Category Archives: obedience

Don’t let Satan mess with you

In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.  Ephesians 4:26-27

footholdIn Ephesians 4 a stronghold is described as a foothold.  In the New Century Version, vs. 27 reads, Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.  Other versions say things like not giving the devil an opportunity or ‘don’t leave room for the devil.’  In other words, we are leaving a door open for Satan to mess with us if we stay angry. Not much more is said there, but boy there should be!

Let’s take King Saul for an example.  He had an anger problem. It would come out at David and it tormented Saul.  In 1 Samuel 19 it tells that Saul tried to pin David to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him.  In 19:9 it says, An evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand.  

First of all, it wasn’t directly from the Lord, but it was because a doorway was opened to Satan because Saul had disobeyed the Lord.  Saul had anger that he had not resolved, as well as disobedience. In 1 Samuel 15:23 Samuel told Saul, Rebellion is as the sin of divination (or witchcraft) and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.  Presumption is defiance and seething pride.  So this evil spirit came as a result of disobeying God.  It opened a door to Satan.

The rebellion probably came first, then the anger.  Then, because of the open door Saul was tormented by an evil spirit.  In the end, Saul lost his kingship and died in battle, taking his own life.  His sons were all killed on the same day. Not a happy ending.

Back to Ephesians 4, Paul goes on to tell us to Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice, in vs. 31.  Not opening a door to Satan is a pretty good reason to get rid of it!  

∇ So let me tell you my story on this:  The last few months have been a really bumpy ride.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but I would say there has been some demonic torment in there–especially with physical issues.  And with the car accident I had a couple of months ago. It all was like a barrage of bad stuff.

This last Sunday God spoke Ephesians 4:26 to me, and I knew exactly what He was getting at.  This last summer I, uncharacteristically, let my anger fly on a couple of phone service people.  They were from two different companies, and I felt perfectly justified because of their poor service and undelivered goods.  

No–I was not perfectly justified, and God spoke to me that this opened a door.  I let the sun go down on my anger and I gave the devil a foothold. He showed me that a couple of times after that I had let my anger fly again and it had to stop.  Yes, it had been uncharacteristic, but now it was becoming a pattern. A door had been opened and not it must be shut. This was the reason for the torment, the harassment.  

I immediately left my spot in church, went to an empty bathroom and prayed out loud to renounce my anger sprees.  I confessed it, asked for God’s forgiveness and then asked that He would shut those doors and seal them by the blood of Jesus.  It was a costly lesson, but one I learned the hard way. I must get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger and not let the sun go down on anything that needs confessed.  I will not give the devil an opportunity to steal, kill and destroy any longer.

What about you?  Have you given the devil any opportunities, any footholds?  Do you need to shut any doors by confessing fits of anger and having them covered by the blood of Jesus?

The good news:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9

Adrian Rogers, “Give Satan an inch and he’ll be your ruler.”

*Image from “Daily Tonic”

 

 


Defeating Strongholds

Do not be afraid of them for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.  You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire. Joshua 11:6

And Joshua did just as the Lord said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.  Joshua 11:9

Judah captured Gaza with its territory…And the Lord was with Judah, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had chariots of iron.  Judges 1:18-19

When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.  Judges 1:28

The people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help because Sisera had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for 20 years.  Judges 4:3

† If you followed the progression of these verses, the Israelites started out being able to defeat the northern Canaanites who had chariots of iron.  The Israelites didn’t have chariots, so it had to be intimidating. They must have been afraid, because God told them, “Do not be afraid.” In other words God was telling them, “If you trust in Me, I’ll drive them out for you.”  And they did trust in Him and it worked! He drove them out.

But not too many years later, after Joshua died, Judah could not drive out the inhabitantschariots-of-iron.jpg of the plain.  It doesn’t say because they lacked faith or because they didn’t rely on God. We didn’t get God’s commentary on this situation.  It just reports that they couldn’t drive them out. As a result, the people that they were supposed to drive out stayed in the Promised Land.  God told them in Judges 2:3, They shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.

You might not think that this is a big deal, but in Joshua 1:3-6 God promised, Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life…I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.

So we move from God defeating the Canaanites with iron chariots for the Israelites, to the Israelites not being able to drive them out because of their iron chariots.  Then the Israelites didn’t drive out the Canaanites completely, as they were commanded to do. Instead, they compromised and just put them to forced labor. Funny, later on the shoe was on the other foot and the Israelites were the ones put to forced labor.

Then in Judges 4:3 we see that Sisera had 900 chariots of iron.  My take on that is the number of iron chariots grew. They didn’t defeat them when the number of chariots were small in number and now they are great in number.  And Sisera oppressed them cruelly for 20 years. The consequence of not driving out the Canaanites as God commanded bore fruit. They had become thorns and snares.

The reason I point all of this out is because this is exactly the nature of strongholds in our own lives.  Strongholds are structures or fortresses that demons hide behind in our spirit man. It’s like when you decide to have a big snowball fight and you build a snow fort or wall to hide behind first.  That snow wall is the stronghold. Demons operate best in secret, because if you knew they were there you would call them out and get rid of them.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us, For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

† Just like with the Israelites, we can drive out the strongholds in our lives with faith in God.  He has given us the same promises that He gave Joshua, that every place our foot touches is ours, that He is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.  If we have faith in God, He can and will drive out all of the things in our life that are “iron chariots.”

Those things can be abuse from your childhood, addictions, sin traps that you fell into that still hang on, patterns of negative thinking that need to be renounced and replaced, a rebellious spirit, bitterness from rejection, hurts and failures, and other faulty ways of dealing with life.  

God tells us to stay away from things in the form of commandments.  We don’t do it, disobeying, thinking “I can do it, it won’t hurt me.”  Or we think, “I’ll repent of it later.” God warns us that the same thing will happen–those things we played with will become thorns in our sides and snares.  Guess what? What we sow, we reap. We have to now get rid of the residual effects of our rebellion, cleaning spiritual house.

† This is not easy and takes determination, bold obedience and humility to renounce and to repent of things that have maybe been a part of your life for years.  I have heard people say for years that it is like peeling an onion, that it comes in layers. I kind of rolled my eyes inside at that, but now I’m beginning to understand it.  That is most likely because I have been experiencing it. You would think that I am old enough to have driven out all of my “chariots of iron.” But maybe we never are.

Over the last few months God, in His mercy, has revealed several new chariots to me that have been expelled.  I have been humbled through a series of medical issues and a car accident that was not fun. This has caused me to seek God’s face in a different way for healing and emotional health.  In the process, He has given me some dreams that have led me to breaking free of some demonic harassment that has been there since my childhood.

A couple of resources that have been helpful have been Youtube teachings by Derek Prince.  He is dead now, but there are many of his sermons on deliverance, strongholds and hearing the voice of God.  They are Scriptural and well laid out. Another guy that is on Youtube is a man named John Ramirez. He was a Satanist and teaches how to uproot and cast out strongholds.  

His book Armed and Dangerous has many good warfare prayers to break any ties that Satan may have.  As John puts it, if Satan knows that he owns property in our life, he will come and collect.  He will strip and rob us any chance he can get. He teaches how to cut the rope. This teaching on spiritual warfare is valuable and is a tool for the Holy Spirit to reveal doorways that need to get cut off for Satan to no longer be able to cruelly oppress as Sisera did to the Israelites.

Galatians 5:1 declares, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Are you ready to be free?  

 

*Image from Ryan Boyer/Google Images

 


God’s Enabling Grace

Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations.  Romans 1:5

So I moved on from reading 1 John all the way through every day to studying in Romans. As Paul is introducing himself and the Gospel of God, promised long before it happened to the prophets, written about in the the Holy Scriptures about His Son Jesus…he quickly gets to grace.

Paul wrote that through Jesus we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.  That’s us!

In picking that apart, I was hit with the idea that grace isn’t just the gift that we get that is our entry point into salvation.  That’s a great thing and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.  But Paul links grace to apostleship and him being an apostle.  It’s God’s grace that woke him up on the road to Damascus.  Apostle means “sent one.”  So, in a broader sense, he isn’t just talking about the grace or enabling power that God gives him to be an apostle, but through Christ we get the enabling power to be sent to do whatever it is that He sends us to do.

That’s the only way I can do what it is that God wants me to do.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  There are two parts to what I’ve been thinking about.

 The first part of God’s enabling grace has to do with His actual grace in sending us out and how that works.  Have you noticed that there is only a small percentage of Christians that are actually about the Father’s business?  The rest seem to be busy with their own agendas, not really in tune with spiritual things.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 talks about how all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for training, correction and training.  Then verse 17 tells us that being in the Word makes us complete and equipped for every good work.

grace.jpgIf you are not in the Bible on a consistent basis, you don’t get that equipping and then you don’t get that sending out.  Or, as Paul put it in Romans 1:5 the apostleship part of grace, the “sent one” part.  There is a woman in her early 40’s who has been in my Sunday School classes through the years.  Last year she reflected back on how I called her out at one point (I don’t remember it) when she talked about not having time to get into the Bible.  She said I pointed at her and said firmly, “That has to change.  You must get into the Word.  You need to make daily time for God.”

She told of she began to get up at 5:30 in the morning to meet with God, which is a commitment with three young children and a demanding job as a physician’s assistant.  She said it is now a pattern.  The interesting thing is her family now has made the commitment to be foster parents over the last year or two.  What I see is that their hearts have changed because God has pressed that on their hearts as they have been in the Word as a pattern.  They have become “sent ones.”

If you don’t have a real sense of a mission from God, stop and think about your time in the Word with Him.  Are you sitting at His feet?  Do you spend time soaking in the Bible and meditating on it, or are you whizzing through a five minute devotional written by someone else?

My second thought about God’s enabling grace is about his prevailing grace.  It is His grace that enables us to continue to do what He calls us to do over the long haul…when the going gets tough…when there is no one to run with…when you walk by faith and not by sight…when you are broken and weary.  It is God’s enabling grace that holds us by His right hand, that is our faithful Shepherd that makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul.  He does that.

I have been praying this Christmas season that He would appear with His enabling grace to me just like He appeared with the angels to the shepherds and to Mary and Joseph.  It is a Titus 3:3-7 appearing with goodness, loving kindness and mercy poured out richly because that is the kind of God that He is.

Finally, He visits us with this grace not so we can be fat and happy, but as Romans 1:6 says “for the sake of HIs name among all the nations.”  It drives us beyond ourselves to the nations.  He puts that in our hearts when we get close to His heart.

Paul said it in Romans 15:20-21, We make it our ambition to preach the Gospel not where Christ has already been named, but so those who have never been told of Him will see and those who have never heard will understand.

What  a joy I had my last two jail visits to tell a 50 something Native American woman the Christmas story.  She had never heard it before and had never read the Bible before or been to a Bible study or church.  This was the first she had heard the Gospel.  I didn’t have to go far, just 18 miles to a place where Christ had not been named to find someone who had never been told of Him–because I had been sent–because I had spent time with Him in the Word.  Don’t forget that!


Experiencing God More Deeply

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  James 5:17

I’ve pretty much quit watching TV, with the exception of a football game once in awhile, and Jeopardy (one day I’ll be a contestant on there–really).  So I watch a lot of Youtube videos of sermons and get news from current event things from there.

Lately I’ve been blessed by Francis Chan videos.  They have fed my soul during some tough times.  He has encouraged me to stick to the core truths of the Gospel even when it’s tempting to water them down.  And he has given me a renewed passion for Jesus and for the Bible.  

If you’re looking for a good one to start with, here is a link to the one I’m referring to today, “Experiencing God Deeper 2018.”

If you’re like me, I always mean to get back to the link that someone shares, but it either takes me a long time, or I never do.  So I’m going to share some of his points and add some of my own (artistic license).

You experience God when you’re put in front of authorities and God gives you words when you don’t have them.  Francis gave the example of the 23 South Koreans who were missionaries in Afghanistan and were taken by the Taliban.  That was in 2007.  They were held for about two months.  The leaders of the group actually argued over who was going to get killed first: “Kill me, I’m the pastor.”  A second guy stood up, “No, I’m a pastor too and I’m older–so kill me.”  A third man stood up, “No, I’m ordained, so you have to kill me first.”  The third man was actually one of two killed, the rest were released.  

Years later, Francis met with one of the guys who was a captive and he said that he wished he was still back there because of the intimacy he had with Jesus.  Others in the group expressed the same thing.  We fear something like this, but yet we experience God in closer and more sure ways when we are put on the spot, like Elijah.  We grow.  We are no different than Elijah.  He was a man just like us.  We feel more peace when we are in danger, yet we resist danger at all costs.  

We try not to have show downs like Elijah had, but if we want to experience God more deeply, we need to know this: Do not put your trust in money or freedom.  We have Christ and He alone is sufficient.  We don’t need to go out and try to suffer, but we should stop trying to avoid it.  

Not only is Elijah a man just like us, but God is still the same God that made the altar start on fire (1 Kings 18) even after Elijah doused it with water.  

You experience God when you get comfort when you need it–not when you’re comfortable.  When we do something that scares us, we experience God more deeply, like when Peter stepped out of the boat.  

If you find yourself saying, “Remember when I did this…” a lot, then it’s time to change it to the present tense.  I did a lot of faith adventures in my youth.  But I want to be like Caleb in the book of Joshua.  In chapter 14 he went to Joshua at the age of 85 and reminded Joshua of his inheritance promise and then said, I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then…So now give me this hill country!

When God called Moses and Jeremiah, they both had excuses about what they couldn’t do.  Isn’t that our tendency–to tell God what we can’t do when called?  “I can’t speak,” or “I’m too young.”  But instead of looking at what we can’t do, we need to look at what God is calling us to.  First of all, God is the one who is calling us, and that call has been from before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4; Eph. 2:10).  

So instead of reciting what you can’t do, know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13) and 1 Thessalonians 5:24: He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Whoever abides in Him ought to walk as Jesus walked.  1 John 2:6

In our rock star driven culture, we have Christian leaders who don’t necessarily walk as Jesus walked.  Maybe they are just good communicators or good singers.  Francis Chan talked about how we need to play, “Follow the Leader.”  Our leader is Jesus.  We shouldn’t just memorize Bible verses about telling others about Jesus, crossing cultural boundaries to do so, or helping those in need, or obeying Him, getting rid of unforgiveness, etc.  We just need to do it.

We need to change our definition of success.  If I know Jesus, I should just be like Him.  I’ll walk like Him, love like Him, and others will know that they’ve been touched because being around me might be a little like being with Jesus.  I don’t know if that’s the case always.

This has challenged me to read through 1 John over and over for a month.  I hope it sinks into my pours enough that it changes me to the core.  I want to not say “I love Jesus” but to “Just do it.”  This has produced some change in me already.  I wrote in my last blog how it triggered a chain of events (giving money and an unfortunate car accident on the way to do so) that was a whirlwind.  But it has also unearthed some unforgiveness in my heart that God has pointed out.  May He do much more in the weeks to come!

May you experience God more deeply as you head into the new year.  

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love  him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:23


The ecstasy and the agony…

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You. When my heart is faint, lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.  Psalm 61:1-2

So the last time I wrote, I was buried under a slew of  physical problems that just would not let up.  Starting a couple of weeks ago, I was reduced to sleeping about three hours at a shot, then every two hours, then one, then down to waking up every forty five minutes.  That alone is not good for sanity, let alone all of the other stuff that was going along with it.

Just over a week ago, I had a dream that seemed to go on a long time, but in real time it probably wasn’t all that long.  In my dream a multitude of people gathered around me and just kept praying what seemed to be most of the night.  I didn’t recognize them.  Before they would break, a gray haired man would lay his hand on my head and speak over me.  I didn’t know what he said–it didn’t matter.  Then they would circle me again and pray.  This same pattern repeated several times.

It wasn’t the next morning, but the morning after that I was getting up from yet another miserable night of non-sleep and pain.  This whole nightmare of physical problems had been going on for over a month.  My husband had left for the day and I was on my way out of bed, when suddenly–no bells or whistles, no angel songs or harps–my pain just went away.  Better put, God just took my pain away.  It was gone.  That awful pain that hurt when I walked, made my brain hurt and sent shock waves down my neck, shoulder and back–was gone!

That’s that ecstasy.  Here comes the agony, I guess…

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18

That night I still only slept for 45 minutes at a shot, so I stayed home from work to just rest and gather myself for a day.  I hadn’t been out of the house for two full days and wasn’t planning on leaving for another day.  I was in my sweats having my quiet time, reading 1 John out loud (for concentration’s sake) all of the way through.  And I was texting a Native American friend from jail back and forth intermittently.

She was telling me how she was going to try to take her car back that was a lemon from a place that ripped her off.  She has no credit and he took advantage of her plight.  He told her she could exchange it for a different vehicle but she would need more money and she didn’t have it.  I was literally reading the above verses out loud when she said she didn’t have more money and didn’t know what to do.

So I asked if I could give her the money.  After some back and forth, the question was how she could get it.  We arranged a meeting place and time not too far from my house.  She called earlier than the arranged time, a bit lost.  So I redirected her and said that I would be there in five minutes.  I threw on a sweatshirt and a pair of boots and jumped in my vehicle for a ten minute errand–at least that’s what I thought.

On my way across the highway to meet her, suddenly I was hit by a truck that obviously I did not see coming–all I knew was that my airbags exploded, my Equinox spun around and I was plowed into the parking lot.  Next thing I know I’m in an ambulance headed to the hospital with a whiplash collar.  That was all a precaution, but suffice it to say, it was a grand mess, of which I am still wading my way through.

The upshot is that I got into it because I was seeking to obey God by putting action to my words.  All week I had to coach my friend into not being angry at God at what happened because she saw it all take place.  Her faith is all so new.  I told her that is what Satan would want, but God’s got this.  I have to trust that as I sort out the insurance, the financial loss and all of the fallout.

Sometimes we have to get our hands dirty I guess.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Jesus got His hands so dirty He got nails pounded through them.  That’s mushing Christmas and Easter together, so I’m speeding ahead.  So that’s what the Gospel is all about, not just Christmas.  So it is the ecstasy and the agony.

But I’m ready for a calmer week.


Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


Are you submitting to God, or resisting Him?

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Submit yourselves therefore to God. James 4:6b-7a 

There is a hymn by Israel Houghton, “I Surrender All,” that has these lyrics:

All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken;  Take me Jesus, take me now; All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Savior wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine

It is a nice song to sing at the end of a sermon, but much harder to really live out.  Let’s think about what it really means to submit to God and to be humble for a few minutes.  Submitting to God means giving up pride, self-centeredness, and pretty much anything having to do with self.  The group ‘Mercy Me’ has a song called “So Long Self,” by Bart Millard. Its lyrics hit a little closer to home:

Believe it or not but life is not apparently about me anyways; But I have met the One who really is worthy so let me say–So long self.  Well it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else, So long self.  There’s just no room for two, so you are gonna have to moveDon’t take this wrong, but you are wrong for me…

When you die to self, say ‘so long,’ that’s when Jesus really takes over.  That’s what Galatians 2:20 says, and it’s the guts of the Christian life: I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This is where you let Jesus take over for you.  It involves submitting to God, which is a part of James’ verse.  Submitting to God means giving up your right to be right and it makes you have a teachable spirit.  You don’t shift blame when someone points out something. A blame shifter says things like, “You always point out everything I do wrong,” instead of saying, “You’re right, I need to make sure I don’t do that next time.”  

Again, someone without a teachable spirit does not receive any kind of input.  He or she might be quite adept at picking out other people’s faults, but not so able to see her own weaknesses, let alone do something about them.  She might make excuses for the obvious weakness, or place blame on someone or something else, rather than do the hard work of change.

humility is the gateway to grace.jpgOn the contrary, a humble and teachable spirit owns his faults, doesn’t shift blame, or fall apart when corrected.  Someone bent on submitting to God is able to submit to others, whether that person has his act together or not. And James tells us that when we are humble, God pours His grace on us.  

I do not want God to oppose me, but I really want Him to pour His grace on me.  James tells us the secret: Be humble. In Psalm 51:17 David wrote, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

*Image from Google Images


The secret to being blessed financially

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you, and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  Malachi 3:8-10

 This isn’t one of those speeches that you’ll get when you turn on a church channel where you see a guy with all kinds of diamond and gold rings and watches on. He says, “Send me money and you’ll be blessed. God will double your income.” No, it isn’t. But here God says that His people, the Jews, the keepers of the Temple and the words of the prophets and Moses, were robbing Him.

Robbing Him? Yes. They were supposed to give God a tenth of their bounty and they money bags.jpgweren’t. They were keeping it for themselves, and they were under a curse from God. God told them to test Him and see—if they would start to give a tenth of everything they had, He would open the windows of Heaven and pour down blessings on them.

Now some people look at this and say, “Now that’s the Old Testament. That’s not for today. There are enough things in the New Testament about giving to indicate the very same thing. A tenth of what you have, or a tithe, is just a good place to start. Listen to Luke 6:38: Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In 2 Corinthians 9:10 Paul wrote, He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

If you are generous with your money, God will multiply your spiritual seed for sowing. In other words, there is a link between how generous you are and your harvest of righteousness. If you don’t see any spiritual fruit being reproduced in your life, maybe it is because you have never learned the discipline of giving. So I get to be the one to tell you this very important secret!

I can tell you from my own experience, the more generous I am with the money that God has blessed me with, the more money He blesses me with. And, the more opportunities He blesses me with to share Jesus with others. If you are struggling to make ends meet, maybe it is because you are under the Malachi 3 curse. Start giving God a tenth of what you have and trust Him to multiply it. He said to test Him and see. Do it.

Give to God off of the top, not with what’s left. Matthew 6:33 tells us to Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added onto us. He means it.

There is this neat little book by Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving.  It is by Multnomah Press, 2001.  He has a lot more to say in his bigger book, Money, Possessions and Eternity.  That is by Tyndale House Publishing and it was done in 1989 and 2003.  Both open up a whole new perspective on storing up eternal treasures.  Alcorn tells how to do develop a treasure mentality, not only because earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns, but because Jesus commands it.

In fact, in his first page in Money, Possessions and Eternity Alcorn sites that the Bible devotes twice as many verses to money (about 2350 of them) than to faith and prayer combined.  Boom.  It’s a big deal.  So stop and think about how you view money, how much you give to God, and whether you are storing up treasures on earth or for Heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal, as Matthew 6:19 states.  And be blessed!

*Image from ‘The Sacred Path’ Blogger


No longer a ‘Sneaky Pete’

If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  John 8:31, 32, 34-36

My sister got me hooked on this Amazon Prime series, “Sneaky Pete” and I binge watched it sometime over the last month.  While it is cleverly written, I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘must watch’ because it’s filled with the f word, and it is based on continual lies and deception.  In other words, ‘Don’t try this at home.’  But talk about people being a slave to lies.  The basic plot line is that Pete is a con man and he pretends to be someone he’s not.  He gets involved with this family where basically everyone is a conning everyone else.

handcuffs-160062__340I wonder what the series would be like if one of them were to become radically saved and were to get fired up with the truth, in the midst of a very crooked back drop.  Jesus told the Jews who believed in Him: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” We are all ‘Sneaky Petes.’  We all are prone to the faulty habit patterns of deception, manipulation, white lies, exaggeration, and blame shifting.

We think we are the master of deception, but it really masters us.  We’re enslaved by it.  We try to stop stretching the truth, taking things that aren’t ours, or manipulating, but it comes so naturally.  In John 8, John went on to write about the origin of our problem: Satan.  Jesus was debating with religious leaders about who their father was.  They said it was Abraham.  Jesus said it was the devil because they were trying to kill Him and they didn’t love Him.

Jesus went on in verse 44 to say that, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Only Jesus sets us free from those habit patterns.  And only in soaking in the truth of the Bible, letting it transform our hearts, do we begin to see those habit patterns of lying, cheating, and manipulating get brought to the light and changed around.

I remember working with a woman that had become a Christian, trying to disciple her.  She had come out of a life of much drinking and gambling, and a few other vices.  She used to say things like, “No, now I’m going to walk in the truth.”  It was like she had to say out loud that she was going to tell me where she really was, instead of making up a story.  This was contrary to her old habit patterns.  It was a constant struggle for her.

I worked with her on memorizing specific Bible verses to combat some of the lies of Satan that she struggled with the most.  While she memorized them, she soon slid back into her old life.  Looking back, I learned that there is a second key ingredient to fighting off the old life and its lies–the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-6 announces, But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…

Without the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit at work in my life, or in someone else’s life to overtake the grip of sin, so often the old life wins out.  I’ve seen it over and over with the women I have attempted to disciple.  They need the power of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of the bondages that have gripped them.

The truth of God’s word sinking deep into the crevices of our heart drives away the habit patterns of deception that used to enslave us.  It sets us free from the bondage of being a Sneaky Pete, and that’s a great place to be.

*Image from Pixabay


What are you storing up?

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  Matthew 12:33-34

About two months ago, a second grade boy on the playground was involved in a kick fight on the playground. In the midst of a mean game tag that ended up with this boy and a couple of others kicking each other, he turned and kicked a kindergarten boy, an innocent bystander, and said, “F— you, little boy.”  The playground teacher brought him in for me to deal with him.

One of the things I talked to him about was his language.  I asked him when he began using words like that, and he said, “Last fall.”  I said if he could remember when he started using that word, he could remember when he stopped, because it’s a choice.  And today (that day) was the day he was going to make a choice to stop.  When I talked with his mom about the incident, I quoted this verse.  I knew she was a Christian.  I said something about him needing to get more good stored up in his heart, otherwise it’s those swear words that get stored up and come out at inconvenient times.

I talked with her about how going to church and singing worship songs stores us things in our hearts about God, His goodness, and our choices.  Those worship songs speak to our hearts.  Having those songs on in our vehicles and in our houses instead of other music is a chance to store up good things in our hearts.  I was thrilled when she told me that she was taking her boys to Sunday school and church about a month later.  Even though her husband wasn’t going, which had been her deterrent all of the previous years, it wasn’t going to be anymore.  Praise God!

Yesterday in Sunday school we talked more about Matthew 12:33-34 as we discussed again Brad Bigney’s book: Gospel Treason, Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols.  On page 60, Bigney makes the statement, “I’ve been shocked at things that have come out of my mouth–things that I’ve been forced to trace back to my heart.  It’s been a wake-up call, a sledgehammer for self-deception, because we always think we’re doing better than we really are.”

I think the reason bad things come popping out of our mouths is because they have been stored up in our heart.  We can have a “resentment warehouse,” where we keep all of our offenses, our bitternesses, grievances and unresolved conflicts.

Think about it.  Let’s say someone does something to offend you and you never resolve it.  You always remember it.  You might forget the dozens of nice things that person says or does, but you remember the one time that he or she had a birthday party and didn’t invite you (or whatever it was).  You never talked about it with that person, instead you ‘let it slide.’  But you really didn’t let it slide, you tucked it away in that resentment warehouse.

resentment warehouse.jpgAnd then, one day when you’re tired, or your guard is down, or you’re not feeling well, and–boom!  You say how you really feel.  You both look at each other like, “Where did that come from?”  Sometimes it comes out through sarcasm, or it comes out through passive aggressive moves, through back stabbing comments, or through some other destructive move.  And you have to trace it back.  Sometimes you can trace it back, sometimes you can’t.

In the case of the resentment warehouse, it isn’t necessarily evil that is stored up, like the boy that shouted out, “F— you, little boy.”  We might not call it evil, but it is.  Ephesians 4:30-32 reads, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

It’s time to clean out your warehouse.