7 Things We Can Do As Christians in Times Like This

The past week has been one of the most chaotic for our nation in recent memory. The scenes in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, were a striking contrast with the celebration of Epiphany for which that day is set aside on the church calendar. Epiphany literally means ‘appearing’ or ‘manifestation.’ The celebration offers an important opportunity to thank God for the light we have received through Jesus Christ and the significance of His saving work, not just for one people group, but people from around the globe. We also reflect on how our ordinary lives are impacted by the light found in Jesus Christ, both His teaching and His life.

But Epiphany 2021 was a manifestation of a different sort, leaving all of us with various forms of pain, confusion, stress, and concern about what will come next. Divisiveness, violence, and misuse of power worked to derail governmental processes in a way that was shocking and unacceptable. Where do we go from here? Let me suggest seven specific ways as the minimum for how we can respond to these events as Christians.

  1. Bring our thoughts and feelings to God – One of the most difficult things to do in this present moment is to bring our thoughts and feelings to God. We are more than ready to bring them to social media, to our friends through texts, or family members through phone calls, but are we willing to first and foremost meet with God about our concerns? The Apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). As we release our concerns, pain, and confusion to God in this situation, we are better able to engage with ourselves, others, and the world at large.
  2. Intercede for those with authority – After offering our own needs to God, we should next step forward in prayer by interceding for our nation, specifically for those with authority. As believers, we know that God works through prayer (James 5:16) and that we are called to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We know that our nation faces many challenges that are not only difficult to overcome but may seem insurmountable. We know and feel that there is tension and confusion in our government. We know there is a great need for people to turn back to God and His ways at numerous levels. Because of these things, we should pray that our nation will be awakened with a need for God, that true repentance and humility would arrive, that safety and peace will reign, and that regardless of their political party all political leaders will be guided by God for the common good.
  3. Cultivate peace and condemn violence – Jesus our Messiah is known as the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). Where discord existed between God and humanity, as well as humans one to another, Jesus destroyed division by Himself becoming our peace (Ephesians 2:14-15). Because this is the way of Jesus, we as His followers must also be people of peace. We must let Christ’s peace rule in us because we are called to peace (Colossians 3:15). We live in peace through love, turning aside from all that is contrary to peace and love, including hatred, dissension, and violence. Our response is not to become more violent in response to violence, but to move forward as agents of reconciliation for the goal of God’s true peace through love in Jesus Christ.
  4. Hold to truth and reject falsehood – We have lived in a post-truth era for quite some time, but the fruits of that reality are taking hold at every level. Christians are people of the truth because our Savior came from the Father “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Disciples of Jesus must live in the truth about ourselves and reality, setting aside deception and half-truths as inconsistent with our God. We must discern falsehood no matter where it arises and name it as such so that we and others are not deceived. This requires us to be filled to overflowing with the truth of Scripture. If we meditate on talk radio, news websites (regardless of the source), or false narratives more than we meditate on God’s Word then we are sure to lose our way. If we want to flourish, then the word of God must be our constant meditation (Psalm 1:1-3). As followers of Jesus we must live in truth and name falsehood for what it is.
  5. Maintain perspective– Without downplaying the good or bad realities around us, we must also maintain perspective on our present moment. The prophet Daniel shows us how to do this. After being ripped from his homeland and launched into exile, Daniel witnessed many kings and kingdoms rise and fall over the course of his life. God gave Daniel a vision of more changes still to come in the future after his days were complete. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must maintain clear perspective that our hopes are not tied to a candidate, policy, country, or kingdom. All of these will come and go. There is only one “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
  6. Remain hopeful – One of the most important Christians virtues is hope. Believers in Jesus Christ are people of hope fundamentally because of the reality of the resurrection. Death, sin, and evil are not the end and will not have the final say in our lives or in history. Jesus is King and His Kingdom is close at hand (Mark 1:14-15). We are filled with the Holy Spirit, who seals us as Christ’s own speaks of our future inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14), and graced with the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:19-20). It was because of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness that even amidst the ruin of the exile the writer of Lamentations could write: “this I call to mind and therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3:20-26). Regardless of the present moment, there is always hope in Christ.
  7. Seek the glory of Christ above all things – We can all sometimes lose our perspective on what matters most. No matter how important specific issues are to us, no issue, political party, or election should become more important to us than the glory of Christ. Without being simplistic about it, Christians must seek the glory of Jesus Christ above all things. If we understand what Daniel shows us, that kingdoms will rise and fall, then we will begin to understand that our overriding goal as the people of God is bringing glory of Christ. We do that in word and deed. We do that by proclaiming and embodying the love of Jesus Christ in the city and in the world. More than our side “winning” or making strides forward on a particular issue in our national politics, we must be motivated by our desire for people to truly seeing and knowing Jesus through us. It is only in Christ that all things are held together (Colossians 1:17).

The Weekend Wanderer: 14 November 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Carl Lentz“Fired Hillsong NYC Pastor Carl Lentz Apologizes for Infidelity” – I am more than tired of the failures of ministry leaders in North America. Here is one more example of a charismatic personality who has fallen into moral failure, bringing untold pain and confusion to his own family, congregation and others. There is a sickness at work within the church. While it does require appropriate accountability, we also need better guides for ministry, both old and new, as well as an adequate look at our dark side that we often hide from. This speaks of a deep need for radical repentance and different approaches to ministry. We must repent and re-learn ministry.


The Great Litany“The Great Litany” – Maybe a good place to start would be to pray great prayers of times past that lead us into silence, reflection, and repentance before God. Here is one time tested resource for that sort of approach to our spiritual need in this hour.


Heather Cirmo - accountability“How to Prevent the Next Evangelical Leadership Scandal” – Heather Cirmo at Christianity Today writes: “Working as a public relations professional in the Christian world, I’ve had an up-close and personal view of how quickly crises can develop and how easily they can engulf an organization in controversy and confusion. I have been called on to help numerous ministries in crisis, many of which were struggling to come to terms with revelations of sexual impropriety or abusive leadership. My role is to try to minimize the public damage. But in many situations, it becomes clear that organizational problems existed far before the sin was ever made public.”


Hunter - on the brink“Dissent and Solidarity: Times of crisis are always times of reckoning” – James Davison Hunter at The Hedgehog Review: “If you were a forty-year-old in 1955, your life would have already spanned most of World War I, the Spanish flu pandemic, the convulsive birth of the Soviet Union, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany, World War II, the communist takeover in China, and the Korean War; closer to home, you would have witnessed McCarthyism and the growing pressures for remediation of ongoing and unresolved racial injustice—for all of the manifest good of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Emmett Till was murdered in 1955. During those four decades from 1915 to 1955, the nation had faced crisis after crisis, and, had this been your life, you would have known little else but a nation on the brink. Then, as now, these national trials were rightly recognized as existentially momentous, and then, as now, there was wide and deep controversy over how to make sense of them.”


Seychelles President“Anglican Priest elected Seychelles President in first victory for Seychelles Democratic Alliance” – “An Anglican priest, Wavel Ramkalawan, has been elected to serve as the fifth President of the Seychelles. It is the first time in the country’s 44 years of independence from Great Britain that the President is not from the United Seychelles Party. President Ramkalawan came close to winning power in the 2015 election, falling just 200 votes short of victory. But he triumphed in last month’s elections, winning 54.9 per cent of the vote against incumbent President Danny Faure’s 43.5 per cent.”


f14f8836c81d05f92479de92da21695b-729x1024“The Power of Love: Grace in Augustinian Perspective” – Simeon Zahl at The Mockingbird blog: “There is a particular challenge that emerges when we speak about divine grace. On the one hand, God’s grace is given to sinners. There is something about the deep structure of divine love that is revealed in the fact that it makes a bee-line for those whose lives are most broken (Mk 2:17; 2 Cor 12:9). Indeed in some mysterious sense it is the nature of God’s grace to burn the brightest where it is least deserved (Rom 5:6, 5:20). On the other hand, God’s grace also transforms the sinners it encounters, at least in some minimal sense: grace redeems (Col 1:13-14) and heals (Jer 30:17; Mt 4:23), breaks chains (Gal 5:1) and gives life (Rom 4:17; Jn 10:10). If grace offered us no help at all in our distress it is not clear how it could ever become attractive to us in the first place.”


Music: Jpk., “Rosewater

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Five Recommendations on Election Day

Here are five recommendations I’d like to offer for followers of Jesus Christ on Election Day here in the US.

  1. Pray – We know as believers that God works through prayer (James 5:16). We know that our calling includes praying for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We know that our nation is facing many challenges that are not only difficult to overcome but may even appear insurmountable. We know there is a great need for people to turn back to God and His ways at numerous levels. Because of these things, we should pray that our nation will be awakened with a need for God, that the elections will be guided by God, that safety and peace will reign on this day and days to come, and that all the candidates up for public office will be strengthened by God regardless of their political party.
  2. Think Biblically – As followers of Christ we must always filter our actions through the truth of God as revealed in the Scriptures. We must let God’s truth both correct and encourage us, even as it renews our minds (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Romans 12:1-2). We must remember that Jesus is our King and our allegiance is first and foremost to His kingdom. The kingdom of God is bigger than any political party. The kingdom calls us to value human life as made in the image of God from before birth through the end of our days. The kingdom of God calls us toward stewardship of the environment as created by God and stewardship of finances as a gift from God. The kingdom of God calls us to care for the forgotten, the poor, prisoners, widows, orphans, and foreigners in our midst. The kingdom of God calls for truth where truth is disregarded and moral order amidst disordered lives and relationships. The kingdom of God is marked by grace, truth, righteousness, and justice. As we face into this election day, we must think biblically as we wrestle with the issues before us.
  3. Vote – It is a huge privilege in our country to have a voice in the political process. So many of my friends from around the world do not have this privilege where they live. They have little to no voice in the political process. This is similar to the first century church, which did not experience anything like this during their lifetimes under the Roman Empire. One aspect of Paul’s instructions about our relationship to governing authorities in Romans 13 is to exercise our right to vote. I encourage every follower of Jesus to take up this privilege.
  4. Maintain Perspective – In the coming days, there will be some of us whose candidate wins and some of us whose candidate loses. For those whose candidate wins, we may be tempted to believe this victory is the answer for our country. For those whose candidate loses, we may be tempted to believe this outcome is the worst reality for our country. Without downplaying the good or bad realities, we must maintain perspective on all of this. The prophet Daniel shows us how to do this. After being ripped from his homeland and launched into exile, Daniel witnessed many kings and kingdoms rising and falling over the course of his life. God gave Daniel a vision of even more changes yet to come in the future. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must maintain clear perspective that our hopes are not tied to a candidate, policy, country, or kingdom. All of these will come and go. There is only one “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28).
  5. Love One Another – Scripture affirms again and again that we are called as followers of Christ to love one another and stand in unity (1 John 4:11; Philippians 4:1-2). Jesus Himself said that people would know we are His disciples if we love one another (John 13:34-35). Amidst one of the most divided times in our lives, as believers in Christ we most choose a different way. We must stand together as one in ways that those around us, divided by so many different political philosophies and party allegiances, cannot. Let us put on love, which binds all things together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:14) so that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we might uphold the unity forged through the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus Christ.

The Weekend Wanderer: 31 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Abood - Asher Imtiaz“Grace Under Pressure: A photo essay” – A friend, Asher Imtiaz, has a very special photo essay in Comment that I would encourage you to take a look at. Asher writes: “I have been doing documentary photography for almost a decade now. Very early I asked myself this question: Why do I take photographs? The answer was: to honour people living under pressure. To give those who we consider as other’ a voice and a story….So when in 2016 I finally decided to start a long-term, self-assigned project to collect stories and photographs of immigrants, I wanted to produce work that is not just a report. Work that would evoke enough feeling in people to change their attitudes about immigrants. In the process, I found myself changed.”


George Yancey“I see nothing, I know nothing!!!” – George Yancey writes an extended blog post jumping off from his observations of Professor Eddie Glaude in his encounter with Rod Dreher on the Morning Joe show. As a sociologist and conservative Christian, Yancey explores how bias against conservative Christians in academia parallels other biases we have. The post is wide-ranging but looks at the interplay between our blindspots, the evidence we need of wrong in differing domains, and how that shapes who we defend and who we do not.


public engagement“The Early Church Saw Itself as a Political Body. We Can Too.” John Piper’s article that I shared last week highlighted one of the weaknesses of 20th century Christianity: we do not have a very well-considered theology of public engagement that touches on the individual and the corporate aspects of what God’s kingdom looks like. This is at least part of what I was trying to get at in the five-week series we walked through on the kingdom of God recently at Eastbrook. Tish Harrison Warren looks at the issue from a different angle in this recent essay in Christianity Today: “We have an impoverished and inadequate political theology. It took us generations to get here, and this one election, regardless of the results, will not undo that. So before we know who wins or loses, we as a church must begin to reexamine how the good news of Jesus shapes us politically.”


Nice attack“Three dead as woman beheaded in attack in French church” – France has faced shocking events in the past weeks with religious-based extremist violence. Just a couple days ago, an attack at Notre Dame church in Nice left three people dead. This followed an earlier attack just  over a week ago where a schoolteacher was killed in a suburb of Paris after exhibiting satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed in a lesson on free speech.  This is part of a long conflict around a series of depictions of the Prophet Muhammed that goes back to 2005. Let’s all pray for wisdom, peace, and healing in France and for an end to acts of terror, reprisals, or mistreatment in any direction.


Wilton Gregory“Wilton Gregory: Pope Francis names first African-American cardinal” – “Pope Francis has said he will appoint 13 new Roman Catholic cardinals, among them the first African-American clergyman. The Pope announced the 13 cardinals from eight nations in a surprise address from his window overlooking St Peter’s Square in Rome on Sunday. Wilton Daniel Gregory, the progressive 72-year-old Archbishop of Washington DC, will be one of them. The cardinals will be installed in a ceremony at the Vatican on 28 November. Cardinals are the most senior clergymen in the Roman Catholic Church below the pontiff.”


The_Temptation_of_Christ_by_the_Devil-768x402“Forget the Horns. Ditch the Pitchfork. What Do We Really Know about the Devil?” – One of the questions I often receive as a pastor is from folks wanting to know about this or that term or idea in the Scripture. One of the most frequent is related to the devil or to demons. I came across this simple summary of our understanding of the devil at the Lexham Press blog and thought I’d share it for those who are interested in the biblical backgrounds related to our understanding of the devil or Satan.


Music: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues,” from Raising Sand

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 24 October 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin-kw3ndwdf-7d312cf67d6382959ed12b355aab78f7“Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin: Pondering the Implications of the 2020 Election” – John Piper, Pastor Emeritus at Bethlehem Baptist Church, set of a mild Twitter-storm when this article released because of sections like this: “this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.” Or this: “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.” While I may disagree with certain aspects of Piper’s theology, I was encouraged by his words here that show his consistency over the years (as opposed to other evangelical leaders who have changed their approach from one President to the next) and keep us rooted in the Word of God and kingdom citizenship.


Nigeria conflict“Deaths From Nigeria Protests Now 56 With Crackdown, Amnesty Says” – We are not the only nation dealing with conflict related to political and social tensions. Nigeria, one of the most stable and robust nations in sub-Saharan Africa has trembled with protests related to police brutality in the country’s largest city, Lagos. Please pray for this situation in Nigeria, which Amnesty International now says has resulted in 56 deaths. “‘Victims include protesters and thugs who were allegedly hired by the authorities to confront the protesters,’ Isa Sanusi, a spokesman for the group in Nigeria, said in an emailed statement. ‘In many cases the security forces had used excessive force in an attempt to control or stop the protests.'”


Diane Langberg“Today’s Crises Have Multiplied and Exposed Trauma: How Will the Church Respond?” – One of my biggest concerns as we head into the winter of this pandemic is how we deal with mental health challenges in this time. Diane Langberg speaks directly to that pressing challenge: “We are living in times of trauma, surrounded by confusion, threats and unrest. The COVID-19 pandemic and outcries against racial injustice profoundly impact our world, our nation, our churches, our neighborhoods and our homes. It is disruptive and unsettling. And if we’re honest, we feel vulnerable. In fact, we are vulnerable. But the threats are not merely external. We face internal threats as well. Many are anxious or depressed or grieving. Others are full of anger. There is no end in sight.”


man-2125123_1280-690x450“Bioethics must recognize ‘we are made for love and friendship,’ scholar argues” – At last part of the reason we are struggling with trauma these days is the radical changes to our relationships. This is not just an accident of human experience but a vital part of how we are made. Because God is a relational Being, He has made humans as relational beings as well. O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law and Director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, argues for something similar in his his new book, What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics. In contrast to the prevailing hyper-individualized approach to ethics which downplays the body in relation to personal decisions, Snead calls for a recovery of the significance of embodiment in anthropology and in the realm of bioethics. This interview with Charles C. Camosy for Crux gives some insight into the direction of his argument.


Azerbaijan Armenia reconciliation“Turks and Armenians Reconcile in Christ. Can Azeris Join Them?” – The recent tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijin over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region has captured our attention recently, but has a long history. When there is a long history of pain and tension, is it possible for reconciliation of relationship to happen? Jayson Casper reports on this helpful parallel of the relational healing that occurred between Turks and Armenians as an example of what could happen for Azeris and Armenians. May God help us.


Thomas Howard“Died: Thomas Howard, Author Who Said ‘Evangelical Is Not Enough'” – Thomas Howard passed away this past week. He was one of the evangelicals who walked the Canterbury Trail to Anglicanism and eventually swam the Tiber to become Roman Catholic. He told the tale in several books, most notable Evangelical Is Not Enough and Lead, Kindly Light. Along the way, Howard left us a treasure of historic recovery of liturgy and a beautiful engagement with literature that is a wonderful legacy.


Music: The Fearless Flyers, “Assassin.”

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]