Bringing Hope Reason and Grace to the Discussion on Race-

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets- Matthew 7:12 ESV

I grew up in a weird kind of a bubble. 

My family was poor and we lived in small towns mostly in the Northwest part of the United States (Alaska, Oregon and a short stint in Utah). There were not a whole lot of minorities in the towns I grew-up in.  However, if the town we were living in happened to have a minority population there was a pretty decent chance they lived in the same neighborhood we lived in. I don’t recall much, if any real racial tension in those neighborhoods. Being equally poor tends to create a bond between kids regardless of race. 

My parents invited all kinds of different people into our home and nothing was ever really made of it. People were just people. I don’t recall either of my parents ever using a racial slur but I do remember one of my brothers using one once. All of us learned fairly quickly that sort of thing just didn’t fly. All-in-all the way my parents handled issues of race was one thing they did really well. 

However. 

The bubble I grew up in led me to believe that contemporary racism was a myth or at the very least a problem that had been solved with the end of Jim Crow, the dawn of the civil rights movement and programs like affirmative action. Growing up, I knew a few people who said racist things but they were mostly viewed as oddballs and social pariahs. It wasn’t until I moved to the deep south as a young adult that I realized racism is still alive and well in the hearts of some. That said, I also observed that the most racist people I knew tended be part of the older generation. My children had friends from all races and backgrounds and no one thought anything of it. This reality gave me hope that perhaps racism would die off as older people and the attitudes they had been raised with also died off. 

Sadly, racism is still very much alive.  

In fact, the problem appears to be getting uglier and more toxic by the day. There are reasons for this. Unfortunately, there are still those who refuse to let go of sinful attitudes concerning race. Contributing even more significantly to the problem, are those in the political realm who have learned that division and stoking racism are an effective tool to bring about political change that really has nothing to do with race or fixing the problem of racism. 

Christians can’t control what non-Christians do or don’t do, nor should we even try. God will judge the world in due time (1st Corinthians 5:12-13, Revelation 20:12-13). However, we are called to be an example in all things, including social and moral issues like racism (Ephesians 5:1-3, Galatians 3:28, 1st Timothy 4:12). Following are five truths Christians must live 

Commit yourself to judging people only on the content of their character- 

Okay, so that statement is hardly original.  That said, it’s still the only right and just way to judge another human being. Christians must not look at people through a lens of race but as people made in the image of God who have a choice about what they do and how they live. Those who live life well and treat others with respect and dignity deserve admiration. Those who don’t need our prayers. Period. 

Understand that violence and hate cannot end violence, hate or injustice-

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that: Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that and hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that.  The world needs to hear the message that attempting to oppose darkness, hate and racism by using race as a political cudgel or as an excuse to riot and violently protest will only make the world a darker place.

Recognize the truth that the sins of past generations cannot and should not be atoned for by the current generation-

 God does not punish children for the sins of their parents, grandparents or great-great grandparents (Ezekiel 18) and neither should anyone else. Some sins cannot be atoned for, they can only be forgiven and learned from. Forcing atonement through reparations for the evil of slavery will do nothing but create new, deeper and even more profound wounds that will lead to even more racism.  

Check yourself- 

Self-evaluation is critical (2nd Corinthians 13:5), especially when it comes to attitudes of the heart. Racism is an attitude of the heart we must check for frequently.    

Embrace the reality that the consequences of bad choices are not the same as racism- 

When people play stupid games, they win stupid prizes. Running from police or resisting arrest is without question the dumbest game ever. Our generation must embrace the reality that the consequences that result from or resisting arrest or running from the police are not racism. Even if the officer is white and the person running from the police is not. Period. 

It’s time for a rebirth of personal responsibility and commonsense in our world, especially where moral and social issues are concerned. The church must lead the way in showing the world the right way to handle the very thorny issue of race.  

Six Signs of Failure in the Christian Life-

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

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

Sigh.  

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

First: 

You haven’t been prompted to do anything lately- 

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

You don’t pray much or at all-

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

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

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

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

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

You aren’t working on your prejudices-

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

You think wokeness and Christianity are compatible- 

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

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

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

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

It was a bewildering week. 

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

However.  

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

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

Sigh. 

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

It’s called “wise stewardship”. 

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

Sigh. 

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

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

Anyway.

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

That message would effectively end cancel culture forever. 

Some Hard Truth for all of us-

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

A couple of things: 

First of all, Dear Reader,

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

Lisa

Now, this week’s post:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How we Got Here and What Will Bring Change-

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

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

Such was the case this past week. 

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

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

The world is a mess:

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

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

The church has its own set of issues. 

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

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

All that being said.

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

How We Survive These Crazy Times-

`When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things– 1st Corinthians 13:11 NASB

In December of 1776 Thomas Paine penned his now famous words:

These are the times that try men’s souls”.

With all due respect to Mr. Paine and the times he lived in, his times had nothing on our times. 

Seriously.  

This is swiftly becoming a tough time to be alive and an even tougher time to be a Christian. Politics have become deeply divided, making it harder for individuals to find common ground on nearly anything of any consequence. Once-stanchly democratic governments are trending more towards authoritarianism. Violence has become routine in places where people once dwelt in safety. Additionally, the whole stinking world just got kicked in the behind by a pandemic that has produced even more division, more violence and more authoritarianism.  

SIGH. 

Christians must also deal with the reality that our God is routinely mocked in every way imaginable (Galatians 6:7). Many have taken to calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Those on the side of unlimited sexual freedom have LITERALLY invented new ways of doing evil and are doing their level best to lead our children down a path of inevitable personal destruction (Romans 1:30). Because almost no one believes in absolute truth anymore deception has taken root to such an extent that otherwise intelligent people literally believe lies when the truth is right in front of them. For most believers, it feels as if evil of every kind is gaining ground daily. This is disheartening on a level that is difficult to find words for. 

However.  

If we believe God is sovereign we also have to believe God placed us here in these times for a reason. If we believe that we also have to believe God wants us to live in these times in such a way that we bring Him glory (Esther 4:14). All that being said, these times are not for the faint of heart. Nor, are they for overly-indulged saints who love their own comfort and wellbeing more than they love God or the Church God has called us to love and serve (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 2nd Corinthians 13:11, Galatians 5:13). If we want to live in a way that brings God glory in spite of circumstances we must be willing to ruthlessly root out attitudes and behaviors that are toxic to our spiritual health. A spiritually toxic behavior or attitude is any attitude or behavior that is sinful or will inevitably lead to sin.  Following are five spiritual toxins slowly killing Christians. 

Entitlement-  

Entitlement is a sense we have a “right” to certain freedoms or experiences or to have situations the way we like to have them.  Sadly, there are a lot of Christians more focused on their rights than their responsibilities as Christians. Entitled believers will withdraw from churches, not because of doctrinal issues they can’t overcome but because they have been “offended” or because changes have been made in their church they don’t like.  Christians are called to model their lives after Jesus who was literally entitled to EVERYTHING (Philippians 2:1-11) but rather than demand what He was rightfully entitled to He sacrificed His own wants and needs to benefit us.  Christians must learn to do the same.   

Expecting to be served rather than serving- 

Christians are never more like Jesus than when they serve others (Matthew 20:27-28, Luke 22:25-27).  However, in most churches twenty percent of the people do one-hundred-percent of the work that needs to be done. This is lazy and God is categorically not a fan of laziness (Matthew 25:26, Hebrews 6;12). It also tends to produce a spirit that is critical of the efforts of others (Ephesians 4:29).  The cure for this one is easy. Get busy serving and do it with a servant’s heart (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 6:7). 

Allowing fear to run the show- 

The world is a scary and unsettled place right now and for the most part recent events not bode well for Christians. Even so, Christians are not called to live in fear but rather walk in faith (Proverbs 29:25, John 4:18, Romans 8:15). Walking in faith means we stay obedient to Jesus at all times with the understanding that even if things are not okay it will be okay because our souls are secure in Jesus (Luke 1:50 Romans 8:18, Romans 8:28).  

Refusing to let go of old behaviors- 

In Colossians chapter three Christians are given a list of eleven spiritually toxic behaviors we are commanded to put to death. Failure to do so inevitably results in some sort of spiritual and/or moral disaster. 

Depending on anything or anyone for hope or help in times of trouble besides Jesus- 

People were designed to crave a defender, comforter and source of wisdom and strength in times of trouble and upheaval.  But because we are a fallen and therefore imperfect (Genesis 3) we tend to want all the wrong defenders, comforters and sources of wisdom and strength. We turn to charismatic political leaders, the people we love, our founding documents, drugs or alcohol, dubious sources of information or the approval of others to give us the comfort and help we should only seek from God (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 20:7). If God is not who we run to first in times of trouble we are in danger of becoming ensnared in the sin of idolatry. 

Tough times are never something anyone hopes for, but for God’s people tough times are an opportunity to be a light in the darkness. In order to become the light our world needs we must pray continuously for wisdom, discernment, spiritual strength and freedom from these five sinful attitudes that can so easily entangle us and keep us from being the person God needs us to be in these times (Hebrews 12:1).   

Four Ways to Stop the Hate and Violence-

For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just- Isaiah 32:6a and 37 NIV

I really wanted to write something happy this week. 

Seriously.

I had the happy post half-written in my head but, alas, it was not to be. Just as I was about to begin writing. I tuned into the news and heard about the ambush attack on two deputies in Los Angeles County. I immediately felt obliged to change direction. 

The attack was shocking. It’s always shocking when someone shoots two complete strangers without a reason. The shock value was raised exponentially when it was revealed that a crowd of what can only be assumed were demon-possessed onlookers gathered to shout they hoped the officers would die (Mark 9:29). 

Sigh.  

As appalling as this situation is, it was also entirely foreseeable. The seeds of this tragedy were initially sown five years ago. It started with the lie that police shootings are ALWAYS criminal or at the very least unnecessary. The propagation of that lie prompted overpaid NFL players with an exaggerated sense of their own significance to begin sanctimoniously taking a knee during the national anthem. One of those players famously began wearing pig socks “in protest”. Soon after the chant “pigs in a blanket fry ‘em like bacon” became the rallying cry of the social justice warrior class. Around that same time leaders of certain party began to encourage their followers to harass conservatives. This was followed by calls to defund the police. That led to riots in the streets which led to innocent bystanders being attacked on the streets because “enough wasn’t being done” to pacify the mob.  It ended in Compton with an unstable person doing what he probably thought leaders wanted him to do.

So, a couple of things:

First, any idiot could have predicted we would end up here. The slippery slope is real. One action or decision really does lead to another set of actions and decisions.  The situation we find ourselves in delivers iron-clad proof of that fact.  Second, we must stop kidding ourselves about the whole “peaceful protest” twaddle. There are few (if any) “peaceful protesters” left anymore. There were peaceful protests immediately following the death of George Floyd. However, that ship has officially sailed. The movement has been hijacked. Those “protesting” are politically driven criminals who care little about the issues they SAY they are fighting for. Period. Finally, the situation we find ourselves in is a direct result of deception (Psalm 52:3). Deception cannot be ignored.  Decent people cannot sit back passively and hope the culture gets it’s act together.  It won’t unless we:

Pray – 

Too often, Christians say “well, I guess all we can do is pray” as if prayer were a silly last resort superstitious dumb people turn to after every other reasonable option has been exhausted. We treat prayer like it’s the spiritual equivalent of going to a witch-doctor after medical treatments for cancer have failed. Prayer is the most powerful thing Christians can do ever, under any circumstances, and without it none of the other things I suggest in this post will have any impact at all. Christians everywhere have a duty to pray for renewal in their own lives, revival in the lives of unbelievers and for truth to be revealed to all people (John 8:32). 

Speak the truth in love- 

Christians have become determined not to offend anyone (Ephesians 4:15). Our silence on moral and spiritual issues has left a void that Satan has filled with evil.  There are two reasons for the silence, the first is intellectual laziness. Many Christians do not know enough about the Bible or the world around them to engage anyone effectively concerning much of anything. Ignorance is a violation of the commandment to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37).  The second is fear. Christians fear being disliked more than they fear God (Psalm 39:1-3). We must remember that Christians are NEVER to engage anyone in a cruel or nasty way (1st Peter 3:15). However, it is better to speak the truth and be hated by men and loved by God than to remain silent and loved by men and hated by God (Revelation 3:15-22). 

Demand better of our leaders- 

State and local leaders must be held accountable for the violence that’s overrunning many cities. If you live in a city where rioting has become commonplace call and write the mayor’s office and demand the mayor step down unless they get the violence under control. Write letters to the editor demanding state and local politicians get the destruction under control. Encourage friends and family to do the same.   Do not stop until said leaders step down, are voted out or make changes.  

Refuse to passively tolerate hate of any kind- 

Racism is never okay. Hating someone for the color of their skin is weird, wrong and categorically unchristian (Revelation 5:9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). However, hate is just as hateful and every bit as evil when it is directed at a police officer or a conservative politician as it is when it is directed at a random person of color. Hate is hate. Christians rarely hate openly, however sometimes we are guilty of tolerating it passively in ourselves and others. Instead of just letting hateful remarks pass we must look for gentle and respectful but direct ways to call out hate of any kind. 

Finally, if we want to see real and lasting change we must be willing lead by example. This means we must examine ourselves regularly, confess our sins to God and others and repent of sin quickly (Acts 3:19, 2ndCorinthians 13:5, James 5:16).  

How to Get the Revival the World Needs-

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me– Psalm 51:10 NIV

 Our world is a flaming-hot mess right now.

 This is not a new thing.

 Sin and the messiness sin inevitably creates is as old as the human race (Genesis 1-3). However, it could be argued the world has been in a spiritual and ethical freefall for the better part of a century.

 Hedonism replaced Christianity as the predominant worldview in Western society years ago. As a result, the average person does not know how to think about life from a moral and ethical perspective. Abortion is believed to be a human right by the majority. Marriage is one of many options available for sexual fulfillment and individuals are free to define marriage any way they wish.  Attitudes towards sexuality have changed dramatically in recent years, with pedophilia being the latest in a long list of sexual behaviors that have become normalized, or are quickly becoming normalized. Most children are raised by google and YouTube these days while Moms and Dads blithely chase down self-actualization. Each new generation is more godless than the last. 

 Sigh. 

 The moral and social upheaval has accelerated at an unsettling pace over the last six months. Coronavirus is at least partly to blame. Coronavirus has ravaged the economy of every nation on earth. The psychological distress brought on by economic hardships has shone a spotlight on the social dysfunction festering beneath the surface of society for decades.  COVID-19 has also accelerated the political corruption that already existed. Politicians have used the pandemic as an excuse to grab power and make rules they themselves refuse to follow. Democracy hating revolutionaries have seized on the confusion brought on by the virus and are using underlying racial and economic tensions as an excuse to loot, burn and murder.  These rioters say they want a better, more just society but their real aim is to create a new social order with a godless government.

 The world clearly needs a revival.  

 Our world is in a state of chaos because most people are spiritually dead.  They don’t know God or care about right and wrong. Most individuals do what they want with no regard for God or what will happen to them after they die (Romans 1:18-32, 1st Corinthians 1:18).  Revival is something that occurs in those who do not know God.  When authentic revival takes place, people who are spiritually dead and unresponsive to spiritual truth (non-Christians) have a spiritual awakening and are brought to spiritual life (Ezekiel 37:1-14). When this happens, their heart undergoes a profound change. They fall in love with Jesus, repent of their sins and begin to see life the way God sees life. As their thinking is transformed their behavior is as well (Romans 12:1-2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18) One consequence of widespread revival is that attitudes towards sin undergo a profound change and eventually every part of society is affected in some way.  Historically, anytime genuine revival has taken place alcohol sales go down, divorce rates plummet and crime rates drop dramatically.

 Here’s the thing:

 Revival generally does not occur without renewal first taking place. Renewal is a spiritual work that occurs in the hearts of those who do know God (Psalm 51). Renewal is when God begins to work in the hearts of people who know Him and have drifted from Him and become disobedient or even just apathetic towards spiritual things. Renewal makes our faith fresh and new again. When renewal happens, Christians have a fresh hunger for holiness, a desire for correct doctrine and have a renewed longing to see revival take place in the culture. God always brings renewal before revival because renewal prepares the church to meet the needs of the new believers that come out of revival.  

 The church needs God to renew His people because for the most part, Christians have ceased to care about revival. Instead of praying for a movement of God we have settled for isolating ourselves from the sinful masses. The church has become far too focused on our own needs. This is demonstrated by the fact that most Christians are more worried about having their personal rights respected than in doing what’s right. We tend to see the world in terms of us (Christians) and them (non-Christians) and many of us would likely struggle to come up with one thing we would willingly give up to see someone else saved. Christians rarely pray and when we do pray our prayers tend to be fairly self-motivated, as a result we rarely feel personal conviction and when we do we seldom act on it.  

 Sigh.

 The need for revival is always obvious when its required. The need for renewal is generally much less obvious but more critical because we will not get the first until we get the second. Renewal comes on God’s people when they collectively pray and ask God for it. God moves when His people seek Him with all of their heart, soul and strength (Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 22:37). Renewal occurs when Christians do the things they did when their hearts were on fire for God and when individuals couple right behavior with asking God to give them the right attitude (Revelation 2:5). I believe God wants to bring both revival and renewal to our world but He won’t do it until Christians around the world collectively ask for it.


Like we really mean it.

 

 

 

 

The Real Reason We’re Losing our Freedoms-

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

 We are rapidly losing long held freedoms.

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

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

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

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

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

 This begs a question:

 Are we living lives worthy of these blessings?

 The answer is nope.

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

 Many Christians are no better just different.  

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

 Here’s the thing.

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

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

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

 It’s time to get to it.

 

 

 

The Greatest Threat to the Church Today is the Church-

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

 The Church is in trouble.

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

 That said.

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

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

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

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

 Christians who refuse to submit to the word of God-

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

 Christians who are quick to publicly judge other Christians-

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

  Christians who foolishly kowtow to the culture

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

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