Is America a Bad Country?

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit- Matthew 7:16-17 NASB

 The “America is a bad country” movement picked up momentum in the 1960’s and 70’s in elite universities. Its message now permeates every strata of society and impacts the way Americans see themselves and their country.

 The movement denounces America for being a “Christian” nation that began by forcefully removing indigenous people (Native Americans) from land that rightfully belonged to them. They make the point that despite being a country established on the principle of all men being created equal, early Americans built much of their wealth and prosperity on the backs of enslaved Africans and denied women the right to vote for well over a century. Even after Africans were freed from slavery their decedents were still held in bondage by the prejudice and hate of their fellow Americans. In 1845 the idea of “Manifest Destiny” took root in the American consciousness and Native Americans once again became victims of nationalistic greed and ambition. Critics argue America has a rather sordid history of going to war for the sole purpose of furthering regime changes that mostly benefit America.   

 This is true.  

 But does this make America an inherently bad country?

Many believe it does. It is popular to proclaim America an evil imperialistic country that systematically represses women and people of color. Millions are demanding law enforcement be “reimagined” and “defunded” claiming systemic racism and abuse are standard-operating-procedure for police in America. Countless people are persuaded only the rich and white are given opportunities for advancement and demand an end to our capitalistic economic system.

That said. 

  It is also true America is an extraordinarily diverse country. A quick look at any American Olympic sports team demonstrates my point beautifully. Every team has people of every color. All are equally American and equally celebrated by all Americans. With a few ugly exceptions individual Americans have warmly welcomed immigrants from every race into their country and personal lives. Individuals from all religions and races still sincerely believe they will be treated fairly and have opportunities for advancement in America they would not have in their country of origin. If this were not true there would be no immigration laws because no one would be coming here. It is also true that America is the most generous country on earth. Anytime there is a natural disaster or human tragedy anywhere in the world Americans are the first to open their wallets and provide for those in need regardless of the color of the people impacted by said tragedy. America is also a country that goes out of its way to right moral wrongs once wrongs are exposed. The American government has passed laws that criminalize discrimination and spent millions creating opportunities for women and minorities to become successful.  America is one of the few places on earth where an individual can move beyond the station they were born into. Even in most European countries people tend to stay in the economic and social class they were born into. In America hard work and education are greater equalizers than race or family of origin. This is not true everywhere.

 Countries are really just big bunches of people; therefore, no country is perfect, including America.  Smart people recognize every human on this planet has ancestors who were slaves and enslaved others. Nor has there ever been a place where all people were given equal treatment and equal opportunity all the time. Sin, evil and inequity are part of the human condition. Christians should never simply accept evil and injustice.  Neither, should we pretend that some races and nations are inherently more moral than others.

 There is a powerful minority who wants to tear America down and build a new nation based on their peculiar vision of fairness and equality. They are on the precipice of having their vision realized.

 Seriously.  

 It is critical we understand any new country that rises out of the ashes of this one will likely not be an improvement. It is practically a given it will be less fair, less prosperous, less kind, less forgiving, less accepting of strangers and less generous. Any nation shaped by the hopes and dreams of those burning down our cities will quickly devolve into “might makes right” and the masses will become victims of their tyranny.

 As we look forward to Fourth of July celebrations this week, we should be asking ourselves: where do we go from here?  Do we passively allow an obnoxious minority to destroy a way of life that has benefited countless people? Or do we find ways to make our country better?

 Making America better begins with making intercession for the people of this country and our leaders a priority.  There are five months until the next election. Every day is critical, not a day should pass without every Christian imploring the Lord for a spirit of wisdom, repentance and righteousness to prevail in the hearts of all people. 

 James 2:20 tells us faith without works is a pointless waste of time. Every Christian should vote this year, if you are not registered, do it now.  No Christian should waste a vote on any politician who passively or actively supports the kind of anarchy that has become routine in our major cities. Historically anarchy has always led to tyranny and evil—not freedom, spiritual healing or moral and economic blessing.  Christians must examine themselves and beg God to root out bigotry, sin, injustice and evil, so that God will bless our land. Our country needs heart change. It is our sacred duty to pray and labor until we see change.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Satan’s Diary- June 21st 2020

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes- Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV

Dear Diary,

 Life is GOOD!

 I just finished perusing second quarter reports. I literally could not be more PLEASED. I will not bore you with all the glorious details but that stupid planet is a magnificent mess.

 Seriously.

  The humans who have rejected God and biblical truth are rapidly losing touch with reality. They have bought into the lie that evil is good and good is evil. Ideas and behaviors that were once considered immoral and dangerous to society are now considered to be mainstream and even healthy. Millions have been damaged, some irreparably, by the lies that have been adopted as truth. Hate, violence and looting have taken root in cities all over the world. It’s all happening in the name creating a more peaceful, just and fair society!  People who ought to know better are fully deceived into thinking hate and destruction is acceptable because it’s being done for the “right” reasons.  Those not deceived are too panic-stricken by the mere thought of being labeled intolerant or racist to say anything about anything.

 YES!

 Decades ago, I began cleverly convincing parents that discipling their children was futile and mean. I made them think any kind of correction or disapproval would stifle their child’s creativity and damage their self-esteem. With the assistance of exquisitely misguided “child-rearing professionals” I encouraged parents to allow their children to do whatever felt good to them. Because children are little-tiny sinners it felt really good for them to mindlessly express rage anytime their feelings were hurt, something was unfair or they didn’t get their way. My hard work has paid off. That generation is now fully grown and the outcome is beyond beautiful. Those “adults” have zero self-control and even less sense.  They want society to bow to their infantile and feebly thought-out demands. Full-grown adults scream, blubber and destroy property until someone finally caves. Politicians are just as terrified of their tantrums as their parents were. They are being given everything they want in hopes they will eventually just quiet down and play nice.

 As if.

 However, it’s the Christian community I am most pleased with right now. I have spent decades convincing Christian pastors and leaders that being popular, tolerant and “cool” is the key to effective evangelism. Most Christians are so used to hopping onto every inane, secular bandwagon that they have been sucked into endorsing a organization that promotes evil, unforgiveness and hatred. They are sanctioning sinful ideas in the name of loving their neighbor and repairing race relations!  Christian leaders are too afraid of being disliked to tell anyone Jesus is the only way to bring peace and healing to fractured hearts and lives.  No one is calling anyone to repentance or to forgive their enemies. Those fools have all but forgotten forgiveness is the only cure for bitterness.

 My greatest triumph has been in the area of prayer.

 I have worked hard to convince Christians prayer is a dreary waste of time. It is paying off. Now Christian leaders read books and strategize rather than praying for wisdom. Regular church attenders have followed suit.  Old people are the only ones who attend prayer meetings. Most of prayer the warriors are dead or will be soon and most younger Christians don’t even know how to pray. Others believe that if God doesn’t give them what they want when they ask for it He is being callous and unjust.  So, they give up, they just stop. Apparently, none of those fools have read Luke 18:1-8. Some have even turned their backs on God because He had the nerve to tell them “no” to a request. 

 OUTSTANDING.

 Most Christians don’t think Ephesians 6:10-17 applies to them so they don’t ask God to show them truth about themselves, God and other people. So, I use lies to keep them in bondage to sin, unbelief and suspicion of others. Many are so distrustful of their fellow Christians they do everything possible to avoid meaningful relationships with other Christians, this ensures they have no accountability in their lives and therefore never move beyond spiritual infancy. I have skillfully convinced Christians that righteous behavior is legalistic and unnecessary for Christians. They don’t ask God to empower them to live by biblical standards. As a result their hearts become defiled by sin. This is a beautiful thing because makes them unfit for spiritual work AND they are unable to see life the way God sees life. Their lack of insight and wisdom leads to more sin which leads to more bondage.   They don’t ask God to give opportunities to evangelize so they are to fearful to speak up and they remain silent when opportunities do present themselves. They don’t ask for faith so they live in fear. Because they lack faith they consistently rely on worldly methods to achieve spiritual ends and fail every time. Christians don’t pray for each other so they don’t experience the community that develops when they routinely pray for other Christians.

 WINNING!

 Life will stay good until those fools start praying like they mean it.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Advice for Christians Living in a Crazy World-

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others- Philippians 2:3-4 NASB

 It was another crazy week in a world gone mad:  

 Protesters and looters are still doing their thing. Politicians on the left have fallen all over themselves applauding their thing. Politicians on the right don’t seem to be doing much of anything. Cities are on fire. Churches are shuttered. Schools are closed. Business are shutdown or operating at partial capacity. Health care officials have thrown their support behind BLM protesters despite earlier insistence that EVERYONE should follow all social distancing guidelines at ALL TIMES. Then just when it felt as if we had finally reached the apex of violence, hypocrisy and absurdity people began suggesting in all seriousness that cities defund police departments. A few days after that discussion began in earnest protesters took over a large section of the Capitol Hill area in downtown Seattle and declared it the “capitol hill autonomous zone” otherwise known as CHAZ.

 Sigh.

 This blogpost isn’t about any of that. I briefly contemplated sharing some thoughts on defunding the police. Then I remembered society has been divided into two groups. The first consists of people who don’t need to be told defunding the police is the worst idea since well ever. The second consists of people who don’t read this blog. Needless to say, that topic was quickly tabled. Instead, I want share some thoughts I have had on how we, as followers of Jesus can live life, respond to the growing madness and behave in ways that are redemptive, wise and healing in times that seem determined to test us all. This is no easy task. It takes a blend of constant self-examination and prayerful action. The following five ideas are a place to start:

 Shut your pie hole till you have something helpful and lifegiving to say-

 No one loves a snarky, antagonistic meme more than I do. Nonetheless, this is not the time for that. Nor is it the time to argue stridently for perspectives we haven’t considered all sides of. Our world needs healers and truth-tellers not firebrands who passionately scream half-baked ideas at the sky. Christians must get in the habit of seeking out as many well-thought-out opinions as possible from as many wise, humble, God-fearing people as possible (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 19:20, Proverbs 24:6).  Before we actually share our thoughts, we should study, pray and be certain our thinking aligns with the Bible rather than the current culture. There are no words for how much I appreciate every reader of this blog. It humbles me to think that anyone would seek my views on anything. That said, I sincerely hope I am not anyone’s only source of information on any issue. There really is wisdom in an abundance of counselors.

 Pick the side Jesus would pick-

 Here’s the thing. Jesus was on the side of the weak and marginalized but He was also on the side of obedience to authority structures (Mark 12:40, Matthew 18:6, Mark 12:15-17, John 4, John 8:1-11). He loved all races enough to die for them (Matthew 15:22-28, Matthew 8:8-13, John 10:16). And He loved the sick and hurting every bit as much as He loved the rich and those in positions of authority (John 3:1-2, Matthew 8:16, Matthew 9:12). We live in a time where placing dividing lines between people has become standard-operating-procedure. Christians can’t do that.  Jesus taught that our greatest need as people is not to have our “side” validated but to have our souls saved. This truth must be the driving force behind our interactions with all people of all races.  

 Grow up-

 I am working together with a small group of smart people to establish a discipleship program in our church. This has got me thinking about what it means to be a mature Christian. I have concluded spiritual maturity is less about what we know in terms of academic knowledge (although knowledge is critically important) and more about BEING in Jesus and modeling our lives after His. Jesus modeled self-sacrifice and putting the needs of others first. Therefore, our religion is not truly Christian if our life becomes hyper-focused on having our individual desires catered too. Being a mature Christian at this period of history means we must seek to glorify Jesus first and look out for the greater good of others second. Our own preferences must come a distant third.

 Find balance between being an encourager and a truth-teller-

 Christians should be encouragers (1st Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 3:13). God’s will is for every person to become a better, healthier version of themselves. Everyone needs human encouragement to get to where God wants them to be. However, it is equally as important we tell people the truth. This means that we should never encourage sinful thinking or behavior (as defined by Scripture) in the name of making people feel good about themselves or their choices.

 Be careful about jumping on popular bandwagons-

 PLEASE. Just because an organization believes one thing that is true it does not mean it’s a group Jesus would endorse or involve Himself in.  For the love of all that is good and decent at the very least do a sixty second google search and read the organizations statement of beliefs before adding its hashtag to your newest social media post. 

 We are blessed to live in scary times. They are unlike any I have experienced in my lifetime. We are blessed because God has historically done His best work in the darkest of times.  It is our responsibility as believers to align ourselves with Him in everything so we can be the redemptive presence our world desperately needs right now. 

 

Five Paradigm Shifts Every Christian Must Have to Navigate a Post COVID-19 World-

Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith- Hebrews 12:1b NASB

 I do not know everything there is to know about everything. However, there is one thing I do know for absolute certain, God never stops calling Christians to a higher level of functioning in every corner of their lives (2nd Peter 1:4-11, Philippians 3:12-14). God wants His people to move beyond the inclination we all have to live for our own pleasure into a level of existence that glorifies Him and blesses others. The topsy-turvy post COVID-19 world we live in makes obedience to this call even more critical. This is a time for believers everywhere to become radically focused on living out biblical truth and bringing others into relationship with Jesus. One positive benefit to the kind of civil and social upheaval we have recently experienced is it causes non-Christians to begin searching for answers to life’s biggest questions. We must endeavor to live at a higher level so that we can give those answers and lead people to Jesus. Living differently begins with the five following shifts in how we think about life and spiritual truth:

 Fear should never be denied or indulged it must be dealt with-

 No one can help anyone else when fear is the driving force in their lives. Furthermore, we cannot deal with anything we deny and we will never overcome anything we indulge.  If you fear dying from COVID-19 deal with it. If you fear persecution deal with it. If you fear government infringement on your rights, deal with it.  We overcome our fears by facing them head on and taking them to God in prayer until the fear subsides and we feel at peace with whatever situation we find ourselves in (Isaiah 41:10). 

 We are no longer the majority and most people do not think like we do-

 We live in a post-Christian world. This means Christians are perceived as irrelevant to the greater culture. The average non-Christian no longer processes life or their moral choices through the grid of Christian truth, Christian ethics and Christian standards. What the Bible says or doesn’t say about issues is utterly meaningless for most people. On a practical level this means becoming angry at people for not thinking like you do is a pointless waste of time that will only alienate them further from God.  We must look for ways to lovingly and logically explain to friends, neighbors and co-workers not just what we believe about God and life but why we believe those things (1st Peter 3:15).

 Life is about more than amusement-

 Recently, I overheard one Christian bragging to another about all the Netflix they had consumed over the course of the quarantine. The other Christian immediately began boasting about how many hours they were spending every day playing video games. Netflix, video games and other forms of entertainment are not inherently sinful. There is nothing wrong with decompressing with a little T.V. time or a good novel.  However, the wrong kind of entertainment dulls our spiritual senses and normalizes sinful behavior. The more time we spend simply amusing ourselves with pointless twaddle the less time we will have for activities that facilitate growth. Continuous intellectual, moral and spiritual growth is the only path to a higher level of functioning and sanctification (Hebrews 12:14).

 Nationalism must be put into perspective-

 There is zero shame in nationalistic pride. Every time I travel to another country I return to my own with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.  That said, baby Jesus was not born with a copy of the Constitution in His hand and the Bill of Rights is not the same as the Bible. Christians should value the “rights” we have and work to preserve those rights because they have freed millions from tyranny and elevated human dignity.  However, it’s critical we remember our founding documents are really just societal constructs. They are not real in the same way Scripture is real. Our founding documents can only be enforced if the vast majority of people in our society believe them to be true and agree to abide by them. The Bible is real and true even if no one believes it or obeys it because it is the word of God not created by man (John 1:1, 2nd Timothy 3:16).  If our “rights” are lost because our culture is too stupid to value the wisdom of our founders we should grieve the loss but we cannot allow it to shake our faith in Gods goodness (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13-15).

 We must learn the difference between a personal preference and a biblical command-

 Most Christians are egocentric and spoiled when it comes to their personal preferences. Many Christians have convinced themselves it is immoral for the government to ask them to do anything they don’t WANT to do (Romans 13:1-3, 1st Peter 2:13, Titus 3:1), even if what is being asked is not forbidden in Scripture. There will undoubtedly come a day when Christians will be forced to draw lines about what they will and won’t do because they will be asked to violate clear biblical commands (Exodus 20:3, Acts 5:29, 1st Peter 4:12-19, Revelation 13:17, Revelation 20:4). In the meantime, we must choose our battles wisely.

  It is critical at this juncture we stop focusing on the rights we feel we have. Instead we must focus on the responsibilities we really do have to grow in our faith, lead others to Jesus and honor and glorify God.

 

 

 

 

Could God be Attempting to Correct Us?

 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account- Hebrews 4:13 NIV

Coronavirus is generating tremendous chaos throughout the world. Not since God put the kibosh on the Babel building project have so many individuals been so greatly affected by a singular event (Genesis 11:1-11).

People are anxious and going to pieces in ways rarely seen in our modern age.  Full-grown adults are fighting over toilet paper and tuna fish with no outward indications of shame. People are openly aggressive towards anyone who sniffles in a public place.  An Arizona man died from ingesting fish tank cleaner because he believed it would protect him from Coronavirus. Economists warn of impending doom if economies don’t return to some semblance of normal soon and yet some leaders are advocating quarantine orders be enforced for six months to a year. 

Some of the fear connected to Coronavirus is reasonable and even wise. Coronavirus is dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health problems, it is also highly contagious. Large groups of people get it all at once and it overwhelms healthcare systems. That being said, some of the fear is clearly out of bounds with the level of danger. There are seven-billion people on earth, 33,841 people have died from Coronavirus. That number is relatively small in comparison to the world population. Please don’t misunderstand, none of the people who died from this awful virus were insignificant or unimportant. They were all real people with stories, each was loved by someone and all were image-bearers of God. The loss of an image bearer is always a tragic event. That said, it could be argued that locking down the whole world indefinitely over the Coronavirus threat is a form of insanity that should be closely examined. 

So, a couple of things: 

Coronavirus could have been contained if the political will had existed when the virus first emerged. With few exceptions world leaders simply ignored the problem. The few who did act to contain the threat were condemned as bigots. Additionally, each of the nations (and regions) hit hardest by the virus displayed a high level of foolishness concerning the virus. Washington state (where I live) is a hub for air travel to China and yet little attention was paid to the virus until it started killing large numbers of people. Italy caved to political correctness and sponsored “hug a Chinese person” events even after it was clear the virus was being spread from Chinese tourists.  New York gave into greed and refused to cancel parades even when it was clear the virus was a looming problem (Isaiah 57:17, Luke 12:15). Iran refused help from other nations even when it was painfully clear they needed it to contain the virus (Proverbs 16:18). 

It is simply a fact that wisdom, common sense and good judgment are indicators God’s Spirit is present in the life of individuals, leaders and nations (Proverbs 9:11-12, Ecclesiastes 2:26, Jeremiah 4:22).  Conversely, willful foolishness is a clear sign a person, leader or nation has no fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).

 Now that world leaders have finally decided to take this virus seriously, the whole world is in a mad panic to stop it using any method deemed necessary, even if it destroys lives and brings about abject poverty and suffering.  I know Christians aren’t supposed to use the J-word anymore. Nevertheless, I feel compelled by the Spirit to point out that in the Bible confusion, fear and overreaction to circumstances is one method God uses to bring judgment on obstinate people (Jeremiah 51:34). The Israelites were promised that if they persistently rebelled against God they would be afflicted with “madness and confusion of mind” (Deuteronomy 28:20). There are many instances in the Old Testament where God used confusion to defeat Israel’s enemies when they refused to turn from their sin.  (Joshua 10:9-10, Judges 6, 1st Samuel 14:20)  

This virus could very well be a corrective judgment brought on by a lack of human wisdom. Corrective judgments are warnings given in love.  God brings trouble, misery and hardship in an attempt to get people’s attention and bring them to a place of repentance and obedience (Jeremiah 15:19). In a corrective judgment God is always quick to forgive those who are eager to repent (Psalm 103:2-4, Jeremiah 15:19. Considering the state of our world it would be strange to think God is not demanding people everywhere to turn away from the sins of pride, sexual immorality, greed, abortion and unbelief (Psalm 50:4).  

Let me be clear:

I do not believe people who get or die from Coronavirus are under God’s direct judgment. God is not singling out particular people, nations, or people groups. The whole world is being negatively affected by this calamity.  God is always slow to judge partly because the righteous and the wicked all suffer equally under judgment (Ecclesiastes 9:2, Matthew 5:45), this reality breaks the heart of God.  Christians should not despair that life is hard right now. Instead we should rejoice that we know Jesus and have a secure future in Him. Christinas should be leading the way by examining ourselves and repenting of any sins we have in our lives.  We should seek God on behalf of our world and ask Him to show mercy by bringing a spirit of repentance and revival (1st Peter 4:17).  

Alcohol, Psychology, Environmentalism and Other Awkward Relationships I Have With the World-

Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight- 1st Corinthians 3:18-19a NIV

 Christians are commanded to live in this world without wallowing around in the worldliness of the world (John 17:16-18, 1st John 2:15-17, 1st John 4:4-5). For mature believers this means having an awkward and uncomfortable relationship with a lot of the things in this world.

 For me, the list of worldly things I am at least somewhat uncomfortable with is long. Some highlights include most government funded poverty programs, modern environmentalism, public education and most of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood.  The enemy has gotten a firm foothold in every one of those arenas and found clever ways to use them to mislead people.

 Alcohol is yet another example of an awkward and uncomfortable relationship I have with the world. There is a little too much sanctioned alcohol use in the Bible for me to completely buy into the idea it’s a sin to drink alcohol (Song of Songs 8:2, Proverbs 3:10, John 2:1-8, 1st Timothy 5:23).   That being said. As the adult child of two raging alcoholics I have experienced firsthand the devastation and misery that comes with excessive alcohol use. Therefore, I am uncomfortable with anything other than infrequent alcohol use.

 Anyway.  

 Perhaps my most uncomfortable ongoing relationship with the things of this world is with psychology.

 I am not opposed to psychology.  

 My husband occasionally jokes I was raised by wolves. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but not completely out of line with reality. I credit discovering psychology in my early twenties with helping me make sense of my parents, myself and why they were the way they where and why I am the way I am. I credit Jesus with saving me and changing me but without the aid of some Christian counselors and Christian psychology books it probably would have taken a lot longer for me to work out the kinks that a sketchy upbringing created in my personality (Romans 12:2, 2nd Corinthians 3:18, 2nd Corinthians 5:17).

 If psychology is kept in perspective, it can be helpful to the church. Psychology is the science of understanding the human mind. It helps explain how past experiences influence human behavior.  When leaders understand the “why” behind human actions it enables them to help people get free of the bondage that comes with bad choices. Psychology helps people to better understand themselves.  Knowing the “why’s” behind why we do what we do is key to making changes that help us become better more effective followers of Jesus.

 However.

 Like all human wisdom, psychology has very real limits and should never take priority over the Bible (1stCorinthians 1:25). It’s important to remember that with the exception of Christian practitioners, psychology does not acknowledge God or the sin nature of humanity (Isaiah 53:6, Romans 3:23). As a result, the science of psychology can never fully explain exactly how and why the human soul can become completely twisted and evil, nor does it empower people to fully transform into a better version of themselves (2nd Corinthians 5:17). Only Jesus can do that.

 Secular psychology relies heavily on behavior modification which some people (including some Christians) confuse with the Christian act of repentance. Repentance is usually a process.  It begins with the Holy Spirit working in a person’s life to convict them that their choices are wrong. The person recognizes their behavior is wrong, not because it bugs other people or because it creates chaos in their lives but rather because it is offensive to God. Then the person makes changes to please God rather than people. These kinds of changes tend to last.

  Conversely, behavior modification is usually motivated by social pressure. A spouse or friend says something judgy and it becomes apparent that relationships will be threatened if something doesn’t change. The individual then changes their behavior just enough to please people and get them off their back. Sometimes this happens without the person concluding that there was anything wrong with what they were doing in the first place.  

 Without true heartfelt repentance it is impossible to be saved because repentance is the fruit of faith (Acts 20:21, 2nd Corinthians 7:10, Mark 1:4). Unfortunately, psychology sometimes enables people to change just enough to keep them from feeling like they need to turn to God and repent. Psychology can make a person aware of their shortcomings and flaws but it can never bring anyone to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

 By far my biggest issue with psychology is that it places limits on compassion and forgiveness that God does not. Psychology tells us that no one is obligated to forgive a wrong and that no one should do anything they don’t really want to do.  God wants His people to be like Him. This means Christians are called to a radical level of living that sometimes demands we go further with grace and forgiveness than psychology tells us is healthy or wise. It means there are times in life when we look beyond worldly wisdom and love in ways that make no sense at all from a human perspective.

 

 

 

 

The Truth about Politics and Religion-

Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him- Mark 12:17 NIV

 Between the bedlam at the Iowa caucuses, the impeachment trial, the partisan monkey business at the State of the Union address and the snipping and sniping between Nancy Pelosi and the President this past week; I have had ample opportunity to reflect on the madness of our present political situation. 

 It dawned on me most of us were taught two rules regarding politics and religion. First, we were taught politics and religion are subjects that inevitably produce tension and discord. Therefore, it is bad manners to discuss either subject in a public forum. We were also taught politics and religion are two entirely separate subjects that have no connection whatsoever. Consequently, only ignoramuses combine discussion of the two subjects.

 The ship has more or less sailed on the first rule.


For better or worse, there are precious few topics off-limits for discussion in our goat rodeo of a society. Only prudish squares care about tension and discord anymore. In fact, some people get paid good money to produce and promote it.

 However.

  The second rule is still very much in force. This due in part to a near unanimous misunderstanding of the phrase “separation of church and state”. Most believe it is found in the Constitution or some other critical founding document.  It’s not. The only place it was ever used was in a personal letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to an association of Baptists who were fearful there would be a state sponsored church in America. In his letter Mr. Jefferson assured them there is “wall of separation between church and state”. Therefore, government will never intrude on anyone’s religious beliefs or activities. Clearly, Mr. Jefferson didn’t own a crystal ball, but, that’s another blogpost for another day. The passing of the Johnson Amendment in 1954 has also contributed to the belief that politics and religion should be kept in separate corners. The law allows the government to strip Churches of their tax-exempt status if they endorse or oppose political candidates.

 All that being said, a stupid law and ignorance of our founding documents are not the only reasons we don’t talk about politics and religion.

 Many Christians sincerely believe politics is dirty and religion is clean. They think that by merging political conversations with faith conversations, we dirty up religion and run the risk of muddling the message of the gospel. Christians who believe this way tend to think Jesus was discouraging political involvement when he said “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s”.  Most non-Christians tend to believe any mixing of religion and politics will cause our perfectly good republic to morph into a creepy theocracy reminiscent of an episode of A Handmaids Tale.

 Sigh.

 In spite of almost everyone’s desire to keep politics and religion in separate corners, the two have had some ugly run-in’s in recent years. Culture is shifting rapidly and battle lines are being drawn between right wrong. Once a upon a time issues like pedophilia, relaxing or eliminating drug laws, the elimination of restrictions on hardcore pornography, lowering the age of sexual consent, sanctioning late term abortion, legalizing prostitution and allowing infanticide were considered icky fringe issues. Our society has become less Christian and more accepting of just about everything and some have felt emboldened to push these and other issues through the courts in recent years (Psalm 52:3, Isaiah 5:20). Religious people (mostly Christians) have become weary of the societal decline that has resulted from an increase in progressive legislation.

 Okay, so, a couple of things:

 It is true Christians sometimes send the message that in order to be a Christian a person must hold to a certain set of political views. It is also true that if a person is a Christian the Bible will inform their thinking on all issues, including political issues. However, the notion that one has to do anything but believe in Jesus and repent of their sin to become a Christian is tragically wrong. Additionally, patriotism is not godliness. Love of country is a good thing but it must never be confused with fidelity to Jesus.

 Furthermore.

 One of the key reasons Christianity has flourished in America is because our founders wisely avoided forming a theocracy. If America’s founders had instituted a state sponsored Christian church, it is a given that the state would have killed the dynamic and powerful nature of Christianity by insisting that all Christians think and worship exactly the same way.

 Trust me. No one wants a theocracy in America.

 That being said. We must work hard as believers to keep Jesus the main thing in all we do. We are not called to change the world through political legislation or even social reform. We are called to change the world by bringing people to Jesus and then teaching them to think and act like Jesus (Matthew 28:19). At the same time, we must embrace the reality that all of life belongs to God and there is no sphere Christians are not called to influence and redeem for Jesus (Psalm 24:1).  Therefore, Christians should never lose their moral outrage when it comes to political attempts to legalize behavior that robs human beings of their God-given dignity. We need Christians who will graciously explain to an unbelieving world that every personal and political choice has a spiritual consequence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Don’t Need More Christian Values-

 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead- Philippians 3:10-11 NIV

 Eleven years ago, a group of parents in our community became troubled by the lack of moral values that were rampant in our area. The parents approached the local schoolboard. After a series of meetings, the Central Valley School District decided to go all-in with values education. A committee was formed.  The committee came up with a program still used today that systematically teaches values and positive character qualities to children in public schools beginning in kindergarten.

 The values chosen were universally acknowledged as virtuous and helpful.  They were respect, responsibility, citizenship, caring, fairness, honesty, diligence, trustworthiness, courage, integrity, generosity and gratitude. 

 For the record, I have no idea how many of the parents on that committee where Christians. At that time, we lived in a neighboring district and I was not on the committee, nor was I friends with anyone on the committee. However, it did not escape my notice that every character quality on the list was in alignment with New Testament teachings. Furthermore, the definitions for each trait could have been written by an experienced Sunday school teacher. For example, the definition chosen for the citizenship value was:

 Positively contributing to society and community as well as dutifully respecting authority and the law.

 So, that sounds a bit like a synopsis of Romans 13:1-7 to me. But who am I to say what motivated the writer of the definition?

 Any-hoo.

 Last week I noticed one of the schools near our home had the character trait of the month and its definition (caring) on its reader board. The sign reminded me of the movement eleven years ago to bring “values” back into our community. 

 It occurred to me as I was driving home that little has improved in our community over the course of the last decade. Most kids (and adults) still lack the values those parents fought to have taught. Common courtesy is far less common now than it was then. Property crime occurs at a much higher rate than it did ten years ago. Our community has experienced one school shooting in recent years and nearly every social problem under the sun has increased in the years since the program was implemented.  

 Why, after all the years, all the tax dollars spent and all the hours put into teaching and training kids have we seen so little improvement in the moral climate of our community? 

 It is not the fault of parents who battled to bring values education into the schools. Those parents followed their conscience and worked their tails off to make a difference. That kind of moral courage is never wrong.  Nor, should the blame be laid at the feet of the school system. In a post-modern, post-values, post-Christian world some very brave leaders took a risk and made a valiant attempt at standing up for some timeless truths. That kind of bravery should always be celebrated. 

 The fault lies with society at large. For well over a century, individuals have wanted and, in some cases, even insisted that Christian values be taught without all the pesky ethical teaching that accompanies Christianity. Our culture wants nice people who practice Christian generosity in the event of a natural disaster or tragedy. We want people who are benevolent, compassionate and nice. We want people who tell the truth as Christianity demands.

 However, we do not wish to be burdened with any moral restrictions that might mess with our personal choices. We do not want Christianity meddling with our sex lives or telling us what we can or can’t watch on television. We for sure do not want Christianity to inform our views concerning drug legalization or childrearing practices.  

 The problem with this kind of thinking is that it will work for a generation or two, perhaps even three. When Christianity is authentic it is powerful enough that Christian virtues (patience, kindness, temperance, generosity, self-discipline) will live on in succeeding generations who don’t really know Christ. However, sooner or later the veneer of Christianity will begin to wear off of society and when that happens the society will begin to unravel.

 That is what we see happening today. Western Civilization has been living in the shadow of the blessings prior generations earned through their genuine faith in Christ (Deuteronomy 28, 1st Samuel 15:22, Psalm 128:1-3, John 14:23, 2nd John 1:6).  As those blessings fade we are left with the dregs of a post-Christian reality: disobedient children, corrupt politicians, lawlessness, sexual chaos, broken families and random violence (Ezekiel 23:35, 2nd Timothy 3:1-5).

 We will never get our homes, churches, community or country back to a place of blessing by painting society with yet another whitewashing of Christian virtues. We need Christianity not just Christian virtues. Christians need to get back to the business of repentance and making disciples. It all starts with making sure our own heart is right with God and other people. Once that is done Christians need to get into their communities with God’s truth and love.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dumbest Thing We Do-

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it~ Job 4:12 NIV

At this point, everyone with access to the Internet and a news channel has probably at least heard about the latest Peloton commercial. The one where the man gives his wife an insanely expensive exercise bike on Christmas morning. The 107-pound woman (who does not look like see NEEDS an exercise bike) squeals with joy when she sees her gift. Then for some reason never fully explained she spends the following year recording EVERYTHING she does with the bike. The commercial ends with her practically weeping tears of joy as she describes how the Peloton has transformed her life.  

It stands to reason that the advertising professionals at Peloton were assuming viewers would see the ad as a sweet and uplifting story of a man loving his woman the way she wants to be loved. They were probably also hoping potential buyers would see the wife’s blissful reaction to the gift and be motivated to plunk down $2,245.00 for the bike plus $39.00 a month for the streaming service and iOS app. The streaming service and app are required throughout the first year of ownership.  

That’s not exactly how things worked out.

  Social media lit up like a Christmas tree with opinions over the ad. Men and women alike claimed the ad was “sexist”, “dystopian” and “cringe-worthy”.  One or two twitter users even suggested Peloton ought to be charged with sexual misconduct for producing the ad in the first place. Peloton stock took an ugly tumble.  

That was not all. 

People made peculiar and ugly judgments about the “couple” and their “marriage”. Most commenters simply wrote the husband off as a sexist, fat-shaming Neanderthal.  Others concocted complicated back stories for the couple. One woman claimed the wife seemed to be apologetic for her existence. Others proposed that she was suffering from a poor self-image. Many were alarmed that the woman seemed little too eager to lose weight for such a skinny girl (perhaps she has an eating disorder?). One person stated the woman was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Almost every commenter feared she is a victim of spousal abuse. 

Personally, I found the comments about the commercial much more compelling than the actual commercial. I spent a good thirty minutes one evening sifting through them. As I shutdown my laptop for the night I was struck by a series of questions: 

Are these people crazy? Do they not know that this is a commercial? Are they confused about what commercials are for? Why is everyone so upset by this? Do they not have jobs or families to worry about? Do they actually believe these people are real? Am I the only sane person left on earth? What am I going to do if I am? 

It was a scary moment for me. 

Then I started thinking about the whole silly mess and I realized that the reaction to the Peloton commercial is actually indicative of one of the dumbest things we do in our culture. Someone will say a few words that appear innocent on the surface and someone else will read a whole bucket of subtext into the words and/or facial expressions of that person. Then they run with whatever their impressions are of the situation and next thing you know they have created a whole bizarre storyline out of a handful of words and a few facial expressions. 

Sadly, this madness is not consigned strictly to the realm of advertisements. This trend is driving the presidential impeachment hearings. The President said three little words: “do us a favor” and half the country has read a truckload of subtext into those words.  Everyone thinks they know what he “was really saying”, what his intentions were and what will happen if he is not impeached (the world will come to a fiery end).  Many have devised long, complicated backstories for the conversation. Some believe this is one of many secret conversations the president had with that particular leader.  Others think that rather than being concerned about irregularities in the 2016 election the President was so concerned with his 2020 competition that he wanted to “dig up dirt” on an old guy even most Dems admit they would only vote for out of desperation. 

Sigh. Sadly, the drama is beginning to borderline on collective mental illness.

The madness is not limited to suspicions regarding the President or pretend couples on television. This weirdly mistrustful way of looking at the world is becoming incredibly common. Even Christians can get caught up in thinking they know what people “really mean” when they say something that appears innocent on the surface. When we share those suspicions with others our foolishness can split churches, ruin reputations and may even destroy a perfectly good marriage or friendship. 

It’s critical we remember that Christians are called to love others (Matthew 5:44, John 13:34). Love always chooses to believe the best in others (1st Corinthians 13:7). If we choose to live like the world we become just like the world. If we live like Jesus we become like Jesus and the world sees Jesus in us (1st John 2:16, Philippians 2:14-16).

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.