Spiritual Warfare Series- What was Jesus’ Spiritual Weapon of Choice?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life-John 3:16 NIV

Love is more than a sweet sentiment. 

It is a formidable spiritual weapon. 

It is not an accident (in my opinion) that the “warfare passage” we find in Ephesians 6:10-20 is preceded by two and a half chapters that spell out in detail what love “looks like” and how our faith and love for others ought to work itself out in our churches, marriages, parent-child relationships and workplaces (Ephesians 4:1-6:9). 

Nor is it an accident the “love passage” found in 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 is sandwiched between passages that cover the ins-and-outs of how Christians should do church, worship and use their spiritual gifts. Paul understood probably better than anyone that love only works as a weapon when it impacts every part of our Christian lives. If we don’t get the “love” thing right our spiritual gifts become pointless parlor tricks, our worship never goes further than the ceiling and our churches are powerless to transform the lives of hurting people. 

Love was Jesus’ weapon of choice. 

 Jesus knew everything there was to know about every person He encountered and He still loved each and every one of them deeply and fully (John 3:16). He loved everyone He met in a way they had never been loved before. He did not turn away from the woman at the well (John 8), the demoniac (Mark 5:1-14) or Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:12) or anyone else and for that matter. 

Instead. 

The almighty, all-holy, perfectly clean, absolutely sinless God of the Universe looked the worst humanity had to offer square in the face (literally) and because He was God He saw clearly the ugliness and sin in every person who crossed His path.  He knew exactly how their choices had affected them

And yet:

 He loved them anyway. He loved them by looking beyond their sinful ugliness and the effects of their choices. He met them where they were at and in the process loved them into a state of wholeness and health.  Then He went ahead and did the same thing for the whole human race by dying on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin (Romans 5:8)

Love is critical. It literally has the power to change the trajectory of a person’s life. 

Here’s the thing, though. 

 Love alone— or at least the way our culture defines love is actually dangerous (and icky) because it tends to devolve into a grody form of sloppy sentimentalism.   Twenty-first century love is like the drunk girl at the party who gushes sappy sentiment all over everybody but can’t remember any of what she said the next morning. Contemporary love is all about being okay with the worst in people instead of accepting people where they’re at AND helping them to reach new levels of growth, transformation and health. Sloppy sentimentalism feels delightful and appears to be noble but it isn’t really love because it lacks the power to save anyone from anything. 

Sigh.

 Authentic love: the kind of love that defeats the powers of darkness and changes the trajectory of people’s lives is firmly anchored in biblical truth (Colossians 1:13-14). True Christian love is always characterized by a willingness to resist current cultural beliefs that lead people away from God and into bondage to sin. 

It’s the kind of love Jesus had for people. 

When Jesus freed Mary Magdalene and the demoniac from their demon possession he did not encourage either one of them to go back to the choices that got them demon-possessed in the first place—although those choices may have still felt comfortable to them, even after meeting Jesus. Instead He showed them how they could live free from the sinful choices that led them to a life of bondage and despair.  Jesus did not forgive the woman at the well (John 8) and send her back to her latest partner— instead He told her she should “go and sin no more” because that’s what warfare kind of love does. 

Warfare kind of love sets the captives free with equal measures of truth and grace (Isaiah 42:6-9). 

 Jesus would never have been okay with our culture’s contemporary definition of love. He would be disgusted with drug programs that help people to do drugs “safely” rather than free them from the oppression of their drug use. Jesus is undoubtedly appalled at the notion of encouraging someone confused about their gender to transition because transitioning doesn’t deal with the root hurt, pain or sin that led to their confused state in the first place (Jude 23)  

Jesus grieves deeply when Christians choose to love like the world loves because He knows that real love fights for the best heaven and earth have to offer; instead of simply settling for something easy but vastly inferior to what God wants for all people (2nd Timothy 2:3-5).  

Everyone who has been truly touched by the love of Jesus wants to love like He loved: with a warfare kind of love. We love like Jesus loved by living out the Bible’s standard of righteousness, fearlessly telling people the truth in the most loving way possible and sticking with them through the sometimes-long process of finding authentic freedom and growing into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:1-25). 

The Seven Churches Series- Ephesus

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart- Proverbs 3:3 NIV

I have this theory that all Christian churches, denominations and organizations follow the same basic development pattern.

It always begins with a dream, desire or idea God plants in the heart of a person or a group of people.  This dream ultimately produces the birth of something new and beautiful (Isaiah 43:19, Acts 2:42-47).

Then comes childhood.  

Childhood is an exhilarating time in a church or ministry. Childhood is all about beginnings and growth. All the activity of this phase is born out of genuine love for Jesus, passion for the mission of Jesus and a desire to honor and glorify Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).   Leaders seek to obey Jesus above all else and as a result this phase typically results in an abundance of fruit. The childhood phase is also marked by some chaos. Leaders don’t always know what they’re doing, important things don’t get done and there can be disputes between key leaders (Galatians 2:11-14).  Because this stage is naturally volatile, if an organization stays in childhood for too long the ministry or church will die. No ministry or church can endure the disorganization and volatility of the childhood stage for long. 

It’s just too dang messy. 

If the organization or church survives the birth and childhood phase (some don’t). It slides into adulthood. Adulthood is the sweet spot for a ministry or church. There’s still a lot of enthusiasm and there is also a clear vision for where the ministry is going. The vision is firmly rooted in biblical principles and prayer. The ministry is still very Jesus centered but there’s more discipline than in the childhood phase. The policies and leadership structure developed in the early adulthood phase provide the stability necessary to keep the thing from flying off the rails. This is typically a very long phase that is even more effective and fruitful than the childhood phase. The organization or church earns a good reputation in the community and it does a lot of good. People are saved, lives are transformed and Jesus is glorified in a big way (Romans 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5). 

Then comes middle age.

If an organization makes it to the middle age stage everything is going super well from an optics perspective. Money is being raised, there are a ton of volunteers and the stated mission is still solid. 

However. 

There is a subtle shift that begins with leadership. Leaders become, usually without realizing it, much more focused on building the organization than they are on Jesus and glorifying Jesus. Jesus is still valued, but Jesus is no longer the main thing. He’s more of a figurehead at this point. Passion for Jesus and devotion to the mission gets lost in the day-to-day of “doing ministry”, “raising money” and “growing the church” (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 10:7-9, Ephesians 4:11-16). It not unheard of for shady conduct to become a common occurrence at this point, and because leaders are focused is on how things LOOK rather than holiness, righteousness and pleasing Jesus, it is also not all unusual for shadiness to be swept under the rug, rather than being dealt with.   All or most of the ministry work of this phase is centered on programs and fund raising rather than transforming people and glorifying Jesus.  On the surface the ministry activity APPEARS to be people and Jesus centered. However, most of it is focused firmly on keeping the ministry machine going, raising money and justifying the continued existence of the organization. 

This is exactly what happened to the church in Ephesus. 

The first church Jesus addresses in Revelation chapters 2-3 arrived at middle age and their love for Jesus and concern for the spiritual and emotional needs of people became lost in their desire to maintain the status quo. Jesus called this “losing their first love” (Revelation 2:4-5).

But here’s the thing: 

No one looking at the Ephesian church from the outside would have suspected there was a problem. Even most folks who attended the Ephesian church were likely unaware of the issues. The leaders were undoubtedly clueless. Leaders at this stage almost always lack any kind of real self-awareness. As a result, they thought everything was fine. And why not? All the externals looked awesome. The pastors were skillful, polished and well-educated. The doctrine was solid.  They avoided getting involved with problematic or divisive issues. The people attending gave money and willingly suffered hardship for Jesus (Revelation 2:2-3).  

But. 

Their hearts were far from God. The people stopped caring about the things Jesus cared about. The Ephesian Church was still very busy kingdom building. It was just the wrong kingdom. It was a human kingdom instead of Jesus’ kingdom.  

Jesus’ instruction to the Ephesian Christians is straightforward: “do what you did at first”.  

Jesus knew that one of two things happens at this crossroads.

Most of the time the ministry continues a slow drift further and further from the original mission. Bit by bit it loses its ability to make a spiritual impact on the world. The church remains but the power it once had to make disciples and transform the culture evaporates. The people lose their saltiness and the church or organization becomes spiritually worthless (Matthew 5:13). If it endures it morphs into more of a social service agency than an actual ministry. 

Or.

There is a spiritual awaking.  The people who attend and lead these churches recognize the problem. They see the drift. It breaks their hearts and they repent. They fully rededicate themselves to the cause of Christ. Jesus becomes the main thing once again and the church or organization continues to be a vital part of the body and a solution to the brokenness in this world (Revelation 2:7). 

However.

Spiritual awaking’s don’t just happen.  

We need to ask God to help us see the drift in our lives and our churches and our ministries. It’s imperative we pray daily for wisdom and self-awareness and a heart that is willing to see the problems and our role in those problems. Most importantly, must be eager to do what we did at first (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We have to fight to go back to that childlike state of spiritual existence where Jesus was our everything and our obedience was a gift we joyfully gave Him.  

What Do the Election Results tell us?

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming– 1st Peter 1:13 NIV

Okay, so a couple of things:

First, just in case you happened to be on another planet for the last five months or so and missed it, there was a mid-term election last week. 

It was kind of a big deal. 

Second, I’m fairly conservative in my political views. I am not conservative because I believe baby Jesus was born with a copy of the constitution in His teeny-tiny hand.  Nor, am I conservative because I believe a person must think a certain way politically in order to become a Christian. I am a conservative because I tend to believe Jesus would be on the side of individual responsibility and personal accountability. Mostly, because responsibility and accountability lead to healthy outcomes and happy people. I also think Jesus would be on the side of life (because He created it) and I’m pretty sure He would be all-in when it comes to limiting the gender spectrum to male and female because it is the design he chose for this world (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:23-25)  

For most conservatives the election was a full-on bummer. It was not what we wanted, or prayed for. I know it could have been way worse. That said, it was still, objectively speaking, extremely discouraging. Who would have thought soaring inflation, layoffs, war, cultural chaos and four-dollar a gallon gas would not be punished at the ballot box? But it was not. 

Here’s the thing:

 Christians are commanded to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). One aspect of that command is a call to transform whatever culture we happen to be living in into a better, healthier, more Christ-like version of itself. Because that’s the call, we probably ought to spend some time thinking about this election and what it says about the current state of affairs in this country. We also need to figure out God wants us do about that state of affairs.

So here goes:

It is becoming increasingly more clear that we are living in a post-Christian society. The values Christians have traditionally held dear are no longer a part of the greater cultural narrative.   One illustration of this reality is abortion. Fox News conducted a massive exit poll post-election. Their goal was to discover what issues motivated voters this election cycle. The number one answer was the economy. However, abortion was a very close second. It was pro-abortion supporters who swung the election.   

 This means a large portion of our society cares more about keeping abortion legal than they do about their own economic well-being and future prosperity (Leviticus 18:21, Jeremiah 32:35). Most lefty politicians voted in campaigned entirely on keeping abortion as available and unrestricted as possible. Love of abortion is not the only sign our civilization is in trouble. Violent crime against complete strangers is way up. Euthanasia is rapidly becoming a new normal and the possible benefits of infanticide are very much up for discussion. It will undoubtedly be offered as an option for new parents at local hospitals in the very near future.  

Yikes. 

 Our society is literally hurtling backwards in time towards pre-Christian, heathenish ethics. Most folks are motivated by their individual impulses rather than a desire to build a better future for their children and grandchildren. Our obsession with freedom could actually lead to our own extinction. Literally. A large portion of our population is doing everything possible to keep from reproducing and it could be our downfall.  Human beings are becoming more and more savage as our society has begun to value personal freedom over personal responsibility. Our infatuation with freedom will inevitably lead to less actual autonomy. Governments will step in to control people if they cannot or will not control themselves (Romans 13:4). 

Sigh. 

All that being said. The current chaos could turn out to be a good thing. The culture will likely get worseSometimes bad is better. Hard times cause people to think. Whereas prosperity tends to lead to greater acceptance of whatever the cultural norms are and God knows we don’t need any more acceptance of the current cultural norms.  

So, what is a Christian to do? 

First. 

As strangers living in a strange land (and that’s what Christians are) we must do our level best to live within God’s design for the human race (Genesis 1:27, Hebrews 11:13-16, 1st Peter 1:1-2). Christians should get married, have a bunch of kids, work out their problems and stay married. They should also buy houses, build healthy community and strive to be the kindest, most generous people in their cities and towns (Jeremiah 29:4-8). Living joyfully, well and within the boundaries of God’s design is the first step in “making disciples” in our messy, godless, death obsessed culture.

Then. 

We must be prepared to explain to our friends and neighbors the reasons why we do what we do (1st Peter 3:15). We need to pray like crazy for wisdom and power and boldness. Then we need to open our mouths and tell anyone who will listen about Jesus and the hope He brings to even the most messy and shattered lives. We need to give the world the hope we have received and trust our merciful and good God to bring about the change we need.

Why Does God Seem to Ignore Obvious sin?

 Therefore, repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord- Acts 3:19 NASB

I have a child who always wanted to know what the limits, rules and boundaries were in every situation she found herself. Unfortunately, this child did not want to know the limits, rules and boundaries because she was a passionate rule following legalist who wanted to be extra vigilant about staying within the limits of the law. To the contrary, she was the exact opposite of a rule following legalist. She pushed passed every limit she was given and busted down every boundary she came across. However, interestingly enough though, unlike most rule breakers, this kid also hated to get into trouble of any kind and absolutely despised getting yelled at. 

Sigh.

So, one day when this child was way past old enough to know better she decided it would be fun to break every rule I had ever made. She then blew off every warning I gave her and did the exact opposite of what I asked her to do. My patience, which is not unlimited, even on the best of days, held up pretty well until late afternoon.  I finally broke down and yelled at her. I told her in no uncertain terms I was done. The consequences train was coming to town.

 Before I could list off even one of those consequences she began to cry and told me she hated it when I yelled. At that point, it was obvious we had both reached our limits so I sent her to her room to give us both some time to cool off and regroup.  

When I went into her room, my first question was: “okay, I totally get that you hate being yelled at. So, help me understand why you wait until I someone starts yelling to do what you’re told?”  She responded with: “I know you’re serious once you start yelling”. 

Sigh. 

Here’s the thing.

A lot of us see God the same way. We just sort of assume that when God has finally gotten fed up with our sin, or is nearing the end of His patience with us He will let us know He’s had enough in a loud and obvious kind of a way. We expect God to “yell” or warn us in some way before He brings the hammer of judgment down in our lives. 

 As a result, we tend to think (subconsciously at least) that when we sin and nothing terrible happens God must be okay with (or at least not mad about) whatever monkey business we’ve been up to. Sometimes we even go so far as to call His lack of clear and obvious outrage at our behavior “grace”. 

However.

The book of Romans tells an entirely different story. The first chapter of Romans starts out rather pleasantly. Paul greets the recipients of the letter (whom he had never met) with genuine warmth. Then he says some really nice things about the Christians in Rome and Jesus and their faith in Jesus. Then all of a sudden in verse eighteen he steers the letter in a rather unsettling direction and begins talking about the wrath of God and judgement and how all human beings are without excuse and ought to know better. Then in verse twenty-four he says something super profound we tend to move past rather quickly. 

He says:

God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired- Romans 1:24a NLT

This means:

 God just let them have at it. He let them go ahead and do whatever felt good to them without so much as a single real-time consequence. God did not scream and yell about their sin. He did not crush their consciences with an overwhelming sense of guilt. He did not pile on a whole bunch of horrible consequences. He just let them do whatever shameful thing they felt like doing and they felt just fine about it. 

So, here’s the thing:

This one little verse tells us a lot about God and the freewill of human beings. Just because there is no an apparent consequence for a sin or we feel okay about what we’re doing. It doesn’t necessarily mean God doesn’t have a problem with what we’ve been up to. 

To the contrary. 

A lack of guilty feelings over sin is actually the exact opposite of getting away with something. According to Romans 1:24 it is an indicator God has stepped back from the situation. When God steps back and lets people do whatever they want to do without guilt or consequences it is actually the first step in a long process of judgement. 

Yikes. 

So. What this means is we cannot judge right and wrong based entirely on whether or not we feel guilty or there are obvious consequences when we do certain things. Instead, of relying on what our heart tell us about sin we need to get into the habit of turning away from our sin quickly and repenting completely. Then we need to trust God with the outcome of coming clean. Whatever that may be. 

Lessons we Failed to Learn From two Years of Misery-

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.  

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

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

First: 

Community is the core of the Christian experience-

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

The fear of man is a snare- 

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

We have to live like the end is near

Seriously.  

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

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

Some Tricks to Help us Persevere Through the Tough Stuff of Life-

The testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing- James 1:3-4 NASB

God loves it when His kids choose to persevere through the tough stuff of life.

This is because persevering through hardship, difficulty and injustice automatically causes good things happen in that person. Enduring through the hurt of life builds emotional strength, develops grit in us, causes us to grow spiritually, makes us wiser and transforms us into the kind of people others can learn from (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-5). 

There are at least a million different types of experiences a person might have to persevere through. Some are “life in a fallen world” kinds of things. These are painful but random events we all experience at some point in our lives. Things like cancer, the death of a spouse, friend or child, accidents or financial calamities. Unfortunately, there are also the “people are crappy” sorts of experiences like religious persecution, being cheated on, being lied to or about, or being treated indifferently or with disdain by people who should care about us.

Sigh.

Persevering is made tougher for Christians because hard things naturally cause us to doubt the goodness, faithfulness and sometimes even the very existence of God. It is true that pain and difficulty can drive us towards God but hurt and struggle can also drive us away as well. The effect pain has on us depends entirely on how we choose to respond to it (1st Peter 15-6).  There are things we can do that will ensure pain, grief, trials, and difficulty make us better as opposed to bitter and more miserable.

Following are four of them:

Don’t blame God for the actions of people-

By far, the worst and most excruciating pain in life comes when we’re victimized or mistreated by people.  The pain of personal betrayal is compounded a million times over if the person who harmed us is a Christian. Sadly, it’s impossible to avoid being hurt by people because people, even Christian people, are at their core sinful, broken and sometimes even cruel and malevolent. For whatever reason, most of us lay the blame squarely on God when people hurt us. This is a huge tactical error. Humans have free will and can do whatever they choose with their free will. They can even be horrible, sinful, disgusting people if they want to. It doesn’t mean God approves of their actions or that there won’t be a price to be paid for their choices, it just means God will not force anyone to be nice, honest, or decent. That being said, the biggest problem with blaming God for the actions of people is that we deny ourselves access to the only one who can give us comfort, peace and the power to persevere through whatever horrible thing we are dealing with (Psalm 23:4, Psalm 86:17, 2nd Corinthians 1:3). Sigh. 

Take the long view-

The apostle Paul lived most of his Christian life in what most of us would consider absolutely unacceptable conditions (2nd Corinthians 11:21-29).  Literally, everyone hated him. The Jews hated him. The Romans hated him. The Greeks hated him. Sometimes even other Christians hated him (Galatians 4:16-18).  Paul went hungry, spent time in prison, was beaten, stoned and betrayed by people who pretended to be his friends (2nd Timothy 4:14). Nevertheless, none of this injustice appears to have bothered him because he was able to view all of these situations as temporary problems that would be righted by God at some point in the future. He believed with all his heart his trials were actually preparing him for future ministry and making him more fit to spend eternity with God (2ndCorinthians 4:17, 1st Thessalonians 3:2-3). One “key” to persevering and enduring through pain is to make the choice to believe pain that is stewarded well will make us better, wiser, more insightful and more like Jesus. 

Know that Jesus gets “it”- 

He does. Whatever “it” is. Jesus gets it. I promise. Jesus experienced the same types of things we experience. He knows exactly what temptation, betrayal, loss, loneliness, hurt feelings and personal pain feels like (Hebrews 4:15). This makes Jesus the perfect one to run to anytime the heaviness of life becomes too much too bear (2ndCorinthians 1:5). 

Don’t let yourself get hung up on the issue of fairness- 

Getting hung up on what’s fair or unfair in this life will literally drive a Christian insane. This is because life at least, in the present, is not fair. People “get away” with crappy stuff all the time. If we choose to focus on what kind of punishment people are getting right now, in this life we will lose our faith and our minds in that order. Instead of worrying about what’s fair and unfair, God wants us to believe in Him and trust that He will make things right and just in His good time. Anytime we’re hurt we have to remember the Bible is clear: NOTHING is in all of creation hidden from God and there is nothing that will not be publicly disclosed (Matthew 10:26, Hebrews 4:13). Sin that is unrepented of will be made public and punished in time. Period. 

Ultimately, choosing to persevere through the pain of life means clinging to our faith and choosing to tenaciously love God no matter what goes wrong or who hurts us. Faithful endurance through hurt, loss or persecution is the hard route but God promises rich rewards for those who choose it. 

Recovering our Calling as Christians-

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is- Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

Covid-19 is, for all intents and purposes, over. 

Between vaccines, therapeutics, a rebirth of common-sense and folks finally putting their collective foot down, for the first time in a long time a mindless virus is no longer running the show. 

That doesn’t mean life is all snow cones and roses. 

The economy is a flaming-hot mess. Thanks to punch-drunk government spending post-covid, inflation is out of control and a nasty recession appears to be on the horizon. Politicians all over the world are openly flirting with authoritarianism. These realities make future hardships likely. Further complicating the whole messy mess, morally we have officially hit the skids. People are stupid with sin. All common sense has vanished into thin air. Our culture is so utterly ridiculous college educated people can no longer tell the difference between boys and girls. Literally anything goes and God help the individual dumb enough to say some behavior, lifestyle choice or way of identifying is wrong or potentially harmful. A harsh and hasty canceling is in their future. 

Sigh. 

So, what is a Christian to do? There are no easy answers to that question. What the church has been doing clearly isn’t working. The culture is devolving and the church is shrinking. Most church growth in recent years has not been conversion growth. Some churches are growing because already saved people are going from church to church desperately searching for something healthy and life-giving. The church has been shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic for decades. This has to stop. Churches have to grow again.  The church is called to be a preserving and healing presence in the culture, we can’t do that if we aren’t fulfilling the call to make disciples (Matthew 29:18-20).  In order to get back to that calling some collective self-examination is needed.   As Christians, we are called to transform the culture by living such good lives that we reveal truth and call the people around us to repentance with our actions and attitudes (1st Peter 2:12).  

To accomplish that end leaders must lead well. 

Alas, many Christian leaders have fallen into the trap of believing there is something innately special about them and that’s the reason they’re church leaders. Truth-be-told it is a leader’s obedience and willingness to serve that makes them useful to the Kingdom of God.  If a leader stops being obedient or stops seeing themselves as a servant of Jesus, that leader instantly becomes worthless to the Lord (1st Samuel 13:1-14, 1st Samuel 15:22, Psalm 128:1). Period. In these topsy-turvy times it is imperative leaders remember they are only as special as they are obedient.  Leaders cannot use any perceived specialness they have as an excuse to hurt people or skirt the rules. Neither is it okay to use Jesus as a vehicle to build their own kingdom. That kind of behavior is crushing the churches ability to be a witness for Jesus. 

Christians must think clearly, wisely and most importantly of all: biblically. 

In order to do that we must exercise some common sense about what we put into our minds because that determines how we see the world (Philippians 4:8). It is imperative Christians let go of the ridiculous fantasy that popular culture is harmless for anyone. It’s not and it never has been. Much of popular culture is meant to make us morally dumb. It’s simply a fact that no one has become more godly or wise watching Game of Thrones, The Office, Disney-plus or any other popular drivel that promotes the very stuff Jesus died to save us from. If you have any doubt about what I’m saying test it: stop watching television for ninety days, replace television watching with something live giving: Bible reading, Christian music, gardening, board games or playing with your kids. I guarantee after three months of not watching garbage you will see what you do watch from a completely different perspective.

Furthermore: 

 Christians must behave in a way that is loving towards those outside the faith (Colossians 4:5).  No one has ever been won over to team Jesus with meanness or judgment. That being said, we have to stop using “love” as an excuse to pander to the culture and keep quiet on matters of right and wrong. Ultimately, moral issues are not a matter of personal taste. They are matters of life and death. Christians do no one any favors by keeping quiet or pretending we agree on issues of homosexuality, gender, heterosexual sexual sin, pornography and the child grooming that has become commonplace by transgender activists in public schools. Nor is it acceptable for Christians to use grace (God’s forgiveness) as an excuse for ungodly, unwise or unruly living. 

Christianity is ultimately about calling—not so much the individual calling most Western Christians associate with calling. The calling I’m talking about is the corporate calling we all have to be holy (Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 5:3) and live lives centered around the good of others (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13). If we refuse to embrace that calling we miss the whole point of Christianity and become powerless to help a dying culture find their way to Jesus. 

What is the one Question that has the Power to Change Everything?


But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God
– John 3:21 NIV

Everyone, everywhere wants the THING.

“The thing” is that little bit of knowledge or understanding that will give us an edge, enlighten us and ultimately make us a better version of ourselves. The thing explains why the self-help section of any bookstore is always the biggest and busiest in any bookstore. Everyone wants the magic bullet that will bring transformation.

We all want growth, self-awareness and maturity because those things are the fast-track to everything else everyone wants in life. Things like healthy friendships, successful careers and happy families. For believers in Jesus the thing is the path to spiritual growth and wisdom. Those blessings inevitably lead to deeper understanding of our faith and greater intimacy with Jesus (2nd Peter 1:5-8, 2nd Peter 3:18, 2nd Corinthians 3:18)

Humans are hard-wired to want all those things.

If a person has stopped caring about healthy relationships, career success and a happy family it is likely they experienced some sort of trauma that caused them to give up on a fundamental aspect of what makes us God’s image bearers.  

However. 

Few actually get it. Even most Christians fumble around hoping to find the answers to this longing to become a better version of ourselves. 

The good news is the secret isn’t really a secret. Getting “the thing” is easy. Literally, anyone can do it.  That said, few are willing to do what needs to be done to get it. All it takes to achieve real growth and lasting change comes down to asking one simple question and really wanting to know the answer to that one simple question: 

“What don’t I want to see about me?” 

We all have something we desperately do not want to see about ourselves. It might be that we’re actively running from God, or perhaps we stubbornly refuse to confront sin in our life or the lives of those we love. It might be we have a mean streak or a raging pride problem. It might be an anger issue. Or maybe we always choose to take the easy way out of hard situations. Perhaps we insist on thinking the best of other people even when all the evidence is tells us not too.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit fault or we routinely take more than we give.

Those kinds of issues and sins always lead to problems that appear to be completely unrelated to the issue we don’t want to see. Those problems could include but are not limited to unhealthy dynamics in our closest relationships, a lack of friends, persistent financial problems, poorly-behaved children, a stalling in our professional lives or a stubborn lack of spiritual growth.  

We call the stuff we don’t want to see blind spots. They are not blind spots. A blind spot is something we CANNOT see. The things I’m talking about are all things we simply don’t wish to see. The problem with calling something we refuse to see a blind spot is it neatly removes personal responsibility from the equation. Without understanding and owning our role in the problem nothing will change in our lives. We will be doomed to stunted growth and messed-up personal relationships.   

Sigh. 

The good news in all of this is that God loves each of us more than we will ever understand this side of heaven. God is both working and rooting for us to become the best version of ourselves. He wants us to succeed in everything that matters. Because He loves us and wants the best for us He longs to show us the things we don’t want to see.  He knows that seeing the things we don’t want to see is the first step in the kind of change that leads growth, maturity and self-awareness.  

So, here’s the thing.

If we find ourselves stuck in some area of our life or keep running up against failure it’s not because we had terrible parents, or because we married the wrong person. It’s not the temperament we were born with and it’s not because we lacked opportunities others had. It’s because there is something we refuse (consciously or subconsciously) to see about ourselves. Because God made us and is the ultimate authority in life, solving the problem ALWAYS begins with asking Him the question. 

If we ask AND we actually want to know the answer God will tell us.  Honesty is His jam. He literally cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). The answer might come in a still small voice. It might come in the form of some angry words from a loved one. It might come in the form of a bad review at work. But it will come. 

We just have to be willing to do something about it.  

Why every Christian must Become a Voice of Reason in our Unreasonable Time-

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world– John 16:33 NIV

We live in an insanely divided time. 

The list of issues dividing citizens is long and growing at a rapid clip. It would include tax policy, the minimum wage, immigration, the number of genders that exist, abortion, who should use which bathroom, sexual orientation, education, critical race theory and how elections ought to be managed.  The vaccinated are still accusing the unvaccinated of being dirty, ignorant, backward, uncaring unscientific super spreaders. The unvaccinated still accuse the vaccinated of being sheep, followers, sellouts, judgmental jerks and silent super spreaders.

 Sigh. 

How do we become a voice of reason in an increasingly unreasonable time? 

Do we keep our heads down and hope for the speedy return of Jesus?

Do we dive into the melee and fight the man? If so, which man? How do we fight?

How do we represent Jesus well while we fight?

Do methods matter?   

There are no easy answers to any of those questions. Christians are expected to do hard things (Matthew 10:8). The methods we employ do matter to God (Philippians 2:14-15, 1st Corinthians 14:26, Hebrews 4:13) and hope is not a strategy. Therefore, simply hoping fervently for the return of Jesus will not make disciples or reform broken systems. God does not call His people to retreat (Genesis 1:28). To the contrary, the uglier the age the more a Christian witness is needed in every sphere of society and life. To be that witness we have to recognize three realities:

There is no distinction on God’s team- 

 1st Kings details the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were sinful, horrible, apostate leaders who fought hard to normalize Baal worship in Israel. Part of the normalization process involved oppressing and slaughtering faithful, God-fearing believers without mercy. In chapter eighteen there’s a meeting between Obadiah, an official in Ahab’s court (a politician) and Elijah, a prophet of God.  It’s clear Elijah is openly disdainful of Obadiah, while Obadiah longs for Elijah’s approval.  It appears that Elijah saw Obadiah as a sellout and a collaborator. While Obadiah appears to envy Elijah. On the surface it really does look like one man is better than the other. It appears that one man is clearly more righteous than the other. It seems as if one is taking a much bigger risk for the kingdom than the other. However, that view is simplistic, incorrect and absurdly human. Both were righteous. Both were risking everything for the cause of Yahweh. Both were serving on the same team and doing exactly what God had called them to do. Obadiah was operating covertly (at great risk to himself) within the existing political system to protect the faithful few who refused to worship Baal (1st Kings 18:13). Elijah was working openly (at great risk to himself) within the religious community to bring the wayward people back to faith, obedience and moral purity. Both men were preforming crucial, albeit different roles.  Too often we do what Elijah and Obadiah did, we judge one another (and ourselves) without mercy or grace.  We make arbitrary and unbiblical distinctions between the sacred (religious) and the secular (political). Anytime we make this error, we miss out on opportunities to encourage one another and correct each other’s wrong thinking and actions. When that happens, the whole team suffers. 

Sometimes it is right to fight- 

As a general rule Christians are called to live in peace with others (Hebrews 12:14). This does not make it godly and righteous to excuse ourselves from every fight (Philippians 4:3, 1st Timothy 6:12). We should never ignore societal decay, divisive ideologies or outright lies. Christians should not force their views on anyone.  That being said, neither should Christians ignore acts of evil or philosophies that will clearly lead to evil if left unchecked (Proverbs 24:10-12). Christians should act to protect women, the weak, children, the elderly and the unborn from exploitation and evil.  Protecting the vulnerable is an issue of justice and righteousness—not politics (James 1:27, Malachi 3:5, Deuteronomy 24:17).  Christians should be cautious about acquiescing to evolving ideas on gender (Genesis 1:27). Gender ideology literally places children in danger and causes confused and hurting people to degrade themselves in devastating and sometimes irreparable ways. Christians should fight to protect the God-given rights every human on earth has to life, equal treatment under the law, free speech, and the ability to worship God freely and without fear (Exodus 20:13, Galatians 3:28, Exodus 9:1). We cannot in good conscience concede to the culture on issues of right and wrong just to maintain “peace” (Jeremiah 8:11).  

We have to do all the things but in the right order-

There are two things Christians are called to do. Leading the lost to Jesus is the first thing (Matthew 28:19).  However, discipleship is just as critical. We must begin the process of helping people to align their behavior and politics with the truth of the gospel. But only after their hearts have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Confusing the order short-circuits the work of the Holy Spirit and only succeeds in producing well-behaved heathens. This error is how we got into the cultural mess we find ourselves. 

God is calling His people to better. He has called us to unite around the person of Jesus and support all members of the body of Christ. He’s calling us away from the tribalism of our culture and into a purity of heart and action that might just transform our age of division and discord into a glorious season of spiritual reform and revival. 

Christianity Could use a few Rebels-Seriously

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body- 2nd Corinthians 4:8-11 NIV

According to the CDC 47,444 people committed suicide in the United States in the year 2020. That number is roughly equivalent to a city the size of Cheyenne Wyoming.  

Yikes.  

This sad fact indicates we are living in a culture of despair. 

Suicide is not the only indicator we live in a world where a large number of people lack purpose, meaning and hope.  Drugs that dull our senses and numb our feelings are very much a thing. Eighty-one thousand people died last year from accidental drug overdoses.  One in twelve adolescents self-harm in an effort to distract themselves from the pain and hopelessness they feel.  This means that in a high school with seven-hundred students eighty-four of those kids harm themselves intentionally. 

Sigh. 

The reasons for the rampant despair are legion.  Fatherlessness has exploded and single parenting has become the new normal. Children who experience abuse or neglect almost always grow up feeling a lack of hope for the future. That said, I suspect abuse and neglect of children is simply a symptom of a greater problem rather than the root of our overwhelming sense of hopelessness. 

I suspect our pain is caused by our own willful foolishness.

These days most non-Christians and even many Christians live outside the set pattern and design God created for human beings. We lean on our own understanding of how to do life instead of seeking God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:5-6, Genesis 1:28). Then we wonder like a bunch of idiots why life is hard and we feel bad all time. 

Think about it.

For one thing. 

Sex lost its sacredness decades ago. 

Now we have hookups, starter marriages, pornography and prostitutes instead of one partner we bond with for life. Few adults marry before thirty and the stated goal for many is to have as much sex as possible with as many people as possible before “settling down” and “starting a family”. Fewer than half of all women wait until marriage to have children, pretty much guaranteeing their kiddos will grow up in a home without a biological father. All this taken together simply means that the ties that bind people together are weaker than they have ever been. 

For another. 

The economic system our culture has trapped itself in ensures most families live far from their extended family and both parents work. This leaves kids (especially teenagers) to figure life out without the input of their parents and the wisdom of their grandparents. Most people work non-stop and as a result community and the close relationships we were all made for fall to the wayside in our lives.  

Christians must show the world a different way of doing life. 

Fast. 

And we have to find a way to do it without being strange, judgmental, creepy or weirdly patriarchal (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 5:21-33). Getting this right is the only way people will know there’s something better out there. We get it right by bucking the system and refusing to get caught up in the lies our society tells about sex and relationships. The world needs to see that it is possible to be happy and fulfilled while not having sex with a gazillion people or having multiple spouses. 

But first Christianity needs a few rebels. 

Christians rebel against this world’s satanic system by getting married young, having lots of sex, making babies with only one person, buying a house and building a life (Genesis 2:24). We buck the system by building community and remaining loyal to the churches we attend. We rebel when we give up other things to spend quality time with friends and family. We become the best kind of revolutionists when we are willing to admit we got it wrong and change directions.  We could change the world simply by choosing to love Jesus and obey God even when our obedience makes us look weird and causes us to be out of step with the rest of the world.  Righteousness has become rebellion in our weird world.

Here’s the thing though:

Rebelling without giving a reason will get us nowhere. We need to loudly and proudly proclaim why we are doing what we’re doing (1st Peter 3:15). We must be willing to look weird in the eyes of the world in order to shine the light of Jesus in an increasingly dark world.