Four Changes the Church Must Make Now-

Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord– Colossians 3:15b-16 NKJV

By any measurable standard the last year and a half was bumpy for everyone. The world was collectively awestruck at how quickly a weird little virus could lead to compulsory lockdowns, financial uncertainty, social unrest, church closures and the shutdown of most schools. The gloom brought on by those unwelcome changes took a heavy toll on everyone, including most Christians (James 1:2-3). 

Unparalleled world events swiftly exposed a whole host of systemic and potentially lethal problems lurking in Western churches. Most believers lacked the spiritual tools and community support necessary to keep their faith vibrant over a year of forced isolation. Even fewer Christians were prepared to answer the questions that surfaced out of the COVID crisis. Questions like: where is God when we suffer? What role should government play in faith communities? What does honoring authority look like in a global pandemic (Romans 13:4-6)? Is online church a suitable substitute for the real deal (Hebrews 10:25)? Furthermore, local churches struggled with an unprecedented loss of attendance and financial support. Many pastors suffered a crisis of identity when they learned exactly how expendable most political and public health authorities felt their contribution to society was.

Sigh.

Thankfully, the worst seems to be passing. I am personally overjoyed, no one hated COVID world more than this girl. That said, we should all have some very real reservations about churches returning to the “normal” we foolishly embraced pre-COVID. Our Western Church version of normal was anything but healthy and live-giving from a spiritual perspective. The last thing the church needs is more of what created the problems that became evident during COVID.  Instead the church needs a twenty-first century reformation that begins with:

An end to the Christian celebrity culture- 

Little good has come from idolizing Christian pastors, musicians, and influencers. Most of the men and women put on pedestals by the Christian community have become prideful and arrogant and proven themselves to be completely unteachable. Too many “celebrity Christians” have embraced a life of sin and destroying the reputation of Jesus and other Christians in the process.  Some have become so addicted to media attention that they eventually denounced Christianity altogether to keep the spotlight on them. It’s time for Christian to say “no more” to the celebrity culture.  Instead we must be intentional about looking within our own local churches for faithful men and women to hold up as examples of the faith (1st Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17). 

No more shallow teaching-

A shocking lack of doctrinal depth has become standard in Church world.  Like most of our mistakes this one was made with good intentions. Dumping discipleship programs (Adult Sunday school) and replacing them with small groups was intended to build community and make unbelievers more comfortable in the church. It did neither. All it did was shrink the Church and produce a generation of genuinely ignorant and spiritually immature Christians. If we want to save the Western Church we need to find ways to make Sunday school cool again. 

Theology that empowers the church to deal with secular authority in a biblical manner- 

It’s simply a fact that Christians are called to obey secular authorities.  However, early Christians continued to meet together (sometimes daily) despite the fact it was forbidden by “authorities” on and off for more than three centuries.  If they hadn’t the church probably would have disappeared altogether early in the first century. Leaders and individual Christians need to do some soul searching and decide what sort of edict is worthy of violating the command to “gather together” before the next round of shutdowns. 

An openness to a movement of the Spirit of God- 

Sadly, there are two equally stupid views of the Holy Spirit that have prevailed in most denominations over the last century. On one end of the spectrum there is a history of gross excess. This group has taken 1st Thessalonians 5:19Do not quench the Spirit” to mean that almost anything done in the name of the Holy Spirit goes with or without any biblical precedent. Period. This has been a huge turnoff for those on the other end of the spectrum who have declared anything they see as out of the ordinary (speaking in tongues, raising hands in worship, prophetic utterances) as evil and “of the devil” even if that thing has biblical precedent. Both attitudes are wrong, Truth lies in the middle. It is not our job to manufacture the work of the Spirit in the name of “having an experience”. Neither is it our job to dictate to God how He can or cannot work. Our job is to seek the Spirit with an open heart asking Him to reveal more of Himself and His truth to us. However, we also need to understand that any genuine work of the Holy Spirit will be accompanied with a greater desire to obey God. The Holy doesn’t do anything without the purpose of bringing greater obedience and purity to God’s people. 

Community- 

We are made in the image of a relational God (Genesis 1:26). We need each other. Period. Churches have to figure out how to create authentic faith communities in the midst of twenty-first century busyness. If we don’t the church will continue to lose people. 

It is the churches responsibility to be ready to offer hope, help and healing when the worst happens. Most churches weren’t ready for any of that with COVID. Welcoming a movement of God, building community in the church and being prepared to answer  tough theological questions is how we get ready for whatever comes next. 

Why we all Need to get our Butts Back in the Church Building-

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  – Acts 2:42 NIV 

According to Pew Research Center as of March 2021 almost half (forty-three percent) of church members have yet to return to in-person church services. A forty-three percent loss of almost anything is at best unsustainable. At worst such a loss could prove fatal. 

Think about it. 

If a family were to suddenly lose forty-three percent of their savings, the loss would create untold chaos in their financial future. If a nation were to lose forty-three percent of their population the nation would inevitably become weak, ineffectual and find themselves at the mercy of their enemies. The church is no different. A forty-three percent loss of regular attenders is no small deal. 

I totally get that there are some individuals who cannot or should not go back to in-service church attendance at this time.

For the record; 

Elderly folks unable or unwilling to get the COVID vaccine, get a pass on returning to in-person services. The immune compromised, or parents with an immune compromised child are also exempt from returning to in-person services at this time. Those with serious comorbidities who cannot or do not wish to take the vaccine, get a pass on resuming in-person church attendance at least for now. 

Everyone else needs to get their butts back in the church building. 

Pronto. 

Here’s why:

It’s not necessarily going to be smooth sailing from here- 

I do not fancy myself a prophet. That said, the culture has taken a turn for the worse and every fiber of my being tells me that the shaking God has given our world over the course of the last fifteen months is not even close to being over (Hebrews 12:25-27). God will continue to shake our world until people respond to Him in repentance (Revelation 9:20). What the shaking will look like and where it will end are questions far above my meager paygrade.  Nonetheless, it’s not over. More trouble and hardship is coming and the body of Christ will likely not be exempt from the trouble (1st Peter 4:17). If I’m right Christians will need the encouragement and connection they can only get from the body of Christ in order to continue their growth as believers (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-26) When Christians fail to grow spiritually they run the risk their faith will die a slow and painful death that could end in apostasy (Hebrews 6:1-9, Matthew 24:9-11).  Church community is critical because it prevents apostasy.  

The church needs all hands-on deck to accomplish the mission of the Church- 

The mission of the church is clear (Matthew 28:18-19). The church is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. To accomplish this end church leaders are commanded to teach and train all believers to live out the truth of the gospel so they can reach their unsaved friends and family with the gospel (Ephesians 4:10-12). This task is massive. It demands the whole-body work together to accomplish the mission (Romans 12:4-6, 1st Corinthians 12:17). If one person stays home or refuses to do their part a ball gets dropped that ensures the whole body is less effective than they could have been. 

Christians need the church to stay anchored and spiritually healthy-

Without a solid church to anchor a person to the faith individual believers either drift away from Christianity altogether or they begin to adopt strange theories and attitudes regarding God and Scripture. Strange beliefs make it very difficult to reach others with the gospel. These things happen without the person even realizing they are happening. Regular community involvement in a local church is the only way to prevent drift from taking place and eccentric beliefs from taking root. 

There are some things you cannot experience while watching a screen- 

Online attendance has its limits. It is possible to get the essence of a sermon from an online format. That said, it is impossible to experience unity and connection with other believers alone in your living room. It is also impossible to experience the knitting together of the body that takes place when the whole church worships their God in one accord (Acts 2:42-47, Revelation 7:9-10). It is also impossible to effectively use one’s individual gifts to grow the body of Christ while isolated from the body of Christ. We need each other for all these things.  

This pandemic is winding down- 

An estimated thirty percent of the population has recovered from COVID-19 and has natural immunity, another fifty percent of the population has had at least one COVID vaccination. This is a clear indicator it is time for God’s people to ditch their fear and get back to the business of living hard for Jesus.  

The bottom-line in all this is that we go to church because God tells us to and it is the pattern we see throughout the entire Bible. We cannot say we love God and refuse to do what He says (John 14:15, 1st John 5:2, Hebrews 10:25) at least not without experiencing dire consequences. In this case consequences could include a slow separation from God that gives the devil a foothold in our lives and place for sin and even apostasy to take root. Nobody who really knows Jesus wants that. In order to prevent it we all need to get our butts back into the church building. 

Now.  

Four Ugly Truths Covid-19 Revealed in the Church World-

Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresewill suddenly come upon you– Isaiah 47:11 NIV 

The last fifteen months have been some of the weirdest, most challenging and most contentious of any in recent history. It feels as if the world is powder keg just waiting for the right kind of spark to set if off. Even in the Church, division over “what Christians should do” about masks, vaccines and staying home has become normal and sometimes totally contentious.  It’s convenient to blame the lack of respect, division and turmoil on COVID. It’s not as if the world were some sort of a utopia pre-COVID but it wasn’t anything like the flaming hot trash-fire we have come to know as the new normal. 

However. 

Logically, we should be moving past some of this turmoil and strife, especially in the church. Unfortunately, vaccines, higher survival rates and better over-all outcomes aren’t doing much of anything to heal the hurts of the past year. This goes a long way in proving that COVID isn’t the cause of our problems. All COVID has done is reveal the junk that has been simmering beneath the surface for decades.  Following are four issues that have contributed to the problems:

Our Faith is weak- 

One truth COVID has revealed is that Christianity in the west is a mile wide and an inch deep. From our Bible knowledge to our communities we have redefined shallow living and shallow learning. This is because few Christians routinely participate in basic Christian practices designed to keep their faith vibrant and healthy (routine prayer, reflective Bible reading, performing acts of charity, church attendance, and involvement in Christian community). Prior to COVID we were able to skate along attending Church 1.2 times a month and throwing up the occasional prayer when a huge need presented itself (Matthew chapters 5-7). Post-COVID it became woefully evident our shallow practices have not really anchored Christians to God or the church. 

There are those who love liberal social agendas more than they love God or even their own security- 

Seriously. There are. Our culture has actually come to a place where large numbers of people would rather suffer personal financial harm than implement a single traditional principal or idea. We see this most often in states where the economy is floundering and the people are badly overtaxed but residents keep reelecting leaders who support liberal social agendas because they love those agendas more than they want economic security.  This reality is a symptom of much bigger spiritual problems that will only be solved through repentance and revival.  

Christians want a single leader who will lead us into a “golden age of Christianity”- 

This sinful desire is at the heart of the celebrity culture that Christians have embraced with abandon over the course of the last three or four decades. Like the Israelites in the Old Testament Christians have longed for a “king” who will lead the modern church into an age of respectability and acceptance with the unsaved world (1stSamuel 8:5).  In a misguided effort to find a “leader” who will bring us the worldly status we crave, Christians have thrown themselves behind every twenty-year-old with a half-way decent idea or any smooth-talker who can build a big audience (1st Samuel 16:7). Then we wonder why these men and women inevitably end up in bed with someone they aren’t married to or denouncing Christianity altogether (1st Timothy 3:6-7). God isn’t going to bring a leader to save us. He already did that. His name is Jesus and the one the one thing we are promised is that following Jesus will not make us popular with anyone anywhere in the world (John 15:18). It’s time for us to embrace that reality and if we do God probably won’t bring us respectability but He will bring us a new level of effectiveness if we follow hard after Him rather than pine for a fallible human leader.  

Christians want a political savior- 

The desire for a powerful human leader is not limited to Church world. Many Christians long for a conservative political figure to step onto the scene to unite us as a people and fix the long list of social, legislative and moral problems we are currently grappling with. It’s not going to happen. At least not in the way we want it to happen, any leader who shows up on the scene at this point is almost guaranteed to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing (John 10:12). Rather than looking for a quick political fix Christians must learn to pray for wise leaders who will point people back to righteous living and personal responsibility. 

The season of COVID-19 ruling every aspect of our lives is hopefully coming to a close. However, that does not mean that the church should simply go back to all the things that got us to a place where we lacked the spiritual resources necessary to cope with a curveball like COVID-19. Instead, we should be looking to Jesus as our source of wisdom and direction in all things. We must seek out spiritual practices that lead to growth so that we can find ways to help other people grow.

This is the only effective way to prepare for what lies ahead. 

Satan’s Last Diary Entry of 2020


The Lord said to Satan, 
From where have you come? Satan answered the Lord and said, From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” Job 1:7 ESV

Dearest Diary, 

I just received year-end reports from all regions. What a year! 

2020 for the win! I literally do not know if I have ever been more pleased with the state of the human race. 

Life is beautiful. 

Seriously.

That whole stupid planet is one great big beautiful ball of chaos.  I adore chaos. Chaos makes it possible for me to slip in, create confusion and bring about changes that further my agenda to turn people away from God and enslave them to their own idiotic passions. Truth-be-told I owe much of the success of this past year to COVID-19.  I simply adore that nasty little microbe.  Seriously, Between the fear, the conflict and the government’s response to COVID-19 I could not have orchestrated a better outcome to the pandemic if I had planned the whole thing out myself. 

Half the humans are terrified out of their minds. I adore fear. It’s is such a wonderfully productive emotion for me. It’s odd, but for creatures with such ridiculously limited lifespans most humans do very little thinking about death or what will happen to them after they die. Instead this generation chooses to stick their heads in the sand and pretend they will live forever. Coronavirus has forced those idiots to at least acknowledge that life is uncertain and sometimes shorter than expected which, honestly, could have had some truly terrible consequences for me. However, as luck would have it very few people are dealing with their fear by turning to God and asking him for wisdom and help. Instead most of those idiots have given themselves over to fear. I love fear almost as much as I love chaos. Fear keeps people from thinking clearly about the things that really matter. When people are fearful they become stupid. As is the case today. People have turned to distractions like Netflix, political activism, drugs and alcohol and porn to help them forget everything that is wrong with the world.  These distractions have led many even deeper into spiritual bondage. I haven’t seen this many people enslaved to idolatry and fear since the age of paganism. (those were the days J)  No one wants to ask God for help because that would mean repenting of their sins. So, their fear has turned them into fools and most are actually trusting government officials to make all the decisions and save them from the scary germ.

Ha Ha! As if! 

In the beginning government officials were just as fearful as everyone else. They locked things down without a thought as to how they would open things back up again.  Once government officials got past their own personal fear of the virus they began taking full advantage and using it as an excuse to do what they’ve been dying to do for years. Countries all over the world have suspended the civil rights of ordinary people in the name of keeping everyone “safe”. Seriously, what kind of an idiot would argue with safety? “Safety” is the perfect excuse to strip people of civil rights. I simply despise civil rights. They keep dictators at bay and I adore dictators.  Dictators forbid religious expression and demand that the state become their God. 

That stupid world is much closer to being ruled by dictators than most of those fools realize. It’s because human freedom is entirely dependent on human goodness to make a democracy work. Few people want to practice the self-restraint and virtue necessary to make self-government work. They use their freedom for evil and then wonder why the government feels the need to step in and control every aspect of their lives. 

Idiots! They’re all idiots! 

Because people have turned from God and insisted on the normalization of every kind of evil, suicide is on the upswing, as is addiction, spousal abuse, divorce and child molestation. This suits my purposes perfectly. Addiction, abuse and sin hardens the human heart toward God and keeps stupid humans looking to human wisdom for help and healing. As if human wisdom was actually a thing. 

Ha!

Thankfully, most Christians don’t seem to know what to do. Very few pray, they say they have faith but truth-be-told most of them don’t live like they believe God is real. They spend more time demanding their rights be respected than they do praying for God’s will to be done. Some young, healthy people at little risk of dying from Coronavirus have stopped attending church. Those fools have voluntarily separated themselves from other Christians! Seriously. It won’t be long before they quit reading their Bibles and praying. Before you know it they will stop thinking about God altogether. When that happens, I will see to it that they don’t do anything that will lead anyone else to Jesus!

2020 was a banner year and as long as those idiotic Christians stay apathetic and don’t start praying 2021 looks like it will be even better! 

Still Winning!

Satan 

The Real Evil Behind COVID-19-

For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them– Ecclesiastes 9:12 NKJV 

Words are powerful. 

Because words are powerful there are words I don’t use lightly or often. 

Evil is one of those words. 

Human beings are absolutely capable of great evil (Genesis 6:5, Matthew 12:34-35, John 3:19), but most are not intentionally evil. Most of the time, most people are just misguided, deceived or acting out of their fallenness. All of that inevitably results in folly. Foolishness often leads to evil but it is rarely the intended result.  Conversely, things are neither good nor bad, they just are. 

That being said. 

Humans sometimes do stupid stuff with things and evil results. Such is the case with coronavirus. COVID-19 is neither good or evil. It just is. Viruses are incapable of being evil. They are just germs. Mindless, soulless, microorganism’s completely incapable of any kind of evil machinations or wicked deeds.  However, our foolish, fear-filled human response to this virus has resulted in all kinds of weirdness and evil. 

Beginning with: 

Coronavirus is causing us to voluntarily destroy a crucial aspect of our humanness –

Human beings were literally made to live in community. People were made in the image of a God who exists in a perpetual state of community and we were made to be like Him (Genesis 1:26, Matthew 28:19, John 10:30). Because community is an essential piece of what makes us human, without community people either become peculiar or despairing or both. Coronavirus has become evil because we have allowed it to isolate the people who need people the most.  Drug and alcohol abuse is up and suicide rates have skyrocketed all due to a lack of community. It is critical Churches lead the way in forming safe community for those who are lacking it. This might mean making regular phone calls to people who live alone and work in isolation. It might mean encouraging small groups to get together on a regular basis for prayer and fellowship. If the group is kept small and is made up of people who see each other regularly it is safer than people being left alone without any kind of healthy interaction in their lives.

COVID is making too many Christians spiritually slothful-  

Church attendance really is one of the most basic manifestations of Christian obedience. Church attendance is clearly commanded in Scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25). If a follower of Jesus does not take the time to attend some sort of church service it is highly doubtful they will spend significant time in prayer or Bible study. Period.  Both online and in person church attendance is down in recent months. This indicates that all healthy spiritual activity is on a decline at least among some Christians. 

COVID is breeding distrust and division-

It is no longer socially acceptable to say two things can be true about COVID at the same time. For example: it’s not okay to say the social and spiritual isolation created by COVID is dangerous and unhealthy. Neither is it okay to say the virus is dangerous (especially for some groups). Try it. I dare you. Get on a social media website and say those two things. You will be attacked on every side and called out as a numbskull and a heretic. Unless we can get to a place where we can talk about this issue rationally, with both sides conceding that the virus and the way our society is handling the virus (lockdowns, school closures, forced unemployment) are both dangerous we will never move forward in a healthy, life-affirming way.  We will continue to view people with alternative views as the enemy and if we continue down that path we are finished as a civilization. We will devolve into a dystopic dark age.  

Coronavirus has become a driver of corruption- 

In many places around the globe politicians have made rules without placing an end date on them or without putting in place a fixed set of measurable standards for lifting the restrictions. Because absolute power corrupts absolutely anytime politicians are allowed to make all-powerful decisions there is a pretty good chance they will never willingly retract the decisions that have given them absolute power. This creates a problem that must be solved by savvy voters who are willing to work at the grassroots level to get unreasonable or unnecessary rules changed or lifted. 

We are not learning what we are supposed to learn-  

Typically, a benefit of a disaster like a pandemic is that silly humans learn that no one—no matter how significant or influential gets off this planet alive.  Being reminded of this crucial truth helps us remember that the principal task of every person born is to prepare wisely for their inevitable demise. At least a million people have died from COVID and rather than having conversations about death and how to prepare for death (Acts 3:19) our culture has neatly avoided the subject of death by turning to lockdowns as a way to attempt to cheat death. In the process our culture has robbed itself of the one positive thing that might come out of this whole ugly muddle. Sigh. 

Most of the problems created by coronavirus are a direct result of living in a post-Christian culture. Because our culture has lost touch with Christian truth many in our culture have become isolated. Others have become corrupt fools who think they can cheat death. God made the Church for times exactly like the ones we live in. Being the people, our world needs us to be means being diligent, brave, faithful and willing to have hard conversations with a confused and hurting world (Deuteronomy 31:6, Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 4:15-25). 

Don’t Let Fear Run the Show-

The people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day– Judges 20:22 NASB

We live in scary times. 

Seriously.

What with a bizarre pandemic, seemingly endless social chaos, shutdowns, widespread unemployment, riots, censorship and political leaders worldwide taking a more authoritarian stance than at any other time in recent history.  This is a legitimately weird time to be alive and there is much to worry about. Over the course of the past nine months I have felt moments of panic and I have seen more fear in more people than at any time in my life.  Now I know why God tells His people over and over again in His word not to fear, to be courageous and to trust Him in all circumstances (Psalm 27:1). 

There are two truths Christians should understand regarding fear. First, no one in the history of the human race has ever made a really great decision out of fear.  Second, at its root fear is a profoundly spiritual thing. Anytime we allow fear to take root in our lives we immediately stop trusting God. When we stop trusting God we hand power to the enemy and effectively give him authority over us (1st Peter 5:6-8). We then lose our ability to think clearly and logically about issues and we believe any lie the devil wants to tell us. No matter what is actually true we become convinced we are unsafe and inevitably do one of two equally stupid things: we either act swiftly without thinking through all the possible consequences. We then do damage to ourselves and/or others with our impulsive actions. Conversely, we can become paralyzed in a mental maze of what-ifs that leads to inaction. Our lack of decisiveness nearly always creates a chain of events that we have no control over. Fear is especially dangerous for Christians because it affects our ability to communicate effectively with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6, 1st Peter 4:7). This causes Christians to be spiritually ineffective on nearly every level and therefore useless to those who desperately need help, hope and something tangible to hold on to.

 Our current situation is a perfect example of what can happen when fear is given free reign. The most disastrous consequences of the pandemic have not come from the virus itself.  But rather from dumb and impulsive choices leaders have made out of fear. Those same leaders have universally refused to admit their folly and instead pridefully double-downed on their choices. Fear causes non-Christians to panic in the face of circumstances outside of human control.  This can lead people to foolishly hand control of their lives over to human leaders who promise them safety and security in uncertain times.   

Sigh.

More than anything our world needs brave, clear-minded Christians right now. Therefore, any fear we feel must be dealt with quickly, wisely and aggressively. Following are some do’s and don’ts for when we feel fear taking over and threatening to run the show.  

Don’t 

 Ask God to make it go away- 

Asking God to simply make our fear go away never works.  This is because God loves us and He wants us to learn something from everything in this life including scary things like fear.  

Simply accept it as normal-

To some degree fear is normal in a fallen world where real danger exists.  That said, there are plenty of normal things that are neither good nor even kind of okay (sin, hatred, injustice, disease). Fear may be normal but it is never healthy to allow it to control our existence.  We are told eighty-eight times in the Bible to not be afraid or fearful. God would not bother being so repetitive on the subject if He wanted us to accept fear as a routine part of our existence. 

Lean into it-

No one really likes to be afraid or anxious. However, paradoxically fear has a strangely addictive quality to it. If we lean into feelings of fear too often or for too long we get to the place where fear feels normal and almost like an old friend. When this happens, we become weirdly superstitious about our fears and may even secretly believe something bad will happen if we stop being fearful. 

Instead of ignoring our fears, accepting them or leaning into them God wants us to examine our fears when we feel them and: 

Ask God to help us understand what is driving the fear- 

 Some fears are rational. If a crazy guy is holding a gun to your head you have legitimate reason to be afraid.  However, most of the time the thing driving our fear (even legitimate fears that make sense) is a lack of trust in God. When we understand that we understand why God hates fear and why fear is a curse when it’s allowed to run wild in our lives (Deuteronomy 28:58-66).  

Ask God to help us know Him better- 

The key to dealing with fear effectively is knowing God and walking closely with Him. The only way to really know God is to ask Him daily to reveal Himself to us. The better we get to know God the less power fear has over us and the more hope we have to offer the rest of the world.   

How we Got Here and What Will Bring Change-

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

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

Such was the case this past week. 

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

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

The world is a mess:

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

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

The church has its own set of issues. 

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

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

All that being said.

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

How to Flourish in the “New Normal”-

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

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

Sigh.  

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

Nevertheless. 

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

I am still not a fan. 

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

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

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

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

We will flourish. 

Satan’s Diary- September 13, 2020

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil– Ephesians 6:11 NASB 

Dear Diary, 

I love lies! I love politics! I love COVID-19! I love hate! I love Marxist teaching! I love sexual deviancy!  I LOVE 2020! 

But, mostly I love the 24/7 news.

Decades ago I took control of most print and broadcast media. The task was not difficult to accomplish. I had been heavily influencing college professors for decades. Under my watchful eye journalism schools became strongholds of liberal thinking in no time at all.   

It’s been nothing but sunshine and blue skies ever since. 

Thanks to 24/7 news channels most human beings are being gaslighted every moment of every day. Stupid fools never think beyond what my toady’s in the media tell them.  It’s beautiful.  Those who report the “news” insist what people see with their own eyes isn’t truth. Every day, all day, the media tells the public the thugs burning down cities, destroying business, attacking police and harassing innocent bystanders are not the problem. Those people are peaceful protesters. The demonstrators never articulate what kind of change would make them alter their behavior and newscasters tell viewers it’s the police who are the problem. If the police ceased to exist crime would be eliminated and the looters would fade into the woodwork.   

As if!

Even I know most Americans are decent people who welcome immigrants of every skin color and people group. Immigrants give up everything they know to go to America, some spend their life savings getting there. They do it because they know they will enjoy more freedom and economic opportunity there than in any other place on earth. The news media tells viewers those facts mean nothing.  The media has those moronic fools despising themselves for racist attitudes most of them don’t even have! The “everyone’s a racist and doesn’t know it” movement is actually causing the races to become more suspicious and even fearful of each other. 

LOVE! 

Speaking of fear. I just adore COVID-19.

That lovely, little virus has made more people afraid of more than things than anything I’ve seen in a millennium. My pets in the news media have becomes experts at increasing fear over Coronavirus. They do it because they believe it will get and keep their preferred political party in power. Not that I mind, their beloved political party just happens to be my personal darling right now.  Those fools are so delightfully misled and so intent on misleading others!  The media refuses to discuss politicians who refuse to follow their own rules regarding coronavirus. Stupid humans don’t realize that when a politician does anything that’s prohibited for “normal” people to do, like go outside without a mask, get their hair blow dried, or eat indoors at a restaurant they reveal their true beliefs about the dangers of COVID-19. They tell the world with their actions they don’t really believe COVID-19 is as deadly as they insist it is. Legislators wallow in hypocrisy and no one questions their motives for making the rules in the first place. It’s literally the most beautiful thing ever. Seriously.  

Okay, so, politics is good but it’s not actually the most beautiful thing EVER. The most beautiful thing EVER is the normalization of pedophilia! I have been working towards this goal for decades and I am on the edge of success.  A small but vocal minority wants to begin calling perverts and child molesters “minor attracted persons”.  How beautiful is that? I chose it myself. I simply adore how wonderfully clean sounding it is. I have been busy influencing Hollywood producers regarding children and sex. A full-length movie recently came out that sexualizes pre-teen girls and makes conservative parents look like a bunch of abusive kooks. If I play my cards right in another year-or-two there will be a full-length cartoon with a truly delightful child who is “in love “with a “really nice” and “really loving” adult character. By the end of the movie the star-crossed lovers will realize love really is love. Idiots easily swayed by emotional twaddle will soften their stance on “minor-attracted persons” and the kiddies will be more open to adult “love”.  I can hardly wait!  Parents have actually been very helpful to me in this crusade. They purchase phones for their children that give them access to every kind of lie and perversion the world has to offer long before their kids have the wisdom, discernment or self-control to sort through those messages.  Then those chumps trust their kids to never look at anything questionable. They wonder why their kids are so sexualized and such easy prey for perverts, oh, I mean “minor attracted persons”.

Ha! Ha! I literally crack myself up sometimes! 

Then there’s the Christians. Thankfully, most don’t have the slightest clue as to how much power they have to bring about change in the world. They complain about the culture but very few are actually praying about much of anything. Christians are actively consuming the worst of their toxic culture through television and internet; this habit makes it almost impossible for them to live the kind of holy righteous lives that draw the world to their stupid savior and protect them from my deception.

WINNING!

 Half of all Christians have used coronavirus as an excuse to drop out of church and not just the old people. Christians under forty, are mostly healthy and most likely to believe online church is a reasonable substitute for the friendships, community and accountability in-person services provide. The idiots deliberately separate themselves from the body of Christ not realizing that when they do that they become easy prey for my demonic minions.  If they don’t make a daily practice of examining themselves in light of Scripture they won’t pray and they won’t repent. If they don’t pray and repent there’s zero chance of revival. No revival means big VICTORY for me.  😁

Satan

Why the Average Christian Should Care About the Argument Between Andy Stanley and John MacArthur-

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith– 2nd Corinthians 13:5a NKJV

There is a vast difference of ideology emerging within the ranks of Christianity. The ethical dispute basically boils down to whether or not it is acceptable for churches to defy government authorities to meet corporately for worship and teaching. COVID-19 is the catalyst that spurred this debate forward.  

 There is a celebrity pastor squarely on either side of the ever-widening divide. On one side is Andy Stanly who believes it’s a violation of biblical teaching for Churches to meet without state approval. He also believes Christians set a terrible example when churches meet in spite of health risks. On the other side is John MacArthur who believes it is violation of the Constitution for the government to tell churches what they can and can’t do when it comes to worship period, but especially in light of COVID-19’s low death rate. 

Both John MacArthur and Andy Stanley have put feet to their faith and stood firmly on their personal convictions. Andy Stanly announced in June his church will not meet in-person until sometime in 2021.  John MacArthur has defied state restrictions and been heavily fined by the state of California.  

Every Christian has an opinion on this issue. 

Those on the MacArthur side of the divide tend to believe the Constitution is on their side, the virus is not deadly to most people and can be managed with smart sanitation procedures. Therefore, churches should be open.  Stanley’s side points out it is illegal for churches to meet in some places, Coronavirus does kill some individuals and Christians ought to care about the health and welfare of others. 

 It is critical Christians think biblically concerning this issue. 

A new standard has been set in the age of COVID-19. Governments worldwide have concluded sickness is not to be tolerated, any death from this virus is unacceptable. Furthermore, many bureaucrats refuse to allow adults to decide for themselves if they want to risk infection to attend church. This means there will certainly be more church closures when a new wave of Coronavirus hits or the next time a new (novel) virus comes on the scene. Moreover, as governments become more hostile to Christianity it becomes increasingly likely churches will be closed for reasons that have nothing at all to do with public health. 

 Those who feel the state should stay out of church affairs use the Constitution as their guiding light. The First Amendment is clear: Christians have a right to practice their religion. There are no qualifiers. It is left up to churches and Christians in America to decide where, when and how they worship God. Period.  That being said, human documents should never be our go-to for answers about life, church or church attendance. Human laws change, human documents turn to dust. Consequently, no human document is on the same level as biblical teaching on this or any subject. 

Those who oppose churches meeting indoors at this time inevitably turn to Romans 13:1-7 and 1st Peter 2:13-17.  Both texts are clear: Christians are to be subject to human authorities. In both passages Christians are told unequivocally that God Himself establishes all human authority. Those texts cannot be ignored. Christians are clearly not permitted to break the laws of man willy-nilly. Choosing to do so, is a serious sin.

But, do these texts apply to holding church services? The context of certain biblical passages is key to this debate. Most of the New Testament was written to men and women who were undergoing extreme persecution (Acts 5:17-32, Acts 7:54-60, Acts 11:19, 2nd Corinthians 12:10, 2nd Thessalonians 1:4, Hebrews 10:33, Revelation 2:10). Many, if not most early Christians were forbidden from attending church meetings at one point or another. However, the Bible assumes Christians will meet and even commands Christians to meet, in spite of laws that forbade them from doing so. The book of Hebrews was written to Christians who were experiencing persecution from the Roman government AND local Jewish authorities.  Many of their own people died horrible deaths as a result of their faithfulness to Jesus (Hebrews 11:36-40). In spite of those realities the author of Hebrews gives the clearest command in all of the New Testament concerning church attendance (Hebrews 10:24-25).  

Furthermore.

 1st and 2nd Peter were written near the end of Nero’s reign. Christianity was banned and the penalty for declaring Jesus to be Lord was certain death. Christians were not allowed to hold meetings.  Furthermore, very few first century Christians were literate.  Books (scrolls) were prohibitively expensive and printing presses and the internet did not exist. There was literally no way to broadly disseminate information without in-person meetings. The Apostle Peter wrote his letters to people he knew would never hear his words UNLESS they broke the law to attend a church meeting.

And yet.

It is critical we remember Romans 13 and 1st Peter 2:13-17 provide ironclad proof that God is most concerned with the heart attitudes of His people. God does not want Christians to take a casual attitude toward the laws of man or the health of others. Christians who choose to meet to make a political point or because the Constitution says they can, are meeting for all the wrong reasons. They would be better off from a spiritual and moral standpoint just staying home.  The Bible is clear: Christians should not break the law concerning church services as a first resort, every other avenue must be explored first.

I tend to fall on the John MacArthur side of the divide. Although with a huge caveat: his heart must be in the right place as he takes this stand (only God and John MacArthur know the state of John MacArthur’s heart). If Mr. MacArthur is defying the government out of fear, to make a point, garner attention or demand his “rights”. His stand is wrong and it will be revealed as a “dead work” on judgment day (1st Corinthians 3:11-13).

 Period.