Western Civilization has Reached a Milestone in its Race to the Bottom-

  And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice- Romans 1:28-29 ESV

Western civilization has reached a significant milestone in its race to the bottom.

Parent-child marriage.

Yes. You read that statement correctly. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you.  Parent-child incest is the latest sexual deviancy a person or group is seeking to normalize via the legal system in the name of “individual autonomy” and “personal fulfillment” (Romans 1:18-32).  Last week, the parent of an adult child filed a lawsuit in New York State. This parent is asking the courts to overthrow the state’s ban on incestuous marriages.  Their attorney argues that because this couple is for whatever reason “incapable of producing a child” the state of New York ought to bless their union with all the legal protections and benefits marriage affords.

After reading the piece I scanned the comments section of the article. Most readers were convinced this is a one-time deal limited in scope to a couple of oddballs who live in New York. 

I’m not so sure. 

Years ago, when the push began to normalize and legalize behavior traditionally thought to be sinful, we were assured there was no such thing as a “slippery slope”. We were promised redefining marriage would in no way lead to the normalization or legalization of pedophilia or polygamy or any other sexual peculiarities. However, just a few years later throuple’s (romantic threesomes) are a recognized thing, parents are petitioning the courts to marry their offspring and some medical professionals have argued zealously that pedophilia and childhood sexual abuse are not the same thing at all (Mark 9:42).  

All that being true. 

This situation in New York looks to me like the latest step in the downhill progression of nuttiness that happens when a society decides that there are no moral limits in the arena of sexuality. 

Incestuous marriages could catch on. Perhaps not everywhere with everyone, but it will likely become increasingly more common. Trust me: it is only a matter of time before a popular house hunting show presents a parent-child twosome looking for their “forever home” with absolutely zero judgment. Our culture lost its moral bearings long ago and this sort of thing is a really just a symptom of that reality not the actual problem. The problem is that most people in our society are unwilling to seek moral or even commonsense wisdom outside their own human brokenness (Proverbs 3:5-6). As long as we as society continue to lean on our own flawed understanding of life and sexuality the downward moral spiral will continue unabated. 

It’s painful to watch.

Mostly because to those of us who know Jesus the answer is so simple: turn to God in repentance (Acts 3:19). He will forgive and heal even our strangest desires if we humble ourselves and ask.  But, until our society gets to that point human beings will continue to degenerate and the courts will remain inclined to bless the never-ending moral freefall.  

Sigh. 

I suspect it will be a while before our culture hits bottom. In the meantime, there are some things Christians can and should do to be a part of the solution. First: 

Point people to Jesus- 

Pointing people to Jesus means reaching out to people who are different from us. We must listen with as little judgment as we can muster and ask leading questions about how these lifestyles are actually working for the people practicing them. As we get to know unsaved people it is essential we pray like crazy God gives them a vision for a healthier way of doing life. When that happens, we need to be there to show them the way. 

Live according to God’s design- 

This means get married, have or adopt kids, love your spouse enough to work through any issues that arise. It means no moral monkey business: no cheating, no secret addictions, no secret anything. Live life fully, joyfully and in such a way you can be completely transparent about every aspect of your life. Oh yeah, and get your butt to church. The world needs some good examples. 

Be kind-  

Please note: I did not say we should agree that sinful behavior is acceptable or healthy. Nor, did I say we should lie to people and tell them their sexual deviancy is normal, healthy or okay with God. It’s not and it’s not our job to sanction sin in the name of making people feel good about themselves. That said, it is impossible to effectively help or even pray for someone we when we refuse to love them the way Jesus loves us. 

Life just keeps getting weirder. The good news is that the light of Jesus shines brightest in darkness. This is just one more opportunity for God’s people to shine for Him in a dark season (Isaiah 60:1-3, Matthew 5:16, Matthew 13:43). 

The Real Problem with Lil Nas X and his “Satan Shoes”-

The serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”- Genesis 3:4-5 ESV

Last Friday, the rapper Lil Nas X debuted his latest single “Montero”. At the same time, Mr. X released the “Satan shoes”. Each shoe allegedly contains a drop of human blood somewhere in the sole of the shoe and are decorated with all sorts of satanic symbols. The limited-edition shoes sell for $1018.00. They sold out in less than an hour. 

I watched the video. 

Mostly because it felt false to write about something I hadn’t actually seen. The video felt long, was really disquieting, and kind of dumb. It probably won’t win any awards for creativity. When it was over it occurred to me that I will never get that three minutes of my life back. 

I deeply resent that reality.  

The video centers on a struggle between the protagonist (Mr. X) and the devil. Throughout the video Mr. Nas X repeatedly attempts to use his sexuality to gain power over Satan. The video ends with Lil Nas X giving the devil a lap dance. Immediately following, Mr. X breaks the neck of Satan and abruptly kicks him off his throne, steals his crown, places it on his own head and evidently takes over the administration of hell.  It was disturbing to watch a godless fool who obviously does not understand the choices he’s making writhe around with the devil in a sexually suggestive way for three solid minutes.  Nonetheless, by far the most troubling aspect of the video was not the obvious Satan-worship but rather the humanism and subtle self-worship rooted in the song. 

Modern-day humanism is a world-view that has its roots in the Renaissance. In recent years it has taken firm hold of western civilization. Humanists do not believe in the sinful and fallen nature of mankind. Humanists believe people are inherently good and know what is right and what is right for them. Humanist doctrine is not especially rigid except on one point: humanists believe there is unlimited potential in all human beings for goodness. 

Insert eye roll here. 

It is not a huge leap to go from a humanistic belief system to the sin of self-worship. If one accepts the notion that all human beings are born good the next logical step is to think that our individual perceptions of reality are always right and infallible.  If a large number of people in a culture begin to believe their perceptions of reality are always correct; most of those people will stop questioning their own assumptions or asking for second opinions. Once that happens even intelligent people begin dismissing any opinion that does not appeal to them or fit into their narrow view of the world. People begin to lean on their own understanding to figure out life. They stop acknowledging God or if they do acknowledge God they stop seeking Him for wisdom (2nd Timothy 3:5, Proverbs 3:5-6).  

That is the point where worship of self begins.  

Once worship of self takes root in a life deception of every kind begins to grow in that person’s mind and lunacy suddenly becomes the new normal. That is when it becomes possible to believe gender is fluid rather than binary or that literally everything is racist. Or that if someone sincerely believes something is true then it is true even if there is no evidence at all for that belief. 

Sadly, this is the cultural moment in which we find ourselves. 

At the heart of self-worship is the belief “my beliefs and desires are always good and it is always right for me to get what I want”.  Self-worship is at the root of every addiction under the sin. Self-worship is at the heart of self-centeredness, resentment, child neglect and abandonment, abortion, adultery, pornography and every other kind of sexual immorality and deviancy.  

In a very real sense it does not matter what the world does or thinks. If the average unbeliever wants to embrace the humanist delusion that people are good without God, it’s not really the concern of the church (1st Corinthians 5:12-13). That said, the health of the church ultimately has an impact on society at large. We are where we are right now partly because the church has failed to be the light this world so desperately needs.  

The church should be worried about the church right now (Mark 9:42, 1st Corinthians 8:13, 1st Corinthians 12:12-13, Ephesians 4:4, Galatians 5:8-10). The body of Christ is only as healthy as its weakest member and sadly, self-worship is not just for the unsaved or nominal Christians. Even serious Christians can easily fall into the sin of self-worship. Anytime we begin to believe getting what we want is more important than obeying God we have become worshippers of self. 

Self-examination is the only way to prevent self-worship and repentance is the only cure. 

Why Woke Opinions Regarding Words Must be Kept Out of the Church-

Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen– 2nd Timothy 2:14b NIV 

Warning: weird personal confession ahead. 

Lately, I have been a bit down. I have not felt like myself and I am not a fan of not feeling like myself. After one especially gloomy day it occurred to me that getting mad about something might pull me out of my funk. I don’t enjoy getting fired-up over stupid stuff willy-nilly.  However, I have found that getting angry over an issue of right and wrong has a way of taking my mind off of my feelings and helping me get some perspective about what really matters. 

Anyway.  

Sometimes God takes His sweet time responding to my requests. Other times I get what I want when I want it.  This was one of those times. The next morning, on Facebook I came across a story about a memorial at Wheaten College.  

The memorial in question honors the death of Wheaton graduate and missionary Jim Elliot and four of his missionary colleagues. The men were murdered while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador in 1956.   The plaque has been deemed problematic because it uses the word “savage” to describe the Auca tribesmen who brutally executed Jim Elliot and his colleagues. 

So. 

What the heck? This is about more than a difference of opinion regarding the suitability of a word. Among other things, this is a brazen attempt to reframe and rewrite someone else’s story. 

 Who are we to think that is okay? 

Is it really our place to reframe or reword someone else’s experience, especially when they are no longer around to weigh in on the situation? What makes this generation of Christians righteous enough or wise enough to get to decide how past generations tell the stories of THEIR life experiences?  Isn’t that arrogant and more than a bit condescending? 

Also. 

The wording of the plaque was composed with the consent of Jim Elliot’s wife as well as the families of the other martyred missionaries. They had no issue with the words that were chosen. It should also be noted that the tribesmen and women who later converted to Christianity because of the martyrdom of the missionaries described their own behavior as completely unacceptable and even savage. It was guilt over their actions that eventually led many in the tribe to repent of their sins and embrace Jesus. 

This is a vastly different time than when the memorial was created. It is true that words like savage can be dehumanizing when used the wrong way.  Most Christians (me included) would not use the word savage to describe a people group in the year 2021. It is also true that many Christians feel the church has gotten missions work wrong for the last two thousand years. Those folks feel it is this generations responsibility to right the wrongs of past Christians. 

Is it really? 

Are Christians in 2021 really clever enough or righteous enough to correctly judge the intentions or even the actions of past generations? Wouldn’t it be wiser for contemporary Christians to worry about themselves for a change? Perhaps it would be spiritually safer to leave the job of judging past generations up to God and let Him decide who got it right and who got it wrong? 

 I’m just spit-balling here. 

I believe with all my heart, soul, mind and spirit that ALL people are made in the image of God. Dehumanizing others is ALWAYS wrong. Nonetheless, some actions are wrong, evil and yes, even savage. It’s okay to call out evil and savagery when we see it.  There is simply no room for woke idiocy in the church world when God Himself describes the human heart as “wicked” and so “corrupt” that no one but Him can even come close to understanding it. Let me be clear: telling the truth is not the same as dehumanizing someone. In fact, being real about who we are and what we’ve done is the only way to bring about repentance, salvation, personal healing and restoration of relationships.  Furthermore, telling the honest truth about the past is the only way to prevent ugly events from being repeated. 

 The bigger issue at play here is where woke ideas concerning words will eventually lead us. Rewriting a memorial some might judge offensive might not feel like a big deal. However, it sets a precedence in church world. Non-Christians have been rewriting history and censoring what they don’t like for some time now.  Christians would do well to remember that writing and art from the past chronicles history and helps us understand the feelings and experiences of those who lived before us. Literature and art also helps us to understand and even define what it means to be human. If we lose or revise those works we will remove some opportunity for offense. However, we also lose a chunk of our history and even some vital pieces of our humanity in the process.  Most concerning to me is what will happen to the Bible if Christians decide to start taking their cues on this issue from the world. It could very well be next in line for some serious “rephrasing”.  

After all the Bible was intended to offend (John 6:60-62, Matthew 11:6) 

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

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

It was a bewildering week. 

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

However.  

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

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

Sigh. 

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

It’s called “wise stewardship”. 

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

Sigh. 

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

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

Anyway.

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

That message would effectively end cancel culture forever. 

The Undeniable Link Between Courage and Personal Peace-

These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33 NASB 

This week I came across a quote I had never heard before:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace- Amelia Earhart 

Okay, so. 

With all due respect to Amelia Earhart, who was without a doubt an unusually courageous person. She got it wrong at least in one sense. It is not life that demands we have courage in order to gain personal peace. It is the God of the Universe who grants peace to those who choose to look past their fear and live life courageously. 

The word courage or a derivative of courage is used one-hundred-fourteen times and the command “fear not” is used three-hundred-sixty-five times in Scripture. Abundant personal peace is explicitly promised to those who obey God’ commands (Leviticus 26, Romans 2:10, Galatians 6:15).  Those facts make it tough not to conclude that Christians are called to be courageous (Joshua 1:6-9). Empirical evidence backs up my view. Confusion, self-doubt and personal angst torment those who lack courage. I am convinced that much of the anxiety Christians feel is a result of cowardice in the following four areas: 

 Saying what needs to be said-

Life is full of times God clearly calls us to speak up for what we know is right, just and true. These moments pop up with children, spouses, friends and those we interact with on a regular basis. Anything hard should be said with a generous measure of compassion and grace (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:15). However, it is critical we understand that choosing not to speak truth, especially hard truth always comes at a substantial price. Our culture is the way it is partly because good people have chosen for far too long to keep their mouths shut rather than run the risk of offending others. Many (including myself) wonder what the world would look like if more of us had the courage to challenge wrong thinking when it first began taking root in the lives of the people we love rather than waiting until bad ideas and wrong thinking became endemically entrenched in the culture (Galatians 5:9).   

 Living the way God calls us to live- 

We live in a world that’s broken in ways none of us will never fully understand this side of heaven. Consequently, there has never been a time when it was actually easy to put God first, live with integrity and speak out against sin and injustice. It is getting harder to do those things all the time. Nevertheless, God promises us peace that is literally beyond human understanding to those who choose to live courageous, counter cultural lives that put Him first (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:9, 2nd Peter 1:2).  

Standing up against the forces within Christianity that are pulling the church in the wrong direction- 

 Many churches and Christian denominations are being pulled away from biblical thinking into worldly philosophies that run counter to truth (Colossians 2:8, 2nd Timothy 4:3, 2nd Peter 3:3). This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Jesus never promised that the church would be occupied only by good, God-fearing Christians determined to live Jesus first lives. Truth-be-told, Jesus promised in Matthew 13:24-30 that weeds (unbelievers) will grow-up alongside wheat (believers) causing all sorts of difficulties and challenges for true Christians. Furthermore, all Christians are in various stages of spiritual maturity and health. It is possible for a genuine Christian to be wrong about all kinds of issues or misled by bad teaching or their own evil desires. This is why prayerful self-examination is critically important for all believers, it is a clear opportunity for God to set us straight. In order for us to be at peace with God and ourselves we must know the word, understand how God is calling us to live and not allow ourselves to be swayed by any voice not rooted in Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit (John 10:14) 

Being the right voice of righteousness-  

Christians are not called to defend a particular nation or form of government. Instead, Christians are called to be defenders of the faith (Philippians 1:7, 1st Peter 3:15, Jude 1:3).  There is nothing wrong with patriotism, however choosing country over fidelity the gospel always leads to a lack of peace.  

Finally.  

In Matthew chapter ten Jesus sends out the twelve and commands they do things that can only be done with God’s empowering presence and a serious dose of courage (Matthew 10:7-10, 2nd Corinthians 12:9).  Then He promises life will be hard for anyone who actually has the guts to do the things He asks (Matthew 10:16-21). He also lays out a series of promises throughout the passage. Jesus promises that the courageous will be loved by God (Matthew 10:30-31), be like God (Matthew 10:24), and be honored in the presence of the Father (Matthew 10:32). Then He promises that the courageous will have such and abundance of personal peace the world will be blessed by their existence (Matthew 10:13).

But first we have to be willing push past any fear we feel. 

Five Things Christians Should Always Celebrate Even in the Darkest of Times-

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn- Psalm 89:15-17 NIV

There is not a whole to celebrate right now.  

Everything feels kind of dark and hard right now. 2021 seems to be determined to follow in the footsteps of 2020.  Destructive philosophies have taken root and many western countries seem intent on committing cultural suicide. The thin veneer of civilization is getting thinner every day and governments all over the globe are struggling to get a grip on the growing chaos.  Even people who don’t worry all that much are anxious, depressed and fearful on some level.  

Furthermore.

There is lot of spiritual fruit for Christians to grieve right now.  The western church has sinned by majoring on spiritual minors for far too long. Church leaders have focused on the number of butts in the seats and bucks in the offering plate rather than on making disciples and the state of people’s souls.  We have sought the applause of the unbelieving world, watered-down truth and exhibited contempt rather than love to sinners.   As a result, legions of people are so morally confused they literally believe right is wrong and wrong is right (Isaiah 5:20). Christians should grieve all sin because God looks on those who mourn sin with favor. (1st Kings 8:46-48, 2nd Chronicles 32:26, Ezekiel 6:9, Proverbs 1:23).

All that being said.

God’s people are called to celebrate God and His greatness no matter their circumstances (Leviticus, 23:40-42, Psalm 100, 2nd Samuel 6:21, 1st Corinthians 5:8). Hezekiah became King of Judah during some of the darkest days of Israel’s history. The nation was deeply divided. Both the North and the South were in a state of profound moral, spiritual and economic decline. The nation was weak militarily and threatened by powerful enemies on all sides. However, in the middle of all that gloom and doom Hezekiah issued a decree that the whole nation should come together and celebrate the Passover like they had never celebrated it before. The result of their choice to celebrate God’s goodness in the midst of their pain and grief was their prayers were heard and revival resulted (2nd Chronicles chapters 30-31). Despite all the ugliness in the world there are five things Christians can and should celebrate right now: 

Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed- 

Every day we draw breath brings us that much closer to the day when our earthly problems and struggles will be nothing more than a distant memory (Revelation 21:3-5). That’s something to celebrate. 

Jesus is not missing in action- 

True story. It might appear that this sin-weary world is completely out of control and teetering on the edge of madness. However, the chaos we are experiencing is not without purpose. I do not know where all of this will end but I do know God sees our hearts and will ultimately lead those who remain joyful in affliction (Romans 12:12) into a reward that is infinitely better than anything our feeble minds can imagine (Revelation 21:1-27). 

Everyone will eventually answer to God for their choices- 

Okay, so, I get that this feels like a weirdly dark thing to celebrate. However, sometimes life is hard.  The Bible teaches there will come a time when all Christians everywhere will suffer at the hands of evil people who will refuse to repent of their sin (Daniel 7:21, Matthew 24:9-12, Revelation 6:9-11). It will appear for a season that those people are getting away with their evil treatment God’s people.  Nothing will be further from the truth. God wants His people to be comforted by the truth He will reward the righteous for their good deeds and punish the wicked for their evil deeds (2nd Thessalonians 1:5-10).  We must not allow the sinful choices of others to erode our belief that God is good. Rather, we should pray for the salvation of our enemies and trust God to bring justice in His timing.  

God is still in the business of transforming people- 

The good thing about bad times is that God frequently uses personal pain to draw people closer to Himself and into His Kingdom. This taking place right now. I have observed that God has used this very painful season to reveal the idols and worldly desires that have taken root in the lives of God’s people. As result, many Christians are experiencing a renewed obedience and a desire to serve God with their whole being. In the past this has always been a clear sign revival (unsaved people coming to faith in Jesus) is always just around the corner. 

And finally, 

Christians can celebrate God even in the darkest places because for Christians life really is good even when it’s bad. Christians experience things no one else can. Christians experience joy even in the darkest valleys and community in the midst of personal and shared crisis. We experience peace in chaos and get to see God bring hope and transformation to those who trust in Him. 

That is worth celebrating. 

How Christians can Survive and Thrive in the Dumpster Fire that is 2021-

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

Lisa 

Now, this week’s post:

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”- Mark 9:28-29 NKJV

So far 2021 has been a massive dumpster-fire.  

 Wednesday afternoon, protesters entered the capitol building in Washington D.C. They were tear-gassed by police and forcibly removed from the building. Five were killed. 

The progressives on my social media feed were beyond elated by this turn of events. To them it was proof-positive conservatives and conservative Christians (who they tend to lump together) are no better than anyone else.  Any moral authority conservatives may have had pointing to the riots this summer evaporated into thin air. I have had a heavy heart all week.  It is agonizing to watch a perfectly good civilization crumble before your very eyes. 

Thankfully, none of this has taken our God by surprise. He knew it was coming and it is a part of His overall plan for this world. I do not know where all of this is heading or what the future holds. That said, there are a couple of things I do know for absolute certain, first, this is not a time for “what about ism” where we point our fingers at all the moral failings of the other side, rather than looking at our own sin and stupidity.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a time for Christians everywhere to commit to becoming a Jesus presence in a sin-weary world (Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 4:3, Ephesians 6:15). Jesus and Jesus alone can transform the hearts of men and women and there are a lot of hearts that need transforming. In order to do that we must commit to a lifestyle of growth and maturity with the following five practices. 

First:

Become “strong in the Lord”- 

In Ephesians 6:10 Christians are told “to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power”. It is a prerequisite for effectively putting on the armor of God and strength in the Lord seems to ensure we will remain steadfast in our commitment to Jesus.  We are strong in the Lord when we are seeking the Lord and His wisdom, rather than worldly sources for direction and wisdom in living life. No one has ever become strong in anything on accident. Becoming strong in the Lord happens through a regular rhythm of self-examination, personal repentance, church attendance, Bible reading, fasting and prayer. 

Building Christian community- 

It probably will not get any easier to be a Christian anytime soon.  God wants all of us to have people in our lives who we can build up in the faith and who will build us up in the faith (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-25, 1st Thessalonians 5:11).  Building healthy community is hard work. It means making a commitment to emotional transparency, kindness, generosity, selflessness and forgiveness.  Community means we don’t get to be fake or exclusive or hold a grudge when we feel like holding a grudge.  It means we love people where they’re at and fight like crazy for them to become a better version of themselves.  

Commit to a regular routine of prayer and fasting for our world- 

In Mark nine the disciples wanted to know why they couldn’t extract a demon from a boy. They had done everything they had done before and none of those things had gotten the job done. Jesus’ heart for humanity bleeds through the pages of scripture when He says: “this kind only comes out with prayer and fasting”. Here’s the thing: we live in a world riddled with demonic strongholds because people have turned their back on God and embraced every kind of evil and moral absurdity. As Christians we cannot continue to do what we have done in the past and expect those spiritual strongholds to be broken. Instead we must commit to a regular pattern of prayer and fasting for the people we love and the situations in our world that appear to be immovable. Nothing else is going to get the job done. 

Engage wisely- 

Engaging people wisely begins with understanding that nowhere in Scripture are Christians called to convert people to a particular political ideology. Instead, we are called to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and trust the Lord to work on everything else in their lives AFTER they come to know Jesus. Engaging wisely means we choose our battles with unbelievers carefully especially on social media.

Resist the urge to view those who think differently with contempt-

Jon Tyson points out in his book Beautiful ResistanceThe Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise that it has become normal for people, even Christians to show open contempt for anyone who thinks differently from them. Contempt is an ugly and divisive form of hate. We will never reach anyone with the love of Jesus if our hearts are filled with any kind of hate. We must pray that our contempt will be replaced with compassion for the lost and morally confused.

The best thing about the time we live in is that it easy for God’s love and goodness to shine in a dark place. It is up to us to adopt daily practices that allow His light shine through us (Matthew 5:16) 

When Should a Christian Rebel?

The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punisthe powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below- Isaiah 20-21 NIV

In recent weeks, I have had some pretty intense internal debates regarding the topic of rebellion. Normally, I would dismiss those debates as nothing more than the strange musings of a woman who is inclined toward bouts of overthinking almost everything. However, conditions over the course of the last nine months or so have been anything but normal. Life has been radically altered, mostly not for the better. Many feel their elected leaders are not working for the good of those who elected them. As a result, discussion of rebellion has become increasingly more common even among serious Christians who would normally be more predisposed to pray for an authority figure than rebel against them (Romans 13, Titus 3:1, 1st Timothy 3;1-3, 1st Peter 2:13). All that has gotten me thinking about when, if ever, rebellion is defensible in the life of a believer.  

So.

God is categorically not a fan of rebellion. Nowhere in the Bible is rebellion presented in a positive light or as a good thing (Deuteronomy 13:5, Joshua 24:19, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3).   In 1st Samuel 15:23 God equates rebellion with witchcraft. Witchcraft was and still is a serious sin.  (Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10). Witchcraft was such an egregious sin that witches, witchcraft, sorcery and divination were not to be tolerated in any part of Hebrew society (2nd Chronicles 33:6, Micah 5:11-13). The apostle Paul restates the Old Testament prohibition against witchcraft calling it an “act of the flesh” and placing it in the same category of sins as hatred, idolatry, debauchery and orgies (Galatians 5:20). All that to say, when God equates any sin with the sin of witchcraft it is a big theological deal that deserves our full attention. 

God is also a God of justice. Nothing angers God more than when powerful people use their power to oppress, persecute or bully the powerless, poor or defenseless (Exodus 23:6, Isaiah 10:1-3, Malachi 3:5, Matthew 23:1-36).  Injustice occurs when those in power intentionally behave in a way that causes harm to the less powerful. God’s people are called to bring about justice in every and all situations (Isaiah 1:17). One aspect of “doing justice” (Malachi 6:8) involves calling out, and sometimes even working to remove leaders who use their power for selfish ends or to hurt those who lack the power to protect themselves from the edicts of leaders who have become self-serving and callous towards their fellow humans. 


On the surface at least, rebellion and witchcraft appear to have little in common. Witchcraft is the act of soliciting, petitioning or manipulating evil spirits (servants of Satan) to achieve an end that benefits the person preforming the witchcraft. Rebellion, on the other hand, is an attitude of the heart, that may or may not end in an evil deed. 

However. 

The story of king Saul indicates witchcraft and rebellion both involve and invite demonic activity into the life of both the witch and the rebellious person. Saul started well as a leader but he had a heart that was bent towards rebellion (1st Samuel 15). He eventually became demon possessed (1st Samuel 16:14-15, 1stSamuel 18:10). By the end of his life he was consulting a medium (witch) rather than God for wisdom (1stSamuel 28:3-19). He died by suicide. Someone who practices witchcraft is likely much more aware of the forces they are employing, while a rebellious person is likely ignorant of the demonic activity they have invited into their lives through the sinful attitudes of their heart. Witchcraft and rebellion are alike because both sins inevitably lead to spiritual strongholds that are very difficult to break (Mark 9:14-29) 

So.

We can assume it is categorically not acceptable or wise to for a Christian to embrace or even dabble around with the sin of rebellion.  Rebellion invites demonic strongholds into one’s life and heart. No smart Christian wants any part of a demonic stronghold Those things are brutal. Trust me, I know. 

However.

Sometimes bringing about justice necessitates actively working against established power structures. Working to bring about justice can look a lot like rebellion when it goes against the prevailing power structures and sometimes a heart of rebellion can be wrapped up in cloak of righteousness. Humanity has a long history of using justice as a pretext for rebellion. It is not unusual for those who say they are liberating others from injustice to turn out to be far more corrupt than the leaders they worked to overthrow.  

Sigh. 

So, how does a Christian know if they are being rebellious or wanting to bring justice to an unjust situation?

It all comes down to the state your heart and the only one who can determine whether or not your heart is righteous or rebellious is you and it is absolutely critical to do that before they attack or undermine a prevailing power structure. 

Our spiritual well-being literally depends on it. 

Clear Evidence we Have Entered a Season of Judgment-

There is an evil I have seen under the sun, as an error proceeding from the ruler: Folly is set in great dignity– Ecclesiastes 10:5-6a NKJV

 The city of Seattle is currently debating and is expected to pass a “poverty defense” law.  If the proposal is passed, offenses such as harassment, sexual exploitation, trespassing and unlawful use of weapons will no longer be crimes if the defendant has symptoms of mental illness, is poor and/or homeless. This proposal would effectively legalize stealing as long as the stolen property is sold to pay for rent, food or other “basic needs”. 

 Seriously. This is a real thing. Google it. 

Seattle, Washington is not the only city or state that has enacted or is considering enacting a law that shows zero insight concerning human behavior or compassion for victims of crime. San Francisco, California and Baltimore, Maryland have defunded their police departments despite rising crime. The state of Oregon has legalized the use and sale of all drugs including highly addictive drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In Berkley, California a person can be heavily fined simply for calling someone by a “non-preferred pronoun” (Job 34:17, Amos 5:15).  

Here’s the thing:

In every one of the above-mentioned cities, a group of leaders (who we can assume are at least marginally intelligent) got together in an official capacity and discussed the issues at hand in length. It is likely they debated the pros and cons, looked at data and consulted experts in the field.  After all that these “smart people” then decided these particular laws were the most prudent and just course of action. Sadly, the fact that some of these laws were even given consideration is irrefutable proof we are being ruled over by fools (Proverbs 1:22, Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 12:23). 

Being ruled over by a fool is a sign a people is under judgment. 

Judgment is not a popular topic. The whole issue is kind of icky and makes everyone feel very awkward. Most people prefer to focus their attention on the love, grace and mercy of God (2nd Timothy 4:2-4). It’s just nicer. However, God makes it clear in His word that He does judge men and women immediately following their death (Hebrews 9:27). It’s also clear there will come a day when God is done with showing mercy and grace to an unrepentant world and bring judgment to all people for their willful sin and the deliberate testing of God (1st Peter 4:7, 2nd Peter 3:7, Revelation 14:7, Revelation 19:1-2). 

 I do not know everything about everything and I certainly don’t have any inside information on God’s eschatological (end times) timetable (Matthew 24:36). That being said, I do believe the whole world has entered a period of judgment. 

Here’s why:

Throughout history human beings have had access to knowledge about right and wrong. God writes truth about right and wrong on the hearts of all people (Romans 2:14-16). This alone leaves men and women without a valid excuse for their sinful behavior. However, we live in a truly unique and blessed time where the vast majority of people alive have access to the Bible and Christian teaching. Most have heard the good news of the gospel and know that trusting in Jesus and repenting of their sin is the only way to be saved (Acts 17:24-31, Romans 10:9-12, Hebrews 4:3). Nevertheless, most have flat refused to repent of their sins even in light of exposure to biblical truth. Instead somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy percent of the population take great pleasure in doing the exact opposite of what God says is right and true (Exodus 20:1-10, 1st Corinthians 6:8-10, 1st Timothy 1:9-11). Many are not content simply to sin themselves instead they intentionally seek to lead others (including children) into what they themselves KNOW to be sin, showing zero fear of God in their behavior. 

Christians are not much better. 

Some do not know the Bible well enough to live their lives based on biblical principles. Many Christians choose churches based on their readiness to soften what the Bible says about issues pertaining to righteousness, the sanctity of life, marriage and gender (Micah 6:8, Malachi 2:13-16, Matthew 19:1-9, 1stCorinthians 6:8-10, Hebrews 13:4).  Other Christians choose churches for their entertainment platforms rather than their willingness to share the gospel message clearly. Too many Christians have chosen to vote for political leaders based on their ability to deliver economic security rather than their willingness to fight for the good of all people (Isaiah 10:1, Ezekiel 22:12). 

Those are the basic reasons why the world is the way it is right now. We are being judged. It’s not nice but it is true. The world is being judged for spiritual complacency, sexual deviancy, murder, and witchcraft (among other things).   The only way out of any kind of biblical judgment is through repentance. Repentance begins with the people of God examining their own hearts and lives and searching for areas that need transformation. Then we must ask God to give us the wisdom we need to reach our friends and neighbors with the gospel. 

How our Beliefs About the End-times can Actually Shake our Faith-

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths– Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV 

Theology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

The study of the nature of God and religious belief.

I am an unapologetic fan of theology. I have spent the better part of my life studying God and attempting to understand Him better. I firmly believe most of the problems and struggles of this life would evaporate if people simply understood who God is and applied His principles and wisdom to all of life. 

That being said. 

There are times in life when tightly held theological beliefs can actually get in the way of seeing what God is up to in the world. Christians can become so rigidly fixated on a single theological perspective they actually miss what God says or does not say in His word. Such was the situation with many first-century Jews. Their rigid belief the Messiah would be a military leader after the pattern of King David caused them to disregard the suffering servant right in front of them (Isaiah 42:1-2, Isaiah 53:4-6, Acts 4:11, 1st Peter 2:4-7). 

I am convinced some twenty-first century Christians are falling into the same trap with the second coming of Jesus first-century Jews did with first coming of Jesus. Too many Christians on all ends of the eschatological (end time) spectrum have embraced such a rigid perspective of what the return of Jesus will look like that they are rapidly losing faith in the goodness of God because events are not shaking out exactly the way they thought they would. 

Most American Christians fall into one of two categories when it comes to eschatological beliefs. Premillennialism and amillennialism. Premillennialists believe Jesus will return visibly to the earth after a period of evil and unrest known as the tribulation. There are two popular variations on this view:

The premillennial pretribulation rapture of the church-  

This is the most popular American position on end time events. Those who hold to this view believe Christians (those who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as savior) will one day be taken from the earth all at once and go straight into the presence of God (1st Thessalonians 4;13-18). This event known as the rapture signals the beginning of a seven-year period of evil and chaos called the tribulation (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Revelation 2:10). The tribulation will be followed by a thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ on the earth. 

Post or mid-tribulation rapture of the church- 

This is a variation on the first view. Those who believe this version of end time events agree with almost everything their pre-tribulation premillennialist counterparts believe except they believe the rapture will take place after or at some point during the great tribulation. The pre-tribulation rapture theory means that the return of Jesus will be an entirely separate event from the rapture while the post-tribulation theory assumes these two events will take place at more or less the same time.   

Post or mid-rapture Christians believe the church will suffer but grow before the return of Jesus. Pre-tribulation rapture Christians believe Christians who are saved prior to the rapture will be spared the intense suffering that will take place during the tribulation. This view holds fast to the idea there will be a huge spiritual revival that takes place during the tribulation and most of those who become Christians during the tribulation will be martyred for their faith   

 Amillennialism 

Amillennialists do not believe in a tribulation or a rapture per se.  Instead they believe that Christians are called to live in such a way that their actions bring about righteousness and justice on the earth. As people become more righteous and justice becomes more pervasive the reign of Christ will manifest itself over time. Amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ rather, they believe the earthly reign of Christ will be strictly figurative. 

It’s just a fact that adherents to each end-time perspective feel equally strongly their interpretation of Scripture is correct and the interpretation best supported by Scripture.  However, in my experience all end-time views can lead to practical theological and/or spiritual problems of one kind or another. Premillennial, pre-tribulation Christians tend to become troubled at the idea there will come a time when the church will universally suffer extreme persecution. This is despite the fact Christians have suffered persecution since the beginning and there are a myriad of Bible verses promising Christians will experience suffering and persecution (John 16:23, Matthew 13:21, Matthew 24, Acts 14:21-22, 1st Peter 1:6, James 1:2, 1st Thessalonians 3:1-4). The post-tribulation rapture theory tends to lead to anxiety and an emphasis on making physical preparations for the tribulation (prepping) rather than on reaching the lost for Jesus or being spiritually ready for the return of Jesus. Amillennialism trusts sinful humans to do things only God’s spirit can do, such as bring about righteousness and justice.  

Our world is getting weirder and scarier everyday it is critical we focus on what we do know.   We know Jesus IS coming back and it appears He will return after a period of moral decline, persecution and apostasy (2nd Timothy 3:1-5, Matthew 24, 2nd Peter 3:3). It is critical we be spiritually and morally prepared for and enthusiastically await the return of Jesus even in the face of ongoing evil and unrest (1stCorinthians 1:7, Hebrews 9:27-28). It is every bit as critical we not allow our own rigid ideas of what the end should look like to shake our faith in the goodness of God.