Seven Churches Series- Thyatira the Hot Mess Church


For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions- 2nd Timothy 4:3 ESV

Peculiar fact:

Comfort and ease do not always make people better people.  

Such was the case with the Church in Thyatira.

Unlike most of the churches in Asia Minor, the church in Thyatira was not living under the constant threat of brutal persecution. Martyrdom was not an everyday occurrence in Thyatira. There is zero evidence the believers in Thyatira were suffering from the consequences of extreme poverty like the Christians in Smyrna. Emperor worship was not a huge issue in Thyatira. All-in-all Thyatira was a rather peaceful place to be a Christian, at least compared to other cities in the Roman Empire. This means all of the problems in the church came from within the church.  

Thyatira was a hot mess.

Even so, the letter begins with an encouraging tone. This little detail indicates Jesus chooses to sees the good in our lives even when we are failing to live up to His expectations. Jesus praises the Christians in Thyatira for their faith in God, their love for one another other and their faithful service to Him (John 13:34-35). He applauds their perseverance (Hebrews 10:36) and acknowledges that their good deeds have grown in number rather than diminishing over time (Ephesians 2:8-10, Hebrews 10:24). 

Then the tone changes. 

Dramatically.

 Most of the problems in Thyatira appear to have revolved around a female teacher Jesus calls “Jezebel”. It is possible (but unlikely) “Jezebel” was this woman’s actual name. It’s far more likely Jesus was equating the woman in Thyatira with Queen Jezebel in 1st and 2nd Kings. This was by no means a complimentary comparison. The Old Testament Jezebel was a foul woman who normalized Baal worship in Israel. The sexual immorality and child sacrifice that went hand-in-hand with Baal worship ultimately led to judgment and seventy years of Babylonian captivity for the Jewish people. (1st Kings 16:30-32, Jeremiah 19:5, Jeremiah 32:35). 

Yikes. 

Jesus has three primary issues with the woman He calls “Jezebel”:

First, she called herself a prophetess when she was a complete fraud (Revelation 2:20). There is no shortage of good examples of female prophets in both the Old and New Testaments (Exodus 15:1, Judges 4:4, 1st Samuel 25:28-32, Isaiah 8:3, 2nd Kings 24:14, Luke 2:36, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 21:9). That being said, a title does not automatically make someone the thing they claim to be (James 3:1, 2nd Peter 2:1-4, Jude 16-21). 

Second, this woman’s teaching was ultimately a concession to the surrounding culture. Her teaching permitted Christians to practice paganism while still claiming to “be Christian”. The pagan worship she encouraged which would have certainly involved sexual immorality (adultery, homosexuality, promiscuity) and drunkenness as part of the “worship”. Joining in pagan worship was appealing to less mature Christians because it enabled them to blend in with the surrounding culture, thus keeping persecution at bay. Jesus forbids this type of compromise because He knows Christians never reach the lost with the gospel by mimicking the civilization they live in.

And finally, Jesus had in some way confronted “Jezebel” concerning her teaching and she refused to change. He confronted her, either by speaking directly to her conscience or through people He used to challenge her. She chose to continue on in her false teaching in spite of the warnings she had been given (Revelation 2:20-22). Jesus was not amused. He promises to “cast her on a bed of suffering” for her refusal to repent. This stands as a stark warning to anyone who is tempted to ignore their conscience. 

Jesus also liberally criticizes those in leadership who looked the other way while this woman led the ignorant into a spiritually treacherous compromise with the culture (Revelation 2:20).  “Jezebel” was guilty of false teaching but the weak leadership in Thyatira gave her a place to preach. Her ministry would not have lasted without the platform they provided. It’s clear from the text: the spiritual leadership at the helm in Thyatira were not oblivious nubs led astray by an evil mastermind who was outfoxing them with her excellent (but untrue) arguments. Jesus is clear: by refusing to deal with her sin they aided her ministry. 

Sigh. 

Jesus’ tough talk to the church in Thyatira teaches us that we believe about life and God matters to Jesus. It is not okay for a believer in Jesus to passively accept or willfully go after “Christian” teachings that tickle their ears and make space for sin (2nd Timothy 4:3-4). Nor, is it acceptable for Christians to help a false teacher by buying their books, listening to their podcasts or attending their church. Those who knowingly help a false teacher to grow their ministry bear a share of the responsibility for the harm they cause.  

Jesus finishes His letter to the church in Thyatira with some encouragement to the discouraged faithful there. He encourages them to simply “hold on to what they have” (faith in the goodness of God) in spite of what they see going on in their church. That’s it. That’s all He expects is their fidelity. In return He promises them a place in His Kingdom and the future opportunity to rule and reign with Him if they choose to remain faithful and true even in a church full of compromise and sin. 

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). 

What can the Average Christian do to make a Difference right now?

His master replied, You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest– Matthew 25:25-27 NIV

I used to love all things political. 

Seriously. I did. I was a junkie. I looked forward to the presidential elections the way my husband looks forward to hunting season and the way my brothers look forward to the super bowl. Even midterm and local elections were thrilling to me. The love of all things political was a big part of who I was. 

That ship has officially sailed. 

I no longer love politics.  Honestly, the whole ugly muddle kind of horrifies me at this point.  My love for the political began to wane sometime around the 2014 midterm election. The choices in candidates got sadder, the issues became more polarized and the people on both sides became much more hateful and much less tolerant towards “the other side” of the political divide. 

Sigh. 

The choices in candidates have not gotten any less sad. The issues have not become any less polarizing and unfortunately, a lot of the people on both sides of the political divide are still pretty hateful, especially when it comes to any issue they happen to hold dear.  The whole thing is kind of gross to me now and I don’t always know what to do with that feeling.

However.

There are a couple of things I do know. 

I know the world isn’t getting any less ugly or dark. It’s just not. The picture the Apostle Paul paints for us of the end times in 2nd Timothy 3:1-5 is becoming more and more of an actuality with every passing day. Good is now officially evil and evil is officially good in every corner of Western culture (Isaiah 5:20). The writer of Ecclesiastes declared three thousand years ago that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). But with all due respect, from where I sit, folks are literally inventing new ways to sin (Romans 1:30). 

If for whatever reason you disagree with my assessment of the cultural moment we find ourselves in. I suggest you spend some time on Tik Tok looking at “gender affirming videos”. It’s an eye-opener.  For sure.

Sigh. 

We are all weary. We are weary of the world we live in. We are weary of the sin we see gaining ground in the culture. We are weary of evil winning and good losing. We are weary of caring about what goes on in this world because there is just so much to care about and most of the problems appear to be insurmountable and unsolvable. We are weary of politics. We are weary of the infighting. We are weary of the posturing. We are weary of the lies. 

For some of us that weariness has translated into believing our vote doesn’t matter anymore. Some of us have bought into the lie that God doesn’t care about how we vote or even if we vote at all. We have decided the prudent thing to do is to settle into our churches, hunker down and wait for the return of Jesus and I get it. 

However.

I also know all of life is a stewardship. Nothing we “own” is really ours to do with as we please. We belong to the Lord and so do our blessings and opportunities.  God expects His people to use what they have been given for His glory and the good of others (Matthew 25:14-30). Our homes, our children, our civil rights, our time, our churches, our bank accounts and our votes all belong to God. None of that stuff, or any other stuff we might think we own is really ours. It all belongs to God. Everything we have in this world is on loan for a season we call “this life”. 

I know we will all be held accountable for what we do with what we have been given. How we handle; our possessions, witnessing opportunities, our authority, our blessings, our money, our citizenship, our families and our votes are all things we will either be rewarded for or have to give account for when we stand before the Lord on judgment day (Romans 12:14, 1st Peter 4:5, Revelation 20:11-15).

November 8th is the 2022 midterm elections. The battle over good and evil is raging in ways it has never raged before.  That makes this election a big deal. The issues are monumental. There are really are some things we can do to swing things in a better direction. 

We can pray. We can storm heaven with pleas for a return of justice, righteousness and virtue. We can beg for revival. We can ask God to show us what we need to do in our own lives to bring revival. We can do what God tells us to do. 

We can vote.

It’s not too late to register in most states. If you are not registered to vote, get registered. Today. Educate yourself on the issues and candidates. Don’t expect perfection from a candidate. Choose the best of a bad lot if you have to, but choose. Not choosing to vote is a vote for the encroaching darkness. 

How Peace can Become a Bad Thing –

Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace- Jeremiah 10b-11 NIV

We are hardwired to pursue peace. 

Deep down in our souls we know every good and valuable thing human civilization has to offer was developed, advanced and flourished during times of peace. The finest art, music, theology, medicine and literature are all the outcome of extended periods of peace. Minus peace marriages dissolve, mental health declines, churches splinter, governments breakdown and societies crumble.  

Peace is a critical element of Christian doctrine. 

Jesus’ official title is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He got that title by coming to earth, dying on the cross and rising from the dead in order to pay the penalty for human sin and rebellion. His purpose in doing all that was to broker peace between a sinless God and sinful humanity. Because Jesus is the bringer of peace Jesus’ followers are instructed to make peace whenever possible (Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14). The Bible teaches that the mere presence of an obedient Christian has the power to bring peace to a place or situation. (Matthew 10:13). One of the most profound benefits of knowing Jesus is the peace He brings to our hearts even in the midst of the worst kinds of trouble and chaos (John 14:27, John 16:33). 

Because peace is so vital to human flourishing most folks will go to super human and sometimes even sinful lengths to get it and keep it. A craving for peace is why we have divorce lawyers. Peace is the reason our culture loves pharmaceuticals so much. It’s why society collectively spends billions on police and it explains the existence of the military industrial complex.  Peace is so critical to human health people will fight wars just to keep it.  

It’s critical we understand. 

 Peace has a dark side.  It’s not all sunshine and gummy bears. There are situations in life when the presence of peace is neither good, beneficial or life-giving. Peace quickly becomes toxic anytime we: 

Get it in the wrong way-

Interestingly enough, the most totalitarian and repressive countries on earth are also, at least on the surface, some of the most serene and peaceful places on earth. You don’t see a lot of dissent or griping in dystopian regimes. The people in those places are not peaceful because they are thrilled with their circumstances. Beneath the veneer of peace and tranquility, there is a tyrant who rules with an iron fist. No one is allowed to tell the truth or say what they believe unless the tyrant gives them the go ahead. The same thing can happen in our families, churches, businesses and friendships. A strong personality or leader keeps the peace, not by leading well, working through interpersonal problems or helping people to figure out their conundrums. Rather, the leader keeps the peace through intimidation and coercion. Sometimes the coercion is stated verbally. Most of the time it’s implied. Sometimes the threat is physical, but usually it’s social or relational. Typically, anyone brave enough or dumb enough to refuse to “submit’ to the leaders demands ends up on the “outside” of the church, family or friend group. The only way to deal with a leader who sows false peace is to refuse to leave the situation. 

Want it for the wrong reasons-

Some people make peace simply because they are so averse to any kind of conflict, even healthy conflict they will do anything tolerate anything just to avoid the social discomfort that comes with rocking the relationship boat. Psychologists call this kind of peacemaking: codependence. Codependence is bad. The peace we broker through codependent capitulation never leads to anything healthy or lifegiving. Instead, codependent peacemaking always leads to repressed anger, game playing, bitterness and passive-aggressive revenge seeking, none of which pleases God (Hebrews 12:15, Matthew 5:37). The only way to achieve real peace is by moving forward with hard conversations in spite of any personal embarrassment or discomfort we feel.  Hard conversation is hard but it allows us to work through the issues in the relationship honestly and come to a place of real peace where people can flourish and grow.  

Take shortcuts to get it-

There are all sorts of shortcuts we can take to achieve a pretense of peace in our marriages, churches, friendships and workplaces. We can gloss over real problems, limit hard conversations, crush dissent, hide the conflict, avoid people who make us uncomfortable or pretend everything is okay when it isn’t. All of these shortcuts do give an illusion of peace, at least for a season. The problem with shortcuts is they also inhibit intimacy, limit growth, and kill straight forward communication.  There really is no shortcut or easy way to achieve real, authentic and lasting relationship health. We just have to be willing to be patient as we work through the conflict to get to the good stuff (cooperation, intimacy, friendship, trust). 

The pursuit of peace is a good, upright and noble thing—if we go about it in the right way. If we go about the wrong way we might get a short-term payoff that feels good in the moment but is in reality a cheap counterfeit, that brings with it a lot of long-term pain. 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Christian Political Involvement-

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare- Jeremiah 29:7 ESV

There are a growing number of Christians who are very much against believers taking an active role in politics.  Few, if any, have an issue with Christians voting. However, some believe Christians supporting a particular party or candidate, running for an office or vocally supporting and/or sponsoring legislation is counter-productive to the growth of Christianity. The concern comes from a good place. It’s simply a fact that Christianity has already become linked to a particular party in the minds of a lot of non-Christian people.  As a result, politics has become a handy excuse for some to dismiss the claims of Jesus. This sad state of affairs will have eternal consequences. 

Nobody wants that. 

But, maybe, just maybe, it’s not the involvement that’s the problem. Maybe, it’s how we’ve been involved that’s the problem. Maybe God is calling Christians to be involved in politics, just in a healthier and more life-giving way than in the past. It’s just true that anytime Christians bow out of any aspect of the culture that part of the culture loses the very thing (Christian influence) that could bring health to it (Matthew 5:14-16).  For that reason, Christians who live in a democracy should do everything to make the democracy they live in as healthy as possible. This might mean running for the school board or city council or some other office.  It might mean choosing to support a particular candidate or piece of legislation that brings about a better and more just world. 

However. 

Just because we should do something it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about HOW we do that thing (Colossians 4:5). In that vein I have a couple of cautions for Christians thinking about getting more involved in the world of politics. If these cautions are heeded, it will make Christians a force for good in the world. They will also go a long way in preventing Christianity from being negatively connected to politics in the minds of non-Christians. 

 We have to:

Understand the limitations of politics- 

Politics can do a lot.  Politics can promote justice, encourage the common good and foster wise behavior in the lives of citizens. Politics can even save lives. However, there are some critically important things politics cannot do. Politics can’t stimulate spiritual conviction and politics don’t have the power to change a human heart. Politics will never lead anyone to Jesus. Only the Holy Spirit can do those things. For that reason, Christians must not give conservative political change the same status as preaching the gospel or promoting Christianity. It’s critical we understand that without the spiritual change that comes with preaching the gospel any political change we get will be subject to the whims of the next political administration and therefore, short-lived. 

Understand the corrupting nature of political influence-

Politics are ultimately all about power and power is the most corrupting force on earth (Ecclesiastes 7:7) and Christians are in no way exempt from the corrupting power of politics. Christians who go into politics have to understand there will be huge temptations to compromise their principals for the sake of just a little more power and a little more influence with those who have money and or power. This means Christians who go into politics need to be open to accountability and Christians who support political candidates need to be ready to move on from any candidate who professes Christ as Lord but who’s actions prove they love power more than God. 

Commit to being the influencer not the influenced- 

Charles Dudley Warner once said politics make strange bedfellows. What he meant was that sometimes people with little in common will come together purely for the sake of shared political interests. This has never been truer in conservative political circles than it is today. The right-wing now include the anything-goes libertarians, those who buy into some rather questionable viewpoints regarding race along with conservative believers in Jesus. This group dynamic makes it critical Christians involved in politics be very careful about what and who they support.  

Know biblical principles and understand what the Bible teaches- 

In order for a Christian to be spiritually useful, we have to know what the Bible says and understand the principles underlying the commands. It’s also critical we are able to make a case for why those principles make good policy for everyone.  For example, the Bible says nothing specifically for or against recreational drug use. However, the Bible does have a lot to say about being wise, sober-minded and thinking clearly about life (1st Peter 5:8, 1stThessalonians 5:5-6, 1st Timothy 3:2-4, Ephesians 5:18). These commands make it highly unlikely God is going to bless recreational drug use. Furthermore, a sober population is a healthy population.  The bottom-line is a good Christian politician knows how to take God’s word and apply to life without broadcasting to whole world that’s what they’re doing (Matthew 10:16)

If we are going to influence the world of politics it is critical we remember whose we are and what we are supposed to be all about. As Christians we are not our free-agents (1st Corinthians 6:19-20). We belong to Jesus and our mission is to reach the people in the culture for Jesus.   

Some Advice for Christian Leaders-


Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name
– Psalm 86:11 NIVUK

Sadly, there has been a lot of failure in Church world over the course of the last forty years or so:

 The vast majority of Christians who identify as “committed believers” attend services a pathetic and measly 1.3 times a month. Fewer than forty percent of all Christians have actually read the Bible all the way through. Between sixty and eighty percent of the children who grew up in church over the course of the last three decades have left the church. Precious few of have returned in any sort of a meaningful way. Infidelity, spiritual abuse, embezzlement and tales of narcissistic behavior have become so commonplace among clergy that even Christians are no longer appropriately shocked by shocking reports of misconduct and sin.  

All serious signs of dismal failure. 

It’s simply a fact that churches have made some tragic mistakes in recent years. As a result, the Church is shrinking and the culture is floundering. Conversions are down and “deconstructing” one’s faith is trending. Thankfully, our God is not reliant on on the perfection of His people to get His will accomplished. That being said, it is always beneficial to His overall plan when His people choose to do life and ministry His way. There are at least four mistakes the Church has made that we cannot afford to keep making if we want to see health in our churches, transformation in our lives and revival in our world. 

Those mistakes are:

We have failed to equip the saints-

Biblical illiteracy is a serious issue in Church world. Few Christians can name all the books of the Bible. There are church-goers who actually believe the Bible promises God will never give us more than we can handle and that cleanliness is next to godliness.  However, lack of biblical understanding is not the only problem we have. Many Christians do not know how to define personal holiness, or how Christian maturity is achieved (2nd Peter 1:3-11, Romans 12) Nor, are most believers able to articulate what a healthy Christian life should “look like”.  These are all basic concepts every Christian should understand. 

Churches have encouraged congregants to depend on external sources for spiritual food-

For decades now, sermons have been tasty and easy to digest, but seriously lacking in any real nutritional value. Essentially, the spiritual equivalent of chocolate pudding. The goal of these Sunday morning offerings has been attracting unbelievers and keeping them in the church by not offending them in any way. At the same time many discipleship programs have all but been eliminated and small groups aimed at satisfying one’s personal preferences and helping people “do life together” were put in their place. All of this was well-intended but it produced a situation where many Christians began depending on outside sources like prerecorded Bible studies and podcasts for their spiritual growth. The unintended consequences has been a serious drop in church attendance. Many have quit church altogether, or they simply pop into an occasional service when the mood strikes them. Covid accelerated this trend as more and more churches began offering online viewing options on Sunday mornings. Human beings were made for community. We learn and grow by being with and interacting with others (Proverbs 27:17). Anytime Christians remove themselves from community they short-circuit their growth.  

Bible teachers have failed to teach a theology of hardship-

The Bible is clear: trials and hardship are formative to the Christian experience (John 16:33, 1st Thessalonian 3:3, 1st Peter 1:6). Jesus experienced hardship and suffering in this life and one aspect of becoming like Jesus is doing the things He did and experiencing the things He experienced (Hebrews 5:7-9, Hebrews 13:11-13). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract unbelievers many Pastors and Bible teachers have taught a theology of easy believism and guaranteed material blessings. This has caused many to become disillusioned and leave the church when it became obvious (as it always does) that the Christian life is a blessed life but not necessarily an easy one.  

We have forgotten that spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual maturity-

Knowing what the Bible says or even being able to quote an excess of verses does not make one spiritually mature. In order to be a mature Christian we have to know what the Bible says and be able to manage our own emotions, treat people the way we want to be treated and forgive others from the heart (Psalm 119:11, Titus 2:12, Galatians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). If we can’t do those things we aren’t spiritually mature no matter how many verses we can quote. 

The solution to all of these problems are simple. Churches must leave behind old models and pivot to a culture of discipleship and community. Leaders must let go of the desire to make churches big at the expense of making them strong, healthy and deep. Individual Christians must prioritize biblical learning, personal growth and relationships in the church over all else. 

Five Things Christians can do to Keep Speech Free-

`The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good- Ecclesiastes 9:16-18 NIV

It is becoming increasingly more obvious western society has gone off a cliff and lost its collective mind. How we approach speech these days is just one example of this phenomenon. 

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the right to speak freely was considered sacred and unquestioned. Free speech was thought to be, by everyone except a few morons, the holy grail of freedom and democracy. There were of course, limits. It was never okay to yell “fire” in a crowded building. That being said, unless a person’s words were likely to cause real physical harm to a large number of human beings the speech was allowed. Not all speech was valued or appreciated. Some speech was simply endured, some was loathed but it was all okay. Those folks in the not-so-distant past were clever enough to understand that political and religious freedom and the democracy that undergirds political and religious freedom rests entirely on a person’s ability to say what they want to say when they want to say it. 

Unfortunately, that ship has officially sailed.  

In recent years some speech has been stifled, some has even been forbidden. All of this has taken place under the watchful eye of the news media and with the blessing of social media capitalists and many in government. Ironically, this squashing of speech has been done in the name of protecting people. There are those who sincerely believe words have the power to cause irreparable harm to others and therefore should be monitored for appropriateness and censored when found to be unsuitable. 

Here’s the thing:

Appropriateness of speech is totally subjective. The speech one person finds acceptable someone else might decide is wildly unacceptable.  It’s nearly impossible to find two humans who fully agree on every aspect of what’s okay and what isn’t okay to say. However, the biggest problem is with who gets to decide what’s okay and what’s not. Somebody has to be the decider. It’s simply a fact that anyone who believes they are qualified to decide what should and should not be said is very likely a narcissistic monster with a colossal god-complex.  

Sigh. 

The right to speak freely matters. It really is the foundation of every other human right. Furthermore, we live in a time when dangerous ideas about life, sex, and even what is real are being promoted almost everywhere. Someone has to be the voice of reason (Ephesians 4:15 and 25) as Christians we are obligated to be that voice because Jesus called us to co-labor with Him in setting the captives free from the lies of the enemy (Luke 4:18, Matthew 10:8). Furthermore, the ability to share the gospel, call out sin and preach the Bible hinge on the right to speak freely and without fear of government interference and/or retaliation.  It’s just a fact that all Christians are called to be a protective and healing influence in the society they live in (Matthew 5:13-16). This means all Christians in a free society play a part in keeping speech free. We can do our part to keep speech free by adopting the following five policies. Starting with:

Don’t be dumb-  

Seriously. There is a lot of unadulterated idiocy in this cultural moment. Christians should work really hard to not contribute to any of it. Pray fervently, do research on issues and train yourself to think deeply about all sides of an issue before you speak on ANYTHING (Proverbs 10:19). 

Learn to separate an opinion from a fact, only argue with facts- 

When doing research on a subject look for verifiable facts rather than just accepting someone else’s assessment of a subject. Remember, facts can be verified and repeated. Opinions are what one person thinks. An opinion formed using facts is okay, an opinion formed without verifiable facts backing it up should never be used in a discussion or argument. 

Don’t allow fear to control your tongue- 

Too many Christians with good ideas and well-formed opinions have kept their thoughts to themselves out of fear of not being liked.  This is a big part of what got us to where we’re at in this sketchy cultural moment. Change will only come if smart believers speak start speaking their minds on the issues in a respectful way. 

Don’t be a jerk-  

Don’t name-call, demean or disparage anyone while speaking out on issues. It’s tempting to be rude in a world where there are so many incredibly stupid opinions literally running amuck. Just don’t. It’s not Christ-like and won’t change anyone’s heart or mind. 

Be respectful- 

 It’s critical we remember the battle we find ourselves in is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12). The people are not the enemy. Our job is to free people from the real enemy. We won’t do free anyone being disrespectful.   

Avoid contributing to the problem with your dollars- 

This is two-fold, first believers should make every effort to avoid entertainment with themes that promote sinful messages. When we do we are literally being entertained by the very things Jesus died for and we are bankrolling an industry that cares nothing for our values or our God. Second, we should avoid purchasing from businesses that intentionally crush free speech.   

The world has never needed Jesus more than it does in this moment. It’s our job as Jesus followers to declare truth as winsomely as we possibly can. We can’t do that if we’re contributing to the foolishness. 

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.

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 Christians are Still Missing the Mark with Covid-19-

Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you- Hosea 10:12 NASB 

Dear Readers, 

Beginning October 1, 2021 will no longer be sponsoring my blog posts on Facebook. 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 getting off of 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 “do me a solid” and 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 Price 

Warning: this post begins with a weird personal story that will probably feel pointless to you the reader. It really does have a point. I promise. 

This week I did something that’s needed doing for a long time. It involves a houseplant I’ve had for about fifteen years. At one time the plant was truly beautiful. It was lush and green and it flourished.  People would comment on it all the time. However, in recent months this plant is looking horribly ratty and sad. The leaves that didn’t fall off turned a putrid shade of green, most of the vines were barren and the whole thing was just kind of wretched looking. 

In my humble opinion, a flourishing houseplant is aesthetically pleasing and it serves a useful purpose. Houseplants, especially this particular type of plant purify the air and that helps keep my family healthy.

I like that. A lot. 

However. This guy was obviously in trouble and not even marginally capable of doing what he was made to do. So, I pulled it out of its pot, broke up its root system and replaced the old soil with fresh soil. Then I cut off the vines that were no longer producing leaves and literally ripped what was left of them from the rest of the root system. Then I watered it really well and placed it in a location where it will get the optimal amount of sunlight for that type of plant. At this point whether the plant lives or dies is all kind of up to the plant. 

Sigh. 

As I was finishing up this task a couple of things occurred to me. First, I don’t know how much awareness a houseplant has but if they have any at all this one is probably convinced I’m a total butthead. The plant has no idea that that this was the only way to save it and possibly make it healthy again. Then it hit me that God kind of did the same thing to the church with COVID. Over the course of the last eighteen months God has stripped Christians of things that were familiar, like regular meetings, conferences, small groups and community events. Then He pruned it substantially and now He has put the church back in the culture again to do what the church is supposed to do.  We are missing the mark. Bigtime. 

Here’s why. 

 Approximately half the people who just read that last paragraph are convinced it means I think God wants all the vaccine holdouts to stop being selfish and get with the program. The other half are convinced I think Christians should stop being lazy and get busy holding the government accountable for the wickedness and stupidity that’s become endemic at all levels of government.  

Both groups are wrong. 

Truth-be-told we totally missed the whole spiritual point of COVID-19. Depending on one’s theological inclination (Calvinist or Arminian) God either caused COVID or He saw it coming and permitted it.  

Either way God had a hand in it. 

 COVID was meant to be a spiritual wake-up call to everyone, Christians and non-Christians alike. COVID-19 became a reality because we are a people who have gotten really good at denying, ignoring and blocking out the certainty of death (Hebrews 9:27). We have done this because we are blessed to live in a time when death is something that only happens to really old people living far from the rest of society in nursing homes. As a result, most of us tend to live for the now and never give any thought to what might happen after we die. COVID-19 forced us to think about our own mortality because people started dropping like flies.  God gave us/allowed COVID-19 because He wanted everyone to reflect on death and change their thinking about how to live life. 

We refused. 

Instead of contemplating the transience and fragility of life and turning to God in repentance, most people just got really scared of dying. They stayed scared and mindlessly tried to block out the reality that was right in front of them. It’s the reason why so many were so quick to accept the rather ludicrous premise that a virus might simply go away if enough people hid from it for long enough. No one wanted to face reality and frankly Christians and Church leaders did little to help. Some churches made fun of the fear.  Others embraced and even encouraged the fear (1st John 4:18). 

Here’s the thing.

It is not the churches job to spiritualize fear by intentionally or unintentionally encouraging and/or enabling neurotic and/or fearful behavior.  Nor is it the churches job to take on an attitude of false bravado or moral superiority because the people in the church have no fear of death that they are willing to admit. 

The church has one job. That’s it. One.

The churches one job is to point people to Jesus (Hebrews 9:27, John 13:34-35, 1st Peter 1:13-16).   Fear is natural when people are dying. We only die once, and people don’t routinely come back from the dead and explain the whole experience so we have no point of reference for what death will be like. The unknown is always scary.  Fear of death shouldn’t be ridiculed. Nor, should it be encouraged or coddled in any way. It is not A Christians job to push their personal opinion concerning matters of Christian liberty.  Nor is it the churches job to do battle with the government. The churches job is to point people back to spiritual reality. The churches job is to talk about judgment and death and life and how Jesus can bring us forgiveness and peace. A Christians job is to gently remind people that everyone dies and teach them how to do it well.  Our job is to be a sensible and loving voice of reason in a world of madness. 

Could we just back to our job?