Four Ways to Stop the Hate and Violence-

For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just- Isaiah 32:6a and 37 NIV

I really wanted to write something happy this week. 

Seriously.

I had the happy post half-written in my head but, alas, it was not to be. Just as I was about to begin writing. I tuned into the news and heard about the ambush attack on two deputies in Los Angeles County. I immediately felt obliged to change direction. 

The attack was shocking. It’s always shocking when someone shoots two complete strangers without a reason. The shock value was raised exponentially when it was revealed that a crowd of what can only be assumed were demon-possessed onlookers gathered to shout they hoped the officers would die (Mark 9:29). 

Sigh.  

As appalling as this situation is, it was also entirely foreseeable. The seeds of this tragedy were initially sown five years ago. It started with the lie that police shootings are ALWAYS criminal or at the very least unnecessary. The propagation of that lie prompted overpaid NFL players with an exaggerated sense of their own significance to begin sanctimoniously taking a knee during the national anthem. One of those players famously began wearing pig socks “in protest”. Soon after the chant “pigs in a blanket fry ‘em like bacon” became the rallying cry of the social justice warrior class. Around that same time leaders of certain party began to encourage their followers to harass conservatives. This was followed by calls to defund the police. That led to riots in the streets which led to innocent bystanders being attacked on the streets because “enough wasn’t being done” to pacify the mob.  It ended in Compton with an unstable person doing what he probably thought leaders wanted him to do.

So, a couple of things:

First, any idiot could have predicted we would end up here. The slippery slope is real. One action or decision really does lead to another set of actions and decisions.  The situation we find ourselves in delivers iron-clad proof of that fact.  Second, we must stop kidding ourselves about the whole “peaceful protest” twaddle. There are few (if any) “peaceful protesters” left anymore. There were peaceful protests immediately following the death of George Floyd. However, that ship has officially sailed. The movement has been hijacked. Those “protesting” are politically driven criminals who care little about the issues they SAY they are fighting for. Period. Finally, the situation we find ourselves in is a direct result of deception (Psalm 52:3). Deception cannot be ignored.  Decent people cannot sit back passively and hope the culture gets it’s act together.  It won’t unless we:

Pray – 

Too often, Christians say “well, I guess all we can do is pray” as if prayer were a silly last resort superstitious dumb people turn to after every other reasonable option has been exhausted. We treat prayer like it’s the spiritual equivalent of going to a witch-doctor after medical treatments for cancer have failed. Prayer is the most powerful thing Christians can do ever, under any circumstances, and without it none of the other things I suggest in this post will have any impact at all. Christians everywhere have a duty to pray for renewal in their own lives, revival in the lives of unbelievers and for truth to be revealed to all people (John 8:32). 

Speak the truth in love- 

Christians have become determined not to offend anyone (Ephesians 4:15). Our silence on moral and spiritual issues has left a void that Satan has filled with evil.  There are two reasons for the silence, the first is intellectual laziness. Many Christians do not know enough about the Bible or the world around them to engage anyone effectively concerning much of anything. Ignorance is a violation of the commandment to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37).  The second is fear. Christians fear being disliked more than they fear God (Psalm 39:1-3). We must remember that Christians are NEVER to engage anyone in a cruel or nasty way (1st Peter 3:15). However, it is better to speak the truth and be hated by men and loved by God than to remain silent and loved by men and hated by God (Revelation 3:15-22). 

Demand better of our leaders- 

State and local leaders must be held accountable for the violence that’s overrunning many cities. If you live in a city where rioting has become commonplace call and write the mayor’s office and demand the mayor step down unless they get the violence under control. Write letters to the editor demanding state and local politicians get the destruction under control. Encourage friends and family to do the same.   Do not stop until said leaders step down, are voted out or make changes.  

Refuse to passively tolerate hate of any kind- 

Racism is never okay. Hating someone for the color of their skin is weird, wrong and categorically unchristian (Revelation 5:9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). However, hate is just as hateful and every bit as evil when it is directed at a police officer or a conservative politician as it is when it is directed at a random person of color. Hate is hate. Christians rarely hate openly, however sometimes we are guilty of tolerating it passively in ourselves and others. Instead of just letting hateful remarks pass we must look for gentle and respectful but direct ways to call out hate of any kind. 

Finally, if we want to see real and lasting change we must be willing lead by example. This means we must examine ourselves regularly, confess our sins to God and others and repent of sin quickly (Acts 3:19, 2ndCorinthians 13:5, James 5:16).  

The Greatest Threat to the Church Today is the Church-

Be sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame- 1st Corinthians 15:34 NASB

 The Church is in trouble.

 Churches worldwide have been banned from meeting while larger gatherings such as demonstrations and riots have been encouraged by bureaucrats. Christians are thought to be hateful, smallminded and bigoted. Christians are scorned by a substantial majority. Some countries have placed substantial boundaries on what Christians can and cannot say about sin and what is and is not okay from a moral perspective. Christianity is illegal in some areas and the execution of Christians has become common.

 That said.

 None of those problems are the biggest problems the Church is facing. The biggest threats to the Church are not oppression and persecution. Historically persecution and oppression has caused the church to grow and become more effective. No sane person wants persecution but it can have a positive impact on the Church.

 Our biggest problems are all coming from within the church. The Church is struggling to find its way through the cultural morass and mostly because of the following four problems:

 Christians who cavalierly quote Matthew 16:18 anytime anyone shares a concern about the direction of the church-

 Christians blithely quote Matthew 16:18 when they encounter false teaching, sinful leaders or any other problem that is clearly hurting the church. It is true Jesus promised Peter the gates of hell would never defeat the church. However, it is also true Jesus instructed Christians to be on guard against false prophets who would pass themselves off as Christians and lead many astray (Matthew 7:15). Paul warned elders in Ephesus that “ravenous wolves” (false teachers) would infiltrate the Church and destroy the faith of many (Acts 20:28-30).  Jesus prophesied false teachers will rise up and deceive many in the last days (Matthew 24). Jesus and Paul would not have given those warnings if there was not a clear and present danger to the Church. The Church will never be defeated but that doesn’t mean the church cannot lose its ability to effectively deliver spiritual truth for a season. When this happens, churches stop reaching the lost and lose favor with God and we all lose (Matthew 5:13-16, Revelation 2:5, Hebrews 6:4-8)   

 Christians who refuse to submit to the word of God-

 There are some attitudes and behaviors that are so wrong they keep people out of heaven (Galatians 5:21). Those sins include, but are not limited to lying, adultery, covetousness, bitterness, all forms of sexual immorality, debauchery, witchcraft, fits of rage and selfish ambition (1st Corinthians 6:9-10, 1st Timothy 9-11, Revelation 21:8). There is a grassroots movement within churches that seeks to minimize the importance of holiness and maximize the importance of making people feel accepted. This has led some to think they can be a Christian without actually submitting to God’s moral leadership in their lives. Christians who have not yielded every corner of their lives to God always end up fighting for the relaxation of biblical standards. These Christians have led others astray with the false doctrines of easy believe-ism and cheap grace.  

 Christians who are quick to publicly judge other Christians-

 Coronavirus has exposed the ugliness that exists in Church world. Some Christians struggle mightily with a rebellious spirit. These Christians flat refuse to obey any directive they do not like, regardless of whether or not it contradicts biblical teaching.  Other Christians are gripped with such a spirit of fear they have been rendered useless for Kingdom work. Other believers clearly put more faith in government orders than they do in God. But by far, the worst is the judgment Christians display towards one another. Take the public mask war as an example. Half of Christians call the other half “compromisers” and “bootlickers” for wearing a mask.  The other side uses words like “selfish”, “hateful” and “anti-science” to describe any Christian who does not cheerfully put on a mask or who dares to question the wisdom of wearing one.  The judgment doesn’t end with masks.  Nearly every day I come across a stupid social media post where a Christian takes it upon themselves to apologize for all the unkindness of all the other Christians in the world. As if they somehow cornered the market on kindness and moral goodness. Weirdly enough, they do not ever think to apologize for the prideful, self-aggrandizing tone of their post. Christians are not called to judge each other. Christians are called to love each other. It is biblical to confront a Christian on something that is clearly sinful. However, this should only be done after a time of intense prayer where you ask God to show you clearly if your perception of the situation is wrong in any way. If after you have humbly sought God’s correction and still feel the need to confront it should be done privately and in accordance with Matthew 18:15-17.   

  Christians who foolishly kowtow to the culture

Being a Christian and being liked by non-Christians is quite often mutually exclusive (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:9, Mark 13:13, John 15:18). Christians should never be needlessly unpleasant or mean. However, there are times when sticking to biblical convictions causes non-Christians to become angry at the truth we standup for and at us because biblical truth makes them feel uncomfortable. Many Christians are embracing organizations, ideas and moral standards that are antithetical to Christianity, because they are persuaded it will help them reach the lost. It won’t. It just muddies the message and leads people to believe they can become Christians without being transformed into the image of Christ. They can’t. Christians must stop fretting about being liked and instead focus on being like Jesus. Jesus loved people but He never compromised truth to reach them (Luke 3:6-8, Matthew 23, Mark 10:16-22, John 8:11)

 The Church is critical right now because the world we live in has never needed Jesus more than it does right now. In order for the Church to be the church Christians have to live holy lives, recognize that spiritual truth matters and stand together in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is America a Bad Country?

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit- Matthew 7:16-17 NASB

 The “America is a bad country” movement picked up momentum in the 1960’s and 70’s in elite universities. Its message now permeates every strata of society and impacts the way Americans see themselves and their country.

 The movement denounces America for being a “Christian” nation that began by forcefully removing indigenous people (Native Americans) from land that rightfully belonged to them. They make the point that despite being a country established on the principle of all men being created equal, early Americans built much of their wealth and prosperity on the backs of enslaved Africans and denied women the right to vote for well over a century. Even after Africans were freed from slavery their decedents were still held in bondage by the prejudice and hate of their fellow Americans. In 1845 the idea of “Manifest Destiny” took root in the American consciousness and Native Americans once again became victims of nationalistic greed and ambition. Critics argue America has a rather sordid history of going to war for the sole purpose of furthering regime changes that mostly benefit America.   

 This is true.  

 But does this make America an inherently bad country?

Many believe it does. It is popular to proclaim America an evil imperialistic country that systematically represses women and people of color. Millions are demanding law enforcement be “reimagined” and “defunded” claiming systemic racism and abuse are standard-operating-procedure for police in America. Countless people are persuaded only the rich and white are given opportunities for advancement and demand an end to our capitalistic economic system.

That said. 

  It is also true America is an extraordinarily diverse country. A quick look at any American Olympic sports team demonstrates my point beautifully. Every team has people of every color. All are equally American and equally celebrated by all Americans. With a few ugly exceptions individual Americans have warmly welcomed immigrants from every race into their country and personal lives. Individuals from all religions and races still sincerely believe they will be treated fairly and have opportunities for advancement in America they would not have in their country of origin. If this were not true there would be no immigration laws because no one would be coming here. It is also true that America is the most generous country on earth. Anytime there is a natural disaster or human tragedy anywhere in the world Americans are the first to open their wallets and provide for those in need regardless of the color of the people impacted by said tragedy. America is also a country that goes out of its way to right moral wrongs once wrongs are exposed. The American government has passed laws that criminalize discrimination and spent millions creating opportunities for women and minorities to become successful.  America is one of the few places on earth where an individual can move beyond the station they were born into. Even in most European countries people tend to stay in the economic and social class they were born into. In America hard work and education are greater equalizers than race or family of origin. This is not true everywhere.

 Countries are really just big bunches of people; therefore, no country is perfect, including America.  Smart people recognize every human on this planet has ancestors who were slaves and enslaved others. Nor has there ever been a place where all people were given equal treatment and equal opportunity all the time. Sin, evil and inequity are part of the human condition. Christians should never simply accept evil and injustice.  Neither, should we pretend that some races and nations are inherently more moral than others.

 There is a powerful minority who wants to tear America down and build a new nation based on their peculiar vision of fairness and equality. They are on the precipice of having their vision realized.

 Seriously.  

 It is critical we understand any new country that rises out of the ashes of this one will likely not be an improvement. It is practically a given it will be less fair, less prosperous, less kind, less forgiving, less accepting of strangers and less generous. Any nation shaped by the hopes and dreams of those burning down our cities will quickly devolve into “might makes right” and the masses will become victims of their tyranny.

 As we look forward to Fourth of July celebrations this week, we should be asking ourselves: where do we go from here?  Do we passively allow an obnoxious minority to destroy a way of life that has benefited countless people? Or do we find ways to make our country better?

 Making America better begins with making intercession for the people of this country and our leaders a priority.  There are five months until the next election. Every day is critical, not a day should pass without every Christian imploring the Lord for a spirit of wisdom, repentance and righteousness to prevail in the hearts of all people. 

 James 2:20 tells us faith without works is a pointless waste of time. Every Christian should vote this year, if you are not registered, do it now.  No Christian should waste a vote on any politician who passively or actively supports the kind of anarchy that has become routine in our major cities. Historically anarchy has always led to tyranny and evil—not freedom, spiritual healing or moral and economic blessing.  Christians must examine themselves and beg God to root out bigotry, sin, injustice and evil, so that God will bless our land. Our country needs heart change. It is our sacred duty to pray and labor until we see change.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The One Takeaway Everyone Should Get From Last Weeks Riots-

Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord- Acts 3:10 NASB 

 Like every other human with a shred of decency I have watched the events of the last ten days unfold in horrified shock. It all began with the cruel and indefensible death of George Floyd on May 25th. Most of the reaction to his death was rational and healthy. However, some let their anger foment into violent protests, anarchy, looting and attacks on police officers and innocent bystanders.  It ended (more or less) with the National Guard being called into many cities. Sunday evening my own normally peaceful mid-size city was overrun with angry protesters and senseless violence.

 Monday, I began seeking God in earnest regarding the situation. Because I’m me, I like to know the root cause of every issue. Consequently, the first question I had for the Lord was why? Why does it always come back to race in this country? Why is racism such an oozy, festering, wound here? America is not the only place racism is a problem. The Apostle Paul repeatedly addressed the issue of racism in his writings (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:9-11, Ephesians 2:11-17). I doubt he would have felt compelled to do so if the problem were not hard baked into the human condition. That said, America has a different kind of problem with racism than most other countries. I think this is because America’s bigotry was born out of oppression and cruelty rather than garden-variety prejudice. Nonetheless, it seems we should be a little further along in the healing process. A lot has been done in the last five decades to try and right the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow.  

 Then, it occurred to me the whole ugly muddle is an example of what happens anytime anyone refuses to be sorry for their sins.      

 The generation that fought to keep slavery legal certainly did not apologize for their sins. Instead, the whole lot of them collectively refused to be even the tiniest bit remorseful. Their sin was compounded by the fact they knew better. People who lived in America at that time were well-acquainted with Christian ethics and principles (Luke 6:31, Hebrews 13:16). The all-encompassing moral code of Christianity is that Christians are to treat people the way they wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12). It really is that simple. Literally, no one wants to be a slave. Therefore, forcing another person into slavery is clearly immoral. Post-Civil War clergy could have advanced the healing process if they had been willing to preach repentance. Instead pastors passively and actively endorsed the bigoted behavior of the people they were called to lead to better things (Hebrews 6:9).  

 Then the thing happened that always happens when a person or group of people willfully refuses to confess they were wrong and be sorry for their sins. They passed down a vile, sinister, festering generational sin to their children.  The generations that followed made a terrible situation worse by institutionalizing bigotry through the passing of Jim Crow laws.

 Then the thing happened that always happens when a person or group of people is sinned against repeatedly without apology. Their hurt becomes a festering woundedness that is passed down to the next generation. When hurt is passed down for generations bitterness can begin to feel like a birthright. As a victim of an entirely different form of generational woundedness I have learned forgiveness is the only path to wholeness and peace.  I understand from personal experience forgiving generational sin is hard because it feels as if we are excusing the inexcusable simply by letting go and giving our rage to God. That being said, it must be done.

 I am not stupid or prideful enough to think I can solve the problem of racism or the generational suffering caused by the evils of bigotry in one blogpost. As if. That feat would be categorically above my rather meager paygrade. All I can really do is pray for healing for those wounded by racism. I can make it my aim to live a life that sees people first and color second. I can be fair to others, I can choose to judge others based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. I can call out injustice when I see it, rather than simply turning a blind eye to evil.

 We live in a time and place that screams for individual self-examination.  

 Not all people are racists. If you fall into that classification, the only acceptable course is repentance, you will be judged by God if you refuse to do so. That said, racism is not the only sin that ruins lives and produces generational mayhem, every choice has a consequence, especially the choice to keep sinning or to hang on to anger (Hebrews 10:26-31, Hebrews 12:15).  Any sin we choose not to repent of or any wound we do not take to God for healing has the potential to cause the same kind of ugly ripples racism has.

 Do the future a favor and take a hard look at your life and attitudes. If you need to repent—do it. If you need to forgive a sin that was perpetrated against you— do it.

Now. 

Future generations deserve better.

 

 

Will Churches Survive the COVID-19 Crisis?

 Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching- Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

  I hate COVID-19.

  I hate the trouble, awkwardness and expense this idiotic infection has created for the whole world. I despise the suspicion I see in people’s eyes at the grocery store. I hate the look of panic I see when people realize they have accidently broken social-distancing rules. I hate that I feel the need to reassure people who are clearly terrified I am going to scream at them I am not afraid of them. I despise the cold plastic walls we’ve erected everywhere.  I hate that COVID-19 has made it clear to me that I am still in desperate need of sanctification as revealed by the level of aggressiveness and cynicism I feel about this whole thing.

 I also hate what the virus is doing to the body of Christ. In the early days of the pandemic I wondered if Coronavirus might turn out to be a net-positive for the church. In some ways, it has been. Many once apathetic Christians are seeking God on a deeper level and praying more and harder than they’ve ever prayed in their lives (Revelation 3:15-17). Sales of devotionals are up and Bible aps have seen a marked increase in users. The forced separation from church family has made many believers more grateful for their local Church and the community it provides. These are clear wins for the church.

 However.

 It’s not all sunshine and roses in church world. Online attendance of services was good early on but there’s been a sharp decline in recent weeks. Some have made online commitments to Jesus. However due to circumstances beyond their control leaders have been unable to follow-up on those people in a meaningful way. Sadly, most of those baby believers are MIA. Even some mature Christians have lost connection with their church family. Some have taken to bouncing from online service to online service. Churches are closed almost everywhere. In some areas they will stay closed for the foreseeable future.  Some Christian leaders have begun to hold what are essentially illegal gatherings. A few have even been arrested for doing so. More moderate Christians cite Romans 13:1-7 and contend it’s simply wrong to disobey government authority. Other Christians have decided that online church is just as good as meeting together in person. They believe Christians should be content to worship alone in their homes until the authorities give us permission to do otherwise.

 What is a Christian to do?

 The church is not a building (1st Corinthians 12:27, Ephesians 3:6). The church is individual people from divergent backgrounds and races who come together to make up a living, breathing organism called the body of Christ. (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11).  No one has to attend church in a building to be a Christian.  However, it could be argued that one very effective, albeit slow way to kill a body, especially a spiritual body is to separate the parts.

 It is not healthy, wise or biblical to replace the freedom, fellowship, accountability and warmth of in-person meetings with technology. There is no accountability with a computer screen. Sin, bad doctrine and complacency all breed in secret.  Furthermore, the longer one goes without church the easier it is to forget that Christians are commanded to meet together on a regular basis (Hebrews 10:25).

 That being said, law-breaking should never be our go-to as Christians.

 Therefore, if you live in an area that’s prohibited church gatherings, it is imperative you exhaust every legal avenue available to get the right restored. Contact the office of your governor, state senators and legislators as quickly as possible. POLITLEY, GRACIOUSLY and RESPECTFULLY ask for an exception for churches on large gathering bans. Use Daniel’s interactions with Arioch in Daniel 1:1-8-16 as a guide for dealing with government officials. If your church is granted an exemption, members and leaders should cheerfully follow any and all rules mandated by the state (masks, hand-washing, social distancing, hand sanitizer stations). Every rule should be followed to the letter. Even if people believe the rules are stupid and/or unnecessary.  This isn’t about what we think or feel. It’s about the greater good.

 In the meantime, Pastors and church leaders must assume the current situation will continue for a while or will return sometime in the future. Pastors should develop systems to train lay-leaders so they are able to provide teaching, support, accountability, fellowship and pastoral care to groups of fewer than ten. Even if the system is unnecessary at this time this will not be the last outbreak of COVID-19, so it will probably prove useful in the future.

  Individual Christians should realize the current situation is part of a much bigger spiritual battle and do everything in their power to build themselves up in the faith. Bible reading, prayer and daily self-examination are not optional activities for Christians at this moment in history (Matthew 26:41, 2nd Corinthians 13:5).

 They are our greatest need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could God be Attempting to Correct Us?

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

Coronavirus is generating tremendous chaos throughout the world. Not since God put the kibosh on the Babel building project have so many individuals been so greatly affected by a singular event (Genesis 11:1-11).

People are anxious and going to pieces in ways rarely seen in our modern age.  Full-grown adults are fighting over toilet paper and tuna fish with no outward indications of shame. People are openly aggressive towards anyone who sniffles in a public place.  An Arizona man died from ingesting fish tank cleaner because he believed it would protect him from Coronavirus. Economists warn of impending doom if economies don’t return to some semblance of normal soon and yet some leaders are advocating quarantine orders be enforced for six months to a year. 

Some of the fear connected to Coronavirus is reasonable and even wise. Coronavirus is dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health problems, it is also highly contagious. Large groups of people get it all at once and it overwhelms healthcare systems. That being said, some of the fear is clearly out of bounds with the level of danger. There are seven-billion people on earth, 33,841 people have died from Coronavirus. That number is relatively small in comparison to the world population. Please don’t misunderstand, none of the people who died from this awful virus were insignificant or unimportant. They were all real people with stories, each was loved by someone and all were image-bearers of God. The loss of an image bearer is always a tragic event. That said, it could be argued that locking down the whole world indefinitely over the Coronavirus threat is a form of insanity that should be closely examined. 

So, a couple of things: 

Coronavirus could have been contained if the political will had existed when the virus first emerged. With few exceptions world leaders simply ignored the problem. The few who did act to contain the threat were condemned as bigots. Additionally, each of the nations (and regions) hit hardest by the virus displayed a high level of foolishness concerning the virus. Washington state (where I live) is a hub for air travel to China and yet little attention was paid to the virus until it started killing large numbers of people. Italy caved to political correctness and sponsored “hug a Chinese person” events even after it was clear the virus was being spread from Chinese tourists.  New York gave into greed and refused to cancel parades even when it was clear the virus was a looming problem (Isaiah 57:17, Luke 12:15). Iran refused help from other nations even when it was painfully clear they needed it to contain the virus (Proverbs 16:18). 

It is simply a fact that wisdom, common sense and good judgment are indicators God’s Spirit is present in the life of individuals, leaders and nations (Proverbs 9:11-12, Ecclesiastes 2:26, Jeremiah 4:22).  Conversely, willful foolishness is a clear sign a person, leader or nation has no fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).

 Now that world leaders have finally decided to take this virus seriously, the whole world is in a mad panic to stop it using any method deemed necessary, even if it destroys lives and brings about abject poverty and suffering.  I know Christians aren’t supposed to use the J-word anymore. Nevertheless, I feel compelled by the Spirit to point out that in the Bible confusion, fear and overreaction to circumstances is one method God uses to bring judgment on obstinate people (Jeremiah 51:34). The Israelites were promised that if they persistently rebelled against God they would be afflicted with “madness and confusion of mind” (Deuteronomy 28:20). There are many instances in the Old Testament where God used confusion to defeat Israel’s enemies when they refused to turn from their sin.  (Joshua 10:9-10, Judges 6, 1st Samuel 14:20)  

This virus could very well be a corrective judgment brought on by a lack of human wisdom. Corrective judgments are warnings given in love.  God brings trouble, misery and hardship in an attempt to get people’s attention and bring them to a place of repentance and obedience (Jeremiah 15:19). In a corrective judgment God is always quick to forgive those who are eager to repent (Psalm 103:2-4, Jeremiah 15:19. Considering the state of our world it would be strange to think God is not demanding people everywhere to turn away from the sins of pride, sexual immorality, greed, abortion and unbelief (Psalm 50:4).  

Let me be clear:

I do not believe people who get or die from Coronavirus are under God’s direct judgment. God is not singling out particular people, nations, or people groups. The whole world is being negatively affected by this calamity.  God is always slow to judge partly because the righteous and the wicked all suffer equally under judgment (Ecclesiastes 9:2, Matthew 5:45), this reality breaks the heart of God.  Christians should not despair that life is hard right now. Instead we should rejoice that we know Jesus and have a secure future in Him. Christinas should be leading the way by examining ourselves and repenting of any sins we have in our lives.  We should seek God on behalf of our world and ask Him to show mercy by bringing a spirit of repentance and revival (1st Peter 4:17).  

The Truth about Politics and Religion-

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him- Mark 12:17 NIV

 Between the bedlam at the Iowa caucuses, the impeachment trial, the partisan monkey business at the State of the Union address and the snipping and sniping between Nancy Pelosi and the President this past week; I have had ample opportunity to reflect on the madness of our present political situation. 

 It dawned on me most of us were taught two rules regarding politics and religion. First, we were taught politics and religion are subjects that inevitably produce tension and discord. Therefore, it is bad manners to discuss either subject in a public forum. We were also taught politics and religion are two entirely separate subjects that have no connection whatsoever. Consequently, only ignoramuses combine discussion of the two subjects.

 The ship has more or less sailed on the first rule.


For better or worse, there are precious few topics off-limits for discussion in our goat rodeo of a society. Only prudish squares care about tension and discord anymore. In fact, some people get paid good money to produce and promote it.

 However.

  The second rule is still very much in force. This due in part to a near unanimous misunderstanding of the phrase “separation of church and state”. Most believe it is found in the Constitution or some other critical founding document.  It’s not. The only place it was ever used was in a personal letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to an association of Baptists who were fearful there would be a state sponsored church in America. In his letter Mr. Jefferson assured them there is “wall of separation between church and state”. Therefore, government will never intrude on anyone’s religious beliefs or activities. Clearly, Mr. Jefferson didn’t own a crystal ball, but, that’s another blogpost for another day. The passing of the Johnson Amendment in 1954 has also contributed to the belief that politics and religion should be kept in separate corners. The law allows the government to strip Churches of their tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates.

 All that being said, a stupid law and ignorance of our founding documents are not the only reasons we don’t talk about politics and religion.

 Many Christians sincerely believe politics is dirty and religion is clean. They think that by merging political conversations with faith conversations, we dirty up religion and run the risk of muddling the message of the gospel. Christians who believe this way tend to think Jesus was discouraging political involvement when he said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”.  Most non-Christians tend to believe any mixing of religion and politics will cause our perfectly good republic to morph into a creepy theocracy reminiscent of an episode of A Handmaids Tale.

 Sigh.

 In spite of almost everyone’s desire to keep politics and religion in separate corners, the two have had some ugly run-in’s in recent years. Culture is shifting rapidly and battle lines are being drawn between right wrong. Once a upon a time issues like pedophilia, relaxing or eliminating drug laws, the elimination of restrictions on hardcore pornography, lowering the age of sexual consent, sanctioning late term abortion, legalizing prostitution and allowing infanticide were considered icky fringe issues. Our society has become less Christian and more accepting of just about everything and some have felt emboldened to push these and other issues through the courts in recent years (Psalm 52:3, Isaiah 5:20). Religious people (mostly Christians) have become weary of the societal decline that has resulted from an increase in progressive legislation.

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 It is true Christians sometimes send the message that in order to be a Christian a person must hold to a certain set of political views. It is also true that if a person is a Christian the Bible will inform their thinking on all issues, including political issues. However, the notion that one has to do anything but believe in Jesus and repent of their sin to become a Christian is tragically wrong. Additionally, patriotism is not godliness. Love of country is a good thing but it must never be confused with fidelity to Jesus.

 Furthermore.

 One of the key reasons Christianity has flourished in America is because our founders wisely avoided forming a theocracy. If America’s founders had instituted a state sponsored Christian church, it is a given that the state would have killed the dynamic and powerful nature of Christianity by insisting that all Christians think and worship exactly the same way.

 Trust me. No one wants a theocracy in America.

 That being said. We must work hard as believers to keep Jesus the main thing in all we do. We are not called to change the world through political legislation or even social reform. We are called to change the world by bringing people to Jesus and then teaching them to think and act like Jesus (Matthew 28:19). At the same time, we must embrace the reality that all of life belongs to God and there is no sphere Christians are not called to influence and redeem for Jesus (Psalm 24:1).  Therefore, Christians should never lose their moral outrage when it comes to political attempts to legalize behavior that robs human beings of their God-given dignity. We need Christians who will graciously explain to an unbelieving world that every personal and political choice has a spiritual consequence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Don’t Need More Christian Values-

 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead- Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

 Eleven years ago, a group of parents in our community became troubled by the lack of moral values that were rampant in our area. The parents approached the local schoolboard. After a series of meetings, the Central Valley School District decided to go all-in with values education. A committee was formed.  The committee came up with a program still used today that systematically teaches values and positive character qualities to children in public schools beginning in kindergarten.

 The values chosen were universally acknowledged as virtuous and helpful.  They were respect, responsibility, citizenship, caring, fairness, honesty, diligence, trustworthiness, courage, integrity, generosity and gratitude. 

 For the record, I have no idea how many of the parents on that committee where Christians. At that time, we lived in a neighboring district and I was not on the committee, nor was I friends with anyone on the committee. However, it did not escape my notice that every character quality on the list was in alignment with New Testament teachings. Furthermore, the definitions for each trait could have been written by an experienced Sunday school teacher. For example, the definition chosen for the citizenship value was:

 Positively contributing to society and community as well as dutifully respecting authority and the law.

 So, that sounds a bit like a synopsis of Romans 13:1-7 to me. But who am I to say what motivated the writer of the definition?

 Any-hoo.

 Last week I noticed one of the schools near our home had the character trait of the month and its definition (caring) on its reader board. The sign reminded me of the movement eleven years ago to bring “values” back into our community. 

 It occurred to me as I was driving home that little has improved in our community over the course of the last decade. Most kids (and adults) still lack the values those parents fought to have taught. Common courtesy is far less common now than it was then. Property crime occurs at a much higher rate than it did ten years ago. Our community has experienced one school shooting in recent years and nearly every social problem under the sun has increased in the years since the program was implemented.  

 Why, after all the years, all the tax dollars spent and all the hours put into teaching and training kids have we seen so little improvement in the moral climate of our community? 

 It is not the fault of parents who battled to bring values education into the schools. Those parents followed their conscience and worked their tails off to make a difference. That kind of moral courage is never wrong.  Nor, should the blame be laid at the feet of the school system. In a post-modern, post-values, post-Christian world some very brave leaders took a risk and made a valiant attempt at standing up for some timeless truths. That kind of bravery should always be celebrated. 

 The fault lies with society at large. For well over a century, individuals have wanted and, in some cases, even insisted that Christian values be taught without all the pesky ethical teaching that accompanies Christianity. Our culture wants nice people who practice Christian generosity in the event of a natural disaster or tragedy. We want people who are benevolent, compassionate and nice. We want people who tell the truth as Christianity demands.

 However, we do not wish to be burdened with any moral restrictions that might mess with our personal choices. We do not want Christianity meddling with our sex lives or telling us what we can or can’t watch on television. We for sure do not want Christianity to inform our views concerning drug legalization or childrearing practices.  

 The problem with this kind of thinking is that it will work for a generation or two, perhaps even three. When Christianity is authentic it is powerful enough that Christian virtues (patience, kindness, temperance, generosity, self-discipline) will live on in succeeding generations who don’t really know Christ. However, sooner or later the veneer of Christianity will begin to wear off of society and when that happens the society will begin to unravel.

 That is what we see happening today. Western Civilization has been living in the shadow of the blessings prior generations earned through their genuine faith in Christ (Deuteronomy 28, 1st Samuel 15:22, Psalm 128:1-3, John 14:23, 2nd John 1:6).  As those blessings fade we are left with the dregs of a post-Christian reality: disobedient children, corrupt politicians, lawlessness, sexual chaos, broken families and random violence (Ezekiel 23:35, 2nd Timothy 3:1-5).

 We will never get our homes, churches, community or country back to a place of blessing by painting society with yet another whitewashing of Christian virtues. We need Christianity not just Christian virtues. Christians need to get back to the business of repentance and making disciples. It all starts with making sure our own heart is right with God and other people. Once that is done Christians need to get into their communities with God’s truth and love.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Christians Must Stop Worshipping the Idol of “Being Nice”-

Dear children, keep yourselves from idols~ 1stJohn 5:21 NIV

“Being nice” has become an idol we worship with wild abandon. 

Before you exit out to write me a long comment listing detailing the countless ways people have become rude, vulgar and belligerent, read on. 

I have not lost my mind.  

It is true that there are many people in our culture who become aggressively rude, foulmouthed and abusive at the tiniest provocation. However, if you look at the context of their aggression; their hostility is nearly always directed at people who they categorize as hateful, rude or disrespectful. 

It is never acceptable to be “not nice” anymore. Unless, of course someone else is determined to be “not nice”. Once the judgment of “not nice” has been established, literally anything goes. It is then acceptable to unleash untold hell on those judged to be “not nice”.  

This insight came as I was reading an article. The writer of the article believes evangelical support for the President (rather than the churches lack of holiness or the average Christian’s reluctance to share the gospel) is hurting our Christian witness in America. He believes that it would be best for Christian voters to dump the Trump and take our lumps with whoever gets elected next; rather than continuing to discredit the reputation of Christianity with support for the President. 

The primary grievance the writer seemed to have with the President is not his with policies but rather his lack of politeness and absence of niceness. It is true there are those who do have issues with Trump’s conservative policies. However, they rarely attack his policies. Instead they focus endlessly on his lack of decorum, dignity and niceness.  

Sigh. 

Our collective obsession with niceness transcends the realm of politics.  Despite laws safeguarding free speech there is an influential movement afoot to shut down any and all speech thought to be “not nice”.  Racist, sexist and homophobic speech has been deemed the least “nice” speech because that sort of speech is categorically awful.  Clever individuals have recognized that the most efficient way to silence speech they don’t like and to be given the go ahead to be “not nice” to the person speaking is to twist their speech into something racist, sexist and/or homophobic. Universities routinely suppress the speech of students who hold views considered “not nice”. These same schools regularly disinvite speakers whiny students feel are “not nice”. Professors have actually been fired from jobs for openly sharing views decreed “not nice”.

There’s more:

The Berkley city council has prohibited the use of gender specific pronouns in their city code because it is “not nice” to call someone a pronoun they don’t identify with. Berkley has determined that it is categorially “not nice” to offend a gender confused person or a woman or anyone so now a manhole cover will be called a “maintenance hole” and manpower will be termed “human effort” and brothers and sisters will now be called “siblings”. 

Welcome to 1984 folks. 

The entire west coast is being taken over by homeless people. Sections of entire cities are no longer fit to live in. Nothing is being done to correct this problem or help the homeless because it has been determined by mostly democratic leadership in those cities that it is “not nice” to make judgments about the lifestyle choices of others. Medical professionals will admit in their more vulnerable moments they are reluctant to tell patients they are overweight or that their lifestyle choices are going to kill them because they do not want to be perceived as “not nice” or “judgmental”. 

The idol of nice has slipped into the church and is creating chaos.  For years now, churches, even evangelical churches have systematically softened language concerning sin. In some situations, churches have stopped discussing topics—no matter how biblical those topics might be— because someone— somewhere might possibly feel those topics are “not nice”. The teachings of Calvinism have made serious inroads in recent years, even in denominations that are not traditionally Calvinistic. I suspect one of the reasons Calvinism has become popular is because Calvinism teaches Christians they never have to tell unbelievers they are going to hell or even evangelize them (decidedly “not nice” things). Calvinists believe it is the sole responsibility of the Holy Spirit to reach unbelievers and He does not want or need our help. If these strategies were effective I would support them, but they are not. Church attendance has plummeted and authentic conversions have become rarer. The vast majority of church growth in recent decades has been what experts call “transfer growth” or Christians simply transferring from one church or denomination to another church or denomination.   

Idols must be dealt with decisively.  

This does not mean it is okay to be rude, abusive or foulmouthed. It does mean that we stop allowing our fear of man to take precedence over our fear of God. 

Christians must balance “niceness” with truthfulness in a culture that is literally dying before our very eyes (Ephesians 4:15, Ephesians 4:25). It is the ultimate in fiddling while Rome burns to worry more about being labeled “not nice” than to worry about the souls of people or the future of our civilization.  

Seven Practical Things Christians Can Do to Push Back the Darkness-

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed- John 3:20 NIV

I have not been cursed with a ton of vices. 

Drugs, alcohol, and gambling are not enormous temptations for me. Nor am I into video games, binge eating, hoarding, porn or nicotine. I do sometimes use shopping as a stress release. However, I hate credit card debt slightly more than I love shopping so the odds I will morph into a full-blown shopping addict are fairly slim.   

Politics is my vice. 

Much to the chagrin of my far less politically minded husband, I follow political parties the way a gaming addict follows NFL teams and a gambling addict follows the ponies. The Presidential elections are my super bowl and I begin gearing up for them a good two years prior to the actual election. 

 As a history geek I am fascinated by the reality that democracy is a relatively new development in human government, having only existed as we know it for a few hundred years.  In my nerdier moments (there are many) I like to ponder the evolution of politics and government. As a Christian I am intrigued by the fact that in our system the election of a single person often has an enormous impact on the political, economic and moral landscape of our nation, sometimes for decades. 

Unfortunately, I can fall into the trap of thinking that if the right person or group of people get elected the outcome will magically alter the moral landscape of our country permanently.  Recently, I came heard a quote that threw a truth grenade on the folly of my thinking: 

We are not seeing terrible things in our culture because we vote the wrong way. We are seeing terrible things in our culture because men love darkness more than light-Voddie Baucham

It is a sad fact that people love darkness more than they love light (John 3:19). At the heart of every “hot-button” issue we are dealing with as a culture is a powerful battle between right and wrong, light and darkness, good and evil. If hearts are changed political and moral views will change too. Changing hearts is way above any of our pay grades. Changing hearts is God’s job. However, the Bible is clear that individuals do have influence over others and there are things that can be done to push back the darkness.

Beginning with:

Prayer-

No one should talk about prayer or extol the virtues of prayer unless they are taking time out of their day to actually pray (1st Thessalonians 5:17, Matthew 26:41).  Christians should pray because prayer has the power to change things. More importantly prayer changes our attitudes towards people and it makes our hearts soft towards God.  

Get some theology- 

The whole notion of holding tightly to beliefs concerning God, the Bible and life has been scoffed at inside and outside the church in recent years. Some well-known pastors have publicly criticized Christians who place a high value on Bible study.  The Apostle Paul’s proclamation that “knowledge puffs up” has been taken out of context so many times that most people do not realize that the apostle was referring to knowledge concerning a specific issue (idols).  Christians have been told repeatedly that all they need to do to effectively live out their Christian faith is love God and people.  Believing that “love” is all Christians need to communicate Christ effectively is a tragically immature understanding of both Christianity and love (1st Peter 3:15). Our post-Christian world does not define the word love by a biblical standard. Therefore it is impossible to know how to love God or love people without theology as our guide. We should get in the habit of asking ourselves what the Bible says about every issue and then study the Bible to know the answers (2nd Peter 1:3-9, Proverbs 18:15). 

Live right-

Holy or righteous living is one of the most misunderstood issues our time. There are actual church-going people who believe it is legalistic to expect Christians to live by the standards laid out for us in the New Testament. It’s not. Holy living is what gives Christians credibility and the right to speak out concerning the issues of our day (1stCorinthians 1:2, Ephesians 5:3, 1st Thessalonians 4:7, Hebrews 12;14).  

Serve

If we want to push back the darkness it is critical we serve in our local church. Christians should volunteer to do whatever needs to be done at their church and work to make their local church as strong and healthy as possible. It is equally important Christians find creative ways to serve those outside the church. This is done best when we become intentional about getting to know the people in our neighborhoods and workplaces.  

Vote wisely-

I know I already made it clear that I don’t think politics are the answer to our problems. That said, if Christians vote for leaders who openly embrace darkness we should not be surprised when our world suddenly becomes a darker place. 

Don’t be a jerk-

Seriously. There are enough self-righteous blowhards wandering free. The world does not need even one more. Love God. Live the way you are supposed to live, speak the truth boldly but lovingly and don’t worry about what the rest of the world does with the truth. God will deal with the sinners in this world when the time is right (Romans 2:5-6, Hebrews 9:27, Revelations 14:7). 

Don’t waver- 

Learn the Bible. Set shamelessly biblical standards for yourself. Live by those standards and beliefs and do not allow the culture persuade you to do anything else.