Four Ways God Works in an Age of Apostasy-

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

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

It was time to broaden my horizons. 

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

It’s all kind of down-hill from there.

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

Sigh. 

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

Over time, I had a couple of realizations concerning the whole thing: first, the book of 1st Kings is just a glum summary of Israel’s protracted slide into apostasy and unbelief. 2nd Kings tells the story of how God worked in the lives of those who lived faithfully for God in that time.  The books hit me hard because we too are living in a season of apostasy. We don’t call it that, that of course, we call it “living in a post-Christian culture”, which sounds way nicer than “season of apostasy” but it’s the same thing. Whatever you call it, it sucks. It sucks living in a declining culture. It sucks watching the whole stupid world devolve into moral and intellectual chaos. It sucks seeing people degrade themselves with stupid ideas and even stupider behavior. It sucks watching people do everything possible to deny the reality of God. Most of all, it sucks feeling overwhelmed by the darkness and ugliness of a post-believing world. 

That being said. 

We are not without hope. We aren’t Israel and God hasn’t left the building (metaphorically speaking). He’s still on His throne and He is still working in the hearts of His people, which means He is still working in the greater culture. Revival could be just around the corner. In the meantime, following are four lessons I gleaned about living in a post-Christian culture from 1st and 2nd Kings.  

Community is critical in a post Christian world- 

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

When the going gets tough God shows off– 

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

 God works in surprising places in dark times- 

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

And finally: 

Relentless leaders bring hope and healing to graceless – 

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

So. 

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

Should Christians Ignore Politics in Favor of Pursuing Justice?

They have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. Therefore, justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom– Isaiah 59:8b-9 ESV

We live in strange and increasingly complex times. 

Because this is true, it is sometimes difficult to know for certain what exactly is the right thing to do in a given situation. It is even harder to separate the essential from the inconsequential. 

Take the issues of justice and politics for example. 

Christians are called to steward every blessing given by God prudently and wisely. Being able to vote for a leader is a gift not everyone is given.  In the grand scheme of history, the whole concept of voting for leaders is a relatively new idea and it is still unheard of in some places.  Christians living in a democracy or a representative republic steward their vote well when they research issues and candidates and vote with a biblical perspective in mind. Period. Nothing more is required. 

That being said. 

We would do well to remember there is no sphere of life or society where Christians are not called be a stabilizing and preserving influence (Matthew 5:13). Therefore, it is a good and healthy thing when Christians enter the political realm with the goal in mind of acting as salt and light in our world. Nonetheless, it is critical Christian politicians work to maintain their Christian testimony and do everything possible to avoid the corruption and evil that is so ubiquitous in modern politics. This is no easy task. The bottom-line on politics and Christianity is clear: Christians should be the best citizens and they should seek to steward their civic responsibilities well. However, whether or not a Christian chooses to run for elected office or goes all-in for certain candidates is a matter of personal choice and Christian liberty.

Matters of justice are a different story altogether. 

Christians are called to love justice (Micah 6:8), proclaim justice (Matthew 12:18), and be doers of justice (Hebrews 11:33). Furthermore, Christians are called to love and care for the weak and hurting in all circumstances. This means finding situations where injustice has taken root and then working to make those situations just and right from God’s perspective. There is no “out” for Christians when it comes to matters of justice. 

This is where things can get a bit tricky. 

In order to be doers of authentic justice, we have to understand the mind of Christ (1st Corinthians 2:16) well enough to know what real justice and righteousness “looks like” from Jesus’ perspective. Loving real justice means we have to learn how to separate our emotional reactions and the unredeemed belief systems of our culture from biblical truth.  Being obedient in this arena also means we have to understand that issues of justice and politics sometimes become intertwined. 

Take these three real-life situations as examples. 

It was announced Monday that parents who question and/or criticize their local school boards for curriculum decisions or protest mask mandates and other covid policies will be investigated by the Department of Justice as “domestic terrorists”. Regardless of whether or not the parents in question have committed acts of violence or threatened anyone with violence.   

Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Scheler is the only member of the U.S military being charged with any sort of crime after the catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan that left twelve service members dead and at least a hundred Americans stranded in Afghanistan. His crime: making a series of videos criticizing the United States government for the way the withdrawal was conducted.

Prosecutors in Chicago have declined to charge gang members who were arrested in a gunfight that killed one person and left two others wounded because the men involved were all “mutual combatants”. 

Many Christians actively avoid weighing in on these and other issues because they deem these subjects to be “political” in nature.  In reality they are all clearly issues of justice, not politics:

Parents are commanded by God to be stewards of and guardians of their children. It is clearly an act of injustice for a parent to be considered a terrorist for doing what God has commanded them to do.  

It is not fair (just) for one person to be charged with a crime in the Afghanistan withdrawal. Especially when that person’s only crime appears to be complaining (albeit against military policy) about the way the withdrawal was handled. 

Refusing to charge gang members for killing people on a public street puts everyone in the area in danger.  It could be argued that the governments one job is to protect citizens from evil people (1st Peter 2:13-15). Consequently, the policy of only charging people who are not “mutual combatants” places bystanders and those who live in the neighborhood in danger and is therefore an unjust policy. 

I understand the reluctance Christians have of getting involved in politics. Politics are messy. The power structures in politics are unscrupulous and even good people can be corrupted by those structures. Furthermore, no one in the history of forever has ever had their heart changed by the political process and it is all-too easy for politics to take a place in our hearts that only God should have. 

That said. 

Christians have to learn to separate issues of politics from issues of justice. When we fail to do that we encourage injustice to flourish. 

How Christians are Still Missing the Mark with Covid-19-

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you- Hosea 10:12 NASB 

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. I will continue to post all new blog posts on my personal Facebook page and my A Wise Life Facebook page for right now. There are a couple of reasons for this change: first I can no longer in good conscience give Facebook my money when they actively censor what I say by refusing to promote any blog they deem too “political”. Second, with so many people getting off of Facebook my reach has shrunk and it is no longer worth the hassle of being careful about what I say just to get a little promotional help.  This means that it will be much harder for readers to find A Wise Life. It will no longer simply pop up on your feed. You have two options if you want to continue reading A Wise Life. You can search for my page every week or you can subscribe for free. Subscriptions are easy: just go to the bottom of this blog where it says “subscribe” and type in your email address. A Wise Life will arrive in your email every Sunday night. I will not sell or give your email address to anyone. I would appreciate it if you would “do me a solid” and continue to share any blog you feel is worth sharing on social media. That is the only way I will continue to acquire new readers. 

Thanks, 

Lisa Price 

Warning: this post begins with a weird personal story that will probably feel pointless to you the reader. It really does have a point. I promise. 

This week I did something that’s needed doing for a long time. It involves a houseplant I’ve had for about fifteen years. At one time the plant was truly beautiful. It was lush and green and it flourished.  People would comment on it all the time. However, in recent months this plant is looking horribly ratty and sad. The leaves that didn’t fall off turned a putrid shade of green, most of the vines were barren and the whole thing was just kind of wretched looking. 

In my humble opinion, a flourishing houseplant is aesthetically pleasing and it serves a useful purpose. Houseplants, especially this particular type of plant purify the air and that helps keep my family healthy.

I like that. A lot. 

However. This guy was obviously in trouble and not even marginally capable of doing what he was made to do. So, I pulled it out of its pot, broke up its root system and replaced the old soil with fresh soil. Then I cut off the vines that were no longer producing leaves and literally ripped what was left of them from the rest of the root system. Then I watered it really well and placed it in a location where it will get the optimal amount of sunlight for that type of plant. At this point whether the plant lives or dies is all kind of up to the plant. 

Sigh. 

As I was finishing up this task a couple of things occurred to me. First, I don’t know how much awareness a houseplant has but if they have any at all this one is probably convinced I’m a total butthead. The plant has no idea that that this was the only way to save it and possibly make it healthy again. Then it hit me that God kind of did the same thing to the church with COVID. Over the course of the last eighteen months God has stripped Christians of things that were familiar, like regular meetings, conferences, small groups and community events. Then He pruned it substantially and now He has put the church back in the culture again to do what the church is supposed to do.  We are missing the mark. Bigtime. 

Here’s why. 

 Approximately half the people who just read that last paragraph are convinced it means I think God wants all the vaccine holdouts to stop being selfish and get with the program. The other half are convinced I think Christians should stop being lazy and get busy holding the government accountable for the wickedness and stupidity that’s become endemic at all levels of government.  

Both groups are wrong. 

Truth-be-told we totally missed the whole spiritual point of COVID-19. Depending on one’s theological inclination (Calvinist or Arminian) God either caused COVID or He saw it coming and permitted it.  

Either way God had a hand in it. 

 COVID was meant to be a spiritual wake-up call to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. COVID-19 became a reality because we are a people who have gotten really good at denying, ignoring and blocking out the certainty of death (Hebrews 9:27). We have done this because we are blessed to live in a time when death is something that only happens to really old people living far from the rest of society in nursing homes. As a result, most of us tend to live for the now and never give any thought to what might happen after we die. COVID-19 forced us to think about our own mortality because people started dropping like flies.  God gave us/allowed COVID-19 because He wanted everyone to reflect on death and change their thinking about how to live life. 

We refused. 

Instead of contemplating the transience and fragility of life and turning to God in repentance, most people just got really scared of dying. They stayed scared and mindlessly tried to block out the reality that was right in front of them. It’s the reason why so many were so quick to accept the rather ludicrous premise that a virus might simply go away if enough people hid from it for long enough. No one wanted to face reality and frankly Christians and Church leaders did little to help. Some churches made fun of the fear.  Others embraced and even encouraged the fear (1st John 4:18). 

Here’s the thing.

It is not the churches job to spiritualize fear by intentionally or unintentionally encouraging and/or enabling neurotic and/or fearful behavior.  Nor is it the churches job to take on an attitude of false bravado or moral superiority because the people in the church have no fear of death that they are willing to admit. 

The church has one job. That’s it. One.

The churches one job is to point people to Jesus (Hebrews 9:27, John 13:34-35, 1st Peter 1:13-16).   Fear is natural when people are dying. We only die once, and people don’t routinely come back from the dead and explain the whole experience so we have no point of reference for what death will be like. The unknown is always scary.  Fear of death shouldn’t be ridiculed. Nor, should it be encouraged or coddled in any way. It is not A Christians job to push their personal opinion concerning matters of Christian liberty.  Nor is it the churches job to do battle with the government. The churches job is to point people back to spiritual reality. The churches job is to talk about judgment and death and life and how Jesus can bring us forgiveness and peace. A Christians job is to gently remind people that everyone dies and teach them how to do it well.  Our job is to be a sensible and loving voice of reason in a world of madness. 

Could we just back to our job? 

Could Christianity use a Little More Rebellion?

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body- 2nd Corinthians 4:8-11 NIV

According to the Center for Disease Control 47,444 people committed suicide in the United States in 2020. This number is roughly equivalent to a city the size of Cheyenne Wyoming.  2020 was not special in this area, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. Unfortunately, experts in the field suspect that number is just the tip of the iceberg.  Most believe many deaths believed to be drug overdoses and accidents were in fact suicides. Suicide attempts are also on the rise. According to the CDC 2020-2021 saw a fifty-one percent increase in suicide attempts among adolescent girls aged twelve to seventeen.  America is not alone.  Suicides all over the globe have increased exponentially over the course of the last decade.  

We live in a culture of despair. 

Suicide is not the only indicator we live in a world where a whole lot of people lack purpose, meaning and hope.  Drugs that dull our senses and numb our feelings are very much a thing. Eighty-one thousand people died last year from accidental drug overdoses.  One in twelve adolescents self-harm in an effort to distract themselves from the pain and hopelessness they feel.  This means that in a high school with seven-hundred students eighty-four of those kids harm themselves intentionally. 

Sigh. 

The reasons for the rampant despair are legion.  Abuse and neglect of children has become common as fatherlessness has exploded and single parenting has become standard. Children who experience abuse or neglect almost always grow up feeling a lack of hope for the future. That said, I suspect abuse and neglect of children is simply a symptom of a greater problem rather than the root of our overwhelming sense of hopelessness. 

I suspect our pain is caused by our own willful foolishness.

These days most non-Christians and even many Christians live outside the set pattern and design God created for human beings. We lean on our own understanding of how to do life instead of seeking God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6, Genesis 1:28). Then we wonder like a bunch of idiots why life is hard and we feel bad all time. 

Think about it.

For one thing. 

Sex lost its sacredness decades ago. 

Now we have hookups, starter marriages, pornography and prostitutes instead of one partner we bond with for life. Few adults marry before thirty and the stated goal for many is to have as much sex as possible with as many people as possible before “settling down” and “starting a family”. Fewer than half of all women wait until marriage to have children, pretty much guaranteeing their kiddos will grow up in a home without a biological father. All this taken together simply means that the ties that bind people together are weaker than they have ever been. 

For another. 

The economic system our culture has trapped itself in ensures most families live far from their extended family and both parents work. This leaves kids (especially teenagers) to figure life out without the input of their parents and the wisdom of their grandparents. Most people work non-stop and as a result community and the close relationships we were all made for fall to the wayside in our lives.  

Christians must show the world a different way of doing life. 

Fast. 

And we have to find a way to do it without being strange, judgmental, creepy or weirdly patriarchal (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:21-33). Getting this right is the only way people will know there’s something better out there. We get it right by bucking the system and refusing to get caught up in the lies our society tells about sex and relationships. The world needs to see that it is possible to be happy and fulfilled while not having sex with a gazillion people or having multiple spouses. 

But first Christianity needs a few rebels. 

Christians rebel against this world’s satanic system by getting married young, having lots of sex, making babies with only one person, buying a house and building a life (Genesis 2:24). We buck the system by building community and remaining loyal to the churches we attend. We rebel when we give up other things to spend quality time with friends and family. We become the best kind of revolutionists when we are willing to admit we got it wrong and change directions.  We could change the world simply by choosing to love Jesus and obey God even when our obedience makes us look weird and causes us to be out of step with the rest of the world. 

Rebelling without giving a reason will get us nowhere. 

We need to loudly and proudly proclaim why we are doing what we’re doing. We need to be willing to look weird in the eyes of the world in order to shine the light of Jesus in an increasingly dark world. 

How Christians can Stay Hopeful in a World of Evil and Injustice-

  There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground- Amos 5:7 NIV

  I have been spending my elliptical time listening to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. The podcast chronicles more than just Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It tells the story of numerous leaders within the mega-church movement. The first-hand accounts of the people damaged by the pride, shoddy doctrine and longing for celebrity endemic within the movement left me grieving for the body of Christ. The unjust and sometimes even evil actions of a few have forever sullied the name of Jesus and caused many to leave the church.  

This morning when I turned on the news the first story I saw was about a mother whose soldier son was killed in the military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The woman is angry about the death of her son.  Very angry. She is frustrated with how the governing authorities have handled every sordid detail of the withdrawal. So, she did what many of us do in 2021 when we are angry and frustrated. She got on social media and vented her anger. Her evaluation of the situation was censored by the social media platform and flushed down the memory hole. This is wrong on a million different levels. A grief-stricken Mother should be permitted to vent her anger. The people in charge should own their mistakes and the memory hole should be forever left on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.  

These are not the only examples of injustice and evil in our world. They are just two of at least a million possible examples out there. Injustice and evil have become ubiquitous. Truth is routinely twisted and lies have become so routine that in some situations it is really hard to know what’s actually true. We live in a time where good is called evil and evil is called good (Isaiah 5:20). 

Our brave new world can leave even mature Christians feeling angry and bitter about bad leadership and lack of justice. Christ-followers are instructed to avoid the sin of bitterness at all costs (Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 4:31). Bitterness is spiritually dangerous because it inevitably leads to attitudes and actions that have the power to defile anyone in our direct orbit.  

There is no easy way to avoid feeling bitter towards unjust leaders.  However, there are four things we can do that will help us avoid bitterness if we do them routinely: 

Remember nothing escapes God’s observation- 

Because God is merciful He does not punish every sin or sinner in real time (2nd Peter 3:9). This can sometimes make it look and feel like God is unaware of injustice or that He doesn’t care about evil. If we believe that lie we will either become bitter towards God and the world or we will join in with the sinners and sin our heads off. Doing either of those things will cause us to quickly lose our ability to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 3:10). If enough Christians lose their ability to be salt and light the brokenness and evil in this world will win. The key to staying both holy and hopeful in these times is to remember that the Bible does promise that there will come a day when God will deal decisively with sin and those who have caused other people to sin (Mark 9:42, Romans 2:9-10, Revelation 20:11-15). 

Be the person this world needs right now- 

Seriously. Just do it. Be the person who stands up for the subjugated, who fights obvious injustice and loves without limits. Love and righteousness are transformative in culture and in relationships. Acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God is the key to a living a life God blesses (Psalm 11:7, Proverbs 21:15, Micah 6:8)

Don’t give into the temptation to be vengeful- 

Vengeance can take many forms that don’t include acts of physical violence. It can take the form of rude verbal or written retaliation (my biggest personal issue). Vengeance can also include things like refusing to pray for or do good things for people we view as our enemies (Matthew 5: 38-41, Matthew 5:44).  Jesus directly commands us to pray for and do good to those who do us wrong. Refusing to obey Jesus always leads to hardness of heart that leads to both more sin and more personal misery. 

Pray-

Okay, I get it, encouraging people to pray while the world goes to hell in a hand cart sounds trite and feels like a copout. However, prayer is anything but a copout. Prayer transforms circumstances. I do not know or understand all the particulars on how all of that works but it does work. Prayer also transforms our hearts. Prayer, if it’s done consistently and in faith gives the person praying an awareness of God’s presence.  Awareness of God’s presence always leads to a love for others and a sense of hope for the future. 

Life is tough right now. Goodness, righteousness and justice are in short supply. The good news about dark times is it makes it much easier for our light to shine but we have to let it.

FYI-

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. I will continue to post all new blog posts on my personal Facebook page and my A Wise Life Facebook page for right now. There are a couple of reasons for this change: first I can no longer in good conscience give Facebook my money when they actively censor what I say by refusing to promote any blog they deem too “political”. Second, with so many people getting off of Facebook my reach has shrunk and it is no longer worth the hassle of being careful about what I say just to get a little promotional help.  This change means that it will be much harder for readers to find A Wise Life. It will no longer simply pop up on your social media feed.

You have two options if you want to continue reading A Wise Life. You can search for my page every week or you can subscribe for free. Subscriptions are easy: just go to the bottom of this blog where it says “subscribe” and type in your email address. A Wise Life will arrive in your email box every Sunday night. I will not sell or give your email address to anyone. I would appreciate it if you would “do me a solid” and continue to share any blog you feel is worth sharing on social media, as this is the only way I will continue to acquire new readers. 

Thanks, 

Lisa Price 

How Christians can Survive and Thrive in this Season of Judgment-

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom- James 4:6-9 NIV 

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. However, I will continue to post all new blog posts on my personal Facebook page and my A Wise Life Facebook page for right now. There are a couple of reasons for this change: first I can no longer in good conscience give Facebook my money when they actively censor what I say by refusing to promote any blog they deem too “political”. Second, with so many people getting off of Facebook my reach has shrunk and it is no longer worth the hassle of being careful about what I say just to get a little promotional help.  This means that it will be much harder for readers to find A Wise Life. It will no longer simply pop up on your feed. You have two options if you want to continue reading A Wise Life. You can search for my page every week or you can subscribe for free. Subscriptions are easy: just go to the bottom of this blog where it says “subscribe” and type in your email address. A Wise Life will arrive in your email every Sunday night. I will not sell or give your email address to anyone. I would appreciate it if you  would “do me a solid” and continue to share any blog you feel is worth sharing on social media. That is the only way I will continue to acquire new readers. 

Thanks, 

Lisa Price

Now this week’s post:

In last week’s post I shared my deeply held belief that the whole stupid world has fallen under the judgement of God. Anytime large groups of people fall under judgment life changes dramatically and becomes far less pleasant for everyone. Crops fail, wars break out, birth rates plummet, conflicts increase, the weather gets weird, economies flounder and fail, fear increases, pandemics occur, wild animals become more vicious, leaders make dumb decisions and individuals everywhere just go kind of feral and crazy (Deuteronomy 28:15-64). Judgment is terrible and everyone feels the changes judgment brings. This is where we’re living right now. 

However.

All the terribleness is not without purpose.  God always has two primary purposes for judgment. First, judgment is designed to bring the dead (spiritually speaking) to life in Christ. The hardship and pain that always accompanies judgment can and often does cause people who have rejected God to examine themselves, seek God and repent of their sins. When that happens, a person moves from death to life and all of heaven rejoices (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Luke 15:10). If enough people repent and turn to God we get revival and change occurs on every level of society.  (Psalm 85:6, Acts 3:19, Acts 19:18-20). God also uses judgement to strengthen the church and make it holy (1st Peter 4:17). The church becomes stronger and holier anytime it encounters persecution. The hardship that comes with persecution draws genuine Christians even closer to God (strengthening the church) and drives non-Christians who think they are Christians away from the church (thus purifying the church).

  Persecution comes with judgment for a couple of reasons. First, when unbelievers begin experiencing the effects of God’s judgment (crop failure, conflict, disease, weird weather, etc.) they often make rules or laws designed to manage the difficulties of the judgment. The laws made inevitably end up affecting the churches ability to operate and share the gospel. Secondly, those who are actively rebelling against God despise being told where their rebellion will lead them. People do not enjoy being told there will be more judgment, more personal pain and eternity spent in hell unless they repent. Those who speak the truth in a season of judgment are always persecuted in some way. 

We are in a judgment. 

Therefore, persecution of the church is likely inevitable. This means attitudes and behaviors that have become commonplace in Church world simply will not fly anymore. Following are four of those things:

Marginal commitment levels-

Attending church services weekly, reading the Bible, cultivating a strong prayer life and being actively involved in a church community do not make anyone a Christian. Good habits do not magically transform pagans into saints.  However, participation in these activities do make Christians stronger and healthier from a spiritual standpoint. Christians who have taken the time to cultivate healthy habits are more likely to stand strong when life gets hard and life always gets hard for God’s people in a judgment.    

Fakeness-

Christians are sometimes disturbingly fake. We pretend we are okay when we’re not okay and that we have it all together when we’re really falling apart. We do this for one reason: pride. We want people to think we are healthier, better and godlier than we really are so we fake we are the things we think we should be. This particular form of pride cheats us out of the growth and transformation that can only be achieved by being authentic and transparent with ourselves and God. We can’t grow if don’t admit we need to.  

Legalism-

Legalists want to follow a list of rules related to outward behavior without dealing with the heart issues that caused them to sin in the first place. God does care about what we do. Some behaviors are simply not okay for Christians (1st Corinthians 6:8-10, Galatians 5:19-21).  However, God also wants us to do the right things out of a desire to honor and glorify God rather than a desire to be accepted and liked by other Christians or because we think behaving the “right way” will gain God’s favor. Legalism can look genuine in good times because a person’s heart isn’t tested in good times. However, in times of judgment the true state of a person’s heart is always revealed. Furthermore, legalists frequently become bitter towards God in times of judgment because they feel their good behavior should be rewarded. They don’t understand intimacy with God is the greatest reward. Intimacy with God is a result of clinging to God in hardship.  

Double-mindedness-

Double-mindedness is when we attempt to live with one foot in the world and one foot in the church (1st John 2:15).  This often takes the form of adopting opinions and beliefs that allow a Christian to conform to worldly norms and standards on issues such as: homosexuality, gender, adultery, abortion or justice while still living as a “practicing Christian”. In a time of judgment God always demands that His people choose who they will serve (Joshua 24:15). 

No one gets to choose the events and circumstances of the time they live in. God does that for us. However, we do get the privilege of choosing how we respond to the circumstances of our life. How we choose is never more important than in a season of judgment. 

How Offense Ruins Us-

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense~ Proverbs 19:11

 We live in strange times. 

 Ideas, customs and behaviors that were once considered right are now thought to be offensive and just plain wrong (Isaiah 5:20). 

 Some of those things actually make sense. 

 No rational human would even attempt to defend indentured servitude, human sacrifice, child brides or the practice of female genital mutilation. That said, some of the ideas and behaviors our culture finds offensive these days are not nearly as easy to understand or defend. Like taking offense at those who identify as the gender they were assigned at conception (CIS genderism), the notion of nations having borders and the belief that humans ought to have a right to be born. 

 Sigh.  

 One of the stranger things that was once considered a good thing (or at least a neutral thing) that has become a bad thing is cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is the practice of borrowing (some would say stealing) the best aspects of a culture and appropriating or adopting those things into another culture. Ancient Romans were among the first to brazenly appropriate other cultures but Americans have perfected the practice. That is why Americans can say with a straight face that something is as “American as apple pie” when apples are from Asia and the practice of baking apples into pies began in England during the Middle Ages. Because cultural appropriation is now considered offensive there are people who are sincerely offended when they see a college student with a sombrero on or basic white girls wearing hoop earrings (true story). A few years past a whole bunch of people became frothing-at-the-mouth offended when they saw a not-so-basic white girl wearing a Chinese inspired prom dress. This tells me we have become a people who are far too easily offended by just about everything. 

 As a culture we have forgotten that taking offense is a choice.  It’s a choice that inevitably leads to broken friendships, shattered marriages and split churches. If offense is allowed to run amok in a society it can eventually lead to ugly social upheaval and in the most extreme cases: civil war.  On a personal level the greatest danger in habitually taking offense is that being offended all the time transforms otherwise intelligent people into insufferable boobs who are far more concerned with feelings than with facts.  Christians are called to be salt and light in our broken and hurting world (Matthew 5:13-15). We simply cannot do that if we are heavily focused on our feelings all the time. 

 Here’s how offense ruins us: 

 Offense stops spiritual and personal growth-

 Even secular experts agree that the ability to examine ourselves and see the things we need to change is the key to personal growth. Self-examination is also a prerequisite for spiritual growth (Lamentations 3:40, 2ndCorinthians 13:5). Offense takes our eyes off our bad behavior and weak spots and places our focus entirely on other people’s actions and attitudes. When that happens, we become so focused on others and what they need to change that we fail to see our own sins clearly.     

 Offense breeds bitterness-

 Offense is a knee-jerk reaction. Like most knee-jerk reactions, offense is not typically something we prayerfully evaluate. Nor is it something we typically ask God to help us deal with in a godly or wise way. Most of the time when people become offended the only thing they can think about is how justified they feel in their decision to be offended (Proverbs 18:19). This inevitably leads to bitterness. Nothing will transform a person into a defiling force faster than bitterness (Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15).

 Offense leads to spiritual deception- 

 In Matthew 24 Jesus gives us a preview of what life will look like just prior to His second coming. One of the certainties of that time is that people will take offense at just about everything (Matthew 24:10-11 NKJV). Offended-ness will lead to hate and betrayal. Out of all that offense and hate, false teachers will rise up and lead people (even some Christian people) away from the truth. Jesus is doing more than just giving as a trailer of future events in this verse. He is providing insight into the very nature of offense. Offense causes us to become heavily focused on our feelings. When feelings run the show, we become unable/unwilling to comprehend any truth that does not directly line up with our feelings. As a result, we become sitting ducks for false teachers who tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear (2ndTimothy 4:3).

 Offense prevents us from accomplishing God’s will for our lives-

 God’s will for all Christians is for us to glorify Him. It’s simply a fact that no one in the history of forever has ever glorified God while indulging an offended spirit. 

 Chronic offended-ness is clear indicator of a pride problem- 

  Most of the time offense comes as a result of someone telling us an unpleasant truth about ourselves or pointing out a fact we missed. It’s the height of pride to believe that we know so much that we never need to be educated, informed or redirected. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride comes before a fall. Falls almost always occur because a warning went unheeded (2ndChronicles 26:16, Proverbs 11:2).

 Taking offense is not always a bad thing. Everyone should be offended by sin, injustice and bigotry (2ndChronicles 19:7, Galatians 3:28). That said, we should all do regular gut-checks to ensure we are actually being offended by the right things.  If we find ourselves offended by the wrong things we need to take our offenses to God and seek to forgive those who have offended us.

It really is that simple.   

The Real Reason we are Miserable-

There are those who rebel against the light, who do not know its ways or stay in its paths– Job 24:13 NIV 

Humans lucky enough to live in Western countries exist in a time when all people— regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status have more rights, more comforts, more freedoms and more opportunities than those at any other time in history. Our ancient ancestors likely lacked the mental framework and practical experience to even dream of a time like ours, where both men and women of any station in life have the right to live freely, pursue their dreams and follow their desires anywhere they lead. Life in the twenty-first century is not perfect. There is always room for improvement in a fallen world. That being said, life is, in most respects better than it’s ever been.   

All that being provably true. It is also true that those who live in Western countries are becoming meaner and more personally miserable with each passing day.  

Crime and acts of violence have become bizarrely commonplace in some places. Random citizens minding their own business have been physically attacked by complete strangers for no good reason. Attempting to ruin the reputation and careers of those with opposing viewpoints (canceling people) has become a routine reaction to opinions and beliefs that make some uncomfortable. 

Furthermore. 

The 2019 World Happiness Report reports that people everywhere are feeling far less happy and personally content than in previous times.  This is true for all Western countries, all age groups and for those from every socio-economic situation. This almost universal feeling of despondency has led to more depression, more anxiety, more substance abuse and more self-harm. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse and self-harm create a cycle of loneliness, isolation and hopelessness which leads to even more depression, anxiety, substance abuse and self-harm.  Sigh. 

The question is why? 

Truth-be-told not many in our culture are truly oppressed, abused or burdened by life. Neither are the majority hungry, without shelter or lacking in basic human needs. Most in Western countries have an almost unlimited access to education, entertainment and creature comforts previous generations could only dream of. In spite of these blessings many fight a sense of hopelessness and unhappiness. For some this leads to a desire to hurt or punish anyone who is different from themselves. 

So, why, have we as a culture become so mean and miserable? 

The answer is not all that complicated. Our culture concluded decades ago that the whole notion there is a God who has a right to tell us what to do and how to live is silly, foolish, antiquated and possibly even evil. The majority believes deep down that they are the ultimate authority of what is right and wrong, good and evil. For the most part humanity has kicked God to the curb. Most individuals operate as if they are their own God. 

It’s not working out super well. 

 Society has rejected the obvious reality of male and female, instead embracing the madness that human gender is a choice we get to make (Genesis 1:26). Humans have also concluded God’s design for the family is irrelevant and unnecessary. Instead the culture has embraced single-parent families as a norm to be celebrated rather than a sometimes necessary but always unfortunate reality of living in a fallen world. These choices have had devastating consequences. The epidemic of single parenting has resulted in many Moms and Dads being far less focused on raising their offspring than on finding the “love of their life”. This has left millions of children to more or less raise themselves looking for answers to life’s biggest questions from gangs, sexual relationships and the drug culture. Our cultures insistence on going our own way in the arena of sexuality has guaranteed that both boys and girls lack proper role models for marriage and family. This ensures that the cycle of sexual and family dysfunction will continue for generations to come. The masses have chosen to reject God. The choice to hate or even simply to ignore God always causes pride and self-sufficiency to take root in the hearts of those who make that choice. Pride and a self-sufficient spirit inevitably leads to hostility and fear of “the other” leading to random acts of violence and vicious power struggles between people groups. 

What we are experiencing in our culture is not weird.  It is simply the natural consequence of rejecting God and ignoring the mission He gave mankind (Genesis 1:27-28).

The church cannot control what the culture thinks or does. 

However, church people can choose to be the salt and light this world so desperately and obviously needs right now. Being salt and light begins with the routine habit of examining ourselves to see if we are really living out the reality that God is (2nd Corinthians 13:5). If some part of our lives does not align with the Bible we need to make immediate changes. Not just because God does not bless sin but more importantly because it is our responsibility as Christians to live our lives for God and in obedience to God. When we do that the world sees that God’s design for sex and family works and that human beings are the most joyful, most fulfilled and least hateful when they are living out God’s mission for humanity (Deuteronomy 6:5, Micah 6:8, 1st Peter 2:17) 

Why Government Can’t Save Society and What Can-

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it- Hebrews 12:11 ESV

A couple of recent events have got me thinking about all manner of things. 

On March 29th a thirteen-year-old-boy believed to be brandishing a gun was shot by police at 3:00 a.m. in Chicago. Three weeks later a sixteen-year-old girl in Ohio was fatally shot by police as she stabbed another girl. These events are hardly outliers. Reports of minor children being killed either by other minors or by police officers attempting to keep minors from committing a crime have become a fairly routine occurrence.  

Many are quick to blame police and police tactics for these heartbreaking stories. Anytime a tragedy occurs involving a kid and cop a glut of Monday-morning quarterbacks crawl out of the metaphorical woodwork to second-guess prevailing police tactics and/or the character of the officer involved in the shooting. Others are eager to blame “society” for not caring more about the kids involved. Typically, the lack of care is attributed entirely to the child’s race, sex or socio-economic status. 

 Blaming either feels like the easy way out to me. 

 When we blame society for our problems what we are really doing is blaming the government. One of the more peculiar qualities of modern thought is the belief that government is the answer to all our problems.  We tend to forget that “the government” is a heartless, soulless, nebulous machine entirely lacking in human feeling, wisdom or insight. There are good people who work in government. I know some of them. However, the government is not emotionally nimble enough to view people as individuals. Neither is government capable of teaching good habits, imparting insight or training a child to put others first or think wisely about life. 

Neither is it fair to lay the blame for these situations at the feet of the police. Truth-be-told the police are not, nor were they ever intended to be anything other than the last line of defense between lawbreakers and law-abiding citizens. By the time a police officer is involved in a person’s life a long line of choices has been made that the officer had no control over. There are bad cops and everything possible should be done to weed them out of the ranks. However, most police are decent people who got into their line of work because they genuinely care about people and want to make the world a better place. 

The government or the police are not to blame when a sixteen-year-old girl feels stabbing someone is a reasonable response to her frustration or when a thirteen-year-old has access to a gun and the freedom to roam about at three a.m.

Seriously. 

That sort of thing is the fruit of a lifetime of crappy parenting (Proverbs 17:25, Proverbs 19:13). 

Somewhere over the course of the last couple of decades two equally bad but entirely different kinds of parents have emerged on the scene. The first sees their children as an extension of themselves and believes it their job to orchestrate and micromanage every aspect of their child’s existence. These parents would rather be gunned down than have their kids experience anything painful or difficult. Their greatest fear for their children is trauma.  They have bought into the lie that people are not resilient and that trauma will devastate them for life. Because all humans experience trauma and they are no different they see themselves as less than whole and want to prevent their own children from experiencing the same fate.  This group is responsible for raising the pearl-clutching millennials who scream “CANCEL” at any idea or opinion that makes them even vaguely uncomfortable.  

The other group tends to think that once a kid can feed and dress themselves their job is done. This group of parents typically did experience genuine trauma they never dealt with (Psalm 147:3). These parents tend to be self-involved to the point of being completely checked-out of their child’s life. These are the parents who say they can’t stop their thirteen-year-old from doing what they want to do and they’re right. They cannot get their teenagers to obey because they never took healthy authority over them as young children (Hebrews 12:14, Proverbs 5:23). 

There are no easy answers to systemic parenting problems in a culture. 

The government can’t help, the government is completely stumped by how many genders there are. They don’t have the wisdom or skills to lead people to better parenting choices. The police can’t help. Police are the last line of defense we slap on a problem before it gets completely out of hand. 

What our world needs is three-fold. First, Christians needs to make a regular practice of praying specifically for families. Parents of all income levels need the kind of wisdom that can only come from God. Second, Christian parents need to do their very best to get their own homes together so other parents start looking to the church for answers. And finally, churches need to get into the business of teaching parents outside of their own walls what love really looks like so they can lead their children well.