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Think About What You Think About

SOURCE:  Max Lucado/Faithgateway

In her short thirteen years Rebecca Taylor has endured more than fifty-five surgeries and medical procedures and approximately one thousand days in the hospital.

Christyn, Rebecca’s mom, talks about her daughter’s health complications with the ease of a surgeon. The vocabulary of most moms includes phrases such as “cafeteria food,” “slumber party,” and “too much time on the phone.” Christyn knows this language, but she’s equally fluent in the vernacular of blood cells, stents, and, most recently, a hemorrhagic stroke.

In her blog she wrote:

This past week’s new land mine was the phrase “possible hemorrhagic stroke,” a phrase I heard dozens of times used by numerous physicians. Over and over and over that phrase filled my mind and consumed my thoughts. It was emotionally crippling.

This past Sunday our preacher, Max Lucado, started a very fitting series on anxiety. We reviewed the familiar Philippians 4:6 verse: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

I presented my requests to the Lord as I had so many times before, but this time, THIS time, I needed more. And so, using Philippians 4:8-9 as a guide, I found my answer:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true…” What was true in my life at this particular moment? The blessing of all family members eating dinner together.

“Whatever is noble.” The blessing of enjoying each other’s presence outside of a hospital room.

“Whatever is right.” The blessing of experiencing my two sons’ daily lives.

“Whatever is pure.” The blessing of all three children laughing and playing with each other.

“Whatever is lovely.” The blessing of watching Rebecca sleep peacefully in her bed at night.

“Whatever is admirable.” The blessing of an honorable team working tirelessly on Rebecca’s care.

“If anything is excellent.” The blessing of watching a miracle unfold.

“Or praiseworthy.” The blessing of worshiping a Lord who is worthy to be praised.

“Think about such things.”

I did. As I meditated on these things, I stopped the dreaded phrase “hemorrhagic stroke” from sucking any joy out of my life. Its power to produce anxiety was now rendered impotent. And when I dwelt on the bountiful blessings in my life happening AT THAT VERY MOMENT, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” DID guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. A true, unexpected miracle. Thank You, Lord.1

Did you note what Christyn did? The words hemorrhagic stroke hovered over her life like a thundercloud. Yet she stopped the dreaded phrase from sucking joy out of her life.

She did so by practicing thought management. You probably know this, but in case you don’t, I am so thrilled to give you the good news: you can pick what you ponder.

You didn’t select your birthplace or birth date. You didn’t choose your parents or siblings. You don’t determine the weather or the amount of salt in the ocean. There are many things in life over which you have no choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your dominion.

You can choose what you think about.

For that reason the wise man urges,

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life. — Proverbs 4:23 NCV

Do you want to be happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today. (Count blessings. Memorize Bible verses. Pray. Sing hymns. Spend time with encouraging people.) Do you want to guarantee tomorrow’s misery? Then wallow in a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today. (Assume the worst. Beat yourself up. Rehearse your regrets. Complain to complainers.) Thoughts have consequences.

Healing from anxiety requires healthy thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

Your problem is not your problem; it is the way you look at it.

Satan knows this. The devil is always messing with our minds.

He comes as a thief

with the sole intention of stealing and killing and destroying. — John10:10 Phillips

He brings only gloom and doom. By the time he was finished with Job, the man was sick and alone. By the time he had done his work in Judas, the disciple had given up on life. The devil is to hope what termites are to an oak; he’ll chew you up from the inside.

He will lead you to a sunless place and leave you there. He seeks to convince you this world has no window, no possibility of light. Exaggerated, overstated, inflated, irrational thoughts are the devil’s specialty.

No one will ever love me. It’s all over for me. Everyone is against me. I’ll never lose weight, get out of debt, or have friends.

What lugubrious, monstrous lies!

No problem is unsolvable. No life is irredeemable. No one’s fate is sealed. No one is unloved or unlovable.

Your challenge is the way you think about your challenge.

But Satan wants us to think we are. He wants to leave us in a swarm of anxious, negative thoughts.

Satan is the master of deceit. But he is not the master of your mind. You have a power he cannot defeat. You have God on your side.

So, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8 NLT

The transliteration of the Greek word, here rendered as fix, islogizomai. Do you see the root of an English word in the Greek one? Yes, logic. Paul’s point is simple: anxiety is best faced with clearheaded, logical thinking.

Turns out that our most valuable weapon against anxiety weighs less than three pounds and sits between our ears. Think about what you think about!

Here is how it works. You receive a call from the doctor’s office. The message is simple and unwelcome. “The doctor has reviewed your tests and would like you to come into the office for a consultation.”

As quickly as you can say “uh-oh,” you have a choice: anxiety or trust.

Anxiety says…

“I’m in trouble. Why does God let bad things happen to me? Am I being punished? I must have done something wrong.”

“These things never turn out right. My family has a history of tragedy. It’s my turn. I probably have cancer, arthritis, jaundice. Am I going blind? My eyes have been blurry lately. Is this a brain tumor?”

“Who will raise the kids? Who will pay the medical bills? I’m going to die broke and lonely. I’m too young for this tragedy! No one can understand me or help me.”

If you aren’t already sick, you will be by the time you go to the doctor’s office.

Anxiety weighs down the human heart. — Proverbs 12:25 NRSV

But there is a better way.

Before you call your mom, spouse, neighbor, or friend, call on God. Invite Him to speak to the problem.

Capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV

Slap handcuffs on the culprit, and march it before the One who has all authority: Jesus Christ.

Jesus, this anxious, negative thought just wormed its way into my mind. Is it from You?

Jesus, who speaks nothing but the truth, says, “No, get away from here, Satan.” And as the discerning, sober-minded air traffic controller of your mind, you refuse to let the thought have the time of day.

Lay claim to every biblical promise you can remember, and set out to learn a few more. Grip them for the life preservers they are. Give Satan no quarter. Give his lies no welcome.

Fasten the belt of truth around your waist. — Ephesians 6:14 NRSV

Resist the urge to exaggerate, overstate, or amplify. Focus on the facts, nothing more. The fact is, the doctor has called. The fact is, his news will be good or bad. For all you know, he may want you to be a poster child of good health. All you can do is pray and trust.

So you do. You enter the doctor’s office, not heavied by worry, but buoyed by faith.

Which do you prefer?

Christyn Taylor discovered calmness. Recently she and her family went back to Rebecca’s doctors in Minnesota. Seven months earlier Rebecca was barely surviving. Now, one day before her thirteenth birthday, Rebecca was vibrant and full of life. She had gained a remarkable thirty pounds. Her health was improving. She was named the hospital’s “walking miracle.”

Christyn wrote: “I watched these interactions with a silent sense of awe. It is easy to praise God during seasons of wellness. But it was during my greatest distress when I felt the Lord’s presence poured upon me. And it was in those heartbreaking moments I learned to trust this God who provided unimaginable strength during unimaginable pain.”2

He will help you as well, my friend. Guard your thoughts and trust your Father.
——————————————————————————
1. Used with permission.
2. Used with permission.

Excerpted from Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado, copyright Max Lucado.

Anxious for Nothing

God, His Truth, and Our Lies

SOURCE:  Dr. Bill Bellican

Each of us is affected by events in our past that have led to emotional wounding. We are fallen “image bearers” of Christ living in a fallen world. Certainly, we are affected by our own sinful choices as well as by the sins of others. Whether these events are traumatic or seemingly insignificant, they are fertile ground for distorted thinking, misperceptions, and lies to become embedded. The historical memories containing these “lies” too often are triggered by present events and act as unhealthy filters as we think, feel, and act in the present.

In addition to our own distorted thinking, Satan capitalizes on these lies using them as a way to keep us in bondage, weakened, ineffective, and destructive to ourselves and those around us. Satan would have us live an emotionally unhealthy, unfulfilled life in darkness. In contrast, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are Truth and desire us to walk and live in the truth. God knows that His truth will dispel the lies we believe, bring light to the darkness, and will set us totally free. Then we are able to love God more fully, love others, serve God, and enjoy a more fulfilled relationship with God.

The following Scriptures (NIV) are listed to open your thinking about lies, the truth, who God is, and how Satan works. The notes, which follow the listed Scriptures, are taken from the NIV Study Bible and other sources.  The notes are included to provide further insight and application of these truths.

Prayerfully read and reflect upon them asking God to apply His truth to your mind and to your heart.

Genesis 18:14a, Is anything too hard for the Lord?

NOTE: The answer is “no.” Nothing in God’s will is impossible for Him.

Exodus 23:29-30, But I will not drive them out in a single year.  Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

NOTE: Many times God works with us through a process by which He prepares us for the next step.

Numbers 33:50a-55, The Lord said to Moses, “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.  Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.  But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.

NOTE: It is critical for us to allow God continually to root out all lies and distorted beliefs, or they can be triggered causing us continued problems.

Deuteronomy 4:29, But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.

NOTE: This indicates total involvement and commitment. The Lord longs to bring us His truth.

Joshua 4:24, He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

NOTE: The Lord wants us to realize that He accomplishes His work without our help.

Joshua 5:13-14, Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

NOTE: We must know our place. It is not that God is on our side; rather, we must fight God’s battles. God has sent the commander of his heavenly armies to take charge of the battle on earth. He will fight on our behalf. We must be willing by faith to receive the truth from the Lord.

Joshua 6:1-20, Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

NOTE: Marching around the city was a ritual act signifying a siege of the city that was to be repeated for six days. The Lord was laying siege to the city. At times, He may choose to lay siege to the walls around our memories, lies, and pain.

Job 12:22, He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light.

NOTE: God knows even secret, evil plans/thoughts. His light penetrates the deepest darkness.

Job 42:5, My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

NOTE: It is one thing to know God and another to “feel” and experience God’s truth with eyes of faith and spiritual understanding. Freedom occurs when we trust God to apply to our lives the truths we had previously only known.

Psalm 28:6-7a, Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.

NOTE: The Lord realizes the need we have for the truth. He is our help as we look to Him.

Psalm 33:4, For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

NOTE: No power or combination of powers can thwart God’s plan and purpose to save his people. Under the Lord’s rule in the creation, there is goodness, order, dependability, and truth.

Psalm 36:9b, In your light we see light.

Psalm 43:3a, Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me.

NOTE: God’s light invades and removes the darkness giving us a clearer, more focused view of the present that is based on His truth.

Psalm 66:18, If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

NOTE: Sin can be a barrier to the Lord bringing His truth to us.

Psalm 77:13-14a, Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles.

Psalm 86:8,11a, Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart.

NOTE: God is the only true God. No other “god” acts with such sovereign power. Dependence on and devotion to God ask that He save us from the enemy outside but also from our frailty within.

Psalm 119:130a, The unfolding of your words gives light.

Psalm 139:7,12, Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Even the darkness will not be dark to you for darkness is as light to you.

NOTE: Just as the whole creation offers no hiding place from the Lord, neither does even the darkness. There is no memory or lie that cannot be accessed by the Lord. He knows where everything is located.

Proverbs 2:6, For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

NOTE: As we cry out for, look for, and search for wisdom/truth, the Lord will bring it.

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 will make your paths straight.

NOTE: We must commit to God our need, helplessness, powerlessness, and inability to figure Him out. We must refuse to come up with or rely on our own “answers” apart from Him. He will remove the obstacles from your pathway and bring you to the place where He wants you to be.

Proverbs 8:14, 17b, Counsel and sound judgement are mine; I have understanding and power; those who seek me find me.

Proverbs 30:5a, Every word of God is flawless.

Isaiah 2:5, Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Isaiah 9:2, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

NOTE: Jesus is the light for our darkened minds and the lies we believe. His light is truth.

Isaiah 31:1, Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.

NOTE: Our help and the truth must come from the Lord, alone. No one else can provide what He alone can provide.

Isaiah 45:19b, I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

Isaiah 49:8a, This is what the Lord says, “In the time of my favor, I will answer you.”

NOTE: The Lord has a perfect timing in revealing His truth to us.

Isaiah 49:23b, Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.

Isaiah 50:10b-11a, Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze.

NOTE: When we try to help the Lord or find the answer ourselves, we will fail. We must simply “actively” wait for the Lord to accomplish His purpose in our lives and circumstances.

Isaiah 55:8-9, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

NOTE: We can’t put God in a box to do things the way we think they should be done.

Isaiah 59:1-2, Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

NOTE: God can do all things. But, our sins can be a barrier to God bringing us His truth. He longs for us to bring our sins to Him to be healed and released from them.

Isaiah 59:9b-10a, We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes.

NOTE: Too many times, we try to find our own solutions. We fail to take God as His word that He does want to bring us His truth to really set us free from our lies.

Isaiah 59:12-13, For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

NOTE: Too often, we choose to cling to the lies continually acting them out. Once we turn to the Lord, He accepts our request for forgiveness and freely brings His truth in His way and timing.

Isaiah 59:15-16a, Truth is nowhere to be found. The Lord was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him.

NOTE: The Lord knows we are actually helpless to heal ourselves in any permanent way. He is the Author of truth, and He is willing to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

Jeremiah 17:9-10a, 14, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind.  Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

NOTE: Wickedness/distorted thinking/lies must not be allowed to take root in the heart.

Jeremiah 20:12a, O Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous and probe the heart and mind

Jeremiah 23:23-24, “Am I only a God nearby, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

NOTE: God is both transcendent and immanent; He lives in a high and holy place but also with him who is lowly in spirit. There is no place that the Lord can’t access.

Jeremiah 32:17, 27, Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?

NOTE: The answer is, “No!”

Ezekiel 22:30, I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

NOTE: The counselor lends his strength to those who have been weakened by the lies as both counselor and counselee look to Christ for His truth.

Daniel 2:22, He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him.

NOTE: God knows where the darkness is and what lurks in it. Only His light will be effective in this darkness.

Daniel 9:13b, All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth.

NOTE: Too often, we remain in the darkness even if we don’t like it. It is what we know. At times, we choose to believe that nothing can really change us or our situation. God’s truth can bring true change.

Hosea 10:12:13a, Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception.

NOTE: Be no longer unproductive, but repentant, making a radical new change and becoming productive and fruitful. It involves hard work to break up unplowed ground. Many times the Lord allows us to “seek and wait” on Him until He brings His truth at just the right time.

Micah 7:8b-9b, Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light.  He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.

Zechariah 4:6, So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

NOTE: The Lord Almighty is the One who brings freedom. It is not we who do this.

Matthew 8:2-3a, A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing,” he said . “Be clean.”

NOTE: The Lord is the God of truth, and He always is willing to bring His truth into our lives.

Matthew 10:34, Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

NOTE: As one becomes more healthy, others who remain dysfunctional will try to draw the one back into the family dysfunction. Additionally, as we seek the truth, the spirits of darkness/Satan become active in trying to hinder this process of becoming free.

Matthew 11:29-30, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

NOTE: Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden is receiving His truth and freedom from the burden of lies we believe.

Matthew 13:58, And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

NOTE: We have to allow God to exist “outside of the box” we tend to put him in realizing His ways and thoughts are above ours. Otherwise, our ability to receive His truth is dulled.

Matthew 16:16-17, Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

NOTE: When Jesus “breaks into” one’s life to reveal His truth, it is not the product of humanity/our own minds, but of Divine revelation.

Matthew 18:3, And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

NOTE: Trusting and unpretentious behavior like little children is necessary.

Matthew 19:26, Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 28:20b, And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

NOTE: Jesus will not abandon us allowing us to trust in His presence always.

Mark 1:40-42b, A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing you can make me clean.”  “I am willing.  Be clean.’

Mark 2:3-5, Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, thy made an opening in the rook above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

NOTE: Jesus recognized that the bold action of the paralyzed man and his friends gave evidence of faith. Even so, the men had to work in faith to reach the Lord with their friend.

Mark 4:37-40, A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

NOTE: Jesus is always in control. He is never intimidated by the worst of problems we face. He calls on us to believe in His ability to handle all situations and to do that which we find impossible.

Mark 5:24b-28, A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”

NOTE: The woman was healed because God graciously determined to reward her faith.

Mark 5: 36, Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Mark 6:5-6, He could not do any miracles there.  And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

NOTE: Jesus chose not to perform miracles in such a climate of unbelief.

Mark 9:22b-23, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

NOTE: The question centered on whether the father had faith to believe Jesus could heal. A person who truly believes will set no limits on what God can do.

Mark 10:15, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: The kingdom of God must be received as a gift; it may be entered only by those who know they are helpless, without claim or merit.

Mark 10:27, With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

NOTE: Apart from the grace of God, no one can be saved or healed.

Mark 10:51-52a, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: Jesus wants us to realize what we need from Him.

Luke 1:37, For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 5:12b-13a, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

NOTE: Jesus is willing to meet us at our point of need in answer to our faith.

Luke 5:18-20, Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Luke 5:39, And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”

NOTE: Jesus was indicating the reluctance of some people to change from their traditional religious ways and try to think “out of their religious box.”

Luke 8:50b, Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Luke 13:12, When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

NOTE: The spirit had been cast out, and the woman was freed from the bond of Satan and from her physical handicap. In the process of healing, Jesus caused her to face the reality of her pain. He causes us to face the reality of painful memories as the lies are determined.

Luke 18:17, I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

NOTE: With total dependence, full trust, frank openness and complete sincerity.

Luke 18:27, Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Luke 18:35-42, A blind man was sitting by the roadside.  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.”

NOTE: It seems that Jesus wants us to fully understand our problem and realize what we are asking Him to do for us.

John 1:4-5, In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

NOTE: From Christ comes all spiritual illumination. He is the “light of the world” who holds out wonderful hope for all.

John 1:17, For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 5:8-13a, Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.  The man who was healed had no idea who it was (that healed him).

NOTE: Ordinarily, faith in Jesus was essential to be healed, but here the man did not even know who Jesus was. Jesus usually healed in response to faith, but he was not limited by a person’s lack of it.

John 8:32, 36, Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

NOTE: The truth Jesus brings dispels the lies and allows freedom. Those whom Jesus frees, are truly and completely freed.

John 8:44b, He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

NOTE: The truth is foreign to Satan who stands in direct opposition to the truth Christ brings.

John 14:6a, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

John 14:16-17a, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.

John 16:13a, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

John 17:17, (Jesus in His prayer to the Father) “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

NOTE: In essence and in action the Spirit is characterized by truth. He brings people to the truth of God. All three persons of the Trinity are linked with truth.

John 20:27b, (Jesus to Thomas) “Stop doubting and believe.”

NOTE: Jesus calls us to simply believe who He is and in What He does and says.

Acts 26:17b-18, I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.

NOTE: The role of the counselor is to be used by Jesus as a tool to bring the light of His truth to those who are encumbered by lies and Satan’s deceit.

Romans 1:25a, They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

NOTE: In our fallen state, we choose to believe a lie over the truth.

Romans 7:22-8:2, For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work in my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God — through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

NOTE: Deliverance comes through Jesus Christ over the force within us at work preventing us from believing in God’s truth. The controlling power of the Spirit frees us from the controlling power of sin and the lies it produces.

Romans 8:6, The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

NOTE: The mind of the sinful nature leads to death/lies. The mind of the Spirit-controlled nature leads to freedom/peace.

Romans 12:2b, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

NOTE: This is the process of the truth permeating the thought/will.

1 Corinthians 4:5b, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness

NOTE: God will find and expose the deepest lies of the mind.

2 Corinthians 3:17, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

NOTE: The presence of the Lord brings freedom.

2 Corinthians 4:4, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

NOTE: The devil is the archenemy of God and the unseen power behind all unbelief and ungodliness. He attempts to infect all with his lies to keep unbelievers and believers from walking in the freedom that Christ brings.

2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

NOTE: Christ, the only entirely righteous One, at Calvary took our sin upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved, namely, death and separation from God. Thus, by a marvelous exchange, He made it possible for us to receive His righteousness and be reconciled to God. Our standing and our acceptance before God are solely in Him. All this is God’s doing. Given this, it is all the more believable that Christ would want to bring us His truth to dispel the lies we believe.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5, The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

NOTE: As the center of our very being becomes exposed to and fully subject to the lordship of Christ, every stronghold of lies is demolished.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15, And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

NOTE: Even when masquerading as an angel of light, this Great Deceiver remains forever the prince of darkness and father of lies.

Galatians 5:1a, It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

NOTE: Christ sets us free from the burden of lies in which we are caught and entangled.

Galatians 5:13a, You, my brothers, were called to be free.

NOTE: God wants us free from lies/bondage to better serve Him and each other in love.

Ephesians 1:17-19a, I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

NOTE: As Christ brings truth to dispel the lies we believe, our mind, understanding, and inner awareness can more certainly believe in the hope He offers.

Ephesians 3:17b-21, And I pray that you may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory for ever and ever!

NOTE: God, who is infinite in all his attributes, allows us to draw on His resources to believe in that which is beyond our human capability — that He is willing and able to break-in our past — to free us and redeem our present — to enable us to live a more fulfilled future.

Ephesians 4:26, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

NOTE: Anger directed toward injustice is appropriate. However, it is important that it is appropriately expressed and released to Christ not being allowed to turn into bitterness.

Ephesians 4:31, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

NOTE: Such things grieve the Holy Spirit and become a barrier to Christ bringing His truth to us. We must allow Christ to take these things away from us and onto Himself.

Ephesians 6:11-18, Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all thee flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

NOTE: Our battles can’t be fought only using human resources. The battle is actually against powerful, evil beings in the unseen world. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible. Ours is a spiritual battle and must be fought in God’s strength, depending on the Word and on God through prayer.

Philippians 4:13, I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

NOTE: Union with the living, exalted Christ is the secret of contentment and the source of our strength as we trust Him to bring us His truth. We are not helpless in any way.

Colossians 2:6-7, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

NOTE: We must continue to be “rooted” in Christ in an intimate, spiritual, living union.

2 Timothy 1:7, For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

NOTE: Confusion and weakness are not from God. He calls on us to wait confidently for Him as he brings His truth.

Hebrews 1:1, In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

NOTE: God is not limited in how He chooses to bring His truth to us. In these last days, the creator of the universe is the One who brings the truth.

Hebrews 4:12-13, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

NOTE: God’s truth was revealed by Jesus. His words are active in accomplishing God’s purposes through a living power that works as an all-seeing eye, penetrating the totality and depth of our innermost being.

Hebrews 6:18b, it is impossible for God to lie

NOTE: God is absolutely trustworthy.

Hebrews 12:15, See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

NOTE: This “bitter root” or pride, anger, animosity, rivalry, or anything else harmful to others can block God bringing his truth and healing grace.

James 1:5-6a, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt

NOTE: Wisdom is not just acquired information, but practical insight/truth generated by the Spirit.

James 1:18a, He chose to give us birth through the word of truth

NOTE: Since He gave us birth through His word of truth, He surely wants us to live and walk in His truth.

James 1:21, Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 3:14, But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

NOTE: All barriers to Christ bringing His truth must be removed with His enabling.

1 Peter 2:9, But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

NOTE: God does not want his chosen ones to dwell in the darkness of lies but rather would have us live in the light of his truth.

1 Peter 5:8, Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 John 1:5b, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:6-10 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

NOTE: Light represents what is good, true and holy, while darkness represents what is evil and false. To live and walk in darkness is characterized by wickedness and error/lies, while to walk in the light is characterized by holiness and truth. For Christ to be free to bring us His truth, it is critical that we bring to Him all known sins that He may forgive us and restore our communion with Him.

1 John 2:8b, its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

NOTE: As we look to Jesus, the darkness passes as the light of His truth shines within our minds.

1 John 2:21b, no lie comes from the truth.

NOTE: The truth is completely freeing and overcomes the lies of our minds.

1 John 4:18a, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

NOTE: There is no fear of God’s judgement because genuine love confirms salvation. To be frightened/fearful of God is based on a lie and is part of Satan’s deception.

1 John 5:6b, The Spirit is the truth.

3 John 4, I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Make Up Your Mind to Manage Your Mind

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

The reason why most people are ineffective in life is that they’ve never learned how to fight the battle of the mind.

If you want to learn to manage your mind, you have to be delivered from destructive thoughts. That isn’t easy, because there are three enemies that keep you from fulfilling all your good intentions of changing your life.

  1. The first enemy is your old nature.

Paul says in Romans 7:23, “There is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me” (NLT).

Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t really want to do? That’s the battle in your brain between your old, sinful nature and your good intentions.

  1. The second enemy is Satan.

Satan cannot force you to do anything, but he can make suggestions, and those suggestions are incredibly powerful. He is constantly planting negative thoughts in your mind. He’ll use other people or he’ll use the TV or he’ll just throw a thought in your mind.

  1. The third enemy is the world’s value system.

Does anything in our society encourage self-discipline? Not much. Advertisements tell us, “You deserve a break today. Have it your way. We do it all for you.”

The Bible says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (NIV).

With enemies like that, no wonder we struggle with discouragement and despair and failure!

So how do you fight this battle? Look at what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV).

You have a choice. Your mind has to listen to you. God didn’t give you just a mind. He gave you a will! The best time to win the battle with temptation is before it begins.

“I have made up my mind to obey your laws forever, no matter what” (Psalm 119:112 CEV).

Clinging to Truth: A Battle to Fight

SOURCE:  John Eldredge, from Wild at Heart 

Hanging on to the Truth

In any hand-to-hand combat, there’s a constant back-and-forth of blows, dodges, blocks, counterattacks, and so forth. That’s exactly what is going on in the unseen around us. Only it takes place, initially, at the level of our thoughts. When we are under attack, we’ve got to hang on to the truth. Dodge the blow, block it with a stubborn refusal, slash back with what is true. This is how Christ answered Satan — He didn’t get into an argument with him, try to reason his way out. He simply stood on the truth. He answered with Scripture and we’ve got to do the same. This will not be easy, especially when all hell is breaking loose around you. It will feel like holding on to a rope while you’re being dragged behind a truck, like keeping your balance in a hurricane. Satan doesn’t just throw a thought at us; he throws feelings too. Walk into a dark house late at night and suddenly fear sweeps over you; or just stand in a grocery line with all those tabloids shouting sex at you and suddenly a sense of corruption is yours.

But this is where your strength is revealed and even increased — through exercise.

Stand on what is true and do not let go. Period.

The traitor within the castle will try to lower the drawbridge, but don’t let him. When Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts, it’s not saying, “Lock them up because they’re really criminal to the core”; it’s saying, “Defend them like a castle, the seat of your strength you do not want to give away.” As Thomas à Kempis says, “Yet we must be watchful, especially in the beginning of the temptation; for the enemy is then more easily overcome, if he is not suffered to enter the door of our hearts, but is resisted without the gate at his first knock.”

Remember the scene in Braveheart where Robert the Bruce’s evil father is whispering lies to him about treason and compromise? He says to Robert what the Enemy says to us in a thousand ways: “All men betray; all men lose heart.” How does Robert answer? He yells back, I don’t want to lose heart! I want to believe, like [Wallace] does. I will never be on the wrong side again.

That is the turning point in his life . . . and in ours. The battle shifts to a new level.

God Is With Us

Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous . . . Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:6-7, Joshua 1:9

Joshua knew what it was to be afraid. For years he had been second in command, Moses’ right-hand man. But now it was his turn to lead. The children of Israel weren’t just going to waltz in and pick up the promised land like a quart of milk; they were going to have to fight for it. And Moses was not going with them. If Joshua was completely confident about the situation, why would God have to tell him over and over and over again not to be afraid? In fact, God gives him a special word of encouragement:

As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. — Joshua 1:5

How was God “with Moses”? As a mighty warrior. Remember the plagues? Remember all those Egyptian soldiers drowned with their horses and chariots out there in the Red Sea? It was after that display of God’s strength that the people of Israel sang,

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His Name. — Exodus 15:3

God fought for Moses and for Israel; then He covenanted to Joshua to do the same and they took down Jericho and every other enemy.

Jeremiah knew what it meant to have God “with him” as well. “But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior,” he sang.  “so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jer. 20:11). Even Jesus walked in this promise when He battled for us here on earth:

You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached — how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. — Acts 10:37-38, emphasis added

How did Jesus win the battle against Satan? God was with him. This really opens up the riches of the promise Christ gives us when he pledges, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5 NKJV). That doesn’t simply mean that He’ll be around, or even that He’ll comfort us in our afflictions. It means He will fight for us, with us, just as He has fought for His people all through the ages.

So long as we walk with Christ, stay in Him, we haven’t a thing to fear.

Satan is trying to appeal to the traitor’s commitment to self-preservation when he uses fear and intimidation. So long as we are back in the old story of saving our skin, looking out for Number One, those tactics will work. We’ll shrink back. But the opposite is also true. When a man resolves to become a warrior, when his life is given over to a transcendent cause, then he can’t be cowed by the Big Bad Wolf threatening to blow his house down. After Revelation describes that war in Heaven between the angels and Satan’s downfall to the earth, it tells how the saints overcame him:

They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. — Revelation 12:11

The most dangerous man on earth is the man who has reckoned with his own death.

All men die; few men ever really live.

Sure, you can create a safe life for yourself… and end your days in a rest home babbling on about some forgotten misfortune. I’d rather go down swinging. Besides, the less we are trying to “save ourselves,” the more effective as warriors we will be.

Listen to G. K. Chesterton on courage:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage; even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.

 

Parenting Means Wrestling Demons

SOURCE:  DesiringGod · by Jonathan Parnell

I nudged the door open with my shoulder, hands holding carryout (again). I made my way through the dark living room and set dinner on the table. I could hear the kids playing in the basement as I peeked into the bedroom to find my wife lying there, doubled over with nausea. She felt too sick to think about eating, not to mention preparing food for the rest of us, and so for the fourth time in as many nights, dad was dishing dinner for the fam.

This is how it goes in wartime, and for a few months now at our house, we’ve been in the battle zone. My wife is pregnant with our fifth child.

As many mothers could attest, sometimes it’s not so much morning sickness as just plain sickness. She hasn’t felt well since the newest member of our family came into existence at the end of last year. But it’s okay — we get it. It comes with the territory. Nausea, in fact, is just one piece of the larger struggle. We’ve learned by now that wrestling demons isn’t supposed to be easy.

Satan Hates the Little Children of the World

In his book Adopted for Life, Russell Moore says that Satan hates children and always has. History would say the same. In Scripture alone, we see the slaughter of the infants in Pharaoh’s Egypt and Herod’s Bethlehem. Every time the demonic powers forcefully oppose Jesus, “babies are caught in the crossfire.” Moore explains,

Whether through political machinations such as those of Pharaoh and Herod, through military conquests in which bloodthirsty armies rip babies from pregnant mothers’ wombs (Amos 1:13), or through the more “routine” seeming family disintegration and family chaos, children are always hurt. Human history is riddled with their corpses. (63)

“There is a war on children, and we are all, in one way or another, playing some role in it.”

Whether we look back over the pages of world history, or just around us today, the point bears true. Children are so often caught in the crossfire, so often hurt, so often the victims of a larger conflict in which they have no say, no influence, no responsibility. It happened back when primitive peoples thought slaying their children would appease the gods, and when war meant burning homes and sacking villages. And it happens still today when deranged citizens carry guns into elementary schools, or when abortion clinics welcome terrified teenagers with open arms, or when Boko Haram pillages another Nigerian village, or a young couple decides Down syndrome will disrupt their life plans. Moore writes,

The demonic powers hate babies because they hate Jesus. When they destroy “the least of these” (Matthew 25:4045), the most vulnerable among us, they’re destroying a picture of Jesus himself. (63–64)

There is a war on children, and we are all, in one way or another, playing some role in it. Every time we move forward as faithful parents (or care for kids in any capacity, including advocating for the voiceless not-yet-born, and volunteering for nursery duty on Sundays), we are wrestling demons — because there is little the demons hate more than little children.

The Shift in Perspective

This calls for a shift in our perspective as parents. If we go into the work of parenting with a Precious Moments romanticism, it won’t be long before despair sets in. It’s just too hard if we think it’s going to be easy. It’s essential to know, especially when the going gets tough, that we are fighting hell.

When we begin to see our parenting through the lens of spiritual warfare, it reconfigures our work in at least five important ways.

1. We are more surprised when things go well than when they go badly.

You thought parenting would be easier than it is. Yes, you did. So much of this has to do with how the role of children has changed in our society. In past generations, children were mainly born into three contexts: (1) economic necessity (more hands on the farm!), (2) moral obligation (Christian influence), and (3) customary structure (part of the American Dream) (Jennifer Senior, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting).

Today, however, child labor is taboo, the church’s voice has waned, and the American Dream has increasingly become the celebration of the self-made successes of unconventional entrepreneurs. The “necessity” for children is not as intense as it once was — though children are obviously still being born. The question then becomes why. Into what context and mindset are American children being born in the twenty-first century?

Jennifer Senior says that today, rather than understood as necessary, children are more often viewed as a high-valued commodity. She explains,

[Parents] approach child-rearing with the same bold sense of independence and individuality that they would any other ambitious life project. . . . Because so many of us are now avid volunteers for a project in which we were all once dutiful conscripts, we have heightened expectations of what children will do for us, regarding them as sources of existential fulfillment rather than as ordinary parts of our lives. (emphasis added)

In other words, as a commodity, the majority of society says that children exist to make us happy, to boost our egos, to procure pats on the back by the watching world. We have children because we think children will make our lives better.

“It’s essential to know, especially when the going gets tough, that we are fighting hell.”

But if we push our strollers with these ideals in tote, we’re not quite sure what to do when things go sideways — like when our kids pee on the floor while we’re grocery shopping, or refuse to stay in their beds at night, or spray air freshener in their eyes after they broke into the bathroom cabinet, or when, in a much more serious event, the ultrasound discloses an abnormality.

None of these things is “fulfilling.”

Actually, these things are hard — they make our heads ache, and our hearts. And so we get angry about the circumstances, and we huff and puff that our children don’t obey everything we say — all because we had the mixed up expectation that they would.

But if we understand that spiritual warfare is taking place, we may not run as quickly from their rudeness, or at least not in the same way. Having expected it, we may enter into it with correction and kindness. We may not be annoyed that she took a swing at her sister; rather, we may be shocked that she shared her Skittles. When we know we’re wrestling demons, disobedience doesn’t surprise so much as obedience does.

2. We appreciate nuance in parenting strategies.

The spiritual warfare at work in parenting means that this is complicated work — much more complicated than the blanket approach of so many parenting models. There are so many moving parts in every family context, not to mention the differences in children. It is silly that we’d think there is a one-size-fits-all approach for how the details should go every time. Parenting models that suggest otherwise are full of reductionisms and overreactions, whether that means always letting the baby cry it out or always having them in the bed with mom and dad. When we seize onto one model over another, we are adopting its pros and its cons (which every system has) — and worse, we are often sucked into a tribal mentality that vilifies parents who do it differently than us.

Parenting is hard enough. We are wrestling demons. Rather than being a mindless evangelist for a certain model, offer help and your experience when you’re asked, and consider backing off when you’re not.

3. We understand the danger of the other extreme.

The knee-jerk response to the demonic message that children are worthless is to mistake children as everything. This response swings so far in the opposite direction of misopedia (the hatred of children) that we actually begin to worship children. This is when children become almost more than human, even angelic. Rather than seeing them as an interruption to our plans, or as an inconvenience to our priorities, we fall off the other side and make them the center of our worlds. This is part of a societal shift that started in the late twentieth century. Jennifer Senior comments, “Children stopped working, and parents worked twice as hard. Children went from being our employees to our bosses.”

When we see parenting in the context of spiritual warfare, we understand that the enemy has more than one way to wreak havoc. As hard as it may be to swallow, we learn that demons also take pleasure in those homes that are run by children, especially children whose hearts are so shriveled by selfishness and pandering that they lack any category of seeing themselves as sinners in need of a Savior.

4. We see children as gifts from God, not mistakes or idols.

Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:35). The implications of this truth are gloriously vast, including, first, that children are never mistakes and, second, that they’re never the object of our worship.

“Banish from your vocabulary the talk of your children being a ‘mistake.’ They’re not. They can’t be.”

Banish from your vocabulary the talk of junior being a “mistake.” He’s not. He can’t be. He’s no more a mistake than a college degree, a promotion at work, or your spouse saying “I do.” These are blessings. Blessings, not mistakes — and therefore, let’s call them that. Blessings, after all, are not so cookie-cutter. We understand that sometimes in God’s economy, blessings are not served on a silver platter. They are good — wonderfully good — but it’s not a microwavable good. It’s more like the long, tireless trek up a mountain, the kind that makes you stop and question whether you’ll actually make it but, when you do, fills you with a deep contentment only possible at the altitude in which you stand.

That kind of blessing is not a mistake, but neither is it an idol. If we put our children on the throne of our hearts, the clock is ticking before everything blows up. That is because idols are always a cover-up for self-worship. When children become our idols, it means they become the means to our meaning. The sad thing about the dad who won’t get off his son’s back at football practice is that the dad’s significance is so bound up in the success of his son that he can’t imagine failure. Under the guise of loving his son, he actually creates unbearable pressure and is using his son for his own advantage. Everyone loses.

Neither mistakes nor idols, our children are gifts — blessings for which to be thankful, and of which we are called to be stewards.

5. We know that God is in the fight on our side.

Once a crowd of people came to Jesus with their children. They had hoped that, upon seeing them, Jesus would lay his hands on the children and pray. The associates of Jesus, however, rebuked the people. The Master doesn’t have time for kids. They’re too beneath him. Get them out of here.

It’s not as harsh as it sounds. We might even have done the same.

But Jesus speaks the corrective word: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). And then, as Matthew tells us, “he laid his hands on them” (Matthew 19:15).

“In a beautiful way we can’t quite fathom, Jesus loves our children more than we do.”

When Jesus did this, both for his day and for our own, he marked himself as an advocate for children. Let the little children come to me. This means, in a beautiful way we can’t quite fathom, that Jesus loves your children more than you do.

It means, as God has told us in his word, that he is for the youngest and frailest among us. It means that he is in this fight on our side and has been fighting for years.

It means that when the nausea sets in, or when we’re wrestling the worst of demons, though it’s not easy, we are going to win this battle.

Depression: Fighting Dragons

SOURCE:  /Faithgateway

Being the Hunted

What did Jesus call people who were attacked by dragons, regardless of the righteous way they were conducting their lives? Jesus called these people normal. Jesus made a few promises about what would happen to us, regardless of our faith. Here is what Jesus promised those who love Him the most:

In this world you will have trouble. – John 16:33

Jesus didn’t say, “In this world, there is a slight chance that you will go through hard times.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you don’t have enough faith, you will have trouble.” Jesus didn’t say, “If you go to church, stop cussing, don’t drink too much, and always keep your promises, then you won’t have any trouble.” Instead, Jesus said that trouble will hunt you. Period.

If you are alive and breathing, you will have trouble in this world. Either you will hunt the dragon, or the dragon will hunt you. There is no escaping it.

Jesus had every right to make this statement. Jesus believed all the right things, and He had stronger faith and loved God more than you and I will ever be able to. Still, soon after making this statement, Jesus was arrested and nailed to a cross.

Faith, belief, and love do not buffer or barricade your life from trouble and hardship. In fact, sometimes it feels like having faith and doing the right things can attract trouble.

I want to address the dragon that I most often see hunting the people around me: depression. This includes both the deep blues anyone can feel and the diagnosable imbalance that plagues so many. No one asks for this dragon, but he swallows up many people regardless. This dragon is big, heavy, overwhelming, and he has the potential to crush, suffocate, and swallow you up. This dragon doesn’t create bad days or bad weeks. He creates bad childhoods, bad decades, and bad lives. On and on, day after day, year after year, this dragon causes pain with no relief in sight.

Remember that overwhelmingly sad feeling when you learned that someone you loved died? Remember the guilt and embarrassment you felt after your biggest failure was exposed? Remember facing the biggest problem in your life and thinking that it was impossible to fix? Remember that time, as a little kid, when someone held you under the swimming pool too long, and you thought you were going to drown? Roll all of those emotions into one, carry them around with you every day from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep, and you will begin to understand the dragon of depression.

When you experience the dragon of depression, your entire world is seen only through the lens of sadness, hopelessness, mourning, loss, emptiness, grief, pain, anger, frustration, guilt, and death. Death is always there, looming and lurking: “I can’t live another minute like this. Death has to be better than this. The people around me would be better off if I wasn’t here to hurt them. I can’t do this anymore. This is never going to get any better.”

The dragon of depression is a cyclical prison cell. It’s like a dog chasing its own tail: “I am depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed. Because I’m depressed, I can’t do what I need to do. This makes me feel like a failure. That makes me depressed.”

David, the famous king from the Bible, knew these feelings well:

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of Your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims Your name. Who praises You from the grave? I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. – Psalm 6:2-6

How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death. – Psalm 13:1-3

King David wasn’t alone, and you aren’t either. This might surprise some readers, but Jesus understands what depression feels like. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He experienced the height of His depression:

Then He said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with Me.” Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26:38-39

If you read Hebrews 4:15, it is clear that Jesus had been tempted in every way that we are, yet He walked through those temptations without sinning. But somewhere along the way, it seems some biblical scholar or translator decided “depression” was no longer included in the long list of ways that Jesus was tempted.

In my opinion, it’s tough to read, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” without concluding that Jesus was struggling with depression. Jesus essentially said, “I’ve been swallowed up to the core of My being with sorrow. The suffocating weight of My sadness is about to crush My life.” Elsewhere, the Bible says this about Jesus’ time in the garden:

Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. – Luke 22:44

There is a medical condition (hematidrosis) brought on by extreme emotional anguish, strain, and stress during which the capillaries in the skin rupture, allowing blood to flow out of a person’s sweat pores. So for hours, alone in a dark corner of a remote garden, Jesus fell down, curled up on the ground, cried, and prayed so intensely for deliverance from His circumstances that the blood vessels burst inside His skin. You can call it whatever you want, but to me it looks like emotional depression.

Jesus understood, and still understands, depression.

Weeks before Jesus was in the garden, He came face-to-face with everything I’ve just described.

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet Him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. – Mark 5:1-5

Depression can be caused by many different things. In this guy’s case, depression was caused by satanic attack or demonic oppression. The man in this story was possessed by many demons. If you’re anything like me, you immediately think of The Exorcist or some sci-fi movie, but the reality is that, all through the Bible, we read descriptions of battles being fought in the spiritual realm. The New Testament teaches that while a Christian cannot be possessed by Satan or one of his demons, he can be oppressed.

Satan continues to wage war against Christians by attacking or tempting us.

Depression can also be caused by guilt. Sometimes the weight of our downfalls and sins can cause us to grieve and mourn to the point of depression. That’s one of the reasons King David was depressed. He had just been convicted of adultery and murder, and his child was about to die. He used phrases like, “My bones wasted away… my strength was sapped… Do not forsake me, my God… My heart has turned to wax… my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth… Troubles without number surround me” (Psalm 32:3-4Psalm 71:18Psalm 22:14–15Psalm 40:12).

The apostle Peter understood depression after he denied knowing Jesus. After his sin of denying Jesus, Peter wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Judas understood depression after he betrayed Jesus to his death. When the weight and guilt of what he had done finally hit him, Judas decided that committing suicide was the only way out of the belly of the dragon in which he found himself swallowed (Matthew 27:1-5).

Depression can also be caused by the difficult circumstances of our lives. Life can get so hard that it makes us depressed, and that’s what Jesus was feeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. He understood why He needed to be sacrificed. He even knew the wonderful outcome that would result from His torture and death. Yet even though Jesus knew that the next few days would ultimately become the most wonderful event ever to occur in the history of the universe, the thought of them still caused Him to collapse to the ground, curl up, and cry until blood seeped from His pores.

Depression can also be the result of a physical illness. Sometimes the circumstances of our bodies can cause us to become depressed. I’m not talking about body image issues causing someone to become depressed (although that happens often). I’m talking about synapses misfiring and chemicals becoming imbalanced. I’m talking about diseases within our bodies. This can be the most difficult cause of depression to wrestle with because you can’t quite put your finger on the reason you are suffering. You’re simply suffering. More on this in a minute.

Regardless of the cause of depression, one factor remains constant: depression always centers on death and pain.

Depression is about death. The naked guy on the beach in Mark 5 lived in a cemetery. When you feel dead inside, you begin to dwell on the things of death, and eventually that place becomes your home. Depression is also about pain. The man would cry out and cut himself with razorsharp stones.

Depression has many causes, it revolves around death and pain, and it has no easy fixes.

Let’s continue with the story about the naked man on the beach:

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of Him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” – Mark 5:6-9

Later in this story, Jesus sends the spirits away and heals the man. That’s when the crowd shows up:

When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. – Mark 5:15

Jesus is bigger, stronger, and Most High over everything.

In the story about the naked man at the beach, the demon of depression recognized and yielded to the authority of Jesus. Jesus is bigger than depression. Whether you personally hunted down your dragon or it stalked and ambushed you, Jesus can set you free again.

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No More Dragons

Chastity by C.S. Lewis

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by  C. S. Lewis/Mere Christianity

We must now consider Christian morality as regards sex, what Christians call the virtue of chastity…..

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it: the old Christian rule is, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.

But I have other reasons for thinking so. The biological purpose of sex is children, just as the biological purpose of eating is to repair the body. Now if we eat whenever we feel inclined and just as much as we want, it is quite true that most of us will eat too much: but not terrifically too much. One man may eat enough for two, but he does not eat enough for ten. The appetite goes a little beyond its biological purpose, but not enormously. But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

Or take it another way. You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act–that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?

One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving. He means, of course, to imply that such things as the strip-tease act resulted not from sexual corruption but from sexual starvation. I agree with him that if, in some strange land, we found that similar acts with mutton chops were popular, one of the possible explanations which would occur to me would be famine. But the next step would be to test our hypothesis by finding out whether, in fact, much or little food was being consumed in that country. If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we should have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one. In the same way, before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the strip-tease, we should have to look for evidence that there is in fact more sexual abstinence in our age than in those ages when things like the strip-tease were unknown. But surely there is no such evidence. Contraceptives have made sexual indulgence far less costly within marriage and far safer outside it than ever before, and public opinion is less hostile to illicit unions and even to perversion than it has been since Pagan times. Nor is the hypothesis of “starvation” the only one
we can imagine. Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

Here is a third point. You find very few people who want to eat things that really are not food or to do other things with food instead of eating it. In other words, perversions of the food appetite are rare. But perversions of the sex instinct are numerous, hard to cure, and frightful. I am sorry to have to go into all these details, but I must. The reason why I must is that you and I, for the last twenty years, have been fed all day long on good solid lies about sex. We have been told, till one is sick of hearing it, that sexual desire is in the same state as any of our other natural desires and that if only we abandon the silly old Victorian idea of hushing it up, everything in the garden will be lovely. It is not true. The moment you look at the facts, and away from the propaganda, you see that it is not.

They tell you sex has become a mess because it was hushed up. But for the last twenty years it has not been hushed up. It has been chattered about all day long. Yet it is still in a mess. If hushing up had been the cause of the trouble, ventilation would have set it right. But it has not. I think it is the other way round. I think the human race originally hushed it up because it had become such a mess. Modern people are always saying, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of.” They may mean two things. They may mean “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” If they mean that, they are right. Christianity says the same.

It is not the thing, nor the pleasure, that is the trouble. The old Christian teachers said that if man had never fallen, sexual pleasure, instead of being less than it is now, would actually have been greater. I know some muddle-headed Christians have talked as if Christianity thought that sex, or the body, or pleasure were bad in themselves. But they were wrong. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body–which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy. Christianity has glorified marriage more than any other
religion: and nearly all the greatest love poetry in the world has been produced by Christians. If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, “Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,” they may mean “the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of.” If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips. I do not say you and I are individually responsible for the present situation. Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity. There are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of us. Because, of course, a man with an obsession is a man who has very little sales-resistance. God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome.

What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them. Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it. A famous Christian long ago told us that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity; but years later he realized that while his lips had been saying, “Oh Lord, make me chaste,” his heart had been secretly adding, “But please don’t do it just yet.” This may happen in prayers for other virtues too; but there are three reasons why it is now especially difficult for us to desire–let alone to achieve–complete chastity.

In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural, so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humor. Now this association is a lie. Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth–the truth, acknowledged above, that sex in itself (apart from the excess and obsessions that have grown round it) is “normal” and “healthy” and all the rest of it. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal. Now this, on any conceivable view, and quite apart from Christianity, must be nonsense. Surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary; so the claim made by every desire, when it is strong, to be healthy and reasonable, counts for nothing. Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. One man does this on Christian principles, another on hygienic principles, another on sociological principles. The real conflict is not between Christianity and “nature,” but between Christian principle and other principles in the control of “nature.” For “nature” (in the use of natural desire) will have to be controlled anyway, unless you are going to ruin your whole life. The Christian principles are, admittedly, stricter than the others; but then we think you will get help towards obeying them which you will not get towards obeying the others.

In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone. Not only in examinations but in war, in mountain climbing, in learning to skate, or swim, or ride a bicycle, even in fastening a stiff collar with cold fingers, people quite often do what seemed impossible before they did it. It is wonderful what you can do when you have to.

We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity–like perfect charity–will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven. The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection.

Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the center of Christian morality is not here. If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting: the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the Human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.

Mere Christianity, 1945

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Where Could Sin Lead Me? Imagine the Aftermath!

SOURCE:   /The Gospel Coalition

Envision the End of Your Sin

In the past few weeks I’ve witnessed several dear friends flirt with sin in a terrifying way. These friends love Jesus very much, but circumstances have exposed areas of easy entrance for the tempter.

As I’ve pondered their struggles, and my own wandering heart, I’ve been reminded of an exhortation I received many years ago in seminary.

Chancellor Chuck Swindoll was preaching in the morning chapel service.

As he stepped to the pulpit, he carried a weight on his brow, a Bible in his hand, and a written statement. He shared that a pastor from our seminary had fallen into grave sexual sin, disqualified himself from the ministry, and destroyed his family.

Swindoll then challenged us to consider where sin would lead us. Over the years I’ve followed his advice, and I’d like to help you do the same.

Imagine the Aftermath

I want to walk you through a scene to see what lies ahead on the path of sin.

This scenario is aimed at fellow pastors, but the idea is applicable to all.

Envision yourself calling together your elders and sitting in their midst, telling them how you have betrayed their trust. See their sunken faces and feel their broken hearts.

Listen to them consider how they’ll tell the church. Imagine the congregation’s confusion and how it will affect those who’ve heard you say so often that Jesus is better than anything else.

Imagine how the name of Christ will be mocked in your community and beyond.

Then I want you to picture walking out to your car and getting in.

Drive down the road near your house and circle your neighborhood a few times. Picture the place where you walked the dog with your children in the evenings.

Now, pull into your driveway and walk up to the door of your home.

Hear the scampering feet of your children running up to you and putting their arms around your legs, saying, “Daddy’s home!” See the way they love and trust you.

Drink that in deeply.

Now, tell them to go outside and play because you must talk to Mommy about something. As you walk to the kitchen where she’s faithfully going about her day, look at those smiling pictures on the wall. Remember the happy days you shared together.

Lead her by the hand to your bedroom where you used to make love.

Ask her to have a seat.

Feel your heart scamper and the lump form in your throat.

See her eyes ask what’s wrong. Then watch her weep as you tell her you’ve been unfaithful.

Hear her wail.

See her sob.

Feel her hit your chest and fall to her knees in despair.

Imagine the phone call to her parents, and to yours. Hear the silence on the phone as they take in what you’ve told them.

Imagine the day you gather your children and sit them down to explain why Mommy and Daddy are going to spend some time apart and sell the house they love so much.

See yourself taking down those smiling pictures from the wall and taping up the moving boxes, unsure if you’ll ever open them again.

Do you see it?

Sin doesn’t tell you about those days, does it?

Sin Hides the Price Tag

Satan doesn’t tell you sin’s true cost, because the cost is too high.

He’s a liar (John 8:44) and deception is his forte (2 Cor. 11:3). He wants to lull you into thinking sin won’t cost you as much as it will. You can keep things hidden. You can get out at any time. Your compromises are small. They won’t lead to a great fall.

He only speaks lies.

Friend, sin is stronger than you or I will ever be.

Some of you are standing at a crossroads right now. You’ve been sipping on sin’s potion and are becoming intoxicated by its lies. Satan wants you to keep sipping so you’ll become drunk, unable to consider God’s warning of the destruction that lies ahead: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

If you are entangled in sin, call a trusted friend right now and tell them you need help. Don’t wait another minute. Sin wants you to think you can stop by yourself—don’t believe it. Secrecy is the ground in which sin grows strong.

If you think this could never happen to you, be careful. “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, as long as you don’t part with your sin.

Satan won’t mind you hearing this warning, so long as you don’t part with your sin. But John Owen’s counsel is always true: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Satan aims to destroy your life now, and to harden your heart so you’ll inherit eternal destruction.

Lift Your Eyes

Friend, Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior who shed his blood to save you from sin—on Judgment Day and every day before it. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Whether you’re a pastor or not, married or not, have children or not, we all need grace to resist the power of sin’s deception. Thankfully, Jesus promises to supply it.

Plead with God to help you see the end of your sin—and then flee to the Savior. Let the sobriety of sin’s end lift your eyes to where our help resides (Ps. 121:1). May we avoid the ruin Proverbs warns about:

Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Prov. 5:8–14)

Gracious Lord, we need help. Make us sober-minded. Keep us vigilant. Help us see the end of our sin.

Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

. . . that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.2 Corinthians 2:11

One of the most sobering facts about life is that all humans have a supernatural enemy whose aim is to use pain and pleasure to make us blind, stupid, and miserable — forever. The Bible calls him “the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world . . . the accuser” (Revelation 12:9–10), “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), and “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

He is our “adversary [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Yet, in the most appalling and unwitting bondage, the whole world willingly “follows the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). At his most successful, his subjects march obliviously to destruction, and take as many with them as they can.

The “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18) that I wrote about under the title “Awake and at War” includes the daily resistance of this enemy (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7), the daily refusal to give him an opportunity (Ephesians 4:27), and the daily stand against his schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

Satan’s Leash — and Impending Doom

God is sovereign over Satan. The devil does not have a free hand in this world. He is on a leash, so that he can do no more than God permits. In effect, he must get permission — as in the case of Simon Peter, where Jesus discloses, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has asked to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). And the case of Job: “The Lord said to Satan, “Behold, Job is in your hand; only spare his life” (Job 2:6).

So evidently God sees the ongoing role of Satan as essential for his purposes in the world, since, if God willed, Satan would be thrown into the lake of fire now, instead of at the end of the age. “The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and . . . will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). His complete defeat is coming and sure. But not yet.

Unwitting Servant of Our Sanctification

God intends that part of our preparation for heaven be a life of warfare with hell. He calls it a “good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18) and a “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12). It is good, not because we might be killed (which we might! — Revelation 2:10), but because these fire-fights refine the gold of our faith (1 Peter 1:7), in life and death.

God is the great General in this warfare. He has given us the walkie-talkie of prayer to call for help: “Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times” (Ephesians 6:17–18).

He sees behind enemy lines, and knows exactly the strategies that will be used against us. He has written them down in a wartime manual “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan.” The reason we will not be outwitted is that “we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Primer on Satan’s Strategies

If you need a refresher for what those “designs” are, here is a summary. May God make you a mighty warrior! May he “train your hands for war and your fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1).

1. Satan lies, and is the father of lies.

“When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). The first time Satan appears in the Bible in Genesis 3, the first words on his lips are suspicious of the truth (“Did God say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”). And the second words on his lips were a subtle falsehood (“You will not die”). John says that Satan “has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). We are dealing with the essence of falsehood and deception.

2. He blinds the minds of unbelievers.

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So he not only speaks what is false. He hides what is true. He keeps us from seeing the treasure of the gospel. He lets us see facts, even proofs, but not preciousness.

3. He masquerades in costumes of light and righteousness.

In 2 Corinthians 11:13–15, Paul says that some people are posing as apostles who are not. He explains like this: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

In other words, Satan has servants who profess enough truth to join the church, and from inside teach what Paul calls “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Jesus says they will be like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). Acts 20:30 says they will not spare the flock, but will draw people away to destruction. Without God’s gift of discernment (Philippians 1:9), our love will be suckered into stupidity.

4. Satan does signs and wonders.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, the last days are described like this: “The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power, and with signs and wonders of the lie.” That’s my awkward translation. Some translate it “with false signs and wonders.” But this makes the signs and wonders look unreal. In fact, some people do say that Satan can only fake miracles. I doubt it. And even if it’s true, his fake is going to be good enough to look real to almost everybody.

One reason I doubt that Satan can only fake his miracles is that in Matthew 24:24 Jesus describes the last days like this: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible even the elect.” There is no hint that these “signs and wonders” will be tricks.

Let your confidence be grounded in something far deeper than any supposed inability of Satan to do signs and wonders. Even real signs and wonders in the service of anti-Christian assertions, prove nothing, even when they are done “in the name of Jesus.” “Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?” To which Jesus will reply, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:22–23). The problem was not that the signs and wonders weren’t real, but that they were in the service of sin.

5. Satan tempts people to sin.

This is what he did unsuccessfully to Jesus in the wilderness — he wanted him to abandon the path of suffering and obedience (Matthew 4:1–11). This is what he did successfully to Judas in the last hours of Jesus’s life (Luke 22:3–6). And in 2 Corinthians 11:3, Paul warns against this for all the believers: “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

6. Satan plucks the word of God out of people’s hearts and chokes faith.

Jesus told the parable of the four soils in Mark 4:1–9. In it, the seed of the word of God is sown, and some falls on the path and birds quickly take it away. He explains in verse 15, “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which was sown in them.” Satan snatches the word because he hates faith which the word produces (Romans 10:17).

Paul expresses his concern for the faith of the Thessalonians like this: “I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Paul knew that Satan’s design is to choke off the faith of people who have heard the word of God.

7. Satan causes some sickness and disease.

Jesus healed a woman once who was bent over and could not straighten herself. When some criticized him for doing that on the Sabbath, he said, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16). Jesus saw Satan as the one who had caused this disease.

In Acts 10:38, Peter described Jesus as one who “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.” In other words, the devil often oppresses people with illness. This too is one of his designs.

But don’t make the mistake of saying every sickness is the work of the devil. To be sure, even when a “thorn in the flesh” is God’s design for our sanctification, it also may be the “messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But there are other instances in which the disease is solely attributed to God’s design without reference to Satan: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). Jesus feels no need to bring Satan in as the culprit in his own merciful designs.

8. Satan is a murderer.

Jesus said to those who were planning to kill him, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth” (John 8:44). John says, “Do not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother” (1 John 3:12). Jesus told the blameless church at Smyrna, “The devil is about to throw some of you into prison. . . . Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

To put it in a word, Satan is blood-thirsty. Christ came into the world that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Satan comes that he might destroy life wherever he can and in the end make it eternally miserable.

9. Satan fights against the plans of missionaries.

Paul tells of how his missionary plans were frustrated in 1 Thessalonians 2:17–18: “We endeavored the more eagerly, and with great desire, to see you face to face; because we wanted to come to you . . . but Satan hindered us.” Satan hates evangelism and discipleship, and he will throw every obstacle he can in the way of missionaries and people with a zeal for evangelism.

10. Satan accuses Christians before God.

Revelation 12:10 says, “I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” Satan’s defeat is sure. But his accusations haven’t ceased.

It is the same with us as it was with Job. Satan says to God about us, They don’t really love you; they love your benefits. “Stretch out your hand and touch all that [they have], and [they] will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). Their faith isn’t real. Satan accuses us before God, as he did Job. But it is a glorious thing that followers of Jesus have an advocate who “always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

Satan Will Not Win

Those are some of Satan’s designs. The path to victory in this warfare is to hold fast to Christ who has already dealt the decisive blow.

  • 1 John 3:8: “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.”
  • Hebrews 2:14: “Christ took on human nature that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
  • Colossians 2:15: “God disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” In other words, the decisive blow was struck at Calvary.
  • Mark 3:27: “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.”
  • Revelation 20:10 says one day the warfare will be over: “The devil . . . [will be] thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone . . . and will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (See Matthew 8:29; 25:41)

Resist!

James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!” (James 4:7). How do we do that? Here is how they did it according to Revelation 12:11: “They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” They embraced the triumph of Christ by his blood. They spoke that truth in faith. They did not fear death. And they triumphed.

The New Testament highlights prayer as the pervasive accompaniment of every battle. “Take . . . the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:17–18).

As the close of this age draws near, and Satan rages, Jesus calls us to wartime prayer: “Watch at all times, prayingthat you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Similarly, Peter makes an urgent call to end-time prayer: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).

Even Jesus fought against the devil on our behalf with the weapon of prayer. He said to Peter in Luke 22:31–32, “Satan has asked to have you that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” So Jesus illustrates for us the opposition of a specific satanic threat with prayer.

And, of course, Jesus instructed us to make prayer a daily weapon for protection in general: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). That is, deliver us from the successful temptation of the evil one. Do you confront the designs of the devil with the focused and determined power of prayer?

No Neutral Zone

The question is not whether you want to be in this war. Everyone is in it. Either we are defeated by the devil and thus following, like cattle to the slaughter, “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or we are resisting — “resist him, firm in your faith!” (1 Peter 5:9).

There is no neutral zone. You either triumph “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of your testimony,” or you will be enslaved by Satan. Therefore, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3), and “wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18). Pray without ceasing!

The Lord Jesus is no less a warrior today than in the days of old. So I urge you again: Come to him as willing soldiers of the Prince of Peace and learn to say, “He trains my hands for war” (Psalm 144:1).

Secret Wisdom in the Wake of Suffering

SOURCE:  Marshall Segal/Desiring God

Wisdom may be as basic a human need as air, water, or shelter.

We all need guidance and direction, and we need it today and every day.

If you don’t think you need wisdom, then you need it even more than the rest of us. We make decisions every day that require wisdom — in choosing what to do or not do, in meetings at work, in loving our spouse, in our routine at home, in parenting our children, in weathering heartache and suffering.

Job was starved for wisdom in the wake of perhaps the greatest personal tragedy ever recorded. He lost one thousand oxen and five hundred donkeys to thieves (Job 1:3, 14–15), and his servants watching over the animals were slaughtered (Job 1:15). Only moments later, fire fell from the sky and burned his seven thousand sheep, along with the servants tending them (Job 1:16). Then, all three thousand of his camels were seized in another raid, and the servants responsible for them murdered (Job 1:17). Lastly, and most tragically, Job’s own sons and daughters all were killed — seven young men, and three precious girls. A strong wind struck their house, causing the roof to collapse on them (Job 1:2, 18–19).

Can you imagine not just losing one child but ten — and all in one horrifying moment?

Job lost his ten children that one afternoon, along with almost everyone else he loved and almost everything else he owned. Then Satan even attacked his body, spreading sores from his head to his feet (Job 2:7), adding awful pain and irritation to his already unbearable grief and distress.

Few, if any, have known suffering like Job.

The book is one long, excruciating wrestling with why — an impossible mountain climb to wisdom in suffering’s dead of winter. Why all of the oxen, donkeys, sheep, and camels, Lord? Why did they have to kill my servants? Why give me the blessing of ten children — knit together delicately, delivered safely, held and raised lovingly, prized immensely — and then ripped right out of my arms? Why add insult to injury, covering my grieving, lonely body with agony? Why?

Who Sinned That Job Should Suffer?

Job says, “Where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12).

He’s listened to his well-meaning, but misguided friends fumble for answers for more than twenty-five chapters now — most of their counsel and advice spent accusing him of wrongdoing, presuming the waves of suffering fell on him because of some unconfessed sin. While he did misspeak at times (Job 38:2), Job carries a confidence that God is not punishing sin, but doing something profound and mysterious in all the sorrow.

His friends play the naïve and simplistic role of Jesus’s disciples — “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). What sin did Job commit to deserve loss, death, and pain like this? With less clarity, but great faith, Job echoes what Jesus would say hundreds of years later, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). It was not because of sin that my livelihood was stolen, or my servants killed, or my sons and daughters crushed, but because God, in great love and mercy, wants the whole world to see his glory.

And in his infinite wisdom, only God knew exactly how that will happen — in Job’s life and in ours.

The Author and Fountain of Wisdom

Where is wisdom like God’s found? Job says, “It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air” (Job 28:21). We will not find the right answers in the world — in newspapers, books, schools, or with Google. The world is filled with knowledge, opinion, and passion, but is starving for wisdom. So where should we turn when we’re searching for wisdom — for answers — in the midst of disappointment, suffering, and tragedy?

“God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out.” (Job 28:23–27)

Only one holds the wisdom we need in the blinding, deafening wake of pain and loss. He sees everything everywhere all at once, and all the time. He weighs and wields the wind — imagine how hard it would be for Job to say those words after seeing his dead children.

God weaved the world with wisdom and runs the world with wisdom, including every drop of rain, every cool summer breeze, and every hurricane-force gust.

Fear the God of Comfort

But how do we search the infinite mind of God to find comfort for our sorrow and hope for our future?

Job goes on, “[The Lord] said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding’” (Job 28:28; alsoProverbs 3:7). Are you asking Why? in the midst of terrible suffering or sudden tragedy? Draw near to the awesome God of the universe, and away from every other way people try and deal with their pain. Forsake sin and all its empty promises to heal and comfort you. Run, instead, to the Author and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2), as well as the loving Father and Worker in your pain (Romans 8:28).

The fear of the Lord is not terror, but awe-filled faith. “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied” (Proverbs 19:23; alsoProverbs 14:27). Christians live and suffer with a fearful rest and satisfaction in God. The believers in the early church walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). One kind of fear breeds clarity and comfort, rather than anxiety and confusion. Isaiah says, “Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13–14).

If God and his wisdom are our comfort and confidence, we will walk away from foolishness and evil. Satan makes sin even more tantalizing in suffering — brighter colors, louder notes, sweeter smells. But faith knows the comfort we need is waiting in the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). We do not envy sinners (Proverbs 23:17), because we know that disaster and confusion — not freedom, clarity, or healing — are the fruits of sin.

In the face of devastating news, our gut reaction and temptation might be to doubt God or run from him. But heart-wrenching wisdom and understanding are not found anywhere deep inside ourselves or somewhere far from God, but woven into his wise and sovereign love for us.

We cannot capture or completely grasp his wisdom, but we can worship him and trust him with all the painful unknowns in life.

Overcoming Thoughts of Spiritual Betrayal (by God)

SOURCE: Dr. Gregory Jantz/AACC

If you have faith in God, depression can be similar to a betrayal by him.

After all, you have trusted him to care for you, yet you are still depressed.  You may have heard from your childhood that, as a Christian, you were to experience and exhibit joy, peace, patience—all the fruit of the Spirit spoken of in Galatians 5:22-23.  This sense of betrayal may haunt your sleepless nights and invade your despairing thoughts.  Feeling forgotten by God, you may even be angry at him.

This anger at God can contribute to your depression by provoking feelings of guilt.  You don’t think you should be angry at God, or you don’t think you have the right to be angry at God, so you feel guilty when you pray, the more you are convinced that he could fix it, but he won’t .  You doubt his love.  But you’ve also memorized John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world…” so you’ve been told he does love you.  Looking at all of this, you conclude he’s got a lousy way of showing his live, at least to you.

Or you may think, Perhaps I don’t deserve his love.  Maybe he doesn’t change my situation because I don’t deserve joy and peace in my life.  Possibly the things I’ve done are so bad that he wants to love me but can’t because of who I am.  And if God can’t love me, then I’m not really worthy to be loved by anyone.  And if my life is to be empty of love, hope is impossible.  If you look at it this way, depression is completely understandable.

Or is it?

Have you picked up the stream of thoughts in this line of reasoning?

It takes snippets of truth—God loves you, and Christians are to live lives of joy—and twists those around into something meant to injure you, not give you comfort.  This line of reasoning is not from God; it is from the Deceiver.  Rage is a deceiver.  False guilt is a deceiver.  Abject despair is a deceiver.  Depression is a deceiver.  That is why when you are in the midst of depression, you must replace your own negative self-talk with God-talk, which is based upon truth.  This God-talk will support your positive self-talk by agreeing with affirming statements, such as these:

  • I deserve love. (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16)
  • I deserve joy. (“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” –Isaiah 51:11)
  • I am strong enough to learn and grow each day. (“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” – 2 Samuel 22:33)
  • I can experience contentment in my life. (“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” – Philippians 4:12)
  • I am able to respond to my circumstances, instead of react. (“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” – Romans 12:2)
  • I can look forward to tomorrow. (“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” –Lamentations 3:22-23)

How do you fill your life and your mind with God-talk?

The Bible is full of life-affirming messages.  It is, at its heart, a love story.  It is a story of a loving God, who created you to love you and to be loved by you.

Like every great story, there is a separation, which must be overcome by terrible sacrifice.  Through God’s sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, you are able to confidently say, “I can live happily ever after.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books.

Seven Things to Do After You Look at Pornography

SOURCE:  Paul Maxwell/Desiring God

A lot of Christian advice about porn addicts is unhelpful — meaning, it doesn’t contribute to real progress in repentance, healing, restoration, and recovery. Most of all, it fails to address the issues that underlie porn use. Often, Christian advice either has its head in the clouds of theology and biblical references, or is a list of superficial how-tos, and gets knocked beneath the sand of real life — of failure, and the struggle to hope.

How is the gospel relevant to failing and trying again? And failing and trying again? And failing and trying again?

We too often allow unattainable ideals to dictate what we allow ourselves to say — the issues we allow ourselves to address with the congregation, with the struggler, with the mirror. Are we allowed to talk about what Christ can do (and what we can do) right after pornographic indulgence? Or do we look to the clouds and hope for the best? “Why think about how God meets you in the midst of failure? You shouldn’t even be in an ‘after pornography’ situation.” But often many are and because God can and does act in the moment of regret.

It is often in the moment after the closed door, the darkness, the screen-light, the hidden act — after pornography indulgence — that Satan spins his most eloquent web: menacing patterns of thinking; bargaining with a disapproving and distant God; twisting us in on ourselves in self-hatred. It is in the moment after pornography indulgence that Satan does his finest work. It is in this moment that we need God to do his finest saving.

Here are some specific ways to search for grace the moment after the dark act of pornography indulgence:

1. Know your Enemy.

As soon as you indulge, you either plunge into self-hatred, or into self-avoidance.

Satan is satisfied either way.  Both paths believe his accusations (Matthew 16:23;2 Corinthians 7:10).

Recognize that you have a powerful personal agent who is singularly focused on your destruction (Job 1:7; Ephesians 2:2; Jude 1:19). Every experience you have — your thoughts, your hatreds, your impulses, your emotions, your plans, your ideas — must take into account that Satan is at work. The sooner you forget that, the easier it is to believe hidden, subversive, subtle, destructive lies. When Jesus tells the Pharisees that their father is the devil — the great liar — it is of course no surprise that they don’t know that. Satan wants them to forget that he is their father, because evil gains power when it is forgotten (John 8:44).

Don’t forget: After you indulge, you are still mid-battle with a tenacious, evil person bent on stealing your life, and he has not yet gotten it.

2. Fight self-hatred.

There is no question: Pornography is the twisted manipulation of innocence for the raw crave of erotic appetite. To have a grieved conscience is a good thing. But when Judas realized “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” it is not surprising that “he departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:4–5).

It’s a common feeling: to want to punish ourselves for betraying the innocent. In twisting innocence, we twist ourselves. It is not a surprise that suicide rates are high among pornography users. “I’m not as good as Christian preachers and bloggers want me to be.” To warp human dignity, in the end, only warps the user more — psychologically deforming to self-hating; contorting into self-disgust. We abhor, criticize, despise, and detest ourselves. Wallowing in self-deprecation and feeling like paying penance to God for sin is a sad and ironclad torture. It is false, and it is a wicked oppression. But grace does have a word on this.

It is no wonder David uses such deeply physical metaphors when he pleads with God for grace over sexual sin: “blot out my transgressions,” “wash me,” “cleanse me,” “in sin did my mother conceive me,” “purge me,” “wash me” (again), “blot out my iniquities,” “create in me a clean heart.” (Psalm 51:1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10). It’s a simple, roaring plea: “It’s in me. Get it OUT!” “Stop me.” “I hate it.” “I hate me.” “Bleach me.” God gives us a liturgy of sorrow and hope stretched out in the same howl. Fight, with David. Scream that, with David. Replace the groan of human self-hatred with an unbroken war cry of divine love.

If you are tempted to wallow, don’t let your (good) intuitive hatred of sin lead you to hate yourself. Be patient with yourself, because God is patient. He is fighting for your life (Genesis 32:24; John 10:10). He has not forgotten you. He has not left you. Keep fighting with him. Keep gasping for the air of divine life — the Life-Giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).

3. Fight the haze.

Right after indulgence, a haze kicks in.  Jesus knows.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is a feast on luminescent virtue. What is impurity? It is feasting that becomes self-isolated, avoiding of God and man and self, numbed, dazed, deadened, desensitized. Sexual impurity induces a spiritual cataract. Again, the feeling is common — browser history cleared, slogging through the rest of the day, lumbering from task to task, from person to person — meaningless, personless, passionless. This experience is integrated into the fabric of pornography indulgence.

There’s usually nothing to be done, if we’re honest, except ride the wave — the muddle, the daze. Keep praying (Ephesians 6:18). Keep gasping for air. Stay awake. Keep breathing. Morning mercies can be the emotional reset button we need when we spend our daily emotional cache on pornography (Lamentations 3:22–24). The lamenter is gasping. He prays what he cannot do. “The Lord is my portion . . . therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:24). Really? Will you hope in him? Prayer is an act of hope. The prayer is the lamenter’s portion of the Lord’s work. Keep taking a step forward. Keep taking a breath. Without repeated indulgence, the haze will eventually wear off.

4. Guard others.

Pornography is a training session in the skill of using others for personal pleasure. Just be aware that you are now inclined to use people in close relationship the same way you use those in pornography — with selfish motive, with neglectful attitude, unrepentantly.

Pornography puts relational blinders on us — it deeply impedes our ability to love others well. So, the best course of action is to walk as if we have physical blinders on: Tread slowly, and assume that we are currently very vulnerable and prone to treat those around us as subhuman. After indulgence, it is vital to keep in mind that those not on the screen deserve the respect and dignity that we just failed to show those on the screen.

Pornography soothes its users into a drama, a character, a story with a script and lines and actions: one person for pleasing, one person for being pleased; one person making sacrifices, another receiving sacrifices; one subhuman, one god. It takes self-control to remember that pornography is a false story — to fight the false drama which pornography gives to us, we must actively think less of ourselves and more of others: to remember human dignity, the love of Christ for those around us, our not-God-ness. The Spirit works in us to keep the flesh from ruling us (Galatians 5:17) — the Keeper protects others from the consequences of our thinking that we are God.

5. Confess to a friend.

Confess sin to a friend who will not excuse you, but equally as important, who will not crush you. Sometimes, when looking for help to get up after pornography indulgence (Proverbs 24:16), others only push back down. Find the friend that gives hope that heals when they hear confession. The purpose of confession is “that you may be healed” and “pray for one another” (James 5:16). Of course, the value of “the prayer of a righteous person” is that it “has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Power to do what? To “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession to a friend (most appropriately, a same-gender friend) is not a barrier between the sinner and Christ, but a means of fixing brokenness. The wise sinner confesses to those who will not “crush the afflicted at the gate” (Proverbs 22:22) nor “call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). Consider attending a regular Samson Society meeting in your area.

6. Use your clarity for good.

Yes, there might be a haze after indulgence. But there can also be a flood of clarity — the hindsight of regret.

“When Judas . . . saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind” (Matthew 27:3). Judas’s clarity took him down a wrong path. But you can use your clarity to get back on the right one. Likewise, Paul writes about Israel’s rebellion, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6). Sometimes, we desire evil anyway. And in that case, we serve as an example to ourselves.

As Piper might say, “Don’t waste your regret.” Use it for God’s glory and your joy. Set up boundaries. Use the clarity that will surely fade before the next moment of temptation to build structures that will prevent this again. Go back and forth all you’d like on what structures are dumb and ineffective, and which are sustainable preventative measures — the basic truth is this: If you don’t have any formal structures set up to prevent you from looking at pornography in the future, it will absolutely, with 100% certainty, happen again. If you have no structures, you have no place to be picky — choose something.

Here are some actions to choose from:

  • Get Covenant Eyes or X3Watch for all your devices.
  • Don’t let a single unaccountable browser app remain on your iPhone.
  • Delete in-browser apps that allow backdoor access to unaccountable internet use.
  • Get a friend to lock the app download function on your phone so that your native browser is not an option, and you can’t download Google Chrome (the Covenant Eyes/X3 app will function as the browser).
  • Delete pictures you have saved.
  • Tell a friend about the backdoors and cheat-codes you have in your back pocket. If you don’t plan at all, you’re planning to fail. Nowhere is this truer than in the practical fight against pornography indulgence.

7. Know your God.

Remember this: God loves you so, so much. He is unsettled by us (Genesis 6:6), and brokenhearted with us, and powerfully for you (Psalm 34:17–19).

The haze can block us from God: “The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand” (Psalm 92:6). But even when we cannot see him, even when we fail to obey him, let us pray: God, frustrate our plans to disobey (Nehemiah 4:15), and “no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). More than anything: “God, help us to cast all our anxieties on you, because you care for us” (1 Peter 5:6–7).

He does not abandon the sinner. He does not depart from the indulger. Wait in his love. “Build yourselves up . . . in the Holy Spirit”: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 1:20–21). Know the difference between the God-mask Satan would wear to deceive you: disgusted, distant, unavailable, disinterested, and remember the face of your real God: loving, patient, working, unsurprised, unrelenting, unwavering in his grasp on you.

He won’t let you go.

Three Steps to Overcoming Toxic Thoughts

SOURCE:  Jimmy Evans

After experiencing many life hurts of my own and helping many others deal with pain, I believe the worst part of being hurt isn’t the direct, tangible pain. The worst consequence of being hurt is the message within the pain which is often subliminal and less obvious.

You’ve probably heard of the novel or movie “The Horse Whisperer.” I often refer to the devil as “The Hurt Whisperer” because of the deceptions and lies that he whispers in the soul of our hearts. He’s sneaky and stealthy. We don’t even realize he is sending us these faulty messages about ourselves and others.

Some common lies and deceptions we hear are: “You’ll never succeed.” “God loves other people more than you.” “You’ve sinned too much for God to forgive you or bless your life.” “You can’t trust people, they’ll always disappoint you.” “If God loves me, why did He allow this to happen?”

We all have deceptive thoughts and we have to deal with them in order to heal from the pain in our lives. When we have unresolved hurts or life issues, we have faulty messages within us that keep us from God and what’s best for us. I believe virtually everyone has these issues controlling their lives, even believers who have known the Lord for many years.

Some of my primary thoughts from pain that I believed were: “I’m a freak.” “Anything good will be taken away from me.” “If people really knew me, they would reject me.” “I’ll always be disappointed.”

Some of Karen’s thoughts from her pain that she believed were: “Something is wrong with me and it can’t be fixed.” “I’m stupid.” 
“I’m unattractive.” “Something is mentally wrong with me. I’m not normal.”

Even though we can sometimes be the source of inner thoughts, the devil is the source of most of these. He whispers deceptions to destroy our lives.

Here is what I’ve learned and how you can destroy the devil’s lies that limit your life and marriage.

First, expose the thought to the light. We must be honest with God and ourselves because the truth makes us free and God works in light. Say how you really feel to God. God knows everything and will help you remember events and expose issues you’ve covered up, denied or forgotten.

Just spend some time with God and say, “God help me take inventory of my life. What pain have I experienced and what messages have I heard within the pain.” Think about your years growing up, especially trauma or grief. Write down the messages that you remember.

Secondly, expel any thought that doesn’t agree with Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Paul writes that any thought that we don’t take captive will take us captive. A bondage is a house of thoughts. Every thought that comes through our minds, we must vigilantly and sometimes even aggressively put an end to its power.

If any thought or message that you have disagrees with God or Scripture, get it out of your mind and decide that this deception is not true and will have no power over you.

Finally, express your agreement with God’s word in Scripture. When the devil attacks and hurtful things happen, openly and daily confess the truth of God. Ephesians 6 tells us our confession with our mouth is our most powerful weapon. It’s literally like a sword that defeats the hurt whisperer.

Next time you feel inadequate and hear whispers like “You’re defective and inadequate.” “There’s something wrong with you.” “You don’t deserve success.” I want you to know that you don’t have to believe these lies. Believe what God says. You can overcome these negative thoughts with truth.

God says you were created personally and intricately. Your life was planned before you were even born (Psalm 139). You have a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11) and you can do all things with Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13).

If you’ve ever had pain, failure or disappointment, then you’ve received an untrue message from the devil. To be free from that pain, we must expose it, expel it and express agreement with God.

Through this process God will heal your hurts and you’ll live in a new level of peace and freedom in your life.

Why Satan Hates Your Family

SOURCES:  an article by Tim Challies

Family is under attack.

As Christians we are accustomed to hearing about divorce and pornography and gay marriage and so many other moral issues. Have you ever considered how many of these moral issues relate directly to family? If you look, you will see that the very notion of family—family as the Bible describes it—is under sustained and heavy attack.

This means that your family is under attack.

We know that a distinctly Christian notion of family is crucial to raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. But there is more at stake than raising the next generation of Christians. Family is crucial in at least two other ways: It teaches us fundamental truths of the Christian faith and it serves as an important kind of ministry. Allow me to explain.

GOD TEACHES US THROUGH FAMILY

God uses family to teach us. There are several areas of Christian life and doctrine that God chooses to explain to us through metaphor, and one common metaphor is family. There are parts of Christian life and doctrine we can only rightly understand if we first understand family as God creates and intends it.

God Uses Family to Teach About His Nature. The relationship between parents and children is a distant glimpse of the relationships within the godhead, and, in particular, the relationship of the first person of the Trinity to the second—God the Father to God the Son. We can only describe and understand the relationship of God the Father to God the Son if we understand the relationship of earthly fathers to earthly sons. If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our ability to understand God’s triune nature.

God Uses Family to Teach Us about His Gospel. God tells us that when he justifies us through faith in Jesus Christ, he adopts us as his sons and daughters. Therefore we know that the relationship of parents to their children is not incidental or unimportant—no mere fragment of God’s plan for his people. Rather, the relationship of children being brought into their parents’ family is designed to teach us about our relationship to God and to teach us about the intimacy of our relationship to him. If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our understanding of the gospel.

God Uses Family To Teach Us about His Church. Peter calls the church “the family of God” (1 Pet. 4:17) and Paul refers to it as “God’s household” (1 Tim. 3:15). As Christians, we belong to the same family because we have been united to one another through our adoption as sons and daughters of the same Father. It is because we are sons and daughters of the same Father that Christians refer to one another as “brothers” and “sisters.” If Satan can distort or destroy family, he can distort and destroy our understanding of the church.

Do you see it? To understand God’s nature, God’s gospel, and God’s church, we first need to understand family. When a father abandons his family, the metaphors grow distorted. When a family has two fathers and no mothers, the metaphors grow distorted. Even when a Christian couple determines for selfish reasons not to have children, the metaphors grow distorted. But a strong family, built upon the Scriptures, serves as a powerful image of all of these truths.

HOW FAMILY MINISTERS

Your family is under attack because of all it represents. Your family is also under attack because of what it does. God designed your family to serve as a kind of ministry to the church and to the world.

 Family Ministers to the Local Church. Because the church is fundamentally a spiritual family, we learn how to function as a church by looking to the model of healthy families. This means that building strong, biblical families is critical to the life and health of the church. When Paul explains to Timothy how to relate to other people in the church he tells him to relate to older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters. He tells him to look at family and to behave as a family behaves. When Paul tells Timothy about church leaders he tells him he will be able to recognize elders in the church by looking for men who are good earthly father figures (see 1 Tim. 3:4-5). If a man is able to oversee and manage his own household, he may well be prepared to oversee and manage the church, since both tasks depend on many of the same skills and abilities. Therefore family ministers to the church by teaching how its members are to relate to one another (like brothers and sisters!); by teaching the church how to recognize leaders (the good fathers!); and even by teaching a bit of what God is like (the best parents, but infinitely more so!).

Family Ministers to the World. Family also ministers to the world. It was God’s desire that everyone would be prepared—to at least some degree—to hear the gospel. He designed the family to be a universal model of some of the deepest and most precious truths about who he is and what he is accomplishing in this world: He is father; he wants to adopt us as his children; Christians are brothers and sisters. Healthy, Bible-based, gospel-centered families are a crucial part of pre-evangelism, a way of introducing everyone on earth to the basic categories through which they can understand the Christian faith. If we lose or distort the notion of father, if we lose or distort the notion of parents, if we play fast and loose with brother and sister, we lose the very concepts that allow us to explain who God is and what he is doing.

Family teaches us about God’s nature, his gospel and his church, and family ministers to both the church and the world. No wonder, then, that Satan is always attacking the family and no wonder he will stop at nothing to attack your family. If he can destroy family, he can destroy these powerful metaphors and these powerful ministries. If he can distort or destroy the family, he can make the gospel opaque to those who are not yet saved.

Praying for a Breakthrough

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.

But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.

This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).

But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.

This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.

And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.

Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).

So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).

Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.

That Which Is Unseen Is REAL !

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

Daring Faith

The Unseen Battle Over Your Prayers

“We are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” (Ephesians 6:12 TEV)

There is an unseen battle going on in a realm that we don’t even understand. We don’t see it. We don’t feel it. But there is a spiritual war in other dimensions between good and evil, between God and Satan, between angels and demons.

And the fact is, you’re caught right in the middle. If you’re a child of God, Satan hates you. And he wants to mess you up.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:12, “We are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age” (TEV).

When you send up a prayer, there’s often a battle over how it’s going to be answered. While you’re in the waiting room, Satan starts throwing darts at you — the dart of doubt, the dart of discouragement, the dart of disappointment, the dart of delay, the dart of depression. The Bible says to be aware that he’s going to try to get you down.

The truth is, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about the spiritual warfare that’s going on behind your prayers. But we do get a glimpse of it in the book of Daniel.

Daniel had a vision of an angel, who said, “Daniel, don’t be afraid. God has heard your prayers ever since the first day you decided to humble yourself in order to gain understanding. I have come in answer to your prayer. The [evil] angel prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief angels, came to help me, because I had been left there alone in Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13).

Are those the wildest verses you’ve ever seen? It says that Daniel had a prayer that wasn’t answered for a while, and he was starting to get discouraged. The angel showed up and said, “I’m here to give you the answer. We heard it from day one, but we’ve been in a battle over this, and it was such an intense battle that Michael the archangel had to come down and help me with this battle so I could come and tell you that the answer is on its way.”

The same thing is sometimes happening when you are waiting on your answer from God. You can’t know what kind of intense battle is going on over your prayer, but you can remember this: A delay is not a denial. When an answer to prayer is delayed, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be answered. It just means God is fighting for you.

Don’t be discouraged. Keep praying!

 

Four Steps to Fighting Spiritual Warfare

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

There are four things we need to do when we are battling spiritual warfare in our lives:

  1. Acknowledge the adversary. Satan is real (1 Peter 5:8-9). Why would God send his Son to fight what does not exist? The Bible says in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil” (NLT). When you’re being attacked, it’s proof that you’re a believer. The more you make an impact for God, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it; it just gets more intense.
  2. Accept God-given authority. Most believers are ignorant about the authority they have to use against the Devil. Matthew 28:18-19 says we have all authority in heaven and earth. Then Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples” (NIV). He transfers the authority to you and me. He does that because he’s given us a specific mission (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  3. Put on God’s armor. When Paul wrote about the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), he was in prison chained to a Roman guard. Paul used the Roman centurion as a model for spiritual armor. Paul says, just as the Roman soldier is properly dressed to do battle, we also need to be dressed for battle. For instance, I will often pray, “Lord, I put on the helmet of salvation that will protect me from the thoughts the Devil will try to give me. I don’t want to think the Devil’s thoughts. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think your thoughts, so that I may be a voice for you. I put on the belt of truth. Lord, I want to share the truth, not falsehood. I want to lead people into righteousness.”
  4. Aim the artillery. The battlefield for spiritual warfare is primarily in your thought life (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The weapons God gives us to use demolish arguments are humility, faith, truth, and praise. Take every thought captive!

Who Is Responsible For Evil?

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

Are we responsible, or is the devil?

The answer is—both!

In other words, we can’t evade our responsibility for everything we do wrong by simply blaming the devil—but on the other hand, we also know he is behind the world’s evils.

Never doubt the devil’s existence, or his determination to do evil.

Yes, his ways are often unseen, and much of the time we may not even realize what he is doing. But since the beginning Satan has had only one purpose: to oppose God in every way he possibly can. Sometimes his methods involve deception—although often his actions are open and obvious. But his goal is unchanged: to block God’s will. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).

But do not doubt either our own ability to do great evil.

We have rebelled against God—and our rebellion continues to this day. Even when we know what is good, we often turn away and choose to do what is wrong. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is why we need Jesus Christ.

We need Him to protect us from Satan’s schemes, and we also need Him to turn our hearts from evil to good. Is this happening in your life? Don’t be deceived, but put your life into Christ’s hands, and find your hope and security in Him—both now and forever. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

Temptation: Is There Any Way To NOT Fall?

SOURCE:  Charles F. Stanley/InTouch

WHEN TEMPTATION KNOCKS

What makes a person successful at resisting temptation?

I believe the best way to discover how to overcome temptation is to look to the One who dealt with every temptation successfully and consistently. The writer of Hebrews wrote of Christ: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Since Jesus successfully overcame temptation, we would do well to study His strategy for dealing with it. Unfortunately, we have only one clear passage of Scripture describing Christ’s encounter with temptation. We know from the passage in Hebrews cited above that He was tempted more often than this, but the Holy Spirit chose not to include these in the gospels.

Strangely enough, Jesus’ approach is so straightforward and simple that many believers tend to overlook it entirely. Others, after hearing it, make the most ridiculous excuses as to why they can’t follow His example.

What was His strategy?

After 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus used Scripture—and only Scripture—to resist Satan’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). This is hard for me to comprehend. The Son of God—the One who knows all things and has the power to do all things, the One whose words we study, memorize, and meditate on—never made an original comment during the entire interaction.

He never drew on His own wit. He never relied on His own power. He simply responded with the truth of God’s Word. That’s all it took. Nothing fancy. Just the plain truth directed at the deception behind each of Satan’s requests. Jesus verbally confronted Satan with the truth, and eventually Satan gave up and left.

There are four primary reasons why a well-chosen passage or verse of Scripture is so effective against temptation.

First of all, God’s Word exposes the sinfulness of what you are being tempted to do. One of Satan’s subtle snares is to convince you that sin is really not so bad after all. God’s Word allows you to see things for what they really are.

A second reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you gain God’s viewpoint through it. Since many temptations carry a strong emotional punch, you tend to get caught up in your feelings. Once you identify with the feelings temptation evokes, it becomes increasingly difficult to respond correctly. The truth of Scripture allows you to separate yourself just far enough mentally to deal with it successfully.

Another reason for turning to God’s Word in times of temptation is what one pastor calls “the principle of displacement“.1 This principle is based on the premise that it is impossible not to think about a seductive topic unless you turn your attention elsewhere. When you turn your thoughts to the Word of God during temptation, you do just that (Phil. 4:8).

If you don’t shift your attention away from the temptation, you may begin some form of mental dialogue: I really shouldn’t. But I haven’t done this in a long time. I am really going to hate myself later. Why not? I’ve already blown it. I’ll do it just this once, and tomorrow I’ll start over. When you allow these little discussions to begin, you’re sunk. The longer you talk, the more time the temptation has to settle into your emotions and will.

The fourth reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you are expressing faith when you turn your attention to His Word. You are saying, “I believe God is able to get me through this; I believe He is mightier than the power of sin, my flesh, and Satan himself.” Nothing moves God like the active faith of His people.

To effectively combat the onslaughts of the enemy, you need an arsenal of verses on the tip of your tongue—verses so familiar, they come to mind without any conscious effort on your part. If you have to dig them up from the caverns of your memory, they will do you no good. There isn’t time for that in the midst of temptation.

Begin memorizing Scriptures that address the area that troubles you the most. Quote them audibly when you are tempted. When you speak the truth out loud, it’s as if you have taken a stand with God against the enemy. When I do this, I often feel a sense of courage and conviction sweeping over me.

Remember, if the perfect, sinless, sovereign Son of God relied on Scripture to pull Him through, what hope do you have without it?

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations and Inner Struggles by Charles F. Stanley, 1988.

1. Bud Palmberg, “Private Sins of Public Ministry,” Leadership magazine (Winter 1988)

Making Sexual Advances Toward Another is OK…IF…

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Family Life/Barbara Rainey

The Power of a Woman

I have come out to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you. I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt.
Proverbs 7:15-16

Few things are more abhorrent to me than seeing women make sexual advances toward married men, either on television or in real life. We should recoil at this kind of behavior. But just because flirtation is often corrupt doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with making sexual advances toward one married man — the one you’re already married to.

I believe we can learn something from the powerful woman described in Proverbs 5–7. Although she is an adulteress and would not typically be seen as a positive role model, perhaps there is a pure use of this power when these tactics are directed toward a woman’s own husband.

For example:

  • Her lips “drip honey” and are “smoother than oil” (Proverbs 5:3). There was a time during the dating season when gentle, soothing speech came easily. But now in marriage, it’s all too easy to gripe and complain. Words are powerful. Use yours well, and you’ll melt him like butter.
  • “She seizes him and kisses him” (Proverbs 7:13). What would be the look on your man’s face if, when you first saw him at the end of a day, you grabbed him around the shoulders and really planted one on him? There’s not a man alive who wouldn’t wonder what you’d had for lunch that day — and who wouldn’t hope you’ll have it again tomorrow.
  • She captures him “with her eyelids” (Proverbs 6:25). We wives can tend to get sloppy with our appearance around the house. That’s understandable. But every once in a while, make sure you look good when he comes home. Really good. Use your eyes to engage him. “Capture” him with your physical attractiveness.

A wife who understands her allure as a woman is protecting her husband from temptation. She’s like a magnet, drawing him home from the seductions of his day.

She’s got power. And she knows how to use it.

Pray that God will never let Satan, who knows how to twist it, steal the joy of sexual attraction and romance from you.

Temptation: Don’t Believe The LIE!

SOURCE:  Living Free/David E. Longacre

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Once in the proximity of sexual temptation, the will to resist is low. The Borg on the science fiction Star Trek TV series claim that “resistance is futile.” When we are in certain situations, we might feel that resistance to temptation really is futile.

But it isn’t.

For Christians, resistance to temptation is NEVER futile.

In the above scripture, we are promised that others have had the same temptations … that God won’t allow more than we can stand … and that he always provides a way out.

  • Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who has ever had this temptation.
  • Don’t believe the lie that it is more than you can bear.
  • Don’t believe the lie that there is no way out.

God’s promise tells us that resistance is NOT futile!

We can escape temptation, but we cannot fight the battle alone. We need to first turn to Jesus—appeal to his mercy and grace—before we can resist even the urge to fulfill sinful desires.

It all circles back to Jesus. He is calling us to obedience, and he promises to give us the strength to do what he is telling us to do. If we will trust him and put him first in our lives, he will always give us the desire and power to do what pleases him.

Lord, thank you for your assurance that my situation is not hopeless. I know that with your help I can overcome—and I really do want to overcome. Show me the way out. Help me to walk in obedience. In Jesus’ name …

————————————————————————————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from Crossroads: Choosing the Road to Sexual Purity by David E. Longacre.

A PRAYER FOR WAITING ON THE LORD WHEN EVIL SEEMS TO WIN

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

   Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. Psalm 37:7-9

Dear heavenly Father,

You send your Word with Swiss timing and uncanny precision. Whenever we’re vexed or fretful, you anticipate it. Whenever we’re confused or anxious, you’ve already spoken wisdom about the matter, in multiple places in the Scriptures. Whenever we feel vulnerable or angry, time and time again, you come to us in the Bible and bring us back to gospel-sanity. How we praise you for the counsel and consolation of your Word; the grace and power of the Scriptures; the truth and authority of the Bible.

It’s easy to get worked up over the apparent success of those who bring harm to others—evildoers who even get rewarded for their madness. The recent beheadings is glaring and horrific example. How long, O Lord, before you send Jesus back to put all things right? When will Jesus return to finish making all things new?

Though you won’t give us a date, you do give us yourself. You’re calling us to stillness and fretless waiting. Every day, in multiple contexts, we need to hear you say, “Be still and know that I am God.” No good comes from our obsessing about darkness and evil-making. Nothing profitable results from our spending extra time fertilizing our anger, fueling our disgust, fuming about how much evildoers get away with.

Satan was defeated at the cross, and he is filled with fury because he knows his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Having been humiliated, he will be eradicated. Death and dying, terror and terrifying, evil and evil-makers will be gone forever. For a Day is coming when the knowledge of your glory will cover the entire earth as the waters cover the sea.

Until that Day, we will work hard to push back the effects of the Fall, and offer our communities a foretaste of the world to come. How we praise you that the very righteousness with which you have already robed us is the same righteousness with which you are going to fill the earth. Fill our hearts with your grace and our hands with your mercy.

So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ reigning and returning name.

Spiritual Discouragement

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch

Discouragement can result from different scenarios, but Satan is the instigator. He will do anything he can to dishearten us and keep our focus on negative things instead of on God.

A subtle form of spiritual discouragement is the idea that we cannot please God. This is a trap of the Devil, and too many Christians are ensnared by it. If we were to write down everything we thought we must do to please God, how long would that list be before it was complete? We would assume we should read the Bible more, pray more, give more, and witness more. We could probably fill up both sides of the paper. Then we would look at our list and realize it’s impossible to accomplish all of it.

That’s the trap.

What pleases the Lord is our obedience, not our adherence to a long checklist of duties.

Unanswered prayer is another source of discouragement.

When we present a request to the Lord, He does not necessarily answer in the manner or timing that would be our preference. When that is the case, we will far too often allow discouragement to creep in, and from there, we might decide to give up on prayer.

Focusing on the Lord is essential for breaking the chains of discouragement.

When you turn to God, it is also helpful to pray three things aloud:

  • First, thank Him for being with you while you feel disheartened.
  • Second, admit He is in control of your life.
  • And third, acknowledge that He is good and will ultimately work the circumstances for your benefit.

A Prayer for Relinquishing Ownership of Our Battles to God

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)

Dear heavenly Father, I’m so thankful to begin this day relinquishing ownership of my battles to you. Your Word is so timely and encouraging. Though you call us into spiritual warfare and give us the appropriate armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as our “shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:4), high tower and safe refuge, mighty Warrior and faithful Deliverer.

I’ll fight, not a disengaged pacifist but as a fully engaged worshiper—”beholding the salvation of the Lord.” I’m never more than a little David facing a formidable Goliath; but with you, that is enough. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Father. Fear and discouragement aren’t the order of the day; faith and peace are.

When dark plans and wicked ways threaten; when it seems like evil men and their destructive plots will triumph, let me hear your laughter in heaven, Father. Let me see your already-installed King, the Lord Jesus—for all things are subject to him, all things. Show me the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up my fears (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).

When I’m under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let me see Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. Jesus, alone, is my wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31). My boast is in Christ plus nothing, not in anything in me.

When I get pulled into petty fights and relational turmoil, with friends, “brethren, and others, center me quickly by the power of grace, and bring me back to faith expressing itself in love (Gal. 5:6)—the only thing that matters.

When I’m in the presence of systemic evil and extreme brokenness, keep me sane, calm and wise. When my divided heart wages war inside of me, come to me in the storm, Father, and bring your peace that passes all understanding and transcends every difficulty. So very Amen I pray with confidence, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

But Satan Stopped Us — Really?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  D.A. Carson [April 4, 2014 post]

Leviticus 8; Psalm 9; Proverbs 23; 1 Thessalonians 2

PAUL WRITES TO THE THESSALONIANS, “But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us” (1 Thess. 2:17-18, italics added).

The hindering work of Satan and his minions is attested to elsewhere in Scripture. In Daniel 10:13, for instance, the “prince of the Persian kingdom” is almost certainly some malevolent angel who delays the response to Daniel’s prayer by three weeks, and would have delayed it further but for the intervention of Michael.

Some have taken passages like this as evidence that God is finite, that the struggle between good and evil in the Bible is between a finite good God and a finite wicked Satan. When bad things happen to people, this is the work of Satan, and God has very little to do with it, except to oppose it—though not very satisfactorily in this instance.

Yet the God of the Bible is not finite and not so limited.

If he were, the entire book of Job would not make sense. The apostle Paul himself can describe his delays in categories other than “Satan stopped us.” For example, he tells the Corinthians, “I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” (1 Cor. 16:7, italics added).

Nor is this an isolated example. The Lord Jesus tells us of a time of such terrible destruction that, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matt. 24:22, italics added). That really cannot mean anything other than that God intervenes to cut short those days. That in turn means he has the power to do so. The question it raises is why he did not do so earlier. Strictly speaking, the answer is not disclosed. Doubtless it is intertwined with other biblical themes: God sometimes allows evil to run its course, or much of its course, to expose its degradation; he is forbearing, leaving much time for repentance; he may have his own reasons, largely hidden, as in the book of Job. But always he is God, and his sovereignty is never truncated.

Paul frankly admits that Satan stopped him; in another frame, he might speak of the same event in terms of the Lord’s permission. He is not embarrassed by either description, and we must not be embarrassed either. Daniel can speak of a three-week delay; elsewhere he speaks of God’s unbridled sovereignty (e.g., Dan. 4:34-35). For him, the two are compatible.

Get Real (with Yourself & with God)

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

How many times have we heard expressions like this, “Get Real”? How many times have we said them to ourselves? How many times have we silently thought them when our children made grandiose statements or shared impossible dreams?

At times in the past, it was hard for me to see who I really was and actually get real with myself. Why is this so hard for us to do? Why is it so hard to face ourselves?

I know one good reason … the enemy, Satan, likes it this way.

He tries to plant seeds of deception, pain, and sinfulness in our minds … lenses of self-hatred instead of acceptance of God’s love. His corrupt world system pushes our emotional buttons and interferes with our ability to interpret God’s omniscient and loving sovereignty accurately.

Another factor hindering us is that it’s painful to see who we really are. It was for me.

It was a lot easier to think I was important, talented, bright, nice, blah, blah, blah … than to see my insecurities, inadequacies, mistakes, and needs. It’s even harder to face the major uphill battles and do the work necessary to overcome our issues. This is where our dysfunctional habits, vices, and addictions swoop in to soothe our discomfort and pain. The best way to face ourselves … to be real with ourselves … is to remember that as Christians, we are constantly clothed in Jesus’ robe of righteousness.

God knows exactly what sins, weaknesses, and blemishes you try to hide underneath the faultless garment of salvation that covers and erases all. And He rejoices over you with singing … just imagine that … God singing over you!

Today, know that your Lord longs for you to trust Him enough to be fully yourself with Him. Being real with your God allows Him to bring out the very best in you. When you are real, He can work on your weaknesses. Pray about one thing you have never really opened up to Him. Let light into that area of your life. This pushes the darkness out. And then real healing and transformation can occur. Whether you continue the cover up and hide your weaknesses from  yourself and God, or you get real and allow His healing Light in to those deep places is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I want to grow the gifts that You planted in my soul. I want to be real with You, Lord. But this is a painful experience for me because first I have to be real with myself. It seems easier for me to ignore how I’m feeling rather than face my misery head on. I pray, Father, that You help me stop numbing my discomfort and negative feelings with my sinful diversions. Give me the courage, Father, to face myself so that I can be real with You. Thank You, Father. I pray in the name of the One who died so I could be real in Your presence, Jesus Christ – AMEN!


I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…

Isaiah 61:10

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Luke 10:27

Do I Need Something MORE than GOD?

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

[Envy is] wanting and sometimes craving what others have, instead of getting our joy from God and what He has given us. Envy is one of the traps Satan sets for us, using our pride, flesh, and satisfy-me-now mentality against us. Satan deceives us constantly. He actually distorts our lenses, so we believe that our fulfillment and joy in this life come from emotional, psychological, physical, or material answers. His goal is getting us to close down our spiritual radar, turn off our spiritual antennae, and ignore divine answers for our needs

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had a fantastic set up, a direct relationship with the perfect God in the perfect setting and no adversity. But they weren’t omniscient and they were gullible (like us). Satan tricked them into believing they needed something more. They thought or feared that something was missing from their life. He duped them into thinking they needed more power and more knowledge, and could get all that through a piece of fruit. I like to think I would have held out for a steak. Instead of staying in relationship with God and relying on Him, they were swindled by Satan, tricked into trading eternal life with God for separation from God and life on their own. Thankfully, God wasn’t vengeful against them and provided a way back into relationship with Him.

Here’s the trap.

If you believe your happiness and contentment depend on your external circumstances, or some place or someone else other than God, you will always be lost, unhappy, and discontent. Those things weren’t meant to bring you what you desire, nor can they.

God designed us specifically to be immune to those external things. So regardless of our circumstances, or more importantly, the mistakes we make that damage our circumstances, we still have access to a peace, comfort, and joy that is independent of who or what is around us.

Look inside and identify some of your traps … fruit/apples … you have been tricked into believing. How were you tricked into believing they could deliver what you really desire, in the deepest places of your heart. It seems silly when we put it that way, but that shows the cunning of our Adversary in the war we are fighting.

Don’t mistake momentary relief for true fulfillment. That’s Satan’s trap! Whether you choose God to meet your needs or settle for the substitutes of this world is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, You and only You are the source of my joy, peace, and comfort. I confess that my need to control life is the apple I frequently grab. Help me grow trust in Your control in my life instead of my inadequate abilities. Please grow in me eyes that see and ears that hear the traps Satan places in my path. Lord, help me choose the Stepping Stone You have for my movement forward to Christ-likeness. Strengthen me through Your Spirit to resist the temptations and impulses of my flesh so I don’t get trapped and have to ask for Your forgiveness yet again. Thanks for Your endless grace and forgiveness. In Jesus’ all providing death and resurrection I pray;  – AMEN!

The Truth
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:4-7

How to Destroy Your Marriage Before It Begins

SOURCE:  Garrett Kell/Gospel Coalition

Tim and Jess had only been married for eight months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled, and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

What went wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young marriage? As I unpacked some of the couple’s history, I discovered he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon, nor in the early months of figuring out married life. The Devil had begun his work before they’d even made it to the altar. Though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement were marked with sexual impurity.

Though the early days of their relationship had been fine, over time they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. Whenever they’d sin, they’d confess to each other and make oaths to never let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never let anyone else in on what was happening. In hindsight, Tim and Jess admit their courtship was a big cover-up of deceit.

Sadly, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. This should be no surprise, since we have an enemy set against us and our impending marriage (1 Pet. 5:8). He hates God, and he hates marriage because it depicts the gospel (Eph. 5:32).One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the gospel-portraying union of marriage is to attack couples through sexual sin before they say “I do.” Here are four of his most common ploys to attack marriages before they begin.

1. Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they aren’t. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.If we learn to do what we want when we want before marriage, we’ll carry that pattern into the days and years that follow. This, however, is deadly since service and sacrifice are essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do what you don’t want—whether doing the dishes or changing a diaper or watching a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you encounter the nitty-gritty of married life.

2. Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

Satan wants us to think we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think we’re stronger than we really are. He wants us to think we’ll never go that far. This is a powerful trick since it simultaneously plays on both our pride and also our well-intended desire to honor God. You’re weaker than you think. You can go where you think you won’t. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean—if you play in it, you’ll be overpowered and swept away into certain destruction.One of the ways Satan works this angle is by tempting you to think purity is a not-to-be-crossed line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re staying pure. The problem with this kind of thinking, however, is that Jesus says if we just lust in our heart we’ve sinned and stand condemned before God (Matt. 5:27-30).Purity is much more about the posture of our hearts than the position of our bodies. The age-old “How far is too far?” question may reveal a desire to get as close to sin as possible instead of a desire to flee as our Lord calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18).

3. Satan wants couples to weaken their trust in one another.

When we compromise sexually, we’re showing the other person we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes us happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead her into sin we are communicating, though we don’t mean to, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to use and disregard you to get what I want.”This is certainly one of Satan’s deadliest strategies, and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was engulfed in the cycle of sin, shame, and start-over that they never developed a mature, battle-tested trust for each other.It’s important to point out, however, that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer, telling one another we value them and their walk with the Lord too much to go one step further, he uses that faithfulness to strengthen trust. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in one another.

4. Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There’s a world of difference between premarital sex and sex within marriage. One reason is that the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex before marriage as something it isn’t always in marriage. Normally, premarital sexual activity is like gas on fire. Passion is high, feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the knowledge you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion, and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on passion provided by the forbidden fruit are often disappointed and confused when sex is different in marriage.My wife and I laughed at this idea when our premarital counselor shared it with us. We were sure we’d be exception to the rule. But almost six years and three kids later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it’s fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

Few Concluding Thoughts

1. Wait in faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with him. And unmarried believers wait for the blessings of marriage. Say “no” to sin’s promises by faith in God’s. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2. Guys, you gotta lead. While both persons in the relationship are responsible before God, the man must set the pace for purity. Too often ladies are forced to draw the lines and to say “no.” That’s cowardly and wrong. It’s the man’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin, darkness, and the pain of evil. If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3. Involve others every step of the way. Don’t let your relationship remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or group of faithful friends who hold you accountable. Invite tough questions and give honest answers. God uses transparency to give strength.

4. If you sin, go to the gospel. The apostle John wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Run to the empty tomb. Look to your Advocate, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God loves to bless this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not, however, bless ongoing disobedience and presumption on his grace. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for his glory and our good.

Did the Devil Make You Do It?

SOURCE:  STEPHEN MATTSON/Relevant Magazine

How much influence does Satan have in our everyday lives?

Here’s a scene familiar to all:

A film or television character, locked in inner debate. All of a sudden, poof, a tiny devil—sometimes styled to look like an evil version of the actual character—appears on one shoulder. This devil has some of a James Dean, rogue-ish appeal, and talks about how much fun it would to be to indulge in such and such.

It’s a clichéd trope, and though it’s not as common in cinema anymore, the general device is still used. There may not be a smirking devil on Walter White’s shoulder, but his endless qualifiers and excuses sure sound like the work of a cunning tempter yanking his puppet strings. And it resonates, because we’ve all been there. We know the feeling of entertaining a little tickle in our ear—one that sounds like us, but not quite like us. It gave rise to the phrase: the devil made me do it. But is that a fair assessment?

As Christians, we accept that everything good and pure within us is from God. We’re instructed to believe our good works, righteousness and holiness should be credited to Jesus working through us, giving us the strength, wisdom and power to accomplish His will.

We are quick to give God credit for anything positive within our lives. “Only through God was I able to do that!” or “I give glory to God!” are common expressions we use to acknowledge His supernatural ability within our lives.

The danger is that we can use this same logic for everything bad and evil we do—blaming Satan for our wrongdoings instead of taking personal responsibility for our actions. If God is responsible for our good, isn’t Satan responsible for our bad?

Thinking about Satan—the Devil—is often emotionally and intellectually draining, so many believers have simply stopped doing it. In a modern society that mocks and ridicules the belief that supernatural beings are engaged in an epic battle of good vs. evil, it can be easy to shy away from the topic of Satan. It’s hard to accept a supernatural realm when our perception is inundated with the physical reality of our everyday lives.

Contrarily, there are those who do nothing but dwell on spiritual warfare and become strangely obsessed with Satan. These individuals are often overcome with constant dread, fear and suspicion—crippling their lives. They stand on street corners and yell apocalyptic warnings from bullhorns and often appear to be suffering from delusions or mental illness.

To make matters worse, people often falsely accuse others of being demon-possessed or influenced by Satan just to promote their own agendas or because of misplaced fanaticism. We can be quick to label others as “Satan’s Henchmen,” heretics who spread a false gospel of deception, simply because we disagree or despise someone—often someone who has a different theological, social or political belief than our own.

How can we talk seriously about something that has been commercialized and comically popularized within our logic-driven and scientific culture? The topic of Satan is bizarre yet relevant, uncomfortable but necessary.

The worst thing a Christian can do is ignore Satan’s influence. Throughout the Bible, God warns us time and again about the very real presence that the Devil has within our lives—we should take the threat seriously. But can Satan actually control us? Can Satan cause us to sin?

It depends. For believers, the power of Christ has defeated Satan. 1 Colossians 1:13 promises that we have been delivered from the power of darkness. Jesus, through the crucifixion, defeated Satan. And while most biblical scholars agree that Christians can’t be possessed by demons, we are constantly facing a spiritual battle, and we can be influenced by Satan’s control within the world around us—but not within us.

Satan’s supernatural power throughout our universe can directly impact our lives. Satan can constantly tempt us, manipulate circumstances to oppress us and attack us through outside influence in order to wage war against our Christ-centered lifestyle. This should not be taken lightly.

We see Satan’s handiwork everywhere around us: through addiction, violence, injustice, abuse, sickness, suffering and pain. And while Satan attempts to destroy and cause death, Christ is restoring and bringing new life.

The Bible is clear that we will be held accountable for our actions, and Satan should never be used as an excuse for our own personal sins. And just like we can lie to ourselves by being self-righteousness and falsely claiming we’re doing God’s will (when we’re not), we can also be guilty of saying (and believing) we’re being controlled by Satan (when we’re not)—deflecting the ownership of our own sin.

As Christians, whenever we blame Satan for our sins, we’re empowering him while simultaneously ignoring Christ. When we do this we buy into the lie that Satan can bypass and overcome God’s redemptive grace in our lives—essentially negating the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Ultimately, we need to realize that God has delivered us and accept the freedom He’s given through His death on the cross. By admitting that Jesus’ sacrifice has real consequences relating to our current lives, our entire perspective changes, and we become fearless instead of fearful, hopeful instead of hopeless, and bold instead of timid.

Embrace the love of Christ and reject the fear of Satan. Christians can be assured of Jesus’ victory while also being wary of the very real presence Satan continues to have throughout our world.

In the end, God has given believers the ability to bring peace, healing and renewal to the places where Satan is trying to create destruction. This is an amazing responsibility we have been given, so let’s embrace our God-given authority and positively change the communities around us—bringing hope and love to all.

A Lesson from Hezekiah: 7 Steps to More Effective Prayers

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, decided to attempt a take over of Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan. He went before the Lord in prayer and followed the Lord’s commands. Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared all Hezekiah’s people to death.

Hezekiah heard about it and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be ok, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up. They kept taunting and taunting, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. They sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, basically which, said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

What do you do when you are backed into a corner about to face something bigger than your ability to handle? Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

We find this account in  2 Kings 19:14-19

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, and there is prayer where a few are gathered, but probably some of the most effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Immediate. It wasn’t an afterthought. It was prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react that it’s hard for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or when we are backed into a corner and have no choice, but as a habit we need to make God the first place we turn in our lives.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the Lord.  I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter…laying it there on the table, and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note cards right down all the things you are struggling with….lay them out on a table…then say, “Okay God, here are my struggles…I can’t do anything about them. What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Honoring, humble and respectful of who God is.  Hezekiah knew his place as king…and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. Hezekiah was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD…” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Dependent. In verses 17-18 he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I don’t think it mattered the size of the battle Hezekiah was going to depend on God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was certain…Because it was based on his personal faith and trust in God.  In verse 19, Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some things God has promised to do…some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t promised to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) Sometimes we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him honestly, humbly, and boldly; then, allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.

Spiritual Warfare: LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE

SOURCE:  Pastor Dean/Focus on the Family

Non-Christians live as if God doesn’t exist.

Too often Christians live as if the enemy doesn’t exist.

Yet the Bible makes it clear that we do have an adversary, and he has a terrible plan for our lives.

The apostle Peter put it this way: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

And he should know. Remember Jesus’ words just before Peter’s denial? “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

As to the terrible plan Satan has for people’s lives, Jesus made it very clear that a battle rages in the spiritual realm: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Job, whom God called “a blameless and upright man,” knew just what an accuser this enemy could be (see Job 1-2). So did Joshua the high priest, also accused by the enemy but affirmed by the Lord (see Zechariah 3). Both of these instances pull back the veil that separates physical and spiritual reality to offer an eye-opening look into the spiritual realm.

In light of this, two priorities emerge for pastors and ministry leaders, both having to do with living in light of this spiritual battle. First, we must take seriously the fact that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.

In the preface of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis warns: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”

Let’s not fall prey to this “lion.” I’ve found the following practices to be helpful in my own life:

  • Start afresh with God every day. A good way to do so is to pray along with the psalmist David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Get into God’s Word every day. All Scripture is “God breathed” and quite profitable (see 2 Timothy 3:16,17). Also, keep in mind how Jesus, our example for life and ministry, responded to temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).
  • Pray every day. Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9–13), which includes: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13). Pray on the armor of God. (Prayer and the Spiritual Battle)
  • Don’t give the enemy an inch. Play with matches, they say, and you’re sure to get burned! Give the enemy an inch, and he’s sure never to be satisfied until he has a “foothold” (Ephesians 4:27).
  • Practice praise and thanksgiving, moment by moment. The old adage is, “Garbage in, garbage out.” When you focus on praise and thanksgiving, your heart’s always in the right place to hear from God and resist the evil one (James 4:7).

While the first priority in living in light of the spiritual battle is to take spiritual warfare seriously in your own life, the second priority is to help those around you to do the same. Model and pass along the above practices. Don’t simply make a passing reference to Satan and demons; equip those around you to keep from falling prey to the enemy.

After speaking about spiritual armor for the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-18), Paul gave a final exhortation to pray: “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v. 18). We’ll conclude with a final exhortation to pray as well. Indeed, these Spiritual Warfare Prayers from The Navigators will help you to keep your eyes on Jesus, stand firm in the faith, and experience victory in your own life and ministry.

When The War Rages: A Prayer of Victory

SOURCE:  Mark Bubeck

 Prayer of Victory

Loving heavenly Father, I praise You that Satan is a defeated foe.

I rejoice that his defeat was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in His sinless life, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into glory. I look forward to that day when the Lord Jesus Christ rules, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. I know that Satan will ultimately be forever consigned to the lake of fire prepared for him and his angels. I rejoice that You have given to me, in my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, complete victory over Satan today.

I enter into my victory aggressively and claim my place as more than a conqueror through Him that loved me. I refuse to admit continuing defeat by Satan in any area of my life. He cannot and will not rule over me. I am dead with Christ to his rule.

I affirm that the grace and mercy of God’s  rule in all areas of my life through my union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to me the grace to affirm Your victory even when experiences of life seem to say otherwise.

I thank You for these battles and all that You are seeking to accomplish in Your wisdom and design for my life. I accept the battle and rejoice in Your purpose. I willingly accept and desire to profit from all of Your purpose in letting Satan’s kingdom get at me. I reject all of Satan’s purpose.

Through the victory of my Lord and Savior I stand resolute and strong upon the certainty of my victory. In confidence I look to You, Lord Jesus Christ. When Your purpose for this trial is fulfilled, I know that it shall fade into the dimness of forgotten battles and a defeated enemy.

Through the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it shall be so. Amen.[1]

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[1] Bubeck, M. I. (1984). Overcoming the Adversary: Warfare Praying Against Demon Activity (26–27). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Just When I Think God Isn’t There — HE IS !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

A Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. — Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough, the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this.

Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (19:4 ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit, it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Thinking –> Feelings –> Behaviors

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

Mind Games

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS)

Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to“stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon — “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

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