WeepingintoDancing

Overcoming Difficult Trials

Archive for the category “Spiritual Warfare”

God’s Point of View and Proportions

9When life is chaotic, painful, or full of uncertainty, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Exhaustion wears a person down, both physically and spiritually. And without time in the Word, depression is certain to knock on our door. It takes both physical and spiritual strength to weather a storm, and we require nourishment to persevere a lengthy or intense battle.

Without spiritual manna, the devil can easily establish footholds in our walk with Christ. Footholds are often secured when we doubt the goodness and faithfulness of God. Is God not constant? Is He good only when times are joyful and fruitful? Or, is God good, in spite of the trials that try to knock us sideways?

God does test our faith. But when adversity comes, He hopes the struggle succeeds in chiseling away personal impurities. Remember, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we look into a mirror, we should see Christ in our reflection.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 (NKJV)

But the devil, always the prowling opportunist, uses adversity to spread lies. His lies attack the very nature of God.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (NKJV)

In good times and bad times, we have to keep our focus on things above. By doing so, we obtain a proper perspective of our situation and correctly see things in their right proportion. Our circumstances may look grim, but Jesus walks with us through every storm!

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

When we remember God’s love for us, we can look at our situation and identify positives, if we search them out. God is all about turning bad things into good. Learning to develop God’s perspective on life is greatly beneficial, but it takes self-discipline and there is no room for self-pity.

Consider the story of David and Goliath. If David had simply looked at the proportions of size and strength when facing Goliath, he would never have approached the giant. But David put God into the equation. He knew that all things were possible with God. He also knew that God would not be mocked.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.Galatians 6:7 (NKJV)

David had God’s perspective when he accepted Goliath’s battlefield challenge. He was able to perceive things from God’s point of view. He knew God was all-powerful. He was certainly far greater than the prideful Philistine who had yelled insults at God’s chosen people. Without armor, and holding a mere slingshot, David slew the enemy who had insulted his God, tormented King Saul, and terrorized the entire army of Israel.

King Saul, David’s brothers, and the Israelite army were paralyzed with fear because they viewed the giant and his challenge with earthly eyes. When God is not added into the equation of life, the proportions of the battle before us will cause feelings of intimidation and even terror.

If you find yourself in a time of testing, where a trial of some sort presses in, add God to your equation. When you do, the obstacles Satan has planted for intimidation purposes will appear out of proportion. Circumstances that initially seemed vast and capacious will melt away and become a fraction of what they had once appeared to be. The Light of the World will disperse all darkness and expose the devil’s handiwork. Step-by-step, through every twist, bump, and turn in your road, God will walk beside you in love, grace, and mercy. Like David, you too will sleigh your Goliath because God is with you.

The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11 (NKJV)

 Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.Proverbs 4:25 (NKJV)

 “So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” Hebrews 13:6 (NKJV)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Spiritual Footholds

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The Bible warns us not to give the devil a foothold. But what is a foothold and why is it so dangerous?

And do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:27 (NIV)

When I hear the word foothold, I imagine a mountain climber scaling a steep incline. A foothold is a place where a person’s foot can be placed to support them securely, especially while climbing. It is a reliable position from which further progress may be made. A foothold can be a good and necessary thing. But when you add the devil to the equation look out!

We are told that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Paul refers to our earthly bodies as a tent in 2 Corinthians. As you read on, consider your body a type of residence.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 (NIV)

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.2 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)

The warning God speaks of has to do with our emotions. The devil preys upon feelings of anger, bitterness, depression, guilt, shame, fear, and worry. Examining the verse in front of Ephesians 4:27 provides us with more information. It explains how we provide the devil with footholds.

“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.” Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)

Ephesians 4:26 is not referring to a just anger due to sin or unrighteousness. Rather, sinful anger hurts others. Proverbs 22:24 tells us to avoid those who are quick to anger and Proverbs 29:11 calls those who give full vent to their rage, fools.

It takes discipline to take every thought captive, but it is a sure way to keep the devil from our door. When we succumb to self-pity, depression, or any other negative emotion, we allow the devil to get a foot inside our house. Ephesians 4:26 instructs us to deal with our anger before the setting sun. In other words, do not let anger fester in your heart for very long. Take care of it quickly. Resolve the matter otherwise, it can lead to bitterness and a multitude of negative emotions. This can be applied to worry, fear, shame, depression, or any other emotion that does not glorify God. Seek help in prayer and through the Body of Christ.

When we provide the devil with a foothold and we do not slam the door on his foot, he will push his way into our abode. Once inside our home, he is no longer a foothold but rather a stronghold. He has gained more control. It will take a lot of “work” to evict him. So, slamming the door on footholds and bolting the lock as soon as the devil withdraws his sore foot, is a much wiser option. The robber and thief would love to usher in havoc and rob your peace of mind. Prayerfully consider your emotions and ask God to rid you of any footholds the devil may have in your life.

“For 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.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

Helpless Before God

_Pray Cuz Helpless

Prayer is a gift. Human beings are the only creatures blessed with the ability to communicate with God. As with any relationship, honest communication is necessary for connections to grow and mature. God is all about intimacy. He loves us with a tenderness beyond compare. Yet, many of us neglect the prayer closet. Why?

Sin or rebellion may be our reason. If we think God can’t see our sin or actions we are foolishly trying to deceive ourselves. God knows and sees all things. He came to save the sick and lost. He understands temptations and no sin is beyond His forgiveness and love. Facing God with honesty is difficult, but the only way to recapture a broken relationship.

You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely.Psalm 139:1-4 (NIV)

Fear may also be a reason for our reluctance to pray. Fear of punishment or God’s anger is a cunning trap set by the enemy. The devil loves to shovel shame and guilt our way. But God is love. Love if forgiving, gentle, and kind. But we also serve a just God who honors free will and allows consequences for sinful actions.

“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (NKJV)

Sin must be confessed if we want our prayers to be heard. Sin separates us from God. King David sinned greatly yet God still called him, “A man after My own heart.” Adultery and murder are not what we would imagine when considering this mighty declaration.

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.Acts 13:22 (NKJV)

A reverent fear of God means we understand whom it is that we are speaking to. It shows respect and awe. With a reverent fear we recognize our condition and see that we are helpless, helpless to run our spiritual race without God’s strength and assistance.

So, when we come before God we must don a cloak of humility. Acknowledge Him as the Creator of the universe. Consider His power and might. Be in awe!

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”         Philippians 2:12-13 (NKJV)

Humility will bend our knees when we consider our position as the creation. The one true God, the Creator of all things actually wants fellowship with us. So with a reverent fear, one without terror and distress over punishment, we must lay our hearts bare and trust God to toss them as far as the east is from the west.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”        Psalm 103:12 (NKJV)

We live in a world that praises self-reliance and it starts with infancy. Parents rejoice over their child’s first step, their first bike ride without training wheels, dressing and bathing without assistance. Even the fierce, “ME do it!” brings a measure of pride to every parent’s heart. Not needing parental help with certain activities is necessary for human development. But we will always need the help of our spiritual Father. We should strive to lay down our self-will and rely wholly on God. With an attitude of helplessness, God will lift us up and provide for our needs. Depend on God. Spend time with Him in prayer, and concede that you are wholly dependent on Him.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James 4:10 (NIV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”        1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.Romans 5:6 (NASB)

Do You Stick Out?

christians

The Bible tells us we are aliens and strangers in this world. This is a reminder to all Christians that heaven is our eternal home. The Greek translation for alien is a sojourner, stranger, and foreigner. A foreigner is one who lives in a place without the right of citizenship. Our citizenship is with God and in the heavenly realm.

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wave war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 (NABS)

 But, for now, we must run a spiritual race; working out our salvation by making the most of the days God has allotted us. Every person has a specific number of days to live in this world. No spirit or man can snatch us from God’s hand or steal a single minute of our life. Through the sanctification process, God equips us to fulfill those works He Created us to execute for His glory.

A person’s days are determined; You have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.Job 14:5 (NIV)

 When we live as followers of Christ, we will stick out.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.Galatians 3:27 (NKJV)

Non-believers shall take notice and question our thoughts and actions. If we go against politically correct ideas, warped by the Ruler of this World (John 12:31-32), we will find ourselves judged by the ones he has deceived. The devil has many names including: God of this Age (2 Corinthians 4:4), Deceiver (Revelation 12:9), Enemy (Matthew 13:39) , Liar (John 8:44), Adversary (1 Peter 5:8), and Accuser (Revelation 12:10). They define his character and his actions.

That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24 (NKJV)

Our Christian character and faith will be attractive and repulsive to the lost. Some will find themselves drawn to our inner peace and love, while the conviction of the Holy Spirit will cause others to react with judgment and hate. Conscious of sin, but not willing to admit it as sin and turn from it, a spiritual battle incurs.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

Times are changing. More and more Christian beliefs are viewed as ignorant, backward, unrealistic, and behind-the-times. Words such as archaic, old-fashioned, and out-of-date, will find their way into judgmental conversations. But what the world does not understand is thatJesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV). Additionally, God does not adjust His living Word to accommodate our lusts and desires. He is unchanging.

“For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.Malachi 3:6 (NKJV)

 When we accepted Jesus as The Way… The Truth… and The Life, we died to our old self and put the righteousness of Christ. We are a new creation! So, our old worldly deeds and ways of thinking were renewed in the knowledge of God the Father. We are not supposed to compromise our thinking in order to fit in with those who have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We are to fellowship with all mankind and share the Good News, but never are we to water down the truth. God is black and white when it comes to His Word.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6 (NIV)

 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” Colossians 3:9-10 (NKJV)

Ask yourself this question. Do your co-workers and neighbors know you to be a Christian? If not, why are they unaware of your faith? Have you been hiding your light under a bushel and for what reason?

Satan is looking for ways to tickle ears and tempt us into complacency. We must fight it! Do not settle for lukewarm Christian living. Let us all strive for boldness in our witness, living out our gift of salvation with hearts of gratitude. God is mighty to save but He also expects action. We have a responsibility to share the truth with the lost. That truth is, there is only one way to the Father and that is through His son, Jesus Christ. Being a good person is not enough to secure a place in heaven. If we love those around us, we must stick out.

Hell is a reality. When we speak the truth we are speaking in love. God hates gay marriage, abortion, sexual immorality, covetousness, and idolatry. Our responsibility is to speak the truth and share the Good News. It is God’s job to work on the hearts of the lost. Be bold! Be brave! The harvest is great and very ripe but the laborers are few.

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Matthew 9:36-38 (NKJV)

 “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:6-7 (NKJV)

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” 2 Peter 1:5-9 (NASB)

The Holy Archer And His Arrows

**Arrow

An archer must pull back his arrow to make it fly. Before releasing the shaft, it should touch the bowman’s face. With proper aim, the arrow will hit its mark.

If God is our archer, we then, are His arrows. And even though His quiver if filled beyond our knowing, every shot is carefully planned before it is lovingly released.

When positioned in His mighty bow, we will experience the confusion and pain of backward friction. Yet, we can take heart, for we are in the most skillful of hands. God will send us forward, when His aim is perfected, to hit the proper mark.

Each arrow (beloved child of God) is drawn close to God’s cheek before it is released. What comfort! There is a special moment of communion as He takes aim, before freeing us from the restriction of His mighty bow.

Then the Lord will be seen over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord God will blow the trumpet, and go with whirlwinds from the south.” Zechariah 9:14 (NKJV)

Maybe we will land in some new terrain or ministry. Possibly, the mark we hit needs to hear about Jesus and His incredible blood sacrifice. God may even shoot us into a dark forest filled with principalities and powers of darkness, an arrow intended for spiritual battle.

For they intended evil against You; They devised a plot which they are not able to perform. Therefore, You will make them turn their back; You will make ready Your arrows on Your string toward their faces.Psalm 21:11-12 (NKJV)

If life seems difficult, cumbersome, confusing, even painful… hang on! God may be launching you into something great. Focus on living for Him and stay in the present, but seek His will for your future. Do not let the worries and troubles of each day discourage you. They might be the sharpening agents necessary for God to launch you toward HIS intended target.

He fills His hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark.Job 36:32 (NIV)

 God cannot miss His mark because He is without sin. What is the biblical definition of sin? Literally, it means to miss the mark. It is a Greek term that comes from an archery term meaning to miss the bulls-eye. Romans 3:23 says that “ For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore, even though God’s aim is always perfect, man is sinful; thus, all of us have missed the mark, not getting our arrow to hit the perfection of God.

And since all of us are missing the mark, all of us require His grace. Missing the mark does not mean we are off the team. No, God knows what we are made of and understands that our heart’s desire is to serve Him, even when we fall short.

 Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:25 (NKJV)

Sin affects our relationship with God. To get back on target, we must acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness. Sin separates us from God and He turns a deaf ear to our prayers. Repentance will enable the Archer of the Universe to once again interact with His arrow, skillfully shooting him forward so that he hits a bulls-eye.

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Are You Spiritually Lethargic?

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A lack of energy and enthusiasm is called lethargy. It is a state of being in which one is drowsy. Some would describe a lethargic person as lazy or slothful. The lack of enthusiasm to pursue spiritual matters is a symptom of spiritual lethargy and the cause of spiritual immaturity and stunted growth.

Lethargy is an attitude and a dangerous one at that. The Bible warns the devil is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. If we are drowsy, we are not alert. Those with a spiritually lethargic attitude will either miss the devil’s approach altogether or discern it but lace the energy or desire to thwart it.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

The author of Hebrews exhorts believers to be sober and vigilant. Vigilance calls for hawk-eyed watchfulness and attentiveness. If we have our spiritual eyes closed, sleeping on the watch, it is likely the roaring lion will succeed in devouring us, or at the very least acquire a nibble or two.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now, our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Hebrews 13:11 (NKJV)

The book of Hebrews was written to a church struggling with spiritual lethargy. Apparently, they had settled into a deliberate state of spiritual infancy. Having received the gospel of faith, they opted to maintain a diet of spiritual milk and forgo the benefits of solid food. Healthy children do not consume a liquid only diet their entire lifetime. No, instead they move on to the pleasures and blessings found within foods that are more substantial.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Spiritual growth necessitates an investment of time and effort. It requires a determined perseverance to draw near to God. Just as children long to know more of their parents, we too should long to know our Savior more intimately.

Consider Proverbs 21:25, not only in a physical sense but in a spiritual one as well.              The desire of the lazy man kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.”

When apathy becomes our attitude, we lack the energy to love and serve God. Furthermore, we are commanded to love and serve each other. A lethargic spiritual attitude does not lend itself to service.

“For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13 (NKJV)

The world should see us as aliens, holding onto a very bright light that guides. We are not supposed to fit in or see eye-to-eye with the politically correct and the spiritually lost. It is far too easy to become the frog that falls asleep in a lukewarm pot of water. As the heat is slowly brought to a boil, it meets an early demise.

So, shake off all lethargy and put on the armor of Christ. Read the Word, every day. Do not simply carry your Bible into church and allow your Pastor to spoon-feed you. Supplement the feast he provides by gathering the spiritual manna God provides within His living Word. Cast off any lethargic attitude that succumbs to bottle-feeding alone and take up your own spoon and fork! As iron sharpens iron, find someone who will sharpen and encourage you as you run your spiritual race home.

Awake, O sleeper, awake!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; So shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.Proverbs 24:30-34 (NKJV)

Obstacles

_Never Give Up

Most of us have had an occasion where an unexpected trial or obstacle has knocked us flat, interrupting everyday plans and routines. And when a stumbling block appears out-of-the-blue, a bucket full of emotions is sure to follow. Since God created us with the capacity to express our true feelings, we should do so. God values honest communication.

But once we have vented our frustration, fear, anger, and confusion over the obstacle, we must pause and consider whether God is trying to get our attention. He is a master teacher, always looking for new ways to equip and instruct His children. Once we have accepted the reality of our situation and faced our unhappy hindrance, we can move forward in a way that glorifies God. How? By embracing our new circumstances with the faith that we serve a loving and compassionate God. This is not easy but by doing so, our time in the valley will prove to be a valuable lesson filled with God’s wisdom and strength.

While we work through struggles, our spiritual eyes should search, watch, and wait for the Holy Spirit to speak. Have you found yourself incapacitated, unable to move or work? Maybe God wants you to slow down, or direct you down a different path. Maybe He wants to teach you something that will better equip you for future ministry. Is a lesson of love, forgiveness, or patience in your near future? What about endurance? Do you know how to spiritually persevere? There is also the possibility He is testing your faith. He tested His disciples, Noah, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and Abraham just to mention a few.

I pray 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 his holy people.” Ephesians 1:18 (NKJV)

 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.Romans 5:35 (NKJV)

 Whatever the obstacle, we know God will be right beside us. We can rely on Him to be our strength. He is glorified when we are weak for He often uses our weakness to shine brightly to unbelievers. They will watch as help and provisions come our way and scratch their heads as we move through our hardship without fret.

Do not fret—it leads only to evil.Psalm 37:8b (NIV)

 Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

 And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 CO 12:9-10 (NKJV)

There is no obstacle before us that has not been planned or approved by God.

He is not in the business of discouraging His children and He knows our limits. When we reach those limits and surrender our helplessness to God, we are in the right place spiritually.

Christ alone will see us through. No other but our Savior Jesus Christ will mediate our needs before God. With love, He will provide a way for us to surmount our obstacle and continue onward in our spiritual race. Do not let the challenges and heartaches in life crush you. Through Christ, we can bring the victory of heaven into our experience on earth

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.Ephesians 6:10 (NKJV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NKJV)

If God is testing you, as He did with so many others in the Bible, be encouraged by the helps the Father provided for them as they dealt with obstacles. And if the devil has been given permission to sift you, remember God knows you have the ability (with His provision of strength and power) to overcome.

The devil knows he cannot destroy us. The victory is ours through Christ. But our enemy will look for every opportunity to make our time on earth unproductive. He will tempt and encourage us to sin, harass us with fear, speak lies and tickle our ears to the point where we doubt the love of God. Satan wants to steal our hope. Do not let him! Persevere while you face your trial because the testing of your faith will develop spiritual maturity, enabling you to overcome every obstacle the devil can conjure.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

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Valley of Detours: Trusting God

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Have you ever read the wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet In High Places? If not, I highly recommend that you do. The main character, Much Afraid, decides to trust the Good Shepherd and travel to His kingdom, which are on the high places. He appoints two companions to assist her along the way, but they lead her up and down paths that often seem like detours.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.Psalm 32:8 (NKJV)

In reality, every twist and turn, valley and rough patch Much Afraid journeyed were necessary for her equipment. Each apparent detour trained her for the challenging ascent. As the book unfolds, Much Afraid learns that she must cooperate with God while in the valley of detours. When she lays down her self will and accepts the Shepherd’s path for her life, she finds peace and joy.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, which stirred the jealousy of his other brothers. Not only did their father present him with a special coat of many colors, but Joseph also had a dream that made his brothers hate him even more. The dream implied he would reign over them some future day.

“Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” Genesis 37:5-9 (NKJV)

Joseph’s life story did not play out as he would have expected. No, the hateful plan his brother’s scheme landed Joseph in Egypt, far from family and Canaan. Into slavery, he was sold and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh was his master. But God did not forget Joseph.

And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.Genesis 39:3-5 (NKJV)

By this time Joseph had endured several detours in his valley of sorrow. The betrayal of his brothers and the passing from the favored son of a rich patriarch to a mere slave are two examples. Another detour sent Joseph to prison, simply because he maintained his morality by rebuffing the advances of Potiphar’s wife. (Gen.39:6-8) God was watching over Joseph the entire time.

Our heavenly Father cheers us on while we run our spiritual race. But the enemy is bent on harming us. The Devil does not want to see a sinful man transformed into the image of his victor, Jesus Christ. Nor does he want us to reach our eternal home. One of the fastest ways he can disrupt God’s plan for us is to tempt our morality.

Once he was in prison, God again showed Joseph favor and mercy.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.Genesis 39:21-23 (NKJV)

 Who would have thought that time as a slave, and years in prison necessary training for Pharaoh’s right-hand man? But then, who of us can understand the mind of God? Joseph remained steadfast in his faith. He was in an awful state, but he did not sit on his laurels and give up. He did not moan in self-pity and grow bitter.

There were many other valley detours in the life of Joseph. They made him stronger and wiser. They equipped Joseph for the jobs God had designed for him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Shod Your Feet With The Gospel Of Peace

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The Christian spiritual race is an uphill climb, full of snares and rough places. A smart runner selects shoes that will carry him through every type terrain. Our spiritual armor includes shoes, and we are instructed to “shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15).

The gospel of peace is the story of God’s love for us. Jesus carried and nailed the sins of the world to the cross. By His death and resurrection, the blood of Christ covers us. Through the forgiveness of sin, our fellowship with God has been restored. We have the promise of eternal life, so long as we declare Jesus the Son of God and our Redeemer. The word shod simply means… to wear footgear. Our spiritual footgear is the story of God’s love and sacrifice. This is our comfort and our calling. Through Christ Jesus we have victory over death, a message we are commanded to share with the lost world.

Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)

However, this does not mean everybody should quit their day jobs and sail off to Africa as missionaries. Indeed, some are called to preach the gospel in other lands, but there are also everyday opportunities to share the Good News. If led, we can point our feet to the house of a sick friend or lonely neighbor, and be the hands of Christ. With an open door, we can speak words of encouragement, which will accomplish much, though we might not realize it at the time.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.Proverbs 25:11 (NKJV)

Persuasive and timely language is a most effective balm to a hardened mind or heart. And like “apples of gold set in silver,” they are a beautiful and joyful thing to receive.

Believers possess a special treasure, the promise of eternal life and the joy of a personal relationship with God. How can we not share this good news with those around us? How will others believe in Him if we keep silent?

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15 (NKJV)

God will often prepare the hearts of those whom He has called, thus giving the messenger of Good News fertile soil to plant His seed. The heavenly Father requires our faith and action to fearlessly speak the truth. Compromise is not of the Lord. His Word will stand without sugar coating, so long as we speak with gentleness and respect. Useful scriptures will suddenly come to mind, helping us in our task of loving the one in need. The Holy Spirit will give us the words and actions necessary, so laying aside our own agenda and personal strength is key. We are to rely on God’s leading and supernatural power, for those acting on their own authority are guilty of robbing God of His glory. We are the messengers of God but He is the Savior.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Any time we step out in faith, the enemy will try to interfere with our efforts to share the gospel. Utilize the entire spiritual armor of Christ. Pray. Harassment should not be a surprise to the believer. Rather, our perspective should be that any spiritual annoyance and intimidation is confirmation we are walking right with God. Gaining back the ground Satan has stolen is never easy. The prowling lion that looks to devour is a mighty foe, but the Lion King of Judah has already won the battle. The victory is already His and we share in the victory through Jesus Christ. Let us all make an effort to share the gospel of peace with someone new every day.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” Isaiah 6:8 (NIV)

“Of course you’ll encounter trouble. But behold a God of power who can take any evil and turn it into a door of hope.” ~ Catherine Marshall

Dusting Away Distractions

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Everyday life is filled with distractions. Daily goals are met with enticements and diversions that hinder or impede their achievement. Then, while slipping into bed, we review our day and roll our eyes over the many different directions our rabbit trails took us. Distractions once again sideswiped our well-intentioned plan to move forward in our ventures.

When it comes to our spiritual walk, distractions are a key strategy utilized by the devil. Whether he shoots fiery arrows of condemnation and blame in our direction or the enticements of the world call out to us, fellowship time with God is curtailed. The Bible warns believers to be alert and sober minded, lest we find ourselves devoured by this prowling lion.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

 John MacArthur sheds light on how to fight distractions.

“The more you focus on yourself, the more distracted you will be from the proper path. The more you know Him and commune with Him, the more the Spirit will make you like Him. The more you are like Him, the better you will understand His utter sufficiency for all of life’s difficulties. And that is the only way to know real satisfaction.”  John MacArthur

Focusing less time on ourselves and spending more time in fellowship with God will accomplish several things:

First, our peace of mind will increase and our stress will decrease. Meditating on the faithfulness and love of God will build up our faith and remind us that there is no life circumstance hidden from our all-knowing God. Worry and stress are a distraction. Focusing on problems is a trap. Doing so will consume our thinking, and eat us alive, leaving us with no time or energy to meditate on things that are noble and pure.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

Our time would be better spent by seeking God through prayer; asking the one who loves us most, to provide solutions and to direct our path. Then, through the discipline of self-control and patience, we must let go of our frets, trusting an answer is on the way.

Distractions also come in the form of pleasure. Taking a hike, going to a movie, shopping, getting a manicure, and having a leisurely lunch with a good friend are all pleasurable activities. But if they prevent fellowship time with God, they are distractions. Lunch with a friend is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, the Bible encourages us to fellowship with other believers so that we can lift each other up. No, lunch dates are not the problem. The trouble occurs when the cares of the world and the busyness of life cuts into our time with God. Carving out a set time to fellowship and focus on God is a good way to attack distraction issues. God needs to be a priority.

Distractions of the flesh are probably the most common. Sex, food, wine, and a lust for money have made many a prodigal. But these distractions are manageable, if we keep our focus on God. When we commune with the Lord, He will remind us that we are to live as aliens in this world. That home is heaven. To love the world is to be an enemy of God.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” 1 John 2:15-16 (NKJV)

And the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.Mark 4:19 (NKJV)

Another distraction many of us struggle with is ministry work. Many believers get so busy with church activities that they struggle finding time to be alone with God. A thought or word God would have revealed, had time been spent at His feet, is a grievous loss. We are to serve the Lord without distraction, but to do so, we must also learn to abide in Christ. A constant awareness of His presence, a continual lifting up of praise and worship, and a daily knowledge of His desire to speak to hearts will help to eliminate our struggle with distractions.

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.” Psalm 119:15 (NKJV)

And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.1 Co 7:27 (NKJV)

 A steadfast heart is a loyal heart of devotion. It is focused and strong. It keeps a believer from turning aside to the right and to the left. The path before them is clear and by making God our spiritual “nerve center,” forward progress happens.

Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.” Joshua 23:6 (NIV)

If we want spiritual growth and maturity, we must consider our fellowship time with God. Is He a priority? Do we spend time meditating on His word? What distractions keep us from Bible study and how can we change things? Periodically, we all need some dusting off and a little spring-cleaning is always a good place to start.

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