Sunday, April 27, 2014

Know Your Enemy

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 strongholds~2 Corinthians 10:4.

Go to any bar on a Saturday night and you'll find a guy regaling his buddies about the time he kicked somebody's butt, or at least thought about it.  Whether the butt-kicking ever ensued is beside the point.  The idea of putting someone in his place is all that matters.  It's enticing to think that by my mere thought of hurting you, I can summon powers within to destroy you if needed.  These tales are more than just mere puffery.  These stories express a strong, genuine inward desire to put down the bad guy.  But,

Who is our enemy? 

Before I peg the blame squarely on guys for telling outrageous would-be fight stories, I have to 'fess up.  I, myself, just yesterday told a story about a time when I got into a tussle of my own.  And then I caught myself.  I realized in telling that story I was just trying to make myself look tough.  But, in reality, my strength comes from the Lord.  (Psalm 28:7).  In reality, my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  (Psalm 73:26).  In reality, my fight is not with people.  And in reality, I kick the real culprit's butt every single day.

See, I had fallen for a trick of the enemy by relying on my own strength to 'resolve' a dispute, rather than God's strength.  The enemy would have us fight flesh, when the real culprits are the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world and the spiritual wickedness in high places.  (Ephesians 6:12).  You can't fight spirit with flesh.  Even if we were to knock out that combative guy physically, we couldn't knock out the spiritual influences driving that situation in our own strength.  But, in Christ, we can.

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. ~ 1 John 4:4.

In the beginning, God gave mankind dominion over all the earth. 

Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.  ~Genesis 1:26.

We still have dominion today.  In the Gospel accounts, Jesus told his disciples:

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. ~ Luke 10:19.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. ~Mark 16:17-18.

In what is now known as the "Great Commission," Jesus said:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen. ~Matthew 28:16-20.

We have authority over the enemy.  If you feel like you've been pushed around and you're fighting the urge to fight people - Stop!  Look.  And Listen to that still, small voice.  Go on a reconnaissance mission with God and check out where the real enemy is hiding.   I'm not advocating that you look over your shoulder at every turn, but when flare-ups do occur (or even before they do), check in with God about how you can be praying for that situation.  One of my personal favorite prayers is "let every hidden thing be revealed."

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.  ~Mark 4:22.

This is what I call a "dangerous prayer," because God alone knows what will come to light.  It's not always pretty, but I'd rather deal and heal than ignore it and hurt.


The next time you find yourself at a bar or hanging out among friends and someone launches into a fight story, tell them a victorious tale about how our fight is not with people and lavish them with testimonies of how, through prayer, you and God overcame the works of the enemy.  Tell them how what the enemy intended for evil, God has turned around for good. (Genesis 50:20).  That, my friends, is not mere puffery.  That's a real victory!

And they overcame him (the enemy) by the by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. ~Revelation 12:11. 

Go in the strength of the Lord today! (Psalm 71:16).

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Lure

Picture this.  I'm sitting in a coffee shop typing away at my work, ear buds in, sipping a (non-caffeinated) beverage.  People are shuffling past every few minutes as I'm soaking in the rhythm of the morning.  All is well in my happy little world.  Then, suddenly, he walks in.  I don't even know him, but something about that guy catches my eye.  Maybe it's how he carries himself; maybe it's the light dancing in his eyes; or maybe it's the Cheerios I ate for breakfast.  Whatever it is, something about him draws my eyes from my computer screen.  With just one glance he has my heart. 

Well, maybe not exactly. 

Maybe it's more like this:  Guy enters the room.  He catches my eye.  I immediately think, "Is this a God thing?"  "Should I go talk to him?"  "Should I wait to see what, if anything, happens?"  And then I think, "Wait.  He's probably just like every other guy."  And by "every other guy" I mean every other jerk I've encountered, discounting all of my awesome guy friends, who would never act like that.  This mystery man would probably be nice to chat with for a few minutes, I think, but if I really got to know him I wouldn't like him.  Or worse yet, he wouldn't like me.  (Or even worse yet - maybe he would!)  And then things would be really complicated because I don't have time for this in my life right now.  And checking last year's calendar, I didn't have time for it then either.  And next year's calendar is looking pretty booked, too.  So you might as well forget it, coffee shop man!  Leave me alone!  I would have been better off never laying eyes on you! .....Ahem...

And coffee shop guy, the scary thing is I would've entertained all of those thoughts in a virtual Nano second while continuing to type on my laptop, sipping on my beverage, and while purposefully and skillfully ignoring you, as you stood there none the wiser.  (Ok.  So that moment never happened exactly as written, but strange derivatives of that moment have oddly, and most certainly, occurred.)     
That, my friend, is a window into my worser moments.  (Yes, worser is now a word!)  And that is what my dearly beloved friend calls "logosmoi" (assaultive thoughts). 

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... ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Maybe you've been there.  It's weird.  How someone can just interrupt your morning, and steal you away from a task that suddenly, somehow, seems less important.  Suddenly all you can do is try not to stare, or look away at the right moment so you can gaze just a little bit longer without being caught.  You feel like whatever you say in this hypothetical interaction is going to be stupid (which, sometimes, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy).  And whatever you're wearing just isn't right.  You're either too dressed down or too dressed up, or you just feel downright uncomfortable.  Or, gosh, if I'd just worn a different pair of shoes today, that interaction would've gone so much better!  What is that?  What force causes our guts to churn and our otherwise 'chill' selves to dance like circus freaks to win one moment's attention?  That, my friends, is called Attraction.  (Or distraction - which sometimes is a corollary.)

The Point.  In case you think this post is veering off into a realm of no return, let me reel you back in to the point:  Everyone's attractive.  But what are we attracting?  And to what or to whom are we attracted?

Eternal Kernel of Truth #1:
Everyone's attractive.  But what or who are we attracting
and to whom or to what are we attracted?

There is no such thing as an unattractive person.  Selah.  (You think about that!) 

Alright, take off your natural glasses and look through the lens of the Spirit with me. We (men and women) are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  God is Spirit.  Therefore, we, being made in His image and likeness, are also Spirit.  You and I reside in a flesh body, but our outward appearance is not the essence of who we are.  We are spirit.

...For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7.

When I say "attractive" or "unattractive" chances are your mind flashes with images of people who personify each word.  Perhaps you think of someone you know or a character on your favorite TV show.  But I'm not talking about outward appearance.  I'm talking about this inward phenomenon of attraction rooted deeper than even our emotions which draws certain things and people toward us and repels others away from us.  Scrap the positive or negative connotations to the word "attractive" with me for a moment and let's think of attraction like a magnet.  It's a value-neutral term.

Do you ever notice how cheery people bring cheer wherever they go?  How Debbie Downers make you feel worse after hanging out with them?  Or how you just "click" with that person?  Or that guy or gal just rubs you the wrong way?  That's not a random coincidence.  What is that?  It's the force of attraction at work.  (Or repulsion: attraction working in reverse.) 

We should pay attention when we find ourselves drawn to or away from someone or something.  It's what some people call listening to our gut.  I call it tuning into the Holy Spirit, which leads and guides us into all truth (John 16:13).  Recognizing the force of attraction at work is the first step to discerning good and evil, but it doesn't end there.  Let me show you what I mean.

All you fishermen out there know what a 'lure' means.  Essentially, a lure is artificial bait that entices unsuspecting fish to take a bite of a tempting morsel that looks oh so good.  That is, until the fish realizes that what it chomped down on was actually a gnarly hook, now protruding out of its bleeding mouth.  The fish has been caught by the very morsel it thought would satisfy its hunger.  Even fish know "all that glitters is not gold!"

When it comes to relating to people or opportunities in our lives, we're not so different. 
Sometimes we see coffee shop man, for example, and think, "Wow.  If only I could know that person or spend more time with that person, then my life would be complete."  Do you even know that person?  Seeing someone and liking them is not the end of the inquiry: it's the beginning.  Sometimes you get to know people and they aren't who you thought they were.  Other times, you may not even like a person initially, but as you get to know them they become your best friend.  It's better for us to treat every time like the first time, always bringing a fresh perspective to our interactions. 

Maybe you've been hurt by a lure.  Maybe that guy or gal or that opportunity that seemed so good wasn't actually who or what you first thought it was.  Don't get angry and discouraged.  Just as it would be dumb for a fish to be mad at a morsel, we should likewise not be angry at the barbed people or opportunities that come our way.  Rather, we should follow the line back up with our eyes, see the fishing pole mechanism from which that line dangles and identify the true culprit who cast the line our way to start with.  Our fight is not with people and we have victory over the real culprit!

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. ~ Ephesians 6:12.

...For we are not ignorant of (Satan's) schemes. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:11.

Coffee shop man may be a Godly attraction or just a distraction, but how are we to know the difference?  Can we know the difference?  Is it possible to identify lures without getting caught by them? 

For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  ~Hebrews 5:14.

Some of you are tired of playing church.  Some of you are weary of getting your butts kicked and falling for the enemy's tricks over and over and over again in your life.  So am I.  It's time for us to grow up in Christ.  It's time to reclaim the territory where the enemy has taken up residence in our lives.  It's time for us to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil.  ~ Ephesians 6:11.

We don't have to fall for the enemy's lures.  In fact, lest Satan should get an advantage over us, we are called to be not ignorant of his devices.  (2 Corinthians 2:11).  Over the next series of posts we will discuss how to discern and avoid the enemy's pitfalls and how to identify and embrace the real treasures God has in store for us.  As we begin to recognize the forces at work around us, we will grow stronger and more confident in our faith in the Greater One who lives within us.  (1 John 4:4).  I'm excited for this journey, because I know it ends in Freedom. 

Go in the strength of the Lord today! (Psalm 71:16). 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

All In

One of the biggest lies is that you have to give up your whole self, your whole life, to change fundamentally who you are as a person, to follow God.  That is bunk, to put it politely.  Quite the opposite is true.  It's when we find God that He strips all the artificial layers away and frees us to be the person He has called us to be. 

When I was in high school, I was a different person.  I hated life, I was extraordinarily shy, and I hated being around people.  Today, nearly thirteen years after encountering God personally, I love my life, most people consider me an extrovert, and I genuinely enjoy the company of others.  What happened?  I didn't change and then come to God.  The moment I encountered God personally, I started to change from the inside out. 

I was blessed because I wasn't in church when I met God face to face.  No one handed me a 'track' (some of you know what I'm talking about), no one invited me to church, and, frankly, I don't remember anyone in my life really talking about God at the time.  When I didn't even know what I was looking for, He found me.  He found me gazing at the stars late one summer night, hating my life, and saying, "God, if you're really out there, do something with my life!  Anything!"  I didn't hear an audible voice in that moment, my bushes didn't light on fire, the sky didn't open up, but I had an inward peace that defied my human understanding.  I will never forget that peace.  It was something I had never felt before, but at the very core of my being, I have carried with me every day since.  The peace didn't make sense from an outward vantage point, because nothing in my life outwardly had changed.  I still went to the same school, same classes, knew the same people.  But suddenly, gradually, my perspective started to change. 

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.  ~ Matthew 4:16

Light entered my life.  I could see things about situations and literature and people that I'd never seen before.  You see, when you're in darkness, you don't notice it until the light comes on.  The attic is perfectly clean, to our knowledge, until we shine a flashlight and see the cobwebs and creeping things.  That's what happened to me.  I saw the cobwebs and creeping things in my life and, over time, I was released from them.  God loosed the fear of public speaking, the fear of people, and His love is still ridding me of the fear of eating in public.  Just being real with you.  What I'm saying is I wasn't put into bondage when I came to God.  The light shone through and I was set free.  I didn't know that I was captive.  I was blind to it!  But then I saw and was set free.  Once you've glimpsed freedom, you can't help but run to it.  When you taste freedom, bondage loses its grip on you.    

Coming to God doesn't mean you have to drop every fun thing and your social life as you know it, to sit in a boring service and live a life of Puritanism.  Coming to God, or allowing Him to come to you, releases you to pursue your dreams. It frees you from your fears and lets the real you shine through.
If you're running from God, because you think He's going to run the fun out of your life, shake off those chains.  Maybe your heart is pounding right now at the thought of letting go of things as you know them.  Know that, with God, whatever you let go, you're trading up for something so much better.  He cannot help but increase you, prosper you, heal you, and transform your life.

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.  ~ Psalm 126:5

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Miracles We Don't See: Miracles of Omission

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18

We often thank God when good things happen, but how often do we thank God when bad things don’t happen? 

Something Good:  We rejoice when someone gives us an ice cream cone.
Something Bad:  We feel bad if we trip and fall down.
Something Doesn’t Happen:  We don’t get into a car wreck or we avoid a situation of which we were not even aware. 

Shouldn’t we rejoice over that, too? 

I know this is a strange concept, because we want to focus on the good in life.  I’m not recommending that we go around life playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, dodging cracks, saying, “Thank you, God, that I didn’t step on that crack!”  That would be counterproductive and a waste of time.  We shouldn’t be so focused on the bad that we’re wiping the sweat off our brow for every near mishap.  That’s actually called fear or anxiety, when we meditate/ruminate on the bad, natural circumstances of our lives rather than God’s promises.

But we should practice being thankful for what doesn’t happen.  Let me explain.  If you’re like me, then sometimes you get your heart set on something and if it doesn’t work out exactly as you’d hoped, you’re disappointed.  Your hope in people diminishes, or the finances don’t seem to come through when you really need it, or you didn’t get that job that you thought you really wanted.  We’ve all been there.  Do you ever look back in retrospect, though, and thank God for the near misses?  Like, what if that job had come through?  I would be so miserable right now!  Instead, God opened the door for my dream job.  What if that relationship hadn’t ended?  I shudder to think.  What if I had gotten that tax return earlier?  Would I have misspent it? 

So many of the ‘obstacles’ in our lives are worth checking in with God about.  I believe it is for us, through scripture, to know what the will of God is for every area of our lives. Ephesians 5:17 says, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”  The will of God is revealed through the Word of God.  We know, for example, that God wants us to prosper and be in health, even as our souls prosper.  (3 John 1:2).  If there is a promise in God’s word, by all means take it!  We need to stand on the promises of God and take them for our own lives.  All I’m saying is for specific situations in our lives when things don’t seem to be working out, it’s worth inquiring of the Lord.   

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.  ~ Proverbs 4:7

For (wisdom’s) profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold.  She (wisdom) is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.  Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. ~Proverbs 3:14-15

Maybe money isn’t your problem, even though it seems like it is.  Maybe you need wisdom.  With that wisdom, you would see that you don’t need to buy that, or go there, or there is another source from which those finances will come.  Maybe you dodged a bullet by not entering into that relationship or getting out of a situation in which you would have been harmed.  Maybe your flight was delayed because, had the plane not received maintenance, it would have crashed with you on it.  All I’m saying is always check in.  Don’t make assumptions about why things are going the way they are.  We have this awesome privilege of being able to know God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through Christ we have access to God, 24/7, for eternity.  Not just in Heaven, but right here, right now in this crusty old, broken world in which we live.  Use that connection.  Call on Him and He will answer.  Get wisdom, get understanding for the circumstances in your life you’re scratching your head about today.  It’s available for you now.             

Sometimes we don’t know what we’re missing – and that’s a good thing!  Check in, and thank God for the near misses today!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Let Everyone Who is Faithful...Pray

Therefore, let everyone who is godly (faithful) pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.… ~ Psalm 32:6

One of my absolute favorite parts of every week is going to my 6:30 a.m. prayer group and seeking the Lord while He may be found.  I have come to cherish this time dearly over the past 9 months.  I love the friendships we've built, the implicit trust that God is moving in each of our lives, and seeing results when we pray.  Cancerous tumors have been removed, diseases have been healed, jobs have been found, finances are provided, broken relationships restored and spiritual growth abounds.

Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which yields its fruit in its season; his leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper. ~Psalm 1:1-3

The power of agreement is strong. 

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. 
~ Matthew 18:18-20

Each week, I leave the prayer group for the day lighter and brighter, confident that my strength is not my own and trusting in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who humbles Himself to call me His friend.  I stand in awe of what God has done and is doing in my life and yours.  Yes, yours.  You see, I pray over this blog and I trust that you, in reading this, will take away one word (or more) that blesses and transforms your life.  That you will run with the vision, do it, and that those around you will be intoxicated by the Love emanating from your life. 

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

I want to share with you some things God has done in my life recently, and I hope you will, likewise, let me know what He's doing in yours.  Some highlights:

*Made AWESOME women friends at the women's retreat this weekend

*Reconnected with some amazing, long-time faithful friends and I see the seeds of new friendships sprouting before my eyes

*I was at the right place at the right time when I ran into a new friend of mine.  I believe in my heart that conversation sparked a friendship that will last a lifetime.  (I do!)

*God got me my dream job! (as He promised), and God reassured me that what looked like an obstacle was actually an open door.  That nothing (time or distance or people) can separate us from God's love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).  That He holds our future and His plans for us are always good.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

*As of today, God has supernaturally provided all of my law school tuition (for three years!) AND Bar exam prep costs ==>DEBT FREE!!!  He has provided over $40,000 for this endeavor alone.  Romans 13:8 says ~ Owe no man anything but to love one another.  When God put on my heart to go to law school several years ago, I said, "God, if you want me to go to law school, then You're going to have to pay for it!"  Despite one professor telling me that going to law school debt free was impossible (bad idea to tell me that, by the way :-)  Sure enough, God has supplied all my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus - and not by my own efforts, but by His great grace alone. ~Philippians 4:19

*I rejoiced with my friend whose niece was miraculously healed from cancer after a long-fought battle.  She said the doctor's jaw dropped when he saw that there was, in fact, no cancer to operate on when she went in for surgery.

*One year ago my cousin was life-flighted out to Seattle for an emergency bone marrow transplant.  By the grace of God she lives, still kicks my butt on every hike we go on, and is preparing to return to work this month.

I stand in awe of God's grace and favor and mercy on my life. 

And they overcame him (the Devil) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony...~ Revelation 12:11

God has reminded me lately that the power of testimony is strong, that we overcome the enemy by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony.  What has He done in your life?  What are you thankful for today?  What's your testimony?