Revelation 22:2 has been identified as a scripture that prophetically defines, at least in part, the call of the Canadian Church to serve the nations.
"THE LEAVES OF THE TREE WERE FOR THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS"
This scripture identifies our primary national gift/calling and it opens a window into the promise of spiritual abundance that the Canadian Church has received from the Lord. In this moment, in the drama of the nations, we need to see this promise clearly so we can be activated into this unique gifting and calling. It’s a moment we don’t want to miss.
In order to really function in this calling however, we need to understand it. We need to believe for what God is truly giving us, we can’t afford to just run with assumptions. If we’ve misunderstood and jumped to conclusions, even if we are fervent, prayerful and sacrificial, we end up asking amiss, (Jas 4:3), and this can cost us dearly. It is often misunderstanding what God has promised that leads to disillusionment and “hope differed” (Prov 13:12).
In the last blog post when we looked carefully at Ps 72:8 and considered its context, in the same way, it’s also important that we understand the context of our Revelation 22:2 promise.
Where is it? What’s happening? What does this same image communicate in other passages of scripture? Let’s dig in! We find our promise is right at the end of the book of Revelation, in the midst of the description of the New Jerusalem where the tree of life gives forth its fruit every month. You might remember the tree of life, we first encounter it in Genesis as a type (a symbol) of Christ. It’s eating from this tree that gives Adam and Eve life, and it’s this tree that they are separated from when they sin. The tree of life can also be a symbol of the cross, where Jesus’ saving and redeeming work provides —in exchange for our lives diseased by sin— His incorruptible life. But it’s not just a personal redemption, here in Revelation at the restoration of all things, the tree of life is providing the nations with fruit for feasting and leaves for healing.
How we long for this day!
So if the tree itself is a symbol of Jesus and the cross, where does Canada come in?
How then could this be a promise for the Church in Canada?
A SPECIAL GRACE FOR HEALING
First of all, this is a promise that the Church in Canada has a special grace for healing, as a part of our spiritual DNA. Healing of hearts, bodies, relationships, spirits, and more! This means when we see God moving in our nation, in big or even smaller ways, we can expect to see a strong theme of healing. It’s a spiritual gift from God that has, and will continue to, manifest in the Canadian Church.
This means we can and should knock, seek and ask in prayer for healing to flow from every church, every network and denomination, and from the life of every believer! Receive a bigger vision of healing than just physical healing-- but let’s keep contending for the sick and injured to be healed!
AND TO THE NATIONS
Secondly, this gift of healing is also a responsibility, a call to minister the leaves of the tree of life, (the leaves of Jesus’ gospel) to broken hearts and lives from around the world that have come to Canada.
As well, we take these leaves into nations as we are sent out. It’s both. Caring for the nations as they come, and carrying Jesus, as His servants, to the nations. What an honour and what a joy!
But with both of these applications, (healing as our spiritual DNA, and our call to carry healing to the nations) -- it must never become about us. That can sour the gift.
IT'S NOT ABOUT US
The Canadian Church cannot be exalted in this story, we must decrease in our national ego and our national self-life, to make more room for Jesus’ glory to increase. Remember Paul, who called himself the “Hebrew of Hebrews”(Phil 3:5), then went on to declare that what ever was gain for him (he included his Jewishness in this listing) he counted as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8).
Being Canadian is wonderful, but Canadians, or even Canadian values and culture won’t ultimately heal anyone. It is only Jesus, His grace and power. We may be the vessel at times, but we are merely jars of clay, not the glory that the jar contains. That glory is the presence of God. We may have a rosy view of all things Canadian and see kingdom values in our desire for peace and our cultural politeness, but don’t let that turn to a form of national self-righteousness, where we subtly believe we merit God’s gifts to us.
If Paul considered being Jewish was of no value, how can we assert that being Canadian somehow makes us worthy? Let’s, like Paul, always make sure it’s Jesus who is glorified, honoured and proclaimed in every opportunity we have to minister. It’s Jesus the world needs, not Canada.
A PROPHETIC MOMENT
With hopefully a clearer vision of what our gift looks like, let’s notice that we are in a moment right now where the Church in Canada has an invitation to bring Jesus’ healing to nations. The world’s eyes are on Iran and because of the tragic loss of life in the recently downed Ukrainian flight 752 there is a sudden awareness of the link between Canada and Iran. We can’t let this moment get lost in the noise of international turmoil, it’s a strategic place where the Canadian Church can step in with Jesus’ healing.
How? Consider these ways:
CARRYING THE GOSPEL MEANS IT CONFRONTS US TOO!
As we pursue an activation of our gift: bringing healing to the nations that comes from Jesus’s life and redemption, (not just Canadian niceness or peacefulness) we can expect that carrying the gospel will confront our hearts as well.
We simply can’t function in this gift if we are anti-immigration or biased against other ethnic groups that have moved to Canada. I’m not advocating for open borders, but as Christians, those that are coming to Canada legally need to find the warmth of the Church’s generous embrace and welcome. “Welcome the stranger” — it’s a part of the gospel. If this is not fully our heart, we need to repent and realign ourselves with the call to authentically love our neighbours.
The two major prophetic promises God has given our nation are phenomenal! If we believe them, live into them, contend for their fullness we will find our true national destiny and our hearts will overflow with the goodness of God.
Read the other two posts in this series: Removing our Cataracts, Seeing His Dominion.
“May He have dominion from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth!” Ps 72:8
Without question, when we lift our eyes to see the powerful prayer of Ps 72:8 inscribed on the arch of our nation’s Peace Tower— the very front door of Parliament— we know this is a verse that has particular application to our nation.
Then when we also discover that this same verse was the inspiration for Canada’s original name of the “Dominion of Canada” it adds a whole other level of confirmation, indeed, this is a promise from the Lord for Canada! It is a promise that generations of Canadians can confidently trust will be fulfilled.
However, as we pray for the fulfillment of this promise, isn’t it vital to understand what we are actually asking for? If one of the reasons that prayers are not answered, is that we have “asked amiss” (Jas 4:3), then it seems very important that we line up with God’s intent, what He wants to give us through this wonderful promise. Yet as I travel all over Canada, and have done so for nearly 20 years, I hear a wide range of interpretations and expectations as to how the fulfillment of this promise should look.
In our last blog post we considered the need to have our vision renewed by washing our spiritual eyes in the scriptures (Restoring Our Vision #1). We talked about the importance of being Jesus-focused and handling His promises to us in a truthful, honouring way. This means not plucking promises out of their surrounding context nor imposing our ideas of what they mean upon them.
LIKE US-- JESUS WAS TEMPTED
Jesus was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness to do just that, to use the promise of God (Ps 91:11) to force God’s hand. Even though God had promised to provide angels to protect, yet this promise was not given to be leveraged for a power demonstration. Holding the promises in their context and in the greater story of scripture doesn't diminish them, it lines us up with God’s true purposes, so that we can pray and ask with extraordinary faith, seeing wonderful answers.
So the context of Psalms 72:8 matters. It is a Psalm which is written for King Solomon’s coronation, but also is a prophetic, Messianic Psalm. It speaks of Solomon and Jesus at the same time. It’s this weaving together the earthly kingdom of Solomon and the coming Messianic kingdom of Jesus that made it so hard for the Apostles and early disciples to understand that Jesus had no political aspirations.
DON'T LET YOUR LONGINGS DISTORT HOW YOU READ GOD'S PROMISES
But it wasn’t just the large number of OT promises for a Messiah to come and sit on David’s throne that created this expectation, it was also the desperate desire of the Jewish people. As an oppressed people, they longed for freedom. They longed for the glory days of David and Solomon’s reigns where there was might in Jerusalem, prosperity throughout Israel and respect coming from all the other nations. Right up to the time of Jesus’ ascension, the disciples still viewed the kingdom of God through this political lens. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6)”
Yet Jesus had a bigger plan and much better good news.
Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom where those that want to be great in the kingdom become the bondservant of all, where you gain your life by loosing it, and where you find it is more blessed to give than to receive. These are not new thoughts, I’m sure you’re all nodding your heads in agreement. But not as commonly considered is that His kingdom is also an inside-out kingdom. A kingdom where He reigns, not by the iron rod of dictatorial oppression that the Romans imposed on Israel, but by winning our affections, capturing our hearts. His rule comes not by an outside imposition, but a life freely surrendered. He leads by winning the hearts of men and women who become consumed with love for Him.
So to truly pray this promise of Ps 72:8*, in a way that is consistent with Jesus’ kingdom, we can’t distort it to assert that Canada will become a politically Christian nation, imposing Christian morality and values on a largely secular population, (even for their own good). This is misunderstanding the word dominion and ascribing secular political power to it, selling this promise short.
It’s also forgetting that we are in the “now and not yet” age of the kingdom.
Rather, dominion, when applied to Canada in this age, refers to the scope, or range of Jesus’s influence. May it be —from sea to sea in our nation— that Jesus would have sway over the hearts and affections of the majority of Canadians! This is a promise for amazing revival. Pause there for a moment and let that sink in. It’s a picture of Canada loving God, I can’t think of better news for our nation, or a better promise to believe for. We’ve already seen tastes of it, in regions as moves of God have historically swept through parts of Canada, like the 1850s when Methodism was so prevalent in Toronto, that the city became known as “Toronto the Good”.
AND EVEN MORE OF JESUS' RULE TO COME!
There will also be a day of the total fulfillment of this prayer, when Jesus returns and every knee bows. In that day His kingdom will be in Canada from coast to coast as in every other nation. But that day is not yet, He is still giving Canadians a choice to love and obey Him.
So as we pray, let’s shift our focus off of just getting Christians in politically powerful roles as a way to see this promise fulfilled, and let’s set our prayers towards seeing a great move of God sweep our nation which captures the deepest affections of Canadians, turning their hearts to give Jesus their utter devotion in unprecedented numbers.
Let the glorious promise Ps 72:8 bring renewed fire to our prayers— the promise that from sea to sea, the hearts of vast numbers of Canadians will be His.
Lord may it be in our day!
* Psalms 72:8 is most accurately translated from the Hebrew as a prayer or a blessing: “May he have”, rather than a declaration of “He shall have”.
Haven't read Part One of this blog series? Click here for: Removing Spiritual Cataracts
As the new year of 2020 is spread out in front of us, full of possibilities and promise, it is a perfect time to take stock. A time to consider what has been fruitful (I don’t just mean productive, but that which has led us closer to Jesus) and a time to consider what might have been not as fruitful. In the natural, winter is often a time of pruning, a time where the long and leggy branches that consume the plant’s energy are trimmed off.
Thinking back on 2019, the most significant event for the Canadian prayer movement was the election. It was hotly contested and very emotional. The Canadian Church as a whole prayed and many intercessors united in various rallies, joined the multiple fasting initiatives and gave themselves to the work of intense intercession. Yet the outcome of the election was very different than many (most) were expecting, leaving believers confused, heartbroken, even disoriented.
We can compartmentalize this event, even commit it to God and move on, but how will that effect us the next time we are called to pray for an election or like event? If we don’t address the confusion honestly doesn’t this give an open door to doubt and unbelief? I believe it does.
This new blog series is to speak into this and help us to continue to confidently pray regardless of the political landscape. In this three part series, we will look at Canada’s two most well-received prophetic promises, and use them to reorient ourselves around what God has indeed promised to the Canadian Church. These promises have been discerned and confirmed by leadership across denominations, and we can trust that God has spoke through them. However we need to see them clearly and truthfully, not skewed with our desires projected on them. As we look at them again, we can be confident that they paint a picture of what the coming moves of God (and yes, there will be many) will look like in the nation of Canada.
Before we begin, there is a prophetic picture that has recently come through times of intercession, which I believe will set the stage.
CATARACTS ARE BEING REMOVED
This is a prophetic picture of older eyes which had developed cataracts, now receiving eye surgery and being able to see the brilliant colour and clarity again. The scriptures talk of Eli, the old priest who raised Samuel as having eyes that were dim (likely with cataracts 1 Sam 3:2), the contrast is Moses, whose eyes did not dim at all as he aged (Deut 34:7). These two leaders of Israel had vastly different walks with God, and their capacity to see was impacted by that reality.
Cataracts are a particular problem to older eyes, they creep up on you, gradually dimming and dulling your vision.
For some of us, who have been holding to a vision of revival in Canada for years, even decades— could it be that we are now seeing a dulled vision? Do we have spiritual cataracts? Have we lost the intensity, vibrancy, and clarity of a vision of the Church on fire with the love and power of God? Do we see in the spirit God’s vision of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of souls turning to Jesus, not just for a momentary experience but for glorious transformation? It’s a vision that sees what's coming-- the glorious features of revival, in 3-D like clarity: the crushing weight of sin rolling off the shoulders of so many, the joyous dance of the lost being found and the fame of Jesus spreading unstoppably through their lives. Do we have eyes to see? Do we see the vision of the presence of God coming and settling on the Church in such a way that hours and hours are spent on our faces in worship, repentance and awe. Is our vision of revival in need of a renewing?
WHAT ABOUT OUR VISION OF JESUS?
Have we also gotten comfortable and familiar with looking at Jesus, assuming we know what He looks like and unaware that our vision of Him has dimmed? If we are not awestruck with His beauty, His compassion, His humility, His power… we need to see Him with clearer eyes. If gazing at Him through the scriptures doesn’t profoundly move us to adoration and a desire to surrender everything to Him, we need our spiritual eyesight restored.
If this rings true for you, ask the Lord for the “eye surgery” that is needed to restore vision. This is something He’s offering right now as He’s speaking through this prophetic picture. But cooperate with Him for the restoration, it’s not just going to be a zap, it’s going to be a process. It begins with seeing Jesus afresh, so soak yourself in the gospels and the epistles — look deeper at who Jesus is, your spiritual eyes will begin to open again (Eph 5:26). From there, He will show you how He desires to move in the nation, leading His beloved Church into the glorious fire of revival.
With a fresh vision of Jesus and revival as a starting point, we are going to look carefully at the two promises of Psalms 72:8 and Rev 22:2 over the next two weeks. What has God promised us through these two words? Have we assumed they were offering us something that they weren’t? Even if this is the case, the good news is that the gospel is the best news imaginable! Our human dreams of what's best are always inferior to the greatness of God's plan. If we have misunderstood these promises, be comforted with knowing that the truth of what they offer is better than our miss-understood version. Hallelujah!
So join us next week as we open up Psalms 72:8 and rejoice in what God has promised Canada!
A VISION IN PRAYER FOR CANADA
We posted this word on Facebook and it was so well received, we thought we would also share it here.
In early August, during a time of prayer for revival in Canada, I had a vision. I saw myself working as a labourer digging out and building canals in the City of God, to prepare for the next revival. It was happy labour, full of anticipation and purpose.
Canals create structures for the water to fill and beautify the city, they give the whole city easy access to the water. The canals in the vision were lined with cement, so the water stayed clean and the boundaries of their banks didn’t crumble. I heard: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.” Ps 46:4
Then the scene changed and I saw the city without the canals. A great flood came in and the water had no where to go to be retained, so it receded and in its wake — a tremendous destruction.
I knew implicitly that God was longing to pour out a great flood of His Spirit, but was holding back because we hadn’t prepared. If revival came now, we would not be able to steward it well. Yes we could have glory meetings, but wouldn’t be prepared to disciple the harvest. He is looking for us to build for what is coming, not for the level of water we experience now.
Then the Lord began to identify the specific “canals” He wants built and prepared.
The canals He showed me were: the gospel, (really understanding it and applying deeply it in every area of our lives) / maturing in use of gifts / biblical leadership with accountability / consistent heart healing / spiritual disciplines including deep prayer lives / community / theology / missional focus / servanthood / etc. Many of these areas we haven’t built into our churches in the deep robust ways we’ll need. It’s been easier to be shallow.
He’s asking us now to invest intercession and labour into the building of these canals as well as interceding for the outpouring, so we can genuinely host an outpouring, and preserve every drop of this precious water for generations.
Do not put your trust in princes,
This is our third and final blog post in our election series. In this blog we will consider the final spirit seeking to influence the Canadian Church more intensely during these days, leading up to the current, high-stakes, federal election. This spirit has an insidious influence that we need to be aware of and refuse to be entangled with. It’s the spirit of idolatry, which is right now aggressively pushing for the idolization of government.
When we think of idolatry, we might think of images crafted to represent demons that people bow down to. Perhaps our minds go to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to bow down to such an idol in Babylon, or the early Christians who were martyred because they refused to burn incense while declaring their statement of worship: “Caesar is Lord”. But idolatry is more pervasive and more fundamental than these simple examples that (I trust) most of us have been able to avoid.
DO WE NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR IDOLATRY?
Idolatry is the worship of a god that is not God; but worship goes beyond bowing a knee, singing a song or burning a pinch of incense. It’s revering, ascribing power to, submitting your life to, depending on — it's placing something (anything) in the place that God should rightfully hold in our lives. This makes idolatry the most common and the most grievous of sins. It’s not just misplaced affection, it’s so much more. It may not even be a conscious decision, it may be something we have drifted into without noticing. However, this sin has profound ramifications. According to N.T. Wright, when we commit idolatry we actually hand the idol the power that it uses to enslave us.
When we act, speak, and consider the government to be the highest power in our nation, we are tacitly declaring “Caesar is Lord”. Let’s be alert so we don’t stumble into this. Only Jesus is Lord. He is able to work out his will and bring forth his kingdom in spite of the raging of the kings of this world, he is Lord of them — he is Lord of lords. His name is above every name, his kingdom eternal and unshakable. He is not distant and removed from us, he is present and engaged.
GOVERNMENT IS ORDAINED BY GOD
Government is an institution ordained by God to guide, secure, bring order and justice in a nation. It has a place that God has given it. Government reflects the culture of the nation, including the spiritual culture, and this is most especially true in a democracy. The Church is called to be engaged and concerned about the government, to be prayerful and present. But when we focus on government in an inordinate way, either in our prayers or with our attention, this could well reveal that we have placed too high a regard, too high a dependence on the earthly power invested in government. If having a Christian Prime Minister is the ultimate goal of your prayers, rather than joining with creation’s groans (1), the prayers of the Son of God(2) and the biblical prayers of the Apostles(3) for the maturing and thriving of the Church, you may well have stumbled into this trap. You could be looking to the wrong source for change. Depending on the wrong power. The Church is the light of the world and God’s vehicle for extending the kingdom.
LORD, HELP US CHECK OUR HEARTS!
Another heart check that can be used to gauge if we have allowed this spirit to distort our priorities, is to consider the state of our heart toward the lost. The lost in general, and the lost who are active in the political arena. How tender is our heart, how central in our prayers are these ones who don’t yet know Christ? Does Jesus’ love and burden for souls trump our reaction to politicians or pundits from a party we would not support?
Am I saying just do “churchy” things and don’t pray or get involved in government? No, not at all. Am I saying the outcome of the election doesn’t matter? Again, no— it matters a lot. But I am saying let’s just keep this focus on government in its place and don’t allow the enemy to push our zeal into the place of idolatry. Let’s make sure the enemy doesn’t shift our hearts to trust the earthly governments of man, expecting them to be the vehicle to bring forth truth, righteousness, or security.
If you feel you have crossed this line and have stumbled in this way, don’t despair. The Apostle John teaches us that we all sin and that Jesus provides the remedy that we keep applying to our lives: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1Jn 1:8,9
This is the path of sanctification, the path that we all walk to become more Christlike. The path with no shortcuts.
If we are swept along with this spirit and engage in the same idolatry as the world around us, then where can they look for hope? Where can the world look for light and truth? Remember, we are of a different kingdom and God has given us this moment as a great time to shine.
1. Rom 8:22,23
2. Jn 17
3. Col 1:9-12, Phil 1:9-11, Eph 1:16-23 and more
By Sara Maynard
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
Last week we began our three-part blog series on the spiritual climate of this election season and the importance of recognizing the enemy’s agenda against us. We talked about a “spiritual swirl”, which is a way of describing the increased intensity of the demonic influencing how people think and react. Our first focus was on fear and how we need to be attentive to the ways this could be impacting our hearts, and thus our prayers. If you haven’t read that first installment, you can do so here.
The second focus and the topic of today’s blog is noticing the increase of accusation and its twin— blind loyalty— as tools the enemy is using to promote selfish ambition, which leads to division. One of the twins, (accusation) can only see the negative and the other (blind loyalty) will only admit to the positive, and although this might sound good, they both have, at their heart, the motive of selfish ambition, so blind loyalty is not at all the same as true honour.
WATCH FOR THESE TOOLS OF THE ENEMY
Accusation and blind loyalty, driven by selfish ambition, are feeding the spiritual swirl in the political campaign. It’s not hard to see them in action. If there is a candidate from an opposing party, they are met by severe scrutiny, every association, every action, word, or even the things they don’t do are mercilessly criticized. However, if they are from our favoured party, not only are they generously given the benefit of the doubt but blind loyalty pushes us to deny their obvious faults, even to the point, in extreme cases, of an irrational promotion.
However, accusation and blind loyalty are not just found in the political arena, these can actually splash into the Church and influence how we see each other, how we treat each other. Particularly right now, let’s be vigilant! Selfish ambition is more subtle and hidden when it’s in our midst, but as James teaches us, where it exists, it opens a door to darkness.
We can be enticed to divide and promote our “tribe” at the expense of others. Our “tribe” could be our denomination, our generation, our gift-orientation— those most like us. We can start looking at our tribe with rosy glasses, seeing only how God is using and blessing us, seeing only our strengths and virtues. This leads easily, if we are not careful, to believing that we are at the centre of what God is doing, and our language shifts into referring to our tribe as the forerunners, the remnant, the cutting edge of where God is going. We stumble into, on one hand, a similar thinking as the blind loyalty of the political arena, and on the other, an increased critique of those that are not our tribe. As we slide down the slope into accusation we see many more things to be disappointed in or concerned about in other parts of the Body of Christ.
We think to ourselves: surely these glaring shortcomings must disqualify these other tribes from being used of God or being groups that he would pour out his Spirit upon. We begin to believe: if they were truly walking closely with the Lord, they would be more like us!
TRUTH AND HOLINESS MATTER
Now I am not saying that there aren’t some very real sins and issues in the Body of Christ, nor am I saying that orthodoxy doesn’t matter. Absolutely that is not the case and obviously, some have blatantly compromised morality, while others have strayed from the truth into deception and liberalism. But within our huge family of those who hold to an orthodox faith and are earnestly following Jesus as his disciples, let’s not allow this tribalism to divide and diminish us.
A VERY GENEROUS GRACE
Let’s watch for the subtle drift towards spiritual elitism and accusation. It aligns us with the spirit of the world, making us vulnerable to be caught up in the spiritual swirl of the hour. It grieves Jesus, who’s longing for us to walk a different way, a way where we see the whole Body of Christ with a clear eye of reality and with very generous grace. It’s his longing that we resist the swirl trying to pull us to separate in subtle ways, and fight, in our hearts and in our intercession, for deeper, authentically humble, unity.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Rom 8: 35, 37
The federal election is almost upon us and the nation has been plunged into a high-stakes, emotionally-charged campaign season. Over the last 15 years or so the Church has become much more active and engaged in the political arena, so election awareness is at a high level in the Body of Christ. Christians are following polls, joining the campaigns as volunteers, praying, and even fasting for godly outcomes in October. This engagement in the public square is really important but as we do— let’s keep watch over how it could be affecting us. Let’s be absolutely vigilant that we don’t get swept up in the strong current of the spirit of the world that is raging right now and lose our footing.
This is part one of a three-part blog that I am writing to help us (I’m speaking to myself too) stay in a place of Christ-centred peace and joy, as we actively participate in the election season. I believe we should participate fully, but with a radically different spirit. We are citizens of another kingdom and this particularly dark time desperately needs God’s light, truth, and peace shining through us. Let’s seize the moment to walk out our witness.
RESISTING THE SPIRITUAL SWIRL
How we want to begin is to step back and notice the spiritual climate that exists in the nation right now, and discern where the enemy is sowing into it. He is creating a spiritual swirl. He is empowering his strategy and using people’s strong emotions and desires to increase this swirl’s intensity. He is also using godless ideologies as vehicles to sow lies and deception into the thinking of the nation, ultimately to increase the war against Jesus and His Church. The swirl we can all sense is marked by fear, intimidation, criticism, accusation, offense, division, and posturing for power. Noticing these features of the spiritual climate is the first step towards being alert to how these can be inadvertently impacting us, and make sure they don’t.
Have we noticed an increase of these in our lives or our church communities? Do we find ourselves reacting more strongly than we should, saying things we normally wouldn’t, being caught up in emotions that normally wouldn’t drive us? Perhaps we have, but it could also be that we have acclimatized to the heightened influence of the spirit of the world to the point that we have a hard time seeing it. When you live in a city that has a high elevation, you acclimatize to the lack of oxygen, but when you first arrive, the thin air affects all you do. God help us not to be acclimatized to the spirit of the world!
With this in mind, what should we watch for?
I’d propose that there are 3 main things we want to be vigilant and on guard against, particularly in this season. I’ll drill down into each one through this three-part blog series.
DON'T GIVE FEAR A FOOTHOLD
Let’s begin by looking at fear.
Fear ranges from a low level, simmering-on-the-back-burner anxiety to an outright terror that totally paralyzes us. It is the antithesis of faith, challenging, undermining, and sabotaging faith whenever it gains dominance in our hearts. We must be especially vigilant to not give it that place of access in this season because fear is everywhere. It may not be identified as such but it is fear that is adding gasoline to the fiery political rhetoric around climate change, immigration, gun control, pipelines, abortion, carbon taxes and much more. It’s on both sides of the debate that surrounds these issues and the Christian community is just as vulnerable to its assault if we don’t clothe ourselves in Christ.
Fear for our children to come under ideologies that oppose our faith, fear of the “media mob” and the persecution they can bring as the nation shifts to a more overly anti-Christian culture, fear of loss of prosperity and opportunity as our nation’s finances fail through poor management, fear of the loss of religious freedom as we seem to be moving into uncharted territory where scripture is inches away from being considered “hate literature”, fear of losing privacy and security as bad actors in the tech world become more and more aggressive. Much is at stake in this election and fear is everywhere.
TURNING TO JESUS WHO BREAKS ANXIETY
While identifying how fear is touching our lives is the first step; turning to Jesus for help is the second.
As we turn to him it’s a turning in faith (committed, trustful, reliance), not staying in the grip of fear and pleading, contending or decreeing for him to deliver us from the anticipated disaster. This is a vital difference. Trusting him means we come out of agreement with the anxiety. Yet so much prayer these days is staying in the anxiety and thus is driven and fuelled by fear. In contrast, prayer that turns to Jesus in deep trust and faith recognizes his ability to change governments, but also his ability to take his people through the most wicked governments or ideologies and continue to pour his goodness, redemption, life, and kingdom into their lives, in fact, at times in accelerated ways. While the outcome of the election is important, it’s not do or die, Jesus is the Lord of Heaven and Earth.
This thought (of Jesus's Lordship) is not new for most of you, and most (I trust) will agree that Jesus is Lord, he is well able to care for his people at any time, any nation. Maybe just remembering this truth reorients us out from under the spirit of fear and brings peace to our hearts. Making this shift for most is a simple step of repentance and reorientation, choosing faith, although it can also include asking Jesus to rescue us from anxious thoughts if they have overcome us. He'll help us make this shift to a place of trustful faith if we ask.
Trusting Jesus is not being passive, but it does mean we come out of agreement with the raging swirl of anxiety that is everywhere. It means we become empowered to walk in the opposite spirit, being kind and gracious to those who politicly oppose and slander us, praying with great compassion for those who see themselves as our enemies and living in sabbath rest.
I invite you to check in with your heart and notice if you have agreed with the fear and anxiety that is trying to get access to you. If so, also notice what stirs it up in your life— is it reading political commentaries on social media, is it conversations about certain topics, is it a daily habit of reading or watching all the news, maybe it's receiving fear-laden prayer requests that makes you vulerable. You don’t have to hide, but guard your heart. Guard your faith. Turn your trust to Jesus again and watch peace and joy return.
Watch in the next couple of weeks for the upcoming blog installments, important alerts to help us discern the traps being set for us in this high-stakes election season. We are praying that these will help us all to walk through this time in highly effective, joyful prayer.
Christmas, kids concerts, family, food, parties, shopping, New Years, out of town guests, entertainment, more food…
it’s kind of how this time of the year goes!
For many of us, we come into the new year looking for a way to get reoriented and back on track with God. Christmas is often so busy, filled with so many demands and expectations it leaves us wrung out and spiritually dry.
Where is that Living Water that we need so badly?
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.
This is a perfect time to take stock of how much of that Living Water we actually have flowing in our lives, and take steps to see that increase.
The key that Jesus identifies is “whoever believes in me”. It’s not just the one who comes to Jesus but the one who believes in Jesus that has this glorious flow of Living Water pouring out of their heart. But here’s where we misunderstand. Belief is about the heart. Yet we read this to say: “whoever is a Christian, or whoever gives mental assent to the truths of Christianity, these are the ones that will experience this flow of Living Water.” That’s not what Jesus said.
Jesus said whoever believes in him. Belief is the valve that can open up streams of Living Water and unbelief can choke it off. J. I. Packer defines belief as: “committed, trustful, reliance”— in Jesus, who He is, what He’s done and what He’s said.
This means when we turn away from our self-reliance, striving and self promotion to put our full trust in Jesus to be faithful, good, and wise in all His dealings with us— our “belief valve” turns. The Living Waters burst forth and flood into our lives refreshing and refilling us!
So at the beginning of the year, instead of making lists of resolutions to improve yourself,
come to Jesus and throw your trust fully onto Him.
As you turn away from unbelief, and trust Him with utter reliance, (no plan B) in all the hardest places of your life, you will be amazed with the grace, joy, and life that opens up inside of you. Your heart turns from feeling like a dry river bed to being freshly, gloriously, flooded with the Spirit.
Happy New Year!!!