The Hammer and The Lamp

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” James 4:14

It’s been over five years since I’ve seen or heard from my old best friend Jason Oyler. Our lives were a wreck when we met and we surrendered to the Lord together in prison. Jason was my best man at our wedding and he lived with us for over a year. Today he’s in a coma for the second time following two back-to-back surfing incidents. I have no idea if he will ever read this let alone if I will have an opportunity to speak directly with him again. 

Jason in the white T-Shirt

As personalities go, I was and still am a hammer in a world of nails.  In contrast, Jason was a ten million lumen lamp that brightened the surroundings where ever he went. My attitude was and is like Paul’s in Lystra. Acts 14:19-20  Jason’s was one of “love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet 4:8. I would rant.  He would smile. I would argue. He would diffuse my intensity with a joke. 

I eventually became a school-based adolescent substance abuse counselor and then a clinical supervisor overseeing six schools on Kauai. Meanwhile, Jason became a journeyman carpenter, then a licensed contractor building million-dollar homes.  I only saw him twice during that time. Once when he needed advice on setting boundaries in his relationship. The next was when his first wife died. Other than that neither one of us had the time. That’s my excuse anyway.

I’ve always been good at boundaries. Boundaries are what made me a successful counselor.

The CHAIR

The chair was the secure and confidential place in my classroom at Kappa Middle School. It sat behind a partition next to my desk. It was a place where hundreds of hurting children poured out their hearts and souls. A place where I tried to impart hard-earned wisdom and prevent children from choosing paths that Jason and I barely survived.  There wasn’t an inch of the chair that didn’t have a name. Many of them faded through the years and were signed over. Naturally, their lack of concern for their own confidentiality was a function of their being children. They were transparent, naïve to the realities of future adult life and the façades required for success in that world.

Still, I am reminded as I write that Jesus made being childlike a prerequisite for Heaven.

Jason was always childlike. He’d have been a great adolescent counselor.

I was a good counselor because nothing ever freaked me out. I could listen to the most heart-wrenching stories, often horror stories, and remain calm, rational, and detached.  I lasted ten years in a field where most people burn out in less than two. I’d still be working there if I hadn’t left for the mission field.

“How do you stay so straightfaced Mr?” the kids would ask. 

I got even better at boundaries as time went on and more clients died. Clients who OD and commit suicide cause counselors to quit. Yet I even videoed one funeral for the family of a child with whom I’d worked closely for years. “How do you do that and not cry?” people asked. “I’m crying inside.” I replied.  I wasn’t lying. I remember the sheer number of people who showed up to grieve his death. I guess they were crying inside too. Still, I wondered, as his friends poignantly poured his ashes into the sea, where were all these people before he put that noose around his neck. Where they repenting now?

Intimacy

Intimacy is something I mention a lot. But the truth be told I suck at it. Not with God in my secret place.  I’ve got that down.  But with other people.  I can give the impression of intimacy because I care enough to read and listen to what people think, analyze it, ask questions, and explain exactly how and why I think it is or isn’t true. Yet I rarely go deep into the discomfort of bearing the burdens of others. I rely on Cathy to do that. When people like Jason move on and out of my life it never seems to bother me much.  If I am perfectly honest, one thing I liked most about counseling was that intimacy is forbidden. Most people require years of training in how to avoid it. Not me. I’d have an easier time getting beheaded than weeping with those who weep. And don’t offer me the “man” excuse and blame it on the society in which I was raised. Society has, in my opinion, already overdosed on estrogen and gender is just another excuse. It’s even easier to shut off my emotions in a crisis, call a spade a spade, or remain cool as ice during a disaster. Sure it’s handy if you’re staring down the barrel of a gun or surrounded by spear-wielding Shuar in the Amazon. People always said I was the one guy they would want with them if they were attacked in an alley. The thing is I cried when I heard about Jason and I’m choking back tears now. Only no one knows it, not even my wife. At least not until she read this. Like most people I have all sorts of reasons for being the way I am. You’d probably agree with most of them if I laid them all out. Still, it’s just an excuse.

Somewhere in the course of the trauma that Jesus guaranteed, I made a decision.

I chose to be who I am.

“For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.” Mat 25:3-7


Every sermon I have heard on these verses focused on the oil being representative of Holy Spirit. That may be true. Yet the purpose of a lamp is not to store oil. Lamps burn oil to shine light. Biblically speaking, light is representative of truth. I always imagined that “trimming their lamps” meant dimming them to preserve precious oil. However, trimming a lamp involves cutting away the tar and impurities from the wick and shaping it to reduce the smoke and soot that dims the glass and achieve the hottest, cleanest and brightest flame yielding the most light.

Light exposes what is hidden in darkness.

A lot of people are talking about the church today. Why is it so broken, divided, and powerless?  Why are there so many false gospels emerging in Jesus’s name and so many Christians deconstructing in the name of love? Why do so many millennials do “community” so well yet succumb to the most appalling and heretical theologies? The easy response is “because they were never taught.” Hence, I originally began writing and framing the problem based on the history and hypocrisy of the church, its burning of brethren at the stake in Jesus’s name before the Pilgrims sailed for Plymouth rock. I was going to focus on it’s railing against transgenderism today in defiance of Rom 2:1 while celebrating Ishtar, the god of the transgender movement with bunnies and painted eggs in Jesus’ name.  Not because I’m pro transgenderism in the church but because judgment must come first to the house of God. I was going to talk about repentance, that true repentance is rooted in the right belief. Right belief comes from studying oneself approved. True as that may be belief is also rooted in a divine revelation – of Holy spirit conviction. This is what gives us the right to become sons and daughters of the living God. Not knowledge derived from study alone. Interestingly the 5th Step of 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that is marginalized by many evangelicals today and whose origins can be traced back to the Welsh revival in 1904, is perhaps one of the most biblically sound descriptions of repentance anywhere. After writing out a “fearless and searching moral inventory” of oneself in the 4th step, the 5th step that comes straight out of James 5:16 says that we must admit “to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. Anyone who has done this knows the fear and humiliation that comes with reading every sin you can recollect to another. Ideally you trust the person to whom you confess based on the fact that they have undergone this same humiliating process themselves. Even more interesting is the statement in the Book Alcoholics Anonymous that one’s ultimate ability to abstain from alcohol in the future is contingent upon how thoroughly this step is done. This is consistent with 1 Cor 11:28-30 regarding our participation in Communion or the Lord’s Supper.

“A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead.”

Once again the light of the great Oiler, a.k.a. Holy Spirit is shining on me – exposing me, prompting me to repent.  That it was prompted by my friend Jason Oyler is perhaps the irony of God. When Jason left our home it was with a smile on his face and gratitude in his heart. I was mad. I thought we were going to build a ministry together. My pride was hurt and I felt betrayed.  Of course, I never told him how I felt and I certainly didn’t give him reason to believe I wanted to hear his heart. Deep down I knew he was tired of the incessant hammering. I don’t know if I will be able to confess my sin to him so I am confessing to all of you now.

I was selfish, self-centered, prideful and a really bad friend.

There’s a trail of people like Jason strewn in the wake of my laboring for God.

In case you are wondering I am not on the verge of deconstructing, or repenting for being a hammer. I’m just reflecting on why I am a hammer in the first place and maybe recounting the cost. There certainly is a place for not backing down, for not loving one’s life even onto death – especially today. The truth will always be a stumbling block to some. When I hear of celebrated theologians like Dr. Paul Maxwell and so many others who have publicly deconstructed and formally rejected Christianity, my initial reaction is “well I guess he never was one of us.” 1 John 2:19  That’s probably true. Still, I have to wonder. Am I just making excuses for being the way I am? After all, that love covers a multitude of sins especially when loving hurts is as much the truth that Paul wrote, we only “know in part” as is boldly declaring it while haters hurl stones.

Haters hurling stones is never proof in itself that one is right.

Being conformed to His image involves considering these things.

I know that God will show me as I continue to pray and ask Him to “search me” Psalm 139:23-24. Jason and I used to pray that together during Cleansing Stream seminars as we brought our filthy lives before the throne of grace in a more evangelically approved version of the 5th Step. I don’t necessarily agree with their theology now. But one thing is certain. They’ve got James 5:16 down

More truth be told, this past year has been an ongoing cleansing stream for us, a time of deep searching and repentance for both me and Cathy. And while it may not be a twenty six page catalogue of abominations like my first humiliation, it was none the less profound and in many way more powerful. I’m not talking about the typical “oh yeah I did that, sorry God” and move on entitled type of repentance. I’m talking about deep “Oh what a wretched man I am who will save me from this body of death!” repentance. The kind of repentance that makes the fear and humiliation of telling another human your dirt seem absurd. Many in the church believe it shouldn’t apply if you are truly saved. Yet I submit that it is evidence of sanctification and deep calling to deep. A divinely appointed encounter with Acts 2:43 “awe” that more correctly translates to TERROR like one experiences the first time in the ocean when your not a great swimmer, the tide pulls you out and your feet can’t touch bottom. Long story short God showed us where we had been apathetic toward His word in the past and redacted it to make it fit what we wanted it to say like getting married after both being divorced. No we are not going to go all legalistic and try to fix a sin with another sin by divorcing again. But don’t go trying to make excuses for us ether. The words of Jesus are the words of Jesus. It wasn’t as much the physical sins that can most easily be taken before the throne of grace, but rather the flippancy with which we had regarded parts of His word and His commands. It was the kind of repentance where we stood confidently clothed in the righteousness of Christ one minute and the fear of God was upon us in the next. It happened separately and months apart. On one hand, it was the most terrifying experience in which we didn’t know how we could go on. On the other, we were saddened when it’s intensity receded. I say receded because it is still working in us now. In my case, it was a clear view, and recognition of who God is and exactly what I look like in contrast with His Holiness and most importantly apart from the shed blood of Christ. I know it’s all the rage to worship a self-esteem-affirming God today. The “ME in him” God who “chases ME down and fights ’til I’m found” and who erases every bad feeling I might ever have about myself. But I’m not talking about a middle school giddy, glory cloud and gold dust blowing from air ducts to the beat of “No Longer Slaves” kind of encounter.  I am talking about a supernatural revelation of His holy severity without which His grace and love are impossible.  A 1 Cor 3:10-23 dross burning, Heb 12 shaking by the “consuming fire” who’s discipline we dare not refuse!

Exposure Time

Here’s the point. I can not claim to be a missionary let alone a minister of the gospel and not walk my talk. That’s why I’m sharing my faults instead of promoting a false image of super missionary moral perfection in pursuit of a celebrity pulpit. Transparency, confession, and repentance are foundational to not only our faith but our salvation. They are better modeled than preached.  And while I know my friend Jason will probably just smile because love never keeps a record of wrongs, I hope and pray I get the opportunity to repent to his face, to say I’m sorry for taking our friendship, our brotherhood in Christ for granted. I want him to know I am grateful for the lessons God taught me through him and is teaching me now. I know that “God causes all “things” to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” And while some might argue that those “things” are predestined by God. I can not help but wonder if some might be better if we made different choices along the way and didn’t feel so darn entitled to have God to clean up our mess.

Finally, if we are going to fix what is broken, weak and sick, and dead and bring hope and salvation to a rapidly dying world we have got to begin by dropping our façades. That starts with a concrete, real time practice of James 5:16.

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

And don’t tell me you don’t have a façade. That’s like smoking a cigarette then telling a former smoker you don’t smoke. Do we want the revival everyone has been praying for and prophesying for years? The only way it will happen is if we are broken before God and each other. And as much as I’d like to frame it in the context of “don’t do this – do that!” I don’t think what is required is going to come by the usual charismatic conjuring or knowledge or any other act of human will but only by the sovereign hand of the God who was crucified for our sin, was resurrected, predestined us for adoption and will judge us in eternity.

That said we can make our hearts willing and we can pray.

Lord let your holiness, severity and the fear of you fall. Shake us Lord. Burn off the dross and grant us the gift of repentance in Jesus’s name.

Please also keep my friend Jason in your prayers.

Maranatha!

Racism, Truth and The Samaritian Woman

As missionaries, we view the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John Chapter 4 as a wisdom treasure trove and a template for ministry and missions especially within the context of racial prejudice.

As is the case with pretty much every ethnic conflict, 1st century Samaritans and Jews were diametrically opposed to each other on the basis of race and heritage. The Samaritans lived by Jacob’s well and believed they were God’s righteous people. The Jews in Jerusalem believed the exact opposite. The Samaritans worshiped on Mount Gerizim. The Jews worshiped on Mount Moriah.

Both groups were focused on the fleshy constructs in the name of the kingdom.

Samaria was regarded by the Jews as a racial no go zone kind of like the old “wrong side of the tracks” or “skid row” in the US. In fact, Jews would walk several extra miles around Samaria when journeying between Judea and Galilee just to avoid walking through it.

John 4 says Jesus “needed to go through Samaria.”

Upon arrival, He encountered a disenfranchised adulterous woman at the community well and asked her for a drink. Community wells were a focal point for village social life among women. The same practice can be seen throughout the third world today. That the Samaritan woman was there alone in the heat of the day is an indication of just how ostracized and shame-based she must have been. Not only did Jesus violate the rule that Jews did not talk to Samaritans. But Jewish men, and especially Rabbis did not talk to women at all let alone known serial adulteresses. While both the woman and the disciples were incredulous that Jesus would even acknowledge her presence, He turned around and drank Samaritan water from a Samaritan cup. Anyone involved in third world missions will be familiar with the thoughts that run through one’s mind when handed a cup of potentially bacteria-ridden water to drink. It always comes down to a question of personal well being versus honoring your host.

Honor is the foundational key to opening doors in missions and reconciliation.

Racism, be it rooted in ideas of racial supremacy, purity, or systemic power, is anti-relational at its core in that it denies an individual or group their inherent, God-given dignity in order to dominate them. That Critical Race Theorists and Social Justice Warriors do so for the sake of achieving dominance over those whom they regard as abusively dominant still qualifies as racism. As in the case of any sin, the devil doesn’t care if one is obsessed with continuing to sin or obsessed with not doing it. He just needs sin, not God to be the main focus.

The same applies to the sin of racism.

Jesus repeatedly ignored man’s interpretations of identity, value, culture, and morality. He never debated because He knew what was in man, namely a constant vying for personal prosperity, privilege, and power. Neither did He debate the devil when he tried to tempt Him with power and privilege. That’s not just white people. That’s all people and is a result of the Fall. Sometimes he exposed and firmly rebuked those like Peter, who should have known better than to judge according to the standards of fallen man. More often He simply short-circuited false and or disingenuous arguments with parables and scripture then left people alone to wrestle with the truth before God.

The story of the Samaritan woman is poignant in regard to race and racism because Jesus modeled the correct approach. He honored her in spite of her sin and in the presence of those who normally would not have. He didn’t embark on a long diatribe about inequity or misogyny. He did not engage in a long philosophical and historic apologetic analysis of systemic issues. Neither did He ignore the woman’s sin. He called it out in a very matter of fact way and then directed her attention to Himself.

The end result was a flipped script among everyone present and the transformation of a shame-based and marginalized woman into the first recorded evangelist in the Gospel.

There are so very many lessons and prophetic implications contained within this story. The moral as it relates to racism is that racism is best countered by ignoring all its fleshy social constructs and short-circuiting it with honor in the presence of others. Healing comes with an intense focus on Truth. Jesus was clear.

True worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:24

Flesh based socially constructed racism is not possible within that context.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1

Think about it.

Walking in Dust

We were with South Sudanese Refugees in the Rhino Refugee camp in Northern Uganda when our team was asked to address leaders from multiple tribes several of whom had previously fought one another in the ongoing civil war. Unity was the theme. We were all assigned a time slot in which to teach. I felt completely inept and I don’t remember anything said by our team only one South Sudanese leader, a former child soldier and “Lost Boy” who stood up at the end and proclaimed,

“There is no good tribe! There are no good people! There is only one who is good! That one is Jesus!” He went on to say, “We must forgive. We must turn the other cheek. We must love our enemy!”

After praying with a woman whose child had just died Cathy asked the man with whom she was walking. “How do you cope with all this pain?” “We have nothing…” He smiled as he continued,

“…but we have Jesus!”

These doctors, nurses, lawyers engineers, teachers, professors, and preachers in the camp never imagined they’d end up living in the dust with their children in scorching heat without food or water for days at a time. They never imagined that at least one of their children would die every day due to starvation or a lack of medical care. Now they understood the futility of human resolutions and justice. Now they were on fire for God in the spirit of 2 Chron 7:14.

“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

I can not even describe how much we loved these people.

If there is any other place we would most like to serve as missionaries it would be there in the dust with Jesus.

I recently wrote a blog about the Fourth Turning by two historians who observed an Ecclesiastes 1:9 and Chapter 3 cycle in American history. They identified a pattern where a new era, a season, or “Turning” emerges every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. If you are unfamiliar with the Fourth Turning you can get the breakdown here Character.

Here are a few highlights.

“Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

“…The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule…”

“ …Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time…”

The Reckoning is Here

We were in the beginning stages of the Corona crisis when I said I believed we are in another 4th Turn Crisis that will ultimately culminate in another 1st Turn High.

I have since revised my outlook.

This is the beginning of sorrows.

I want to scream every time I read things like the over 74 people shot one of whom was a 5-year-old in Chicago on, and immediately following Memorial Day weekend. What happened to George Floyd was dead wrong. But where is the logic? Where is BLM when scores of black people are being killed by black people in inner cities every day?!

Why do black lives only matter when a white person takes a black life?

I don’t see how we move forward without first identifying the truth regarding all the bogus agendas. Lately, I’ve been battling a temptation to make another appeal to critical thinking on social media. I wrote about cognitive dissonance in The Devil Went Down to Georgia. The problem is that the agendas of man are at the center of everything and emotion in King. Suffice it to say that given the reactions I received, things probably would not have gone well for me if I were saying all this in the street. Luckily I am safe in Honduras. How’s that for irony?

Anyway, I’m just gonna leave this here…

The black life of this former police chief killed by a looter mattered so much that Twitter took it down.

The most recent the FBI UCR Crime Stats are nearly the same

Offenders:  54.9 percent were Black or African American, 42.4 percent were White

Victims: 53.3 percent were Black or African American, 43.8 percent were White

46 million slaves in 167 countries today.

the problme is that too many refuse to see, hear, and be confronted with facts.

Either you agree and “virtue signal” your approval or you are regarded as the enemy.

I was living on my own by the age of 14. I understand the temptation to hate, to succumb to fear, and the trauma that arises out of violence. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint and beaten down by a mob. I’ve had my nose broken, jaw broken and my neck fractured. As a young adult, I lived in a neighborhood full of crack houses and nightly gunfire. My ex-wife was raped by a gang of black men and our house was burned to the ground. The difference is that I never once blamed it on the perpetrators being black. Instead, I blamed it on crack!

Besides, most people said we deserved it. After all, I was a drunk and my ex-wife was a heroin addict.

My healing came years later when I surrendered to Jesus, repented before God and forgave man.

Now I’m supposed to get on my knees and repent to man for being created white?!

Then the Lord spoke to my heart.

This is exactly what the enemy wants; everyone acting like donkeys instead of horses. When threatened, donkeys look outward to focus on an enemy and then proceed to kick each other. Horses look inward and do the opposite.

I’ll let you decide which one applies.

Like a lot of people I was getting sucked into a world over which I have no control, and of which I am not supposed to be a part.

Even so, I am human and it can hard to avoid. That’s why God gave us His Word. I don’t know about you but Cathy and I are in a season of Sola Scriptura because

sound doctrine is being sacrificed on an altar of secular humanism masquerading as love and Holy Spirit.

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. Mat 24:4-5

“According to both the Hebrew Bible and Jewish oral tradition, a Messiah is a king, a warrior, a political figure, or a revolutionary whose mission is divine and specific to the Jews. But the leader is neither divine nor a savior concerned with the afterlife of humanity. Neither is a Messiah worshiped as a deity.”

It seems like this fits the definition of a contemporary secular social justice warrior, more than some poor nut job claiming to be God.

Yeah I know… But think about it

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Mat 24:6-8

Ethnos is the Greek word for nation.

Ethnos means people group. It is the word from which we derive the English word ethnicity.

For Ethnos will rise against Ethnos

And there will be famines, pestilences

Global deaths due to hunger are predicted to double this year thanks to wars and rumors of wars, and ongoing pestilences like Ebola, COVID, and locusts in Africa and Eurasia to name a few.

and earthquakes in various places.

According to the NOAA and the National Disaster Database there has been a 400% percent increase in yearly natural disasters since 1970.

As for the character of people; Paul nailed it again.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves,

lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.2 Timothy 3:1-9

Jannes and Jambres were sorcerers and we know from 1 Sam 15:23 that God views rebellion and sorcery as the same.

Furthermore, Jesus warned us to avoid the leaven of Herod which is the politicization of a spiritual issue. Mk 8:15

There is a whole lot of rebellion and Herodic leavening going on today.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Tim 4:3

There is a famine of sound doctrine.

To paraphrase a comment on a recent blog that I read,

“The problem started when we stopped teaching our children right from wrong and began discussing it instead”

Today there are growing numbers of Christians who pursue Jesus but seek identity in everything but Him. There is lip service to the Word. But individual actions demonstrate an identity and faith more rooted in worldly things like psychology, the enneagram, and postmodern political solutions to spiritual problems. There is a celebration of God’s power when He heals a headache, but a deference to the world’s methods the moment God doesn’t come through as expected. There is a cherry-picking of scripture to fit an unbiblical narrative supporting a path to justice in a Postmillennial kingdom of heaven on earth. Most are sincere and not even aware that they are in error. Still, others are blinded by resentment and pride. This latter group is growing fast.

The error is rooted in an interpretation of reality according to experience instead of experiences according to the Word of God.

Jesus has become a social justice warrior within instead of the substitutionary, propitiation for sin. This movement is obsessed with worldly justice. As a result, it has become a friend of the world James 4:1-4 in unwitting opposition to the scheduled fulfillment of biblical prophecy regarding God’s redemption of man and the reestablishment of His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Its priests and prophets are the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter. The media is their pulpit and smartphones their sanctuary. It is fraught with anxiety, and a false understanding of John 13:35 Koinonia. This movement emphasizes fellowship with the body at the expense of Truth. It pursues consensus, comfort, and validation in lieu of conviction. It’s adherents expect to be seen, heard, and pursued. Questioning them is regarded as harsh, intolerant and unloving, sexist, or racist. While the outward compassion of this group may manifest “a form of godliness, it denies its power”. 2 Tim 3:5 The growing Deconstructionist movement and the subsequent abandonment of the faith by so many should be no surprise as self-centered, worldly expectations of a narcissistic generation become impossible for a headless body to fulfill.

Paul was clear that this must happen as well.

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

As for the current chapter in the ethnos versus ethnos conflict…

Even TD Jakes recently admitted “we are in the last days” and said “this is not about black and white. It’s about right and wrong.”

He also said, “We need truth”.

We do need truth.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.Rev 12:10

The Greek word for ACCUSER in this verse is katēgoréō. It is the word from which we get the English word

“Category”.

Satan literally categorizes us before our God day and night.

His minions in the media and the streets are doing the same.

Black and White are categories.

They are not identities.

Not Godly ones anyway.

If you are really a Christian then your identity is in Christ. Eph 2:4-6

PERIOD.

The job of those in Christ is to preach the Gospel to every Ethnos and invite them in.

Judgment and the sword of justice will come with Jesus when He returns. And for the record, Isaiah 61 isn’t talking about narcissistic Christians anointed to bring forth justice on their own.

Its a prophecy about the anointing and justice of Jesus.

In the meantime…

It doesn’t matter if its the cop who killed George Floyd, George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, or the father and son who killed him. It doesn’t matter if its an abusive black cop, white cop, Hispanic cop, Asian cop, or a BLM member shooting at cops in the streets. It could be a SJW repenting for white privilege, the thug beating up the SJW, or the Antifa methhead throwing Molotov cocktails at SJWs in a suburb. They could be looting a home or defending a store. Jesus said we will all spend eternity in hell unless we repent to God.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-5

The desire to repent and power to forgive is a true sign and wonder that follows the preaching of the Gospel.

All our empathy, virtue signaling, inner healing, and understanding of enneagrams isn’t going to change a thing. All the repentance for being created white won’t help either. It just perpetuates a false worldly narrative. All the protesting and demands for reparations, all the secular counseling, committees, political parties, and political solutions in the world will never bring an end to racism and true social justice to fruition. That’s because secular justice is of the world and according to the flesh.

In case you didn’t know or forgot, it was the myth of Jewish privilege that justified the Holocaust in the minds of German Nazis.

Secular justice simply tips the scales in the opposite direction.

Biblical justice is the ministry of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is not appeasement.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:11-21

One thing is certain. God is no respecter of individual differences or the ways in which we categorize each other. His only categories are those who love Him and obey His commandments versus those who don’t. Acts 10:34-35

Period.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27-28

As for us, we are on our knees with broken hearts. This is a season of Lamentation. We need to learn to sit in the dust and lament instead of taking to the streets in protest, to pursue the knowledge of Christ and Him crucified so that we may do our best, incompetent as we are, to disciple the Ethnos God puts in our path. Mat 28:19

Even so, the only prayer we seem to be able to pray is

“Thy will be done. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”

The hardest part is coming Mat 24:9-14

Character

We are locked down in Honduras as I write. COVID cases have begun to double on a daily basis. The borders and airports are closed. No one can come in or go out. There’s a 6 month to 2-year jail sentence awaiting anyone who violates a curfew.  Hondurans in our little community are obedient and calm. They are familiar with crises.  Two older American friends in another part of the country are locked down too.  He is a retired architect and has had a series of strokes. His wife is left to cope with his rapidly deteriorating condition by herself. They don’t have COVID but COVID is placing his life in jeopardy.

Meanwhile there are about two hundred North Americans, most of whom are short term missionaries stranded here.  Several of them are demanding their rights and that the US State Dept does something to evacuate them.  We strongly encouraged people to postpone their trips weeks before COVID first reared its head.  Unfortunately confirmation bias reigned supreme. I guess their plans, ministry and mission were too important.  I can empathize. I remember thinking and feeling the same way as a short-term missionary myself. 

As Seth Barnes founder of Adventures and Missions, (AIM) an organization with whom we serve as World Race GAP Year Coaches, said in his blog Courage and Prudence

“We are now in a wartime footing in most of the country. Most of us have no idea how to live life there. The things that worked before no longer work. COVID-19 is changing everything.”

Several months ago, I gave a teaching based on the book

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy-What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. By William Straus and Neil Howe. I had no idea at the time how prophetic it was.

Howe and Strauss are Historians and social scientists who observed an Ecclesiastes 3 cycle in American history that shows a new era, a season or “Turning” every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. In simplest terms, the most recent “First Turning” 1945 -65 was the “High” and could be likened to a honeymoon period.  It was marked by the end of WWII and the birth to the American dream. Families were strengthened as were social institutions like schools, local governments and church. Individual roles both inside and outside the family were clearly defined.

The “Second Turning”, 1965-85, the “Awakening”, was a period of questioning all those things. It was a time of spiritual upheaval, when the old order came under attack. It was marked by things like the birth of ERA, the Vietnam war and the subsequent student lead peace movements, the Water Gate Trial and Impeachment of Richard Nixon. Basically, every social institution was challenged. 

The “Third Turning”, 1985-2005, the “Unraveling” was a time when the individual reigned supreme. Punk rock and rap glorified criminality and anti-social behavior, swinging, divorce and open homosexuality became normalized. And culminated with the HIV AIDS epidemic and the destruction of the twin towers in New York.  Post Modernism grew to become the dominant world view and continued corruption and government scandals fueled an already growing distrust of nearly all established authority and institutions.  

The “Fourth Turning” 2005 -25 is the “Crisis”. We are in the thick of it now.

As Straus and Howe wrote in 1996.

“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. . .The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort — in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”

Howe and Strauss predicted we Americans will be forced to make decisions that mirror the hardest ones made by our predecessors as

“great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order”.  “And it will require us to admit that our faith in linear progress has often amounted to a Faustian bargain with our children. Faust always ups the ante, and every bet is double or nothing. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.”

There is always talk of the end of days whenever a major crisis hit. I don’t claim to be a prophet and I certainly don’t know for sure.  My own bias is to doubt it.  Even so, my wife Cathy made a keen observation the other day. The beginning of sorrows that Jesus spoke about in Mat 24:8-13 translates to “Birth Pangs”.  Birth pangs progressively increase in frequency and intensity until the water breaks and the baby is born.  If this is the beginning of sorrows it will usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Fourth Turns gradually come to an end and are followed by another High.  

In either case if we are to survive in a war time footing, we need to accurately discern the time. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of discernment in Mathew 16:1-4.

“Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Everything they needed to identify Jesus was already in the scriptures.  The problem was that Jesus did not match their interpretation and resulting expectations and Jesus remained hidden in plain view.

A lot of us have the same problem today.

Signs, wonders and spiritual gifts are all the rage these days.  Myriad charismatic leaders inspire people to follow in their footsteps.  Evangelists, prophets, those with gifts of healing and an angle on prosperity abound. Those with the most dramatic, feel good performances and the biggest followings on social media become heroes of the faith even if their teachings are scripturally unsound.  Jesus said,

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 and “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Mat 24:37 Noah preached repentance and righteousness 2 Pet 2:5 then built an ark in the middle of the desert. He was mocked and rejected as a result.  How much more are those who preach the same message in 2 Timothy 3 world rejected?  

Cathy just read some headlines as I write. 

“Vegas strip club offers drive through peep shows” in response to COVID and “Man beaten to death by mob for having Corona Virus.” 

You might be on fire for Jesus.  But a quick skim of the daily headlines should be all one needs to discern the times and the message that the world needs.

Discernment drives action

I’ve heard people quote and seen people post Psalm 91 so many times in the past few weeks that everyone including unbelievers should have it memorized by now. Problem is – many receive it as a magic incantation that allows them to fearlessly continue with their lives as if nothing was happening.

A cursory word study quickly reveals that dwelling in secret place of Psalm 91:1 upon which one’s protection is contingent, refers to both the secret place Jesus talked about in Mat 6:6 . It also means a literal “shelter, a hiding place.” 

By the way, has anyone stopped to consider that COVID could peak during Passover?

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

If nothing else this situation is facing us with a very real question.  God or mammon?  

Many young people are assuming, they are invincible and choosing to party rather than comply with recommendations, warnings and ordinances.  We have young friends and relatives who seem utterly oblivious to the crisis at hand.

Spring Break 2020

The keys to surviving a crisis and thriving in the subsequent high lay in how we respond. There were people who jumped to their deaths from high-rises when the market crashed in 1929.  Those more prudent made fortunes. The most grievous error we can make is to fail to discern the time. We may assume a Fourth Turn crisis is the end and enter what AIM calls the “Q” (quit) zone. Or we could mistake the crisis for a First Turn high as so many spring breakers are doing now.

Good things come out of crisis. Rom 8:28

“Great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order.”   That means a return to First Turn values. People have been praying for and prophesying revival for decades.  Yet how soon we forget that revivals begin with radical repentance.  More often than not this repentance is preceded by an event that causes people to recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. An event like like the great San Francisco earthquake that preceded the Azuza Street revival in 1915.   Yes, Jesus healed and does heal people but His primary reason for coming was to be a propitiation for our sin. He came to rescue us from hell.  Miracles and healing look more spectacular to our disbelieving and entertainment hungry eyes. But they are secondary to dealing with our sin. John 1:22   As Ray Comfort says, “God comes to us with a subpoena in one hand and a pardon in the other.”  We love to tell people about the loving pardon while avoiding the subpoena all together. 

As the current COVID crisis grows, I have yet to hear anyone under the age of 85 preach a message of repentance.  There seems to be a correlation between this and the fact that those 80 and older were alive during the previous Fourth Turn.  Hope for a nation that has murdered over 61,000,000 babies’ since Roe v Wade, maligned the name of Jesus as a matter of public policy and rejected His substitutionary work on the cross isn’t going to be found in Psalm 91 without embracing 2 Chron 7:14 first.

“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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

My oldest surviving uncle Lester will be 90 in June.  He built his own sugar house and makes his own maple syrup in Ashfield Massachusetts because he needs something to do when it’s too cold to work. 

His wife Nancy is a retired biologist with a passion for conservation.

The last time I visited, Aunt Nancy had just chased a mother bear and her cubs away from her beehives on foot. At dinner Lester and I spoke about the last Fourth Turn. Uncle Lester is a retired Navy Vet. His brother fought at Normandy.  He doesn’t speak a lot but when he does it behooves people to find the parable. Uncle Lester grew up poor during the Great Depression but says he didn’t know it. He never complains and talked a lot about the value and power of gratitude and community during hard times.  Elders in places like Ashfield Mass still work hard and have a lot of character. They are our national treasures.

I recently saw a meme directed at chronic COVID complainers.

If our culture persists in a collective belief that our individual rights reign supreme, that we are somehow owed something and that it’s the government’s job to provide it for free at the expense of other people simply because they have more; then I can assure you that the authoritarian outcome or worse mentioned by Straus and Howe is almost certain.

Instead I found an example of the requisite attitude for success, especially for Christians during a Fourth Turn in Acts 14. During the Apostle Paul’s 1st missionary journey he and Baranabas were kicked out of Antioch. So they traveled 85 miles to preach the Gospel in Iconium. Unbelieving Jews stirred up dissension and tried to beat and stone him.  So, Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra and Derbe where taught and people were healed. Everyone thought they were Zeus and Hermes and started to worship them.  No sooner had they put an end to that craziness then the previous Jews who had followed them from Iconium showed up.  This time they were successful in stoning Paul.  They dragged what they thought was his dead body outside the city gate and left him there. The disciples gathered around him probably in mourning. But before they could do anything Paul jumped up brushed himself off and went back into the city where;  

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

This May we will have lived in Honduras for three years. We’ve been through our share of crises and we stocked up on beans and rice a few weeks ago in anticipation of what is happening now. The other day we gave some away to a neighbor in need. I’ve been racking my brain as to how we are going to feed people when the food runs out. What will we do if someone gets sick?  How will we care for people?  Last night some girls from the tiny Catholic church down the road delivered dinner to our door.  Being a full-time missionary is teaching me just how unimportant I am.  

I don’t know what is happening or is going to happen. If you read my previous blogs, my conclusions regarding COVID remain the same. 

Believe what we want “We still don’t know jack.”  

What I do know from both God’s Word and my own experience is that

Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to redeem and transform us.

Everything will be shaken. Only what can’t be shaken will remain. Heb 12:26-28

Who we are and what we do “will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” Only that which is of God will survive. 1Cor 3:12-15

While our eternal hope is definitely in Jesus. Our ability to remain in that hope will be determined by our individual and collective character.  Character is produced by perseverance. Tribulation is its catalyst. Rom 5:3-7

Please keep us in prayer. Apart from divine intervention we are in big trouble if COVID gets a hold of us.

If you are receiving this it’s because we love you.

En El Nombre De Jesus!