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Tim and Rick discuss a recent Barna study that highlights notable differences involving perceptions - how Christians perceive themselves and how Christians are perceived in culture. Rick also draws from his bag of metaphors and considers whether the Church is a thermometer or a thermostat in the argument culture, and they spend some time discussing aspirations to holiness and the charge in the old hymn, “Trust and Obey” in light of contemporary challenges.


Rick Langer: Welcome to the Winsome Conviction Podcast. My name's Rick Langer and I'm your co-host of the Winsome Conviction Project. I'm a professor of biblical studies in theology here at Biola University in La Mirada, California. And I'm also the co-director of the Winsome Conviction Project with my good friend Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff: Hey, Rick, it's great to be with you. Every once in a while you come across a quote that you just got to write down. For years I've kept a quote file. I have one paragraph of quotes from you, Rick. No, I'm kidding. I'm kidding. Get out of here.

Rick Langer: You got two books of quotes from me.

Tim Muehlhoff: We wrote two books together. Come on. But here's a quote from a man named Daniel Taylor. He's a Christian writer. And I thought he just did a great job of summarizing what we want to talk about today. He said this, "Turn the other cheek, the first shall be last. Lose our life to gain it. Love your enemies. These bold principles of Jesus make for great sermons, but in our bones we appear not to believe that they are practical for everyday living in a hostile society." That is well said and made my quote file. Because I think both are true. I think we would agree we're in a hostile situation today, the argument culture, negative communication climate, where we get treated inappropriately. I mean, people who take attitudes with us, demeaning language, vitriol. The question then becomes, do we throw out the biblical mandates of turning the other cheek, loving your enemies, giving a blessing for an insult?

Do we throw those out because people aren't treating us that way? And that's honestly what we're wrestling with is, what is our response when people are treating us in a way that is completely inappropriate? Do we still toe the line on gentleness?

Rick Langer: Yeah, I think that's a great way to frame it, Tim. Because there's a set of things we can just say, "Hey, a person shouldn't be mean and angry and all this." And everyone will nod their head and agree. But the real challenge for that for us isn't in normal kind of when everything's working, but it's exactly when it feels like things aren't working. And if it isn't working, well, the time for talking is done, it's time for shouting. Or it's time for rioting. Or it's time for violence. That sort of trajectory is a thing that emerges out of this sense of, "My current plan isn't working, so now what am I going to do?" And so that's a great question. If things aren't working the way you want them to, what do you do?

Tim Muehlhoff: By the way, another interesting quote from Daniel Taylor from the same article. He said, "The sad truth is that by and large, the church has adopted the culture's tactics. We fight ugly ugliness with ugliness. Sarcasm with sarcasm."

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's an interesting diagnostic moment. And by the way, maybe that's a harsh judgment of the church. But having been at UNC Chapel Hill, Rick during my undergrad work, that was 100% the perception of us. Is that we are the pit bulls of the culture war. We are just flat out mean to people that we disagree with. So the question becomes, have we adopted the culture's tactics?

Rick Langer: Yeah. So, let me share a couple observations on this.

Tim Muehlhoff: I was hoping you would.

Rick Langer: So you think of a list of things like Daniel Taylor was talking about, are turning the other cheek. Other times on podcast, we've talked about gentleness and kindness and humility. All those sorts of virtues that tend to go out the window when you're in that combat kind of situation. Here's an interesting statistic I found from a Barna survey that was recently done. They were talking about kind of perceptions of Christians. And talking about people who are Christians, how do you self-perceive? And then people who were, I think it was of evangelicals. Of kind of mainline Christians of people, the overall population and people who are kind of antagonistic towards Christianity or something. But over 60% of Christians see themselves as caring. Of being a caring person. Kind of back to the kindness and caring sort of a thing. You know what the thoughts were among non-Christians?

Tim Muehlhoff: I shudder to ask.

Rick Langer: 8% of non-Christians agreed. 60% of Christians saw themselves as caring. 8% of non-Christians agreed with them.

Tim Muehlhoff: I just got to jump in real quick. So a very famous study done of managers asking them the question, "Are you a good listener?" 88% said, "I'm an exceptional listener." Right? Then they went and asked employees. And those same managers, the highest a manager got was 21% saying, "I think you're a good listener." So our self-perception is often greatly skewed on a multitude of issues.

Rick Langer: On matters like this, very, very easy to have it skewed. Here's the interesting thing, like with your manager example, I think is a really good one. If you're asking if the manager's a good listener and he says, "Yes, I believe I am." And the person he's listening to says, "No, I don't believe you are." It seems to me like the person on the receiving end of the listening has kind of a pride of place in that assessment. In other words, if the one who's supposed to be allegedly listening to is saying, "I wasn't listening to at all." They kind of have a special claim on that. And I would argue that caring is like that too. Caring is a thing that is validated in some sense by the person receiving the care. If those, "Yes, I care for all kinds of people." And you interview them all and say, "I don't feel cared for", realize, "Oh, we don't have kind of an equal standing for the assessment of being a listener or for being a carer." And that's really scary when you see those kinds of numbers.

Tim Muehlhoff: So totally true story. I'm at a marriage conference listening to another Christian speaker. And he gave an idea, Rick, don't ever do this idea. Trust me, don't. Listeners do not do this idea. It sounds good. It absolutely backfires. He goes, "Men, I'm going to challenge you right now. Go home and ask your children, 'How do you do when you're disagreed with?'" Right. And I was like, "Oh, okay, well that's fine. Okay." I sat my three boys down, Rick. I said, "Okay, is there anything you would change about dad's communication style?" Rick, three hands shot up immediately. I was like, "Do you need more time to think?" "Nope, got mine. Got mine." And it basically was, "You get defensive and you get loud."

Rick Langer: Wow.

Tim Muehlhoff: Now that was really hard to hear, because that was not my perception. That was not my perception.

Rick Langer: That's exactly right. That's the challenge.

Tim Muehlhoff: But which one is more accurate? That's what I love about what you're saying about the manager study and the Barna study is, we need to step back and say, "It's how I'm coming across that is what's really important." So we might think, "No, we're kind and loving as a church. Yeah, we hold to truth, but we do it in love." Well, you got to find out how other people are perceiving that. So I think that bonus study and the manager study and my three kids. But you can either get defensive right, in that moment I was hurt and defensive. But then had to spend some time processing and then coming back and then I grounded all three of them. You're grounded.

Rick Langer: And that solved the problem.

Tim Muehlhoff: Don't talk to Dad like that. Right? No.

Rick Langer: And I do think that it's not surprising. It isn't like every act of genuine care is received by care. This is the other pushback I get. People say, "Well, I did all these things, but they just didn't like the fact that I..." Fill in the blank. That may be true. I'm happy to acknowledge there are times when you are truly loving, another person doesn't perceive it as love. The addict who says, "I just want another drink." And you won't give it to him, feels like you're unloved or unaccepted. We understand that. But at some point you want to say, "Is that how you're going to explain this 52% gap between saying you're caring and being perceived as caring?" I'm like, "Yeah, I don't think that's probably a good assessment." And I think we're probably being defensive and at some point I think we need to think, "Wow, we need to take this to heart."

Tim Muehlhoff: The proof's in the pudding. And again, this is speaking 101. Teaching public speaking, 101. It is the audience's perception that causes you to adjust to meet their perception. And to at least address where is the disconnect? Because I promise I'm trying to be loving, kind, gentle, and accepting, but that message clearly is not getting across to our target audience. So now we can either become defensive or we can adjust.

Rick Langer: So, I just was describing what happens with non-Christian people in terms of this perception. And the impact of what you might call, our unkindness or uncaringness or ungentleness. Our failure to turn the other cheek, all those things. When we fail to do that, what happens? Well, that's one thing that happens. What about people who are losing their faith? Or have lost their faith? Wow. So you and I both were involved in a moment that was a eyeopener on this kind of a thing. A person who we knew who was losing her faith or had lost her faith. And it was really interesting as we sat down to have kind of a long talk about this. That this is a person who had this discomfort with how Christians were living, not with how they were believing. It was much more a problem with love, love shown, not necessarily to her personally. But just the way love is shown rather than the problem with truth.

And so it's one thing when you're disagreeing with other individuals. Her perception, she saw a lot of people in church disdaining other individuals. And saying that, "We should look at Christ, not Christians", didn't help in this situation. Why do I know that? Well, because we tried that and it didn't help. Because she said, "I completely understand the idea, but I'm just saying where I'm sitting on average, it seems like the world is doing better at caring for other people who disagree with them than Christians are. On balance it seems like the influence of the church is negative, not positive. It's made things worse and not better."

And again, we can certainly have a discussion about whether that's actually literally true. I'm simply reporting that perception. And it gives us pause to think where basically she's saying, "Look, I see Christians failing to love non-Christians, and then I see them failing to love fellow Christians." Which Jesus tells us is supposed to be a mark of the genuineness of our faith. And then worst of all, I think in some ways she said, "I don't see churches caring if their members are being unloving, ungentle or angry." It seems like that is a norm, or at least a social expectation, that's entirely acceptable. And all that seemed really prominent. So she was having a crisis of love that was not being seen and perceived, not a crisis of truth. And no amount of truth could make up for it.

Tim Muehlhoff: And if you're tempted to say this was just an anomaly, one the great benefits of being at a university is researchers like John Marriott. Who's taken a look at something called deconversion, when people leave the faith. And he has clearly identified that when people watch how we criticize each other, how we use social media to attack each other, that it is a huge turnoff to the upcoming generation that just really wants no part of that. So I wish it was just one case...

Rick Langer: Yeah. Right.

Tim Muehlhoff: But it's not. We're seeing a massive trend of people leaving Christianity, not for the classic apologetic questions, the problem of evil. What about those who have never heard? As important as they are. But again, we're not showing love. That's the perception. And people are leaving because of it.

Rick Langer: Yeah. It's like we've been trained on an... Apologetics is, I mean literally, it's giving a defense, giving an account for the questions that people ask you. And so we're familiar with the apologetics where people have intellectual problems. How can you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? How can you believe in the supernatural? So that's what we think of. But the thing that's happened here, is in this cultural moment, I think people are no longer asking those questions. They're asking questions, "Why aren't you guys loving? Why do you guys seem angry all the time? Why do you guys fight among yourselves? Not just that you fight culture wars of the outside culture. I'm looking at churches that are being divided. Why do you do that?" And they're asking love and attitudinal questions. Which I would argue are also completely legitimate in terms of things that validate the gospel. It isn't either/or. It's 'both, and'.

And we're just saying, "On this area right now of the attitudinal side, it seems like our world is asking us questions based on the behaviors we seem to be exhibiting that cause them to doubt the truth of the gospel."

Tim Muehlhoff: And unfortunately, this isn't just a recent phenomenon. Now this is a little bit dated because I was in grad school doing my PhD. But two UNC Chapel Hill sociologists wrote a book about the religious right, Rick. And their introduction to the book was, "Based on all of our research, what is one word that best describes the religious right?" You know what the word was?

Rick Langer: No.

Tim Muehlhoff: Mean.

Rick Langer: Mean.

Tim Muehlhoff: Mean. That literally took my breath away.

Rick Langer: Just that disposition.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. When we disagree with people and disagree with each other, we are mean-spirited towards each other, within the Christian community and outside. And Rick, I had hair back then. That is how long ago it was. I mean, this has been brewing for a really long time, that people look at us and say, "You are not a loving community towards yourselves, or towards those outside the community."

Rick Langer: Yeah. And I do think one of the things that's happened in our culture that's in the intervening several years since you had hair. And then you heard something that made your hair stand up on end, and then it all fell out.

Tim Muehlhoff: And I was taller. By the way, I was taller.

Rick Langer: Oh, hey, there you go. But I do think our culture has become generally meaner too.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes.

Rick Langer: So I think, when Christian say you, "You call us mean. Have you heard what just came from over there?" I'm inclined to say, "Yeah, you're right on that." If you're saying we're like exceptionally mean, I'm wondering if perhaps the mean level has actually [inaudible 00:14:30]. I don't know. But I'm just saying in any of these cases, do we want to be conformed to meanness? Do we want to practice it? Do we want to conform to a culture that practices it? I'm saying no one know.

Tim Muehlhoff: And what we're saying is if we could have rewritten the introduction to that book by the two sociologists, what one word best describes the conservative religious right? We would've picked the word 'gentle'. That would've been the word based on things that we have talked about before in different podcasts. But also when you do a survey of the New Testament, that word 'gentle' pops up is everywhere.

Rick Langer: Is extremely common. And the other related virtues like kindness, and gentleness, and patience, and humility, and all these things. So I talked a little bit about people who are non-believers and their perception of us relative to these issues of kindness, and things like that. And caring. Talked about people who are kind of losing their faith. Let me do one more.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh, no.

Rick Langer: Let's talk about pastors. Pastors tending their flocks. So these aren't pastors who are losing their faith. I'm just saying, no report from the front. And you and I in the past few years have spent a lot of time talking to a lot of different pastors related to issues like this.

Tim Muehlhoff: And just a reminder to the audience, you were a pastor for 20 years.

Rick Langer: I was a pastor for 20 years. This is an area that I have some substantial life experience on. So I understand there's countless reasons why evangelicals might be misperceived or misunderstood by the outside world or the doubting world. But it strikes me how often I've heard this from pastors in their congregations, speaking of their own congregations in these past couple years. And that is, "That my congregation has become mean towards one another." There's animosity there, there's division. There's people who rip off a person's mask, or people who stick on the person's mask. "How can you go get a vaccine?" All these. And the animosity. And the pastors describe this as people ripping the body apart. And that sense of divisiveness and animosity is a thing that I'm hearing increasingly common. And in my anecdotal experience in churches that I've been a part of or have had connections with for years or decades, churches I've attended, and then people who I know well who are attending churches.

So I've been in these churches before because I've visited friends or family who've been in these places. And I'm looking around and seeing, it isn't just that churches have lower numbers. It's, in so many of these cases, the reason that churches are getting lower numbers is because of the context of animosity within the church that really is disturbing. And like I say, it's a crazy cascade from non-believers, to doubting believers, to people who are actually practicing pastors. At every level this seems to be a significant challenge.

Tim Muehlhoff: Yeah. Barna research in the year 2022, they asked pastors if they had given serious consideration to quitting, and over 42% said yes. When asked why, in the top two answers, Rick was division within the church.

Rick Langer: Within the church.

Tim Muehlhoff: And not quite sure how to address it.

Rick Langer: And that's one of the things that's hit me as I've talked to pastors just one-on-one, is a sense of exhaustion on that. It's just like, here's another go around. And people who, they feel like they're kind of squabbling over these issues that are distractions, not unimportant. This is a key thing. People think when you say, "Well, they aren't the important issues." It's like they aren't things that are definitional to the gospel. These aren't things about people's salvation or things like that. But they are issues about how the gospel is manifested and how we relate to culture. But they're oftentimes things that people can and do see differently. And the animosity that has just marked those conversations is just profound. So here's an interesting question. What conditions of our soul lead us to seem to love ungentleness, unkindness, whatever. What draws us to that?

What does that give us? Because you don't make choices like that unless you're getting something back. Or perhaps because you don't want to do something that's hard. But I guess that's still getting something back. You get an easier course. So this is a thing that I've been thinking a lot about is going, why? What's going on in our souls that make us this way?

Tim Muehlhoff: And unfortunately we're out of time, so please try... No, I am very curious to what you're... I mean, I'm thinking of certain things, but what's your answer to this question? What is happening?

Rick Langer: So I've got a couple... Listen, and these are things we can just brainstorm and talk about this. Because I don't have the magic answer. One of the things is I think we misunderstand our role relative to climate control. And that is, we think we're supposed to be thermometers when we're actually supposed to be thermostats.

So a thermometer rises as a temperature rises, it will fall as a temperature falls. So if the world is getting angry and all this, well, we'll rise with it. If our conversation partners getting, we rise with it. And a thermostat is like the exact opposite. It always senses the temperature, but it moves from wherever the temperature is to what the set temperature is supposed to be. So the thermostat is always saying, "Our goal is to work from whatever I've got to whatever it's supposed to be, not to mirror whatever I've got." We've become thermometers rather than thermostats.

Tim Muehlhoff: That's powerful. And we know what the thermostat is supposed to read. Paul says, "Speak truth. Of course, do it in love." Peter says, "Be ready to give a reason for the defense that is in you, of course, with all gentleness and reverence." So we kind of know what the thermostat is supposed to be set at. The problem is we often come across as rising and falling with the culture.

Rick Langer: Yeah. And I'd probably even go beyond that with this is, what you might call thermostatic passages of scripture. That literally say, "A soft answer turns away wrath." You see what's going on in that passage? You're in a wrath temperature and they're saying, "Ah, thermostatic move, soft answer. Do good to those who persecute you." You're being persecuted. Do you respond by persecuting back? No. He says, "Set the temperature. How? By doing good." People demanding their rights. And Paul says, "Yeah, I think I'll pass on demanding my rights." And so this is the kind of, like I say, these thermostatic passages of scripture. And by the way, once you get that in your head, you're going to start finding the thermostatic passages of scripture everywhere you look.

Tim Muehlhoff: And one thing I want to add is, you and I have talked about this a ton is, so can we do that with the nation? Well, the answer is no. Our ship doesn't fly that high. But can I do that in my marriage? Can I do that with my kids? Can I do that with my extended family?

Rick Langer: Can I do that within a small group Bible study?

Tim Muehlhoff: Yes. See, that's where I get hope. Is that we can be the thermostat in these local situations. And the higher it goes up, the harder it is. Within your city, within a state, within a nation. But my goodness, we can start where we're at to have those kind of recalibrations. And am I the problem? See, that's something we'll probably have to start with, is saying, "Am I the one that's causing temperature to rise when we talk about politics or talk about mass mandates?" Or things like that?

Rick Langer: What role am I playing in making this. Yup. Yeah. So here's another one for you.

Tim Muehlhoff: Okay.

Rick Langer: We had thermostats and thermometers. How about this? We've decided we don't like the hymn Trust and obey. For some reason, we act like that just doesn't apply to something like politics. "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey." And we actually introduced this podcast with a perfect example is, where Daniel Taylor was saying, "You know what? I don't think we want to do the things Jesus says do. We think it's not priority, we don't do it." And I'm just saying that would be a perfect example of him basically saying, "We don't want to trust and obey." We don't want to say, "I will obey Jesus no matter what, and I will trust him with the outcome of my obedience, but my plan is to be a trust and obey sort of dude."

And the bottom line is I don't think we like that. There's sort of a sense of apocalyptic panic before elections. And if elections don't turn out, we get an apocalyptic rage and response. Fears are so great that we cannot trust because we cannot trust, we refuse to obey. That's the kind of cycle that I find ourselves in. And that old hymn has some remarkable wisdom built into that. That at some point when you're a Christian and you're asking, "How should I behave in this particular situation?" One of your first thoughts should be, "I should obey." And if your second thought is, "But that won't work out well." That your next thought should be, "Well, then I should trust and obey."

Tim Muehlhoff: And what does it mean to entrust? When we're going to entrust a situation to the Lord, be it an election or a decision that you need to make as a family. To me, entrusting is kind of like that old adage we got from the Civil War, "Entrust this to God and keep your powder dry." Yeah, it's both. Is I have a responsibility... It'd be one thing...

Rick Langer: It isn't a passive thing.

Tim Muehlhoff: It isn't a passive, "I'm going to entrust God with my finances, but I'm in credit card debt. We don't have a budget. We don't keep to the budget that we have." So it is this mutual activity. But at the end of the day, I can do everything I'm supposed to do, but I still entrust it to God. Because I can worry about this till blue in the face, but I need to eventually give it to God.

Rick Langer: It's basically, "I will obey in every single sphere of conduct over which I have control, and I will trust in every sphere over which I do not have control." So it is very active and there's nothing passive about this. It's saying, "No, I need to be on the lead. I need to do these things that I'm called to do." Do I guarantee the outcome? It's like, "Well, no, I don't. I don't know that and I'm going to trust the outcome to Jesus."

Tim Muehlhoff: Remember Dr. Bill Bright, the one who founded Campus Crusade for Christ. Now Crew. Rick and I were part of Crew for a long time, and he would always say with evangelism, "No, share your faith and leave the results to God." That's a nice balance.

Rick Langer: That's a great way to put it. And in a situation like this, just one more example that says, "Look, by all means you speak the truth. You vote for, you guide for, you encourage, you promote these things." But to realize there's a point at which, if I do the next step, I will no longer be being obedient to Jesus. I'll actually be being disobedient to him. Why would I ever want to do that? It's because I'm afraid the outcome won't be the one I want. And at that point, it's where right? Yeah. Trust, and trust on the parts over which you have no control and influence. Be faithful and obey in the parts where you do. And it's a pretty workable guideline.

Tim Muehlhoff: Remember what Paul says? He says in Romans, "Leave room for the wrath of God. Leave room for God to act." But if I'm doing everything, if I'm doing A to Z, there's no room for God to step in and act. So there comes a point, Paul says, "So far as it depends on me, I will try to be at peace with all men." But I can't control your reaction. I can only do what I can do, and then entrust it to God. But I can't control how you're going to respond to my overtures of peacemaking.

Rick Langer: Here's one last thought I had about this.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh my goodness Rick. How many of these do we have? The first two were disturbing enough.

Rick Langer: Here's one, I'm not sure we actually aspire to holiness anymore. And I mean this broadly, not just in the situation that we're talking about. But it's one thing to hear non-Christian use a phrase like, "Oh, he's just holier than thou." And I feel like I increasingly hear that from Christians, is that we don't like the idea of people being holy. If a person's righteous, we view them as being self-righteous. We value authenticity over holiness. So if you were to think of people who are thrilled by chapel speakers that we have. Be all, "Why was he so good?" We never would be surprised if [inaudible 00:27:29] said, "Oh, he was really authentic." I'm trying to think of the last time I said, "He really seemed to be a holy man. She really seemed to be a holy woman." I don't hear us using that language to praise others. I don't hear us using that language to aspire to ourselves.

And I feel like we're actually losing an aspiration to become reformed into the holiness of Christ himself. And so a lot of things become optional. And that partly is an explanation of the trust and obey thing we were just talking about. Why do we think obeying is optional somehow? Well, because I think our biggest anxiety is that we might become excessively pharisaical. Or that we might be viewed as legalistic, or things like that. I mean, the holier than thou thing, I'm like, "Are you really concerned that the world or your neighbor has set the holiness bar so high that if you were to exceed it, it would be problematic in some way?" "Oh no, I've done too much holiness." He would say, "You know, yesterday, I went through the whole day without sinning. I better get a couple in today." I mean that kind of sense about holiness as being a thing that we don't treasure and value.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh, that's so good. I'll add one more. I'll add this one. That I don't think we believe God can make a difference. That things are so bad today. The argument culture is so nasty, that my attempts at gentleness, love, neighbor love honestly just won't make a difference. And I'm not leaving room for the power of God to act. And I'm not even expecting Him to act. I've kind of resigned myself that nothing's going to work. Reminds me of an old joke, Rick. There was a drought happening in this Southern town, and the pastors were really concerned because the economy was tanking. I mean, it was a severe drought. So the pastors sent out a message, "Hey, meet at this church at such and such time. We are going to beseech God, and not stop praying until it rains." So they start their prayer meeting. And about five minutes later, a young pastor is late. And he walks in and starts laughing. And people literally turn around and say, "What do you find funny?" He goes, "I'm the only one who brought an umbrella." Isn't that interesting?

Rick Langer: That is interesting.

Tim Muehlhoff: Hey, I thought we were going to pray until it rains. "Well, yeah, but come on. You know what we meant by that, is we're going to..." Right? But do we think revival is possible?

Rick Langer: Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff: Do we think the God who got Saul and turned him into the apostle Paul can get even our harshest critic? Do we believe that that kind of thing can happen? I don't know. I want to say yes, of course. But I wonder if my actions bear out something different.

Rick Langer: So that's really interesting. So yeah, good observation. And when you mentioned that, I just thought we'd mentioned earlier the thing that Barna talked about caring perception. We believe we're caring. A non-Christian world believes we aren't so much. Another thing that was in there? Same question asked about being hopeful. 55% of Christians see themselves as hopeful, but you know what the perception of non-Christians was of us being hopeful? 5%.

Tim Muehlhoff: No way.

Rick Langer: 5%. And that tells us something there about how we come across in terms of... I think that just validates your observation, that we have this sense of hopelessness. We have this sense of anxiety. We don't really feel that a mighty fortress is our God. And when the nation's rage and the mountains fall into the sea, we're pretty much concerned that we're going to get crushed like a sandcastle on the beach at high tide. And so we shout accordingly. That's the way we're perceived. And we can think about it. Have we really said that or not? Like I say, I don't want to just take it for granted. But it is striking to me, that was one of the ones that I found most puzzling when I was looking at this article. And saying, "Wow, the hope thing. We're really perceived as being hopeless." And I think it is what you're saying is that we have this anxiety that I really don't think God's going to...

Tim Muehlhoff: I can't count...

Rick Langer: I can't count on God.

Tim Muehlhoff: I can't count on God to make it rain, or to change the argument culture. Remember what Paul says in Romans eight, he says, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" That's a powerful phrase. And again, we keep talking about these diagnostic moments where I think each one of us needs to reflect, "Am I hopeful that we can see a difference in the argument culture? Am I hopeful that that harshest critic that I have by being gentle and kind and loving that person, in spite of that the Holy Spirit can take that, augment it, and we can see radical change happen in the life of that person?"

Rick Langer: What a great place to end.

Tim Muehlhoff: Oh my Goodness.

Rick Langer: So thank you for joining us for the Winsome Conviction Podcast. It's great to have you. We'd love to have you be a regular subscriber. Check it out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Google Player, whatever it is you get your podcasts from. And then also check out the website. We have a bunch of resources, articles. You'll find the podcast here, along with a lot of other things that we do. So. Thanks so much for joining us.