Manchester, Multicultural Madness and Why We All Should Care About Politics

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight~ Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV

I was preparing dinner when I heard the sad and all-too familiar news that there was yet another terrorist attack in Europe. This time the attack was a bombing at an arena in Manchester, England. The suicide bomber killed 22 and wounded 116 (mostly school girls and their parents) as they were leaving a concert Monday night. 

 This type of tragedy inevitably highlights the bigger issues of life. It gets thoughtful people focused (at least temporally) on both the innate goodness and incomprehensible evil of mankind, the preciousness and brevity of life, and the importance of vigilance when it comes to our safety and the safety of our children.

 As central as these issues are, it’s not where we ought to get stuck at this moment in history. Rather, the attack in Manchester ought to place our focus squarely on the importance of politics; or more precisely on political ideas and why we ought to care about them.

 It has become almost a badge of honor in Christian circles not to care about politics or political ideas. I get it. Following the epic disappointments (and outright failures) of the “Religious Right” and “Moral Majority” political movements in the eighties and nineties many Christians concluded that politics are a distraction to the real mission of Christianity and there is little value to Christian political involvement.

 For the record, I do not believe politics are the be-all-end-all solution to every problem we have. To my knowledge, no law or political idea has ever changed a human heart or healed a sin-sick society. Only Jesus can do that. That said, politics matter because politics are the soil in which a society grows.

 If the politics of a society are bad, the society will eventually go bad.

 Nazi Germany is the classic example. In less than twelve years Nazi political ideas annihilated twelve centuries of cultural Christian witness, obliterated the flourishing Jewish culture in most of Europe and ended the lives of six million men, women and children.

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

 We possess the blessings of individual liberty, economic freedom and the ability to speak our minds and worship in any way we see fit because of the political ideas and leanings of our Founding Fathers.

 America never would have become America and Nazi Germany never would have become Nazi Germany if it had not been for political ideas.

 For at least two decades Western political leaders have embraced the notion of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the belief that all cultures and all aspects of all cultures are all equal. Because all cultures (and all traditions within cultures) are equal, no one has a right to judge the deeds or beliefs of another culture.

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

In order to fully embrace multiculturalism you must also embrace the notion that a culture that protects, educates and nurtures young girls is no better (just different from) a culture that ritualistically mutilates the sexual organs of young girls and sells girls into sexual slavery. One must also embrace the notion that a culture where most folks respect the beliefs (religious and otherwise) of others is no better (just different from) a religion where some followers think terror and violence are a legitimate means to a political, religious, or social end. You must also accept that those followers will cultivate those beliefs in their places of worship and in the hearts and minds of their children.

 Let’s be real here.

 Not every person who comes from a culture that observes bad traditions is a bad person. However, some cultural traditions and beliefs are quite clearly bad (burning widows alive, slavery, racism, sexism, terrorism, genital mutilation, eating people). Those traditions have no place in any society.

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

 Multiculturalism is a stupid political idea directly related to the proliferation of terror attacks in Europe, including the one in Manchester. Sadly, it’s just one of a hundred stupid political ideas destroying Western culture that Christians are not praying about or confronting. Sadly, many Christians don’t even recognize multiculturalism when they see it in their children’s textbooks or hear it preached from the pulpit.

 The real mission of the church is to act as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and make disciples in whatever culture God places us (Matthew 28:19). We have to understand the times we live in (1st Chronicles 12:32) to do the things the church has been called to. Understanding our times demands political awareness and involvement.

 It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester, Multicultural Madness and Why We Should All Care About Politics

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight~ Isaiah 5:20-21 NIV

I was preparing dinner when I heard the sad and all-too familiar news that there was yet another terrorist attack in Europe. This time the attack was a bombing at an arena in Manchester, England. The suicide bomber killed 22 and wounded 116 (mostly school girls and their parents) as they were leaving a concert Monday night. 

 This type of tragedy inevitably highlights the bigger issues of life. It gets thoughtful people focused (at least temporally) on both the innate goodness and incomprehensible evil of mankind, the preciousness and brevity of life, and the importance of vigilance when it comes to our safety and the safety of our children.

 As central as these issues are, it’s not where we ought to get stuck at this moment in history. Rather, the attack in Manchester ought to place our focus squarely on the importance of politics; or more precisely on political ideas and why we ought to care about them.

 It has become almost a badge of honor in Christian circles not to care about politics or political ideas. I get it. Following the epic disappointments (and outright failures) of the “Religious Right” and “Moral Majority” political movements in the eighties and nineties many Christians concluded that politics are a distraction to the real mission of Christianity and there is little value to Christian political involvement.

 For the record, I do not believe politics are the be-all-end-all solution to every problem we have. To my knowledge, no law or political idea has ever changed a human heart or healed a sin-sick society. Only Jesus can do that. That said, politics matter because politics are the soil in which a society grows.

 If the politics of a society are bad, the society will eventually go bad.

 Nazi Germany is the classic example. In less than twelve years Nazi political ideas annihilated twelve centuries of cultural Christian witness, obliterated the flourishing Jewish culture in most of Europe and ended the lives of six million men, women and children.

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

 We possess the blessings of individual liberty, economic freedom and the ability to speak our minds and worship in any way we see fit because of the political ideas and leanings of our Founding Fathers.

 America never would have become America and Nazi Germany never would have become Nazi Germany if it had not been for political ideas.

 For at least two decades Western political leaders have embraced the notion of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is the belief that all cultures and all aspects of all cultures are all equal. Because all cultures (and all traditions within cultures) are equal, no one has a right to judge the deeds or beliefs of another culture.

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

In order to fully embrace multiculturalism you must also embrace the notion that a culture that protects, educates and nurtures young girls is no better (just different from) a culture that ritualistically mutilates the sexual organs of young girls and sells girls into sexual slavery. One must also embrace the notion that a culture where most folks respect the beliefs (religious and otherwise) of others is no better (just different from) a religion where some followers think terror and violence are a legitimate means to a political, religious, or social end. You must also accept that those followers will cultivate those beliefs in their places of worship and in the hearts and minds of their children.

 Let’s be real here.

 Not every person who comes from a culture that observes bad traditions is a bad person. However, some cultural traditions and beliefs are quite clearly bad (burning widows alive, slavery, racism, sexism, terrorism, genital mutilation, eating people). Those traditions have no place in any society.

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

 Multiculturalism is a stupid political idea directly related to the proliferation of terror attacks in Europe, including the one in Manchester. Sadly, it’s just one of a hundred stupid political ideas destroying Western culture that Christians are not praying about or confronting. Sadly, many Christians don’t even recognize multiculturalism when they see it in their children’s textbooks or hear it preached from the pulpit.

 The real mission of the church is to act as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) and make disciples in whatever culture God places us (Matthew 28:19). We have to understand the times we live in (1st Chronicles 12:32) to do the things the church has been called to. Understanding our times demands political awareness and involvement.

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christians, Counterfeit Love and Cheap Grace-

On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts~ 1st Thessalonians 2:4

 When I was a teenager I had a close friend who had- what I thought at the time-was the coolest Mother in the known universe. She was verbally expressive when it came to professing love for her daughter and she listened to any and all teenage drama (no matter how absurd and trivial) sans judgment of any kind.

 There was precious little my friend was not permitted to do and occasionally her Mother would even help her evade the consequences of her actions. One time my friend and I skipped school and her Mom wrote both of us a note to excuse the absences with nothing more than a brief and relatively friendly lecture on the importance of going to school. If my friend’s grades were less than stellar (and they frequently were) her Mom signed the report card without so much as a single negative word.

 She turned a blind eye as her daughter became sexually active and willfully overlooked disrespect, negligence, underage drinking and even occasional drug use. When questioned about her parenting techniques my friends Mother would wax eloquent on the importance of truly loving and accepting her children in a tangible way.

 In retrospect I find this tale utterly appalling.

 Not just because I’ve read a couple of books and understand codependent behavior. Nor is it just because I’ve raised a bunch of kids and know now that good parenting is about a whole heck of a lot more than accepting your children and making them feel good about themselves. The story horrifies me because I know the ultimate outcome of it all. My friend started using drugs and alcohol, never finished high school and had three children before her 21st birthday. As far as I know she never fully recovered from the bizarre leadership she received as a child.

 Sigh.

 My friend’s Mother wasn’t a bad person or a bad parent in the sense she neglected, abused or was in some way indifferent towards her daughter. There was absolutely no malice in her actions. She just cared more about how her daughter felt about her in the short-term than the long-term outcome of her daughter’s life.

This sort of thing is not at all uncommon.

 A husband or a wife will (in the name of love) ignore their spouse’s character deficiencies to the detriment of the entire family. A friend will stand by silently and watch as someone they profess to love ventures down an ethically questionable path never warning them of the destruction that lies ahead. A parent will bail an adult child out of problems of their own making and then wonder why the kid never seems to grow-up.

 Christians do the same thing sometimes.

 We overlook the sins of those we profess to love and soft-peddle the truth of God’s word—not because we don’t believe God or His word— but because deep down inside we really want people to like us more than we want to tell them the truth. We want to be the cool friend, the cool pastor or the cool co-worker and telling the truth about life and eternity is super uncool these days.

 Dietrich Bonheoffer famously said that cheap grace is characterized by the “preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.”

 Mr. Bonheoffer nailed it.

 Grace and love are inextricably linked. Grace cannot exist without love, because grace is simply an extension of love. This means that if love is counterfeit, then grace will be cheap. Counterfeit love is appallingly common. At its root counterfeit love is selfish and deceptive. The person showing counterfeit love typically wants to love like Jesus loved. But, deep down inside, they want to be liked by others more than they want what’s best for the people they claim to love. Jesus loved passionately but He cared little about being liked.

 The bottom line is authentic love never loses sight of the long game.

 A parent who truly loves their child will risk being loathed today to ensure the child becomes a decent human being in the future. A genuine friend will endure a little bit of anger in the here-and-now to save their friend from a lifetime of regret. A genuinely loving Christian will risk offending someone today if it will save that person from an eternity in hell.

 It’s time for a revival of the real deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Should All Be a Little More Like Lady Gaga (Seriously)

Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions~ Proverbs 18:2 NIV

 Like most families in America we tuned into the Super bowl last Sunday night. We are not diehard football fans and unless the Seahawks are playing we rarely have all that much invested in who wins. This year we watched mostly for the camaraderie, the snacks, and the weirdly hedonistic pleasure we derive from critiquing the commercials.

 We had a houseful of junior high boys during the 2004 Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “nipple gate” fiasco. As a result my husband and I are more than a bit skittish about exposing (no pun intended) our family and guests to the halftime entertainment provided by the NFL during the Super bowl.

 Our new “tradition” is to record any halftime performer who we believe might be questionable. After the game we consult Google to get the lowdown. Then if it turns out that it’s not all kinds of inappropriate, we watch it after the game.

 Life in the modern world is weird sometimes.

 We were particularly uneasy about this years show. Mostly, because the headliner was Lady Gaga and- well- Lady Gaga is Lady Gaga. She’s best known for controversy, meat dresses, near nudity and at least a zillion other dubious choices.

 Magnifying our concern was a statement she made during an interview with Rolling Stone magazine a few days prior to the Super bowl:

 “I believe in a passion for inclusion, I believe in the spirit of equality, and the spirit of this country is one of love and compassion and kindness so my performance will uphold those philosophies”

 Please understand. I do not typically assume the worst in people.

 However, her statement was so ambiguous that it left me completely clueless as to what she was attempting to communicate. Besides, I have been conditioned by the culture to believe that when people use words like “equality” and “inclusion” those words are almost always code for some sort of crude and gratuitous sexual display. On top of all that, Lady Gaga is a well-known liberal and most liberals totally lost their minds on November 8th, 2016 and have yet to come to their senses.

 The combination of above factors logically led me to assume that her statement to Rolling Stone was political in nature and that she intended to do something we wouldn’t be able to un-see.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

 Lady Gaga’s halftime show was a fun, patriotic and wonderfully sparkly performance lacking in even a smidgen of controversy.

 I was left feeling more than a bit shameful for jumping to conclusions and assuming the worst of another human being. As I was repenting of my ugly inclination to judge, it struck me that I need to rethink nearly everything I believe about life and the universe now that I have come to the conclusion that all of us should try and be a little bit more like Lady Gaga.

 Minus the meat dresses and nudity of course.

 I never thought I would live to hear myself say this but I am proud of the stand Lady Gaga took by choosing not to take a stand. She had the opportunity (and the platform) to jump to the political and rant endlessly about what she believes about all sorts of social and political issues. Instead she chose the path of unity, not by kowtowing (that would be dishonest), but by keeping a fun and light-hearted event (the Super Bowl) a fun and light-hearted event.

 Over the course of the last few years it has become nauseatingly trendy for individuals from every walk of life and both sides of the political aisle to turn EVERYTHING into a political statement. Americans are force-fed a steady stream of political commentary through bumper stickers, television commercials, award shows, music, movies and their Facebook feeds. Even many popular fiction authors have taken to proselytizing for their pet causes through the stories they tell.

 Yuck.

 I believe that everyone should speak-up for what they believe in. I also believe that every voice (well, most voices) should be heard. Healthy debate is a good thing. I also believe there is a time and a place for political discourse and even political disagreement. That said, football games are not the time or the place for political discourse or debate. Football games are a time for celebration, friends, food and unity and I for one am grateful that at least one Hollywood liberal finally figured that out.

 It’s about stinking time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Stop Telling me To Breathe

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord~ Isaiah 1:18a ESV

 Reader be warned.

I was feeling a bit snarky as I composed this post. The views expressed are undoubtedly a bit a petty. However, the opinions articulated also accurately depict how I feel and what I think. Since I take the time to write a weekly blog I feel (rightly or wrongly) that effort entitles me to occasionally express a snarky/petty opinion in writing from time-to-time.

 With that little disclaimer out of the way, read on.

 I am not a person who is typically quick to hop on a bandwagon or embrace a popular trend. I like to think this is because I am a thinker, blessed with classic good taste, and am securely grounded in what I like and believe.

 However, truth-be-told the real reason I reject the latest fashion trends is because I’m cheap and lazy and I figured out long ago that most trends die before the credit card charge is processed. I simply refuse to invest in anything until I am at least reasonably certain it’s going to stick around for longer than a single season.

 I reject most parenting trends because, unfortunately, my kids came along during the early years of the “self esteem” parenting movement. Therefore, they were among the first kids in the history of the world to receive lavish levels of praise for pooping and trophies for doing nothing more remarkable than simply existing. I have witnessed first hand the damage that trend has done to individual children as well as society at large. As a result I tend to roll my eyes at the “never say no, only no thank you” movement and other aspects of the “positive” or “enlightened” parenting trends. Neither am I a proponent of the “helicopter” or “conscience” parenting movements that have gained popularity in recent years.  

 Trendiness in churches bothers me even more than trendiness in the fashion or parenting world. It’s not that I am opposed to new ideas. I am actually a big advocate of strategic change.

 Thoughtful adjustments to the way we do church and present the gospel are often the engine that fuels church growth and even revival. Sadly, a good number of current church trends are not particularly strategic or well thought out. They are just someone’s pet idea or phrase that gets circulated around the greater Christian community until it catches on and becomes a “thing”.

 Which brings me to my latest trend peeve.

 Drum roll please….

 Breathing.

 No. You did not read that wrong.

 Reminding Christians to breathe is now a real thing. There’s a song about it and everything. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t stumble across some syrupy meme on Facebook reminding me that ALL God really wants me to do is breathe.

 For the record, I doubt that.

 This emerging trend annoys me mostly because it presupposes that there is some sort of spiritual value to the act of breathing. There’s not. Nowhere in the New Testament (or the Old for that matter) are Christians told by God to “just breathe”. In Christianity breathing is not considered a valid spiritual discipline or exercise; it is simply a God-given involuntary function.

 God designed humans to breathe. We drop dead if we don’t.

 I understand the deeper issue behind the “just breathe” movement. Life is stressful. Circumstances often feel overwhelming. And I cannot find anyplace in the Bible were we are instructed to worry ourselves into an early grave or take on all the cares of the world.

 That being said, stress is a lot like the check-engine light in a car. The stress is not the problem; it’s simply a sign of a bigger problem and an indicator that God is calling us to do a prayerful evaluation of our situation. Rather than just breathing when the pressures of life feel overwhelming we need to take six steps:

 Stop long enough to evaluate the situation and seek counsel- Proverbs 12:15

Pray for wisdom- James 1:5

Decide how we can simplify our lives- Romans 14:19

Ask for help- Galatians 6:2

Repent of any people-pleasing that is creating more stress- Ephesians 5:10

Trust God to see us through a difficult season- Proverbs 3:5-6

 We are commanded in Scripture to Cast our anxieties on Him (Jesus), because He cares for us (1st Peter 5:7). There is a whole lot more to that command than simply breathing. God wants us to think through our situation, seek wise counsel, live to please God instead of people and trust Him to guide us through difficult seasons.

 

It’s Time to Move on Already

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior~ 1st Timothy 2:1-3 NIV

 Any longtime reader of mine knows that I was not exactly a huge Trump supporter. I was in fact so opposed to a Trump presidency that I composed several passionate blog posts throughout the primary season in a futile attempt to persuade folks to vote for anyone but Trump.

 Once Trump secured the nomination, it took me a long time to come to terms with the choice of my fellow conservatives. Over the course of the subsequent months I slogged my way through the five stages of grief and eventually came to a place of unenthusiastic acceptance of his candidacy and reluctantly cast my vote for Trump. Mostly because I felt there were no other truly viable options.

 Sigh.

I am not confessing all this in an effort to rehash the past or bash Trump (I’m so over all that). I am sharing because I want folks to know that I really do understand the feelings of those whose candidate lost the election.

 I get it. Losing sucks. No one likes it.

 That aside, even with my empathy for others firmly in place I have been more than a bit mystified by the reaction of some in the anti-Trump camp. One would think those people had never experienced any sort of disappointment before.

 Post election hysteria reached a fever pitch early on with the irate expressions of childishness, self-indulgent temper tantrums violent demonstrations and emotionally charged cry-ins immediately following the election. Progressive rage eventually morphed into whiney demands for a recount. When that hope was thwarted by reality. The left (apparently not easily motivated to introspection) moved on to blaming everyone and everything but Hilary Clinton, her lack of accomplishment, countless scandals and pitifully flaccid message.

 Hollywood liberals have kept the bellyaching alive with their absurd anti-Trump promos and ceaseless sermonizing regarding their hazy fears and the unsubstantiated perils of a Trump presidency. The media has done their level best to sow dissent by blaming fake news, generating fake news, and howling endlessly about Russian hackers and conspiracy theories.

 But, I digress.

 This blog post is not really about post election madness, progressive meltdowns or pretentious anxiety coming out of Hollywood. Neither is it about the media, their obvious bias against all things conservative, the Russians, or fake news.

 This blog post is about the individual responsibility we all have in preserving a free and democratic society and coming together as a country. It’s time for America to get a collective grip and start thinking rationally about all this.

 Progressives, who are depressed by the election results, need to understand that we (conservatives) feel your pain. Most conservative people were more than a little uneasy when Obama got elected the first time. Many were positively panicked when he won the second time around. However, we survived Obama and you will survive Trump.

 The beauty of the system our founding fathers crafted is that no one person or party gets to rule forever and there are enough checks and balances built into the system to keep even the worst leaders from becoming dictatorial overlords. It’s time to end the histrionics and give the guy a chance. If Trump fails, I guarantee that you will get your guy (or gal) in four years, and if he succeeds, you succeed.

 Either way it’s a win for your team.

Supporters of Trump would do well to remember that no one man is ever the answer to all of a nation’s problems. Unless of course that man happens to be Jesus and Trump is definitely not Jesus. That said, God has used far lesser men than Donald Trump to accomplish great things in this world.

 Our primary responsibility as believers is to pray for those in authority, even those we don’t like or agree with (Romans 13:7). Love him or hate him, each and every one of us ought to pray daily for Donald Trump. He clearly needs our prayers. He’s got a big job to do. A job that is so big, so complex, and so fraught with landmines that no human being could possibly do it effectively without the support, guidance and blessing of God.

 I have a postscript for my conservative friends.    

 I get that you’re happy. Our guy won and it feels really good, conservatives have sustained a lot of defeats over the course of the last eight years and it’s been a rough and depressing ride. Nevertheless, lets try to refrain from too much gloating; it’s boorish and it frightens the progressives.

 We clearly don’t need anymore of that.

 

 

Stupid Stuff Christians Do

Be very careful, then how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil~ Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV

 We all do stupid stuff sometimes. It’s simply a small piece of this thing we call “being human”.

 Some stupid stuff is essentially inconsequential in the grand scheme. Things like shopping at Costco the day before a holiday, ordering the triple cheeseburger meal, or forgetting to turn the heater down at night are all choices that will cause no serious harm to anyone but us.  

 Then there’s the big stuff.

 When I say ‘big’, I am talking about actions that are potentially life altering and destructive. Driving drunk, using drugs, having affairs, and committing armed robbery all fall neatly into the category of really stupid stuff that has the potential to hurt all kinds of people.

 Then there’s the stupid stuff Christians do.

 Most of the stupid stuff Christians do is not intended to harm anyone. We just do stuff without bothering to question the rightness, wrongness or wisdom of our actions.

 If we are lucky and circumstances merciful we are the only ones hurt by the stupid stuff we do. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as luck and circumstances are rarely merciful. When one Christian does a stupid thing it becomes harder for all Christians to share the gospel effectively, it also causes all Christian to appear ignorant, mean-spirited and/or hypocritical to the unsaved world.

 Any list of stupid stuff Christians should avoid needs to begin with…

 1. Speaking in anger- James 1:20

 I know there are times when things just need to be said and saying them when we are angry feels really good. However, I have learned the hard way that speaking our minds when angry rarely leads anywhere beneficial or productive.

 2. Refusing to take advice or accept correction- Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 12:1.

 Imprudent people assume they already know everything about everything. Wise people receive criticism and evaluate it honestly, seek out divergent opinions and request guidance. Wise people don’t do everything others tell them to do (that would be stupid) but they are willing to hear others out.

 3. Tolerating sinful behavior from the people we love- Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1-2, Jude 22-24

 In a culture where the highest value is “judge not lest you be judged” confronting sin feels counter-intuitive and wrong. However, a well-timed, well-worded and loving confrontation might just be the only thing that saves a rebellious person from a lifetime of self-destruction and an eternity spent in hell.

 4. Allowing personal sin to take root in secret- Genesis 4:7

 If you do not wish to participate in a particular activity (with a few notable exceptions) in front of your Mother, Pastor, supervisor or a police officer, that activity likely has the power to destroy you. Stop it. Now.

 5. Playing with dangerous behaviors that may or may not be sinful- Ephesians 5:15

 Just because an activity is legal that does not make it a wise thing to do or to do excessively. We should think long and hard before we entangle ourselves in any behavior with that has the potential for self-destruction.  

 6. Isolation- Genesis 2:18

 A natural response to hurt for certain types of people is to isolate himself or herself from anyone who might possibly cause more pain (basically all of humanity). This form of self-protection feels noble and even wise but is a really terrible idea. Isolation inevitably breeds peculiar ideas and weird behaviors. Neither helps the cause of Christ.

 7. Choosing to have the wrong kinds of people in our lives- Proverbs 13:20, 1st Corinthians 15:33, 2nd Corinthians 6:14

 Sadly enough good people rarely affect bad people to the same degree that bad people affect good people. That’s why even grownups ought to choose their friends, spouses and associates wisely.

 8. Believing everything we hear or read- Proverbs 18:15, Matthew 10:16

 Christians are sometimes the most gullible people on earth and it really hurts Christianity. God calls His people to be wise, perceptive and discerning. If a news story (no matter how juicy) cannot be substantiated by more than one source, assume it’s false and do not post it on Facebook, mention it to your prayer group or write a blog about it. Please.

 9. Not listening to others- Acts 17:16-34

 I am shocked at the number of Christians I know who simply will not listen to anyone or even watch an interview with a person who does not share their opinion on EVERYTHING. It’s true that we need to be discerning about what and whom we allow to influence us. That said, if we never engage with people who think differently than we do we will never impact our world for Jesus.

 Most of this stuff is less about smart and stupid than making the decision to consistently seek God and do life His way. When we look to God and His word for guidance He directs our steps and we cannot help but become wise; and in the process of becoming wise we stop doing stupid stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Church Isn’t Experiencing Revival

 

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land~ 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 One does not have to look far these days to find something to be appalled at or bummed-out by.

 A short list of the issues vexing our culture and depressing me would have to include such things as: radical Islam, bigotry, bogus outrage, drug legalization, sex trafficking, divorce, government corruption, baby daddies, political correctness, anemic Christianity, anarchy, religious repression, and a government that openly encourages every sort of immorality imaginable; and don’t even get me started on the parade of dysfunction, festival of lies, flaming hot dumpster-fire election the American people are being forced to endure this year.

Sigh.

 Every Christian I know talks about the need for a spiritual revival. Sadly few of us are doing the things that typically bring about an authentic movement of God. Revival always begins with God’s people. God brings about needed spiritual and moral transformation when God’s people get real with Him about their private spiritual condition. There are at least five things all of us can do right now to expedite a much-needed movement of God.

 First:

 Stop committing idolatry- 1st Corinthians 10:14

 For what feels like eons now believers have endeavored to elect a flawless human leader who will liberate our culture from the chaos created by our own foolishness, rebellion and spiritual lethargy. Others want to bring back an America that, for the most part, ceased to exist long ago. Both yearnings are a dangerous form of idolatry. Rather than look for a leader who will fix the mess or pine for a past that is clearly in the rear view, we need to seek God for wisdom and direction to make the world a better place.

 Get your spiritual house in order- Acts 17:20, 2nd Corinthians 12:21, Revelation 2:5

 Christians are called to be the moral and spiritual leaders of whatever culture they live in (Matthew 28:18-20). Sadly, our generation has failed at this task. We’ve failed because we have amused ourselves with entertainment, adopted philosophies and participated in behaviors that are hostile to biblical Christianity and heartbreaking to Jesus. In some cases we have even accused those calling for repentance of being judgmental, unsophisticated and even un-Christian. The world won’t change until we change. It’s time to get our spiritual houses in order. Authentic social transformation begins in the hearts of people. The process of getting our spiritual lives in order always begins with asking God to reveal the attitudes and behaviors we need to repent from and then doing it.

 Vote wisely- Proverbs 28:2

 I want to begin with a couple of disclaimers. First, I do not believe any political leader can or will save us from ourselves. However, I also believe who we elect to office seriously impacts the moral and spiritual direction of our country. Second, I do not like Donald Trump. In his best moments, he is a narcissistic train-wreck of a man. It literally makes me stupid with rage that with all the choices we had available we chose him to represent the conservative movement in America. However, he is also the figurehead of the Republican platform (sigh). The Republican platform includes respect for human life, the family, the Constitution and religious liberty. It is immeasurably superior to the Democratic platform. Supporting the Republican platform also means checking the box for Donald J. Trump. So vote for Trump (sigh). 

 Pray- Matthew 26:41, 1st Thessalonians 5:17

 It’s time for all of us to start praying some uncomfortable prayers. Pray God will enable you to see life from His perspective. Pray God shows you the sin in your life. Pray God helps you to hate sin and love righteousness. Pray for the wisdom to do God’s will. When you get done praying about all that pray for the spiritual health of your church and Pastor. Pray for our leaders. Pray for the spiritual health of your kids. Pray for your neighbors and their kids. Pray God will be merciful and send revival.

 We need it.

 Reset your priorities- Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:13

 There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with watching football, sleeping in, kids’ sporting teams, making money, or Hallmark movies. However none of those things should ever take priority over prayer, Bible study and church attendance.

 We all agree that our world urgently needs revival. I believe revival will come when believers make a concerted effort to let go of idolatrous attitudes, pray like crazy, and seek God with all our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotting Counterfeit Love

 

If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us~ John 4:12

 I have an odd spiritual quirk.

 Every couple years I switch out my Bible translation for a new one. My absurd fondness for novelty aside, the slight differences in the texts force me to pay attention to what I’m reading. It keeps me thinking, and I have found that thinking is always superior to the alternative. Through the years I have read through the NIV, NKJV, NASB and The Message.

 With the notable exception of The Message (TOO MANY WORDS) whatever version I am currently reading typically morphs into my new favorite. My current favorite is the English Standard Version. However the ESV it is certainly different than the last version I read (NASB) and the differences have led to some thought-provoking discoveries.

 This last week I was a little out of sorts and in desperate need of a spiritual kick in the backside. So I headed to Romans chapter twelve, my go-to passage whenever I find myself in need of little spiritual straight-talk. I have probably read that particular chapter at least a hundred times over the course of the last three decades, but for some reason verse nine caught my attention and got me thinking. I have been thinking about Romans 12:9 ever since.

 It simply reads…

 Let love be genuine.

 Because the text tells us our love should be genuine, then logic dictates there is a form of love Christian people sometimes express that is not real or genuine. It is somehow fake, phony or counterfeit, and like every decent counterfeit, it looks genuine, at least on the surface. It’s also safe to assume that this verse serves as a warning to Christians to be vigilant about how we love others.

 The Bible does not give a clear-cut definition of love.

 1st Corinthians shows us what genuine love ought to look like in our day-to-day interactions with other people. However, it doesn’t spell out a definition for us. Everyone agrees Jesus’ life; death and resurrection were the ultimate expression of love in action, but again no clear-cut definition.

 I wanted to find out what other people think about the subject of love. So I did what people do these days when they want to know what people think about a subject.

 I put the question on my Facebook page.

 I got sixty-five responses and the answers were all pretty good but fairly predictable. The responses tended to be divided into two distinct groups. The first group defined love in terms feelings. They talked about family, friends, security, general thoughtfulness and people they care about or people that care about them.

 Others hit on concepts that probably come a bit closer to God’s definition of love and tended to focus more on actions. They defined love in terms of how we behave and think about other people. Many used words like commitment, thoughtfulness, selflessness, and compassion. Some spoke of courage, personal sacrifice, providing for the physical and emotional needs of others and grace.

 All good stuff, but not exactly what I was looking for.

 The answers I was looking for didn’t come from Facebook (shocker) but they did come. It kind of hit me out of nowhere that genuine Christian love is more than just warmhearted sentimentality, or even a firm commitment to sticking with another human being through thick and thin.

 Love goes beyond providing for daily needs or showing grace to a struggling soul. Love is about more than simply being kind, although kindness, care for others, commitment and grace are at the very core of love. Nonetheless, love is much deeper and more complex than all of that. Authentic Christian love is about more than making people feel good about themselves or their choices right now.

 Genuine Christian love is chiefly concerned with the eternal destiny of other people.

 All Christians should be kind, generous, courageous, compassionate and gracious people. Christians should do everything possible to help meet the physical and emotional needs of others. Christians should always consider the feelings of others before they speak or act. However any expression of Christian love that does not attempt to change the eternal destiny of the other person by telling the truth about heaven, hell and the sin problem of mankind is not really love at all.

 It’s a counterfeit.

 

Where We Went Wrong With the Millennial Generation

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things~ 1st Corinthians 13:11 NKJV

 Over the last dozen or so years a countless number of articles and blog posts have been written on the subject of the Millennial generation and their well-documented indifference towards organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.

 Most writers focus almost entirely on solving the immediate spiritual crisis. Concerned parties want to reach the eighty percent who have wandered from the faith, before the entire generation is irrevocably lost to secularism, humanism, and atheism. I truly care about reaching the millennial generation on a spiritual level. However, I believe its every bit as imperative we understand how we got into this mess in first place.

 History is always critically important.

 Unless we know where we went wrong in a particular area we will be doomed to repeat the same stupid mistake until we die. Sadly, a countless number of blunders were made with the millennial generation. Parents, schools and churches all carry a share of the blame.

It all began with how my generation was raised.

Few in my generation were ever told we were special or smart when we were kids. This was true even when we did things that were genuinely special or smart. We were seldom permitted to voice our opinions or encouraged to share our thoughts. It was NEVER okay to contradict an adult. So when we became parents we did what Americans do when they encounter a wrong.

 We overcompensated.

 We told our kids a hundred times a day that they were smarter, more special and better informed than any children in the history of forever. If they pooped we threw a party, complete with M&M’s and party hats. If they shared an opinion, we celebrated that opinion no matter how irrational or poorly thought-out it happened to be. We insisted every kid get a trophy and made certain no child ever felt less than AWESOME about his or her academic or athletic abilities, regardless of actual ability.

 Educators were quick to focus on feelings rather than facts and hop on to the self-esteem bandwagon. Discipline went out of fashion and subjects like history were taught from an extremely one-sided perspective. Kids were rarely expected to examine both sides of an issue nor were they taught to judge historical figures actions and attitudes in the context of the time period they lived in. Absurd viewpoints were rarely, if ever challenged in academic settings.

 Churches and youth ministries focused on having fun, forming relationships and making kids feel good about themselves. Learning the Bible was dropped in favor of “service projects” and “doing life together”. The whole notion of sin was marginalized. Youth ministries focused on transforming children not yet out of puberty, including some who exhibited no indications of salvation into “leaders” who would “reach their generation for Jesus”. Do not judge, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1) was the one Bible verse every high school student memorized.

 The end result of this collective madness has been devastating to our culture.

 Many millennials never let go of childish ideas about life and reality. It’s appallingly common for grown people to think that feelings are more important than facts and that if you believe something to be true then it must be. Many become anxious and overwrought when a flaw is pointed out in their thinking or when a viewpoint that differs from their own is presented. That is why we now have “safe spaces” on college campuses and in workplaces, to shield people from words or ideas that make them uncomfortable.

 Sigh.  

 The most tragic consequences of our folly have manifested themselves in the realm of the spiritual. Many millennials believe that if a Bible verse FEELS wrong to them then the Bible got it wrong on that subject. Because teenagers were placed in positions of spiritual leadership long before they were actually converted, acquired any wisdom or knew much of anything about the Bible; many are prideful and will not tolerate correction, even when the correction comes directly out of the Bible.

 Sadly, that is the root reason many millennials have left the church to “work out their own spiritual experience”. They simply cannot tolerate the fact that there is a higher authority than them, be it God or the Bible.

 We must change the way we look at life, God, parenting, and the nature of reality. It’s time to put away childish thoughts about such things and think like adults, this is especially true for Christians.

 It is time to acknowledge some basic truths: facts are more important than feelings, believing something does not make it true and only children shield themselves from ideas that challenge their thinking or hurt their feelings. While we’re at it we need to get back to the understanding that God is real and due to His position as Creator and Sustainer of all things He really does have a fundamental right to tell us what to do.

 Before it’s too late.