America is a Dumpster Fire: Here’s what Christians can do About it-


Repent
, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord– Acts 3:19 NIV

America is in decline. 

Once trusted institutions are now looked at with scorn, cynicism and even fear. Many politicians have become corrupt, narcissistic and self-serving.  The economy is in crisis. Inflation is raging. Crime and violence are becoming disturbingly routine events.   Personal freedom is often a cover for evil and selfishness. Government has responded by restricting and regulating personal freedom at every turn.  The military is weakened. A once robust educational system is collapsing. Families are broken. Children are confused about who and what they are.  Drug use is endemic. Men and women are literally fighting for the right to kill their own children.  Truth tellers are despised. These ugly, irrefutable, painful realities clearly point to a state of growing decline. 

Sigh. 

What the heck? How on earth did the freest, richest and overall greatest nation (in my humble opinion) on earth transform into such a raging dumpster-fire so quickly? 

 As tempting as it is we cannot in good conscience lay the blame for the chaos entirely at the feet of our increasingly inept and morally bankrupt political leaders. In a democracy decline is never entirely the fault of the people in charge, voters get what they accept and vote for. Additionally, from a biblical standpoint bad leaders are always an indicator of judgment and are therefore just a symptom of a greater problem.   

Sin is the problem. 

Sin is always the ultimate cause of moral and spiritual decline (Romans 1:18-32). If an individual, family or nation is deteriorating or declining you can bet sin is at the root of the issue.  Anytime anyone turns away from God and starts to do their own thing they separate themselves from God and the moral code faith in God brings with it.  Eventually, the whole memory of that moral code fades and the person, family or culture is left with the ethical equivalent of a raging dumpster fire. What we’re looking at in the world today is what you get when people turn away from God, reject His moral code and choose to do their own thing. 

Unfortunately. 

Our situation will not be improving anytime soon. The decline America is experiencing will continue until we have a massive revival that fundamentally changes our trajectory or the eventual end of America as we know it. Obviously, we are all rooting for a revival. Here is what we need to do to get it:

Stand up the right way- 

 Christians are frequently told everything will improve when they “stand up” and “fight” for what’s right.  The problem is that no one can really explain what that means or how to do it in a way that brings God glory and facilitates change in the culture. Do we lead an insurrection? Do we focus on the political realm? What exactly does standing up for our faith look like in 2022? I believe this is where we can take a page from the early churches’ handbook. The early church didn’t take a political or even a moral stand against the Roman government. They didn’t rally or rage against anyone or anything— no matter how wicked or evil that somebody or something was. As a powerless minority rallying and raging would have done little good, it might have even gotten them killed. Instead they simply refused to conform to the culture around them (Romans 2:12). They lived such good, right and moral lives within their culture that they slowly won the culture over to their way of thinking, believing and behaving (1st Peter 2:12). We must seek to do the same. 

Have a realistic perspective on the limits and potential of politics-

Politics are important in a democracy and we have to remember that living in a democracy is a gift from God. Nevertheless, it is critical Christians understand all political leaders (including conservatives) are flawed and cannot be depended on to bring about ethical change.  Every Christian living in a democracy or a constitutional republic is biblically obligated to do their part for the country they live in. That includes praying fervently for political leaders, choosing to vote only for the best and most principled candidate available. Doing our part means being a good citizen who follows all laws that do not contradict God or His laws. We must do our best to improve the political realm but politics should never take the place of God in our lives. Nor can we depend on human leaders to bring righteousness, justice or peace to our land. Only God can bring healing to our world. 

 Take spiritual risks- 

This is not the time to sit back and hope good wins out in the end. This cultural moment requires Christians be spiritually proactive. We become proactive by sharing our faith boldly, loving the lost boldly and doing what’s right in God’s eyes no matter the cost to us personally.  

Our job as followers of Jesus is not to demand our rights or spend our time cursing the darkness (1st Corinthians 4:12) . Our job is to be Jesus to our world. We must seek to represent Him well in our homes, churches and communities.  

How to Survive the Topsy-Turvy, Rabbit Hole World of Post-Truth-

They refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false– 2nd Thessalonians 2:10b-11 ESV

Craziness is being taken to whole new level these days.

Consider these current realities:

  • A male is now the number one female swimmer in America. 
  • It is no longer true that being born with a particular set of chromosomes (XX or XY) determines gender. 
  • Feelings are every bit as valid and important as facts. 
  • Words are violence.
  • It is possible to say, write or post something inoffensive in a “mean way” instantly making the inoffensive thing “mean” and “aggressive”. 

Furthermore:

Humans routinely look at long lists of facts proving something to be true. After viewing the evidence (much of it airtight) they will assert that all those obvious and incontestable facts are simply not true.  They conclude the truth is in fact the exact opposite of what the facts say they are.  This makes it official: our culture has fallen down the rabbit hole. Good has become evil, right has become wrong, and lies have become truth. Literally.  

There is nothing stranger than watching a seemingly rational and apparently functional person deny the clearly obvious without any apparent misgivings. It feels like you’re witnessing someone morph into a pod person right before your very eyes. It FEELS as if you’re being willfully gaslighted. However, I am convinced that is not the case most of the time. The pod people really believe the lie.  They imagine that men can really be women, feelings are as important as facts, words are every bit as harmful as a weapon in the hands of a killer and intent is irrelevant. 

Interestingly, the Bible does provide an explanation for this lunacy. 2nd Thessalonians tells us that as the world winds down and we near the “end of the age” (Matthew 13:39-43, Matthew 24) there will be “a great delusion”. The delusion will come because people will refuse to believe the word of God and be saved. The delusion will cause many to believe things that are simply not true. In Luke twenty-one Jesus warns of something similar. He tells His disciples that in the end false prophets and teachers will deceive many. Jesus warns that the delusion will be so powerful that even some of the “elect” or those who have a relationship with Jesus will be tempted to believe the lies.

The delusion appears to be gaining ground. It’s the only rational explanation for the madness currently running amok in our culture. Furthermore, the monkey business we’re experiencing will not end until we have a massive revival that impacts the majority of the population or Jesus returns.  Seriously. Once a civilization collectively hops on a bus to Crazy Town there is little chance of turning the bus around without divine intervention. 

This means believers in Jesus must get busy figuring out how to deal with the current reality in a way that reveals truth to the world around us and honors God. 

Sigh. 

 Nothing is impossible with God. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything God calls us to do will be easy. Living for God in a topsy-turvy rabbit-hole world of post-truth is no easy task. That said accepting the following realities will make it easier. 

First:

We must question everything- 

Seriously. The ideas and philosophies  taking root in our culture are not all obviously insane, some clearly are, but some aren’t (Colossians 2:8). Sometimes the deception is subtle. Some lies have a little truth at their core. Others seem good true on the surface and it isn’t until you carefully examine the fruit of the idea that you see the idea really is toxic. This means Christians have to practice wisdom and discernment (Psalm 119:125, Job 34:4) in every circumstance.  

We have to learn to pray about everything-

We do not live in a time and place where can pridefully “lean on our own understanding” about anything and survive spiritually (Proverbs 3:5-6). This a time to humbly acknowledge the reality that God knows more than we do about everything and ask Him for wisdom about everything even the things that feel right to us (Proverbs 14:20)

We have to be okay with not being liked- 

The days of being an esteemed majority are all but over for Christians, at least for the foreseeable future. The sooner we get comfortable with the reality of not being liked the sooner we can get on with learning how to live spiritually productive lives in a post-Christian culture. This reality does not give us permission to be rude, unpleasant or lacking in grace but it should give us the courage to say what needs to be said and to defend what’s good and true. 

Hard times are upon us. 

I don’t know if the hard times are the beginning of the end or simply a blip on the radar that will lead to a revival. That question is way above my current paygrade.  I do know our call in this cultural moment is to be faithful in all things and trust God with the rest.  

The Risky Path of Spiritual Pragmatism-

Once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light– Ephesians 5:8 NLT

I’m currently in Turkey with The Center for Holy Land Studies (a group I highly recommend) touring New Testament sites with a heavy emphasis on the seven Churches of Revelation. The guides have done an outstanding job of piecing together secular history, geography and Biblical history in a way that has brought the experiences and practices of the early to church to life. One theme has come up over and over again: 

Syncretism. 

 Syncretism is not a Bible word. However, it was a relentless temptation in Bible times. Syncretism is the blending of different systems, practices and ideas. Most paganism practiced by God’s people in the Old Testament was actually some sort of syncretism—a mingling of the worship of Yahweh with the worship of other gods such as Baal and Moloch. 

Syncretism was an enormous temptation for the early church. Early Christians were steeped in a culture of paganism.  Many early believers were saved out of pagan religions. Additionally, Christians were under relentless social and governmental pressure to conform to the systems of paganism. Earning a living, being considered a good citizen and sometimes even just staying alive demanded paying homage to various pagan gods and goddesses. Rather than conforming fully to paganism many simply combined the two. They worshiped Jesus AND participated in the customs of paganism. 

However.

Jesus had nothing positive to say about their practicality. Like. Seriously. Nothing. It was a major theme of the letters to the seven churches, it was at the core of the criticism aimed at most of the churches. 

Most Christians do not see syncretism as a contemporary problem. But it is. It just looks a little different in our world. In the ancient world syncretism always involved idol worship. Christians would attend Christian meetings AND burn incense (worship) the emperor or honor a deity tied to their profession. This allowed early Christians to stay alive, feed their families and live at peace with their culture. 

Contemporary Christians do not bow down to idols or politicians to stay employed or alive. However, Christians are constantly tempted to syncretize secular morality, practices and ethics with Christian morality, practices and ethics. We do this to avoid being “canceled” or rejected by “polite” society and live at peace with our culture. Many contemporary believers will pay lip service to the idea of homosexuality being an acceptable lifestyle, mostly as a way of “loving” a practicing homosexual or to avoid the sin of “judgement”. Some have acquiesced publicly to the notion of multiple genders. Christians don’t conform because they really believe there are sixty-four genders or because they think God changed His mind about homosexuality sometime in the recent past. They do it because its practical and expedient. It keeps the woke censors at bay and makes life easier and from a human perspective easier is always awesome.  

Please understand. 

I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit Christians ought to treat every human being on earth with the dignity and respect due a person made in the image of almighty God. It’s categorically not okay to be unkind. Furthermore, I believe God is the only being in all of creation with the ability to rightly judge the heart of another human. However, being kind and treating others with dignity does not mean we can verbally agree with every deviant behavior under the sun in the name of “loving our neighbor”. 

Jesus hates syncretism. Passionately. He has no patience for it at all. Jesus knows the human heart is bent towards evil and sin even post salvation. Syncretism is a problem because the sin of syncretism transforms us into the image of whatever culture we happen to be living in and when we become like the culture we become spiritually useless. Sin is not limited to participating in sinful behaviors it also includes accommodating sinful ideas and practices in the name of “loving one’s neighbor” or “fitting in”.

Syncretism is something we must actively work against. The spiritual practices of prayer, Bible study, church attendance and Christian community are critically important because those practices sharpen our spirits and make us more aware of right and wrong and more willing to stand against wrong. We cannot lean on our own understanding where culture is concerned. We need constant dependence on the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and show us where our thinking has become morally muddled and in what ways we are acquiescing to cultural patterns of behavior or thinking rather than biblical patterns. And finally, and most critically we have to stop marinating in the culture if we want to think and live counterculturally. We have to turn off our televisions and put down our phones. We have to shut off the noise so we can hear God’s voice. 

I am convinced the enemy loves syncretism almost as much as Jesus hates it. Satan knows that when we make space for sin of any kind it clouds our thinking, weakens our ability to share our faith and makes spiritual growth pretty darn close to impossible. Therefore, anytime we begin to really think and live counterculturally we inevitably face hardship and trouble just like the early church did. But we are also given the peace we need to withstand the pressure and the power necessary to change hearts and minds. 

Just like the early church did.

The One Question Everyone Needs to Ask-


But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God
– John 3:21 NIV

Everyone wants THE THING. The thing is that special something will give us the growth, maturity and self-awareness that will make us a better version of ourselves. Longing for the thing is why the self-help section of any bookstore anywhere in the western world is always the biggest and best stocked in the store. It’s why so many watch Dr. Phil and why we read Malcom Gladwell and listen to Adam Young. We all want the magic bullet that will make us a better more lovable version of ourselves.  

We want the thing because we know growth, self-awareness and maturity are the fast-track to all the other things we all want in life. Things like healthy friendships, successful careers and happy families. For believers in Jesus the thing is also the path to spiritual growth and wisdom. Those blessings inevitably lead to deeper understanding of our faith and greater intimacy with Jesus (2nd Peter 1:5-8, 2nd Peter 3:18, 2nd Corinthians 3:18)

Humans are hard-wired to want all that. If a person has stopped caring about healthy relationships, career success and a happy family it is likely they experienced some sort of trauma that caused them to give up the fundamental part of what makes us human.  

However. 

Few actually get the thing. Even most Christians fumble around hoping to find the answers to this longing we have to become a better version of ourselves. 

The good news is the secret isn’t really a secret. Getting in on the thing is easy. Literally, anyone can do it.  That said few want to do what needs to be done to get it. All it takes to achieve real growth and lasting change comes down to asking one simple question and really wanting to know the answer to that one simple question: 

“What don’t I want to see about me?” 

We all have something we would rather not see about ourselves. It might be we’ve been running from God or we suffer from a stubborn refusal to confront sin in our own life or the lives of those we love. It might be a mean streak or a raging pride problem. It might be an anger issue or an inclination to take the easy way out of every situation. Or, perhaps we want to think the best of other people even when all the evidence is tells us not to.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit fault or we have a habit of taking more than we give.

The bottom line is those issues inevitably lead to problems that appear at least on the surface to be unrelated to the thing we don’t want to see. Those problems could include but are not limited to unhealthy dynamics in our closest relationships, a lack of friends, persistent financial problems, bratty children, a stalling in our professional lives or a stubborn lack of spiritual growth.  

We typically call the things we don’t want to see blind spots. They are not blind spots. A blind spot is something we CANNOT see. The things I’m talking about are all things we simply don’t want to see. As a result, they would be better categorized as intentional blindness as opposed to a blind spot. The problem with calling something we refuse to see a blind spot is it neatly removes personal responsibility from the equation. Without understanding and owning our role in the problem nothing will change in our lives. We will be doomed to stunted growth, stalled careers and screwed-up personal relationships.   

Sigh. 

The good news in all of this is that God loves each of us more than we can measure or even understand. God is constantly rooting for all us to become the best version of ourselves. He wants us to succeed in all the things that matter. Because He loves us and wants the best for us He longs to show us the things we don’t want to see.  He knows that seeing the things we don’t want to see is the first step in the kind of change that leads growth, maturity and self-awareness.  

So, here’s the thing.

If you feel stuck in some area of your life or keep running up against failure it’s not because of how your parents raised you, or because you married the wrong person or the temperament you were born with and it’s not because you were denied opportunities others had. It’s because there is something you refuse (consciously or subconsciously) to see about yourself.  Because God is the maker of you and the ultimate authority in life, solving the problem ALWAYS begins with asking Him the question. 

If we ask and actually want to know the answer God will tell us.  Honesty is His jam. He literally cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). The answer might come in a still small voice. It might come in the form of some angry words from a loved one. It might come in the form of a bad review at work. But it will come. 

We just have to be willing to do something about it.  

Beware of the Expert Trap-


“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 both online and in-person recently. The finer points of the conversations vary but ultimately, each ends the same way. It begins when I say something that is in my opinion an innocuous common-sense kind of an assertion. These statements have included but are not limited to statements such as: online school is tough on kids, vaccinated people catch and spread Covid-19 and it’s questionable whether or not that proposed law would even pass constitutional muster. 

At this point the smug little wisenheimer I’m conversing with demands in a very chippy way I produce my early childhood education degree, medical degree, degree in immunology, law.  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 whatever statement I made is true. The 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 tell me to come back when I have a degree in whatever field they deem essential to continue the conversation. 

Insert angry face here.

I hate these exchanges with a white-hot passion. These folks believe the only people who have any right to speak into or on any subject are those who are an “expert” in the field in question. If you take this lunacy to its logical end-game it means that, in order to make a statement like “I had a dog with the exact same problem and it turned out to be mange” one would need to be a veterinarian. Or to say “children ought to eat something besides candy and cake 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 great and certainly have their place. Additionally, I believe wise people freely admit when they are dealing with a situation above their paygrade or outside of their wheelhouse. Smart 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? Or is it the people in the media? 

It would be easy to settle on education as the qualifier. 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 be and often is politized 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 only useful if they are totally unbiased or operating completely without an agenda of any kind.  This never happens 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 easily be bought.  Experts are also prone to having biases that may or may not be grounded in facts. Experts can be also swayed towards a particular perspective by peer pressure.  

Moreover.

Experts are sometimes just plain wrong. It was experts in the early 20th century who claimed the certain races were genetically inferior.  This belief led to the holocaust. It was experts who assured us margarine was healthier than butter. It was experts in theology during the middle ages who claimed the Bible was unnecessary for the common man or woman. 

But, by far the biggest problem with placing all our trust in “experts” is that doing so demands we stop thinking for ourselves, and 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 in spite of 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 gave us brains and He expects them to be used. We have to wake up and realize 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 Christians Become the Worst Version of Themselves-

 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead- Acts 17:30-31 ESV

We all know that person.

The man or woman who has somehow managed to achieve the unenviable feat of becoming the very worst version of themselves imaginable. 

Perhaps the person is hostile, mean, judgy, bitter, prideful and/or self-serving. (Hebrews 12:15, Hebrews 3:12, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:8-9). It could be they are just so oblivious to the needs and feelings of others they just go around unknowingly causing the poor hapless souls unfortunate enough to be caught in their orbit immeasurable hurt and pain. It might be they are sexually immoral in some way. Perhaps they are addicted to pornography or they cheat on their spouse or they just sit around indulging in lecherous thoughts about the opposite sex all the time. They might lie or cheat or steal or go around boasting about their own awesomeness to anyone who will listen. Maybe they drink themselves into oblivion routinely or are addicted to drugs. To some degree the sordid details of their behavior is less significant than the fact that they have chosen to indulge their very worst tendencies and character traits.    

No one is exempt from becoming the worst version of themselves (1st Corinthians 10:12). It happens all the time. It happens to famous mega-church pastors like Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ted Haggard. It can also happen to local pastors, ministry leaders, their spouses as well as your average Joe or Jane church attenders. It’s horrifying anytime anyone becomes the worst version of themselves. It’s extra gross when it happens to a Christian.   

Here’s how it happens:  

The whole messy mess starts out innocently enough, just like almost every other messy mess on planet earth. The slide begins with a subtle shift in behavior or attitude that gradually transforms into a habit.  The person knows what they’re doing or thinking is sinful. However, because no one says anything and nothing truly catastrophic happens they keep doing their thing in spite of any reservations they may have.  

Then God gets involved in His indirect but distinct little God way. 

The person hears a guilt-producing sermon, or a reads a convicting blogpost, or perhaps a friend or spouse, gently, or not so gently confronts them with the problem. At this point things go one of two ways: the person might choose to get offended. When a person chooses offendedness  its not long before they begin the process of actively shutting out anyone who is isn’t either one-hundred-percent supportive of their behavior or willing to ignore it.

  Sometimes, the person just goes into full-on denial mode concerning the seriousness of their behavior. They assure the person challenging them they have a handle on things.  Then the sinner slowly convinces him or herself their behavior isn’t really a problem. The same behavior might be a problem for other people but not for them.  They have so many other awesome qualities they are above being destroyed by the petty little sins that doom other Christians. Besides, they tell themselves: they’re a Christian, God loves them. If God wasn’t okay with what they’ve been up to He would force them to stop.  He hasn’t so He must be okay with it.

So, the behavior or attitude persists.  

At this point, things get interesting, in a very bad way. Blindness sets in and the behavior takes firm root. They spend more time looking at more porn, they think more lecherous thoughts more frequently. They get to the place where can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. They go into full-scale addiction. They lose the ability to even muster up false humility.  At the same time, they become increasingly more oblivious to the effect their behavior is having on others. They become harsher and meaner and less concerned with the feelings of others.  Ironically, at the same time they become much more judgmental towards other people, especially towards those who have the same problems they do (Matthew 7:2-3). They become a twisted version of what they could have been, a parody of their sin and a sad joke to non-Christians. 

So. Here’s the thing:

No Christian is doomed to becoming the worst version of themselves. It is a fully preventable tragedy.  However, we have to understand that the devil wants more than anything in the world to see every Christian on earth become the very worst version of themselves possible (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves it when Christians fall into this trap. It ruins the believer, their ministry opportunities and their Christian witness. This is a triple win for Satan.  To avoid this trap, we must understand that even in our redeemed state we are capable of great sin and self-deception. To avoid the self-deception that makes becoming the worst version of ourselves possible we have to make every effort to grow in our knowledge of God and nurture the Christian virtues of faith, goodness, humility, godliness and self-control in our lives (2nd Peter 1:3-10). We must make a regular practice of examining ourselves honestly before the Lord (1st Corinthians 13:5) and we must listen when other people try and speak truth into our lives. 

Finding the Cure for the Crisis in Church World-

 They went far from Me, and walked after emptiness and became empty– Jeremiah 2:5b NASB

The Western Church is in crisis. 

The crisis came about because somehow over the course of the last century both Church-goers and Church leaders lost sight of what a real spiritual win looks like (Judges 21:25). This has resulted in diminishing spiritual power in the lives of church-goers.  The churches lack of spiritual power has left it incapable of transforming people and society. This has caused the culture to spiral downward in a whole bunch of weird and kind of horrifying ways.   

Sigh. 

The average church-goer has gone after all the spiritual goals (Jeremiah 2:5). For many the primary objective of the Christian life has become one of personal fulfillment. In the minds of the average Western church-goer God exists mostly to meet human needs and fulfill personal desires. God’s job is to make us happy and fix our problems. If God doesn’t give us what we want in a timely manner or in the way we want it we find a new spiritual model, hobby or cause that gives us more of what we think we need. Sometimes, this involves Christians making flowery proclamations on Twitter or Facebook stating they intend to spend some time “reimagining”, “reconstructing” or “reinventing” their faith. Those expressions are all just twenty-first century colloquialisms for willfully choosing to make up a new, more user-friendly God who will allow us to find personal fulfillment in whatever way we see fit. The “reimagined” or “reconstructed” God is always a bit more progressive and tolerant than the God of the Bible. The new God is always willing to put His (or Her) blessing on self-actualization that leads to selfishness, sexual sin and bitterness towards those who have caused us pain. 

Christian leaders who lack an understanding of their purpose look to God primarily for a sense of achievement.  This is similar to the desires of the average church-goer but the ultimate outcome is different.  When leaders lack an understanding of their purpose God becomes a means to an end rather than the whole goal of the Christian life.  Leaders who do not understand their biblical purpose seek kingdom building, but instead of building God’s Kingdom they build their own. These leaders end up working really hard to create a cool place for people to hear them speak. On the surface this can appear to be a good thing. But, the environments these leaders construct inevitably lack the power to bring Christians and non-Christians out of their sin and selfishness and into right relationship with God.  

It’s a hot mess. 

The answer to the problem is simple. However, that does not necessarily mean it will be easy to actualize the solution. In order to solve it we must change our perspectives on what God is for, what the church is for and what the outcome of Christianity is supposed to be. Changing perspectives on anything significant is tough because it involves a combination of humility, self-awareness and willingness to make hard changes. Most humans suck at all that stuff. 

Sigh. 

Mercifully, what is impossible for man is possible with God (Matthew 19:25-26, Luke 18:27). The Western church will regain its purpose and spiritual power when God’s people go back to the Bible and seek to understand what God really says about the mission of the Church. 

The gospel message is the mission. Period. The average church-goers job is to tell the world how Jesus can transform a person and change the trajectory of their life (Matthew 28:18-20, 2nd Corinthians 5:17). This is why Ephesians six tells believers to “put on the shoes of the gospel of peace”. That directive is a statement of mission. It tells us we are here to take the gospel into every interaction we have and every situation we find ourselves. In order for the truth we tell to take root in people’s hearts we must live lives that reflect the goodness, kindness and moral purity of Jesus. 

Christian leaders should be in the business of building and growing people spiritually, morally and in their gifting’s and abilities. Leaders must emphasize the importance of spiritual growth, emotional health and holiness in their teaching, preaching and interactions with church people.  Leaders must encourage and teach their people to maximize their giftings in such a way they build up the church body. The goal of every Christian leader should be for every person in their body to be told “well done good and faithful servant” on judgment day by Jesus (Matthew 25:21). I suspect it will be a big part of the overall grade for leaders on judgment day (Revelation 20:11-13, James 3:1). 

Everything we do as believers must be done in a spirit of humility. Church-goers must tell the world about Jesus p with an attitude of grace and love that shows the world that everything we say about our God is true. Church leaders must manage their lives and ministries in such a way that when church people become a natural reflection of the leaders in their lives it will be a beautiful thing (Romans 12:8).  

Three Realities Every Christian Must Embrace in This age of Division and Hate-

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world– John 16:33 NIV

We live in an age of division and hate. 

The list of issues dividing us is long and growing at a rapid clip. These would include tax policy, the minimum wage, immigration, the number of genders that exist, abortion, who should use which bathroom, sexual orientation, education, critical race theory and how elections should be managed. We are divided over masks and whether it’s safe to gather in groups and how to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19. The vaccinated accuse the unvaccinated of being dirty, ignorant, backward, uncaring unscientific super spreaders. The unvaccinated accuse the vaccinated of being sheep, followers, sellouts, judgmental jerks and silent super spreaders.

 Sigh. 

How do we become a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable time? 

Do we keep our heads down and hope for the speedy return of Jesus? Do we dive into the melee and fight the man? If so, which man? How do we fight? How do we represent Jesus well while we fight? Do methods matter?   

There are no easy answers. Christians are instructed to do hard things (Matthew 10:8). The methods we employ matter (Philippians 2:14-15, 1st Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 4:13).  Hope is not a strategy, therefore, simply hoping fervently for the return of Jesus will not make disciples or reform broken systems. God does not call His people to retreat (Genesis 1:28). To the contrary, the uglier the age the more a Christian witness is needed in every sphere of society and life. To be that witness we have to recognize three realities:

There is no distinction on God’s team- 

 1st Kings details the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were sinful, horrible, apostate leaders who championed Baal worship in Israel. They oppressed and slaughtered faithful believers without mercy. In chapter eighteen there is a meeting between Obadiah, an official in Ahab’s court and Elijah, a prophet of God.  It’s obvious from the text that Elijah is openly disdainful of Obadiah, while Obadiah clearly longs for Elijah’s approval.  It appears that Elijah saw Obadiah as a sellout and a collaborator. While Obadiah appears to envy Elijah. On the surface it looks like one man is better than the other. It appears that one man is clearly more righteous than the other. It seems as if one is taking a much bigger risk for the kingdom than the other. However, that view is simplistic, incorrect and absurdly human. Both were righteous. Both were risking everything for the cause of Yahweh. Both were serving on the same team and doing exactly what God had called them to do. Obadiah was operating covertly (at great risk to himself) within the existing political system to protect the remnant of faith who refused to worship Baal (1st Kings 18:13). Elijah was working openly (at great risk to himself) within the religious community to bring the wayward people back to faith, obedience and moral purity. Both men were preforming crucial, albeit different roles.  Too often we do what Elijah and Obadiah did, we judge one another (and ourselves) without mercy or grace.  We make arbitrary and unbiblical distinctions between the sacred (religious) and the secular (political). Anytime we make this error, we miss out on opportunities to encourage one another and correct each other’s wrong thinking and actions. When that happens, the whole team suffers. 

Some things are worth fighting for- 

As a general rule Christians are called to live in peace with others (Hebrews 12:14). This does not mean it is somehow godly to excuse ourselves from the fight (Philippians 4:3, 1st Timothy 6:12). We should never ignore societal decay, divisive ideologies or outright lies. Christians should not force their views on anyone.  That being said, neither should Christians ignore acts of evil or philosophies that will clearly lead to evil if left unchecked (Proverbs 24:10-12). Christians should act to protect women, the weak, children, the elderly and the unborn from exploitation and evil.  Protecting the vulnerable is an issue of justice and righteousness—not politics (James 1:27, Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 24:17).  Christians should be cautious about acquiescing to evolving ideas on gender (Genesis 1:27). These viewpoints place children in danger and cause confused and hurting people to degrade themselves in devastating and sometimes irreparable ways. Christians should fight to protect the God-given rights every human on earth has to life, equal treatment under the law, free speech, and the ability to worship God freely and without fear (Exodus 20:13, Galatians 3:28, Exodus 9:1). We cannot in good conscience concede to the culture on issues of right and wrong just to maintain “peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).  

We have to do all the things but in the right order-

There are two things Christians are called to do. Leading the lost to Jesus is the first thing (Matthew 28:19).  However, discipleship is a critical thing as well. We must begin the process of helping people to align their behavior and politics with the truth of the gospel. But only after their hearts have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Confusing the order short-circuits the work of the Holy Spirit and only succeeds in producing well-behaved heathens. This error is how we got into the cultural mess we find ourselves. 

God is calling His people to better. He has called us to unite around the person of Jesus and support all members of the body of Christ. He’s calling us away from the tribalism of our culture and into a purity of heart and action that might just transform our age of division and discord into a glorious season of spiritual reform and revival. 

The Folly of Looking to Politics for Hope-

For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings– Malachi 4:2 ESV

Hardly a day goes by without our culture acquiescing to and even celebrating the “new normal”.

Behaviors and viewpoints that would have been considered unthinkable a few decades ago have become so ordinary we are hardly shocked by them. Following are a few highlights:

Biological boys are routinely transformed into girls and vice-versa. Men dressed flamboyantly as women oftentimes have the run of story hour at public libraries in large metropolitan areas. The American Medical Association has recommended that the sexual designation be removed from all birth certificates.  Nearly one-third of all children are born to unmarried women.  Record numbers of drug overdoses were reported last year. Nonetheless, due to decriminalization efforts drugs including some “hard drugs” are for all intents and purposes, now legal.  Material that was once considered hardcore pornography and therefore completely unacceptable is now mainstream and available to any third-grader with a smartphone. Perhaps, most shocking there is an active push to normalize and legalize pedophilia. 

Sadly, the above list barely scratches the surface of the social and moral changes that have taken place in our society over the course of the last three decades.  

Sigh. 

This moral sea change has had a hardening influence on society in general. Individuals routinely say things about and to others that would have been considered unimaginable just a few years ago. People are becoming more violent as individuals become less self-controlled and less concerned with the well-being of others. This trend has resulted in a sharp uptick of violent crime. Riots, school shootings, hate crimes and road rage have all become disturbingly ordinary events in many parts of Western civilization.  

Sigh. 

Most conservatives find all this quite troubling. Especially Christian conservatives. We understand a civilization will not continue to function as a legit society for long if the majority chooses to embrace moral and social anarchy. 

Most Christians are searching frantically for a clear path out of the encroaching madness.   Our go-to to achieve this end tends to be political. Most Christians are hoping and praying for a political figure or party to step into the fray. We want a wise human who will make some laws that will save us from our sorry selves before we go the way of the Romans or the Babylonians and sin ourselves into extinction. There are all sorts of problems and issues with this mindset, following are four of the most troubling: 

When we look to politics for escape from our problems we ignore history- 

Americans, including many Christians have voted for a lot of losers from both parties over the course of the last century. That being said, our culture did not become the dumpster fire it is today because Americans elected the wrong people. Americans, including many Christians elected the wrong people because they believed the wrong things about God, life and what really matters in life. The wrong beliefs our culture adopted created the moral vacuum that got us the political leaders we have today. We must never forget: in a democracy politics always follow the moral choices of the people doing the voting. 

It denies the warnings of Scripture-  

Scripture teaches that as a general principal, humans tend to reap what they sow (Job 4:8, Proverbs 22:8, Hosea 8:7, Hosea 10:12, 2nd Corinthians 9:6, Galatians 6:7). It is very rare that bad leadership erupts from out of nowhere. This is even more true in a society where people get to elect their leaders. It is simply a pattern throughout Scripture that societies tend to get the leaders they deserve due to the choices of their citizens.   

It is a form of idolatry- 

Anytime we humans look to another flawed human to do things that only God can do it becomes a dangerous form of idolatry. This particular form of idolatry almost always leads to people being ruled over by a tyrant (1st Samuel 8:10-18).   

It keeps us from seeking the only things that can make a difference-  

Christians are commanded by Jesus to be a preserving, protecting and illuminating presence in whatever society they live in (Matthew 5;13-16).  This means modeling for the culture what healthy living looks like in every sphere of life. Anytime Christians seek human leadership as their primary source of help and hope they stop seeking the things that have the power to bring about transformation in a culture.  The cultural moment we find ourselves in demands Christians model repentance and dependence on God in our culture in hopes of ushering revival into the greater culture. Without heart-felt repentance on a massive scale culture as we know it is done for at least for a season. 

Cultural transformation is possible but our hope has to come from the Lord. Transformation will occur when God’s people make the choice to live in a truly counterculture way. We do that by seeking God with our whole hearts. We have to ask Him for help and wisdom. We need to commit to living according to His commands in all situations no matter how weird that makes us to the surrounding culture. If Christians do those two things consistently revival will come (2nd Chronicles 7:14). Revival will bring the cultural changes we all want and our culture needs.