Three Things Every Christian Must Believe to be a Christian-

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that He proves to be One who rewards those who seek Him– Hebrews 11:6 NASB

I am a cerebral person. 

Sadly, in my case “being cerebral” does not mean I am especially smart. It simply means I get stuck in my own head a lot. I will read an article, have a conversation or hear a news story and then I will dwell endlessly on all the conceivable social, spiritual, and political implications of what I heard, read or talked about.  This past week, I spent a shocking amount of time thinking about what Reverend/Senator Raphael Warnock tweeted on Easter. 

The later deleted tweet said:  

“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves”

Okay. What?

Reverend/Senator Warnock’s tweet got me pondering all sorts of questions regarding life and faith. Like, Which seminary did this guy attend?  Has this dude even read the New Testament? And of course, the always deep: “why God why?”. 

However.

Most of my questions centered on a a subject I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the years. Questions like, what exactly makes a person a Christian? And: what does one have to know and/or believe to be saved?  The quick and easy answer comes from Romans 10:9: confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

But, 

What exactly does it mean to” believe in your heart”? How does one know if they have believed enough to be saved? What exactly does “confessing with your mouth entail?  How does one know if they have really believed in their hearts Jesus is Lord? Is it possible to honestly think you have confessed or believed without doing it right?  

Argh! I told you I get stuck in my own head sometimes. 

Anyway. These are questions worth asking because what we believe about life and God and how we get to God has eternal consequences. I don’t know everything there is to know about this subject but I do believe it is essential for Christians to embrace the following three truths at some point in their faith journey in order to be a Christian:

You have to understand you can’t save yourself- 

Human beings cannot save themselves. People simply do not have enough inherent goodness in them to get the job done (Isaiah 64:6) . Period.  Nor, are there enough good deeds in the world for a person to earn their own salvation. Even if there were no one would do those deeds with the right heart attitude because even the best people almost never do the right things with the right motivations. Admitting we are sinners who can’t save ourselves is really the first step in the faith journey.   Jesus is called “savior” precisely because we desperately needed someone to do the work of salvation for us (Luke 2:11). Until we embrace that reality authentic salvation will be elude us. 

You must believe God knows more than you do about right and wrong- 

 Thankfully, God graciously “brings us along” on the moral journey of faith. Few people begin their Christian life in full agreement with God about what is morally good and right. That said, Christians must have a certain level of humility concerning the moral limitedness that goes along with being human. At some point in our spiritual journey we have to stop shaking our fists at what God says is right and true and simply accept His proclamations concerning what is and isn’t morally acceptable (Psalm 7:17, Psalm 11:7). If we don’t our faith probably wasn’t genuine to begin with. 

You believe God is who says He is and will do the things He says He will do- 

  Knowledge of the Bible is not a prerequisite for salvation. However, fear of the Lord is (Psalm 25:14, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 14:27). Christians must believe there is a God (DUH) and that He is vastly superior to humans in every way.  We must also agree God is worthy of honor, worship and obedience. Fearing God simply means we really, truly believe God is who he says He is and He can do the things He says He can do. If we do not fear the Lord it is really hard to be a Christian regardless of what we have declared or confessed. 

As I close this post I do so with a high level of spiritual anxiety. It is not my place to judge the spiritual journey of another (Matthew 7:1). I don’t know Raphael Warnock. I don’t know if he is a Christian or an unbeliever or something in between. He eventually deleted his tweet. Perhaps he was having an off day.  I know have written things I wish I hadn’t. Maybe he feels the same way? I’m certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My hope in writing this post is that everyone reading this will examine their own belief system to see if they are “in the faith” (2nd Corinthians 13:5). 

It matters. 

The Real Problem with Lil Nas X and his “Satan Shoes”-

The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”- Genesis 3:4-5 ESV

Last Friday, the rapper Lil Nas X debuted his latest single “Montero”. At the same time, Mr. X released the “Satan shoes”. Each shoe allegedly contains a drop of human blood somewhere in the sole of the shoe and are decorated with all sorts of satanic symbols. The limited-edition shoes sell for $1018.00. They sold out in less than an hour. 

I watched the video. 

Mostly because it felt false to write about something I hadn’t actually seen. The video felt long, was really disquieting, and kind of dumb. It probably won’t win any awards for creativity. When it was over it occurred to me that I will never get that three minutes of my life back. 

I deeply resent that reality.  

The video centers on a struggle between the protagonist (Mr. X) and the devil. Throughout the video Mr. Nas X repeatedly attempts to use his sexuality to gain power over Satan. The video ends with Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance. Immediately following, Mr. X breaks the neck of Satan and abruptly kicks him off his throne, steals his crown, places it on his own head and evidently takes over the administration of hell.  It was disturbing to watch a godless fool who obviously does not understand the choices he’s making writhe around with the devil in a sexually suggestive way for three solid minutes.  Nonetheless, by far the most troubling aspect of the video was not the obvious Satan-worship but rather the humanism and subtle self-worship rooted in the song. 

Modern-day humanism is a world-view that has its roots in the Renaissance. In recent years it has taken firm hold of western civilization. Humanists do not believe in the sinful and fallen nature of mankind. Humanists believe people are inherently good and know what is right and what is right for them. Humanist doctrine is not especially rigid except on one point: humanists believe there is unlimited potential in all human beings for goodness. 

Insert eye roll here. 

It is not a huge leap to go from a humanistic belief system to the sin of self-worship. If one accepts the notion that all human beings are born good the next logical step is to think that our individual perceptions of reality are always right and infallible.  If a large number of people in a culture begin to believe their perceptions of reality are always correct; most of those people will stop questioning their own assumptions or asking for second opinions. Once that happens even intelligent people begin dismissing any opinion that does not appeal to them or fit into their narrow view of the world. People begin to lean on their own understanding to figure out life. They stop acknowledging God or if they do acknowledge God they stop seeking Him for wisdom (2nd Timothy 3:5, Proverbs 3:5-6).  

That is the point where worship of self begins.  

Once worship of self takes root in a life deception of every kind begins to grow in that person’s mind and lunacy suddenly becomes the new normal. That is when it becomes possible to believe gender is fluid rather than binary or that literally everything is racist. Or that if someone sincerely believes something is true then it is true even if there is no evidence at all for that belief. 

Sadly, this is the cultural moment in which we find ourselves. 

At the heart of self-worship is the belief “my beliefs and desires are always good and it is always right for me to get what I want”.  Self-worship is at the root of every addiction under the sin. Self-worship is at the heart of self-centeredness, resentment, child neglect and abandonment, abortion, adultery, pornography and every other kind of sexual immorality and deviancy.  

In a very real sense it does not matter what the world does or thinks. If the average unbeliever wants to embrace the humanist delusion that people are good without God, it’s not really the concern of the church (1st Corinthians 5:12-13). That said, the health of the church ultimately has an impact on society at large. We are where we are right now partly because the church has failed to be the light this world so desperately needs.  

The church should be worried about the church right now (Mark 9:42, 1st Corinthians 8:13, 1st Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:4, Galatians 5:8-10). The body of Christ is only as healthy as its weakest member and sadly, self-worship is not just for the unsaved or nominal Christians. Even serious Christians can easily fall into the sin of self-worship. Anytime we begin to believe getting what we want is more important than obeying God we have become worshippers of self. 

Self-examination is the only way to prevent self-worship and repentance is the only cure. 

Why Woke Opinions Regarding Words Must be Kept Out of the Church-

Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen– 2nd Timothy 2:14b NIV 

Warning: weird personal confession ahead. 

Lately, I have been a bit down. I have not felt like myself and I am not a fan of not feeling like myself. After one especially gloomy day it occurred to me that getting mad about something might pull me out of my funk. I don’t enjoy getting fired-up over stupid stuff willy-nilly.  However, I have found that getting angry over an issue of right and wrong has a way of taking my mind off of my feelings and helping me get some perspective about what really matters. 

Anyway.  

Sometimes God takes His sweet time responding to my requests. Other times I get what I want when I want it.  This was one of those times. The next morning, on Facebook I came across a story about a memorial at Wheaten College.  

The memorial in question honors the death of Wheaton graduate and missionary Jim Elliot and four of his missionary colleagues. The men were murdered while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador in 1956.   The plaque has been deemed problematic because it uses the word “savage” to describe the Auca tribesmen who brutally executed Jim Elliot and his colleagues. 

So. 

What the heck? This is about more than a difference of opinion regarding the suitability of a word. Among other things, this is a brazen attempt to reframe and rewrite someone else’s story. 

 Who are we to think that is okay? 

Is it really our place to reframe or reword someone else’s experience, especially when they are no longer around to weigh in on the situation? What makes this generation of Christians righteous enough or wise enough to get to decide how past generations tell the stories of THEIR life experiences?  Isn’t that arrogant and more than a bit condescending? 

Also. 

The wording of the plaque was composed with the consent of Jim Elliot’s wife as well as the families of the other martyred missionaries. They had no issue with the words that were chosen. It should also be noted that the tribesmen and women who later converted to Christianity because of the martyrdom of the missionaries described their own behavior as completely unacceptable and even savage. It was guilt over their actions that eventually led many in the tribe to repent of their sins and embrace Jesus. 

This is a vastly different time than when the memorial was created. It is true that words like savage can be dehumanizing when used the wrong way.  Most Christians (me included) would not use the word savage to describe a people group in the year 2021. It is also true that many Christians feel the church has gotten missions work wrong for the last two thousand years. Those folks feel it is this generations responsibility to right the wrongs of past Christians. 

Is it really? 

Are Christians in 2021 really clever enough or righteous enough to correctly judge the intentions or even the actions of past generations? Wouldn’t it be wiser for contemporary Christians to worry about themselves for a change? Perhaps it would be spiritually safer to leave the job of judging past generations up to God and let Him decide who got it right and who got it wrong? 

 I’m just spit-balling here. 

I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit that ALL people are made in the image of God. Dehumanizing others is ALWAYS wrong. Nonetheless, some actions are wrong, evil and yes, even savage. It’s okay to call out evil and savagery when we see it.  There is simply no room for woke idiocy in the church world when God Himself describes the human heart as “wicked” and so “corrupt” that no one but Him can even come close to understanding it. Let me be clear: telling the truth is not the same as dehumanizing someone. In fact, being real about who we are and what we’ve done is the only way to bring about repentance, salvation, personal healing and restoration of relationships.  Furthermore, telling the honest truth about the past is the only way to prevent ugly events from being repeated. 

 The bigger issue at play here is where woke ideas concerning words will eventually lead us. Rewriting a memorial some might judge offensive might not feel like a big deal. However, it sets a precedence in church world. Non-Christians have been rewriting history and censoring what they don’t like for some time now.  Christians would do well to remember that writing and art from the past chronicles history and helps us understand the feelings and experiences of those who lived before us. Literature and art also helps us to understand and even define what it means to be human. If we lose or revise those works we will remove some opportunity for offense. However, we also lose a chunk of our history and even some vital pieces of our humanity in the process.  Most concerning to me is what will happen to the Bible if Christians decide to start taking their cues on this issue from the world. It could very well be next in line for some serious “rephrasing”.  

After all the Bible was intended to offend (John 6:60-62, Matthew 11:6) 

Six Signs of Failure in the Christian Life-

 Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds- James 2:17-18 NIV

Saying that Christians today have been chosen to live in uniquely trying times is at the very least an outrageous understatement. The cultural moment we find ourselves in is literally unlike any in human history and it is getting stranger and more complex with each passing day. Our culture is literally inventing new ways sin. Good is oftentimes thought to be evil and evil is commonly celebrated as good and even virtuous (Isaiah 5:20-21). 

Sigh.  

I have no clue where all this going or where the madness will end. That said, one thing I do know for absolute certain, is that these times demand Christians get the Christianity thing right. Christians must live in a way that that stands in stark contrast to our unbelieving friends and neighbors if there is any hope at all of leading our culture back to some sort of health. Following are six indicators a Christian is going in the wrong direction and needs to redirect their spiritual life. 

First: 

You haven’t been prompted to do anything lately- 

Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear: people are not saved because they are good or because they do good things. Men and women are saved because they put their faith in the redemptive (saving) work Jesus did for humanity when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Period. End. Of. Story. However, it must be noted that Ephesians 2:10 tells us that Christians are saved so that they can do good deeds. Consequently, if we are not regularly prompted by the Holy Spirit to teach biblical truth, stand up for justice, tell others about Jesus or offer help to hurting people something is terribly wrong with the way we are doing the Christian life. Immediate changes must be made.  

You don’t pray much or at all-

Prayer is how the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and guidance. Prayer is how God transforms our thinking to make it more in line with His view of the world. When we pray God changes the hearts of the people we pray for and brings about transformation in seemingly immovable situations. When we don’t pray we don’t hear the voice of God or become the agents for change the world needs right now. When that happens, it is a tragedy for us and for the world we live in. 

You aren’t learning anything new about God or yourself-  

The first phrase ever used for a follower of Jesus was disciple (Matthew 5:1, Mark 2:15, John 1:35). A disciple is a student, one who decides to diligently learn from another. If we are not constantly learning new things about God and the things God wants us to work on in ourselves we will struggle to be a healthy reflection of God in this world. Without healthy Christians unsaved people struggle to see that God has the power to transform people. If people don’t see God’s power in His people they will never see the point of committing themselves to God. 

You aren’t actively seeking the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis-   

 Every Christian is called by God to the toughest of the tough things. Christians are commanded to love the unlovable, be holy, forgive the unforgivable, give beyond what is sensible, and pour ourselves out for the good of others (1st Peter 2:9, Matthew 5-7, 1st Corinthians 9:22). Fulfilling this calling is only possible through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 40:29). The Holy Spirit only empowers us when we ask. 

You aren’t working on your prejudices-

Heaven will be filled with men and women from every race, tribe and people group (Revelation 5:9). All of those people will be equal, equally loved by God and yet still distinctly different from one another (Revelation 7:9). This future reality leaves no place for racial bigotry or sexism in the lives of God’s people (Galatians 3:28, Colossians3:11). This means that any prejudices Christians have should be dealt with in an attitude of repentance. If we aren’t constantly evaluating our attitudes seeking to become more like Jesus in this key area we failing at a fundamental aspect of the faith. 

You think wokeness and Christianity are compatible- 

Wokeness is more than just a popular anti-racism movement. It is a false religion leading people away from the God of the Bible. It is a movement wants all the benefits of Christianity (love, equality, fairness, mutual respect, compassion) without submitting to God or the moral restraints of Christian ethics (2nd Timothy 4:3-4, 2nd Timothy 3:1-5). Because it ultimately leads people away from biblical repentance and faith in Jesus it will inevitably bring confusion and turmoil to those who embrace it. 

Historically, God does His best work in the darkest and most challenging of times. That said, God always chooses to work through people who have fully surrendered to Him. If we want to see Him change our world we must change our habits. We have to become people who put Him first and live spirit-filled, spirit-empowered lives. 

How Christians can be an Influence in the age of Cancel Culture-

When I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing– Psalm 35:15 NIV 

It was a bewildering week. 

First, it looked as if Dr. Seuss was the latest target of “cancel culture”. Then I was told this was simply not so.  Forbes and Newsweek reported Seuss Enterprises had simply “evolved” and chosen to stop publishing six of Dr. Seuss’ books due to “racist undertones”. It was clear: only unenlightened buffoons too dumb to grasp the nuances of the situation actually believed Dr. Seuss was being canceled. 

However.  

 President Biden did not mention Dr. Seuss or any of his books in his kickoff speech for National Read Across America Day. Which was unusual considering it usually coincides with the celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd. Then Amazon stopped selling Dr. Seuss books. Additionally, a number of school districts and libraries made it clear they would no longer use his books.  On top of all that a number of commentators have been quite busy throwing shade on the memory of Dr. Seuss.  

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this means Dr. Seuss got cancelled. 

Sigh. 

For the record: I do not have an issue with individuals who choose NOT to purchase products from companies or individuals whose values or business practices do not jive with their own values. Quietly choosing not to buy products from businesses who use your funds to promote causes that tear down the values you hold dear is not the same as cancelling someone. 

It’s called “wise stewardship”. 

Cancelling is a relatively new practice. It takes the concept of a boycott to a level not seen in polite society since the Salem Witch trials. Cancelling is when a very public effort is made to thoroughly disgrace a person, remove their influence entirely, obstruct their ability to make a living and ruin their reputation. The cancelling is not complete until any good the person has done in this world is completely disavowed and then forgotten. The quickest way to get cancelled is to publicly support conservative ideas or not be “woke” enough. It is also possible to get canceled for espousing racist or sexist opinions. However, it should be noted standards on these issues are constantly evolving. Speech regarded as perfectly acceptable today may very well be deemed unacceptable tomorrow.  

Sigh. 

Anyone can get cancelled. Historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Dr. Seuss and Teddy Roosevelt have all been victims of cancel culture. Some well-known actors and actresses, the My Pillow guy and some random people who said racist things on camera when they were too young to know better have also all become unwitting victims of cancelling madness. Nor, is being cancelled limited to actual human beings. Pepe le Pew (a cartoon skunk), Peter Pan (a fictional character), and Dumbo the Elephant (another cartoon character) all found themselves on the old chopping block this past week.  

Those who endorse cancel culture obviously don’t understand that standards of what is socially acceptable change over time. They also fail to grasp the reality that social growth is almost always made in small increments that tend to build on previous small increments of social change. Smart people understand that historic figures and even fictional characters should always be judged in the context of the time they lived in or were created rather than by current values. For example, by contemporary norms the fifteenth century church reformer Martin Luther was a chauvinist-jerk-pig-idiot who should be roundly condemned for espousing sexist positions. However, in his time he was thought to be a flaming-liberal-hell bound-heretic because he argued equal education should be given to little girls. His belief that young girls were capable of understanding theology and should therefore be given the same education as boys was radical at the time. Girls receiving and education was also an incremental social change that paved the way for women’s rights in the Western world. By twenty-first century standards Martin Luther was a sexist loser. In actuality he was an incredibly open-minded, insanely progressive product of his time. 

Anyway.

It’s not my job to judge the culture. God will do that in due time (Galatians 6:7, 1st Corinthians 4:5, Revelation 20:12-13). It is my God-given calling to encourage Christians to live in a way that glorifies God and points unbelievers towards repentance and eternal life. The weird cultural moment we find ourselves in demands Christians live radically different lives than the rest of society. It is critical we avoid the harsh, judgmental tone culture has adopted and gently remind people that ultimately, we will all be judged by the same standards we place on others (Matthew 7:2). We must constantly remind our friends, neighbors and co-workers that God, the most powerful, purest being whoever existed or who will ever exist did not choose to cancel or condemn anyone for their evil behavior, sin or mistakes. Even though He would have been entirely justified in doing so. Instead God offers us redemption and grace through the death of His son. All He asks is that we believe in Him and offer others the same grace and mercy we have been freely given.  

That message would effectively end cancel culture forever. 

The Undeniable Link Between Courage and Personal Peace-

These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33 NASB 

This week I came across a quote I had never heard before:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace- Amelia Earhart 

Okay, so. 

With all due respect to Amelia Earhart, who was without a doubt an unusually courageous person. She got it wrong at least in one sense. It is not life that demands we have courage in order to gain personal peace. It is the God of the Universe who grants peace to those who choose to look past their fear and live life courageously. 

The word courage or a derivative of courage is used one-hundred-fourteen times and the command “fear not” is used three-hundred-sixty-five times in Scripture. Abundant personal peace is explicitly promised to those who obey God’ commands (Leviticus 26, Romans 2:10, Galatians 6:15).  Those facts make it tough not to conclude that Christians are called to be courageous (Joshua 1:6-9). Empirical evidence backs up my view. Confusion, self-doubt and personal angst torment those who lack courage. I am convinced that much of the anxiety Christians feel is a result of cowardice in the following four areas: 

 Saying what needs to be said-

Life is full of times God clearly calls us to speak up for what we know is right, just and true. These moments pop up with children, spouses, friends and those we interact with on a regular basis. Anything hard should be said with a generous measure of compassion and grace (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:15). However, it is critical we understand that choosing not to speak truth, especially hard truth always comes at a substantial price. Our culture is the way it is partly because good people have chosen for far too long to keep their mouths shut rather than run the risk of offending others. Many (including myself) wonder what the world would look like if more of us had the courage to challenge wrong thinking when it first began taking root in the lives of the people we love rather than waiting until bad ideas and wrong thinking became endemically entrenched in the culture (Galatians 5:9).   

 Living the way God calls us to live- 

We live in a world that’s broken in ways none of us will never fully understand this side of heaven. Consequently, there has never been a time when it was actually easy to put God first, live with integrity and speak out against sin and injustice. It is getting harder to do those things all the time. Nevertheless, God promises us peace that is literally beyond human understanding to those who choose to live courageous, counter cultural lives that put Him first (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:9, 2nd Peter 1:2).  

Standing up against the forces within Christianity that are pulling the church in the wrong direction- 

 Many churches and Christian denominations are being pulled away from biblical thinking into worldly philosophies that run counter to truth (Colossians 2:8, 2nd Timothy 4:3, 2nd Peter 3:3). This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Jesus never promised that the church would be occupied only by good, God-fearing Christians determined to live Jesus first lives. Truth-be-told, Jesus promised in Matthew 13:24-30 that weeds (unbelievers) will grow-up alongside wheat (believers) causing all sorts of difficulties and challenges for true Christians. Furthermore, all Christians are in various stages of spiritual maturity and health. It is possible for a genuine Christian to be wrong about all kinds of issues or misled by bad teaching or their own evil desires. This is why prayerful self-examination is critically important for all believers, it is a clear opportunity for God to set us straight. In order for us to be at peace with God and ourselves we must know the word, understand how God is calling us to live and not allow ourselves to be swayed by any voice not rooted in Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit (John 10:14) 

Being the right voice of righteousness-  

Christians are not called to defend a particular nation or form of government. Instead, Christians are called to be defenders of the faith (Philippians 1:7, 1st Peter 3:15, Jude 1:3).  There is nothing wrong with patriotism, however choosing country over fidelity the gospel always leads to a lack of peace.  

Finally.  

In Matthew chapter ten Jesus sends out the twelve and commands they do things that can only be done with God’s empowering presence and a serious dose of courage (Matthew 10:7-10, 2nd Corinthians 12:9).  Then He promises life will be hard for anyone who actually has the guts to do the things He asks (Matthew 10:16-21). He also lays out a series of promises throughout the passage. Jesus promises that the courageous will be loved by God (Matthew 10:30-31), be like God (Matthew 10:24), and be honored in the presence of the Father (Matthew 10:32). Then He promises that the courageous will have such and abundance of personal peace the world will be blessed by their existence (Matthew 10:13).

But first we have to be willing push past any fear we feel. 

Spiritual Warfare: How we Give the Enemy an Advantage-


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
– 1st Peter 5:8 NIV

Until recently I preferred to ignore the devil and demons. I believed in those things, but, like most post-enlightenment Christians I simply preferred to focus on “happier” aspects of the spiritual realm. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit and angels were my jam and I would have been perfectly happy to keep it that way indefinitely. But, then the world went to hell. 

Literally. 

Right before my very eyes.  People began believing the most crazy-town stuff imaginable. Cancel culture became a thing, just as it also became fashionable to say there is no such thing as objective truth. People actually believe we all have our unique little truth we are entitled to even if there is no evidence to back it up. However, if you believe or say the “wrong thing” you will be “cancelled” and lose your reputation, livelihood and right to live in “polite” society.  Full-grown adults bought into the notion that gender is “fluid” and therefore changeable. Universities begin offering free tampons to “men” having their periods. Parents and teachers began encouraging kindergarteners to discover their true gender.  People were willing to throw a perfectly good country out the window because the founders of said country were fallible human beings. Everything went to hell in a handcart and Ephesians 6:12 is only plausible explanation for the madness that has engulfed the world. 

It says: 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

 The devil is real. 

He is a created being who turned against God (Luke 10:18). He hates those who love God. It is critical Christians understand his tactics. Satan wants to steal our ministry opportunities, turn us against God and eradicate our influence in this world. He does this through attacks where he plants lies in our minds and tempts us to behave in ways that steal our effectiveness, kill our love for God and destroy any positive influence we have (John 10:10). Satan waits for just the right opportunity to attack us (1stPeter 5:8). We give it to him when we do the following:

We don’t pray or we suddenly stop praying-

I do not understand everything there is to understand about prayer. However, one truth I do understand is that regular prayer provides spiritual protection (Matthew 26:41).  When we stop praying regularly or never really form a habit of prayer we give the devil an opportunity to gain a foothold in our thinking (Ephesians 4:27). Once the enemy has traction in our minds he can plant all sorts of foul seeds that eventually grow into deception, dissatisfaction with God and curiosity about sin.   

We wander where we don’t belong-  

There are some places God’s people simply do not belong. Watching other people sin can awaken a desire within us to sin. Therefore, we should avoid anything that presents sin as normal or healthy behavior. Being around Christians who are willfully and proudly sinning breaks down the natural desire all Christians have to remain holy and please God (1st Corinthians 5:11). It is spiritually strategic to avoid anyone or anything that makes sin appear attractive (Matthew 13:41, Matthew 18:6-7). 

When our primary sources of information come from the world-

In Colossians 2:8 Christians are warned that they can be “taken captive” by “deceptive philosophies”. This is most likely to happen when we get most or all of our information on life, current events and how to do life from those who don’t know God or understand how Christians are to live in this world. There is nothing wrong with an occasional secular book, podcast or seminar. That said, getting all or most of our “how-to” information on living life from worldly sources gives Satan ample opportunity to take our thinking captive. Once our thinking is captive our actions always follow.

When we have the wrong kind of self-focus-

There are two types of self-focus. The first is when we think endlessly about making ourselves happy, being successful and getting our own needs met. The second is when we put our attention on where we need to grow and how we can become emotionally healthier, godlier, wiser versions of ourselves so we can glorify God and make the world a better place. The devil loves the first kind of self-focus but hates the second because the first inevitably leads to self-destruction and a life of sin. While the second always leads to a life of profound joy that inevitably points others to faith in Jesus (Matthew 5:19, Colossians 3).  

When we haven’t submitted our lives or some part of our lives to Jesus-

Seriously. Disobedience and rebellion are open doors the enemy will always walk through. Deal with those issues. Pronto. 

We refuse to forgive- 

We can’t even be forgiven unless we forgive others (Matthew 6:15). What would make us think Satan would not take advantage of that kind of opportunity to plant bitterness, rage and every other kind of evil in our lives (Hebrews 12:15)? Forgiveness is never easy but is is the most spiritually freeing thing we can do. It is worth the effort.

For too long most Christians have lived as if the devil is a joke, a fantasy or an exaggeration. This has resulted in a feeble church, worldly Christians and a world in crisis. We must endeavor to live lives that thwart the enemies plan and take back ground for the Kingdom.  We do that through constant prayer, a commitment to forgive quickly, submission to God, becoming the best version of ourselves and looking to the Bible and other Christians, not the world for answers to life’s questions.  

The Only Right Way for Christians to Deal With Current Events-

The righteous will never be shaken, they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes- Psalm 112:6-8 NIV

One of my personal axioms has always been: “the more you know, the more you know”. Because I have lived and breathed this conviction for more-or-less all of my days I have been a major news junkie for most of my adult life.  However, in recent months I have become a much less enthusiastic consumer of the nightly news. Mostly because the content has gotten pretty dang scary.

Seriously. 

The world is a scary place and it’s getting scarier all the time. A good many individuals really do appear to be going completely feral. Many appear to believe deep down in their hearts that violence and repressing the speech of others is a legitimate way to solve problems and silence voices that make them uncomfortable.  Elementary schools have become taxpayer-funded propaganda centers. Precious few politicians are defending the rights of “the average Joe or Jane”. No one seems to be on the side of anything good or wholesome anymore. The reality of this sorry state of affairs has left many Christians feeling powerless and even despairing. Some have given into the temptation to bury their heads in the sand to avoid feeling panic-stricken by the constant onslaught of bad news and cultural decay. 

Here’s the thing:

God does not want his people to live like cultural recluses or in a bubble. God wants His people to understand what’s going on in the world. Not for the sake of knowledge, but because knowledge empowers us to pray effectively.  Knowledge transforms us into voices of reason and wisdom in a chaotic world. When we know things, we can become actively involved in finding solutions to the problems plaguing society.  But in order to the voice our world needs we must respond to what we hear in the right way. 

The right way means:

Without fear- 

Christians are not called to live or behave in a way that is reckless or stupid. That said, the only thing anyone should really fear is God, displeasing God or not getting their lives right with God (Matthew 10:28, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 76:11). Fear paralyzes us.  It makes us forget the fundamental truth that God is ultimately in control of all things. Even death, by far the worst thing anyone can experience in this life is simply a door to a closer relationship with God for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus. 

With discernment- 

Deception is our world’s biggest problem right now (Matthew 24:11, Colossians 2:4). Because deception is so commonplace, most of the nightly news is designed to propagandize rather than inform viewers. Some of it isn’t even true. Christians must learn to seek out conservative voices that are not weird or conspiratorial (I recommend The Daily Wire and Townhall). Then we need to pray daily for wisdom about how to interpret what we hear.  

In faith- 

In order to please God Christians must believe that God is and that He is working all events in this world out to achieve an end that He planned since the dawn of time (Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 11:6) Revelation 21-22).  God wants us to show our faith (James 2:18) by holding on to the truth that God is working all things, even the most worrisome things (Romans 8:35-39) out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 

With grace towards those who think differently- 

With a few notable exceptions, most people do not believe stupid things because they are willfully dumb or intentionally bent towards evil. Generally speaking most people who believe stupid and/or evil things do so because they have been deceived by the enemy (Titus 3:3).  Understanding that the average unbeliever is deceived rather than willfully stupid or intentionally evil should lead us to respond to their stupidity with concern and grace rather than contempt and scorn. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that deceived people who do evil will spend all of eternity paying for their folly. This should cause us to pray like crazy for them.  After all it is only by the grace of God that we aren’t just like them.  

Through the lens of eternity-

Everything we experience is this life no matter how good, bad, terrifying or delightful is fleeting and temporary (2nd Corinthians 4:18). We should never allow a temporal experience (whether the experience be positive or painful) to rob us of the truth that our lives should be centered around two things and two things only: preparing ourselves for eternity with God and attempting to bring others into relationship with Jesus so they can spend eternity with God. We should view events, even scary events as opportunities to grow in our own faith and as jumping off places to start conversations with others about their faith. 

Last, but not least: 

Knowing things, understanding the political world or being informed is absolutely pointless if we don’t combine our knowledge with a heart that is bent towards producing change in the world. The only way to produce change is to become an active participant in the world around us. We do that by praying fervently and specifically about current events, instigating conversations with our neighbors and making sure our voting habits reflect biblical values. When we learn to these things we become gracious, spirit empowered change agents.  

How to Survive and Thrive in Even the Toughest of Times-

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us– Hebrews 12:1 ESV  

For most people reading this blogpost the world they were born into did not start out as tough, challenging or threatening in any real way. In fact, it could easily be argued that the last sixty or so years have been some of the serenest and easiest in all of human history. Most of the problems and issues modern people have wrestled with have been what honest people would refer to as “first world problems”. Humans born in the western world have struggled mostly with issues that have centered around the kind of existential questions our more primitive ancestors lacked the time or inclination to ponder like “What is the meaning of life?” “Am I making a difference in this world?” and “Am I really doing what I was meant to do?” For most of us things like war, civil unrest and oppression were concepts we learned about in history books as children or by watching documentaries as adults on rainy mornings when we had little else to do.  

Times are changing.  

War is still not something that has touched most of our lives in a personal way (thank God). However, thanks to COVID-19, censorship, selfish leaders and a whole bunch of really bad decisions on the part of those leaders all of a sudden, the rules are changing. Civil unrest is a thing, war is suddenly imaginable and oppression feels like it is knocking on the door for too many people. 

Sigh. 

This is not the first generation of believers to find themselves in times that suddenly got tough. Far from it.  From the dawn of time God’s people have been called to live, love and lead people to faith in the toughest of times. It is possible not just survive unexpected changes in our world but also to thrive in the midst of suffering and difficulty (Jeremiah 29:1-11, John 16:33, Acts 14:22). In order for that to happen we must choose to adopt the five following attitudes and practices. 

Beginning with:

Understand that sometimes God shakes things up- 

 From time-to-time God shakes every kingdom and people group who dwell on the earth (Hebrews 12:25-28). If He didn’t, individuals would become so self-centered and sinful that all of humanity would inevitably self-destruct.  Our job as Christians is to stay resolutely on mission and lead others to God no matter what the rest of the world is doing or not doing (Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 6:37). 

Refrain from pampering our weaknesses- 

In early December, for no obvious reason, I began to experience a lot of pain in my left ankle.  I immediately took measures to shelter the ankle. I wrapped it daily, rubbed it with icy-hot, and deliberately put most of my weight on the other leg. One day I realized the muscles in the lower part of that leg had started to atrophy and as a result my left calf was noticeably smaller than the right and I was still in constant pain. I quickly altered course and began to gently work on building strength back in that ankle. It still hurts but it’s getting better and it looks almost normal. Lord willing, I will not be permanently gimpy. It occurred to me one night as I was reading Hebrews 12:12-13 that we oftentimes trear our spiritual weaknesses the same way I treated my ankle. We shelter and protect our moral and spiritual shortcomings rather than dealing with the issues that could lead to our downfall. Tough times make it even more critical we deal decisively with shortcomings, weaknesses and moral flaws (Matthew 5:29, Hebrews 12:1-3). 

Learn to embrace God’s correction-

God is the author of pleasure, joy and celebration (Deuteronomy 16:14-15, 1st Chronicles 29:22, Luke 15:23). That said, we are not here just to experience happiness or to live a life of leisure. This is where we are transformed into the image of Jesus and where we prepare for the next world (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:9-10). This means that sometimes God will correct our thinking or deny us something we want. He doesn’t do this to be cruel but to mold us into the image of Christ and make us useful for His Kingdom.  

Understand what Christian people have in Christ- 

The writer of Hebrews tells us the temptation to leave the life of faith is always strongest in times of suffering, persecution or correction. Giving up, pulling back or losing faith inevitably results in a loss of personal growth, spiritual joy and eternal reward (Hebrews 10:35, 2nd John 1:8, Colossians 3:23-25). Conversely, faithfulness, especially in times of suffering always results in deeper joy now and greater personal reward later.  The key to staying faithful and bold when life gets hard is to remember Jesus is and all He has done for us through His suffering (Hebrews 12:22-24). When we focus on His suffering ours suddenly feels far less permanent and significant. 

Pursue holiness-

Holiness is a precondition for spending eternity with God (Hebrews 12:14) Thankfully God does not leave us on our own to figure out the process for ourselves. He gives us clear direction and step-by-step instruction on how to accomplish the task but we must be persistent and intentional about pursuing it (2ndPeter 1:3-9, Colossians 3). 

We have zero control over what we are born into or encounter in life. We do have power over how we respond to our circumstances. If we respond to difficult with an attitude of trust we will grow and God will use us. If we respond with anger, bitterness or by demanding God makes life easier for us difficulty will inevitably wreck us. 

The choice is ours. 

Some Hard Truth for all of us-

No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle- Jeremiah 8:6 NKJV

A couple of things: 

First of all, Dear Reader,

 I really do appreciate you. The fact that anyone would read what I write is an honor and privilege that never ceases to blow my mind. Second, many Christians are, for obvious reasons, leaving social media sites. If you are considering making an exit from the social media site where you found A Wise Life, please considering subscribing. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page and type in your email address. A Wise Life will be delivered to your in-box every week for as long as the Lord allows me to continue this ministry or until you unsubscribe. I promise to never sell or give your email address to any other business, blog or ministry.

Lisa

Now, this week’s post:

I have had innumerable conversations over the course of the last couple years with all sorts of people that have all gone in exactly the same direction and ended in exactly the same way. These conversations have accelerated in recent months, sadly they are become a reoccurring theme in life. 

It typically begins with me and another person complaining about the brokenness of our political system and culture. We whine about what a flaming-hot mess everything is right now and marvel at how quickly it got this way. We grouse about big government, big business, and the creepy relationship that’s evolving between the two. We debate where we think all this is going and it never lands anywhere positive or encouraging.  We moan about the collapse of our republic and bellyache about how our leaders have taken to using the Constitution as toilet paper (metaphorically speaking of course). We discuss marriage, family, children, gender, education and the general lack of interest most people have in God, repentance or the church. We marvel at the idiotic lies our culture believes about just about everything. Then just as we come to the point of exhausting these issues one or the other of us will inevitably say:

“I sure wish someone would standup and fight all this craziness”. 

It hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) the other night that there are people fighting. There is chorus of good, godly, positive voices fighting the foolishness and evil that has stubbornly taken root in our culture. Moreover, good people have been fighting this crap for decades. For as long as I can remember there has been a plethora of organizations and ministries one-hundred-percent dedicated to fighting myriad of social and political evils of our time. Furthermore, most conservatives I know routinely contact their legislative representatives about bills related to political and social issues. Those same people also regularly vote, sign petitions and donate money to political and social organizations that fight for conservative values and biblical truth. 

Then it hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) that all our do-gooding, generosity and battling for righteousness has had zero, zilch, nada impact on our politics and culture. The people who need to listen aren’t listening and those who need to change aren’t changing (Matthew 3:8). The people who need to know truth just don’t care and it’s not due to a lack of effort or money spent. 

As I was processing through all that, I was struck with an even harder truth: This is happening because the people who do know truth aren’t repenting of their sins or seeking to make changes God has told them to make. The truth is our culture is rotting from within because those in the church have wanted everyone else to change while choosing to stay exactly the same.

At this point my mind was flooded with questions. Like: 

Maybe, things are the way they are because we moaned about all the filth and depravity in the world while we watched all the same movies and television shows other people do? Maybe children are embracing the lies our culture is feeding them because we didn’t take the time to teach our own children truth? Perhaps, taking our kids to church once or twice a month, as is the habit of most “serious” Christians, is not enough to protect them from all the deception in the world; let alone make them the missionaries the world needs right now?  Maybe, our political leaders are sellouts and moral weaklings because we are? Maybe, our culture has embraced the folly of identity politics because the church has not done a good enough job walking out racial unity, reconciliation and fairness?  Maybe, God isn’t answering our prayers because we aren’t praying? Or maybe we have just been praying for all the wrong things?  Then it occurred to me that maybe, things would be different if churches had more prayer meetings and fewer planning meetings? 

I don’t know for sure. I’m just spit-balling here. 

 That said, one thing I do know for absolute certain is that many Christians (including myself) have longed for a political leader or group of political leaders who would step in and change laws so we wouldn’t have to do the hard work of changing people’s hearts so they believe and do the right things.  I know that many Christians have depended on the courts and the constitution to do things only God Himself can do and will do only with our cooperation, like keep our country Christian.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s time for Christians to repent of the sin of looking for anyone or anything except Jesus to be our savior. Instead we need to take a hard look at our own lives and our own choices. Then we need to start begging God to change us and our churches so we can be the difference makers we were called to be in this world.