The Blessed Life

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Blessed is the man

 who walks not in the counsel of the wicked\ nor stands in the way of sinners,

 nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

 and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

 planted by streams of water

 that yields its fruit in its season,

 and its leaf does not wither.

 In all that he does, he prospers.

 The wicked are not so,

 but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

 nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,

 but the way of the wicked will perish. – (Psalm 1 ESV)

What we meditate on shapes our minds, wills, and emotions. Our actions are determined by our thought-life. Meditating on God’s word day and night is foundational to the life of the disciple, and there is no Christianity without discipleship. Holy Scripture is “God-breathed.” God’s words have creative power – he spoke the world into existence. He raises those who are spiritually dead to life with His word. The inner life of a disciple is formed by the Word of God through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The revelation of who God is causes us to get a glimpse of his transcendence. 

Meditating and contemplating the truth of God brings stability to our lives. Transformed thinking leads to a profound sense of joy and peace even in times of uncertainty. As New Testament believers we have the Spirit abiding in us at all times.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8 ESV)

This transformation of our inner person is the outcome of gazing at the beauty of Jesus, as revealed in the Gospel. King David was careful to use his sanctified imagination to “set the Lord always before him.” The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, “I keep the LORD in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

King David ask God to create in him a clean heart. God’s creative activity in the human heart never ceases. And just as our Creator created the human race by breathing life into Adam, so he has created a new race called Christians, by giving us his Spirit. We are, spiritually speaking, a new creation in Christ, whom God has created out of the midst of fallen humanity.

God has given his children access to the blessed life – which means true happiness. A key component to spiritual growth is avoiding the counsel of the wicked, at all cost. And to avoid the talk and the reasoning of those who scoff at God and his people. This is an essential part of the Spirit-led life.

As we consistently engage God in prayer, and meditation on the Scripture – our souls will flourish and prosper. Listening to Hollywood, the media, politicians, and the talking heads of popular culture can lead us into spiritual depression. But, our attentiveness to God’s voice brings a deep sense of joy in a confused and negative world. “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

Having confidence in the nearness of God is the key to our enjoyment of him. So even when His presence is not felt – we still know that Jesus is with us. And that “he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) 

The goal of our lives is to be conformed to the image of Jesus.

Prayer When Your World Is Falling Apart – Kyle Strobel

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With the tensions and tragedies piling on top of each other in our country, it can feel like the world is pulling apart at the seams. I find myself wanting to pray, but I also struggle in prayer in this season. The difficulty with praying in times like ours is that we tend to want a God who is on our side – and our God isn’t. Christians pray to the God who descended with fire and fury on Sinai. We pray to the whirlwind who demanded Job answer for his ignorance and give an account for his bold demands. We pray with and in Jesus, the same Jesus who called Peter “Satan” to his face, telling him “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). Unfortunately, we do not have the advantage of hearing God call us into account in the moment, and so our prayers can too easily become self-serving mechanisms to confirm our presuppositions. Instead, our prayers need to lead us into the truth, and lead us into the way of the kingdom. Rather than spitting our own fury and venom online (a temptation I have talked about here), we need to pause and recall James’ difficult word: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (Jas. 1:26). But bridling our tongue is not silence, it is using our words to seek the God of truth.

As we bring the upheaval in our country to God, therefore, we need to start by being “watchful” in our prayers (Col. 4:2). We are watchful because we need to see what our hearts long for in God’s presence. We need to be open to the truth of what we really want. Maybe, like David in Psalm 139, we declare, “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!” (v. 19). It is there that we need to pause, with David, and then pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (vs. 23-24). It is this “search me” that I think we need to pay attention to. Before God, as we pray in his presence, we need to be searched, and we need to have our “thoughts and intentions” laid bare before him by the truth of his word (Heb. 4:12). But what does this mean during this kind of upheaval? 

First, it means that our prayers cannot be that we would win, or that our side would prove victorious. This is the desperate desire to have God further our agenda in the world, not trusting that “his will be done” could very well be contrary to our own. Instead, we pray that the truth would be known. We pray that God would bring justice where there isn’t justice, and that he would once again shine his light into the darkness and expose the darkness for what it is. Second, we pray for our fellow Christians – all of them, in agreement with us or not – that they would bear the fruit of Christ and his Spirit. We pray that our response to our present situation would manifest a wisdom we are told is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas. 3:17-18). This means we pause on each of these words to consider our response, our emotions and desires, and consider if it accords with being open to reason, being full of mercy, and being peaceable. We pray that our response would epitomize the fruit of the Spirit marked as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;” recalling that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:22-23). In our watchfulness, we must hold up our lives, our emotional responses, our rhetoric, and our social media posts against these things, and we must feel any tension we might have with them. This is where our prayers need to lead us.

When we pray we need to actually show up in prayer, which means we need to be watchful and open to the truth of ourselves in the presence of the God of justice and love. As we open these things to the Lord, we need to feel the weight of how little the ways of God tend to form our responses to the world. We need to hear James’ warning that our anger does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:20), and see how quickly we turn to anger to advance our agenda in this world. We need to consider that our God is sovereign, and that he calls us to bring these things to him in lament, sadness, frustration, anger, fear and yet longing for faithfulness. We need to name the truth of our hearts, whatever is bubbling over in us, to the God who calls us to have lives reordered around himself. In our praying, we bring all of this to the God who delivers, redeems, forgives, and rescues. Doing so is our first step in recalling our true hope – Christ – trusting that he really is present and active even in the darkest times. 

When we fail to pray this way, too often our prayers become ways to reaffirm our flesh – asserting our views as sovereign, and trusting that we are in the right and everyone against us is foolish. It is this narcissism that has been on full display so often in our country, and, even, by Christians, too captivated by worldly goods to hold their lives up to the Word. We need to feel the weight of the Word, and we need to feel this especially in our prayers, allowing the Word of the Lord to condition all of our praying. 


Kyle Strobel is the associate professor of spiritual theology at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, and is co-author of the new book Where Prayer Becomes Real: How Honesty with God Transforms Your Soul (Baker Books).

Sin And The Kindness Of God

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How has your sin been working out for you lately? Or better yet: how has sin enhanced your life so far?

Do I sound judgemental?

I hope not!

I must say the older I get, the more I regret the sins of my past. And I still find myself frustrated with my lack of maturity. Sin hasn’t worked out so well for me. Don’t get me wrong; I have experienced forgiveness – and I feel the love and affection of my heavenly Father. But, we do reap what we sow. And while Jesus forgives our sins we still have to live with the consequences of our poor decessions from the past.

Forgiven but scarred.

Now I don’t claim to be the sharpest tool in the box, but I have never doubted my capacity to sin. I know what I’m capable of without God’s sustaining grace. And, I am serious about that! God’s grace is not part of some religious vocabulary that I use. It’s real to me. God is merciful and full of kindness. 

The uncreated Creator is the kindest Being in the universe.

He is a forgiving God – but to only those who ask for it. And turn from willful sin.

Sadly, we live in a world that doesn’t believe in sin anymore. And that’s tragic. Because when a person doesn’t believe his or her lifestyle choices can be offensive to God, they forfeit his grace. And cut themselves off from God’s forgiveness. How we live and treat others still matters to the LORD.

Jesus didn’t die for our mistakes – he died for our sins.

 One person’s wrong choices (sins) have devastating consequences for a family, society, and themselves.

I don’t expect non-Christians to see reality from a biblical point of view.

 But how can we as believers not acknowledge the pain our sin causes God – yes God, and to those closest to us. I’ll never be sinless in this life, but the older I get, the better I understand the magnitude of my sin

It cost Jesus his life.

In our place, Jesus willfully stood condemned for every sin we’ve ever committed. And He’s given us the power to overcome sin in our lives as we grow under the watchful eye of Jesus. Growing in Christ-likeness is a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t give up! 

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8

Flush 2020

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One day as I was praying in early December, I saw a picture in my mind of a toilet handle. As odd as it may sound, I thought that a lot about 2020 needed to be flushed and left behind us. That may sound strange to some, but I got the message – so I thought.

I took the picture above of a decorated toilet at a Christmas light show near where we live. It was about ten days after seeing the mental image of the handle. This toilet got my attention, so I went back to my journal and read the impressions I had received earlier. 

Most everyone I know experienced loss and pain in 2020. So, I assumed that was what needed to be flushed. The pain many of us endured will be with us for the rest of our lives. To some of us, it was just an inconvenience to – others – it was a loss of close friends and family members.

So what needs to be flushed if those memories cannot be erased?

I believe it is our false confidence we place in our ability to protect ourselves. As Americans we tend to live with a false sense of security. We trust in our prosperity and our government. While God is clearly showing us just how vulnerable we are.

We are called by God to live daily in total dependence on Jesus.

Jesus taught that the storms of life will hit us all. 

How do we endure what life throws at us? I can’t say it better than Jesus- build your life on him.

Matthew 7:24-27 ESV

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

A Journey Into The Past – Merry Christmas

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(I’m the little guy on the right and that’s my friend Billy on the left. I wrote the article in 2008 and my Mom passed away in 2015.)

Christmas 2008

My earliest memories as a child are when my family and I lived on Lewis Street.  The memories from my early childhood there are special. I had three close friends Billy, Mike, and Carol. We were all the same age, except Billy, he was a year older. So as far back as I can remember the gang and I met in our front yard on Christmas morning to compare presents. One year the boys and I all had cowboy outfits, and another year football uniforms. But my favorite Christmas that I remember we all got Army uniforms. We were all decked out in our uniforms and prepared for war! We played war games in those days fighting the ‘Japs’ and Germans (We didn’t know what political correctness was!)  When the guys and I had fought the enemy all day long, occasionally Carol would pretend to be our nurse.

During those  days we lived in what seemed to be in a “Leave It To Beaver” world. All our Moms stayed at home with us, each family had one car (I remember our 63 Chevrolet) and one black and white TV. We played hard back then, until the streetlights began to come on, and the lighting bugs came out during the summer months,  until of course I heard my Mom say,”Bobby, come in, it’s getting late!” Usually  I was getting scared by then because many times we told ghost stories setting on the side-walk. How I miss those simple days. I watched the first episode of Batman on T.V. with my friend Mike,  and I also remember the first episodes of, The Adams Family, and my favorite, Combat!

I woke up this past Christmas Eve morning feeling a little nostalgic … I miss my Dad, and I miss my old friends. So since my wife was spending the morning, cooking (she’s a Proverbs 31 woman!) I decided to go to Broad Street, get a cup of coffee, and walk around downtown Gadsden. That’s were we shopped before we got the Mall, Walmart and all the other new stores. Downtown was where the movie theater was located and where all the action was. There’s still one Variety Store that we shopped in when we were growing up, the name has been changed, and it still has that same smell of varnished  wooden floors and popcorn. I took a leisurely stroll on those sidewalks that had been such an important part of our community. And while enjoying the cool air and  listening to Christmas music that was being played, I reflected on the past.

Somehow I felt I was starting a journey back in time, so my next stop had to be at my old Elementary school, that I had attended until the second grade. I pulled up at the school only to realized I hadn’t looked down those halls since I left in about 1965! I just stared … it was like going back in time … the halls looked the same as I remembered … I could see my first grade class room,  but the playground seemed so much smaller than I remembered.

Well, there was no stopping now, I had to go back to Lewis Street. I had been back before to visit the Lewis Street Baptist Church and to look at our old house … but this time was different. I drove slowly behind Lewis Street and gazed into the woods that we use to play in behind our house, I couldn’t see it but there was a large flat rock back near the woods  that we kids used to think the devil lived under! In those days we had great imaginations because all we had to do back then was to play outside.

As I turned the corner to Lewis Street I stopped the car and stood for a few moments taking in all the memories at the corner of the woods, where I had spent so much time in so many years ago. I looked to the left where the ” Little Store “had been, at least that’s what we called it. They built onto and expanded the store an turned it into a diner. Then eventually it was torn down. I slowly drove past the church on the left and there was Carol’s house, next to Mike’s across the road from Billy’s home which was next to mine. I could feel the past … I don’t think I’ve ever looked so intently at our old house as I did that day.

The large lot we had played football on was really not as big as I had remembered as a small child. My old house was for sale again, I sure would have liked to have gone in. The memories just kept flooding into my soul. As I turned left on Nunnelly Avenue, I remembered as if it were yesterday how I had somehow slipped out of the house unnoticed and rode my tricycle to Nunnelly. I can still feel the horror I felt as my Dad drove up and put me and the tricycle in the car … he was angry, and that was the worst spanking I ever got! Needless to say, I didn’t ride my tricycle back there again.

My first memories of church, Sunday school, and Vacation Bible school happened at the Lewis Street Baptist Church. The Church was located across the street from our home. My first  thoughts about God and my first prayers that I prayed, happened in that neighborhood. That’s the place that I first learned how to make and relate to friends. God doesn’t want us to live in the past. But there is something spiritual about remembering and honoring those defining, and formative moments, and people in our past.

(To all those that are feeling lonely right now and missing loved ones – hang onto the good memories and Merry Christmas 2020.)

Overcoming Evil

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“Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!” So he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Look, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on the full force of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names stand written in heaven.” – Luke 10:17-20 NET

Jesus has sealed his cosmic victory over the forces of evil through his death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. When demons are being cast out, the devil is cast down. Satan (the satan) is not a personal name – it’s a title. The New Testament refers to this leader of the demonic realm as the devil. He is an accuser, slanderer, and the adversary of God’s people. He seeks to obstruct, oppose, divide, and wage war on the world.

One way the devil wages war with us is with godless ideologies, that result in the persecution of believers all over the planet. His agenda is carried out through ethnic and territorial conflict. He is behind war, disease, death, and extreme poverty in this world.

The present turmoil in America is demonically inspired and led by the ancient serpent himself. The lines between good and evil in the political battle between the right and the left are sometimes blurred.

Marxism is atheistic at its core. The devil’s mission is to lead all nation’s astray and into chaos, and Carl Marx was one of his evil apostles. Excessive materialism or crony capitalism can be just as dangerous to our souls, but it is much more subtle. But freedom (even with it’s abuses) is always preferable to an Orwellian society.

While the serpent has lost the war with God over the world – we still must fight him until Christ returns. Scholars often refer to the “already and not yet of the Kingdom.” Even though the devil has been defeated – he still takes people captive to do his will. He has been dethroned but still engages in guerilla warfare on this planet. When someone turns to Christ they leave the realm of spiritual darkness that he leads to becoming children of the light – led by King Jesus.

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” – Rev. 12:11 KJV

If you are reading this then you are being called to wage war against the fallen one and his army. But how do we fight? We overcome our ancient foe through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony while living a surrendered life. We learn to pray and oppose evil and injustice in all its forms. We proclaim and live the gospel of the Kingdom and seek the reconciliation of people to God. We love our neighbor as ourselves and speak the truth about God’s moral and ethical commands, which can only be lived out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Those who seek social change through destructive acts are being lead astray by the evil one. As Christians in America, we must pause and ask ourselves; are we seeking God for a spiritual solution or a political one to the turmoil we are presently in?

Let’s pray for God to change the hearts of our enemies. While we demonstrate the love of God to our neighbors.

Storms Clouds Approaching

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Storm clouds are approaching America at a rapid speed. The time is now to allow the LORD to examine our hearts. It’s time to turn from our willful disobedience to God. It’s time to return to Jesus. Much of the Church in America has compromised with spiritual darkness. We have allowed the values of our culture to shape our thinking.

While we must stand up for justice, we must not align ourselves with movements with dark spiritual roots. Riots in our streets, pestilence, and anarchy abound. Civil war seems to be a real possibility and forigen enemies could take advantage of this situation. God is not the author of this chaos.

Those of us who claim to follow Jesus have a responsibility to seek and pursue peace. But, compromising with evil is never the answer. Christians are called to live out the gospel and to stand in the gap. The gap is an opening in the wall of an ancient city. Walls were important to keep out foriegn invaders.

Watchmen were placed there to fill in the opening that was caused by the attack of an enemy. And to be lookouts on behalf of the city. We stand in the gap today by praying for the protection of our cities and for God’s mercy. Without repentance in the church, we can do very little to help the world around us.

I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” – Ezekiel 22:30

Answer The Call: Romans 8:28

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It’s always been a comfort to me to know that God had a plan for me even when I was walking in rebellion to him. He never approved or caused me to live in defiance of his will – but was involved in my life none the less. Our genetic makeup, our choices, the actions of those who we have associated with have influenced us significantly.

The home that we grew up in, the neighborhood, the school we attended, and even the car we drove help to shape us. Even when we didn’t know God, the wise decisions that we’ve made in life were the result of God’s mercy. And the bad choices that we’ve made can’t be blamed on Him. Nor can we blame God for the evil inflicted upon us by others.

Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that everything that has ever happened to us was good. Evil actions are never good. But, God takes those things that were meant to destroy us, or cripple us emotionally, and worked through them for our good.

Satan is real and at work to bring destruction to every human being and to the earth itself.

The promise of God working through evil only applies to those who answer the call of salvation. If you haven’t already done this – please answer the call to follow Jesus, today.

Can These Bones Live?

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I took this picture behind a Medieval Church in Germany.

Can these bones live? Without prayer the Church in the west as we know it will not survive. We (the Church) must recover our prophetic voice. Our prayerlessness has paralyzed us and we have very little spiritual power. As a whole, we have become conformed to the world and we are presently in retreat. Politicians cannot fix our present dilemma so we must rediscover the power of God in prayer. 

During the pandemic, God  lead the Church into a forced sabbath. We’ve been given time to reflect on our depth of commitment to the values of the Kingdom. We must ask the question of ourselves; do we value the Kingdom of God more than Church as usual? We can emerge from this season in the power of the Spirit or just go back to a form of godliness that denies God’s transforming power.

God has given us time to reset and to reengage the culture with spiritual power. This will require us to return to the ancient paths of prayer and holiness. We can no longer look to the Supreme court or politicians to get us out of the cultural chaos we find ourselves in. Jesus came out of his wilderness testing in the power of the Spirit. The question is, will we? God is going to raise up an “exceedingly great” spiritual army during these chaotic days. Our LORD still has a remnant in the western Church, those who have not bowed to political correctness or to cultural idols. May Jesus restore his Church in our day.

“The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and placed me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. He made me walk all around among them. I realized there were a great many bones in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said to him, “Sovereign Lord, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Lord’s message. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: Look, I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live. I will put tendons on you and muscles over you and will cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will live. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. There was a sound when I prophesied— I heard a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to bone. As I watched, I saw tendons on them, then muscles appeared, and skin covered over them from above, but there was no breath in them.

He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath,—prophesy, son of man—and say to the breath: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these corpses so that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as I was commanded, and the breath came into them; they lived and stood on their feet, an extremely great army.” – (Ezekiel 37:1-10 NET Bible)