The Seven Churches Series- Sardis the Church of Fakers

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness- Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

There really was no place in the ancient world where it was truly safe to be a Christian. The threat of persecution was a constant issue for believers in Jesus into the fourth century. Even a relatively safe situation for Christians could become categorically unsafe overnight with a sudden change of political power. That being said, there were a few places where it was safer and easier to be a Christian. 

Sardis was one of those places. 

Sardis was a sizable, affluent city located in a lovely valley that nestled up against a mountain range. Due to its remarkably safe setting and its excess of natural resources, life in Sardis was prosperous and stress-free by ancient standards. The residents of Sardis were best known for their tolerant, laissez-faire attitude towards just about everything under the sun. 

 Sardis was infamous for being a party town occupied by overindulged, underachieving, slackers.

Seriously. 

There is little evidence Christians suffered much, if any, serious persecution in Sardis.  Emperor worship was not really an issue and there are (to my knowledge) no records of Christians being martyred in Sardis. The folks in Sardis were too busy having fun to persecute anyone for anything. 

Sardis was filled with messy, lost people who needed the life-changing good news of the gospel. There was little stopping Christians from openly sharing. The Christians there were under no real threat. There was little chance they would be arrested or sent to an arena for talking about Jesus in a city as accommodating and tolerant as Sardis.  

However.

The Christians in Sardis did not use their idyllic situation to reach the lost and do good in their city.   

Sigh.

Jesus’ letters all follow a familiar pattern.  Jesus begins each of the seven letters with a greeting to the “angel” (commonly believed to be the pastor or bishop) of the church.  Jesus follows His greeting with a declarative statement about Himself. Each statement reveals something critical about His power, character and/or the authority He has over the world (Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 2:18, Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:7, Revelation 3:14) In all but two of the letters Jesus follows with some kind and affirming words concerning the church in question. Jesus praises the church’s faith, good deeds, perseverance, and/or their love for one another, etc. Only after praising and affirming the good in their lives does He offer any criticism.

In His letter to Sardis Jesus deviates dramatically from His usual pattern. 

After the greeting and declarative statement, Jesus jumps directly to criticism and it’s objectively, quite harsh. He begins by telling them that although they have a reputation for being spiritually alive and life-giving, He knows the people in the church are dead in all the ways that matter. 

There was a lot of spiritual fakery going down at the First Church of Sardis. However, the church looked awesome from the outside. The sermons in Sardis were probably consistently on-point. The congregants as well as the leaders were very diligent with their spiritual practices. They prayed, they fasted, they had amazing discipleship programs and the people gave money to help the poor and support the church. 

However. 

Ultimately, the people in the church were more concerned with looking holy, good, wise and honest than they were with actually being any of those things. 

Their hearts were far from God and as a result, they cared little for the souls of people in their city. They had chosen the route of looking good rather than being good and their fakeness had them on the verge of spiritual death. Sadly, they didn’t even have the spiritual awareness to recognize the danger they were in (Revelation 3:2). Their only hope was repentance and repentance is nearly impossible when a person has concluded they are just fine the way they are.

Unfortunately, anyone can lack self-awareness.

For this reason alone, Sardis is (in my opinion) the scariest of the seven letters. Jesus’ words underscore the sad reality that a Christian (or group of Christians) can be a hot spiritual mess and not even be vaguely aware of any of their own problems. It is possible for respected Christians and even esteemed Christian leaders be so self-deceived they can be half-way to hell all the while believing they are leading the way to heaven (Matthew 7:13-23, Jeremiah 17:9).

Yikes.

The letter to Sardis is a much-needed reminder that we can fool a lot of humans with our surface-y goodness but we can’t fool Jesus. He sees everything there is to see. Including the state of our hearts (Hebrews 4:13). This is why self-reflection is so critically needed for believers (Psalm 26:2, 2nd Corinthians 13:5). Without a willingness to really look at our lives and examine our hearts on a regular basis we can easily deceive ourselves into believing we are way better than we really are and when we do that we risk losing our saltiness and becoming spiritually worthless (Matthew 5:13)

There were a few people in the First Church of Sardis who were the real deal (Revelation 3:4).  These people had remained true to Jesus and genuinely Christian even while being surrounded by spiritual counterfeits. Jesus makes one of His most beautiful promises in all of the letters to those people. He assures them they will be given the honor of walking with Him (experiencing intimate relationship) wearing white (eternally pure and noble) for all of eternity. 

That’s worth staying real for. 

When Help Actually Hurts-

Do to others as you would have them do to you~ Luke 6:31 NIV

The city of Albuquerque has a problem. 

The city has become littered with hypodermic needles. Not the clean, shiny needles you get from the needle factory or a doctor’s office but the kind of needles that have been used to shoot heroin. This is an issue because used hypodermic needles are dirty. Used needles oftentimes harbor unpleasant and sometimes even incurable bloodborne diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, syphilis and Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). 

Yuck. 

Like many American cities, Albuquerque boasts a “clean needle” exchange program. Needle exchange programs allow intravenous drug users to get a free clean needle anytime they want to inject drugs. Until recently if a drug user wanted to acquire a clean needle in Albuquerque they had to turn in a dirty needle. This policy did nothing to reduce drug use but it did incentivize drug users to dispose of their dirty needles safely.  Thanks to a recent policy change, trading in dirty needles is no longer a thing in Albuquerque. Now if a drug user wants a clean needle all they have to do is ask for one and they get it. No questions asked.   

 The policy change has resulted in dirty needles being left wherever the drug users happened to be when they used their drugs. Ballfields and parks just happen to be popular places for drug users to inject heroin. Despite the valiant efforts of parents and coaches to keep local ballfields needle-free a little girl playing softball was stuck with a dirty needle as she was sliding into home base. Doctors say that it will be at least three months before they know for absolute certain whether or not she is infected with anything. 

Sigh. 

A long list of random thoughts ran through my mind as I was reading this story. The mama-bear in me felt a crushing compassion for the little girl and her family (Romans 12:15). I simply cannot imagine the torment they are experiencing and will continue to experience for three agonizing months. My heart literally aches for them. The analytic, business-minded part of me wondered about liability issues for the city. That side of me suspects the city of Albuquerque may be embroiled in a nasty and potentially very costly lawsuit soon. The vacation organizer in me who is always thinking about new places to visit made a mental note not to vacay anywhere near Albuquerque, New Mexico anytime soon. The fussy, pedantic worrier in me (she’s a bit prone to hysteria) was seriously freaked out by the idea that someone could get stuck with a dirty needle at a ballfield or park. She was reminded once again that walking around barefoot is never a good idea.  

Then the God-follower in me stepped-up and asked a question that no one seems to be asking:

When exactly did our society give-up on actually helping people? 

For the record, I am not a dolt, nor am I the public-health equivalent of a flat-earther. I get the shared benefits of needle exchange programs. I understand that diseases passed by dirty needles are also sexually transmitted. I get that people who are high are not likely to stop and think about practicing “safe sex”. Nor, are they likely to remember or act on the warnings they heard in the abstinence-based sex education class they attended in high school. I understand that needle-exchange programs save lives and prevent diseases. I am one-hundred-percent on board with saving lives and preventing diseases, especially diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C and MRSA. 

That said. 

I can’t help but feel that needle exchange programs (as well-intended and necessary as they may be) are the ultimate in giving-up on people and writing them off as not worth saving or helping. When we offer drug users a clean needle to shoot a substance that will eventually kill them off without also offering some sort of help or hope we are not treating drug users the way we would want to be treated.  This breaks my heart. We have become so callous as a society that we have decided there is an entire segment of the population not worth saving or helping (Romans 15:1, 1stThessalonians 5:14). 

Seriously.  

There’s a lot of talk these days about the very real problem of homelessness. Experts on the subject universally agree that homelessness is nearly always a byproduct of drug use. If a drug problem can be dealt with in a person’s life it becomes much easier to work on the problem of homelessness. Conversely, as long as a person is using drugs their emotional growth halts and no other issues in their life can be dealt with effectively. No has ever actually been helped by mollycoddling the problem of addiction. 

Voters ought to be demanding local governments do more than simply hand out clean needles to drug users. At the very least local municipalities should require drug users to turn in a dirty needle in order to get a clean one This rudimentary requirement serves the purpose of reminding drug users that they are human and as members of the human family they have an obligation to do their part (no matter how small) to be helpful to the rest of society.    

As Christians the growing problem of addiction ought to break our hearts the way it surely breaks God’s. We must never forget that we are called to be the voice of Jesus in our culture and advocates for those without a voice.  It is our holy obligation to fight for those the world has written off as not worth saving. As Christians we should demand a return of anti-drug education in public schools and we must challenge the relaxing of drug laws and the movement towards complete legalization. Most importantly, we need to remember we have something to offer drug users the government can never give. Freedom from addiction and hope for a better future through a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ (Luke 19:10, Acts 16:31). 

How do we Save Objective Truth from Dying a sad Death?

Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey~ Isaiah 59:14-15 NIV

  I am a peeping-tom on Twitter.

 I have a twitter account.

However.

I suspect I might have been shadow-banned after posting some political blogs during the 2016 election cycle. I think I’m down to a grand total of 33 followers. No one ever responds to anything I tweet so I never tweet anything. I never retweet other people’s stuff and I only occasionally comment on other people’s tweets. It’s just too much work. And frankly, I lack the cleverness, persistence and free time necessary to really make a difference on twitter. I also hate wasting what little creativity I have on what is basically just a modern-day freakshow of personal opinions.   

 Nevertheless,

 I do like skulking around the back alleys of twitter (metaphorically speaking). I follow people, watch videos, read tweets and form opinions about what I find. I know its creepy but it allows me to see what’s going in that area of social media without actually getting involved in that area of social media.

 Such was the case this past weekend when I found a video of Diane Feinstein giving a group of sassy school kids a piece her mind after they challenged her on her unwillingness to simply sign on to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal.  Ms. Feinstein put on a stern Grandma face and informed the kids that she has been doing her job for a long time and that she understands the issues and the political landscape better than they ever could.

 I am not, nor will I ever be a supporter of Ms. Feinstein’s politics. She and I could not possibly be further apart on the political spectrum.  That being said, I almost started clapping when I heard her telling those jackbooted little sprogs some hard truths no one else has the wherewithal to tell them.

Here’s the thing.

 Adults are duty-bound to give kids an unpleasant dose of reality from time-to-time (Proverbs 29:15, 1stCorinthians 13:11). When adults abdicate that responsibility, children grow up to believe anything is possible and some things simply aren’t not possible matter how badly we wish they were. I will never play in the NBA. I’m too short, too old and too female. It’s just not going to happen. I can identify as a tall, muscular man but I will never actually be one.

 We do want our kids to grow-up and dream big dreams. That said, smart people also want them firmly grounded in reality. No one accomplishes anything in the real world when they’re living their life in the land of make-believe.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez might actually make sense sometimes if she had an adult in her life who was wise enough (and kind enough) to gently challenge some of her more peculiar ideas when she was nine (Proverbs 17:29). 

 But, I digress.

 The vast majority of those on twitter did not agree with how Ms. Feinstein handled the situation. Most were fuming-mad that an old troll would crush the green dreams of fresh-faced little children who were just trying to save the planet. Some wondered if it was even okay for an old person to tell a young person what to do or think. Lots of folks were bitter that the Senator dared tell innocent youngsters that something they wanted is simply not possible. Some demanded she resign for her treatment of the children. There was even a petition calling for her impeachment (Proverbs 29:18). 

 Insert eye roll here.

 The whole messy muddle is more than just a silly story about a grumpy old lady and a bunch of mouthy kids.

 We are literally watching objective truth die right before our very eyes.

Seriously. It ought to scare the bejeebers out of all of us.

 There was a time in the not-so-distant past when it was thought to be an act of compassion to tell a person the truth about something even when that truth was hard to hear.  That ship has officially sailed.  Public schools routinely tell kids that if they believe they are a particular gender then they are that gender. Biology be damned, science is literally nothing compared to a child’s feelings about a particular subject. Men pretend to be women all the time and it is considered by many to be a hate crime to point out that those men dressed up like women might have some physical advantages over the women they are competing against in an athletic competition.  

 Truth has become an acceptable casualty anytime someone holds a passionate, deeply held belief about a particular subject. If someone thinks somebody else made a racist or sexist comment then they did. Period. There are no longer two sides to any story. The truth is so inconsequential that it is now considered acceptable to lie about whether or not one was attacked if the pretend attacker holds political beliefs the accuser and the majority finds unpleasant or intolerable.

 Sigh.

 It is critical we remember two truths in the midst of this cultural insanity. First, Christians serve a God who values truth to the point that He literally identified Himself as the physical embodiment of truth (John 14:6). Therefore, we represent our God best when we choose to live out truth in every area of our lives. Second, we must never forget it is still and will always be an act of compassion to speak hard truths as long as it is done in a spirit of love and grace (Ephesians 4:15).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the Kavanaugh Hearings Say About our Culture-

Buy the truth and do not sell it— wisdom, instruction and insight as well~ Proverbs 23:23 NIV

 My husband and I are not exactly world travelers.  In almost three decades of marriage we have left the continental U.S. exactly once (to build houses in Juarez, Mexico). This past week we broke with our pathetic tradition of staying put and made our first trip to Europe. We spent almost two weeks in Ireland and loved every minute of it.  We found the people of Ireland to be genuinely warm, good-natured and hysterically funny. They were quick to engage in conversation with anyone willing to learn about the history of their country.

  In the mornings we drank truly terrible coffee and watched the European news stations (BBC and Sky). The thing about European news is that it’s really short on actual news stories. There were quite a few biased views regarding Brexit and negative opinion pieces thinly disguised as actual news concerning the American president.  However, all the other stories tended to be focused on the environment, events that took place decades ago that have zero relevance to life in this decade and lifestyle pieces. Sadly, European news makes American news look downright illuminating.

 Sigh.

 The one relevant news event that managed to make it across the pond was the scandal brewing at the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The newscasters in Europe went to great lengths to cover every salacious aspect of the story in grim detail. Most of them had a tough time hiding their glee at the prospect of this particular nominee going down in flames.  

 It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that I have no clue what exactly happened between Bret Kavanaugh and his accuser. No one does. It is the ultimate he-said she-said.  It is clearly evident that Ms. Ford sincerely believes something happened and has experienced pain and trauma. Whether or not it was at the hands of Bret Kavanaugh could not be less clear.  That aside, I believe that most of us are missing the bigger picture. This hearing is about bigger things than this hearing.  Sadly, how the Kavanaugh inquiry is being handled says a lot about where we might be headed as a culture. Following are four major concerns we should all have about this situation and how it’s being conducted.

 We are rapidly devolving into a people that believes that the hoped-for outcome of any given situation always justifies the means used to achieve that outcome-

 It is clear that the allegations leveled against Kavanaugh are absurdly partisan at their foundation. If this were not true the matter would have been handled quietly and Ms. Ford would not have become a public figure. It’s clear the Democrats desperately want to prevent Kavanaugh from being confirmed before the mid-term elections because they are hoping to gain enough seats in November to prevent the President from confirming more Justices during his remaining time office. If they succeed they will effectively prevent the President from transforming the political landscape for a generation or more. I do not agree with what the Dems are attempting to do but I do understand what’s motivating them. They believe that the direction the country is headed in under this administration is wrong. Rather than trust the process (as Republicans were forced to do) they have chosen to ruin the reputation of a man based on what can only be described as the thinnest of evidence just so they can get their desired outcome (a more liberal America). It’s a corrupt political move and ultimately it will hurt everyone including the Dems (Proverbs 28:10, Amos 5:14).  

 We have decided that past injustice towards a particular group validates present injustice towards a different group-

 It goes without saying that women have been treated unfairly by men in the past (Proverbs 22:8). Until recently women were not permitted to vote, own property or even decide the direction of their own futures. Additionally, women were seldom believed when they were raped or sexually harassed. Even when they were believed they were frequently blamed for the assault. That said, just because women have been treated badly in the past it does not make it okay to accuse men without evidence in the present (Psalm 5:5). Nor does past injustice towards women automatically make every present allegation against men true.

  We could easily be setting victims of sexual assault back a hundred years-

 Cultural pendulums tend to swing dramatically. So, if we as a society choose to simply believe (and act on) every accusation of sexual assault (no matter how flimsy the evidence). Sooner or later the pendulum is bound to swing back to a place where no one is believed. That will be a sad day for everyone.   

 We are becoming a people who lack moral insight and wisdom-  

 There has been endless dialog surrounding this investigation (Job 13:5) however, none of the talk has centered on the prevention of sexual assault or the prevention of false accusations of sexual assault. We need to get back to a place where we are teaching our boys as well as our girls that attending parties where drunkenness is the sought-after outcome is dangerous and could easily lead to traumatic, life-altering consequences for everyone involved (Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 119:104).

 Period.

 

 

Six Signs of Blatant Hypocrisy-

And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy~ Galatians 2:13 NIV

 Hypocrisy.

 Is perhaps the ugliest of all sins. Unlike pride the Bible makes it painfully clear that there is no such thing as a “healthy hypocrisy” or “good hypocrisy” (Romans 11:13, Galatians 6:4, Matthew 23:13:36, Matthew 24:51, Mark 7:6, Luke 6:42).

  God hates hypocrisy. Because Christians are commanded to live lives of sincerity (1st Timothy 1:5, Hebrews 10:22) and because hypocrisy is a pernicious sin that literally fools people into believing they are better and more moral than they really are. (Galatians 2:11-14).

 Hypocrisy literally hurts everyone. Hypocrisy hurts hypocrites because hypocrisy is a sin that makes the person sinning more comfortable with all forms of sin. Sooner or later all hypocrites buy into the lie that they really are as good as they think everyone thinks they are. Because of that, every hypocrite eventually gives up on things like confession, repentance and living a life of holiness (James 5:16, 1st John 1:9, Matthew 3:2, Acts 3:19, Romans 12:1). Instead, they simply settle for pretending. No one will ever reach their full potential in Christ if they simply settle for a life of pretending to be better than they really are. This is because authenticity or being real about who we really are is the key that unlocks the door to spiritual transformation in our lives. 

 Hypocrisy hurts churches because hypocrisy is contagious. Which is why some churches and denominations seem to have more of a problem with it than others. Any time one respected Christian leads a life of hypocrisy it doesn’t take long for others to figure out that it’s a whole lot easier to act holy when people are looking than to actually do the hard work of becoming holy. When Jesus warned His disciples concerning “the yeast” of the Pharisees and Sadducees he was referencing the infectious and trickledown nature of hypocrisy within the ranks of spiritual leadership  (Matthew 16:11).

 Hypocrisy hurts our ability to lead others to Christ because one insincere Christian can easily convince all non-Christians that hypocrisy and pretense is standard operating procedure for every Christian. In the process of dismissing all Christians as hypocrites they dismiss Jesus and the results of dismissing Jesus are tragic and eternal.

 Sigh.

 Like the sin of pride, the nature of hypocrisy is such that it is easy to spot hypocrisy in others but nearly impossible to see it in ourselves. Fortunately for us, Jesus doesn’t call His people to worry about the sins of others. He does call us to worry about our own sin. Hypocrisy is a sin Christians ought to spend a lot of time worrying about. Because hypocrisy is something the God who defines Himself as love hates (1st John 4:8 23:13-33, Matthew 24:51). Following are some signs you might have a problem with hypocrisy:

 You have two very different sets of friends-

 Having two very different sets of friends is not a problem per se. However, it is a problem if your behavior, attitude and speech is very different when you are with the different groups. If you spend a lot of time hoping that your divergent social circles never meet up you almost definitely have a problem that needs immediate attention.

 You judge others harshly-

Hypocrites are generally quite reluctant to admit they sin at all (1st John 1:9-10). They also tend to lack mercy and are weirdly judgmental towards the sins of others. Spoiler alert: oftentimes hypocrites are the most judgmental towards people who have the same sin issues they do.

 You live a secret life-

We can easily fool ourselves into believing what we do when we’re by ourselves has no bearing on the rest of our lives. Truth-be-told it is possible to live a secret life for a long time without any obvious repercussions. But because God will not permit Himself to be mocked, sooner or later every choice we make will  become apparent to everyone (Galatians 6:7, Numbers 32:23) 

You have a problem with gossip-

 Not every gossip is a hypocrite. There are some gossips who are refreshingly upfront and honest about their sin.  However, in my experience, every hypocrite is a gossip. Hypocrite’s tend to gossip because they secretly believe that sharing the sins and shortcomings of others will keep people from noticing their own sins and shortcomings.

 You will do ANYTHING to avoid looking bad-

 Hypocrisy is all about projecting an image of goodness and righteousness that the hypocrite KNOWS deep in their heart-of-hearts is false.  Because a hypocrites reputation and image is also their idol,  protecting the image is ultimately more important than anyone or anything else. Therefore a hypocrite will lie about and even knowingly slander another person in order to protect their own reputation because reputation is everything to a hypocrite (Matthew 7:20-22).

 We all have singular moments of hypocrisy.

Anyone who claims otherwise is either fundamentally dishonest or more of a hypocrite than they know. That said, we should work tirelessly to root out all forms of hypocrisy in our lives because the behavior we tolerate in ourselves is the behavior that grows. Spotting hypocrisy in ourselves cannot happen without a bone-level commitment to brutal self-examination and a steely-eyed determination to live lives of openness and sincerity.

No, Kneeling During the Anthem is Not Fighting for Civil Rights-


I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, 
tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb~ Revelation 7:9 NIV

 This post started out as an ugly rant about my personal loathing of purely symbolic forms of protest. Most of my anger was targeted at what I see as a stupid, futile and divisive effort to bring attention to the real problem of racism in America. After some thought I concluded that the subjects of racism and protests against racism are worthy of a slightly more nuanced approach than an angry rant.

 So.

 If there was ever a thing that was worthy of a protest its racism. Hating or discriminating against anyone because of their skin color is ridiculous, prideful, and anti-Christian at its core. Racism is not something that should be tolerated in Christian circles (more on that later) or in a civilized society.

 That being said.

Some have compared the protests of the 1960’s to athletes kneeling during the national anthem. There really is no comparison between the heroism of the Civil Rights Movement and the kneeling during the national anthem idiocy we see today.

Here’s why not.

 With a few notable exceptions, (all of them white and privileged) the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement were severely marginalized people who lacked power, money, influence and options. They literally had no other options open to them other than peaceful protest to draw attention to their plight. Furthermore, none of those protesters were attempting to vilify their country or the people in it. They were simply striving to bring much-needed attention to a very real problem plaguing our nation.

Furthermore, the Civil Rights Movement had an endgame in mind (an end to Jim Crow laws and the disenfranchisement of black voters). The leaders of the movement used protests in conjunction with legal action as they worked at a grassroots level to transform attitudes regarding race. The efforts of those brave men and women paid off. Hearts, minds and laws were changed. As a result America became a better country, not a perfect country by any means, but certainly a better one.

 The athletes protesting today are not marginalized poor people living out their lives on the fringes of society. They are some of the wealthiest and most advantaged people in all the world. If they wished to do something meaningful to solve the plethora of problems troubling the black community they certainly have the power, influence and financial resources to do almost anything they wanted to do.

But they don’t.

None of these athletes are interested in doing the work it takes to become change agents. They simply want to draw attention to themselves and bellyache about things they don’t like in the most public, contentious and annoying way imaginable. To add insult to injury, they malign the nation and the people who have made them wealthy beyond reason for playing what is arguably just a dumb game.

 Sigh.

 I do not begrudge anyone the right to express him or herself in any way they see fit. If overindulged athletes want to kneel rather than stand during the anthem that is totally cool with me. That said, I will not be purchasing any overpriced fan crap for my family.

 But, I digress.

 My biggest issue with these types of protests is that they are purely symbolic. No words exist for how much I despise pointless symbolism. The Civil Rights protests were not empty acts of symbolism. Protesters sought to bring attention to racial injustice by acting in ways that impacted the cities where the protests took place in peaceable, but consequential ways. Kneeling during the anthem is the equivalent of telling a homeless person to “go, be warm and well fed” (James 2:16). Symbolic fits of melodrama do nothing to solve real problems and ultimately just spread dissension and pit Americans against each other (Proverbs 16:28).

It’s just wrong.

 God does not see skin color the way we see skin color. When God sees the variations in our skin tone He sees the beloved creation that He declared to be “very good” (Genesis 1:27-31). It’s our responsibility as Jesus followers to help our foolish and sin-sick world see the issues of our day the way God sees those issues. We do that by living our lives in a colorblind fashion and by pointing people back to the God who loves everyone and hates biases based on superficial and irrelevant things like skin color (James 2:1, 8-9).

 And by shunning purely symbolic, stupid forms of protest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Church Great Again-

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

Christianity is in a steady state of decline.  

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

 None of these concerns are without merit.

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

 However,

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

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

 First:

 Show up- Hebrews 10:25

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

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

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

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

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

 Serve– Ephesians 2:10

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

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

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

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