Why Does God Seem to Ignore Obvious sin?

 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 3:19 NASB

I have a child who always wanted to know what the limits, rules and boundaries were in every situation she found herself. Unfortunately, this child did not want to know the limits, rules and boundaries because she was a passionate rule following legalist who wanted to be extra vigilant about staying within the limits of the law. To the contrary, she was the exact opposite of a rule following legalist. She pushed passed every limit she was given and busted down every boundary she came across. However, interestingly enough though, unlike most rule breakers, this kid also hated to get into trouble of any kind and absolutely despised getting yelled at. 

Sigh.

So, one day when this child was way past old enough to know better she decided it would be fun to break every rule I had ever made. She then blew off every warning I gave her and did the exact opposite of what I asked her to do. My patience, which is not unlimited, even on the best of days, held up pretty well until late afternoon.  I finally broke down and yelled at her. I told her in no uncertain terms I was done. The consequences train was coming to town.

 Before I could list off even one of those consequences she began to cry and told me she hated it when I yelled. At that point, it was obvious we had both reached our limits so I sent her to her room to give us both some time to cool off and regroup.  

When I went into her room, my first question was: “okay, I totally get that you hate being yelled at. So, help me understand why you wait until I someone starts yelling to do what you’re told?”  She responded with: “I know you’re serious once you start yelling”. 

Sigh. 

Here’s the thing.

A lot of us see God the same way. We just sort of assume that when God has finally gotten fed up with our sin, or is nearing the end of His patience with us He will let us know He’s had enough in a loud and obvious kind of a way. We expect God to “yell” or warn us in some way before He brings the hammer of judgment down in our lives. 

 As a result, we tend to think (subconsciously at least) that when we sin and nothing terrible happens God must be okay with (or at least not mad about) whatever monkey business we’ve been up to. Sometimes we even go so far as to call His lack of clear and obvious outrage at our behavior “grace”. 

However.

The book of Romans tells an entirely different story. The first chapter of Romans starts out rather pleasantly. Paul greets the recipients of the letter (whom he had never met) with genuine warmth. Then he says some really nice things about the Christians in Rome and Jesus and their faith in Jesus. Then all of a sudden in verse eighteen he steers the letter in a rather unsettling direction and begins talking about the wrath of God and judgement and how all human beings are without excuse and ought to know better. Then in verse twenty-four he says something super profound we tend to move past rather quickly. 

He says:

God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired- Romans 1:24a NLT

This means:

 God just let them have at it. He let them go ahead and do whatever felt good to them without so much as a single real-time consequence. God did not scream and yell about their sin. He did not crush their consciences with an overwhelming sense of guilt. He did not pile on a whole bunch of horrible consequences. He just let them do whatever shameful thing they felt like doing and they felt just fine about it. 

So, here’s the thing:

This one little verse tells us a lot about God and the freewill of human beings. Just because there is no an apparent consequence for a sin or we feel okay about what we’re doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean God doesn’t have a problem with what we’ve been up to. 

To the contrary. 

A lack of guilty feelings over sin is actually the exact opposite of getting away with something. According to Romans 1:24 it is an indicator God has stepped back from the situation. When God steps back and lets people do whatever they want to do without guilt or consequences it is actually the first step in a long process of judgement. 

Yikes. 

So. What this means is we cannot judge right and wrong based entirely on whether or not we feel guilty or there are obvious consequences when we do certain things. Instead, of relying on what our heart tell us about sin we need to get into the habit of turning away from our sin quickly and repenting completely. Then we need to trust God with the outcome of coming clean. Whatever that may be. 

How Does a Good Person Refuse God?  

The waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm- Proverbs 1:32-33 NIV

The pages of Scripture are filled with uplifting, encouraging and inspirational verses. 

We eat that stuff up.    

We put those verses on tee-shirts, paint them on walls, embroider them onto throw pillows and turn them into magnets to slap on our refrigerators. Passages like Psalm 23:1-4 and Deuteronomy 31:8-9 are the warm-fuzzies of Scripture. Reading them is like drinking a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day.  It just feels good. The feel-good verses are our go-to’s anytime we want a warm comforting cup of spiritual goodness.    

To be fair: 

There are also some scripture passages that hit more like a bucket of icy cold water thrown on us in the middle of a dead sleep.  No one has ever put Matthew 7:21-23 or Jude 14-16 on a tee-shirt. Nor do emotionally healthy people paint those verses on their walls. We all know this world is full of trouble but nobody wants to wear it on a tee-shirt or be reminded every time they step into their living room.  

However.

 Those icy-cold water kinds of verses do serve a critical purpose. The hard words of Scripture remind us God is more than our own personal blessing machine and that we exist for Him, not the other way around (Acts 17:24-28).  Scary verses make us think about our spiritual walk and remind us to examine ourselves. No one is ever mature enough or righteous enough to grow past needing those reminders.

Hebrews 12:25 is one of those icy-cold water verses that immediately snaps us to attention. It’s says:

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.

Part of what makes this verse scary is all the stuff that surrounds it. The better of Hebrews twelve is a reminder God is the biggest of big deals and not to be trifled with. 

Christians understand how God communicates. He communicates most clearly and most often through His word. He also speaks through wise people and the circumstances of our lives. Anytime we hear the same thing repeatedly from different people we should assume God is attempting to get our attention. Hardship and trouble in our relationships, finances and work are another way God communicates with us.  Anytime we humble ourselves, self-reflect and pray we are opening ourselves to be led by the God’s spirit. 

Refusing God comes in many different forms and even good Christians refuse God sometimes. Christians refuse God anytime we shut off some part of our lives to God or when we willfully choose to do the opposite of what we know He wants us to do.  There are five primary ways we refuse God. Each is an easy trap to fall into (Ephesians 4:16-17). 

First. 

We refuse God when we hide sin rather than confess and repent of sin. Sin must be dealt with decisively. There is simply no other way except confession and repentance to effectively get free of the effects of willful disobedience (Matthew 3:8, Acts 2:38, James 5:16, Psalm 32:5, Psalm 38:18, Ezra 10:1). When we refuse to confess and repent of our sin, we are basically telling God through our actions we believe He’s wrong about the whole subject of what sin is.

Second.

We refuse God when refuse the correction he brings into our lives (Proverbs 12:1). No one gets it right every time. We all act stupid, make mistakes and do the wrong thing from time-to-time. God frequently uses the rebukes of other people to speak to us about the rightness and wrongness of our choices. When we ignore Him, we risk being turned over to the consequences of our choices. This is never a pleasant experience (Romans 1:18-32, Acts 7:42-43).

Third.

We refuse God when we make judgments about other people without clear understanding of their situation (Job 38:2). There is little God hates more than when one-person judges another without taking the time to hear their story (Proverbs 18:17, Matthew 7:1-5). Making ill-informed judgments about people and situations means we think we are too wise to consult God or others. 

Fourth. 

We refuse God when we refuse to forgive others. If forgiving other people is a perquisite for being forgiven, and it is. Then refusing to forgive is pretty much the ultimate in refusing God. Refusing to forgive is also the fast track to all kinds of spiritual trouble (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:34-35, Luke 17:4). 

Fifth.

We refuse God when we refuse to grow and change. The Christian life is a life of transformation and growth (Romans 12:1-21). No one ever grows past the need for change. When we refuse the changes, God wants to make in our attitudes, opinions or behavior we refuse God and stunt our own spiritual development (Hebrews 5:11-14). 

Here’s the thing about refusing God:

 Anytime we willfully refuse God we run the risk of what the writer of Hebrews calls “falling short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). Falling short of God’s grace means we voluntarily forgo the blessing and peace that being in right relationship with God brings. Furthermore, we risk cursing ourselves and our generational line through our willful disobedience.

Holy-Moley.  

No one sane wants that. 

Christians Screwed-up Understanding of Authority is Literally Wrecking Christianity-

If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit- Matthew 15:14 NIV

Christianity has a leadership problem.

Accounts of bullying, embezzlement, adultery, duplicity, abuse, control and even pedophilia involving high profile pastors, churches and entire denominations have become routine. The Catholic Church, Jim Baker, Mars Hill, Ted Haggard, Bob Coy, Willow Creek, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mike Warnke, Hillsong, Josh Duggar and The Southern Baptist Convention are just a few of the leaders, churches and organizations whose names have become synonymous with corrupt Christian leadership.  Leadership problems aren’t restricted to high profile pastors, mega churches or big-name Christian ministries. Many churchgoers have experienced hurt at the hands of insensitive pastors or pastors who acted much more righteous in public than in private. 

Sigh. 

Experts blame the rise of bad leadership on an increase of narcissism in churches and Christian organizations.  A narcissist has a strong sense of entitlement, is extremely self-focused, has an unusually high need for attention, is overconfident and a has profound lack of empathy. Christians can be narcissists. Narcissists have enormous blind spots where their behavior is concerned. Narcissistic Christians can justify almost any action, including actions they know are sinful. Narcissistic Christian leaders truly believe God will overlook their sin because they “do so much for the kingdom”.  Narcissists do not understand how their behavior affects other people. Therefore, they can do a great deal of harm to people without even knowing it. Most experts believe narcissism is a growing problem among Christian leaders. This is concerning considering the contrast between a narcissistic leader and the model Christian leader described in Titus 1:7-9, Timothy 3:1-3 and 1st Peter 5:1-5. 

This begs some hard questions: 

Why is there so much bad behavior in Christianity? 

What does the church do to produce and attract all these narcissistic leaders? 

How does an average Christian enable narcissistic leadership?  

Christianity is plagued with narcissistic leadership because Christians have a flawed understanding of what New Testament authority should look like.

Here’s what I mean:

Most Christians form their views on spiritual authority from Old Testament stories, principally from the system of Kings found in the Old Testament. Old Testament Kings had absolute God-given authority. This is most famously played out in the story of Saul and David. Saul was an awful king. Saul was evil, volatile, selfish, and guided almost entirely by pride and sinful passions (1st Samuel 16:14, 1st Samuel 18:14, 1st Samuel 19:4, 1st Samuel 15:22-24).  

However.

 Because Saul was anointed King, David faithfully submitted himself to Saul’s authority. David did not disparage Saul, physically harm him or challenge his authority.  Christian teachers (including myself) universally applaud David’s submission to Saul’s authority. It’s an example of Old Testament obedience God clearly blessed (1stSamuel 26:9-11, Acts 13:22). 

Many Christians apply the same concept of anointing to present-day pastors. Many deacons, board members and elders flat refuse to question or correct a pastor even when they know the pastor is wrong because they view the pastor as God’s “anointed” and therefore unchallengeable, regardless of their behavior. Many Pastors, especially narcissistic pastors tend to see themselves as having the same unchallengeable authority as Old Testament Kings. The rotten fruit of this understanding of authority is at least partly to blame for the large numbers of people who have left the church in recent years. It’s also literally obliterating the churches ability to do our one job: reach the lost (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians understandably see leadership situations like the ones at the Southern Baptist Convention, Mars Hill and Hillsong as unacceptable, indefensibly gross and entirely inconsistent with the whole notion of a good God. 

Here’s the thing. 

There are to be no human kings in the Church. 

Jesus is the only King among His people. Period. End of story. Jesus is the only leader who can demand or who deserves absolute obedience. Pastors are simply not anointed to lead churches the same way kings were anointed to lead Israel in the Old Testament. The word anointed or anoint in reference to people and/or Jesus is used a total of eleven times in the New Testament. Eight explicitly refer to Jesus (Mark 14:8, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:46, John 11:2, John 12:3, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9). The remaining three teach all Christians are anointed for ministry, not just a few specific leaders (2nd Corinthians 1:21, 1st John 2:20, 1st John 2:27). 

All Christians are given gifts to benefit the church (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1st Corinthians 12:7-11, Romans 12:3-9). Some spiritual gifts have a leadership component to them (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, overseers). The New Testament commands Christians to treat these leaders with respect, to make their task joyful rather than difficult (Hebrews 13:17). Christians will be judged for how they treat their spiritual leaders. Therefore, any challenge to a leader’s teaching or behavior must be prayerfully contemplated before action is taken. 

 However.

Pastors simply do not have the same authority as Old Testament Kings. Instead, the Bible promises leaders and teachers will be judged at a higher standard than other Christians (James 3:1). ALL Christians will be accountable to God for how they use or misuse their authority in the home, workplace or church. Christians are called to humble servanthood, and specifically commanded not to lord their authority over others (Matthew 20:25-26). 

Truth-be-told narcissism has taken root in churches because too many pastors have been given unchallenged authority and too many Christians have foolishly chosen to follow human leaders more closely than they follow King Jesus.  

Five Things Christians can do to Keep Speech Free-

`The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 NIV

It is becoming increasingly more obvious western society has gone off a cliff and lost its collective mind. How we approach speech these days is just one example of this phenomenon. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the right to speak freely was considered sacred and unquestioned. Free speech was thought to be, by everyone except a few morons, the holy grail of freedom and democracy. There were of course, limits. It was never okay to yell “fire” in a crowded building. That being said, unless a person’s words were likely to cause real physical harm to a large number of human beings the speech was allowed. Not all speech was valued or appreciated. Some speech was simply endured, some was loathed but it was all okay. Those folks in the not-so-distant past were clever enough to understand that political and religious freedom and the democracy that undergirds political and religious freedom rests entirely on a person’s ability to say what they want to say when they want to say it. 

Unfortunately, that ship has officially sailed.  

In recent years some speech has been stifled, some has even been forbidden. All of this has taken place under the watchful eye of the news media and with the blessing of social media capitalists and many in government. Ironically, this squashing of speech has been done in the name of protecting people. There are those who sincerely believe words have the power to cause irreparable harm to others and therefore should be monitored for appropriateness and censored when found to be unsuitable. 

Here’s the thing:

Appropriateness of speech is totally subjective. The speech one person finds acceptable someone else might decide is wildly unacceptable.  It’s nearly impossible to find two humans who fully agree on every aspect of what’s okay and what isn’t okay to say. However, the biggest problem is with who gets to decide what’s okay and what’s not. Somebody has to be the decider. It’s simply a fact that anyone who believes they are qualified to decide what should and should not be said is very likely a narcissistic monster with a colossal god-complex.  

Sigh. 

The right to speak freely matters. It really is the foundation of every other human right. Furthermore, we live in a time when dangerous ideas about life, sex, and even what is real are being promoted almost everywhere. Someone has to be the voice of reason (Ephesians 4:15 and 25) as Christians we are obligated to be that voice because Jesus called us to co-labor with Him in setting the captives free from the lies of the enemy (Luke 4:18, Matthew 10:8). Furthermore, the ability to share the gospel, call out sin and preach the Bible hinge on the right to speak freely and without fear of government interference and/or retaliation.  It’s just a fact that all Christians are called to be a protective and healing influence in the society they live in (Matthew 5:13-16). This means all Christians in a free society play a part in keeping speech free. We can do our part to keep speech free by adopting the following five policies. Starting with:

Don’t be dumb-  

Seriously. There is a lot of unadulterated idiocy in this cultural moment. Christians should work really hard to not contribute to any of it. Pray fervently, do research on issues and train yourself to think deeply about all sides of an issue before you speak on ANYTHING (Proverbs 10:19). 

Learn to separate an opinion from a fact, only argue with facts- 

When doing research on a subject look for verifiable facts rather than just accepting someone else’s assessment of a subject. Remember, facts can be verified and repeated. Opinions are what one person thinks. An opinion formed using facts is okay, an opinion formed without verifiable facts backing it up should never be used in a discussion or argument. 

Don’t allow fear to control your tongue- 

Too many Christians with good ideas and well-formed opinions have kept their thoughts to themselves out of fear of not being liked.  This is a big part of what got us to where we’re at in this sketchy cultural moment. Change will only come if smart believers speak start speaking their minds on the issues in a respectful way. 

Don’t be a jerk-  

Don’t name-call, demean or disparage anyone while speaking out on issues. It’s tempting to be rude in a world where there are so many incredibly stupid opinions literally running amuck. Just don’t. It’s not Christ-like and won’t change anyone’s heart or mind. 

Be respectful- 

 It’s critical we remember the battle we find ourselves in is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The people are not the enemy. Our job is to free people from the real enemy. We won’t do free anyone being disrespectful.   

Avoid contributing to the problem with your dollars- 

This is two-fold, first believers should make every effort to avoid entertainment with themes that promote sinful messages. When we do we are literally being entertained by the very things Jesus died for and we are bankrolling an industry that cares nothing for our values or our God. Second, we should avoid purchasing from businesses that intentionally crush free speech.   

The world has never needed Jesus more than it does in this moment. It’s our job as Jesus followers to declare truth as winsomely as we possibly can. We can’t do that if we’re contributing to the foolishness. 

How “Experts” are Turning us all into Idiots-


“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”- Luke 11:52 

I have had a number of curious interactions recently. The finer points of the interaction vary but it all begins when I make a common-sense statement. These statements have included but are not limited to such things as:

Masking is tough on kids

Men who become women still have male DNA-

It’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster. 

The second the words come out of my mouth the smug little wisenheimer I’m speaking with demands in a very chippy manner I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, or law degree or whatever stupid degree they deem necessary to continue the conversation.  I then point out, as politely as I am able—that no one really needs a degree in a particular field—or any field for that matter to know whether or not what I said is true. My statement clearly falls under the heading of common sense, common knowledge or empirical wisdom. Nine times out of ten at this point in the conversation the smug little wisenheimer will roll their beady little eyes and tell me to come back when I’m qualified to give an opinion. I’m convinced we are witnessing the death of wisdom.

These exchanges literally make me insane. Literally. Because, if one were to take this lunacy to its logical end-game in order to make a statement such as “I had a dog with the exact same symptoms and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or if you wanted to say: “children ought to eat something besides candy and hotdogs three meals a day” one would have to be a nutritionist or have a degree in early childhood development.

I have nothing against knowledge, education or experts. In fact, I am all for knowledge. I love education. Experts are awesome and at times necessary. Furthermore, I am convinced wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their pay-grade or outside of their expertise. Intelligent people consult multiple counselors before forming an opinion or making a decision (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 24:6). 

However, 

There are a lot of potential problems with choosing to only take advice from an expert. For one thing, who exactly gets to decide who the expert is?  Do we all get to pick our own expert?  Or are the people in power the people who decide who the experts are? Is it you? Or is it the people in the media? Or your Mother?

It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier for title of expert.

However, education alone cannot be the only deciding factor in what constitutes an expert, there are lots of folks who have similar or even identical educational experiences who have differing opinions on nearly every subject.  Who is or is not an expert in a particular field can and often is politicized in our increasingly political culture. It’s just a fact that one political administration may have an entirely different take on what makes a person an expert than the one before or after it. 

Furthermore.

Experts are most useful when they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind.  This is rare because experts aren’t robots or computer programs.  Experts are just fallible human beings who spent a lot of time in school being taught by other fallible human beings. Unfortunately, people—even people with a great deal of education can be corrupted by money, media attention and/or the promise of power.  Experts can be bought. It happens all the time.  Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts have experiences that can turn them in a particular direction. Experts can be also swayed by peer pressure.  

Moreover.

Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century that claimed certain races were genetically inferior to other races.  This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts that assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was theology experts in the middle ages who claimed common people were too stupid to understand the Bible for themselves. It was medical experts in the 1940’s who said baby formula was superior to human breast milk.

By far, the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves. Sadly, not thinking has become endemic in our society. Many have simply shut off their brains and let the experts decide what’s best and it’s not working out real well for anyone. Our society is falling apart at the seams despite all the “experts” we have advising us. 

 We have forgotten the hard truth that each one of us is ultimately responsible before God for the choices we make. No one gets to blame an “expert” for the consequences of a poor choice on judgment day. God blessed us with brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and recognize the fact that anytime we stop thinking for ourselves we become a sitting duck for those looking to deceive.  Instead of placing our trust in the experts we ought to go back to the age-old practice of seeking out a multitude of opinions, analyzing the data, praying like crazy for wisdom before deciding for ourselves.  

Dumb Things People Believe-

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature- 1st Corinthians 14:20 ESV 

It sure feels as if there are more dumb ideas than ever before. There are several possible reasons for this:

It’s possible people are actually getting dumber. It would stand to reason that because the earth’s population is growing at a rapid clip there are simply more dumb people on earth than in past generations. Obviously, more dumb people would mean a multiplication of dumb ideas (Romans 1:20-22). It is also possible people are just as dumb as they have always been and the invention of the internet and social media has simply made it easier for dumb ideas to spread faster to more people than in past generations. It is also possible there are exactly the same number of dumb ideas and dumb people as there has always been and I am just more judgy than I used to be. 

Whatever the case may be.

I spent time scrolling through the comments sections of some news stories this week and was blown away by all the dumb ideas in such a small space.  Sigh. The good news is the absurdity was weirdly inspirational.  I decided to highlight a few of what I personally think are the dumbest ideas out there. Honestly, there are so many it was no easy task narrowing the field down to a manageable number for a blog post. 

I finally decided the following six deserve some sort of recognition:

All love is equal and should be equally celebrated-  

Nope, nope and more nope. Much of what passes for love these days is just a silly, selfish and fleeting emotion that bears no resemblance to the real deal (1st Corinthians 13:1-13). Unfortunately, even more of what passes for love in our world is cruel, exploitive and hurtful. Nevertheless, human beings are capable of loving in a way that is self-sacrificing, patient and beautiful and reflective of the love God has for us.  That is the kind of love that should be applauded and celebrated. 

People are essentially good-

More nope (Mark 10:18). Human beings are born with a sin nature that causes them to be bent towards evil and injustice (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9). Without the redeeming presence of Jesus in a person’s life there will always be a tendency for people to be selfish and exploitive of others. It is true that on some level most people really do want to be good but few are willing to do the one thing that has the power to make people truly good: submit to the rule and reign of Jesus in every area of their lives.  

Christianity always leads to some sort of weird oppression of women-

This ridiculous idea comes out in books and television shows like The Handmaids Tale. The assumption of the author or the producer is that if Christianity were to gain a foothold in the culture the world would inevitably devolve into a weird dystopian nightmare where women would be oppressed in very creepy ways. Those who hold to this line of thinking willfully forget it was Christianity that eventually freed women from the bondage of the pre-Christian world. One need to look no further than any Islamic country to see that the countries where Christianity has had the biggest impact are also the places women have the most protections, respect and personal freedom. 

Salvation is in politics- 

All human beings are born with a God-sized void in their hearts. Therefore, if people spurn faith in God the hole we all have always gets filled with something else. For many in our culture politics has filled the void where devotion to God belongs. This is why so many usually mild-mannered people are literally becoming unhinged over their political views. There have actually been threats made against those who vote or believe the “wrong’ way.   Sadly, politics is a horrible little god that promises much and demands much of its worshippers but delivers very little.  Without a return to biblical faith the political climate will only grow more toxic and dangerous. 

Most people are racist- 

It is true some people are racists. Most are not. One needs to look no further than the riots that have gone on in major cities to know believing the worst in people never leads anywhere good or healthy.

Science is settled- 

This idea is more than just dumb. It’s alarming because for many “science” has become their god.  Real science is NEVER really settled. What is true today could easily be disproven by breakfast tomorrow. For example: when I was a teenager, scientists were concerned about the earth becoming an artic wasteland, now global warming is thought to be a problem. For some mysterious reason many have bought into the notion that once science “proves” something true it will always and forever be true.  This dumb idea is dragging society back to an era when “unbelievers” were punished for stating an opposing view or believing something that was contrary to accepted dogma. This dumb idea could easily lead to a new dark age and an end to real science. 

As Christians we are called to develop our minds (Matthew 22:37) and be lovers of truth (John 8:32) so that we can lead the world to the truest truth of all: that without God even the “wise” become fools (Romans 1:22)

Is it Possible to Separate Politics and Religion?

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him- Mark 12:17 NIV

 Most of Americans were taught two rules regarding politics and religion growing up. First, we were taught politics and religion are both subjects that inevitably produce disagreement, tension and discord. Therefore, it is in poor taste to discuss either subject in social situations. We were also taught politics and religion are two entirely separate subjects that have no connection whatsoever. Consequently, only ignoramuses combine discussion of the two subjects.

 The ship has more or less sailed on the first rule.

For better or worse, there are precious few topics off-limits for discussion in our goat rodeo of a society. Only weirdos and squares care about tension and discord anymore. Truth-be-told, there are actually people who get paid good money to produce and promote all sorts of tension and discord.

 However.

  The second rule is still very much in force.

This due in part to a near unanimous misunderstanding of the phrase “separation of church and state”. Most believe it is found in the Constitution or some other critical founding document.  It’s not. The only place it was ever used was in a personal letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a group of Baptists known as the Danbury Baptists.  This group feared there was about to be a state sponsored church in America (as was common in England and other European countries). They feared becoming an unrecognized group. In his letter Mr. Jefferson assured them there is “wall of separation between church and state”. He promised that the American government would never intrude on there’s or anyone’s religious beliefs or activities. Clearly, Mr. Jefferson didn’t own a crystal ball, but, that’s another blogpost for another day. The passing of the Johnson Amendment in 1954 also contributed to the belief that politics and religion should be kept in separate corners. That law allows the government to strip Churches of their tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates.

 All that being said.

A stupid law and widespread ignorance of our founding documents are not the only reasons we don’t talk about politics and religion.

 Many Christians sincerely believe politics are dirty and religion is clean. They think that by merging political conversations with faith conversations, we dirty up our religion and run the risk of muddling the message of the gospel. Christians who believe this way tend to think Jesus was discouraging political involvement when he said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”.  Most non-Christians and some progressive Christians sincerely believe any mixing of religion and politics will cause our republic to morph into a creepy theocracy reminiscent of The Handmaids Tale.

 Sigh.

 In spite of almost everyone’s desire to keep politics and religion in separate corners, the two have had some ugly run-in’s in recent years. Culture is shifting rapidly and battle lines are being drawn between right wrong. Once a upon a time issues like pedophilia, relaxing or eliminating drug laws, the elimination of restrictions on hardcore pornography, lowering the age of sexual consent, sanctioning late term abortion, legalizing prostitution and allowing infanticide were considered icky fringe issues that no normal people had any interest in whatsoever. Our society has become less Christian and more accepting of just about everything and some have felt emboldened to push these and other issues through the courts in recent years (Psalm 52:3, Isaiah 5:20). Religious people (mostly Christians) have become weary of the societal decline that has resulted from an increase in progressive legislation. 

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 It is true Christians sometimes send the message that in order to be a Christian one must hold to a certain set of political views. It is also true that if a person is a Christian the Bible will inform their thinking on all issues, including political issues. However, the notion that one has to do anything but believe in Jesus and repent of their sin to become a Christian is tragically wrong. Additionally, patriotism is not godliness. Love of country is a good thing but it must never be confused with fidelity to Jesus.

 Furthermore.

 One of the key reasons Christianity has flourished in America is because our founders wisely avoided forming a theocracy. If America’s founders had instituted a state sponsored Christian church, it is a given that the state would have killed the dynamic and powerful nature of Christianity by insisting that all Christians think and worship exactly the same way.

 Trust me. No one wants a theocracy in America.

 That being said. Christians must work hard as believers to keep Jesus the main thing in all we do. We are not called to change the world through political legislation or even social reform. We are called to change the world by bringing people to Jesus and then teaching them to think and act like Jesus (Matthew 28:19). At the same time, we must embrace the reality that all of life belongs to God and there is no sphere Christians are not called to influence and redeem for Jesus (Psalm 24:1).  Therefore, Christians must never lose their moral outrage when politicians attempt to legalize behavior that robs human beings of their God-given dignity. We must never be okay with normalizing and/or legalizing evil. Christians must also learn to graciously explain to our unbelieving world that every political choice has a spiritual and personal consequence. Christians should also vote like Jesus is in the booth with us.

Because He is. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, Christians Still Need the Bible, Here’s why-

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path~ Psalm 119:105 KJV

 

 A while back I listened to an interview with mega-church pastor Pastor Andy Stanley. Like, most American Christians have read several of Andy Stanley’s books.  I liked some of his books, others not so much. To be perfectly truthful, up until about ten minutes into the podcast I would not have classified myself as either a fan nor a detractor of Mr. Stanley. I was fairly middle-of-the-road on the whole topic of Andy Stanley.

 But then.

 He did something that quite frankly shocked me, Andy Stanley (a pastor) made a case for minimizing the use of the Bible in preaching and evangelism.  He believes Christians should stop steering people towards what the Bible says about issues and instead we should point them to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and teach them to love others. The following quotes were taken directly from the interview. They sum up the essence of the program fairly succinctly:

 The Bible did not create Christianity. Christians created the Bible…. What created Christianity was the first Easter morning…”

“In the culture and in the marketplace and in the public square, we have to shift the focus from the Bible to the Resurrection. Because the Resurrection is completely defensible now just as it was in the first century.

“I think [some people] put [the Bible] in the place of Jesus.”

 All the New Testament imperatives that we find after the gospels are simply applications of Jesus’s new covenant command to love as I have loved you. The Apostle Paul wasn’t coming up with new rules and new laws.”

 Sigh.

It is not my intent to malign, besmirch or vilify Mr. Stanley (I generally try hard to avoid that sort of thing). Rather, I want to highlight five things that inevitably happen anytime Christians intentionally or unintentionally choose to minimize the importance of the Bible.

First,

We lose our true north-

 The Bible is more than just simply a book filled with dusty old ideas. The Bible is our true north. It is the one thing fallible humans can count on to act as a reliable guide anytime human wisdom fails us (as it inevitably does). Without the Bible to act as a compass we quickly begin to lose our way and devolve into doing our own thing and our own thing is rarely the right thing. Without the Bible guiding us we become like the Israelites in the book of Judges where every person did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

 We devolve into myth and superstition-

 Andy Stanley correctly points out that few (if any) early Christians had access to personal copies of the Bible. This is because few people could read and books as we know them today simply did not exist. The scrolls that did exist were prohibitively expensive for all but the most outrageously wealthy of people.  However, this situation was far from optimal. Because few people had access to the Bible the church frequently fell into fits of heresy and individual Christians were prone to superstition, mystical thinking and believing all kinds of weird things about God.  This problem reached an apex just prior to the reformation when even well-educated church leaders were commonly biblically ignorant and spiritually lost. Without an ongoing emphasis on the Bible we will almost certainly follow their path.

  We construct our own standards of right and wrong-

 The great thing about the Bible is that it spells out in no uncertain terms exactly what is right and what is wrong. This prevents Christians leaders from playing favorites (most of the time) and applying standards of behavior to some people and not to others. It also keeps Christians from simply adopting the standards of an everchanging culture.

 We become hopelessly reliant on subjective definitions of right and wrong-

 We know exactly what sin is because sin is clearly defined in Ephesians 5:3-7, Galatians 5:19-20, 1stCorinthians 6:9-10 and Romans 1:21-31. We know what love is because God spelled it out for us in 1stCorinthians 13. We know when divorce is morally acceptable because of Jesus’ teaching on the subject in Matthew 19:4-9. Without these and other teachings found in the Bible we are left to decide for ourselves the definitions of key issues. Anytime foolish humans are left to define right and wrong for themselves there will be some monster who decides that it is a loving act to kill people he or she finds distasteful or burdensome. It’s simply a fact that life gets really weird, really fast without hard and fast definitions of right and wrong.   

 We doom ourselves to repeating the mistakes of the past-

 Most of the New Testament letters were written to correct wrong thinking concerning various doctrinal issues. When we willfully ignore the vast storehouse of wisdom and knowledge contained in the Bible, we doom ourselves to making the same mistakes early Christians made. The only difference between those early believers and us is that we are without excuse because God has graciously given us everything we need in the word of God to avoid the doctrinal errors of the past. 

 All we have to do is obey it.

 

 

Is all sin Exactly the same from God’s Perspective?


There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community~ Proverbs 6:16-19 NIV

Every, so often, while teaching I will comment that a particular sin or behavior is especially bad or harmful from God’s perspective. Oftentimes, someone will approach me afterward and ask me if I really believe some sins are worse than others. The question is typically framed in the following way:

 “Don’t you believe all sin is the same as all other sin?”

 My answer is a bit ambivalent: 

 “Yes and no” 

 I say “yes’ because I sincerely believe that all sin is sin (and sin is objectively terrible and harmful) and in one sense no sin is anymore sinful than any other. This is because any sin, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant will keep a person out of heaven if they refuse to repent of their sin and put their faith Jesus (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:32, 2nd Corinthians 5:21, Ephesians 2:1-3).

 Period.

 That said, I do not believe that “all sin is exactly the same”.  Nor do I believe that the view that “all sin is the same” can be backed up biblically (1stJohn 5:17, Matthew 12:31, 1stCorinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Galatians 5:21). Furthermore, this idea actually leads to more sin rather than less, and therefore ought to be examined more closely.

 Before you write me off as a wild-eyed heretic, hear me out.

  The notion that “all sin is the same” is not one that the church has historically held. I suspect this belief developed because our generation cares a lot about feelings. The belief that all sin is the same out does keep certain sinners from feeling that their sins (and they) are being singled out as worse than other sins (and other sinners).

However.

Telling people that murdering someone, or practicing idolatry, or being greedy, or abusing a child, or oppressing a widow is exactly the same on a sin scale as telling someone their hair looks nice when it doesn’t, is not nearly as kind as it appears to be on the surface. This is because it causes both the saved and the unsaved to feel more safe and comfortable with the whole notion of sin.

 The average person tends to think (at least subconsciously) that if telling a small lie is exactly the same on a as cheating on one’s spouse then cheating on one’s spouse must not be so bad. In a perfect world, one not populated by idiots and sinners people would come to the opposite conclusion and we would all be terrified to tell lies AND commit adultery.

Because humans are idiots and sinners and because the human heart is capable of an insane level of self-deception when it comes to this subject there are four things we have to understand about sin:

 All sin is harmful and wrong (and not just because it sends people to hell)-

 Please understand, I am NOT saying that “little” sins are acceptable or even safe or that God is okay with any sin. He is not. All sin is dangerous, because sin is insidiously progressive and hideously deceptive. Even the smallest sins (if not repented of quickly) lead us to become more comfortable with sinning. This leads to a hardening of the heart which inevitably leads to more sin which eventually leads to a rejection of the truth (Romans 2:8).

 Not all sin has the same consequences-

 Looking at porn is worse than watching a movie with swear words in it because looking at porn twists one’s view of sexuality and other people and will inevitably lead to more sin. Telling a lie about someone’s appearance is wrong (and it will make you more comfortable with lying) but it does not cause the same ripple effects that sexual sin does. In 1stCorinthians 5:11 the Apostle Paul tells believers that some sins are so serious and infectious that Christians should refuse to eat with other Christians who practice those sins. Paul does not say that about every sin, partly because if he did we would all eat alone and partly (mostly) because not all sin has the same consequences for the sinner or for the people around the sinner.

  The Bible clearly states that “Christians” who habitually commit certain sins aren’t going to heaven-

 Seriously. It does (1st Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:5). Depending on your theology (Calvinist or Armenian) you can view this in one of two ways. Either genuinely saved people do not commit those sins (Calvinist theology) or committing those sins causes you to lose your salvation (Armenian theology). Either way it should make us think long and hard about what kind of sin we allow ourselves to get caught up in (Hebrews 12:1).

 Sin can separate us from God forever but it doesn’t have to. God does not want anyone to pay the penalty for their own sin.  That is why Jesus died for sinners like you and me (Romans 5:6, 1st Corinthians 15:3, 1st Thessalonians 5:10, Hebrews 9:15). All you have to do is trust Him to save you and turn away from your sin (Mark 1:15)

 It really is that simple.