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.

Is There a Difference Between Conviction and Condemnation?

 I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us– 2nd Corinthians 7:9 NIV

We live in a very judgy world.

Cancel culture is just one example. Canceling is an increasingly common practice that can be done in either a global or private kind of a way. 

 It works like this: 

Canceling happens globally when someone gets caught doing something or saying something a person or group of people do not like. The disapproving person or group goes after the “sinner” and punishes them for their language and/or behavior. The poor schmuck is then publicly disgraced and shamed. They lose their job, reputation and social status. They essentially become an outcast or a social pariah. 

A person is privately canceled when a friend or family member cuts them out of their life and gives them the silent treatment without explaining why they are giving them the silent treatment. 

Sigh. 

Supposedly, the whole point of cancelling someone is to get them to a place of conviction in their lives, where they acknowledge their misdeeds so they can grow.  Anyone who has actually been cancelled (either in a global or a personal way) will tell you being canceled feels more like hardcore condemnation without any mercy whatsoever. 

For the record.

I am not an advocate of cancelling. It is, in my opinion, perhaps the least healthy, least virtuous thing we do in this raging-dumpster-fire of a culture. However, the nature and stated purpose of cancelling raises an important question for believers:

Is there a difference between condemnation and conviction?

This is a question that needs answering.  

Both are biblical concepts (Romans 5:16, 1st Thessalonians 1:5, 2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). However, the Bible teaches there is a difference between the two. It matters because our view of these issues has a massive impact on how we see God, work out our salvation and treat other people when they sin against us (Philippians 2:12, Luke 7:47, Luke 6:37, 2nd Corinthians 2:9-11).   

So. 

Condemnation can be defined as a decree or sentence of guilt.  It is always accompanied by a sense we have failed and are unworthy of forgiveness. 

Condemnation always leads to hopelessness.

Conviction, on the other hand, is something the New Testament calls “godly sorrow” (2nd Corinthians 7:10-11). Conviction is a little different. It’s more like a deep and heartfelt sense we have gone off the rails and missed the mark. It is always accompanied by a sense we need to correct our course in some way. 

Conviction can be every bit as painful as condemnation. However, conviction is good because without guilt it is impossible to experience repentance and the spiritual restoration repentance brings. 

Here’s the struggle:

Condemnation and conviction sound a lot alike and condemnation can look a lot like conviction and conviction can feel an awful lot like condemnation. This is especially true if we’ve been up to no good in some area of our lives. 

Because condemnation and conviction feel so similar, some Christians are inclined to write off any guilty feelings they experience as condemnation and therefore irrelevant (Romans 8:1). Ignoring feelings of guilt is a profoundly bad idea because the Bible teaches ignoring our conscience is a spiritually risky thing to do (1st Corinthians 8:7-12) because it can lead to a hardening of the heart (Ephesians 4:18). Therefore, it is always best to pay attention to feelings of guilt. Guilty feelings should drive us to seek the Holy Spirit so we can figure out if there’s something we need to deal with in our lives before sin takes root and produces chaos and pain. 

Condemnation is a tool the enemy uses to discourage us. Therefore, it is not uncommon to experience condemnation AFTER we have already confessed our sin to God and corrected course. Condemnation will sometimes come from an unexpected source like an off-handed comment from a friend. It can come from our own hypersensitive conscience. Condemnation never gives hope. Instead it leaves us with an overwhelming sense of despondency and hopelessness. Condemnation screams into our souls that God will never be happy with us again. Condemnation almost always leads to more sin rather than less.

The whole point of spiritual conviction or godly sorrow is to facilitate change. Therefore, it is often accompanied by a feeling that we are guilty and have offended God. However, conviction also always comes with an understanding of what we need to do to get things right. God never leaves us in the dark or wondering where stand with Him. Godly conviction never leaves us feeling hopeless, despondent or like we will never be good enough. The path to repentance and healing is sometimes difficult. Repentance always means making some sort of a change. It might mean breaking off a relationship, changing a behavior, apologizing, making restitution but the path to a pure conscience is always clear. Conviction (godly sorrow) always leads to repentance.  

It is critical Christians understand God only condemns those who refuse to embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Romans 8:1, Jude 1:4). It is equally important to understand guilt is good as long as we know what to do with it (Acts 3:19). 

Here’s Why our Broken Political System Could Actually be a Good Thing-

Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fearhating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh- Jude 21-23 NIV

Life is becoming more politized and deeply divided with every passing day. Even Canada, the one nation on earth whose citizens could always be relied on for their graciousness, civility and ability to get along with others is a political powder keg teetering on totalitarianism at this writing.  

Sigh.

The partisanship and division have created a space where political chaos and social anarchy are flourishing. No one on either side of the political divide is speaking to one another because cooperation is now equated with sedition. As a result, nothing sane is taking place in the political realm. A loosening of moral standards has further complicated an increasingly complex situation resulting in a death spiral of lawlessness which has caused people to become more contentious and even downright feral at times. The over-all lack of self-control is causing politicians to feel justified in taking a more despotic approach to policymaking which has led to even more anger, division and lawlessness.

SIGH.

No one in their right mind would celebrate the incredibly volatile cultural and political moment in which we find ourselves. Political unrest, social chaos and anarchy are never really good for anyone but a few tyrants. That being said, I suspect there might be a potential spiritual win in this political division for the Church.  

Here’s why:

In the west at least, our ugly cultural and political muddle can be traced back to a turning away from God and the values that accompany faith in God. This turning away happened slowly over the course of the last century or so with the last two years being a tipping point towards society-wide secularism and atheism. Here’s the thing though: it’s just a fact that human beings were made to believe in something bigger than themselves (Ecclesiastes 3:11). So, when society turned away from God most people did not simply embrace humanism or atheism with open arms. Instead most turned to something just as foolish. Politics.  Politics have become the hope of mankind. 

This is the real reason politics are no longer something most folks can agree to disagree about. Politics are no longer simply trivial matters of policymaking or a matter of personal opinion.  Politics are the new religious dogma. Humans have historically had a hard time agreeing to disagree on matters of faith and dogma. 

We just aren’t built that way. 

The results of all of this have been mostly awful. However, there is some good news in the midst of all the bad, first off truth is being revealed (Hebrews 4:13). 

We are seeing in real time that politics are a rickety and cruel faith system to put our hopes in. We can no longer deny the reality that the cult of politics has made people much meaner and less tolerant of others. This has made our world a much more dangerous and unpleasant place to live and do business. We are learning that without fear of God tempering political views people become myopic and selfish. This makes them dangerous and cruel and society seriously unstable. 

The even better news is that Christians can use this reality to start spiritual conversations with their friends and neighbors. We have all the proof we need that politics are not the answer.  This means God will can use us to show the world where the real answers lie. If people grasp hold of that truth I believe with all my heart we will see revival in our time. 

But before that can happen Christians need to do a little soul searching and scrutinize their own beliefs where politics are concerned. We need ask ourselves if we have been guilty of putting more faith in politics than in Jesus. We must be willing to let go of any idolatrous views we hold that the right politics will ultimately fix the mess we’re in. We have to pray for good leaders but abandon the notion that any human leader holds the answers to our problems.  Christians have to really grasp hold of the truth that what we see in the world right now is our own doing. Even many of God’s people have placed their hope and faith in a manmade system. That system has produced what human beings always produce in their own power and wisdom: division, oppression, human misery, suffering and foolishness.  

Transformation is never fast or easy especially when we’ve messed things up as badly as we have. In order to get the political and societal change Christians universally crave our repentance must go beyond words into action. We have to live what we say we believe. Christians must dedicate their lives to holy, joyful living. We must learn to model biblical truth and invest our time and treasure in the things that really matter. Things like our families, our local churches and our communities.

When God’s people do those things, we will finally get the win we all want so badly.  

How Exactly does a Person Become the Worst Version of Themselves?

 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead- Acts 17:30-31 ESV

We all know that person.

The guy or girl who has somehow managed to achieve the feat of becoming the very worst version of themselves possible. 

Perhaps the person is hostile, mean, judgy, bitter, prideful and/or ridiculously self-serving. (Hebrews 12:15, Hebrews 3:12, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:8-9). It could be they are just so oblivious to the needs and feelings of others they just go around unknowingly causing the poor hapless souls unfortunate enough to be caught in their orbit immeasurable hurt and pain. It might be they are sexually immoral in some way. Perhaps they are addicted to pornography or they cheat on their spouse or they just sit around indulging in lecherous thoughts about the opposite sex all the time. They might lie or cheat or steal or go around boasting about their own awesomeness to anyone who will listen. Maybe they drink themselves into oblivion routinely or are addicted to drugs. To some degree the sordid details of their behavior is less significant than the fact that they have chosen to indulge their very worst tendencies and character traits.    

No one is exempt from becoming the worst version of themselves (1st Corinthians 10:12). It happens all the time. It happens to famous mega-church pastors like Mark Driscoll, Carl Lentz and Ted Haggard. It can also happen to local pastors, ministry leaders, their spouses as well as your average Joe or Jane church attenders. It’s horrifying anytime anyone becomes the worst version of themselves. It’s extra gross when it happens to a Christian.   

Here’s how it happens:  

The whole messy mess starts out innocently enough, just like all the other messy messes people get into. The slide begins with a subtle shift in behavior or attitude that gradually transforms into a habit.  The person knows what they’re doing or thinking is at best, not healthy and at worst, super wrong. However, because no one says anything and nothing truly catastrophic happens they keep doing their thing in spite of any reservations they may have.  

Then God gets involved in His indirect but distinctly God way. 

The person hears a guilt-producing sermon, or a reads a convicting blogpost, or something happens and they are confronted head-on with the problem. At this point things go one of two ways: the person might choose to get offended. When a person chooses offendedness  its not long before they begin the process of actively shutting out anyone who is isn’t either one-hundred-percent supportive of their behavior or willing to ignore it.

Or.

  They go into full-on denial mode concerning the seriousness of the situation. They assure the person or people challenging them they have a handle on things.  Then they slowly convince themselves their behavior isn’t really a problem. The same behavior might be a problem for other people but not for them.  They have so many other awesome qualities they are above being destroyed by the petty little sins that doom other people. Besides, they tell themselves: they’re a Christian, God loves them. If God wasn’t okay with what they’ve been up to He would force them to stop.  He hasn’t so He must be okay with it.

So, the behavior or attitude persists.  

At this point, things get interesting. In a very bad way. Blindness sets in and the behavior takes root. They spend more time looking at more porn, they think more lecherous thoughts more frequently. They get to the place where can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie. They go into full-scale addiction. They lose the ability to even muster up false humility.  At the same time, they become increasingly more oblivious to the effect their behavior is having on others. They become harsher and meaner and less concerned with the feelings of others.  Ironically, at the same time they become much more judgmental towards other people, especially towards those who have the same problems they do (Matthew 7:2-3). They become a twisted version of what they could have been, a parody of their sin and a sad joke to non-Christians. 

So. Here’s the thing:

No Christian is doomed to becoming the worst version of themselves. Self-destruction is a fully preventable tragedy for anyone who knows Jesus.  

However.

We have to understand that the devil wants more than anything in the world to see every Christian on earth become the very worst version of themselves possible (Ephesians 4:27). Satan loves it when Christians fall into this trap. It ruins the believer, their ministry opportunities and their Christian witness. This is a triple win for Satan.  To avoid this trap, we must understand that even in our redeemed state we are capable of great sin and self-deception. To avoid the self-deception that makes becoming the worst version of ourselves possible we have to make every effort to grow in our knowledge of God and nurture the Christian virtues of faith, goodness, humility, godliness and self-control in our lives (2nd Peter 1:3-10). We must make a regular practice of examining ourselves honestly before the Lord (1st Corinthians 13:5) and we must listen when other people try and speak truth into our lives. We must be quick to humble ourselves and apologize when we hurt others because we have indulged our worst tendencies. We must make things right when we have done wrong. When we do that God is quick to bring healing into our relationships and health to our souls.

How the “Great Age of Reason” Made us Dumber-


Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools- Romans 1:22 KJV

During the enlightenment era, or the “great age of reason” people began to understand the natural world is governed by rules, laws and forces rather than demons and magic. Thanks to enlightenment scientists we understand objects fall to the ground due to the natural law of gravity.  We now know it is microbes, not demoniac forces that make people sick and recessive genes not bad omens that cause children to be born with red hair seemingly out of nowhere. 

Enlightenment thinking is at the root of the logical, methodical and organized approach to life and problem-solving we are all familiar with today. The enlightenment was a big-stinking game changer in human civilization. 

However. 

The Enlightenment age also created some issues. The Enlightenment conditioned humans to believe there is always a formula to solve a problem or accomplish a task—we just have to find it.  As a result, most of us are firmly entrenched in the mindset that the key to solving any problem is simply finding the right set of principles to apply to our problem.

Sometimes it works.

The systematic analysis of microbes led to the invention of antibiotics and antibiotics have solved the problem of bacterial infections. Modern farming techniques have more-or-less eliminated the problem of wide-spread starvation. The methodical evaluation of human behavior led to modern psychology. Psychology has effectively explained the why of what people do thus solving many mental health issues.   

However.   

The ability to solve some problems using science has generated a belief that all our problems can and should be solved using our known understanding of the problem at hand. When our “knowledge” doesn’t solve the problem we can go into a weird kind of denial where we keep doing the same things over and over again hoping at some point we will get the result our “understanding” of the subject told us we would get (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Sigh.

The COVID-19 crisis is a real-world example of what I’m talking about. Scientists were initially convinced COVID could be beaten through a combination of contact tracing, masking, social distancing and lockdowns. Those methods all failed spectacularly. Covid spread like wildfire even among those who were resolutely following “the rules”. When a vaccine became available the new solution was to vaccinate at least sixty percent of the population. That solution didn’t work. Some of the most vaccinated countries on earth (Israel, Ireland, Gibraltar) ultimately experienced more covid than less vaccinated countries. For a very long time the super-vaccinated countries lived in a weird denial. They did all the same things (masking, vaccines, lockdowns) harder and faster (metaphorically speaking), with the exact same results (more covid) 

This addiction to formulas has found its way into Christianity.

It has caused some Christians to fall into a kind of practical atheism, where we seek God for answers to our problems instead of seeking God for relationship. We love God for solutions instead of loving God for who He is.  When we don’t get what we want from God, we get mad and turn away from Him altogether or stay in church and stay perpetually angry at Him for His lack of willingness to bless the formula. 

Confidence in formulas can lead to serious issues with pride, self-reliance and stubbornness. When Christians fall into the trap of believing that doing everything “right” will ALWAYS lead to the “correct result” they become angry or go into denial anytime there is a “bad” or “unexpected “outcome. This causes them to keep doing the same thing over and over again rather than seek God for wisdom and help.  Belief in formulaic solutions can also cause Christians to become very judgy towards those who experience “failure” in their childrearing, finances, marriages or other relationships. Unwavering confidence in formulaic solutions leaves no room in our thinking for free will or the free agency of human beings (Matthew 7:1-4, Deuteronomy 30:19).   

In a fallen world there will not always be solutions to all our problems (Genesis 3). Sometimes people get sick and don’t get better. Kids who were raised right still go astray and sometimes people do everything right and everything still goes terribly wrong. That’s where God comes in. We must seek Him, not for what He can do for us but because it is in Him we find peace, joy and rest for our souls in the midst of an uncertain and scary world (Jeremiah 29:13). 

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. 

How our Beliefs About the End-times can Actually Shake our Faith-

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths– Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV 

Theology is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

The study of the nature of God and religious belief.

I am an unapologetic fan of theology. I have spent the better part of my life studying God and attempting to understand Him better. I firmly believe most of the problems and struggles of this life would evaporate if people simply understood who God is and applied His principles and wisdom to all of life. 

That being said. 

There are times in life when tightly held theological beliefs can actually get in the way of seeing what God is up to in the world. Christians can become so rigidly fixated on a single theological perspective they actually miss what God says or does not say in His word. Such was the situation with many first-century Jews. Their rigid belief the Messiah would be a military leader after the pattern of King David caused them to disregard the suffering servant right in front of them (Isaiah 42:1-2, Isaiah 53:4-6, Acts 4:11, 1st Peter 2:4-7). 

I am convinced some twenty-first century Christians are falling into the same trap with the second coming of Jesus first-century Jews did with first coming of Jesus. Too many Christians on all ends of the eschatological (end time) spectrum have embraced such a rigid perspective of what the return of Jesus will look like that they are rapidly losing faith in the goodness of God because events are not shaking out exactly the way they thought they would. 

Most American Christians fall into one of two categories when it comes to eschatological beliefs. Premillennialism and amillennialism. Premillennialists believe Jesus will return visibly to the earth after a period of evil and unrest known as the tribulation. There are two popular variations on this view:

The premillennial pretribulation rapture of the church-  

This is the most popular American position on end time events. Those who hold to this view believe Christians (those who have repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as savior) will one day be taken from the earth all at once and go straight into the presence of God (1st Thessalonians 4;13-18). This event known as the rapture signals the beginning of a seven-year period of evil and chaos called the tribulation (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Revelation 2:10). The tribulation will be followed by a thousand-year (millennial) reign of Christ on the earth. 

Post or mid-tribulation rapture of the church- 

This is a variation on the first view. Those who believe this version of end time events agree with almost everything their pre-tribulation premillennialist counterparts believe except they believe the rapture will take place after or at some point during the great tribulation. The pre-tribulation rapture theory means that the return of Jesus will be an entirely separate event from the rapture while the post-tribulation theory assumes these two events will take place at more or less the same time.   

Post or mid-rapture Christians believe the church will suffer but grow before the return of Jesus. Pre-tribulation rapture Christians believe Christians who are saved prior to the rapture will be spared the intense suffering that will take place during the tribulation. This view holds fast to the idea there will be a huge spiritual revival that takes place during the tribulation and most of those who become Christians during the tribulation will be martyred for their faith   

 Amillennialism 

Amillennialists do not believe in a tribulation or a rapture per se.  Instead they believe that Christians are called to live in such a way that their actions bring about righteousness and justice on the earth. As people become more righteous and justice becomes more pervasive the reign of Christ will manifest itself over time. Amillennialists do not believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ rather, they believe the earthly reign of Christ will be strictly figurative. 

It’s just a fact that adherents to each end-time perspective feel equally strongly their interpretation of Scripture is correct and the interpretation best supported by Scripture.  However, in my experience all end-time views can lead to practical theological and/or spiritual problems of one kind or another. Premillennial, pre-tribulation Christians tend to become troubled at the idea there will come a time when the church will universally suffer extreme persecution. This is despite the fact Christians have suffered persecution since the beginning and there are a myriad of Bible verses promising Christians will experience suffering and persecution (John 16:23, Matthew 13:21, Matthew 24, Acts 14:21-22, 1st Peter 1:6, James 1:2, 1st Thessalonians 3:1-4). The post-tribulation rapture theory tends to lead to anxiety and an emphasis on making physical preparations for the tribulation (prepping) rather than on reaching the lost for Jesus or being spiritually ready for the return of Jesus. Amillennialism trusts sinful humans to do things only God’s spirit can do, such as bring about righteousness and justice.  

Our world is getting weirder and scarier everyday it is critical we focus on what we do know.   We know Jesus IS coming back and it appears He will return after a period of moral decline, persecution and apostasy (2nd Timothy 3:1-5, Matthew 24, 2nd Peter 3:3). It is critical we be spiritually and morally prepared for and enthusiastically await the return of Jesus even in the face of ongoing evil and unrest (1stCorinthians 1:7, Hebrews 9:27-28). It is every bit as critical we not allow our own rigid ideas of what the end should look like to shake our faith in the goodness of God.