century the church has behaved much like Adam did in the garden (Genesis 3). Christians (including me) have been passive as their friends, neighbors and family members have played around with ideas and behaviors that we were fully aware would lead to their eventual destruction.  We watched the public schools teach our children the lie that Western civilization is evil and unredeemable, and did little, if anything to stop the madness.  We allowed the entertainment industry to lead our families into a hellish upside-down morality that calls evil good and good evil.  We passively watched our culture fall down the rabbit hole on nearly every issue from drug use to the break-down of the family to gender issues.  

Our reluctance to confront these and other issues was been born out of fear (Isaiah 41:10-13). We were afraid of being labeled as “hateful”, “backward”, “anti-science” or “mean-spirited” by our peers (John 15:18).   On the rare occasions when Christians have boldly confronted these and other issues it has rarely been done the way God designed it to be done. It hasn’t been a parent challenging their child or one neighbor or friend gently confronting the sin of someone they care about. Instead Christians have outsourced hard conversations to pastors, books, big Christian organizations and ministries who have had the discussions concerning virtue and morality that individual Christians should have been having one-on-one with their friends and family.   As a result, many in our culture are convinced Christians have no real interest in individual people but only care about righteousness in a nationalistic sense. 

All that being said.

Because God is good and unfailingly merciful all is not lost. We have hope.  God is eager to forgive those who are quick to repent. He will send revival, He will heal our land but first church people must make changes (2nd Chronicles (7:14). The church must do some serious soul searching. It’s time to ruthlessly root out the sin in our own lives and repent. If we don’t we will never have the moral authority necessary to confront sin and have hard conversations with others. It’s way past time to let go of any discomfort we feel about discussing moral issues with our children, friends and neighbors. And lastly, it is imperative we stop expecting pastors and ministry organizations to do the job of making disciples and confronting sin. It’s not their responsibility, it’s ours (Ephesians 4:10-12). If we lean into that responsibility we will see the culture change and our churches grow into something healthy and strong. 

How to Flourish in the “New Normal”-

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age- Psalm 92:12-14a NIV

 Among other notable distinctions 2020 has been a year that has produced some annoying but unique catchphrases and buzzwords. Thanks to the “Rona” even those generally unfamiliar with medical jargon are now familiar with terms such as “self-quarantine”, “contact tracing”, “social distancing” and “flatten the curve”. 2020 has also given us some brand-new catchphrases such as: “show you care, mask-up” “spread kindness not COVID”, “we are in this together”, “remember to wash your hands”, “staying apart is the best way to stay connected” and “stay home to stay alive”.

Sigh.  

However, the award for the most annoying new slogan or catchphrase of 2020 has to go to the expression “the new normal”. I resisted this phrase from day one. I was horrified at how quick people were to accept the idea that a stupid GERM would automatically change everything about how we function in this world. After all, germs are not a new thing. Germs have been around since the fall and humans have managed to survive quite nicely in spite of their presence in the world. Moreover, this is the twenty-first century for the love of all that is good and decent! We are not living in the stinking dark ages for heaven’s sake! At this point in history humans ought to be sophisticated enough to cope with a stupid virus, even a novel virus without it destroying the best parts of our civilization (free speech, sporting events, live entertainment venues, face-to-face communication, free exercise of religion, unrestricted travel). Acquiescing to the notion that a virus with anything less than a twenty-percent mortality rate could change EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING is a kind of spineless defeatism I was and still am very uncomfortable with.  

Nevertheless. 

As time has worn on, I have been forced to acknowledge reality.  COVID-19 really has shaped a new normal that will doubtless continue to affect our daily lives for some time to come. Unfortunately, little of the new normal is healthy, pleasant or life-giving. In fact, most of it is corrupt, unhealthy, illogical and extremely distressing in some way.  So far, the “new normal” includes a lot fear, an appalling lack of logic, political division, hostility, hate, rioting and government control. 

I am still not a fan. 

That being said. Because God promises He will never leave us or forsake us, Christians will ALWAYS have the ability to flourish spiritually even in the most challenging of times (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).  The book of Jeremiah demonstrates this reality.  Jeremiah is mostly a grim and unpleasant book.  After generations of idolatry, sexual sin and open rebellion against God the people of Judah were finally faced with the consequences of their sinful lifestyle.  God lifted His hand of protection and the nation was conquered by the Babylonians. Jeremiah prophesied that this would not be a short-term inconvenience. Israel would remain in captivity to the Babylonians for seventy years. However, Jeremiah also assured the nation that even in the midst of their painful and ugly “new normal” God still loved them.  He promised God would still hear their prayers, He would continue to dwell among them, He would continue to bless them and He still had good plans for their future (Jeremiah 29:10-14). 

What was true for God’s people in 605 B.C. is still true for God’s people in 2020 A.D. God is still God and God is still good. He has plans for His people and they are good. 

This is without question a season of rebuke and judgment. God is not dealing just with those outside the church but also with Christians who have become disobedient and negligent in their devotion to God (1stPeter 4:17). During a season of rebuke and judgment it is vital we ruthlessly root out the idols in our lives and seek to become active participants in the sanctification process (2nd Corinthians 13:5, 2nd Peter 1:5-11). We must examine our lives and repent quickly so we can be a peaceful and life-giving presence to non-Christians who have reached the end of their own coping mechanisms and false belief systems. Our ultimate obligation before God is to live holy lives and seek the good of the culture we have been placed in, no matter how corrupt or sinful our culture happens to be (Jeremiah 29:4-7, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 28:18-20, 1st Peter 2:12). That means being spiritually ready when God  brings revival to the unbelieving.  

 Historically, God does His best work in the darkest of times. Our time is no different. God promises to do great things in and through the faithful.  The seventy years of captivity gave us some of the most heroic, encouraging, and instructive stories in all the Bible. The books of Daniel, Esther and Jonah are all stories that tell how God worked in and through those who remained faithful during their season of rebuke and judgment. If we cling to God and stay open to what He is attempting to do in us through this season we will not lose heart we will see God do great things in us and in our culture. 

We will flourish. 

How We Survive These Crazy Times-

`When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things– 1st Corinthians 13:11 NASB

In December of 1776 Thomas Paine penned his now famous words:

These are the times that try men’s souls”.

With all due respect to Mr. Paine and the times he lived in, his times had nothing on our times. 

Seriously.  

This is swiftly becoming a tough time to be alive and an even tougher time to be a Christian. Politics have become deeply divided, making it harder for individuals to find common ground on nearly anything of any consequence. Once-stanchly democratic governments are trending more towards authoritarianism. Violence has become routine in places where people once dwelt in safety. Additionally, the whole stinking world just got kicked in the behind by a pandemic that has produced even more division, more violence and more authoritarianism.  

SIGH. 

Christians must also deal with the reality that our God is routinely mocked in every way imaginable (Galatians 6:7). Many have taken to calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Those on the side of unlimited sexual freedom have LITERALLY invented new ways of doing evil and are doing their level best to lead our children down a path of inevitable personal destruction (Romans 1:30). Because almost no one believes in absolute truth anymore deception has taken root to such an extent that otherwise intelligent people literally believe lies when the truth is right in front of them. For most believers, it feels as if evil of every kind is gaining ground daily. This is disheartening on a level that is difficult to find words for. 

However.  

If we believe God is sovereign we also have to believe God placed us here in these times for a reason. If we believe that we also have to believe God wants us to live in these times in such a way that we bring Him glory (Esther 4:14). All that being said, these times are not for the faint of heart. Nor, are they for overly-indulged saints who love their own comfort and wellbeing more than they love God or the Church God has called us to love and serve (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 2nd Corinthians 13:11, Galatians 5:13). If we want to live in a way that brings God glory in spite of circumstances we must be willing to ruthlessly root out attitudes and behaviors that are toxic to our spiritual health. A spiritually toxic behavior or attitude is any attitude or behavior that is sinful or will inevitably lead to sin.  Following are five spiritual toxins slowly killing Christians. 

Entitlement-  

Entitlement is a sense we have a “right” to certain freedoms or experiences or to have situations the way we like to have them.  Sadly, there are a lot of Christians more focused on their rights than their responsibilities as Christians. Entitled believers will withdraw from churches, not because of doctrinal issues they can’t overcome but because they have been “offended” or because changes have been made in their church they don’t like.  Christians are called to model their lives after Jesus who was literally entitled to EVERYTHING (Philippians 2:1-11) but rather than demand what He was rightfully entitled to He sacrificed His own wants and needs to benefit us.  Christians must learn to do the same.   

Expecting to be served rather than serving- 

Christians are never more like Jesus than when they serve others (Matthew 20:27-28, Luke 22:25-27).  However, in most churches twenty percent of the people do one-hundred-percent of the work that needs to be done. This is lazy and God is categorically not a fan of laziness (Matthew 25:26, Hebrews 6;12). It also tends to produce a spirit that is critical of the efforts of others (Ephesians 4:29).  The cure for this one is easy. Get busy serving and do it with a servant’s heart (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 6:7). 

Allowing fear to run the show- 

The world is a scary and unsettled place right now and for the most part recent events not bode well for Christians. Even so, Christians are not called to live in fear but rather walk in faith (Proverbs 29:25, John 4:18, Romans 8:15). Walking in faith means we stay obedient to Jesus at all times with the understanding that even if things are not okay it will be okay because our souls are secure in Jesus (Luke 1:50 Romans 8:18, Romans 8:28).  

Refusing to let go of old behaviors- 

In Colossians chapter three Christians are given a list of eleven spiritually toxic behaviors we are commanded to put to death. Failure to do so inevitably results in some sort of spiritual and/or moral disaster. 

Depending on anything or anyone for hope or help in times of trouble besides Jesus- 

People were designed to crave a defender, comforter and source of wisdom and strength in times of trouble and upheaval.  But because we are a fallen and therefore imperfect (Genesis 3) we tend to want all the wrong defenders, comforters and sources of wisdom and strength. We turn to charismatic political leaders, the people we love, our founding documents, drugs or alcohol, dubious sources of information or the approval of others to give us the comfort and help we should only seek from God (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 20:7). If God is not who we run to first in times of trouble we are in danger of becoming ensnared in the sin of idolatry. 

Tough times are never something anyone hopes for, but for God’s people tough times are an opportunity to be a light in the darkness. In order to become the light our world needs we must pray continuously for wisdom, discernment, spiritual strength and freedom from these five sinful attitudes that can so easily entangle us and keep us from being the person God needs us to be in these times (Hebrews 12:1).   

Four Ways to Stop the Hate and Violence-

For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just- Isaiah 32:6a and 37 NIV

I really wanted to write something happy this week. 

Seriously.

I had the happy post half-written in my head but, alas, it was not to be. Just as I was about to begin writing. I tuned into the news and heard about the ambush attack on two deputies in Los Angeles County. I immediately felt obliged to change direction. 

The attack was shocking. It’s always shocking when someone shoots two complete strangers without a reason. The shock value was raised exponentially when it was revealed that a crowd of what can only be assumed were demon-possessed onlookers gathered to shout they hoped the officers would die (Mark 9:29). 

Sigh.  

As appalling as this situation is, it was also entirely foreseeable. The seeds of this tragedy were initially sown five years ago. It started with the lie that police shootings are ALWAYS criminal or at the very least unnecessary. The propagation of that lie prompted overpaid NFL players with an exaggerated sense of their own significance to begin sanctimoniously taking a knee during the national anthem. One of those players famously began wearing pig socks “in protest”. Soon after the chant “pigs in a blanket fry ‘em like bacon” became the rallying cry of the social justice warrior class. Around that same time leaders of certain party began to encourage their followers to harass conservatives. This was followed by calls to defund the police. That led to riots in the streets which led to innocent bystanders being attacked on the streets because “enough wasn’t being done” to pacify the mob.  It ended in Compton with an unstable person doing what he probably thought leaders wanted him to do.

So, a couple of things:

First, any idiot could have predicted we would end up here. The slippery slope is real. One action or decision really does lead to another set of actions and decisions.  The situation we find ourselves in delivers iron-clad proof of that fact.  Second, we must stop kidding ourselves about the whole “peaceful protest” twaddle. There are few (if any) “peaceful protesters” left anymore. There were peaceful protests immediately following the death of George Floyd. However, that ship has officially sailed. The movement has been hijacked. Those “protesting” are politically driven criminals who care little about the issues they SAY they are fighting for. Period. Finally, the situation we find ourselves in is a direct result of deception (Psalm 52:3). Deception cannot be ignored.  Decent people cannot sit back passively and hope the culture gets it’s act together.  It won’t unless we:

Pray – 

Too often, Christians say “well, I guess all we can do is pray” as if prayer were a silly last resort superstitious dumb people turn to after every other reasonable option has been exhausted. We treat prayer like it’s the spiritual equivalent of going to a witch-doctor after medical treatments for cancer have failed. Prayer is the most powerful thing Christians can do ever, under any circumstances, and without it none of the other things I suggest in this post will have any impact at all. Christians everywhere have a duty to pray for renewal in their own lives, revival in the lives of unbelievers and for truth to be revealed to all people (John 8:32). 

Speak the truth in love- 

Christians have become determined not to offend anyone (Ephesians 4:15). Our silence on moral and spiritual issues has left a void that Satan has filled with evil.  There are two reasons for the silence, the first is intellectual laziness. Many Christians do not know enough about the Bible or the world around them to engage anyone effectively concerning much of anything. Ignorance is a violation of the commandment to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37).  The second is fear. Christians fear being disliked more than they fear God (Psalm 39:1-3). We must remember that Christians are NEVER to engage anyone in a cruel or nasty way (1st Peter 3:15). However, it is better to speak the truth and be hated by men and loved by God than to remain silent and loved by men and hated by God (Revelation 3:15-22). 

Demand better of our leaders- 

State and local leaders must be held accountable for the violence that’s overrunning many cities. If you live in a city where rioting has become commonplace call and write the mayor’s office and demand the mayor step down unless they get the violence under control. Write letters to the editor demanding state and local politicians get the destruction under control. Encourage friends and family to do the same.   Do not stop until said leaders step down, are voted out or make changes.  

Refuse to passively tolerate hate of any kind- 

Racism is never okay. Hating someone for the color of their skin is weird, wrong and categorically unchristian (Revelation 5:9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). However, hate is just as hateful and every bit as evil when it is directed at a police officer or a conservative politician as it is when it is directed at a random person of color. Hate is hate. Christians rarely hate openly, however sometimes we are guilty of tolerating it passively in ourselves and others. Instead of just letting hateful remarks pass we must look for gentle and respectful but direct ways to call out hate of any kind. 

Finally, if we want to see real and lasting change we must be willing lead by example. This means we must examine ourselves regularly, confess our sins to God and others and repent of sin quickly (Acts 3:19, 2ndCorinthians 13:5, James 5:16).