PRAYER IMPROVES MENTAL HEALTH

Dr. Josh Packard, executive director of Springtide Research Institute, told Faithwire about his extensive research into 13-to-25-year-olds, noting studies have long found “religion is good for you.” “Faith and spirituality are good for you,” Packard said. “If you’re a person who believes in some kind of higher power and has a connection to that higher power, you’re generally flourishing more than your peers.”

“Those who pray more tend to be flourishing more in all areas, including their mental health.Packard’s comments are particularly stunning when America faces an “epidemic of mental health crises among young people.” Meanwhile, there’s also a massive rise in the proportion of “nones” who no longer affiliate with a specific faith or religion.

This data showing increased wellness among the faithful is particularly pertinent in the midst of these dynamics, pointing to a potential solution to cultural conundrums. Packard said there are lessons in Springtide Research Institute’s findings that can inform the culture and churches alike, especially in an era in which faith is being downplayed or diminished. “Young people would be better off if more of them had a connection to something bigger than themselves,” he said. “But also, I think a lot of religious institutions and leaders would do well to take mental health into account so that faith and belief could be appropriately part of somebody’s overall approach to health.” While young people might not be aligning with Christianity at rates they once were, Packard said many still see themselves as spiritual, and more than half pray.

While the separation from biblical truth is undoubtedly troubling for Christians, these realities show at least openness to a higher power. And that intrigue could lead to receptive Gospel introductions. “We see lots of desire from Gen Z to embark on these conversations and explorations of meaning and purpose and, ‘Why am I here on this Earth?’” he said. “So, the desire hasn’t gone away. The exploration hasn’t gone away.” As Faithwire has extensively reported, countless surveys and studies show the benefits of faith. Recent research has found Christians are exceptional at giving, fare better in relationships, church attendees are happier and more content, and churchgoers have better mental health.

Can I suggest you also take a look at my other posts on prayer: Praying Effective Prayers. December 7th, 2022, What Does Prayer Do? October 22nd, 2022, Prayer Connects You to the Source of Life. September 27th, 2022, Pray, Pray, Pray. March 27th, 2022, Praying and Meditating on Scripture Will Improve Your Health. March 14th, 2022. Other posts of possible interest could be Do You Want Greater Hope and Resilience? April 26th, 2022, Young People Religion is Good for You. November 13th, 2022.

LOVED MAN VS. WILD AND RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS

Bear Grylls is the first to admit he’s something of an unconventional Christian. The survivalist and TV host is unabashedly open about his faith and how it serves as his foundation for living an empowered life. But he doesn’t want to sanitize his message to make it inoffensive to a religious audience, and frankly, he doesn’t have much time for Western church culture. 

“I think Jesus would really struggle with 99% of churches nowadays,” the 48-year-old British adventurer told The Christian Post.

“Our job in life is to stay close to Christ and drop the religious, drop the fluff, drop the church if you need to because that means so many different things to different people anyway. Keep the bit of church which is about community and friends and honesty and faith and love. All the masks, performances, music and worship bands and all of that sort of stuff — I don’t think Christ would recognize a lot of that.”

He expressed his distaste for what he called “religious language,” sanitizing messages in such a way where people “can’t be honest, can’t express doubt and can’t fail.” The Church, he said, is “the place to have doubts and questions.”

Look at the early Church. It was a roomful of people eating and drinking and doubting and struggling and arguing,” he said. 

But the Church today, he said, has gotten away from that. 

“Probably most of the people in the congregation have substance abuse, and probably most of their congregations struggle with porn and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “What a relief it is when a pastor can stand up and go, ‘Welcome to the hospital, folks. Here we go. I’m just standing alongside you on the road, failing our way through, but reaching out of desperation for life and love and redemption. Let’s look outwards, and love other people, and we’re in it together.’”

It’s this kind of honest, zero-fluff approach to life that has made Grylls a worldwide sensation and one of the most recognized faces of survival and outdoor adventure. A former British Special Forces soldier and Everest mountaineer, he starred in Discovery’s “Man vs. Wild” and hosted “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” on the National Geographic Channel Series.

He’s embarked on countless dangerous expeditions, scaled Mount Everest, eaten snakes and spiders, and even survived a free-fall parachuting accident in Africa. His books, which range from survival skills handbooks to fiction, have also sold over 15 million copies worldwide. 

I think Bear Grylls has faith that will stand strong in the face of the prophesied increasing persecution that will come prior to Jesus’ return first to rapture the Saints but also to pour out His wrath upon an unrepentant world.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.Revelation 16:1-2

Extract of an article in Christian Post Jan. 14th “Bear Grylls says faith is ‘key part of survivor’s toolbox,’ laments ‘fluff’ permeating Western Church”

HOW TO STAND STRONG IN THE END TIMES

We are witnessing shakings that disrupt virtually every life, disrupting the world, setting cities on fire, changing governments, and ushering in an agenda that wars against God’s people. Is there a way to stand strong and immovable through it all? Jonathan Cahn tells us how to find it – and live it.

There is no doubt in my mind that God is using Jonathan Cahn to alert the church to what God is doing in line with end times Biblical prophecy. Regardless of what Satan does to deceive the world when the Antichrist comes on the scene, our hope must be in the fact that God is in control of history. Satan’s time of controlling the world is coming to an end. Make sure you are on the winning side.

DOES THE QUEEN’S PASSING MARK AN END TO THE FAITH ERA?

As the beauty, order, and majesty we have witnessed during this somber time reminds us, beneath it all is a faith tradition going back centuries. At funerals and services of thanksgiving, we expect to hear sacred music, but we must not take for granted that sacred music, more than any other, best speaks to the hurting hearts of those who mourn. As testimony, Classic FM has comforted a grieving nation for days, playing music to soothe the soul, from John Rutter’s glorious “Requiem,” to Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze,” to Samuel Barber’s moving rendition of “Agnus Dei.”

In the words of one presenter, “Solemn music worthy of a solemn season.” Yet, not just solemn, but sacred.

As the flag is lowered to half mast over Windsor Castle an incredible rainbow appears over the castle, for a few minutes and then just like that it was gone…

There’s also the uniquely-British literature of faith. The scripture “lessons” being read from the Bible, of course, and — especially for such a time as this — the elegant wording of King James’ 400-year-old translation. Then, too, we heard King Charles III saying farewell to his “darling Mama” by invoking Horatio’s words in Hamlet: May “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” Shakespeare was never far from biblical allusions. Nor is British pomp and ritual — all broadly and deeply steeped in faith. 

Take away the faith element, and pageantry is emptied of its power. More troubling, take away faith, and churches themselves are emptied. You wouldn’t know it from the scenes we’ve observed with the Queen’s passing, but in Britain these days even the most splendid churches are largely vacant. Raising the question: By the time King Charles passes, will faith still be found? 

Oh, royal funerals will likely still take place in Westminster Abbey. It’s tradition. But with each passing generation, the already-tenuous vestiges of faith will surely shrink. Indeed, cultural vandals are already clamoring at the gates. Shakespeare — that dead white male bard — is being dropped from curricula at every level, concurrently cancelling his vast storehouse of biblical allusions. So, too, there’s a target on classical music, penned mostly by dead white males (with patronages from the “evil rich”), whose lyrics and themes are distinctively Christian, not religiously inclusive.   

For all the poignant ritual surrounding the burial of the Queen, today’s Britain (no less than the lovely blooms forming the wreath on her coffin) is a cut-flower culture, severed from its roots of faith, and even now withering away. As genuine and heartfelt as faith has been during this period of mourning, far sadder is the “whited sepulcher” (to use Jesus’ imagery) of Britain’s great religious heritage, increasingly now filled with the bones and stench of disbelief. 

In the words of the Bard (from “Romeo and Juliet”), what could be said in honor of the Queen could be said conversely in dishonor of a once-thriving faith culture that has turned its back on belief:

“Death lies on her like an untimely frost; Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.”

Considering the rapid decline of faith in the West, which reading of that epitaph will be ours?  That of a believing Queen, whose faith-inspired farewell pageantry has made us weep, or that of an unbelieving society of cultural vandals whose self-lauding, empty rituals should make us cry?

SCIENCE TAKES THINGS APART: RELIGION PUTS THEM TOGETHER

Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? Professor John Lennox, Oxford mathematician, bioethicist, and Christian apologist says that we have lost our sense of real meaning and our moral compass. He also says the media is totally committed to secularism, materialism, and relativism. God is no longer relevant. He is no longer permitted at the table in discussions of how this world will be managed and controlled.

How foolish the world has become. Has this taken God by surprise? Of course not, His Word, the Bible tells us that the world will be like it was in the days of Noah (godless and lawless just as we see unfolding today) just before Jesus returns first to take His Saints to heaven to protect them from the wrath of God that is poured out on this earth. After which, Jesus returns with the Saints to rescue Israel and destroy the Antichrist’s army at the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus then begins His Millennial reign on this earth with the judgment of nations.

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.Matthew 24:37-39

Evidence-based faith is essential says John Lennox. The universe is rationally intelligent. Just look at DNA, it is complex intelligent information that controls the machines in every cell so that we can function as intelligent beings. Creation by an omniscient Creator is the only option. Evolution by random chance is nonsense.

John Anderson (former MP Australia and deputy leader of the Liberal Party) is joined by Professor John Lennox for a profound conversation centered on the current and future impacts of artificial intelligence technology. They discuss the shortcomings of science in the search for universal truth, the factors behind rising secularism in the West, China’s rapid AI implementation, our growing desire for immortality through biomedicine, and the true meaning of ‘faith’.

In 2020, Lennox published 2084 – Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity, which covers key developments in technological enhancement, bioengineering, and AI. In the book, he discusses the current state of AI – its benefits, dangers, and future implications. Over the past 15 years, Lennox has been part of numerous public debates defending the Christian faith, including debates with Christopher Hitchens, Michael Shermer, and Richard Dawkins.

You will love this video for what you will learn and hear from such a gentle, humble but eminently wise man. You will come to love John Lennox.

WHAT FAITH IS AND IS NOT

Randy Alcorn lost his wife Nanci recently due to cancer. Obviously Nanci and Randy prayed for healing when they first learned the bad news. Fortunately, both learned a great deal about God through the experience and as a result, their trust and faith in God increased. Moreover, we are benefiting now from Randy sharing their story with us

Nanci Alcorn, wife to best-selling author Randy Alcorn has passed away on March 28th after a long batter with colon cancer.

On November 14, 2019, Nanci wrote the following in her journal:

Today I am thinking about “faith.” I have learned so much about faith.

What faith is not:

Trying to gather as much hope and “possibilities” in my own mind to reach a certain level.

Believing in that level of possibilities as hard as I can.

Presenting that package of my own hopes and dreams to God as my personal qualification to receive my hopes and dreams

God weighing the level of that package in order to determine the level of His answer to my prayers If I work up enough hope on my own, God will answer my prayers according to my wishes

What faith is:

A deep and continued study of the character and work of God Almighty

A deep and continued discipline of prayer—listening to the Holy Spirit—praying Scripture—seeking forgiveness—asking for enlightenment—praising Him for His character and works

Then, based upon the above, submit your requests to God Almighty—placing your well-grounded knowledge of His character and works into each request, always asking His will be done

Faith is being assured that God Almighty always acts according to His character and works. He never waivers. You can trust in God Almighty to always do the right thing. Nothing slips through His grid. God has everything planned, and all His plans will succeed.

The more I understand God’s character and works, the stronger my faith will be, and the more I want His will to be done knowing God does all things well.

The more I understand God’s: – Omniscience, Omnipotence, Grace, Mercy, Justice/Worth, Immanence, Immutability, Faithfulness, Love, Unity, Trinity, Holiness. The more my faith in Him will calm my soul.

Randy adds the following:

Some people hold tenaciously to a faith that their child will not die, that their cancer will disappear, and that their spouse will recover from a stroke. Do they have faith in God or is their faith in what they desperately want God to do?

If we base our faith on lack of affliction, our faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart at any moment because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it. Only when we jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can we replace it with valid faith in the true God—faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.

God tells us that trials in which evil and suffering come upon us “have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7). Paul Tournier wrote, “If healing through faith is striking, how much more so are spiritual victories without healing.”

Several years ago, before Nanci was diagnosed with cancer, I wrote this in a blog titled “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”:

We should pray for ourselves and our suffering loved ones, not simply try to pray away suffering. ‘God, please heal this cancer is appropriate. ‘God, please use for your glory this cancer, so long as I have it’ is equally appropriate.

Let me be clear: God can and sometimes does heal presently, and whenever He does we should celebrate His mercy! I have often prayed for healing and sometimes I have witnessed it, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold and celebrate. But ultimately, all healing in this world is temporary, since people’s bodies inevitably deteriorate and die (after Lazarus died and was risen in his mortal body, eventually he had to die again) Resurrection healing will be permanent. For that our hearts should overflow with praise to our gracious God.

Nanci and I have long known that prosperity theology, or the health and wealth gospel, is a deception, not the true gospel. So we did not even once cling to the “certainty” that God would heal her in this world under the Curse.

Nanci’s journals overflow with the promises of God, and many quotes from Spurgeon and the Puritans, people who died long ago (some of whom she probably already met—if there is a line for those waiting to meet Spurgeon, she’s probably in it having delightful conversations). Nanci never quoted from aging and dying prosperity preachers, who will all die of something and daily get closer to death even as they promise “It’s always God’s will to heal you,” typically adding “send us your prayer requests for healing, along with a love offering [money].”

Though we prayed for it every night for four years, we understood that healing was never a certainty, and also knowing full well that sometimes He chooses to heal and sometimes He doesn’t, and even when He does the healing is temporary, and death always comes. “For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). When doctors told us Nanci was going to die, she told me, “We always knew that, we just didn’t know when, and we still don’t.”

But of course, God promises the death of death. He will not let it die a natural death, He will decisively “swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:8). Death will not have the last word. God will.

Jesus said to Martha, mourning the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Answering the question Jesus asked Martha, Nanci and I both said yes—we DO believe you, Jesus. We believe that even when we die, we will live, and in the sense of final death, we will never die at all. We will depart a cursed earth to live with Him in the present Heaven, from which He will one day bring our spirits down to join our bodies in resurrection, and we will then live forever on God’s New Earth.

Randy, God does not bring our spirits down to join our bodies in the resurrection. God raises the dead first and then raptures the living Saints and they meet Jesus in the air in their new bodies (changed in an instant). Later, they come down from heaven in their resurrected bodies to rule and reign with Jesus during His Millennial reign on this earth.

For the Lord, himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.1 Corinthians 15:52-53

DELIVERANCE IN WHATEVER YOUR SITUATION

It’s not about faith to get out of the situation, it’s about having faith to see God in and through the situation! In this video, Ps Shane Willard encourages us with Paul’s story of deliverance. Let’s declare over our situations; that this will turn out for my deliverance — no matter how this turns out I will keep my heart pure, hands clean, and taste sweet.

NON NEGOTIABLES

We are to defend and protect our belief in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ and do it in a way that defends and protects our love for one another. We can do this because Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell our Spirit.

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.1 John 3:23-24

DAVID’S PRAYER WAS ALSO AN AMAZING PROPHECY

Thank goodness we have the Psalms: how helpful they are in our Christian walk, they explore the full range of human experience in a very personal and practical way. However, one psalm, Psalm 22 stands out because Jesus quotes verse 1 as His last words from the Cross. Why did Jesus take us to this psalm? It is obvious when we read the rest of the psalm, the psalm is a prophecy of what Jesus was experiencing on The Cross at the time He spoke it.

David had no understanding God was using Him to deliver a prophecy that provides incredible detail about what Jesus would experience on The Cross one thousand years later. David was obviously going through a terrible time in his life to have expressed the words he did in this prayer but consider that God gave David the words to pray so that His prayer could be used by Jesus to prove He is who He said He was, the promised Redeemer of not only Israel but the World.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you, they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!
I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots..
. ” Psalms 22:1-8

Note how Psalm 22 ends, David understood that regardless of whether God answered his prayer, God is still in control of His universe and this scripture will come to pass:

As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.Romans 14:11

Moreover, it reveals that King Jesus will rule over the nations from Jerusalem in His soon coming Millennial Kingdom.

I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation, I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him but has heard when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. Psalms 22:22-28

They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4-6

A lot of bad theology inevitably surfaces when we face suffering. When people lose their faith because of suffering, it suggests a weak or nominal faith that didn’t account for or prepare them for evil and suffering. Any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost—the sooner, the better.

Suffering and evil exert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward Him. But if personal suffering gives sufficient evidence that God doesn’t exist, then surely I shouldn’t wait until suffer to conclude He’s a myth. If my suffering would one day justify denying God, then I should deny Him now in light of other people’s suffering.

Believing that God exists is not the same as trusting the God who exists. A nominal Christian often discovers in suffering that his faith has been in his church, family, career, or social network, but not Christ. As he faces evil and suffering, he may find his beliefs shaken or even destroyed. But genuine faith—trusting God even when we don’t understand—will be made stronger and purer.

The last three paras have been excerpted from Randy Alcorn’s book “90 Days of God’s Goodness”.

THE PROBLEM OF PAIN

C. S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain, “The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it.” Our self-will deceives us; in loss, tragedy, and suffering we may finally come to terms with our need for help.

Why do God’s children undergo pressure, suffering, and deadly peril? Paul answers clearly: “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” God uses our weakness and inadequacy not only to build our character but also to manifest His strength and grace to us and through us.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him, we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.2 Corinthians 1:8-11

Paul says, “Suffering exposes our theology. …Suffering will deepen your faith or it will weaken it. …Your suffering is not a failure of God’s plan. …In suffering, God reveals us and reveals Himself. … suffering is the workroom for grace.”

THE CASE FOR EASTER

The Case for Easter invites participants to examine the evidence for themselves and consider whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection makes sense. It will point them to the inescapable conclusion that led New York Times bestselling author Lee Strobel from atheism to Christianity: Jesus was the Son of God who conquered the grave

In his bestselling book The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel retraced his spiritual journey from atheism to faith by showing how the evidence he obtained from experts in the field of history, archaeology, and ancient manuscripts led him to the verdict that Jesus truly was the Son of God. Now, in this four-week study for Easter (DVD/digital downloads sold separately), Lee investigates the story surrounding the resurrection of Jesus—and how we can know that it is true.

In each session, he explores the following aspects of the Easter story:

What the Gospel accounts actually say about Jesus’ death and resurrection, how we can reconcile the discrepancies between the accounts, and how we can know the biblical accounts are accurate

How we can use a technique known as “five minimal facts”—facts on which even skeptical scholars agree are true—and medical evidence to build a strong case for Jesus’ resurrection

What the evidence in the Gospels reveals about the Jesus’ tomb being empty, why the Gospel writers are credible when they make this claim, and what this evidence leads us to conclude

Who the Bible states witnessed Jesus being alive after the crucifixion, how early creeds emerged that stated Jesus was alive, and how it’s clear the early church carried on this teaching.

The Case for Easter invites participants to examine the evidence for themselves and consider whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection makes sense. It will point them to the inescapable conclusion that led Lee from atheism to Christianity: Jesus was the Son of God who conquered the grave.