How Christians can Survive and Thrive in the Dumpster Fire that is 2021-

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Lisa 

Now, this week’s post:

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”- Mark 9:28-29 NKJV

So far 2021 has been a massive dumpster-fire.  

 Wednesday afternoon, protesters entered the capitol building in Washington D.C. They were tear-gassed by police and forcibly removed from the building. Five were killed. 

The progressives on my social media feed were beyond elated by this turn of events. To them it was proof-positive conservatives and conservative Christians (who they tend to lump together) are no better than anyone else.  Any moral authority conservatives may have had pointing to the riots this summer evaporated into thin air. I have had a heavy heart all week.  It is agonizing to watch a perfectly good civilization crumble before your very eyes. 

Thankfully, none of this has taken our God by surprise. He knew it was coming and it is a part of His overall plan for this world. I do not know where all of this is heading or what the future holds. That said, there are a couple of things I do know for absolute certain, first, this is not a time for “what about ism” where we point our fingers at all the moral failings of the other side, rather than looking at our own sin and stupidity.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a time for Christians everywhere to commit to becoming a Jesus presence in a sin-weary world (Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 4:3, Ephesians 6:15). Jesus and Jesus alone can transform the hearts of men and women and there are a lot of hearts that need transforming. In order to do that we must commit to a lifestyle of growth and maturity with the following five practices. 

First:

Become “strong in the Lord”- 

In Ephesians 6:10 Christians are told “to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power”. It is a prerequisite for effectively putting on the armor of God and strength in the Lord seems to ensure we will remain steadfast in our commitment to Jesus.  We are strong in the Lord when we are seeking the Lord and His wisdom, rather than worldly sources for direction and wisdom in living life. No one has ever become strong in anything on accident. Becoming strong in the Lord happens through a regular rhythm of self-examination, personal repentance, church attendance, Bible reading, fasting and prayer. 

Building Christian community- 

It probably will not get any easier to be a Christian anytime soon.  God wants all of us to have people in our lives who we can build up in the faith and who will build us up in the faith (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-25, 1st Thessalonians 5:11).  Building healthy community is hard work. It means making a commitment to emotional transparency, kindness, generosity, selflessness and forgiveness.  Community means we don’t get to be fake or exclusive or hold a grudge when we feel like holding a grudge.  It means we love people where they’re at and fight like crazy for them to become a better version of themselves.  

Commit to a regular routine of prayer and fasting for our world- 

In Mark nine the disciples wanted to know why they couldn’t extract a demon from a boy. They had done everything they had done before and none of those things had gotten the job done. Jesus’ heart for humanity bleeds through the pages of scripture when He says: “this kind only comes out with prayer and fasting”. Here’s the thing: we live in a world riddled with demonic strongholds because people have turned their back on God and embraced every kind of evil and moral absurdity. As Christians we cannot continue to do what we have done in the past and expect those spiritual strongholds to be broken. Instead we must commit to a regular pattern of prayer and fasting for the people we love and the situations in our world that appear to be immovable. Nothing else is going to get the job done. 

Engage wisely- 

Engaging people wisely begins with understanding that nowhere in Scripture are Christians called to convert people to a particular political ideology. Instead, we are called to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and trust the Lord to work on everything else in their lives AFTER they come to know Jesus. Engaging wisely means we choose our battles with unbelievers carefully especially on social media.

Resist the urge to view those who think differently with contempt-

Jon Tyson points out in his book Beautiful ResistanceThe Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise that it has become normal for people, even Christians to show open contempt for anyone who thinks differently from them. Contempt is an ugly and divisive form of hate. We will never reach anyone with the love of Jesus if our hearts are filled with any kind of hate. We must pray that our contempt will be replaced with compassion for the lost and morally confused.

The best thing about the time we live in is that it easy for God’s love and goodness to shine in a dark place. It is up to us to adopt daily practices that allow His light shine through us (Matthew 5:16) 

When Should a Christian Rebel?

The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punisthe powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below- Isaiah 20-21 NIV

In recent weeks, I have had some pretty intense internal debates regarding the topic of rebellion. Normally, I would dismiss those debates as nothing more than the strange musings of a woman who is inclined toward bouts of overthinking almost everything. However, conditions over the course of the last nine months or so have been anything but normal. Life has been radically altered, mostly not for the better. Many feel their elected leaders are not working for the good of those who elected them. As a result, discussion of rebellion has become increasingly more common even among serious Christians who would normally be more predisposed to pray for an authority figure than rebel against them (Romans 13, Titus 3:1, 1st Timothy 3;1-3, 1st Peter 2:13). All that has gotten me thinking about when, if ever, rebellion is defensible in the life of a believer.  

So.

God is categorically not a fan of rebellion. Nowhere in the Bible is rebellion presented in a positive light or as a good thing (Deuteronomy 13:5, Joshua 24:19, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3).   In 1st Samuel 15:23 God equates rebellion with witchcraft. Witchcraft was and still is a serious sin.  (Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10). Witchcraft was such an egregious sin that witches, witchcraft, sorcery and divination were not to be tolerated in any part of Hebrew society (2nd Chronicles 33:6, Micah 5:11-13). The apostle Paul restates the Old Testament prohibition against witchcraft calling it an “act of the flesh” and placing it in the same category of sins as hatred, idolatry, debauchery and orgies (Galatians 5:20). All that to say, when God equates any sin with the sin of witchcraft it is a big theological deal that deserves our full attention. 

God is also a God of justice. Nothing angers God more than when powerful people use their power to oppress, persecute or bully the powerless, poor or defenseless (Exodus 23:6, Isaiah 10:1-3, Malachi 3:5, Matthew 23:1-36).  Injustice occurs when those in power intentionally behave in a way that causes harm to the less powerful. God’s people are called to bring about justice in every and all situations (Isaiah 1:17). One aspect of “doing justice” (Malachi 6:8) involves calling out, and sometimes even working to remove leaders who use their power for selfish ends or to hurt those who lack the power to protect themselves from the edicts of leaders who have become self-serving and callous towards their fellow humans. 


On the surface at least, rebellion and witchcraft appear to have little in common. Witchcraft is the act of soliciting, petitioning or manipulating evil spirits (servants of Satan) to achieve an end that benefits the person preforming the witchcraft. Rebellion, on the other hand, is an attitude of the heart, that may or may not end in an evil deed. 

However. 

The story of king Saul indicates witchcraft and rebellion both involve and invite demonic activity into the life of both the witch and the rebellious person. Saul started well as a leader but he had a heart that was bent towards rebellion (1st Samuel 15). He eventually became demon possessed (1st Samuel 16:14-15, 1stSamuel 18:10). By the end of his life he was consulting a medium (witch) rather than God for wisdom (1stSamuel 28:3-19). He died by suicide. Someone who practices witchcraft is likely much more aware of the forces they are employing, while a rebellious person is likely ignorant of the demonic activity they have invited into their lives through the sinful attitudes of their heart. Witchcraft and rebellion are alike because both sins inevitably lead to spiritual strongholds that are very difficult to break (Mark 9:14-29) 

So.

We can assume it is categorically not acceptable or wise to for a Christian to embrace or even dabble around with the sin of rebellion.  Rebellion invites demonic strongholds into one’s life and heart. No smart Christian wants any part of a demonic stronghold Those things are brutal. Trust me, I know. 

However.

Sometimes bringing about justice necessitates actively working against established power structures. Working to bring about justice can look a lot like rebellion when it goes against the prevailing power structures and sometimes a heart of rebellion can be wrapped up in cloak of righteousness. Humanity has a long history of using justice as a pretext for rebellion. It is not unusual for those who say they are liberating others from injustice to turn out to be far more corrupt than the leaders they worked to overthrow.  

Sigh. 

So, how does a Christian know if they are being rebellious or wanting to bring justice to an unjust situation?

It all comes down to the state your heart and the only one who can determine whether or not your heart is righteous or rebellious is you and it is absolutely critical to do that before they attack or undermine a prevailing power structure. 

Our spiritual well-being literally depends on it. 

The Real Evil Behind COVID-19-

For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them– Ecclesiastes 9:12 NKJV 

Words are powerful. 

Because words are powerful there are words I don’t use lightly or often. 

Evil is one of those words. 

Human beings are absolutely capable of great evil (Genesis 6:5, Matthew 12:34-35, John 3:19), but most are not intentionally evil. Most of the time, most people are just misguided, deceived or acting out of their fallenness. All of that inevitably results in folly. Foolishness often leads to evil but it is rarely the intended result.  Conversely, things are neither good nor bad, they just are. 

That being said. 

Humans sometimes do stupid stuff with things and evil results. Such is the case with coronavirus. COVID-19 is neither good or evil. It just is. Viruses are incapable of being evil. They are just germs. Mindless, soulless, microorganism’s completely incapable of any kind of evil machinations or wicked deeds.  However, our foolish, fear-filled human response to this virus has resulted in all kinds of weirdness and evil. 

Beginning with: 

Coronavirus is causing us to voluntarily destroy a crucial aspect of our humanness –

Human beings were literally made to live in community. People were made in the image of a God who exists in a perpetual state of community and we were made to be like Him (Genesis 1:26, Matthew 28:19, John 10:30). Because community is an essential piece of what makes us human, without community people either become peculiar or despairing or both. Coronavirus has become evil because we have allowed it to isolate the people who need people the most.  Drug and alcohol abuse is up and suicide rates have skyrocketed all due to a lack of community. It is critical Churches lead the way in forming safe community for those who are lacking it. This might mean making regular phone calls to people who live alone and work in isolation. It might mean encouraging small groups to get together on a regular basis for prayer and fellowship. If the group is kept small and is made up of people who see each other regularly it is safer than people being left alone without any kind of healthy interaction in their lives.

COVID is making too many Christians spiritually slothful-  

Church attendance really is one of the most basic manifestations of Christian obedience. Church attendance is clearly commanded in Scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25). If a follower of Jesus does not take the time to attend some sort of church service it is highly doubtful they will spend significant time in prayer or Bible study. Period.  Both online and in person church attendance is down in recent months. This indicates that all healthy spiritual activity is on a decline at least among some Christians. 

COVID is breeding distrust and division-

It is no longer socially acceptable to say two things can be true about COVID at the same time. For example: it’s not okay to say the social and spiritual isolation created by COVID is dangerous and unhealthy. Neither is it okay to say the virus is dangerous (especially for some groups). Try it. I dare you. Get on a social media website and say those two things. You will be attacked on every side and called out as a numbskull and a heretic. Unless we can get to a place where we can talk about this issue rationally, with both sides conceding that the virus and the way our society is handling the virus (lockdowns, school closures, forced unemployment) are both dangerous we will never move forward in a healthy, life-affirming way.  We will continue to view people with alternative views as the enemy and if we continue down that path we are finished as a civilization. We will devolve into a dystopic dark age.  

Coronavirus has become a driver of corruption- 

In many places around the globe politicians have made rules without placing an end date on them or without putting in place a fixed set of measurable standards for lifting the restrictions. Because absolute power corrupts absolutely anytime politicians are allowed to make all-powerful decisions there is a pretty good chance they will never willingly retract the decisions that have given them absolute power. This creates a problem that must be solved by savvy voters who are willing to work at the grassroots level to get unreasonable or unnecessary rules changed or lifted. 

We are not learning what we are supposed to learn-  

Typically, a benefit of a disaster like a pandemic is that silly humans learn that no one—no matter how significant or influential gets off this planet alive.  Being reminded of this crucial truth helps us remember that the principal task of every person born is to prepare wisely for their inevitable demise. At least a million people have died from COVID and rather than having conversations about death and how to prepare for death (Acts 3:19) our culture has neatly avoided the subject of death by turning to lockdowns as a way to attempt to cheat death. In the process our culture has robbed itself of the one positive thing that might come out of this whole ugly muddle. Sigh. 

Most of the problems created by coronavirus are a direct result of living in a post-Christian culture. Because our culture has lost touch with Christian truth many in our culture have become isolated. Others have become corrupt fools who think they can cheat death. God made the Church for times exactly like the ones we live in. Being the people, our world needs us to be means being diligent, brave, faithful and willing to have hard conversations with a confused and hurting world (Deuteronomy 31:6, Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 4:15-25). 

Don’t Let Fear Run the Show-

The people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day– Judges 20:22 NASB

We live in scary times. 

Seriously.

What with a bizarre pandemic, seemingly endless social chaos, shutdowns, widespread unemployment, riots, censorship and political leaders worldwide taking a more authoritarian stance than at any other time in recent history.  This is a legitimately weird time to be alive and there is much to worry about. Over the course of the past nine months I have felt moments of panic and I have seen more fear in more people than at any time in my life.  Now I know why God tells His people over and over again in His word not to fear, to be courageous and to trust Him in all circumstances (Psalm 27:1). 

There are two truths Christians should understand regarding fear. First, no one in the history of the human race has ever made a really great decision out of fear.  Second, at its root fear is a profoundly spiritual thing. Anytime we allow fear to take root in our lives we immediately stop trusting God. When we stop trusting God we hand power to the enemy and effectively give him authority over us (1st Peter 5:6-8). We then lose our ability to think clearly and logically about issues and we believe any lie the devil wants to tell us. No matter what is actually true we become convinced we are unsafe and inevitably do one of two equally stupid things: we either act swiftly without thinking through all the possible consequences. We then do damage to ourselves and/or others with our impulsive actions. Conversely, we can become paralyzed in a mental maze of what-ifs that leads to inaction. Our lack of decisiveness nearly always creates a chain of events that we have no control over. Fear is especially dangerous for Christians because it affects our ability to communicate effectively with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6, 1st Peter 4:7). This causes Christians to be spiritually ineffective on nearly every level and therefore useless to those who desperately need help, hope and something tangible to hold on to.

 Our current situation is a perfect example of what can happen when fear is given free reign. The most disastrous consequences of the pandemic have not come from the virus itself.  But rather from dumb and impulsive choices leaders have made out of fear. Those same leaders have universally refused to admit their folly and instead pridefully double-downed on their choices. Fear causes non-Christians to panic in the face of circumstances outside of human control.  This can lead people to foolishly hand control of their lives over to human leaders who promise them safety and security in uncertain times.   

Sigh.

More than anything our world needs brave, clear-minded Christians right now. Therefore, any fear we feel must be dealt with quickly, wisely and aggressively. Following are some do’s and don’ts for when we feel fear taking over and threatening to run the show.  

Don’t 

 Ask God to make it go away- 

Asking God to simply make our fear go away never works.  This is because God loves us and He wants us to learn something from everything in this life including scary things like fear.  

Simply accept it as normal-

To some degree fear is normal in a fallen world where real danger exists.  That said, there are plenty of normal things that are neither good nor even kind of okay (sin, hatred, injustice, disease). Fear may be normal but it is never healthy to allow it to control our existence.  We are told eighty-eight times in the Bible to not be afraid or fearful. God would not bother being so repetitive on the subject if He wanted us to accept fear as a routine part of our existence. 

Lean into it-

No one really likes to be afraid or anxious. However, paradoxically fear has a strangely addictive quality to it. If we lean into feelings of fear too often or for too long we get to the place where fear feels normal and almost like an old friend. When this happens, we become weirdly superstitious about our fears and may even secretly believe something bad will happen if we stop being fearful. 

Instead of ignoring our fears, accepting them or leaning into them God wants us to examine our fears when we feel them and: 

Ask God to help us understand what is driving the fear- 

 Some fears are rational. If a crazy guy is holding a gun to your head you have legitimate reason to be afraid.  However, most of the time the thing driving our fear (even legitimate fears that make sense) is a lack of trust in God. When we understand that we understand why God hates fear and why fear is a curse when it’s allowed to run wild in our lives (Deuteronomy 28:58-66).  

Ask God to help us know Him better- 

The key to dealing with fear effectively is knowing God and walking closely with Him. The only way to really know God is to ask Him daily to reveal Himself to us. The better we get to know God the less power fear has over us and the more hope we have to offer the rest of the world.   

Some Words to A Worried Church-

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him- 2nd Kings 18:5-6a NIV

Most church people would probably agree the outcome of the latest election was not exactly a win. At best, it was a colossal disappointment, at worst it could indicate some tough times ahead. The whole messy mess was kicked to the courts and it’s possible mandated recounts could result in a surprise turn in the election results. In the unlikely event that happens, no one will be more joyful than this girl. 

In the meantime. 

Believers should do a little soul searching and self-examination. Self-examination empowers the Church to move forward from disappointments and setbacks in a way that better equips us for whatever happens to be next on God’s agenda. Christians have historically believed God is ultimately sovereign over the affairs of men and women (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10, Revelation 22:13). We believe nothing on earth happens without God’s foreknowledge and the only thing that takes place without His explicit consent is sin. 

Therefore.

The results of this election are no accident. We cannot blame the outcome entirely on cheating and other shenanigans. Cheating is not outside of God’s purview. Therefore, if there was cheating involved then God allowed the cheating to take place. If we believe in the sovereignty of God then we also have to believe the outcome of the election is in the will of God. Like it or not  

Sigh. 

 This turn of events does beg some questions, like: what now? What are we supposed to conclude from this outcome? Does it mean God is on the side of abortion, censorship and a castration of the U.S constitution? Did this occur because God loves socialism or because He thinks court-packing is a good idea or because He wants churches shut down? 

Nothing I have learned about God from Scripture or personal experience would indicate any of those things are true. 

However, sometimes God wants His people to get hold of truth so badly He will bring difficulty into our lives to get us to turn to Him for wisdom and help rather than looking to the world for insight, wisdom or help. There are at least three takeaways God wants His people to glean from the current political situation. If we don’t come to understand these truths quickly we could be stuck in this uncomfortable place longer than any of us would like.  

The first is: 

We cannot depend on government to be our source of security-

 I do not think of myself as a person who places an inordinate amount of hope or faith in the authorities, documents or institutions of this world. If someone had asked me a month ago how much faith I put in the constitution or the president to make me feel safe and secure, I would have smugly replied that my faith is in God alone. Thank you very much. However, after some serious post-election prayer I realized that I felt significantly safer and more secure as a Christian last month than I do this month. There is nothing wrong with wanting a leader who protects our values and way of life. However, it is categorially un-wise to expect real security of any kind in a world broken by sin. It is even more foolish to trust anyone or anything more than we trust God. If you felt safer last month than you do this month it means you’ve put your trust in something or someone besides God. God wants us to ask ourselves what would happen to our faith in God if America ceased to exist. If that would cause your faith to disappear your faith is not really in God it’s in America and the security America provides. 

Even if everything is not okay it will still be okay- 

We all want everything to be okay and for good reason. No one in their right mind actually LIKES difficulties, pain and suffering. That said, knowing Jesus as our Lord and savior means that even if the worst happens we will be okay because to be absent from the body means we will be present with Jesus (2nd Corinthians 5:7-9). It is critical we remember this truth the next time our anxiety about the current situation starts to get the better of us (Isaiah 35:4) Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6).  

This world is not all there is- 

 This generation is overrun with modern conveniences that provide regular people with luxury and comfort previous generations never could have imagined.   The problem with all this ease and comfort is it’s made life on earth a little too agreeable and most Christians are a lot fonder of this world than our spiritual ancestors were (1st John 2:15, John 12:25). As a result, many Christians love the world more than is spiritually healthy or wise.  I suspect God is using the discomfort and fear many of us feel over our current political situation to remind Christians we are to long for heaven rather than look for a political leader who will create a utopia here on earth.

Barring some sort of a miracle life will not be getting any easier for the body of Christ anytime soon. That does not mean life won’t be good. Life will be good because our God is good. If our faith is in Him, and only Him there is no way we will be shaken.     

What to do When too Much Becomes too Much-


Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test  yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2nd Corinthians 13:5 NIV 

2020 has been a bumpy year for everyone and it’s not getting any smoother. A contentious election, endless social strife, race riots, job losses, censorship, lockdowns, school closures and the weirdest pandemic in history have made for a season unlike any anyone has ever experienced.  No one has come out of this crazy-town year without a story to tell and few of them are amusing. Lamentably, there’s almost two months left to go before the stupid thing is finally over. God in His sovereignty is the only one who knows what will happen between now and then.  

Sigh. 

Times like the ones we live in take a toll, psychologically, emotionally and financially. All that can affect us spiritually if the tough times drag on for too long (like say ten solid months). It’s not always easy to know when stress has become too much for us and we have stepped over the line into a place of spiritual unhealth. In 2nd Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “examine themselves” frequently. Times like ours demand frequent self-checks. Following are five indicators all is not well on a spiritual level. 

Beginning with:  

Prayer is a struggle or worse yet you gave up long ago-

Christians are commanded to pray continually about every issue under the sun (Romans 12:12, 1st Thessalonians 5:17, 1st Timothy 2:1-3). This is not because God needs our prayers. God has no needs (Acts 17:24-25). Christians do need to pray because prayer builds connection with God. Ongoing connection with God transforms how we think, feel and behave over time. Prayer also empowers fallible human beings to see people and events the way God sees those things. Without a regular prayer life spiritual health becomes nothing more than a pipedream. A weak or non-existent prayer life is proof positive a spiritual realignment is needed.   

You have morphed into worst version of yourself-

Everyone has a unique worst version of themselves. Mine is introverted, distrustful, and weirdly obsessed with minor details. Yours might be dramatic, braggy and fixated on personal pleasure. Another person might be critical, unforgiving, and intolerant of differences of opinion when they are at their worst. Someone else might be fearful and closed off to new experiences.  It’s vital we know who we are, and have a firm grasp on what our “normal” looks like. When our normal morphs into something different and less than healthy than our best selves it’s a sure sign we need a spiritual readjustment. Pronto.  

Politics take precedent-

Politics are not trivial. There is little in this life not touched in some way by politics. Furthermore, one facet of being a good Christian is being an involved citizen, which means taking our civic responsibilities seriously, that cannot be done without some understanding of politics. (1st Peter 2:13). That said, earthly kingdoms will all pass away eventually. Politics are strictly an earthly issue.  (Philippians 3:20).  God calls you and I to adopt an eternal perspective and remember it is only what we do in and for the Kingdom of God that truly has an impact. If you find your attention is entirely focused on the political realm God wants you to change your focus. 

You’re afraid all the time-

Fear and anxiety are a little bit like the check engine light in a car. Feelings of fear and anxiety are not the real problem. They are just an indicator there is another problem that needs to be found and addressed. Sometimes Christians get far too focused on the emotions of fear and anxiety and don’t stop to ask God why to reveal to us the real reason those volatile emotions are out of control. Fear and anxiety are almost always a sign there is an area of our lives we haven’t completely surrendered to God. 

Spiritual community is not a priority- 

Spiritual community is mandatory for followers of Jesus (2nd Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25). Christians are called to meet together regularly, care for each other in times of trouble and love one another other deeply and sacrificially. The only way to do those things effectively is in spiritual community. Community is about more than church attendance although church is the place to begin building spiritual community. Spiritual community forms when a group of Jesus followers commit themselves to the good and growth of the rest of the group. There are layers to community. Every Christian should attend a local church. Christians should also have a group of fifteen to thirty Christian friends they routinely fellowship with. Christians also need a smaller group of three to five people we can go deep with and be real with on a regular basis. If any of those layers of community are lacking, there is a problem. 

Any one of the above is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. All have the same simple solution: a shift of priorities to make more time for the things that God says matter most. This might mean disconnecting from 24/7 news or social media for a while. It will likely mean cutting activity to make space for spiritual community. It definitely takes more prayer, more reflection and more repentance. It takes more of what feeds our souls and less of the things that leave us feeling spiritually tired.  

Leveraging Your Vote to do the Most Good for the Most People-

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper– Jeremiah 29:7 NIV

Back in the dark ages before March 2020 I genuinely loved politics, elections and pretty much everything associated with the election process. I would eagerly await the presidential elections every four years the way Linus would await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin every Halloween Eve. I loved learning about each of the candidates and watching as the field narrowed through the primary process. I relished watching the candidates duke it out (metaphorically speaking) during the debates. I enjoyed anticipating the results on election night to such an extent that this avowed morning person would cheerfully stay up into the wee hours of the night just to learn the results. 

That ship has officially sailed. 

Over the course of the last year the realm of politics has become so vile, toxic and obnoxious that for the first time in my adult life I have found myself wishing the whole stupid thing would just be over all ready. I have literally considered finding a cave out of range of wi-fi to hide in until after the election is over. 

 Insert sad face here. 

Unfortunately, God does not allow His people the luxury of hiding from difficult or unpleasant situations.  Rather, Christians are commanded to take on the challenges of life directly with courage and confidence that God is both good and ultimately in control of every situation (Joshua 1:9, 1st Timothy 6:12, Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10).  It is not my business (or anyone else’s) to tell people who they should or should not vote for. It is the responsibility of individuals to research candidates and decide for themselves who is the best man or woman for the job. 

That said. 

I am deeply convicted Christians should view the whole issue of voting differently from our non-Christian counterparts. With only a few short weeks left we should see our vote as an opportunity to make a difference and bless the lives of both present and future generations. Voting is a task that should be stewarded prudently and prayerfully especially in a year where so much is at stake.  In that vein following are three do’s and two don’t of voting. 

Do: 

Leverage your vote for the Kingdom of God- 

As Christ’s ambassadors in the world (2nd Corinthians 5:20), Christians should always attempt to leverage all of our rights for the good of the Kingdom.  This includes the right to vote.  Christians should vote for the candidates and platforms that value family, believe in the free exercise of religion and support people of faith as they live out their religious convictions in a peaceful manner (1st Timothy 2:2).  Leveraging a vote for the Kingdom also means choosing the candidate with a proven track-record of protecting people of faith from governmental persecution. 

Vote with the future in mind-

Christians are called to consider not just their own situation but also the health and welfare of generations of people they will never know (Joshua 22:27, Psalm 22:30). This means voting for the people and platforms that believe life should be protected at every stage. Believers should support the candidates who promise to enact and enforce laws that permit innocent people to live, work and learn in peace. Perhaps most importantly, it means voting for those who care about issues of justice. Men and women who will do their best to see the guilty punished and the innocent defended within the legal system (Exodus 23:6-8, Proverbs 17:15, Proverbs 18:5, Proverbs 24:24). 

Vote for platforms not just people- 

The platform of a political party reveals a great deal about both the party and the politicians who sign on to the platform. Party platforms tell us the values each party holds to and the agenda candidates will be pressured to pursue. Christians should carefully read the platforms of both political parties and compare those platforms to what the Bible has to say about issues.  It is critical we remember that no matter how neutral or reasonable a candidate may appear to be during election season; ultimately, that candidate will feel pressure from party leadership to support the values and policies their party advocates.   

Now some don’ts: 

Don’t vote only for your own interests- 

No one in their right mind wants to pay higher taxes and a Christian should never waste their vote on a candidate with a proven track record of wasting or misusing taxpayer funds.  However, Christians should vote with more than just their tax bracket in mind. Christians should look at candidates holistically and choose the man or woman who will do the most good for the most people. Period. 

Don’t vote with your feelings- 

Seriously. Just. Don’t. Voting is not about how warm, squishy and happy a candidate makes you feel when they speak.  It’s about who can actually get the job done and make a difference. For that reason alone, voters should be wary of any candidate who makes appeals based on emotion rather than facts or concrete plans for the future. 

Finally.  

PRAY. We need this year more than ever. 

Seriously.

How we Got Here and What Will Bring Change-

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins– James 5:19-21 NASB 

Sometimes writing about one thing will cause me to think more deeply about another thing. 

Such was the case this past week. 

Last week’s post was all about “the new normal” and my own stubborn resistance not just to the expression “the new normal” but also to all the changes the “new normal” has brought to everyday life. It has been tough for me to accept that the way we do life has changed dramatically all because of a stupid germ and our weird response to that germ.  However, over the course of time I have come to accept the reality that life will be different for a while, perhaps even forever. 

I do not believe the “new normal” is an accident of fate. It is the direct result of God’s judgment and rebuke. We are where we are due to the moral rebellion of those outside the church as well as the complacency and disobedience of those inside the church. Much of the “new normal” including the fear, political division, confusion and loss of freedom is simply the result of a loving God working overtime to get our attention before we destroy our stupid selves. It’s time we started paying a little closer attention.   

The world is a mess:

 We live in a time and a place where basic knowledge concerning God and morality is still very much part of the Western cultural norm. Thanks to the internet there has never been a time when more people had more access to the Bible and Christian teaching. Sadly, all this access to information has had little impact on how most people approach life (Romans 1:18-21, 2nd Timothy 3:5). 

Most non-Christians view themselves as free moral agents who are unaccountable to anyone or anything. The mere suggestion of God’s existence raises the hackles of some. The God our culture does embrace bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. He is weak, tolerant, unfailingly nonjudgmental and very kind. As a result, most non-Christians have literally cast off all restraint. They fight against the notion that anyone, including God has the right to tell them what to do or how to run their lives.  It is routinely argued by politicians, thought leaders and “average Joes” that anything God has declared to be true and good is actually wrong, stupid and repressive. The mere suggestion there should be moral limitations in any area but especially in the area of sexuality is met with open outrage and hostility (Romans 1:21-32). 

The church has its own set of issues. 

For the better part of the last century the church has behaved much like Adam did in the garden (Genesis 3). Christians (including me) have been passive as their friends, neighbors and family members have played around with ideas and behaviors that we were fully aware would lead to their eventual destruction.  We watched the public schools teach our children the lie that Western civilization is evil and unredeemable, and did little, if anything to stop the madness.  We allowed the entertainment industry to lead our families into a hellish upside-down morality that calls evil good and good evil.  We passively watched our culture fall down the rabbit hole on nearly every issue from drug use to the break-down of the family to gender issues.  

Our reluctance to confront these and other issues was been born out of fear (Isaiah 41:10-13). We were afraid of being labeled as “hateful”, “backward”, “anti-science” or “mean-spirited” by our peers (John 15:18).   On the rare occasions when Christians have boldly confronted these and other issues it has rarely been done the way God designed it to be done. It hasn’t been a parent challenging their child or one neighbor or friend gently confronting the sin of someone they care about. Instead Christians have outsourced hard conversations to pastors, books, big Christian organizations and ministries who have had the discussions concerning virtue and morality that individual Christians should have been having one-on-one with their friends and family.   As a result, many in our culture are convinced Christians have no real interest in individual people but only care about righteousness in a nationalistic sense. 

All that being said.

Because God is good and unfailingly merciful all is not lost. We have hope.  God is eager to forgive those who are quick to repent. He will send revival, He will heal our land but first church people must make changes (2nd Chronicles (7:14). The church must do some serious soul searching. It’s time to ruthlessly root out the sin in our own lives and repent. If we don’t we will never have the moral authority necessary to confront sin and have hard conversations with others. It’s way past time to let go of any discomfort we feel about discussing moral issues with our children, friends and neighbors. And lastly, it is imperative we stop expecting pastors and ministry organizations to do the job of making disciples and confronting sin. It’s not their responsibility, it’s ours (Ephesians 4:10-12). If we lean into that responsibility we will see the culture change and our churches grow into something healthy and strong. 

How We Survive These Crazy Times-

`When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things– 1st Corinthians 13:11 NASB

In December of 1776 Thomas Paine penned his now famous words:

These are the times that try men’s souls”.

With all due respect to Mr. Paine and the times he lived in, his times had nothing on our times. 

Seriously.  

This is swiftly becoming a tough time to be alive and an even tougher time to be a Christian. Politics have become deeply divided, making it harder for individuals to find common ground on nearly anything of any consequence. Once-stanchly democratic governments are trending more towards authoritarianism. Violence has become routine in places where people once dwelt in safety. Additionally, the whole stinking world just got kicked in the behind by a pandemic that has produced even more division, more violence and more authoritarianism.  

SIGH. 

Christians must also deal with the reality that our God is routinely mocked in every way imaginable (Galatians 6:7). Many have taken to calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Those on the side of unlimited sexual freedom have LITERALLY invented new ways of doing evil and are doing their level best to lead our children down a path of inevitable personal destruction (Romans 1:30). Because almost no one believes in absolute truth anymore deception has taken root to such an extent that otherwise intelligent people literally believe lies when the truth is right in front of them. For most believers, it feels as if evil of every kind is gaining ground daily. This is disheartening on a level that is difficult to find words for. 

However.  

If we believe God is sovereign we also have to believe God placed us here in these times for a reason. If we believe that we also have to believe God wants us to live in these times in such a way that we bring Him glory (Esther 4:14). All that being said, these times are not for the faint of heart. Nor, are they for overly-indulged saints who love their own comfort and wellbeing more than they love God or the Church God has called us to love and serve (John 13:34-35, Romans 12:10, 2nd Corinthians 13:11, Galatians 5:13). If we want to live in a way that brings God glory in spite of circumstances we must be willing to ruthlessly root out attitudes and behaviors that are toxic to our spiritual health. A spiritually toxic behavior or attitude is any attitude or behavior that is sinful or will inevitably lead to sin.  Following are five spiritual toxins slowly killing Christians. 

Entitlement-  

Entitlement is a sense we have a “right” to certain freedoms or experiences or to have situations the way we like to have them.  Sadly, there are a lot of Christians more focused on their rights than their responsibilities as Christians. Entitled believers will withdraw from churches, not because of doctrinal issues they can’t overcome but because they have been “offended” or because changes have been made in their church they don’t like.  Christians are called to model their lives after Jesus who was literally entitled to EVERYTHING (Philippians 2:1-11) but rather than demand what He was rightfully entitled to He sacrificed His own wants and needs to benefit us.  Christians must learn to do the same.   

Expecting to be served rather than serving- 

Christians are never more like Jesus than when they serve others (Matthew 20:27-28, Luke 22:25-27).  However, in most churches twenty percent of the people do one-hundred-percent of the work that needs to be done. This is lazy and God is categorically not a fan of laziness (Matthew 25:26, Hebrews 6;12). It also tends to produce a spirit that is critical of the efforts of others (Ephesians 4:29).  The cure for this one is easy. Get busy serving and do it with a servant’s heart (Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 6:7). 

Allowing fear to run the show- 

The world is a scary and unsettled place right now and for the most part recent events not bode well for Christians. Even so, Christians are not called to live in fear but rather walk in faith (Proverbs 29:25, John 4:18, Romans 8:15). Walking in faith means we stay obedient to Jesus at all times with the understanding that even if things are not okay it will be okay because our souls are secure in Jesus (Luke 1:50 Romans 8:18, Romans 8:28).  

Refusing to let go of old behaviors- 

In Colossians chapter three Christians are given a list of eleven spiritually toxic behaviors we are commanded to put to death. Failure to do so inevitably results in some sort of spiritual and/or moral disaster. 

Depending on anything or anyone for hope or help in times of trouble besides Jesus- 

People were designed to crave a defender, comforter and source of wisdom and strength in times of trouble and upheaval.  But because we are a fallen and therefore imperfect (Genesis 3) we tend to want all the wrong defenders, comforters and sources of wisdom and strength. We turn to charismatic political leaders, the people we love, our founding documents, drugs or alcohol, dubious sources of information or the approval of others to give us the comfort and help we should only seek from God (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 20:7). If God is not who we run to first in times of trouble we are in danger of becoming ensnared in the sin of idolatry. 

Tough times are never something anyone hopes for, but for God’s people tough times are an opportunity to be a light in the darkness. In order to become the light our world needs we must pray continuously for wisdom, discernment, spiritual strength and freedom from these five sinful attitudes that can so easily entangle us and keep us from being the person God needs us to be in these times (Hebrews 12:1).   

Four Ways to Stop the Hate and Violence-

For fools speak folly, their hearts are bent on evil: Scoundrels use wicked methods, they make up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just- Isaiah 32:6a and 37 NIV

I really wanted to write something happy this week. 

Seriously.

I had the happy post half-written in my head but, alas, it was not to be. Just as I was about to begin writing. I tuned into the news and heard about the ambush attack on two deputies in Los Angeles County. I immediately felt obliged to change direction. 

The attack was shocking. It’s always shocking when someone shoots two complete strangers without a reason. The shock value was raised exponentially when it was revealed that a crowd of what can only be assumed were demon-possessed onlookers gathered to shout they hoped the officers would die (Mark 9:29). 

Sigh.  

As appalling as this situation is, it was also entirely foreseeable. The seeds of this tragedy were initially sown five years ago. It started with the lie that police shootings are ALWAYS criminal or at the very least unnecessary. The propagation of that lie prompted overpaid NFL players with an exaggerated sense of their own significance to begin sanctimoniously taking a knee during the national anthem. One of those players famously began wearing pig socks “in protest”. Soon after the chant “pigs in a blanket fry ‘em like bacon” became the rallying cry of the social justice warrior class. Around that same time leaders of certain party began to encourage their followers to harass conservatives. This was followed by calls to defund the police. That led to riots in the streets which led to innocent bystanders being attacked on the streets because “enough wasn’t being done” to pacify the mob.  It ended in Compton with an unstable person doing what he probably thought leaders wanted him to do.

So, a couple of things:

First, any idiot could have predicted we would end up here. The slippery slope is real. One action or decision really does lead to another set of actions and decisions.  The situation we find ourselves in delivers iron-clad proof of that fact.  Second, we must stop kidding ourselves about the whole “peaceful protest” twaddle. There are few (if any) “peaceful protesters” left anymore. There were peaceful protests immediately following the death of George Floyd. However, that ship has officially sailed. The movement has been hijacked. Those “protesting” are politically driven criminals who care little about the issues they SAY they are fighting for. Period. Finally, the situation we find ourselves in is a direct result of deception (Psalm 52:3). Deception cannot be ignored.  Decent people cannot sit back passively and hope the culture gets it’s act together.  It won’t unless we:

Pray – 

Too often, Christians say “well, I guess all we can do is pray” as if prayer were a silly last resort superstitious dumb people turn to after every other reasonable option has been exhausted. We treat prayer like it’s the spiritual equivalent of going to a witch-doctor after medical treatments for cancer have failed. Prayer is the most powerful thing Christians can do ever, under any circumstances, and without it none of the other things I suggest in this post will have any impact at all. Christians everywhere have a duty to pray for renewal in their own lives, revival in the lives of unbelievers and for truth to be revealed to all people (John 8:32). 

Speak the truth in love- 

Christians have become determined not to offend anyone (Ephesians 4:15). Our silence on moral and spiritual issues has left a void that Satan has filled with evil.  There are two reasons for the silence, the first is intellectual laziness. Many Christians do not know enough about the Bible or the world around them to engage anyone effectively concerning much of anything. Ignorance is a violation of the commandment to love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37).  The second is fear. Christians fear being disliked more than they fear God (Psalm 39:1-3). We must remember that Christians are NEVER to engage anyone in a cruel or nasty way (1st Peter 3:15). However, it is better to speak the truth and be hated by men and loved by God than to remain silent and loved by men and hated by God (Revelation 3:15-22). 

Demand better of our leaders- 

State and local leaders must be held accountable for the violence that’s overrunning many cities. If you live in a city where rioting has become commonplace call and write the mayor’s office and demand the mayor step down unless they get the violence under control. Write letters to the editor demanding state and local politicians get the destruction under control. Encourage friends and family to do the same.   Do not stop until said leaders step down, are voted out or make changes.  

Refuse to passively tolerate hate of any kind- 

Racism is never okay. Hating someone for the color of their skin is weird, wrong and categorically unchristian (Revelation 5:9, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11). However, hate is just as hateful and every bit as evil when it is directed at a police officer or a conservative politician as it is when it is directed at a random person of color. Hate is hate. Christians rarely hate openly, however sometimes we are guilty of tolerating it passively in ourselves and others. Instead of just letting hateful remarks pass we must look for gentle and respectful but direct ways to call out hate of any kind. 

Finally, if we want to see real and lasting change we must be willing lead by example. This means we must examine ourselves regularly, confess our sins to God and others and repent of sin quickly (Acts 3:19, 2ndCorinthians 13:5, James 5:16).