Could Christianity use a Little More Rebellion?

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body- 2nd Corinthians 4:8-11 NIV

According to the Center for Disease Control 47,444 people committed suicide in the United States in 2020. This number is roughly equivalent to a city the size of Cheyenne Wyoming.  2020 was not special in this area, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. Unfortunately, experts in the field suspect that number is just the tip of the iceberg.  Most believe many deaths believed to be drug overdoses and accidents were in fact suicides. Suicide attempts are also on the rise. According to the CDC 2020-2021 saw a fifty-one percent increase in suicide attempts among adolescent girls aged twelve to seventeen.  America is not alone.  Suicides all over the globe have increased exponentially over the course of the last decade.  

We live in a culture of despair. 

Suicide is not the only indicator we live in a world where a whole lot of people lack purpose, meaning and hope.  Drugs that dull our senses and numb our feelings are very much a thing. Eighty-one thousand people died last year from accidental drug overdoses.  One in twelve adolescents self-harm in an effort to distract themselves from the pain and hopelessness they feel.  This means that in a high school with seven-hundred students eighty-four of those kids harm themselves intentionally. 

Sigh. 

The reasons for the rampant despair are legion.  Abuse and neglect of children has become common as fatherlessness has exploded and single parenting has become standard. Children who experience abuse or neglect almost always grow up feeling a lack of hope for the future. That said, I suspect abuse and neglect of children is simply a symptom of a greater problem rather than the root of our overwhelming sense of hopelessness. 

I suspect our pain is caused by our own willful foolishness.

These days most non-Christians and even many Christians live outside the set pattern and design God created for human beings. We lean on our own understanding of how to do life instead of seeking God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6, Genesis 1:28). Then we wonder like a bunch of idiots why life is hard and we feel bad all time. 

Think about it.

For one thing. 

Sex lost its sacredness decades ago. 

Now we have hookups, starter marriages, pornography and prostitutes instead of one partner we bond with for life. Few adults marry before thirty and the stated goal for many is to have as much sex as possible with as many people as possible before “settling down” and “starting a family”. Fewer than half of all women wait until marriage to have children, pretty much guaranteeing their kiddos will grow up in a home without a biological father. All this taken together simply means that the ties that bind people together are weaker than they have ever been. 

For another. 

The economic system our culture has trapped itself in ensures most families live far from their extended family and both parents work. This leaves kids (especially teenagers) to figure life out without the input of their parents and the wisdom of their grandparents. Most people work non-stop and as a result community and the close relationships we were all made for fall to the wayside in our lives.  

Christians must show the world a different way of doing life. 

Fast. 

And we have to find a way to do it without being strange, judgmental, creepy or weirdly patriarchal (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:21-33). Getting this right is the only way people will know there’s something better out there. We get it right by bucking the system and refusing to get caught up in the lies our society tells about sex and relationships. The world needs to see that it is possible to be happy and fulfilled while not having sex with a gazillion people or having multiple spouses. 

But first Christianity needs a few rebels. 

Christians rebel against this world’s satanic system by getting married young, having lots of sex, making babies with only one person, buying a house and building a life (Genesis 2:24). We buck the system by building community and remaining loyal to the churches we attend. We rebel when we give up other things to spend quality time with friends and family. We become the best kind of revolutionists when we are willing to admit we got it wrong and change directions.  We could change the world simply by choosing to love Jesus and obey God even when our obedience makes us look weird and causes us to be out of step with the rest of the world. 

Rebelling without giving a reason will get us nowhere. 

We need to loudly and proudly proclaim why we are doing what we’re doing. We need to be willing to look weird in the eyes of the world in order to shine the light of Jesus in an increasingly dark world. 

How Christians can Survive and Thrive in this Season of Judgment-

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom- James 4:6-9 NIV 

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. However, I will continue to post all new blog posts on my personal Facebook page and my A Wise Life Facebook page for right now. There are a couple of reasons for this change: first I can no longer in good conscience give Facebook my money when they actively censor what I say by refusing to promote any blog they deem too “political”. Second, with so many people getting off of Facebook my reach has shrunk and it is no longer worth the hassle of being careful about what I say just to get a little promotional help.  This means that it will be much harder for readers to find A Wise Life. It will no longer simply pop up on your feed. You have two options if you want to continue reading A Wise Life. You can search for my page every week or you can subscribe for free. Subscriptions are easy: just go to the bottom of this blog where it says “subscribe” and type in your email address. A Wise Life will arrive in your email every Sunday night. I will not sell or give your email address to anyone. I would appreciate it if you  would “do me a solid” and continue to share any blog you feel is worth sharing on social media. That is the only way I will continue to acquire new readers. 

Thanks, 

Lisa Price

Now this week’s post:

In last week’s post I shared my deeply held belief that the whole stupid world has fallen under the judgement of God. Anytime large groups of people fall under judgment life changes dramatically and becomes far less pleasant for everyone. Crops fail, wars break out, birth rates plummet, conflicts increase, the weather gets weird, economies flounder and fail, fear increases, pandemics occur, wild animals become more vicious, leaders make dumb decisions and individuals everywhere just go kind of feral and crazy (Deuteronomy 28:15-64). Judgment is terrible and everyone feels the changes judgment brings. This is where we’re living right now. 

However.

All the terribleness is not without purpose.  God always has two primary purposes for judgment. First, judgment is designed to bring the dead (spiritually speaking) to life in Christ. The hardship and pain that always accompanies judgment can and often does cause people who have rejected God to examine themselves, seek God and repent of their sins. When that happens, a person moves from death to life and all of heaven rejoices (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Luke 15:10). If enough people repent and turn to God we get revival and change occurs on every level of society.  (Psalm 85:6, Acts 3:19, Acts 19:18-20). God also uses judgement to strengthen the church and make it holy (1st Peter 4:17). The church becomes stronger and holier anytime it encounters persecution. The hardship that comes with persecution draws genuine Christians even closer to God (strengthening the church) and drives non-Christians who think they are Christians away from the church (thus purifying the church).

  Persecution comes with judgment for a couple of reasons. First, when unbelievers begin experiencing the effects of God’s judgment (crop failure, conflict, disease, weird weather, etc.) they often make rules or laws designed to manage the difficulties of the judgment. The laws made inevitably end up affecting the churches ability to operate and share the gospel. Secondly, those who are actively rebelling against God despise being told where their rebellion will lead them. People do not enjoy being told there will be more judgment, more personal pain and eternity spent in hell unless they repent. Those who speak the truth in a season of judgment are always persecuted in some way. 

We are in a judgment. 

Therefore, persecution of the church is likely inevitable. This means attitudes and behaviors that have become commonplace in Church world simply will not fly anymore. Following are four of those things:

Marginal commitment levels-

Attending church services weekly, reading the Bible, cultivating a strong prayer life and being actively involved in a church community do not make anyone a Christian. Good habits do not magically transform pagans into saints.  However, participation in these activities do make Christians stronger and healthier from a spiritual standpoint. Christians who have taken the time to cultivate healthy habits are more likely to stand strong when life gets hard and life always gets hard for God’s people in a judgment.    

Fakeness-

Christians are sometimes disturbingly fake. We pretend we are okay when we’re not okay and that we have it all together when we’re really falling apart. We do this for one reason: pride. We want people to think we are healthier, better and godlier than we really are so we fake we are the things we think we should be. This particular form of pride cheats us out of the growth and transformation that can only be achieved by being authentic and transparent with ourselves and God. We can’t grow if don’t admit we need to.  

Legalism-

Legalists want to follow a list of rules related to outward behavior without dealing with the heart issues that caused them to sin in the first place. God does care about what we do. Some behaviors are simply not okay for Christians (1st Corinthians 6:8-10, Galatians 5:19-21).  However, God also wants us to do the right things out of a desire to honor and glorify God rather than a desire to be accepted and liked by other Christians or because we think behaving the “right way” will gain God’s favor. Legalism can look genuine in good times because a person’s heart isn’t tested in good times. However, in times of judgment the true state of a person’s heart is always revealed. Furthermore, legalists frequently become bitter towards God in times of judgment because they feel their good behavior should be rewarded. They don’t understand intimacy with God is the greatest reward. Intimacy with God is a result of clinging to God in hardship.  

Double-mindedness-

Double-mindedness is when we attempt to live with one foot in the world and one foot in the church (1st John 2:15).  This often takes the form of adopting opinions and beliefs that allow a Christian to conform to worldly norms and standards on issues such as: homosexuality, gender, adultery, abortion or justice while still living as a “practicing Christian”. In a time of judgment God always demands that His people choose who they will serve (Joshua 24:15). 

No one gets to choose the events and circumstances of the time they live in. God does that for us. However, we do get the privilege of choosing how we respond to the circumstances of our life. How we choose is never more important than in a season of judgment. 

We are Under Judgement. Here’s why and What Can be Done About it-

This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed- John 3:18-19 ESV

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. However, I will continue to post all new blog posts on my personal Facebook page and my A Wise Life Facebook page for right now. There are a couple of reasons for this change: first I can no longer in good conscience give Facebook my money when they actively censor what I say by refusing to promote any blog they deem too “political”. Second, with so many people getting off of Facebook my reach has shrunk and it is no longer worth the hassle of being careful about what I say just to get a little promotional help.  This means that it will be much harder for readers to find A Wise Life. It will no longer simply pop up on your feed. You have two options if you want to continue reading A Wise Life. You can search for my page every week or you can subscribe for free. Subscriptions are easy: just go to the bottom of this blog where it says “subscribe” and type in your email address. A Wise Life will arrive in your email every Sunday night. I will not sell or give your email address to anyone. I would appreciate it if you  would “do me a solid” and continue to share any blog you feel is worth sharing on social media. That is the only way I will continue to acquire new readers. 

Thanks, 

Lisa Price 

Now, this week’s post:

I recently realized that I have morphed into a “New Testament person”. This simply means I tend to do most of my devotional reading out of the New Testament books. In an effort to break out of the rut, I revisited 1st Kings. It didn’t take long for me to recall why I tend to gravitate towards the New Testament. 1st Kings is depressing.  Really. Depressing. Like lose your faith in humanity depressing.  The first half of the book is just an endless litany of the sin and bad behavior of one ghastly king after another. The sin of the king was then followed by a period of judgment that the people (who were also sinning like crazy) completely ignored or wrote off as a nothing sandwich. The book actually had me feeling quite smug about the superiority of modern humans. 

At least until I did some thinking and put some things together. 

Like, the fact that our own federal, state and local governments have been doing some pretty awful things at home and abroad for quite some time now. That’s how we got Critical Race Theory in most of our public schools. It’s how we ended up with the gender unicorn and queer story hour. It’s why Afghanistan is such a shameful mess and why the censorship of ideas is suddenly acceptable.  This happened because many of our leaders over the course of the last fifty years have born a striking resemblance to Old Testament kings like Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijam and Omri.  

However.

We cannot in good conscience blame the government for all our problems. We elected these people. It’s not as if they were imposed on us by some outside force. We picked them. It’s also not as if queer story hour or the gender unicorn appeared out of the clear-blue sky sometime in 2020. Those kinds of ideas slowly became acceptable and eventually mainstream because individuals rejected truth about God (Romans 1:19-22). Anytime humans willfully reject truth lies fill the void and we do and believe weird things that are ultimately foolish, silly and even evil (Romans 1:23-32). Sin is why respect for human life has evaporated into thin air. Sin is at the root of the barbaric practice of transforming boys into girls. Sin and its offspring selfishness are why the birth rate is plummeting. Sin is the reason public discourse has crumbled and why we routinely have riots in the street. Sin is why many major cities are no longer safe places. 

We did this to ourselves. 

Sin inevitably leads to judgment and that’s where we’re living right now. Even in church world it’s not popular to use the J-word.  I’m using it anyway.  Judgment.  The world is under judgment. Not just America or Mexico or England or Russia. The whole stupid world has fallen under the judgment of God for rejecting Him and embracing every kind of depravity imaginable (Romans 1:30). Irrational fear, dumb leaders, loss of personal rights and censorship are not just the result of people being stupid or governments being evil. Those things are God’s attempt to get us to come to our senses and repent before we sin ourselves into extinction. This does not mean God is angry at every single person on the planet.  God is slow to judge partly because in any judgment it is impossible separate the righteous from the wicked. The righteous always suffer the consequences of sins they didn’t commit. Nonetheless, there comes a point where even our good, gracious longsuffering God must say “no more” in order to stay true to Himself and keep humanity from self-destructing.  

So, what is a Christian to do? 

First, we have to recognize that there are no quick fixes or easy outs at this point. The pain will continue unabated until people repent and turn to Jesus. However, there are some things Christians can do to be a light in these dark times (Matthew 5:13-16, Luke 11:33). If we consistently do them we might lead the world back to a place of wholeness. 

We have to tell the truth about things that really matter. Things like heaven and hell and judgment. We have to stop being afraid our friends and neighbors will think we are small-minded nincompoops if we come out as Christians. We have to tell our friends and family who claim to be Christians but don’t think they have to do what the Bible says that they have missed a critical aspect of saving faith (Luke 11:28, John 8:51, John 14:21, Romans 2:13, 2nd Thessalonians 3:14, Hebrews 4:2, Hebrews 5:9).   

We must learn be like Jesus. Jesus loved everyone and He never stopped hoping that people would turn to Him in repentance and faith (Matthew 23:47). He literally wept for the lost and grieved for those who rejected truth.  However, He also spoke the truth even when people hated Him for it (John 7:7). Jesus understood some things are more important than being honored by the multitudes. 

And finally, we must remember life is good and beautiful and worth living to the fullest all the time, even in seasons of judgment. There are still sunrises and sunsets that take our breath away. The rain still falls on the just and the unjust. Friendships are still being forged.  Babies are still being born. Marriages are still being celebrated. Songs are still being sung, words are still being strung together into poetry. All those things are noble and good and beautiful and worthy of celebration. 

God’s people should be the first to celebrate.  

The Art of (Spiritual) War-

 For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory– Proverbs 24:6 ESV

A few years back, my son gave me a gift. It was a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I must have looked as perplexed as I felt because Alex looked at me and said assuredly: “Read it Mom. You’ll love it. I promise”. 

 I read it and to my surprise I did love it. 

Sun Tzu was a 5th century Chinese general, military strategist and tactical genius. Most of his advice is remarkably pithy, relevant and astute for a guy who’s been dead for well over fifteen-hundred years. For the record, Sun Tzu was not a follower of Jesus and like all non-Christian sources of wisdom his writings should be read with a degree of discernment. 

That said.

Sun Tzu’s advice can easily be applied to a plethora of twenty-first century leadership situations and conundrums. Just insert the word “leader” anytime he says general or commander and a lot of times you are left with what can only be described as leadership gold.  A few of my favorite tidbits of his include: “a good commander is benevolent and unconcerned with fame” and “it is the business of a general to be upright and thus ensure order.

Sun Tzu also said some things that relate shockingly well to spiritual warfare. My favorite is: Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster. I have observed that Christians are losing more spiritual battles than we are winning these days and it is mostly due to ignorance of this principal (1st Peter 5:8). So, in the interest of changing the outcome of the many spiritual battles we find ourselves in these days I would like to offer a little insight into the schemes of the enemy. 

Beginning with:

Satan uses ignorance of our own nature to gain an advantage in our lives- 

Christians tend to look down on the pursuit of self-knowledge as worldly, self-absorbed and even a bit narcissistic. It is true that self-knowledge can become all of those things if it’s not pursued in the right way for the right reasons. However, Jesus warned Peter, Satan wanted to “sift him like wheat” immediately following an argument Peter had with the other disciples that revealed some motivations he was clearly ignorant of. Specifically, a wish to rule over others rather than serve them (Luke 22:24-31). Being successful in the realm of spiritual warfare means we seek to learn as much as we can about our own strengths, weaknesses and hidden motivations. Self-knowledge is not an excuse to continue on in our unhealthiest behavior. No Christian should ever say “that’s just my personality” when confronted with their sin.  Rather, self-knowledge should give us a starting point to begin seeking the growth and transformation that should always be a part of our spiritual journey. Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Indicator, Strength Finders and the DISC assessment can all be helpful in the process of self-discovery.

Satan will attempt to discourage us anytime we do something worthwhile or good- 

We tend to think doing something good for God, the church or another person should automatically exempt us from difficulty and hardship. Unfortunately, this is not how things work in the realm of spiritual warfare.  Instead Satan intentionally attacks us when we are doing good in an effort to discourage us from our task. He has enough experience with humans to know we tend to give up when the going gets tough. We also tend to get angry or even turn on God anytime we experience hardship, difficulty or pain. It is critical we remember that contrary to popular belief Christians are not promised an easy time of things here on earth, even when we are doing good things with our lives (John 16:33, 2nd Timothy 4:5).  Instead, we should remember we are soldiers and soldiers don’t let circumstances discourage them from fulfilling the mission they were called to (2nd Timothy 2:3-4).

Satan loves it when Christians are lazy- 

Most of the time we know exactly what God wants us to do (Colossians 1:9-11).  Some of the things He might want us to do could include apologizing, praying more, having hard conversations, learning the Bible, being more vocal about what we believe, confronting hard issues, taking more of an interest in our child’s education or friend group or getting more involved in the life of our church or community. We don’t do those things for one reason: we’re lazy. Plain and simple. We just don’t want to. Those things are difficult and inconvenient and we know that doing them will cost us something. So, we don’t and truth-be-told, Satan loves laziness almost as much as he loves sin. The void our laziness creates gives him space to do his best work (John 10:10). 

Finally, Satan wants us to fight spiritual battles while completely discounting and ignoring the weapon of prayer (Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:18). Twenty-first century people tend to see prayer as a feeble and passive time-waster. Why pray when we could do something? Conversely, Satan sees prayer as a powerful act of warfare. He knows prayer is our number one source of wisdom, strength and discernment. (Ephesians 6:10-18). For that reason, he will do anything in his power to distract us from using this weapon to our advantage. If we want to practice the art of spiritual warfare we should always pray first and do second. 

The One Thing Every Christian Needs More of-

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

Okay, so. 

No one just decides to let their perfectly good life spiral into a dark and ugly disaster. This is even more true of Christians. No authentic follower of Jesus has ever made the willful decision to just let their life dissolve into a chaotic tragedy. Seriously. It just doesn’t happen. The hope we receive at salvation simply doesn’t allow for that kind of willful foolishness (Romans 5:5).

However.

There are plenty of Christians whose lives do spiral out of control. Sometimes there is no returning from the dark places they go. Unfortunately, it’s a trend that seems to be growing. More and more people are beginning their spiritual lives well and ending them by rejecting Jesus altogether or telling the world they are “reimagining” their faith (Galatians 5:7). When we choose the things of this world over the full life Jesus offers we end up turning away from God. Turning from God never ends well (Hebrews 6:4-6, Matthew 24:10-11). 

The key to preventing that fate is found in asking God to empower us to seek, understand and walk in truth (John 8:32, 2nd Corinthians 3:12 Galatians 5:5). Living out the kind of truth that keeps us from becoming the worst version of ourselves is about more than simply learning some Bible verses that tell us how we should live.   In order for truth to become a protective force in our lives we have to seek it purposely in specific areas of our lives (Ephesian 6:14, Ephesians 6:17). We seek truth by asking God to show us truth in the following four areas: 

The truth about who we are-  

It is critical we know who we are in Christ and what that means for us spiritually (Ephesians 3:16-20, Colossians 1:13, Galatians 4:6).  Knowing we are loved by God gives us incentive to grow and protects us from discouragement.  We have to know that even when we fail God is for us. He never stops rooting for us to become the best possible version of ourselves. However, it is also critical we understand no one reaches that status without some effort. We grow by asking God to show us truth about the parts of ourselves that still need redemption.  We will never see our blind spots and the areas of our life that are tripping us up without God’s help. We are simply too easily misled by our own desires.  

The truth about the motives of our heart- 

The human heart is the most insanely devious thing in all of creation (Jeremiah 17:9). We are able to trick ourselves into believing our motives are pure and we are good when we are anything but good and pure. It’s possible to do this without even realizing we are doing it. We can easily fool ourselves into thinking we are simply being friendly to a member of the opposite sex when in reality we are testing the waters to see if that person might be open to an inappropriate relationship. We tell ourselves it’s the churches fault we aren’t growing when in reality we aren’t making any attempt to feed ourselves outside of the weekly church service. We fool ourselves into thinking we’ve forgiven someone when in reality we are holding onto a grudge the size of Texas. Only God can show us what’s really going on in our hearts but that only happens when we ask Him to do it. 

The truth about who God is –

People—even redeemed people tend to make God into something much smaller and less powerful than He really is. We are simply more comfortable with a God who is like us. So, usually without realizing it we cast God into the image of a human who isn’t all that different from us. In the process we talk ourselves out of taking God seriously. When we stop taking God seriously we stop obeying Him in any area of our lives that feels hard. The way to end this cycle is to ask God daily to remind us who He is and how worthy He is of our full attention and obedience. 

The truth about other people-

It is all-too easy for us to view other people as our enemies, rather than as people who are made in the image of God and deeply valued by Him. When we devalue people, we tend to overestimate the harm they do us and underestimate their ability to be transformed. When we do this we inevitably end up doing the one thing God doesn’t do: give up on people. Asking God to help us see people the way He sees them keeps us from giving up on people when they disappoint us. As people inevitably do. 

No Christian chooses consciously to fail in the things that matter most. The key to success in the Christian life is knowing the truth of God and then walking in it. But in a world fraught with lies and deception truth is something we have to want badly enough to go after it with our whole hearts (Jeremiah 29:13)

Why we all Need to get our Butts Back in the Church Building-

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  – Acts 2:42 NIV 

According to Pew Research Center as of March 2021 almost half (forty-three percent) of church members have yet to return to in-person church services. A forty-three percent loss of almost anything is at best unsustainable. At worst such a loss could prove fatal. 

Think about it. 

If a family were to suddenly lose forty-three percent of their savings, the loss would create untold chaos in their financial future. If a nation were to lose forty-three percent of their population the nation would inevitably become weak, ineffectual and find themselves at the mercy of their enemies. The church is no different. A forty-three percent loss of regular attenders is no small deal. 

I totally get that there are some individuals who cannot or should not go back to in-service church attendance at this time.

For the record; 

Elderly folks unable or unwilling to get the COVID vaccine, get a pass on returning to in-person services. The immune compromised, or parents with an immune compromised child are also exempt from returning to in-person services at this time. Those with serious comorbidities who cannot or do not wish to take the vaccine, get a pass on resuming in-person church attendance at least for now. 

Everyone else needs to get their butts back in the church building. 

Pronto. 

Here’s why:

It’s not necessarily going to be smooth sailing from here- 

I do not fancy myself a prophet. That said, the culture has taken a turn for the worse and every fiber of my being tells me that the shaking God has given our world over the course of the last fifteen months is not even close to being over (Hebrews 12:25-27). God will continue to shake our world until people respond to Him in repentance (Revelation 9:20). What the shaking will look like and where it will end are questions far above my meager paygrade.  Nonetheless, it’s not over. More trouble and hardship is coming and the body of Christ will likely not be exempt from the trouble (1st Peter 4:17). If I’m right Christians will need the encouragement and connection they can only get from the body of Christ in order to continue their growth as believers (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-26) When Christians fail to grow spiritually they run the risk their faith will die a slow and painful death that could end in apostasy (Hebrews 6:1-9, Matthew 24:9-11).  Church community is critical because it prevents apostasy.  

The church needs all hands-on deck to accomplish the mission of the Church- 

The mission of the church is clear (Matthew 28:18-19). The church is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. To accomplish this end church leaders are commanded to teach and train all believers to live out the truth of the gospel so they can reach their unsaved friends and family with the gospel (Ephesians 4:10-12). This task is massive. It demands the whole-body work together to accomplish the mission (Romans 12:4-6, 1st Corinthians 12:17). If one person stays home or refuses to do their part a ball gets dropped that ensures the whole body is less effective than they could have been. 

Christians need the church to stay anchored and spiritually healthy-

Without a solid church to anchor a person to the faith individual believers either drift away from Christianity altogether or they begin to adopt strange theories and attitudes regarding God and Scripture. Strange beliefs make it very difficult to reach others with the gospel. These things happen without the person even realizing they are happening. Regular community involvement in a local church is the only way to prevent drift from taking place and eccentric beliefs from taking root. 

There are some things you cannot experience while watching a screen- 

Online attendance has its limits. It is possible to get the essence of a sermon from an online format. That said, it is impossible to experience unity and connection with other believers alone in your living room. It is also impossible to experience the knitting together of the body that takes place when the whole church worships their God in one accord (Acts 2:42-47, Revelation 7:9-10). It is also impossible to effectively use one’s individual gifts to grow the body of Christ while isolated from the body of Christ. We need each other for all these things.  

This pandemic is winding down- 

An estimated thirty percent of the population has recovered from COVID-19 and has natural immunity, another fifty percent of the population has had at least one COVID vaccination. This is a clear indicator it is time for God’s people to ditch their fear and get back to the business of living hard for Jesus.  

The bottom-line in all this is that we go to church because God tells us to and it is the pattern we see throughout the entire Bible. We cannot say we love God and refuse to do what He says (John 14:15, 1st John 5:2, Hebrews 10:25) at least not without experiencing dire consequences. In this case consequences could include a slow separation from God that gives the devil a foothold in our lives and place for sin and even apostasy to take root. Nobody who really knows Jesus wants that. In order to prevent it we all need to get our butts back into the church building. 

Now.  

Five Massive Errors the Church is Making Right Now-

You will know how people ought to conduct themselves in Gods household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth– 1st Timothy 3:15 NIV

Every generation of Christians has had its own unique set of excesses and errors. The 1980’s church was filled with dramatic personal “testimonies”. Many of which turned out to be crazy-pants lies. The 1990’s church became consumed with end times prophecy. Leaving many Christians looking like fanatical nut-jobs. The late 1990’s and 2000’s birthed the well-intended but tragically misguided purity movement. The movement inadvertently drove Christian dating completely underground and left a whole generation feeling an unhealthy level shame due to natural sexual desires intended to keep the human race in the business of reproduction.   

Sigh. 

Today’s church is struggling to share the gospel in a culture shaped by events in church world that have created a toxic spiritual environment for reaching the lost. In one sense our generation is no different. Like previous generations of believers, the spiritual mistakes and doctrinal errors of our time will be felt in the future. Believers in coming years will undoubtedly struggle to undo the consequences of our own unique lack of spiritual insight and wisdom. 

However. 

In some ways what this generation thinks and does matters more. Not because we are inherently more important than past generations. We’re not.  But because technology has given humanity the ability to spread bad ideas, misinformation, and wrong thinking faster than ever before. This is one of the reasons the church today is struggling in such profound ways. Thanks to advances in technology the spiritual errors and excesses of the 1980’s, 1990’s and 2000’s had a much deeper reach into the culture than the errors and excesses of previous generations.  Following are a few of the more dangerous ideas floating around this generation. 

Starting with: 

I can be a Christian and reject everything the Bible teaches- 

No one can. It is true that no one comes to faith automatically believing the “right way”. We all have to be taught. It is also true that there is some room for disagreement on some of the particulars of what the “right way” is. However, to reject what God says about Himself as well His clear instructions pertaining to sexuality, gender and justice as well as His standards of right and wrong is to reject God Himself. One simply cannot reject God and still be a Christian. Period. It just doesn’t work like that.  

Bible knowledge doesn’t matter- 

This is usually preceded by a reference to 1st Corinthians 8:1 where Paul states “knowledge puffs up while love builds up”. Context is key here.  The apostle Paul wasn’t talking about spiritual or Bible knowledge in general terms. He was talking specifically about knowledge related to eating food that had once been sacrificed to an idol (1st Corinthians 8:1-13). Some Corinthian church members had become aware that food sacrificed to idols was just food and began openly and arrogantly eating that food in public spaces. This created all sorts of confusion for less-mature Christians who didn’t understand that food is just food. Some of them had rejected Jesus and returned to idol worship in response to the freedom they saw other Christians exercising. It would be absurd to assume the man who wrote well over half of the New Testament’s instructive passages was somehow opposed to people learning the Bible. It is true that people can become prideful about what they know about the Bible without really applying biblical truth to their lives. That does not make biblical ignorance somehow superior to spiritual knowledge.      

 Bible knowledge is the most important thing-

It is important, critical even. Those who do not acquire basic biblical knowledge rarely stay believers for very long (Matthew 13:18-23). That being said, knowledge is not the most important thing. Having our hearts transformed so we become a loving reflection of Jesus is (Romans 12:2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:1-17). However, even that requires at least rudimentary Bible knowledge. So, there’s that. 

Christians can be spiritually formed outside of spiritual community-  

Individual believers are always at their most healthy when they are living in community with other Christians (Acts 2:42-47). This is because God designed people to be like Him (Genesis 1:27). God is a community within Himself (Genesis 1:26, Isaiah 46:16, Matthew 3:16-17). As a result, we were literally made to need other Christians in order to grow and mature (1st Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 10:24-25). Without healthy community individual Christians either drift away from church altogether or they adopt strange pseudo-biblical beliefs that make it very hard for them to effectively share their faith. 

We don’t need to half the Church to make the Church work- 

Men and women were intended to work together to bring about God’s purposes in this world (Genesis 1:26-28, Genesis 2:18). Anytime church leaders think they can do church without the contributions of half the church something valuable and vital will be missing in that church community. That loss will affect the churches ability to effectively reach the lost and disciple Christians God has placed in their care. 

The church in the west stands at a crossroads (Jeremiah 6:16). We can continue down the path we have been on for years. If we do, the church will continue to lose influence and we will see our culture continue to disintegrate into moral bedlam. The other option is to do the hard work of correcting the errors we have fallen into.  This route will be much more challenging but it will pay dividends that will be felt for generations.   

Four Ugly Truths Covid-19 Revealed in the Church World-

Disaster will come upon you, and you will not know how to conjure it away. A calamity will fall upon you that you cannot ward off with a ransom; a catastrophe you cannot foresewill suddenly come upon you– Isaiah 47:11 NIV 

The last fifteen months have been some of the weirdest, most challenging and most contentious of any in recent history. It feels as if the world is powder keg just waiting for the right kind of spark to set if off. Even in the Church, division over “what Christians should do” about masks, vaccines and staying home has become normal and sometimes totally contentious.  It’s convenient to blame the lack of respect, division and turmoil on COVID. It’s not as if the world were some sort of a utopia pre-COVID but it wasn’t anything like the flaming hot trash-fire we have come to know as the new normal. 

However. 

Logically, we should be moving past some of this turmoil and strife, especially in the church. Unfortunately, vaccines, higher survival rates and better over-all outcomes aren’t doing much of anything to heal the hurts of the past year. This goes a long way in proving that COVID isn’t the cause of our problems. All COVID has done is reveal the junk that has been simmering beneath the surface for decades.  Following are four issues that have contributed to the problems:

Our Faith is weak- 

One truth COVID has revealed is that Christianity in the west is a mile wide and an inch deep. From our Bible knowledge to our communities we have redefined shallow living and shallow learning. This is because few Christians routinely participate in basic Christian practices designed to keep their faith vibrant and healthy (routine prayer, reflective Bible reading, performing acts of charity, church attendance, and involvement in Christian community). Prior to COVID we were able to skate along attending Church 1.2 times a month and throwing up the occasional prayer when a huge need presented itself (Matthew chapters 5-7). Post-COVID it became woefully evident our shallow practices have not really anchored Christians to God or the church. 

There are those who love liberal social agendas more than they love God or even their own security- 

Seriously. There are. Our culture has actually come to a place where large numbers of people would rather suffer personal financial harm than implement a single traditional principal or idea. We see this most often in states where the economy is floundering and the people are badly overtaxed but residents keep reelecting leaders who support liberal social agendas because they love those agendas more than they want economic security.  This reality is a symptom of much bigger spiritual problems that will only be solved through repentance and revival.  

Christians want a single leader who will lead us into a “golden age of Christianity”- 

This sinful desire is at the heart of the celebrity culture that Christians have embraced with abandon over the course of the last three or four decades. Like the Israelites in the Old Testament Christians have longed for a “king” who will lead the modern church into an age of respectability and acceptance with the unsaved world (1stSamuel 8:5).  In a misguided effort to find a “leader” who will bring us the worldly status we crave, Christians have thrown themselves behind every twenty-year-old with a half-way decent idea or any smooth-talker who can build a big audience (1st Samuel 16:7). Then we wonder why these men and women inevitably end up in bed with someone they aren’t married to or denouncing Christianity altogether (1st Timothy 3:6-7). God isn’t going to bring a leader to save us. He already did that. His name is Jesus and the one the one thing we are promised is that following Jesus will not make us popular with anyone anywhere in the world (John 15:18). It’s time for us to embrace that reality and if we do God probably won’t bring us respectability but He will bring us a new level of effectiveness if we follow hard after Him rather than pine for a fallible human leader.  

Christians want a political savior- 

The desire for a powerful human leader is not limited to Church world. Many Christians long for a conservative political figure to step onto the scene to unite us as a people and fix the long list of social, legislative and moral problems we are currently grappling with. It’s not going to happen. At least not in the way we want it to happen, any leader who shows up on the scene at this point is almost guaranteed to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing (John 10:12). Rather than looking for a quick political fix Christians must learn to pray for wise leaders who will point people back to righteous living and personal responsibility. 

The season of COVID-19 ruling every aspect of our lives is hopefully coming to a close. However, that does not mean that the church should simply go back to all the things that got us to a place where we lacked the spiritual resources necessary to cope with a curveball like COVID-19. Instead, we should be looking to Jesus as our source of wisdom and direction in all things. We must seek out spiritual practices that lead to growth so that we can find ways to help other people grow.

This is the only effective way to prepare for what lies ahead. 

Attitudes and Behaviors that Totally Squash Spiritual Growth-

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven- Hebrews 12:25 NASB

 My twenties and early thirties were incredibly formative from a spiritual standpoint. My husband and I were blessed with a wonderfully diverse group of Christian friends and mentors who loved Jesus and were determined to grow in their faith and help us grow in ours.  Over time some of those friends and mentors grew spiritually, others stopped growing but remained in the church and a few just quit Christianity altogether.

 The ones who chose to do the hard work of growth are all impacting the Kingdom in profound ways today. I have stayed in touch with a few of those who dropped out, some are okay (at least on the surface) but all of them have some sad stories to tell. But, it’s the ones who stayed in Church but didn’t grow who concern me the most (Revelation 3:15-17).

 Jesus had hard words for Christians who choose not to grow their faith (John 15:1-7). This is because Christians who don’t grow spiritually are weak, ineffectual and reflect poorly on Jesus.  Immature believers tend to stay on the fringes of the church and have little to offer the church or the world in the way of knowledge, wisdom, faith and practical support.  Because they are immature and worldly they tend to lead other Christians astray and turn those outside the church off to the whole notion of church and Jesus.  

 Sigh.

 Most Christians believe using drugs, getting caught up in sexual sin or a lack of Bible study or church attendance is what keeps us from growing. In reality, those issues are just symptoms of deeper, more systemic issues. The following five mindsets and behaviors are where halted growth gets started. Best-case scenario the following attitudes and behaviors will keep us stuck where we’re at, worst-case scenario they cause us to go backwards (Hebrews 5:12).  It all starts with:

 We tell God He can’t have authority over some part of our lives-  

 Jesus did not come to earth and die on the cross simply to save our sorry behinds from the fires of hell (Matthew 13:41-42). The God of the universe wants much more than just that for His people. He wants to redeem and reshape every part of our lives by bringing our thoughts and our actions into alignment with biblical truth (Romans 12:2). God wants to impact how we operate in our sexuality, marriages, social interactions, parenting, money management and business practices.  Unfortunately, transformation is uncomfortable, so, many believers shut God out of the parts of their lives that most need transforming. We shut God out when we choose to do some part of life in our strength, using our own wisdom instead of taking the time to learn God’s way of doing things.  Not allowing God access to some corner of our lives means we choose not to grow in that area and slow our growth in every other area.

 We don’t seek wisdom or ask for advice-

 No one is born with the wisdom, insight and information they need to be truly successful in life. God helps us to become well-informed and wise by providing us with friends, family members, authors and various experts who have studied and experienced things we have not (Proverbs 20:18). Being too stubborn, stupid or prideful to ask for advice when we clearly need it will limit our spiritual growth as well as our emotional and intellectual growth (Proverbs 12:1, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 19:20).

 We give all the wrong people too much influence in our lives-

 Christians who don’t grow tend to think 1st Corinthians 15:33 is a warning intended only for teenagers. Truth-be-told bad company corrupts good character no matter our age or position in life. Everyone should know someone who knows Jesus. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with being on friendly terms with unsaved people with questionable character or Christians who need to grow.  However, our closest friends should be Christians who hold us accountable and propel us towards spiritual maturity (Proverbs 27:17).

 We refuse to deal with our weakness-

 I am a huge believer in identifying our strengths and then finding ways to maximize them for the Kingdom (Romans 12:6). That being said, our flaws should never be overlooked, minimized or treated as trivial aspects of our character. People who ignore their weakness or pretend they don’t have any are inevitably devastated by them. The tendency to misrepresent facts, manipulate others, indulge the flesh, act out in rage or embrace laziness will halt spiritual growth and sometimes even undo a lifetime of good works.  

 We aren’t discerning when it comes to doctrine-

 There is nothing the enemy loves more than bad doctrine. The worst doctrine twists biblical truth rather than rebuts it.  The wrong thinking that results from this kind of bad teaching not only halts growth it also produces believers who unknowingly pollute the church with even more falsehood (Hebrews 13:9, 1stTimothy 4:16).  Every Christian should commit to studying Scripture for themselves rather than simply accept what others tell them is true (Acts 17:11, 2nd Peter 2:1, Jude 1:4).

 Sadly, not everyone who begins the race of faith finishes well (Galatians 5:7). Some don’t finish at all (Matthew 13:1-23, 1st Corinthians 9:24). The key to finishing well is to give every part of our lives over to God and ask Him daily to show us our blind spots so we will continue to grow into the image of His Son (2ndCorinthians 3:18).

 

 

Six Weird Lies Christians Believe About Forgiveness-

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free~ John 8:32 NIV

Humans believe all sorts of weird lies. 

It all started with Adam and Eve and little has improved since our predecessors bought into that first stupid lie (Genesis 3). Even really smart people believe really weird stuff about relationships, what actually makes us happy, sex, money, the moon landing, God’s goodness, and what gender they are. 

 Sadly, Christians also believe lies.  

It’s true that most Christians believe in the goodness of God (at least on most days) and know what gender they are. However, believers in Jesus are still predisposed to believe lies about every other topic under the sun. The lies most Christians believe are spiritual lies that contain a small seed of truth. In my experience the number one issue Christians are most likely to believe lies about is forgiveness. Following are six lies we believe about forgiveness that keep people from forgiving. 

You haven’t really forgiven unless you have also forgotten the offense. 

Christians are commanded to forgive others just as God forgave them (Ephesians 4:32).  Fun fact: God does not simply forgive sins He actually forgets them. God says this of Himself in Isaiah 43:25…

 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. 

This statement and has created massive confusion in the minds of some people. There are Christians who beat themselves up mercilessly because they think they’ve done a terrible job of forgiving because they remember people’s sins. Others have become bitter towards God because they believe He has set a ridiculously unattainable standard for forgiveness. Here’s the deal: unlike God, humans are limited beings. God can do whatever He chooses to do. Conversely, there are some things humans simply cannot do. Humans cannot create other humans from the dust of the earth and humans cannot forget the sins of other humans. It’s critical we remember two truths: God is not a jerk and He is fully aware of our limitations (He made us). God does not ask us to do more than we can do.  All He asks is that we let go of our “right” to seek revenge and trust Him to work out justice on our behalf.  

Authentic forgiveness always includes restoration of the relationship-

This is a filthy-rotten-lie the devil uses to keep good people from forgiving and moving on. After all, who in their right mind would choose to forgive their rapist or abuser if forgiving means they have to become friends with them? It truly is possible to fully forgive a person without building or rebuilding a relationship with them. Sometimes (not every time) forgiveness without reconciliation is the safest, wisest route to take.  Reconciliation is more complicated than forgiveness because reconciling with a stubbornly unrepentant sinner usually leads to more hurt. Hurt leads to bitterness.  I believe that Hebrews 12:25 cautions Christians against placing themselves in situations that will likely lead to bitterness. No situation is more liable to produce bitterness than being repetitively hurt by the same person. That being said, in cases where reconciliation can be achieved every effort should be made to attain that end. A skilled Christian counselor or a Pastor can be helpful in bringing about healthy reconciliation in relationships damaged by sin.  

Forgiveness is a “one and done”-

It’s not. Because humans are powerless to forget pain (see point one). Hurt has a way of returning usually about the time we think we have conquered it. If you have forgiven someone and feel the old feelings of bitterness return, take those feelings to God and ask Him to help you let go of the anger and resentment you feel. Ask until your heart changes (Matthew 7:7-8).  

Forgiving should feel good- 

Being free of hurt feels great. However, getting free from hurt is one of the most awful, painful and emotionally agonizing things a human being can experience. The good news is that God Himself will walk you through that awful process and you will come out the other side on a better, healthier path transformed into a new and freer person. 

We don’t really have to forgive- 

If God asked us to forgive for the sake of others this would be true, but it’s not, because He doesn’t. Christians are commanded to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 18:35, Mark 11:25) because forgiveness is the best thing for us as individuals. The other person is more-or-less irrelevant. Forgiveness frees us from the mental and spiritual distractions that comes from nurturing a spirit of bitterness.  When we harbor unforgiveness we become a shadow of what we might have been if we had been willing to fully obey the Lord.  

We only have to forgive the repentant- 

Only forgiving people who are truly sorry would certainly make forgiveness much easier and a lot more fun. Even a heathen can forgive someone who is sorry for what they’ve done.  Alas, God rarely asks His people to do the easy thing. Instead, He asks His people to the character-building thing. 

Forgiveness is the character-building thing.