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 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. 

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. 

Five Things Christians Should Always Celebrate Even in the Darkest of Times-

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn- Psalm 89:15-17 NIV

There is not a whole to celebrate right now.  

Everything feels kind of dark and hard right now. 2021 seems to be determined to follow in the footsteps of 2020.  Destructive philosophies have taken root and many western countries seem intent on committing cultural suicide. The thin veneer of civilization is getting thinner every day and governments all over the globe are struggling to get a grip on the growing chaos.  Even people who don’t worry all that much are anxious, depressed and fearful on some level.  

Furthermore.

There is lot of spiritual fruit for Christians to grieve right now.  The western church has sinned by majoring on spiritual minors for far too long. Church leaders have focused on the number of butts in the seats and bucks in the offering plate rather than on making disciples and the state of people’s souls.  We have sought the applause of the unbelieving world, watered-down truth and exhibited contempt rather than love to sinners.   As a result, legions of people are so morally confused they literally believe right is wrong and wrong is right (Isaiah 5:20). Christians should grieve all sin because God looks on those who mourn sin with favor. (1st Kings 8:46-48, 2nd Chronicles 32:26, Ezekiel 6:9, Proverbs 1:23).

All that being said.

God’s people are called to celebrate God and His greatness no matter their circumstances (Leviticus, 23:40-42, Psalm 100, 2nd Samuel 6:21, 1st Corinthians 5:8). Hezekiah became King of Judah during some of the darkest days of Israel’s history. The nation was deeply divided. Both the North and the South were in a state of profound moral, spiritual and economic decline. The nation was weak militarily and threatened by powerful enemies on all sides. However, in the middle of all that gloom and doom Hezekiah issued a decree that the whole nation should come together and celebrate the Passover like they had never celebrated it before. The result of their choice to celebrate God’s goodness in the midst of their pain and grief was their prayers were heard and revival resulted (2nd Chronicles chapters 30-31). Despite all the ugliness in the world there are five things Christians can and should celebrate right now: 

Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed- 

Every day we draw breath brings us that much closer to the day when our earthly problems and struggles will be nothing more than a distant memory (Revelation 21:3-5). That’s something to celebrate. 

Jesus is not missing in action- 

True story. It might appear that this sin-weary world is completely out of control and teetering on the edge of madness. However, the chaos we are experiencing is not without purpose. I do not know where all of this will end but I do know God sees our hearts and will ultimately lead those who remain joyful in affliction (Romans 12:12) into a reward that is infinitely better than anything our feeble minds can imagine (Revelation 21:1-27). 

Everyone will eventually answer to God for their choices- 

Okay, so, I get that this feels like a weirdly dark thing to celebrate. However, sometimes life is hard.  The Bible teaches there will come a time when all Christians everywhere will suffer at the hands of evil people who will refuse to repent of their sin (Daniel 7:21, Matthew 24:9-12, Revelation 6:9-11). It will appear for a season that those people are getting away with their evil treatment God’s people.  Nothing will be further from the truth. God wants His people to be comforted by the truth He will reward the righteous for their good deeds and punish the wicked for their evil deeds (2nd Thessalonians 1:5-10).  We must not allow the sinful choices of others to erode our belief that God is good. Rather, we should pray for the salvation of our enemies and trust God to bring justice in His timing.  

God is still in the business of transforming people- 

The good thing about bad times is that God frequently uses personal pain to draw people closer to Himself and into His Kingdom. This taking place right now. I have observed that God has used this very painful season to reveal the idols and worldly desires that have taken root in the lives of God’s people. As result, many Christians are experiencing a renewed obedience and a desire to serve God with their whole being. In the past this has always been a clear sign revival (unsaved people coming to faith in Jesus) is always just around the corner. 

And finally, 

Christians can celebrate God even in the darkest places because for Christians life really is good even when it’s bad. Christians experience things no one else can. Christians experience joy even in the darkest valleys and community in the midst of personal and shared crisis. We experience peace in chaos and get to see God bring hope and transformation to those who trust in Him. 

That is worth celebrating. 

How Christian Atheists are Killing the Church –

  Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching- John 14:23-24 NIV

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 me to have 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, or even if you are not, please consider 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 for this week’s post: 

A while back someone asked me if I thought Christianity was losing its power. The person asking was not a hater or a jerk, nor were they attempting to throw shade on Jesus or the church. On the contrary, the person asking is a believer who is genuinely concerned that the Christian faith appears to losing its ability to change people and transform the chaotic situations that are becoming increasingly more common in our world. The Christian faith has made massive inroads into the world in the last century but at the same time the people are becoming more evil, more creative in spreading evil and far less interested in learning what God has to say about much of anything.  

Sigh.

I will not lie. The question shook me. Seriously. It forced me think about the how and the why of where we have landed. After some thought I decided that I simply cannot accept the notion that Jesus has somehow lost His ability to transform people or heal situations. If Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and I believe He is then problem can’t be with God (Hebrews 13:8). 

The problem is with us. 

Too many Christians have become what I call “functional atheists” or Christian atheists. Functional atheists are people who believe in God and attend church, many functional atheists even routinely read their Bibles and pray. However, in their day-to-day lives they don’t live like they believe God is real.  Functional atheists have come into the kingdom of God but have never had the deepest areas of their lives touched by God’s transformational power. They make Christianity weak because most of the time God chooses to do His most powerful work through people. Therefore, if Christians are spiritually weak then God’s power will be limited in certain situations. Not because God lacks power but because He will only work through those who are faithful and obedient (Mark 6:4-6).   

Following are five signs you might just be a functional atheist. 

You have ongoing struggles with sexual immorality- 

Fear of God is a clear indicator that a person is in the process of being spiritually transformed. Fearing God is not about being afraid of God (1st John 4:18). Someone who fears God genuinely believes God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. God has nothing good to say about sexual immorality or those who make a practice of it (Romans 1:18-28, 1st Corinthians 5:9-11, 1st Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19). Because God is so clear about how He feels about this issue, sexual sin is an indicator that person does not really fear God. When a person doesn’t fear God they inevitably end up living like an atheist. 

Misplaced faith-

Christians are commanded to put their faith and trust in God alone (Proverbs 3:5-6, Nahum 1:7). Too often, as believers we do trust God but we trust other things just a little bit more. We trust things like political figures, education, our finances, our social standing and jobs to protect us, give us peace and provide comfort in times of trouble. When we put our trust in anything but God to give us comfort, protection and peace those things inevitably end up functioning as idols in our lives. Idols never deliver what God can and trusting them causes us to live like the atheists around us.  

You feel contempt rather than compassion for most people-  

This world is full of sin and hate. Christians are called to hate sin and cast-off  foolish and sinful behavior (Matthew 7:24, 2nd Corinthians 6:14). It is all too easy to allow our hatred of sin and desire to be free from worldly ties to morph into contempt for sinners and their stupidity. The problem with this is we are never called to feel hate or contempt for anyone and when we do we look more like our atheist neighbor than Jesus. 

There are places in your life that are unknown to others and untouched by God- 

Becoming a Christian is supposed to be a comprehensive, life transforming event. The only catch is that God will only change the parts of our lives we give Him access to. We give God access to our lives when we make regular practices of Bible reading, self-examination and prayer. This is how it works: When we read the Bible, we learn how God wants us to think and live. When we make a regular practice of examining ourselves to see if our lives match up with Scripture God will then tell us when we pray what needs to be changed in our lives in order for us to grow into the people He has called us to be. If we aren’t constantly seeking to grow we will go backwards in our spiritual maturity and eventually our lives will look more and more like the atheists around us. 

Because the world is so broken it is more important than ever that Christians live lives that embrace the truth of Scripture because it is only way people will see the power of God in this world.  

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) 

The Only Three Things That Could Possibly Give our World a Hopeful Future-

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me– Psalm 86:5-7 ESV

Human beings were created to shape and impact the world. Consequently, all humans have an inborn desire to make a difference in sphere of influence (Genesis 1:28).  This fundamental human longing becomes magnified when a person becomes a Christian (Acts 4:12, Ephesians 1:13, James 1:21). God literally saves people from their sins for the purpose of doing good in the world (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, most Christians spend a good portion of their lives trying to figure out what exactly God wants them to do. There is nothing wrong with a Christian searching for their God ordained purpose in this life. 

However.

Sometimes Christian people miss the forest for the trees when it comes to finding purpose. We can get so caught-up in trying to discover what God wants us to do as individuals we forget there are things God wants all Christians to do all the time, regardless of who they are or what their individual calling is. There are some non-negotiables in the Christian life. All Christians are called to behave in a holy manner (Hebrews 12:14), serve in some capacity (Romans 12:5-8), forgive others (Matthew 6:15), practice thankfulness (Colossians 3:15), be generous with their resources (Luke 6:38, Romans 12:13) and love others sacrificially (1st Corinthians 13, 1st Peter 1:22, 1st John 3:11). 

Prayer is another thing Gods calls all Christians to do regardless of their individual purpose or calling (Matthew 5:44, 1st Thessalonians 5:17, Colossians 4:2). 

Okay, so.

I would be a giant liar if I were to I tell you I understand everything there is to understand about prayer. I don’t. In fact, after thirty years of following Jesus the particulars of how and why prayer works is still something of a mystery to me.   That said, my experience has taught me that prayer is a powerful thing that is frequently underestimated by most believers. Prayer transforms people and situations in ways nothing else can. 

We live in a world that is in desperate need of all sorts of transformation in a myriad of different areas. Every day we are confronted with new and completely crazy-town ideas the world has decided are true and totally reasonable or with a new law or restriction that makes absolutely no sense at all. That’s where we come in. I believe there are three prayers Christians can pray that have the power to bring real and lasting transformation to this sin-sick world.  Christians should be praying for:

A moral awakening- 

The whole notion of morality and goodness has been turned on its head in the last couple of decades (Isaiah 5:20). Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the rainbow Jesus movement. In this movement that has successfully infiltrated the church behaviors and activities God declared to be wrong and sinful long ago are now being presented as good, helpful, wholesome and the normal way to live (Deuteronomy 18:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, 1st Corinthians 6:9 1st Timothy 1:10). This new morality has become so rooted in our societal thinking that one will change their minds about these things unless the spirit of God touches their hearts and shows them truth. Christians should urgently pray for a moral awakening and the repentance that always comes with a moral awakening. Without it there is little hope for transformation and no hope for revival. 

Truth will be revealed and received-

We live in an age where are lies are being told and believed about everything from sexuality and gender to what makes people happy to what exactly is safe and unsafe. Some lies are being told out of evil motives by people who desire to have power over others. Other lies are being perpetrated by deceived people who sincerely believe the lies are truth.   When men and women reject God and what He says is true (Romans 1:18-32) people become inclined to believe lies about every aspect of life. We are currently at a tipping point where more people believe lies than truth. This means Christians must make a daily practice of praying that truth about life, God and current events will be revealed and received by those who have been misled (Ephesians 6:14, John 8:32). 

The church will be ready for God to answer our prayers-

Most Christians I know are praying for revival right now. This is a good thing to pray for. However, we have to understand that revival simply will not come to the world unless the church is ready for it. One of the responsibilities of the church is to make converts into mature disciples of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). An irrefutable law of life is that all creatures produce after their own kind. This is every bit as true in the spiritual realm as it is in the physical (Genesis 1, Matthew 23:15). Weak, unhealthy, self-focused Christians inevitably produce weak, unhealthy, self-focused disciples.   Christians prepare for revival by becoming the people God has called us to. This means casting off sin and seeking to live lives that are one-hundred percent God honoring (Hebrews 12:1). 

These prayers are critical because our world is caught in a spiritual battle the likes of which the world has not seen in centuries (Ephesians 6:10-12). Without focused prayer nothing will change and without change our world is headed for all kinds of disaster. 

Don’t Let Fear Run the Show-

The people, the men of Israel, showed themselves courageous and lined up for battle again in the place where they had lined themselves up on the first day– Judges 20:22 NASB

We live in scary times. 

Seriously.

What with a bizarre pandemic, seemingly endless social chaos, shutdowns, widespread unemployment, riots, censorship and political leaders worldwide taking a more authoritarian stance than at any other time in recent history.  This is a legitimately weird time to be alive and there is much to worry about. Over the course of the past nine months I have felt moments of panic and I have seen more fear in more people than at any time in my life.  Now I know why God tells His people over and over again in His word not to fear, to be courageous and to trust Him in all circumstances (Psalm 27:1). 

There are two truths Christians should understand regarding fear. First, no one in the history of the human race has ever made a really great decision out of fear.  Second, at its root fear is a profoundly spiritual thing. Anytime we allow fear to take root in our lives we immediately stop trusting God. When we stop trusting God we hand power to the enemy and effectively give him authority over us (1st Peter 5:6-8). We then lose our ability to think clearly and logically about issues and we believe any lie the devil wants to tell us. No matter what is actually true we become convinced we are unsafe and inevitably do one of two equally stupid things: we either act swiftly without thinking through all the possible consequences. We then do damage to ourselves and/or others with our impulsive actions. Conversely, we can become paralyzed in a mental maze of what-ifs that leads to inaction. Our lack of decisiveness nearly always creates a chain of events that we have no control over. Fear is especially dangerous for Christians because it affects our ability to communicate effectively with God in prayer (Philippians 4:6, 1st Peter 4:7). This causes Christians to be spiritually ineffective on nearly every level and therefore useless to those who desperately need help, hope and something tangible to hold on to.

 Our current situation is a perfect example of what can happen when fear is given free reign. The most disastrous consequences of the pandemic have not come from the virus itself.  But rather from dumb and impulsive choices leaders have made out of fear. Those same leaders have universally refused to admit their folly and instead pridefully double-downed on their choices. Fear causes non-Christians to panic in the face of circumstances outside of human control.  This can lead people to foolishly hand control of their lives over to human leaders who promise them safety and security in uncertain times.   

Sigh.

More than anything our world needs brave, clear-minded Christians right now. Therefore, any fear we feel must be dealt with quickly, wisely and aggressively. Following are some do’s and don’ts for when we feel fear taking over and threatening to run the show.  

Don’t 

 Ask God to make it go away- 

Asking God to simply make our fear go away never works.  This is because God loves us and He wants us to learn something from everything in this life including scary things like fear.  

Simply accept it as normal-

To some degree fear is normal in a fallen world where real danger exists.  That said, there are plenty of normal things that are neither good nor even kind of okay (sin, hatred, injustice, disease). Fear may be normal but it is never healthy to allow it to control our existence.  We are told eighty-eight times in the Bible to not be afraid or fearful. God would not bother being so repetitive on the subject if He wanted us to accept fear as a routine part of our existence. 

Lean into it-

No one really likes to be afraid or anxious. However, paradoxically fear has a strangely addictive quality to it. If we lean into feelings of fear too often or for too long we get to the place where fear feels normal and almost like an old friend. When this happens, we become weirdly superstitious about our fears and may even secretly believe something bad will happen if we stop being fearful. 

Instead of ignoring our fears, accepting them or leaning into them God wants us to examine our fears when we feel them and: 

Ask God to help us understand what is driving the fear- 

 Some fears are rational. If a crazy guy is holding a gun to your head you have legitimate reason to be afraid.  However, most of the time the thing driving our fear (even legitimate fears that make sense) is a lack of trust in God. When we understand that we understand why God hates fear and why fear is a curse when it’s allowed to run wild in our lives (Deuteronomy 28:58-66).  

Ask God to help us know Him better- 

The key to dealing with fear effectively is knowing God and walking closely with Him. The only way to really know God is to ask Him daily to reveal Himself to us. The better we get to know God the less power fear has over us and the more hope we have to offer the rest of the world.   

Some Words to A Worried Church-

Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following him- 2nd Kings 18:5-6a NIV

Most church people would probably agree the outcome of the latest election was not exactly a win. At best, it was a colossal disappointment, at worst it could indicate some tough times ahead. The whole messy mess was kicked to the courts and it’s possible mandated recounts could result in a surprise turn in the election results. In the unlikely event that happens, no one will be more joyful than this girl. 

In the meantime. 

Believers should do a little soul searching and self-examination. Self-examination empowers the Church to move forward from disappointments and setbacks in a way that better equips us for whatever happens to be next on God’s agenda. Christians have historically believed God is ultimately sovereign over the affairs of men and women (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 46:10, Revelation 22:13). We believe nothing on earth happens without God’s foreknowledge and the only thing that takes place without His explicit consent is sin. 

Therefore.

The results of this election are no accident. We cannot blame the outcome entirely on cheating and other shenanigans. Cheating is not outside of God’s purview. Therefore, if there was cheating involved then God allowed the cheating to take place. If we believe in the sovereignty of God then we also have to believe the outcome of the election is in the will of God. Like it or not  

Sigh. 

 This turn of events does beg some questions, like: what now? What are we supposed to conclude from this outcome? Does it mean God is on the side of abortion, censorship and a castration of the U.S constitution? Did this occur because God loves socialism or because He thinks court-packing is a good idea or because He wants churches shut down? 

Nothing I have learned about God from Scripture or personal experience would indicate any of those things are true. 

However, sometimes God wants His people to get hold of truth so badly He will bring difficulty into our lives to get us to turn to Him for wisdom and help rather than looking to the world for insight, wisdom or help. There are at least three takeaways God wants His people to glean from the current political situation. If we don’t come to understand these truths quickly we could be stuck in this uncomfortable place longer than any of us would like.  

The first is: 

We cannot depend on government to be our source of security-

 I do not think of myself as a person who places an inordinate amount of hope or faith in the authorities, documents or institutions of this world. If someone had asked me a month ago how much faith I put in the constitution or the president to make me feel safe and secure, I would have smugly replied that my faith is in God alone. Thank you very much. However, after some serious post-election prayer I realized that I felt significantly safer and more secure as a Christian last month than I do this month. There is nothing wrong with wanting a leader who protects our values and way of life. However, it is categorially un-wise to expect real security of any kind in a world broken by sin. It is even more foolish to trust anyone or anything more than we trust God. If you felt safer last month than you do this month it means you’ve put your trust in something or someone besides God. God wants us to ask ourselves what would happen to our faith in God if America ceased to exist. If that would cause your faith to disappear your faith is not really in God it’s in America and the security America provides. 

Even if everything is not okay it will still be okay- 

We all want everything to be okay and for good reason. No one in their right mind actually LIKES difficulties, pain and suffering. That said, knowing Jesus as our Lord and savior means that even if the worst happens we will be okay because to be absent from the body means we will be present with Jesus (2nd Corinthians 5:7-9). It is critical we remember this truth the next time our anxiety about the current situation starts to get the better of us (Isaiah 35:4) Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:6).  

This world is not all there is- 

 This generation is overrun with modern conveniences that provide regular people with luxury and comfort previous generations never could have imagined.   The problem with all this ease and comfort is it’s made life on earth a little too agreeable and most Christians are a lot fonder of this world than our spiritual ancestors were (1st John 2:15, John 12:25). As a result, many Christians love the world more than is spiritually healthy or wise.  I suspect God is using the discomfort and fear many of us feel over our current political situation to remind Christians we are to long for heaven rather than look for a political leader who will create a utopia here on earth.

Barring some sort of a miracle life will not be getting any easier for the body of Christ anytime soon. That does not mean life won’t be good. Life will be good because our God is good. If our faith is in Him, and only Him there is no way we will be shaken.     

What to do When too Much Becomes too Much-


Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test  yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2nd Corinthians 13:5 NIV 

2020 has been a bumpy year for everyone and it’s not getting any smoother. A contentious election, endless social strife, race riots, job losses, censorship, lockdowns, school closures and the weirdest pandemic in history have made for a season unlike any anyone has ever experienced.  No one has come out of this crazy-town year without a story to tell and few of them are amusing. Lamentably, there’s almost two months left to go before the stupid thing is finally over. God in His sovereignty is the only one who knows what will happen between now and then.  

Sigh. 

Times like the ones we live in take a toll, psychologically, emotionally and financially. All that can affect us spiritually if the tough times drag on for too long (like say ten solid months). It’s not always easy to know when stress has become too much for us and we have stepped over the line into a place of spiritual unhealth. In 2nd Corinthians 13:5 the Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “examine themselves” frequently. Times like ours demand frequent self-checks. Following are five indicators all is not well on a spiritual level. 

Beginning with:  

Prayer is a struggle or worse yet you gave up long ago-

Christians are commanded to pray continually about every issue under the sun (Romans 12:12, 1st Thessalonians 5:17, 1st Timothy 2:1-3). This is not because God needs our prayers. God has no needs (Acts 17:24-25). Christians do need to pray because prayer builds connection with God. Ongoing connection with God transforms how we think, feel and behave over time. Prayer also empowers fallible human beings to see people and events the way God sees those things. Without a regular prayer life spiritual health becomes nothing more than a pipedream. A weak or non-existent prayer life is proof positive a spiritual realignment is needed.   

You have morphed into worst version of yourself-

Everyone has a unique worst version of themselves. Mine is introverted, distrustful, and weirdly obsessed with minor details. Yours might be dramatic, braggy and fixated on personal pleasure. Another person might be critical, unforgiving, and intolerant of differences of opinion when they are at their worst. Someone else might be fearful and closed off to new experiences.  It’s vital we know who we are, and have a firm grasp on what our “normal” looks like. When our normal morphs into something different and less than healthy than our best selves it’s a sure sign we need a spiritual readjustment. Pronto.  

Politics take precedent-

Politics are not trivial. There is little in this life not touched in some way by politics. Furthermore, one facet of being a good Christian is being an involved citizen, which means taking our civic responsibilities seriously, that cannot be done without some understanding of politics. (1st Peter 2:13). That said, earthly kingdoms will all pass away eventually. Politics are strictly an earthly issue.  (Philippians 3:20).  God calls you and I to adopt an eternal perspective and remember it is only what we do in and for the Kingdom of God that truly has an impact. If you find your attention is entirely focused on the political realm God wants you to change your focus. 

You’re afraid all the time-

Fear and anxiety are a little bit like the check engine light in a car. Feelings of fear and anxiety are not the real problem. They are just an indicator there is another problem that needs to be found and addressed. Sometimes Christians get far too focused on the emotions of fear and anxiety and don’t stop to ask God why to reveal to us the real reason those volatile emotions are out of control. Fear and anxiety are almost always a sign there is an area of our lives we haven’t completely surrendered to God. 

Spiritual community is not a priority- 

Spiritual community is mandatory for followers of Jesus (2nd Thessalonians 1:3, Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25). Christians are called to meet together regularly, care for each other in times of trouble and love one another other deeply and sacrificially. The only way to do those things effectively is in spiritual community. Community is about more than church attendance although church is the place to begin building spiritual community. Spiritual community forms when a group of Jesus followers commit themselves to the good and growth of the rest of the group. There are layers to community. Every Christian should attend a local church. Christians should also have a group of fifteen to thirty Christian friends they routinely fellowship with. Christians also need a smaller group of three to five people we can go deep with and be real with on a regular basis. If any of those layers of community are lacking, there is a problem. 

Any one of the above is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. All have the same simple solution: a shift of priorities to make more time for the things that God says matter most. This might mean disconnecting from 24/7 news or social media for a while. It will likely mean cutting activity to make space for spiritual community. It definitely takes more prayer, more reflection and more repentance. It takes more of what feeds our souls and less of the things that leave us feeling spiritually tired.