Q&A Friday-  

Should Christians participate in boycott or cancel people?

This is not a question with a simple answer. 

There are two definitions for a boycott:

  1. To combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion.
  2. To abstain from buying or using. 

 The first definition is more like canceling. A canceling kind of boycott is meant to bully corporations and individuals into doing what a particular group wants them to do. Jesus did not intimidate, coerce or bully anyone into anything and neither should His followers. Period.  

Furthermore.

From a historical perspective canceling types of boycotts have not worked out super well for Christians. Occasionally they have even backfired. They have actually made people curious about the products corporations were selling. In some cases, this drove business to the corporation that was supposed to be “punished” by the boycott.  So, no, I am not a fan of canceling kinds of boycotts.

That being said: 

The second kind of boycott is not a boycott it’s more like good stewardship.

As Christians our stuff isn’t really our stuff. All our stuff belongs to Jesus. 

Therefore:

Christians should view themselves as stewards or managers of their money and belongings, not owners. Christians should spend their money mindfully and prayerfully whenever possible. If we have a choice about where to spend our money we should think hard about whether or not Jesus would want us to spend His money at a particular company. 

Here’s why:

Anytime we buy goods or services from a corporation that corporation makes a profit from our purchases. Many corporations then donate a percentage of their profits to causes they believe in and want to support. In a very real sense we are investing in those causes by spending our money the companies that donate to them.  

The bottom-line is: Christians should be mindful with their money and if they have a choice about whether or not they get their coffee, clothing or entertainment from a company that supports anti-biblical causes they should choose not to. 

How to Make Church a Little Easier for Those who Need it Most-

 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it– Hebrews 13:1-2 NASB 1995

Let’s just be real. 

Church can be really hard. 

Even if you’ve attended church forever and totally “get” church. Church can be hard.  Finding a new church is even harder. Meeting new people is hard. Stepping into an environment where you don’t understand all the rules is hard. Putting yourself out there is hard. Knowing out how to fit in is hard. Making new friends is hard.  

 Church is also important. 

It really is a nonnegotiable for a serious follower of Jesus.  Jesus established church (Matthew 16:18, John 3:3). He told us what it should look like (Matthew 5-6, Matthew 18:15-17). He prayed for it (John 17:1-25). He invested in it (Matthew 11:1, Mark 4:33).  He died for it (Matthew 26-27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19, Matthew 14:22-33). He rose from the dead to redeem and empower it (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20. Then He sent His people out to build it (Matthew 28:16-20).  

All that makes church a big stinking deal.  

It also makes the subsequent story super sad. I have a friend who is looking for a church. I won’t share the ghastly details but suffice it to say her reasons for leaving her church were one-hundred-percent valid. She attended four churches in nine weeks. She realized immediately the first two were a poor doctrinal fit. The third was tiny (not necessarily a problem). However, the pastor was also seriously unprepared (a problem). Number four was promising. The size was right, not too big, not too small. It was a healthy mix of age groups (young families, older adults, teens and young adults). The music was beautifully done and doctrinally on point. The sermon was solid and the doctrinal statement was sound. 

One problem. 

No one talked to her. There were greeters and they all smiled politely and made eye contact but did not say anything more significant than “hello” to her. Not once. There was a welcome time prior to the sermon and no one welcomed her. She did all the stuff you’re supposed to do. She showed up early and stayed late. She bathed. She dressed and behaved appropriately. Even with all that, no one, not even a staff member interacted with her.  

Nonetheless.

She soldiered on. A serve day was announced from the pulpit. She knew getting out and serving her community would be a good thing to do. She also knew it would give her a chance to interact with some of the people she was going to church with. 

At the serve day, she was assigned to a team and she tried to engage the other people on the team. She asked good questions, complimented the pastor on the sermon the week before and just generally did her best to be an agreeable, involved and helpful member of the team. To no avail. No one attempted to engage her when she arrived on site. No one asked her questions about herself. No one noticed when she left and went home. 

Two things. 

First.

Not every church is unfriendly. There are churches that do an outstanding job greeting new people and finding creative ways to integrate them into their church family. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If this were the first story I heard about an otherwise solid church where the congregants appeared to lack basic social skills I would cheerfully write it off as an anomaly. It’s not. This stuff is real. Lots of people have lots of stories just like my friends’ story. 

Second. 

My friend is a committed and mature Christian. She gets church. She has social skills. She understands reality. She knows relationships are a two-way street. She did not show up at church and expect everyone to do the work for her. She was more than willing to smile, ask good questions, be friendly and get involved in the activities the church was offering. 

However.

My friend is not the only type of person who shows up at churches. Some people who show up at church don’t know Jesus. Some are clueless about how church works. They don’t understand how to get involved or make friends. Some of have poor social skills or a chip on their shoulder. Some are looking for an excuse to reject Jesus. We give them the excuse they’re looking when we don’t make every effort to engage new people in a meaningful way. 

 Sometimes we become so fearful of rejection we refuse to step outside of our own tiny relational circles.  Or we become so locked into a tight little friend group that we have no room for anyone new. The problem  with letting fear or self-centeredness run the show we give the devil a foothold in someone else’s life and run the risk of running them out of church (Ephesians 4:26-27, 1st Peter 5:8). 

Here’s the thing:

Just because you feel welcome and loved at your church it doesn’t mean everyone who walks through the door feels the same.  Next week when you go to church, say a prayer, look around, let the Holy Spirit to lead you to the person who’s all alone or looks lost. Say hello, ask some questions, maybe invite them to lunch. Love on them. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference for the kingdom. 

Some Advice for Christian Leaders-


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

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

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

All serious signs of dismal failure. 

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

Those mistakes are:

We have failed to equip the saints-

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

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

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

Bible teachers have failed to teach a theology of hardship-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

SIGH.

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

Here’s why:

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

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

We just aren’t built that way. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the one Question that has the Power to Change Everything?


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

Everyone, everywhere wants the THING.

“The thing” is that little bit of knowledge or understanding that will give us an edge, enlighten us and ultimately make us a better version of ourselves. The thing explains why the self-help section of any bookstore is always the biggest and busiest in any bookstore. Everyone wants the magic bullet that will bring transformation.

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

Humans are hard-wired to want all those things.

If a person has stopped caring about healthy relationships, career success and a happy family it is likely they experienced some sort of trauma that caused them to give up on a fundamental aspect of what makes us God’s image bearers.  

However. 

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

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

“What don’t I want to see about me?” 

We all have something we desperately do not want to see about ourselves. It might be that we’re actively running from God, or perhaps we stubbornly refuse to confront sin in our life or the lives of those we love. It might be we have a mean streak or a raging pride problem. It might be an anger issue. Or maybe we always choose to take the easy way out of hard situations. Perhaps we insist on thinking the best of other people even when all the evidence is tells us not too.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit fault or we routinely take more than we give.

Those kinds of issues and sins always lead to problems that appear to be completely unrelated to the issue we don’t want to see. Those problems could include but are not limited to unhealthy dynamics in our closest relationships, a lack of friends, persistent financial problems, poorly-behaved children, a stalling in our professional lives or a stubborn lack of spiritual growth.  

We call the stuff we don’t want to see blind spots. They are not blind spots. A blind spot is something we CANNOT see. The things I’m talking about are all things we simply don’t wish to see. The problem with calling something we refuse to see a blind spot is it neatly removes personal responsibility from the equation. Without understanding and owning our role in the problem nothing will change in our lives. We will be doomed to stunted growth and messed-up personal relationships.   

Sigh. 

The good news in all of this is that God loves each of us more than we will ever understand this side of heaven. God is both working and rooting for us to become the best version of ourselves. He wants us to succeed in everything that matters. Because He loves us and wants the best for us He longs to show us the things we don’t want to see.  He knows that seeing the things we don’t want to see is the first step in the kind of change that leads growth, maturity and self-awareness.  

So, here’s the thing.

If we find ourselves stuck in some area of our life or keep running up against failure it’s not because we had terrible parents, or because we married the wrong person. It’s not the temperament we were born with and it’s not because we lacked opportunities others had. It’s because there is something we refuse (consciously or subconsciously) to see about ourselves. Because God made us and is the ultimate authority in life, solving the problem ALWAYS begins with asking Him the question. 

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

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

Where Real Life is Lived-


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

My Dad died over the holidays. 

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

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

He was gone. 

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

On paper my Dad’s life looked pretty good.  

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

However.

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

Sigh.

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

That being said.

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

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

Because that is ultimately where real life is lived. 

Why every Christian must Become a Voice of Reason in our Unreasonable Time-

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world– John 16:33 NIV

We live in an insanely divided time. 

The list of issues dividing citizens is long and growing at a rapid clip. It would include tax policy, the minimum wage, immigration, the number of genders that exist, abortion, who should use which bathroom, sexual orientation, education, critical race theory and how elections ought to be managed.  The vaccinated are still accusing the unvaccinated of being dirty, ignorant, backward, uncaring unscientific super spreaders. The unvaccinated still accuse the vaccinated of being sheep, followers, sellouts, judgmental jerks and silent super spreaders.

 Sigh. 

How do we become a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable time? 

Do we keep our heads down and hope for the speedy return of Jesus?

Do we dive into the melee and fight the man? If so, which man? How do we fight?

How do we represent Jesus well while we fight?

Do methods matter?   

There are no easy answers to any of those questions. Christians are expected to do hard things (Matthew 10:8). The methods we employ do matter to God (Philippians 2:14-15, 1st Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 4:13) and hope is not a strategy. Therefore, simply hoping fervently for the return of Jesus will not make disciples or reform broken systems. God does not call His people to retreat (Genesis 1:28). To the contrary, the uglier the age the more a Christian witness is needed in every sphere of society and life. To be that witness we have to recognize three realities:

There is no distinction on God’s team- 

 1st Kings details the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were sinful, horrible, apostate leaders who fought hard to normalize Baal worship in Israel. Part of the normalization process involved oppressing and slaughtering faithful, God-fearing believers without mercy. In chapter eighteen there’s a meeting between Obadiah, an official in Ahab’s court (a politician) and Elijah, a prophet of God.  It’s clear Elijah is openly disdainful of Obadiah, while Obadiah longs for Elijah’s approval.  It appears that Elijah saw Obadiah as a sellout and a collaborator. While Obadiah appears to envy Elijah. On the surface it really does look like one man is better than the other. It appears that one man is clearly more righteous than the other. It seems as if one is taking a much bigger risk for the kingdom than the other. However, that view is simplistic, incorrect and absurdly human. Both were righteous. Both were risking everything for the cause of Yahweh. Both were serving on the same team and doing exactly what God had called them to do. Obadiah was operating covertly (at great risk to himself) within the existing political system to protect the faithful few who refused to worship Baal (1st Kings 18:13). Elijah was working openly (at great risk to himself) within the religious community to bring the wayward people back to faith, obedience and moral purity. Both men were preforming crucial, albeit different roles.  Too often we do what Elijah and Obadiah did, we judge one another (and ourselves) without mercy or grace.  We make arbitrary and unbiblical distinctions between the sacred (religious) and the secular (political). Anytime we make this error, we miss out on opportunities to encourage one another and correct each other’s wrong thinking and actions. When that happens, the whole team suffers. 

Sometimes it is right to fight- 

As a general rule Christians are called to live in peace with others (Hebrews 12:14). This does not make it godly and righteous to excuse ourselves from every fight (Philippians 4:3, 1st Timothy 6:12). We should never ignore societal decay, divisive ideologies or outright lies. Christians should not force their views on anyone.  That being said, neither should Christians ignore acts of evil or philosophies that will clearly lead to evil if left unchecked (Proverbs 24:10-12). Christians should act to protect women, the weak, children, the elderly and the unborn from exploitation and evil.  Protecting the vulnerable is an issue of justice and righteousness—not politics (James 1:27, Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 24:17).  Christians should be cautious about acquiescing to evolving ideas on gender (Genesis 1:27). Gender ideology literally places children in danger and causes confused and hurting people to degrade themselves in devastating and sometimes irreparable ways. Christians should fight to protect the God-given rights every human on earth has to life, equal treatment under the law, free speech, and the ability to worship God freely and without fear (Exodus 20:13, Galatians 3:28, Exodus 9:1). We cannot in good conscience concede to the culture on issues of right and wrong just to maintain “peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).  

We have to do all the things but in the right order-

There are two things Christians are called to do. Leading the lost to Jesus is the first thing (Matthew 28:19).  However, discipleship is just as critical. We must begin the process of helping people to align their behavior and politics with the truth of the gospel. But only after their hearts have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Confusing the order short-circuits the work of the Holy Spirit and only succeeds in producing well-behaved heathens. This error is how we got into the cultural mess we find ourselves. 

God is calling His people to better. He has called us to unite around the person of Jesus and support all members of the body of Christ. He’s calling us away from the tribalism of our culture and into a purity of heart and action that might just transform our age of division and discord into a glorious season of spiritual reform and revival. 

How does God work in a Godless Time?

Our wrongdoings testify against us, Lord, act for the sake of Your name! Our apostasies have indeed been many. We have sinned against You– Jeremiah 14:7 NASB 

A couple of months ago I concluded that I had been spending way too much of my Bible reading time in a few New Testament books. 

It was time to broaden my horizons. 

So, I dusted off the books of 1st and 2nd Kings. The first few chapters of 1st Kings is mostly just palace intrigue. It covers the death of King David and the opportunistic scheming that occurred around his passing. The book reaches a high point early on with the installation of David’s son Solomon as his replacement. Solomon started strong with a heart for God. God blessed his efforts and Israel thrived economically and militarily under his leadership.  

It all kind of goes down-hill from there.

Despite his wisdom and worldly success, Solomon was a dismal failure when it came to all the things that really matter in life. The Kingdom split following his death and both Israel and Judah wandered far from God.  Most of the rest of 1st Kings is just a glum recounting of one bad, evil, idolatrous king after another bad, evil, idolatrous king. The book gets slightly more interesting with the introduction of the prophet Elijah in 1st Kings 17 but then 2nd Kings devolves into a serious of weird and disturbing stories that cover topics as diverse as floating ax heads and cannibalism. The weird stories are interspersed here and there with more recountings of more crappy kings. In chapter seventeen Israel falls and is taken captive by Syria. King Hezekiah begins ruling Judah in chapter eighteen. Hezekiah and Josiah were the last of Judah’s even halfway decent kings. However, their leadership was not enough to keep the country from falling ever deeper into idolatry and ruin. King Nebuchadnezzar makes his first appearance in chapter twenty-four and that ushers in the Babylonian captivity and the end of Jewish sovereignty. 

Sigh. 

I was surprised by how depressed I was when I was finished reading the books. It wasn’t the first time I read either book. However, it was the first time either book hit me in such a soul-crushing kind of a way.  

I did have a couple of realizations concerning the books.

First.

The book of 1st Kings is just a sad recounting of Israel’s long slide into apostasy, unbelief and sin. 2nd Kings tells the story of how God worked in the lives of those who lived faithfully for God when everyone else had turned their backs on Him.  The books hit me hard because I am also living in a season of apostasy. We don’t call it that, that of course, we call it “living in a post-Christian culture”, which sounds way nicer than “apostasy” but it’s the same thing. Whatever you call it, it sucks. It sucks living in a declining culture. It sucks watching the whole stupid world devolve into moral and intellectual chaos. It sucks seeing people degrade themselves with stupid ideas and even stupider behavior. It sucks watching people do everything possible to deny the reality of God. Most of all, it sucks feeling overwhelmed by the darkness and ugliness of a post-Christian world. 

That being said. 

We are not without hope.

We aren’t Israel and God hasn’t left the building (metaphorically speaking of course). He’s still on His throne and He is still working in the hearts of His people, which means He is still working in our culture. Revival could be just around the corner. In the meantime, following are four lessons I gleaned about living in a post-Christian culture from 1st and 2nd Kings.  

Community is critical in a season of apostasy– 

In 1st and 2nd Kings God works most powerfully through little communities of prophets who banded together to support and encourage one another. Community, connection, partnership and close friendship is an ongoing theme throughout the book. The takeaway for contemporary believers is clear. The key to remaining spiritually strong and emotionally healthy while the world is literally going to hell around us is making Christian community a priority in our lives. 

When the going gets tough God shows off– 

All the depressing historical truths aside, one of the high points of both books is seeing God work among the believing remnant in 1st and 2nd Kings. From Mt. Caramel in 1st Kings 17 to the ax head incident in 2nd Kings. God showed His power and provided for His people in fresh new ways. We should have hearts of faith that expect Him to do the same in our time. 

 God works in surprising places in dark times- 

One key theme of both 1st and 2nd Kings is provision for gentiles in general and gentile women in particular (1st Kings 17:9-20, 2nd Kings 4:1-37). Both books make it clear that when previously believing people turn their backs on God, He shows Himself in mighty and life-giving ways to people groups we wouldn’t necessarily expect Him to work through. I believe with all my heart we should expect a movement of God in unexpected places in the coming years. 

And finally: 

Relentless leaders bring hope and healing to a graceless age – 

Two bright spots in 2nd Kings are the stories of Hezekiah and Josiah. Both men were hardworking, tenacious, God-fearing leaders who had the insight to recognize the serious nature of times they lived in and the grit to do something about the problems at the root of Israel’s trouble. They understood it was idolatry and the sinful practices that accompany idolatry destroying the people they loved (2nd Kings 18:1-6, 2nd Kings 23:1-24). Their love for people, steadfast leadership and determination to serve God wholeheartedly resulted in revival that brought social change and kept judgment at bay. 

So. 

All that to say, one of the key takeaways from 1st and 2nd Kings is that God is always at work even in a post-Christian world that feels like it’s going to hell all around us.  Usually in ways we least expect. 

Finding Hope in a sea of Cultural Madness-

For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings- Malachi 4:2 ESV

Behaviors and beliefs that would have been unimaginable just a few short decades ago have become so ordinary few are even appropriately shocked anymore.

Seriously.

One-third of all children are born into families with no Dad. Biological boys are transformed into little girls and vice-versa. Grown men in makeup and dresses have the run of toddler story hour at public libraries. The American Medical Association has recommended that doctors stop putting the gender of infants on birth certificates.  Drug overdoses have become endemic. Nonetheless, even hard drugs are now for all intents and purposes legal in most states.  Material once considered hardcore pornography and completely unacceptable is now mainstream and available to any third-grader with a smartphone. There is an active push to normalize and legalize pedophilia. 

 Sigh. 

This moral sea change has had a hardening influence on society in general. Individuals routinely say things about and to others that would have been considered unthinkable just a few years ago. People are becoming more violent as individuals become less self-controlled and less concerned with the well-being of others. This trend has resulted in a sharp uptick of violent crime. Riots, school shootings, hate crimes and road rage have all become disturbingly ordinary events in many parts of Western civilization (2nd Timothy 3:1-5).  

Sigh. 

Conservatives find all this quite troubling. Especially Christian conservatives. We understand a civilization will not continue to function in a legit way for long if the majority of people continue to choose the path of moral and social anarchy. 

Sigh.

Most Christians are searching frantically for a clear path out of the encroaching madness.   Our go-to tends to be politics. Most Christians are hoping and praying for a political figure or party to step into the fray and sort this mess out. We want a wise man or woman to make some laws that will save us from our sorry selves before we go the way of the Romans or the Babylonians and sin ourselves into extinction. There are all sorts of unintended consequences with this mindset, following are four of the most troubling: 

When we look to politics for hope we ignore history- 

Americans, including many Christians have voted for a lot of losers from both parties over the course of the last century. That being said, our culture did not become the dumpster fire it is today because Americans elected the wrong people. Americans, including a lot of Christians elected the wrong people because they believed the wrong things about God, life and what will make them happy and successful. Wrong beliefs became widespread and created the moral vacuum that got us the political leaders we have today. We must never forget: in a democracy politics always follow the moral beliefs of the people doing the voting. Bad leaders mean we have bad beliefs that need to be sorted out. The sorting out needs to start with Christians.

It denies the warnings of Scripture-  

Scripture teaches that as a general principal, humans tend to reap what they sow (Job 4:8, Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 8:7, Hosea 10:12, 2nd Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:7). It is very rare that bad leadership erupts from out of nowhere. This is even more true in a society where people get to elect their leaders. It is simply a pattern throughout Scripture that societies tend to get the leaders they deserve due to the choices of their citizens.   

It is a form of idolatry- 

Anytime we humans look to another flawed human to do things that only God can do it becomes a dangerous form of idolatry. Idolatry always leads to weak, ineffective or tyrannical leadership (1st Samuel 8:10-18).   

It keeps us from seeking the only things that can make a difference-  

Christians are commanded by Jesus to be a preserving, protecting and illuminating presence in whatever society they live in (Matthew 5;13-16).  This means modeling for the culture what healthy living looks like in every sphere of life. Anytime Christians seek human leadership as their primary source of help and hope they stop seeking the things that have the power to bring about transformation in a culture.  The cultural moment we find ourselves in demands Christians model repentance and dependence on God in hopes of ushering revival into the culture. Without heart-felt repentance on a massive scale culture as we know it is done for at least for a season. 

Cultural transformation is possible but our hope has to be in Jesus and Jesus only. Transformation will occur when God’s people make the choice to live in a faithful, counterculture kind of a way. The only way to that effectively is to make a practice of seeking God with everything we have. We must commit to living according to His commands in all situations no matter how weird that makes us to our friends, neighbors and coworkers.

When we start living right we will also vote the right way.

Using Conflict to Save your Marriage-

So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you wont be doing what your sinful nature craves.  Galatians 5:16 NLT

 Unfortunately, through the years I have seen a lot of divorces.

Because the vast majority of my friends are Christians, most of the divorces I have witnessed were between couples I am convinced are genuine Christians.  The saddest and most common divorces have been between what I call “long-haulers”.

Long-haulers are couples who stay quietly but miserably married for two, sometimes three or even four decades. Then, seemingly out of nowhere the couple announces to the shock of everyone they know they getting a divorce

Divorce is never good but these types of divorces are heartbreaking on multiple levels. These couples almost always feel as if they have “wasted” the best, most productive years of their life in a relationship that brought little real intimacy or joy. Long-haulers nearly always have kids, grandkids, a vast network of friends and a church family who are all psychologically, emotionally and/or spiritually impacted by the divorce. On top of all that, a lot of times a disturbing lack of emotional, spiritual growth in long-haulers. The lack of growth occurs because both partners are too busy trying to manage the pain of the relationship to focus on their own spiritual development and health (Hebrews 2:1-3). 

The “reason” given for divorce in these types of marriages is almost always the hazy, vague catch-all term: “irreconcilable differences”. Most of the time this means there was conflict in the marriage that was never really dealt with openly (Ephesians 4:26). The unresolved issue became, over time, a cancer in the relationship that eventually led to the death of the relationship. Sometimes the conflict was over sex.  Either they didn’t have much of it at all over the course of the marriage or one person in the relationship was having way more of it than the other (Exodus 20:14, 1st Corinthians 7:3-5, 1st Corinthians 6:18).  Sometimes, the conflict was over communication. At some point it broke down and they stopped talking about everything in life that really matters, which led to isolation, which led to misery, which led to divorce.  Other times the conflict was over things as mundane as the division of labor in the relationship or as complex as money and how its allocated in the marriage. 

Here’s the thing:

Every long-hauler I have known has admitted that their marriage probably could have been saved if they had been willing to deal with the problems in the relationship early on. Many have also revealed they feared that actually having an argument would make the problems worse. Their fear of conflict kept them from initiating conflict that might have led to relational healing and a restoration of intimacy. 

The 5th Century Chinese military leader Sun Tzu said “sometimes the path to peace is war”. Nowhere is this truer than in marriage. Conflicts that bring issues out into the open where they can be discussed and dealt with are the only path to true peace in a relationship.  Following are four ways to leverage conflict for a healthy marriage:  

If there’s a problem find a way to discuss it- 

It doesn’t matter what kind of problems are present in the marriage. The problem can be sex, kids, interactions with parents, chores or money. The reality is any problem that gets pushed to the margins does not actually go anywhere.  All this does is give the problem space to fester and grow. At some point it will begin having an adverse effect on the rest of the relationship. If you can’t find a way to talk productively to each other get a professional involved. Whatever you do, don’t just hope the problem goes away. It won’t. If it doesn’t get fixed today it will still be there in thirty years and you will want a divorce. 

Deal with trust issues openly and honestly- 

Frequently, at the root of poor or blocked communication in marriage is a trust issue. This usually happens because there has been a history of shady behavior with one partner. Shady behavior can include emotional and/or physical affairs, use of pornography, verbal abuse, mishandling money or any other behavior that has caused one person to become distrustful of the other. The only way to deal with a trust issue is through talking about it openly so real healing can take place in the relationship. Oftentimes a professional is needed to help heal the hurt that created the trust issue in the first place. 

No being mean when you talk about an issue- 

The problem should be the enemy not your partner. This means finding a way to deal with the issue at hand without being accusatory or cruel. 

No quitting till the problem is worked out- 


The most important rule in conflict management in marriage: no one gets to quit until the issues are truly resolved and healthy change has taken place in the relationship.

Marriage is meant to be a picture of the relationship between Jesus and His people (Ephesians 5:21-33). It is the place where children are nurtured into adulthood and people grow up together. If marriage is done right it becomes a safe place for two people to grow into the image of Jesus. Those are the things worth fighting hard for.

 Literally.