Why Doesn’t God make Obedience Easier?

whyA friend is going through a dynamic that probably sounds all too familiar. The Holy Spirit convicts you about something, such as to stop complaining and, instead, be intentional about expressing gratitude. This message is repeated wherever you go – in a sermon, in a book you are reading, in something a friend shares about his or her own spiritual journey, etc. You resolve to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, spend time in prayer before you interact with anyone, and step into your day, fully expecting God to bless your obedience as you walk into victory.

Instead, you walk into the kitchen and see that the dog has soiled the floor. You clean that up, which makes you late leaving for work. Traffic is backed up from a wreck, making you 10 minutes late for an important meeting. At that meeting, you learn that you are losing your biggest client … and the hits just keep coming … you get a call from the school that your child has detention … your spouse has to work late and needs you to pick up dinner. By the time you get home, not only did you fail to walk in victory, but your level of complaining and lack of gratitude is ten times worse than on a typical day. You ask, “Where was God? I was trying to obey Him, and everything that could possibly go wrong did. What did I do wrong? Does God not care?”

Christians who have been around the spiritual growth block are probably chuckling right now because we have all been there. I shudder whenever I hear someone tell me that he is praying for patience because I know he has just invited lots of waiting into his life. After all, how does one learn patience without having to wait? The same is true for the example I just shared. It’s easy not to complain and to express gratitude when everything goes your way. No effort is required for that. Spiritual growth comes from intentionally choosing to express gratitude rather than complain as life dumps all over you.

In this blog series, we will talk about this frustrating dynamic of spiritual growth and how to learn to walk in victory.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulder and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]



Turning from our Wicked Ways to Heal our Land

nopeContinued from here.

The final step needed to heal our land is to turn from our wicked ways – to repent. The Church has become so worldly that it is nearly indistinguishable from the culture around it in many ways. Sadly, many Christians only spend one hour a week with God as they attend worship services. What they learn in that one hour has little impact on their daily lives as they go about their week. Many are “closet Christians” whose daily behavior blends so well into the culture than their coworkers and associates would be surprised to learn that they are even Christian!

Jesus did not call us to receive just enough of his blood to avoid going to hell but to otherwise go live our lives however we see fit. He said that if we want to be his followers, we must stop living for ourselves and, instead, live for God:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” ~ Mark 8:34

Denying yourself brings us right back to where we started: the first requirement for God healing our land is humbling ourselves. Humbling ourselves involves turning from our wicked ways and, instead, living our lives as God tells us to live, which is all spelled out for us in the Bible. For example, as a Christian, you don’t get to stand around the water cooler judging Nikolas Cruz or Dimitrios Pagourtzis for shooting up schools. You need to be praying for both of them because the Bible tells us to do so. You don’t get to hate those in your own personal life who wrong you: you must forgive them. This is tough stuff, but that’s what it means to be a Christian. Either you are a disciple of Christ, or you are not. If you are, then you will turn from your wicked ways and live your life in the ways that God tells you to live. Only when the Body of Christ does this will God heal our land.

If we, as the Body of Christ, want to see these school shootings stop, we need to get serious about our faith. We need to do what God tells us to do: humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways. If God’s children will get serious about doing what He has told us to do, we can bring healing to our land and shine God’s light into this darkness that is permeating our schools.

[Graphic: Cartoon of of Grace running while saying, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Seeking God’s Face to Heal our Land

where_are_youContinued from here.

Sadly, many Christians regularly pray without seeking God’s face. How is this possible? Their prayer lives involve all talking and no listening. They bring their requests to God, like children bringing their toy requests to Santa Claus, but never take the next step of actually listening for a response from God. Despite the Bible being filled with stories of God talking to people, many Christians do not believe God will actually “talk back,” so they never take the time to listen for His still, small voice.

In one of her Bible studies, Priscilla Shirer asked a great question: “Why would Jesus die for you but then refuse to talk to you?” If you think about it, the Bible is one continuous story about man’s separation from God and God’s initiative in restoring that relationship. First, God communicated from afar, such as through a burning bush. Next, He lived among his people in a tent and later in a temple. Then, he came and lived among people through Jesus, and then after Jesus’ death and resurrection, He came to live inside us through the Holy Spirit. After all of that trouble, is He really going to refuse to talk to us?

God promises us that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. That’s the level of seeking that will heal our land. We must continue pursuing God until we find Him, refusing to settle for anything less. We seek Him through his Word and through our quiet time with Him. We tell Him that we will not stop seeking Him until we find Him, and we do this day after day, week after week, and month after month until God shows up. As someone who has been through this process, I assure you that God will show up, and when He does, it will profoundly change your life. If everyone in the Body of Christ would do this, it would also profoundly heal our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking through a telescope and asking, “Where are you?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Praying for God to Heal our Land

prayerContinued from here.

I hope that every Christian hearing the news about the latest school shooting is praying for God to intervene. This cannot be a one-time request, though. As the Body of Christ, we need to be persistent in our prayers like the persistent widow. We need to saturate our country in prayer, inviting God into every area of our country and culture.

I have been leading a statewide Christian prison ministry since October, and one of my primary focuses is saturating this ministry in prayer at every level. I pray earnestly for this ministry every morning in my quiet time, as is true of the leaders and many of the volunteers as well. In addition, the ministry has dedicated prayer warriors to cover the ministry as a whole in prayer as well as specific aspects of the ministry that need special attention. This is not a one-time request – we go before God again and again and again, seeking His wisdom, guidance, and provision.

This is the level of prayer that is needed if we want God to heal our land of these school shootings. As the Body of Christ, each of us individually needs to be praying for our country daily. In additional, we need to be covering specific schools in prayer, including their students and former students. We need to pray for all schools – private and public, those in different districts, and those in different states. We need to take this initiative seriously, saturating every aspect of our school system in prayer.

What might happen to our land if every local church selected one school to saturate with prayer daily? What impact might it have if every single school in the country was covered in prayer by one local church? How might your praying for a particular school day after day, month after month, and year after year affect your love for that school? Might you feel drawn to do more for that school? Might you feel drawn to mentor a student there – perhaps a quiet student who nobody notices? Might you carry the light of Christ into that school out of the love that grows in your heart by praying for that school daily? If the Body of Christ committed to covering every single school in America in prayer, this would go a long way toward healing our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace praying behind emoticon hands that are held in prayer. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Humbling Ourselves to Heal our Land

mvpContinued from here.

If we want God to heal our land from all that plagues it, including school shootings, we need to humble ourselves before Him. That’s not easy to do, but it’s a necessary part of being a disciple of Christ. When you became a Christian, your life stopped being about you – it’s now about God. You are “dead” to your old ways of life. You live a new life in Christ, and that’s the life of a servant.

While most Christians know this at the head level, few put it into practice at the heart level. If we did, then there wouldn’t be so much infighting within individual churches over the color of the carpet, the style of music, etc. And then at the global level, the church wouldn’t be fragmented into so many denominations over various theological debates. We would value unity over “being right,” just as Paul told us to do.

C.S. Lewis really helped me with understanding what humility is. He said,

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

In other words, get yourself off your mind and replace it with thinking about how you can best serve someone else. What can you do to make someone else’s day a little brighter? How can you be a blessing to someone else?

If every Christian would stop being so self-focused and would start looking for one tangible way to bless another person every day, this would radically transform society. Christians would lose their reputation of being judgmental hypocrites and would instead be viewed as love in action. This would be a huge step toward God healing our land.

What might happen to society if every Christian began actually living 1 Cor. 13? How might society be impacted by thousands of Christians being patient and kind when confronted with rudeness? How might a potential school shooter react to a Christian noticing him in his pain and caring enough to extend kindness to him, no matter how that kindness is received? How might our land change as Christians stop thinking about their own desires and, instead, actually see the walking wounded around them and do something about it? If the Body of Christ truly humbled itself and took intentional steps toward blessing others, this would go a long way toward healing our land.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a boxing ring holding up a sign that says, “You da real MVP.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Calling upon God to Heal our Land

whyLike the rest of the country, I am heartsick over yet another school shooting taking place on American soil. I have been praying for Nickolas Cruz daily since the Parkland school shooting, and now I’ll be praying for Dimitrios Pagourtzis as well. I hope that investigators will be able to gain some insight into why shooting fellow classmates continues to appeal to some teenagers in our society. However, I know the problem is much larger than violent video games or access to guns.

For over 200 years, American teenagers had access to guns but weren’t using them to kill their classmates. That was back when God was in our schools. Only since God was removed from our schools did this violence start taking place. What’s most disturbing is how regularly this is happening – it’s become so commonplace that local schools even have lockdown drills, just like fire or tornado drills, to prepare students for what to do.

Understandably, everyone is looking for a remedy, but few are talking about the remedy that the Bible offers. It’s found in 2 Chron. 7:14:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

We, the Body of Christ, are the solution, but we must do what God has called us to do. We need to humble ourselves. We need to pray. We need to seek God’s face. And we need to turn from our wicked ways. Those are the four prerequisites for God healing our land. Rather than participate in the fragmentation of society as different factions fight with one another over gun control, etc., we can be a unified Body of Christ and follow God’s prescription for healing our land. I’ll discuss each of these four aspects in turn.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Preparing for Spiritual Warfare with the Word of God

bibleContinued from here.

If you are a Christian, then spiritual warfare is heading your way:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~ 1 Pet. 5:8

You don’t want to wait until a roaring lion is pouncing on you to start doing the things you need to do to protect yourself. Just like a soldier, you need to train during peacetime to be prepared for war.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to face an opponent without a weapon in my hand. I’m not seeking only to protect myself – I want a way to fight back! The only offensive weapon Paul mentions in the armor of God is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I don’t want to wait until I am under spiritual attack to dust off my Bible and try to find a Bible verse in the heat of battle. I need to know God’s Word well enough to have access to those scriptures when I need them!

This is how Jesus modeled spiritual warfare in Matthew 4. Satan threw a flaming arrow at Jesus, and Jesus responded with scripture. Satan threw a second flaming arrow, twisting scripture to entice Jesus to disobey God, and Jesus responded with scripture. Satan tried a third time, and a third time, Jesus responded with scripture. Only after this did Satan leave. If Jesus, who was both fully man and fully God, needed scripture to fight off spiritual attack, how much more so do you and I?

How do you know which Bible verses to focus on as you prepare for spiritual warfare? Look for those that speak to your deepest vulnerabilities because that is where the enemy will aim his flaming arrows. If your deepest vulnerability is feeling unloved, memorize scriptures about how deeply God loves you. If it’s a fear of not being capable, memorize scriptures about how God is your strength. If you are unable to memorize scripture, write these verses down on note cards and carry them with you so you always have access to them. Then, when the enemy pounces, you will have access to the scriptures you need, just as Jesus did when he was attacked.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace reading the Bible. Courtesy Bitmoji.]