Why Some Kinds of Churches Just Need to Go-

His (God’s) intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord~ Ephesians 3:9-10 NIV

Okay, so, a fun fact about me is that I have been a Christian for decades, but I was not raised in church. I attended a mainline Protestant church (with my Grandmother) a handful of times prior to converting to Christianity as an adult. Because I converted to Christianity rather than being born into it I tend to have a slightly different “read” on church than some of my peers who have lived their entire lives in Church. 

For the record, no one is born a Christian, anyone who wishes to become a Christian must repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15, John 1:12, John 3:36, Acts 17:30). That said, I have observed that the conversion experience of someone who became a Christian in their early twenties (like I did) tends to be markedly different from the conversion experience of someone who attended church for the first time during their first week of life (like all of my kids did). 

Church has changed radically in the years since I became a Christian. Some of the changes were much needed and not at all wrong or sinful. There is no reason I can think of to ever return to the bad-old-days of mauve carpeting, sweaty, scream-y preachers, uncomfortable pews, unfettered legalism and Bible translations no one really understands. 

Sigh.

By far, the biggest change has been the rise of the seeker-friendly model of church. Champions of this model have sought to make church easier to understand for those who might be “seeking” God.  Some of the efforts to make church more user-friendly have been good. Others have (in my opinion) stripped away some of the mystery and much of the beauty of the church experience. In some cases, church has become so simple and so easy to understand that nobody on the outside is the least bit curious about what’s going on inside the church. I put much of the blame on the rise of seeker-friendly model of church. There are at least five reasons this model ought to be abandoned:

The seeker-friendly model has filled churches with people who don’t get church-

In any given American church at least half the attendees don’t pray, don’t give, don’t serve, don’t forgive, don’t love, and don’t even routinely attend services. Obviously, none of those things make one a Christian. However, those things are the defining marks of a Christian (Romans 12:12, 2ndCorinthians 9:6-7, Matthew 6:15, Matthew 5:43-46, 1stJohn 2:10, Hebrews 10:25). Churches teeming with unsaved people would not be a bad thing if most church leaders were aggressively encouraging folks to join discipleship groups and insisting on seeing at least some fruit in the lives of people before allowing them to take leadership positions. However, the seeker-friendly model aggressively avoids any and all judgment and has actively encouraged a “less is more” approach to teaching and training in the church. I fear we have made the same error church leaders made when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.  We have opened our doors wide and filled our churches with pagans (a good thing) but now those pagans are converting the church to their way of thinking rather than the church converting them to God’s way of thinking. 

The seeker friendly model assumes that non-Christians are numbskulls incapable of learning anything new or overcoming a less-than-ideal church experience-

The first time I attended an Evangelical church service, the whole thing was a flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess from a seeker-friendly standpoint. The service was long (nearly two hours). The sermon was straight out of the scary part of Revelation. The pastor talked about hell. No one bothered to explain terms or activities that were strictly Christian.  It was clearly not the best service for a clueless unbeliever to walk into (to be honest, I was more than a bit mystified by the whole thing).  For the record: I do not believe churches ought to begin modeling their services after that one (at the very least churches should explain confusing terms). However, it’s important to note that I did not run screaming for the door, nor was it my last visit to that particular church. Some church leaders underestimate the curiosity and intelligence level of non-Christians as well as the power of the Holy Spirit to draw people when that’s His intent.

Seeker friendly churches tend to produce shallow believers who have no root- 

Churches are supposed to produce mature believers who are capable of discipling others. They also supposed to teach believers how to stand strong when times get tough and their faith is tested (Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 7:24-25, Ephesians 4:9-16). The very structure of a seeker-friendly church makes these aims nearly impossible to achieve. In seeker friendly churches services are almost always limited to a one-hour time frame, teaching is intentionally inoffensive (shallow) and most of the small groups are focused on fellowship rather than growth. Without a background of solid teaching most Christians flounder, cave to heresies or drop-out altogether when times get tough or they are confronted with false teaching. Anyone who has not been equipped with solid teaching will be rootless and in constant danger of drifting away (Matthew 13:6, Hebrews 2:1).

Seeker-friendly churches have transformed church into a consumer experience-

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the seeker friendly movement is that it has transformed three generations of church-goers into customers rather than investors. A customer is constantly on the lookout for a better experience and is therefore willing to leave if at any point they become disappointed in a church or the people in the church. An investor is in it for the long haul and will only leave if they can clearly see that the church (and the people in it) has deviated from biblical truth.  

The seeker-friendly model has been tried and found wanting. It’s time for churches to let it die and move back to the biblical model of discipleship.  When we do that we will see the church (and the people in it) become strong and healthy again. 

How to get the Revival our World Desperately Needs-

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land~ 2nd Chronicles 7:14 NIV

 Our sin sick world is long overdue for a revival.

  All one has to do is turn on a television set, attend a high school dance, or read the comments section of an on-line political article and it becomes abundantly clear very quickly that we could use some intense supernatural intervention in our world.

 Like now.

 The online dictionary definition of revival is:

An improvement in the condition or strength of something.

An instance of something becoming popular, active, or important again

 Contrary to 20th century thinking authentic Christian revival is more than a just a series of lively church gatherings. Genuine revival always moves far beyond the four-walls of the church and has a positive and prolonged spiritual impact on the culture surrounding the church.  In an authentic revival the church grows and thrives and communities are permanently changed, both morally and economically. No serious Christian would argue against the need for the Church to affect the culture once again.  

 I do not pretend to know everything there is about everything. It’s just too exhausting. However, there is one thing I do know for absolute certain. The lack of revival is not due to a lack of need. Arguably, every country in our world is a flaming-hot-mess. I could go on all day about all the social, spiritual and moral problems plaguing different countries, including our own, at this point in history.  In spite of all that the church has not witnessed a genuine revival: one that has affected the culture as well as the church in more than a century. It could be argued that the fact our culture has not experienced genuine revival in my lifetime is sign of God’s disapproval of our choices both inside and outside the church (Exodus 9:12, Proverbs 28:14, Jeremiah 5:3). Robust spiritual health is always an indication of God’s blessing.

 Without revival the entire Western world will spiral into moral darkness and eventually self-destruct.  Sadly, there are some very valid spiritual reasons Christian churches are not experiencing revival in North America and Europe. First and foremost:  

 Christians aren’t asking for it-

 True revival comes when the majority of God’s people ask for it over and over again (Daniel 9:4-17, 2nd Chronicles 7:14). Regrettably, about twenty-five years ago corporate prayer ceased to be a thing in most churches (Matthew 18:19-20). Most large churches do not have a prayer group and the prayer groups that do exist tend to be very poorly attended. For whatever reason God moves when people pray. If we want to see real and lasting change in our families, churches, politics and culture we need to start praying for revival like it’s the most critical thing in the entire world. Because it is.  

 Christians are praying for the wrong things-

 Okay. I totally get it’s not my job to judge other people’s prayers. I also get it makes me something of a jerk that I do sometimes judge other people’s prayers (sorry). That being said, I don’t get why when we gather together corporately we are praying for things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of eternity (the health of our pets, good weather, our own prosperity, etc..). There is nothing wrong or sinful about praying for personal needs (even trivial needs). However, those types of prayers should never be the sum total of all our prayers, and we should pray about more critical needs anytime we pray together in groups.

 Christians don’t think they need to repent-

 In the Bible revival always began when one or two people who didn’t really look like they needed to repent, repented (Daniel 9:19, 2nd Chronicles 6:21, 2nd Kings 22, 2nd Chronicles 32:26). There are few (no) people in this world (including Christians) who can honestly say that they are without sin in some area (gossip, judgment, hardness of heart, jealousy, greed, sexual immorality, hatred, discord, selfish ambition, etc.…). It is time for Christians everywhere to do some serious soul-searching to find out what it is God is calling them to let go of.

 We are looking for it in the wrong places-

  Most Christians believe deep in their hearts revival is only for unsaved heathens. As a result, the church is waiting for the world to repent rather than taking the lead and showing them the way.  Sadly, too many in the church have bought into the idiotic notion that once a person is saved (has a relationship with Jesus) that no further repentance is required or that personal spiritual revival is never necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.  We all need revival in our lives all the time. In the past revival and repentance has always started with believers and then moved to the unsaved (Hebrews 12:5-7, 2nd Chronicles 7:14, Deuteronomy 8:5.

The Bible promises (2nd Chronicles 7:14) that when we (God’s people) ask for revival and mean it God will respond and give us what we ask for. Maybe we haven’t gotten it because we don’t want it bad enough.

I don’t know. I’m just spit-balling here.

What The Immigration Mess Reveals About Us As a People

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction~ Proverbs 29:18

 It’s been a long week. America has been busy making a spectacle of itself on the world stage.

 Again.

 Seriously, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Most of the madness has been a result of the flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess on the Southern border. I am not (nor have I ever been) a fan of our modern immigration system. That being said, large groups of lefty’s seem to have forgotten that immigration has been handled almost exactly the same way as it is being handled right now for decades.

 No one was foaming at the mouth or collapsing into fits of sweaty rage when the last guy was in charge and the same things were happening.

 Sigh.  

 The problems on the border have become an excuse. Not an excuse to demand laws that actually make sense, the border has become an excuse for chaos and mayhem. Elected officials are calling for the public shaming of other public officials and demanding that anyone who disagrees with them be punished immediately.  Sadly, this is yet another situation where feelings are prevailing over facts.

 The facts are fairly cut and dried.

 Immigration has been a problem in this country since the 1970’s. The current administration did not create the problems at the border. I know this to be true because our family lived in a border town for four years and we learned firsthand exactly how complex every aspect of this problem is.

 Take the family separation issue, it is far thornier than it appears to be on the surface. Most of the “families” who enter on the Southern border are not families at all. There are plenty of adults and children traveling together but most of the children are not biologically related to those adults (at one California checkpoint only 2000 of the 12000 children brought in were with a biological parent). Most of the adults are evil monsters known as coyotes who physically, emotionally and sexually abuse children they are traveling with. When the coyotes arrive at a checkpoint, they claim the children are their own and use them to gain entrance with little or no scrutiny (coyotes refer to minors as “golden tickets”). When the coyotes get to bigger cities in California, Arizona or Texas they sell the children to pimps and sex traffickers where they become sex slaves. Simply allowing every child to come into the country with the adult who brought them looks and feels like a compassionate response to a very real problem. In actuality, it just creates a new set of problems for the kids.

 That said. 

 The reaction many are having to the immigration mess highlights at least four problems that could easily be the beginning of the end of Western Civilization.

 First:

  Politics have become the new religion-

 Humans were created in the image of God to be religious beings (Genesis 1:27, Acts 17:24-31). Because many in the Western world have turned their backs on the whole notion of God politics has filled the void faith used to fill. Political ideology is a harsh and demanding god that requires unconditional loyalty and commitment to the cause. When conformity to a political ideology becomes a god, violence against those who refuse to conform to the dogma of that political philosophy suddenly makes sense to those who hold fast to those political views. Communist and fascist régimes of the past and present stand as both a graphic illustration and a warning of what happens when God is no longer welcome in a society.  

 We have lost all restraint- 

 For two thousand years Christianity has been a collective regulator of behavior in Western civilization (Proverbs 29:18). Unfortunately, most people ceased to be affected by or even exposed to Christian teaching around the middle of the last century. Anytime a society ceases to believe in a God who promises to judge them for what they do and don’t do hate, social upheaval and violence inevitably follows (Acts 17:31, Romans 2:12, Romans 2:16, Hebrews 13:4, 1stPeter 1:17, Revelation 20:12-13).

 We have forgotten how to think in a straight line-

 The Bible teaches that when a person willfully disregards the God of the universe and chooses to do life their way their thinking becomes muddled and they become less likely to apply logic to everyday situations (Romans 1:21). This inevitably leads to an inability see how one thing leads to another thing. Sadly, this is kind of where we are living right now.

 We don’t talk anymore-

 Somewhere in the not-so-distant-past we stopped sharing ideas and debating policies. Instead we have devolved into antagonism and arguing endlessly over the meaning of words (1st Timothy 6:4, 2nd Timothy 6:4). This has lead us to a place where we have become so sharply divided over issues that we see each other rather than the problems as the enemy.

 Because only God can change a human heart, the only real answer to our problems is revival.  The only path to revival is prayer and repentance (2nd Chronicles 7:14). It is incumbent on God’s people to get busy and begin praying.

 God knows we need it.

Six Things That Must Be Done to End the Scourge Of Gun Violence

 Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established~ Proverbs 24:3 NKJV

By now, pretty much everyone reading this is aware that there was another horrific school shooting last week, this time in the state of Florida.

 The shooter was troubled young man with a hazy past who suffered from a plethora of shockingly obvious psychological problems. That said, at this point there is little to be gained from discussing the shooter, the body count, the young man’s family situation, or even the appalling number of local, state and federal agencies who bungled the job of preventing this bizarrely preventable tragedy.

 All that is painfully irrelevant at this point.

 It seems to me that it’s far more productive to discuss what we can do to fix the flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess we have made out of our society. News outlets have interviewed a number of high school students who are understandably panicked about their safety and concerned for the future. It’s become painfully obvious that too many of these people are having their fear exploited by manipulative activists who are feeding them the lie that there is a quick fix to our nation’s problem with random gun violence.

 No such fix exists because the problem with gun violence is not about guns; it’s about people and the condition of their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). The number of gun owners in this country has actually decreased over the course of the last century. During the same period, more restrictions have been placed on who can and cannot own guns and yet gun violence has risen sharply in recent decades. This detail is troublesome and it ought to motivate us to dig deeper rather than simply looking for a quick fix to a complicated issue.

 Gun violence can be slowed substantially if we as a society are willing to do a little soul searching and make some changes in our attitudes and behaviors (Mark 1:15, Acts 3:19).

 Those changes must include:

 An end to the drug culture-

 Over the course of the last three decades there has been a sharp increase in the number of children born to drug using mothers. These babies tend to grow into children and young adults with intellectual deficits who have a tough time in school and later with securing gainful employment. Children born to drug-using mothers tend to struggle with impulse control, anti-social behavior, relationship skills, making responsible choices, and anger (all risks for violent behavior). I am not suggesting that all children born to drug-using mothers are doomed to be school shooters, or that every school shooter was born with drugs in their system. I am saying straight up that every single time a child is born to a drug user the risk-pool for violent behavior is increased by one. If young people want to change the future of this country and decrease the risk of violence they should seek to end the drug culture.

 Getting married and staying that way-

 Loving, healthy, stable two-parent homes rarely produce mass-murders. If we as a society want to reduce gun violence we should celebrate intact families and encourage young people to build said families.

 An end to celebrating narcissism-

 We live in a pathetically sad age of me, me, and more me. Selfies are actually a thing and people are marrying themselves for the love-of-all-that-is-good-and-decent. If we want to change the future we must change our focus (Leviticus 19:18, Romans 13:8, Matthew 22:36-40). When a child spends their youth focusing entirely on his or her feelings and needs-to the exclusion of everyone else’s feelings and needs-it makes it shockingly easy for some of them to hurt other people and not feel bad about it.

 Fighting for reform in public schools-

 For decades now, public schools have sought to carefully craft a value-neutral environment. This means avoiding teaching children values that might be considered controversial out fear of offending a family who might have a differing set of values. The problem with not teaching values is that values are as much caught as they are taught. If one does not teach the value that human life should be protected and nurtured at all costs, then some kids will catch the value that taking a human life (or seventeen human lives, or a hundred human lives) is not really that big of a deal. Parents and students should demand more from their public schools.

 Ending our love-affair with violent entertainment-

 Seriously. There is no way Game of Thrones, Dexter, American Horror Story and violent video games are making us better, healthier and more compassionate people. If we want to end violence in our schools we have to stop feeding children (and adults) an unending diet of violent and vile entertainment that hardens hearts and sears consciences.

 Going to church-

 I hesitated to add this one—not because I doubt the value of church but because without the heart change that can only come through a relationship with Jesus, simply attending church can easily devolve into a meaningless exercise that does little for anyone. That said, church is God’s chosen vehicle for bringing truth to those who don’t know Him and for training those who do know Him (Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 4:11-16). It is also the place where we learn what God requires of people (Mark 1:15, Acts 16:31, 1st John 3:23) and where (if church is being done right) we develop a desire to please Him by treating other people with respect, kindness and mercy (Micah 6:8).

 Truth be told, even the best laws are incapable of changing a single human heart and without changed hearts societies remain sick. If we want to make our society better we have to become better people and we cannot do that without God (Ezekiel 36:26).

Five Prayers Every Christian Should Pray During the Coronavirus Crisis, It’s Not Like You Have Anything Better to-

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers~ 2nd Corinthians 1:10-11a NIV

 Life in the present-day world certainly has is peculiar.  On the one hand, pretty much everyone agrees that those lucky enough to live in the Western world at this time in history have more blessings, conveniences and creature comforts than people at any other time in human history.

 We also have more than our fair share of weird worries. Even really normal people worry about stuff past generations would have thought strange. Things like microbes; random terror attacks, getting old, and despotic dictators in distant countries. The more neurotic among us (i.e. me) do not worry about “normal things” instead we worry about more exotic issues like the long-term effects of worry on our health and whether or not cell phone radiation is scrambling our brains and turning us into a horde of mindless zombies (don’t judge).

 Sigh.                                        

 Most of the stuff we worry about is directly related to situations we have little actual control over. The angst that grows out of lack of control typically leads to one of two opposite and equally unhelpful, unhealthy, and unspiritual responses. Some people worry their heads off about things they know they can do absolutely nothing about. Others go out of their way to avoid news concerning the scary drama in our world, in a misguided effort to prevent themselves from freaking-out about things they know for a fact they can do nothing about.

 God calls us to a more proactive solution. He calls us to pray (Romans 12:12, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, 1st Thessalonians 5:13). We are called to pray for those closest to us and we are called to pray for people we will never know. We are even also called to pray for situations entirely outside of our control (1st Timothy 2:1-2). In the interest of promoting peace rather than anxiety I have compiled a list of things I believe every Christian ought to be praying about everyday (James 5:16). All of these issues are vast and far-reaching; so vast and far-reaching that nothing will change on any of these fronts without God’s help.

 Pray America does some intense soul searching-

 Hardly a week goes by without a random act of horrible violence taking place somewhere in America. Sadly, few people are interested in talking about WHY these incidents continue to happen with such shocking regularity. It’s time for Americans to think a little deeper about why our culture is producing people who care so little for their fellow humans that they want to kill as many of them as possible in the most dramatic way imaginable.

 Pray for children in our culture-

 A shocking number of kids today are being born to parents who care more about themselves and their idiotically sinful habits than they do about their own offspring. This trend is rapidly producing a sizable subculture of disturbed, academically challenged and drug-affected children and young adults who are (in many cases) incapable of functioning in a healthy, productive and  life-giving way in the culture. These kids need our assistance and our prayers. And our culture needs to change this trend quickly or we are going to reap a bitter harvest in the coming years.

 Pray for a return of Christian families-

 At the root of the vast majority of the problems in our world lay a lack of virtue, common sense, concern for our fellow humans and an absence of conscience. God intended for people to acquire these things in the context of loving Christian homes. Until we have a return of the Christian family our world will continue to struggle with these issues.

 Pray for leaders around the world-

 Because I am American and about 90% of the people who read this blog also happen to be American I sometimes forget that the entire world needs prayer every bit as much as America does. We need to pray that leaders worldwide will govern from a standpoint of wisdom and common sense rather than foolishness and worldly twaddle. This is a tall order and something only God can make happen. It is a cause worthy of some serious prayer time.

 Pray for revival-

 We need revival in our world because God is the only one who can successfully and permanently change a human heart. We need heart change in our world because without it none of the other things that need changing ever will, and our world desperately needs change.

 

 

 

 

Is the Bible Unloving?

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth~ John 1:14 NKJV

 It’s been a long, miserable week in the the Pacific Northwest. Most of our region is literally on fire right now and the city I live in is so smoky and gross our whole house smells like we’ve been barbecuing in the basement. The local health department has classified our current air quality as “hazardous”.

 The heat, smoke and air quality left me feeling more than a little unmotivated. As a result I found myself struggling to come up with a topic for this weeks blog-post. Inspiration came early Tuesday morning when I opened Facebook and ran across what I felt at the time was a rather innocuous quote from Bible teacher, Beth Moore…    

 You will watch a generation of Christians—OF CHRISTIANS—set the Bible aside in an attempt to be more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible. This will be, perhaps, the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice truth for love’s sake, you will rise or fall whether you will sacrifice one for the other.

  Beth Moore literally could not to be any more on point with the point she made. The spiritual tension that exists between biblical truth and our culture’s current definition of love is the greatest theological conundrum of our generation. I have been convinced for a long time that if the church doesn’t get its proverbial act together and figure out a way to communicate the truth concerning this issue, biblical Christianity will dwindle down to a tiny remnant within a generation. If that happens, our culture will enter a spiritual and moral dark ages, the likes of which the world has not seen since the dawn of the Christian age.

 It was not the quote that got me spoiling for a smackdown. It was the absurd responses to her quote I found frustrating.  To my astonishment, most of those who commented disagreed with Beth Moore, some vehemently. All the dissenters called her unloving and accused her of lacking compassion. A few even criticized her for making an idol out of the Bible.

 Seriously. Is that even a thing?

 Sadly, too many Christians have twisted love into something not found anywhere in the Bible.

 There are two truths we need to acknowledge concerning Jesus, love, and the Bible. First, we simply cannot separate the words of Jesus from the rest of the Bible. In the book of John, Jesus is referred to as The Word. By using that particular designation to describe Jesus, John is making a powerful statement about who Jesus is and how He fits into Scripture.

 John is declaring that Jesus is the personification and expression of the word of God. Jesus was the substance and incarnation of all that had been written in the Old Testament law and all that was to be written in the New Testament letters.

 What that means is that the statements Jesus made in the gospels (the red letters that contemporary Christians get all wound-up about) are no more or less significant than the Old Testament Law and the New Testament letters. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith and the author of ALL of Scripture. Not just the Scripture we feel comfortable with or those that reflect our current cultural values and sensibilities (Hebrews 12:2, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Luke 24:27).

 Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial requirements of the law and we no longer live in a theocracy, so as 21st century Christians we no longer sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Jesus took care of that for us) or follow the civil laws that were given specifically to the nation of Israel. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire Old Testament should be tossed out because much of the Old Testament FEELS unloving to contemporary readers.

 The second truth we need to understand is that the good news of the gospel is wrapped up in a lot of really bad news. The good news is that God loves people so much that He sacrificed His only son so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with God (John 3:16).

 The bad news for us is that God is a holy and perfect God who really hates sin. God decided a long time ago what actions were sinful and He has not modified or relaxed His standards on what sin is and is not. The penalty for for sin is awful: eternity in hell forever separated from God and all that is comforting and good. All people are sinners who cannot under any circumstances get right with God and be forgiven unless they are willing to leave their life of sin and follow Jesus wherever he leads (John 8:11, Mark 8:34).

 Those are two truths we must be honest about as we share the love of God with people. When we don’t tell the whole truth about life and sin and eternity we are really telling a lie that will eventually lead to the spiritual death of those we claim to love.

 There’s nothing loving about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Truth Even Matter or is it All About Love?

The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth~ John 1:14 NKJV

 It’s been a long, hot week. Most of the Pacific Northwest is literally on fire right now and the city I live in is so smoky and gross that our whole house smells like we’ve been barbequing in the basement. The local health department has classified our air quality as “hazardous”.

 The heat, smoke and crummy air quality have left me feeling more than a little unmotivated, as a result I found myself struggling to come up with a topic for this weeks blog-post. Inspiration came early Tuesday morning when I opened Facebook and ran across what I felt at the time was a rather innocuous quote from Bible teacher, Beth Moore…    

 You will watch a generation of Christians—OF CHRISTIANS—set the Bible aside in an attempt to be more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible. This will be, perhaps, the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice truth for love’s sake, you will rise or fall whether you will sacrifice one for the other.

 It would be difficult for Beth Moore to be any more correct on this point. The spiritual tension that exists between truth and love is the greatest theological conundrum of our generation. I am convinced (and have been for a long time) that if the church doesn’t get it’s proverbial act together on this issue, biblical Christianity will all but vanish with this generation. If that happens, our culture will enter a spiritual and moral dark ages, the likes of which the world has not seen since before the dawn of the Christian age.

 It was not the quote that got me spoiling for a smackdown. It was the absurd responses to said quote that motivated me to start writing. To my astonishment, most of those who commented disagreed with Beth Moore, some vehemently. All the dissenters called her unloving and accused her of lacking compassion. A few even criticized her for making an idol out of the Bible.

 Seriously.

 The comments were a bitter reminder of a reality I frequently bump-up against when I’m interacting with other Christians. Sadly, too many in our generation have twisted love into something that is not found anywhere in the Bible.

 There are two truths we need to acknowledge concerning Jesus, love, and the Bible. First, we simply cannot separate the words of Jesus from the rest of the Bible. In the book of John, Jesus is referred to as The Word. By using that particular designation to describe Jesus, John is making a powerful statement about who Jesus is and how He fits into Scripture.

 John is declaring that Jesus is the personification and expression of the word of God. Jesus was the substance and incarnation of all that had been written in the Old Testament law and all that was to be written in the New Testament letters.

 What that means is that the statements Jesus made in the gospels (the red letters that contemporary Christians get all excited about) are no more or less significant than the Old Testament Law and the New Testament letters. Jesus is the perfecter of our faith and the author of all of Scripture. Not just the Scripture we feel comfortable with or those that reflect our current cultural values and sensibilities (Hebrews 12:2, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Luke 24:27).

 Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial requirements of the law and we no longer live in a theocracy, so as 21st century Christians we no longer sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Jesus took care of that for us) or follow the civil laws that were given specifically to the nation of Israel. However, that doesn’t mean that the entire Old Testament should be tossed out because much of the Old Testament FEELS unloving to contemporary readers.

 The second truth we need to understand is that the good news of the gospel is wrapped up in a lot of really bad news. The good news is that God loves people so much that He sacrificed His only son so that we could be forgiven and spend eternity with God (John 3:16).

 The bad news for us is that God is a holy perfect God who hates sin. God decided a long time ago what actions were sinful and He has not modified or relaxed His standards on what sin is and isn’t. The penalty for for sin is awful: eternity in hell forever separated from God and all that is comforting and good. All people are sinners who cannot under any circumstances get right with God and be forgiven unless they are willing to leave their life of sin and follow Jesus wherever he leads (John 8:11, Mark 8:34).

 Those are at least two of the truths we need be real about as we share the love of God with people. When we don’t tell the whole truth about life and sin and eternity we are really telling a lie that will eventually lead to the spiritual death of those we claim to love.

 There’s nothing loving about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Outrage Over Race is Fake-

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?  But I, the Lord, search hearts and examine secret motives. I give people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve”~ Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT

 The evening news has become a never-ending loop of men and women, punching, kicking, screaming obscenities, pepper spraying and throwing urine on complete strangers in what they claim is an effort to end fascism and racism in America.

 Seriously, we are being gaslighted. 

The rioting and looting going on across America has nothing at all to do with ending racism and fascism. Let’s be real. No one actually likes white supremacists; even regular racists find white supremacists to be a bit much. As a result, their numbers are simply too insignificant to be any kind of a real threat to democracy. And because just about everyone hates them already, their demographic is not exactly expanding at a terrifying rate.

 The math proves my point.

 Both organizers of the event in Charlottesville and the media have described the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville as “massive”. These folks point out correctly, that the rally drew white power groups from all over the country. That said, pretty much every observer has agreed that this “massive” rally attracted several hundred racist/fascist/white supremacists at the very most.

 Okay so, the rally in Charlottesville drew racist-fascist freaks from all over the country and all those clowns could manage to scrape together was a couple of hundred people? America is a nation of roughly 323 million people. Two or three hundred bigoted kooks waving confederate flags in the blazing sun barely qualify as a movement, let alone a flourishing movement in the context of a nation of 323 million people.

 It’s just not about race.

 Nor is the never-ending stream of cursing, tearing down statues, spitting on people, pepper-spraying and chucking urine at anyone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat or tee shirt really about Donald Trump or his policies.

 Intellectually honest people have to admit that Donald Trump hasn’t done anything worth freaking out over. Donald Trump has not opened a single concentration camp, started a nuclear war with Europe, murdered an immigrant on live television or taken food from the mouth of a food stamp recipient while cackling manically. Nor has he drunk the blood of—well, anyone—despite the fevered forecasts of our lefty friends.

 Unknowable motives aside, Donald Trump hasn’t DONE a single thing one would not reasonably expect from any other Republican President; aside of course, from sticking his foot in his mouth at predictable intervals and sending out questionable tweets at odd hours. That said, I think we can all agree that saying and tweeting stupid stuff is hardly worthy of impeachment and/or imprisonment (as some have called for).

 Nor is the over-the-top activism about our racist past. I am no fan of Confederate statues or symbols (I once told my son’s friend never to wear a confederate flag t-shirt in my house again). That said, those statues have been sitting in parks and public spaces for decades (including eight years under a Democratic president) and only egg headed professors and a few of the deeper thinkers in the social justice warrior movement cared all that much about the symbolism or even the existence of those statues.

 The current bouts of social unrest are not about any of the things the news media or even the protesters tell us they are about. The unquenchable-dumpster fire playing out on the news every night is really about the depraved condition of the human heart. It’s about angry people who don’t understand why they’re angry searching frantically for a place to vent their wrath. It’s about how the unredeemed and unrepentant love turmoil, violence and senselessly venting their own rage. Social injustice, racism, the Trump administration, Trump voters, and the sins of the past are useful excuses for a generation that has lost its way in every way it’s possible to be lost.

 But before we Christians get too smug and self-righteous we need to remember that as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” we bear a huge burden of the blame for the sorry state of our world. The disaster playing itself out every night is mostly about a generation of young people who have no real knowledge of God and as a result have no cause greater than their own self-interest to believe in.

That’s on us.

It’s the responsibility God’s people to give each generation that comes along a working knowledge of God. Without knowledge of God the only causes believe in are misguided at best and evil at worst. 

 It’s not too late. We are all still here and so there is still hope. Change needs to begin with the family of God. So repent of any sins or inaction on your part and then commit to praying daily for the thugs you see chucking urine at bystanders on television every night. Those people need our prayers a lot more than they need our disdain or condescension. Then get busy. Love a stranger. Tell someone about Jesus. Be the change you want to see in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is America Under Judgment?

Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed~ Job 5:2-3 NIV

 In recent years I have seen things I never thought I would live to see. It could easily be argued that our society is unraveling before our very eyes.

 The madness began in 2017 where a stupid white supremacist rally took a violent turn when a twenty-year-old racist activist ran down an anti-racist activist with his car and killed her. Donald Trump condemned the idiocy in Charlottesville several times. Nonetheless, many on both the left and the right were convinced he is a racist monster and so is anyone who voted for him. At this point in the game it is clear no amount of reason or evidence will convince them otherwise. 

 Protesters began demanding Civil War memorials be torn down immediately. These protesters seem intent on rewriting the history of our country but resist being labeled as the totalitarians they are choosing to act like. The absurdity of the situation reached a fever pitch in Durham, North Carolina where a protester shouted defiantly as a confederate statue came down “ I don’t want to be like the Bolsheviks or the Taliban but this has got to go!”

 Nothing has gotten any better in the last three years. It could be argued we’ve been on a downward slide ever since. 

 Some prominent Christians believe God is judging America. Other Christians have argue  God is too nice to bring judgment on people or nations anymore. As much as I would love to believe otherwise, I am thoroughly convinced that God does indeed still judge. The Bible is clear; God has fixed standards of right and wrong. He does not change His mind where these things are concerned (Malachi 3:6, 1st Samuel 15:29, Hebrews 13:8). God has judged people and nations in the past (Ezekiel 20:36), and He has promised to do so again at some point in the future (Revelation 20:12-13). To believe God is somehow done with the business of judgment is to choose to be willfully ignorant of what the Bible has to say on the subject.

 Period.

 That said, I’m not sure we need God to judge us. We are doing a fine job of bringing judgment and curses on ourselves through our own stubborn pride and willful stupidity. The concept of individuals and nations bringing curses on themselves through their own actions is a common thread found throughout Scripture (Genesis 4:11, Genesis 27:12, Deuteronomy 27:15-25). Curses are a natural consequence of knowingly disregarding truth, common sense and God’s revealed will.

 It’s also kind of where we’re living right now.

We are cursed because we’ve chosen to believe what we have been told to believe by a news media with obvious bias and their own political agenda. We are cursed because we have despised those on the other side of the political aisle instead of praying for them. We are cursed because we have chosen to hold on to bitterness and resentment over sins committed generations ago. We are cursed because we have believed the lie that one act of violence justifies another. We are cursed because for generations too many of us have allowed bigotry and hatred to have a place in our hearts, homes and places of worship. We are cursed because we have chosen to judge the founding fathers by the standards of our time rather than by the standards of their time.

 We have cursed ourselves by refusing to examine our lives and repent of the sin we find there. We have cursed our nation and families by callously killing our unborn children in the name of convenience, disregarding our marriage vows and normalizing sexual sin and calling it “progress”.  

 All the turmoil we are experiencing at this point in our history is our own doing. We have brought curses on our children, our nation and ourselves due to our own reluctance to see circumstances from the other person’s perspective and our unwillingness to do things God’s way. The only way to break this curse is through prayer, repentance and a commitment to racial reconciliation and forgiveness. Too often, too many of us wait for others to take lead when it comes to change, repentance and making amends for our actions. As a result nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. We don’t have time to wait and see what other people do, we need to examine our hearts, repent of the sin we find there and trust God to clean up this mess we’ve made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Breaking Free From the Pull of The World

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will~ Romans 12:2 NIV

Last week I wrote a post detailing five signs you might be a Christian who loves the world just a little too much (1st John 2:15). In that post I defined “loving the world” as taking our cues about how to live, love and function in this life from the world’s system rather than from the Bible (Romans 12:2).

 Loving the world is dangerous because it clouds our spiritual judgment and makes it nearly impossible to see life, people, and the circumstances we encounter from God’s perspective. Loving the world causes us to think like the world and adopt the characteristics of the world. When that happens we lose our ability to be the life-giving spiritual force our world urgently needs.

 The only way to combat worldliness is to work aggressively to break the world’s hold on our thinking, we will never effectively change our behavior until we change our mindset. The process begins with regular Bible reading and study. Knowing the Bible gives us insight into God’s view on issues. However, simply reading the Bible will not necessarily make us any less worldly. We also have to alter our behavior to bring it more in line with a biblical worldview.

 Changes need to begin with these five adjustments to our thinking and behavior…

 Practicing generosity rather than consumption- Acts 4:32-35, Acts 2:42-47, 1st Peter 4:9, Hebrews 13:2

 The world system teaches us to maintain emotional distance from people and use resources such as our time, possessions, energy and money for our own benefit and pleasure. The New Testament urges Christians live life with an open heart and to give with an open-hand. Until we learn to freely give of our resources and our time we will remain forever stuck in a worldly mindset.

 Ending our fixation with worldly entertainment- Psalm 119:37, Job 31:1

 Those in the entertainment industry want more than anything to change the way we think about the world, and they have been wildly effective in accomplishing their agenda. The abolitionist movement in America succeeded in ending slavery partly because leaders of the movement used powerful novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Twelve Years a Slave to change the way the average person thought about slavery. Hollywood does the same thing with equal success for far less noble causes. Television shows with storylines normalizing divorce, single motherhood and homosexuality preceded widespread acceptance of those practices in our culture. Next time you watch a television show, try and figure out what sin the producers are attempting to normalize, then turn it off and read a good book or interact with some people.

 Living out a biblical standard of sexuality- 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8

 Sexual immorality is a sin that is in a class all its own, mainly because it’s exceptionally damaging to all parties involved. When we commit sexual sin, we sin against God, other people and pollute our own bodies (1st Corinthians 6:18). Sexual immorality is placed at the top of a list of sins that God states will keep us from inheriting His kingdom (1st Corinthians 6:9-10). For those reasons (and a dozen others) Christians need to stop searching for loopholes in the rules. God cannot be tricked. Oral, anal and all other types of sex before marriage is still sex before marriage. Viewing pornography is sex and emotional affairs inevitably lead to sex outside of marriage. Our lack of obedience in this one area has caused the church to lose all moral authority in the culture. We will only get it back through a commitment to repentance, purity and doing life God’s way.

 Callously rooting out sin in our own lives- John 5:14, 1st Corinthians 15:34

 Sin is a pernicious thing. It creeps into our lives, oftentimes without our awareness or consent. The only way to combat sin’s encroachment into our lives is by asking God daily to reveal the sins we do not see in ourselves and then repenting (turning away from) the sin we do recognize in our selves.

 Praying about everything- Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2

 Nothing is too big or too small to talk to God about. Without the discipline of prayer we inevitably lose connection with God and unwittingly open ourselves up to the influence of the world. Prayer safeguards us against worldly thinking by reminding us that we are not wise enough to do life without God.

 Rooting out worldly thinking and behavior in our lives is not an optional exercise or an elective spiritual discipline—it’s a matter of spiritual life and death.