Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

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”


Spiritual Grit

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.  Micah 7:7-8

This is like the Christian version of “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. The chorus cries out “This is my fight song, take back my life song…”  I can almost hear it playing in the background as I read today’s verses.  When you feel like you are under attack and you’ve been buried under a load of defeat, this is your fight song.  I will look to the Lord, my God will hear me, when I fall down I will get up again, the Lord will light my darkness…

In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul describes the armor of God that we are to pray over ourselves to stand firm in the day of evil.  One of the pieces of the armor is the shield of faith.  We are to pick up this shield daily and stand on God’s promises.  There are days that I picture myself picking up the shield in my left hand and I quote verses out loud that declare my faith in the God who hears me and will save me.  “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and “with God all things are possible,” and “by my God I can leap a high wall and bend a bow of bronze.”  That is my fight song.

Commit fighter verses to memory and call them out loud.  Pray them over yourself and others who you know that are struggling.  James 4:7 tells us to Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  2 Corinthians 10:4 declares that we have weapons of warfare that are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. Quoting Scripture out loud is one of those weapons. So is calling on the name of Jesus, prayer and singing praise and worship songs out loud when necessary.

In my position as principal, it is a convenient place for bashers to pop up on Facebook. It is almost always for unfair reasons and truth usually doesn’t have to be told in the posts. It’s kind of like a Jerry Springer show, where drama is daytime entertainment.  I’m not on Facebook for a variety of reasons, but one is that it is too tempting to enter into the fray and war according to the flesh. Instead, I claim Psalm 31:20, In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men. You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues. I also remember Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

gritMicah called out: “When I fall, I shall rise.”  This is Christian grit.  Researcher Angela Duckworth says on Ted Talks that people who are successful didn’t get to be that way from having family money, or good looks, IQ, or anything else.  She reports that the biggest determining factor is grit.   Grit is resilience, an attitude that will not give up, look back or turn away.  You might not have much bounce left, but with God empowering and equipping you, you can do anything.

Even if your fall was the result of your own stupidity or sin, God forgives. Confess what you’ve done, don’t repeat it and get right back on the horse. Though you sit in the darkness, the Lord will be a light to you.

To quote Dr. Seuss, from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990, Dr. Seuss Enterprises)

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.  Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.  A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!

Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?  How much can you lose? How much can you win?  And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…

or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?  Or go around back and sneak in from behind?  Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,  for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.”

There will be dark times and dark places, but never forget that even in them—God will be with you and He will be a light for you. And that is something worth hanging on to.


Know God, Be Strong, Take Action

daniel knew his GodBut the people who know their God shall stand firm (be strong KJV; rise up) and take action (do exploits). Daniel 11:32b

This verse is in the context of Daniel foretelling what is going to happen in the “end times,” which is a period of turmoil before Israel will be restored to its former glory and Jesus will sit on the throne in Jerusalem.  In the middle of much conflict and extreme evil there is a big “but.”  It is a light in the middle of the darkness: “BUT the people who know their God will stand firm and take action.”

David knew it when he rose up as a shepherd boy and took on Goliath.  He said in 1 Samuel 17:37: The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.  Then in verses 45-47 You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…I will strike you down that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord save not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hand.

We need this same moxy today!  I am encouraged when I read headlines where people are in perilous situations or do big things and give glory to God.  One such example was this last week when Tammie Jo Shults landed the Southwest Airlines flight April 17 safely after an engine blew midair.  Though one passenger was sadly lost on the flight, the other 144 faced the same plight, but she safely landed the plane.  Tammie Jo was quoted as saying that “God sent His angels to watch over us,” in a Charisma News article of April 18.    A Christian, Tammie Jo reports that she gets opportunities to witness for Christ on almost every flight.  This time she got an opportunity to stand firm and take action.  The biggest thing that the news reports commented on was her calmness.

The idea is being ready for action, ready to be used by God.  There are three characteristics that I want to highlight about those who know God and are ready for action:

  1. They  understand the times and know what to do.  In 1 Chronicles 12:32 that is how the men of Issachar are described: Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs , and all their kinsmen under their command.  This takes discernment.  It takes watching the news and current events, sifting through all of the political bickering, posturing and flat out garbage–and then knowing what to do.  Discernment comes through prayer and Bible study more than through watching TV and being on the Internet.  In Habakkuk 2:1 he declares, I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He (God) will say to me.
  2. They have boldness and an undying energy in the Lord.  In 1 Chronicles 12 there is a description of David’s mighty men.  It details the mighty men who helped him in war.  They were bowmen who could shoot arrows and could sling stones with either the right or the left hand.  They were experts with the shield and the spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were a swift as gazelles upon the mountains.  They crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it was overflowing all its banks and put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.  Now those are exploits!  God isn’t looking for an army of physical warriors today, but He is looking people with that same boldness and spunk.   He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of boldness, courage, and ‘Go ahead punk, make my day’ mentality.  If we can have that kind of attitude for the things of the world, let’s have it for God.  Don’t let the enemy wear you down!
  3. They dream big dreams, and then do it.  Those are the kind of people I like to be around.  Paul declared, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, in Philippians 4:13.   I’m trying to catch myself every time I tell God that I can’t do something, including “I can’t take this anymore.”  No–I can do all things if He gives me strength.  And God will if that is what He wants me to do.  David stepped forward when no one else would.  He was in the right place at the right time, and it was God’s place for him and God’s time.  God, give me Your dreams.  Put them on my heart.  Place me around dreamers.  Keep the ‘no’ people far from me.

May you know God, be strong, rise up and take action.  And may you impact our generation for Him.

*Image from zh-cn.facebook.com

 


Fear is a Liar

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.  2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Praying at all times the Spirit… Ephesians 6:18

I had a blip of a dream this week with an old friend and myself in it.  We were at a women’s conference of some sorts.  We went up together to go talk to the speaker at a front bench.  I was initially struck that my friend looked a lot like the speaker, with both having the same blonde hair and the same purple top on.  My friend was crying.

As I went up with her, this large snake, which I thought was an anaconda, came quickly up and crawled up her right leg up to her waist, doubled around and came down again.  Remembering this is a dream, I had a hatchet in my hand and I reached over and hacked its head off.  That was the end of my dream.  I wake up and it’s time to go to work.

A Christian friend is into dreams and dream interpretations.  I have learned enough from him to know that I needed to contact my friend as soon as possible and talk to her about the dream.  She lives over 2000 miles away and I haven’t talked to her for over six months.  I figured I would have a chance at the end of the day, which I did for about 30 minutes between things, long enough to spill the dream and begin to see what was up.

Interestingly enough, it had been on her heart to put on a women’s conference to introduce her many contacts in the business world to Jesus.  She had come from quite a life of drugs and alcohol and was radically saved, and desires to tell them about Jesus.  She has been hesitant because she hasn’t known about whether or not to bring in a speaker from somewhere or what.

This is when it hit me that the speaker in my dream that looked a lot like her was her.  I was able to say with confidence that I was bringing her to herself and that I cut the head off of the snake.  It’s kind of like the credit card commercial where you’re talking to yourself on the other end of the phone and the tag line is, “We treat you like you treat you.”  The snake seemed to be the thing that was keeping her from moving ahead.  I saw it as fear–maybe a fear of vulnerability, one of rejection.  Who wouldn’t have that fear?  I kept telling her, “I cut the head off, so do it!”

All week I have been thinking about the snake.  I called my dream friend and got his take on it.  He said, “The snake is a ‘big fat lie.'”  It was a big fat snake, a lie is anything we believe that keeps us from getting to where we need to go.  Isn’t that the way Satan works?  It can be fear, it can be just the words, “You’re not good enough,” “You’re not smart enough,” “They’ll laugh you out of the place…”

The other thing I can’t get out of my mind: “I’ve got a hatchet!”  That increases my prayer confidence.  Somehow, some way, God used me in the spiritual realms to be a part of hacking the head off of the snake for my friend.  It really didn’t happen until I spoke it to her to say, “Don’t let fear stop you from putting on that conference.  Do it.  God has put it in your heart.  Your story is powerful and God has done it.  Other women will relate to it and will come to Jesus because of it.”

I want to break things with hatchets, swords, daggers, lances and anything else I can.  God, teach me how to pray to be more effective in the spiritual realm to do so.  Use me to hack snake heads off in my own life, in other peoples’ lives and do things that need to get done to see chains broken off and people set free.

Check out Zach Williams with his “Fear is a Liar” song.  It’s kind of like the big fat snake.  Name it and cut off its head!

 

 


Prayer in the Spirit…

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...Revelation 1:10prayer

“I was in the Spirit.”  Have you taken notice of those five words much, or have you just sped over them?  I’ve been thinking about them in the last week or so.  I’ve been thinking about prayer, and pondering how much I really just scratch the surface of what God has for me and for the rest of us.  In Ephesians 6:18, at the end of the armor of God, Paul writes: “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…”

I haven’t heard maybe any sermons on what praying in the Spirit means.  But I’ve read some things about it from guys from the 1700’s, and one guy from the early 1900’s.  Could it be that all of our television, Internet and video games have wrecked our depth to have that be a part of the normal Christian experience?

JD Greear writes about it in his book Jesus Continued.  So it isn’t all just guys that are dead that talk about praying in the Spirit.  He writes, “Our greatest power in prayer occurs when our prayers are prompted by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  Prayers that start in Heaven are heard by Heaven. (pg. 153)”

For me, the ‘in the Spirit’ promptings come one of two ways.  The first is through dreams.  It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but when it does, God gets my attention.  I’ll give an example.  I had a dream that a friend from church was covered in road rash.  She came and the ladies from church took her into this prayer cabin and totally covered her in prayer and she came out without any rash at all.  She was just fine.  I woke up, laid there and prayed for her for quite awhile, not knowing exactly what was going on.  Whatever it was, I knew it had to be rough.

The next day she was supposed to be at work and she wasn’t there.  Someone  mentioned she was at her husband’s court with him.  He was a doctor and was getting sued for some bogus malpractice suit.  It hit me that was what the dream was about, so I began praying fervently again for both of them.  At the end of the week we had a women’s gathering at our church and she described how those two days were the worst days of her life.  I would describe the prompting that God gave me through the dream as ‘praying in the Spirit,’ as there was no other way that I would have known how to pray.  He gave me a picture of what she was going through with the road rash.

The other way that God has worked for me is to give me burdens that will not go away until I have prayed them away.  When Scott O’Grady from the USA was shot down and behind enemy lines in Bosnia for eight days back in 1995, I couldn’t stop praying for him.  I must have prayed for him at least 8-10 times a day.  This was before 24 hour news, so I just kept praying!  When the news came that he was rescued, I cried.  When I read his book, Return With Honor, he tells of how  he laid still for hours at a time because captors were feet away from him.  At one point God gave him a vision of a “choir” of thousands of people from all around the world praying for him.  I was in that choir!

Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call to Me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.

Samuel Chadwick (1860-1932) said, “Prayer in the Spirit is the energized prayer of the righteous man that is of great force.  There is passion in the praying that prevails.  God never keeps hot hearts waiting.  ‘When you search for Me with all your heart I will be found by you.’  Jeremiah 29:13-14  Prayer that is energized by the Spirit brings power, turn ordinary mortals into people of power.  It brings fire.  It brings life.  It brings God.”

I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me.  Habakkuk 2:1

headphones-312817_960_720.jpgAnd the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”  1 Samuel 3:10

 


The Overcomers

overcomers

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world…For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 4:4 and 1 John 5:4-5

John was writing about false prophets, lying spirits and antichrists that deny that Jesus lived in the flesh and rose from the dead.  That’s who he was saying that we have overcome.  Why?  Because we’re on the power side, the winning side.  The false prophets and lying spirits are from the world and the world listens to the lies.  But we are from God.  God is greater than Satan, greater than false notions and ideas about what is going on and what we need to do.  And He is in us, so that makes us overcomers.  To be an overcomer means to prevail, to conquer or to win the victory.  It also implies that we face a battle.

Do you feel like an overcomer?  Or are you weighed down by the many things from life and from ‘the world’ that pull at you?  We are overrun with ‘fake news’ that makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t, and who’s lying and if there is anyone out there that isn’t involved in deception.  In our daily lives we encounter mockers, haters, obstacles, and internal struggles of all kinds.

The good news  to anchor our souls in is the fact that God is on the throne.  And through faith in Him we can experience joy, freedom and victory.  Our faith isn’t just a random, fuzzy faith: “As long as you believe something sincerely, that’s all that matters,” or “Everything is all the same, just under a different name.  You just need a higher power of some sort.”  1 John 5:5 counters that with this truth:  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

In Acts 4:12 it says that there is “No other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus.  Don’t believe anything else, no matter how sincerely you think they are okay to blend into your life.  Everyone has to leave some belief system to follow Jesus.  Further, Colossians 2:9-11 declares, “For in Christ the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’  (NIV)

Jesus is the top dog, with all of the power.  Don’t settle for anything less by doing what Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  When you place all of your trust in Jesus, you will have the power to overcome whatever comes your way.  

You don’t have to fear, nor do you have to resort to your old way of getting things done.  Maybe you used to use anger or some sort of manipulation to get what you want.  Now, you commit your situation to God and let Him do His work.  You may have been consumed with worry, thinking that somehow through your fretting that things would change.  Now you pray.  Or, you might have taken things into your hands to control, taking charge over others to make them comply to get things done.  With Jesus in your life, now you only concern yourself with your matters and leave God to work in other people’s’ lives just like He has in yours.

You are from God, you have overcome and you will overcome future problems through faith.  You have placed your faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Through that you have a power to see God work in situations that look hopeless, and to use you for His glory in ways you could never have dreamt of on your own.

 


The voice of the enemy vs. the voice of truth

voice of truth

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

 Do you ever get these voices from somewhere within that nag at you, or remind you of dumb things you have done?  And, do you ever have things happen and someone else comes at you with the voice of the enemy?  For me, it’s echos of the words of the ‘mean girls’ that I grew up around, or the insults of one of my brothers putting  down at every chance.    And there are others close to me, that when times of stress come, that say the words of the enemy.  They say things that I don’t need to hear, things that pull me down, and are words of anger and blame.

This is not what God thinks of us.  God calls out to us words of truth about ourselves, about those around us, about our past, and about His plans for us.  In fact, Zephaniah 3:17 that He “exults over us with loud singing.”  God quiets us with His love and sings songs over us because He loves us.

The voice of the enemy lies, taunts, and casts seeds of doubt. In Isaiah 36, there is the account of where Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was taunting the Jews and King Hezekiah.  In Isaiah 36:14-18, Sennacherib sent messengers to taunt the people of Judah: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.  He cannot deliver you!  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord…when he says ‘The Lord will deliver you,’ don’t believe him.”

Satan and his demons will tell you the same lies, either taunting your thoughts or through the statements of others.  They are things like, “The Lord doesn’t love you…He doesn’t hear your prayers…Look at you–you’re a mess.  Who do you think you are?”  1 Peter 5:8 describes Satan as an adversary who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, and John 10:10 as the thief who steals, kills and destroys.

Our response:  In Isaiah 36:21 we find, “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king said, ‘Do not answer him.’”  Don’t negotiate with terrorists.  Don’t answer Satan and get into a debate.  Speak truth out loud.  John 8:44 tells us “Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with 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.”  

Learn fighting words.  Jesus told Peter who said that He must never go to the cross, “Get thee behind me Satan,” in Matthew 16:23.  We must tell Satan the same thing.  As James 4:7 states, “Resist the devil and he will flee.”  Tell him to get lost in the name of Jesus.  Revelation 12:10-11 calls Satan the accuser of our brothers who accuses them day and night before God, but they conquered him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.  If you have called out to God to redeem your past, it is covered by the blood of the lamb.  Speak what God has done out loud, and don’t give Satan any hidden secrets to blackmail you with.

The voice of the enemy condemns.  Satan will whisper lies about you not being forgiven, that God promises are for everyone else but you, that you don’t deserve God’s love, that you’re nothing but a schmuck…When you believe those lies and have nothing but self contempt and anger, he’s got you right where he wants you.  You may think that whatever bad happens is because it’s your fault, or that you deserve only calamity, that things will never work out, that something bad is lurking and you live with fear, worry and untrusting thoughts.

Because you believe those words about yourself, if you do, then you are quick to say those things to others when the pressure is on.  Matthew 12:35 reports, “The good person brings good things out of the good stored up in him and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  I’m not calling you evil, but if you don’t kick those thoughts out of your innermost being, that’s what comes out.

Immerse yourself in truth that sinks into what you truly believe about yourself.  Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold You delight in truth in my inner being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret place (or secret heart).”  If I kick out the lies of the enemy in the core of my being and store up God’s truth about myself, about others and about the character of God–that’s what will come out in times of pressure.  When a toothpaste tube is squeezed, what is inside comes out.

The voice of truth, words from the Bible, tells us:

  • I will never leave or forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5
  • We are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10
  • There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1
  • Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  Romans 8:35
  • If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
  • We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13
  • God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

This is a great song by Ellie Holcomb, called “Fighting Words.”  Check it out:

 


Losing spiritual weight

freedom

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1

Years ago I was an adult leader at a youth rally.  The speaker sent teens and adults off for a half an hour, arming us with a spiritual inventory to take.  It was like a checklist of questions related to obtaining a clean heart.  It was a chance to see if we were carrying around sins and weights that were bogging us down, and then getting them right before God.

What happened next was awesome.  We regrouped and teenagers began to get up, confessing their sins that they knew God was speaking to them about leaving behind.  Kid after kid got up in tears, voluntarily and  moved by the Spirit, and renounced things.  I’ve not been in such a revival like setting before or after, where people were so visibly moved to be free.  Psalm 66:18-19 is sobering: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.”

There is freedom in finding a clean heart, but it is not easy.  The reason it’s not easy is that it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome our own pride, unforgiveness, and stubborn sin habits.  A couple of years ago I lost over forty pounds.  What freedom to get rid of that weight!  Involved in that process was totally changing my eating habits and sticking to consistent exercise.

To put Hebrews 12:1 into practice may mean a radical change in spiritual and emotional habits.  Sometimes the things that weigh us down aren’t sins, they are just unhealthy spiritual and physical habits or things that zap our love for God and our devotion to Him.  It is like what Luke 8:14 describes from the parable of the sower: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares (of this world) and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”  Life’s worries, the deceitfulness or seductiveness of riches, and the pursuit of fun are weights that certainly can get in the way of running after Jesus.

Some checklist questions could include:

  • Are there any cares of life that rob your peace and joy?
  • Is your joy found in things other than Jesus and His Word?
  • What would you have a hard time fasting from or giving up for the sake of having a closer walk with Jesus?
  • Is there anything that occupies more of your free time and money than it should?
  • Do you listen to any music, watch any TV shows/movies, or read any books that you seek satisfaction from that either might be ungodly, or competes with your finding satisfaction from God?
  • Are there any unconfessed sins that you secretly harbor?
  • Are there any unresolved conflicts or relationships where you have wronged someone, and it needs to be made right?
  • Are there resentments against certain people or situations that have led to bitterness, rage and malice?  (Malice is the intention or desire to hurt someone else; ill will.)
  • Are you overly concerned about yourself, having most of your conversations and thoughts centering around “I”?  Or are your feelings easily hurt?
  • Do you gossip or talk unkindly about others?
  • Do you cheat, steal, cut corners, exaggerate, or stretch the truth as a habit?
  • Are you undisciplined, lazy, or neglectful of family duties or spiritual habits?
  • Do you have a stubborn heart, or an unteachable attitude?

Clear out some time alone with God and pray the prayer of Psalm 139: 23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”


The Two-Edged Sword

Image result for two edged sword picture

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

I have talked a lot about the power of the Word and the necessity of being in it, so I just want to testify of what the Bible has done in my life.  As I have also previously mentioned, I became a Christian through two ladies who came and taught Vacation Bible School in my little farm community.  They taught the Word of God apologetically, persistently, and clearly.  I sat on the edge of my seat as I listened to them each summer.  They came from hours away, so this was the only time I heard teaching like this.  They quoted verses as they taught and in conversation, they sang songs with verses in them, and they simply stood on the truths of the Bible.

Through these two dear ladies, Miss Evelyn and Miss LaRue, the two-edged Word sword did its work in my life.  I learned that you don’t need a lot of props, you just need the Bible.  Through their encouragement I memorized hundreds of verses.  It is what changed my life, and I saw it change other people’s lives in the same way.  

When I went away to college, I joined Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, a campus Christian group.  Through them I was taught how to study the Bible inductively and many other things that took this love for the Bible and the passionate belief that we must base our lives on it, eat, drink and sleep with it.  I have kept Bible study journals for almost 40 years now.

I worked my summers throughout college and beyond in camping ministries.  In each of these places, I saw God use me in other kids’ lives as I taught the Bible and told them the good news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to pay the price for our sins and to purchase salvation for us.  I prayed with hundreds of kids to find this Jesus in their lives, just like Evelyn and LaRue did for me.

Since then, I continue with the same conviction.  I know if I teach with the Bible in my hand, God works.  I don’t get carried away with emotional or funny stories, just this living and active sword of the Spirit that changes lives.  In 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 it says that we are not to resort to manipulation or clever schemes, watering it down or panhandling it for profit.

God moved my audience from children to an evangelistic ministry in our County jail.  For over 17 years I have had the privilege of being the first person, in many cases, to introduce these dear women to Jesus and to the Bible.  The living and active word of God is doing its work in their lives.  Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “it will not return to Me empty but will accomplish that which I purpose.”


Fight the good fight!

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

So we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  What does it look like to pursue those things? We have to run after them, like we would pursue a dream, or a love relationship.  If we love something or someone, we’re going to pursue that person or thing.  In the midst of running after righteousness, godliness and the rest, the key is to run after God.

Some questions to ponder today: Does God have your heart?  Does He capture your affections, your time, your energy, and even your daydreaming?  What does capture your affections, if it’s not God?  And what do you need to get rid of that is stealing away your attention and devotion?

boxing glovesHere’s the fight part:  It is a fight to drive away the competing attention getters and to be able to flee sin, bad company and bad habits.  I was just talking with four women in jail about this.  They know about Jesus and want to follow Him, but the difficulty for them is to abandon the old life, especially because they don’t have the resources to just move to another community and to start all over.  We talked about Hebrews 12:4 that states: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

We also talked about Matthew 5:30 where it says, “If your right hand causes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.”  Now that’s a fight.  Jesus’ call on our lives is a radical one, not ho hum.  For some people it is really a big switch to go from walking like a child of darkness to one of light.

We are at war with the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  The ‘world’ belongs to this world, and Satan is the ruler of it, according to John 14:30 where Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming.”  Satan is the father of lies and our enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy, according to John 10:10.  We can’t just “go with the flow” because the world’s flow goes the opposite direction of godliness and righteousness.  Finally, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11 to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Have you ever felt that civil war?

              Three things to think about in the fight that counteracts the world,                                         the flesh and the Devil:

  1. The Word renews our mind, and so does the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 3:5).  Get into the Bible and stay in it.  Call on the Holy Spirit to empower you and to fight the flesh battle for you.
  2. Take your thoughts captive.  That’s 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Don’t be lazy about it.
  3. Learn and remember who you are in Christ.  Ephesians 2:3 says that we once were children of wrath, but that’s not who we are anymore.  We are children of the King and His Spirit lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us we used to be swindlers, drunkards, revilers, etc. but now we “have been sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.