Four Ways God Works in an Age of Apostasy-

Our wrongdoings testify against us, Lord, act for the sake of Your name! Our apostasies have indeed been many. We have sinned against You– Jeremiah 14:7 NASB 

A couple of months ago I concluded that I had been spending way too much of my Bible reading time in a few New Testament books. 

It was time to broaden my horizons. 

So, I dusted off the books of 1st and 2nd Kings. The first few chapters of 1st Kings is mostly just palace intrigue. It covers the death of King David and the opportunistic scheming that occurred around his succession. The book reaches a high point early on with the installation of David’s son Solomon as his replacement. Solomon started strong with a heart for God. God blessed his efforts and Israel thrived economically and militarily under his leadership.  

It’s all kind of down-hill from there.

Solomon’s heart was lured away from God by his plethora of foreign wives. Despite his wisdom and worldly success, he was a dismal failure in all the ways that really matter. The Kingdom split following his death and both Israel and Judah wandered far from God.  Most of the rest of 1st Kings is just a glum recounting of one bad, evil, idolatrous king after another bad, evil, idolatrous king. The book gets slightly more interesting with the introduction of the prophet Elijah in 1st Kings 17 but then 2nd Kings devolves into a serious of weird and often disturbing stories that cover topics as diverse as floating ax heads and cannibalism. The weird stories are interspersed here and there with more recountings of more crappy kings. In chapter seventeen Israel falls and is taken captive by Syria. King Hezekiah begins ruling Judah in chapter eighteen. Hezekiah and Josiah were the last of Judah’s even halfway decent leaders. However, their leadership was not enough to keep the country from falling ever deeper into idolatry and ruin. King Nebuchadnezzar makes his first appearance in chapter twenty-four and that ushers in the Babylonian captivity and the end of Jewish sovereignty. 

Sigh. 

I was surprised by how depressed I was when I was finished reading the books. It wasn’t the first time I read either book. However, it was the first time either book hit me in such a soul-crushing kind of a way.  

Over time, I had a couple of realizations concerning the whole thing: first, the book of 1st Kings is just a glum summary of Israel’s protracted slide into apostasy and unbelief. 2nd Kings tells the story of how God worked in the lives of those who lived faithfully for God in that time.  The books hit me hard because we too are living in a season of apostasy. We don’t call it that, that of course, we call it “living in a post-Christian culture”, which sounds way nicer than “season of apostasy” but it’s the same thing. Whatever you call it, it sucks. It sucks living in a declining culture. It sucks watching the whole stupid world devolve into moral and intellectual chaos. It sucks seeing people degrade themselves with stupid ideas and even stupider behavior. It sucks watching people do everything possible to deny the reality of God. Most of all, it sucks feeling overwhelmed by the darkness and ugliness of a post-believing world. 

That being said. 

We are not without hope. We aren’t Israel and God hasn’t left the building (metaphorically speaking). He’s still on His throne and He is still working in the hearts of His people, which means He is still working in the greater culture. Revival could be just around the corner. In the meantime, following are four lessons I gleaned about living in a post-Christian culture from 1st and 2nd Kings.  

Community is critical in a post Christian world- 

In 1st and 2nd Kings God works most powerfully through little communities of prophets who banded together to support and encourage one another. Community, connection, partnership and close friendship is an ongoing theme throughout the book. The takeaway for contemporary believers is clear. The key to remaining spiritually strong and emotionally healthy while the world is literally going to hell around us is making Christian community a priority in our lives. 

When the going gets tough God shows off– 

All the depressing historical truths aside, one of the high points of both books is seeing God work among the believing remnant in 1st and 2nd Kings. From Mt. Caramel in 1st Kings 17 to the ax head incident in 2nd Kings. God showed His power and provided for His people in fresh new ways. We should have hearts of faith that expect Him to do the same in our time. 

 God works in surprising places in dark times- 

One key theme of both 1st and 2nd Kings is provision for both gentiles and gentile women (1st Kings 17:9-20, 2ndKings 4:1-37). Both books make it clear that when previously believing people turn their backs on God, He shows Himself in mighty and lifegiving ways to people groups we wouldn’t necessarily expect Him to work through.  We should expect a movement of God in unexpected places in the coming years. 

And finally: 

Relentless leaders bring hope and healing to graceless – 

Two bright spots in 2nd Kings are the records of Hezekiah and Josiah. Both men were tenacious leaders who had the insight to recognize the serious nature of times they lived in and the grit to do something about the problems at the root of Israel’s trouble: idolatry and the sinful practices that accompany idolatry (2nd Kings 18:1-6, 2nd Kings 23:1-24). Their steadfast leadership and determination to serve God wholeheartedly resulted in revival that kept judgment at bay. 

So. 

All that to say, one of the key takeaways from 1st and 2nd Kings is that God is always at work even in a post-Christian world that feels like it’s going to hell all around us.  Usually in ways we least expect. 

How Christians are Still Missing the Mark with Covid-19-

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you- Hosea 10:12 NASB 

Dear Readers, 

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

Thanks, 

Lisa Price 

Warning: this post begins with a weird personal story that will probably feel pointless to you the reader. It really does have a point. I promise. 

This week I did something that’s needed doing for a long time. It involves a houseplant I’ve had for about fifteen years. At one time the plant was truly beautiful. It was lush and green and it flourished.  People would comment on it all the time. However, in recent months this plant is looking horribly ratty and sad. The leaves that didn’t fall off turned a putrid shade of green, most of the vines were barren and the whole thing was just kind of wretched looking. 

In my humble opinion, a flourishing houseplant is aesthetically pleasing and it serves a useful purpose. Houseplants, especially this particular type of plant purify the air and that helps keep my family healthy.

I like that. A lot. 

However. This guy was obviously in trouble and not even marginally capable of doing what he was made to do. So, I pulled it out of its pot, broke up its root system and replaced the old soil with fresh soil. Then I cut off the vines that were no longer producing leaves and literally ripped what was left of them from the rest of the root system. Then I watered it really well and placed it in a location where it will get the optimal amount of sunlight for that type of plant. At this point whether the plant lives or dies is all kind of up to the plant. 

Sigh. 

As I was finishing up this task a couple of things occurred to me. First, I don’t know how much awareness a houseplant has but if they have any at all this one is probably convinced I’m a total butthead. The plant has no idea that that this was the only way to save it and possibly make it healthy again. Then it hit me that God kind of did the same thing to the church with COVID. Over the course of the last eighteen months God has stripped Christians of things that were familiar, like regular meetings, conferences, small groups and community events. Then He pruned it substantially and now He has put the church back in the culture again to do what the church is supposed to do.  We are missing the mark. Bigtime. 

Here’s why. 

 Approximately half the people who just read that last paragraph are convinced it means I think God wants all the vaccine holdouts to stop being selfish and get with the program. The other half are convinced I think Christians should stop being lazy and get busy holding the government accountable for the wickedness and stupidity that’s become endemic at all levels of government.  

Both groups are wrong. 

Truth-be-told we totally missed the whole spiritual point of COVID-19. Depending on one’s theological inclination (Calvinist or Arminian) God either caused COVID or He saw it coming and permitted it.  

Either way God had a hand in it. 

 COVID was meant to be a spiritual wake-up call to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. COVID-19 became a reality because we are a people who have gotten really good at denying, ignoring and blocking out the certainty of death (Hebrews 9:27). We have done this because we are blessed to live in a time when death is something that only happens to really old people living far from the rest of society in nursing homes. As a result, most of us tend to live for the now and never give any thought to what might happen after we die. COVID-19 forced us to think about our own mortality because people started dropping like flies.  God gave us/allowed COVID-19 because He wanted everyone to reflect on death and change their thinking about how to live life. 

We refused. 

Instead of contemplating the transience and fragility of life and turning to God in repentance, most people just got really scared of dying. They stayed scared and mindlessly tried to block out the reality that was right in front of them. It’s the reason why so many were so quick to accept the rather ludicrous premise that a virus might simply go away if enough people hid from it for long enough. No one wanted to face reality and frankly Christians and Church leaders did little to help. Some churches made fun of the fear.  Others embraced and even encouraged the fear (1st John 4:18). 

Here’s the thing.

It is not the churches job to spiritualize fear by intentionally or unintentionally encouraging and/or enabling neurotic and/or fearful behavior.  Nor is it the churches job to take on an attitude of false bravado or moral superiority because the people in the church have no fear of death that they are willing to admit. 

The church has one job. That’s it. One.

The churches one job is to point people to Jesus (Hebrews 9:27, John 13:34-35, 1st Peter 1:13-16).   Fear is natural when people are dying. We only die once, and people don’t routinely come back from the dead and explain the whole experience so we have no point of reference for what death will be like. The unknown is always scary.  Fear of death shouldn’t be ridiculed. Nor, should it be encouraged or coddled in any way. It is not A Christians job to push their personal opinion concerning matters of Christian liberty.  Nor is it the churches job to do battle with the government. The churches job is to point people back to spiritual reality. The churches job is to talk about judgment and death and life and how Jesus can bring us forgiveness and peace. A Christians job is to gently remind people that everyone dies and teach them how to do it well.  Our job is to be a sensible and loving voice of reason in a world of madness. 

Could we just back to our job? 

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

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

Dear Readers, 

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

Thanks, 

Lisa Price 

Now, this week’s post:

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

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

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

However.

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

We did this to ourselves. 

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

So, what is a Christian to do? 

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

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

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

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

God’s people should be the first to celebrate.  

Why Government Can’t Save Society and What Can-

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it- Hebrews 12:11 ESV

A couple of recent events have got me thinking about all manner of things. 

On March 29th a thirteen-year-old-boy believed to be brandishing a gun was shot by police at 3:00 a.m. in Chicago. Three weeks later a sixteen-year-old girl in Ohio was fatally shot by police as she stabbed another girl. These events are hardly outliers. Reports of minor children being killed either by other minors or by police officers attempting to keep minors from committing a crime have become a fairly routine occurrence.  

Many are quick to blame police and police tactics for these heartbreaking stories. Anytime a tragedy occurs involving a kid and cop a glut of Monday-morning quarterbacks crawl out of the metaphorical woodwork to second-guess prevailing police tactics and/or the character of the officer involved in the shooting. Others are eager to blame “society” for not caring more about the kids involved. Typically, the lack of care is attributed entirely to the child’s race, sex or socio-economic status. 

 Blaming either feels like the easy way out to me. 

 When we blame society for our problems what we are really doing is blaming the government. One of the more peculiar qualities of modern thought is the belief that government is the answer to all our problems.  We tend to forget that “the government” is a heartless, soulless, nebulous machine entirely lacking in human feeling, wisdom or insight. There are good people who work in government. I know some of them. However, the government is not emotionally nimble enough to view people as individuals. Neither is government capable of teaching good habits, imparting insight or training a child to put others first or think wisely about life. 

Neither is it fair to lay the blame for these situations at the feet of the police. Truth-be-told the police are not, nor were they ever intended to be anything other than the last line of defense between lawbreakers and law-abiding citizens. By the time a police officer is involved in a person’s life a long line of choices has been made that the officer had no control over. There are bad cops and everything possible should be done to weed them out of the ranks. However, most police are decent people who got into their line of work because they genuinely care about people and want to make the world a better place. 

The government or the police are not to blame when a sixteen-year-old girl feels stabbing someone is a reasonable response to her frustration or when a thirteen-year-old has access to a gun and the freedom to roam about at three a.m.

Seriously. 

That sort of thing is the fruit of a lifetime of crappy parenting (Proverbs 17:25, Proverbs 19:13). 

Somewhere over the course of the last couple of decades two equally bad but entirely different kinds of parents have emerged on the scene. The first sees their children as an extension of themselves and believes it their job to orchestrate and micromanage every aspect of their child’s existence. These parents would rather be gunned down than have their kids experience anything painful or difficult. Their greatest fear for their children is trauma.  They have bought into the lie that people are not resilient and that trauma will devastate them for life. Because all humans experience trauma and they are no different they see themselves as less than whole and want to prevent their own children from experiencing the same fate.  This group is responsible for raising the pearl-clutching millennials who scream “CANCEL” at any idea or opinion that makes them even vaguely uncomfortable.  

The other group tends to think that once a kid can feed and dress themselves their job is done. This group of parents typically did experience genuine trauma they never dealt with (Psalm 147:3). These parents tend to be self-involved to the point of being completely checked-out of their child’s life. These are the parents who say they can’t stop their thirteen-year-old from doing what they want to do and they’re right. They cannot get their teenagers to obey because they never took healthy authority over them as young children (Hebrews 12:14, Proverbs 5:23). 

There are no easy answers to systemic parenting problems in a culture. 

The government can’t help, the government is completely stumped by how many genders there are. They don’t have the wisdom or skills to lead people to better parenting choices. The police can’t help. Police are the last line of defense we slap on a problem before it gets completely out of hand. 

What our world needs is three-fold. First, Christians needs to make a regular practice of praying specifically for families. Parents of all income levels need the kind of wisdom that can only come from God. Second, Christian parents need to do their very best to get their own homes together so other parents start looking to the church for answers. And finally, churches need to get into the business of teaching parents outside of their own walls what love really looks like so they can lead their children well. 

5 Idiotic Things Our Culture Believes-


They sow the wind 
and they reap the whirlwind– Hosea 8:7a NASB

I had a bad week.

 It involved a kid, a Mom, and a deep-dive on the kid’s phone. For better or worse, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about kids and our culture. 

Jesus preserve us. 

Among other things, I learned the cultural junk kids and teens are marinating in is unlike anything previous generations had access to. It is far dumber, darker and much more dangerous. In short, the enemy is doing an effective job of using a toxic culture to lead kids to hell, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, most parents, even many Christian parents are entirely oblivious to what’s going on right under their noses with the phones and tablets they pay for. 

So, a couple of things:

First, it occurred to me that the spiritual and ethical issues Generation Z (kids born between 1997 and 2010) are grappling with did not occur in a vacuum. We are simply reaping what was sown into these kids. Second, the behaviors and attitudes of Generation Z are alive and well in most adults, even some Christians. Adults and especially adult Christians just do a better job hiding their dysfunction and moral decay. Finally, if we ever hope to change our culture Christians must change themselves first. Following are the five attitudes that are deeply entrenched in the hearts of our youth that Christians should work hard to root out of their own lives before it’s too late. 

First,

The key to happiness is found marketing oneself well-

All the social media accounts I looked at appeared to have been crafted by a professional marketer to promote a carefully-thought-out image. The photos were carefully chosen. The taglines tended to be subtly suggestive and well-worded. Everything went together. All the photos and taglines vibed into a fascinating aesthetic. All-the-while being mostly empty, frequently sexually suggestive and completely devoid of any actual meaning. Once I saw it, I was appalled by the smoothness and sliminess of it all. Then it dawned on me Christian influencers do the same thing these kids are doing. Furthermore, most of the stuff being produced by the Christian community has the same smoothly crafted quality (only less filthy). Sadly, Christian parents and Church leaders have inadvertently taught the younger generation to worry more about how things look than how they actually are. 

Sex is just sex-  

It is clear that some forms of sexual deviancy have become rather faddish among the under thirty crowd. Being bisexual, gay, trans or even just promiscuous is simply a part of an image people promote to the world now. This is the new normal because sex was effectively separated from intimacy and now sex is just a thing people do when they think they might like each other (Romans 1:24-27).  We are where we are because Gen Xers and Boomers did the job of separating sex from marriage. Millennials took it a step further and removed sex from emotional commitment. Generation Z has taken the whole course to its logical conclusion and detached sex from feelings. Now sex is officially meaningless. Sigh. 

Self is the ultimate arbitrator of right and wrong-

Right and wrong is no longer something most people debate, because most people have concluded morals don’t exist or are silly. Morals have become an antiquated novelty, like telephones with cords that stay connected to a wall. This started when we began teaching that feelings were more important than facts. It was a small hop to “my feelings are the ultimate decider of right and wrong in every situation”. Without an actual standard of right and wrong life has become chaotic and everyone literally does what is right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

If God is real He exists as a tool to be used- 

The name it and claim it movement is to blame for this one. A lot of young people, as well as a number of not-so-young people tend to see God as a tool to be used to get what they want rather than an eternal, far-superior, immortal being who is to be loved, feared and obeyed (Proverbs 1:7, Deuteronomy 10:12). 

Life is about NOW- 

We live in a strange dichotomy. COVID-19 has proven that many are scared spitless of dying, we are still mainly on lockdown because of a mostly irrational fear of death from Coronavirus.  However, few seem to worry about what will happen to them after they die. This has led to a rather peculiar reality where people want to grasp at experiences that bring immediate pleasure but do not want to think about the possible eternal consequences of choosing those experiences over a different kind of life (Jeremiah 17:4). The church is not exempt from this thinking. Many Christians have chosen to forget God still judges sin so they sin and don’t think anything at all of the eternal consequences doing so (1st Corinthians 6:9, Galatians 5:20-22). 

None of these beliefs materialized out of thin air. Kids today believe what they believe about life and God because they have seen a lighter, slightly less ugly version of the same belief system modeled in the previous generations. The only real answer to the problems this has created is for those of us who do know God to pray for self-awareness and then to repent of any sin God reveals in our lives. 

Confessions of A Recovering Control Freak-

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 17:9-10

I am a recovering control freak.

 I am convinced some of my issues with control are partly due to the personality I was born with. My Mother was fond of reminding me that my first word was “no” and that word was quickly followed by my first complete sentence: “I will do it myself”. I am no expert in the field of child psychology, but I’m pretty sure that story indicates I was born with a strong desire to be in complete control of just about everything (Psalm 51:5).

 As I got older I became quite philosophical where it comes to the issue of control. It hit me in my late thirties (I’m a slow learner) that control in this life is nothing more than an illusion.  One can have all the resources in the world, make nothing but the very best choices and get all of their ducks in a nice neat little row. A single storm can come along, wipe away all those good choices and decimate all the poor little ducks all in the course of a single day (Job 1:1-22).

However.

 This last week was such a dumpster-fire that I wanted to throw all the spiritual and philosophical lessons I have learned about life, control and trusting God out the window. I was seriously tempted to cross out the recovering in the first sentence of this blog and boldly own my desire to control the whole stupid world.

 Just a few of the things outside of my power to control that I would dearly love to control include the presidential elections, the spread of coronavirus, and the downward spiral of our society. On top of all those “global” issues I am wrestling with some serious family problems that show no signs of ever going away.

 Sigh.   

 Just as I was preparing to jump into control-freak mode the Holy Spirit gently reminded me there are wiser and more productive ways to deal with life. Wisdom concerning this issue begins with recognizing and owning the following four truths:

 There are things in life that cannot be fixed or even managed-

 Because life is better and easier now than at any other time in human history, many Christians believe there is a solution for every problem in, or an easy button that will magically empower us to manage all of life’s problems without any stress or struggle. There’s not.  Unfortunately, Christians and non-Christians alike encounter all sorts of things in life that cannot be managed or fixed, like stupidity and evil. When we encounter those things, we must walk by faith and trust God to use stupid and evil things for His purposes and our growth (Hebrews 11:1-2, Romans 8:28)

 Just because we can control something doesn’t mean we should-

 Anytime I have attempted to control a person or an outcome without clear direction from God I have made a flaming-hot mess out of that situation.  It’s important to remember that when we attempt to control things we have no business controlling we are essentially declaring with our actions that we do not really believe God is good or that He should be sovereign over people or outcomes. I am not advocating that Christians take on a “what will be will be” attitude towards life. I do believe there are times when we should proactively deal with issues but never without God’s clear direction and a really well thought out plan. 

 The only person you can really control is yourself-

 Okay, so this is so basic and so obviously true there is no need to elaborate further.

Control breeds anxiety-

 This point is full of paradoxes but it’s true. Taking control of situations that feel out of control ought to give us peace and quash our anxiety. Nonetheless, control freaks, even Christian control freaks are typically the most anxiety-ridden people on the planet.  This is because Christians are commanded to trust God (Psalm 37:4-6, Psalm 32:10, Psalm 139:23-24, Proverbs 3:5-6) and control is the antithesis of trust.  God is a respecter of our free will. When we choose to take control of anything other than ourselves God takes His hand off the wheel (metaphorically speaking) and lets us have our way. The anxiety we feel when we are the one “in complete control” is a direct result of spiritual disobedience and our foolhardy attempts to do something we will never be able to do. Letting go of the illusion we have control is one key to getting free from the bondage of anxiety.

 Prayer is the answer to the conundrum of control. Every single time we pray about an issue we do two things. First, we loudly declare that we NEED wisdom (James 1:5).  Prayer is admitting to ourselves and God that we don’t know everything there is to know and that we cannot make life work with our own idiotic efforts to control. Secondly, we go directly to the source of wisdom, knowledge and power to get the help we need to manage life (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 2:6, Proverbs 3:19).

 This makes way more sense than the other alternatives.

 

 

Attitudes and Behaviors that Totally Squash Spiritual Growth-

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

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

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

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

 Sigh.

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

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

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

 We don’t seek wisdom or ask for advice-

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

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

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

 We refuse to deal with our weakness-

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

 We aren’t discerning when it comes to doctrine-

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

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

 

 

The Wrong Way to Handle a Celebrity Conversion-

 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Kanye West shocked pretty much everyone in the Christian and secular world when he “came out” as a born-again believer in Jesus Christ. A week later he released a Christian album entitled Jesus is King. In the six weeks or so since his big reveal he has spoken out about his new-found faith on late night television, on at least one news program, appeared at numerous Christian events and was interviewed by Joel Osteen at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston Texas. 

A few weeks back one of our older daughters asked me what I thought about Kanye’s conversion to Christianity.  She wanted to know if I thought it was the real deal and if I believed it would last. 

It’s tempting to lie but I won’t. 

My initial (admittedly sinful) inclination was to list in grim detail all the celebrities over the course of my lifetime who have made “heartfelt” commitments to Jesus only to break those commitments in a spectacularly horrifying fashion that ultimately brought incalculable shame to Jesus. I was also tempted to bring up all of the “celebrity” Christians who have presented themselves to the world as Christian role models and then proceeded to live like heathens before they finally “came out” as unbelievers. 

I get that this confession makes me sound like an awful person and an even more awful Christian. In my defense (which I admit is pathetically weak), I am not the only Christian who has been a bit skeptical of Kayne’s conversion story. The internet has been buzzing with opinions (many of them negative) on this subject.

The good news is that before I had a chance to open my stupid pie-hole and spout-off my rather self-righteous opinion on the subject the Holy Spirit caught me up short. In the space of about ten seconds God reminded me in a not-so-gentle way that people can change and I am living proof of that fact. 

Sigh.  

So, all this begs the question. How should a Christian respond to the news that an unlikely person has made a commitment to Jesus? I believe we should respond in four ways anytime anyone makes a commitment to Jesus. 

In faith-

As believers in Jesus we should have the faith to believe that God has the power to change anyone He really wants to change. If we believe in the gospel we also have to believe that God really can change people, even people we see as unlikely candidates for change (2nd Corinthians 3:18). The Bible is packed with examples of people who most of us would have written off as utterly hopeless (Acts 9). It’s critical we remember that without faith in God’s ability to do what He says He can do it is literally impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

With prayer-

This is a tough a time to be a Christian and it is likely that things will get worse before they get better. The struggles Christians experience are mostly spiritual in nature (Ephesians 6:12-18). Because our struggles are mostly spiritual, prayer is the most powerful thing one Christian can do for another Christian. This is especially true for new Christians who have never experienced difficulty or persecution. Our prayers really will make a difference in how well they walk out their commitment to Christ.  

With a sense of awe and wonder-

Every conversion is literally a miracle and the second we lose sight of that fact we lose sight of what it means to be a Christian. All human beings (even the really nice ones) have hearts that are hard, indifferent and even hostile toward God. When someone submits their life to Jesus Christ and repents of their sin God changes their heart (Ezekiel 36:26). This begins a process that eventually transforms them into an entirely new creation with a whole new set of priorities and desires (2nd Corinthians 5:17). It doesn’t get any more miraculous than that. 

With understanding-

Baby Christians are, more often than not, flaming-hot-messes, practically speaking. They do things they shouldn’t do, say things they shouldn’t say, their motivations tend to be all over the map and they can be oddly judgmental for people who clearly don’t get what Christianity is supposed to “look like”.  It is the job of more mature believers to prove their maturity by being there in practical ways for new believers. This means treating them with grace and mercy as they maneuver through the always challenging process of maturing in Christ (Philippians 2:12). 

Jesus’ came to earth to transform sinful, pigheaded, foolish people into something better than we could ever be in our own power (2nd Corinthians 3:17-18).  All too often Christians (especially Christians who have been Christians for a long time) forget that God changed us and that He is still very much in the business of transforming messy people into messages of His grace, truth and love.

Protecting Kids from a Toxic Culture-


Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea~ Mark 9:42 ESV

The God of the Universe is firmly in control of all things.

There are cultural trends that should frighten Christians out of our complacency and motivate us to act on behalf of the most innocent in our culture. 

One such trend is taking place in schools and libraries. Educators are doing a-run-around on parents and introducing very young children to sexual concepts far beyond their ability to process. This has already created a great deal of confusion in the hearts and minds of a lot of precious  little humans (Matthew 18:6) and the problem is growing.  Cultures reap what they sow as surely as individuals do. If this culture continues to embrace these trends I predict our culture will reap some ugly consequences (Galatians 6:7-8). 

In the 1990’s, educators began reading books like Heather Has Two Mommies and A Tale of Two Daddies to kindergarten and preschool age children. Concerned citizens were assured that this would guarantee children from nontraditional families would feel accepted and represented in their classrooms.

The culture politely acquiesced to the all-knowing educators.  

 It is possible that discussing these undeniably adult issues with impressionable little children began out of noble motives. However, the decision to go down that road has led to a place few people would have imagined. Kids are having their natural modesty broken down and  being set-up to be groomed by pedophiles. Tax dollars are being spent to promote the absurd notion that gender is a choice first-graders should get to make. Children are being taught that there are dozens of different genders and they get to choose whichever one they want. Queer Story Hour is a thing (google it) and “transitioned” boys are dominating girls’ sports. Children are with or without their parents blessing being chemically and sometimes even surgically “transitioned” to a gender other than their biological gender.  

It’s not just the littles being targeted: sex education for adolescents began as a means of preventing teenage pregnancy.  Sadly, most sex education has morphed into dispensing the kind of salacious information that would make a professional sex worker blush. 

Parents and grandparents ought to care deeply about this issue because parenting is how we pass on our values to and have a positive impact on future generations. Parenting is also the greatest opportunity the average person will have to fulfill the great commission (Psalm 127:4-5, Matthew 28:16-20).  Therefore, Satan routinely uses the culture to lead people away from the biblical truth they were raised with (Ephesians 6:11, 1st Peter 5:8).                    

That said, this is not strictly a parenting issue. It is a cultural issue and because we are all human we ought to care deeply about where this is going. There are four things Christians can and should do to combat this trend:  

Consider an alternative to public education- 

The public education system has become a battlefield for the hearts and minds of children. Unfortunately, common sense and conservative values have lost more battles than they have won in recent years.  It might be time for parents to simply consider retreating from the system altogether.  I understand that this is not an option for some families. If it’s not, do the next best thing: talk to your kids, request conservative teachers if possible and be a presence at your child’s school.  That said, every Christian family should prayerfully consider home school, private Christian school, or an academics-centered charter school. If you do not have children at home but have the means, consider donating to an underfunded (they’re all underfunded) Christian school or consider providing a scholarship or two so a Christian kid can obtain a Christian education. 

Use the power you do have- 

Investigate what is going on in schools and libraries in your community.  If kids are being introduced to sexual themes prematurely take a stand where it really matters. Publicly-funded institutions should be informed that taxpayers will be voting “no” on upcoming bond-levies if such policies remain in place.  If enough people do this it will attract attention. Public institutions are dependent on tax dollars for their survival. 

Teach truth (Titus 2:7)- 

Children need to be taught from an early age that their gender, whatever it may be is a good, beautiful God-ordained thing that should be celebrated (Genesis 1:27). Kids need to know that men and women both reflect God’s image in unique ways and that there is nothing inherently wrong with being either male or female.  They also need to understand that gender is not something that can be altered. No matter what their teacher or local librarian tells them. 

Pray-

Seriously. Pray. Civilization as we know it is literally hanging in the balance.

It is no longer okay for parents and grandparents to sit idly by while the school system calls the shots with kids hearts and minds of the next generation. Parents must become participants in the education of their children. If we don’t  we will forfeit the next generation. 

 

Four Reasons Why God’s Rules Still Matter

Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world~ 1st Peter 2:12 NLT 

Heresy is a just a fancy-pants theological term for the act of departing from a pattern of sound biblical teaching (1st Timothy 6:20-21, 2nd Timothy 1:13, 2nd Timothy 4:3). 

Sometimes heresy takes the form of some seriously insane theories about God. 

 There were once Christians who believed that Jesus was simply a human being who was formally adopted by God at his conception. Once the adoption was “finalized” he developed a divine (God) nature while growing in Mary’s womb (Adoptionism). Other early believers were convinced Jesus was a phantom who didn’t leave footprints when He walked rather than a flesh and blood person (Gnosticism). For nearly a thousand years some “Christians” believed people are born without a sin nature and are capable of living a holy life apart from Jesus and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit (Pelagianism).  

Most heresies are not wholesale lies about God or crazy misinterpretations of Scripture. Most heresies are more like tiny kernels of truth wrapped-up in half-truths and weird errors.  There are two such heresies deeply rooted in our contemporary Christian culture. The first is legalism. Legalists believe they can earn God’s favor by doing the right things and obeying the right rules. 

It is true that God really cares about our behavior (more on that later). However, legalists would do well to remember that even the best-behaved person in the world cannot save themselves from their own sin (Ephesians 2:8, 2nd Timothy 1:9, Hebrews 10:39). Legalism sidetracks Christians from relationship with Christ by placing the emphasis on what we can do for ourselves rather on what Jesus did for us. Perhaps, the biggest drawback to legalism is that it falsely paints God as demanding, callous and impossible to please. This can lead legalists to feel discouraged and resentful towards God. This can lead to hopelessness and eventually even a departure from the faith.

On the other end of the doctrinal spectrum are those who believe there are no rules and that behavior is a nonissue for Christians. These folks think that once a person is saved there is nothing they can do or not do to offend God. Christians who have intentionally or unintentionally adopted this view do not worry seriously about the effects sin, even deliberate, premeditated sin. Adherents to this view are growing in number and having an enormous impact on the Christian culture. 

The truth is that our behavior does matter but not because it saves us, or makes God like us more. Correct behavior and following the rules matter for four reasons:

Righteous behavior protects us from moral failure- 

Ephesians 6:14 instructs Christians in a metaphorical sense to put on the “breastplate of righteousness”.  The primary purpose of a breastplate in Roman body armor was to protect the soldier’s heart from injury. In Proverbs 4:23 the writer instructs readers to “guard your heart because everything you do flows from it”. Behaving in a way that is righteous (avoiding sin and questionable behavior) protects us from all sorts of pitfalls and potential disasters. For example, going out of your way to avoid pornography protects against addiction, the sin of lust and at least a dozen other really ugly sins. Avoiding people who gossip ensures that you will not become a slanderer (Psalm 15:1-3) and if you never drink alcohol you will never become an alcoholic.  

When Christians behave virtuously non-Christians have the opportunity to experience something the Bible calls conviction-

Perhaps the most critical reason to avoid sin and to behave righteously is because when we do the people around us have a model of good behavior to follow. Sometimes our good behavior even leads sinners to feel guilt or conviction over their bad behavior (1st Peter 3:13-16). Conviction often leads to repentance. 

Christians are commanded to avoid certain behaviors and sins-

The New Testament gives a series of “sin lists” addressed to Christians (Mark 7:21-22, 1st Corinthians 5:10-11, 1st Corinthians 6:9-11, 1st Timothy 1:8-11, Colossians 3:5-8, Galatians 5:19-21). Most of those lists are predicated with or followed by the caution that people who routinely practice the sins listed will not “inherit the kingdom of God”.  In my view it is reasonable to question the salvation of any “Christian” who does not take these warnings to heart. 

Bad behavior causes Christians to lose their moral authority-  

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when most people (saved or unsaved) looked to the church for moral direction and spiritual guidance. However, allegations of fraud, sex abuse scandals, infidelity and wholesale hypocrisy amongst clergy and laypeople alike have stripped the church and the people in it of any moral authority they were once blessed with. Now our culture is swimming in moral chaos and thanks to the sinful antics of Christians over the last forty years no one is looking to the one source that truly has the answers to our problems: the church. 

God loves people so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to save people from their sin (John 3:16). His love doesn’t end there though. God also loved us enough to give us moral boundaries to keep us from going off the rails after we come to know Jesus. It’s up to us to stay within those boundaries.