Friday, August 30, 2013

Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

Prayer Warriors

Eph. 6

"Put on the full armor of God..."
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
"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."

Did you know that prayer was listed with the armor of God spoken of in Eph. 6?

The book of Daniel also gives us a glimpse into the spiritual battles that are going on around us.

The angel Gabriel comes to Daniel a time or two to bring answers to his prayer.

"Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.  As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed."

"Do not be afraid, Daniel.  Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God your words were heard, and I have come in response to them."

These two verses have something in common.  The angel tells Daniel that the answer was given as soon as Daniel began to pray in the first verse and as soon as Daniel set his mind to gain understanding and to humble himself before God in the second one.  Daniel was seeking God and his  heart was bowed before Him.  His prayer came from an earnest desire for God's will to be known.  

So many times others have expressed their doubt to me that God hears their prayers.  Many are of the opinion that God is fickle and is not inclined to answer our prayers consistantly.  But the verses below tell us otherwise.  They show us that when we are seeking God and calling out to Him because we trust Him, He not only hears but He also answers. 

Isaiah 65:24 "Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear"

Psalms 9:10 "Those who know your name will trust you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."

Ps. 34:15 "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer."

2 Sam. 22:7 "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears."

Ps. 94:9 "He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?"

Isaiah 59:1 "Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear"

Psalm 145:19 "He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them."

1 Peter 3:12   "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."

What I find interesting is that Daniel was praying and fasting for 21 days without evidence of an answer.  But he kept trusting that God heard his prayer and his hope was in The Lord, who he knew could save him.  The testimony of the angel was that God indeed had sent His answer from the moment Daniel had sought The Lord.   Why then, did the answer not come immediately?  The angel gives the answer to that question.   He said he was detained by the "prince of the Persian kingdom".  This "spiritual ruler" had detained the angel Gabriel and the answer he was sent to bring.  But Daniel kept praying and fasting and finally Michael, one of the the chief princes, came to help Gabriel. 

Eph. 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."  

So we are instructed;

Eph. 6:18 "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,"

1 Thes. 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

James 5:16b "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."  

Our enemy, Satan, will try any way he can to undermine your faith and crush you.  More and more I am becoming aware of how many people have believed the lie that God does not hear or answer the prayers of His children simply because they do not see the answer immediately.  But God is always faithful.  And He always answers.  There is a battle that we can not see going on around us.  We must be faithful to do as God has said and pray CONTINUALLY.  Your prayers of faith are powerful AND effective.  And God IS faithful to answer.  Be like Daniel.  Do not give up praying and seeking God even when you do not see the answer that God sends right away.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Be Not Weary

I believe wholeheartedly that God is still offended by sin. I do not believe for one minute that we get a free pass to keep on in sinful behavior/lifestyles simply because the blood of Jesus was shed for us. From time to time I see things and hear of things going on and I think to myself, "What use is it to ever say anything to anyone? What use is it to put yourself out there and be vocal about the truth you know, taking social risks and setting yourself up to be hated for standing up for righteousness?"

Most of the time people politely listen to the truth. Most even nod their heads in agreement.  But shamelessly later they go back to doing the very things that God abhors. I get so discouraged when I see people who claim to know God do this.  It is so easy to think that encouraging others to be holy is a hopeless cause. But these verses keep telling me to push on.

2 Corinthians 4:1 "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."
2 Thessalonians 3:13 "As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good."
1 Thessalonians 4:1 "Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more."

I never wonder why there are so many of the same kinds of commands. Don't grow weary, do not lose heart, do this more and more...Those of us fighting the good fight need this same encouragement today. It is all to easy to become discouraged, especially if you lose friends or family members because you stand firm for what God says is true.

I know there will be many that reject God and the Way. But I also know that not everyone who keeps turning back to their sin is someone who is lost. These next verses show me that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ choose to be rebellious and refuse to obey.

2 Thes. 3:14-15 "If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother".

As a believer I am not only supposed to live a holy life but I am also not to associate with those who refuse to commit themselves to becoming more and more holy. I speak of those who refuse to stop doing what God has said is sin, whether it's filthy thinking or speech, gossip, gluttony, envy, drunkenness, sexual sin, fraudulent activity, lying or spreading discord,hatefulness, any sin a brother refuses to forsake.  If a brother or sister in Christ refuses to stop doing sinful things we are to correct them and hold them to God's standard of holiness.   This is a hard thing to do. It's easier sometimes to believe the one verse the world knows and keeps screaming, "judge not!". But in reality the whole point of proper judgement within the church is to restore a brother or sister to a right way of living. The goal is not to feed our own sense self-righteousness or of personal indignation over sin, but rather it is to restore faithfulness and to actively love someone (not just with words and tongue, 1 John 3:18)  potentially saving them from the harm and sorrow that comes with living a sinful life.

Psalm 141:5 "Let the righteous strike me, it is kindness; let him reprove me, it is like oil on the head; don't let my head refuse it; Yet my prayer is always against evil deeds".

Here the psalmist demonstrates what the proper response of a believer should be to correction.  Pride often causes a person to refuse correction.  Pride discredits a rebuke by answering it with a rebuttal in defense.   It says,  "When you take the log out of your own eye you can take the speck out of mine." or  "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you."  Pride would have a person focus on the fact that no one is sinless and uses it to disqualify "the rebuke of a righteous man".  But Jesus has already condemned sin.  And it is the righteousness of Jesus that qualifies each believer to see sin for what it is and rebuke it.  It is up to each believer to submit to a life giving rebuke and turn from sin. We should model our responses after the psalmist who considered even the strike of a righteous man a kindness.  The strike of a righteous man reminds us of the Lord's hatred for sin.  His wrath for sin is still mounting.

Proverbs 16:6 "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil".  The blood of Jesus saves us from God's wrath.  But the blood of Jesus does not make God "ok" with sin within us.  He will have our obedience.  One of His merciful ways to correct us is to use the life giving rebuke of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  If we refuse this He will find other ways to remind us of His holiness and His wrath for sin. Hebrews 10:31 "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God".

As it has always been, most people criticize Christians for their obedience when we do what society thinks is unthinkable and actually dare to not only speak out against sinfulness but also to disassociate ourselves from those who refuse to stop sinning. I know from personal experience what it is like to be rejected by family, friends and acquaintances because I have stood unwaveringly in the truth. And I'll be honest, sometimes I get very discouraged. Jesus said that we would be persecuted. He warned us that we would be hated. I didn't realize how hard it would be when the hate would come from people I love.

A good friend reminded me recently of the verse, Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." I am so thankful for faithful friends who speak truth to me and encourage me. 

Proverbs 27:9 "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel."

One of God's greatest gifts is the fellowship we have with other brothers and sisters in the Lord. The testimony of the Spirit of God within someone often times causes me to want to seek God more. The world and our enemy actively seek to stifle this gift.  Satan wants to isolate us.  He wants us to succumb to our pride and reject godly counsel.  He would have us believe that meeting together is not necessary but can be replaced sufficiently and without consequence by viewing sermons on tv or having "online church".  He wants to remove everything that causes us to seek holiness together because he knows that one of the strongest forms of inspiration is the testimony of the Spirit of God within us to each other.  He wants us to become discouraged with each other, causing us to focus on our failures and in this way make us want to avoid each other and effectively stifle the edifying sharpening that happens between men when they come together face to face regularly.  He uses our pride to bring this about and justify it.  

My purpose in writing this is to confess that I am often times so tempted to succumb.  I am tempted to isolate myself and remove myself from all areas of vulnerability and that includes sharing what the Lord has taught me.  I am tempted to keep silent about the things I see and hear and restrict my conversation to shallow niceties.  But I know that if I truly love you, I will deny my instincts to be self preserving and rather, be willing to give an answer for the hope within me.  I will tell you what I know God has said.  I will give you advice and counsel as best I can to the level I have learned.  And if you have learned something I have not or feel I need to be reminded of something I may have forgotten, I ask that you be willing to share your wisdom with me. 

That is my other purpose in writing this.  I want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters, do not withhold the gift of your counsel from each other. 

 "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."  1 Peter 3:15

Keep seeking God together.  Do not grow weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.   Press on!   Keep the faith.   Keep speaking the truth.   Be not weary.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Language

Some see Him in the stars.  Some see Him in the sky.  Others wear His beauty on their faces.  However He has displayed the beauty of His love there is a language that anyone can hear.

If you have ears to hear open your heart and receive Him.  If you have heard His voice, don't waist another day.  If you've ever seen evidence in creation or if ever you've felt His mercy, don't throw it away.

Some hear Him in a song.  Some understand through tears.  Others see through the hands that reach to help them.  However He has displayed the wonder of His love there is a language that anyone can hear. 

If you have ears to hear open your heart and receive Him.  If you have heard His voice, don't waist another day.  If you've ever seen evidence in creation or if ever you've felt His mercy, don't throw it away.

Taking a walk one fall day I was impressed by the beauty of the sky.  In the north there were storm clouds dark and scary.  To the west of me the sun was beaming through the blue sky.  It was just so beautiful that I couldn't help but glorify God.  Then it occurred to me that God inspired my love and my faith in Him by speaking to me in a language He knew I would understand.  As I pondered this it dawned on me that He wants all of creation to know Him and to see His beauty and that He speaks the languages of every person He created.  He doesn't leave it to chance that we will "get it".  He actually gives us eyes to see and ears to hear so that we can know Him.  What is your heart's language?  How does God speak to you?  For some it's the beauty of the other times it may be a sorrowful moment that drives you to Him.  However it is that He is speaking to you, listen.

Friday, August 9, 2013

On My Own

I'm running to you Lord.  This burden is to great to bear on my own.  I'm scared of what I've seen, a wickedness in me that I can't overcome on my own, not alone. 
Lord I don't have the strength.  And I don't have the will to overcome my secret shame.  And I don't understand  why I keep returning to what causes me such pain.  And so I run to You, the Author of my faith.  And I will wait upon You for the strength to carry on.

Remind me once again, renew in me the love that I first had for You.  Release me from my fear.  Release me from the shame that I can't overcome on my own, not alone.
Lord I don't have the strength.  And I don't have the will to overcome my secret shame.  And I don't understand why I keep returning to what causes me such pain.  And so I run to You, the Author of my faith.  And I will wait upon You for the strength to carry on.

Writing this song was nothing more than a confession to God.  When faced with the reality of my wickedness and my inability to conquer the desire that was threatening to consume me I became afraid.  I became aware of the fact that even the desire to want  to resist seemed far from me.  Standing on the edge, faced with a choice...the wisdom was clear but my will  to choose rightly was compromised.  I knew I couldn't do it.  I knew if left to myself I was going to fail.  I was grieved and cut to the heart by my betrayal of the Lover of my soul.  After all that He had done for me, after all that He had born for me, still I didn't even trust myself to make a choice that would honor Him.  It was then that I cried out to Him to give me the strength and the will to follow Him.  And once again He reached down and saved me from myself and from the clutches of wickedness. 

Nothing But Holy

I want to be nothing but holy, pure and lovely just like Jesus.

Make me to be everything beautiful.  Just like my Savior, like my Lord.

For He is the one who is worthy of all praises.  And He is the one I aspire to please.

The lyrics to this song are short and sweet.  They were (and still are) the cry of my heart late one afternoon as I was washing dishes and crying because I was SO angry about a certain situation.  Crazy that such a beautiful prayer and confession could come from such ugly circumstances.  As I stood there madly washing the dishes and replaying the injustice of the situation over and over in my head I was left with a choice.  The bottom line was that I was not going to be able to demand justice.  I was not going to be able to force the person who was wrong to do what was right.  All I could do was manage my own reaction.  God showed me that I was only responsible for myself and my own reactions.  And then the answer a song...with a simple cry for holiness.  As the words flowed past my lips and the melody hung in the air the release I was longing for came with my submission to the will of God.  "It is mine to avenge".  That's what God says.  "Be holy as I am holy". 

Friday, August 2, 2013

It All Falls On Him

I just had to share the quote from John Piper's page this morning;

"'Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.' Proverbs 24:26   This is a love affair with truth."

It stands out in my mind because just a few days ago I lost a "friend" because of Truth.  This woman who went through confirmation in her youth, two years of bible school with me, and went on to Northwestern Christian College afterward, claims to have at one time "known" Jesus but now denies Him.  She also denies the validity of the New Testament as the Word of God and claims that the worship of Jesus is "nothing short of the most practiced form of idolatry of our time".   She has completely abandoned The Faith.

In our short time of discourse it became abundantly clear that "reasoning together" though said to be welcomed, was not welcomed at all.  She even called it a "joke".   Truth was perceived as "threats" and "insulting, demeaning attacks" and she became hostile in her responses basically saying to me, "(her heart has) NO Room for (my) little explanation of god".  Her parting words to me were, " I WILL NOT bow to your tiny god ever again". 

This exchange and many others like it, got me thinking even more deeply about Jesus.  Psalm 69:9 says, "zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me".   During my exchange with this woman it was clear that in her hostility she was trying to insult me and my faith in Christ.  But I was not insulted.  I never became angry or personally indignant.  This is because her insults though intended for me, fell upon Jesus.  He bore them 2000 years ago when he was beaten, insulted and hung on a cross in my place. 

"Let every sin, every rebellion and every rejection of Your will hang over our lives like a notice of conviction upon a cross.  And when viewing that cross, help us to realize that though WE deserve to be the ones hanging there under that conviction, we need not and dare not believe we can bear it.  Help us to see Jesus, having come under that conviction and endure that cross in our stead.  And give us tears to weep and repent of all that He bore for us." 

This quote, from one of my prayer journal entries, came as a result of the realization that though Jesus was perfect in every way and did not deserve the insults and beatings and death He received, nor God's wrath for sin , He willingly subjected Himself to those things entirely.  He didn't even afford Himself the least form of self defense.  Even the most peaceful and non aggressive persons in the world defends themselves by at least withdrawing into a cocoon of self preservation in the form of an emotional disconnect in order to insulate themselves from pain.  But Jesus didn't even afford Himself this option.  Instead He consciously and willingly subjected Himself to ALL of the pain and sorrow that we deserve.  And because He did this, I no longer need to bear the burden of such great sorrow that accompanies the hatred that often times others direct at me personally because of my faith and love affair with Truth.  In my life I have had ample opportunity to "grow" through such situations.  But it wasn't until I realized that Jesus not only bore my sin and the wrath of God, but also the pain of the insults and rejection of others, that I experienced liberation from my battle with bitterness and "hurt".  It was a timely realization too.  For the older I get, the more I see the world changing at an ever increasing rate.  People no longer even hide their evil.  They are openly hateful toward God and His children.  Reality is this; more and more people are rejecting the Way, and the line defining those who belong to God and those who are of the world is becoming more clear every day. 

We are told, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man." (Luke 17:26)   And scripture tells us that at that time, the thoughts of men were "only evil all the time".  That means that even the good things that they thought, said and did were evil.  Even the love they had for their children and families was evil...because they were without Truth.  Just like many today, I'm sure they rejected God and His word and tried to redefine what IS, to make their own creation of a more acceptable "truth".  I'm sure there were many "religious" people who lived at that time...but their religion was worthless, based on lies and false assumptions, rooted in self will and rebellion.   We are told that we will see more and more of this as time goes on.  Those who call evil good and good evil will do so blatantly and without shame.  Are you ready? 

Can you bear up under the sorrow of seeing family and friends abandon The Faith?  My assertion is this;  You do not need to bear up under such sorrow.  Jesus did it for you.  So in light of this fact, keep on preaching.  Keep on teaching.  Keep on praying.  Keep on loving.  And be willing to extend yourself even as the rejection and insults of others increases. 

Scripture tells us that in the end times the "love of most" will grow cold.  This, I'm sure, will be the result of the unbearable sorrow that accompanies the realization that friends and loved ones are rejecting and abandoning The Way.  We love so deeply and hurt so greatly for them that many of us will withdraw into our cocoons of self preservation causing the "love of many to grow cold".  But Jesus never did that.  He experienced it ALL willingly. Dear children of God, let Him bear your sorrow.  Remind yourself daily of your redemption from even the pain of the insults and rejection of others for His Name's sake.   

Look To The Maker For Your Morals

"The dignity of man lies in the fact that he looks up to his Maker for his morals, not down to the beasts."  Rob Slane

Human kind is vastly different from all other creatures God created.  No other species is capable of entering into a "covenant marriage".  God created it while Adam and Eve were still in the garden, for mankind alone.  And the morals governing marriage have not changed...because God does not change.  And even though all throughout history mankind has twisted the definition of marriage (much like everything else designed by God is eventually twisted by Satan or man), God's intent remains steadfast, even as He remains steadfast.  

Many have used "nature" to validate  the notion that homosexuality is "natural" and therefore "acceptable".  But if you look at animals and take your cues from them...what can you possibly expect to gain except an inferior understanding of what God created?  

"The dignity of man lies in the fact that he looks up to his Maker for his morals, not down to the beasts."  

We can see all sorts of sexual behavior in the realm of "nature".  We see polygamy, rape, homosexuality, incest, even interspecies relations, and more.  Should we pattern our understanding of what marriage is off of "nature"?  NO! 

Marriage is so much more than a sexual relationship.  God designed the emotional and physical make up of men and women to compliment each other...even providing for the possibility of procreation through their physical union.  This union brings glory to God, demonstrating His ability to design everything perfectly with a purpose.  We are not merely designed to gratify ourselves and our mate...we were designed to show the glory of God in our union.  

While many people have used the phrase, "my better half", this gives the idea that two people who are incomplete come together and form one complete couple.  Rather than thinking this way, it would be better to think of it as two complete people being brought together to form one complete marriage.  When a man and woman are married they become one...yet they are still complete individuals living in submission and unity, much like the Trinity is three distinct persons making up one God.  In the same way each of the members of the Trinity compliments and glorifies the other, so a man and woman compliment and uphold one another bringing glory to God.  

When we deviate from what God created we miss the opportunity to bring Him glory.  Whether it's through divorce, adultery, fornication or homosexuality, the beautiful gift of a marital relationship is corrupted and consequently we miss our opportunity to participate in what He created to be a glorious and God honoring experience.  Marriage should be a picture of submissive and complimentary wills binding together to bring glory to God through the sacrifice of laying down individual "self-lives".  First and foremost we submit ourselves to God...then to each other.  

Much like Cain and Able who brought their sacrifices to the alter...many are trying to trade the desired sacrifice of submission to God and each other in holy matrimony for a twisted version of what they believe should be acceptable to God.  But just as Cain's sacrifice was not acceptable, neither is a homosexual union acceptable as a way to glorify Him.  God desires a sacrifice that pleases HIM, which is not the same thing as a sacrifice that pleases ourselves (such as Cain offered).

I was recently asked if I would support legislation to create "civil unions" for homosexual couples.  I will never.  The reason is simple, really.  God did not create men to lie with men or women to lie with women.  God did not create marriage for same sex couples.  And though not all in our country adhere to Christian morals, the fact remains that I can not, as a God fearing woman, call something God calls an abomination "acceptable".  

Isaiah 5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!"

Some may be strongly convinced that my stance is simply bigoted and unfair.  But I have to take my cues and get my morals from my Maker...not from the feeble substitution of man's sense of justice.  Wisdom is first found in the fear of The Lord, not in the opinions of man. 

So why do (or should) Christian men and women strive to protect marriage as being between one man and one woman?  Because that is what God created it to be.  And why should we stand against homosexuality (yet still loving those who struggle with it)?  Because it is an abomination to God.  

If our Nation continues on it's path of rejecting what God has said is right we can not expect His hand of mercy to be upon us.  We as His people can not redesign what He designed.  We MUST call evil, evil and good, good.  We can not redefine those words.  Nor can we redefine the gift of marriage.