What it Really Means to “Conform to the World”-

Those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.If we live by the Spirit, lets follow the Spirit as well– Galatians 5:24-25 NASB

The New Testament includes several passages that are formational kinds of passages. The whole point of these passages is to form a believer into the image of Christ (Colossians 3, 1st Thessalonians 4:3-12, 2nd Peter 1:3-9, Ephesians 4:1-6:18). They are super practical, easy to understand passages that give clear instruction on how exactly one makes the Christian life work in the real world. If these passages are put into practice it is pretty close to impossible to fail at being a Christian. 

Seriously. It really is that simple. 

Romans chapter twelve is perhaps the most formational of all the formational texts of the Christian faith. In it, the apostle Paul clearly lays out what a Christian should “look like” in the day-to-day of life. The chapter is filled with so much simple and yet comprehensive instruction, I am whole-heartedly convinced that if a person were to commit their life to Jesus and then seek to live out only the instruction found in Romans twelve they would live an exemplary Christian life (Matthew 25:21). 

Paul begins by urging Christians to live a life of sacrifice and worship (Romans 12:1). Then he quickly warns that choosing to be “conformed to the pattern of this world” is the one thing that will prevent a Christian from living a life of worship and sacrifice that pleases and honors God (Romans 12:2). 

Recently, I decided to look up the word conform in my Greek dictionary. The thing about Greek words is that they tend to be much more multifaceted and complex than most English words. It is not at all unusual for it to take a hundred really big English words to explain clearly all the possible meanings of one little Greek word. Then it can take ANOTHER hundred English words to lay out all the different contexts a Greek word can be used in. For that reason, I fully expected to find a multi-paragraph description of what the word meant and all of the different ways it could be used. Instead, I found nine little words.  

Metheg: to curb or bit; a bit— or a bridle. 

The word (Metheg) translated into English “conformed” means to be led, restricted by or controlled by something or someone else. The purpose of a bit or a bridle is to restrict movement, control and lead an animal. Not being “conformed” to the world we live in is not simply about avoiding worldly behaviors. Not being “conformed to the world” means we must learn to recognize and then actively work to avoid the control worldly ideas, philosophies and people have on our thinking. Worldly people include those who don’t know Jesus and those who do know Jesus but are spiritually immature or who are living in disobedience to Jesus (Colossians 2:4, Colossians 2:8). Avoiding conformity is critical because anytime we allow unsaved people, immature people or the philosophies of this world to unduly influence our thinking about life, God or what will make us happy we will begin to behave in a way that is in conflict with God’s will. 

There are all sorts of different ways we can be led by or controlled by the world.

We are led by the world when we don’t take the time to understand our faith and develop a Christian worldview (Matthew 22:37, 1st Corinthians 2:16). Without a solid framework of biblical truth helping us to sort through worldly ideas and opinions we are sure to become emmeshed with the worldly kinds of values and ideas readers are warned about throughout the New Testament (Colossians 2:8, 1st Corinthians 3:1-22, Acts 17:24-31).   

Taking our moral cues from our godless society, the news or the things we find on social media rather than the word of God will certainly put us on the fast track to being “conformed to the pattern of this world”. We are led by the world when we become enslaved to our own fear of being unpopular or disliked in social situations. In a world where cancelling people has become commonplace, it’s easy to allow our fear of social isolation to cause us to take the path of least resistance and just agree to whatever moral or spiritual nonsense is being thrust on us by the “cool people”. We can also be restricted, controlled or led by our fear of being on the “outs” with whoever happens to have the loudest voice in any given room. It’s easy to forget that the loudest voice is not always the godliest or wisest voice. 

Being led by the world is the easiest thing ever. In our fallen state it is our natural go-to because we are literally born with the “bit” of the world already in place. Therefore, it takes a great deal of spiritual awareness for a Christian to avoid conformity to the world’s system. Choosing to conform to Christ rather than the world is worth all the effort and pain it takes because it allows us to keep our Christian distinctiveness and our saltiness (Matthew 5:13).  Staying “salty” is the key to maintaining spiritual influence and success in this life. 

Stay salty my friend. 🙂

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

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

I used to love all things political. 

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

That ship has officially sailed. 

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

Sigh. 

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

However.

There are a couple of things I do know. 

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

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

Sigh. 

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

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

However.

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

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

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

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

We can vote.

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

Q&A Friday-

Today’s question comes from a reader in Georgia:

Should Christian parents consider taking their kids out of public schools? 

YES. YES. YES.

Just a few years ago, my answer would have been far more nuanced.  

However, times have changed dramatically. 

Public schools have become monolithic machines that churn out leftist anti-God propaganda aimed at indoctrinating children with progressive ideas about sexuality, the climate, history, race and God.  Very few public schools teach children how to think about issues.  Instead schools teach kids what to think. This has produced a generation of young people who lack basic academic skills, have few morals and zero wisdom and discernment about the most basic of issues. 

Furthermore. 

God gave parents not the state ultimate responsibility for training and teaching children. Very few public schools respect the authority of parents anymore. In many states (including my own) a child can change genders, get an abortion, or obtain birth control without so much as parental notification. 

Sadly.

 Public schools are not spiritually safe for children. Public educators assert public schools are value neutral, meaning schools don’t teach values, they simply give information. Unfortunately, the information schools choose to give on sexuality, justice, genders and religion communicate progressive, anti-God, anti-parent, pro-transgender, pro-sexual experimentation values.  It is very difficult for Christian families to effectively counter the ideas and philosophies given at public school given the sheer number of hours kids spend there. 

I do understand private schools or even homeschooling are not always viable options for every family. Christian schools are expensive and homeschooling requires a large investment of time. That said, I urge Christian parents to explore the options. There are wonderful video options available, home schooling co-ops and some Christian schools offer discounts based on income. 

America is a Dumpster Fire: Here’s what Christians can do About it-


Repent
, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord– Acts 3:19 NIV

America is in decline. 

Once trusted institutions are now looked at with scorn, cynicism and even fear. Many politicians have become corrupt, narcissistic and self-serving.  The economy is in crisis. Inflation is raging. Crime and violence are becoming disturbingly routine events.   Personal freedom is often a cover for evil and selfishness. Government has responded by restricting and regulating personal freedom at every turn.  The military is weakened. A once robust educational system is collapsing. Families are broken. Children are confused about who and what they are.  Drug use is endemic. Men and women are literally fighting for the right to kill their own children.  Truth tellers are despised. These ugly, irrefutable, painful realities clearly point to a state of growing decline. 

Sigh. 

What the heck? How on earth did the freest, richest and overall greatest nation (in my humble opinion) on earth transform into such a raging dumpster-fire so quickly? 

 As tempting as it is we cannot in good conscience lay the blame for the chaos entirely at the feet of our increasingly inept and morally bankrupt political leaders. In a democracy decline is never entirely the fault of the people in charge, voters get what they accept and vote for. Additionally, from a biblical standpoint bad leaders are always an indicator of judgment and are therefore just a symptom of a greater problem.   

Sin is the problem. 

Sin is always the ultimate cause of moral and spiritual decline (Romans 1:18-32). If an individual, family or nation is deteriorating or declining you can bet sin is at the root of the issue.  Anytime anyone turns away from God and starts to do their own thing they separate themselves from God and the moral code faith in God brings with it.  Eventually, the whole memory of that moral code fades and the person, family or culture is left with the ethical equivalent of a raging dumpster fire. What we’re looking at in the world today is what you get when people turn away from God, reject His moral code and choose to do their own thing. 

Unfortunately. 

Our situation will not be improving anytime soon. The decline America is experiencing will continue until we have a massive revival that fundamentally changes our trajectory or the eventual end of America as we know it. Obviously, we are all rooting for a revival. Here is what we need to do to get it:

Stand up the right way- 

 Christians are frequently told everything will improve when they “stand up” and “fight” for what’s right.  The problem is that no one can really explain what that means or how to do it in a way that brings God glory and facilitates change in the culture. Do we lead an insurrection? Do we focus on the political realm? What exactly does standing up for our faith look like in 2022? I believe this is where we can take a page from the early churches’ handbook. The early church didn’t take a political or even a moral stand against the Roman government. They didn’t rally or rage against anyone or anything— no matter how wicked or evil that somebody or something was. As a powerless minority rallying and raging would have done little good, it might have even gotten them killed. Instead they simply refused to conform to the culture around them (Romans 2:12). They lived such good, right and moral lives within their culture that they slowly won the culture over to their way of thinking, believing and behaving (1st Peter 2:12). We must seek to do the same. 

Have a realistic perspective on the limits and potential of politics-

Politics are important in a democracy and we have to remember that living in a democracy is a gift from God. Nevertheless, it is critical Christians understand all political leaders (including conservatives) are flawed and cannot be depended on to bring about ethical change.  Every Christian living in a democracy or a constitutional republic is biblically obligated to do their part for the country they live in. That includes praying fervently for political leaders, choosing to vote only for the best and most principled candidate available. Doing our part means being a good citizen who follows all laws that do not contradict God or His laws. We must do our best to improve the political realm but politics should never take the place of God in our lives. Nor can we depend on human leaders to bring righteousness, justice or peace to our land. Only God can bring healing to our world. 

 Take spiritual risks- 

This is not the time to sit back and hope good wins out in the end. This cultural moment requires Christians be spiritually proactive. We become proactive by sharing our faith boldly, loving the lost boldly and doing what’s right in God’s eyes no matter the cost to us personally.  

Our job as followers of Jesus is not to demand our rights or spend our time cursing the darkness (1st Corinthians 4:12) . Our job is to be Jesus to our world. We must seek to represent Him well in our homes, churches and communities.  

The Real Reason our Freedoms are Disappearing-

 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love- Galatians 5:13 NIV

 The rights to freely assemble, speak, worship and bear arms are being challenged at every turn. Politicians from all sides argue the restriction of rights necessary for “the greater good” of society. Individuals have responded to the loss of liberty in one of two ways.  A small but vocal minority is quick to express gratitude. They sincerely believe the loss of liberty is worth the security gained.

The vast majority feel otherwise. 

 Rulers throughout history have tended to view personal freedom as a privilege that can be revoked at a moment’s notice by the will of human authority. However, history has also proven freedom causes human beings to flourish. Without personal freedom the human spirit withers, creativity is choked and discovery is stifled. It comes as no surprise that the countries that allow the most freedom are also the most productive and innovative. Authoritarian governments who relentlessly limit autonomy and freedom inevitably collapse because human freedom is the key to human productivity.

 The Bible presents human freedom as both a gift and a test (1st Corinthians 10:23, Genesis 3). God is the giver of human freedom. He calls freedom: freewill and people can do whatever they want with their freewill. Nonetheless, God makes the rules and He reserves the right to punish people for the sinful and selfish use of their freewill (Romans 2:6-8, Romans 6:23, Galatians 6:8, 1st Corinthians 6:9).  In the Bible freedom without obedience always leads to moral ruin and bondage of some sort (2nd Chronicles 29:6-9).  

 Americans have been blessed with a wider variety of freedoms than any people in the history of mankind. Both men and women, regardless of race, creed or social class are free to live where they want, build what they want, associate with who they want, buy what they want and sell what they want. Americans are free to have any kind of relationship they choose to have with anyone they choose to have it with. Americans can raise and educate their children however they see fit and wherever they want to. We can use our free time for any purpose we choose. The only real stipulation placed on these freedoms is that we do not harm others with our independence. No other country on earth has been blessed in this way.

 Are we living lives worthy of these blessings?

 Nope. Nope, and more nope. 

 Rather than using the freedom we have to create a healthier, more just society we have used our freedom to abort millions of children and deprive them of their right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness. We have pushed the boundaries of good sense and tested the patience of God by denying reality and insisting gender is a choice we get to make. Our culture has twisted the blessing of sexuality into a multi-billion-dollar industry that enslaves and objectifies millions of women and children. Taxpayer funded-school systems actively seek to corrupt the innocence of children through the implementation of curriculums that introduce ideas and concepts that go beyond “the basics” of sexuality into a distorted and even creepy perversion of sex. Rather than expressing gratitude for the abundant material blessings available in our culture full grown adults cry, whine, riot and set things on fire, and demand MORE all the while refusing to work for anything. Some are actively using the racial injustice suffered by too many in our society as an excuse to tear everything down and reshape society in their own twisted image (2nd Peter 2:19, 2nd Timothy 3:1-3).

 Many Christians are no better just different.  

 Statistics reveal the vast majority of Americans who identify as Christians do not use their religious freedom to worship regularly on Sunday mornings. Nor, do the majority of Christians share their faith with others, volunteer in their churches or contribute to missions. Churches are some of the most segregated places in the country and Christians routinely show more kindness to unsaved people than they do to saved people.  Christians view porn almost as much as non-Christians, infidelity is far from unheard of in the church and scandals among church leaders have become a routine occurrence.

 Here’s the thing.

 God sometimes judges by removing blessings that are not used responsibly and we have not used our freedom responsibly.

 It’s not too late but it is time for the Church to repent.

 Christians have got to stop being a part of the problem and must seek to be the solution. We must model the reality for the world that genuine freedom is not found in doing anything we want to do. Authentic freedom is found in knowing Christ and being free from bondage to sinful behaviors and thought patterns (Romans 6:6).  We must be intentional about using freedom to do good rather than as an excuse to evil. We must make a practice of examining ourselves daily and searching diligently for sinful attitudes and behaviors that need to be repented of. God has not blessed the Church so we can live for our own pleasure or have everything just the way we want it at the expense of those who are dying without Christ. God has blessed the Church so we can be a blessing, preach the gospel fearlessly and lead the greater culture towards living righteous and holiness.   

 It’s time to get to it.

 

 

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 denounces America for being a “Christian” nation that began by forcefully removing indigenous people (Native Americans) from land that rightfully belonged to them. Those who hold this view 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 all 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.  Intelligent people recognize every human on this planet has ancestors who were slaves and who 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 that 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.

 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.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the Courage and Strength to Forgive a Big Hurt-

If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses- Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV

Let’s be real. 

Hard things are hard and Christianity demands a LOT of hard things of Christians. Christians are called to love the most unlovable of people (Luke 6:27), and exercise self-control in the most unjust of circumstances (Romans 12:17-19, 1st Peter 3:17). Christians are even expected to do good things to and for people who mistreat them (Matthew 5:44). 

Perhaps the hardest of all the hard things Christians are called to do is to forgive those who sin against us. 

The New Testament passages that mandate total forgiveness are insanely comprehensive and leave no legitimate wiggle-room for compromise (Matthew 18:21-35, Mark 11:25, Colossians 3:13, 1st Peter 2:18-21). These requirements go so far as to teach that our being forgiven by God hinges on our willingness to forgive others.  Furthermore, Hebrews 12:15 tells us that if unforgiveness is allowed to harden into bitterness that bitterness will not just defile (taint, corrupt, ruin) the bitter person but the people they love as well. 

Sigh. 

Over the course of the last fifteen years or so I have been “blessed” with several “opportunities” to forgive people who really did not deserve to be forgiven. Mostly because few of them were actually sorry for what they did. These were not small slights like having my feelings hurt, being overlooked in a social situation or being ignored by someone I felt should care about me. Each experience was extremely personal and painful.  I am not going to share the details of any of them. All you really need to know is that all the situations demanded more of me than I honestly thought I was capable of giving at the time. 

Through that I learned that there are steps that must be followed for the process of forgiveness to work itself out. If any aspects of the process is skipped or glossed over the forgiveness will be incomplete and our feelings towards the person who hurt us will harden into bitterness. 

 Following are some steps to forgiving others. They don’t have to be done in a particular order but they all have to be done. It all starts with: 

Recognize that forgiveness is a process rather than an event- 

Forgiving really big offenses is rarely, if ever, a one and done. Forgiveness begins with the choice to forgive. However, that choice must be followed by a commitment to do the work necessary to truly move on from the hurt. The length of time it takes to work through the process depends on many things including the level of hurt involved and the maturity of the person who was hurt. 

Ask God to help you-

Any reasonably mature adult can forgive a social slight or a minor offense easily.  However, there are some hurts and offenses so grievous that even the most spiritually mature people cannot forgive them without God’s help.  

Allow yourself to feel the impact of the hurt-

Anytime I hear someone who has just experienced a hurt at the hands of an evil person say “I forgive them”. My heart breaks for that person because I know they aren’t Jesus and Jesus is the only person who ever lived who is truly capable of forgiving an act of evil without first sorting through their feelings about the situation (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is hard because it is the act of surrendering the right we all feel we have to hold people accountable for sinning against us. Because feeling the impact of hurt is painful it is tempting to simply utter the words “I forgive” without counting the cost and really working through how we feel about the person who hurt us. If we skip this step we will likely find that the feelings of forgiveness do not last long.    All that being said, it is critical that we don’t get stuck in this step because if we do bitterness is inevitable. 

Find a person to help you process- 

God designed the human race in such a way that people need people (Genesis 2:18). Christians are commanded to comfort the hurting and to mourn with those who mourn (2nd Corinthians 1:3-5, 1st Thessalonians 2:11-12, Romans 12:15). No one needs comfort more or is mourning harder than someone who is processing a huge injustice.  If you are hurting find a Christian counselor, Pastor or mature Christian friend who can walk you through the process. If you happen to be in a good place right now be the person who helps someone when they need comfort. 

Pray daily for the person who hurt you- 

Pray God blesses the person who hurt you. Ask God to make them more self-aware so they will know how their actions are affecting others.  Ask God to do whatever needs to be done in their lives for them to grow into the best version of themselves possible (Luke 6:28). Keep praying those prayers until you feel freed from any bitterness you feel towards the person who hurt you. 

Forgiveness is never easy and almost always painful but it is worth the pain because unforgiveness makes it impossible for us to grow and change.  Authentic forgiveness frees us from the mental bondage of thinking about the person who hurt us all the time. This frees us up to focus on the things that will empower us to become the people God wants us to be and freedom is worth it.   

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. 

Why it’s Christian to Know History and tell the Truth About History-

These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants~ Esther 9:28 

In an interview, the congresswoman from Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib, explained that when she thinks about the holocaust she experiences a “calming feeling”. Ms. Tlaib expounded by saying she feels “heartened” by the knowledge that the Palestinian people worked hard and made many sacrifices to create a safe haven for the Jews after the holocaust.

Anyone with access to even a poorly written history book knows that Ms. Tlaib, is best case scenario ignorant of some key facts and, worst case scenario is intentionally rewriting some elementary points of history. It is true that that the Palestinian people did make room for the Jews after World War II ended. However, it is also true that the Palestinian people did not do this willingly, joyfully or without a fight.  Another key detail being omitted by Ms. Tlaib is that the Palestinian leader (mufti) at the time (Amin al-Hussenini) was a staunch ally of Hitler and hardly a gleeful advocate of a Jewish homeland. 

The Holocaust is not the only historical event or movement being retold from a less than honest perspective these days. Communism has also gotten a complete makeover. Gone are the historical accounts of gulags, propaganda crusades, starvation campaigns, nepotism and genocide. The evils of Communism have been retold as a Scandinavian success story whose reputation has been sullied by a few bad actors in some Eastern bloc countries (Soviet Union, Romania, East Germany, etc.) who failed to implement a righteous movement properly.  As a result, the horrors of communism have been largely forgotten and it is now cool to light things on fire and demand the end of the capitalism system

In the United States there is a movement afoot to erase all details of any unpleasantness from early American history. Statues commemorating the Civil War have been torn down and the names of those Founding Fathers who owned slaves have been removed from schools and official buildings. History curriculums have been rewritten to focus only on the negative facets of early American leaders who owned slaves or held views that are now discredited.  

  In some instances (as with the Civil War statues) the twisting is done in the name of ensuring that no tender soul is triggered by some unpleasant historical fact. This is a noble but deeply misguided desire Christians must fight against (Psalm 45:4). It is impossible to learn anything from a history we are ignorant of and God calls His people to truth (John 8:32). The whole truth about history must be told to prevent it from being repeated.  We need society to grow from the mistakes made by our ancestors. Furthermore, it is critical we judge historical figures in the context of their time rather than ours. It is perfectly reasonable to wonder how a rational human being could possibly think it was okay to own another person. That said, our generation would be wise to stop being so ridiculously patronizing and scornful of previous generations.  We should be much more cautious about judging those long dead for actions and attitudes that were culturally accepted and legally permitted during their lifetime. There is a plethora of culturally accepted and perfectly legal behaviors in our time that history may judge our generation harshly for in the future (Matthew 7:1-3). 

Seriously. 

Our society is in a precarious place.

There has never been a time when it was more important for wise, thinking, Christian people to know history, teach their children history and to be willing to call out those who are attempting to rewrite history (Deuteronomy 32:7). 

Our liberty, religious freedom and the health of our culture might just depend on it (Jeremiah 7:28).