Christianity 201

April 7, 2016

Ice Cube or Iceberg?

Today we return to the writing of Andy Elms from the UK ministry Great Big Life. What follows is from a series of emails to which I subscribe, I’ve condensed several days into one here.

Matthew 6:1-2 (NKJV)
Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
So what do I mean by “Are you an Iceberg or an Ice cube?” Both are made of the same basic material – frozen water – but they are two very different experiences. An ice cube floats on the water and if you hit it with something it moves; an iceberg has a tip that sticks out of the water with the majority or major part of it under the waves, unseen. The difference comes when something hits an iceberg – it does not move; in fact, as HMS Titanic found out, what hits it will sink.

icebergSo much of modern Christianity seems to be about what happens in the sight of others (especially worship leading and preaching). It seems that a lot of people want to just do Christianity that is with others and seen by others; everything about their Christian experience is ‘above the waves’. Yet I believe the Bible encourages us to build something stronger and deeper than this. Like the man who built his house upon the rock, we are to build a walk with God and an outworking of our Christianity that has great depth. By this I mean a whole lot happening under the waterline of our life, where man does not see but God does.

It’s when we take time to develop what we have with God ‘under the waves’ of what others can see or hear that we build a faith walk that is strong and unmovable, so when an enemy ship or random life attack comes against us we do not sink or float off, rather we cause that which came against us to sink while we remain strong and unshaken.

[The above text] touches this concept when it talks about how we are to give: it instructs us to have an ‘under the water, unseen by man’ reality to how we give. When we know in our hearts that man may not ever know what we have done and we may never get their applause, but God does see and know, we can know we will get His reward; and don’t tell me for a minute that His reward won’t be far superior than that which man gives.

Matthew 6:5-6 (NKJV)
And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

…God is interested in building the parts of you that are not seen by others, things like your character and integrity, because He knows as you daily grow in who you are, in the unseen, who you are ‘above the waves’ will naturally grow and strengthen too.

In the next part of Jesus’ teaching He looks at prayer, and the whole thought of ‘iceberg or ice cube’ continues to be very relevant. When it comes to prayer, is there a part of your prayer life that is never heard or witnessed by others, reserved just for the audience of One? With so much of today’s performance-driven Christianity we have become great at praying eloquent prayers when others are around, but God is interested in what is happening when it is just you and Him.

[The above text] instructs us concerning our personal prayer walk with God – that we are to all have a prayer place that we go to where no other person can hear what we are saying or see what we are doing. Like the ‘below the waters’ part of an iceberg, this place of personal prayer should be the largest part of what we have going on in the area of our prayer and communication with God. If it isn’t we can easily become ‘professional prayers’ who pray to be heard and given applause and appreciation by man. The problem is that those who pray to be heard by others have received all of the reward they are going to get. Those, however, who pray not to be heard by man are told that God Himself gives the reward for what they have done that no one else saw.

I hope this encourages you today to grow a prayer life ‘beneath the waves’ of what man observes, to have a secret place where it comes to communicating with God, to build a depth in prayer knowing that where there is depth “deep can call out to deep” (Psalm 47:2), and Father God wants to talk to you deeply.

Matthew 6:16-18 (NKJV)
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

…Here Jesus uses the same principle but this time picks on the subject of fasting. He says when we fast, we are to do it in such a way as to not let others know. Don’t do it in an ‘above the waves’ fashion, rather do it in such a way that none watching you would even know.

I am sure like me you have met people who are fasting and they just can’t help themselves, they just have to let you know. They whisper quietly, “I am fasting, don’t tell anyone”, or they actually don’t need to say anything, the facial expressions say it all! The reality is, the minute they let you know they should probably give up because the power of fasting, according to today’s text, is in others not knowing. Don’t get me wrong, when others find out that’s fine; its when you do it for others to know you are doing it that you have problems, and all you are doing is just starving yourself.

Jesus teaches us to wash our face, put the make up on, put gel in our hair, and walk around in such a way that only God, who sees what happens under the waterline of your life, can see what you are doing and why you are doing it. When fasting is done to be seen by the audience of only One – like giving and prayer – He then takes the responsibility to reward you openly. The person who fasts to been seen by others better enjoy the applause they get, because that’s all they’re getting.

Let me challenge you to continue to grow the part of you that is ‘beneath the waterline of your life’, knowing that this is the part He rewards and this is the part that makes you strong and unsinkable. Let me say again, when shallow Christians who have no depth have a collision with life’s various problems and situations they simply float away. But people with depth don’t float away, they remain standing strong, weathering every storm that comes along. Grow and invest in the person you are beneath the waves!

August 23, 2015

Plugged into the Power of the World Yet to Come

Spiritual PowerPastor George Belobaba was in full-time ministry for over sixty years and was married to his wife, Zena, for 65 years. They had one son and five daughters. Through almost 750 posts, Susan E. Johnson copied the pastor’s writings so they could be preserved on the internet at the blog Scripture Nuggets. Today’s post here is among the final two which were posted. Click the individual links below to read at source and look around the rest of the topics.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come

Hebrews 6:5… “And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come” (KJV). The NLT reads, “Who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come.”

What a great verse. It tells of saints who learned how to live in troubled times. They learned how to pray and how to believe in the Word of God. They tasted God’s utterances and experienced how good God’s message is. They were nourished by the Word, and the results were fantastic. They lived off the miracles of the world to come. Mighty works were in abundance. When they believed the Word, they set in motion the powers of the supernatural world. If we know how to pray, we know how to live. If prayer sags, life sags along with it.

I was meditating on this text some time ago, and of the possibility of entering into and reaching into the world to come, taking from that world, bringing into this world, and living by the powers of that world. The NCV reads,

They found out how good God’s word is, and they received the powers of his new world.”

Of course, the powers of the world to come was in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. If Christians today can grasp this… That coming age was the “age of the Holy Spirit,” the New Testament era. It is now. I personally believe that soon there will be extraordinary manifestations of the power of God that cannot be explained away. “Is there not a cause?” (1 Samuel 17:29, KJV).

Prayer will help us to penetrate through the natural world into the supernatural world, the realm of God. Prayer draws from His realm the needs for our realm. We can live by the abundance that He provides. If prayer lags, supplies sag. The New Testament teaches that it is by faith we have access (Romans 5:1-2), and by the blood of Jesus the way was opened for us to come in (Hebrews 10:19). There are things in God’s realm that will not come to us unless we pray and believe. God is willing to supply all our needs when we are willing to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). The saints in our text learned to live by tapping into the supernatural by prayer and by faith.

The disciples saw Jesus praying. He relied on prayer for fellowship and communion with the Father. He prayed first at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Prayer brought the Spirit, and with the Spirit came the power and the abundance. Jesus prayed for many things as well. When the disciples saw Jesus praying, they asked to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Jesus taught the importance of relationship (“Our Father”). He taught them the power of the Name of Jesus (“Hallowed be Thy Name”). He also taught the necessity of the Holy Spirit (Thy kingdom come”). In the early manuscripts of the Gospel of Luke, the words “Thy kingdom come” reads as “Thy Spirit come upon us” (Cambridge Bible, 1910). In the 1950s, I was reading the Lord’s Prayer and came to the words “Thy kingdom come.” The Holy Spirit said to me that this refers to the Holy Spirit coming upon us, and that when we pray, the Holy Spirit needs to be in our asking. It’s the Holy Spirit that brings the powers of the world to come into our living today.

Living Off The Powers Of The World To Come, Pt. 2

The 120 started out with prayer and waited for the coming of the Spirit (Acts 1:14). They did not start out with, “Lord, give us power and success to do miracles.” They were very careful in that they did not use prayer for ego-expanding requests, nor did they use God for their own selfish purposes. Prayer is not capturing Jesus to make Him serve us. Both Jesus and the disciples began on the right foundation. They prayed for the coming of the Spirit. The Spirit makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit helps us to pray according to God’s will. 1 John 5:14-15 mentions the words “according to His will.” The qualifying power for answered prayer is “according to the will of the Lord.” Too often the will of God is not in our praying. Faith in what He has said will bring the answer. The 120 prayed for the Spirit, and what each wanted for themselves, they wanted for all. With the Spirit came the miracles from the world to come.

The disciples saw Jesus’ countenance change when He prayed (Luke 9:28-29). Prayer changes the way you look. The glory of the Father manifested itself on the body of Jesus and it will do the same for ours. Paul writes of these things in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. Through prayer, we become alive, aglow, anointed, and permeated with His glory.

Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance” (Acts 2:28, KJV).

The disciples saw Jesus praying in Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46). Jesus prayed that He would carry out the purposes for which He came–the cross and shedding of His blood for the remission of sin. Prayer was generated to accomplish a specific purpose. Prayer gave Jesus a divine compulsion to do the Father’s will. Prayer gives us a mission and the power and ability to carry out that mission. When saints pray, they soon exchange the chip on their shoulder for the Lord’s hand upon their shoulder, capturing them for Kingdom purposes.

A story is told of an old riverboat pilot. A passenger had marveled at the pilot’s skill in navigating the paddlewheeler up and down the river, “You must know where all the sandbars are.” “No,” said the pilot, “but I know where the channels are.” Jesus knew the channels that led to a Spirit-empowered life… so did the early saints. That channel is prayer and faith in God’s Word. Because they knew how to pray, they knew how to live (which was by the powers of the world to come).

We can experience the miraculous abundance of the world to come as the early saints did. The key is prayer and having faith in what God says. Prayer brings the Spirit, and with Him comes poise, peace, purpose, and power. Many saints seek only the proof of prayer when they should be seeking the practice of prayer. Prayer is talking something over with God rather than trying to talk God out of or into something.

July 6, 2015

On Being a Tree

 Today’s post is by Kim Shay and appeared at Out Of The Ordinary, a blog that is dominantly written for women. I felt this advice could apply to male readers as well. (I made two small textual changes, but then decided to change them back!) Click the title below to read at source.

I’d rather be a tree

While preparing a seminary assignment, I had cause to look at this passage in Jeremiah 17:5-8:

Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places
in the wilderness
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when the heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

We either trust God or we trust something else, usually man, whether it is ourselves, another person, or a man-made system. It’s not wrong to trust people, but when we trust people above God, we are walking on dangerous ground. Jeremiah says that the one who trusts in man has a heart which turns away from the Lord. The result is that he is parched, dry, and sees no good. For the one who places all of his trust in man above God, this parched condition will ultimately show up when trials come. Human friends don’t always stick around when trials come, but God will not forsake us.

When we have a crisis, where do we turn first? Does turning to God in prayer come second, or even last? Do we run to a close friend before God? Our husbands? Our siblings? Our parents? Where do we find our value? Are we more worried about what others think than God? If we walk through a trial, these things will be revealed.

As women we are encouraged to be in relationships with people, especially other women. And we need those relationships. We need to be encouraged in the things of God and we need to minister to others. But it is very easy to put more emphasis on what others think of us than is good.

I picked up the book Trust, by Lydia Brownback, and I liked what she had to say about the risk of trusting too much in people:

Consider your motivations in showing love to others. If you detect an underlying compulsion to obtain a compliment or word of approval, it’s a pretty sure bet that you have placed your well-being in their hands.

Desiring the love and approval of the significant people in our lives is natural; however, if we feel we must have that to be happy, then a good desire has become a destructive one. We are attributing to people what rightfully belongs to God, which is why we are never able to live at rest with ourselves and at peace with others.

In this world of “likes” and “re-tweets,” and sharing of links, it can be a very subtle thing to begin living for the approval of others. We may think we’re putting God first because we travel only in Christian circles, or because our intent is to use social media to spread the gospel. But if we’re restless and frustrated when we’re not getting the attention we feel we deserve, that is a sign that our priorities may be off.

Notice the contrast in the Jeremiah passage: the one who trusts in flesh is a shrub; a little shrub, living in a parched, dry land. The one who trust is God is a tree, tall, strong, flourishing, and well-fed. Perhaps our times of feeling spiritually dry and frustrated are symptoms that we are trusting in man more than God. When it comes right down to it, whom do we trust? It’s a question worth asking.

March 29, 2015

Don’t Get Pushed Around

galatians5_1

Devotional ideas come by a variety of means. Today I found a scrap of paper in something my father owned, on which was written the name Richard L. Strauss (a Christian writer, not the music composer). I looked into his writings and much of what is available online would be too lengthy to use here, but this one met the size parameters, and I felt I was meant to use it today. The scripture verses are in King James, but you can update them at BibleGateway.com or similar sites. The late Dr. Richard L. Strauss was pastor of Emmanuel Faith Community in Escondido, California.

Why Get Pushed Around?

NOBODY LIKES to get pushed around. We don’t like to get stepped on, taken advantage of, treated unfairly, or denied our rights. True, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. But we still find it demeaning and degrading to get pushed around.

When it comes to spiritual issues, however, all of a sudden most of us get very weak-kneed. All of a sudden, we’re ready to back down, to give in, to roll over and play dead. And yet, this is where the Bible tells us to hold fast.

No wonder, therefore, the New Testament has so much to say about standing firm. I would like to explore some of the Scriptures in which the Greek word steko, meaning “to stand firm”, is used. Let’s find out the specific issues on which we are to stand firm, the specific areas where we must refuse to let Satan push us around.

1. In the faith.

Spiritual warfare is stamped all over the four commands the Bible gives in I Corinthians 16:13. It reads: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

First, “Watch.” Like armies in battle, we Christians should always be watchful of enemy movements; we must be constantly on the lookout for potential attack by Satan. Secondly, “stand fast in the faith.” When we see an attack coming, we may be most tempted to retreat, or even desert. But when our faith is threatened, God wants us to stand firm, to hang tough.

The last two commands involve combat itself. “Quit you like men” is a quaint King James rendering that means “Act like men”. In other words, be brave, be courageous, whatever dangers you face. And finally, “Be strong.” Use all the power that God has made available to you through His Spirit.

AWOLs. The ranks of professing Christians has had many deserters. Most Christian young people know, for example, that the Bible’s explanation of life, the universe, man and history is the only truth. Yet, when they are confronted with the anti-Christian bias in the secular school, they wilt.

Christian adults are no stronger. All too often, believers subordinate their Christian commitments to worldly demands; people who profess to be Christians typically allow their work or even hobbies to keep them from studying the Bible or serving their Savior.

In Daniel, we have an outstanding Biblical model of one who is truly standing firm in the faith. Daniel’s commitment to his God was tested from the moment he arrived captive in Babylon as a young man. But when he was forbidden to pray on pain of death, he prayed anyway, trusting God to care for him as He chose.

Let’s dare to be the Daniels in our world. Let us stand firm in the faith whatever the cost.

2. In our freedom.

Freedom from the law is the theme of Galatians. God does not accept us because we’ve kept His laws. We are saved only because He has forgiven us and has granted us the gift of life in His Son.

But there are always people who would like to get you back under the law. That’s why Paul says in Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

The trouble with the legalists is that they don’t understand God’s grace. They think it’s dangerous to let people out from under the law. Actually, legalism is the more dangerous teaching. For one thing, the legalists tend to compare their “obedience” with others; and pride, of course, goes before a fall.

For another, they tend to rely upon their own strength to keep the rules. And the inevitable result of self-reliance is a spiritual nose dive. Worn out from trying in vain to keep the law in the energy of the flesh, some of them just give up in despair. Others, thinking that God owes them something for their efforts, get disillusioned when they don’t get what they expect.

Paul vs. Peter. Standing firm against the legalists is not easy, to be sure. Strong, seemingly-spiritual personalities will sometimes put heavy pressure on you. Paul had that experience. It was none other than the great Apostle Peter, who got himself trapped in the legalistic rule that Jewish believers should not eat at the same table with Gentile believers, and Peter was influencing others to think the same way.

But Paul stood up to Peter. He wrote in Galatians 2:14: “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?”

The pitfalls of legalism are endless. Satan would love to get you bogged down in one of them. So, watch out for him. Don’t get tangled up in that web of bondage. Like Paul, we must stand firm in our Christian liberty, as well as in the Christian faith.

3. In one accord.

Paul says in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Instead of maintaining unity and harmony, we Christians have been fighting one another all over the place. Churches are splitting over trivial issues, para-church organizations are feuding against one another, Christian husbands and wives can’t get along, parents and children are at war.

This was a problem at Philippi. After the above exhortation, Paul went right on to settle a church fight between two wrangling women. They were probably fighting over their own views, their own rights, their own ways of doing things. But Paul says, “No, no, no. The most important issue in the church is unity, harmony and love; not your views, your rights, and your ways. Our love for each other is that which distinguishes us from the world. Stand firm in that.”

This often requires our giving in to others, letting them take advantage of us, forgiving them when they wrong us. Isn’t that interesting? Letting others push us around may be the very thing we need to stand firm against Satan, who seeks to sow discord among us. Don’t let Satan push us around in this matter anymore. Stand firm in the faith, in your freedom, and in one accord.

4. In the Apostles’ doctrine.

We read in II Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

What have they been taught? Our King James translation says “traditions”, but the idea in the Greek word paradosis is the authoritative teaching that has been handed down. It emphasizes the authority outside the immediate teacherin this case, the authority of God. He gave this truth to the apostles, and they passed it on, sometimes by spoken word and sometimes by letter. But we have it today recorded and preserved in our Bibles.

To stand fast and hold firm onto the Word of God, we need to get familiar with it. Learn what it means and how it applies to life. Some people will try to move you away from it. They will tell you that it’s old fashioned; they’ll laugh at you for still following it in this day and age.

It would be so easy to get caught in the tide of social or cultural changes. But we must hang on to the time-tested truths of God’s Word. Stand firm. Don’t back down. Don’t let anybody push you around when it comes to the doctrine of Scripture. It doesn’t matter who else believes it or who doesn’t. When you live by the old adage, “If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it”, you will have clear direction and purpose.

Yes, we must stand firm in the faith, in the freedom we have in Christ, in unity and harmony with other believers, and in the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. We can do it because we have Christ who strengthens us. Having now seen what the Word of God commands, may all of us have a little more spiritual grit and gumption in standing up for Christ whenever Satan tries to push us around.


The book title by Richard L. Strauss that was written on the piece of paper is The Joy of Knowing God. It has been posted online and can be read in its entirety without any additional software or apps by clicking this link.  Another book by the same author is also available in full, How To Really Know The Will of God at this link.

March 25, 2014

A Time to be Tender, A Time to be Strong

Today’s reading is in two parts. The first is an introduction to Phil McCallum who is a pastor in Washington State.  The second one, you’ll have to click through for; it’s an explanation of how Phil starts his day in prayer.  The first reading for today can be seen at Phil’s blog, Deeper Still, where it appeared under the title Follow, Don’t Wallow.

Scripture

Joshua 7
7Then Joshua cried out, “Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side!

9For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?”

10But the Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? 11Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings.

13“Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you.

Observation

Joshua was a great leader who made a wrong assessment. Here is his train of thought.
We were defeated by our enemies
It’s my fault for overreaching
I should have aimed for less
I should have been content with little
What matters is what others think
And it’s up to me to give God a good reputation with others

While he is wallowing, God slaps him across the face and calls him to follow him.

“Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this?”

God had a very different train of thought.
My leaders don’t wallow. Get off the dirt.
My leaders follow me.
Think like a man of God.
This battle is spiritual, not just physical.
There are demonic powers involved.
There is a hidden sin.
The demonic powers have used this to their advantage.
You won’t be defeated until you have a camp that pleases the Lord.
Then you will be backed by the host of heaven.
Deal with the real problem and you will win.

Application

As a leader, there are times when I am tender when I should be bullet-proof and there are times I’m Teflon when I should be tender. Toward the Lord I must have vulnerability; toward my enemies, I must be tough and clear-minded. In times of defeat, I’m not to wallow, I am to follow God. I cannot allow Satan to lead me into a pseudo-humility, that looks like tenderness, but really offends God. Instead, I am to stand tall, face the facts, and know that even my radical ambition pleases the Lord.

Prayer

Father, where I’m wallowing today, help me to stand up and follow. Amen.


Here’s a link to part two for today: Get to know the writer you just read and how he begins his day with God in prayer.  Click to read How I Start My Day in Prayer.


 

Some days I really struggle with the idea that it seems so few Christian writers are willing to try their hand at writing devotional literature.  But then, this week I discovered this page at CBN. It’s good to know that there are others out there who prioritize the gift of encouragement and the gift of teaching and are willing to take the time to write out thoughts that will strengthen and encourage others.

 

January 24, 2014

The Difference Between Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance

Not the kind of deliverance we're discussing today

Not the kind of deliverance we’re discussing today

Today’s teaching is from the website GreatBibleTeaching.com. This is a topic we return to frequently because life is spiritual battle much of the time. Many times the articles come from a Pentecostal or Charismatic perspective, and I think the issue there is not that such groups over-emphasize spiritual warfare, but that other groups don’t discuss this enough. There are so many related articles at this website that this time I very strongly urge you to click through to read this article at source.

The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance is dealing with demonic bondages, and getting a person set free, whereas spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations and accusations) that he sends our way. Deliverance involves the breaking up of legal grounds, the tearing down of strongholds (offensive spiritual warfare), and the casting out of demons. Spiritual warfare on the other hand, is dealing with three key things the enemy sends at us: temptations, deception and accusations.

This teaching will give you an idea of how spiritual warfare works. There are other teachings on this site that will go into more detail on certain areas of spiritual warfare.

Offensive vs. defensive warfare

Spiritual warfare comes in two ways: offensive and defensive. Offensive warfare is tearing down the strongholds the enemy has formed in your mind through deception and accusations, and defensive warfare is guarding yourself against the tactics or schemes of the devil.

The enemy’s three primary weapons

There are three things that we can expect from the devil. The Bible tells us that we struggle not against flesh and blood, but against demonic forces. Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The three primary things we struggle against include:

#1 Deception: To deceive somebody means to make another person believe a lie or something that is not true. When the enemy sends deception your way, it is an attempt to deceive you into believing something that is not true, so you will fall into error. Strongholds are built through deception. A stronghold is formed when deception takes hold in a person’s mind. A stronghold is an incorrect thinking pattern that stems from believing something that is not true.

From the very beginning, Satan deceived Eve into believing that God’s Word was not true. In Genesis 3:4, the devil told her that she will not surely die as God said she would in Genesis 2:17.

#2 Temptation: Temptation often follows deception. First the enemy tells us, “You won’t surely die!”, then he makes the fruit on the forbidden tree look good to us. Since Eve accepted Satan’s deception (his lie), now the tree that she was not supposed to touch looked good to her. She was tempted (enticed) to sin, because she allowed herself to first be deceived. Temptation is when we are enticed or encouraged to sin in one way or another.

In Matthew 4, Jesus was led out in the desert to be tempted by the devil. The devil tried to convince Jesus that it would be harmless to jump off a building. Often people will be so drawn to sex with their boyfriend/girlfriend when the enemy tries to convince them that it is all harmless and fun, when it’s not harmless at all, but an open door to the devil. Jesus saw through Satan’s deception, and resisted the temptation by speaking God’s Word. King David said in Psalms 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

When the enemy tempts you, he’s showing you the worm… but behind that worm is a hook. The Word of God helps you see the hook behind the worm.

#3 Accusations: The devil is known as the accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10). He is known to take a believer who has done an embarrassing or gross sin in their past, and continue to rub it in their faces and beat them down with guilt and condemnation over their past.

Dealing with deception

We have two weapons to deal with deceptions: the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14) and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) which is the Word of God. Both are truth, which is found in God’s Word, so why are they given two different names (a sword and a belt)? Because one is meant to be defensive (the belt), while the other is meant to be offensive (the sword). This means that the Word of God is both an offensive and a defensive weapon. A belt is something you wear to guard against an attack, while a sword is used to slaughter the enemy.

You use the belt of truth (God’s Word) to guard against the enemy’s deception (lies) he sends your way, while you use the sword of the Spirit (also God’s Word) to tear down existing strongholds (deception that took hold) in your mind.

In Romans 12:2, we are told to “be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” How do we renew our minds? By getting in God’s Word! In Ephesians 5:26, this process is referred to as washing of water by the Word: “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”

Dealing with temptation

In James 4:7, we are told to resist the devil and he will flee from us. But it’s not that simple; in the same verse, we are also told to draw near to God. Dealing with temptation is a two fold process of resisting the devil and drawing near to God. The closer you get to God and the more you become aware of His love, the less power temptation will have over you.

James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (The context of those verse is clearly speaking of temptation).

In the teaching Forgiven Sinner or Saint?, it shows you how the power of sin (temptation) can be broken in our lives.

Dealing with accusations

The fiery darts of the enemy in Ephesians 6:16 are accusations sent our way. For example, when the devil tries to accuse us of our past sins, we are to have faith in the work of the cross and know that they are forgiven and not to look back. Faith is what we use to put out the fiery darts of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16). We are not to meditate about our pasts, because they have passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17), and our sins have been forgotten (Hebrews 10:17).

Ephesians 6:14, “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth (knowing your sins have been forgiven through your faith in the work on the cross), and having on the breastplate of righteousness (not our righteousness obviously, but the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus);”

Our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), but because of the work of the cross, we can receive the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22, Galatians 3:6). Therefore when the enemy tries to remind you of your past, tell him it’s been washed away (2 Corinthians 5:17), your sins have been forgotten (Hebrews 10:17) and you have the righteousness of God (Romans 3:22)!

There are other teachings on this site [GreatBibleStudy.com] that will specifically help you wage war against the enemy’s accusations. They include Condemnation versus Conviction, The Power of Your Thoughts and Dealing with Guilt.

The tearing down of strongholds

A stronghold is deception that’s taken hold in a person’s mind. It’s an incorrect thinking pattern based on a believed lie. People can get incorrect perceptions of God by listening to Satan as he tells them how God doesn’t love them, etc. People can feel like dirty old sinners when they believe Satan’s accusations as he continually reminds them of their past (which has been washed away!). Strongholds are based on lies from the devil. They can come in the form of deception or accusations. Accusations always lead to guilt and the feeling of unworthiness, which weighs you down and tears you apart spiritually.

Since strongholds are built upon lies that we have been fed, the way we tear down strongholds is by feeding on the truth (in God’s Word), which is the opposite of what the enemy has been feeding us. If the enemy has been feeding us a lie, we need to stop eating the lie and start feeding ourselves the truth. The weapon we use to tear down strongholds is found in Ephesians 6:17, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A sword is an offensive weapon and is meant to tear down and kill the enemy’s troops. Strongholds are the devil’s assets in war, and he uses them against us. Take up the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) today, and start slaughtering the enemy’s assets that he’s been using against you!

The teaching on Strongholds will give you a much better understanding of how strongholds work and how to tear them down.

Some good spiritual warfare books

Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer

Basic Training by Kim Freeman

Spiritual Warfare by Derek Prince

June 3, 2013

Speaking with Boldness and Power

This is combination of two devotional posts by George Whitten, editor of Worthy Devotions, another Alltop – Christianity indexed website.  As we mentioned when we featured his blog here a year ago, one of the key features at Worthy is the topical index which allows you delve into any one of a wide variety of subjects. These two posts — one from February and one from May — have their roots in Acts 4.  The original title and link to each appears at the start of each article.

You have Resurrection Power!

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Just a few weeks prior to this incident, the disciples were trembling for their lives as their Lord was arrested and then crucified. They had all fled in the Garden of Gethsemane and then Peter, whose boldness was legendary, had denied him three times. The fact that they had been serving with Yeshua (Jesus) for three years, witnessing many miracles, including Peter’s amazing walk on the water, apparently did not inspire the necessary courage to watch for an hour or to stick with Him to the end. Perhaps the miraculous had become a bit commonplace for them, so that when the threat to Yeshua came full force, they floundered and failed miserably.

What happened that changed their state of being so dramatically in this encounter with the Jewish leaders? I believe it was two things: one, that they had seen their Lord resurrected from the dead, and two, that they were now filled with that resurrection life and power themselves, by the Holy Spirit. The power of the resurrection was within and upon them! The reality and security of God’s indwelling Presence and power, and His words “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do”, inspired a boldness far beyond any merely human courage.

This boldness amazed the Sadducees and Pharisees who despised Peter and John as “unlearned and ignorant”men. They marveled at the unabashed fearlessness of the apostles whose knowledge was of a different and superior kind: the knowledge of their RISEN and RESURRECTED Lord. And then they noted, that these men had been with Yeshua (Jesus)!

This power is yours, and it is mine, if we continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not quenching or grieving Him. We, too, will confound and amaze the “authorities” of our day with the holy boldness of resurrection life, and though they may despise our humble circumstances, they also will take note that, “we have been with Jesus”.

part two:

React with Boldness!

Psalms 2:1-3 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed [in Hebrew it is the word Meshiach], saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

Acts 4:25-28 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

When Peter and John had gone up to the Temple for prayer [Acts 3], they saw a man who was lame from birth, and were moved to heal him in the name of Yeshua (Jesus). Immediately the religious leaders laid hands on them [Acts 4:3] and kept them imprisoned for a day. The following day, with boldness, they declared this miracle was done in the name of Yeshua. I love what the “religious” leaders said next — “they perceived that they were unlearned men and they marveled at their boldness!” Why were they bold? They had been with Yeshua, and the leaders took note of that!

It is no surprise that the world rages against the Messiah. Psalm 2 declares it clearly. Every year there are tens of thousands of believers suffering and dying for their faith, in large part because the kings and the rulers of the earth RAGE against the Lord and His Anointed. As followers of the King we should expect this and be prepared for it when it comes.

But, the examples of Peter and John, and every other true Christian martyr, are there to inspire and encourage us that if and when the time of persecution comes for us, we too can be bold as a lion. And this boldness is no merely human bravery, but an unction from the Holy Spirit Himself. So, though the kings of the earth will rage, our simple faith and Holy Spirit boldness will testify that we too have been with Yeshua!

 

April 10, 2013

Knowing The Reality of Christ

A year ago at this time we introduced you to the blog, I Want to Believe in God by Justin Powell.  We return now where this post appeared recently under the title The Reality of Christ in Me.

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. –Philippians 4:12

I’m learning some truth to this verse in this season of life.  I’m going through things that in past seasons would have exhausted me and brought me down, but God has strengthened my spirit through past trials so that I am able to stand in the reality of Christ in me.  Through this reality I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

This world is beautiful but at times it can seem that everywhere we go we run into darkness.  When this happens I turn inward—to Christ in me—and ask the Spirit not only to give me comfort but to release His light to those around me and change the atmosphere.

And so, I do my best to do all things without complaining and disputing, that I may become blameless and harmless, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom I shine as a light in the world. (see Phil 2:14-15)

I choose not to slander, I choose not to gossip or join in the complaining.  I keep quiet amongst those who partake.  I ask the Lord for strength to be swift to hear and slow to speak.  And I ask for wisdom that I may only speak life instead of childish, defensive words rooted in insecurities.  Christ is my security.  I do not need the affirmation of those around me.  They look for affirmation of other unbelievers to affirm their own insecurities rooted in their guilt of choosing unbelief in a God that they are mad at.  We must be careful not to get mad at God because of misunderstandings.  We were not made to understand everything.  We were made to live and to love.

I’ve caught myself daydreaming here and there about being old and close to the end of my earthly life.  To some this may appear morbid but I’ve just lost my fear of death and I long for that day that I can go and be face to face with God.  But I know that it’s a long journey from where I’m at and that day. 

For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. (see Phil 1:23-24)

So I seek to know Him more in this world.  I seek to have His will done on earth as it is in heaven.  I seek to be conformed to the image of His Son. (see Rom 8:17) I seek to not only live for Him but to live with Him—to walk with Him.  I seek to live His will for my life.  To change the lives of youth and speak life into the lost and the seekers of meaning.

You all are partakers with me of grace. So be confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (see Phil 1:6-7)

Live in the reality of His love.

April 5, 2013

White Harvest: What Jesus Did and Didn’t Say

This is Post # 1100 at Christianity 201 !

Exactly two months ago we introduced the writing of Darrell Creswell. Today I discovered that I had an earlier post by him — written in January — which never ran here, and I thought this would be a good day. As always, you’re encouraged to read C201 posts at their original sources; for this one click here.

The harvest field belongs to God, not to you and me. He is “the Lord of the harvest”, but we are the workers and co-laborers of the Lord. He has prepared the way for us to an abundant harvest and fruitful production in our lives.

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers into his harvest field” Matthew.9:37-38.

God has removed the chains of the curse of sin that had weighed upon the backs of mankind since Adam fell in the garden. The weight of sin that the world had to bear has been removed once and for all by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. All of humanity was lost, burdened by the law, stuck in the sacrifice for the temporary forgiveness of sins. Jesus in His love, with His life gave us the ultimate gift to permanently removed sin’s stain as He bore the sins of the world as he was nailed to the cross.

Before the advent of salvation we were compelled to obey God’s law, and forgiveness was given only by animal blood sacrifice for breaking that law. Thank God we are now free in Christ Jesus, saved by the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross that issued in a new age of forgiveness called Grace. This Grace in Christ Jesus has given us the freedom from sin, and the freedom to have a personal relationship with Him.

Since that dark yet luminous day on the hill of Golgotha over 2000 years ago, God has increasingly given us more in Christ.  In just the last 100 years He has overwhelmed the world with technology and innovation. The current age in which we live is blessed beyond measure in our ability to serve God, share God and learn about God.  God has done everything necessary to prepare us for an abundant and fruitful harvest.

He provided salvation where we had no hope through His Son Jesus. He provided us truth, intercession and comfort by the Holy Spirit working in our lives and dwelling in us. In these last days we have access to technology and advancement that no other age of believers has ever had.

We have His Word translated in every language in the world, and we have different translation versions of the Bible such as the KJV and the NIV. We have things that no other dispensation of believers could have even dreamed about ever had. We have Christian movies, Christian TV, Christian Radio, the lists of media goes on forever. We have podcasts, broadcast, seminars, webinars, etc.; again the list goes on and on. There are churches basically on every corner to meet whatever type of need you might have. There are more teachers, preachers, apostles, and evangelists than ever before in history.

His Word declares that He is going to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the last days. It is now possible for first time in history where a person can stand at a podium and speak in the name of God and at the same moment be heard instantaneously in every nation upon the earth, as it is broadcast through the millions upon millions of different avenues and venues around the world.

God has prepared His body for this time of harvest. There is a lost and dying world that needs to know and accept Jesus Christ as Lord. This last day’s harvest is ever ripe before the Church. We have been given the tools to reap the Final Harvest which will prepare the way for the coming of our Lord. There has never been another time in the history of the church that a world harvest has been possible by a worldwide connected Body of Christ.

God is the manager and overseer of the harvest. He prepared for it with Christ Jesus with a most excellent grace, instituting proper ordinances. God expects fruit from us that enjoy the privilege of salvation. We may have good purposes, but good purposes are not enough. There must be fruit from our lives as our thoughts and affections, words and actions, are in line and submissive to His Spirit. If we do not use that which God has provided for the harvest, we will bring forth bad fruit of a corrupt nature and a disobedient church.

It is sad that we see within the Body of Christ, instead of humility, meekness, love, patience, and compassion for the world, we see sinful pride, self-importance, lust, and malice, and contempt for God. Instead of praying and praising, there are loose tongues and corrupt language seen in many believers. Let us bring forth fruit with patience, that in the end we may obtain everlasting life, and reap a harvest of souls. Let us gather in the lost for the kingdom of God, as we honor the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the harvest might be ripe as we utilize the tools he has given us in these last days.

Jesus tells us in John 4:35

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

There will be a day when God will hold us accountable for all that He has done for us to prepare for the harvest. He wants us to utilize all that He has provided for us to reach a lost and dying world.

Luke 12:48 When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

As we labor for the Lord’s harvest there will be hard times and adversity.

Keep in mind that Jesus never promised us that

Things would always go well for us
We would never have problems and hardship
We would never be hurt or betrayed
We would never be afraid
We would never be depressed, sad or discouraged
We would never fail or make mistakes
You would never be talked about, criticized or ridiculed

But what Jesus did promise us is that

He would be with us when things are not going well

Hebrews 13:5-6 Since God assures us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you or forsake you,” so I can boldly say, God is there, ready to help; I will not be afraid no matter what. Who or what can get to me with God at my side?

He would be with us as we face problems and hardship 

John 16:33, In this world you will have trials and tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

He would be with us when we are hurt or betrayed

Psalms 147:3, He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.

He would be with us when we are afraid

Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, and surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

He would be with us when we are depressed, sad and discouraged

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

He would be with us when we fail or make mistakes

Psalm 37:23-24 If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumbles, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

He would be with us when are talked about, criticized or ridiculed

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

In Christ the world still has hope regardless of what they are facing.  This world is perishing and we are the messengers of that hope. Those who belong to Christ shall never be destroyed.  Step up and out to prepare His fields of harvest, we are meant for more.

January 3, 2013

Construction in Progress

Christian Under Construction

Today’s post appeared originally at the blog Into The Foolishness of God and was written by Shara Case.  It was originally published as  Hand Me Another Brick.

Nehemiah wasn’t exaggerating when he prayed to God saying, ”Hear us oh God, for we are despised” (Nehemiah 4:4). Called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and rally the exiles who were already “in great distress” the task itself was difficult. Upon hearing his calling, Nehemiah sat down and wept for many days (1:4).  He humbly accepted his duty and got to work. It wasn’t long before the enemy was also hard at work:

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building–if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Nehemiah 4:1-3

Doing God’s will and His work means coming up against strong opposition from and enemy that would like nothing better than to see us give up and quit. I like smooth sailing as much as the next person, but it just doesn’t work that way in the spiritual realm. God’s people are mocked, teased, threatened and worse for trying to set about the work they have been given. What I love about this story is Nehemiah’s response: 

So I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows. After looking things over I stood up and spoke to the nobles, officials, and everyone else: “Don’t be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master, great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.” (Nehemiah 4:13-15)

This is how it’s done folks! If only we applied this more often to our own setbacks. Here are some things Nehemiah did that I find amazing:

  • He didn’t ignore the fact that there was a problem; It sounds crazy, but sometimes it’s just easier to stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best. The Israelites weren’t just being mocked, they were being threatened. Their task of rebuilding was in jeopardy. As the opposition grew, Nehemiah knew he could not just do nothing. God doesn’t want us to focus on it, but instead acknowledge it and take it to Him.
  • He didn’t respond directly to his accusers;  He looked around and addressed his own people, reminding them that the Lord God, “great and awesome” would fight for them. How hard this is for me sometimes, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and instant news of all kinds where everyone has an opinion they want heard. We are called to speak the Truth and share it in the midst of all the backwards things the world proclaims – but we are also reminded to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes” (2 Timothy 2:23) that only lead to more strife. Nehemiah knew it would be a waste of time arguing with those so set against him – he turned to his fellow workers and he turned to God.
  • He called on the people to PRAY and WATCH; they were to set their hearts to prayer, being watchful for what was to come. Watchmen were set strategically along the wall to be on the lookout for an attack. Being on the lookout places us in a far better position that if we are hit suddenly without warning. Prayer gets us into this position. One without the other doesn’t make much sense, but prayer and watchfulness put together make us strong.
  • He called on the people to PRAY and WORK; The enemy wants to back us into a corner and fill us with fear and discouragement so that we stop our work, or quit altogether. He wants us to sit around and fret. God wants us to keep moving! Nehemiah divided his people up and had half praying while the other half continued the work. They had been assigned something very important, regardless of the opposition that came, they were to stay on task. We do God’s work because we love Him, not because our circumstances are always favorable.

We all have walls that need rebuilding, gates that need fortifying, vulnerable places that need to be patched up so the enemy can’t have access to them over and over. This story encourages me to go after the things God has told me to do without the fear of failure or ridicule nagging at me in the back of my mind.  It is nice when things just seem to fall into place, many things worth having, however, are going to come at a price. How amazing to walk through that fire of discouragement, conflict and disappointment and come out on the other side just where God intended us to be.

“Those who built on the walls, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon”… (4:17).

There it is in a nutshell: Hold your weapon in one hand and keep working with the other! Don’t go about it alone, be someone’s watchman. Be a prayer warrior for someone who is hurting. Take your eyes off of the opposition and those who ridicule you – put them squarely on God and restore all those walls that have been torn down, they will be stronger than they ever were before.

Here is another post from the same blog I greatly enjoyed, the story of David rejecting Saul’s armor and going into battle with Five Smooth Stones.

April 1, 2012

The Spirit Gives Life

Today marks the beginning of Year Three here at Christianity 201. As I’ve stated before, I began writing this for purely selfish reasons: To keep my personal devotional life grounded and accountable, and to keep from being distracted by the issues, controversies and news stories that characterize tens of thousands of other Christian blogs, including Thinking Out Loud.

I am learning so much in the process of doing this, and I thank all of you who read regularly for your support and comments, and especially those of you whose writing has been “borrowed” to be part of the collection here.


I’ve just started reading Spirit Rising: Tapping Into the Power of the Holy Spirit by Jim Cymbala (Zondervan). His first book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire was a unique reading experience simply because the story of what God did and continues to do at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is a very unique story. It’s a church that was birthed into existence through prayer. I’m only a chapter in, but I hope I can whet your appetite for Jim’s writing through this and a couple of other excerpts I’m sure will run here.

First, from the introduction by Francis Chan:

It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh is of no help at all. (John 6:63)

The Holy Spirit is not merely helpful. He is our only hope. He is the one who gives life. Yet when people lack life, the church often points to other solutions. When church services lack life, we grasp at so many other methods to gry to generate excitement. This is not true at Brooklyn Tabernacle, where Pastor Jim has served faithfully for decades. Their solution to everything is prayer. And it shows…

…We all see problems in the church. We don’t need another book to point those out. We need the faith to believe that the solution is really quite simple: The Holy Spirit.

And from the first chapter by Jim Cymbala

The Holy spirit is God’s agent on earth, yet ye is the least understood, least preached about, and least discussed member of Trinity. And that is sad, because without him, our spiritual lives will always become a dry, mechanical struggle… I can’t think of anything else that will change your prayer life, your study of God’s Word, and your experience during worship in church more than inviting the  Spirit to join you in a new way…

…If you want power, confidence, joy, peace, and more love in your life, ask the Spirit to come in and do something new in you… I promise you that when he does, your spiritual life will cease to be dry and mechanical. Instead, it will be filled with awe at the power of the Spirit and the wonder of God’s goodness.

September 16, 2011

Standing Up For Your Faith

I Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

Sometimes the process by which an item appears here is amazing, especially when you’re the one composing the daily study/devotional!  Derrick Boyd left a comment at T.O.L. this morning and included a link to his blog, Encouraging Thoughts For Life, where this item appeared a few weeks ago under the title Stand for What Is Right.

In this day and time it seems harder and harder to find people that are truly devoted to God. Now many people will jump on the bandwagon of saying that they believe in God, but there is nothing in their life to give supporting evidence.

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” James 2:26 “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Some of the people you ask will say that it does not matter if you believe or not. It just matters that you are a good person. Some that we come in to contact with have a hatred for anything to do with God. It seems like they are always willing to pick a fight. Then, you have the many different religions in the world that all teach different things. So, which is right? Are we willing to stand up for what we believe against all odds? How strong is our faith in the fact that God is there and that He will do all that He has promised us? We need to be willing to stand alone on what we believe. No matter what people may say to us, do to us, or think of us.

A perfect example of this is Elijah of the old testament. In 1 Kings chapter 18 we see that Elijah was willing to stand alone on the promises of God against 450 other men who believed in Baal. He offered a test to prove who the real God was. Many of us have heard the story, and I encourage you all to go and read it again. Because the message is so clear. Elijah did not go to prove who he was, but who God was. He was willing to stand alone on what he believed. And God answered his prayer. Are we standing in the face of adversity?

Are we prepared to defend the Gospel, even if no one else is there to support us? Or do we tuck it in and wait for someone to go with us?

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

If we are truly His, we will witness. We will defend the Gospel. We will stand up for what is right, whether we are with others who share our belief, or we are alone.

~Derrick Boyd

March 7, 2011

Seeing Illness as a Blessing

Yesterday’s and today’s items here don’t have any specific scripture references.  I wrote this three years ago at an obvious low point, and thought it might be applicable to someone reading it today; maybe you are that person.  Readers may want to add a scripture verse in the comments that references one or all of the points here…

  • Illness forces us to slow down, and that forces us to do the things that really matter, and that forces us to decide what really matters
  • Illness forces us to ask God for help on behalf of ourselves, which seems selfish at times, so first we have to apologize for asking
  • Illness causes us to ask other believers to join in prayer for us, which can be rather humbling
  • Illness helps us remember others who are suffering, it helps us to identify and empathize with their situation
  • Illness – while not necessarily caused by sin -brings us to a wonderful season of self examination and determination to aim for greater holiness
  • Illness reminds us of our mortality; our material culture has forced us to cling to everything including life itself, but our lives have an expiry date
  • Illness has a mellowing, sobering effect on us – some things can become potentially more irritating, but some other things no longer matter as much
  • Illness forces us to ask bigger questions; Is God in control? Does He care about the details of my life? Will he intervene in a special way?
  • Illness brings into clarity other times we were ill, and reminds us that God brought us through that time
  • Illness helps us hear Christian songs differently; “I thank God for the mountains, and I thank him for the valleys…” Can I do that right now?

I’m sure there are other things, too. Most of the prayer requests in our churches are for issues people are dealing with in their physical bodies. Pray specifically for one another. If you are the person for whom this was for today, listen for God’s voice in the middle of all you’re going through.

September 16, 2010

Sin Is Poised for Attack

Maybe it’s because I’ve been meaning to repost another devotional from Daily Encouragement, or maybe it was just the cat picture (which I’ve also borrowed) but I especially appreciated Stephen & Brooksyne’s thoughts yesterday on the first mention of temptation in scripture…

“Sin’s Desire”

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it'” (Genesis 4:6,7).

Dottie in barn doorOver the past year our sweet little cat Dottie, now nine years old, has had a change of personality.  When making extended trips our neighbors look in on her to see that she has adequate food and water, but last summer she pulled quite a surprise.  After Marion spent time giving Dottie some TLC and reassuring her that her family would soon be returning she then turned her back and walked toward the door.

Suddenly out of nowhere she heard a loud swish and then felt the heavy pounce of a furry animal complete with clinching claws and teeth that clamped like a vice grip on her leg.  Obviously Dottie didn’t want our neighbor to leave and she let her know it in the most unfriendly fashion.  Interestingly she planned her attack when Marion was least expecting it with her back turned away.  Now when she or Doug looks in on our “innocent” little cat they don’t turn their backs. They watch to see that she doesn’t position herself into a crouching position since they want no surprise attack again.

Dottie’s aggressive behavior brings to mind our Scripture text where God warns Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door…”.  It is the first recorded conversation God had with Adam’s descendants and is a timeless truth with perpetual application to each generation. Every believer would do well to heed God’s warning and make this personal application:

“Sin is crouching at my door and Satan wants to have me.”

This is the first record of temptation and sin among Adam’s fallen descendants.  It provides a pattern of how sin works in the lives of all of Adam’s children and reveals the tragic consequences for the transgressor, Cain, and all his family.

As I note the progression I see a caution for my own life as a redeemed believer.  I am again so powerfully reminded of the need to stand firm in my faith. I must call on God for His sustaining grace to resist the sin that results when I give into the daily temptations Satan hurls at us.

“If you do what is right.” God has revealed His will for our lives so we can know the right way.  We have many other Scriptures telling us the right way, “He hath showed thee…” (Micah 6:8); “This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:21); “This is the will of God…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  Truly His “Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

“Will you not be accepted?” Foundationally being accepted by God begins by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. This is God’s appointed means of beginning to “do what is right.”  Then we pursue the things of God and grow in His grace and knowledge. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).

“But if you do not do what is right.” God’s warnings are expressions of His love. When we violate God’s will as revealed in His Word, we give the enemy a foothold into our lives for further activity and progression of sin.  A grim outcome is revealed in Ephesians describing the latter stages of this progression: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).  With the flood of evil, pornography and perversions of all sorts sweeping through our world many are at this stage. Deeper and deeper depths of depravity can be expected and the evil acts that accompany it.

“Sin is crouching at your door.” The word for “crouching” conveys the posture of a four legged animal as it prepares to attack its prey. That’s the nature of sin and its crouched position is persistent. We must ever be alert, practice self-control, and stand firm, for our “enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

“It desires to have you.” Sin continues its desire to enslave you and me. A foundational step in overcoming sin is realizing this. You do well to recognize the enemy’s tactic since he desires to have you as well.

“But you must master it.” In the New Testament Paul wrote, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). In the pursuit of godliness we must, by God’s grace, master our sinful nature, something as descendants of Adam we all must do.

We often hear the phrase, “No one is perfect” and, yes, that is true.  Only God is perfect.  But we can be a righteous people if Christ lives in us, if we apply the Scriptures to our lives and commune with God through prayer, and if we resist the “charm” or deceit of our enemy.  Stand firm, my brothers and sisters.  Resist the enemy who seeks to do evil and engage the Holy Spirit who seeks to mature us in the faith.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber