Is God Judging America?

Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed~ Job 5:2-3 NIV

 In recent days I have seen things I never thought I would live to see. It could easily be argued that our society is unraveling before our very eyes.

 The madness began in Charlottesville where a (stupid) white supremacist rally took a violent turn when a twenty-year-old racist activist ran down an anti-racist activist with his car and killed her. Donald Trump has (inelegantly and some would say ineptly) condemned the white-supremacist idiocy in Charlottesville several times over the course of the last week. Nonetheless, many are convinced he is a racist monster and so is anyone who voted for him.

 Protesters are demanding Civil War memorials be torn down immediately. These protesters seem intent on rewriting the history of our country but resist being labeled as the totalitarians they are choosing to act like. The absurdity of the situation reached a fever pitch in Durham, North Carolina where a protester shouted defiantly as a confederate statue came down “ I don’t want to be like the Bolsheviks or the Taliban but this has got to go!”

 Oh the irony.

 In the midst of the pandemonium some prominent Christians have written blogs asserting that America is on the precipice of God’s judgment. Other Christians have responded to those posts with their own posts arguing that God is too nice to bring judgment on people or nations anymore.

 As much as I would love to believe otherwise, I am thoroughly convinced that God does indeed still judge. The Bible is clear; God has fixed standards of right and wrong. He does not change His mind on these matters (Malachi 3:6, 1st Samuel 15:29, Hebrews 13:8). God judged people and nations in the past (Ezekiel 20:36), and He has promised to do so again at some point in the future (Revelation 20:12-13). To believe God is somehow done with the business of judgment is to choose to be willfully ignorant of what the Bible has to say on the subject.

 Period.

 That said, I’m not sure we need God to judge us. We are doing a fine job of bringing judgment and curses on ourselves through our own stubborn pride and willful stupidity. The concept of individuals and nations bringing curses on themselves through their own actions is a common one throughout Scripture (Genesis 4:11, Genesis 27:12, Deuteronomy 27:15-25). Curses are a natural consequence of knowingly disregarding truth, common sense and God’s revealed will.

 Its kind of where we’re living right now.

We are cursed because we have chosen to believe what we have been told to believe by a news media with obvious bias and their own political agenda. We are cursed because we have despised those on the other side of the political aisle instead of praying for them. We are cursed because we have chosen to hold on to bitterness and resentment over sins committed generations ago. We are cursed because we have believed the lie that one act of violence justifies another. We are cursed because for generations too many of us have allowed bigotry and hatred to have a place in our hearts, homes and places of worship. We are cursed because we have chosen to judge the founding fathers by the standards of our time rather than by the standards of their time.

 We have cursed ourselves by refusing to examine our lives and repent of the sin we find there. We have cursed our nation and families by callously killing our unborn children in the name of convenience, disregarding our marriage vows and normalizing sexual sin and calling it “progress”.  

 All the turmoil we are experiencing at this point in our history is our own doing. We have brought curses on our children, our nation and ourselves due to our own reluctance to see circumstances from the other person’s perspective and our unwillingness to do things God’s way. The only way to break this curse is through prayer, repentance and a commitment to racial reconciliation and forgiveness. Too often, too many of us wait for others to take lead when it comes to change, repentance and making amends for our actions. As a result nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. We don’t have time to wait and see what other people do, we need to examine our hearts, repent of the sin we find there and trust God to clean up this mess we’ve made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

The Real Reason Marriages Fail

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate~ Mark 10:7-9 NIV

 I recently had a conversation with a friend that can only be described as a full-scale bummer.

 My friend informed me, with tears in her eyes, that she and her husband were splitting up after more than two decades together (she did not initiate the divorce). This news was heartbreaking on at least a dozen different levels. We’ve known these people a long time, our kids kind of grew up together, we love them both and two decades is a long time to invest in anything, especially something that doesn’t end well. This couple has adult children who are grieving deeply. Both the husband and the wife are professing Christians and the split has tested the kids belief that God is good and that love can overcome any obstacle.

 This sad news got me thinking about the subject of marriage in general and why marriages fail in particular. It occurred to me that although most folks know going-in that marriage takes a lot of energy and hard work, virtually all marriages begin on a hopeful note. No one I have ever known (or heard of) has entered into marriage anticipating failure or hoping things don’t work out.

 This truth begs the question: 

If most folks know from the get-go that marriage will not be easy then why do so many marriages fail with such depressing regularity?

 We’ve all heard the sad statistics: roughly one-third to one-half of all marriages in America end in divorce. Most of us have also heard the reasons given for divorce: sex/infidelity, money problems and poor communication.

 I do not dispute the divorce statistics. I do dispute the reasons given for divorce. I believe that the causes typically given for divorce are actually just symptoms of the actual causes of divorce. We will never change the divorce rate until we get real about why people divorce.

 Marriages struggle and die not because of big problems that cannot be worked out. Relationships struggle and die for three far less discussed reasons.

 The first is…

 Selfishness-

 According to the trusty word wizards at Dictionary.com selfishness is defined as “ being devoted to or caring only for one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc. regardless of others”. When we carry an attitude of selfishness into marriage it manifests itself in a lack of thoughtfulness or consideration for others. A friend (who has since repented) confessed that for years he bought his wife a big beautiful chocolate cake every year on her birthday. Not because she loved chocolate (she hated it passionately) but because he loved chocolate and it was a good excuse for him to eat the kind of cake he liked. Over time selfishness erodes positive feelings and leaves the other person (no matter how long-suffering they may be) feeling hurt and possibly even vengeful towards their spouse. If by some miracle the marriage survives, the love won’t.

 A refusal to obey the command given to husbands and wives in Ephesian’s 5:21-

 Most Christians are aware of the commands given to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33. Women are told to submit to their husbands and husbands are commanded to love their wives. What most Christians don’t know is that the verse directly preceding those verses (Ephesians 5:21) commands spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission is the act of adopting an attitude of mutual cooperation and compromise in all things. Submitting to one another in marriage may mean having sex more often than you would prefer or doing chores that don’t necessarily appeal to you after a long day at work. Mutual submission means giving rather than taking and not holding a grudge over what you don’t get.

 Unwillingness to change-

 A wise person once described marriage as “God’s ultimate growth opportunity”. However, if you are unwilling to change, you will never grow or become better. Christians are more capable of change than any other people on earth because the Holy Spirit is guiding them in all things. Refusing to change is ultimately a refusal to grow and the greatest indicator of immaturity on earth.

 A very wise pastor friend of mine once said “any two reasonably mature Christians can make a marriage work if they are BOTH willing to put in the necessary effort.” That man understood a truth many of us have willingly forgotten: that divorce is unnecessary if both parties are willing to die to self and submit to God.

 

 

 

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Breaking Free From the Pull of The World

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will~ Romans 12:2 NIV

Last week I wrote a post detailing five signs you might be a Christian who loves the world just a little too much (1st John 2:15). In that post I defined “loving the world” as taking our cues about how to live, love and function in this life from the world’s system rather than from the Bible (Romans 12:2).

 Loving the world is dangerous because it clouds our spiritual judgment and makes it nearly impossible to see life, people, and the circumstances we encounter from God’s perspective. Loving the world causes us to think like the world and adopt the characteristics of the world. When that happens we lose our ability to be the life-giving spiritual force our world urgently needs.

 The only way to combat worldliness is to work aggressively to break the world’s hold on our thinking, we will never effectively change our behavior until we change our mindset. The process begins with regular Bible reading and study. Knowing the Bible gives us insight into God’s view on issues. However, simply reading the Bible will not necessarily make us any less worldly. We also have to alter our behavior to bring it more in line with a biblical worldview.

 Changes need to begin with these five adjustments to our thinking and behavior…

 Practicing generosity rather than consumption- Acts 4:32-35, Acts 2:42-47, 1st Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2

 The world system teaches us to maintain emotional distance from people and use resources such as our time, possessions, energy and money for our own benefit and pleasure. The New Testament urges Christians live life with an open heart and to give with an open-hand. Until we learn to freely give of our resources and our time we will remain forever stuck in a worldly mindset.

 Ending our fixation with worldly entertainment- Psalm 119:37, Job 31:1

 Those in the entertainment industry want more than anything to change the way we think about the world, and they have been wildly effective in accomplishing their agenda. The abolitionist movement in America succeeded in ending slavery partly because leaders of the movement used powerful novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twelve Years a Slave to change the way the average person thought about slavery. Hollywood does the same thing with equal success for far less noble causes. Television shows with storylines normalizing divorce, single motherhood and homosexuality preceded widespread acceptance of those practices in our culture. Next time you watch a television show, try and figure out what sin the producers are attempting to normalize, then turn it off and read a good book or interact with some people.

 Living out a biblical standard of sexuality- 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8

 Sexual immorality is a sin that is in a class all its own, mainly because it’s exceptionally damaging to all parties involved. When we commit sexual sin, we sin against God, other people and pollute our own bodies (1st Corinthians 6:18). Sexual immorality is placed at the top of a list of sins that God states will keep us from inheriting His kingdom (1st Corinthians 6:9-10). For those reasons (and a dozen others) Christians need to stop searching for loopholes in the rules. God cannot be tricked. Oral, anal and all other types of sex before marriage is still sex before marriage. Viewing pornography is sex and emotional affairs inevitably lead to sex outside of marriage. Our lack of obedience in this one area has caused the church to lose all moral authority in the culture. We will only get it back through a commitment to repentance, purity and doing life God’s way.

 Callously rooting out sin in our own lives- John 5:14, 1st Corinthians 15:34

 Sin is a pernicious thing. It creeps into our lives, oftentimes without our awareness or consent. The only way to combat sin’s encroachment into our lives is by asking God daily to reveal the sins we do not see in ourselves and then repenting (turning away from) the sin we do recognize in our selves.

 Praying about everything- Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2

 Nothing is too big or too small to talk to God about. Without the discipline of prayer we inevitably lose connection with God and unwittingly open ourselves up to the influence of the world. Prayer safeguards us against worldly thinking by reminding us that we are not wise enough to do life without God.

 Rooting out worldly thinking and behavior in our lives is not an optional exercise or an elective spiritual discipline—it’s a matter of spiritual life and death.

 

 

 

 

Why We Aren’t Connecting

 All those who had believed were together and had all things in common. They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved~ Acts 2:44a, 46b, and 47 NIV

 Connecting people is a passion of mine.

 I served as a Connections Coordinator for a couple of years. But long before all that, I recognized that the people most likely to stick around a Church or a group in a church were those who felt deeply connected to the people in the church or church group.

 The high school kids who had friends in the Sunday school class I taught were the ones who showed up week after week regardless of what I was teaching. I learned early on that if I could help a woman make a friend in the Bible study I was leading, the chances were pretty good that woman would come back and sometimes she would bring a friend.

 Legitimate research has backed up my observations.

 Research done by Thom Ranier reveals that roughly half (49%) of all people stay in their current church because they have a deep connection to the people in the church. According to some of my own less-than-legitimate research (asking a bunch of nosy questions about why people stayed in or left their church) the number two reason people gave for leaving a church (number one was weak or shady leadership) was lack of connection to people.

 Even the most introverted among us were created to connect with one another. It’s a fundamental part of who we are and a reflection of God’s nature in us. Most adults who convert to Christianity do so within the context of friendship. Many who began attending church looking for friendships have found Jesus in the process.

 Hospitality and developing healthy relationships is a basic and often overlooked aspect of evangelism and we all bear some responsibility for the task. We build healthy groups churches by doing five simple things consistently.

 First:

 Show up-

 Sadly, many of the same people who attend services once or twice a month also grumble about not feeling a sense of belonging in their church. No one in the history of forever has ever grown spiritually, made a friend or become a functioning part of a church body without first committing to consistently attending a church service (Hebrews 10:25).

 Join a small group-

 It can be an adult Sunday school class, weekday Bible study or a small group that meets in a home. Go and do more than show-up. Show-up early, stay late, participate in the discussions and invite people in the group into your home, your heart, and your inner circle. Do your part to make that group into a family and then encourage new people to become a part of the family (1st Corinthians 12:28).

 Be real-

 God only made one you. Being authentic about who you are and what you’ve experienced (without being excessively detailed or graphic) is honoring to God and can be useful (if it’s done right) to those who are struggling on their spiritual journey (2nd Corinthians 1:3-4).

 Don’t judge others for being real-

 Just don’t. Judgment destroys community. Our role as Christians is to encourage, correct, redirect and cheer-lead (Galatians 6:1, Hebrews 3:13, 2nd Timothy 2:24-26). We must leave the judgments to God. He knows more than we ever could. However, it’s equally critical we don’t buy into the lie that correction or redirection is the same thing as judgment. Correcting sinful or spiritually dubious behavior is NOT the same as judging. Correction is biblical AND necessary in a healthy Christian community (James 1:21, James 5:20).

 Use the gifts you have-

 My fondest wish for every Christian on earth would be for them to know and use their gifts to grow their local church (Ephesians 2:10, Romans 12:6-11). Sadly, many Christians have all but stopped serving and churches are dying as a result of our disobedience. Volunteering to teach a class, hosting a group in your home, baking cookies for VBS or serving on the greeting team or in the food pantry is about more than filling a spot. It’s about bonding with other believers, building community and being the hands and feet of Jesus in a broken and hurting world (Matthew 25:44-46).  

 Don’t close your circle-

 Building connections with people is both horribly complex and enormously rewarding. Keeping our hearts open to people and finding creative ways to meet their needs is one of the most significant and basic ways we serve God (1st Peter 4:9). It’s also the only way to build a healthy Christian community.

 

 

When Life Hits You With A Curveball

My days have passed, my plans are shattered. Yet the desires of my heart turn night into day; in the face of the darkness light is near~ Job 17:11-12 NIV

 Regular readers of this blog know that I typically write out of my own personal experience and only very rarely tell the stories of others. There are numerous reasons for my reluctance to tell other people’s stories.

 First, I feel really weird telling other people’s stories and I hate feeling weird. I also worry excessively (probably neurotically) about violating the privacy of others. Moreover, I only know what I know, not what other people know, so I am reluctant to assign motives to others and it’s hard to tell some stories without assigning motives. And finally, I avoid offending others unnecessarily and there is no quicker route to provoking an offense than to tell someone else’s story and get it wrong or to assign the wrong motives.

 Sigh.

 All that being said, this week I feel inclined to share what I gleaned from watching someone else live out a really unpleasant chapter of their story with honesty and grace.

 I have a close friend who has been through more tough stuff in the course of the last two weeks than one could reasonably expect to experience in a decade of living. In the interest of protecting my friend’s privacy, I will spare you the nitty-gritty details of her private hell. I will tell you that the situation manifested itself suddenly and with no warning. Within days it morphed into the kind of nightmare we all secretly fear will happen to us and pray never does.

 Life has hit my sweet friend with some nasty curveballs in recent days.

 I define a curveball as any situation we were not expecting that abruptly alters our life in an unpleasant and unanticipated way. Curveballs are frustratingly common in this life. No one, no matter how well they manage their personal affairs, makes it through this life without experiencing at least one season of curveballs.

 Curveballs come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they come in the form of an unforeseen job loss, a financial or health crisis, divorce, affair, or the death of a loved one. In truth, the details of said situation matter less than how we handle them.

 Today I am going to share four strategies for managing the curveballs of life I picked-up from observing my friend this week. First….

 Run to God rather than away from Him-

 Alas, the first instinct many of us have when trouble strikes is to get mad at God. We do this because logic tells us that God is the omnipotent maker of the universe and if anyone is capable of preventing trouble, it’s God. While that may be true, it ignores a couple of vital truths. First and foremost, trouble and hardship are a sad but inescapable consequence of living in a fallen world (John 16:33). Even Jesus experienced hardship and trouble in this life (Hebrews 2:10). Secondly, God wants to be there for us and give us comfort in the midst of our trials. And finally, God sometimes uses hardship and trouble to shape us into the people He has called us to be and to prepare us to minister effectively to others. God cannot do any of the things He wants to do in us or for us if we push Him away in anger.

 Accept help-

 God does His best work through His people. Anytime someone offers to help in a crisis we should view that person as the hand of God reaching out to offer practical support in our time of need. It’s essential we take the help that’s offered.

 Own what you need to own-

 With a few notable exceptions, curveballs rarely just appear out of nowhere. Typically there’s a history of reckless/sinful/unwise choices that led up to the life-altering mess. It’s crucial we take responsibility for any part we may have played in creating the situation that led up to the curveball. Taking ownership of mistakes and failings keeps us from blaming God and will ultimately set the stage for us to make better and wiser choices in the future.  

 Find someone you trust and be as real as you need to be about how you feel-

 Talking is the ONLY way to stay sane in a curveball situation. Sadly, we simply cannot be honest with everyone because not everyone is worthy of trust or equipped to deal with the negative emotions that accompany a curveball. So find the one or two people who will listen, pray, and offer wise counsel without judging and share what you need to share to preserve your sanity.

 

 

  

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

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

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

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

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

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

 Let’s be real here.

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

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

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

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

 It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Conversely, good politics produce good cultures.

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

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

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

 It’s all very tolerant, broadminded and progressive.

 However,

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

 Let’s be real here.

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

 Yes. I am judging. Get over it.

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

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

It’s that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Can Do to Change the Church

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. ~ Ephesians 5:8-10 NIV

Pretty much every Christian in the Western World agrees that Christianity is in a steady state of decline.  

Most blame the decline of Christianity on shallow teaching that is entirely focused on reaching unsaved people rather than teaching and training the already converted to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). Others blame our problems on a lack of relationship (and accountability) in local churches. Still others blame a lack of opportunity to serve the underserved in their communities. All Christians are alarmed by the churches seeming inability to preserve morality and decency in the culture (Matthew 5:13-16).

 None of these concerns are without merit.

 In previous posts I have placed (directly or indirectly) much of the blame for the decline we find ourselves in on church leaders. I believe this is fair. Leaders lead. Consequently, if something is headed in the wrong direction the people running the show ought to take their fair share of the blame.

 However,

 I have served in enough leadership positions in enough churches to know that church has become just another product that we consume in this culture. I also know that most Pastors will tell you that recent changes in how church is done have been almost entirely consumer driven. Pastors are simply giving people what they say, through their words and actions, they want in church.

 Anytime we are unhappy with anything we ought to take a hard look at our own habits and attitudes, to see if we are somehow contributing to the problems vexing us. If we want change we have to be willing to change. So today I would like to offer five simple changes we could all make that could impact Christianity (and the culture) significantly.

 First:

 Show up- Hebrews 10:25

 Seriously. The average self-identified “committed churchgoer” only goes to church 1.2 times a MONTH. Most of us go to Costco more than we go to church. This is extremely discouraging to Pastors. The lack of committed attendance leads many Pastors to assume (rightly in my opinion) that their congregants are shallow believers who can’t (or don’t want to) handle the deeper truths of Scripture. It also sends the message to less mature believers that church attendance is irrelevant.

 Let go of your “rights”- 1st Corinthians 8:9

 In recent years many Christians have become very open about partaking in activities that fall neatly into the category of “gray area issues” (you can decide for yourself what I mean by that). This has made many pastors reluctant to preach on certain subjects out of fear of riling-up the saints and clearing out the church. The Bible teaches that mature believers are prepared to let go of their “rights” if that thing (whatever it may be) causes discord, hurt or confusion to anyone (1st Corinthians 8:7-9:22, Romans 14:13-15:1). Christians who live for themselves (rather than the good of others) are causing conflict in the church and destroying the reputation of Christianity. That needs to change.

Attend a Bible study- Acts 17:2, Acts 17:11

 In recent years many churches have dropped Sunday school classes and Bible studies. Typically this is due to a lack of interest and/or turnout. Trust me on this one. If there is a demand, there will be opportunities.

 Serve– Ephesians 2:10

 You’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. Nonetheless I suspect we all spend at least a couple hours a week playing games and perusing social media on our phones. That time ought to be put to better use. Offer to teach the third grade Sunday school class, take a turn at nursery duty, serve in the food pantry, clean the church or lead a Bible study. Find out where and how you can serve, and then serve. I am convinced that Christians ought to tithe on their time as well as their money. If more did, it would literally be a spiritual game changer in our churches and communities.

 Pray for your Pastor- Romans 15:30, 2nd Corinthians 1:10-11, 1st Timothy 2:8, Colossians 4:2

 Pray that your Pastor will have the wisdom to lead well. Pray they will see biblical truth clearly and teach it with clarity and power. Pray they will have insight into the spiritual issues behind the worldly problems in our churches. Do not talk to them about any concerns you have until you have prayed and fasted about your concerns for at least two weeks. This will prepare both of you for the dialogue.

 I said at the beginning of this series that we all bear some responsibility for the state the church is in today. It’s time for all of us to collectively examine our hearts to see what we can do as individuals to change the direction of the church.

 

 

 

Knowing for Certain-

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth~ 1st Timothy 2:3-4

 We live in a time and place where it is blessedly easy to know the answers to a lot of life’s questions.

 Anyone with a laptop and/or a phone can know exactly how much money he or she has in the bank anytime—day-or-night. Even a person completely ignorant of history can discover in seconds who the POTUS was in 1926 (Calvin Coolidge in case you’re too lazy to Google). A small sample of blood will reveal all sorts of interesting things about a person. Including their general state of health, chromosomal make-up, nation of origin and whether or not they eat lead paint chips

 The modern era clearly has its perks.

 However, other questions remain unanswered. The brightest scientific minds of our day still cannot explain why we have turbulence or what make magnets work or how birds know to migrate or even how our brains store and retrieve memory. No one but God knows why we dream or even what a dream is or why we all get a little nuts-o if we go too many nights without dreaming.

 Sigh.

 Some spiritual questions are even tougher to answer.

 No one has ever been able to explain to my satisfaction why God sometimes feels distant and other times He feels close. No one knows why some prayers go unanswered and others don’t, or why some people suffer and others don’t.

But in my experience the most vexing question of all for many believers is whether or not they really are a Christian.

 Most of us know that becoming a Christian is not simply something that happens, nor is it something we are born into. Contrary to popular belief simply attending a church or a small group, serving on a ministry team, or even praying a “salvation prayer” does not guarantee that one has passed from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life.

 Knowing for certain matters for at least three reasons.

 First, assurance of salvation is not a subject that is discussed in many churches these days; as a result many have been left with questions. Secondly, Jesus warned his followers that on Judgment Day (yes, it’s a real thing, Matthew 11:24, Hebrews 9:27, Revelation 20:11-12) there will be many who mistakenly assume that they are Christians until it’s too late to do anything about it (Matthew 7:21, Matthew 25:31-46, Matthew 7:13-14). And finally, it matters because if the Bible is true (and I believe it is) then eternity will be long and it’s good to know where and how we will be spending it.

 Sadly, the signs of salvation tend to be subtle, but there are at least four clear indicators of an authentic Christian including…

 1. Authentic Christians hate to sin-

 One of the surest signs of salvation is a yearning to please God and do His will. This means that genuine Christians do not like to sin nor do they typically sin intentionally. This doesn’t mean Christians never sin (1st John 1:10). It does mean that for a Christian, sin is typically followed by remorse, repentance and a sincere desire to do better next time (2nd Corinthians 7:10).

 2. Authentic Christians do what it takes to grow-

 Attending a Bible study or a church service does not make anyone a Christian, nor does it make Christians “more saved”. That said, church and Bible studies are where we worship God, learn about our faith, become accountable to other believers, and are challenged to grow-up in our thinking and behavior (1st Corinthians 13:11.) Consequently, all Christians ought to attend church and Bible studies.

 3. Authentic Christians love people and care about their eternal destiny-

 Love for God and love for people is the identifying mark of a Jesus follower (1st John). However, authentic biblical love is more complex than the squishy, syrupy Hallmark Channel kind love we have all become accustomed to. Authentic Christian love is concerned for the feelings of others but it is also honest enough to tell people the truth about where their choices will lead.

4. Authentic Christians don’t quit- Hebrews 12:1

 Authentic Christians do not quit serving God, loving people, and going to church just because some nitwit said something hurtful or God did not answer a prayer the way they felt He should. Authentic Christians know that they are soldiers in a spiritual war and soldiers don’t desert over hurt feelings and petty disappointments (2nd Timothy 2:3-4). Perseverance is and will always be the surest sign of salvation.  

 

 

 

Why We Need to Stop Getting Offended All the Time

Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many~ Matthew 24: 10-11 NKJV

A few years back I did something incredibly stupid.

 My Mother-in-law (a wise and perceptive woman) attempted to give me a friendly warning concerning the character of a person I considered at the time to be a very close friend.

 Rather than doing the smart thing and simply taking her warning to heart- or perhaps probing a bit to try and find out what exactly caused her to come the conclusion she came to about the situation- I took offense. I got angry with her for telling me something I did not want to hear.

 Long story short I continued to share way too much information with this person who was (in hindsight) not at all trustworthy. I will not weary you with all the particulars of the long-term consequences of my idiocy. I will tell you that to this day I am paying a price for snubbing the wisdom of my Mother-in-law.

 I recently found myself on the other end of a similar situation. It all started when I attempted to alert someone to some potential pitfalls I perceived in a particular situation. The person I tried to warn took obvious offense and assumed I was being critical rather than helpful. As soon as I realized I had caused offense I apologized and moved on.

 Finding myself on the receiving end of another’s offended-ness got me thinking about the whole issue of offense. Unless you have been living in a cave for the better part of the past decade you know that we live in a society full of people who are easily offended by pretty much everything.

 I recently read about a group of women who have decided it is a heinous form of cultural appropriation for white women to wear hoop earrings (yes, you read that correctly). These women have posted some utterly intriguing rants describing in vivid detail exactly how offended they are that white women wear hoop earrings.

 Seriously. You can Google it.

 One definition of offense is a feeling of displeasure that is caused by the words or actions of others. We all get offended from time-to-time, and sometimes our offense is justified. Some words and behaviors really are offensive and should not be tolerated. Nonetheless, living life in a perpetual state of offense is a spiritually dangerous thing to do for at least four reasons…

 Offense sets us up for deception-

 In Matthew 24 Jesus describes what life will look like prior to His second coming. Jesus predicted that as we near the end people will take offense at just about everything. Offense will lead to hate and betrayal. Out of all that hate, betrayal and offense, false teachers will arise and lead people away from truth. Jesus was doing more than giving as a vision of future events in this verse. He was providing insight into the very nature of offense. Offense (by it’s very nature) causes us to become heavily focused on feelings. When feelings are running the show we become unwilling and/or unable to comprehend truth that doesn’t line up with what our feelings are telling us. As a result we become sitting ducks for false teachers who tell us what we want to hear, rather than what we need to hear (2nd Timothy 4:3).

 Offense derails us from God’s mission for our lives-

 Most people do not drop out of church or ditch ministry activities because of big doctrinal disagreements, insurmountable scheduling conflicts or lack of time. Those are the excuses we use to drop out of church and ministry. Most folks drop out of church (and derail God’s plan for their lives in the process) due to some petty personal offense they simply refused to let go of.

 Offense produces bitterness-

 Offenses and insults that are not quickly forgiven and forgotten inevitably breed bitterness. Hebrews 12:15, teaches that bitterness is a choice, a choice that defiles and ultimately destroys those who give-in to it.

 Continually picking-up an offense is a sign of pride-

 Usually we become offended because someone tells us an unpleasant truth about ourselves or points out a fact we missed. It’s the height of pride to believe that we know so much that we never need to be taught, informed or redirected. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride comes before a fall. Those falls almost always occur because a warning went unheeded.

 Because offense causes us to become dangerously self-focused, we are never more open to pride, bitterness and self-deception than when we are offended. It is impossible to live in this world without becoming offended, but it is possible to assume the best about other people and to forgive quickly when we do become offended.