Category Archives: repentance

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

 


Two witness stands

For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So that they (all people) are without excuse.  Romans 1:18-20

witness stand

It would seem from these big verses that there could be two possible scenarios of putting someone on the witness stand.

⇒ The first scenario would be God putting all people on the witness stand.  God is sitting as a judge in these verses, and if He were to come down ask you how you would plead when it comes to the case of whether or not you knew He existed, and that He created the world–you would have say, if you were honest, “Guilty, your Honor.”

That tells me that deep down everyone really knows that evolution or the Big Bang Theory isn’t true.  Verse 18 says that we know it, but we have surpressed the truth through our unrighteousness.  In other words, we have pushed it down, drowned it out, or kept it from being known.  It’s like that tiny voice of our conscience that calls out inside of us tells us something we’re doing is a bad idea, or wrong. But we don’t want to hear it.  So what do we do?  We turn the music up, or we get busier, or we stay away from the people that might tell us we’re wrong.

In talking with people who have alternative theories of creation, in my experience, it seems that it they end up with more emotional rejections in the end, rather than intellectual ones.  Now this isn’t thousands of conversations, but dozens. Let me say that there are some that just want to do their own thing and don’t want to anyone tell them what to do.  It comes down to an issue of ‘what right does God have to tell me what to do?’  They deny God’s existence and creation because they don’t want Him to mess with their lives.

But the next category of people are those who end up with an emotional catch.  Here it seems that most of the discussions have led to hard personal topics where the statements begin with the question: “Well then, how could a good God let —- happen?”

⇒ That’s where I get to the second scenario witness stand.  It’s like they’re putting God on the stand.  This is what Job did.  In fact, God called him on this in Job 40:2, Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.  Job’s question was about why he would lose his children and all of his riches, plus why he would be afflicted with boils.  Yes, that would cause me to wonder why my Friend would turn on me too.  And I would want some answers.

The whole book is filled with Job and his friends spinning their wheels, especially his friends.  But I think Job had a more genuine heart.  He was really wrestling with God, and God answered him.  God didn’t tell Job about His wager with Satan about how Job wouldn’t deny his faith in God if he took away everything.  God was proving to Satan that Job was following God because God was worth it, not because of all of his riches and blessings.  He didn’t tell Job that part, but He did show Job how big He was and how little Job was in comparison.

I love some of God’s questions to Job like Where were you when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:7 and Have you commanded the morning since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place? 38:12 and Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or have you seen the storehouses of the hail? 38:22.

In 40:8 God said, Will you condemn Me that you be in the right?  Isn’t that what people do when they question God’s goodness or His justice?  Aren’t they putting themselves in the right and condemning God?

For those who have had hard things happen that cause you to wonder about why such hard and even horrible things could come from the hand of a good God–go ahead and wrestle with God as Job did.  But do it with a genuine heart that wants to know Him and trust in Him.  God will meet you just as He met Job.  But get ready for Him to answer you in ways that you might not expect and show Himself in ways that go deeper than you can imagine.

Just don’t put God on the witness stand with a condemning heart and expect to win.  And don’t use the line, “If God is good, then why is there suffering?” as a red herring to point a finger away from your own call to submit to God’s right to set the rules in your life.

Job ended up with a repentant heart.  In Job 42:6 he said, I repent.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.  In Acts 3:19 Paul said, Repent and turn back, that your sins may be wiped out, so that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

That just could be the answer for all of us when we turn from trusting God and when we suppress the truth because we want to do things our own way.  When we stop trusting God because we think He has wronged us, we come up with alternative ways of living our lives that doesn’t include trusting Him and putting Him first.  We find other idols to fill our lives with that make our heart kind of crowded.

Some might hide it better than others, but if we’re not trusting in God, we’re still guilty.  And the answer is still the same: Repent.  In Job’s case, the outcome was a good one.  His fortunes were restored doubly.  God is that kind of a God.

Isaiah 30:18 says, Yet the Lords longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.

 


There is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for all sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12,14

It has been awhile since I have posted.  It has been because life has been moving at the speed of sound.  God has been moving in and amongst things, much like He was with Elijah when he took on the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel, and then he took off and ran, depleted and alone.  And then God came to  Elijah in a cave and he heard God speak in a still, small voice.  God told him he wasn’t the only prophet left and God had him get up and go anoint Jehu to be the next king over Israel.

When I read 1 Kings 18-19, it makes my head spin for Elijah because of the great showdown at the Mt. Carmel corral and then his emotional turmoil that followed–and then for me because I can so relate.  I too have been in the midst of many such spiritual showdown’s and roller coasters lately.  I would like to cry out with Micah 7:7-8 this battle cry: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

For the sake of brevity, maybe I’ll get to those in another post…But for now, I will get to my verse for today.  At jail ministry this last Sunday night, where God ministers to my heart just as much or more than He does to the women, I was blessed to share with three  women.  Two were Native American, one Caucasian, if that means anything.  Two of the three have been changed by the Gospel in visible ways over the last months of being in the Bible studies while being incarcerated.  Praise God for new life!

I started the study with the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s along the lines of continuing the same sin patterns and wondering why they end up in jail again and again.  That’s opposed to allowing Jesus to break the chains of rebellion–doing things now God’s way instead of our way–taking the narrow path and not the broad path, from Matthew 7:13-14.

No one talks about the narrow path–not on TV, not in books, not on Jimmy Fallon or Oprah, or Ellen.  I remember a time on “The View” where they censored a gal who said she lost 15 pounds on her diet and said, “Praise Jesus,” and they bleeped out Jesus.  But later in the show someone else used the name of Jesus in a profane way and they didn’t censor it out.  That’s the broad path.  Everyone is on it, and everyone talks about it.  Not the narrow path.  They shut you down.  So you have to go to jail to learn about the narrow path.  What an irony.

Then the Holy Spirit got all warmed up and fell on us.  I began to share about how much God loved them and quoted Psalm 103:8-13 about how God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how He does not treat us as our sins deserve and He does not accuse and does not harbor His anger forever.  As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

I went on to say that the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill and destroy; BUT God knows the plans He has for them and they are for a future and a hope and not calamity and despair.  One of the gals talked about how she keeps feeling shame and guilt for her past and she can’t get past that.

That’s when I began talking about the blood of Jesus–hence today’s verses.  This is when the power really kicked in.  We went to the verses in 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 1 John 2:1-2 about how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to please us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 2:1-2 talks about if we sin, we have an advocate, a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the covering, for our sin.

In the English Standard Version, the language seems to be more graphic.  I like that.  Like in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, David, Samson and Gideon, it says that He rushed upon them.  I really love that picture.  Well in Leviticus 3:1-2, I really love this picture:  If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.  And he (the priest) shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Oh God, throw Jesus’ blood against wherever it is You throw it to cover me from all unrighteousness!  We prayed on Sunday night that God would throw His blood to cover the ladies’ sins and wounds and scars and to bring healing and freedom.  It was Susan Powers from the 90’s that used to yell “Stop the insanity!”  I yell “Stop the insanity in Jesus’ name!”  All because of the blood of Jesus!  Throw His blood against the altar to cover those of us who are being sanctified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

*Image from ‘The Bleeding Temple”


A stripped down, boring Jesus

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.  1 Corinthians 4:20

I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders that He has done.  Psalm 78:4

I have been bothered for several months now by a question that has been tumbling around in my mind.  It has to do with the local church that I go to.  I’ve been noticing that the a large majority of the families’ children grow up and don’t end up walking with the Lord into their adult years.  It is something that I have been praying about and quietly analyzing in my brain, wondering what is really missing in our spiritual DNA.

I finally got an “Aha” about it over the last few days.  I’ve been talking with a friend BoredGirland fellow church goer who has an eight year old daughter.  She is concerned that her daughter is “bored” at church and Sunday school and we’ve been talking and praying about how to see change in her spiritual attitude.  I was telling this friend about this Youtube video that I watched when it hit me.

It was a video from Skywatch TV where Josh Peck and Steve Bancarz were giving their testimonies about how they grew up in church, but then went into New Age practices in their teen-aged years.  They got heavily involved for years and then God got a hold of them and they recommitted their lives and are now speaking out about how the New Age practices are infiltrated into the church.

Josh Peck said something that peaked my attention.  He said, “I quit going to church when I was 12.  I was bored.  I had heard all of the stories by then and thought I knew it all.  I didn’t, but I thought I did.”  Josh told of how he found supernatural power in New Age practices and got involved in astral projecting and other things.

That’s where I really got to pondering.  Could it be that others are the same way?  They are bored because they are we are giving them a stripped down version of the Bible–what I mean is this:  We are teaching the Bible hermeneutically correctly (not violating the principles of interpreting Scripture).  But when you don’t include the power and work of the Holy Spirit as a regular, every day, real life experience, you have a ‘boring’ stripped down version of the Christian life.

It is no wonder that when our kids are 18 (or younger) they look else where for ‘real fun,’ like partying, sleeping around, materialism and other thrill chasing.  It is because they haven’t found it in Jesus because we haven’t given it them!

This is tragic!!!  I have been a self-confessed Holy Spirit chasing, Jesus freak stuck in a Baptist body for decades.  It’s kind of an anomaly.  Now a-days it’s okay to raise your hands, but if I start talking about how God has spoken to me in a dream, people start edging for the door and saying, “Oh, look at the time,” or saying, “Oh, another one of your dreams.”  They don’t take it seriously, like they should maybe hearing from God.

Or when I start a sentence with, “God spoke this to my heart the other day, and I know I need to do —,” it’s as if it’s an alien language.  Or even to find more people than a small handful that join our weekly all-church prayer meeting–and then respond to any subtle or less than subtle invitations to join.  There are pockets of people that have enjoyed digging deeper into the Word and talking about what God is doing in their lives, but it is difficult to do it as a church body corporately.

And the outcome is…as 2 Timothy 3:5 states, Having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Now that is a scary description.  That is supposed to be for the pagans.  No, I don’t think they would have an appearance of godliness.  That would be for us!

(I do want to say that my husband and I are blessed with a small group Bible study  of about eight or so believers that are from all over.  Together we are enjoying practicing the gifts of the Spirit and sharing how God is at work in our daily lives.  We have seen the power of God in healings, we talk about how God has spoken to us in dreams, etc. and we pray together for boldness to impact the people we are connected with.)

What is the anecdote?  How do we avoid making church and Jesus boring?  How do we not have an appearance of godliness but deny its power? Here is a start:

  • We pray corporately for specific things and then celebrate when those things are answered, so young and old alike can see that God is real, that He cares about us and our daily lives, and that He answers prayer.
  • We have more corporate testimonies of how God is at work in our lives, how he has answered prayers, how He is using us, how He has spoken to us–whether it is in prayer, promptings, dreams, or even visions.
  • We get out of our comfort zones and go minister in Jesus’ name together.  If kids think that they have heard all of the stories before, nothing brings them alive better than telling someone who has never heard them before.  That’s where the kingdom of God is not just about words, it is about action.  Let’s put our faith into action!
  • We start inviting the Holy Spirit into our church in an active way.  We don’t just sing songs like, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here.”  We must really start teaching about His function and work, and then put those teachings into regular practice.  It doesn’t need to be hokey or undoctrinal, just apply Scripture.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  Acts 4:31

Oh God, may that be our church and the church across America.  May we not have a stripped down version of You so that others find you boring.  May we shake up our church buildings and gathering places because we are filled with the Holy Spirit and with boldness.  Fill our hearts with passion–fill my heart with the overflowing joy, peace in believing and the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).  Don’t let me be boring or bored with You and may it catch like fire.

 

 


A pretty good Easter message

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness…and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in our present lives.  When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 2:11-12; 3:4-5

When Jesus showed up, that’s when His grace came.  That’s what gave us the ability to “Just say no” as the old anti-drug slogan said.  It’s His grace that trains us to be better people.  Coupled with the Holy Spirit, we can change from being selfish jerks to something much better than that.

Well then, why did I launch off on the Sirius XM customer service person on the phone because of their hidden charges fee that I found on my bank statement the other day?  Aren’t I supposed to be better than that?  I hung up, shaking my head at myself.  Who was that on the phone?

I was just reading these verses: “Fools show their annoyance at once,” Proverbs 12:16.  And “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools,” angrywomanfrom Ecclesiastes 7:9.  I don’t need to let things like hidden taxes set me off and I roll out the welcome mat to anger.  Forgive me God.  I’m sorry phone person.

I am not going to let anger take up residence in my heart.  God’s grace is at work in me, training me away from a life of being irritated easily, being grumpy, prone to resentment, self pity or moodiness.  That’s not who I am.  Romans 5:20-21 says that where sin increases, that where grace abounds all the more. As sin reigns in death, grace might also reign through righteousness leading to eternal life.

In other words, when I sin, God pours out His grace so that righteousness triumphs instead of sin.  When Jesus came, He brought goodness and kindness with Him.  He brought grace and mercy with Him.  He’s pouring it on on me so I can pour it out on others.

That’s a pretty good Easter message.  Grace is what showed up when Jesus came and the the training away from ungodliness was made possible because He rose from the dead.

*Image from Google images

 


Exchanging the lies in our life for God’s truth

divine-exchange-by-amy-pape

For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Romans 1:21, 25

 

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Jeff Vanderstelt’s videos on Gospel Fluency.  In his third video he talks about the more fluent we get as believers in speaking the gospel to one another and to ourselves, the more it overflows to others and into more areas of our lives.  It’s about taking our thoughts captive and applying the truths of the gospel to every area of our lives.

When we worship the wrong thing in our own life, we’re just like unbelievers.  We exchange truth for a lie and we pay the price.  We are all idolators in certain areas.  We worship the wrong things until somehow, some way it gets revealed and then we get it straightened out and repent of it. Then we bring it to Jesus to show us a different way to deal with it.

For example, let’s say someone starts grumbling about their boss.  That’s the example that Jeff used in his teaching.  If we jump on the bandwagon and talk about a time our boss was a jerk too, we’re reflecting the same wrong belief–that our hope is in the wrong person to find our fulfillment and accolades.

So instead of agreeing and saying, “That’s right, your boss sounds like an ego maniac,” you could instead say graciously, “You know, she’s not meant to be your all in all, God is.” Supposing this person is a Christian, we can go on to point to how in Colossians 3 we’re told to work for the Lord and not for man and what that looks like.  If they’re not a Christian, perhaps you could say something about how since you’ve become a Christian, God has shifted your perspective to what really matters and where you get your affirmation from.

His next example really hit home.  It was about taking a look at a time (or times) when we revert to a false view of God, believing that He has done things that aren’t really true, then believing things about ourselves that aren’t really true and acting out of those false beliefs.  For example we may get anxious in certain situations because we believe we have to be in control.  This might be driven by a false belief that God has lost control and abandoned us, or that He is absent, impotent or unloving.

Turning this around involves giving myself the Gospel, if I’m the one that holds to this false belief, or to another person that is struggling with anxiety, control issues, or other related problems.  Part of this has to do with looking at Scriptures that show that God is loving, powerful, present, etc.  Another part would be pointing at times in my own life or in the other person’s life when God has shown Himself to be loving, trustworthy, present and powerful.

You would think that once we hear and experience these truths once that we would get it.  But no, we need to hear the truths of the Gospel over and over in all different ways spoken into those areas where we doubt and fear and relapse.  And we need to speak them to each other.  I need to repent in my heart from the false truths that have caused me to be an idolater, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  I need to exchange the lies for truth, claim the truths of Scripture and write my name on them like on the bottom of a check.  And I need to graciously help others do the same.

It’s funny.  I think I have it all figured out.  And then I get around people who drive me nuts and I start muttering and becoming less kind and gracious than someone who knows Jesus should be.  Or when other weaknesses come popping up like prairie dogs, then it’s time to go back to what lies I’m believing about myself or about God and start over again.  Or if I sit and listen to someone whose weaknesses poke out quickly as well, then I can help them sort through the same process.

Let us not become futile in our thinking and let our foolish hearts be darkened, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  Instead, let us exchange those devious lies for the truth of God and be changed by them.  Let us speak the good news of Jesus to ourselves and to others so that He sinks deep down into the crevices of our hearts and lives.

 

*Image by Amy Pape


The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy


Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and are heavy laden

Jesus- the invitation

 

This was my jail study this last week, with seven women.  This is Jesus.  Really, to know Him is to love Him.  Some have heard this in different shapes and forms, but need to hear it again and again until it sinks in.  Others haven’t heard it before.  One gal was getting sentenced this last week to a possible 20 years (she got 25).  Jesus changed her in front of our eyes over these last three years of her being in and out, especially in the last six months.  God still works miracles, the biggest being in changing lives!

 John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He sent His only son, Jesus, that whoever would believe Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  God loves us and Jesus gave His life for us so that we won’t have to spend eternity in Hell because of our sin.

John 11:5 and Luke 19:5.  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…Jesus looked up at the tree and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today.’  Jesus knows us by name, and He loves us.  He doesn’t just love the world generically, but specifically.  He knows us by name, even the number of hairs on our head.  Psalm 139:4 says that before a word is on our tongues He knows it completely.

John 8:1-8.  That’s the account of the woman caught in adultery.  When Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin be the one to throw the first stone,” and they left oldest to youngest, she looked up and saw just Jesus.  He asked, “Where are the ones who condemn you?  Who’s left?”  “No one,” was her response.  “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Jesus doesn’t condemn them when they come to Him; He wants them to be set free from their bondages.

  •  One gal was caught up in an interesting thought about how Jesus was a part of       making the law, but yet let her break the law.  Jesus really was the fulfillment of the law.   He was the law.  He was loving, kind, merciful and just, which was what the law was really aimed at.  The Pharisees kept the law, but weren’t any of those things.  So they really didn’t keep the law.  Maybe that’s why Jesus kept healing on the Sabbath, to poke holes in their broken system.  In Romans 8:3-4 it says that God sent Jesus to do what the law couldn’t do in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.  Bottom line: Meet Jesus, look into His loving eyes and turn from your sin.

John 4.  The woman at the well.  Here’s the outcast of the outcasts at the well at noon.  And Jesus talks with her, asking for water and telling her about living water so she wouldn’t have to thirst anymore.  “I want that water!”  “Okay, go get your husband.”  “I don’t have one.”  “I know.  You’ve had five, and the guy you’re with now isn’t one of them.”  Jesus knows our backstory and He still likes us.  He knows what it is that we’re trying to fill the hole in our heart with.  Everyone has a hole in their heart that God put there so we would long for Him.  It has to filled with Him, otherwise it’s still a hole that needs to be filled.  Some people try to fill it with guys, others with drugs, others with shopping, others with food…

  • The other interesting discussion...What are you trying to fill your hole with?  Why don’t you fill it with Jesus?  We all have holes.  Andy Warhol is the guy that said “Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame.”  That’s why people will go on ‘American Idol’ even when they’re really bad, or do whatever do get noticed.  There’s a verse in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that says ‘that God has set eternity in our hearts.’  The Oscar Meyer Wiener song illustrates it: “Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener, everyone would be in love with me…”  Why would it matter for everyone would be in love with them?  Because God put that hole there for it to be filled by Him.

Final verses: Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

 


You’ve lost that loving feeling

first love

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelation 2:3-6

Jesus gave John messages for seven churches in Revelation 2-3 when He appeared to John in a vision.  This message was for the church in Ephesus.  Paul helped to establish that church thirty or forty years before this, and he wrote the book of Ephesians as a letter to them.  Jesus was telling them things that they had that were commendable, and also some things they needed to repent of.  

Let’s take a look at the commendable things first.  They were enduring trials patiently for the sake of Jesus.  Secondly, they did not grow weary of standing firm, nor did they give up.  This tells me that God sees us when we labor on, doing the right thing, and  taking heat from others.  We might think that no one else notices, or wonder if it is worth it.  The resounding answer is that God sees and He will reward us for our endurance.  He sees both individuals and churches.

Lately I’ve been struck with the idea of doing things that are a secret between God and myself.  In Matthew 6:1-2 it says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

 There are many awesome things that God has done in my life.  If I never get to tell anyone about them, it’s okay.  That can be our little secret.  I know God sees me and He knows what I am doing and enduring for the sake of His name.  My reward will come in the end from the One who sees me.

Now for the negative:  They had lost the love and zeal that they once had for God.  He didn’t say, “That’s okay, you did a lot of good things when you were younger.”  No, He called them to repent.  To repent means to admit that losing that intensity of devotion is sin, and then to return to the devotion that you had earlier on.  It means a change of heart and a change of actions.  

It could be tempting to live your Christian life in fits and starts.  That means you have good stretches and you have bad ones.  According to this, you need to repent of the bad ones and return to the first love that gave you the drive to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, serve others and be involved in things for the sake of His kingdom. Jesus told the Ephesians that if they did not repent, He would remove their lamp stand from its place.  That means that there were consequences for their dwindling love for Jesus, or just going through the motions.  It is the same for us today.

A friend was referring to someone else who was in a “spiritual funk.”  She said, “Maybe he’s just tired of trying to save the world.”  That could sound like a good excuse for allowing someone to continue in their funk, but according to this, it’s not okay.  We can’t have good sounding excuses before God.

It’s time for a gut check: Have you abandoned your love and passion for Jesus?  If so, repent and return.  Make choices to go in the opposite direction and do it today!