A different approach
Ephesians 6:12 NASB
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
From my perspective, one of the great weaknesses in Western (especially the USA & Europe) Christianity is a failure to properly embrace the preeminence of the spiritual realm spoken of in scripture. There is an instinctive tendency to approach life by first thinking and engaging the mind. As a result of this flaw, God’s People often attempt to shape the world through a pattern of natural observation followed by a well reasoned response. While the actions may be consistent with the right moral guidelines, The Bible promises that we find the truth only through the guidance of The Holy Spirit (see John 16:13). When our paradigm for living doesn’t initially consider the spiritual world, any plan for change is faulty before it begins.
2 Timothy 1:7 NASB
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
This scripture is a great example to help us further understand that spiritual forces are the real driver of natural events. When Paul wrote these words to Timothy, he was a young, uncertain leader who was struggling not to let what others thought, the fear of man, compromise what The Lord had called him to accomplish. This scenario is described in a specific way that eliminates either intelligence or psychology as the primary source of Timothy’s problem. The spirit of timidity sought to be a substitute to the leadership of The Holy Spirit for this young Apostle and Paul knew that a spiritual issue was at the root of the problem.
Hebrews 11:3 NASB
By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.
Creative faith isn’t based on logical deduction but rather on what God is telling us is true! Often, what God sees & what logic dictates are not the same thing. If you read the rest of Hebrews 11, you see one earthshaking miracle after another that would have never even been attempted, had natural logic been the primary basis for the actions. Isn’t it obvious that today’s world needs something extraordinary to transpire against the backdrop of the chaos that presently marks most societies? Perhaps, Christians are called to lead in this area by giving our minds a rest and seeking solutions that are inspired by Him.
Our history in California
Trina and I first visited California in 2004 with our founding board member, Randal Lee. We flew into San Francisco, and while we had a wonderful time seeing the city, I developed a severe pain in my thumb that eventually hurt so bad I became sick to my stomach. My first thought was to go to an emergency room, but we literally knew nothing about the area and Trina felt like we should call some of the people we knew and ask for prayer. I realized that I had forgotten to ask for prayer prior to our coming and very soon after we made the request, the pain began to subside. The next day we started the drive into Sonora and were surprised by the people that we met. Our eyes were opened by the large number of people who lived in difficult circumstances. There was far more poverty, including illiteracy, than I thought was possible anywhere in the USA, much less in a place with the reputation of California.
After several experiences in North Central California, in 2005 we were introduced to Pastors Chris and Lynne Darling in Death Valley. The Trona/Ridgecrest/Inyokern area is built around several significant mineral plants and the China Lake Naval Base. We have discovered some dichotomies worth noting over the 15 years we have been associated with this region: 1) The desert is beautiful, even a tourist destination, not a desolate and uninviting place 2) The general population is working class with very little of the stereotypical influences from places like Hollywood or Silicon Valley 3) There is an intertwined drug manufacturing & homeless population that is obvious and clearly growing despite significant social efforts to counter it.
Another telling exposure we have had to California has been through our son, David, in the San Diego area. He first moved to the area when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2008 and later became a San Diego Police Department Officer in 2012. Through our visits to see him and personal discussions, it is clear that the city is beautiful, diverse and divided. Beneath the idyllic seaside landscape there is a palpable racial tension among the Asian, African, Hispanic and Anglo populations. In my opinion, the progressive reputation of the area, especially in terms of race relations, exists more in the form of a myth than something that is actually in the hearts of the people.
Modern ministry experience
In February, before the recent travel restrictions, Trina and I spent eight days in the Death Valley area. We had a great time with multiple churches but there was something different about this visit. During a midweek meeting that drew people from many different Christian backgrounds in the area, The Holy Spirit impressed me with several things: 1) A revival has already begun in the Mojave Desert that will grow significantly 2) California as a state is going to change from a place with a declining Christian Influence to a place that is known for authentic Christian living 3) I had been tricked into drawing some natural conclusions on the spiritual state of California and didn’t believe that revival and a significant spiritual shift in the state were possible 4) I needed to repent and find God’s perspective on His dealings in California. This was a significant adjustment to what I believed was possible and has changed our long term approach to ministry in the state.
Please notice how subtly a trap like this can form. I believe it is an accurate spiritual assessment that California has trended in the wrong direction for quite a long time. My mistake was to take something that has been spiritually discerned and presume a logical conclusion from it! It was too easy for this to happen and I am asking The Lord to help me not to be fooled again in a similar fashion.
As I have reflected on this during The Coronavirus Pandemic, I am impressed that the spiritual application of our experience is not only for our personal ministry but also for the wider Body of Christ. Read Romans 5:17 NASB with a view that, no matter how spiritually dark the circumstances, He is able to use you to change them:
17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
Here is a short message that may help you make sure that The Lord is determining our perspective and resultant conclusions.