Lessons we Failed to Learn From two Years of Misery-

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees- Psalms 119:71 NIV

This past week I had a moment of clarity that just sort of led to a whole bunch of other moments of clarity, some good, some profoundly unpleasant.  

It all began when it dawned on me life is back to normal.  Church is back on. Traveling is back on. Eating out is back on. Having friends over is back on.  Concerts are back on. Life is back on.  

I was so happy I celebrated shamelessly for about ten solid minutes. 

It also dawned on me most churches are back to normal as well. Most Christians are doing exactly what they did prior to March 2020.  Churches are doing the same events, preaching the same types of sermons and running all the same programs they did before the world went to hell in a handcart.  The only thing Covid seems to have changed forever was church bulletins. Bulletins are officially dead. 

Anyway.  

If we are collectively doing all the same things we did before the world literally went to pieces it most likely means we did not learn all the lessons God wanted us to learn from the world literally going to pieces. I’m just spit-balling here but it simply makes no sense God would allow all the misery we collectively experienced in 2020-2021 then be okay with His people coming out of it unchanged in any significant way.    

Choosing not to learn is never a viable option with God. He will keep going back to the same lessons over and over again until we get it. He’s relentless.  Trust me. I know. I am convinced there are three things God wants the church to learn from the events of the last two years. We will forget these lessons at our own peril. 

First: 

Community is the core of the Christian experience-

When Christians are deeply connected to other Christians they engage nonbelievers more confidently, absorb the truth of scripture, love each other sacrificially, and grow into the image of Jesus (Acts 2;42-47). It’s just how God designed the whole Christianity thing to work.  Unfortunately, the pandemic unearthed a shocking lack of authentic community in Christian circles. When the going got tough most Christians turned to Netflix, food and their PlayStations instead of the body of Christ for support and comfort. Everyone bemoans the lack of community in churches. There have been volumes written on the subject. However, little has actually been done to deal with the problem. Solving the problem will mean slowing down and stepping out of our collective comfort zones. No one can run from activity to activity in a frenzied fashion and expect to build deep, lasting relationships with other people in whatever time happens to be left over. Stepping out of our comfort zones means becoming a lot more welcoming and open to those who come to our churches. We need be intentional about developing the kind of friendliness that is genuinely curious about others. We need to seek to learn about others instead of simply hoping they will want to learn about us. Building community means inviting others in and making space for another seat at the table, even when it’s inconvenient (Hebrews 13:2). Without genuine community the body of Christ will find itself woefully unprepared for whatever comes next. 

The fear of man is a snare- 

 The pressure to conform to the morals of our time is nearly overwhelming. We have all seen what happens when someone is foolhardy enough to share an unpopular opinion or refuse to tow the party-line on some issue related to morality. As a result, we have all been tempted to keep our heads down and our opinions to ourselves in an effort to stay out of the line of fire. Consequently, evil has gained lot of ground politics, education, sexuality and law. It’s time for the body of Christ to suck it up and start being brave again (no matter the cost) because the fear of man is trap that will steal our spiritual effectiveness and our joy (Proverbs 29:25)

We have to live like the end is near

Seriously.  

This is the biggie.  I do not know when the end will be. Nobody does (Matthew 24:35-37, Ecclesiastes 8:7). That said, God commands His people to live like the end is going to be tomorrow. If we want to be sincerely obedient to Jesus we need to wake up every day and ask ourselves what would I do today if I knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? Then we need to do those things (Matthew 24, Matthew 25:1-13, 1st Thessalonians 5:1-3). 

Thankfully, covid is no longer dominating every aspect of our lives. However, our world and the people in it are not (for the part) moving towards better things. Instead, governments are becoming more corrupt, evil is gaining ground, deception is getting stronger and hearts are growing colder. Hard times and evil days give God’s people an opportunity to shine, but in order to do that we must join together, practice bold faith and live like the end is near. 

Q&A Friday-

Do You really think the world is under judgement? If so, why? 

As a matter of fact, I do.

Here’s why:

The breakdown in law and order, ongoing apostasy in the church, sinful church leadership, weird weather, outbreaks of disease, a move towards more authoritarian governments and worldwide food shortages are all indicators of judgment.

However,

The latest and most flagrant indicator of judgment has been the reaction to the Roe vs. Wade court decision in the United States. It is natural for those who disagree with the decision to be disappointed and angry. No one rejoices when their side loses. That said, the response has gone way beyond unhappiness or disappointment into the demonic. Threats have been made against the justices who made the decision. Protests have erupted with people wearing “I hate babies”, “I’m not pro-choice I’m anti-baby” as well as “motherhood is servitude” and “I hate children” T-shirts. Mothers have taken to marching their children around wearing signs that say “don’t force anyone into this” (meaning motherhood).

A lack of desire to have or care for children is a sign of society that has given itself over to complete depravity (Isaiah 57:5, Jeremiah 19:5, Leviticus 20:1-3) Depravity is not just a reason for judgment it is a sign of judgment (Romans 1:18-32). 

More Woke Gaslighting just in time for Halloween-

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them- Genesis 1:27 NKJV

The Alliance Defense League (ADL) put out a list of tips concerning Halloween celebrations and costumes.  

One tip was actually quite helpful. 

The author pointed out that not every family celebrates Halloween and the costumes can get really pricey. Not every parent has the means to purchase elaborate costumes, as a result, Halloween can make a family’s financial situation painfully obvious to every kid in school. These two realities can easily lead to embarrassment and even bullying. It was good stuff. 

Then it got decidedly weird.

The heart of the article encouraged parents and teachers to avoid gender stereotypes when choosing Halloween costumes. The ADL wants parents and their children to acknowledge and celebrate the “fact” that there is no such thing as gender. 

According to the ADL the whole notion of biological gender is make-believe, like the Tooth Fairy and winged dragons. Only clueless numbskulls still believe in such things. Therefore, it is categorically not okay for adults to encourage children born with vaginas (formally known as girls) to dress up as princesses because children born with penises (formally known as boys) can also be princesses. Moreover, superhero costumes are especially problematic for those looking to have an inclusive Halloween. Clearly, the manufacturers of superhero costumes are all regressive Neanderthals in desperate need of a good cancelling. This is confirmed by the fact that superhero costumes for children born with vaginas always include a skirt while the costumes for children born with penises come with pants. The writer helpfully advised parents to tell to children curious about why skirts are unsuitable for superheroes that skirts are simply not practical for crimefighting.    

This is real.

At first glance this tip sheet appears to be just another hearty helping of woke silliness aimed at extracting the joy and pleasure out of life. It’s more than that: the attempt to eliminate gender is actually a brazen attempt to gaslight the whole world. Gaslighting is defined as “making a person or group of people question their perception of reality”. Gaslighting describes someone who puts forth a false narrative which leads another person or a group of people to doubt their own perceptions. Eventually the person or people being gaslighted become disoriented and/or distressed and agree to follow the “truth” the gas-lighter tells them is real. 

In this case gaslighting has deep spiritual implications. 

Think about it.

One of the first truth-statements God makes in the Bible concerns the existence of male and female. God even links the concept of gender to Himself, saying He made the differences between men and women in His “own image”. The Bible is clear: there are distinctive differences between men and women and those differences are actually unique reflections of God’s personhood in men and women (Genesis 1:26-27). 

I suspect Satan is enthusiastic about the prospect of persuading the world that gender is a construct rather than reality. If that view becomes the norm then every instruction God gave humanity regarding sexuality will become a nonissue because all those instructions are predicated on the existence of only two genders and differences between the genders.  Removing morality from sexuality has caused untold emotional, spiritual and physical harm to human beings. Further removing morality from sexuality will have devastating consequences to the most vulnerable among us.   Deconstructing gender produces chaos in the society, women no longer need to protected from men because there is no such thing as men (no more male/female bathrooms).  Women are no longer the natural caretakers of children because there is no such thing as women. Sex is no longer a sacred act between a husband and a wife because there is no such thing as husbands and wives. Most critically, if there is no male and female then everything God has said about everything automatically becomes suspect in the minds of thinking people. If we can’t trust what God said about male and female, how can we trust anything He said? 

Therefore. 

This attack on gender isn’t coming from the cultural elites, misguided educators or politicians. The attack on gender is coming from Satan Himself. Satan knows that if this one little entry-level truth can be ripped from the foundation then literally everything the Bible says about everything falls with it. If people believe this lie Satan has effectively prepped the world to believe any lie, no matter how outlandish because he’s already convinced us the Emperor has no clothes (metaphorically speaking). Once we stop believing what’s right in front of us we will believe anything. 

Couple of things in closing.

First, Christian leaders cannot allow this philosophy to infiltrate the church. If it does it will have a detrimental impact not just on how Christians view the issue of gender but also on how Christians view God. Second, this is not a place for believers to “stand their ground”. We must do more than simply stand in what we believe, we must go into the culture and tell the truth about gender. We must have loving conversations with our friends and neighbors where we use science and common sense to remind people that gender real and assigned to us by loving God who knew us and loved us before we drew a single breath (Psalm 139).

How to get Your Spiritual Growth Going-

Test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ- 1st Thessalonians 5:21-23 ESV

I am a bit of a cynic.

 I am always a bit slow to embrace any new idea, theory or belief without some hard evidence that the idea, theory or belief could actually be true or a good idea.  

Despite my inherently cynical nature I am fully convinced the whole stupid world is under the judgment of God right now. Judgment is on the docket for every people group on earth. No one is special right now. Too many people in too many places have either participated in or voluntarily tolerated every kind of evil for far too long Romans 1:18-30). The Almighty God of the Universe has finally had enough. He is lifting His hand of protection and letting humanity have a taste of what we have been begging for: life without God. Therefore, every man, woman and child on earth is in for some rough waters until there is a movement of repentance. The evidence is just too overwhelming not to believe it. Bad leaders, weird weather, random acts of violence, hostility, disease, fear and crime are all telltale signs of divine judgment (Deuteronomy 28:16-64). 

HOWEVER.

This season might just turn out to be the most productive of our lives from a spiritual growth perspective. Rough waters often cause people to seek God and let go of the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). Trials can empower us to break free of the behaviors and attitudes that trap us in the mindsets that keep us mired in worldly thinking.  When we seek God and ask Him to help us break free of worldly thinking and sinful strongholds we inevitably do the things that please and honor God (Revelation 2:5). When Christians obey God, He is faithful to move in powerful ways and good always comes out of it. (1st Peter 1:6-9). 

Here’s how to make spiritual growth happen:

Stop being a baby-

Churches today are crawling with spiritual and moral toddlers. People who never grew past the sippy-cup and fit-throwing stage of spiritual development (Hebrews 5:12-14).  In order to flourish spiritually we must be intentional about letting go of the childish and/or sinful things holding us back from becoming truly Christlike.  This means learning to do hard things, like examining our attitudes on a regular basis. It means accepting difficulty and learning from it rather than getting angry and bitter about it (1st Corinthians 13:11, 2nd Timothy 4:5).  It means caring about people enough to tell them the truth about where their choices will lead them even if it means they don’t like us when the conversation is over. It means forgiving those who wrong us and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). 

Know what having “good fruit” actually means- 

We all know the fruit of a person’s life matters because Jesus said it matters (Matthew 7:16). However, having a life that consists of good fruit is about more than looking good or even doing good deeds. “Good fruit” like church attendance, taking on leadership roles in church or even leading people to Jesus is really only good if those things are accompanied by by true holiness, virtue and love for one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43, Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:3). This means doing the right things with the wrong heart will not result in reward. In order to get this vital issue right we must be vigilant about examining our motives.  We must ask ourselves: am I doing what I’m doing so others will think well of me? Do I do things for people to help them or gain influence? Do I love everyone or just people who love me back? If we get the answers to any of these questions wrong we need to ask God to change our hearts until He does. 

Deal with your spiritual junk

In order to deal with our junk we have to WANT to see the sin our life. Most people, even most Christians don’t really want to see the sin their lives. It’s just too painful and hard see our own grossness head-on. It We have to ask God to show us. He will do this in a whole bunch of different ways that probably won’t involve verbal communication with the Almighty.  He will show us through conflicts we have in our marriages and jobs. He will show us through the attitudes we see in our own kids and the entertainment we gravitate towards. 

Don’t get confused about what repentance really is-

Repentance is a twofold deal. It’s dealing with sinful behaviors in a decisive way (Matthew 5:30).  That means stopping it (whatever “it” is) as quickly as possible. However, simply stopping bad behavior is not enough. In order to truly repent we have to deal with the heart attitude that caused us to sin in the first place. That means we have to dig deep and figure out the why of what we do. Without that knowledge will never move on to a higher level of functioning. 

If we know God and are called according to His purpose then life is good even when its tough. It’s good because God is always at work using the hard stuff to mold us into someone He can use. 

But we have to let Him.

Just say “NO” to Woke Silliness Regarding Words-

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

Lately, I have not felt like myself and I am not a fan of not feeling like myself.

After one especially gloomy day it occurred to me that getting mad about something might pull me out of my funk. I don’t enjoy getting worked-up over stupid stuff for no good reason.  However, I have found that genuine moral outrage has a way of taking my mind off of my feelings and helping me get some perspective about what really matters. 

Anyway.  

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

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

So, (here comes the genuine moral outrage part)

What the heck? Seriously.

Changing the wording of the memorial feels like a brazen attempt to reframe and rewrite someone else’s story. 

 Who are we to think this is okay? 

Is it really our place to reword someone else’s experience, especially when they are no longer around to weigh in on the situation? What makes this generation of Christians righteous enough, insightful or wise enough to get to decide how past generations tell the stories of THEIR life experiences?  Are we really that arrogant and condescending? 

Furthermore. 

The wording of the plaque was written with the consent of Jim Elliot’s wife and the families of the other martyred missionaries. They had zero problem with the words chosen. It should also be noted that the tribesmen and women who later converted to Christianity after murdering the other missionaries described their own behavior as unacceptable and yes, savage. It was guilt over their sin that eventually led many in the tribe to repent and embrace Jesus as Lord. 

It’s true that this is a vastly different time than when the memorial was created. It’s also true words like savage carry a lot of baggage and can be dehumanizing when used thoughtlessly.  No one with any sensitivity would use the word savage to describe a people group in the year 2021.

However.

It’s also true many modern Christians feel the church has gotten missions work wrong for the last two thousand years. Those folks feel it is our responsibility to right the wrongs past Christians committed. Is it really though? Are we really clever enough or righteous enough to correctly judge the intentions and actions of past generations of Christians? Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to worry about ourselves for a change? Perhaps it would be spiritually safer to leave the job of judging past generations up to God and let Him decide who got it right and who got it wrong? 

 I’m just spit-balling here. 

ALL people are made in the image of God. Dehumanizing other people is ALWAYS wrong. Nonetheless, some actions are wrong, evil and yes, even savage. It’s okay to call out evil and savagery when we see it.  There is simply no room for woke idiocy in the Church when God Himself describes the human heart as “wicked” and so “corrupt” that no one but Him can even come close to understanding it. Telling the truth is not the same as dehumanizing someone. Being real about who we are and what we’ve done is the only way to bring about repentance, salvation, personal healing and restoration of relationships.  Furthermore, telling the hard truth about the past is the only way to prevent ugly events from being repeated. 

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

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

Preserving the Culture in an Election Year-

The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out~ Proverbs 18:15 NIV

 I recently celebrated a birthday that puts me squarely into the category of “older” woman. I found this realization a bit disturbing at first. The negatives of aging are all too obvious. Nothing looks as good as it once did or works quite as well as it used to.

 Time feels like it passes more quickly after a certain age. This age-related time warp leads to some peculiar forms of culture shock. I find it more than a little irritating when manufacturers attempt to pass off ugly fashion as “novel” or “new” when it’s really just an uglier version of the stuff we wore back in the day. Furthermore,  I will never get so old as to forget the dismay I felt when I heard my favorite song from high school being played on the “oldie” station.

 Happily, I have also come to realize that there are things about getting older that are not all bad. The awareness that life is short makes it easier to relax and worry less about stupid stuff. Time gives a deeper appreciation and greater tolerance for people, especially those people who stick around through thick and thin. In general I care less about the judgments of others than I once did.

This is all very freeing and freeing is good.

 There are some things about getting older that are neither good nor bad. They are just kind of weird. As you get older life becomes a little bit like the movie Groundhog Day. You’ve seen almost everything. Most things, more than once and over time you just know how most situations are going to end because some stuff always ends badly.

 Over time it becomes clear to anyone who thinks that some endeavors just don’t work well over the long haul. Crime rarely pays; cheaters, thieves and gossips eventually get caught in snares they stupidly set for themselves. Laziness results in poverty, and there are simply some attitudes and behaviors you embrace to your own peril if you want relationships to have even a minimal shot at survival.

 That’s the obvious stuff.

 There are some other more subtle truths about life that you pick up over time. Some of those truths feel counterintuitive, like the fact that it actually pays to suck it up and have regular car maintenance done. Cheap-ing out on oil changes  feels like a good way to save a little money but the “payoff” is always short lived.

 When I was younger I subconsciously believed that if I ignored the things that made me feel afraid or uncomfortable then those things would simply go away. Because current world events were typically unpleasant, the news made me uncomfortable, sometimes even afraid. So I ignored it. I simply tuned out and went on with my little life. Sadly, nothing unpleasant went away while I was busy tuning out. The world just got worse. So I tuned back into the culture only to discover that my Christian brothers and sisters were still mostly tuned out.

 Nothing improves when Christians tune out of the culture and retreat to their holy huddles. Christians are the only preserving influence this world has (Matthew 5:13-16). When Christians step out of the cultural arena, the culture suffers and so does the church. When we stop working to preserve the culture the church does not become more holy. The reverse occurs; when we stop using our influence we lose influence. Then the Church begins to atrophy and loses its ability to know right from wrong. 

 We are officially in an election year. There are Christians who don’t even know who their current leaders are, let alone who’s running. This is beyond disgraceful. It’s time for Christian people to step up and get involved. The future of both the Church and the culture is at stake. It all starts with choosing to obey the command to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37). I am convinced  good Christians educate themselves on the issues of their day.

 We need to know what candidates have done, not just what they tell us they have done. Our information should come from sources other than the candidate, political ads or the internet. Once we’ve become educated on the issues we need to take what we’ve learned about each candidate and decide who is most fit to lead. Then we need to fight for those men and women. Once we have done all we can do we need to get on our knees and pray for revival and a return to righteousness.