This is War

This past week I started a new Bible study based on Priscilla Shirer’s book, Armor of God. I’m only two days into the 7-week study and I am loving it. Too often, I get so caught up in the day-to-day monotony of this world, that I forget we are at war. Sometimes, we think our war is the Indy 500 traffic (if you live in South Florida), the ornery woman at the register, or that student who just refuses to listen. But can I tell you that they are not the problem. The Bible reminds us of this when Paul writes, “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).

We devote so much time fashioning our words, emotions, and attitudes into weapons in a vain effort to strike down those who have offended us. We are the only casualty in those scenarios as we are at the receiving end of frustration, anger, loss of relationships, and bitterness. If you ask me, it looks like Satan is the only winner in the battles of the flesh. So, what are we to do? Well, if our war is in the spiritual realm, then maybe that is where our battle should be waged.

In her book, Priscilla highlights that fact that prayer is essential to the battle. Ephesians 6: 13-17 tells us how to “put on the armor of God” as Paul eloquently reminds us of our weapons of spiritual warfare, but we often miss the most important weapon. Look at Ephesians 18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and request…” Putting on the armor without praying is like going into war only partially dressed. Your defenses are easily left open to attack.

Prayer requires precision and intentionality. It’s not easy. The devil wants to distract us in every way possible. He knows that he is in a losing battle, and he realizes his time is almost up. He knows that a believer in Jesus Christ will never be his, so instead, he uses his tactics to keep us tired, busy, frustrated, and essentially, useless for God’s Kingdom purpose. Prayer keeps us on the frontline. It also keeps us connected to the Father, so when we can’t go on, He is there and steps in to fight on our behalf.

As you proceed to put on the armor of God this week, remember to pray. Pray for strength as you face the struggles of this world. Pray for love as you are confronted with those who wage war against you. Pray for wisdom when you find yourself face-to-face against a threat. Pray to be filled with immeasurable peace as you remember the battle is won, and you are already seated in Victory in the heavenly realms.

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Rejoice!

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”–Psalm 118:24 (NKJV)

You may have heard this verse before. Maybe you even sang the song in Sunday school. Some mornings, like today, I even wake up with that verse in my head. It’s a nice little chorus, and I always thought it was a fitting way to jump into a new day. But as I went to check the verse this morning, it appeared to be so much more than a simple child’s refrain.

Like many verses in the Bible, this one is full of meaning, and I really suggest that you read the whole chapter to really get a feel for why the Psalmist was rejoicing. Taunted and hated by his enemy, he had every reason to fear, and yet, line after line he is praising, rejoicing, and giving thanks to the Lord Almighty, in spite of his bleak circumstances.

And yet, here is what we can glean:

  • God is still in control.
    The fact that the earth is still spinning and the sun is making its way over the horizon gives me hope to believe that the God of heaven and earth is still on the throne. We can find in peace in knowing that no matter the political landscape or the thoughtless violence, God is still victorious, and He is still working everything for His ultimate good.
  • God is still loving.
    With a new day freshly dawned, it’s a good time to forgo yesterday’s mistakes and shortcomings. Lamentations 3:22-23 reads, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Today we have been given a second (or a third or a fourth) chance to discover his magnificent, unending love that offers help, hope, forgiveness, and healing.

  • God is still faithful.
    Not only do we get another opportunity to witness the power and authority of God, but we also get another chance to sit at the feet of our faithful friend. God, will never leave nor forsake us. He is trustworthy and true. We can go to Him at any time with any need. We can seek solace under His wings and find the comfort we desperately need.

It’s good to know that while we may change, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can place our trust in our eternal God. We can delight in what is called, “today” because we have a God working outside of time on our behalf. What do we have to fear? He’s got this. So, be of good courage and Rejoice! Again, I say, Rejoice!

Snowflake

I don’t know about you, but I really struggled as a teenager. I never seemed to fit in no matter how hard I tried. Now, I won’t go into the pretty bleak details, but growing up in mainly private Christian schools, I thought public school (8th-10th grade years) to be a very ugly monster. It’s hard to be a teenager when you think differently, desire to act differently, and you just feel that something in you is different than the norm. At the time, all I wanted to do was to blend in and just be like everyone else. I just wanted to feel “normal”. I spent the next 10 years trying to figure out what exactly “normal” was only to realize normal just really wasn’t my style.

I smile tonight, because I am so thankful that God created me to be different. Who cares that I was never into fashion or makeup like the other girls. I’m happy that I’m single and waiting  for “the one”. I’m glad that at 16 I knew I wanted to travel and I wasn’t satisfied living in my town forever. And, I can’t wait to fulfill the desire I have had since age 8 to adopt children from around the world. I am so grateful that God created me to be different and while I may have struggled as a youth, I am glad that I never got comfortable in a cookie-cutter existence.

I’m happy to say that, “I am extraordinary!”

And so are you. I was thinking tonight about snowflakes and how each one is different. They say that there are not any two that look like. If God took that much care and design into a snowflake, how much greater would he take care and consideration into creating you! You are not a mistake and there are no mistakes in your design. You are unique and God has a plan distinctly created for you and no one else. To me, that seems so much better than fitting into some mundane mold.

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Final thought. In Genesis, it tells us that we are all created in God’s image. We are all these little pieces of the Living God. How can we not be little pieces of amazing properties? Just look at how our bodies run! I can’t even begin to imagine what would happen if we began to come together in unity. Each little individual piece would begin to form a greater picture–the image of an Almighty God. Something tells me, that is  just the thing that the world needs to see.

Ungrateful

I’m sitting here horrified. I’ve always been thankful for my “stuff”: my transportation, the roof over my head, the food on my table. How then, could I be ungrateful? Isn’t there a verse that says, “Pride cometh before a fall.”? Well, even though I may have fallen privately, I still got a good knock on the head as a wake up call.  Tonight I found out the hard-honest truth, I have been living a life of ungratefulness.

(IMPORTANT SIDE-NOTE: If you ever feel this pull to talk to God, stop whatever you are doing and start praying. Most likely, its somewhat of an emergency in God’s eyes and He needs to deal with you right away. If you are obedient, I guarantee that you will be blessed. Tonight was no exception.)

For six years, I’ve been a teacher. I’ve done a good job, but I never loved it by any means. At the beginning it was just to pay bills. Later, God talked to me about going in there and doing it unto Him so I was obedient in that, and the job got better. But again, teaching wasn’t my passion and I always wondered when He would free me from it so that I could serve my real purpose. Now, I feel so ashamed.

God loved me so much that He gave me everything in my job. He opened up so many doors and allowed me to experience so many things and I took everything for granted. For six years, God allowed me to do everything I love: read, work with kids, dabble in graphic design, write plays, design a yearbook, and so on. And the whole time, I was looking for the escape route.

In less than 2 months I will no longer be teaching at my school. Over the past few weeks I’ve been pushing for a new career, all the while feeling that God is still calling me to teach. Now, I realize; maybe it’s not that I didn’t like teaching, maybe it’s that I never saw it for it was. Maybe I spent so much time taking it for granted, that I missed 6 great years of God giving me everything I could ask for in a job and more.

I don’t want to miss out on the love of Christ because I am being ungrateful, and don’t even recognize His love when I see it. How horrible would that be? How horrible would that be for any relationship?

Sometimes we need to get over ourselves and get with God. We say we will do His will, but do we really mean it or are we more like Jonah, running away from God’s will and even when we finally succumb to it, we are miserable the entire time? I refuse to live like that!

I love what Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:12, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.”

God considers you and I trustworthy to do His work. That says a lot about how He feels for his children. Let’s praise Him and thank Him for every opportunity He gives us, even if it’s not necessarily what we would have chosen. Father knows best.

The Burden of Sin

If we aren’t careful sin can create some very heavy burdens in our life. The world paints a completely opposite picture. There, things such as alcohol, drugs, and sex are yours for the taking, and you should take whatever you want and how ever much you want. Right and wrong have vanished with the “as long as you aren’t hurting anyone” mantra. Let’s get this straight: Everything you do has a direct effect on someone, somewhere.

Recently, someone blasted me on my views, mainly my opposition towards abortion, and they called me self-righteous and went on to remind me of my past sins. I had to pray, because the berating could have easily angered me. Then, I was reminded of two things.

First, the mercy of God

I am astonished, amazed, and flabbergasted at the mercy of God. There was a time when I lived a very careless life. Sadly, the person berating me was right. I was the worst sinner a few years back. I had done every sin in the Book, except murder, which God says hating a brother or sister is murder. So, I guess I had failed at that too.

But thank God, He was gracious and merciful with me. He looked past my sins and saw someone He could use for His glory. I am nothing. I am aware of this, but through Christ I have strength to be anything He desires for me to be. Christ did not have to pursue me like He did. He could’ve walked away and never gave it another thought, but He didn’t. That’s how much he loves me. That’s how much He loves you. He will never give up on you! There is not a sin great enough to keep his mercy from being extended.

Secondly, the burden of sin.

That’s the thing about sin, your sin does effect others in unexplainable ways. That person, who shall remain nameless, has not only a bad opinion of me, but probably of God too. They are only able to see my sins; I am an unable to explain to them how God changed all that.

The world likes to make sin look so good. It is very inciting. However, freedom to chose to do whatever you want to do is not freedom. Actually, it’s slavery. I know for a fact, that when I was living as I pleased, trying to gratify the “lusts of the flesh”, I was angry, bitter, and hateful. I was a selfish liar, putrid, really. And how was this not effecting anyone around me? I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I was so burdened down by the weight of my own sin: guilt, fear, sorrow, that the bondage was getting to me and I was becoming a very horrible person. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I needed a burden-lifter!

Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom is in Christ alone. Accepting Christ does not ensure you that you will never have trials or that you will never be tempted again; indeed, the opposite is true. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that living a life of obedience to Christ is the greatest freedom I have ever experienced. All those “rules” are just cautionary boundaries that the Lord gives to keep us safe and under his protection. I love that fact that I don’t have to drink or party or do anything of that nature to feel happy and content. I have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and more because of my commitment to the One who showed unending mercy to save a wretch like me.

A relationship with Christ is one that keeps on giving and never runs dry. He will never fail you. He will never leave you. He won’t ever give up on you.

Why would I want to trade an unconditional love like that for any of the fleeting vices this world has to offer?

I pray that you don’t sell yourself short, either.

Your Attitude Stinks

I had a revelation and I just had to share. I don’t know. Maybe it will help someone out there somewhere.

I have an attitude problem.

Last week my attitude when from bad to down right inexplicable. It started off with me calling people names in my head. You know..When someone cuts you off, and you say, “Idiot.”Not out loud, of course, only in your head. Nothing wrong with that, right?

However, it got worse. I was soon calling everyone an idiot, and sadly, worse. I did all this for absolutely no reason whatsoever! I don’t know what was happening to me. I noticed this happen once before when I was watching too much TV with cursing in it. But this wasn’t the case, becaise htis month I had been fasting TV. All this time, I am supposed to be getting closer to God and His likeness, and now I was getting further.

And this is what shocked me the most. A week prior, I had had an awesome week. I really did feel close to God. I was thinking I could give up TV for good. I was praying about doing missions work over the summer. I was smiling, skipping, and just having an awesome time. It wasn’t any wonder that I stopped smiling or skipping when my attitude went sour. The strangest thing was the fact that I no longer wanted to go on a mission’s trip. I had lost all desire. Poof. Just like that. What happened?

The only person I could think of who had a pretty bad attitude was Jonah. He was furious that he had to go to the wicked city of Ninevah to warn the people of their impending doom. Jonah ran the other direction and ended up in the belly of a whale. God ended up giving him another chance and although, Jonah finally preached to the Nivevites, he was still angry! He sat sulking outside the city just waiting for its destruction. Jonah totally missed it. Jonah was called to be a prophet and he missed the point of his purpose all on account of his rotten temper.

We will never know what happened to the rest of Jonah’s life. Did he ask God for forgiveness once again? Did he go on to do great things? Did he ever find joy in living for God?

I don’t want my story to end so abruptly and on such a devastating note. We must be wise and do as Ecclesiastes 7 states: “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Once I realized that my dream to do missions in the summer was slowly vanishing, I quickly repented. I never want to miss out of God’s plan and chance to use my giftings because of a stinky attitude.

Hey, I’m no fool.

All the Glory

It’s very hard to separate ourselves from what we do. But in reality, everything we do and are able to do is because of God’s grace and mercy. Maybe that is easy for you. Maybe it’s easy to give God praise when he helps you to get a raise or when you receive accolades for a job well done.

Is it just as easy to give him glory when you don’t want to do something?

Let me give you an example. Last Sunday, I had to go to an open house for 3 hours at my school. There is nothing worse than having to go to work outside of your normal working hours. I mean, holidays and weekends off is one of the perks to being a teacher. Well, I was complaining about it and I was trying to pump myself up by saying, “Well, I only have to be there for 3  hours.” But then God awoken my heart to something else. He said, “Why don’t you do it for me?”

Now, I’ve heard this said before. There’s a scripture in 1 Cor. 10:31 that reads:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

But these were just words until the Holy Spirit breathed life into them and all of a sudden it took on a whole new meaning in my soul. So, I repented and I went to work saying, “Lord, this is for you.” And you know what? I had a great time. I got to do something I never get to do. I got to talk to potential new students, parents, and I even gave a tour of the school. Maybe because of my attitude people will decide to enroll at our school, which will mean we still have our jobs; but, even better yet, maybe my attitude of joy and willingness to help will spread to just one person and just maybe God could use that to touch their heart in a way only He can.

Look, God can do whatever He wants, but for some reason He chose to use us. There is nothing we can do outside of His gifting, so in everything let’s praise His name and bring glory to Him in whatever we do.