A Lent Devotion: Wrestling with God

A Lent Devotion: Wrestling with God

Today’s Lent guest post is by Daniel Hochhalter, author of Losers Like Us, an ebook that shows how our worst mistakes and greatest failures bring us to a place of teachability, egolessness, brokenness, and empathy. 

People often describe discipleship and the Christian life as a series of hills and valleys through which Jesus leads us. But to me, discipleship is more like a struggle, a wrestling match with God. And during Lent, as we wrestle with sin vs. redemption, I think of Jacob—the ultimate wrestler with God.

In Genesis 32, Jacob gets ready to meet his older brother Esau—who he tricked, years earlier, out of the birthright and blessing (Genesis 25, 27). Thinking Esau might still be a little peeved about that, maybe even peeved even to kill, Jacob spends a night alone in the wilderness, preparing himself.

Thus begins a series of strange events.

During the night—a detail both literal to the story and metaphorical to the spiritual journey— a mysterious man appears and for some odd reason, the two immediately start mixing it up (verse 24). This man turns out to be God (verses 28, 30).

Then it gets even weirder.

At daybreak (verse 25) —again, a detail literal to the story and metaphorical to the spiritual journey —God realizes that, incredibly, he cannot overpower Jacob. So he does what referees would call cheating: he cripples Jacob by wrenching his hip.

Yet even after this crippling, Jacob refuses to concede; instead, he demands: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (verse 26). And God does bless him: he changes his name and identity from Jacob, meaning “heel grabber,” to Israel, meaning “struggles with God” (verse 28).

Finally, when it’s all over, Jacob makes an amazing claim: “I have seen the face of God” (verse 30).

Like Jacob, my experience with God has been a throwdown. I demand explanations from God. And I don’t want clichés; I want real answers.

So I wrestle with him until he cripples me.

My divine crippling came in February 2008. After seven years of study in a British postgraduate program, I flew to England to defend my thesis—the final step toward the PhD degree I needed to teach college. While there were no guarantees, my supervisor deemed my thesis “ready to submit” and explained that by far the likeliest outcome was that it would pass, with some changes required.

At the appointed time, I walked into the examiners’ office.

An hour later, I staggered out with . . . nothing. My thesis was utterly rejected, with no grounds for appeal.

All that time, money, and effort —gone.

It was a long, somber flight home.

To this day, I am certain God led me into that program. But what kind of God would lead me into such a death-trap? Isn’t he loving enough to fight fair? Isn’t he strong enough to subdue me without cheating like that?

Seven years later, I still have few answers. However, those years have affirmed some key points in my understanding of discipleship.

First: Discipleship is messy and unpredictable because we can’t tame God; we never know what he will do.

Second: Sometimes discipleship involves believers mentoring each other, but other times it’s a long, solitary night of just one person, wrestling with God.

Third: In the wrestling match called discipleship, human motivations may vary, but God’s motivation is always the same—to give us a new identity and draw us closer to him.

Since my PhD disaster, out of my wrestling with God have come two unexpected new directions: a book (Losers Like Us – Redefining Discipleship After Epic Failure) which I wrote about my own broken life, reflected in the lives of Jesus’ twelve disciples; and a new focus on encouraging other broken people.

Yes, I still limp. My PhD failure will limit me, at least in academia, for the rest of my life. Yet at the same time, God has blessed me: he has renamed me from Daniel the Failure to Daniel the Published Author—a new identity I still can hardly believe.

I can’t say the wrestling is over; I continue to mix it up with God, demanding answers for things too hard to understand. But I can say I’m amazed to discover how creatively determined God is to pursue intimacy with me, at all costs.

And that discovery is the heart of true discipleship.

During Lent, I urge you to wrestle with God. Shout out your rawest, angriest, most painful questions. Go for the headlock and yell: “I will not let you go unless you bless me!”

By baring your soul and laying everything on the altar—all your hopes and dreams, dead or alive—I truly believe that you, like Jacob, will be able to say, “I have seen the face of God.”

I may not see it fully yet, but I am getting a glimpse.

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Lent Devotional: An Excerpt from “Revealing Christ”


Today’s post is an excerpt from Revealing Christ: A 40-Day Prayer Journey for Lent by Charisma House. Based on insights and teaching from classic men and women of God, such as William J. Seymour, John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesworth, and others, Revealing Christ is focused on helping you find new revelations of Christ’s suffering and sacrifice, and his life, death, and resurrection. Through February 25 you can download this devotional for just $4.99.




Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.

[Luke 4:1, MEV]

Jesus is our example. Upon His clean heart, the baptism fell. We find in reading the Bible that the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire falls on a clean, sanctified life. For we see, according to the Scriptures, that Jesus was filled with wisdom and favor with God and man before God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost and power. For in Luke 2:40, we read, “[Jesus] waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.” Then in Luke 2:52, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

After Jesus was empowered with the Holy Ghost at Jordan, He returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and there went out a fame of Him through all the region round about. He was not any more holy or any more meek but had greater authority: “And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all” (Luke 4:15).

Beloved, if Jesus, who was God Himself, needed the Holy Ghost to empower Him for His ministry and His miracles, how much more do we children need the Holy Ghost baptism today. Oh, that men and women would tarry for the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire upon their souls!

—William J. Seymour


Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit for ministry. Below is a list of the ways Luke’s Gospel says He was empowered by the Spirit.

Jesus was . . .

• Conceived by the Spirit (Luke 1:35)

• Descended upon by the Spirit (Luke 3:22)

• Filled with the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Led by the Spirit (Luke 4:1)

• Empowered by the Spirit (Luke 4:14)

• Anointed by the Spirit (Luke 4:18)

• Filled with the Spirit’s joy (Luke 10:21)

What Spirit empowerments have you experienced in your own Christian walk? How have you seen the Spirit at work in your life previously?

Are you doing anything in your life to hinder the Spirit right now?

How do you desire the Spirit to touch your life right now?

PRAY . . .

God, cleanse my heart with Your fire, that I may receive the baptism of Your Spirit. Amen.


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3 Resources to Help You Read the Bible During Lent


Getting into the Bible on a regular basis can be a difficult habit to start. If you don’t have a daily Bible reading habit, starting and committing yourself to reading your Bible on a daily basis will be a valuable building block for your spiritual health this year.

If you’re intent on starting a new discipline of reading or studying the Bible during Lent, here are three resources to help get you started:

  • Visit everydaybible.com (or download the app) for a daily devotional and Bible reading plan that covers the entire Bible in one year. Accompanying the study are inspirational pieces of Bible artwork depicting a daily verse. You can share the artwork with your friends, save it as a background on your phone, or as an image on your desktop.
  •  Download the Logos Bible app or the Faithlife Study Bible and subscribe to a daily reading plan or devotional. You can even set up notifications to get a daily reminder if you need the extra reminder to read the Bible when life starts getting busy.
  •  Start a Lent devotional from a list of incredible authors like Charles R. Swindoll, Sue Mink, and Donna E. Schaper. Going through a set devotional this season of Lent is a great way to stay committed to daily study and reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Personally, I love having a smartphone being able to access my Bible anywhere I go. Even with the demands of work, church, and family, I can take a few minutes in the morning, during lunch, or in between meetings to have an ongoing time of devotion.

How are you planning on being intentional with your Bible study this Lenten season?

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An Ash Wednesday Devotional


Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the first day of Lent. To help you prepare for this season, we’ve pulled an excerpt from Lexham Press’ ebook 40 Days to the Cross a devotional edited by Jessi Strong and Rebecca Van Noord. If you’re still looking for a devotional to read during Lent you can get 40 Days to the Cross on sale for just $4.95 through February 28.

Ash Wednesday

Confession: Psalm 51:1–4

Be gracious to me, O God, according to your loyal love.

According to your abundant mercies,

blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and from my sin cleanse me.

For I myself know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, only you, I have sinned

and have done this evil in your eyes,

so that you are correct when you speak,

you are blameless when you judge.

Reading: Mark 8:27–33

And Jesus and his disciples went out to the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, saying, “John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others that you are one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to him, “You are the Christ!” And he warned them that they should tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be killed, and after three days to rise. And he was speaking openly about the subject, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan, because you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but the things of people!”


If Peter. . .was called a stumbling-block by Jesus—as not minding the things of God in what he said but the things of men—what is to be said about all those who profess to be made disciples of Jesus, but do not mind the things of God? [What is to be said about those who] do not look to things unseen and eternal, (but mind the things of man) and look to things seen and temporal? Would they be seen by Jesus as a stumbling block to Him, and because they are stumbling blocks to Him, as stumbling blocks to His followers also? In regard to them He says, “I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,” so also He might say, “When I was running you caused me to stumble.” Let us not therefore suppose that it is a trivial sin to mind the things of men—since we ought in everything to mind the things of God.


Origen’s Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew


How are you mindful of the “things of people”? Are you harboring mindsets, possessions, goals, and desires that are incompatible with God and His kingdom? Make a list of these things and pray about them.

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The Meaning and Practices of Lent

Editorial Credit: m.bonotto / Shutterstock.com

Have you thought about Lent yet? Do you know what Lent is about? I’ll level with you, Lent has never been a big tradition in my family. My parents never talked about Lent and I never understood why people would fast for 40 days before Easter. Don’t get me wrong, I think fasting is important and valuable; the practice and discipline is incredibly useful in focusing our lives on Jesus. Maybe you practice Lent each Easter season and know the whole history. For those of you who—like me—know very little about the Lenten season, I thought I’d share some of my recent research.

I started my research on my iPhone with the Logos app and did a quick search. I found the Logos resource, Introduction to Christian Liturgy, by Frank C. Senn, and looked through his chapter on Lent.

Here is what I found about Lent in my research:

  • Lent was originally practiced as an imitation of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
  • Lent also served as time to elect candidates for baptism at Easter and for public penitents to be prepared for reconciliation on Maundy Thursday.
  • For many Christians, Lent is a period where people abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy products throughout the week and Sunday is a feast day.
  • Traditions vary among different Christian denominations, some believers abstain from food for an entire day while others abstain until 3:00 p.m.
  • Many modern Protestants consider Lenten fasting to be a choice rather than an obligation. Many decide to give up a favorite food, drink, or activity for the time period.
  • Depending on the tradition, Sundays are not included in the days of Lent—many believers treat them as feasting days—therefore Lent begins on a Wednesday to account for the 40 days before Easter.
  • Ash Wednesday comes from the practice of placing ashes on foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance. [1]

In my mind, regardless of where you go to church—if you’re a Catholic, Protestant, or don’t affiliate with a denomination—Lent is a time for you to prepare your heart for what is to come during Holy Week. Here at Vyrso, we’ll be spending the next 46 days discussing aspects of the Christian faith, discipline, discipleship, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.



[1] Senn, Frank C., Introduction to Christian Liturgy. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2012.

photo credit: m.bonotto / Shutterstock.com

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5 Things You Might Not Know about C.S. Lewis and His Writing

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is arguably one of the most well-known authors, scholars, and Christian apologists of the 20th century. His works have impacted readers of all ages with titles such as Weight of GloryThe Pilgrim’s Regress, and, of course, The Chronicles of Narnia series. With the brand-new C.S. Lewis Collection on Logos, now is the perfect time to get to know the author a little better before diving into this 30-volume collection of Lewis’ works.

 Here are five things you may not know about C.S. Lewis and his writing:

1. After its completion, C.S. Lewis read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to J.R.R. Tolkein, who hated it, thinking it was carelessly written and combined too many unrelated mythologies. [Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis]

2. C.S. Lewis was Irish, born in Belfast, Ireland—”In a letter of 1915, Lewis fondly recalls his memories of Belfast: ’the distant murmuring of the “yards,”’ the broad sweep of Belfast Lough, the Cave Hill Mountain, and the little glens, meadows, and hills around the city.” [C.S. Lewis — A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet]

3. The title for Mere Christianity was inspired by the writings of 17th-century Puritan writer, Richard Baxter, who protested against the divisiveness of religious controversy and believed in “meer Christianity, Creed, and Scripture.”  [C.S. Lewis — A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet]

4. Lewis wrote under the pseudonym Clive Hamilton, and published his first book in 1919, Spirits in Bondage, using the name. [131 Christians Everyone Should Know]

5. Lewis fought in World War I on the battlefields of France in 1917 and 1918. [C.S. Lewis — A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet]

Right now, you can save 30% on the 30-volume collection of C.S. Lewis’ works when you pre-order on Logos.com! This collection includes Lewis’ Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and even his collected letters. Spanning over 11,000 pages, the C.S. Lewis Collection is a must-have for C.S. Lewis scholars and admirers. Get it on Logos today!


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A Lent Devotional: 40 Days to the Cross


Today’s guest post is by Jessi Strong, the senior writer for Bible Study Magazine. She has also developed content for Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary, and is the author of 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers, a Lexham Press ebook.

I grew up in non-denominational community churches that placed little emphasis on a traditional liturgical calendar.  I discovered Advent somewhere along the way, but Lent was a total mystery, except for its connection to our neighbor Ernie, whose wife to give up cigarettes for a few weeks every spring. He hung out in the same spot in his driveway, leaning on the hood of his truck, but without his customary cigarette, he was crankier—yelling at the kids who veered their tricycles from the sidewalk onto his well-kept lawn (an offense that normally engendered no more than a grunt.)

When I went away to college, I learned a new vocabulary for celebrations of the faith: Tenebrae, Ash Wednesday, and Lent. These celebrations, so unlike my spiritual upbringing, were even more special because of their uniquness.  Lent was no longer just a game of abstaining from a favorite vice; it became a time of reflection and waiting.

The season of Lent marks a period of mourning for our sin and the fall of humanity—for the state of the world that necessitated the death of the son of God. Mirroring the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert, the church traditionally spends 40 days leading up to Easter in fasting and prayer.

My impatient nature is tempted to skip to the happy ending, but I’ve found that Lent’s intentional meditation on the suffering and death of Jesus Christ made the celebration of his resurrection so much sweeter. I’m more deeply grateful for Christ’s saving act when I reflect not just on his love, but also on the price he paid. [Click to tweet!]

May you take time to reflect on the somber aspects of the Lenten season, and may you find the hope and joy of the resurrection all the more full.

If you’re looking for a Lent devotional reading, make sure to download a copy of 40 Days to the Cross on sale for $4.95 through February 28. This devotional will guide you through a time of confession, reading, and reflection during the 40 days leading to Easter. It even includes reflections from Basil of Caesarea, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and others.

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5 Ebook Picks on Relationships, Love, and Marriage

5 Ebook Picks on Relationships, Love, and Marriage

If one thing is certain, it’s that relationships take work. Whether you’re single, dating, married, or just want Christ-centered advice for strengthening your relationships, reading on a variety of topics is a great way to start having better relationships with others. Here are five staff picks for ebooks focused on building (and repairing) your relationships in life, dating, and marriage:

Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Dr. Gary Thomas

What if your relationship isn’t as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God? In Sacred Marriage, Dr. Gary Thomas explains how marriage can be a doorway to a closer walk with God, designed to help you know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply.

The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Sex, Marriage, and Redemption by Matt Chandler

The Mingling of Soulsfeatured on our Authors to Watch in 2015 list—looks at The Song of Solomon to unpack and navigate romance, dating, marriage, and sex for both singles and married couples. This new release from Matt Chandler looks at topics such as dating, courtship, sex, and even arguing.

A Year of Blind Dates: A Single Girl’s Search for “The One”  by Megan Carson

An honest, funny read, A Year of Blind Dates is Megan Carson’s adventures in dating as she searches for “Mr. Right”, not just “Mr. Right Now.” Readers follow Carson as she uses a dating service to find a man of God and goes on some good, bad, and really, really bad dates along the way.

Everyday Grace: Infusing All Your Relationships With the Love of Jesus by Jessica Thompson

“How can we build and heal relationships with people who, like us, are bound to mess up?” Jessica Thompson sets out to answer this question in her latest ebook, Everyday Grace. Thompson teaches that it’s not our job to “fix” the people we’re in relationship with, but instead to reveal and receive the grace of Jesus in everything, including small, daily interactions with people.

You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Lisa and Francis Chan

You and Me Forever sets aside typical marital topics to take on an outward focus for marriage and capture the bigger picture of marriage as a mission. Francis and Lisa Chan look at married relationships through a different lens and unpack Scripture that helps put marriage in the light of eternity.

What are some of your favorite ebooks on relationships, love, and marriage? Let us know in a comment!

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Reading with Vyrso: One-Touch Bible References

With so many ereader apps out there, it can be difficult to know which one suits your ereading needs best. Vyrso was designed to help you read your favorite Christian ebooks side by side with the Bible, so you can gain further insight from your favorite authors and the Biblical text. One-touch Bible references set the Vyrso app apart from other ereading apps in this department.

With one-touch Bible references, it’s easy to see the full Bible verse an author references in your ebook. You don’t even have to leave your reading to open a new window. In the Vyrso app, just tap the linked Bible verse—they appear in blue text—and the verse will appear in a box right in your reading:

Vyrso One-Touch Bible References


If you’re looking to gain some context to the referenced verse and want to read the surrounding chapters of the Bible, tap, “Jump to reference” and the Bible will open up to the linked verse and chapter.

One-touch Bible references make it easy to transition into your personal Bible study, and they can be a great way to get ideas for daily reading or specific topics mentioned in the Bible.

Start reading with the free Vyrso app and get the most from your ebooks with one-touch Bible references!

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Exclusive Interview with David Platt: Counter-Cultural Living

David Platt

Featured on our list of top 15 authors to watch in 2015, David Platt has written numerous books, including What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? and Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to LivePlatt’s new release, Counter Culture, tackles hot-button social issues present in the world today and how Christians can address them. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about his new book and what is means to live counter-culturally.

You’ve written quite a few books that aim to inspire Christians to break away from comfort zones within their faith (as seen in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.) Were there any encounters or events in your life that initiated this desire to write, preach, teach, and be active on the topic of “uncomfortable Christianity”?

I was immersed in comfortable Christianity. Years ago, I found myself living what seemed like the American church dream—pastoring a large church, living in a large house, and surrounded by all the comforts this world has to offer. But inside I had a sinking feeling that I was missing the point. When I read the Word, I saw a cost to following Christ that I knew little of in my own life, and I saw an urgency for mission that was virtually absent from my own life. At that time, God used his Word and a renewed awareness of urgent spiritual and physical need around me in the world to awaken my heart in a fresh way to who he is and what he has called his people to do in this world. As I looked at material and spiritual poverty in the world around me, including approximately 2 billion people who haven’t even heard the gospel, I knew that I needed to make some major changes in my life. This prompted a journey that began to affect me, my family, and the church I pastored, and Radical was the overflow of that journey.


What does it mean for Christians to live counter-culturally? And why is it important?

In Luke 9:23, Jesus makes an extremely counter-cultural statement. He says to potential disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In a world where everything revolves around yourself—protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself—Jesus says, “Crucify yourself. [Click to tweet!] Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you.” From the very beginning, then, the Christian life involves going against the grain of the culture around (and for that matter, within) us. It is a daily discipline for Christians to die to themselves and to live for Christ with conviction, compassion, and courage, particularly in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and the church.


In Counter Culture you discuss quite a few hot-button issues, such as pornography, poverty, racism, abortion, and same-sex marriage. How can Christians address and come into contact with these issues in a Christ-centered way?

We need to begin by believing what the Bible says about these issues. We need to know what the Bible says about abortion and marriage, poverty and slavery, and we need to see how all of these issues fundamentally relate to the gospel. Conviction from the Word then must lead to courage in the world, for actually believing the Bible is increasingly costly in our culture. And while we stand with conviction and courage, we must live with compassion. Amid a world with massive social needs around us, ranging from desperate poverty and orphan crises and millions of girls being trafficked for sex, to the degradation of marriage and the abortion of babies, we need to speak and act with selfless love on all of these issues.    


You make the point that some social issues are easier for the church to address, such as poverty and slavery, than others. Why do you think this is?

On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.


What inspired you to choose the topics you unpack in Counter Culture?

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, said, “It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Consequently, my goal in Counter Culture was to identify nine of the most pressing social issues in our day, and to bring the gospel to bear on each of them. Admittedly, there are other social issues that could have been addressed and may need to be addressed in the days to come, but poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, slavery, marriage, sexual morality, pornography, religious liberty, racism, immigration, and the unreached seem most pressing.


How can Christians stay encouraged to be engaged and act with compassion when it comes to tough issues in today’s culture?  

Every Christian has unique opportunities to engage the most pressing social issues of our day by praying, proclaiming the gospel, and participating with God in all that he is doing in the world. We act, though, not under a utopian illusion that you or I or anyone or everyone together can rid this world of pain and suffering. That responsibility belongs to the resurrected Christ, and he will do it when he returns. But until that day, we do with an undivided heart whatever God calls us to do. Some will say that these social problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference.

In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But we can’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So we act with the unshakable conviction that God has put us in this culture at this time for a reason. He has called us to himself, he has saved us by his Son, he has filled us with his Spirit, he has captured us with his love, and he is compelling us by his Word to counter our culture by proclaiming his Kingdom, not worried about what it will cost us because we are confident that God himself is our great reward.


What does it look like for you to live counter-culturally? How do you escape “comfortable Christianity”? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to download Counter Culture by Daivd Platt and start reading!

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