Spiritual Warfare Series- What was Jesus’ Spiritual Weapon of Choice?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life-John 3:16 NIV

Love is more than a sweet sentiment. 

It is a formidable spiritual weapon. 

It is not an accident (in my opinion) that the “warfare passage” we find in Ephesians 6:10-20 is preceded by two and a half chapters that spell out in detail what love “looks like” and how our faith and love for others ought to work itself out in our churches, marriages, parent-child relationships and workplaces (Ephesians 4:1-6:9). 

Nor is it an accident the “love passage” found in 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 is sandwiched between passages that cover the ins-and-outs of how Christians should do church, worship and use their spiritual gifts. Paul understood probably better than anyone that love only works as a weapon when it impacts every part of our Christian lives. If we don’t get the “love” thing right our spiritual gifts become pointless parlor tricks, our worship never goes further than the ceiling and our churches are powerless to transform the lives of hurting people. 

Love was Jesus’ weapon of choice. 

 Jesus knew everything there was to know about every person He encountered and He still loved each and every one of them deeply and fully (John 3:16). He loved everyone He met in a way they had never been loved before. He did not turn away from the woman at the well (John 8), the demoniac (Mark 5:1-14) or Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:12) or anyone else and for that matter. 

Instead. 

The almighty, all-holy, perfectly clean, absolutely sinless God of the Universe looked the worst humanity had to offer square in the face (literally) and because He was God He saw clearly the ugliness and sin in every person who crossed His path.  He knew exactly how their choices had affected them

And yet:

 He loved them anyway. He loved them by looking beyond their sinful ugliness and the effects of their choices. He met them where they were at and in the process loved them into a state of wholeness and health.  Then He went ahead and did the same thing for the whole human race by dying on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin (Romans 5:8)

Love is critical. It literally has the power to change the trajectory of a person’s life. 

Here’s the thing, though. 

 Love alone— or at least the way our culture defines love is actually dangerous (and icky) because it tends to devolve into a grody form of sloppy sentimentalism.   Twenty-first century love is like the drunk girl at the party who gushes sappy sentiment all over everybody but can’t remember any of what she said the next morning. Contemporary love is all about being okay with the worst in people instead of accepting people where they’re at AND helping them to reach new levels of growth, transformation and health. Sloppy sentimentalism feels delightful and appears to be noble but it isn’t really love because it lacks the power to save anyone from anything. 

Sigh.

 Authentic love: the kind of love that defeats the powers of darkness and changes the trajectory of people’s lives is firmly anchored in biblical truth (Colossians 1:13-14). True Christian love is always characterized by a willingness to resist current cultural beliefs that lead people away from God and into bondage to sin. 

It’s the kind of love Jesus had for people. 

When Jesus freed Mary Magdalene and the demoniac from their demon possession he did not encourage either one of them to go back to the choices that got them demon-possessed in the first place—although those choices may have still felt comfortable to them, even after meeting Jesus. Instead He showed them how they could live free from the sinful choices that led them to a life of bondage and despair.  Jesus did not forgive the woman at the well (John 8) and send her back to her latest partner— instead He told her she should “go and sin no more” because that’s what warfare kind of love does. 

Warfare kind of love sets the captives free with equal measures of truth and grace (Isaiah 42:6-9). 

 Jesus would never have been okay with our culture’s contemporary definition of love. He would be disgusted with drug programs that help people to do drugs “safely” rather than free them from the oppression of their drug use. Jesus is undoubtedly appalled at the notion of encouraging someone confused about their gender to transition because transitioning doesn’t deal with the root hurt, pain or sin that led to their confused state in the first place (Jude 23)  

Jesus grieves deeply when Christians choose to love like the world loves because He knows that real love fights for the best heaven and earth have to offer; instead of simply settling for something easy but vastly inferior to what God wants for all people (2nd Timothy 2:3-5).  

Everyone who has been truly touched by the love of Jesus wants to love like He loved: with a warfare kind of love. We love like Jesus loved by living out the Bible’s standard of righteousness, fearlessly telling people the truth in the most loving way possible and sticking with them through the sometimes-long process of finding authentic freedom and growing into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:1-25). 

Is it Really Sinful to Judge the Behavior of Others?

 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them- 1stTimothy 5:24 NIV

If I were to venture a guess, I would say the best known and most quoted Bible verse of all time would have to be Matthew 7:1: “Judge not lest you be judged”.  Bible believing Christians as well as some folks who have never actually cracked a Bible in their lives have the verse memorized and are swift to whip it out anytime they sense the slightest disapproval from anyone concerning anything at all.  

Most have decided it means that the best way to escape God’s wrath (and perhaps even the fires of hell) is to simply never make a moral judgment concerning anything. A lot of people believe “you do you” and “live and let live” is the New Testament solution to escaping trouble with God. 

I don’t think it means what they think it means. 

If evading God’s judgment were as simple as not being judgmental there would have been no reason at all for Jesus to come and sacrifice Himself on our behalf. Instead He could have just wrote STOP BEING SO DANG JUDGY OR YOU’RE GOING TO BE SUPER SORRY in the sky and saved Himself a whole lot of trouble. He didn’t. So, the meaning of His words matters. 

A lot. 

If judging the actions of others is the fast track to our own punitive judgment then we should watch ourselves very carefully in this area. However, if judging actions is not wrong, then maybe, just maybe a tad bit more of the “right” kind of judging will make Christianity more what God intended it to be in the first place (Matthew 5:13-15, 1st Thessalonians 4:7, 1st Peter 2:9, 1st Peter 2:12-15, 2nd Peter 3:11).    

I’m just saying. 

It is fair to assume “judge not, lest you be judged” is not a warning against making moral judgments about behavior.  Jesus was clear: He came to fulfill the law—not abolish it (Matthew 5:17). Most of the Old Testament law (parts of Exodus, all of Leviticus and Deuteronomy) is just a long list of things God says are right and wrong. The rest is basically just a “how to” properly judge when someone breaks the law and what should be done about law breaking.  It would be more than a little odd for God to say “no” to the whole notion of making moral judgments concerning right and wrong behavior after giving His people two and a half books of commands. 

So.

Cultural context is critical when it comes to understanding what the New Testament has to say about any subject.  It’s especially important when talking about judgment in general and judging others in particular. 

Here’s the thing:

First century Jews were some of the judgiest people on earth and they did not stick to judging actions. Mostly they were all about judging whether or not a person was worthy of heaven.

 Jews believed they were special in the sense that they were the only people capable of being completely righteous and worthy of living forever in God’s presence. If someone was not a Jew—they didn’t stand a chance. Further complicating things, most assumed any Jew who did not fully obey the law was a lost cause as well. Religious leaders were all about deciding who obeyed the law “well enough” to be accepted and loved by God. Even the judging of behavior was tainted with judging the worthiness of the person.

Thankfully, for us Jesus set the standard for who gets into heaven. No one is actually “good enough” to get to get right with God on their own (Isaiah 64:6, Luke 18:19, Romans 3:12). We all suck (Romans 3:23). God in His great mercy God chose to make it all about faith in Him so we would at least stand a chance (Luke 7:50, Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 10:39). No one (except God) can really know who has saving faith and who doesn’t. No one except God can judge another person’s worthiness of heaven. 

James 2:12-13 gives us some insight into Jesus words in Matthew 7:12. It says:

So speak, and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment-NASB

Okay, so, the English translation of this verse is awkward and tough to understand.  The Greek, comes closer to saying something like this: You will be judged with liberality, kindness and generosity by God. So, you ought to judge other people’s actions and hearts with the same liberality, kindness and generosity you hope to receive on judgment day.  If you don’t judge others with a measure of grace God will apply the standard you use with others to you. 

Yikes. 

So. Judging the rightness or wrongness of actions or behavior is not a problem. That said, a very big problem arises when we judge the motives or the hearts of people. 

We just don’t have the chops for that.  

It is sometimes critical we make judgments about the rightness and wrongness of actions. However, we must remember the goal of making a judgment about behavior is never to condemn anyone, but ultimately to help and encourage everyone to become a better, godlier version of themselves. 

The mercy we hope to be shown should ALWAYS be the standard of judgment we use on others. 

Period. 

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. 

What can the Average Christian do to make a Difference right now?

His master replied, You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest– Matthew 25:25-27 NIV

I used to love all things political. 

Seriously. I did. I was a junkie. I looked forward to the presidential elections the way my husband looks forward to hunting season and the way my brothers look forward to the super bowl. Even midterm and local elections were thrilling to me. The love of all things political was a big part of who I was. 

That ship has officially sailed. 

I no longer love politics.  Honestly, the whole ugly muddle kind of horrifies me at this point.  My love for the political began to wane sometime around the 2014 midterm election. The choices in candidates got sadder, the issues became more polarized and the people on both sides became much more hateful and much less tolerant towards “the other side” of the political divide. 

Sigh. 

The choices in candidates have not gotten any less sad. The issues have not become any less polarizing and unfortunately, a lot of the people on both sides of the political divide are still pretty hateful, especially when it comes to any issue they happen to hold dear.  The whole thing is kind of gross to me now and I don’t always know what to do with that feeling.

However.

There are a couple of things I do know. 

I know the world isn’t getting any less ugly or dark. It’s just not. The picture the Apostle Paul paints for us of the end times in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5 is becoming more and more of an actuality with every passing day. Good is now officially evil and evil is officially good in every corner of Western culture (Isaiah 5:20). The writer of Ecclesiastes declared three thousand years ago that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But with all due respect, from where I sit, folks are literally inventing new ways to sin (Romans 1:30). 

If for whatever reason you disagree with my assessment of the cultural moment we find ourselves in. I suggest you spend some time on Tik Tok looking at “gender affirming videos”. It’s an eye-opener.  For sure.

Sigh. 

We are all weary. We are weary of the world we live in. We are weary of the sin we see gaining ground in the culture. We are weary of evil winning and good losing. We are weary of caring about what goes on in this world because there is just so much to care about and most of the problems appear to be insurmountable and unsolvable. We are weary of politics. We are weary of the infighting. We are weary of the posturing. We are weary of the lies. 

For some of us that weariness has translated into believing our vote doesn’t matter anymore. Some of us have bought into the lie that God doesn’t care about how we vote or even if we vote at all. We have decided the prudent thing to do is to settle into our churches, hunker down and wait for the return of Jesus and I get it. 

However.

I also know all of life is a stewardship. Nothing we “own” is really ours to do with as we please. We belong to the Lord and so do our blessings and opportunities.  God expects His people to use what they have been given for His glory and the good of others (Matthew 25:14-30). Our homes, our children, our civil rights, our time, our churches, our bank accounts and our votes all belong to God. None of that stuff, or any other stuff we might think we own is really ours. It all belongs to God. Everything we have in this world is on loan for a season we call “this life”. 

I know we will all be held accountable for what we do with what we have been given. How we handle; our possessions, witnessing opportunities, our authority, our blessings, our money, our citizenship, our families and our votes are all things we will either be rewarded for or have to give account for when we stand before the Lord on judgment day (Romans 12:14, 1st Peter 4:5, Revelation 20:11-15).

November 8th is the 2022 midterm elections. The battle over good and evil is raging in ways it has never raged before.  That makes this election a big deal. The issues are monumental. There are really are some things we can do to swing things in a better direction. 

We can pray. We can storm heaven with pleas for a return of justice, righteousness and virtue. We can beg for revival. We can ask God to show us what we need to do in our own lives to bring revival. We can do what God tells us to do. 

We can vote.

It’s not too late to register in most states. If you are not registered to vote, get registered. Today. Educate yourself on the issues and candidates. Don’t expect perfection from a candidate. Choose the best of a bad lot if you have to, but choose. Not choosing to vote is a vote for the encroaching darkness. 

Understanding the Movement to Sexualize Children-

If anyone causes one of these little onesthose who believe in meto stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea– Matthew 18:6 NIV

There is without question, an organized movement afoot to sexualize the children in our culture. 

It all begins early on with “fun” activities and teaching tools like queer story hour and the gender unicorn. The campaign intensifies in elementary school where some (not all) teachers encourage kids to choose their own pronouns and urge them to “explore” all their gender possibilities. Even some elementary schools allow and even encourage kids to hide gender exploration from their parents.  During middle school a plethora of books are made available to kids containing sexually explicit content, including a substantial collection of gay and pedophilic reading material. It’s no surprise that by the time children start high school up to forty percent “identify” as non-binary, trans, gay or queer.  Some begin taking cross-sex hormones or begin the process of gender reassignment. In many states’ minors can begin the process of gender reassignment without parental consent. 

This movement to sexualize children early-on is active in most school districts across the country. If a child happens to live in a “blue’ state this is almost guaranteed to be the reality.  

These steps are no happy accident. 

This is an organized process designed to break down a child’s natural inhibitions regarding sexuality. It’s called “grooming”.  Pedophiles have been using similar techniques to sexualize and seduce children since the dawn of sin (Genesis 3, Genesis 6:5-8, Genesis 19). 

Sigh.

It’s critical Christians understand and are able to articulate the reasons why this premature sexualization of children is wrong and harmful and it’s not just because early sexualization dramatically increases the likelihood a child will begin having sex at a young age. To some extent early sexual activity is the least damaging outcome of untimely sexualization. 

Premature sexualization of kids can also lead to:

A delaying or halting of the maturation process- 

In a healthy society a kid has one job: to grow-up and acquire the skills necessary to navigate the complexities of life in their world. In order to become a healthy, functioning adult a child needs to stay focused on the task of growth throughout childhood. Kids need to spend the majority of their time concentrating on their school work, building relationships with their family and friends and participating in activities that help them to figure who they are, what they’re all about and what they want to do with their lives.  Sex is an incredibly powerful driver. For some kids early sexualization causes sex to become their sole focus. This pulls them away from learning what they need to learn to grow into a functional adult. Early sexualization causes some kids to become hyper-focused on their own bodies and gratifying their sexual urges. For some kids exploring their sexuality becomes an obsession and obsession with sexuality never ends anywhere good or healthy.   

A denial of the reality a good God- 

Trans advocates believe gender has little or nothing to do with the parts a person is born with. Militant trans-activists have convinced a large portion of the population a person born with a penis can be a female or a person born with a vagina can really be a man trapped in a woman’s body (Matthew 24.) Because so many people believe this lie much of today’s sex education is focused on helping children understand what gender they “really” are (Genesis 1:27).  This belief can get really messy from a spiritual standpoint because Christianity teaches that God forms each human being uniquely and distinctively. Christians believe people are the way they are because God crafted them in a good way for a good purpose (Psalm 139:13-16). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine a loving God would not make a person physically male but “really” female. Only a really mean or messed up God would make a person physically one way when in their hearts and minds they are really something totally different. God is either a cruel trickster or there is something emotionally and mentally wrong with a man or woman who believes they were “assigned” the “wrong” gender. Seriously. Those are the only two options.  The enemy loves convincing people God is cruel and doesn’t have their best interests at heart.  Trans ideology plays into this scheme.  

Runs the risk of destroying fertility-

Satan hates life and is always searching for clever ways to keep humans from producing children.  He will tell any lie to get people to destroy their own fertility.  Transitioning is a huge win for him because it almost always involves a complete loss of fertility when healthy sex organs are cut off so new ones can be formed and cross-sex hormones are given. 

Here’s the thing.

Most sex education today has little to do with explaining the mechanics of sexuality. Nor is it about protecting kids from sexually transmitted diseases or preventing pregnancy. Those are pretexts used to introduce kids to every kind of sexual oddity imaginable. None of it will lead anywhere good, healthy or life-giving. The path we’ve chosen will only lead to bitterness in children who are being told following their “hearts” will bring them the happiness they long for, when in reality it will leave them empty and broken.  

What’s the Deal with Generational Curses?

Riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations– Proverbs 27:24 NIV

Some Christians think generational curses are nothing more than voodoo or fake news. Others think they’re an excuse weak people use when they don’t want to take responsibility for their own choices. Some are convinced generational curses are the result of some distant ancestor ticking God off. They think that in His anger God “cursed” the offender and his or her entire family line with a hex dooming them all to generational misdeeds. Still others believe generational curses are real but they only happen in families where people don’t know Jesus.  

 Generational curses are real. 

However, they are not the result of God’s wrath. They are the logical outcome of human foolishness and spiritual rebellion. A generational sin becomes a family trait when a person chooses to sin and then does not confess their sin or repent of it. Some version of that same sin is then passed down to the succeeding generation in the form of a behavior or attitude many members of the family get stuck in. The most common kinds of generational curses in unsaved families are sexual sin, abuse, alcohol, anger, codependence, drugs, stupidity, anarchy and foolishness. 

Christian families pass on generational curses too. However, generational curses tend to look different in Christian families. Generational curses show up in attitudes and behaviors that dishonor Jesus and hearts that are far from God. Following are five of the most common causes of generational curses in Christian families. 

We cultivate surface-y goodness-  

Jesus warned repeatedly against cultivating a pretense or façade of goodness and righteousness at the cost of authentic heart transformation and change (Matthew 23, Matthew 25:31-46, Luke 11:37-54, Romans 12). Sadly, it’s not hard to fake righteousness, except with our kids. Our children get a front row seat to the sin we successfully hide from the rest of the world. When we cultivate an illusion of goodness rather than dealing with our sinful junk honestly, we either pass on the horrible generational curse of spiritual fakery (Acts 5:1-10), or our kids develop hearts of rebellion against a religion they assume is either phony or powerless.  

We hold on to a bitter spirit-

 Because bitterness is almost always the product of actual trauma, suffering and being sinned against, bitterness feels reasonable and justifiable. It’s not. God forbids bitterness because it eventually becomes who we are (Ephesians 4:31). Bitterness saturates our souls, transforms our personality and turns us into an ugly distortion of what God wants us to be. This ruins our Christian testimony and wrecks opportunities for ministry. It also has a defiling effect on our children and grandchildren (Hebrews 12:15). Anytime we choose resentment, anger or bitterness over forgiveness we infect our kids and grandkids with the generational curses of anger and offense. This causes them to become hardhearted towards God and unforgiving towards people (Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 18:19).

We indulge in too many grey area behaviors- 

Not everything in life is cut and dried or black and white. This is even true in the Christian life (1st Corinthians 6:12). There are things Christians won’t go to hell for doing that also will not help them become better, wiser or godlier people.  The shows we watch, how we treat and talk about people, our church attendance, alcohol use, whether or not we use curse words are all grey areas. No one is going to hell for having a beer, spotty church attendance, being rude or saying a bad word every once in a while.  However, it is also true that how we handle those grey areas will impact how our kids process their faith and live out their Christianity as adults.  If we want to prevent the generational curse of spiritual complacency we must be cautious and prayerful about how we deal with the grey areas of life.  

We don’t honor our parents- 

We live in a culture where even some Christians routinely use almost any excuse to cut their parents or in-laws out of their lives (2nd Timothy 3:1-3). Unless there is a really good reason for doing so, disrespect to parents is a terrible sin guaranteed to reap ugly generational consequences. There are parents who are truly toxic, evil or who were genuinely abusive. The Bible does not command anyone to allow abusive parents to move into their homes or give them free and unfettered access to their grandchildren. Christians should exercise wisdom and discernment in all situations. However, contrary to contemporary thinking, it is not abusive for a parent to be dumb, controlling or less than perfectly tuned into their child’s needs. The command for adult children to honor their parents is the only command that comes with the promise of blessing (Exodus 20:12) and there are no qualifiers given. Adult children are to do their best to figure out a way honor their parents. Period. Even if those parents were less than perfect or the situation is complicated.  The number of generational sins we bring on ourselves and our children when we refuse to honor parents is innumerable. 

A generational sin is easy to break.

All we have to do is recognize it, confess it and change the sinful behavior. When we do that God steps in with His grace and power and does more than we can ask or imagine in our lives and in the lives of our children (Ephesians 3:20) 

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.  

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.  

Where Real Life is Lived-


How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you
– Psalm 31:19 NIV

My Dad died over the holidays. 

Death is never pleasant or easy. The Bible teaches death is not something human beings were created to experience (Genesis 2:16-17). Therefore, every death is grim, traumatic and depressing on some level. All that being said, as far death goes, his was less terrible than many. My Dad died quietly and peacefully in our home two days after Christmas. He didn’t linger on the edge of death for weeks or months as some do, nor was he terribly uncomfortable as he neared the end as some are. 

We were fortunate to have all four of our children with us the night he passed. Each shared something they loved about my Dad or a fond memory they had about him then we all prayed for him. A few minutes after we were done praying he breathed his last breath and that was it.

He was gone. 

The next day I gave information so his death certificate could be filed with the state. The woman filling out the paper work asked all manner of questions about my Dad’s life. Among other things, she wanted to know: where was he born?  What kind of career did he have? How many years was he married? How many children did he have? What level of education did he receive?  

On paper my Dad’s life looked pretty good.  

He graduated from college. He remained married to the same woman for forty-two years. He had a rewarding career in entomology. He travelled extensively and lived in a number of interesting places.  He fathered six children: four boys and two girls. At the end of the conversation the woman gathering the information commented that it sounded as if my Dad had lived a full and happy life. The reality of his existence was a bit different. My Dad was not a horrible man. He wasn’t evil and I doubt it was ever his intention to cause harm.  

However.

My Father did live a life that was unaltered in any conspicuous way by the restorative and redeeming work of the Holy Spirit. I’m not saying my Dad was an unbeliever. I honestly do not know if he was or he wasn’t. His spiritual state was a bit of a mystery. I do know he and I talked at length about a commitment he made to Jesus shortly after my Mother died. I also know that over the last few years my husband and I and many other Christians attempted to have a number of spiritual conversations with him. However, in his later years’ dementia became an ever-increasing issue in his life so it was hard to know exactly where he stood spiritually. I do know after his “conversion experience” he never really grew spiritually or allowed his attitudes and behaviors to be transformed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:5-16, 2nd).  Like so many people in this world who commit their lives to Jesus my Father remained exactly what and who he had been all of my life. In his case this meant he was a hard man with a bad temper and a whole slew of bad habits, who judged others with a measuring stick he refused to use on himself.  Sadly, he had few friends as he neared the end of his life. He died estranged from four of his six children and his two brothers. 

Sigh.

For the sake of my own sanity I choose to believe the best about my Dad’s eternal state. The mercy of God is great and the word of God never returns void (Hebrews 4:12, Isaiah 55:11). Therefore, I am choosing to believe I will see my Dad again someday. He will be an entirely new man and we will have the relationship we were always meant to have (2nd Corinthians 5:17)  

That being said.

In my more navel-gazy moments of grief and loss I wonder what my Dad would say now that he is firmly on the other side of the great divide that exists between the living and the dead (Luke 16:26).  

If he could I believe my Dad would say that a life lived for self is ultimately a wasted life. He would advise the living to mend fences and build bridges with the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so because there will come a day for all of us when those opportunities will be gone forever. He would likely have a lot to say about the importance of avoiding bitterness and not sinning in fits of anger (Ephesians 4:26, Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 4:31. Most significantly, I believe with all of my heart and soul my Dad would tell us all to take any commitment we have made to Jesus seriously. He would advise us to do the things the New Testament tells us to do so we will grow into the people God designed us to be.  Because then—and only then—we get the full and abundant life Jesus promises those who believe enough to put God’s words into action. 

Because that is ultimately where real life is lived. 

How the “Great Age of Reason” Made us Dumber-


Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools- Romans 1:22 KJV

During the enlightenment era, or the “great age of reason” people began to understand the natural world is governed by rules, laws and forces rather than demons and magic. Thanks to enlightenment scientists we understand objects fall to the ground due to the natural law of gravity.  We now know it is microbes, not demoniac forces that make people sick and recessive genes not bad omens that cause children to be born with red hair seemingly out of nowhere. 

Enlightenment thinking is at the root of the logical, methodical and organized approach to life and problem-solving we are all familiar with today. The enlightenment was a big-stinking game changer in human civilization. 

However. 

The Enlightenment age also created some issues. The Enlightenment conditioned humans to believe there is always a formula to solve a problem or accomplish a task—we just have to find it.  As a result, most of us are firmly entrenched in the mindset that the key to solving any problem is simply finding the right set of principles to apply to our problem.

Sometimes it works.

The systematic analysis of microbes led to the invention of antibiotics and antibiotics have solved the problem of bacterial infections. Modern farming techniques have more-or-less eliminated the problem of wide-spread starvation. The methodical evaluation of human behavior led to modern psychology. Psychology has effectively explained the why of what people do thus solving many mental health issues.   

However.   

The ability to solve some problems using science has generated a belief that all our problems can and should be solved using our known understanding of the problem at hand. When our “knowledge” doesn’t solve the problem we can go into a weird kind of denial where we keep doing the same things over and over again hoping at some point we will get the result our “understanding” of the subject told us we would get (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Sigh.

The COVID-19 crisis is a real-world example of what I’m talking about. Scientists were initially convinced COVID could be beaten through a combination of contact tracing, masking, social distancing and lockdowns. Those methods all failed spectacularly. Covid spread like wildfire even among those who were resolutely following “the rules”. When a vaccine became available the new solution was to vaccinate at least sixty percent of the population. That solution didn’t work. Some of the most vaccinated countries on earth (Israel, Ireland, Gibraltar) ultimately experienced more covid than less vaccinated countries. For a very long time the super-vaccinated countries lived in a weird denial. They did all the same things (masking, vaccines, lockdowns) harder and faster (metaphorically speaking), with the exact same results (more covid) 

This addiction to formulas has found its way into Christianity.

It has caused some Christians to fall into a kind of practical atheism, where we seek God for answers to our problems instead of seeking God for relationship. We love God for solutions instead of loving God for who He is.  When we don’t get what we want from God, we get mad and turn away from Him altogether or stay in church and stay perpetually angry at Him for His lack of willingness to bless the formula. 

Confidence in formulas can lead to serious issues with pride, self-reliance and stubbornness. When Christians fall into the trap of believing that doing everything “right” will ALWAYS lead to the “correct result” they become angry or go into denial anytime there is a “bad” or “unexpected “outcome. This causes them to keep doing the same thing over and over again rather than seek God for wisdom and help.  Belief in formulaic solutions can also cause Christians to become very judgy towards those who experience “failure” in their childrearing, finances, marriages or other relationships. Unwavering confidence in formulaic solutions leaves no room in our thinking for free will or the free agency of human beings (Matthew 7:1-4, Deuteronomy 30:19).   

In a fallen world there will not always be solutions to all our problems (Genesis 3). Sometimes people get sick and don’t get better. Kids who were raised right still go astray and sometimes people do everything right and everything still goes terribly wrong. That’s where God comes in. We must seek Him, not for what He can do for us but because it is in Him we find peace, joy and rest for our souls in the midst of an uncertain and scary world (Jeremiah 29:13).