Lament: Connecting Pain to the Lord Who Redeems

by Paul Joiner

“Lament enters the complicated space of deep disappointment and lingering hurt. It boldly reaffirms the trustworthiness of God. But, first we need to learn how to lament.” (Mark Vroegop, The 4 Basics of Lament)

“In this world, you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

There is something in the culture we live in that wants to deny this reality. We live east of Eden, exiled from the garden paradise that we were made for. As God promised in the curse, our best labors also grow thorns and thistles. With death impending, our bodies waste with disease, fatigue, chronic pain, and the weariness of age.

Pain is the constant, pleasure is the intruder.

We wish it was the other way around and we do everything thing we can to reverse the reality, but the reality is greater than the facade. Pleasure breaks into the pain. There are good days and tremendous moments. But, soon things settle back to the constant hum of disappointment, fears, anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.

And, in God’s kindness, he not only invites us to him with our pain, but even gives us the words to use. Right around a third of the Psalms are songs of lament. When Israel sang from their song book, always just a page away was divinely inspired words of groaning.

The Word of God comes from the Spirit of God. The Spirit who himself speaks on our behalf when our pain is to deep to even express.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

The same Spirit who speaks for us to the Father has also given us words for us to speak to God ourselves. When words fail us in our pain, the Psalms of Lament are God’s gift of a voice crying in the wilderness. God is our only hope and our constant help in times of need.

“Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust…think of lament as the transition between pain and promise.” (Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy)

Except for one Psalm (Psalm 88), all the Psalms of Lament follow a pattern: 1) turning to God our pain, 2) voicing our complaint to God, 3) asking God to act on our behalf, and 4) putting our confidence in the Lord’s work.

For most of us (maybe all of us), we skip steps 1 and 2. We may think we take step 1 seriously, but unless we are voicing our complaint to God, we are not drawing near with all our heart.

We should not keep from Jesus our deep pain because “ he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:4)

And the Spirit who groans, gives us strong language to groan with

When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints (Ps 77:3)

And even words to voice our complaint to God.

You hold my eyelids open I am so troubled that I cannot speak I consider the days of old, the years long ago.

And then these strong, vocalized feelings:

“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Psalm 77:4-9)

That is really strong language. But its honest. It is what our hearts feel in the midst of grief, extended trials, and extremely dark seasons of trouble.

So let me suggest that we seldom arrive at the comforting confidence that the Psalms of Lament end with because we do not take the full journey that they take us on.

We want to arrive at the destination without making all of the stops along the way. We may voice the confidence, but our souls are still full of turmoil and questions. And they will be, until those questions are spoken to the face of the God who loves and redeems his people.

Finally, remember that a third of the psalms are Psalms of Lament. A third! We have to keep coming back again and again. Lament is a dynamic of life with Jesus, not a checklist to follow.

The heart isn’t a machine that you take through a checklist and then its OK at the end. It’s the heart. It’s complicated. And it is constantly interacting with a world that is east of Eden and longing for the final New Creation.

But the heart that learns to lament, will also enjoy the fruit of turning to the Lord.

they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Into the Deeps of Our Hearts

by Paul Joiner

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1)

If we are going to experience the transforming power of the gospel, it has to go to the deepest parts of our being. It was once said that the greatest distance the gospel has to travel is the distance between the head and the heart.

But that is a dichotomy that the Bible doesn’t fully embrace. The heart is always crying out, it is always panting with want (Psalm 42:1), it is always acting (Proverbs 4:23), and it is always thinking (Hebrews 4:12).

The greater problem is that we that we tend to build fortresses to keep the heart and its cries safely confined. But Jesus is intent on breaking through the walls. Or, maybe better said, Jesus is intent on breaking into the walls.

In John 4, Jesus offers the woman at the well a tremendous promise:

“Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But she cannot connect the offer to her heart. So Jesus goes deeper.

“Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” He had to expose the deep cry of her heart because she was unaware of what she was actually looking for.

This is all of us. We are so unaware of what is actually going on in our hearts that we find it difficult to connect to Jesus in soul-satisfying ways.

Our hearts are deeply, deeply religious. In all things, they are directed Godward. There is not an ounce of our being that does not make its movement toward God, and therefore our whole being will not be satisfied until it completes that journey.

John Calvin begins his most important work with this observation in his very first paragraph — everything we experience ultimately directs our attention toward God.:

“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”

For Calvin (and Augustine before him), if one did not know the tendencies of his own heart, then one simply cannot know God. And, vice-versa. Knowing God leads to a greater and better knowledge of oneself.

But, Calvin goes on to say that God has to break into the walls of our hearts and lead us back to him.

“For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.” (Institutes, 1.1.1)

So – what are you experiencing? What are the cries of your heart?

We have to stop to notice and ask. But most of us won’t stop. We try to drown out the hearts cries with the low-level dim of busyness.

But when you do stop and ask, “What am I experiencing? What does my heart want?”, you will find that the answer to that question is littered with highly emotional words.

Emotions are the language that the heart uses to express its desires for God. On this side of the New Creation, our hearts will always cry out to God. Even the “positive” emotions – joy, contentment, etc. still have hauntings until they reach their fulfillment in God alone. They haunt because even joy seems to dwindle as quickly as it comes. This world cannot sustain joy for very long. That is because the heart is crying out for the face of the Lord, which alone can sustain joy forever and ever.

This is why Augustine starts his Confessions this way, “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” (1.1.1)

God is always moving the heart toward himself. And the heart voices its restlessness through our emotions. The heart is experiencing life and vocalizing its yearnings through our emotions.

And, if we shut down the heart by refusing to let its voice be heard, it will never find its rest in Jesus.

“Emotion links our internal and external worlds. To be aware of what we feel can open us to questions we would rather ignore. For many of us, that is precisely why it is easier not to feel. But a failure to feel leaves us barren and distant from God and others.” (Allender and Longman, The Cry of the Soul, pg. 20)

A heart that is shut down, is shut down in every area of life. Even to the Lord. Or maybe, especially to the Lord. Because a shut-down heart is simply a self-created refuge. And any self-created refuge also shuts the Lord out.

“Emotions are like messengers from the front lines of the battle zone. Our tendency is to kill the messenger. But if we listen carefully, we learn how to fight the war successfully.” (Allender and Longman, 26)

The goal is not to resolve our emotions or even to express our emotions – but to recognize what we are experiencing so that our souls might journey to the throne of grace and find Jesus.

If we are going to connect our restless hearts to the rest of Jesus, we need to know what our restless hearts are asking for.

“Every emotion is a theological statement. All feelings reveal our attempt to maneuver into a position of regaining access to the pleasure and perfection of God.” (Allender and Longman, 36)

So, let me commend the initial steps in the Seeing Jesus Together Journal as essential steps in coming to Jesus.

Stop and be quiet long enough to let the desires of your heart come to the surface. Use the emotion wheel at the back of the journal. And then ask the Lord Jesus to come near, by His Spirit and through his Word, to meet those desires with himself.

Reading the Bible: Hebrew Poetry

By Paul Joiner

A core practice for gospel transformation is daily bible reading. As a congregation, we use the Seeing Jesus Together Journal. It teaches us a method of meditating on God’s Word and moving our time with Jesus into community with each other.

So, we are going to have a series of blog posts helping us read the different genres of Scripture together. In literature, a genre follows a pattern. There are internal rules that are followed to say something beautiful. So, knowing these rules will help us commune with God more deeply, because we will understand what He is saying.

It’s one thing to read the Bible. It’s another thing to know how to read the Bible. Knowing how a genre works levels up our bible reading.

Each Saturday, the Seeing Jesus Together Journal has us reading a Psalm. The Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and as a genre Hebrew Poetry follows some rules too.

Poetry makes us slow down. Poetry is short on words and long on imagery. Matthew Patton writes,

But reading poetry is often difficult. Poetry stretches the boundaries of language and makes great demands on readers to fill in the gaps. But if God thought it best to reveal so much of Scripture in poetry, we need to become good readers of it. Here are four tips for reading Old Testament poetry well.

You can read his four tips to understanding Hebrew Poetry here: How to Read Hebrew Poetry

2022 General Assembly Update

Each year, you send me and other elders to our denominational national meeting — the General Assembly. This year our two Teaching Elders (Jeff and Paul) were able to attend. In the past, we have often sent Ruling Elders as well.

One of the benefits of Presbyterianism is a practical connection to other churches. We call this “connectionalism” (because creativity is not our strong suit). Connectionalism provides for both accountability and cooperation. We practice cooperation and accountability in graded courts — the local church Session, the regional Presbytery, and the national General Assembly.

This year our General Assembly was in Birmingham, and we had around 2500 elders from all over the nation.

The Work of the Assembly

There are different ways that the Assembly addresses topics for discussion. The main way is through an overture. An overture is a proposed change or action. Overtures come before the Assembly by an individual, a Session, or a group making a proposal to a presbytery. The presbytery will then debate the overture, refine it in the process, and then send it to the General Assembly for debate.

It is a cumbersome process but a good one. I often say that the difference between an idea and a good idea is that a good idea has been made good by the body. An idea is not good because I think it is good, an idea is good because the body of Jesus has worked on it together. This cumbersome process takes a lot of time and energy, but it generally leads us to wisdom.

If an overture requires a change to our Book of Church Order, it is then sent down to our presbyteries for further debate. If 2/3 of our presbyteries approve of it, it is sent back to the next General Assembly for a final debate and approval.

We move slowly. But we move deliberately and carefully.

You can find an excellent summary of the General Assembly by our Stated Clerk, Bryan Chapel.

The Need for Church Planting

On Tuesday, I helped lead a seminar on rural church planting. The room was standing-room-only and we could have talked for a second hour. Many of us noted that it seems like God is moving the hearts of his people to notice the gospel needs of people in small places.

In 2021, the PCA averaged a church plant every other week. That is 26 churches planted last year.

This is not good news.

The population in the United States continues to grow and we are not planting fast enough. There are generally two reasons for this: not enough financial resources and not enough people who are willing to plant.

The Growth of RUF

Our denominational campus ministry (RUF) continues to be blessed by the Lord Jesus. When I was a campus minister, RUF was on less than 30 campuses. Today, RUF has grown to 148 campus in the United States, 7 campuses globally, and 400 campus ministers.


I continue to be thankful for the PCA. Worship during GA was robust, rich, and full of Jesus (particularly Elbert McGowan on Wednesday night). In the future, you should be able to view these sermons at the General Assembly website. One of the highlights of our time together is reconnecting with other pastors and their families. Some tremendous men and women are serving in our denomination. We continue to hold forth the good news of Jesus Christ through the truth of his Word.

Why a Bible Reading Plan

As part of our rollout of Seeing Jesus Together, we will utilize a Bible reading plan. For some of you, this is an old habit. But for some of you, this will be new. So let me make a case for the benefits of a Bible Reading Plan.

It disciplines us. Structure is good. It helps create a habit and keeps us disciplined. Following a Bible reading plan creates the structure that keeps us on task. You will find it more difficult to miss a day the more you keep to it.

It honors how God has given us the Bible. The Bible is a comprehensive story from the beginning to the end. Each little story tells us the one grand story of Creation —> Fall —> New Creation. A reading plan that works through books of the Bible keeps us in God’s story instead of us using the Bible to craft our own story. It’s imposing at times and difficult at times, but that is part of the design — it makes us wrestle with things that we wouldn’t naturally wrestle with. And in doing so, God rewrites our hearts so that we are rooted in his story.

Also, the Bible is composed of multiple genres — poetry, historical narrative, prophecy, epistles, the gospels, wisdom literature, and apocrypha. We will all tend to prefer one genre over others, but we need all of the genres through which God has revealed himself.

It takes us where we don’t necessarily want to go, but where we need to go. A reading plan that works through books of the Bible keeps us in God’s story instead of us using the Bible to craft our own story. It’s imposing at times and difficult at times, but that is part of the design — it makes us wrestle with things that we wouldn’t naturally wrestle with. And in doing so, God rewrites our hearts so that we are rooted in his story.

This is one of the reasons that we preach through books of the Bible. God is setting the agenda through his Word. And when he sets the agenda, we are transformed from our old way of thinking and living into his New Creation way of thinking, feeling, and living.

We are forced to slow down because some things aren’t easy to follow. Parts of the Bible are difficult to read — but they are still essentially important. We are naturally prone to skip over these sections, but there is much to gain from slow reading and wrestling through these more difficult sections. The historical narratives of Kings and Chronicles seem so foreign…because they are. But the history and places are part of God’s story of redemption, and we benefit from seeing God’s hand move during these times. Leviticus seems like a codebook for a different time and place…because it is. But we have much to gain from the Lord by working our way through Leviticus. But we will have to slow down to read and understand. And slow reading forces us to meditate…to dwell more deeply in God’s Word.

We get a sense of the One Story of the Bible. I can’t tell you how many times people have connected the dots of the Bible because they stuck to a reading plan. As the dots get connected from Genesis through the Gospels and to Revelation, our awe at God’s hand in accomplishing redemption increases. Jesus is the central figure of the Bible. And reading each part of the Bible in light of the whole helps us worship, adore, and entrust ourselves to him.

It keeps us reading together. One of the goals of Seeing Jesus Together is reading God’s Word in community. By following a Bible reading plan, as a community we will be reading sections of Scripture at the same time. This will help us be able to talk together about what the Hoy Spirit is showing us, what we are learning, and what sins we are being convicted of. You will find that it helps facilitate community.

ZPC Year End 2021

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14)

How do we fix this?

This seems to be the modern starting place for any problem. The hidden assumption is that we can fix any problem. So…how do we fix this?

“The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, I told our leadership that during plagues God often culls and refines his people. Throughout redemptive history, this has been his pattern. But I forgot how painful his work of refining is. About this time last year, we were all heard saying, “2021 will be better,” — but we are living in a time of great social unrest on all fronts. And I continue to think, “none of us are doing well, but none of us realize it.”

One unfortunate thing that happens when the Lord brings unrest is that his people can retreat from his mission and turn on each other. These often go hand in hand. May we guard ourselves against this tendency and instead remember that the Lord Jesus has already won the war with the world, the flesh, and the Devil so that we may move onward together — deeper into Christ and deeper onward with his mission.

“And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:22)

During great unrest, God has continued to build his church, and there is much to celebrate. As we move into 2022, let us pull back as a church and remember what the Lord has done over the past year.

Growth. We strive to be Christ-centered and people-oriented. We have grown over the last two years. The pandemic has been extremely difficult for every church in the nation. We have lost some deeply loved families over our response to the pandemic, and we have grieved their departure. At the same time, we have received some of you as new families and individuals and are incredibly thankful. You have been a tremendous encouragement. May the Lord Jesus continue to bring his sheep that we may shepherd them for his glory.

Additionally, the Lord gave us new covenant children – James Reynolds (March), Edison and Warren Peck (April), Clementine Willems (September), Quinn Bain (November), and Aggie Enlow (December).

Rebuilding. Restarting worship during the pandemic seemed like we were replanting Zion. We moved across the street, had to figure out children’s ministry again, etc. When we moved back to the sanctuary, we knew that we would have to rebuild almost everything from scratch. I am thankful for everyone who has put in overtime work behind the scenes to keep us worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus. Our volunteers have been amazing! We trust the body of Christ to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). So our volunteers are essential. Your hidden work is not unseen by our Savior. He rejoices in your small sacrifices and multiplies them for his glory.

Praying. One of the great encouragements during the past 18 months is that we have learned to pray more and more often. Stripped of our ability to make things happen, we have been pushed back into the lap of Jesus for him to accomplish what he wants. There has been a faithful group meeting to pray together every Sunday night. We hope to start back monthly in-person corporate prayer in the spring.

Zion Christian Academy. We are very thankful for Rick Jarvis as he leads the ministry of Zion Christian Academy. ZCA’s enrollment has grown this year to just over 450 students. Health and faithfulness are a good measure of a ministry’s success. ZCA is healthier than it has been in years, thanks to Rick’s leadership. The school’s health will help us make disciples who serve Jesus by being educated by a biblical worldview so that they may serve the King in every area of life.

Elders and Deacons. We are thankful for Jim Davis and the Lord’s calling to serve as an elder. Additionally, after decades of service on the Session, Buck Young has rotated off. We praise God for his work over the years shepherding the flock of God that was entrusted to his care. The Lord Jesus provided a new deacon in Rik Talley, who was installed and ordained this fall. Also, we are thankful for the four years of service that Rick Conrad gave to Zion as his term has come to an end.

Staffing. Our staff are here to serve Jesus and his church. The Session and Diaconate spent a great deal of time praying, discussing, and seeking wisdom for what our church staff needed to look like for the future. The Lord Jesus also provided us with Jeff Wilkins. What a gift he has been to our church body! Jeff started part-time in the spring to help us while we sought the Lord’s direction for the best staffing for our growing church. At the end of our six-month journey, it became obvious that the person we were looking for was Jeff Wilkins. Jeff’s main work is to oversee our Adult Discipleship ministry.

Additionally, Keaton Paul serves our student ministry by overseeing the Bible Department at ZCA and leading our youth at ZPC. Keaton is in the process of seeking ordination in our denomination. This is an arduous process because a man needs to prove he is able to watch his life and doctrine closely. This Fall, Keaton passed his licensure exams and will go before the presbytery for his ordination exams in the spring. Once ordained, Keaton will serve as Pastor of Student Discipleship at ZCA and ZPC.

Whitney McAulay came on board as our Nursery Coordinator.

Kathy Mullery will be retiring at the end of the year. She has faithfully served our church for eight years. We will be revamping her position and are excited to announce that Kim Scruggs will be serving in this new position. Kim will be part-time and will be in the office some, and working out of the office some. Kathy Bain will continue to serve as our Communications Director.

Church Planting. We continue to sense the Lord calling us to plant in small towns around us. Some of you have approached us and said that you are willing to move to go on mission for the Lord Jesus in church planting. This is amazing! Church planting is long and challenging work, and funding is one of the main reasons church plants don’t make it. So, we are thankful that the Lord has provided almost $90,000 for the effort from various sources. If you would like to give to this effort, you can write a check and designate it for “Church Planting” (or give on our website). Please continue to pray the Lord would call a church planter and his family to serve with us.

Finances. Your generosity has continued to be strong. Our fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. We finished the 2019-2020 fiscal year just a little over budgeted giving — while many churches were under budgeted giving and running the red.

In 2021, you gave $21,494.78 toward the Deacon’s Fund. $4,622.50 was distributed to disaster relief. We were able to give $14,839.38 to the Fennema family. We distributed over $6,500 to help subsidize counseling needs. And Zion gave just over $4,500 toward Missionary Christmas gifts.

Currently, as we approach the year-end, we want to encourage you to give generously. Tithe (10%) to the church, and then give above and beyond to ministries who are on mission with Jesus — missionaries, local mercy works, RUF campus ministers, church planting, etc.

You can donate through stocks, by mailing a check into the office, or by giving online ( All donations must be received by December 31 to count toward the 2021 tax year.

Looking Ahead

Will 2022 be better? In some ways “yes,” and in some ways “no.” We live in between the advents — in the now and not-yet — between the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the consummation of the Kingdom of God at Jesus’ return.

So until that day, we can rest in Christ for his work is finished and his victory is won. Jesus, our Redeemer, reigns.

“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

In Christ,

Pastor Paul

Review: The Wisdom Pyramid

We need help navigating the torrent of ideas.

You have probably felt the increasing tension over everything. It doesn’t take much to create a Twitter storm. Its not just in the buffered world of social media where conflict explodes. We walk on eggshells in our conversations constantly trying to assess what tribe someone belongs to so we know what topics to avoid. Even holiday parties need to be navigated with great care because of the potential for explosive conflict.

I am convinced that one of the reasons that tribalism is rampant in the modern world is because we are flooded with information. We don’t know how to process the torrent of ideas, so we take the shortcut of having our tribe process the ideas for us.

Brett McCracken has given us a tool for our information consumption that borrows from the old tool of the Food Pyramid. Just like binge eating can slowly erode our physical health, we need to be constantly assessing not only what we are consuming with our minds, but in what proportion we are consuming it.

In The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, McCracken outlines a strategy for our information diet that starts with proximity to God. God speaks in his Word and that should be the bulk of our information intake. But we don’t always know the best way to interpret and apply his Word, so we go to the church next — both historically in the creeds and presently in other believers in our local church. Next we gain insights from creation through General Revelation. Then we find value in books (it’s a humble move to put books at a lower priority level than the local church when he is writing a book). Beauty is next — art, movies, novels, culture, rest, etc. And then finally the internet and social media.

You can watch a short video explanation of the concept here.

Parents of teens, this book is especially written for you — your children need help learning how to navigate a world where they receive more information with less wisdom imparted to them. The increase in anxiety amongst Gen Z is partially the result of not knowing how to process the torrent of information.

Note: Crossway provided me a review copy free of charge.

10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask

Regret and fear are the two primary emotions parents face when their student approaches college.

Regret over all the things that they have not prepared them for. And fear over all the things they have not prepared them for.

The world of college is a world of new ideas and new experiences. The number of students who stray away from Jesus during college is alarming. They simply are not prepared to filter the new ideas and new experiences through the person and work of Jesus.

So, I want to recommend a book to every parent of a teenager: 10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) About Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin.

Rebecca McLaughlin has walked in the academic stratosphere — a PhD from Oxford as well as a theological degree from Oak Hill College in London. She can distill the typical objections to Christianity that any student will face, and to do with a clear explanation that speaks to teenagers. Throughout her book, she introduces students to academics who are leaders in their fields at elite academic institutions, and who are faithfully following Jesus.

She handles the scriptures well, as well as connecting the Bible to the stories that students grew up hearing — from Disney to Harry Potter.

Most parents are not aware that what the typical objections are, let alone how to answer them. But McLaughlin goes a step further, she believes that most objections to Jesus “stop being roadblocks and instead become signposts” — they point us to the world’s need for Jesus.

In this book, I want to offer a different approach. Rather than protecting my kids from divergent ideas, or urging them to affirm all beliefs equally, I want to equip them to have real conversations with real people who really think differently from them—and from me. I want them to learn how to listen well and how to question what they hear. If what I believe is true, it will stand up to scrutiny. The Christian faith sprang up in a world that was violently hostile to its claims. But rather than extinguishing the small spark of the early church, the winds of opposition gave it oxygen to spread. Two thousand years later (as I explain in chapter 1) it’s still spreading. But I don’t want my kids to believe in Jesus just because I say so, or just because it’s the largest and most diverse religion in the world, or just because going to church makes you happier, healthier, and more generous to others. I want them to see Jesus for themselves and to believe that what he says about himself is true.

Fathers, let me urge you to get this book and begin working through it with your teenage children (if you are looking for a starting age, let me suggest 15). If you are a single mom with teenagers, this is a great opportunity to prepare them for college. Because of their access to the internet, social media, and movies — high school students are already aware of these objections. They are looking for answers, and this is a great book that can help you.

What are your thoughts on insurgency?

In a world broken by sin, we will always have sinful rulers. In fact, that is all that we will ever have in our earthly kingdoms.

Because of that, there are times when resisting those authorities is necessary.

We are not there. Not even close.

This is not a time for a just war.

This is a time for Romans 13:1-2:

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” – Romans 13:1-2

I was recently asked, “What is your opinion of insurgency?” I am seldom shocked by a question. After 25 years of ministry, I think I have heard most of them.

But this one shocked me.

At the time, it was strange, so I assumed that it was hypothetical. It seemed so far from something I needed to address.

That is until Wednesday, January 6, 2021, when the Capitol was sieged by violent, armed rebels.

Now there are FBI reports that there are armed protests planned at every state capitol as well as the U.S. Capitol (here’s the Fox News link too).

Let me be clear — armed protests are not protests. They are acts of violence.

This is true no matter who is carrying them out or why they are being carried out. Violent protests are not protests — they are fleshly (Galatians 6:20) acts against those who bear God’s image.

I seldom buy the excuse that oppressed people get frustrated and then turn violent. I didn’t believe that when the BLM protests turned violent, nor do I believe it when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.

Evil people perpetrate evil on others, and sometimes it turns violent. If you don’t believe me, put two toddlers together in a room and just let them play for 10 minutes. If you still don’t believe me, join me for a marriage counseling session. Or just ask my wife about me, because this stuff is in my own heart.

Rather, the followers of Jesus have to turn away from evil violence: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

In case you are wondering — there is less at stake in the political world than you think. The Lord is sovereign over all things — “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” (Daniel 2:21)

To arm yourselves against a justly elected official is an act of sedition against the Great King of Kings. “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.” (Romans 13:2)

And we need to heed the warning, “those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:2)

In fact, you may not like the departing president or the arriving president, but you must honor him (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:17). The same is true for the state governors, the state legislatures, and your mayor.

The Christian’s engagement with politics should always have a certain shape to our zeal:

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23)

So, if you are considering involvement in a violent protest — put down your weapons, and take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Do not violently fight, honor the elected officials for the sake of Jesus — “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:15)

And then wait for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to return, for his kingdom has no end.

The Importance of This Election

Politics are important. We have the unique privilege in America of having a voice and a vote. Across the history of humanity, the ability of the average citizen to employ their will to effect politics is amazingly unique.

So politics are important. The people of the Lord Jesus are “aliens and sojourners” (1 Peter 2:11) who are to seek the welfare of the place where we live (Jeremiah 29:7). That is a healthy tension that keeps politics from becoming too important.

But politics have become ultimate for many Christians. There are a variety of reasons for this, but one of those reasons is our consumption of media (including Facebook and YouTube…and especially Twitter).

Trevin Wax has a helpful article on Why So Many Americans Will Be Shocked on Election Day.

Our online preferences reinforce the “big sort.” Consider the LifeWay Research and ERLC Civility study that shows 48 % of evangelicals by belief agree that they “prefer to follow or befriend people on social media who have similar thoughts on social and political issues.” That’s not surprising, as people generally befriend others with similar interest and outlook…

He continues:

Unfortunately, the result is a myopic and distorted view of reality. We are left with impressions from Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter delivered up by algorithms that create a narrative that may be far from the truth. The Trump supporter sees video after video of large campaign rallies, Biden’s frequent gaffes, and anecdotal evidence or selective bits of data that point to a huge upset on Election Day. The Biden supporter sees video after video of Trump saying something demeaning or silly, celebrity endorsements for the Democratic candidate, and data points that signal a landslide Biden win.”