The Seven Churches Series- Ephesus

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart- Proverbs 3:3 NIV

I have this theory that all Christian churches, denominations and organizations follow the same basic development pattern.

It always begins with a dream, desire or idea God plants in the heart of a person or a group of people.  This dream ultimately produces the birth of something new and beautiful (Isaiah 43:19, Acts 2:42-47).

Then comes childhood.  

Childhood is an exhilarating time in a church or ministry. Childhood is all about beginnings and growth. All the activity of this phase is born out of genuine love for Jesus, passion for the mission of Jesus and a desire to honor and glorify Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).   Leaders seek to obey Jesus above all else and as a result this phase typically results in an abundance of fruit. The childhood phase is also marked by some chaos. Leaders don’t always know what they’re doing, important things don’t get done and there can be disputes between key leaders (Galatians 2:11-14).  Because this stage is naturally volatile, if an organization stays in childhood for too long the ministry or church will die. No ministry or church can endure the disorganization and volatility of the childhood stage for long. 

It’s just too dang messy. 

If the organization or church survives the birth and childhood phase (some don’t). It moves into adulthood. Adulthood is the sweet spot for a ministry or church. There’s still a lot of excitement but there is also a clear vision for where the ministry is going. The vision is firmly rooted in biblical principles and prayer. The ministry is still very Jesus centered but there’s more discipline than in the childhood phase. The policies and leadership structure developed in the early adulthood phase provide the stability necessary to keep the thing from flying off the rails. This is typically a very long phase that is even more effective and fruitful than the childhood phase. The organization or church earns a good reputation in the community and it does a lot of good. People are saved, lives are transformed and Jesus is glorified in a big way (Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5). 

Then comes middle age.

If an organization makes it to the middle age stage everything is going super well from an optics perspective. Money is being raised, there are a ton of volunteers and the stated mission is still solid. 

However. 

There is a subtle shift that begins with leadership. Leaders become, usually without realizing it, much more focused on building the organization than they are on Jesus and glorifying Jesus. Jesus is still valued, but Jesus is no longer the main thing. He’s more of a figurehead at this point. Passion for Jesus and devotion to the mission gets lost in the day-to-day of “doing ministry”, “raising money” and “growing the church” (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 10:7-9, Ephesians 4:11-16). It not unheard of for shady conduct to become a common occurrence at this point, and because leaders are focused is on how things LOOK rather than holiness, righteousness and pleasing Jesus, it is also not all unusual for shadiness to be swept under the rug, rather than being dealt with.   All or most of the ministry work of this phase is centered on programs and fund raising rather than transforming people and glorifying Jesus.  On the surface the ministry activity APPEARS to be people and Jesus centered. However, most of it is focused firmly on keeping the ministry machine going, raising money and justifying the continued existence of the organization. 

This is exactly what happened to the church in Ephesus. 

The first church Jesus addresses in Revelation chapters 2-3 arrived at middle age and their love for Jesus and concern for the spiritual and emotional needs of people became lost in their desire to maintain the status quo. Jesus called this “losing their first love” (Revelation 2:4-5).

But here’s the thing: 

No one looking at the Ephesian church from the outside would have suspected there was a problem. Even most folks who attended the Ephesian church were likely unaware of the issues. The leaders were undoubtedly clueless. Leaders at this stage almost always lack any kind of real self-awareness. As a result, they thought everything was fine. And why not? All the externals looked awesome. The pastors were skillful, polished and well-educated. The doctrine was solid.  They avoided getting involved with problematic or divisive issues. The people attending gave money and willingly suffered hardship for Jesus (Revelation 2:2-3).  

But. 

Their hearts were far from God. The people stopped caring about the things Jesus cared about. The Ephesian Church was still very busy kingdom building. It was just the wrong kingdom. It was a human kingdom instead of Jesus’ kingdom.  

Jesus’ instruction to the Ephesian Christians is straightforward: “do what you did at first”.  

Jesus knew that one of two things happens at this crossroads.

Most of the time the ministry continues a slow drift further and further from the original mission. Bit by bit it loses its ability to make a spiritual impact on the world. The church remains but the power it once had to make disciples and transform the culture is gone. The people lose their saltiness and the church or organization becomes spiritually worthless (Matthew 5:13). If it endures it becomes more of a social service agency than an actual ministry. 

Or.

There is a spiritual awaking.  The people who attend and lead these churches recognize the problem. They see the drift. It breaks their hearts and they repent. They fully rededicate themselves to the cause of Christ. Jesus becomes the main thing once again and the church or organization continues to be a vital part of the body and a solution to the brokenness in this world (Revelation 2:7). 

However.

Spiritual awaking’s don’t just happen.  

We need to ask God to help us see the drift in our lives and our churches and our ministries. It’s imperative we pray daily for wisdom and self-awareness and a heart that is willing to see the problems and our role in those problems. Most importantly, must be eager to do what we did at first (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We have to fight to go back to that childlike state of spiritual existence where Jesus was our everything and our obedience was a gift we joyfully gave Him.  

What Do the Election Results tell us?

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming– 1st Peter 1:13 NIV

Okay, so a couple of things:

First, just in case you happened to be on another planet for the last five months or so and missed it, there was a mid-term election last week. 

It was kind of a big deal. 

Second, I’m fairly conservative in my political views. I am not conservative because I believe baby Jesus was born with a copy of the constitution in His teeny-tiny hand.  Nor, am I conservative because I believe a person must think a certain way politically in order to become a Christian. I am a conservative because I tend to believe Jesus would be on the side of individual responsibility and personal accountability. Mostly, because responsibility and accountability lead to healthy outcomes and happy people. I also think Jesus would be on the side of life (because He created it) and I’m pretty sure He would be all-in when it comes to limiting the gender spectrum to male and female because it is the design he chose for this world (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:23-25)  

For most conservatives the election was a full-on bummer. It was not what we wanted, or prayed for. I know it could have been way worse. That said, it was still, objectively speaking, extremely discouraging. Who would have thought soaring inflation, layoffs, war, cultural chaos and four-dollar a gallon gas would not be punished at the ballot box? But it was not. 

Here’s the thing:

 Christians are commanded to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). One aspect of that command is a call to transform whatever culture we happen to be living in into a better, healthier, more Christ-like version of itself. Because that’s the call, we probably ought to spend some time thinking about this election and what it says about the current state of affairs in this country. We also need to figure out God wants us do about that state of affairs.

So here goes:

It is becoming increasingly more clear that we are living in a post-Christian society. The values Christians have traditionally held dear are no longer a part of the greater cultural narrative.   One illustration of this reality is abortion. Fox News conducted a massive exit poll post-election. Their goal was to discover what issues motivated voters this election cycle. The number one answer was the economy. However, abortion was a very close second. It was pro-abortion supporters who swung the election.   

 This means a large portion of our society cares more about keeping abortion legal than they do about their own economic well-being and future prosperity (Leviticus 18:21, Jeremiah 32:35). Most lefty politicians voted in campaigned entirely on keeping abortion as available and unrestricted as possible. Love of abortion is not the only sign our civilization is in trouble. Violent crime against complete strangers is way up. Euthanasia is rapidly becoming a new normal and the possible benefits of infanticide are very much up for discussion. It will undoubtedly be offered as an option for new parents at local hospitals in the very near future.  

Yikes. 

 Our society is literally hurtling backwards in time towards pre-Christian, heathenish ethics. Most folks are motivated by their individual impulses rather than a desire to build a better future for their children and grandchildren. Our obsession with freedom could actually lead to our own extinction. Literally. A large portion of our population is doing everything possible to keep from reproducing and it could be our downfall.  Human beings are becoming more and more savage as our society has begun to value personal freedom over personal responsibility. Our infatuation with freedom will inevitably lead to less actual autonomy. Governments will step in to control people if they cannot or will not control themselves (Romans 13:4). 

Sigh. 

All that being said. The current chaos could turn out to be a good thing. The culture will likely get worseSometimes bad is better. Hard times cause people to think. Whereas prosperity tends to lead to greater acceptance of whatever the cultural norms are and God knows we don’t need any more acceptance of the current cultural norms.  

So, what is a Christian to do? 

First. 

As strangers living in a strange land (and that’s what Christians are) we must do our level best to live within God’s design for the human race (Genesis 1:27, Hebrews 11:13-16, 1st Peter 1:1-2). Christians should get married, have a bunch of kids, work out their problems and stay married. They should also buy houses, build healthy community and strive to be the kindest, most generous people in their cities and towns (Jeremiah 29:4-8). Living joyfully, well and within the boundaries of God’s design is the first step in “making disciples” in our messy, godless, death obsessed culture.

Then. 

We must be prepared to explain to our friends and neighbors the reasons why we do what we do (1st Peter 3:15). We need to pray like crazy for wisdom and power and boldness. Then we need to open our mouths and tell anyone who will listen about Jesus and the hope He brings to even the most messy and shattered lives. We need to give the world the hope we have received and trust our merciful and good God to bring about the change we need.

Getting at the Spiritual Causes of Depression (Yes, There are Spiritual Causes)-

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Psalm 42:11a NIV

Depression is real and it really sucks.  

Seriously.

Anyone who has battled depression or knows someone who has battled depression knows this is one-hundred-percent true.

It is estimated two-hundred-sixty-three-million people worldwide suffer from depression. Many psalms record David’s struggle with what we would call clinical depression (Psalm 42, Psalm 113:1-6, Psalm 22:1-2, Psalm 6).  Until very recently scientists believed depression was caused entirely by a chemical imbalance in the brain brought on by a shortage of the neurotransmitter serotonin.  Recent studies have disproved that long-held theory and left doctors scrambling to figure out the cause depression.   

It is now thought depression is brought on by a host of factors. Including but not limited to a genetic predisposition, chronic stress, prior trauma, and a tendency to brood over past mistakes (perfectionism).

I do not doubt all those factors contribute to depression. 

Genetics are real. Stress is real. Trauma is real.  Focusing deeply on an issue that cannot be controlled or solved will make anyone feel depressed. All that being said, I also know there is a strong spiritual component to depression. That does not mean a person is an especially bad sinner if they get depressed. Nor does it mean I think every case of depression has a purely spiritual cause. That being said, sometimes people behave or think in ways that create spiritual problems in their lives. Those spiritual problems create fertile soil for depression to take root. Some of the spiritual causes of depression are:

Moral Passivity-

Passivity is the sin of letting sin go unchecked. Anytime a Christian chooses to ignore a moral wrong or sidesteps dealing with sin in their life or the life of someone they love rather than dealing with the sin appropriately (Acts 3:19, Ephesians 4:15, Matthew 18:15-16), one of two things inevitably happens. The believer either becomes hardened to sin (and more likely to become entrenched in sin) or they become depressed. Willfully ignoring a wrong makes the passive observer of the sin complicit in the sin (Psalm 1:1, Psalm 32:5) and sin separates us from God (Micah 3:4, Isaiah 59:2). Human beings were made to be in relationship with God. When we live outside the design we were created for depression is the natural result. The key to digging out of depression caused by moral passivity is to reverse course and begin proactively repenting of our own sin and confronting any sin we have been willfully overlooking in those we love (Galatians 6:1, 1st Timothy 5:20, James 5:19-20, Luke 17:3).

Deferred Hope–  

Wanting something that never materializes is demoralizing (Proverbs 13:12). For Christians who obey the Bible it’s even more demoralizing. This is because serious Christians pray and commit their plans to the Lord and then they expect God to establish those plans, because that’s what the Bible says He will do (Proverbs 16:3). When we don’t get something pray for the disappointment can lead to spiritual doubt. Spiritual doubt is a fast track to depression and anxiety. Here’s the thing we have to remember: God is not liar. This means that if a hope we have has been deferred (delayed) there’s a reason for it. It might be we are hoping for something God knows is not best for us. It might mean God is still working on it. It might mean there’s some growth and maturity that needs to take place in us so we steward the blessing well when we do get it.  In order to deal with this type of depression we must pray, trust and do our part. We should pray God will work in us so that our desires will be in alignment with His will for our lives (Proverbs 3:6). Then we have to trust God to accomplish His will in His timing. We also need to do our part. Our part, is actively seeking to grow, learn, and break any bad habits we have in preparation for “the next thing” God has for us.

Loss of Connection with the Head (Jesus) or the Rest of the Body (the Church)-

Humans were designed to live life in relationship. It’s part of what it means to “be made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26). God is relational and we were made to be like Him. Anytime we lose healthy connection with other Christians or with Jesus (Colossians 2:18-19) depression is a likely outcome. Getting back into healthy relationship with God and/or other Christians will goes long way in healing the depression caused by a broken relationship with Jesus or His body.

An Absence of Self-reflection-

Humans are capable of a of an absurd level of self-deception (Jeremiah 17:9). It is possible to be knee-deep in sinful attitudes and not even be the teeniest bit aware of it. In fact, we are so prone to self-deception we can even convince ourselves our sinful attitudes are somehow good and healthy. Sigh. Anytime we feel plagued by depression that has no apparent cause we need to examine our lives and ask God to show us if there is anything we don’t want to see in ourselves.

And finally, because Christians are a new creation in Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:17) holding on to the stuff of our old life is a fast-track to a life of sadness, frustration and defeat. Letting go of the old stuff Jesus saved us from is the first step and most important step in living a life of emotional and spiritual flourishing.  

What to do when the Spiritual Battle Lands on your Doorstep-

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm– Ephesians 6:13 NASB

Ephesians 6:10-18 is, in my humble opinion, one of the most interesting and useful passages in all of New Testament. It focuses on the spiritual realities of being in Christ. Paul wants Christians in every age to understand we are living in a world at war. There is a battle raging all around us for the hearts, minds and souls of people. 

This battle the apostle Paul describes is real. 

It’s not metaphorical or allegorical or symbolic.

There is an actual war taking place all around us in a spiritual realm we cannot see or touch but is every bit as real as the world we can see and touch (Daniel 9:12-14, James 2:19, Mark 1:34). Paul wants Christians to understand that at some point in our Christian walk this war will land on our doorstep in a very personal and painful kind of a way.  

In verse thirteen Christians are instructed to put their armor on and pray diligently because at some point in our lives we are all guaranteed to experience a personal “day of evil”.  The words Paul uses in the phrase “day of evil” poneros (evil) and hemere (day) when used together mean a time (season, period, term) full of trouble, sorrow, evil, affliction and calamity. 

A “day of evil” is a personal attack from the enemy of our souls that will hit us out of nowhere in places and in ways that will cause us extreme difficulty, anxiety, pain, confusion and possibly even create a crisis of faith. If we go into our “day of evil” unprepared due to a lack of prayer or lack of information we will almost surely become casualties of the war. 

It’s that serious. 

Every Christians own personal “day of evil” is uniquely theirs. The book of Job tells the story of one man’s “day of evil”. Like Job, our “day of evil” may involve any number of ugly and uncomfortable events that could include but are not limited to:  personal loss, financial loss, betrayal by a friend, spouse or fellow Christian, abandonment, a personal illness or the death or illness of a loved one (Job 1:1-22). A “day of evil” typically involves a whole lot of really awful things striking in quick succession. Every day feels like a new hit. 

It is possible to survive a “day of evil” with our faith intact. In fact, if we handle it right there is a really good chance we will come out of the whole ugly muddle stronger, wiser and with an even deeper understanding of our faith (1st Peter 1:3-9).

However. 

In order to make that happen there are a couple of things we have to keep in mind. First, you cannot allow yourself to fall into the trap of trying to figure out what exactly you did to “deserve” whatever weird and horrible situation you’re dealing with.

 You won’t figure it out.

 Job never did and you won’t either (Job 42:1-5). The harder you try to make sense of why this (whatever this is) is happening to you the more confused and bitter you will become. Besides, the answer is probably “nothing”. The enemy will remind you of every awful thing you have ever done in your life.  Remember, Jesus paid for all that so you wouldn’t have to.  It’s also absolutely critical you understand GOD IS NOT TRYING TO PUNISH YOU. That’s not His gig. He doesn’t punish His children for things they don’t understand. 

God is not a jerk. 

You are experiencing whatever it is you are experiencing because you live in a fallen world and terrible things happen even to Christian people in a world as fallen as ours. Compounding that reality, you have an enemy who hates you. He wants to destroy you emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. Satan wants to hurt you so badly you are rendered useless for the Kingdom of God. He knows if he can bring enough discouragement, pain and unfairness into your life in a short enough period of time, there’s a pretty good chance your faith in the goodness of God will collapse like a house of cards in a hurricane (Luke 8:11-14). So, stop trying to figure it out. Asking “why” is a pointless waste of time. 

Instead, of asking God why questions spend time with Him every day and ask Him some what and how questions:

What do you want me to learn from this, God?

How can I be molded into the image of Jesus through this? 

What do I need to understand so I can grow right now?

How can I become more compassionate as I go through this?

 God does not cause horrible things to happen. However, He will use EVERYTHING we experience in this life (good or evil) for our growth and His glory as long as we are willing to cooperate with Him through the pain and confusion (Romans 8:28). 

Remember:

God does not call us to do great things in our “day of evil”. All He really asks us to do is “stand” (Ephesians 6:13). We do that by running to God with our pain and confusion instead of running from Him.

Is There a Difference Between Conviction and Condemnation?

 I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us– 2nd Corinthians 7:9 NIV

We live in a very judgy world.

Cancel culture is just one example. Canceling is an increasingly common practice that can be done in either a global or private kind of a way. 

 It works like this: 

Canceling happens globally when someone gets caught doing something or saying something a person or group of people do not like. The disapproving person or group goes after the “sinner” and punishes them for their language and/or behavior. The poor schmuck is then publicly disgraced and shamed. They lose their job, reputation and social status. They essentially become an outcast or a social pariah. 

A person is privately canceled when a friend or family member cuts them out of their life and gives them the silent treatment without explaining why they are giving them the silent treatment. 

Sigh. 

Supposedly, the whole point of cancelling someone is to get them to a place of conviction in their lives, where they acknowledge their misdeeds so they can grow.  Anyone who has actually been cancelled (either in a global or a personal way) will tell you being canceled feels more like hardcore condemnation without any mercy whatsoever. 

For the record.

I am not an advocate of cancelling. It is, in my opinion, perhaps the least healthy, least virtuous thing we do in this raging-dumpster-fire of a culture. However, the nature and stated purpose of cancelling raises an important question for believers:

Is there a difference between condemnation and conviction?

This is a question that needs answering.  

Both are biblical concepts (Romans 5:16, 1st Thessalonians 1:5, 2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). However, the Bible teaches there is a difference between the two. It matters because our view of these issues has a massive impact on how we see God, work out our salvation and treat other people when they sin against us (Philippians 2:12, Luke 7:47, Luke 6:37, 2nd Corinthians 2:9-11).   

So. 

Condemnation can be defined as a decree or sentence of guilt.  It is always accompanied by a sense we have failed and are unworthy of forgiveness. 

Condemnation always leads to hopelessness.

Conviction, on the other hand, is something the New Testament calls “godly sorrow” (2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). Conviction is a little different. It’s more like a deep and heartfelt sense we have gone off the rails and missed the mark. It is always accompanied by a sense we need to correct our course in some way. 

Conviction can be every bit as painful as condemnation. However, conviction is good because without guilt it is impossible to experience repentance and the spiritual restoration repentance brings. 

Here’s the struggle:

Condemnation and conviction sound a lot alike and condemnation can look a lot like conviction and conviction can feel an awful lot like condemnation. This is especially true if we’ve been up to no good in some area of our lives. 

Because condemnation and conviction feel so similar, some Christians are inclined to write off any guilty feelings they experience as condemnation and therefore irrelevant (Romans 8:1). Ignoring feelings of guilt is a profoundly bad idea because the Bible teaches ignoring our conscience is a spiritually risky thing to do (1st Corinthians 8:7-12) because it can lead to a hardening of the heart (Ephesians 4:18). Therefore, it is always best to pay attention to feelings of guilt. Guilty feelings should drive us to seek the Holy Spirit so we can figure out if there’s something we need to deal with in our lives before sin takes root and produces chaos and pain. 

Condemnation is a tool the enemy uses to discourage us. Therefore, it is not uncommon to experience condemnation AFTER we have already confessed our sin to God and corrected course. Condemnation will sometimes come from an unexpected source like an off-handed comment from a friend. It can come from our own hypersensitive conscience. Condemnation never gives hope. Instead it leaves us with an overwhelming sense of despondency and hopelessness. Condemnation screams into our souls that God will never be happy with us again. Condemnation almost always leads to more sin rather than less.

The whole point of spiritual conviction or godly sorrow is to facilitate change. Therefore, it is often accompanied by a feeling that we are guilty and have offended God. However, conviction also always comes with an understanding of what we need to do to get things right. God never leaves us in the dark or wondering where stand with Him. Godly conviction never leaves us feeling hopeless, despondent or like we will never be good enough. The path to repentance and healing is sometimes difficult. Repentance always means making some sort of a change. It might mean breaking off a relationship, changing a behavior, apologizing, making restitution but the path to a pure conscience is always clear. Conviction (godly sorrow) always leads to repentance.  

It is critical Christians understand God only condemns those who refuse to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Romans 8:1, Jude 1:4). It is equally important to understand guilt is good as long as we know what to do with it (Acts 3:19). 

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

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

I used to love all things political. 

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

That ship has officially sailed. 

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

Sigh. 

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

However.

There are a couple of things I do know. 

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

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

Sigh. 

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

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

However.

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

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

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

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

We can vote.

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

Surviving an Unfair, Unjust or just Plain Horrible Situation-

 Nothing in all creation is hidden from Gods sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account– Hebrews 4:13 NIV 

Fairness, justice, equity are more than just woke talking points. 

They are a really big deal.

They are a big deal in a global sense. Every human being, no matter who they are or where they live wants the world to be fair and just. Civilized people want evil to be punished and good rewarded. No decent person wants anyone to be denied a fair shot at life. All people want the same rules to apply to everyone regardless of gender, race or social status (Proverbs 21:15). It’s simply how humans are wired (Genesis 1:27). 

Fairness, justice and equity are also a big deal from a personal perspective. We all want to know when someone harms us or treats us unfairly some authority somewhere will see to it the wrong is righted and the wrongdoer is punished. We all want to be treated equally and fairly. We want to be judged by the content of our character rather than by our age, the color of our skin, our gender, marital status or job title.

For Christians the longing for fairness, justice and equity goes beyond the global or even the personal. These issues are deeply spiritual. We serve a God who describes Himself as both the architect and the ultimate champion of equity, justice and fairness (Psalm 11:7, Psalm 50:6, Psalm 103:6, Psalm 67:4). As God’s people we want to know God sees us in a personal way. We want to know He is aware of the wrongs committed against us. We want God to care enough about us personally to punish those who sin against us (Deuteronomy 32:43).  

Christians rarely discuss it, but most go through a season where they struggle to see and experience the goodness of God in a personal way. Due to painful circumstances these folks can’t help but wonder if God really does see them and if He really does care about what they are experiencing. 

Doubt isn’t always simply due to lack of faith. 

Sometimes doubt is due to what feels like a tardy response on God’s part (2nd Peter 3:8). Times of doubt tend to occur when we really NEED to know God is attentive to our situation and cares about the details of our pain, loss or the oppression we are dealing with. I call these times “seasons of silence”. A season of silence is a time when God feels far away. Because God feels far away our pain or loss feels utterly unbearable.  In order to survive a season of silence a Christian has to have a theology of pain. We have to understand what the Bible says about God so we are not left to rely on our feelings without the guidance of His word (Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalm 119:105).  

Anytime God feels distant and uninterested in our problems it’s critical we remember first and foremost, we are not the only people to feel the way we feel. Some of God’s best and brightest, including David, Elijah, Daniel, Moses, Mary Magdalene and even Jesus went through an experience or season where they felt God had abandoned them, hadn’t heard their prayers or was simply inattentive at the point of their deepest need (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46, Daniel 10:1-18, Exodus 5:1-19, John 20:11).  We are fortunate to see those stories in the rear-view so we know God has never actually abandoned anyone in their greatest need.  

We also need to remember we live in a world broken by sin (Romans 5:12, Romans 3:23, Ephesians 2:1). On a practical level this means evil, unjust and unfair things happen all the time.  People lie, take advantage of others, oppress people and cover-up their own sin at the expense of others (2nd Timothy 3:1-4). Sometimes it appears God has chosen to overlook the sin of those who willfully do wrong. 

Justice delayed does not mean justice will be denied indefinitely with God. He promises there will come a day when every wrong will be righted and every sin punished (Hebrews 12:23, Exodus 32:34, Leviticus 26:27-29, Isaiah 13:11, 1st Thessalonians 4:6). God is so not okay with sin, evil and disobedience He punished the Israelites for their idolatry and sexual sin by sending them into servitude and exile for seventy years in the country of Babylon (Isaiah 5:12-16, Jeremiah 29). God is also not okay with injustice and the mistreatment of His people, He later punished Babylon for the sins committed against Israel while they were in exile (Jeremiah 25:12). Babylon was a very short-lived super-power entirely because God cannot bear to see injustice go unpunished. It is wisdom to remember there is nothing in all of creation that goes unnoticed or undealt with by God (Hebrews 4:13). 

 God often defers justice simply because He is merciful and good (Genesis 15:16, Exodus 34:6, Nahum 1:3, 2ndPeter 3:9). God graciously gives sinners time to get their heart right and repent before judgement comes. Our responsibility during a season of silence is to remember the goodness of God, to be merciful just like God is merciful and to pray for those who have sinned against us as we wait on God to do what he promises to do (Matthew 5:44).   

Wisdom: What it is, why you Will Literally die Without it and how to get it-

Wisdom along with an inheritance is good, and an advantage to those who see the sun. For wisdom is protection just as money is protection, but the advantage of knowledge (wisdom) is that wisdom keeps its possessors alive– Ecclesiastes 7:11-12 NASB

Wisdom and folly.

Everyone understands folly. 

Folly is easy. Folly is stupidity and absurdity. Folly is knowingly doing the wrong thing because it feels good or appears to be advantageous or expedient in the moment. Folly is willfully ignoring the obvious, especially when the obvious is clearly not okay. Folly is rebelling against common sense or acknowledged facts in favor of feelings. Folly is not difficult to grasp (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

However.

Wisdom is more complicated and much harder to nail down, largely because wisdom is multi-faceted and nuanced (Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 3:19).  Some of the best practical definitions of wisdom are:

Thinking God’s thoughts after Him-

The sum of all learning and knowledge-

Common sense, good judgment- 

The ability to apply knowledge appropriately to a given situation- 

But, by far, my all-time favorite practical definition of wisdom is… 

Drumroll please…

Understanding the connectedness of life-

Wisdom is understanding every single action in life produces a reaction or consequence.  It’s understanding the reaction or consequence is not always equal to or observably related to the action (Hosea 8:7).  Wisdom is understanding the seemingly unconnected things in life really are connected. Wisdom is knowing anxiety is not a freak event or strictly a biological occurrence. It’s the direct result of something else: an unfinished project, a lie we told, control issues or a conversation we’re scared to have.  Wisdom is recognizing the link between pride and abject failure in our relationships and work (Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 11:2). Wisdom is understanding how I live today will impact tomorrow, sometimes in seemingly unconnected ways (Proverbs 20:25).  Wisdom is knowing how I choose to manage my sexuality has the power to dramatically impact not only my marriage but also my finances, friendships, parenting outcome and reputation (Proverbs 5:1-14). Wisdom is knowing sin in one area of my life will inevitably impact productivity and blessings in other areas of my life (Proverbs 5:21-23). Wise people know nothing happens in a void and everything is connected to everything else. Wise people also understand we get to choose our sin but we don’t get to choose the consequences of our sin (Proverbs 1:31).

 One need not be clever in order to be wise (Proverbs 17:28). That being said, no one gets wisdom, unless they pursue it (James 1:5, Proverbs 1:20-23). There are five primary ways a person acquires wisdom, including:

The Bible-

The Bible illuminates wisdom and defines foolishness very clearly in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1-4). However, there is more wisdom in the Bible than what’s found in Proverbs. The Bible teaches through stories, psalms and commands what will happen when a person chooses to act wisely and what happens when a person chooses to behave foolishly. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, a wise life begins with making a commitment to Jesus (Proverbs 14:2). Once that is done a person should seek to learn the Bible and apply it their life. Wisdom always follows that course.   

Reflection about life-

Some assume simply living life and attaining an education will make them wise. This is categorically wrong. There are lots of really foolish old people and the world is abounding with educated idiots. Self-reflection is what makes us wise. We become wise and insightful when we take the time to contemplate which actions led to our successes and failures (Proverbs 4:26, 2nd Corinthians 13:5).  When we choose to think through what we did right or wrong in situations and then adjust our behavior accordingly next time wisdom becomes a part of who we are as people. 

Prayer-

Its critical we know God isn’t just wise and knowledgeable. God IS wisdom. God IS knowledge. God is THE source of all understanding about all things.  Praying to the source of wisdom and knowledge does two things: first, prayer allows clueless humans to ASK God for wisdom about life. A prayer for wisdom is God’s favorite kind of prayer. He is always ready to give wisdom to anyone eager to ask for it (James 1:5). However, prayer is not just about asking God for stuff.  Prayer is primarily about connecting with and communing with God. We become like those we spend the most time with. Therefore, if we make connecting with the all-wise, all-knowing, totally-holy maker of the universe a priority in our lives we will become wise just as He is wise. 

From other people- 

God blesses people with wisdom and then places those people in our lives as a gift (Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 13:14). It is our responsibility to identify the wise people God places in our path and learn from them. As with any gift we can refuse the wisdom others have to offer but we do so at our own peril. 

And finally.

No one can acquire wisdom without humility. Period.  To become wise, we must understand and accept our limitedness in every area. Wisdom means conceding that sometimes we get it wrong and most of the time we don’t know what we don’t know. Wisdom is all about having a realistic perspective of ourselves and humbly asking God to give us the insight, wisdom and understanding we lack. 

Then we are unstoppable (Proverbs 21:22). 

Understanding the Movement to Sexualize Children-

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

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

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

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

These steps are no happy accident. 

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

Sigh.

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

Premature sexualization of kids can also lead to:

A delaying or halting of the maturation process- 

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

A denial of the reality a good God- 

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

Runs the risk of destroying fertility-

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

Here’s the thing.

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

A Strategy for Surviving this Season of Unprecedented Lunacy-

 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against thauthorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms– Ephesians 6:12 NIV

Unprecedented. 

It’s a big word that gets bandied about quite a lot these days. 

Sadly, it also fits the times we live in. 

Over the course of the last two years or so the world has collectively faced all sorts of unprecedented events including wars, rumors of wars, weird diseases, inflation, social upheaval, tyrannical shutdowns, food shortages and political chaos.

Meanwhile in America.   

Our own unique brand of unprecedented lunacy has included (but is not limited to) militant transgender activists. Increasing tension between races. A president in rapid decline. Increased political division. Appallingly graphic sex-education.  Disintegrating families. A weaponized IRS. Vicious Crime.  A weaponized DOJ. Aggressive abortion enthusiasts and conservative parents labeled “domestic terrorists” for showing concern about the state of public education. 

We have also experienced some unprecedented events no one could have called in a million years like a plot organized by the FBI to kidnap governor Gretchen Witmer and blame the conservative political opposition for it, as well as an actual raid on a former president’s home that has left the world with more questions than answers concerning the “why” of the raid. The social fabric that holds our culture together and our system of government is disintegrating before our very eyes. 

Okay so, what is a Christian to do? 

Well. 

I can tell you what Christians cannot do. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and tell ourselves what goes on in the world is irrelevant. We cannot pretend the church is a safe space the lunacy will never touch. We can’t sit back and convince ourselves politics will never affect how Christians do church or raise our kids. 

Satan clearly has the advantage right now. Anti-God, anti-anything wholesome, anti-Christian sentiment is growing at an off-the-charts pace right now (2nd Timothy 3:1-3). Government, entertainment, public education and the news media are all strongholds of the enemy.  It’s time to wake up and be realistic about the situation at hand. 

Here’s what we can do:

We can accept the reality we are in an unprecedented spiritual war.  The disturbing things we see every day (war, violence, social turmoil, hate, anti-God sentiment) give us a glimpse into an even bigger, nastier war taking place in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12). We must protect ourselves and our children from becoming casualties of this war (1st Peter 5:18). 

Here’s the thing. 

Satan cares less about getting the whole world to openly worship him than he does about corrupting people in subtle ways that do not appear on the surface to be obviously evil. His strategy is to distract people, including Christian people, from God. He wants to muddle our thinking with junk philosophies so biblical truth feels wrongheaded, potentially harmful, and hopelessly outdated (Isaiah 5:20).  He uses garbage entertainment (secular books, movies, television, games), the news media and the public-schools to take minds captive to worldly philosophies that inevitably lead to godless thinking and evil behavior. (Colossians 2:8).

 It’s a seriously brilliant strategy. 

Once a person’s thinking is aligned with the world their hearts are inescapably far from God. In order to be even marginally successful in this epic battle we must be willing to cut educational systems and entertainment out of our lives and our kids’ lives that does not promote discernment and aid in wise thinking. 

Period. 

No one will be safe in this battle if they are not making prayer a priority, hiding God’s word in their heart and living the way God calls Christians to live (Romans 12, Titus 3:14, 1st Peter 1:14, 1st Peter 2:16, 1st John 1:6, Colossians 3:1-21, Ephesians 4:17-28). 

Living the way God calls us to live means actively choosing to do good things with the time we have been given. Christians are literally saved from their sin for the sole purpose of doing good works and helping people (Ephesians 2:10). Doing good works is important because they are a form of spiritual warfare, they remind us who we belong to and they give us credibility with unsaved people (Titus 3:8). Credibility leads to opportunities to share the gospel (Matthew 5:16) That being said, all the good works in the world are a pointless waste of time if we don’t let go of behaviors, attitudes and pursuits that do not lead to more holiness and righteousness in our lives. In other words, we have to stop sinning. 

 We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth, therefore it’s imperative Christians everywhere become a present and active force for good in their local communities (Matthew 5:13-16). We must do the work necessary to learn to think biblically about political and social issues and then work to get decent people elected to all levels of political office, from school boards to the presidency. In a fallen world there is no such thing as a truly righteous politician, but it is our job to find the best people we can and support them with our time, money and votes.  

Finally. 

We cannot give in to despair. No matter how bad it gets. We cannot give up or give in. We cannot stop believing and praying and worshiping and fighting for the good in this world. Faith is the key to survival in these unprecedented times.