The Year of Fear: Christians in Fight or Flight Mode

Fear has been an unwelcome yet dominant spirit in the church over the past year.

According to Northwestern Medicine, fear is physical. Blood actually flows away from your heart and into your limbs, making it easier for you to start throwing punches, or run for your life.

This is what we have witnessed in this year of fear, the life-source flowing away from the hearts of Christians. Punches have been thrown as the fight or flight response has overtaken many who previously were known as people of faith.

When our hearts are compromised and focus shifts to protecting self, all sorts of wickedness has an entry point into our lives. What seems like common sense and wisdom is often the manifestation of the spirit of fear. One has to wonder which emotion is stronger, fear of COVID or fear of vaccines. Both are actually a manifestation of a fear of death. Isn't it interesting how crafty the enemy is, taunting and haunting us with the threat of death while dividing us over the issue at the same time? Anti-vaxers and pro-maskers both trembling over the threat of dying.

Fear is evidenced in many ways such as the impending doom that surrounds a loss of our American freedoms, churches being shuttered, elections being lost and our way of life being put at risk.

No matter which side people are on, punches are thrown as they furiously fight for their cause. It seems most everybody is threatened whether it's from a piece of cloth that covers our mouths or the loss of freedoms in the midst of lockdowns.

THE FEAR IS CLEAR

Will the heart-sick church discern how a spirit of fear has infiltrated and infected the body or will we continue down this path of reactionary, fear-based response to crisis in our nation?

I propose the lesson has not been learned yet. It's only going to get worse and the church clearly is not ready yet.

Personally, my greatest sadness from the pandemic is the response of many who have been highly regarded people of faith. Fear, not faith, has been the driving force of their lives over the past year, or so the fruit of their lives suggests.

I was shocked at how rare it was for me to find Christians who were declaring boldly that no weapon formed against us shall prosper. Instead, I'd watch people who had reputations as giants in the faith cower at the sight of a much larger Goliath threatening impending death. COVID was the beast that did them in, not physically, but spiritually.

I'd read Facebook post after post, have one-on-one conversations and witness all sorts of responses to the virus, and it seemed that 99 out of 100 of them were about mitigating COVID. What happened to the powerful people of faith who refused to cower at the threat of disease? Where were the devil-fighters who exercised Heaven-level authority? Where were the decrees and declarations of health, healing, protection and victory? COVID scared them away.

Then we have those on the other side of the issue, people who proudly proclaim their fearlessness as they arrogantly strut maskless and free down the aisles of Walmart. The blood has flowed out of their hearts too, as they punch back at people and policies that threaten their lifestyles. The fear is clear as they desperately fight outside controlling forces, ignore government mandates and avoid vaccines like, yes, the plague.

Speaking of the plague, maybe we should consider how John G. Lake refused to cower to the bubonic plague:

Lake suggested the doctor take a sample of the foam from the mouth of a victim and observe it under a microscope.  Confirming the plague was very much alive, Lake took some of the foam in his hand and held it under a microscope.  The plague bacteria instantly died in Lake’s hand.  Why? Lake believed the Word of God is stronger than any sickness or any disease. 

A CRISIS OF FAITH

Instead of bold faith and absolute fearlessness regarding viruses, vaccines, lost freedoms, political turmoil and other issues of the day, we are experiencing something much more deadly: a crisis of faith.

No, the spoiled brat method of refusing to wear masks while blaming any and all who threaten our supposed freedoms isn't the answer. Rising up in a political spirit isn't either. 

It has been sad to watch Christians adopt an aggressive, flesh-driven political spirit. What looks like brash boldness is actually a manifestation of fear as the blood seeps out of their tender hearts and into their fists.

Many have shifted from an emphasis on faith, intercession, worship, revival and awakening to blasting opinions on politics and culture. Yes, we must not avoid confronting the spirit of the age with a sharp anointing, but that's not what we are mostly seeing today.

It's time to live, breath, walk and pray in the Spirit with great humility, lots of tears and unmatched faith that God is moving. We need those who walk in such an anointing that fear is chased out of every atmosphere they step into. 

God is ready to visit his church with revelation on how to confront this dark, deadly spirit of fear in our nation. As we draw very close to him and capture his heart and stay firmly rooted in the Word of God, mysteries will be revealed and faith will again explode in the church.

Photo credit: “fear” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Originally published by The Stream.

Blaming, Shaming and Avoiding: How Christians are Mishandling the Current Political Crisis

Trump Biden

Love and honor have been abandoned by too many in this volatile political season.

It’s been said the two topics we should avoid around the family reunion dinner table are politics and religion. Of course, I disagree, but the point is well taken.

It’s nothing new that people tend to be more passionate about their political and spiritual positions than they are about guarding the hearts of the people they are debating with. Sadly this reality has reared it’s extremely ugly head again and again over the last year.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN THE THREE PRIMARY REASONS WE ARE ALIVE?

I’ll give you a hint. It’s not to debate politics and it’s not to save America.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37–39, ESV)

One: Love God.

Two: Love people.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:35, ESV)

Yes, there are many expressions of love including both tough and tender, but we need to understand that blaming and shaming our enemies are excluded. Anger expressed toward the liberal left will never win them to Jesus, which, by the way, is the third primary reason we are alive.

“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5, ESV)

WE ALSO CAN’T AVOID POLITICS

Preachers avoiding politics from behind the pulpit and keyboard is like a police officer refusing to confront crime. It makes no sense. The police are authorized to make arrests and Christians are authorized to tear down strongholds.

We as Christians have been granted a level of spiritual authority that few will ever grasp. When culture is steeped in wickedness, we have no option but to expose the darkness.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11, ESV)

Unrighteous laws, widespread corruption, the darkness of immorality and national evils must be dealt with, and Christians are those who are most authorized to do so.

Silence by passive preachers is a violation just as a fleshly, carnal response is. There’s a way to move in love and honor while bringing dangerous political and cultural agendas to light. To stay silent, for example, on the issue of abortion would be inexcusable. To spew venom toward those who affirm or even administer abortion would be equally inappropriate for followers of Jesus.

THE GREATER SIN

While avoiding the spiritual clash in today’s deeply wicked society is unfathomable, my opinion is that the greater sin is a wicked reaction guised in high-minded righteousness by Believers in Jesus.

We must be aggressive with issues and tender towards people.

My heart is broken over the lack of revival in Hollywood, Nashville and Washington D.C. I think about people like Nancy Pelosi, Jim Carrey, Ellen Degeneres,Taylor Swift, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alyssa Milano and hundreds of other influencers who are attacked non-stop by Christians because of their political positions.

Will they feel love by our mean-spirited assaults of righteous indignation? No.

I may write a separate article on this issue as it’s just wrecking my heart, but suffice it to say that I’m deeply grieved that so few celebrities and national leaders are falling in love with Jesus. Church, we are not handling their hearts well. Demonizing them will not win them.

OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER

Rude, snarky and unloving behavior among Christians thrives on social media.

The moment a Christian is condescending and divisive on a Facebook thread is the moment their credibility is shot. While I understand we are living in a different era, there’s a part of me that yearns for yesteryear when yes sir’s and yes ma’am’s were indicative of respect in our culture.

Today it’s normal for followers of Jesus to attack, shame and ridicule anybody who disagrees with their viewpoints, especially when it comes to politics and religion. Many are unteachable, stone-hearted, immovable and more in love with their ideals then the people they are dialoguing with.

At the end of the day, I don’t care who the President is if we can’t discuss and debate with love and honor.

THE BLAME GAME IS STRONG THIS YEAR

Possibly the best litmus test for spiritual health and maturity when it comes to politics and culture is blame. If we lash out and blame and accuse and attack others who believe differently than we do, we are not in a good place.

The moment we blame is the moment we create unnecessary division. We need to stop blaming President Biden, President Trump, teachers, parents and others who, in our opinion, are opposing our personal agendas or beliefs, no matter how righteous those beliefs are.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44, ESV)

Don’t blame. Love. Pray. Don’t be an angry, complaining victim. Go low. Humble yourself. Serve. Contend for the souls of those who are making your life difficult. Again, be ruthless on issues, loving toward people.

There’s a better way, friends. Being mean-spirited isn’t it. Blaming doesn’t help. Shaming is simply cruel. People are more valuable then positions and agendas. Our enemies should be blessed and prayed for more than our friends.

The lyrics of a quirky and boldly honest bluegrass gospel song by Rhonda Vincent seem to fit here:

Oh you don't love God
If you don't love your neighbor
If you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
If he gets into trouble, and you don't try to help him
Then you don't love your neighbor
And you don't love God

One more time, deal strongly with issues and go out of your way to make sure people feel the love of Jesus. As we do this, we can most certainly hate evil, love good and establish justice in our nation.

“Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate…” (Amos 5:15, ESV)

You can submit a text or 60-second audio prayer for celebrities and influencers at www.prayerteam.tv.

Photo credit: “Trump and Biden” by uwwvmzjh8 is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Originally published by The Stream.

7 Reasons Pastors are Silent, Passive and Disengaged

Pastors are refusing to confront culture, sound alarms or to address today’s political crisis—and it may be time for them to step down.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV)

God is raising up a new generation of bold, prophetic messengers who are fearless, broken and undone by the weight of what’s happening in our world. They couldn’t care less if people leave churches they minister in. They aren’t looking for accolades or book deals. They are criers in the wilderness, a new breed of burning ones who aren’t into building churches, but they are very much into confronting culture and shocking the nations with prophetic unction.

We need bold, confrontational leaders formed after the spirit of Elijah, people who are commissioned and unafraid to expose the wickedness in the land. Sadly, it’s rare to find men and women of God like this today.

You can listen to a podcast on this topic here:

Though I’m going to share seven reasons pastors are refusing to confront culture or to dive into politics from the pulpit, the honest truth is that I am so disturbed that I even have to write about this. How can supposed men and women of God just go on teaching generic Sunday School style messages every Sunday morning when the escalating crisis in the world demands an immediate and Spirit-led response?

Pastors, it’s time to repent for your silence—or step aside!

Repent from your tired, unimpressive and self-centered attempts to grow your church. Repent from being a wordsmith instead of a prophet. Repent from being careful when you are called to risk everything. Repent from keeping people happy and controversy at bay. You have lost your voice!

Pastors, if you don’t have a prophetic voice, you don’t have a ministry.

We live in a day where babies are being butchered and many people are campaigning for the slaughter to be extended to those who survive the womb. Homosexual activism has muzzled so much of the church as they force their vile beliefs on us. Pornography and human trafficking are destroying millions. Where is your response?

“If Thou canst do something with us and through us, then please, God, do something without us! Bypass us and take up a people who now know Thee not!”― Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries: A Classic on Revival

7 REASONS PASTORS ARE SILENT IN A WICKED CULTURE

ONE. Fear of man

5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

Fear of man is possibly the most obvious reason, though I don’t believe it’s the greatest reason in most cases. However, it’s true that many pastors do fear confrontation. They lack confidence in their ability to tear down arguments and to advance with boldness. It’s the Holy Spirit that enables this boldness, and, sadly, it’s true that many pastors are not filled to overflowing with the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

It’s also true that many pastors are muzzled by their boards, elders and others who exhibit control in the church. It can be easy to succumb to the demands and expectations of those and others who have the ability to make life difficult if the pastor doesn’t move in the direction they expect.

The opposite of the fear of man just very well may be the fear of the Lord. Where is the tremble in our pulpits today? Where is the troubling, weighty terror of God in our churches? What will it take for the fear of man to be displaced by fear of the Lord? It’s embarrassing that there is so much fear of man, that pastors today are working overtime to keep the peace, instead of calling people into a place of urgent response to a threatening, deadly spirit of the age.

The sword will divide, and those who are bound by fear of man will keep that sword in their sheath, if they possess one at all.

“A man who is intimate with God is not intimidated by man.”― Leonard Ravenhill

TWO. Fear of loss

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Matthew 27:24 (ESV)

I believe the fear of loss is an even greater motivator for pastors to keep their mouths shut than the fear of man is. Today we have pastors who are wordsmiths instead of prophets, people who are experts at framing their words in such a way that no possibility of offense or disagreement is there. They are keenly focused on being balanced, avoiding controversy and developing a happy, encouraging atmosphere in the church that helps ensure there is no loss. People remain in their seats, money keeps coming in and everybody is happy.

Pilate would have given different leadership if the threat of riots and of losing his position and influence weren’t there. He surrendered because he feared loss. While it might be quite offensive to compare a pastor to the man who turned Jesus over for death, we have to honestly consider the scenario. Instead of doing the right thing, Pilate caved. Pastors are turning on Jesus all too often today by rejecting his directives as they would prove to be too costly. Great loss would certainly come.

Pastors are right. The moment they actually have a strong opinion and take a strong position on a controversial topic, they absolutely will experience pruning.

While there are some absolutely amazing churches out there, in most churches you won’t hear messages that cause any problems with your theology, cause offense or provoke you in any way. When is the last time you heard a message about abortion, homosexuality, pornography or other cultural issues? When is the last time your pastor has pierced the atmosphere with prophetic unction in response to something happening in our society? In some churches it happens. In most it does not. Why? Fear of loss. Pastors can’t afford to lose people, money or their dream of a happy, growing church.

THREE. They have no prayer life/prophetic unction

Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen. ~Leonard Ravenhill

This one is obvious and easy. If pastors are not spending time in the fires of intercession, they simply will not be alerted to much of anything in the spirit. On the contrary, it’s absolutely impossible to live in the prayer room and not hear God’s voice and to discern the crisis in the land.

Spending hours in that place of prayer will result in a burning and an inner tremble that will result in a cry and a shout and a decree from the pulpit on Sunday morning. There will be a fierce spirit that won’t be silenced. The fear of man becomes laughable. Fear of loss is a willing price to pay. Their passion is no longer building their own dream but rather becomes all about being a voice in the wilderness, tearing down strongholds and refusing to be muzzled!

Peter went from a man driven by fear to a fearless wonder, coming out of ten days in the prayer room and carrying a Pentecost fire that would not be ignored.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Acts 2:22-24 (ESV)

FOUR. They misunderstand the governmental purpose of the church

Ekklesia: A governmental gathering under apostolic leadership

I have long been frustrated at the misunderstanding of the purpose of the church that is epidemic today. The key, foundational purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. Further, the ekklesia is a governmental gathering. Under apostolic leadership, the church is called to be a governing force in a city.

Sadly, many pastors and people presume the church to be little else than a place to meet together, to sing and learn and to involve themselves in various ministries, programs and projects. Of course, there are many supplemental ministries and projects that are absolutely appropriate and valuable, but they can never supersede the primary call—to pray and govern.

Pastors should absolutely be responding to the crisis in the land as they are the ones who have been commissioned to do so! They have been authorized, ordained, anointed and given a mandate to invade the darkness and command in the spirit!


FIVE. They want to stay out of politics

28 …“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:28-29 (ESV)

Many pastors reveal they intentionally stay out of politics. Often they communicate this as if they are operating in some form of wisdom or caution, when in reality they are abdicating their responsibilities.

We are called to legislate. We are called to govern. If the church is a governmental agency, as I shared in the previous point, it makes absolutely no sense that pastors would not address political issues in the nation. Often a desire to avoid politics has to do with fear of man and fear of loss. They understand the moment they get political is the moment they draw a line in the sand. We need leaders, not managers. We need people who will boldly draw that line and make it very clear that they won’t be stopped as they deal with the crisis at hand.

We wouldn’t be as concerned about finding the right candidate for office, whether it’s mayor of the city or President of the United States, if our church leaders had some guts and gave political leadership themselves.

Peter responded to politics just as we must. We must obey God rather than men.


SIX. They just want to preach the bible

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)

It sure sounds spiritual to say they just want to focus on the Bible, but it’s not possible to only do that. You can’t simply preach the Bible and ignore what’s going on in culture. What do you do with all the accounts of the apostles and others who confronted culture, wickedness and the spirit of the age?

If they are preaching and teaching the Bible then they must model their lives and ministries after the people they are studying. We need pastors with the spirit of Elijah. Where are those who lead like Gideon and tear down ungodly cultural altars?

We must, without question, not only be hearers but also doers. If these heroes of the faith confronted culture, than we must as well.


SEVEN. Wrong theologies and a culture of positivity

“One of these days some simple soul will pick up the book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed.”― Leonard Ravenhill

There are streams today that only focus on what is positive and encouraging. They presume to find strength there and it gives license to ignore the negative and troubling issues of the day.

These are false-grace tainted doctrines and they are a threat to the call for the church to go on the offensive against wickedness in the world.

We need prophetic leaders who will speak with unction and with fire in their guts, people who will aggressively assault the kingdom of darkness and deal directly with the great evil that’s increasing in power.

PROPHETIC VOICES RISE UP

The days of carefully guarding our churches, salaries, security and reputations are over. It’s time to let churches die if necessary. We need prophetic voices behind the pulpits, people who will scare away the pretenders and provoke the sleepers and confront the wickedness that is among us.

The demonic hoard that has been released upon the world have been mostly uncontested. Their threats have gone unmet. We need governmental leaders in churches to finally stand firm for truth and to tear down arguments and altars with no thought of their own safety or well being.