How Early Christians Thrived under Unjust Authority-

 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone– Titus 3:1-2 NIV

It is all-too easy to find good examples of truly bad leadership in families, governments, schools and even some churches. 

Bad leadership is nothing new. A sinful, broken world breeds autocratic, egocentric, prideful leaders in every sphere of life. God’s people have seldom been exempted from the curse of awful leadership.

The Hebrews were brutally enslaved by the Egyptians for centuries before God miraculously liberated them from bondage. David, prior to his ascension to the throne endured decades of harassment and abuse and more than one murder attempt at the hands of Saul. Early Christians were routinely persecuted, abused, denied work and even killed simply for refusing to violate God’s commands. Throughout church history sincere followers of Jesus have been victimized and oppressed sometimes even by so-called “Christian leaders” who loved power more than they feared God. Over and over again, throughout history in the face almost unspeakable suffering Christian people have grown stronger, wiser and more faithful to God. 

How they did that matters a lot.

 Especially now. Leadership is not, as a general rule getting any better. Events of the last few years have exposed a creepy authoritarian element in many political leaders from countries once thought to be unswervingly democratic and safe from tyranny like Australia, Austria, New Zealand and Canada. Some public schools and health departments have become despotic in their approach in their approach to leadership. Even the church has had more than its fair share of greedy, narcissistic and exploitive leaders.

Sigh. 

Christians throughout history were able to live with and pray for corrupt, evil and despotic leaders. They did this in spite of any suffering they endured because they understood deep in the core of who they were that every human being on earth is ultimately answerable to God.  Leadership is a stewardship. Human beings might think they are electing, appointing or hiring a leader—or an arrogant leader might imagine they have achieved their position due to their own cleverness, power or maneuvering but in reality, God—not human wisdom or control is what places people in positions of authority. This means that ultimately all human leaders whether they lead the church, the state or the family will someday be answerable to God for how they handle (or mishandle) the power and authority they have been given (Luke 12:47-48). 

Early Christians understood that no one actually gets away with anything. Not really. Contemporary believers do everything they can to avoid thinking about or talking about the J-word. Judgment. Most Christians are super uncomfortable with anyone getting punished, even if they deserve punishment. The writings of early Christians reveal they did not have any such issues (2nd Thessalonians 1:6, Romans 12:19, Jude 1:5-7, 2nd Peter 2:4-21). They understood God is not just a God of love. He is also a God of judgment. Early Christians actually took solace in knowing that evil, prideful leaders who refused to do what was right would someday be punished for their sins. Early Christians had the faith to believe God would settle the score, if not in this life, then in the one to come (Revelation 21:11-15). This knowledge empowered them to endure the suffering that goes along with living under the thumb of unjust and evil leaders.

They also knew enough about history and the Bible to know that sometimes God does not wait until death to begin adjudicating things. Occasionally evil people get a preview of their eternal suffering.  King Saul, the man who hunted David like an animal for years died by suicide and in disgrace. Queen Jezebel, arguably the most evil female leader in human history died from being thrown out a window. No one cared enough about her to retrieve her body. She was eventually eaten by wild dogs.   King Herod (Matthew 2:1-22) the man who murdered a village full of baby boys in an attempt to eradicate any competition for his power died of a horrible death from “intense itching”, “severe intestinal discomfort”, “breathlessness” and: wait for it… “gangrene of the genitalia”—His man part literally rotted off. A sure sign of divine retribution if there ever was one. Early Christians saw Nero, the royal nut-job who set Rome on fire and blamed Christians for it killed himself to avoid being murdered by his staff.   

Anytime a person refuses to repent they spend eternity in hell. Therefore, no one ought to revel in anyone else’s punishment. That being said, the beliefs of early Christians serve as a reminder for us in tough times that God is not unaware of anything. Nothing is hidden from His sight (Hebrews 4:13).  

This affected the early church in profound ways. 

 They were able to pray for and feel compassion for their tormenters.  They were also thoughtful and cautious in the way they handled any authority they were given. They did not lord it over anyone.  It did not matter if the authority they held was in the church, the family or the state. They understood that true Christians wear any authority they are given with a measure of humility and with a fear of the Lord. They knew no one is exempt from God’s judgment. 

We would do well to learn from them. 

The Truth about Judgment-

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

Dear Readers, 

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

Thanks, 

Lisa

Now, this week’s post:

Okay, so I recently discovered I have morphed into a “New Testament person”.

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

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

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

However.

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

We did this to ourselves. 

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

So, what is a Christian to do? 

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

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

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

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

We should celebrate those things.  

Is Being Nice Really What Jesus Would Do?

Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent~ Acts 17:30 NASB

 My daughter has joined a gym. Her fitness goals are commendable and realistic.  She wants to gain muscle, increase her endurance and best-case scenario: drop a few pounds.

 Last night she confessed she’s run into a bit of a glitch in reaching her goals. The problem lies less with her than with the gym she belongs to. The staff is pleasant, but hands off when it comes to assisting clients.

 The staff does not help with technique or correct the wrong use of machines. There are no scales anywhere in the building. There is an enormous dish of candy at the front desk and the gym serves pizza on Fridays. If a client wishes to munch on a jelly donut while running on the treadmill, the management is perfectly fine with that. They do ask that you wipe the goo off the machine once your workout is completed.

 The goal of this organization is a noble one. The want to create a safe place for out of shape people to get into shape, without even a hint of disapproval or judgment from anyone.

 As always the only hitch is the curse of unintended consequences.  

 The employees are so wary of causing offense that the clients are not getting the help they need to make the changes they want to make. This is a legitimate problem when you consider that any gym anywhere in the world would assert that their sole purpose for existing is to help out of shape folks lose weight and get into shape.

 Her tale of woe reminded me of a blog post I read this week.

 I read quite a few blogs in a given week. Every once in a while I come across one that sticks with me and causes me to think on a deeper level.

 This was one of those.

 The writer (a Christian) shared that one afternoon while she and her husband were out shopping, they ran into a guy she had attended youth group with when she was a teenager. Except the guy wasn’t a guy anymore. He was a girl.

 Awkward.

 The writer handled herself with composure considering the delicate nature of the situation. She did not cast judgment, give disapproving looks or hurl Bible verses at him. Nor did she inform him he was headed straight for hell.

 She went out of her way to make friendly conversation and set him at ease. She asked about his family and inquired about what he had been up to in recent years. She introduced her husband, shared some of her own story, gave him a couple of big hugs and went on with her day.

 It was a nice exchange and frankly it’s probably what I would have done given the same set of circumstances. So, please don’t accuse me of judging her or anyone else, because I’m not. That said, as I pondered her story I was overcome with a deep sense of spiritual conviction and left wondering:

 Is being nice enough?

 Being nice or “showing love” to sinners is bandied about as the latest and greatest in “being like Jesus” and “loving the unsaved”. But again, I wonder is it enough? And is it really and truly “being like Jesus”?

 I am not questioning whether or not Christians ought to be kind, respectful and compassionate towards all people, including those people with obviously sinful lifestyles. Jesus was and I believe being kind is a given. If you are a Christ-follower and do not routinely treat all people with respect, you have a serious sin problem called pride and you should deal with it.

Today.

 That being said, I do wonder if simply “showing love” to people who are obviously stuck in a sin spiral is doing more harm than good from an eternal perspective. I’m not proposing we stop being nice. I am proposing we stop helping sinners to feel safe in their lost state. Our compassion and acts of kindness need to be followed up with loving, but truthful conversations about the eternal consequences of choosing a lifestyle of sin over a heart of repentance. We forget that Jesus (arguably the nicest guy ever) made it uncomfortably clear on more than one occasion that an unrepentant sinner is anything but “safe” from a spiritual standpoint (Matthew 4:17, Luke 5:32, Mark 9:47).

 I fear that we have we have traded the hard work of evangelism and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) for the path of least resistance: being pleasant and inoffensive. In the process we have become a lot like my daughter’s gym. We are safe and welcoming to sinners, but nothing significant ever really happens and no one ever changes anything that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love is Not Enough

Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside~ Exodus 9:20

 

It’s been a depressing week. Nothing truly awful occurred; just a whole bunch of petty little first-world problems that conspired together to wreck my week. I’ve been sick, my husband has been out of town, and we’ve had car problems, problems with the dog, scheduling issues with our kids, and on top of everything else it’s September and it still feels like July in Tucson.

 My blue mood intensified on Tuesday while I was searching the Internet for an article. I could remember what the article was about, but not the title or who wrote the stupid thing. As a result, I spent the better part of an hour undertaking the modern equivalent of searching for a needle in a haystack. I never did find what I was looking for, but I did come across a rather bitter tirade written by a former Christian turned irate atheist. Among other things, his diatribe contained a list of prominent Christian leaders who have failed morally in the last decade. The length of the list was appalling.

 But it got me thinking.  

Why do Christian leaders fail?

 They shouldn’t. If there is any type of leader on earth who should be able to hold it together it’s a Christian leader. And yet the last three decades have given the world some really outstanding examples of leadership failure within the Christian community. Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Doug Phillips, Bob Coy, Ted Haggard, and Tony Alamo are just a few of the more notorious examples of Christian failure the world has witnessed in recent years.  

 This is an issue all Christians should think about for a couple of reasons. First:

All Christians are leaders.

 Parents lead children, managers and business owners lead employees, employees and students lead their peers, and teachers lead students. If you are a believer in Jesus and you aren’t leading someone in some way, you are doing something terribly wrong. There is no leader on earth who is immune to temptation. We need to understand why leaders fail so we can avoid moral failure in our own lives and preserve our influence in the world.

 Christian leadership failure hurts everyone.

 Failure damages the person who fails; they lose their incomes, influence, reputations, and sometimes even their families. Moral failure devastates followers, shatters trust and tests faith. Moral failure makes it challenging for all Christians to spread the gospel. It is difficult to convince those on the periphery of the faith that Jesus has the power to change and empower people when Church leadership can’t uphold some very basic principles of the faith. Tragically, moral failure hurts unbelievers most of all, giving them a handy excuse to never ponder the claims of Christ, ensuring that they will spend eternity without Him.  

 Popular theories of why moral failure occurs are many and varied, but a list of contributing factors usually includes:

 Lack of accountability

Isolation of the leader

Stress

Pride

Too few boundaries

Too many temptations

Fatigue and depression

 All of these issues can and do contribute to leadership failure. However, I believe there is typically a lot more to it. One thing is clear, for most Christians moral failure is rarely about a lack of love for Jesus. I cannot speak for every Christian leader who has fallen. But I can tell you that every Christian I have ever known who has failed morally has loved God deeply and passionately.

 Lack of love is rarely the problem. Lack of fear is.

Love (even love for God) is a soft squishy emotion that is easy to push aside when other emotions like greed and lust are riding high. Fear on the other hand is much harder to ignore or push aside. For that reason, fear of God has become a central part of our belief system. If it doesn’t, we will undoubtedly fall victim to the first appealing temptation that comes along during a moment of stress or weakness.

 Fear of God has gotten a bad rap in the last few years. The expression conjures up images of harried-looking believers biting their nails and cowering in corners. It’s really a deceptive image of fearing the Lord. Fearing God is not about being afraid. Fear of the Lord simply means that we really believe that God will bring the consequences He has promised in His word to those who violate His commands.

 A fear of the Lord must be cultivated in a person’s life. Fear of God begins with remembering that not all of God’s promises are pleasant and that God really does discipline those whom He loves most.