Thursday, August 27, 2020

WINNING THE BATTLE

 


When I entered the word 'stress' into a search engine online, it immediately found 1,050,000,000 items. The stress level of nearly every individual is over the top. Even children feel it from peer pressure, dysfunctional families, normal childish fears and parental expectations. Adults try to juggle all their daily responsibilities while under a dark cloud of uncertainly. Our world is increasingly dangerous and threatening. We all face overwhelming difficulties that have a new face, but are very old problems. With earthquakes, devastating storms, economic nightmares, pestilence and social unrest, most people live with a certain amount of stress. We all need to be reminded of a Source of strength we too often neglect in the rush of living and the threat of destruction. We can be infused with that strength from Jesus Christ when we get to know Him intimately.

I strongly believe we are living in the “perilous times” we were warned about in 2 Timothy 3:1. The Amplified Bible translates it like this: “But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear].” 

The conditions we face in our world today were unthinkable just a few months ago. So many of the things we took for granted disappeared before our eyes, and here we are in a very different world. As we navigate our way through this new world of confusion, uncertainty and danger, we need to realize the spiritual side of what is happening.

This earth is a battleground between good and evil. Oh, yes, there are mortal players in the battles, but they are not the real sources of good or evil. If you want to win, you need to understand that. If you fight on a physical level, you will wear yourself out and lose. If you want to be successful in battle, you also have to understand the enemy. The enemy of God and His children is Satan. And the enemy of Satan is God. So the battles we see with our eyes, the people acting out their allegiance to God or Satan, are just the tip of the iceberg. The real deciding factors are in the spiritual realm.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places.(Ephesians 6:11 AMPLIFIED) 

These ‘world forces’ are evil spirits (demons) with varying degrees of power and varying territories. Because we are no match for them in the flesh, we need the power of the Holy Spirit in us to combat them. We need the armor of God and we need to know how to use it. Christians desperately need to be trained for combat, endurance, and knowing our Commander’s voice and following Him without regard to personal cost because we trust Him. If we are not prepared, we will fail in the heat of battle. 

If I was placed in physical hand-to-hand combat today, I would have no idea what to do. I would not know how to put on the gear for protection. I would not know enemy fire from friendly fire. I would not know the territory or even how to use the weapons. It would be suicide to go out to battle unprepared. Whether we like it or not, we are part of a battle. Yet, many Christians, for whatever reasons, are unprepared for the spiritual battle that is getting more intense than ever. They have read about the armor of God, but have no idea how to put it on. They have not learned to tell the voice of God from the voice of the enemy. They do not understand the spiritual realm or how to use God’s Word. They need to be taught before they find themselves in hand-to-hand combat. The brutality of combat can bring us down physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually if we are not prepared.

Let’s wake up and learn how to counter attack and win spiritual battles. Some battles we find ourselves facing may be on a personal level, some for a church or a city, a state or even our nation. We can make a difference. We may think our prayers cannot make a difference in a nation. We may think that is too big of a thing to take on. But it is not too big for God and that is Who we are trusting to answer our prayers. We can pray and get results when we pray in the Spirit. Here is how we can win battles.

“Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil… Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].” (Ephesians 6:11, 13 AMPLIFIED, emphasis mine)

            You may say, “I have heard that Scripture all of my life”. But have you put it into action? We are in a day when we can be defeated by the enemy because we are not consistently wearing our armor. Or because we are so fearful that we are hiding. Or because we are ignorant of the enemy’s strategies. We don’t have to lose this war! Jesus wins and we can be on His side.

            When persecution began for the new Christians, they banded together and prayed to God. What did they pray for? They understood what they really needed, so this is how they prayed.

 “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.(Acts 4:29-31 NKJV) Did they protest and strike out against those who were treating them unfairly? Did they set up a plan to bring down the powers that be? Did they run and hide? No! They prayed for boldness to keep doing what Jesus had told them to do. They prayed for power, signs and wonders so they could be a light to a dark world…just like Jesus.

It is important for us to understand how to put on the armor that God supplies and how to use it. We are called to stand our ground in Christ, on His foundation, and deflect the arrows that the enemy shoots at us, regardless of the level of our battle. So, let’s look at Ephesians 6:14-19 from the Amplified Bible.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…” Notice our call is not to start a fight with these evil forces and invade their territory. We are called to stand. Jesus simply stood strong in the truth and proclaimed it whether or not it made the people or the devil mad. Usually, it did make them very mad. Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus IS Truth, so everything that comes from Him is true. His words have no deceit in them. His actions are without hypocrisy. All because they come from Truth. If we are going to have Truth as the belt that holds all the pieces of armor together, we have to know Jesus personally and be fully surrendered to His Spirit Who lives inside every true believer. He is the Spirit of Truth and will reveal things to us. He will show us on a spiritual level the truth of our circumstances, even when it seems that confusion and deception are reigning there. Sometimes it may even seem the enemy makes a valid point, but if we know the truth (what God has said), we will see the lies and deceit behind it. Don’t try to make a bargain with the enemy. Psalm 51:6 tells us what God wants and what He will do when we seek Him. “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6 AMPLIFIED)  

 “put on the breastplate of righteousness.” If we are living in a way that is not pleasing to God, we have no ground to stand on. If we are not on His foundation, we are in the devil’s territory. You cannot be righteous and ungodly at the same time. If you are ungodly, you are not like God in character, thoughts, actions or anything else. Those who are righteous are walking in obedience to the Word of God and the Spirit of God. They have His light and are displaying the light of Jesus. Knowing Who Jesus is and what He said is not enough. The devils believe and even tremble. But they are still evil and not like God in any way. We need to allow the Spirit of God to alter our lives to walk in context with Jesus’ teachings. A righteous person is in right standing with God by the blood of Jesus and their faith and trust in Him. “Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) are those who wash their robes [in the blood of Christ by believing and trusting in Him—the righteous who do His commandments], so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.(Revelation 22:14 Amplified)

“and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Romans 10:15 says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Jesus told us to go and preach the gospel to others. To share the gospel message that we have. Are we doing it? Souls are dying without Christ. What are we doing about it? “The fruit of the [consistently] righteous is a tree of life, And he who is wise captures and wins souls [for God—he gathers them for eternity].(Proverbs 11:30 Amplified)

 “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” This piece of armor is of great importance. Without trusting in Jesus, we cannot make it through the war. If we are just naming His name because we don’t want to go to hell, but are not truly trusting in Him for our very lives, we will fail in the battle. If we don’t trust Him, we will not follow His commands, seek to be like Him, tell others about Him or stand firm in the battle. Satan throws darts fast and forcefully. He sends sudden temptations our way that we were not expecting. If we are not fully trusting in Jesus, we will not be able to act quickly enough to deflect the darts. We need to learn to trust Him and follow His commands even when we don’t understand. It is imperative that we can differentiate between the voice of our Commander and the voice of the enemy. For every lie the devil tells, for every wound he inflicts, every threat he makes, faith in Jesus Christ will extinguish and overcome them all.

 “And take the helmet of salvation…” a helmet covers the head. It covers the mind with which we can reason and make decisions. The Apostle Paul said, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Satan would also like to turn us (believers) away from our salvation which is our deliverance from sin and the penalties of sin. If we turn aside from salvation, we no longer have the rights of being children of God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “But I am afraid that, even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, your minds may be corrupted and led away from the simplicity of [your sincere and] pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3 AMPLIFIED) And in Romans 15:5-6 he writes, “Now may the God who gives endurance and who supplies encouragement grant that you be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify and praise and honor the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” If we want to all be of the same mind, we need to all have the mind of Christ. Guard what you think. Don’t let just anything take lodging in your mind. Keep your helmet on securely. Protect it carefully. Make sure your mind is set apart for Jesus and not open for enemy fire.

“and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…” The Word of God is a must for every believer. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV) As we read the Word of God, we will be enlightened to anything that is amiss in our hearts. We can clearly see where there is a problem within that is causing problems without. And we have the answer on how to change the problem within right there in the Word. Psalm 119:11 gives us further instructions on how to keep sin out of our hearts. “Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” (AMPLIFIED) Jesus is the Word, the expression of God. If we want to be able to stand in the battle, we must know what Jesus taught and follow it. The devil gets an advantage when he can feed us an untruth and we don’t know the difference between truth and error. Saturate your heart and mind with the Word of God. Lay aside whatever you have to, but know what God says, then you will recognize a lie when you hear it. You cannot be successful if you can be trapped by a lie. Deception has led many into the trap of the enemy. The Word of God is powerful enough to bring us out, but it is better to know the Word and not be trapped at all.

“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Prayer is a powerful tool. It is our connection with the Almighty God Himself. As children of God we can go boldly to His throne to make our petitions. If we want to receive answers to our prayers, we need to make sure we are living steadfastly in Jesus. Jesus said, “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you [that is, if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.(John 15:7 AMPLIFIED) We can also pray in the Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.(Romans 8:26 NKJV)  Allow the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf. He will pray in accordance to God’s will and you will see results.

Our armor works best when we wear all of it. God has provided it for us and tells us how to use it in the battle between good and evil. If we don’t put on this armor, we will find ourselves defeated by the enemy.

PUT ON THE WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD!

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

BELIEVE HIS PROMISES



            As children of God, it is very important that we keep the commandments Jesus gave us. But it is also important for us to know the promises He has given us so we can claim them for ourselves. If we learn His promises and set out to claim them as our own, we will be drawn closer to Him. 2 Peter 1:2-4 tells us the promises of God are given so that we “may be partakers of the divine nature”. His promises are not hidden from us. They are all in plain view, written down in the Bible. God not only tells us what He will do for us, but He tells us what we need to do to make them effective in us personally. That is where the growth comes in. I wonder just how many of these “great and precious promises” are actually active in our lives? There must be hundreds of promises, so we can’t look at all of them, but I would like for us to examine a few.

Isaiah 26:3 - “You [God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Perfect peace brings confidence, calmness and steadfastness even in the storms. It comes from being at one with God as His desires become our desires. What pleases Him pleases us. What grieves Him grieves us.
Who can have this perfect peace? Those whose minds are stayed or focused on the Lord. When we are driving, we are aware of what is around us and behind us, but our focus in on what is in front of us. If we turn our main focus to either side or behind us, we will go off course and probably wreck, causing damage to ourselves and others.
The same thing happens spiritually when we take our eyes off Jesus. We get off course and cause damage to ourselves and others. That’s why Scripture tells us to look to “Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.”
We do need to be aware of what is happening to our left, right and behind us, but we need to be more focused on Jesus. If we constantly look at all the chaos around us, we will go off course. We need to be aware of what it happening in the spiritual realm. We can only do that when our eyes are on Jesus and we are listening to what He is saying.
Psalm 91 is another scripture that offers us rest. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].Who can find security and rest in God? Those whose minds are focused on Him, who dwell in His secret place, and stay close to Him. There is rest and peace for the people of God, but we have to activate it by staying in His presence.
STAY FOCUSED ON GOD.

Isaiah 40:30-31 - “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
How can we activate this promise? By waiting on the Lord. That means to watch for Him, not wondering if He will show up, but being certain He will. We are just waiting for His timing, which is always perfect. Waiting means to expect with full confidence. When we watch and wait for Him, He does several things for us.
First, He will renew our strength. When your driver’s license expires and is no longer valid, do you just throw it away and quit driving? Of course not! You go to the DMV to get it renewed. They can put it back in full force and you can be on your way again.
When our spiritual strength expires, God will renew it and will put it back in full force if we wait on Him. He gives us a second wind that pushes us forward.
He also tells us we can “mount up on wings like eagles”. Eagles don’t flap. They catch the wind current and they soar. We don’t have to flap, either. We can catch the current of the Holy Spirit and soar by His power and strength. The wind of the Spirit will take us in the right direction and will take us higher than we have ever been before.
We can also run without growing weary and walk without fainting from fatigue. It is clear that we will have to walk and run sometimes. We will climb mountains and walk through valleys. But we won’t be weary and we won’t faint. In crisis times, we can depend on Jesus to increase our hope, our strength, our wisdom and whatever else we need to keep us moving ahead. Because God meets us right where we are. Especially when He knows we have gone as far as our own strength can take us.
WAIT ON THE LORD.

            Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
            Trusting someone means we rely on their character, integrity, strength and ability. We believe in them and have confidence in their counsel. When we have a problem to unravel or a decision to make, Jesus should be our first thought. He is the only One Who knows our past, present and future.
            If you needed to ask for directions to a certain place, would you want to ask someone who knew nothing about the territory, or someone who was familiar with every square inch of that territory? Of course we would want someone who knew what they were talking about. Otherwise, we would probably be led astray. If we rely on Jesus we can be sure He will lead us in the right path.
            If we lean on (trust in) our own understanding and try to make decisions based on our own limited knowledge, we will continually get off the right path. The more wrong turns we make, the harder it is to find the right way again.
We have no comprehension of what lies ahead, so when we try to make a choice in our own wisdom, it’s like rolling dice or flipping a coin to see what we should do. We will not know until we see the outcome of a situation whether that choice was right or wrong. If we acknowledge God’s character, integrity, strength, wisdom and power, we will put our trust in Him and follow His leading even when it does not seem to make sense to our understanding.
            If we trust Him, stop leaning on our understanding, and acknowledge that we can rely on Him completely, He will lead us in the right path.
TRUST IN AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE LORD IN ALL THINGS.
           
1 John 5:14-15 - “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
This promise is directly linked to the others. But all promises are directly linked to our relationship with God. Having our petitions heard and answered by God comes when we know Him, trust Him and our desires are at one with Him. Then we see the promise brought to pass.
PRAY ACCORDING TO HIS WILL.

The promises of God are to move us forward in our walk with Him. These are just a few of God’s promises. I encourage you to search them all out and claim them for yourself. Your life will be enriched as your relationship with God is deepened.
If you are a child of God and are not seeing the promises fulfilled for you, look for the obstacle that is blocking the promise from coming to fruition. Make sure you are doing your part and that you understand the nature of the promise correctly. God never breaks a promise. He says that He will not withhold any good thing to His children, and all His promises are good. However, He will withhold things that we ask for when He knows they would harm us in some way. He covers us from evil, and sometimes we take it as unkindness toward us. But God is kind and He loves you with an everlasting love.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.Psalm 84:11


Thursday, June 25, 2020

THE TEST OF OUR FAITH



            One day Jesus and His disciples saw a man who had been born blind. Jesus spit in the dirt, made a little mud, put it on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. It probably made no sense to the man, but he went and did as Jesus had told him to do, and he came back with his sight restored. It was as simple as that. He obeyed what Jesus told him to do and experienced healing results. Would we have had faith to do as Jesus told us, or would we have stopped him when we felt the mud going on our eyes? Faith obeys even when it doesn’t understand. A. W. Tozer said, “We are so made that we trust good character and distrust its opposite, and that is why unbelief is so intensely wicked!” If we know Jesus well enough to have learned His character, we will trust Him. Hebrews 11:1-2 in the Amplified Bible tells us that faith, “[comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. For by this [kind of] faith the men of old gained [divine] approval.”
            We may dream of God asking us to do some great thing, but until we have faith enough to do what He asks of us in His Word, we will never be much use in His kingdom. When we read His words in the Scripture, do we have enough faith and trust in Him to actually do what He says? Or are we afraid of what will happen or what people will think of us if we do? Do we have enough faith to live in God’s kingdom principles now? His principles include His promises and His commandments. How established is our faith? What kind of faith do we really possess?
            We can find the answer to those questions by simply examining our daily lives, actions, motives, priorities and words in light of what Jesus taught. If we use other people for comparison, we will get skewed results. We must go by Jesus’ teachings. It can be a sobering process and we have to go one step at a time so we won’t be so overwhelmed that we quit.
            Looking into the Word of God we find many things He tells us to do or not to do. They are all for our good. Let’s look at a few of His teachings and begin to see how we measure up. If we see we are not doing very well, at least we have a place to start, and we can take one precept at a time, asking God to help us follow Him in that area.
            Let’s start with Matthew 5:38-44. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
            At first glance, this may sound like a dangerous commandment to follow. Is it safe to follow this commandment when it seems everyone will take advantage of us and we will be the laughingstock of everyone around us? But the real questions we need to ask are, “Did Jesus say it? Did Jesus mean what He said? Do we trust Him? I’ll let you answer those questions for yourself.
            As you can see, it takes faith to follow the teachings of Jesus. This passage in Romans 12:17-21 may help us understand this teaching of Jesus’ a little more clearly. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
            Our faith in Jesus will lead us to follow Him with confidence that He will take care of the situation. If we retaliate with evil against our enemies, we have ceased to follow Jesus in that situation and have begun to follow the lead of the person who hurt us. Not only have we not brought peace to the situation but have lost our peace with God. Is our faith a little shaky in following Jesus in this principle? Or do we have confidence that He will take up our cause and we don’t have to resort to ungodly measures? It has been ingrained in us by our culture to stand up for our rights and if someone gets in our way to do whatever it takes to get revenge against them. But that is not Jesus’ way. Here is another question. Did Jesus live by this commandment? Of course, He did. First Peter 2:21-23 tells us, For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
            We are called to follow the example of Jesus with full assurance that He will be with us and He will be the one to repay those who do us wrong. We do not have to defend ourselves. He is our defense and shield. Just as Jesus committed His cause to the Father, we can safely commit our cause into His hands.
In Matthew 6:31-32, Jesus says, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
            These are the words of Jesus. He never spoke idle words - words that had no meaning or were powerless. If we should worry and try to cover all our bases of the “just in case” scenarios of life, He would have told us so instead of telling us not to worry about tomorrow. The Amplified Bible translates the word “worry” as being “anxious, perpetually uneasy, distracted”. Yes, we are to be informed, prudent and work to make a living, but that is not to be our primary concern. Our top priority should be the kingdom of God. Do we trust Him to lead us today in a way that will have us prepared for tomorrow? Jesus said He would take care of it all. We can rest in Him. Our hopes, our dreams and our decisions should be based on the kingdom of God, not on the economy or priorities of this world. Most of us are probably already seeing the work that needs to be done in us to follow Jesus in this teaching. I know I am. But meditating on the Word of God is more important than worrying about the future over which we have no control. God is in complete control, and if we will listen to His voice, He will guide us in the right direction and provide for us. We don’t have to figure it out on our own. We can ask, and He will lead us. Philippians 4:6 gives us a remedy for worry. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
            In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus spoke an astounding truth. It is akin to the first teaching we studied. He said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. He didn’t bring a curse on them, when He had every right and the capability to do so. He wasn’t of this world, and neither are His children. He set us free by forgiving us, and we need to set others free from their prisons, too. If we want His forgiveness, we need to extend it to others. He even goes so far as to say, “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)  Wait! Shouldn’t the offender come to us? Not according to Jesus. He wants things cleared up before He will receive our “gift at the altar”. If the offending party hasn’t done it, it’s up to us.
The last teaching of Jesus we will look at is in Matthew 5:13-15. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
            Let’s be certain that we show forth the glory of God through our lives regardless of where we are and who we are with. Jesus tells us to make sure we don’t allow the glory of God placed in us by His Holy Spirit to fade. We are to bring light to every situation, not mesh into the darkness until our light is absorbed by it. We are to be salt to everyone around us, making them thirsty for the Spirit of God and showing them the way of Truth. It is often hard to live the principles of Jesus when others scoff at us and try to entice us. But, if they see us walking in the ways of Jesus, they will come to us when they realize their ways are not enough. We are to be examples of Jesus’ teachings, His love and His forgiveness. We are not responsible for the choices of other people, but we are responsible to glorify God so that they can know what He is like.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3




























Monday, May 11, 2020

FREEDOM



Have you ever seen a bird caught in a cage? It cannot go where it wants to go. It cannot eat what it wants to eat. It is confined to the small area of its cage and the limited view it can glimpse beyond it. A caged bird cannot even open its wings and fly. It is a captive, and everything it does is determined by its captor.
            Every person is born a captive to sin and the consequences it has on our spirits, our bodies and our minds. We are caught in a trap of doing the things that our environment dictates. Our responses to various situations have been ingrained in us by our inherited carnal nature. Trying to change ourselves by a list of rules has proven to be totally inadequate, and yet we still feel the need and desire to change. We are always looking for something that we cannot attain, because we are in no way capable of bringing about our own freedom. Everything we do is determined by our captor (sin). That is, until Jesus.
            Jesus came to set the captives free. That includes you and me. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me (the Messiah), because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent Me to announce release (pardon, forgiveness) to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed (downtrodden, bruised, crushed by tragedy)…” But what does all that mean? The tragedy we all faced was the tyranny of sin and the hold it had on us. The blindness was spiritual blindness that kept us from seeing past the realm of our captor. We were all poor (needy in spirit) and without resources. But Jesus declares we can be set free from all of that.
The psalmist declared, “Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.” In other words, Jesus has opened the cage door. Now it is up to us whether we will leave the cage behind or stay with what is familiar. Through Jesus we can be free from the dominion of sin and its restrictive, destructive nature. Once we surrender our lives to Him and He has dominion, the oppression of evil is broken, the heavy weight is lifted, and we are free to spread our wings and fly. We are free to ignore the voice of the enemy who held us captive. And we are free to open our ears to hear the voice of truth. Satan’s words are lies that he tells to lure us back to the cage and cause us to give up our freedom in Christ. Satan will confuse you as to what freedom really is if you listen to him. Jesus was very clear about truth and we have further clarification of our freedom in Christ in the Scripture. Freedom is a choice, and the choice is ours to make.
Are you content to be blindly pushed along with the crowd on a dark road that leads to ultimate death? Or had you rather walk down a road with Jesus beside you, a road that has light and will lead to life? Those are basically our two choices. Freedom is not the ability to make our own choices, but making wise choices that are based on truth and reality. When we make our choices based on lies, we cannot be free. Satan is determined to hold us captive, and keep us in the dark. But Jesus has paid the price for our freedom. Psalm 119:105 tells us, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” The word of God (His communication with us) will light our path so we won’t fall away. It will enlighten our hearts and minds to truth.
Even though we accept freedom, Satan will try to talk us out of it, saying we are now ensnared by God. But the truth is that Jesus does not force anyone to follow Him. If you read the story of the rich, young ruler, you can see that Jesus was sorrowful when the young man turned away and chose not to follow Him. But Jesus did not force him to come. Nor did He change the conditions for following Him just to suit the young man’s desire. Satan will also tell you that now you have to follow a bunch of rules and life won’t have any joy. But the truth is that in the presence of God we will find fullness of joy. Following Jesus’ commandments will bring us much joy. They are life to us. Satan tries to divert us from the light (truth) to his dark path. He succeeded in doing that with Adam and Eve, but their choice does not have to be your choice.
Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32, 34-36 NKJV)
            We can be sons and daughters in the household of our heavenly Father or we can be slaves under the dominion of the devil. The kingdom of God is where the Spirit of God is, and sin cannot enter there. We can live in that place spiritually right now. Yes, we are still in this world, but we can have freedom in Christ now. We don’t have to live under oppression and a death sentence. If we live in union with Christ, we are living in the presence of God. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom].” (2 Corinthians 3:17 Amplified) So, in Christ we have freedom, light and fullness of joy. But there is more.
                Romans 8:1 tells us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” We are free to walk in freedom as the Spirit within us directs us to the right paths. Our death sentence has been overturned. We are no longer captives, but free to hear God’s voice.
            God is a communicator with His creation. In many places in the Old Testament, we see God speaking to men and women and drawing them into His plans. We see Jesus in the Old Testament appearing as the Angel of the Lord and communicating with people. God has even given us a written copy of His Word as He spoke and inspired men to write. Then in the New Testament, we see Jesus coming to be one of us, laying aside His glory and living among us. Why would He do that? The Scripture is clear about why Jesus came.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17 NKJV)
He came so we wouldn’t have to live as captives on this earth and then live in hell with Satan for eternity. He came to offer us spiritual life and freedom now, and a home in heaven with Jesus for eternity. It overwhelms the mind, I know. But that is the truth.
            Jesus said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)  He came to provide a means for us to have that life instead of condemnation. If we truly believe Him, we will follow Him and keep His commandments.
            If you are rationalizing all this and have come up with the idea that you don’t deserve that chance for freedom, you are right. None of us do. But Jesus loves us anyway, so He gave His life for ours. When you look at this scripture verse in Romans 5:6-8, you will see that you haven’t done anything that will make you exempt from the offer Jesus makes.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The people in this world may tell you that you are too bad to qualify to be saved and set free, that you deserve to be held captive in a cage. But they are wrong. Jesus died for all of us when we were ungodly, without strength to save ourselves and were sinners to the core. Sinners commit sins. They commit terrible sins. But Jesus paid the price for that and the offer still stands.
Look at this verse from Isaiah 1:18-19. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land.” That is an invitation from God Himself. He is communicating with you right now. Don’t ignore Him or wait until another time. Accept Him today. You can be set free from living the life of a captive in a cage. You can be free to live in the kingdom of God now. For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, freedom! Spread your wings and fly!


Thursday, April 2, 2020

RELEASE THROUGH REPENTANCE



            There are many times in our lives when we face an ongoing problem. When we are finally released from its hold, what a relief it is! Sometimes the problems are our own fault, and we have to do whatever is necessary to work our way through the self-inflicted consequences to freedom. Whether it is credit card debt or a prison sentence, release is a joyous occasion.
            The people of Israel found themselves in captivity because they had rebelled against God for many years. God had warned them over and over through the prophets, but they wouldn’t listen to the warnings. So, God finally brought the punishment He had told them would come. God allowed Israel to be taken captive into Babylon. Jeremiah was one of the prophets God used to warn the people. He had prophesied their captivity and the time they would finally return to Jerusalem. Another prophet, Daniel, read Jeremiah’s prophecy and determined the times God had set. He realized it was time for their release. Daniel was one of those captives that had spent the last 70 years in Babylon. Hope rose up in him as he realized the captivity of Israel would soon come to an end.
            So, Daniel began to pray. He knew God had already ordered the time of their release, yet he prayed a prayer of repentance and invoked the mercy of God. There had been no confession and repentance on the part of the people in exile, and Daniel was setting into motion the fulfillment of Scripture through his prayer. Before release, there must be repentance.
There are times when the enemy attacks and we must withstand him in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are times God allows the enemy to attack because we have removed ourselves from under His covering. Then we must repent and return to our God to be released.
Daniel prayed “we have sinned and committed wrong, and have behaved wickedly and have rebelled, turning away from Your commandments and ordinances. Further, we have not listened to and heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” All of Israel had heard God’s warnings, but they continued in their rebellion. They heard but didn’t repent.
Daniel’s prayer continued like this, “Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this tragedy has come on us. Yet we have not wholeheartedly begged for forgiveness and sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our wickedness and paying attention to and placing value in Your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept the tragedy ready and has brought it on us, for the Lord our God is [uncompromisingly] righteous and openly just in all His works which He does - He keeps His word; and we have not obeyed His voice.”
If we want to see release in our lives, our homes, our churches, our nation, we need to cry out to God in repentance. Daniel realized the reason they had gone into captivity was because of their sin. God didn’t punish them unjustly. Actually the longsuffering of God had been more than gracious. But before they could leave Babylon and return to their homeland, there had to be repentance for the sins that brought God’s chastisement on them.
There is a scripture promising good from the Lord that I hear often. It speaks of God’s good intentions toward us, and is a solid verse showing His mercy and love. But we can see a greater extent of this love when we read it in context with the verses above and below it. God loves us so much that He will punish us to turn us back to righteousness. Listen to what Jeremiah prophesied concerning the captivity and the release of God’s people. “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.” (29:10-14)
God’s people had no future of peace and hope in the direction they had taken. He had to turn them, and they had not listened to His warnings through the prophets, so He brought them to a place of chastening because of His great love for them. He will do the same for us, and it is a good thing. It is to keep us from moving outside the realm of God’s kingdom. God’s punishment is not for our destruction. It serves to restore us into the right path and a right relationship with God.
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” (Hebrews 12:7-9)
If a child will listen to a warning, the punishment will not come. If they refuse the warning, the punishment will be severe. Punishment causes us to see sin for what it is. It serves to turn us from that deadly poison to that which is beneficial for us. Maybe your relationship with Jesus is weak and cluttered with worldly pursuits and you have felt the tug of God’s Spirit to come closer. He is warning you of the dangers ahead. If you hear and obey, you will avoid the consequences and pitfalls ahead.
We also need to pray for our families, our cities, states, nations and world. God wants to release us to walk in the power of His kingdom, but disobedience can keep us from it. Repentance is the only way for release.
2 Chronicles 7:14 tells of the mercy of God to restore us when we come to Him in repentance. God clearly shows us how to return to Him and to have His favor restored. He shows us our part and His part.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Instead of reading it quickly, let’s digest each part and see what God requires of us so we can receive what He promised.
Step 1 – “IF My people who are called by My name” - God’s people are required to repent when they sin. He doesn’t say the people of the world. He says “My people”. There are times when the Church needs to repent for laying aside the Word of God to suit our culture, for putting our love of the world above our love for God and the souls of the unsaved, for failing to speak the truth from our pulpits and in our homes, for disregarding the teachings of Jesus because they are uncomfortable for us, for putting ourselves on a pedestal to receive the glory that belongs to God alone.
Step 2 – “Humble themselves.” We are to openly and truthfully confess our sins and surrender completely to God’s Word and the leading of His Holy Spirit. Confessing is humbling, but where sin is concerned, it is necessary.
Step 3 – “Pray” – talk to God and listen to what He has to say to us. Stay connected to Him with a close relationship and act on what He speaks to us during those times.
Step 4 – “Seek My face” - Instead of seeking pleasure, the applause of men and all the things this world has to offer, seek the Living God Who alone can give us what will fill the void in our hearts. Continually seek to know Him more intimately through His Word and His Spirit. Seek out the presence and purpose of God.
Step 5 – “Turn from their wicked ways” – Turn away from every act, thought and motive that dishonors God, and set our hearts to please God and to bring Him glory through our lives.
When we follow those steps toward God, He will hear our prayers. Proverbs 15:29 tells us “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8) God also said He will forgive our sins and He will heal our land. There is power in repentance. There is release into the favor of God!
What rejoicing there was on the journey home to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity! All because God was faithful to turn them from their sin! We can know that joy, too.

Release is a joyous occasion!

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” Psalm 30:11-12

Sunday, March 22, 2020

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT



I recently read a book written by my cousin, Delron Shirley. It is entitled, “Don’t Leave Home Without It”. The title refers to Jesus’ command for the disciples to go and preach the gospel to all nations, but to wait until they received the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His disciples, showed them the wounds in His hands and feet and even ate fish and honeycomb so they would believe it was really Him. He explained how the law, prophets and the psalms all spoke of Him. Then he said, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.
Just before He ascended, Jesus told them again, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And they became those witnesses because they obeyed Jesus instructions to wait for the Holy Spirit to come.
Jesus told them to wait so they would not go out in their own wisdom, strength and ability, or in their own zeal. Sometimes our zeal can do more damage than good. Before the Holy Spirit was given, Peter’s zeal caused him to boast that he would not forsake Jesus, but his strength flagged and he denied Jesus. In their zeal, James and John had wanted to call down fire to destroy the Samaritans who would not receive Jesus into their territory. Jesus rebuked them. They needed zeal, but they needed the zeal of the Lord of hosts Who perfectly performs everything He has purposed. He will get the job done. Jesus knew they needed the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Without Him, they would fail.
Jesus had spoken to them earlier about rivers of living water. “ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Jesus had also taught the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be a  Comforter Who would come alongside them just as Jesus had done for 3 ½ years. This Comforter or Helper would stay with each one of them always. He would be with them individually wherever they went.
Just as Jesus had been with the disciples to lead them in the right direction and set their course, the Holy Spirit would lead them. Just as He had taught them, the Holy Spirit would teach them. And He would bring to their remembrance the things Jesus had taught them.
The Holy Spirit would also give them miracle-working power, just as Jesus had when He was with them in the flesh. And the Spirit would make all the difference in the preaching of the Word, because He would make the Word alive in their hearts. Then their communication of His Word would have power and life for the hearers. People would be drawn by the Spirit of God and not the wisdom of man.
After they had waited for the Spirit in Jerusalem as Jesus had told them to do, the Spirit descended upon them in a mighty way. He came with the sound of a rushing mighty wind, and tongues of fire sat on each one. Of course, God had chosen just the right time. Jerusalem was crowded with people from many nations who were there to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples were enabled by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit to speak in the languages of all those present. Every language group heard them speak in their own language “the wonderful works of God”. Then Peter, who through fear had denied Jesus, stood up boldly and preached a powerful sermon that ended with 3,000 people believing in Jesus, receiving the gospel message, and being baptized.
The Holy Spirit will do everything for His disciples today that was promised to those first disciples. We can have the Holy Spirit operating in us and through us as rivers of living water. We all need to go and be His witnesses, but first we need the Holy Spirit. We need the guidance, power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit actively working in us and through us.
We won’t accomplish much without Him, but with Him, we can do exploits. Daniel 11:32 says, “but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” How can we be one of those people who know their God? We can know Him through the Holy Spirit living in us!
Great exploits are highly significant deeds and accomplishments that are considerable in power or number. It also includes being able to stand and take action in resisting evil and ungodliness.
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12) Because of the Spirit of God in His children, we can accomplish more in outreach. We can cover more territory with the same power, just like the disciples did when they scattered abroad. Read through the book of Acts and see what God will do through those who are surrendered to and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The question is do you want to be normal with a wishy-washy relationship with God? Or do you want to really know Him? Do you want Him to work through you with mighty acts and His living, powerful Word? If we want to accomplish anything of eternal value, we must have the Holy Spirit. Without Him we can do nothing of lasting value.
The Holy Spirit leads us one step at a time, so where He leads may seem illogical to our human reasoning. But, if we follow the first step, we will see the second step more clearly and will eventually see the wisdom of His guidance. It takes faith to follow when it seems there is no reason to it. But the Spirit of God is much wiser than our human understanding. We can depend on Him to be right 100% of the time. Trust Him above all human wisdom.
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal to our reborn spirits things that our natural mind cannot understand. He reveals to us the wisdom of God, spiritual things that cannot be understood with human reasoning. He is there to give us whatever we need.
When the disciples were discouraged, Jesus encouraged them. When they didn’t understand, He taught them. When they put emphasis on the wrong things (like who would be greatest), He corrected them. When they were afraid, He rebuked their lack of faith…and calmed the storm. When they didn’t know which way to go, He led them.
The Holy Spirit will do the same for you! So, when you are discouraged, go to Him. When you don’t understand, learn from Him. When He corrects you, receive it and grow from it. When storms come your way, have faith that He will bring you out. When you don’t know which way to go, follow Him.
You can receive the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to have a degree or go to a certain place. You don’t have to go wait in Jerusalem. You can receive the Spirit wherever you are and start from there.
Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Why not ask right now? Just surrender your life to Jesus and say, “I want to be controlled and led by the Holy Spirit.” Then begin working alongside Him!