Category: Christian Living

Returning From COVID-19 with Honor

While the entire country and much of the world is in isolation due to COVID-19, it probably feels like your life is on hold. We are all still in the process of unwillingly adjusting to a life which involves a significant amount of time at home, unable to engage in many of our normal social and recreational activities. Our normal social life is nearly non-existent or it exists merely through seeing each other as pixels on a screen. Most of us are probably either on the edge of going stir crazy or passed it two weeks ago.

We are all finding different ways to get through this crisis, but we shouldn’t forget that getting through is not the only thing that matters, but also how we get to the end. Every Air Force aviator is required to attend survival school which includes a simulated prisoner of war camp designed to instruct each person on how to survive imprisonment by an enemy combatant. An important aspect of this training is not simply surviving until the end of the ordeal, but returning home with honor. The military is not merely concerned with living to the end of imprisonment, but the manner in which the individual conducted themselves. This is why the motto of every POW is “return with honor,” not just return.

There are many stories in the Bible of people who survived incredible ordeals which placed tremendous pressure on them. David was forced to be on the run for months in order to survive Saul’s threats on his life. Elijah lived in the wilderness after fleeing from Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness away from human interaction all while being the recipient of temptations directly from Satan. Paul was imprisoned numerous times throughout the course of his ministry. In each of these cases, what mattered was not just endurance to the end, but the way in which they endured to the end. It did not matter that they were forced into these situations which required them to overcome unique challenges, they were still required to finish honorably.

Our normal life activities might be on hold and we are indeed facing unique challenges, but what will never be on hold is the necessity for us to live according to God’s Word. National emergencies, pandemics, disasters or other crisis are not legitimate excuses for us to abandon our obedience to Christ or act in a way unbecoming of a Christian. Jesus made it clear during His earthly ministry that it is those who “obey my commandments” (John 6) who demonstrate their love to Him. Would we say our love for Christ should be suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? If anything, we are most likely depending even more on Christ during this time. We are turning to God in prayer to ask for patience, strength and endurance, but are we also loving Christ through obedience? Do we unintentionally view love for Christ as only being manifested through prayer (petitioning God when we need something) or is it also through faithful obedience?

During COVID-19, people are finding ways to survive our current situation. Based on the recent data, there has been a significant increase in video streaming, online gaming, alcohol consumption, pornography viewing and other online related activities. The world is finding different ways to cope in the midst of this crisis, looking for ways to survive until we return to normal. As Christians our calling is not just to return, but to return with honor. Our calling is as new creations in Christ who are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2). It means that in any circumstance, crisis or not, we are not to be given to “drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (Rom 13:13). Instead, we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). Paul warns the church at Thessalonica about the danger of laziness and idleness which can lead to sinful behavior (2 Thess 3:11); a danger also mentioned several places in Proverbs. We should be intentional about being diligent in using our abilities for God’s glory, not squandering the time He has given us. 

At some point in the near future, life will return back to normal. The question is not simply will you return, but how will your return? Will it be a return with honor, where you look back with satisfaction in knowing your life, even in the midst of a crisis, was still focused on giving glory to God in your thoughts and action? Or will it be one surrounded by regret? Will the future stories of your survival through this crisis be one worth telling or one worth burying? Our love for Christ is revealed through obedience to His commands and the reflection of this renewed heart and mind regardless of the circumstances. As those who represent the Bride of Christ, we are called to humbly submit in obedience, knowing He is “with us always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).

Why Legalism Can’t Be the Answer

Recently, I had a conversation with someone who explained their frustration at the amount of churches in America continuing to push a legalistic view of Christianity instead of applying theology to real life. She wasn’t against the need for discipleship, accountability and holding to biblical principles of morality, but rather the constant focus on enforcement of these principles through rule making. I couldn’t agree more. What came to mind was the phrase, “I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.” It is a phrase which focuses on behavior, not the heart and fails to recognize the complexities involved in moral decision making within the modern society. If Christians are going to face the issues of today, a legalistic approach will simply not suffice.

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Prioritizing Our Distractions

The phrase “being on the right side of history” has become increasingly popular today. Often it is used as a tactic for persuading people to align with a popular opinion on controversial topics. Western civilization as a whole seems increasingly consumed by this idea of ensuring history judges them rightly, so they are willing to adopt an ideology of acceptance for nearly any type of behavior, idea or decision with the only condition being it does not cause harm to anyone. In essence, no harm, no problem. Given this, it often seems as though this age will be known as the Age of Acceptance, but in reality, it will probably be best know as the Age of Distraction. 

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Marriage is Not a Sidecar

How do you define marriage? In a world surrounded by so many different voices telling you what to believe, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that question generated fifty different answers, even among Christians. Is it just two people living together and having children or does it involve something more profound? Let’s be honest, even if you did have a good answer to that question, is that how you are living out your own marriage anyway?

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The Church Who Forgot Why it Was

We are living in a time when confusion about the church is greater than it has ever been. New models of church ministry seem to form every week with people intent on staying in step with every new fad which comes along within the culture. There is nothing wrong with integrating cultural forms into church practice, in fact this is a necessity for missionaries bringing the gospel to new people groups around the world. What matters is not the model, but the biblical foundation on which the model is built. What a local church believes about what the church is (and is not) will determine what the church looks like. It will drive what the church prioritizes and how it structures itself.

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Don’t Forget These People on Sept 12th

It is right that we should memorialize September 11th because it will forever be remembered as perhaps the greatest tragedy in our lifetime. On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 people died in less than 120 minutes as part of a single, yet complex act of terrorism. The memories of that fateful day are still burned into our minds. Jumbo jet airliners crashing into two icons of the New York skyline, the Pentagon in flames from a third airliner impact and a smoldering crater in Pennsylvania instead of a building because of the brave actions of Americans onboard. A day which witnessed people jumping from the World Trade Center towers to escape the flames, first responders rushing in to save lives with no thought of their own and the eventual disappearance of two massive towers which once overshadowed the NYC skyline. Memories which will not and should not be forgotten. Memories which tell a story of how morally depraved mankind really is when such evil is even possible.

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When the Church is the First Man

A flurry of debate has surrounded the recent announcement by actor Ryan Gosling that a new movie portraying the Apollo 11 lunar landing would not feature the planting of the American flag on the moon. The reaction to this decision by an American filmmaker set many Americans into a righteous fit of indignation; declaring the decision as yet another example of Hollywood’s attempt to sway the culture away from the idea of American exceptionalism. In removing such an important part of one of the most historic events in modern history, “The First Man,” is now being considered persona non grata by many Americans, who perceive this as an attack on what has always been viewed as an American achievement. Adding insult to injury, Gosling stated “I think this [lunar landing] was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it.” Such a statement has never accurately represented the public’s perception of the event and even as news of this achievement spread across the world in 1969, it was nearly always associated with the word America.

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The Problem Is Reading

The vast attention this week on Senator John McCain is a reminder that despite one’s political views, his death marks the passing of a political giant. McCain served America as a high decorated naval aviator, an uncompromising prisoner of war during captivity in Vietnam and most notably as a U.S. Senator. James Baker recently wrote that John McCain was one who “understood the importance of compromise” in politics, especially in a nation more intent on “wagging political battles than finding ways to advance the common good.” He rightly points to the fact that our social media frenzy culture is partially to blame because of the continuous attempts to use these platforms as a means by which to hold national debates on political issues which are deeply rooted in sometimes complex philosophical issues. Considering the cultural context of the statement, it is a strange dynamic to perceive of a society which places such a high value on education, but yet simultaneously considers it possible to debate such complex issues through 280 character tweets and Facebook emojis. This is really the point of James Baker, Americans are largely more interested in the battle than in discussing the ideas which determine the battle lines.

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When Voting Isn’t a Compromise

Elections in the U.S. are never about voting for a person who believes entirely the same way we do and will focus on accomplishing everything we consider to be urgent or important. If this were the case we would be voting for ourselves. Instead, upon entering the voting booth we are handed a list of names from which to choose. Unless we are voting for an office in local government, we rarely have a personal relationship with the individual for which we are handing power to conduct government affairs on our behalf. Despite this scenarios even if we agree with the individual on most issues, rarely will we agree with all their decisions.

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One Thing: Press Forward

One of the benefits of documenting and reading history is the ability to learn from the mistakes of the past with the goal of achieving a better future. Avoiding the failures of the past encourages us to create a world which is more enjoyable, less painful and more satisfying than the past. Not only is this true at the macro level, when we view the entire history of the world, but even at the micro level of our individual lives.

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Certainty in Uncertain Times

Read the newspaper, turn on the news, open the news app on your phone or scroll through your Twitter feed and you will find a world capable of filling us with anxiety, worry and uncertainty. From church shootings to tax code changes to military tensions with North Korea, we are reminded daily of what life is like in a post-Genesis 3 world where everything is tainted by sin. In that kind of a world, we can be absolutely certain there will be uncertainty. This is why we have news alerts on our phone and 24-hour news networks, to inform us of all the uncertainties that occurred in our country and around the world throughout the day. Likewise, our individual lives are filled with a list of uncertainties that we take with us to bed and are guaranteed to stare us in the face when we wake up in the morning.

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Growing Through the Motions

One of the most common phrases heard in our modern culture is “going through the motions.” We are either tired of, feeling like or warned against “going through the motions;” either at work, school, church, ministry, in our marriages, in our Christian walk or just life in general. There is hardly a need to explain the definition of this phrase, since we have all experienced the frustration of becoming stuck in a repetitive routine of lather, rinse, repeat. It happens anytime we allow certain parts of our life to function without much thought, in the same way pilots use autopilot. Almost always this phrase refers to a negative reality, but we can also grow through what can sometimes be perceived as merely “going through the motions” of the Christian life.

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