What does liberty cost? And if you knew how to get it, what would you be willing to give for it?
Many today mistakenly put their trust in countries, governments, leaders, organizations, or other human entities. People all over the world have joined the ranks of Q-anon and other groups that believe President Trump has the solutions for the world’s problems. Many worry that if he is not in power, the whole world will cave in to the New World Order, democracy will be lost, that socialism will overtake us, and that all will be lost. I do believe we are headed for socialism, as well as the end times. I do believe that we are moving toward one world government and the rise of the antichrist and the beast system. While we are likely going to lose many freedoms, our republic, and perhaps even our lives, that doesn’t mean we will lose our liberty.
Does that sound ludicrous?
Look at it this way:
No matter who is in the White House, God is on His throne. No matter what goes on in Washington, heaven’s purposes will be fulfilled. Sometimes things seem really bad, and sometimes they truly are, but keep in mind that, for the Christ-follower, our heavenly citizenship overrides our national citizenship. Jesus is preparing a place for us that is so much better than anything here on earth. Our Savior has already come and will return one day. No mere man can save us. No mere man can save America or the world. No kingdom can rise or fall without God’s permission. If America falls, and I believe it will, it will be because God has allowed it, and perhaps even purposed it. Things are not always as they appear. If your hope has been in any man but Christ, perhaps today is the day for that to change. If you do not yet know Jesus as Lord, today could be the best day to become part of His family.
One thing 2020 did for me was to loosen my grip on this world and its grip on me. I am a patriot, but I have become deeply aware that my true citizenship is in heaven, and I have come to long for the day I arrive there.
There is much in this world to grieve us, but it’s time to let go, to go through the grief process, and to accept that no man can be our savior and that no country is invincible.
Without a personal relationship with Jesus, we have no hope. This life is but a blink of an eye compared to eternity, so we need to be sure our eternity is secure. Nothing matters otherwise.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul? Nothing — nothing is worth spending an eternity of regret.
None of us know what the future will hold or how much time we have on this earth. If you don’t know the Lord, please put your trust in Him today. If you do know Him, please spend every last breath and ounce of energy urging others to repent and put their trust in Christ. There is nothing more vital.
Persecution is coming to the church. Whether we have a week or ten years to openly worship and to share the Gospel, we need to use that time to the fullest.
And if you’re putting off a decision for Christ, you may find yourself suddenly standing before God and realizing that it’s too late. We all are sinners. Hell is real. Heaven is too. Jesus wants to forgive your sins and be in charge of your life, but you need to acknowledge your sinfulness, accept him as Lord (Master), agree that you want to change, and put all your trust in Him. Otherwise, you remain lost in your sins and on the road to hell.
True liberty comes from finding freedom in Christ. When your sins are forgiven, and you have a relationship with the living God, no matter what griefs come in this lifetime, the assurance of eternity with God in heaven is enough.
Perhaps America must fall in order for Christ to be lifted up in the world, or even in our lives. Perhaps men need to be brought down off their pedestals, that those who have put their hope in them may give up their idolatry and turn their eyes on Jesus, the author of liberty and our only true hope. If the “Land of the Free” must fall in order for us to understand true liberty, so be it.
Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
Today perhaps we should say, “Give me death (to my hopes and desires), that I may understand and enjoy true liberty.”
This has been the worst year ever! COVID. Civil Unrest. Economic Collapse. Isolation. Shortages. Uncertainty. How can I be thankful?
Let’s remember that that the Apostle Paul admonished us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul had been through many tough things, including persecution, imprisonment, beatings, loss of friendship, anguish over the trials of the church, shipwreck, hunger, nakedness, and more.
It’s interesting that this admonition came in the midst of Paul’s teaching about the Day of the Lord. Prior to this verse about thanksgiving, Paul shared with the Thessalonian church that they were not to worry about those who had died missing the Lord’s return, and not to worry that those on the earth would miss it either. He also told them not to worry about when this would happen; instead, he focused them on how to live in the meantime.
He urged them to have self-control, to show brotherly love, to mind their own business, to encourage one another, to work, and to abstain from evil. He encouraged them to be at peace, to pray, to rejoice and give thanks. He told them not to quench the Spirit or to despise prophecies. His message was one of hope, peace, and unity.
And all of it came from the heart of a man who, by our standards of peace and safety, had a rough life. Not just a rough year. Decades of difficulty.
This man admonished us to live out our faith by being thankful in all circumstances. No exceptions.
This year has been challenging for everyone. Nobody has been exempt from the effects of the worldwide crises taking place in 2020, and it’s highly probable that 2021 will bring surprises and hardships of its own. Yet I am thankful.
I’m thankful for all the “good” things, of course — things like God, family, friends, shelter, food, and meaningful work. But it goes deeper than that this year.
I’m thankful for a lot of things I previously took for granted — things like toilet paper and gatherings with friends. But it goes deeper than that this year.
I’m thankful for the ability to creatively do things I used to do differently — things like teaching and tutoring online, grocery delivery, and curbside pickup. But it goes deeper than that this year.
I’m thankful for the hard things, the bad things, the irritating things:
I’m thankful for the lockdown that brought my family home full-time and gave us time together that we never would have had otherwise, that taught us that we really don’t need nearly as much outside our four walls as we had thought.
I’m thankful for our tyrannical governor, who has shown me how precious our freedoms are and given us a chance to realize that liberty is worth fighting for, that it is precious and should not be taken lightly.
I’m thankful that Joe Biden appears to have won the election, because perhaps now evangelicals will take their eyes off a perceived political “savior” and turn their eyes on the one-and-only true Messiah.
I’m thankful for the refining of the church, in which the true believers will come through stronger, and those who were just playing church are faced with making their faith real or simply walking away. This crisis has clarified allegiances and values.
I’m thankful for the remnant community I’ve been united with in brotherly love, and I’m looking forward to what the Lord is going to do through this group of believers.
I’m thankful that I’ve been drawn to search the Scriptures much more fervently, looking to see when the Lord may return, and how to live in the meantime.
I’m thankful for a greater awareness of the socialistic, humanistic assault on God-given liberty and the understanding of the demonic forces behind it.
I’m thankful that the uncertainty and unrest has made me much less attached to this world and increasingly aware of my heavenly citizenship.
Today we remember a group of Pilgrims and a group of Native Americans who came together, though they had many differences, and gave thanks to God for the simple provision of food, which allowed them to live just a little longer. May we be thankful for the simple things as well. May we be thankful for the good things, the things previously taken for granted, the ability to creatively do things differently, and yes, even the hard, bad, and irritating things.
I have heard Christians say that we should stay completely out of “politics.” As I’ve prayerfully considered this stance, I’ve found it lacking. Instead, my dual citizenship compels me that, in order to truly be heavenly minded, I must also be of earthly good. Just because Jesus is coming, and hopefully coming soon, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be about His business until the very day the trumpet sounds or He takes me home.
My dual citizenship compels me that, in order to truly be heavenly minded, I must also be of earthly good.
Some have said that America is done, past the point of no return, and that we just need to let events play out. While I would agree that it appears that the sun is setting on our beloved republic, and that it is only a matter of time before we willingly submit to socialism, and subsequently join hands with the coming “new world order,” that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.
Consider the parable of the talents: The master left three servants in charge of various amounts of his wealth. Two servants invested his money wisely and brought a return, and were therefore rewarded. The third, who feared his master, buried the talent apportioned to him, rather than making it work for his master until his return. As a result, he was disinherited and his talent given to another. Only recently did I realize that Jesus shared this parable in the context of end times prophecy. Church, we are not to bury our talents as we await our master’s return! We are to be about our Master’s business until the very last second.
If, instead, we as the church, forfeit the culture war, the war for the very soul of our nation, and the very soul of the church itself, with the excuse that “our citizenship is in heaven,” we should be charged with spiritual treason. He has called us to “rescue those being led to the slaughter,” to hold back evil, to warn the sinner, to admonish the saint, to subdue the earth, to, like our Creator, in whose image we were formed, use our gifts and talents, not to bury them as we await His return. This does not mean our hope is in this world; rather, unless our faith is evidenced by these actions, how are we to draw all men to Him, and ultimately to that eternal reward He desires for them. If the ministers, missionaries, and apostles of old, would have had the attitude that the culture is lost and we simply need to submit to ungodly authority as we await our heavenly Savior’s return, where would the Kingdom of God be today? Would this country even exist?
If, instead, we as the church, forfeit the culture war, the war for the very soul of our nation, and the very soul of the church of itself, with the excuse that “our citizenship is in heaven,” we should be charged with spiritual treason.
Think of men like William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Patrick Henry, and George Washington. Think of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men were heroes because they refused to submit to tyranny, and because they instead stood against tyrants on behalf of those who could not stand up or who would not stand up for themselves. They were not necessarily considered heroes by their peers during that time, yet they risked their reputations, their livelihoods, and their very lives for the righteous causes to which they had been called.
“Well, these men were exemplary in their time,” you might say. “They were specially gifted and called by God for those tasks.” Yes and no. We are all plainly called to “love mercy, practice justice, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8), “to rescue the orphan and widow in their distress and to live lives unstained by the world” (James 1:27), and to “rescue those being led away to the slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11). These admonitions are for all believers, not a select few. We consider these men to be extraordinary, but only because we have settled for mediocrity in the Kingdom of God. We now view ordinary Christianity as extraordinary, or perhaps even as sin.
The American church has so watered down the Gospel that countless souls are deluded into the illusion of justification before a holy God; unless we sound the alarm boldly and unwaveringly, their blood will be on our hands.
Perhaps it is because of this watering down that we have bought into such heresies as the social justice gospel, which tells us that man can cure the world’s ills without requiring repentance, easy believism, which gives us Jesus as Savior while neglecting His Lordship, and “open and affirming” faith communities, which deny essential scriptural truths.
We now view ordinary Christianity as extraordinary, or perhaps even as sin.
Perhaps it is because of this watering down that we have believed the lie that we need to keep our faith private and not speak into the culture. That there are two realms — the sacred and the secular. Not at all! Either Jesus is our life and governs every aspect, or we are not alive in Christ at all!
If the Gospel hasn’t changed our lives, we haven’t accepted it, and are not beneficiaries of His grace. This is sobering, as it should be. We are called to examine ourselves in light of the Gospel, and judge ourselves, not by our peers’ actions and reactions, but by the Word of God. If we are not in line with it, if we are offended by it, if we are unwilling to live by it, we would be presumptuous to trust our eternal security.
Do we live our lives worthy of this very Gospel? Does our faith cost us anything? Should it perhaps cost us everything? In attempting to keep our lives, we lose them, but in losing our lives for Jesus’ sake and for His Gospel, we gain an eternal glory to which nothing in this world compares.
We have allowed a stunning degree of apostasy into the church. We have played the harlot with the gods of this world. We have trampled the grace of God with the foulest of sins, and we have failed to reprove — and worse, even given hearty approval to — those who prostitute themselves to an Americanized “grace.” In doing so, we have baptized converts into the very gates of hell. For this, we must give an account. From this, we must repent.
Christians, our country is falling fast into an evil that steals, kills, and destroys. That evil is socialism, an ideology devoid of God, an ideology that dictators have used to rise to power at the expense of the vulnerable. Do the names Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler bring up any hint of virtue? No, these men are considered an anathema in the rolls of history. These men were all socialists, communists, Marxists.
Socialism, a pretty name for Marxism, is purely evil. Today it may look like the government is doing some good things that fall in the realm of socialism, but don’t be deceived. Consider public education: isn’t it a good thing? How would our children learn to read and write and do math otherwise? How would they become responsible citizens otherwise? What about the poor who can’t afford private schools?
Don’t fall for it!
John Dewey, father of modern public schools, believed that the best way to change the society for the better was through education. As a religious humanist, Dewey believed it was the duty of the schools and other social institutions to transform society, from what he saw as the antiquated traditional model embraced by theists, to a modern secular society ruled by pragmatism and a devotion to community ideals.
Public schools are a socialist construct. Before the state ran public schools, the church offered free education to those who were able to partake. Others were home educated in academics, practical skills, vocations, or a combination. The humanistic, socialistic takeover of schools was by design, and as a result, we have ridden the slippery slope into a pit of immorality and decadence, and our children can not understand the Bible or the Constitution, and they scoff at both. Government has no place in educating our children; it is our responsibility as the church and as the family.
The result of the slide into socialism is that we now are canceled as old-fashioned, homophobes, closed-minded, delusional bigots who are out of touch with reality. In many cases, our neighbors, family members, friends, and even our own children have developed animosity and bitterness toward us, but more importantly toward the God that created them. Yet, some still spout scripture to justify their attitudes and action, and they even use it against us.
For example, in my home state, our governor regularly cites his faith as reason to implement tyrannical measures to “fight the coronavirus,” yet this same man defies the God he cites allegiance to by celebrating homosexuality and abortion. This man who alleges to personally feel the pain of every loss to this virus has no problem severing the livelihoods of healthy people and shaming those who don’t agree. He tramples liberty and belittles those who disagree.
Submitting to unjust laws is not Biblical. Should the German Christians have submitted to Hitler? Of course not! But it was a gradual descent, one that they probably didn’t see because it started out subtle and continued subtly until they got to a point of no return. It likely would have been hard to recognize as it was happening, unless they were really paying attention. In saying that, I’m not likening any of our government officials to Hitler, but I’m simply saying that, if the German Christians would have seen the whole picture from the beginning, perhaps they would not have submitted to the gradual steps that got them to the horrific place they ended up.
I don’t believe this nation has much longer. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to hold back the darkness as long as we can. I don’t necessarily mean to take up arms. But I do mean that I will not submit to unjust mandates if it is in my power to resist, and I’m not doing it to “demand my rights,” but instead to demand your God-given, Constitutionally-affirmed, rights as His image-bearers. If that makes me unpopular, or if it brings me difficult consequences, so be it. Regardless of how one feels about liberty, it is an absolute, and I won’t give up our collective liberties without resistance.
About 20 years ago, shortly after I became a Christian, I was participating in some job training. One day we took a lunch break at a local outdoor food court. As we ate, a bee took an interest in my food and wouldn’t leave me alone. I was terrified of insects, especially the stinging type, so I began panicking like a 3-year-old. One of my fellow trainees, a middle-aged Jewish woman, looked at me pointedly and said, “You know, I’m really surprised that someone with your great faith would be so scared of a little bee.”
At that moment, I was stung with such conviction that I determined that I would no longer fear insects, and to this day, I have succeeded. My fear had ruined my ability to enjoy lunch, but more than that, it had marred my testimony to an unbelieving friend.
A pastor told a story of a family taking a car trip in which a bee decided to ride along. One of the children was shrieking in terror, when his father decided to intervene. The father caught the bee in his hand, took the sting, and then let the bee continue to fly around the car. He assured his child that there was nothing more to fear, since he had already taken the stinger. The pastor likened this father to our Lord, who took the sting of death for those who trust in Him, that we might not fear the sting of death.
How many of us are doing just that, though? We are living in fear of so many things today:
a microscopic virus that could make us sick and has less than 1% chance of killing us
losing our livelihood
losing our savings
being shamed for wearing/not wearing a mask
losing our civil liberties
who will win the election
being forced to take a vaccine
what the next big development of 2020 will be
Add to the list any personal fears we each carry, and it can be really overwhelming.
I’ve been considering a few questions lately:
What’s more important — surviving or living?
First, what’s more important — surviving or living? If I have to live in a bubble in order to stay alive, is that really living? If I have to fear every little thing when I walk out of my house and every little thing that comes into my house, is that really living? If I am missing out on relationships, is that really living? Would I rather live long or would I rather live well?
I’ve also pondered why this particular illness is the ONE that has us all paralyzed and isolated. We’ve never done anything like this before, as far as shutting down so systematically and for so long. Other illnesses and activities have killed far more people, but went virtually unnoticed. What’s the difference?
Part of the problem today, I think, is that we are so entitled as Americans. We believe that we simply should live to be very old and that we should have our needs provided for us. We expect life to be safe and sterile, and current events don’t fit our expectations.
I look at America today and, technological advances aside, I doubt our ancestors would recognize us. Think about it: People boarded ships, risking illness, starvation, and death, to come to America. Pioneers trekked across the country on foot and in wagons, risking life and limb, to make a better life for themselves and their posterity. America has been known for its independent spirit. Americans have historically been leaders who took risks to advance and rise above circumstances. Yet, here we are, allowing our country to be brought to a screeching halt by a microscopic organism that is not nearly as likely to affect us as the dangers our patriot predecessors faced.
At the turn of the 20th century, the average life expectancy was mid-forties, meaning I personally probably would have gone onto glory by my age if I had lived during that time. Today, we expect — even demand — to live twice that long. The average coronavirus death happens to those over the average life expectancy, and though every death is sad, it seems presumptuous for us to expect to cheat death. With the exception of two people in history (Enoch and Elijah), every single person has died or will die, barring the rapture. God has determined every one of our days before even one of them came to be, so for us to think we can come up with a humanistic solution to the problem of death is utterly prideful and foolish.
We are creating a generation of germaphobes and hypochondriacs. We need to remember that we shouldn’t fear death so much as we should fear and revere the One who determines how we spend eternity.
Another area of fear relates to our liberty. There are people threatening America’s freedoms, people who violate the Constitution in the name of peace and safety and people who push a Marxist agenda. Many of us know we need to stand against this, yet we are afraid to do so. We fear legal penalties, social stigma, family safety, and more. We would do well to look at the example of our nation’s founders. They put it all on the line for their families and their descendants. They risked all of this for us, people who were not yet born, but would benefit from their willingness to sacrifice. How would they feel, knowing we have taken this freedom so for granted that we don’t mind giving it up?
Let’s take it a step further: How must God feel toward us, knowing that He created our bodies to be resilient and our brains to be wise, yet we are so fearful? How must He feel, knowing that He sent His precious Son to die for us, that we may have the abundant, eternal life, yet we are so caught up in the physical existence? How must he feel, knowing that He died to set us free, never again to be enslaved, yet we willingly submit ourselves to multiple yokes of slavery? How must He feel, seeing us shaking our fists, kicking our legs, writhing in anger and fear, and demanding long life, prosperity, and security, when He has all of those things laid up for us, just not in the form we demand?
There are at least 100 verses that tell us not to fear. Why?
God is on His throne.
He is never taken by surprise.
He has promised never to leave or forsake us.
He has our best interest in mind.
He takes care of the lilies and the birds, and will certainly take care of us.
He loves us.
He is our father and we are His children.
He determined our times and places, and knew all of our days before even one came to be.
He gave us a spirit of power and a sound mind.
He has promised us the abundant life.
Our eternal life is secure if we trust in Him.
He delights to take care of us.
He will provide for us in the midst of our enemies.
He will not allow evil to triumph.
Nothing can separate us from His love.
He is the One with the power over life and death.
Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.
He will uphold us with His righteous right hand.
He has already told us how it ends. Spoiler: He wins and we get the spoils.
He has prepared a place for us.
We are already seated with Him in heaven.
He has freed us from slavery.
He has taken away the sting of death.
He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear.
He is in control!
I could go on forever …
If you’re a Christ follower and you’re fearful or anxious, this is understandable, especially given the uncertainty we currently face, yet the Lord has given us the remedy:
This is the believer’s prescription for peace. It’s not necessarily easy, but it is attainable.
If you don’t yet know the Lord, then no wonder you are anxious or concerned; not only is this life precarious, but your eternity is unsettled. I have good news: That can change today!
Simply acknowledge that you are a sinner, meaning you agree with God that you’ve done bad things, and that you have offended Him with those actions. Because of this, you don’t deserve to spend eternity in His presence. However, God sent His Son, Jesus, to live as a man, to identify with our weaknesses, to live a perfect life, and to die an atoning death, not for His own sins, because He was sinless, but for our sins. Accept that payment for your sins and transfer your allegiance from this world and your flesh to Him. Commit to allowing Him to be in charge of your life from here on out. Confess Him as your Lord, knowing that He died for your sins and rose from the dead, confirming that He is God and that He has authority to forgive sins and power to give you eternal life. When you do, He will save you and begin the process of sanctifying you, which means making you a more Christlike person. Your eternity will be secure, and you will be reconciled to Him. This will give you peace, joy, and comfort, no matter what circumstances come your way. Out of response for what He has done, get plugged into a local congregation, get baptized, read the Bible, pray, and serve others, all in order to know Him better and to glorify God to others, all because you’re grateful for His free gift. We can’t earn any of this; we simply accept it and it’s ours.
A right relationship with God, one in which we believe His promises are true and that He has our best interest in mind, is the cure for the fear pandemic.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3 ESV)
This is probably the most well-known verse in all of scripture. Why? Because people inherently like to justify themselves and their behavior. If a Christian confronts sin, this Bible verse inevitably glides smoothly off someone’s tongue in hasty rebuke, in an attempt to shame the messenger into silence. How dare you? is the implication. Don’t you know Jesus told us not to judge one another? We all sin; you just prefer your own brand of sin.
Here’s the problem with that logic: Most people know the first part of Matthew 7:1, and some know all the way through the end of verse 3, but many neglect what comes next:
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:4-5 ESV)
Notice here that Jesus said to remove your own log, meaning do everything you can to be right with God and free from sin (albeit not perfect), and then yes, remove the speck from your brother’s eye. So if you have some glaring sin problem in your life (log) then get that straight before criticizing your brother for a smaller infraction (speck). So Jesus wasn’t, in fact, telling us we are not to judge at all, but that we’re not to be hypocritical, which in the Greek carried the idea of acting. In essence, I’m not to live a phony life, acting the part of a Christian, while I have this glaring area of sin in my life, and then call a believer out for some small behavior that pales in comparison with my own issues.
In Matthew 18, we’re told to confront our brother or sister who is caught in sin. We should do so first between the two of us, next with a witness, and lastly we should bring our concern to the church. (This doesn’t apply to every situation, by the way, but it does to most.) This passage is for dealing with a brother caught in sin, which could mean they wronged us personally or that they simply were, as the text states, caught in sin.
In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, believers are specifically told to judge those inside the church who are sexually immoral, greedy, swindlers, idolaters, revilers, drunkards or swindlers. Paul stated that God would judge those outside the church, but commanded Christians to hold one another accountable. He went so far to say, “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:13b ESV). Believers were not even to eat with someone who called himself a Christian, yet had blatant sin in his life.
It is a lie from the pit of hell that we are not ever to judge anyone for anything. As Christians, we should not be shocked when an unbeliever lives a sinful lifestyle. We should instead lovingly show him the truth and share the Gospel (Matthew 28:18-20), challenging him to accept Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-11), and discipling him toward a Biblical lifestyle (Matthew 28:18-20). However, when someone claims to be a Christ-follower, we are commanded to lovingly and truthfully call him out, not out of self-satisfaction, but out of love, out of a desire for his benefit, that He may repent for his good and God’s glory.
This is not comfortable. I have found myself needing to confront brothers and sisters on multiple occasions, and I never enjoy it. I generally feel some anxiety over it. I do it because I must. On a handful of occasions, I’ve spoken out about public officials’ behavior. (I’ve written about officials on both sides of the aisle.) I know these people already have been confronted about their sin, yet they continue. I do not expect these types of posts to go over well with everyone, yet I share them, believing God wants me to speak up about injustice, rather than to stay silent.
“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” (Proverbs 24:11-12)
In Ezekiel 3, the prophet was told to be a watchman for Israel, delivering messages to those whom God directed. He was to warn the wicked and the righteous if they were not in God’s will, to change their ways. If he did, and they didn’t listen, he would be blameless, but if he shied away from sharing the truth that God told him to share, he would have their blood on his hands.
Therefore, when God lays it on my heart that I’m to address someone about sin, I know I shouldn’t shy away. I don’t like doing it, but there’s nothing in Scripture that says I’m only to do what I feel like doing. Knowing others will judge me, as they tell me not to judge, I do it anyway, in obedience to the Judge who is above all judges, and with whom I will spend eternity.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
A week ago at this time I honestly wondered what all the hype was about. I questioned whether people were overreacting. Later that evening, after hearing from the president and the local school superintendent, and learning that our local megachurch was closing, I began to reconsider my perspective.
I think most of us have been impacted in some way by this crisis. At minimum, most of us have had some change to our routines and give up our freedom to go where we want. It seems a bit surreal for many. Depending on your perspective, you could be stir crazy, frustrated, skeptical, anxious, relieved, refreshed, or maybe all of these things in the same day! And if you have children, they may be struggling too, especially if their routines have been majorly disrupted.
As a homeschooler and as one who works from home, my family’s life has not been as disrupted as many people’s have. We have had changes though: My husband is a pastor, so a family whose lives are intertwined with church, that aspect has looked very different. He also works for the school system, so he’s been home this week, which I have found refreshing. I also have moved my regular students and my tutoring clients to an online platform, rather than having them come into my home.
The biggest issue for me has been that I personally have been sick for the past few days. Today I developed a fever, so my doctor sent me for COVID-19 testing. They say it will be a week or so before I get the results. A week ago, getting sick with this virus was the furthest thing from my mind.
While all of this is unexpected and somewhat unsettling, I don’t think the world has actually changed. Yes, it feels different, but I think that’s largely because, a week ago, it felt like we were in control, and today not so much. The truth is, though, that control is an illusion, at least as far as we’re concerned. However, God is always on His throne and in control of the universe — always. Nothing occurs that He doesn’t allow. And nothing catches Him by surprise.
No, I don’t think the world has changed. I think it has been exposed for what it is: a temporary, unpredictable home. It hasn’t changed, but perhaps we can change as a result of this revelation. Perhaps we can change for the better. Maybe we can value relationships more fully, worship God more fervently, serve our neighbors more intentionally, worry less, and simply live the life God has graciously allowed us to live, for however long that will be. Most importantly, maybe we will consider the fact that this home truly is temporary, and therefore prepare for our eternal home by accepting Christ as Lord and following Him, who has control of everything, rather than the crowd, which truly has control of nothing.
I have hesitated to share this because I don’t want to dishonor anyone in doing so, but here’s the problem with that: many people are hurt because people fail to stand up and call evil what it is. Like many of you, I watched the Super Bowl half-time show. I actually sat there horrified at this display of borderline pornography. Oh, it’s just a little harmless entertainment, you say? I beg to differ.
As a victim of childhood sexual abuse and a failed first marriage due to pornography and its effects, I can tell you, without hesitation, that this was not harmless entertainment, a celebration of culture, or any other positively spun act. It was evil, vile, and exploitative. How awful that one of the performers’ young daughters saw this, and actually was part of the show!
How many of us would welcome women dressed like that, doing a sensual dance, in our living rooms? Isn’t that exactly what we did on Sunday?
Our culture has normalized sexual sin. We expect that “boys will be boys,” we think it’s fine for people to have sex outside of marriage and to love whomever they want. As women, we want to be treated with dignity, yet we excuse pole dancing because it’s entertainment or a display of athleticism. We endorse practical nudity because they did a great job dancing. There is something very wrong with this reasoning, which is nothing short of justification of sin.
I’m thankful that my husband turned his head and talked with me while this scene was playing out, but some of the men in the room did not. As someone who previously had felt she had to try to compete with women with flawless bodies, I feel for the many women whose husbands or boyfriends didn’t turn away from the screen. But I feel even worse for those who are okay with that.
Ladies, we have the power to ignite a cultural transformation by insisting that women not be considered mere eye candy, that we be valued for what’s beneath our skin, that we be applauded for contributions other than those related to sex and physical attractiveness. The Lord created us with a special beauty, but He did not create us to flaunt that beauty or to be objects. And we are the ones with the power to shape the way men, other women, and especially children, view us. If we see ourselves as sex objects, they will too. We need to consider the logical consequences of our thoughts and our actions, rather than blindly accepting cultural attitudes.
We are worth more. We need to believe it, we need to express it, and we need to live it.
We live in shattered times. Our nation argues over politics and policies. Our churches are segregated by race, music style, and secondary theological issues. Our families are strangers in their own homes as they live in their personal worlds of social media, pornography, and virtual reality. Addiction, self-harm, depression, and suicide are rampant. We debate over statues when we should examine our stone-cold hearts. Our first-world problems are killing our souls, and we passively partner in our own demise.
What can we do about this? I’ve been pondering this for years. Second Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) says, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
Notice it doesn’t say that we are to straighten everyone else out. We don’t have to convince the unbeliever to change his wayward habits. We don’t even need to convict our spouse or our Christian friend, because that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We must start with ourselves. Looking at 2 Chronicles 7:14 again, it says, “if my people … will humble themselves … and turn from their wicked ways … ”
As Christians, we are called first to get the planks out of our own eyes (Matthew 7:4), to check our own habits, to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, to be living according the Scriptures ourselves. If I’m living a sinful lifestyle, I have no right to pick at you about your lifestyle, let alone that of the unbeliever.
Once I’ve checked myself, though, I’m not free to stop there. Jesus said I’m to remove the plank from my own eye before removing the speck of dust from my brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:4-5). Like Paul, I must be qualified to boldly say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I must be willing to disciple other believers and to encourage and admonish them to good works. (Hebrews 10:24).
Second Chronicles 7:14 not only calls us to humble ourselves, but also to pray, and seek God’s face. We need to get to know God, to have a relationship with Him. Knowing God, loving Him, turning from our own ways and following His—those are the things that will change our hearts and will heal our land. Notice there is nothing mentioned in 2 Chronicles 7:14 about what the church should be expecting unbelievers to do.
Christians have a place in the culture at large. Our duty is to be the church. I’m not advocating that we abdicate our responsibility to be the moral conscience of our society. Scripturally, we will not be held guiltless if we allow oppression in our midst, if we allow the innocent to be slaughtered, if we fail to speak up for the marginalized, or if we refuse to care for the orphan and the widow. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness, and pride of power, and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear … Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now.” We must be the voice for the voiceless, and act on behalf of the weak and marginalized, and brothers and sisters, we must start by serving our fellow man, not by criticizing him or ridiculing him. We must reject the urge to be greedy or self-protective. We must follow in the footsteps of our Savior, just as 1 John 2:6 states.
Can you imagine our community, our state, our country, and our world, if the true believers followed these principles? We would be so changed that we wouldn’t even recognize ourselves. And the revival that would take place would solve so many of the problems that plague us, because the world would see the true meaning of service, of worship, of Christianity, of discipleship, and of love. The world would see who Christ really is, and we all would be transformed.
That’s because there are a couple empty places in my heart. Big empty places.
For the first time in 18 years, I woke up without my second-born daughter under my roof. Of course she has spent the night away from home before. But for the first time, this is not a sleepover. We said our goodbyes yesterday as she began her college career. What a bittersweet time. There is sadness of knowing there will be an empty place at the table, but an even greater joy at knowing that she has a foundation in Christ and that she is working toward her dreams.
And then there’s another empty place.
For the first time in eight years, I’m not decorating a classroom, planning first-week-of-school activities, outlining classroom expectations, working and reworking seating charts and floor plans, and preparing for open house. For the first time in four years, I’m not in charge of the school I founded. I’m not coordinating opening programs and answering last minute emails.
These are wide-open empty places. Give-me-a-home-where-the-buffalo-roam kind of empty places.
Places where God is preparing to write new stories, to draw new pictures, to create new masterpieces, to compose new melodies. But right now, those places seem a little stark, a little bare, a little bland, a little … well … a little empty.
In the next few weeks, I’ll begin the homeschool journey with my boys, and I’ll get baby Emma into a routine (hopefully), and I’ll find my place God’s place for me, and those empty places will become beautiful, abundant, joyful places in His time and in His way. You see, empty places aren’t void of life and goodness, and if you look hard enough, you’ll see that they aren’t actually empty. They’re full of possibilities and grace, just waiting to blossom, if we’re still enough to wait.
We don’t know how much time we have, but if we relax and listen to God, if we are still enough and if we acknowledge that He is in control (Psalm 46:10), then we can trust that there truly is enough time for His plan to unfold in His timing. We don’t have to be stressed, to overanalyze, to force things, or to make things happen. We can listen to His voice and follow His plan, and if we do mess up, we can trust Him with that too. He is able, more than able, to handle anything that comes our way.
This is a lesson I have had to learn over time. God has graciously been teaching me in many ways. He has sent wise people into my life to gently attempt to steer me the right way. He has given me His Word and His Spirit. He has allowed me to see the positive and negative outcomes of others’ decisions and lifestyles. Yet, like most people, I’m a hands-on learner. The most powerful way I’ve learned the hard lessons has been through my circumstances. And like many other people, I’m also a slow learner, so I haven’t learned through the first hard thing, or the second, or the third. No, it’s taken several serious difficulties to get my attention.
A little more than two years ago, I was watching a Beth Moore Bible study, in which she discussed a period of “sifting” that took place right before her public ministry took off. As soon as she finished relating her sifting journey, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit say, “You’re about to be sifted.” Honestly, I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but I did take it seriously.
Within two weeks, I discovered I had a life-threatening and heart-breaking ectopic pregnancy and had to have emergency surgery. During the following year, I had many struggles in my full-time ministry. It seemed we were relentlessly attacked by the enemy. The next year I became pregnant again, and we now have a healthy, sweet baby girl, but I developed a postpartum condition called PRES, which involved a blood pressure spike, a brain hemorrhage, a Grand Mal seizure, and many after effects, and which also kept me away from my ministry for longer than anticipated. When I returned to work, I fell and broke my ankle within a week and had to sit out for another couple of weeks. Since then, I’ve had simple partial seizures on a regular basis.
Through all of this, I kept hearing God say, “Be still and know that I am God.” And I kept saying, “Yes, God, I will.” And I kept returning to the hamster wheel of being busy and thinking I had to do it all myself.
At the end of the school year, circumstances made it clear to me that it was time to move on from the ministry that I had founded four years earlier. This was not what I had planned, but I knew it was the right thing. The timing seemed bad, but in retrospect, I can see God at work.
Again, I could hear God say, “Be still and know that I am God.” And I said, “Yes, God, I’m going to take the summer to be still. Just let me put in my resumes and I’ll be still right after that.” OK, so I didn’t exactly say that, but that’s what I did. I put in resumes the day after I resigned. I had four interviews and had three offers within a week. I accepted a position at a wonderful school and was so excited, and then I proceeded to be still–relatively at least. And it was a good thing, because God really did have an opportunity to speak to me over the summer, because I could finally hear Him. I was going at a more reasonable pace, and it felt good. I had time for relationships–both with God and others.
But there was something nagging at my soul. I kept hearing, “Be still and know that I am God.”
And then last Thursday happened. I suddenly ended up in the ER, wondering once again if I would live to see another day. And then it clicked. It’s time to “be still and know that (He is) God.” He wants me to slow down, take care of myself, pay attention to the people closest to me, and listen to His voice before making major decisions. He wants me to have enough time to be in His Word regularly so I can learn from Him. He wants me to let go of my pride and impulsivity and self-sufficiency, because He is my all in all and He can take care of every detail of my life. There is nothing He can’t handle, so He doesn’t need me to take over His position. He simply wants me to accept His provision and direction.
He wants me to stop doing, and start being, so He can stop sifting.