Six Signs of Failure in the Christian Life-

 Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds- James 2:17-18 NIV

Saying that Christians today have been chosen to live in uniquely trying times is at the very least an outrageous understatement. The cultural moment we find ourselves in is literally unlike any in human history and it is getting stranger and more complex with each passing day. Our culture is literally inventing new ways sin. Good is oftentimes thought to be evil and evil is commonly celebrated as good and even virtuous (Isaiah 5:20-21). 

Sigh.  

I have no clue where all this going or where the madness will end. That said, one thing I do know for absolute certain, is that these times demand Christians get the Christianity thing right. Christians must live in a way that that stands in stark contrast to our unbelieving friends and neighbors if there is any hope at all of leading our culture back to some sort of health. Following are six indicators a Christian is going in the wrong direction and needs to redirect their spiritual life. 

First: 

You haven’t been prompted to do anything lately- 

Ephesians 2:8-9 is clear: people are not saved because they are good or because they do good things. Men and women are saved because they put their faith in the redemptive (saving) work Jesus did for humanity when He died on the cross and rose from the dead. Period. End. Of. Story. However, it must be noted that Ephesians 2:10 tells us that Christians are saved so that they can do good deeds. Consequently, if we are not regularly prompted by the Holy Spirit to teach biblical truth, stand up for justice, tell others about Jesus or offer help to hurting people something is terribly wrong with the way we are doing the Christian life. Immediate changes must be made.  

You don’t pray much or at all-

Prayer is how the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom and guidance. Prayer is how God transforms our thinking to make it more in line with His view of the world. When we pray God changes the hearts of the people we pray for and brings about transformation in seemingly immovable situations. When we don’t pray we don’t hear the voice of God or become the agents for change the world needs right now. When that happens, it is a tragedy for us and for the world we live in. 

You aren’t learning anything new about God or yourself-  

The first phrase ever used for a follower of Jesus was disciple (Matthew 5:1, Mark 2:15, John 1:35). A disciple is a student, one who decides to diligently learn from another. If we are not constantly learning new things about God and the things God wants us to work on in ourselves we will struggle to be a healthy reflection of God in this world. Without healthy Christians unsaved people struggle to see that God has the power to transform people. If people don’t see God’s power in His people they will never see the point of committing themselves to God. 

You aren’t actively seeking the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis-   

 Every Christian is called by God to the toughest of the tough things. Christians are commanded to love the unlovable, be holy, forgive the unforgivable, give beyond what is sensible, and pour ourselves out for the good of others (1st Peter 2:9, Matthew 5-7, 1st Corinthians 9:22). Fulfilling this calling is only possible through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 40:29). The Holy Spirit only empowers us when we ask. 

You aren’t working on your prejudices-

Heaven will be filled with men and women from every race, tribe and people group (Revelation 5:9). All of those people will be equal, equally loved by God and yet still distinctly different from one another (Revelation 7:9). This future reality leaves no place for racial bigotry or sexism in the lives of God’s people (Galatians 3:28, Colossians3:11). This means that any prejudices Christians have should be dealt with in an attitude of repentance. If we aren’t constantly evaluating our attitudes seeking to become more like Jesus in this key area we failing at a fundamental aspect of the faith. 

You think wokeness and Christianity are compatible- 

Wokeness is more than just a popular anti-racism movement. It is a false religion leading people away from the God of the Bible. It is a movement wants all the benefits of Christianity (love, equality, fairness, mutual respect, compassion) without submitting to God or the moral restraints of Christian ethics (2nd Timothy 4:3-4, 2nd Timothy 3:1-5). Because it ultimately leads people away from biblical repentance and faith in Jesus it will inevitably bring confusion and turmoil to those who embrace it. 

Historically, God does His best work in the darkest and most challenging of times. That said, God always chooses to work through people who have fully surrendered to Him. If we want to see Him change our world we must change our habits. We have to become people who put Him first and live spirit-filled, spirit-empowered lives. 

How Christians can be an Influence in the age of Cancel Culture-

When I stumbled, they gathered in glee; assailants gathered against me without my knowledge. They slandered me without ceasing– Psalm 35:15 NIV 

It was a bewildering week. 

First, it looked as if Dr. Seuss was the latest target of “cancel culture”. Then I was told this was simply not so.  Forbes and Newsweek reported Seuss Enterprises had simply “evolved” and chosen to stop publishing six of Dr. Seuss’ books due to “racist undertones”. It was clear: only unenlightened buffoons too dumb to grasp the nuances of the situation actually believed Dr. Seuss was being canceled. 

However.  

 President Biden did not mention Dr. Seuss or any of his books in his kickoff speech for National Read Across America Day. Which was unusual considering it usually coincides with the celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd. Then Amazon stopped selling Dr. Seuss books. Additionally, a number of school districts and libraries made it clear they would no longer use his books.  On top of all that a number of commentators have been quite busy throwing shade on the memory of Dr. Seuss.  

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this means Dr. Seuss got cancelled. 

Sigh. 

For the record: I do not have an issue with individuals who choose NOT to purchase products from companies or individuals whose values or business practices do not jive with their own values. Quietly choosing not to buy products from businesses who use your funds to promote causes that tear down the values you hold dear is not the same as cancelling someone. 

It’s called “wise stewardship”. 

Cancelling is a relatively new practice. It takes the concept of a boycott to a level not seen in polite society since the Salem Witch trials. Cancelling is when a very public effort is made to thoroughly disgrace a person, remove their influence entirely, obstruct their ability to make a living and ruin their reputation. The cancelling is not complete until any good the person has done in this world is completely disavowed and then forgotten. The quickest way to get cancelled is to publicly support conservative ideas or not be “woke” enough. It is also possible to get canceled for espousing racist or sexist opinions. However, it should be noted standards on these issues are constantly evolving. Speech regarded as perfectly acceptable today may very well be deemed unacceptable tomorrow.  

Sigh. 

Anyone can get cancelled. Historical figures like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Dr. Seuss and Teddy Roosevelt have all been victims of cancel culture. Some well-known actors and actresses, the My Pillow guy and some random people who said racist things on camera when they were too young to know better have also all become unwitting victims of cancelling madness. Nor, is being cancelled limited to actual human beings. Pepe le Pew (a cartoon skunk), Peter Pan (a fictional character), and Dumbo the Elephant (another cartoon character) all found themselves on the old chopping block this past week.  

Those who endorse cancel culture obviously don’t understand that standards of what is socially acceptable change over time. They also fail to grasp the reality that social growth is almost always made in small increments that tend to build on previous small increments of social change. Smart people understand that historic figures and even fictional characters should always be judged in the context of the time they lived in or were created rather than by current values. For example, by contemporary norms the fifteenth century church reformer Martin Luther was a chauvinist-jerk-pig-idiot who should be roundly condemned for espousing sexist positions. However, in his time he was thought to be a flaming-liberal-hell bound-heretic because he argued equal education should be given to little girls. His belief that young girls were capable of understanding theology and should therefore be given the same education as boys was radical at the time. Girls receiving and education was also an incremental social change that paved the way for women’s rights in the Western world. By twenty-first century standards Martin Luther was a sexist loser. In actuality he was an incredibly open-minded, insanely progressive product of his time. 

Anyway.

It’s not my job to judge the culture. God will do that in due time (Galatians 6:7, 1st Corinthians 4:5, Revelation 20:12-13). It is my God-given calling to encourage Christians to live in a way that glorifies God and points unbelievers towards repentance and eternal life. The weird cultural moment we find ourselves in demands Christians live radically different lives than the rest of society. It is critical we avoid the harsh, judgmental tone culture has adopted and gently remind people that ultimately, we will all be judged by the same standards we place on others (Matthew 7:2). We must constantly remind our friends, neighbors and co-workers that God, the most powerful, purest being whoever existed or who will ever exist did not choose to cancel or condemn anyone for their evil behavior, sin or mistakes. Even though He would have been entirely justified in doing so. Instead God offers us redemption and grace through the death of His son. All He asks is that we believe in Him and offer others the same grace and mercy we have been freely given.  

That message would effectively end cancel culture forever. 

The Undeniable Link Between Courage and Personal Peace-

These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33 NASB 

This week I came across a quote I had never heard before:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace- Amelia Earhart 

Okay, so. 

With all due respect to Amelia Earhart, who was without a doubt an unusually courageous person. She got it wrong at least in one sense. It is not life that demands we have courage in order to gain personal peace. It is the God of the Universe who grants peace to those who choose to look past their fear and live life courageously. 

The word courage or a derivative of courage is used one-hundred-fourteen times and the command “fear not” is used three-hundred-sixty-five times in Scripture. Abundant personal peace is explicitly promised to those who obey God’ commands (Leviticus 26, Romans 2:10, Galatians 6:15).  Those facts make it tough not to conclude that Christians are called to be courageous (Joshua 1:6-9). Empirical evidence backs up my view. Confusion, self-doubt and personal angst torment those who lack courage. I am convinced that much of the anxiety Christians feel is a result of cowardice in the following four areas: 

 Saying what needs to be said-

Life is full of times God clearly calls us to speak up for what we know is right, just and true. These moments pop up with children, spouses, friends and those we interact with on a regular basis. Anything hard should be said with a generous measure of compassion and grace (Colossians 4:5-6, Ephesians 4:15). However, it is critical we understand that choosing not to speak truth, especially hard truth always comes at a substantial price. Our culture is the way it is partly because good people have chosen for far too long to keep their mouths shut rather than run the risk of offending others. Many (including myself) wonder what the world would look like if more of us had the courage to challenge wrong thinking when it first began taking root in the lives of the people we love rather than waiting until bad ideas and wrong thinking became endemically entrenched in the culture (Galatians 5:9).   

 Living the way God calls us to live- 

We live in a world that’s broken in ways none of us will never fully understand this side of heaven. Consequently, there has never been a time when it was actually easy to put God first, live with integrity and speak out against sin and injustice. It is getting harder to do those things all the time. Nevertheless, God promises us peace that is literally beyond human understanding to those who choose to live courageous, counter cultural lives that put Him first (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7, Philippians 4:9, 2nd Peter 1:2).  

Standing up against the forces within Christianity that are pulling the church in the wrong direction- 

 Many churches and Christian denominations are being pulled away from biblical thinking into worldly philosophies that run counter to truth (Colossians 2:8, 2nd Timothy 4:3, 2nd Peter 3:3). This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Jesus never promised that the church would be occupied only by good, God-fearing Christians determined to live Jesus first lives. Truth-be-told, Jesus promised in Matthew 13:24-30 that weeds (unbelievers) will grow-up alongside wheat (believers) causing all sorts of difficulties and challenges for true Christians. Furthermore, all Christians are in various stages of spiritual maturity and health. It is possible for a genuine Christian to be wrong about all kinds of issues or misled by bad teaching or their own evil desires. This is why prayerful self-examination is critically important for all believers, it is a clear opportunity for God to set us straight. In order for us to be at peace with God and ourselves we must know the word, understand how God is calling us to live and not allow ourselves to be swayed by any voice not rooted in Scripture and led by the Holy Spirit (John 10:14) 

Being the right voice of righteousness-  

Christians are not called to defend a particular nation or form of government. Instead, Christians are called to be defenders of the faith (Philippians 1:7, 1st Peter 3:15, Jude 1:3).  There is nothing wrong with patriotism, however choosing country over fidelity the gospel always leads to a lack of peace.  

Finally.  

In Matthew chapter ten Jesus sends out the twelve and commands they do things that can only be done with God’s empowering presence and a serious dose of courage (Matthew 10:7-10, 2nd Corinthians 12:9).  Then He promises life will be hard for anyone who actually has the guts to do the things He asks (Matthew 10:16-21). He also lays out a series of promises throughout the passage. Jesus promises that the courageous will be loved by God (Matthew 10:30-31), be like God (Matthew 10:24), and be honored in the presence of the Father (Matthew 10:32). Then He promises that the courageous will have such and abundance of personal peace the world will be blessed by their existence (Matthew 10:13).

But first we have to be willing push past any fear we feel. 

Spiritual Warfare: How we Give the Enemy an Advantage-


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
– 1st Peter 5:8 NIV

Until recently I preferred to ignore the devil and demons. I believed in those things, but, like most post-enlightenment Christians I simply preferred to focus on “happier” aspects of the spiritual realm. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit and angels were my jam and I would have been perfectly happy to keep it that way indefinitely. But, then the world went to hell. 

Literally. 

Right before my very eyes.  People began believing the most crazy-town stuff imaginable. Cancel culture became a thing, just as it also became fashionable to say there is no such thing as objective truth. People actually believe we all have our unique little truth we are entitled to even if there is no evidence to back it up. However, if you believe or say the “wrong thing” you will be “cancelled” and lose your reputation, livelihood and right to live in “polite” society.  Full-grown adults bought into the notion that gender is “fluid” and therefore changeable. Universities begin offering free tampons to “men” having their periods. Parents and teachers began encouraging kindergarteners to discover their true gender.  People were willing to throw a perfectly good country out the window because the founders of said country were fallible human beings. Everything went to hell in a handcart and Ephesians 6:12 is only plausible explanation for the madness that has engulfed the world. 

It says: 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

 The devil is real. 

He is a created being who turned against God (Luke 10:18). He hates those who love God. It is critical Christians understand his tactics. Satan wants to steal our ministry opportunities, turn us against God and eradicate our influence in this world. He does this through attacks where he plants lies in our minds and tempts us to behave in ways that steal our effectiveness, kill our love for God and destroy any positive influence we have (John 10:10). Satan waits for just the right opportunity to attack us (1stPeter 5:8). We give it to him when we do the following:

We don’t pray or we suddenly stop praying-

I do not understand everything there is to understand about prayer. However, one truth I do understand is that regular prayer provides spiritual protection (Matthew 26:41).  When we stop praying regularly or never really form a habit of prayer we give the devil an opportunity to gain a foothold in our thinking (Ephesians 4:27). Once the enemy has traction in our minds he can plant all sorts of foul seeds that eventually grow into deception, dissatisfaction with God and curiosity about sin.   

We wander where we don’t belong-  

There are some places God’s people simply do not belong. Watching other people sin can awaken a desire within us to sin. Therefore, we should avoid anything that presents sin as normal or healthy behavior. Being around Christians who are willfully and proudly sinning breaks down the natural desire all Christians have to remain holy and please God (1st Corinthians 5:11). It is spiritually strategic to avoid anyone or anything that makes sin appear attractive (Matthew 13:41, Matthew 18:6-7). 

When our primary sources of information come from the world-

In Colossians 2:8 Christians are warned that they can be “taken captive” by “deceptive philosophies”. This is most likely to happen when we get most or all of our information on life, current events and how to do life from those who don’t know God or understand how Christians are to live in this world. There is nothing wrong with an occasional secular book, podcast or seminar. That said, getting all or most of our “how-to” information on living life from worldly sources gives Satan ample opportunity to take our thinking captive. Once our thinking is captive our actions always follow.

When we have the wrong kind of self-focus-

There are two types of self-focus. The first is when we think endlessly about making ourselves happy, being successful and getting our own needs met. The second is when we put our attention on where we need to grow and how we can become emotionally healthier, godlier, wiser versions of ourselves so we can glorify God and make the world a better place. The devil loves the first kind of self-focus but hates the second because the first inevitably leads to self-destruction and a life of sin. While the second always leads to a life of profound joy that inevitably points others to faith in Jesus (Matthew 5:19, Colossians 3).  

When we haven’t submitted our lives or some part of our lives to Jesus-

Seriously. Disobedience and rebellion are open doors the enemy will always walk through. Deal with those issues. Pronto. 

We refuse to forgive- 

We can’t even be forgiven unless we forgive others (Matthew 6:15). What would make us think Satan would not take advantage of that kind of opportunity to plant bitterness, rage and every other kind of evil in our lives (Hebrews 12:15)? Forgiveness is never easy but is is the most spiritually freeing thing we can do. It is worth the effort.

For too long most Christians have lived as if the devil is a joke, a fantasy or an exaggeration. This has resulted in a feeble church, worldly Christians and a world in crisis. We must endeavor to live lives that thwart the enemies plan and take back ground for the Kingdom.  We do that through constant prayer, a commitment to forgive quickly, submission to God, becoming the best version of ourselves and looking to the Bible and other Christians, not the world for answers to life’s questions.  

How to Survive and Thrive in Even the Toughest of Times-

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us– Hebrews 12:1 ESV  

For most people reading this blogpost the world they were born into did not start out as tough, challenging or threatening in any real way. In fact, it could easily be argued that the last sixty or so years have been some of the serenest and easiest in all of human history. Most of the problems and issues modern people have wrestled with have been what honest people would refer to as “first world problems”. Humans born in the western world have struggled mostly with issues that have centered around the kind of existential questions our more primitive ancestors lacked the time or inclination to ponder like “What is the meaning of life?” “Am I making a difference in this world?” and “Am I really doing what I was meant to do?” For most of us things like war, civil unrest and oppression were concepts we learned about in history books as children or by watching documentaries as adults on rainy mornings when we had little else to do.  

Times are changing.  

War is still not something that has touched most of our lives in a personal way (thank God). However, thanks to COVID-19, censorship, selfish leaders and a whole bunch of really bad decisions on the part of those leaders all of a sudden, the rules are changing. Civil unrest is a thing, war is suddenly imaginable and oppression feels like it is knocking on the door for too many people. 

Sigh. 

This is not the first generation of believers to find themselves in times that suddenly got tough. Far from it.  From the dawn of time God’s people have been called to live, love and lead people to faith in the toughest of times. It is possible not just survive unexpected changes in our world but also to thrive in the midst of suffering and difficulty (Jeremiah 29:1-11, John 16:33, Acts 14:22). In order for that to happen we must choose to adopt the five following attitudes and practices. 

Beginning with:

Understand that sometimes God shakes things up- 

 From time-to-time God shakes every kingdom and people group who dwell on the earth (Hebrews 12:25-28). If He didn’t, individuals would become so self-centered and sinful that all of humanity would inevitably self-destruct.  Our job as Christians is to stay resolutely on mission and lead others to God no matter what the rest of the world is doing or not doing (Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 6:37). 

Refrain from pampering our weaknesses- 

In early December, for no obvious reason, I began to experience a lot of pain in my left ankle.  I immediately took measures to shelter the ankle. I wrapped it daily, rubbed it with icy-hot, and deliberately put most of my weight on the other leg. One day I realized the muscles in the lower part of that leg had started to atrophy and as a result my left calf was noticeably smaller than the right and I was still in constant pain. I quickly altered course and began to gently work on building strength back in that ankle. It still hurts but it’s getting better and it looks almost normal. Lord willing, I will not be permanently gimpy. It occurred to me one night as I was reading Hebrews 12:12-13 that we oftentimes trear our spiritual weaknesses the same way I treated my ankle. We shelter and protect our moral and spiritual shortcomings rather than dealing with the issues that could lead to our downfall. Tough times make it even more critical we deal decisively with shortcomings, weaknesses and moral flaws (Matthew 5:29, Hebrews 12:1-3). 

Learn to embrace God’s correction-

God is the author of pleasure, joy and celebration (Deuteronomy 16:14-15, 1st Chronicles 29:22, Luke 15:23). That said, we are not here just to experience happiness or to live a life of leisure. This is where we are transformed into the image of Jesus and where we prepare for the next world (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:9-10). This means that sometimes God will correct our thinking or deny us something we want. He doesn’t do this to be cruel but to mold us into the image of Christ and make us useful for His Kingdom.  

Understand what Christian people have in Christ- 

The writer of Hebrews tells us the temptation to leave the life of faith is always strongest in times of suffering, persecution or correction. Giving up, pulling back or losing faith inevitably results in a loss of personal growth, spiritual joy and eternal reward (Hebrews 10:35, 2nd John 1:8, Colossians 3:23-25). Conversely, faithfulness, especially in times of suffering always results in deeper joy now and greater personal reward later.  The key to staying faithful and bold when life gets hard is to remember Jesus is and all He has done for us through His suffering (Hebrews 12:22-24). When we focus on His suffering ours suddenly feels far less permanent and significant. 

Pursue holiness-

Holiness is a precondition for spending eternity with God (Hebrews 12:14) Thankfully God does not leave us on our own to figure out the process for ourselves. He gives us clear direction and step-by-step instruction on how to accomplish the task but we must be persistent and intentional about pursuing it (2ndPeter 1:3-9, Colossians 3). 

We have zero control over what we are born into or encounter in life. We do have power over how we respond to our circumstances. If we respond to difficult with an attitude of trust we will grow and God will use us. If we respond with anger, bitterness or by demanding God makes life easier for us difficulty will inevitably wreck us. 

The choice is ours. 

Some Hard Truth for all of us-

No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle- Jeremiah 8:6 NKJV

A couple of things: 

First of all, Dear Reader,

 I really do appreciate you. The fact that anyone would read what I write is an honor and privilege that never ceases to blow my mind. Second, many Christians are, for obvious reasons, leaving social media sites. If you are considering making an exit from the social media site where you found A Wise Life, please considering subscribing. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page and type in your email address. A Wise Life will be delivered to your in-box every week for as long as the Lord allows me to continue this ministry or until you unsubscribe. I promise to never sell or give your email address to any other business, blog or ministry.

Lisa

Now, this week’s post:

I have had innumerable conversations over the course of the last couple years with all sorts of people that have all gone in exactly the same direction and ended in exactly the same way. These conversations have accelerated in recent months, sadly they are become a reoccurring theme in life. 

It typically begins with me and another person complaining about the brokenness of our political system and culture. We whine about what a flaming-hot mess everything is right now and marvel at how quickly it got this way. We grouse about big government, big business, and the creepy relationship that’s evolving between the two. We debate where we think all this is going and it never lands anywhere positive or encouraging.  We moan about the collapse of our republic and bellyache about how our leaders have taken to using the Constitution as toilet paper (metaphorically speaking of course). We discuss marriage, family, children, gender, education and the general lack of interest most people have in God, repentance or the church. We marvel at the idiotic lies our culture believes about just about everything. Then just as we come to the point of exhausting these issues one or the other of us will inevitably say:

“I sure wish someone would standup and fight all this craziness”. 

It hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) the other night that there are people fighting. There is chorus of good, godly, positive voices fighting the foolishness and evil that has stubbornly taken root in our culture. Moreover, good people have been fighting this crap for decades. For as long as I can remember there has been a plethora of organizations and ministries one-hundred-percent dedicated to fighting myriad of social and political evils of our time. Furthermore, most conservatives I know routinely contact their legislative representatives about bills related to political and social issues. Those same people also regularly vote, sign petitions and donate money to political and social organizations that fight for conservative values and biblical truth. 

Then it hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) that all our do-gooding, generosity and battling for righteousness has had zero, zilch, nada impact on our politics and culture. The people who need to listen aren’t listening and those who need to change aren’t changing (Matthew 3:8). The people who need to know truth just don’t care and it’s not due to a lack of effort or money spent. 

As I was processing through all that, I was struck with an even harder truth: This is happening because the people who do know truth aren’t repenting of their sins or seeking to make changes God has told them to make. The truth is our culture is rotting from within because those in the church have wanted everyone else to change while choosing to stay exactly the same.

At this point my mind was flooded with questions. Like: 

Maybe, things are the way they are because we moaned about all the filth and depravity in the world while we watched all the same movies and television shows other people do? Maybe children are embracing the lies our culture is feeding them because we didn’t take the time to teach our own children truth? Perhaps, taking our kids to church once or twice a month, as is the habit of most “serious” Christians, is not enough to protect them from all the deception in the world; let alone make them the missionaries the world needs right now?  Maybe, our political leaders are sellouts and moral weaklings because we are? Maybe, our culture has embraced the folly of identity politics because the church has not done a good enough job walking out racial unity, reconciliation and fairness?  Maybe, God isn’t answering our prayers because we aren’t praying? Or maybe we have just been praying for all the wrong things?  Then it occurred to me that maybe, things would be different if churches had more prayer meetings and fewer planning meetings? 

I don’t know for sure. I’m just spit-balling here. 

 That said, one thing I do know for absolute certain is that many Christians (including myself) have longed for a political leader or group of political leaders who would step in and change laws so we wouldn’t have to do the hard work of changing people’s hearts so they believe and do the right things.  I know that many Christians have depended on the courts and the constitution to do things only God Himself can do and will do only with our cooperation, like keep our country Christian.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s time for Christians to repent of the sin of looking for anyone or anything except Jesus to be our savior. Instead we need to take a hard look at our own lives and our own choices. Then we need to start begging God to change us and our churches so we can be the difference makers we were called to be in this world.  

Four Steps to Breaking Free of Almost Anything-

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds- 2nd Corinthians 10:4 NIV

The world is a flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess right now. 

Addiction, divorce, sexual sin, rage, hate and offendedness have all become routine in our increasingly unhappy and unhealthy culture. Government leaders everywhere are failing to meet the needs of those they were elected to serve. Corporations are filling the leadership gap and are quickly becoming weirdly authoritarian taskmasters with zero checks on their worst impulses.   Social unrest is at an all-time high and no one really seems to know what to do about any of those issues. 

The question we should all be asking ourselves is why? 

Why are people so much messier and more evil than they were just a few years ago? Why does the world seem to be teetering on the edge of madness all the stinking time? Why has evil taken root in the hearts of so many? Why are so many becoming despotic?  Why are people so easily offended?  Why are people so incredibly vindictive and cruel when they are offended?  

Well. 

The short answer to all those questions is of course sin. People are sinners and fewer and fewer people care about sin or putting any kind of restraints on their own corrupt inclinations these days. As a result, the world and the people in it are becoming more immoral, more sinful and more wretchedly unhappy. 

Sigh. 

The longer answer is much more complicated, as longer answers always are. Due to sin in the church Christianity has lost much of its moral authority and spiritual influence in the world. This has left people without a roadmap to figure out life.  People on their own rarely make good choices which always leaves a moral vacuum and evil inevitably finds a way to fill moral vacuums. 

This has led to a proliferation of spiritual strongholds in the lives of those both inside and outside of the church. A stronghold is a place where Satan has gained a foothold in the life of a person and sin has taken root. A stronghold is a place in a person’s life that has become a fortress for the enemy. When someone has a spiritual stronghold in their life they become controlled by unhealthy behavior or thoughts. 

The Church and the people in it cannot do anything about what the world chooses to do or not do. We cannot force non-Christian people to make healthy or wise choices about how they live life.  However, Christians can make healthy choices that empower them to get and stay free of addictions, life-controlling behaviors and thoughts. In the process, we can lead other people to a better place. But, first we have to be free of our own spiritual strongholds. The most common strongholds include unforgiveness, offendedness, shame, perfectionism, anxiety, rage, addiction, productivity, insecurity, unbelief, deception, critical spirit and control.

The only way anyone can be the influence God intended us to be in this world is to get free of the strongholds in our lives. We get free through the following four practices:  

Ruthless self-examination- 

No one can get free of anything they refuse to see or acknowledge. Because the human heart is both naturally wicked and self-deceptive it is sometimes difficult to see our own sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 21:4). For that reason, is critical we examine our hearts and lives frequently for sinful behaviors and attitudes that have taken root (2nd Corinthians 13:5) or sin that we have never really dealt with (Acts 8:23). 

Once we become aware of a sin or sinful stronghold, we must:

Make prayer a priority-  

Sin that it is not confessed and prayed through can never completely be eliminated from our lives (Mark 9:29). The longer a behavior has been a part of our lives the more entrenched it will become and the longer it will take to effectively deal with it. There is a temptation for Christians to turn to worldly means to deal with spiritual issues. Christian counseling and coaching can be useful in helping us to understand why we do the sinful stuff we do and in keeping sinful habits broken. However, prayer must be our first line of defense when it comes to dealing with a sinful stronghold. 

Always choose obedience- 

In Luke 11:24-26 Jesus makes it clear that new habits and behaviors are the key to staying free of spiritual oppression and strongholds. Too often Christians who have been set free from life-controlling behaviors stupidly believe they can live any way they choose without spiritual consequences. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anytime we make the choice to willfully sin we invite demonic oppression into our lives (1st Peter 5:8, Ephesians 4:26-28). Making the choice to become increasingly more faithful and obedient to Jesus is absolutely necessary if we wish to stay free of demonic strongholds. Period

Immerse ourselves in a community of believers-

The Christian life is all about working out our brokenness after we receive salvation (Philippians 2:12). However, we were never meant to do that solo (Ecclesiastics 4:9-12). We all need a core group of people in our lives who will spur us on to better choices (Hebrews 10:23-25). 

Authentic Christians have a natural desire to make the world a better place.  However, for too long too many Christians have tried to skip over the necessary step of working through their own junk before they tried to assist the world with theirs.  This has been a miserable failure. It is time for the Christian world to face the hard reality that we can only help others with their sin after we have broken the strongholds in our own life. 

How Christians can Survive and Thrive in the Dumpster Fire that is 2021-

A couple of things: first of all, dear reader, I really do appreciate you. The fact that anyone would read what I write every week is honor and privilege God has allowed in my life that never ceases to blows my mind. Second, many Christians are, for obvious reasons, leaving social media sites. If you are considering making an exit from the social media site where you found A Wise Life, please considering subscribing. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page and type in your email address. A Wise Life will be delivered to your in-box on a weekly basis for as long as the Lord allows me to continue this ministry or until you unsubscribe. I promise to never sell or give your email address to any other business, blog or ministry. 

Lisa 

Now, this week’s post:

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”- Mark 9:28-29 NKJV

So far 2021 has been a massive dumpster-fire.  

 Wednesday afternoon, protesters entered the capitol building in Washington D.C. They were tear-gassed by police and forcibly removed from the building. Five were killed. 

The progressives on my social media feed were beyond elated by this turn of events. To them it was proof-positive conservatives and conservative Christians (who they tend to lump together) are no better than anyone else.  Any moral authority conservatives may have had pointing to the riots this summer evaporated into thin air. I have had a heavy heart all week.  It is agonizing to watch a perfectly good civilization crumble before your very eyes. 

Thankfully, none of this has taken our God by surprise. He knew it was coming and it is a part of His overall plan for this world. I do not know where all of this is heading or what the future holds. That said, there are a couple of things I do know for absolute certain, first, this is not a time for “what about ism” where we point our fingers at all the moral failings of the other side, rather than looking at our own sin and stupidity.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is a time for Christians everywhere to commit to becoming a Jesus presence in a sin-weary world (Matthew 5:9, Ephesians 4:3, Ephesians 6:15). Jesus and Jesus alone can transform the hearts of men and women and there are a lot of hearts that need transforming. In order to do that we must commit to a lifestyle of growth and maturity with the following five practices. 

First:

Become “strong in the Lord”- 

In Ephesians 6:10 Christians are told “to be strong in the Lord and His mighty power”. It is a prerequisite for effectively putting on the armor of God and strength in the Lord seems to ensure we will remain steadfast in our commitment to Jesus.  We are strong in the Lord when we are seeking the Lord and His wisdom, rather than worldly sources for direction and wisdom in living life. No one has ever become strong in anything on accident. Becoming strong in the Lord happens through a regular rhythm of self-examination, personal repentance, church attendance, Bible reading, fasting and prayer. 

Building Christian community- 

It probably will not get any easier to be a Christian anytime soon.  God wants all of us to have people in our lives who we can build up in the faith and who will build us up in the faith (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-25, 1st Thessalonians 5:11).  Building healthy community is hard work. It means making a commitment to emotional transparency, kindness, generosity, selflessness and forgiveness.  Community means we don’t get to be fake or exclusive or hold a grudge when we feel like holding a grudge.  It means we love people where they’re at and fight like crazy for them to become a better version of themselves.  

Commit to a regular routine of prayer and fasting for our world- 

In Mark nine the disciples wanted to know why they couldn’t extract a demon from a boy. They had done everything they had done before and none of those things had gotten the job done. Jesus’ heart for humanity bleeds through the pages of scripture when He says: “this kind only comes out with prayer and fasting”. Here’s the thing: we live in a world riddled with demonic strongholds because people have turned their back on God and embraced every kind of evil and moral absurdity. As Christians we cannot continue to do what we have done in the past and expect those spiritual strongholds to be broken. Instead we must commit to a regular pattern of prayer and fasting for the people we love and the situations in our world that appear to be immovable. Nothing else is going to get the job done. 

Engage wisely- 

Engaging people wisely begins with understanding that nowhere in Scripture are Christians called to convert people to a particular political ideology. Instead, we are called to make disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:19) and trust the Lord to work on everything else in their lives AFTER they come to know Jesus. Engaging wisely means we choose our battles with unbelievers carefully especially on social media.

Resist the urge to view those who think differently with contempt-

Jon Tyson points out in his book Beautiful ResistanceThe Joy of Conviction in a Culture of Compromise that it has become normal for people, even Christians to show open contempt for anyone who thinks differently from them. Contempt is an ugly and divisive form of hate. We will never reach anyone with the love of Jesus if our hearts are filled with any kind of hate. We must pray that our contempt will be replaced with compassion for the lost and morally confused.

The best thing about the time we live in is that it easy for God’s love and goodness to shine in a dark place. It is up to us to adopt daily practices that allow His light shine through us (Matthew 5:16) 

When Should a Christian Rebel?

The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind; so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again. In that day the Lord will punisthe powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below- Isaiah 20-21 NIV

In recent weeks, I have had some pretty intense internal debates regarding the topic of rebellion. Normally, I would dismiss those debates as nothing more than the strange musings of a woman who is inclined toward bouts of overthinking almost everything. However, conditions over the course of the last nine months or so have been anything but normal. Life has been radically altered, mostly not for the better. Many feel their elected leaders are not working for the good of those who elected them. As a result, discussion of rebellion has become increasingly more common even among serious Christians who would normally be more predisposed to pray for an authority figure than rebel against them (Romans 13, Titus 3:1, 1st Timothy 3;1-3, 1st Peter 2:13). All that has gotten me thinking about when, if ever, rebellion is defensible in the life of a believer.  

So.

God is categorically not a fan of rebellion. Nowhere in the Bible is rebellion presented in a positive light or as a good thing (Deuteronomy 13:5, Joshua 24:19, 2nd Thessalonians 2:3).   In 1st Samuel 15:23 God equates rebellion with witchcraft. Witchcraft was and still is a serious sin.  (Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10). Witchcraft was such an egregious sin that witches, witchcraft, sorcery and divination were not to be tolerated in any part of Hebrew society (2nd Chronicles 33:6, Micah 5:11-13). The apostle Paul restates the Old Testament prohibition against witchcraft calling it an “act of the flesh” and placing it in the same category of sins as hatred, idolatry, debauchery and orgies (Galatians 5:20). All that to say, when God equates any sin with the sin of witchcraft it is a big theological deal that deserves our full attention. 

God is also a God of justice. Nothing angers God more than when powerful people use their power to oppress, persecute or bully the powerless, poor or defenseless (Exodus 23:6, Isaiah 10:1-3, Malachi 3:5, Matthew 23:1-36).  Injustice occurs when those in power intentionally behave in a way that causes harm to the less powerful. God’s people are called to bring about justice in every and all situations (Isaiah 1:17). One aspect of “doing justice” (Malachi 6:8) involves calling out, and sometimes even working to remove leaders who use their power for selfish ends or to hurt those who lack the power to protect themselves from the edicts of leaders who have become self-serving and callous towards their fellow humans. 


On the surface at least, rebellion and witchcraft appear to have little in common. Witchcraft is the act of soliciting, petitioning or manipulating evil spirits (servants of Satan) to achieve an end that benefits the person preforming the witchcraft. Rebellion, on the other hand, is an attitude of the heart, that may or may not end in an evil deed. 

However. 

The story of king Saul indicates witchcraft and rebellion both involve and invite demonic activity into the life of both the witch and the rebellious person. Saul started well as a leader but he had a heart that was bent towards rebellion (1st Samuel 15). He eventually became demon possessed (1st Samuel 16:14-15, 1stSamuel 18:10). By the end of his life he was consulting a medium (witch) rather than God for wisdom (1stSamuel 28:3-19). He died by suicide. Someone who practices witchcraft is likely much more aware of the forces they are employing, while a rebellious person is likely ignorant of the demonic activity they have invited into their lives through the sinful attitudes of their heart. Witchcraft and rebellion are alike because both sins inevitably lead to spiritual strongholds that are very difficult to break (Mark 9:14-29) 

So.

We can assume it is categorically not acceptable or wise to for a Christian to embrace or even dabble around with the sin of rebellion.  Rebellion invites demonic strongholds into one’s life and heart. No smart Christian wants any part of a demonic stronghold Those things are brutal. Trust me, I know. 

However.

Sometimes bringing about justice necessitates actively working against established power structures. Working to bring about justice can look a lot like rebellion when it goes against the prevailing power structures and sometimes a heart of rebellion can be wrapped up in cloak of righteousness. Humanity has a long history of using justice as a pretext for rebellion. It is not unusual for those who say they are liberating others from injustice to turn out to be far more corrupt than the leaders they worked to overthrow.  

Sigh. 

So, how does a Christian know if they are being rebellious or wanting to bring justice to an unjust situation?

It all comes down to the state your heart and the only one who can determine whether or not your heart is righteous or rebellious is you and it is absolutely critical to do that before they attack or undermine a prevailing power structure. 

Our spiritual well-being literally depends on it. 

The Real Evil Behind COVID-19-

For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them– Ecclesiastes 9:12 NKJV 

Words are powerful. 

Because words are powerful there are words I don’t use lightly or often. 

Evil is one of those words. 

Human beings are absolutely capable of great evil (Genesis 6:5, Matthew 12:34-35, John 3:19), but most are not intentionally evil. Most of the time, most people are just misguided, deceived or acting out of their fallenness. All of that inevitably results in folly. Foolishness often leads to evil but it is rarely the intended result.  Conversely, things are neither good nor bad, they just are. 

That being said. 

Humans sometimes do stupid stuff with things and evil results. Such is the case with coronavirus. COVID-19 is neither good or evil. It just is. Viruses are incapable of being evil. They are just germs. Mindless, soulless, microorganism’s completely incapable of any kind of evil machinations or wicked deeds.  However, our foolish, fear-filled human response to this virus has resulted in all kinds of weirdness and evil. 

Beginning with: 

Coronavirus is causing us to voluntarily destroy a crucial aspect of our humanness –

Human beings were literally made to live in community. People were made in the image of a God who exists in a perpetual state of community and we were made to be like Him (Genesis 1:26, Matthew 28:19, John 10:30). Because community is an essential piece of what makes us human, without community people either become peculiar or despairing or both. Coronavirus has become evil because we have allowed it to isolate the people who need people the most.  Drug and alcohol abuse is up and suicide rates have skyrocketed all due to a lack of community. It is critical Churches lead the way in forming safe community for those who are lacking it. This might mean making regular phone calls to people who live alone and work in isolation. It might mean encouraging small groups to get together on a regular basis for prayer and fellowship. If the group is kept small and is made up of people who see each other regularly it is safer than people being left alone without any kind of healthy interaction in their lives.

COVID is making too many Christians spiritually slothful-  

Church attendance really is one of the most basic manifestations of Christian obedience. Church attendance is clearly commanded in Scripture (Hebrews 10:24-25). If a follower of Jesus does not take the time to attend some sort of church service it is highly doubtful they will spend significant time in prayer or Bible study. Period.  Both online and in person church attendance is down in recent months. This indicates that all healthy spiritual activity is on a decline at least among some Christians. 

COVID is breeding distrust and division-

It is no longer socially acceptable to say two things can be true about COVID at the same time. For example: it’s not okay to say the social and spiritual isolation created by COVID is dangerous and unhealthy. Neither is it okay to say the virus is dangerous (especially for some groups). Try it. I dare you. Get on a social media website and say those two things. You will be attacked on every side and called out as a numbskull and a heretic. Unless we can get to a place where we can talk about this issue rationally, with both sides conceding that the virus and the way our society is handling the virus (lockdowns, school closures, forced unemployment) are both dangerous we will never move forward in a healthy, life-affirming way.  We will continue to view people with alternative views as the enemy and if we continue down that path we are finished as a civilization. We will devolve into a dystopic dark age.  

Coronavirus has become a driver of corruption- 

In many places around the globe politicians have made rules without placing an end date on them or without putting in place a fixed set of measurable standards for lifting the restrictions. Because absolute power corrupts absolutely anytime politicians are allowed to make all-powerful decisions there is a pretty good chance they will never willingly retract the decisions that have given them absolute power. This creates a problem that must be solved by savvy voters who are willing to work at the grassroots level to get unreasonable or unnecessary rules changed or lifted. 

We are not learning what we are supposed to learn-  

Typically, a benefit of a disaster like a pandemic is that silly humans learn that no one—no matter how significant or influential gets off this planet alive.  Being reminded of this crucial truth helps us remember that the principal task of every person born is to prepare wisely for their inevitable demise. At least a million people have died from COVID and rather than having conversations about death and how to prepare for death (Acts 3:19) our culture has neatly avoided the subject of death by turning to lockdowns as a way to attempt to cheat death. In the process our culture has robbed itself of the one positive thing that might come out of this whole ugly muddle. Sigh. 

Most of the problems created by coronavirus are a direct result of living in a post-Christian culture. Because our culture has lost touch with Christian truth many in our culture have become isolated. Others have become corrupt fools who think they can cheat death. God made the Church for times exactly like the ones we live in. Being the people, our world needs us to be means being diligent, brave, faithful and willing to have hard conversations with a confused and hurting world (Deuteronomy 31:6, Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 4:15-25).