Unseen Warfare

 

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood”  ~Ephesians 6:12

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Dark Clouds

We consider the problems in our life as originating from flesh and blood conflicts. For example, we are knocked off our perch by greedy, inconsiderate, backbiting, unfaithful, deceptive, unfair, fraudulent conflicts. Our hearts get broken, money taken, job jeopardized and so on. “How can this be happening to me?” we wail.

As Christians, however, we must remember what God says about the source of our struggles:

Ephesians 6:10-12 ~”Last of all I want to remind you that your strength must come from the Lord’s mighty power within you. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies—the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.”

The unseen world rules the seen and temporary world. The unseen enemy who wars against our soul doesn’t want us to use our eternal weapons of warfare provided by God that reach into his realm. He wants us to blame each other and flail around with awkward, earthbound weaponry. He wants us to fight what we can see and touch instead of calling upon God. Above all, satan wants us to act as though we are still citizens of this earth and forget that our citizenship is in heaven.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ~”We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.”

There is a true King (God) and a false one; a magnificent heaven and a terrifying hell. We presently wander a battlefield called earth, which is caught between night and day, life and death. Everything we now see, including the earth, will one day pass away.

We are agents of truth who cannot afford to distrust the Holy Spirit within. Doubt is one of the mightiest weapons satan raises against us. Doubt gives birth to hesitation, unbelief and fear. Stand against the attacks, press in and get the counsel of heaven.

James 1:5-6 ~”If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it. But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

1 Corinthians 2:11-13 ~”No one can really know what anyone else is thinking or what he is really like except that person himself. And no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world’s spirit) to tell us about the wonderful free gifts of grace and blessing that God has given us. In telling you about these gifts we have even used the very words given to us by the Holy Spirit, not words that we as men might choose. So we use the Holy Spirit’s words to explain the Holy Spirit’s facts.”

Psalm 86:11-13 ~”Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you. With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.”

And how do you handle your problems? Are your knuckles bruised from fighting the world as though God were some distant deity, smiling down from heaven, wishing you luck? Take stock of who you are according to the Bible and call upon Mighty God to direct your path and destroy the wiles of the enemy. God never sleeps or slumbers and is always with you…every second of every day! He’s done everything possible to prepare us for battle with unseen spiritual forces. Tap into His unlimited power and, by faith, take up the armor of God! The shield of faith does wonders.

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God’s Sorrow

 

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“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin”

2 Corinthians 7:10

 

“I am a man of constant sorrow I’ve seen trouble all my day. . .For six long years I’ve been in trouble, No pleasures here on earth I found. For in this world I’m bound to ramble I have no friends to help me now.” I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys

This sad, sorrowful song paints a desperate, hopeless picture of poor decisions leading to sorrow. Usually, when we read or hear of sorrow, this is the picture we see: hopeless, sad, lamenting, regret. However, God has provided a far better definition. Godly sorrow offers repentance and renewal—forgiveness!

How typical of God, the lover of our souls, to wash away the hopelessness of sorrow as we know it, and replace it with hope-filled repentance—the forgiveness of sins. Those who willingly follow Christ understand repentance and forgiveness. Not only do we understand— we relish the thought of God’s unlimited forgiveness. Interestingly, non believers, those who reject Christ, still understand the power of forgiveness as opposite of the power of sorrowful regret or hopelessness. All humans know that forgiveness, whether given or received, brings welcome relief mixed with hope. And why not— forgiveness was invented by God and shown to the world through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  

Psalm 51:16-17

  “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant

heart, O God.” 

Isaiah 66:1-2

“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build Me a temple as good as that? Could you build Me such a resting  place?

My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are Mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”

1 Peter 5:5-7  

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Psalm 33:16-22

16 “No king is saved by the size of his army;

   no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

   despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him,

   on those whose hope is in His unfailing love,

19 to deliver them from death  and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;

   He is our help and our shield.

21 In Him our hearts rejoice,

   for we trust in His holy name.

22 May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,

   even as we put our hope in You.”

Hebrews 12:11

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

When confronted by punishment, a child is sorrowful (perhaps because they’ve been discovered rather than for their behavior). If they’ve learned a lesson, their life will be more peaceful afterwards. If not, the cycle will be repeated. The same is true in our relationship with God. If we learn the lesson and repent, our sorrow will be short-lived and transformed into righteousness.

A New Person

“When someone becomes a Christian, they become a brand new person”  2 Cor. 5:17

The darkened theatre was hushed as the magician placed his beautiful assistant in the coffin-like box, balanced on top of two sturdy frames. Seemingly delighted with the prospect, her white teeth gleamed as she obliged, stepping into the box, disappearing beneath the closing lid.  

It was clear to the audience that the box was balanced on the frames, nothing beneath, no cloth to hide an escape route, just a long box on wooden frames which he now nailed shut to add even more drama and suspense.  

To this point, I was mildly interested in what came next, how he would make believe that she disappeared and would walk out from stage-left or some such thing. But when his other assistant rolled out a cart, piled high with razor-sharp swords, I began to squirm. Sure enough, he brandished one of the swords, touching its sharpened edge and then quickly spun around, shoving it into the box up to its hilt, I joined the audience in an unbelieving gasp! It was not possible.

Before we could regain our composure, the magician quickly and methodically walked around the box, shoving every sword deeply into the box, where his innocent assistant lay! Even though I knew this was a magic show and came with a great deal of skepticism, I have to admit to absolute shock mixed with fear and unbelief as I watched.

Of course she was not dead or even injured as we all saw in a few moments when he opened the lid with much difficulty (so it seemed) to reveal the undamaged young assistant. Judging by what we saw on the outside, that young woman should have been fatally wounded. However, what we thought we saw was not what really happened. It was an illusion, unlike our new life in Christ.

On the outside, we may seem the same as we were before Christ was invited into our lives, but inside we are totally changed—new people—filled with His Holy Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:13-21  “Whatever we do, it is certainly not for our own profit but because Christ’s love controls us now. Since we believe that Christ died for all of us, we should also believe that we have died to the old life we used to live. He died for all so that all who live—having received eternal life from him—might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now! When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!”

All these new things are from God who brought us back to himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into his favor and be reconciled to him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them but blotting them out. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!

1 Peter 1:21-25  “Because of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in him alone. Now you can have real love for everyone because your souls have been cleansed from selfishness and hatred when you trusted Christ to save you; so see to it that you really do love each other warmly, with all your hearts.

1 Peter 4:7-8  “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore be earnest, thoughtful men of prayer. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults.”

For you have a new life. It was not passed on to you from your parents, for the life they gave you will fade away. This new one will last forever, for it comes from Christ, God’s ever-living Message to men. Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls; but the Word of the Lord will last forever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.”

John 1:12-13  “But as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of a husband, but of God.”

By one decision, our lives are changed eternally—for the better—for the best! It is no illusion.

 

Help Me Understand This!

 

 

“I have hidden your Word in my heart” ~Psalm 119:112014-02-04_142222-1_thumb.jpg

 

“According to 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right,” said Pastor Frank. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he stood without speaking, looking across the congregation for what seemed an eternity. As he remained speechless, the people began to wonder what this meant. What was he saying by not speaking. The church was silent. And uneasy.

“Right about now you are all wondering what happened. Did I forget what to say. Have a stroke. Get struck dumb like Zecharias? You may relax, I gave us a minute—

And that is what is was, sixty seconds, to consider the Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16.

“What are the implications of this important verse? What can we get from these words which many of us have read countless times? If you are at all like me when it comes to familiar Bible verses, we shoot them out to make a point without taking time to digest what the Holy Spirit has said. And remember, it was the Holy Spirit who gave these words to the writer, the Apostle Paul. It is also the Holy Spirit who gives life to these words as we read and recite them. “

“When we were in school, we all read thousands of words and in some cases were able to recite them from memory, hoping to get a better grade. However, even the most memorable and thought-provoking of those words pales in comparison to God’s Words given to us in His Bible. As Paul said above, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God!”

“So what am I getting at this morning and why did I give that long dramatic pause? I want to remind us how important all the verses in the Bible are. These are God’s Holy words given to us! As such they deserve our time. Memorizing verses is good for the soul and life giving as well but— if we don’t take time to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we read, we miss what our Heavenly Father wants to express and drive into our hearts.

Pastor Frank paused again, looking across the congregation. “Take a breath please. Relax your bodies and settle in with an open mind. Don’t think about your kids in the nursery, where you will eat lunch or how much gas  you have in the car. Give your minds to God so He can speak to you through this verse.

“First. Have you ever noticed this important verse has the same reference chapter and verse of the most quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16? Neat huh. We know it isn’t an accident or happenstance. The Holy Spirit set it up that way which makes it easier to remember how to find both of them.

“Second. All scripture is inspired by God. Take a moment to consider the power of that statement. When people challenge us about the Bible being just a book written by some zealots from the past and has no bearing on life today, you can say, with certainty, that ALL scripture is inspired by God. And you can point them to this verse. It is up to the reader to accept or reject this truth.  

“Third. All scripture is. . .useful to teach us what is true. How reassuring to know that God Himself uses the Bible, His Word, to teach us what is true. By our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible, God will teach us what is true in our lives and His Word. Because we are frail humans who weaken and allow insecurity to slip in, God has given us the reminder here in 2 Timothy 3:16; All scripture is useful to teach us what is true. Regardless of my feelings, God’s word is always true. My feelings will vary but His Word never does!

“Fourth. All scripture is. . .useful to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. What an incredible promise. Now this is beyond human understanding Isn’t it? By reading and listening to the Bible, God will reveal what is wrong in our lives. You may be thinking you’re not sure you want to be reminded of what is wrong in your life. However, this is an example of God’s amazing love for us. He knows we need to be reminded so we can repent and go on with a clean slate. He is all about forgiveness you know. And so it is with our sins, they are covered by the blood of Christ and our willingness to repent accentuates His forgiveness.

“Fifth. All scripture corrects when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. And there it is, His Word corrects and teaches. He doesn’t correct and leave it there but guides us into correct behavior or the best answer to problem. God is not hoping we will sin so he can smash us with a big rock. Rather He is a loving Father who already gave His only Son to death so we can live forever. As we consider how God has shown his love for us then surely we must understand He is not hoping we will sin so he can teach us a lesson or two.

“We can clearly see,” said Pastor Frank, “all scripture is indeed useful for many things in our lives, established to be an extension of God’s magnificent love and concern for all believers. As a child, were you ever told to take your time eating your food and not gulp and run? Even so, God is telling us to take our time in His Word to savor the spiritual nourishment He’s planted therein.”  

Letter from grandmother to grandson in jail

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Dear Sam,

Well, I hear you have a new residence for the time being. Can’t say I feel congratulations are in order but if it gives you an idea that no matter what we think, there are rules and regulations we all must follow to make it through this life, it might be worth it.

Dick traded in the VW for a Ram P.U. It’s quite nice and roomy. He’s always wanted a truck so I guess it was time. I can’t believe it, he actually washes it himself once a week. What a difference.

Oh yes, our garden is growing great this year. We’ve had beautiful, sunny weather, except for today…it rained all day!

Why don’t you give some thought to going back to school, Sam? Or think about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. You surely don’t plan on making a career out of serving hamburgers!

Well, your grandmother will close this boring letter and quit preaching.

Dick says, “Hello”.

Love & a Kiss,

Grandma

Holiness

 

“May the God of peace make you holy in every way” ~1 Thess. 5:23

        “Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion,” said the sweat-drenched pastor as he walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message.

       Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification [holiness].

Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation. To be accurate, this very emotional and dramatic pastor should have proclaimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!” Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.

        Romans 6:19  I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

        1 Cor. I:30-31  God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.

        1 Cor. 1:2  To you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

        1 Cor. 6:11  You were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

        1 Thess. 5:23   Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 17:17-19  (Christ’s prayer to God) Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.

        2 Thess. 2:13  As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.

        Hebrews 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

        Romans 15:16   I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

        Sanctification/holiness is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. But fear not, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.

       

Temporary Reward

Scans-January 31-2018

 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

As a reporter, Phil had an opportunity to interview many people. On this day it was an athlete returned home from competition in the Olympics. During their talk the athlete described his basic training schedule: “I train at least four hours a day, six days a week, taking one day off for complete rest. And there are times when I increase my regimen to doubles. And that is three hours training, two hours of rest, followed by another three hours training. I’ve been doing that for the past four years.

But I’ve got to tell you that as difficult as that sounds, and it is, it was all worth it to stand on that podium, wearing the gold medal!”

Later, while transcribing his notes, Phil was suddenly struck with how unlike the athlete his Christian life was. Actually, it was nearly the exact opposite. Phil focused his Christian energy on Sunday, attending church, Bible class and various potlucks, leaders meetings and counseling. He usually welcomed Sunday evening so he could rest.

Without realizing it, his life had fallen into a very worldly rut, randomly giving time to God a few minutes here, a sporadic prayer there, and a few “help me God” prayers scattered throughout most days. Jesus had become his long distance love; one he considered with passion on rare occasion. Bowing his head, Phil called out to God in earnest prayer, “Oh dear Lord, restore a clean heart and passionate desire for you in me. You are truly the Lamb that was slain for me.”

1 Cor. 9:24-25  Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. (J. B. Phillips)

Recalling this verse clarified Phil’s position. He had indeed been training for a perishable crown, a temporary reward, worldly recognition. It was time to reverse the order and his priorities.

Heb. 12:1-2   As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

And then, two nights later, Phil was awakened with something like a revelation—God deserves our praise and adoration. He is the Lamb of God. He is God. He is our Lord and Savior. His heart beat faster as the realization came over him—our eternal destination is certain and promised. Rejoice in the Lord always rang in his mind. How could he not rejoice in the Lord?

Rev. 5:11-14  “Then in my vision I heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the living creatures and the elders. There were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, crying in a great voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard the voice of everything created in Heaven, upon earth, under the earth and upon the sea, and all that are in them saying, “Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!”14 The four living creatures said, “Amen”, while the elders fell down and worshipped.

Rev. 1:4-7  John, to the seven Churches in Asia: Grace and peace be to you from him who is and who was and who is coming, from the seven Spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, first-born of the dead, and ruler of kings upon earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins through his own blood, who has made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and power for timeless ages, amen.See, he is coming in the clouds and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him, and his coming will mean bitter sorrow to every tribe upon the earth. So let it be!

What Phil discovered is, if any Christian focuses on the majesty and glory of the Lord, their life will change. Listening to some of the old hymns that glorify God, reading the Bible and praying will bring more and more change. If we are as determined to strengthen our relationship with Jesus as the athlete was to win a gold medal, our rewards will be life-changing and eternal!