It’s Time to Fight!

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Inspired!!  I mean over-the-top, fire-burning-in-my-heart inspired!!  Something ginormous is stirring in my spirit!!!  Before I get started though, let me tell you about my week.  It’s been one of those weeks.  You keep trying to be responsible and do the right thing, and it seems like for every step you take forward you fall two steps backwards, but you keep on going.  Then there’s this thing called social media.  I can’t knock it because it helps me get my message out; however, for whatever reason I’ve taken offense to some Facebook posts that were utterly insignificant.  I mean keep-on-scrolling, it’s-not-even-worth-stopping-to-look-at insignificant.  Well, since I’m not a confrontational person I read it, stew about it, keep it inside and don’t comment (see, that’s the responsible thing to do).  Then things started to change.  I read a post by Max Lucado and watched a short video by Lisa Bevere and something started stirring inside.  Then I remembered a post I had shared by Priscilla Shirer earlier this week and all of sudden what I had anticipated writing about suddenly changed.

I’ll share with a few phrases from these posts and videos:

“Our strategy as a church is to remind people of the power of prayer.  Prayer moves God, and God moves nations.  Our first and foremost responsibility is to pray.” Max Lucado

“If you are not praying the kind of prayers that scare you, believe me, they are not scaring the enemy. . . The world needs us to pray scary prayers instead of scared prayers.”  Lisa Bevere

“I resolve to stop using physical means to fight battles that require spiritual remedies, using instead the power of prayer to do what it’s always been designed to do.”  Priscilla Shirer

I’ll be the first to stand up and say “Father, forgive me for being distracted by the insignificant and not being the warrior you’ve called me to be.”  I will admit I have failed miserably.  We don’t have to look far to see people in need of our prayers, many within our own families.  Our nation is in the middle of presidential campaigns that will just about make you nauseous, and while these things are first and foremost in our thoughts and conversations, that’s as far as we take them.  We can find the time to talk about them, but we can’t find the time to pray about them.  We have direct access to our Heavenly Father, yet we don’t take it that far!  What’s even worse is we can find time to talk, post or tweet about our favorite sports teams – or the ones we dislike the most – or what player did this and what player did that, or gossip about our neighbors, or even worse our church members, and I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture; however, we’re not willing to put aside these distractions and fight for what really matters.

I’ve been doing some reading and studying on covenants recently.  When two families entered into covenant with one another, they didn’t have the same weaknesses and strengths.  Where one might be weak in one area, the other was strong, and they drew on each other’s strengths.   We have entered into a new covenant with God through the blood of Jesus Christ where we have direct access to Him and we draw our strength from Him!  Not only do we have access to Him, but He’s given us HIS armor.  Ephesians 6:10-11 says “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].  Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.” (Amplified)  Versus 13 says “Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].”  You need to get that – it’s HIS armor!  He has equipped us with everything we need.  It’s time to wake up and take a stand against the enemy and fight for our families, friends and church families, and our nation!  I’m not talking about wimpy prayers.  As Lisa Bevere put it, we need to be praying “scary” prayers, not “scared” prayers.  We have been empowered through our union with God, we are heavily armed and we’ve got everything at our disposal that we need to be victorious!

I’m not going to encourage you this week, instead I’m going to challenge you to dismiss the insignificant and fight for what truly matters – those that are lost, your family and friends, your church – whatever needs God brings to your mind – and most definitely our nation!  I once heard a minister speaking on the fight of faith, and a lady came up to him after the service and said “Well, I’m just not a fighter.”  His response to her was “Well, that’s not okay.”  It’s not okay!  God hasn’t given us the means to fight to just sit on the sidelines and watch.  It’s time to fight!!!

 

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Who – or What – Are You Magnifying?

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“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My life makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble and afflicted hear and be glad.  O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Psalm 34:1-3 (Amplified)

Bless the Lord ALL the time?  Praise CONTINUALLY be in my mouth?  Just exactly how are we supposed to do that, especially in this day and time?  Within the past 10 days within a 30 to 35 mile radius of where I live (which is a small community) there have been two suicides, a murder/suicide, and two high school students tragically killed in an automobile accident – and we’re supposed to praise the Lord through all this?  There have been families left with unanswered questions.  There will be a tremendous feeling of loss when students return to school this week and their friends, schoolmates, and teammates are no longer there.  It’s not just in this community; it seems to be everywhere you turn, in all kinds of circumstances.  Maybe it’s not something that’s felt by a community, but more personal.  Maybe your marriage is falling apart, or you’re having some pretty hefty financial difficulties, or a devastating sickness has hit you or a family member.  It seems the phrase “The struggle is real” abounds in conversations and social media.

I will be the first to admit that when tough times hit praise usually isn’t the first thing out of my mouth.  But when I’m not praising God in these times and magnifying Him, am I not magnifying someone or something else?  When my conversation revolves around all the bad stuff going on – either in my life or even the world around me – am I not magnifying the bad stuff, the evil, even Satan himself?  When you listen to the news, is it not magnifying the bad (at least most of the time) instead of the good?

However, when we turn our focus towards God and magnify Him and His goodness, something begins to happen.  It’s then that we put ourselves in a position for the Lord to wrap His arms around us and comfort us and bring peace to us in a way that no one else can.  He reminds us of His promises that we can rely on.  He brings His strength to our weakness.  If you’ll read on down to verses 17, 18 and 19 of this same chapter, the psalmist writes these words “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles.  The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent.  Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  (Amplified)

I’m also reminded of Romans 4:20-21 “No unbelief or distrust made him (Abraham) waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.”  (Amplified)

I encourage you today to focus on the Lord, and magnify His goodness and greatness.  Even though the “struggle may be real”, let God make His peace and love “real” to you.

Slamming the Door on Fear

Fear

“Full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!”  1 John 4:18 (AMP)

 Fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of the dark, fear of death – just a few common fears we may be familiar with.  Then there are some we’re not so familiar with – fear of sourness, fear of garlic and even fear of swallowing.  Fear is such a prevalent force in our society that they even have names.  It’s reported that psychologist have categorized as many as 500 phobias (which is actually an excessive and irrational fear reaction) – and that was in 2008.  While some of these fears may seem silly, they are very real to the person experiencing them.  Sometimes our fears may not hit the extreme level, but even the slightest fear brings with it a feeling of uneasiness.

Some would tell us that fear is healthy, that it’s a natural defense mechanism.  However, numerous times throughout the Bible we are told not to fear.  I once heard a statement that fear is faith perverted.  It’s the exact opposite of faith.  Whereas faith is stepping out and taking God at His Word, fear is stepping out and believing what Satan tells us.  Have you ever read or seen something that triggers a brief thought and before you know it you have a full-blown scenario playing on the big screen in your mind?  Or maybe you feel a little twinge of pain in your body and your mind immediately races towards the worst case scenario.  Thank goodness for the internet!  You list out your symptoms and find your suspicions are confirmed – your family will likely be making funeral arrangements tomorrow!  I know this sounds facetious – and admittedly taking things to the extreme – but this is also how the enemy feeds our fear.  While you’ll more than likely make it through the night, deeper thoughts have been planted in your mind that could easily take root.

I believe fear is the greatest weapon Satan uses against us.  It’s what he uses to pervert our faith.  When our first reaction is to fear, then we’ve taken the first step in the wrong direction and away from faith.  We can’t be full of fear and full of faith at the same time.  When we open the door to fear, we shut the door to faith, and even though we may just barely open the door, the enemy is going to be right there to kick it all the way open – unless we stop him.

So how do we slam the door shut on fear?  First of all we recognize that these thoughts that are bringing fear are from the devil and we immediately cast down imaginations and bring every thought into captivity.  Second Corinthians 10:3-5 says “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (KJV).  I like the way the Complete Jewish Bible says it – our weapons “have God’s power for demolishing strongholds.”  Our thoughts have a tendency to race rapidly so the quicker we do this the quicker that door closes.  At first it may take us a little longer to recognize what’s going on, but the more we do it the sooner we will respond.

Then we stand on God’s promises that we can apply to our specific circumstances.  If it’s concerning sickness, find scriptures on healing; if it’s financial, find scriptures on God’s provisions; if it’s concerning safety, find scriptures on God’s protection (Psalm 91 is a good place to start).  Write them down and put them where you can see them throughout the day.  You have to remember that Satan is a liar, but God’s promises are true.  Make a decision that you are NOT going to fear!

First John 4:18 tells us that perfect love casts out fear.  What is perfect love?  Look at 1 John 2:5.  “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected:  hereby know that we are in him.”  The Greek word for “perfected” here actually means to complete.  Perfect love is mature love; it’s a love that is completed by treasuring and keeping God’s Word, by following His instruction and abiding in Him.  (You might want to read my “Vital” blog.)

I couldn’t end this blog without including some of the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, Chris Tomlins’ “Whom Shall I Fear”:

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies is always by my side

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises
You are faithful
You are faithful

Finally, let this be your prayer:  I refuse to fear!  Your divine power has given me all things that are necessary and vital and suited to life and godliness through the full and personal knowledge of You who called me by and to Your own glory and excellence.  By means of these You have  given me Your precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them I may escape by flight from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of the covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers and partakers of Your divine nature.  (2 Peter 1:3-4)  I keep and treasure Your Word – I bear in mind Your instructions and observe Your message in its entirety – therefore truly in me has the love of and for God been perfected, completed and reached maturity.  By this I perceive, know and recognize and am sure that I am in You; I abide in You, I walk and conduct myself in the same way in which You walked and conducted yourself. (1 John 2:5-6)  This full-grown, complete and perfect love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror!  (I John 4:18)  I cast every care on You, Lord, and will not be anxious about anything for You care for me affectionately and watchfully.  (1 Peter 5:7)  Amen and Amen!

Are you ready to slam that door in the devil’s face?

If The Shoe Fits . . .

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“Just because the shoe may fit that doesn’t mean you buy it.”

Have you ever been shoe shopping with someone and wish you’d brought along a good book?  Too high, too flat, too dressy, too casual, too drab, too showy, not the right shade of red or purple – or black or brown?  And then you hear it – “Perfect!” – and you feel like breaking out in the Hallelujah Chorus.  They may have tried on a hundred pairs of shoes that actually fit, but they just weren’t “right”.

Now, have you ever heard these words?  “Can’t you do anything right?’  “You’ll never amount to anything.”  “Why can’t you be like so-and-so?”  “You’ll always be a failure.”  If you’ve ever been the recipient of statements like these, it probably wasn’t a once in a lifetime deal.  You’ve heard them over and over and over, not only verbally but ringing inside your head.  After a while these words take their toll and you start believing you can’t do anything right, or you try to be like so-and-so, or do whatever it takes to “prove” ourself – usually to no avail.  Sometimes the enemy comes at us the same way.  “You know this isn’t going to work.  Everything else you’ve done has failed.”  “You just don’t have what it takes.”  “Do you really think God cares about you?”

What does this have to do with shoes fitting?  Bear with me!

No matter who the offender may be, way too many times we buy into their perceptions of who we are.  We buy into the fact we’ll never be good enough, that we’ll always be a failure.  We spend our lives walking in shoes that may “fit” according to the world’s standards and other people’s opinions, but deep down there are times when we want to try on a different pair of shoes.  If this is you, then it’s time to go shoe shopping.  It’s time to change your perspective and what you’re buying into, and the best way to do that is to buy into what God says about you.  I encourage you to get into your Bible and find scriptures about who God says that you are, but here are a few for starters:  He calls you friend (John 15:15).  You’re awesomely and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).  You’re a child of the most-high God (Romans 8:16).  You’re a joint heir with Jesus (Romans 8:17).  You are loved (1 John 3:1).  Perfect fit!

I love this quote from Toni Sorenson:  “Even if the shoe fits, that doesn’t mean I’m going to wear it; I don’t want to wear somebody else’s smelly old shoe.  I’d rather go barefoot.”  Just because the shoe may fit (according to the world’s standards) doesn’t mean you buy it.

Are you wearing shoes that don’t fit?

Unopened Gifts

“Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God’s gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.”  John 4:10 (AMP)

When my grandson turned two years old we all got together to celebrate – mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.  Needless to say lots of presents came through the door with the guests.  He began to open his presents and was actually more interested in what he had just opened instead of jumping right into opening the next present.  After opening several gifts, he was having to be coaxed to open the rest of them because he was ready to play!

However, suppose he had been unwilling to be “coaxed”, stopped opening presents and just started playing with what he already had.  Would the unopened gifts no longer be his?  Would the “giftees” have taken the unopened presents back home because he hadn’t opened them?  Certainly not!  Nor would this have been a show of ungratefulness on his part; he just wanted to enjoy what he already head.  However, he would’ve had no idea what those other gifts contained until he opened them.

The above scripture is a familiar one and a story many people are well acquainted with – “The Woman at the Well.”  Many sermons have been preached from different aspects of this story.  As I was recently reading this passage two words really grabbed my attention – “God’s gift.”  Another scripture quickly came to mind as well, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son . . .”

As Christians we are well aware of the fact that we have been given eternal life through Jesus Christ.  It’s a gift we eagerly received and have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy throughout all eternity.  It’s a gift most of us probably didn’t struggle to receive.  However, that’s not the only gift God gave us through His son, Jesus.

Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 tells us that He came “to preach the good news to the poor” – that’s God’s means of bring salvation to everyone who believe; to “announce release to the captives” – that’s freedom; “recovery of sight to the blind” – that’s healing both physically and mentally; and to release those who are oppressed (crushed, downtrodden, bruised and broken) – that’s deliverance.  Isaiah 53:5 tells us we have peace and healing through Jesus, yet so many of us struggle with all of these other gifts.  They’re like presents we’ve left unopened because we’re content just enjoying His gift of salvation.  We find it difficult to use our faith to open these gifts because we tend to be moved by the physical and not what God’s Word tell us.

I encourage you to search the Bible to find scriptures that you can stand on; God’s promises that you can apply to your situation.  Take God as His Word; apply your faith and open these other gifts God has given you through the ultimate gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.  I assure you He will never take them back.  They’ve been freely given, now freely receive.  Don’t be satisfied with just the few gifts from God you’ve received.  Open them all and walk in the fullness of God.

What are you doing with the gifts God has given you?

It’s Vital

“Abiding in Christ is a vital necessity in our Christian walk. That is what sustains our spiritual life.”

Have you ever read a scripture in the Bible before – one that you’ve probably read several times – and all of a sudden you see something you’ve never seen before?  As I was reading John 15 recently in the Amplified Bible, this word “vital” seemed to jump off the page at me.    It’s not an uncommon word, and not one that we often give much thought to.  We have vital organs (the ones that are indispensable and we can’t live without).  Food, water and rest are vital in order to sustain life.  Babies, the elderly and disabled require care from others – this is vital to sustain their lives.  Combat gear is vital to those going into a war zone.  Something that is vital is something that’s absolutely necessary, of utmost importance, essential and required to sustain life.

Then I began to think about my everyday life.  Do I do what’s vitally important every day, or do I go through the motions and do those things that I think demand my attention every day?  If you had three buckets – a “Vital” bucket, an “Important” bucket and an “If there’s time” bucket – how would you categorize the things you do in a day, or even a week, using these buckets?  Of course nourishment for our bodies is vital, taking care of our children is vital, and then you have house work, laundry, yard work – and the list goes on.  As we begin to fill up these buckets, we may find that we may need to re-prioritize some things, like which bucket does God go in?

I can’t stress to you how vital it is to spend time with the Lord, but I want to take it a step further.  John 15 – the vine and branches – is a chapter that’s very familiar.  (Sometimes it makes us a little uncomfortable when we read about the branches that are cut off.)  However, there are two words I want to focus on in this chapter – dwell (or abide in KJV) and vital (which is used in the Amplified version).  Verses 4 and 5 read “Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you.  [Live in Me, and I will live in you.]  Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.  I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit.  However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”  The King James Version says “Abide in Me” which means to stay, dwell, or continue.  Our home is where we dwell, it’s our permanent residence.  Christ should be our “permanent residence” as well.  It should be of vital importance that we dwell in Him and are vitally united to Him.  When we dwell in Him, He’s in every part of our life, 24/7.  He guides and directs us, He nourishes us – as a matter of fact Psalm 23 pretty much sums it up.

We can’t walk in the fullness of God and live a victorious life if we’re not vitally dwelling in Him.  In 2 Chronicles 20:2 (this is one of my favorite chapters) Jehoshaphat “set himself [determinedly, as his vital need] to seek the Lord”.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter, but he wins the battle – without lifting a sword!  Where you decide to “dwell” is a decision only you can make.  You can be satisfied with visiting every now and then, “if there’s time”, or you can decide to make Christ your permanent residence – this is what sustains our spiritual life.  Where will you decide to live?

“If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

John 15:8 (Amplified)

Resolution – or Revolution

It’s a new year, a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, losing weight, changing bad habits, etc, etc, etc.  Unfortunately all too often our good intentions fall by the way side much sooner that we’d like to admit.

I was watching a movie on TV not along ago where a small town was preparing for their first New Year’s Eve celebration.  As the children were preparing for their part in the festivities one of the students asked her teacher if there was going to be a war on New Years.  The teacher looked rather puzzled and replied no, why did she ask.  The child responded “I heard there was going to be a New Year’s revolution.”

As I began to look at these two words, I began to wonder if maybe the two aren’t more closely related that we might think.  “Revolution” is defined as a sudden change.  We usually think of this in the context of government, or something on a much bigger scale than on an individual standpoint.  When we “resolve” to make certain changes in our lives they may actually start out in a revolutionary way, jumping into the deep end of the pool without a plan – sink or swim.  If we find ourselves sinking, we become overwhelmed and frustrated, and then condemnation raises its ugly head and we admit defeat.

I’m sure there have been more articles, blogs and how-tos written on how to make your New Year’s resolutions successful than you can shake a stick out, so I’m not going to give you a list of dos and don’ts.  However, I would like to give you a couple of things to think about . . .

  1. Pray for wisdom.  Proverbs 2:1-11 speaks a lot about wisdom.  Bring the areas of change you’d like to make to God and ask for wisdom on how to obtain your goals.  Follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit as he prompts you and directs you in the steps you need to take to be successful.  Proverbs 3:5 & 6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all of our heart, not in our own understanding, and He will direct our paths.
  2. Stand your ground.  There will be times when the enemy will come against you and your flesh will want to rebel, but you are an overcomer.  The Christian life is not all about smooth sailing.  Opposition will come and we have to be prepared.  Find scriptures that you can stand on when “stuff” starts to come against you.  Here are a few to get you started:  Philippians 4:13, I John 4:4, I Corinthians 15:57.

I believe these two things are key ingredients to being successful.  As long as we are following God’s plan for our life and seeking His guidance, we can be assured that He is with us and we can rely on Him to direct our paths.

As you make your resolutions for the new year, are you willing to see if they are in agreement with God’s plan, and if not are you willing to put your plans aside and follow His lead?