The Real Reason We’re Losing our Freedoms-

 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love- Galatians 5:13 NIV

 We are rapidly losing long held freedoms.

 The rights to freely assemble, speak, worship and bear arms are being challenged at every turn. Politicians argue the Coronavirus has made the restriction of rights necessary for “the greater good” of society. Others argue Coronavirus has become a convenient pretext to restrict any right that happens to be irksome or inconvenient to legislators.

 Individuals have responded to the loss of liberty in one of two ways.  A small but vocal minority is quick to express gratitude. They sincerely believe the loss of liberty is worth the security gained. However, the vast majority feels far less appreciative towards the rule makers.

 Rulers throughout history have tended to view personal freedom as a privilege that can be revoked at a moment’s notice by the will of human authority. However, history has proven freedom causes human beings to flourish. Without personal freedom the human spirit withers, creativity dies and discovery is stifled. Countries that allow the most freedom are also the most productive and innovative. Authoritarian governments that relentlessly limit autonomy inevitably collapse because human freedom is the key to human productivity.

 The Bible presents human freedom as both a gift and a test (1st Corinthians 10:23, Genesis 3). God is the giver of human freedom. People have the right to do whatever they please with God’s gift of freewill. However, God reserves the right to punish people for the sinful and selfish use of their freedom (Romans 2:6-8, Romans 6:23, Galatians 6:8, 1st Corinthians 6:9).  In the Bible freedom without obedience to God inevitably led to moral ruin and bondage (2nd Chronicles 29:6-9).  

 Americans have been blessed with a wider variety of freedoms than any people in the history of mankind. Both men and women, regardless of race, creed or social class are free to live where they want, build what they want, associate with who they want, buy what they want and sell what they want. Americans are free to have any kind of relationship they choose to have with anyone they choose to have it with. Americans can raise and educate their children however they want and wherever they want to do it. We can use our free time for any purpose we choose. The only real stipulation placed on these freedoms is that we do not harm others with our independence. No other country on earth has been blessed in this way.

 This begs a question:

 Are we living lives worthy of these blessings?

 The answer is nope.

 Rather than using the freedom we have to create a healthier, more just society we have used our freedom to abort millions of children and deprive them of their right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness. We have pushed the boundaries of good sense and tested the patience of God by denying reality and insisting gender is a choice we get to make. Our culture has twisted the blessing of sexuality into a multi-billion-dollar industry that enslaves and objectifies millions of women and children. Many publicly funded-school systems actively seek to corrupt the innocence of children through the implementation of curriculums that introduce ideas and concepts that go beyond “the basics” of human sexuality into a distorted and even creepy perversion of human sexuality. Rather than expressing gratitude for the abundant material blessings available in our culture full grown adults cry, whine, riot and set things on fire, and demand MORE all the while refusing to work for anything. Some are actively using the racial injustice suffered by too many in our society as an excuse to tear everything down and reshape society in their own twisted image (2nd Peter 2:19, 2nd Timothy 3:1-3).

 Many Christians are no better just different.  

 Statistics reveal the vast majority of Americans who identify as Christians do not use their religious freedom to worship regularly on Sunday mornings. Nor, do the majority of Christians share their faith with others, volunteer in their churches or contribute to missions. Churches are some of the most segregated places in the country and Christians routinely show more kindness to unsaved people than they do to saved people.  Christians view porn almost as much as non-Christians, infidelity is far from unheard of in the church and scandals among church leaders have become a routine occurrence.

 Here’s the thing.

 God sometimes judges by removing blessings that are not used responsibly. We have not used our freedom responsibly.

 It’s not too late but it is time for the Church to repent.

 Christians have got to stop being a part of the problem and must seek to be the solution. We must model the reality for the world that genuine freedom is not found in doing anything we want to do. Authentic freedom is found in knowing Christ and being free from bondage to sinful behaviors and thought patterns (Romans 6:6).  We must be intentional about using freedom to do good rather than as an excuse to evil. We must make a practice of examining ourselves daily and searching diligently for sinful attitudes and behaviors that need to be repented of. God has not blessed the Church so we can live for our own pleasure or have everything just the way we want it at the expense of those who are dying without Christ. God has blessed the Church so we can be a blessing, preach the gospel fearlessly and lead the greater culture towards living righteous and holiness.   

 It’s time to get to it.

 

 

 

The Greatest Threat to the Church Today is the Church-

Be sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame- 1st Corinthians 15:34 NASB

 The Church is in trouble.

 Churches worldwide have been banned from meeting while larger gatherings such as demonstrations and riots have been encouraged by bureaucrats. Christians are thought to be hateful, smallminded and bigoted. Christians are scorned by a substantial majority. Some countries have placed substantial boundaries on what Christians can and cannot say about sin and what is and is not okay from a moral perspective. Christianity is illegal in some areas and the execution of Christians has become common.

 That said.

 None of those problems are the biggest problems the Church is facing. The biggest threats to the Church are not oppression and persecution. Historically persecution and oppression has caused the church to grow and become more effective. No sane person wants persecution but it can have a positive impact on the Church.

 Our biggest problems are all coming from within the church. The Church is struggling to find its way through the cultural morass and mostly because of the following four problems:

 Christians who cavalierly quote Matthew 16:18 anytime anyone shares a concern about the direction of the church-

 Christians blithely quote Matthew 16:18 when they encounter false teaching, sinful leaders or any other problem that is clearly hurting the church. It is true Jesus promised Peter the gates of hell would never defeat the church. However, it is also true Jesus instructed Christians to be on guard against false prophets who would pass themselves off as Christians and lead many astray (Matthew 7:15). Paul warned elders in Ephesus that “ravenous wolves” (false teachers) would infiltrate the Church and destroy the faith of many (Acts 20:28-30).  Jesus prophesied false teachers will rise up and deceive many in the last days (Matthew 24). Jesus and Paul would not have given those warnings if there was not a clear and present danger to the Church. The Church will never be defeated but that doesn’t mean the church cannot lose its ability to effectively deliver spiritual truth for a season. When this happens, churches stop reaching the lost and lose favor with God and we all lose (Matthew 5:13-16, Revelation 2:5, Hebrews 6:4-8)   

 Christians who refuse to submit to the word of God-

 There are some attitudes and behaviors that are so wrong they keep people out of heaven (Galatians 5:21). Those sins include, but are not limited to lying, adultery, covetousness, bitterness, all forms of sexual immorality, debauchery, witchcraft, fits of rage and selfish ambition (1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 1st Timothy 9-11, Revelation 21:8). There is a grassroots movement within churches that seeks to minimize the importance of holiness and maximize the importance of making people feel accepted. This has led some to think they can be a Christian without actually submitting to God’s moral leadership in their lives. Christians who have not yielded every corner of their lives to God always end up fighting for the relaxation of biblical standards. These Christians have led others astray with the false doctrines of easy believe-ism and cheap grace.  

 Christians who are quick to publicly judge other Christians-

 Coronavirus has exposed the ugliness that exists in Church world. Some Christians struggle mightily with a rebellious spirit. These Christians flat refuse to obey any directive they do not like, regardless of whether or not it contradicts biblical teaching.  Other Christians are gripped with such a spirit of fear they have been rendered useless for Kingdom work. Other believers clearly put more faith in government orders than they do in God. But by far, the worst is the judgment Christians display towards one another. Take the public mask war as an example. Half of Christians call the other half “compromisers” and “bootlickers” for wearing a mask.  The other side uses words like “selfish”, “hateful” and “anti-science” to describe any Christian who does not cheerfully put on a mask or who dares to question the wisdom of wearing one.  The judgment doesn’t end with masks.  Nearly every day I come across a stupid social media post where a Christian takes it upon themselves to apologize for all the unkindness of all the other Christians in the world. As if they somehow cornered the market on kindness and moral goodness. Weirdly enough, they do not ever think to apologize for the prideful, self-aggrandizing tone of their post. Christians are not called to judge each other. Christians are called to love each other. It is biblical to confront a Christian on something that is clearly sinful. However, this should only be done after a time of intense prayer where you ask God to show you clearly if your perception of the situation is wrong in any way. If after you have humbly sought God’s correction and still feel the need to confront it should be done privately and in accordance with Matthew 18:15-17.   

  Christians who foolishly kowtow to the culture

Being a Christian and being liked by non-Christians is quite often mutually exclusive (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:13, John 15:18). Christians should never be needlessly unpleasant or mean. However, there are times when sticking to biblical convictions causes non-Christians to become angry at the truth we standup for and at us because biblical truth makes them feel uncomfortable. Many Christians are embracing organizations, ideas and moral standards that are antithetical to Christianity, because they are persuaded it will help them reach the lost. It won’t. It just muddies the message and leads people to believe they can become Christians without being transformed into the image of Christ. They can’t. Christians must stop fretting about being liked and instead focus on being like Jesus. Jesus loved people but He never compromised truth to reach them (Luke 3:6-8, Matthew 23, Mark 10:16-22, John 8:11)

 The Church is critical right now because the world we live in has never needed Jesus more than it does right now. In order for the Church to be the church Christians have to live holy lives, recognize that spiritual truth matters and stand together in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is America a Bad Country?

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit- Matthew 7:16-17 NASB

 The “America is a bad country” movement picked up momentum in the 1960’s and 70’s in elite universities. Its message now permeates every strata of society and impacts the way Americans see themselves and their country.

 The movement denounces America for being a “Christian” nation that began by forcefully removing indigenous people (Native Americans) from land that rightfully belonged to them. They make the point that despite being a country established on the principle of all men being created equal, early Americans built much of their wealth and prosperity on the backs of enslaved Africans and denied women the right to vote for well over a century. Even after Africans were freed from slavery their decedents were still held in bondage by the prejudice and hate of their fellow Americans. In 1845 the idea of “Manifest Destiny” took root in the American consciousness and Native Americans once again became victims of nationalistic greed and ambition. Critics argue America has a rather sordid history of going to war for the sole purpose of furthering regime changes that mostly benefit America.   

 This is true.  

 But does this make America an inherently bad country?

Many believe it does. It is popular to proclaim America an evil imperialistic country that systematically represses women and people of color. Millions are demanding law enforcement be “reimagined” and “defunded” claiming systemic racism and abuse are standard-operating-procedure for police in America. Countless people are persuaded only the rich and white are given opportunities for advancement and demand an end to our capitalistic economic system.

That said. 

  It is also true America is an extraordinarily diverse country. A quick look at any American Olympic sports team demonstrates my point beautifully. Every team has people of every color. All are equally American and equally celebrated by all Americans. With a few ugly exceptions individual Americans have warmly welcomed immigrants from every race into their country and personal lives. Individuals from all religions and races still sincerely believe they will be treated fairly and have opportunities for advancement in America they would not have in their country of origin. If this were not true there would be no immigration laws because no one would be coming here. It is also true that America is the most generous country on earth. Anytime there is a natural disaster or human tragedy anywhere in the world Americans are the first to open their wallets and provide for those in need regardless of the color of the people impacted by said tragedy. America is also a country that goes out of its way to right moral wrongs once wrongs are exposed. The American government has passed laws that criminalize discrimination and spent millions creating opportunities for women and minorities to become successful.  America is one of the few places on earth where an individual can move beyond the station they were born into. Even in most European countries people tend to stay in the economic and social class they were born into. In America hard work and education are greater equalizers than race or family of origin. This is not true everywhere.

 Countries are really just big bunches of people; therefore, no country is perfect, including America.  Smart people recognize every human on this planet has ancestors who were slaves and enslaved others. Nor has there ever been a place where all people were given equal treatment and equal opportunity all the time. Sin, evil and inequity are part of the human condition. Christians should never simply accept evil and injustice.  Neither, should we pretend that some races and nations are inherently more moral than others.

 There is a powerful minority who wants to tear America down and build a new nation based on their peculiar vision of fairness and equality. They are on the precipice of having their vision realized.

 Seriously.  

 It is critical we understand any new country that rises out of the ashes of this one will likely not be an improvement. It is practically a given it will be less fair, less prosperous, less kind, less forgiving, less accepting of strangers and less generous. Any nation shaped by the hopes and dreams of those burning down our cities will quickly devolve into “might makes right” and the masses will become victims of their tyranny.

 As we look forward to Fourth of July celebrations this week, we should be asking ourselves: where do we go from here?  Do we passively allow an obnoxious minority to destroy a way of life that has benefited countless people? Or do we find ways to make our country better?

 Making America better begins with making intercession for the people of this country and our leaders a priority.  There are five months until the next election. Every day is critical, not a day should pass without every Christian imploring the Lord for a spirit of wisdom, repentance and righteousness to prevail in the hearts of all people. 

 James 2:20 tells us faith without works is a pointless waste of time. Every Christian should vote this year, if you are not registered, do it now.  No Christian should waste a vote on any politician who passively or actively supports the kind of anarchy that has become routine in our major cities. Historically anarchy has always led to tyranny and evil—not freedom, spiritual healing or moral and economic blessing.  Christians must examine themselves and beg God to root out bigotry, sin, injustice and evil, so that God will bless our land. Our country needs heart change. It is our sacred duty to pray and labor until we see change.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satan’s Diary- June 21st 2020

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes- Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV

Dear Diary,

 Life is GOOD!

 I just finished perusing second quarter reports. I literally could not be more PLEASED. I will not bore you with all the glorious details but that stupid planet is a magnificent mess.

 Seriously.

  The humans who have rejected God and biblical truth are rapidly losing touch with reality. They have bought into the lie that evil is good and good is evil. Ideas and behaviors that were once considered immoral and dangerous to society are now considered to be mainstream and even healthy. Millions have been damaged, some irreparably, by the lies that have been adopted as truth. Hate, violence and looting have taken root in cities all over the world. It’s all happening in the name creating a more peaceful, just and fair society!  People who ought to know better are fully deceived into thinking hate and destruction is acceptable because it’s being done for the “right” reasons.  Those not deceived are too panic-stricken by the mere thought of being labeled intolerant or racist to say anything about anything.

 YES!

 Decades ago, I began cleverly convincing parents that discipling their children was futile and mean. I made them think any kind of correction or disapproval would stifle their child’s creativity and damage their self-esteem. With the assistance of exquisitely misguided “child-rearing professionals” I encouraged parents to allow their children to do whatever felt good to them. Because children are little-tiny sinners it felt really good for them to mindlessly express rage anytime their feelings were hurt, something was unfair or they didn’t get their way. My hard work has paid off. That generation is now fully grown and the outcome is beyond beautiful. Those “adults” have zero self-control and even less sense.  They want society to bow to their infantile and feebly thought-out demands. Full-grown adults scream, blubber and destroy property until someone finally caves. Politicians are just as terrified of their tantrums as their parents were. They are being given everything they want in hopes they will eventually just quiet down and play nice.

 As if.

 However, it’s the Christian community I am most pleased with right now. I have spent decades convincing Christian pastors and leaders that being popular, tolerant and “cool” is the key to effective evangelism. Most Christians are so used to hopping onto every inane, secular bandwagon that they have been sucked into endorsing a organization that promotes evil, unforgiveness and hatred. They are sanctioning sinful ideas in the name of loving their neighbor and repairing race relations!  Christian leaders are too afraid of being disliked to tell anyone Jesus is the only way to bring peace and healing to fractured hearts and lives.  No one is calling anyone to repentance or to forgive their enemies. Those fools have all but forgotten forgiveness is the only cure for bitterness.

 My greatest triumph has been in the area of prayer.

 I have worked hard to convince Christians prayer is a dreary waste of time. It is paying off. Now Christian leaders read books and strategize rather than praying for wisdom. Regular church attenders have followed suit.  Old people are the only ones who attend prayer meetings. Most of prayer the warriors are dead or will be soon and most younger Christians don’t even know how to pray. Others believe that if God doesn’t give them what they want when they ask for it He is being callous and unjust.  So, they give up, they just stop. Apparently, none of those fools have read Luke 18:1-8. Some have even turned their backs on God because He had the nerve to tell them “no” to a request. 

 OUTSTANDING.

 Most Christians don’t think Ephesians 6:10-17 applies to them so they don’t ask God to show them truth about themselves, God and other people. So, I use lies to keep them in bondage to sin, unbelief and suspicion of others. Many are so distrustful of their fellow Christians they do everything possible to avoid meaningful relationships with other Christians, this ensures they have no accountability in their lives and therefore never move beyond spiritual infancy. I have skillfully convinced Christians that righteous behavior is legalistic and unnecessary for Christians. They don’t ask God to empower them to live by biblical standards. As a result their hearts become defiled by sin. This is a beautiful thing because makes them unfit for spiritual work AND they are unable to see life the way God sees life. Their lack of insight and wisdom leads to more sin which leads to more bondage.   They don’t ask God to give opportunities to evangelize so they are to fearful to speak up and they remain silent when opportunities do present themselves. They don’t ask for faith so they live in fear. Because they lack faith they consistently rely on worldly methods to achieve spiritual ends and fail every time. Christians don’t pray for each other so they don’t experience the community that develops when they routinely pray for other Christians.

 WINNING!

 Life will stay good until those fools start praying like they mean it.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Advice for Christians Living in a Crazy World-

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others- Philippians 2:3-4 NASB

 It was another crazy week in a world gone mad:  

 Protesters and looters are still doing their thing. Politicians on the left have fallen all over themselves applauding their thing. Politicians on the right don’t seem to be doing much of anything. Cities are on fire. Churches are shuttered. Schools are closed. Business are shutdown or operating at partial capacity. Health care officials have thrown their support behind BLM protesters despite earlier insistence that EVERYONE should follow all social distancing guidelines at ALL TIMES. Then just when it felt as if we had finally reached the apex of violence, hypocrisy and absurdity people began suggesting in all seriousness that cities defund police departments. A few days after that discussion began in earnest protesters took over a large section of the Capitol Hill area in downtown Seattle and declared it the “capitol hill autonomous zone” otherwise known as CHAZ.

 Sigh.

 This blogpost isn’t about any of that. I briefly contemplated sharing some thoughts on defunding the police. Then I remembered society has been divided into two groups. The first consists of people who don’t need to be told defunding the police is the worst idea since well ever. The second consists of people who don’t read this blog. Needless to say, that topic was quickly tabled. Instead, I want share some thoughts I have had on how we, as followers of Jesus can live life, respond to the growing madness and behave in ways that are redemptive, wise and healing in times that seem determined to test us all. This is no easy task. It takes a blend of constant self-examination and prayerful action. The following five ideas are a place to start:

 Shut your pie hole till you have something helpful and lifegiving to say-

 No one loves a snarky, antagonistic meme more than I do. Nonetheless, this is not the time for that. Nor is it the time to argue stridently for perspectives we haven’t considered all sides of. Our world needs healers and truth-tellers not firebrands who passionately scream half-baked ideas at the sky. Christians must get in the habit of seeking out as many well-thought-out opinions as possible from as many wise, humble, God-fearing people as possible (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 24:6).  Before we actually share our thoughts, we should study, pray and be certain our thinking aligns with the Bible rather than the current culture. There are no words for how much I appreciate every reader of this blog. It humbles me to think that anyone would seek my views on anything. That said, I sincerely hope I am not anyone’s only source of information on any issue. There really is wisdom in an abundance of counselors.

 Pick the side Jesus would pick-

 Here’s the thing. Jesus was on the side of the weak and marginalized but He was also on the side of obedience to authority structures (Mark 12:40, Matthew 18:6, Mark 12:15-17, John 4, John 8:1-11). He loved all races enough to die for them (Matthew 15:22-28, Matthew 8:8-13, John 10:16). And He loved the sick and hurting every bit as much as He loved the rich and those in positions of authority (John 3:1-2, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:12). We live in a time where placing dividing lines between people has become standard-operating-procedure. Christians can’t do that.  Jesus taught that our greatest need as people is not to have our “side” validated but to have our souls saved. This truth must be the driving force behind our interactions with all people of all races.  

 Grow up-

 I am working together with a small group of smart people to establish a discipleship program in our church. This has got me thinking about what it means to be a mature Christian. I have concluded spiritual maturity is less about what we know in terms of academic knowledge (although knowledge is critically important) and more about BEING in Jesus and modeling our lives after His. Jesus modeled self-sacrifice and putting the needs of others first. Therefore, our religion is not truly Christian if our life becomes hyper-focused on having our individual desires catered too. Being a mature Christian at this period of history means we must seek to glorify Jesus first and look out for the greater good of others second. Our own preferences must come a distant third.

 Find balance between being an encourager and a truth-teller-

 Christians should be encouragers (1st Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13). God’s will is for every person to become a better, healthier version of themselves. Everyone needs human encouragement to get to where God wants them to be. However, it is equally as important we tell people the truth. This means that we should never encourage sinful thinking or behavior (as defined by Scripture) in the name of making people feel good about themselves or their choices.

 Be careful about jumping on popular bandwagons-

 PLEASE. Just because an organization believes one thing that is true it does not mean it’s a group Jesus would endorse or involve Himself in.  For the love of all that is good and decent at the very least do a sixty second google search and read the organizations statement of beliefs before adding its hashtag to your newest social media post. 

 We are blessed to live in scary times. They are unlike any I have experienced in my lifetime. We are blessed because God has historically done His best work in the darkest of times.  It is our responsibility as believers to align ourselves with Him in everything so we can be the redemptive presence our world desperately needs right now. 

 

The One Takeaway Everyone Should Get From Last Weeks Riots-

Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord- Acts 3:10 NASB 

 Like every other human with a shred of decency I have watched the events of the last ten days unfold in horrified shock. It all began with the cruel and indefensible death of George Floyd on May 25th. Most of the reaction to his death was rational and healthy. However, some let their anger foment into violent protests, anarchy, looting and attacks on police officers and innocent bystanders.  It ended (more or less) with the National Guard being called into many cities. Sunday evening my own normally peaceful mid-size city was overrun with angry protesters and senseless violence.

 Monday, I began seeking God in earnest regarding the situation. Because I’m me, I like to know the root cause of every issue. Consequently, the first question I had for the Lord was why? Why does it always come back to race in this country? Why is racism such an oozy, festering, wound here? America is not the only place racism is a problem. The Apostle Paul repeatedly addressed the issue of racism in his writings (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:9-11, Ephesians 2:11-17). I doubt he would have felt compelled to do so if the problem were not hard baked into the human condition. That said, America has a different kind of problem with racism than most other countries. I think this is because America’s bigotry was born out of oppression and cruelty rather than garden-variety prejudice. Nonetheless, it seems we should be a little further along in the healing process. A lot has been done in the last five decades to try and right the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow.  

 Then, it occurred to me the whole ugly muddle is an example of what happens anytime anyone refuses to be sorry for their sins.      

 The generation that fought to keep slavery legal certainly did not apologize for their sins. Instead, the whole lot of them collectively refused to be even the tiniest bit remorseful. Their sin was compounded by the fact they knew better. People who lived in America at that time were well-acquainted with Christian ethics and principles (Luke 6:31, Hebrews 13:16). The all-encompassing moral code of Christianity is that Christians are to treat people the way they wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12). It really is that simple. Literally, no one wants to be a slave. Therefore, forcing another person into slavery is clearly immoral. Post-Civil War clergy could have advanced the healing process if they had been willing to preach repentance. Instead pastors passively and actively endorsed the bigoted behavior of the people they were called to lead to better things (Hebrews 6:9).  

 Then the thing happened that always happens when a person or group of people willfully refuses to confess they were wrong and be sorry for their sins. They passed down a vile, sinister, festering generational sin to their children.  The generations that followed made a terrible situation worse by institutionalizing bigotry through the passing of Jim Crow laws.

 Then the thing happened that always happens when a person or group of people is sinned against repeatedly without apology. Their hurt becomes a festering woundedness that is passed down to the next generation. When hurt is passed down for generations bitterness can begin to feel like a birthright. As a victim of an entirely different form of generational woundedness I have learned forgiveness is the only path to wholeness and peace.  I understand from personal experience forgiving generational sin is hard because it feels as if we are excusing the inexcusable simply by letting go and giving our rage to God. That being said, it must be done.

 I am not stupid or prideful enough to think I can solve the problem of racism or the generational suffering caused by the evils of bigotry in one blogpost. As if. That feat would be categorically above my rather meager paygrade. All I can really do is pray for healing for those wounded by racism. I can make it my aim to live a life that sees people first and color second. I can be fair to others, I can choose to judge others based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. I can call out injustice when I see it, rather than simply turning a blind eye to evil.

 We live in a time and place that screams for individual self-examination.  

 Not all people are racists. If you fall into that classification, the only acceptable course is repentance, you will be judged by God if you refuse to do so. That said, racism is not the only sin that ruins lives and produces generational mayhem, every choice has a consequence, especially the choice to keep sinning or to hang on to anger (Hebrews 10:26-31, Hebrews 12:15).  Any sin we choose not to repent of or any wound we do not take to God for healing has the potential to cause the same kind of ugly ripples racism has.

 Do the future a favor and take a hard look at your life and attitudes. If you need to repent—do it. If you need to forgive a sin that was perpetrated against you— do it.

Now. 

Future generations deserve better.

 

 

God Gave Us a Crisis- Why We Can’t Waste It


When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways- 1st Corinthians 13:11 ESV

The popular quote “never let a good crisis go to waste” is nearly always attributed to Saul Alinsky. Mr. Alinsky may have taken the concept to new heights, but it was Winston Churchill who first said it.  But, in my view, it is God who deserves the credit for inventing the whole notion of never allowing a good crisis to go to waste.  We need look no further than the last ten weeks to see clear evidence of this reality.

 Think about it.

 Until recently most people have spent their entire existence enveloped in a never-ending haze of frenzied activity.  COVID-19 brought a hasty end to our frantic way of doing life. The pandemic has allowed individuals to see clearly, some for the very first time the lives they built in the midst of all their busyness. Much of it is decidedly not pretty. Many have been left staring at emotionally detached marriages, mountains of debt, shallow community, poorly behaved children, addictions, meager coping skills and myriad of other nasty issues that were easy to hide or ignore in a world without shelter-in-place orders. The result has been a deep sense of discomfort and distress for many. Everyone has been affected in some way. Many Christians have realized they lack the personal theology and relationship with God to effectively deal with their personal fears and answer the questions that arise when life suddenly gets difficult. Many non-Christians are seeing that every human life will have an ending point and that there are questions that cannot be answered by science or reason alone.

 God has used this crisis to bring all people to a place where they are asking the hard questions about life, death, and what it really means to have faith in God. I do not know if God caused COVID-19 or is simply using it for His purposes. I hate those kinds of debates (1st Timothy 6:3-5, 2nd Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9). Silly arguments no one knows the answers to do nothing but distract from the things that really matter. There are two questions we have to be really real about right now if we want to make the most of what God is doing:

 First, what strikes fear in you post-COVID-19?

 Is it fear of death? That fear reveals something critical about our faith. Is it fear of government encroachment of your rights? If so, then perhaps, you have bought into the notion God is good because He allowed you to be born in country where you have rights. Are you afraid of losing your faith in persecution? That fear indicates something about the level of faith you have in your faith.   Do you fear poverty, loss of control, being alone or maybe you’re just scared spitless of losing the sweet little life He’s blessed you with?

 The second is a bit different:

 What is it about you or your life that makes you want to turn your head away? Is it your screwed-up kids, anger issues, shaky marriage, lack of faith, poor self-control or a past that haunts you? Maybe it’s the addiction you developed in an effort to ignore those things. 

 Here’s the thing.

Whatever IT is that keeps you up at night or makes you want to turn your head away, that’s where God wants to meet you. He wants to help you root-out the sin that is creating the fear so He can heal you. He wants to take your weakness or fear and turn it into strength He can use for His glory (Hebrews 11:32-35).  God can transform anyone into a stronger, braver, healthier and more faithful version of themselves. But God can only do that if they come to a place of decision and humility. To be changed we have to want to change. We must also be willing to admit our fears, weakness and problems. God will not heal us if we choose to run from our issues with busyness, drown them in alcohol, numb them with porn, pretend they’re not real or blame our choices on outside forces. We must take fears and problems to God as many times as necessary until we get to a place of freedom from sin and to where we can accept in faith that if our worst fear were to come to pass it would be okay because God is in control of whatever scares us.  

 God is using COVID-19 to make Christians and non-Christians aware of changes that must be made in their lives. He is stripping people of the coping mechanisms they have depended on in the past. This realty has resulted in personal discomfort, but discomfort is not the end goal. With God the end goal is always to bring people to a place where they are more dependent on His power and His strength than their own. God does this is to prepare His people for deeper relationship with Him and for new opportunities to serve Him with greater power and success.   

 Our responsibility is to cooperate with the process and then wait patiently for what’s next.

 

 

Five Paradigm Shifts Every Christian Must Have to Navigate a Post COVID-19 World-

Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith- Hebrews 12:1b NASB

 I do not know everything there is to know about everything. However, there is one thing I do know for absolute certain, God never stops calling Christians to a higher level of functioning in every corner of their lives (2nd Peter 1:4-11, Philippians 3:12-14). God wants His people to move beyond the inclination we all have to live for our own pleasure into a level of existence that glorifies Him and blesses others. The topsy-turvy post COVID-19 world we live in makes obedience to this call even more critical. This is a time for believers everywhere to become radically focused on living out biblical truth and bringing others into relationship with Jesus. One positive benefit to the kind of civil and social upheaval we have recently experienced is it causes non-Christians to begin searching for answers to life’s biggest questions. We must endeavor to live at a higher level so that we can give those answers and lead people to Jesus. Living differently begins with the five following shifts in how we think about life and spiritual truth:

 Fear should never be denied or indulged it must be dealt with-

 No one can help anyone else when fear is the driving force in their lives. Furthermore, we cannot deal with anything we deny and we will never overcome anything we indulge.  If you fear dying from COVID-19 deal with it. If you fear persecution deal with it. If you fear government infringement on your rights, deal with it.  We overcome our fears by facing them head on and taking them to God in prayer until the fear subsides and we feel at peace with whatever situation we find ourselves in (Isaiah 41:10). 

 We are no longer the majority and most people do not think like we do-

 We live in a post-Christian world. This means Christians are perceived as irrelevant to the greater culture. The average non-Christian no longer processes life or their moral choices through the grid of Christian truth, Christian ethics and Christian standards. What the Bible says or doesn’t say about issues is utterly meaningless for most people. On a practical level this means becoming angry at people for not thinking like you do is a pointless waste of time that will only alienate them further from God.  We must look for ways to lovingly and logically explain to friends, neighbors and co-workers not just what we believe about God and life but why we believe those things (1st Peter 3:15).

 Life is about more than amusement-

 Recently, I overheard one Christian bragging to another about all the Netflix they had consumed over the course of the quarantine. The other Christian immediately began boasting about how many hours they were spending every day playing video games. Netflix, video games and other forms of entertainment are not inherently sinful. There is nothing wrong with decompressing with a little T.V. time or a good novel.  However, the wrong kind of entertainment dulls our spiritual senses and normalizes sinful behavior. The more time we spend simply amusing ourselves with pointless twaddle the less time we will have for activities that facilitate growth. Continuous intellectual, moral and spiritual growth is the only path to a higher level of functioning and sanctification (Hebrews 12:14).

 Nationalism must be put into perspective-

 There is zero shame in nationalistic pride. Every time I travel to another country I return to my own with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  That said, baby Jesus was not born with a copy of the Constitution in His hand and the Bill of Rights is not the same as the Bible. Christians should value the “rights” we have and work to preserve those rights because they have freed millions from tyranny and elevated human dignity.  However, it’s critical we remember our founding documents are really just societal constructs. They are not real in the same way Scripture is real. Our founding documents can only be enforced if the vast majority of people in our society believe them to be true and agree to abide by them. The Bible is real and true even if no one believes it or obeys it because it is the word of God not created by man (John 1:1, 2nd Timothy 3:16).  If our “rights” are lost because our culture is too stupid to value the wisdom of our founders we should grieve the loss but we cannot allow it to shake our faith in Gods goodness (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13-15).

 We must learn the difference between a personal preference and a biblical command-

 Most Christians are egocentric and spoiled when it comes to their personal preferences. Many Christians have convinced themselves it is immoral for the government to ask them to do anything they don’t WANT to do (Romans 13:1-3, 1st Peter 2:13, Titus 3:1), even if what is being asked is not forbidden in Scripture. There will undoubtedly come a day when Christians will be forced to draw lines about what they will and won’t do because they will be asked to violate clear biblical commands (Exodus 20:3, Acts 5:29, 1st Peter 4:12-19, Revelation 13:17, Revelation 20:4). In the meantime, we must choose our battles wisely.

  It is critical at this juncture we stop focusing on the rights we feel we have. Instead we must focus on the responsibilities we really do have to grow in our faith, lead others to Jesus and honor and glorify God.

 

 

 

 

Hard Times Could be Right Around the Corner- Are You Ready?

At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved- Matthew 24:9-13 NASB

 Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog entitled Will Churches Survive the COVID-19 Crisis? The piece generated an abnormally high volume of comments on the blogs Facebook page.  None of the comments were rude.  However, the vast majority were just kind of glib. Most commenters replied dismissively that “of course the church would survive”. At first, I responded to each by attempting to clarify my thinking.  By the second or third response I realized if I gave each comment the attention it deserved I would do nothing but respond to comments all week. 

 This was not the first time I was inadvertently unclear in a blogpost. Normally when this happens I just move on. I write another post and make every effort to do a better job clarifying my perspective in the future. However, I had a tough time letting this one go. Ultimately, I concluded my inability to move on was the Holy Spirit nudging me to clarify further.  

So here goes.

 I was very much on board with the plan to quarantine at the start of the pandemic.  The idea of placing a brief pause on normal activity so scientists could figure the virus out, prepare hospitals for an influx of very sick people and protect vulnerable populations made total sense to me. Still does. 

 That said, at some point the goalposts were moved and now it feels as if something malevolent has slipped into the mix.  In many places the “brief pause” has morphed into months or possibly even years of waiting for the virus to retreat and/or a vaccine to materialize. Political leaders worldwide have seized the opportunity to limit speech and movement. Food production and other commercial enterprise has all but ended.  It does not take a mastermind to grasp that placing the entire world on pause for months or possibly even years will likely end in economic calamity, political turmoil and food shortages.

 Christians were not winning many popularity contests prior to COVID-19. Many countries were attempting to or had already placed significant restrictions on what churches and Christian organizations could say and do. Now thanks to COVID-19 health departments and legislators alike tend to treat churches as nothing more than unnecessary germ spreaders.

 History tells us upheaval is rarely kind to groups already on the fringes of acceptability. It is possible we are only a couple of short steps away from Christians being unwelcome in all of society.  If this happens churches will be forced to shut down entirely.

The church is clearly not ready for this.

 When I say “church”, I am not talking about buildings. The church is not a building, the church is individual people who make up the body of Christ.  (1st Corinthians 12:12-27, Colossians 3:11-12, Galatians 3:28). Just as a physical body can become sick and weak a spiritual body can become sick and weak.  Christians who live in the West tend to be weak.  Most have never experienced hardship or difficulty, too many are spiritually and emotionally unhealthy. Captivity to sin is an issue with many and some are even afraid to let others know they are Christians and far too many lack the knowledge base necessary to effectively defend their faith (1st Peter 3:15). It takes deep faith and tremendous spiritual discipline to keep on keeping-on in the face of suffering (1st Peter 5:10, Revelation 2:8-11, Revelations 3:7-13). Scripture clearly predicts there will be a falling away from the Christian faith in the years prior to the return of Jesus (2nd Thessalonians 2:3, 1st Timothy 4:1). Objectively speaking, the church worldwide is ripe for that prediction to come to pass. (Matthew 24:3-13).

 I don’t know if this is where we are at or not. I am NOT declaring myself to be a prophet. Nonetheless, I do believe our current situation is a wakeup call for Christians. Whether or not any of my concerns come to pass we must ditch our overconfidence and prepare for what could be a less than ideal future.  

 Preparation will require change. If you are a non-Christian who reads this blog I urge you to become a Christian now. You need Jesus. You need the strength, peace and forgiveness only He can give a person. He will get you through whatever the future brings if you trust in Him.  Believers must make every effort to build deep relationships with other Christians so we will have likeminded people we can depend on if life gets tough (Hebrews 3:13). Change means we stop using the Bible only to gain information or as a fun thing to debate and instead use it as a tool to reveal our sin and brokenness. Change means we get into the habit of repenting quickly when God graciously reveals our sin and brokenness to us. It means we learn to be still and quiet so we can hear His voice. It means we pray for the courage to boldly share the hope we have in Christ (2nd Corinthians 3:12). Change means we start viewing ourselves as soldiers in a battle rather than consumers seeking experiences.

 That is what I meant when I asked if churches would survive the COVID-19 crisis. The real question is: are you ready? Are you ready for persecution if it comes? Are you ready to lead others if need be? If not, it’s time to get ready.  

 

 

Will Churches Survive the COVID-19 Crisis?

 Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching- Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

  I hate COVID-19.

  I hate the trouble, awkwardness and expense this idiotic infection has created for the whole world. I despise the suspicion I see in people’s eyes at the grocery store. I hate the look of panic I see when people realize they have accidently broken social-distancing rules. I hate that I feel the need to reassure people who are clearly terrified I am going to scream at them I am not afraid of them. I despise the cold plastic walls we’ve erected everywhere.  I hate that COVID-19 has made it clear to me that I am still in desperate need of sanctification as revealed by the level of aggressiveness and cynicism I feel about this whole thing.

 I also hate what the virus is doing to the body of Christ. In the early days of the pandemic I wondered if Coronavirus might turn out to be a net-positive for the church. In some ways, it has been. Many once apathetic Christians are seeking God on a deeper level and praying more and harder than they’ve ever prayed in their lives (Revelation 3:15-17). Sales of devotionals are up and Bible aps have seen a marked increase in users. The forced separation from church family has made many believers more grateful for their local Church and the community it provides. These are clear wins for the church.

 However.

 It’s not all sunshine and roses in church world. Online attendance of services was good early on but there’s been a sharp decline in recent weeks. Some have made online commitments to Jesus. However due to circumstances beyond their control leaders have been unable to follow-up on those people in a meaningful way. Sadly, most of those baby believers are MIA. Even some mature Christians have lost connection with their church family. Some have taken to bouncing from online service to online service. Churches are closed almost everywhere. In some areas they will stay closed for the foreseeable future.  Some Christian leaders have begun to hold what are essentially illegal gatherings. A few have even been arrested for doing so. More moderate Christians cite Romans 13:1-7 and contend it’s simply wrong to disobey government authority. Other Christians have decided that online church is just as good as meeting together in person. They believe Christians should be content to worship alone in their homes until the authorities give us permission to do otherwise.

 What is a Christian to do?

 The church is not a building (1st Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 3:6). The church is individual people from divergent backgrounds and races who come together to make up a living, breathing organism called the body of Christ. (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).  No one has to attend church in a building to be a Christian.  However, it could be argued that one very effective, albeit slow way to kill a body, especially a spiritual body is to separate the parts.

 It is not healthy, wise or biblical to replace the freedom, fellowship, accountability and warmth of in-person meetings with technology. There is no accountability with a computer screen. Sin, bad doctrine and complacency all breed in secret.  Furthermore, the longer one goes without church the easier it is to forget that Christians are commanded to meet together on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:25).

 That being said, law-breaking should never be our go-to as Christians.

 Therefore, if you live in an area that’s prohibited church gatherings, it is imperative you exhaust every legal avenue available to get the right restored. Contact the office of your governor, state senators and legislators as quickly as possible. POLITLEY, GRACIOUSLY and RESPECTFULLY ask for an exception for churches on large gathering bans. Use Daniel’s interactions with Arioch in Daniel 1:1-8-16 as a guide for dealing with government officials. If your church is granted an exemption, members and leaders should cheerfully follow any and all rules mandated by the state (masks, hand-washing, social distancing, hand sanitizer stations). Every rule should be followed to the letter. Even if people believe the rules are stupid and/or unnecessary.  This isn’t about what we think or feel. It’s about the greater good.

 In the meantime, Pastors and church leaders must assume the current situation will continue for a while or will return sometime in the future. Pastors should develop systems to train lay-leaders so they are able to provide teaching, support, accountability, fellowship and pastoral care to groups of fewer than ten. Even if the system is unnecessary at this time this will not be the last outbreak of COVID-19, so it will probably prove useful in the future.

  Individual Christians should realize the current situation is part of a much bigger spiritual battle and do everything in their power to build themselves up in the faith. Bible reading, prayer and daily self-examination are not optional activities for Christians at this moment in history (Matthew 26:41, 2nd Corinthians 13:5).

 They are our greatest need.