First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy

One of the results of Covid is the revealing of many people’s ignorance of the Christian faith and its relation to the church. For all who profess to be Christians, and despite any criticism (sometimes justifiable) of churches, we must remember that the church is Christ’s idea. Let me say that again. The church is Christ’s idea. 

“I don’t need to go to church to be saved,” some say. Perhaps not, but what makes you think you’re saved if you reject the very idea and structure of the One you profess to be Savior and Lord? “You’re adding works to salvation,” someone will accuse. No, I’m saying you’re dismissing the very idea and structure Jesus established. “Well, I don’t need to go to church to worship God,” many say. Well, just because you profess to worship doesn’t mean you do, nor does it mean it’s acceptable to God. The Scriptures reveal numerous times when God rejected people’s worship. The writer of Hebrews admonishes,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

“Well, I’m fed by Pastor Stanley [or Jeremiah, etc.].” Perhaps, but church is not simply about you. The church is a body where every member has value and is needed (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). There are persons in the church you are to interact with, to encourage, to exhort, to hug, to pray for. It is difficult to be involved (as we’re commanded to be) sitting in a recliner or laying in bed.

No where in the New Testament are followers of Jesus Christ called to be Lone Rangers. First Baptist Church of La-Z-Boy, St. Paul of King Size Bed, and Holy Trinity Breakfast Church are not legitimate churches. It is one thing to truly be shut in and bedridden, but it is quite another to dismiss church and the support thereof simply out of “convenience.” God calls us to love and serve one another. There’s nothing “convenient” about this. Church is more than simply going to sing some songs and hearing a message. Church is a living organism made up of individuals who minister to one another and to be involved together in the Great Commission of our Lord.

If you’re choosing to stay home from church when you are quite capable of going, you can use whatever excuse you want. But you fail to understand the very faith in which you profess. The Christian faith is not an isolated or “private” faith, but one of community. You do need church and the church needs you.

Behind Enemy Lines

Prayer is such a mysterious thing. God is Sovereign, His purposes will be accomplished, and His will cannot be thwarted; however, He has purposed that some things will either happen or not happen—depending on the prayers of His people. 

In prayer, because of the shed Blood of Jesus Christ, God’s people appear to simply pray wherever they are praying at the moment. However, they are also in the very presence of God before His throne of grace (Hebrews  4:16; 10:19-22). 

Strangely, like the stealth of Navy SEALs, our prayers also enter behind enemy lines where the works of God are not noticed by us, but are active nevertheless. While our prayers in no way force God’s hand to do anything, and neither is God dependent on our prayers in any way, somehow our prayers play a vital role in people’s deliverances, the breaking of strongholds, the infusion of God’s power, protection of God’s people, etc.

Our prayers truly matter. This truth is sorely neglected, forgotten, and misunderstood in many of our Evangelical churches. In the book of Daniel, we get a rare glimpse of the spiritual reality that goes on behind the scenes where human eyes cannot see. In chapter 10, Daniel (who had been praying and fasting for three weeks was visited by an angelic being. The prophet is told,

Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come. ~ Daniel 10:13-14

How have we gotten to the point where we have such audacious arrogance to think spiritual battles are won and the kingdom is advanced simply by our preaching, programs, and church attendance? How have we become so lazy and unbelieving when it comes to prayer that churches have nearly jettisoned prayer meetings, and the average Christian spends less than two minutes in prayer? Will our Bible studies bring revival? Will our church programs break the strongholds and addictions holding people captive? Will our Christian concerts bring the protection and comfort needed by those suffering around the world? These, apart from prayer, will accomplish very little, if anything at all. We must pray! If we truly want to see captives set free behind enemy lines, then we must pray. To simply say we entrust everything to God’s sovereignty is to offer an invalid excuse not to pray; furthermore, to spurn all God’s commands and instructions to pray. The darkness will only grow stronger as God’s people refuse to pray.

Prepare for Battle

Our nation is in serious trouble. The fact of the matter, if you read the first chapter of Romans, our nation is experiencing the judgment of God. While writing of the rebellious nature of man in general, the apostle writes,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth….For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. ~ Romans 1:18, 21-22

History bears witness to this. Anywhere Christianity has taken root, positive changes happened in societies (e.g., the value of children and women, the abolishing of slavery, healthcare, etc.). Opponents will say things like, what about the Crusades, etc. But we must understand the reality of the sinful heart of unregenerate men. As for the Crusades, Roman Catholicism is known for many corrupt popes, cardinals, and priests who were obviously not born again. Many of the Crusaders, too, were worthless men who loved violence and conquest. Corrupt men using religion to camouflage their wickedness is nothing new. We read about it in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., the Pharisees and Sadducees). And we see it today in politics and in churches promoting the false prosperity gospel. Nevertheless, wherever a people are truly yielded to the authority of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, these communities develop stability, as well as goodwill toward others. (For further study on the positive impact Christianity has had on the world, read How Christianity Changed the World, by Alvin J. Schmidt).

We also see the evidence of what Paul writes even in our own nation. Despite the good Christianity has done, godless men in our government, universities, and corporations seek to destroy such evidence by rewriting history, grossly editing original manuscripts, removing statues, etc. And what are many trying to replace all this with? Many of these men, with all their prestige, credentials, and forked-tongue rhetoric are promoting Marxism (socialism/Communism), which history repeatedly shows it strips people of dignity and value, and is known for its cruelty, violence, and genocides. They claim to be wise—far wiser than the ignorant masses—they have become futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts are horrifically darkened. They continually promise a golden age of utopia—without God—but all they will deliver is misery for the populace.

Further down, the apostle writes,

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie. ~ Romans 1:24-25

Immorality, infidelity, and perversion have always found safe harbor in the hearts of godless individuals. So yes, there has always been cases of adultery, child molestation, and the like. Nevertheless, even in our nation, these were once considered taboo. Pregnancy out of wedlock and divorce were once shameful. Then came Hollywood with all its productions and godless promotions, increasingly stirring the lusts within people. During the 60’s came the “sexual revolution.” A generation no longer wanted the constraints of godly living. So, God gave them over to what their foolish hearts desired.

But the depravity of the sinful heart is like the grave and is never satisfied. The apostle writes,

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their woman exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another. ~ Romans 1:26-27

During the 70’s and 80’s there became a push from Hollywood and universities to legitimize homosexual behavior. Today, not only is this behavior staunchly defended in Hollywood and Washington, but even many churches professing to be ambassadors of Christ. And there is a growing persecution (as evidenced in Canada) against those who would stand against the authority’s acceptance of this lifestyle. Nevertheless, we cannot nullify what God’s Word says, regardless of what side one chooses to stand.

The apostle then delves into the third wave of God’s judgment on a people.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. ~ Romans 1:28-31

Our society laments the violence in our city streets, poverty, broken homes, and threats of terrorist attacks. Yet, it is offended when the name of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, or the Ten Commandments are displayed. Our schools fully embrace evolution and deny any Intelligent Design (let alone the Creator as declared by Christians). Lascivious and blasphemous celebrities are idolized, while manipulative and corrupt politicians are applauded. Child-molesters are being defended by those claiming their desires are legitimate. Abortion is defended, even applauded, by many, despite the fact footage shows the real brutality which takes place, as babies’ body parts are ripped apart. Planned Parenthood, which claims to be “non-profit,” is somehow a multi-billion-dollar industry. And speaking of multi-billion-dollar industries, let us not forget to mention the tragic reality of human trafficking—a modern slave trade supported by many of our celebrities, politicians, and businessmen. This is the reality of societies without God. Utopia is the myth believed by fools.

It is strange that so many are looking to politicians to fix the problems when they, and their policies and exchanging of money “under the table,” are a vital part of the problems. Understand, this isn’t to casually dismiss the voting process. Citizens must be wise in who they vote for. But what good is this if the citizens are unwise and godless? The church must understand the issues go deeper than politics. Far deeper. If there is to be any hope for our nation, then God’s people must pray. This means seeking His face, as well as confessing the sins of our nation—as well as our own (see Nehemiah 1:6-7). But it also means preparing for spiritual war. The apostle writes in the sixth chapter of Ephesians,

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:10-12

While we are responsible for the choices we make, and societies are responsible for the ideologies and beliefs they hold to, there is the reality of evil demonic beings influencing the events of our world. Have you ever wondered why universities, politics, Hollywood, Communism, Islam, New Age Occultism, etc., are hostile toward Christianity specifically and directly? In any case, while not dismissing the wickedness of people, our real enemies are not the people but the demonic forces influencing them. Sadly, many churches are not only standing alongside the wicked, but many are just as influenced by the spiritual forces of darkness. Why else would the Cross and Blood of Jesus Christ be deemphasized in some churches—even despised? And too often Christians are so busy warring against one another, completely oblivious to the fact the real enemies are unseen and working behind the scenes, not only in the world, but in our associations, conventions, seminaries, etc.

The apostle goes on to write to followers of Christ,

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. ~ Ephesians 6:13-18

The real battle does not take place on the streets of Washington, but on our knees in prayer. But we must have the complete armor on. We have a worthy adversary. Some don’t like it when I use the term “worthy,” thinking I mean he is worthy of some sort of praise. Still, others boast of the Victory we have in Christ, and mock the adversary as being a “toothless tiger.” But let us understand, while we are not told to be afraid of him, we are certainly to be aware of him. He is extremely crafty and manipulative. He knows our weaknesses quite well. In fact, Jesus tells us to pray for God’s deliverance from temptation and evil (Matthew 6:7). Peter warns us of the devil, who is like a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Again, we don’t need to be afraid, but we must be aware, and we must be willing to battle in prayer with complete dependence on God. We must be girded with truth. As Neil Anderson writes in The Bondage Breaker, the power of the devil is in the lie. We must conquer using God’s truth. We must be covered and protected with righteousness. Unrighteousness will only play right into the enemy’s hands to his advantage. We must have the shoes on, firmly rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The evil one is a fighter, and he will unleash lies and persecution against us. Whether through other people or whispers to our mind. We must lift our shield of faith in resistance to these fiery arrows. With this, we need to protect our minds with the helmet of salvation. Always remembering what Christ has done for us. We are saved by His grace and sacrifice, and not of our own works. And our weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, the Bible. Too often, people want to use the ideologies and trends of men, but these are like J. R. R. Tolkens’ golden rings described in his masterpiece, Lord of the Rings. These are crafted by evil, benefit evil, and enslave to evil. Our only true weapon is the Word of God in against the spiritual forces of evil. Lastly, we must be in constant prayer in the Spirit, in accordance with God’s will and ways, and praying for all fellow followers of Christ.

My friends, if there is any hope whatsoever for America, it will only come because of God’s mercy and power in response to the sincere prayers of His people. Only if we are willing to prepare for, and engage in, battle in prayer will be see hope and healing for our nation and world. But the question is, will we prepare for battle in the heavenlies?

If My People…

“If” is a small word, having only two letters, but “if” is anything but insignificant. “If” is a conditional word containing tremendous possibilities. If this happens, then this will be these will be the results. However, if this does not happen, then these will be the results. Whatever field we are talking about, whether natural, medical, psychological, mechanical, judicial, spiritual, etc., the results can be vastly different. The differences can be a matter of bad or good, infecting or healing, breaking or fixing, chaos or peace, judgment or mercy, destructive or calmness, death or life.

The Lord tells His people in the days of old,

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

Did you notice the if/then condition? But the Lord doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say,

But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:19-20

By now, no doubt some will be saying, “But that’s the Old Testament,” or “But God was talking specifically to the Jewish nation.” However, let me sound this truth, God is unchanging, and His principles remain constant. Furthermore, let me ask you this, since this is from the Old Testament and God was talking to the Jewish nation, should we remain proud and stiffnecked, and not pray or seek His face because we are under grace? Where do you read this in the New Testament? Do you see this in Jesus’ teachings? Or in Romans, or the letters of Peter or John? Where exactly in the New Testament are we shown we can remain in our pride, hold onto our idols, where we don’t need to seek God’s face and pray?

While I have heard preachers and seminary professors state that this promise is specifically to the Jews of old, does this mean this passage has no promise or application to us? Do the prayers of God’s people today, who are in Christ, not count for anything? This passage in 2 Chronicles has much relevance to us today. Do you not believe God would do a might work of mercy and healing throughout our nation if we, the church, as a whole organism, humbled ourselves before Him, sincerely prayed and sought His face, and turned from our wicked ways? Do you really think He would ignore us since, after all, that promise was in the Old Testament to the Jewish nation?

Let me ask you further, do you think that we are not proud and do not need to turn from any wicked ways? Do you think we have not turned aside and forsaken His statues and commandments? And do you think we are not guilty of going out and serving other gods? We are far more guilty than you realize! Consider how churches put so much emphasis in people’s degrees and natural abilities, and the way prayer is often just a casual two-minute formality; and think how the common consumer mentality infects many churchgoers. “What does this church have to offer me?” is a question often asked. Not “does this church proclaim the truth? What can offer it?” Think about how many church leaders borrow from the trends, ideologies, and pragmatism of the world, instead of abiding by the principles laid out in God’s Word. Think about how many songs in worship settings emphasize the greatness of God, not because of who He is, but because of what He has done for us and how He makes us feel. Think of songs how we say He is welcomed in His own house! Do these not all reveal the pride in our hearts?

Repeatedly the Bible tells us to love one another, to consider others as being better than ourselves, to have the mindset of Christ who humbled Himself to be as a servant. But how many pastors are genuinely servant-leaders? How many of us are known to treat others as better than ourselves? How many church splits have occurred over trivial things? (More often it has to do with persons not getting their way than it does doctrinal issues). And we are told to learn contentment, to not fall into greed, and to not love money? Yet, how many preachers use preaching to obtain wealth—even at the expense of compromising truth? And God declares in Genesis, and Jesus echoes in the Gospels, that God created two genders, male and female, and has instituted the bond of sacred matrimony between one man and one woman. Yet, we have many in churches disregarding these statutes shamelessly. The Creator God, the Giver and Sustainer of life who many claim to worship, all the while condoning abortion. The Scriptures tell us,

Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. ~ Leviticus 20:2

Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. ~ Jeremiah 32:35

Do we honestly believe we have not turned aside? Do we seriously believe we have not forsaken God’s statues and commands?

Now, concerning idolatry, do we think this is simply the abomination of Old Testament religions? “You shall have no other gods … You shall not make for yourself a carved image … You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Ex. 20:3-7). The unhealthy devotion many have for football, television, and the like, by all appearances, far surpasses devotion to God. In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer notes, “Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous.” So many ideas about God in many of our mainline denominations veer away clear teachings of the Scriptures. Why? Usually because what God reveals about Himself goes against what persons want to believe and hold onto. Understand, persons can change God within their imaginations all they want and however they want, but God Himself is not changed in the least. Persons can hold to their imaginations about God and trust them as true, but this is all idolatrous.

One of the modern movements, despite having a history containing numerous scandals and apostasies, is not only popular with young people, but its music is used in many evangelical churches. Let’s be extremely careful, because our acceptance of it (instead of doing away with it) can taint our own worship. For though some of the songs do appear very worshipful and honoring to Jesus Christ, some of their concerts have celebrated goddess worship (it is rather blatant if you were to watch the live presentation on a Youtube video). Speaking of goddess worship, Maria Kneas, in her book, How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution, tells of an ecumenical Re-imagining Conference held in Minneapolis, in 1993. Hundreds of those who gathered were from numerous mainline denominations. While there, the people invoked the name of Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, and even calling her Creator. Apparently (but not surprisingly) the doctrines of Jesus’ incarnation and atonement (the very central teachings of the Christian faith) were openly rejected. This is idolatry in explicit form.

Lest anyone thinks I am only addressing liberal or “progressive” (falsely so-called) Christianity, those of us who consider ourselves conservative evangelicals are not off the hook. The truth be told, we have our own pet sins, of which we don’t really consider sin, let alone evil. But all sin is evil because all sin is rebellion against God and His character, regardless how we like to dress it or what perfume we try to douse it with. Consider the sin of heartless faith. Jesus, while commending the church of Ephesus for their strong stance against sin and holding to correct doctrine, strongly rebukes them for their lack of love for Him. Jesus says,

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. ~ Revelation 2:4-5

And what about the sin of unbelief? “God doesn’t do that anymore,” some will say. Or else we mask our unbelief with, “if it be Your will,” sometimes already holding the thought that He probably won’t do it anyway. But we are told,

And [Jesus] did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. ~ Matthew 13:58

While our prayers must fall in line with God’s will and purposes, what does Jesus command? Elsewhere He says,

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. ~ Mark 11:24

What about the sin of partiality? Let’s face it, evangelicals are pros when it comes to saying we’re on a level playing field, and that no one is truly better than another. I’ve been a Christian for about thirty years, and I’m convinced that most Christians do not really believe this. If we did, then more people wouldn’t feel so isolated or rejected in evangelical churches. Although James blatantly calls our partiality sin (James 2:9), our churches, just like the world, contain the haves and the have nots, the popular and the unpopular, the sought after and the neglected.

In his book, Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges addresses quite a list of sins the Bible condemns, while the same are too often ignored or condoned in evangelical churches. Just to mention several: ungodliness (i.e., leaving God out of our thoughts or plans), anger, ingratitude, pride, impatience, judgmentalism, anxiety, worldliness, and gossip.

My intention is certainly not to belittle the church, the people of God. Yet, is it not true that so often we can look at the world, or even other churches, wanting to take the specks out of their eyes, while being completely oblivious of the logs and cedar beams in our own? We wonder why the world is caught within a downward spiral, but how can it not be when so much of the professing church is also caught within a downward spiral of its own? I ask you today, what would happen—even if it began with small pockets across our nation—if God’s people were to get serious about their faith and profession, turning to Him, confessing all that God calls sin (taking our warped and perverse notions out of the equation altogether), and were to forsake all our various wicked ways? One thing is for certain, we won’t know unless we actually come to the end of ourselves and turn wholeheartedly to God, through Jesus Christ His Son. But to do this we must acknowledge all the logs in our eyes, filth in our minds, the flames of hell from our lips, and the stinking sewage sitting stagnantly in our hearts, and ask God to burn the logs and beams, to cleanse and sanitize our minds, to pour His living waters on our tongues, and empty and refine our hearts of all the sewage.

If God’s people who are called by His name would humble themselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from their wicked ways, then what would happen? Let’s begin asking God to do such a work within us (as only He can do), and maybe we will see our nation and world mended in a way either has experienced in a long time.

The Simplicity and Complexity of Prayer

Prayer is both simplistic and complex. Often we make prayer much more difficult than it really is or needs to be. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is we try to approach God as intelligent adults instead of as children. We want to be logical (from our standpoint), eloquent, or craft our words in a manipulative way (despite the fact God cannot be manipulated). But God wants us to speak from our hearts, not just from our heads. He wants us to be ourselves, not grammar teachers or orators. And He wants us to trust His heart, even when His answers might disappoint us at times. 

God is not interested in our prayers sounding eloquent or poetic. What He cares about is our sincerity, humility, and relationship to Him. Furthermore, are our prayers in agreement with His character, will, and ways?

Still, there is a complexity to prayer. It can be difficult praying to the One we are not permitted to see. Not only that, but there are battles and mysteries in prayer of which we cannot perceive. Why does God answer certain prayers affirmatively, but not others? And such answers vary from person to person? There are different aspects to prayer we must be aware of: 

  • God sees the complete picture and understands every dynamic, whereas we do not.
  • God’s motives are holy and pure. Ours are sometimes tainted with impure and selfish motives.
  • God is not to be approached flippantly, for He is a great King. We are sometimes irrelevant and lackadaisical.
  • We have a real adversary who seeks to hinder our walk in Christ and kingdom work. Too often we are oblivious to the real spiritual warfare the Bible tells us of.

Each of these, and more, play a part in prayer. It is important to keep  these in mind lest one becomes discouraged, doubtful of God’s love, and eventually prayerless. Despite the difficulty and mystery surrounding prayer, God calls every true follower of Christ to pray.