A sure sign of an unhealthy church – and a stagnant Christian – is the neglect of basic spiritual disciplines. Congregations who don’t read their Bibles, pray, serve, fast, etc. aren’t thriving congregations. I’ve written about biblical illiteracy before, but lately, it’s prayerlessness that’s on my mind.
When we approach the throne of grace in prayer, we see ourselves as we truly are: helpless in our strength, reliant on Him. You can be sure you’re sick with pride when you don’t pray as you ought.
A default attitude of self-sufficiency and prayerlessness shows just how prideful we truly are. If we think we can live the Christian life in our strength, we won’t pray. When we trust in our understanding and ability, we reject God’s infinite wisdom in favor of our trivial thoughts.
You see, pride is a terribly serious sin. God abhors it. In many of the biblical instructions to pray, we are first exhorted to humble ourselves.
Take a look at 2 Chron 7:14. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
The first step of prayer is a humble spirit. The Scripture tells us three times that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). It is not fitting to contrive a pious sense of false humility, but rather, we must come into agreement with God about our lowly state.
We often hear the next passage about anxiety independent from its preceding verse. Out of context, we might pride ourselves on God’s care for us. But no – back up one verse and it clearly states we are to:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).”
Prayer itself is an open admission of dependency and reliance on God. We cry out for help to our Abba Father, submitting to Him in all things.
“Independent strength isn’t spiritual maturity, but a delusion. Weak and joyful dependence is the result of spiritual maturity” – Paul David Tripp
We recently attended a local conference on biblical manhood. We were so excited to go, but were disheartened by some of the teachings there.
It was a tremendous blessing to hear Dr. George Grant and Voddie Baucham preach the Word faithfully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other speakers. There were some good things said, and I believe they tried to be faithful to Scripture, but they hugely missed the mark.
Throughout the conference, I was on high alert knowing about the conference’s affiliation with Doug Wilson and his Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). Wilson has been involved in several serious scandals and though he somehow remains well-respected within the reformed community, in my opinion, he is not even qualified to be an elder.
Throughout the conference, there was a strong emphasis on “biblical” patriarchy as the hope of families and society. By their account of things, it is man’s responsibility, by ruling their homes properly, to “fix the broken world.”
Within “biblical patriarchy,” there is a wide range of beliefs. While I believe Baucham and Grant hold this view, it seems they are on the opposite end of the spectrum as Wilson and his followers.
The Theological Problem
One of the speakers was describing a man’s role to love his wife like Christ loved the church. Everything sounded good until he concluded his thoughts with, “and it’s the wife’s job to give him something worth dying for.”
My jaw dropped. There were hearty amens, but I wanted to cry. Don’t they know what the gospel is all about?
The Gospel Solution
Marriage is meant to reflect the gospel, so we must first rightly understand that sweet good news if we are to rightly understand marriage. The church didn’t *give* Christ anything worth dying for. God’s people were wretched, rebellious, unfaithful, and undeserving.
The “marriage” of God and Israel was so horribly marred by the people’s unfaithfulness that He created a new covenant to make reconciliation possible. But God loved them unconditionally, so much so that He was crucified on their behalf.
She could not possibly muster up any worth in her own strength – her value was assigned at the cross because of the price God paid for her. This is the foundation of the church: His faithfulness, not our’s.
His love is not based on our merit or desirability. Quite the opposite. A husband’s love for His wife is to emulate the kindness and selflessness of Christ. The scripture says it’s God’s kindness that draws us to repentance. So, husbands, if you want your wife’s heart, you must be kind, drawing her in with selfless and sacrificial love.
Likewise, wives are to submit – or yield – to their husbands’ leadership and pursuit. It is not a patriarchal rule that wins a wife’s heart, but Spirit-led servant-based pursuit that cultivates a desire for willing submission in her heart. This gospel – and this marriage – is beautiful.
The warped view of marriage that says women must give something to earn their husband’s obedience to Christ’s command, is a self-serving perversion of Scripture. The enemy delights in the bondage and suffering this kind of theology reaps.
I direct these spiritually abusive men to 1 Peter 3:7 which says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
I remember early in our marriage there were a couple of times I was so angry with my husband that I tried to sleep on the couch. I don’t even remember what happened between us, but I felt justified. I wasn’t. It was rebellious and unfaithful of me to leave his side so adamantly.
Nevertheless, despite my waywardness, he pursued me. After first giving me time to cool off, he came to me and carried me back to bed. I was cold toward him, but his unconditional love and kindness won my heart. I loved him so much more because of his radical devotion to reconciliation. It was beautiful.
I do not recommend testing the limits in this. It would have been better to not have that drastic separation between us at all. But alas, God truly works all things together for our good and His glory. He used my husband to mirror Jesus’s faithful pursuit.
With such a warped view of the gospel taught so casually, how can we know who to trust for sound teaching? We visit many good books and listen to many good preachers, but we must abide in Christ – Who is the Word of God. Stay in your Bible. Get familiar with the whole counsel of Scripture so you can know God more fully.
Would I recommend this conference? Because of its affiliations with Doug Wilson, CREC, and New Saint Andrews College, that’s hard to answer. There’s certainly room for caution. I can say I’m glad I went, and the conversations it stirred amongst brothers and sisters made it well worth attending for me. As always, all Christians should be like the Bereans who searched the Scripture daily to test whether what they heard preached was true.
I am grieved by the number of godly women who have been counseled to simply be more submissive in hopes that their husbands will be “won without a word by their good conduct (1 Peter 3:1),” without also being taught the true nature of their role as a helper.
When encouraging women whose husbands are ensnared by sin, we don’t want to guilt trip her to action. We want to empower her with the truth that equips her for battle.
While submission is both an essential and lovely part of the marriage dynamic (Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1), it’s not the end of the story.
To better understand marriage, we must first rightly understand the Godhead – the Trinity. Within God, there is God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son. In Himself, there is perfect harmony and fellowship among His three persons. While the relationship of Father and Son is seen clearly throughout the earthly life of Jesus, Holy Spirit’s relational role is less obvious.
Jesus teaches His disciples about the Spirit in John 16. He says He will come to, “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” He is called “a helper.”
In Genesis 2:18, God said it was not good for man to be alone, so He made a helper fit for him.
What is the true nature of a helper?
“The Hebrew word used here is ezer meaning help, succor, or aid. This word is used 21 times in the Old Testament, and it is most often used to describe God in His relationship to His people (haleyjmaddox.com).”
Holy Spirit is a helper, and so is woman. The ideal family dynamic reflects the Trinity: fathers reflecting our Heavenly Father, mothers reflecting Holy Spirit, and children reflecting Jesus.
That seems foreign (and perhaps even shocking) to us, being that our families are so ravaged by sin it can be hard to imagine how they truly ought to be. We must keep our eyes on God, not the world around us.
The wife’s role as helper is more akin to a military aid than a household servant. This biblical truth empowers women to walk confidently, nurturing the spiritual wellbeing of the people in their families. While anyone can cook and clean, our identities as soldiers of Christ are innately tied to God’s will for our lives.
She is his necessary ally in the war against sin.
Instead of feeling stunted in her faith when he finds himself ensnared, she can be used mightily of God to help him out. While his sin is never her fault, she longs to see him freed from its grip.
Submission does not mean passively leaving him to continue in sin. Neither does it mean nagging or berating him for his sin. It means lovingly, patiently, fiercely assisting him in his battle against the flesh.
I believe her primary weapon in this war is prayer. She does not have to wait for her husband to step into the role of spiritual leader to approach the throne in prayer. She has direct access to God through Jesus.
Wives are not doormats to be walked over or toys to be used. Neither are they second-rate citizens in the kingdom of Heaven. There are none. Every citizen is vital and beloved. Both men and women are co-heirs of grace (1 Peter 3:7).
Their enemy is Satan, not one another.
Satan desires to destroy marriages. One of his main tactics is to sow discord between husbands and wives. To combat this, they must remember the true nature of the battle they’re engaged in.
It is not husbands versus wives, nor right versus left, nor black versus white, nor oppressed versus oppressor; the real battle raging in the world is the kingdom of light versus the kingdom of darkness. Keeping this eternal perspective reminds husbands and wives to fight against sin with one another’s help, not against each other.
In the book of Job, God allowed his servant Job to suffer hardship at the hands of Satan to test his faith and prove Job’s devotion to God (Job 1:8-12).
In the aftermath of losing his children, servants, livestock, and livelihood, Job and his friends are wrestling with the question “why?” – trying to understand the cause of this suffering. As the reader, we have an incredible vantage point knowing exactly what happened to cause his trials.
We don’t have to wonder why Job suffered – we know. God allowed Satan to afflict Job for the testing of his faith for the glory of God. In fact, God is the one who put Job on the enemy’s radar. Satan wanted to weaken Job’s faith, but in the end, it was strengthened.
We also have the vantage point of the entire rest of Scripture to test the claims of Job and his friend’s words. We can examine their words against the rest of the Bible to see whether their view of God – and suffering – is right.
At the beginning of the book, Job is truly blameless. In the end, God rebukes him. Why? When was that turning point and where did Job stray? I would argue it was in chapter 7, where he moves from biblical lament to despair and begins to question God. He lost hope and questioned everything because he did not rightly understand the battle he was in.
For the reader to better understand his battle, you have to recognize that the first friend to speak about the situation openly bases his opinion on an untrustworthy source – a secret supernatural encounter.
In Job 4:12-21, Eliphaz describes a harrowing encounter with a spirit.
15 “A spirit glided past my face;
the hair of my flesh stood up.
16 It stood still,
but I could not discern its appearance.
A form was before my eyes;
there was silence, then I heard a voice:”
To my dismay, I couldn’t find a single commentary that explained this passage as it reads. Some commentators dismissed his claims of an encounter by saying he made up the story to bolster his authority to speak on the subject.
Though this explanation is perhaps more palatable to our Western minds, I don’t think it’s an honest interpretation of the text. We know the supernatural nature of Job’s situation given the context of the first two chapters which set the stage for the entire 40-chapter book, so why would we turn around and explain this away? It doesn’t line up.
Other commentators glossed over the account altogether. The most helpful commentary was Matthew Henry’s which acknowledges this was a real spirit encounter, but that it was a good spirit. On this point, I disagree.
When we evaluate the claims of the spirit, we see that it is not good. In verses 17-21, the spirit speaks lies to Eliphaz.
17 ‘Can mortal man be in the right before God?
Can a man be pure before his Maker?
18 Even in his servants he puts no trust,
and his angels he charges with error;
19 how much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
whose foundation is in the dust,
who are crushed like the moth.
20 Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
21 Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?’
Eliphaz allowed this deceptive message to shape his opinion about Job’s suffering.
In verse 17, the spirit is asking a rhetorical question – whether man can be right before God, leading Eliphaz to believe the answer is no, when we know from Job 1:8 the answer is actually yes. Job was right before His maker. That’s the whole reason he got into this mess in the first place.
The spirit claims that God can’t trust his servants– WRONG! God did trust Job. Again, that’s why this all happened. As evidence for this claim, the spirit says, “even his angels he charges with error” – I mean yeah, Satan and the other angels who rebelled against God were charged with wrongdoing and cast out of Heaven. That’s not to say there aren’t any good angels or faithful men. There are.
In verse 20, it says men die without anyone regarding it, but we know that God does regard the death of his saints (Psalm 116:15). He even watches over sparrows (Matthew 10:29). With this lie, the spirit wants to convince Eliphaz that God doesn’t care – that He’s distant and cold to man’s struggles, but the opposite is true. God cares deeply for mankind – so much so that He would eventually humble Himself to the cross (Philippians 2:8) in order to reconcile us to Himself.
So, what can we learn from Eliphaz’s mistake of listening to this spirit to form his opinion?
First, alleged “angelic encounters” may in fact be demonic. We have to test everything against Scripture. Multiple cults were born out of private encounters with spirits who preached a different gospel – in fact, that’s how Mormonism came about. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8 ESV
Next, we must see that theological perspectives can just as easily be built on lies from the enemy as they can the truth of God. The enemy wants to deceive God’s people. In order to combat this, we must abide in the Word of God – and pray for the Spirit to revive our hearts, showing us truth.
Finally, we must recognize that the most convincing lies contain elements of truth. Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44) and a cunning deceiver, so we must be careful to discern what is true using the Bible.
I think every Christian should make an effort to read through the entire Bible – frequently. Whether that means reading it through in a year (or more or less frequently), it’s important to familiarize our hearts with the whole counsel of God’s Word.
I’ve read it a few times before and I’m truly excited to be doing it again this year. To change things up a bit, I’ll be reading chronologically for the first time.
Through this practice, I’ve learned a lot. There are several things I wish I knew the first time around and I’ve gathered them for you here:
1. God is not pleased with me because I read His Word.
His delight in me rests in Christ’s righteousness alone – not my daily performance. I wrestled with this for YEARS. I can’t gain His favor by reading. I can’t lose His favor by not reading. When I rightly understand that my obedience overflows not from a place of bondage but freedom, I delight in it all the more. The purpose of knowing His Word is to know Him better, for He is my joy.
2. Listening is valid.
If sitting down with a physical bible is your preference, as it is mine, it can be easy to feel guilty for not doing that every day. Give yourself grace to listen to the audio Bible as needed. Our brains can effectively absorb information from actively listening just like they can from actively reading. Reading is better, yes, but listening is better than not reading at all. More than that, literacy is an academic privilege, not a spiritual rite of passage. We must be careful not to place legalistic weight onto the good discipline of daily Bible reading. This is not the end of our pursuit, either. We want to study, meditate, delight in, and obey it.
3. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV
I committed this passage to memory years ago, but I subconsciously didn’t believe it applied to passages that seemed irrelevant to my sanctification. Genealogies, instructions for the construction of the temple, individual laws about purification – it’s all good for our sanctification. My sinful unbelief showed up in my apathy and disinterest. I wish I had known – and believed – there’s something spiritually equipping from every bit of Scripture.
4. The Bible Project videos are a great resource for understanding the literary and historical context.
I must recommend caution with this since Tim Mackie, its creator, holds some progressive views, but their videos that give an overview of each book of the Bible are very helpful. I recommend watching the corresponding video as you begin a new book. We should exercise caution with every extra biblical (meaning beyond the Bible) resource, but this one calls for high alert.
5. It may be common for Christians to neglect time spent in the Word, but it is not healthy.
It’s detrimental to their faith. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” 1 Peter 2:2 ESV To hear John Piper’s helpful exposition of this passage, watch just a couple minutes of this video starting at 5:25:
On that note, nothing can replace Scripture. No devotional or book should substitute the pure Word of God. Make every effort to develop and implement a strategy for daily drinking Scripture.
“Anxiety is a sin problem caused by a lack of faith.” To some Christians, this sounds perfectly biblical. To others in Christ, it brings confusion and shame. In reality, the word “anxiety” is a loaded term carrying two very different meanings.
The fact of the matter is that Scripture does teach that anxious thoughts – or worries – are caused by a lack of faith. This however does not seem to be the same “anxiety” doctors diagnose clinically. Most people wrestle with some level of anxiety – worry about uncontrollable future events- and can repent of that sin and trust God’s future sovereignty. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 6 when He said to not worry about your life.
However, clinical anxiety is different. It’s important to differentiate these two types of “anxiety” to bring peace and freedom to Christians who rightly desire to repent of sin but could benefit from medicine to treat their mental health.
Let me be clear. Medication can not cure unbelief or worry. Only faith can do that. Medication simply lessens the severity of uncontrollable physiological symptoms – such as unexplained panic, fear, racing thoughts, elevated heart rate, interrupted sleep, shortness of breath, etc.*
Many women experience some of these symptoms during times of hormonal fluctuation such as PMS, postpartum recovery, and menopause. Something many people don’t realize is that even poor gut health can cause clinical anxiety. It is a real medical condition that the common grace of medication can aid.
As my friend who has struggled with this for most of her life put it,
“I think many people think of anxiety as just a general feeling of anxiousness over things they can’t control, like being nervous for a test. Not that I’m not guilty of worrying about things in the future. I pray about those things and those worries generally melt away, but clinical anxiety is much different. It’s like a disconnection in your brain that brings a constant feeling of uneasiness even in the most mundane of circumstances…”
I can personally attest to this. When I was battling clinical anxiety before medication, I experienced fear and panic at all hours for no apparent reason. Like a child, I found myself profoundly afraid of the dark as a grown married woman in my own home. I would wake up in the night to use the restroom and get into such a state I couldn’t fall back to sleep.
This is not normal behavior and was not caused by any lack of faith. I can honestly say I was growing tremendously in my faith during this season. Every believer needs to seek to honor God in their theology about mental health, submitting to the authority of Scripture, and acting in faith.
Though clinical anxiety is one area of concern, it would be remiss to not also elaborate on the remedy for sinful anxiety. We know we are to combat anxiety with more faith, but how? An excerpt from Beautiful Eulogy’s “Devotion,” answers that:
“Is your faith weak? It is owing to the fact that you don’t know the object of your faith well enough. But when Jesus Christ becomes progressively bigger, or better yet, your understanding of who he is progressively conforms to reality, your faith will become increasingly stronger.”
To have more faith, we must continually pour the truth of who God is into our hearts. Below I’ve listed some passages of Scripture and helpful resources that guide the way.
*I am not a health expert, so you should consult your doctor regarding any medical questions and decisions.
Writer’s Note: I recognize my inability to do justice to this topic. There is much more to be said and far more seasoned saints who I’m sure could have said it better. I do have one additional post on this topic you can read here. My aim is to shed light on the dual nature of the word “anxiety” to bring clarity to this topic for the edification of the Church and the glory of God. If you have questions or concerns regarding the content of this blog post, I invite you to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you made it this far, thank you for reading.
Scripture Passages to Meditate on:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 ESV
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 ESV
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34 ESV (for full context and deeper study, read verses 25-34)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 ESV
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25 ESV
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 ESV
Other Helpful Resources:
“Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace (31-Day Devotionals for Life)” – Paul Tautges
“Anger, Anxiety and Fear: A Biblical Perspective” – Stuart Scott
“Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament” – Mark Vroegop
Until recently, I believed that although anxiety can have physical symptoms, it is an entirely spiritual problem with entirely spiritual solutions. I believe now that anxiety is both a spiritual and physical problem that often requires holistic care.
We are commanded in Scripture by Jesus (Matthew 6:25-34) and the Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:6-7) to not be anxious. Instead, we’re to trust God’s perfect sovereignty. When we trust Him fully, casting our cares on Him, we find peace that surpasses all understanding.
This is true. Christians can root out anxiety by having more faith. It is also true that real, biological imbalances can wreak havoc on a person’s brain regardless of their faith in Christ. In more severe cases, medicine is sometimes needed to clear away the mental fog and allow these truths to seep in.
I had to come face to face with this reality in my own life very recently. A hormonal imbalance, pregnancy, and personal tragedy collided bringing debilitating anxiety and depression. I was experiencing an extreme range of symptoms, but I would not have labeled it that on my own. I simply knew I was having a hard time.
Several people close to me expressed their concern for my health and the health of my baby. My husband asked me to talk to my doctor about it at my next prenatal visit. For six weeks after my doctor gave a diagnosis, I tried to solve my troubles without the medication prescribed. I desired to treat it spiritually, clinging to Christ amid the storm.
I attended church every time the doors were open, read my Bible daily, listened to worship music, and learned to truly pray without ceasing. I saw a biblical counselor weekly. Under her guidance, I began a devotional on anxiety and read a book on the grace of biblical lament. They were phenomenally helpful resources.
All of it was good. However, I found that no matter how much truth I poured into my brain, how much I trusted that God would work it all together for His glory, the burden was too great and my symptoms too severe.
I felt on the verge of drowning every day. Even though I was desperately clinging to Christ as my anchor through the storm and growing steadily in my faith, the water kept lapping up at my face threatening to take me under.
My reluctance to be treated per my doctor’s orders was deeply rooted in the belief that anxiety is a purely spiritual matter with entirely spiritual solutions. My incomplete theology led me to one of the darkest places I’ve ever been. There, I found the gospel sweeter and promises of peace more real, but I also realized medication is a common grace and when taken in faith, can be a very helpful aid.
I needed medicine in the same way that a woman with a broken leg finds comfort in Christ but needs crutches to get back on her feet. Whether medicated or not, my hope is in Christ– the sure and steady anchor.
For some reason, I’ve had countless unrelated friends in the last few months ask for my thoughts about missions’ fundraising and the sometimes-uncomfortable conversations when missionaries outright ask their friends for support.
I’ve found myself in that situation more times than I can count. I used to dread these conversations. I don’t think my experience is unique, particularly among young people who have college-age peers regularly launching into the mission field for the first time.
My discomfort with these interactions stemmed from my own neglect to think through what should constitute a decision to support a missionary. I simply knew of Luke 6:30 which tells us to give to everyone who begs of us, so I thought it was my duty to simply say yes to everyone who asked.
For a while, we did that. Unsurprisingly, we found this approach unwise and unsustainable. I’m glad we gave, but I’m also glad we learned some things along the way. As you prayerfully consider how to financially support the Great Commission, there are afew key principles to keep in mind.
When giving money, we should do so privately, as our reward is in Heaven (Matt 6:3-4). This goes against the grain in the day and age of social media “shout-outs” where instead of bragging to a few friends, you can do so to hundreds.
We should also do so generously and joyfully, not under compulsion (2 Cor 9: 6-7). Under the new covenant, we are not under law-compulsion to give, but we have a far greater incentive: God has freely given us every blessing in our lives, so we give freely to others. These two guiding principles are crucial, but there is a third principle I want to focus on:
We should give with wisdom and discernment (James 1:15). With the pressure to say yes to every friend who asks comes the pitfall of not properly vetting what you’re really supporting. Are they preaching the gospel, distributing Bible literature, or making disciples through long-term relational investment and Bible study?
Or are they sipping luxury coffee in Europe and loosely praying God will “open a door,” but never actually sharing the explicit gospel? Perhaps hiking for 4 days in a third world country to “make connections” but again, never sharing the explicit gospel? Is one of your friends going on a multi-country race to satisfy their wanderlust and feeling good about themselves for hugging an orphan along the way?
These scenarios are not imaginary. I wish they were hyperbolic examples of false charity, but shamefully, they are real occurrences that happen far too frequently. For whatever reason, the standards for long-term missionaries entering the mission field seems non-existent for their short-term counterparts (often students and young people).
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of modern missions fundraising is the apparent lack of emphasis on prayer. When I read various Christian biographies, George Mueller’s for example, I find a large part of their daily life was devoted to petitioning God in prayer to supply their every need.
A startling lack of prayer pervades the American church as a whole, and sometimes overflows into the lives of our missionaries. It seems that the American way of independently striving to accomplish things in our own strength has infiltrated churches in more ways than we realize.
Why else do some mission organizations teach their newcomers for mere minutes on the power of God to supply needs, and then spend hours instructing them how to raise the money by their own efforts? Send letters, sell t-shirts, make a Facebook page, post trendy graphics on your social media pages. There’s nothing wrong with these tactics in and of themselves, but we must be careful not to negate the wonderful truth that our hope lies not in man’s works, but God’s.
What about Paul’s model of using your God-given skills and talents to earn money more naturally? While working as a minister of the gospel, the apostle made tents to earn his wages on at least one occasion (Acts 18:1-4). In another instance, he said he considered it robbery to take the financial gifts of the Macedonian brothers (the Philippian church) while preaching to the Corinthians, but did so to avoid the appearance of working for profit like the false preachers who were merely taking advantage of them (2 Corinthians 11:7-15). We also know that churches aided his ministry and met his physical needs by bringing him food in prison.
There is an abundance of Scripture showing us the radical nature of God’s provision for his children. My husband and I have experienced it firsthand. In Psalm 37:25, David says that though he’s lived a long life, he has never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread. This means that whether God’s people live in poverty or riches, their needs will always be met by their Heavenly Father.
This promise is especially true for the missionary, who often must leave a life of comfort to follow God’s call to the mission field. Whether you go or whether you give, do all to the glory of God and know that He will supply every need.
American Christians often think demonic activity doesn’t affect us, perceiving it only happens elsewhere and in plain sight, as it often occurs where occult rituals (calling upon spirits and using curses, etc.) are actively welcomed and practiced. A little over a year ago, it struck me that it didn’t make sense for spiritual warfare to be selective. In light of Ephesians 6:10-20, it’s clear that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare every day, whether we acknowledge it or not.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12 ESV
As much as I believed this passage, I felt blind, ignorant, and numb to the warfare that must be going on around me. Perhaps you can relate. I did not see it for what it was, so I didn’t know how to pray against it. Verse 18 tells us to engage in the battle through prayer, being equipped with the whole armor of God as described in verses 13-17. In frustration, I asked the Lord to open my eyes and show me more specifically how to pray. And boy, did He answer! Over the past year, He’s opened my eyes and helped me to pray bold, authoritative, specific prayers for the battles waging in my own family and church, seeing them in light of the ongoing battle between good and evil that has existed for centuries.
When it comes to the conversation of our lives being affected by Satan and demons, there are two opposite extremes of a pendulum swing I see Christians fall prey to. On one side, there are those Christians who attribute everything in their lives to Satan, from personal sin to minor life inconveniences to major life trials. All of those things *may* be used by our enemy to attack us, but it’s unwise to give him too much credit. This line of thinking often ends up denying any personal responsibility for sin, reframing the truth to make the person seem merely a victim.
The other end of the pendulum swing denies that Satan and demons have any influence over us and that all of our sins are merely the result of our sinful flesh. This neglects the reality that our warfare is supernatural, trusting only in what is seen and undercutting what is spiritual. It assumes that every thought that enters our minds has it source with us, not acknowledging that thoughts can be planted in our minds by both our Heavenly Father and the devil himself. We see this is the case with Peter, as seen in his back-to-back interactions with Jesus in Matthew 16:17 and 23. Both ends of this pendulum swing are dangerous. Scripture teaches us a better balance.
Who or what is the source of the temptations we face?
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:13-14 ESV).” We are tempted by the desires of our flesh, yes. But this passage says we are lured and enticed toward them which begs the question: who is doing the luring and enticing? Who sees our desires and strategically tempts us to give in to sin? The enemy, for we see him craftily tempting from the very beginning in the garden of Eden and throughout history, even tempting Jesus in the wilderness.
Ephesians 2:1-3 shows us the reality of our complex depravity. It is not simply our flesh that we can be held captive to, but also the devil and the world. Voddie Baucham addressed this misconception at the 2014 Ligonier National Conference in his sermon, “The world, the Flesh, and the Devil.”
“The broader problem is this,” Baucham began. “That unless we understand this interplay between the world and the flesh, and the devil, we do not understand the sinfulness of our sin. We do not understand the radical nature of our depravity unless we understand that we are hemmed in on every side, that it’s not just one issue, but it’s everything around us and everything about us. And there are many of us who have lost an understanding of the radical nature of our sinfulness and as a result, we’ve lost an understanding of the radical nature of the sinfulness of those around us as well.”
With depravity this deep, who or what is the source of our redemption?
After describing the radical nature of our depravity in Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul goes on to say in verse 4 that familiar and wonderful caveat we see throughout Scripture: “But God…” Hallelujah, for He is our only hope! “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV)” Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” By the grace of God, the Christian is alive and free, but we must guard against the temptation to sin and thereby go back to captivity.
One glance at the world shows us how badly we need God’s help. The hour is dark. The need is great. Spiritual warfare wages all around us, with sin destroying everything in its path. We are desperately in need of help. There are vast reservoirs of grace available to us in prayer. Let it not to be said of us that we leave them untapped, having not because we ask not. As children of God, we are co-heirs with Christ, our birthright being freedom from the bondage of sin to be reconciled to God.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV).”
We pray with boldness not because of our righteousness, but His. Not because of our wisdom or understanding, but His. It is only through the power of Christ we petition God’s help. It is only through the power of Christ we prevail. He is our only hope.
Over the past few years, Bethel Church in Redding, CA, has gained immense popularity among mainstream evangelicals. Most know them for their chart-topping worship music including hit songs, “Reckless Love,” “Raise a Hallelujah,” and “Goodness of God,” but are not aware of their affiliation with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
You might recognize them as the church that made national headlines during their attempt to resurrect a deceased child of one of the leaders. She remained in the morgue unburied for more than 6 days while the church gathered on behalf of her parents to sing, dance, decree, and declare. They said that her time on earth was not done, commanded her to wake up, and decreed that God would raise her from the dead. Tragically, after a week of publicly declaring these things, the family had to bury their child. All this happened despite the church having a “dead raising team,” who claim 12 resurrections but offers zero witnesses to these alleged miracles. This instance alone should have been enough to allow onlookers to see that Bethel is full of charlatans and false prophets (2 Peter 2:1-3). However, there’s more.
There are several false teachings promoted at Bethel, and it can be overwhelming to address them all. However, many of them can be understood as overflow from one primary heresy: syncretism. Bethel combines Christianity with the occult and New Age practices and ideologies. In case you’re unaware, these are arguably two of the most demonic religions in the world, advocating all kinds of wickedness. At Bethel, they openly welcome and encourage the use of strictly forbidden occult practices (“Christian” tarot cards, astral projection, incantations, speaking things into existence, etc.).
Their New Age teachings can be found in the pastors’ book, “The Physics of Heaven,” wherein chapter 2 it’s written, “Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians ‘taking back truths’ from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.”
The mere notion that historic Christianity needs improvement or could somehow benefit from demonic religions denies Jesus as the only way, truth, and life (John 14:6) and denies the Bible as sufficient for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).” It’s an insult to the cross of Christ to think the simple gospel needs a revamp.
While many Christians may find themselves discouraged by the notion that some of their beloved celebrity Christians may be false preachers, the Apostle Paul was no stranger to the idea that false teachers are quite common. “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:17).” So the question remains: why can’t earnest Christians see the problem with Bethel? I believe the issue is threefold.
1. They value emotional experience over truth.
Despite public rebuke from sound preachers who have followed the biblical mandate to “mark and avoid” false teachers, some Christians cling tightly to their love for Bethel because of the emotional experience they offer. I’ve often heard Christians who are aware of issues therein defend the church as “doing more good than harm by encouraging greater faith.” They value the emotionalism of the worship music and the mystery of “glory clouds,” which are merely made up of gold glitter in the ventilation system.
2. They don’t know the Scriptures as they should.
Put simply, these Christians aren’t rooted in God’s Word. They are easily deceived by false doctrines because they don’t know the truth of Scripture well enough to discern truth from lies. As I’ve written about before, biblical illiteracy plagues the church. Because they do not know Scripture, they cannot follow the biblical mandate to, “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).”
3. They prefer teachers who preach what they want to hear rather than sound doctrine.
Not only do they not know the Bible, but they also don’t want to hear the truth. Having “itching ears” they embrace Bethel’s nonsense because it suits their preference. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).”
May God have mercy on those in deception to draw them out and into the light.