IT’S THE WAR…NOT THE BATTLE!

I THESSALONIANS 2:17-20: “But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavored more eagerly to see your face with great desire. Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever lost a battle? You were sure that you were in the right. God’s Word was on your side. And, you had diligently covered the situation with prayer. Yet – you still lost the battle. Why?

We are never guaranteed in life that we will win every battle that we face. We are only guaranteed that we will win the war. The war is against sin, death, and hell. This victory is assured. There is no question as to its outcome.

  • “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever…The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭20:10, 13-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This is such an important truth to understand. Even the great Apostle Paul lost battles in his life and ministry. Paul loved the church of Thessalonica. He had given birth to this young church and wanted to return to minister to them and strengthen them in their faith. Yet, Paul tells them,

  • “Therefore we wanted to come to you—even I, Paul, time and again—but Satan hindered us.”

Notice the words – “…even I, Paul…”. Paul, their father in the faith, the mighty apostle who worked miracles among them, even he was hindered and buffeted by Satan. How did this happen? Paul does not tell us. However, as we read II Corinthians chapter 11, we might get an idea.

  • “Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.” II Corinthians‬ ‭11:23-28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The verses above are a laundry list of lost battles. Yet, Paul never focused on the immediate battle. Paul focused on the war. And, he knew that in Christ he would triumph and be victorious!

  • “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians‬ ‭15:56-58‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The believer’s walk of faith looks beyond the momentary battle. It looks to the victory that is assured. And, in this confidence, the believer is able to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Why? Because they know that their labor of faith is not in vain.

It might be Friday today – but Sunday’s coming!

Think about this through a real-life example. Would the Allies have ever defeated Hitler during World War II if they gave up after every battle they lost? There were battles that were lost, significant battles. Yet, the Allies focused on winning the war and this focus enabled them to push through the lost battles into their final victory.

Believers need to do the same. We live in a culture that is pushing back against truth and righteousness. We have an enemy who is always trying to kill, steal, and destroy. Yet, we have the promise of eternal life, abundant life. As we journey through life, through faith in Christ – we too may lose a battle – but our victory is still assured! Paul discovered this confidence when he wrote,

  • “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.” II Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Our victory is not in the momentary outcome. Our victory is in Jesus Christ! When we lose a battle we do not run and hide. We run to the Cross! We run to Jesus where we find strength, comfort, mercy, and grace. We learn that – when we are weak, we truly are strong.

The battle is the Lord’s and the war has already been won!

Lord, grant me the grace to stand fast in faith when I lose a momentary battle. Help me not to become discouraged when I am buffeted by the enemy, but let me run into Your arms of strength and love. Help me keep my focus on Your promised victory and walk in this true assurance of faith.

In Jesus Name!

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GO DEEPER! (Get out of the kiddie pool!)

COLOSSIANS 3:8-11: “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 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, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Am I living in the kiddie pool of my Christian life, or am I going deeper in Christ? This is the thought that rushed to my heart when I read these familiar words from Colossians chapter 3. These words follow Paul’s initial call to Christ-like character.

  • “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” Colossians‬ ‭3:5-7‬ ‭NKJV

Paul begins with sins and attitudes that are evident by our outward behavior. These are the sins that we normally cannot hide. And, they are the sins that are much more likely to be overcome when we place our faith in Jesus Christ. The reason for this is twofold. First, it is because of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Second, it is because of the outward restraints and expectations of our Christian fellowship.

However, Paul moves from the external to the internal. Jesus doesn’t want to only change the outward behavior in our life. Jesus desires to do a deeper work by transforming our mind, will, and emotions. Salvation is not only for our spirits so that we can go to heaven when we die. Salvation is a complete work for our spirit, soul, and body. Our spirits are immediately transformed. Our minds and body are a different story.‬‬

  • “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 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..,”

How many times have I faced hidden thoughts of anger? How many times have I slipped back into using language that was not appropriate? How many times have I fudged a little on the truth convincing myself it really was not a lie. These attitudes, and many more, are the remnants of our old sinful nature. Our spirit is transformed but our mind needs to be renewed by the Word of God, and our bodies need to be subjected to our spirit and our renewed mind.

There will come the day when we no longer will be involved in this struggle. Our spirit and our mind will be in total harmony. And, our body will be transformed into the likeness of Christ’s glorified body. This is the hope of the resurrection. However, between today, and that glorious day, we struggle. This struggle is common to all men and women. There is not a believer on the face of the earth who is not dealing with overcoming the pull and patterns of their old sinful nature.

This is why we are called to go deeper! If we simply wade in the kiddie pool we will live a most miserable life. We may be saved in the end, but our life will be filled with great disappointment and heartache. The deep end is there before us. The call of God is to enter in, to take the plunge, to allow the Holy Spirit to do a deeper work in our heart. And, the reality is – it really is not that hard. Paul uses the analogy of simply changing clothes. We are called to put off one thing and put on another.

  • “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How do we do this? We do this by the grace of God! When we are faced with pride – we humble ourselves. When we are faced with anger – we act in kindness. When we grow impatient – we exercise longsuffering. We don’t write each other off when we fail – we bear with one another, we forgive one another, even as Christ has forgiven us. And, above all, we put on love, God’s love, which is the bond of perfection (the key to becoming like Christ)! We don’t do these things because we feel like it. We do them in obedience to God’s Word and in the power of God’s grace.

When we take these steps of obedience, and respond to God’s grace, something wonderful begins to happen. The actions that we do not feel like taking, but we take in obedience to God’s Word, become the very acts of faith that the Holy Spirit uses to transform us deep within. As we respond by grace through faith, we enter into the deep end. We begin to walk in agreement with the Spirit of God, and in doing so, we surrender our spirit, soul (mind, will, and emotions), and body, to His transforming work. As we continue to do this – our mind is renewed and our body is subjected in obedience. We begin to experience the fruit of the Spirit multiplying and taking root in our life and changing us in our inner man.

And, there is one more tremendous benefit. That benefit is that we begin to experience the peace of God in an increasing measure in our life.

  • “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:15-16 NKJV

Lord, grant me the grace today to go deeper. Pour out Your Holy Spirit in my life so that I can put on the new man and walk in the power of your love! Help me to enter into the deep end or Your love! Let Your peace rule in my heart and Your word dwell in my mind richly – admonishing me ever deeper in this walk of grace!

  • “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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BEWARE!

COLOSSIANS 2:8-10: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Beware! The enemy of our souls is always trying to dilute our faith and move us from a life that is Christ-centric. Beware! Marketers, even Christian marketers, are always looking for the next “new thing” to sell their wares. Beware! We are always one step away from being led astray.

Paul cries out to the believers in Colossae – “Beware”! The church in Colossae was being infiltrated with false teaching. It was very appealing to the Colossians because it was filled with popular philosophy and the current popular traditions of of men. It was – Jesus Christ 2.0. And, it was slowly moving this new church away from their simple and pure devotion to Jesus Christ.

Recently, I was flipping through the channels on my TV. I came across a program on a Christian station. The host was interviewing an author about his new book. It was a book that purported to bring a new revelation on how to deal with the myriad of problems we face in life. As I listened it seemed to make sense. The crowd in the studio cheered as the author shared testimony after testimony of success. Yet, something bothered me.

I have to admit, I was intrigued by the concept the author shared. You see, it seemed to fit a deep need that I currently am facing in my life. Yet, something was tugging at my heart saying – “Not so fast!” I knew something was wrong. It was time to pray and seek the Lord and His Word. As I did, I realized what was wrong with the concepts that were being shared. They did not focus on Jesus Christ. They focused on a new system that sounded good but was actually a return back to legalism. If you did not follow the steps exactly, if your did not pray the prayers that were given, your breakthrough would not come!

False teaching does not have to be blatant. It only has to be a minor twist that turns us from trusting in Jesus Christ alone. It is a slight nudge from the simplicity of faith in Christ to another system of works righteousness. It can be clothed in outward humility and religious words. However, the end is that it moves us always from the fullness of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Whenever we trust in something or someone more than Christ we are in error!

  • “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using— according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians‬ ‭2:20-23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

These “new teachings” have an appearance of wisdom and spirituality, but they are really ineffective in helping us overcome our old nature. They have no power to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ. This is a sovereign work of God through the Holy Spirit. It takes place when we put Jesus Christ first in everything. It happens when we trust in Him alone. It happens when we abide in Christ and in His Word. It happens when we return to the simplicity of our faith – in Christ alone!

Heavenly Father, there are so many voices calling to us each day. We all can be easily dissuaded from trusting in Christ alone. I pray for discernment and wisdom for my life and all those who name the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. I pray for those who have once again fallen into a web of legalism, that You will set them free. And, I pray that You would draw us ever closer to Jesus Christ through Your precious Holy Spirit!

  • “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”

In Jesus Name!

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I NEED TO GO ON A MIND DIET!

PHILIPPIANS 4:8: “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.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: I think it is time for me to go on a mind diet! In the current culture we live in I feel like my mind is overloaded and bloated with too many narratives. I am not advocating putting my head in the sand and ignoring the world around me. What I am advocating is some wisdom in what I allow to occupy my thoughts and give my emotional energy to.

Just the other day I was rushing off for a quick lunch before returning to my office and resuming work. As I drove to get my takeout and eat it in the car, I turned on the news. I listened to it for about 15 minutes and by the time I was done I knew that I needed to go on a mind diet! With the upcoming election cycle, I have been listening more and more. And, what I have found, is that my mind has slowly begun to be filled with anxiety in the process. I feel like a balloon that has sprung a leak. I see my peace evaporating!

This made me think about my dear grandmother. We called her Nanny. She was my mother’s mother. Nanny was a very interesting lady. She was one who was not short of an opinion. And, she did not like to talk about religion or politics. This did not mean she would not talk about the Lord. However, she did not like the debate between strongly opposing positions. Nanny did not like it when she thought others were being harshly critiqued. You see, Nanny always saw the good in everyone.

I think we have lost this ability in our culture today. We see only the vilest and dissonant in those who oppose our viewpoint. I am not ignorant. I know that evil exists and that the prince of this world is working to destroy lives. However, even as Jesus hung upon the cross, and as He viewed those who had beaten and nailed Him to the cross, He was able to say – “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

Why can’t we see the good in the “other side?” I think it is because we are not focusing on the good at all. We are focusing on all the disagreements and deficiencies in life. Consider again the words of Philippians 4:8.

  • “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.”

I need to look for the truth. I need to embrace that which is noble. I need to uphold justice and strive for purity. I need to appreciate things that are lovely and of good report. When I see virtue, I need to celebrate it. When something is worthy to be praised, even when it is in the so-called “other side.” I need to extend honor. This is the mind diet I so desperately need. I need to seek, discover, celebrate, and meditate on these things.

Recently, I have begun posting on Facebook the things that we all hold in familiarity. We can do this about our faith and we can do this about our nation. As a believer, we all rejoice that Jesus Christ is Lord and we are part of His body – the church. We all hold this in common.

  • “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:4-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As Americans, I think we need to do the same thing. As we continue to tear one another down, as we focus on all that is wrong, forgetting all that is good and to be praised, we set ourselves up for a fall. This type of mind diet does not produce unity or change. It only fosters enmity and division. We tried that once. It was called the Civil War. We do not want to repeat this again.

When I am actively participating in this mind diet I am able to discuss openly and honestly issues with people that, in position, I am diametrically opposed to. I can look for the good in their opinion and seek a middle ground where we can together work towards positive change and reform. Yet, in the process, my mind is protected. I am always looking for the best, always trying to find the just, and positioned to celebrate goodness and virtue.

Yes, I think it is time that I go on a mind diet!

Lord, this morning I choose to renew my mind in Your Word. I choose to focus on that which is true, noble, just, pure, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy. Grant me the grace to stay on this diet!

In Jesus Name!

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THE TWO KEYS TO GREATNESS…

PHILIPPIANS 2:5-8: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: What are the keys to greatness in life? The internet is filled with success seminars and personal improvement gurus. Yet, our call to greatness is not defined by the world or its standards. Our call to greatness is not even defined by our effectiveness in ministry. Our call to greatness is defined by the position and attitude of our hearts.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, is calling the church to a place of unity, mutual love, and care for one another. In life, it is easy to begin to focus on our own personal needs. We need to be reminded that we are called to love and serve one another. To emphasize this point, Paul calls us to have the mind of Jesus Christ. Then, Paul shows us the two steps to truly having greatness with God.

  • “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”

First, we have to be willing to lay down our personal pride and need for recognition. Everyone wants to be recognized. It is part of our human nature. When a group photo is taken, the first person in the picture you look at is yourself. You want to see how you look. We all care about appearances. Paul reminds us that Jesus Christ was willing to lay down all appearances in order to serve us.

The call to serve is the first call of greatness. Sometimes we serve in order to be noticed and appreciated. Yet, Jesus laid down all of His glory and heavenly recognition, entered this world as a baby, born in the poorest of situations, and to a family that had no royal standing. He left royalty to become a man and serve us. The willingness to serve, without recognition, without the need for thanks, is the first step toward greatness in the Kingdom of God!

  • “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭20:25-28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Secondly, in order to be great in the Kingdom of God, we need to be willing to suffer for His sake. It takes humility to suffer for righteousness sake. It takes humility to lay down our defenses and put our trust in God to defend us. It takes humility to surrender to the pathway of obedience – especially when it leads to the cross!

  • “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

It would have meant nothing if Jesus simply came to the earth as a man but refused to surrender to the cross. We would still be dead in our sins. There would be no hope, no salvation, no freedom, no eternal life. Yet, Jesus humbled Himself twice. First, He humbled Himself as He became a man. Second, He humbled Himself as He obediently submitted to death on the cross. He was willing to obey God’s calling – even though it cost Him everything!

As we submit to God as servants of His Kingdom, we too will be called to the cross. It is not the call to die for our sins, as this was completed once and for all through the death of Jesus Christ. It is the call to be willing to die to our own personal dreams and take on the mantle of God’s call wherever it will lead us. Our goal must not be our own personal recognition or accomplishment. Our goal must always be to please God and fulfill His calling in our life!

Throughout my life, I have had to die to many dreams that I thought were from God. As I did, as I humbled myself before Him, I discovered that my vision was dim and shortsighted. Each time, as I moved toward the direction of His calling, I discovered that my true personal fulfillment and joy were only discovered as I was willing to die to what I wanted and allowed Him to live through me. I found that greatness is not measured by what we accomplish. Greatness is measured by who we become.

God honors humility and sacrifice. Rest assured, He never forgets our willingness to serve and obey. And, like Jesus Christ, we too will be crowned with His glory when we finish our race of faith!

For Jesus…

  • “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:9-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

For us…

  • “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” II Timothy‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, give me the grace to be a true servant of others. Let me walk in the mind of Jesus Christ. Let me humble myself in obedience to Your call. Help me to fight the good fight of faith and finish the race that You alone have given me. Help me achieve true greatness in life.

In Jesus Name!

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BE READY – VICTORY IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!

II CHRONICLES 32:1: “After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Did you know that the enemy is plotting his next attack against you. Are you ready for both the attack and God’s victory? If we are not ready we can easily be caught by surprise. And, worse yet, we can quickly become discouraged and feel like the Lord has abandoned us. Note these words,

  • “After these deeds of faithfulness…”

I have found that when I have entered a renewed focus to seek the Lord, the enemy is right around the corner to try and dissuade me from my commitment of faith. There is only one way the enemy of our souls can win the battle. It is to get us to lose heart. This is why Paul exhorts us,

  • “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Hezekiah had led Judah to restore the true worship of Yahweh. He had cleansed and repaired the Temple. Judah and the remnant of Israel celebrated the Passover for the first time in possibly decades. The law was taught to the people. Sacrifice and worship were restored at the Temple. And, the false gods and high places were destroyed. Then, after all of these deeds of faithfulness – the enemy attacked.

When we are moved by the Holy Spirit to a new step of faith and commitment, this will always be challenged by the enemy. Why? It is because he knows that our life of faith and obedience will push back his rule of darkness and oppression. He will do everything he can to keep us stuck in neutral or cause us to backslide. It is the believer, who is intent on pushing toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, that needs to be prepared for battle.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells us what to do!

  • “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

First, to enter into God’s victory, we must know where our strength is. It is not in our faithfulness or obedience. These are just our response to the Spirit of God. Our strength is in the Lord and the power of His might. Whenever we think that we have the strength to resist the enemy, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. We do not withstand him in our own strength. We stand against the enemy in the strength and might of the Lord!

Second, God gives us His spiritual armor to go into battle. He gives us His truth, His righteousness, the power of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the assurance of salvation, the Word of God, and the gift of praying in the Spirit. Just as we would not go out to begin our day without the proper clothing and attire, we cannot enter the battle of life without the spiritual armor that God has provided. This is armor for the soul (mind) and the spirit. This is our weaponry, and it is mighty in the pulling down of the strongholds of the enemy.

The enemy has his wiles, his crafty deceitful plans. He tries to hit us where we are weak. He twists the truth, preys on our fears, and pokes us in the places of our past hurts and failures. Yet, when we are walking with the armor of God, we can stand strong in the strength of the Lord. We resist him, steadfast in our faith, covered by the blood of the Lamb, knowing we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! This is what Hezekiah did.

Hezekiah and Isaiah cried out to the Lord. They humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God. They strengthened themselves in every way possible, but ultimately everything they could do was not enough to stand against the mighty army of Assyria. The only thing that could bring them victory was the strength of the Lord. And, God gave them a mighty victory. God, Himself, defeated the Assyrians and delivered Hezekiah and Judah.

We have the same assurance of victory. We need to always be ready, suited up in our spiritual armor, and trusting the Lord. The battles that we are facing are nothing strange. They are to be expected. Yet, there is something else that we can anticipate and know with surety –

It is that our victory in Jesus Christ is always right around the corner!

  • “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” James‬ ‭4:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Now, none of us likes the battle. Yet, like it or not, the battle will come. When it does, all we need to do is humble ourselves before God, submit fully to Him, and resist the devil. We do this as we stand in the strength of the Lord and put on the whole armor of God. We stand in our faith, we kneel in our humility, and God brings the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!

We need to always be ready, our victory in Jesus Christ, is right around the corner!

Lord, thank you for reminding me that the victory is assured as I stand in the strength of the Lord Jesus and the power of His might. Remind me moment by moment that my strength is in Christ alone. May I put on the whole armor of God so that I may resist the devil and all of his wiles. Grant me victory today – by grace through faith!

In Jesus Name!

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THE WAY OUT OF DARKNESS…

EPHESIANS 5:8-12: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: How do we find our way out of the darkness that we currently find ourselves in? As we live in an upside-down world, where good is spoken of as evil, and evil as good, is there a pathway of light to lead us to the other side?

Paul reminds us that, in Christ Jesus, we are not merely children of the light. We are not merely looking for the light.

We are the light!

  • “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” Matthew‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Now, we know that we are not THE LIGHT. Jesus is the true light of the world. However, we are like the moon at night. Our lives are to be the reflection of the light of Christ to a darkened world. We are to shine forth as His light. Jesus has chosen to use His church as the lamp of light to the world. If we don’t shine, then who will?

This is why Paul proclaims,

  • “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. “

To walk in the light is to walk in the fruit of the Spirit in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. Yet, Paul does not stop there. He adds – “…finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” This is where we are facing a crisis in the church. We are no longer seeking God’s Word to find out what is acceptable to the Lord. Each man, as in the book of Judges, is beginning to do what is right in their own eyes. And, as we do this, our light grows dimmer and dimmer.

This is where the Scriptures become the foundational principle for our lives. Many believe that, because we are saved by grace through faith, we no longer need the law of God. Whereas the ceremonial laws were completely fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the moral laws still stand.

How can we understand what is acceptable to the Lord if we do not understand His written Word.?

God does not change. His Word does not change. His moral teachings do not change. When Jesus walked the face of the earth he confronted many distortions of man’s understandings of God’s Word. Jesus did not change God’s moral teachings. Jesus clarified them and restored them to God’s original intent. And, in doing so He called His disciples to do the same.

  • “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:17-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

No one is saved by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. This knowledge of sin brings us to the cross where we are saved by grace through faith. Then, grace brings us back to the law so that we can understand what is acceptable to the Lord. We no longer reach for these things in order to be saved. We reach for them to please God. We reach for them to allow our light to shine brightly to the world!

  • “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Paul goes on to say,

  • “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

How do we expose the unfruitful works of darkness? Is it to study and understand sin and brokenness? No, it is to study and understand the light. We are not even to speak of the things done in secret by those who oppose the truth and walk in darkness. We are to understand what is acceptable to the Lord. This is our calling. This is our quest. This is how we let our light shine!

If you don’t know what is acceptable to the Lord, begin to seek the Scriptures. Pour yourself into His Word. Read it, meditate upon it, and allow it to transform your heart. Be open, honest, and willing to lay all of your misconceptions at the foot of the cross. You are not expected to live out God’s call to perfection without struggle or error. You and I are only called to proclaim it and uphold its truth!

  • “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” I John‬ ‭2:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me to remember that I am not the Light. You are the Light of the world. My calling is simply to proclaim the fullness of Your light and be a reflection of it. Grant me the grace to shine brightly as a reflection of Your light. And, when I fail, let me run full speed to Your cross to find grace, help, forgiveness, and cleansing!

  • “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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THE POWER THAT MAKES US COLOR BLIND…

EPHESIANS 2:19-22: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” ‭‭NKJV‬‬

OBSERVATION: Is there a power that can truly make us color blind? Is there a power that can address the racial strife and division in our land? Is there a better answer than protesting and anarchy?

Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, proclaims,

  • “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” ‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The current racial strife and division that we are facing in our land is nothing new. I am old enough to see this struggle repeat itself all over again. I lived through it as a teenager and I am now living through it as an adult. I thought we had made some progress in our society. However, it seems as if we are back at square one. What is the answer to this continuing strife?

Racial and social inequality is nothing new. It has been a part of our lives since man’s fall into sin. It existed between God’s chosen people, the Jews, and the Gentiles (all those not of Jewish descent). And, even within God’s chosen people, there was prejudice between the religious elite and the common man. Yet, the Gospel of Jesus Christ would change everything!

Paul addresses this prejudice in his letter to the Ephesians. He shows how the power of redemption in Jesus Christ breaks down the wall of division. It is only the heart, that is regenerated through faith in Jesus Christ, that has the capacity to rise above prejudice and intolerance. And, it is not out of personal nobility that this happens. It is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit.

First, we are born again by the Spirit, and we become a part of the Family of God. This family knows no color, social standing, or gender superiority. We are all one in Christ Jesus. We are all a part of the heritage of faith.

  • “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone…”

Second, we are all called to the same purpose. We are all made a part of the same spiritual building. The church is God’s answer to the racial and social inequality and strife that we are facing.

“…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

  • “…in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

It is in the church that the Spirit of God dwells in His fullness. It is in the church that Jesus Christ is Lord. It is in the church that we are gathered together as the sons and daughters of the Father. It is in the church that the walls of separation are broken down and we are free to love and forgive.

  • “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:14-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Some may object and say – “The church is filled with division and strife!” While this may be true in some circles, I have seen the reality of God’s promise and purpose in my experience as a pastor. I have seen men and women of all races and social standing living together as one in Christ. I have seen the love that conquers the barriers of hate. Therefore, I believe in the power of the cross to break down all boundaries!

Someone has wisely said – “We better learn how to get along down here, we will be spending all of eternity together!” Without Jesus Christ, without the power of the cross, we will be fighting the battle of inequality until Jesus returns. We can experience a foretaste of God’s will and promise today in the life of the church. The fellowship of the redeemed is God’s plan for a broken and divided world.

Lord, bring revival to Your church. Pour out Your Spirit upon us so that we can live in the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace. Let Your light shine brightly through the love of Your people. Let Your church be a beacon of light and hope in an ever-darkening world.

In Jesus Name!

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CHECK YOUR FRUIT…

GALATIANS 6:7-9: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What does the fruit in my life tell me about the seed I am sowing? In our modern-day, we have lost a very important personal discipline. This is the discipline of personal introspection. Our current culture encourages us to always look outward for the source of our problems. The reality is that our problems and issues are really a result of the seed we are sowing.

The law of sowing and reaping cannot be controverted. It is true in the natural realm and it is true in the spiritual realm. If I buy a pack of apple tree seeds, plant them in the ground and water them, it will yield an apple tree. Apple seeds do not produce tomatoes or oranges, they produce apples. Why do we think it is any different in our spiritual lives?

Paul uses bold language in speaking of this truth. He says – “God is not mocked!” The world may tell you that you can wander from the Lord and live your life without a thought for your actions. However, if you sow to the wind you will reap the whirlwind. You cannot sow seeds of disobedience and expect to reap a crop of righteousness. It just doesn’t work!

So how do we take a personal spiritual inventory? First, we must be brutally honest with ourselves. We need to look deep within and honestly evaluate the fruit of our personal lives. Galatians gives us a fruit examining chart to use in the process.

The fruit of sowing seeds to the flesh (our sinful nature, apart from God):

  • “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians‬ ‭5:19-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The fruit of sowing seeds to the Spirit (walking in relationship with Jesus Christ as we live and walk after the Spirit):

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Galatians‬ ‭5:22-25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Now, this is where brutal honesty is needed. We may read the list of sowing seeds to the flesh and think – “I am not that bad!” Yet, when we read the list of sowing seeds to the Spirit we must ask – “Is my life really marked by these qualities?” Am I growing in love? Am I experiencing true joy? Is my life marked by peace? Am I patient, kind, always seeking the good in life, and in others? Are my actions marked by faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Am I experiencing victory over the temptations of life?

An honest evaluation of our fruit will tell us more about our current spiritual condition than anything else. This self-evaluation is not done to condemn us. It is done to help us know if we are sowing the right seed. No one walks in the fruit of the Spirit perfectly. However, if we are sowing to the Spirit we will begin to see growing evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in our life. The old patterns of life will begin to lose their grip, and the very nature of Jesus Christ will begin to be cultivated in our hearts and lives.

As we sow seeds to the Spirit, we must not be discouraged if the crop seems to be slow in manifesting itself in our life. We cannot rush the growth of the seed. We only have the true assurance, of the fruit that it will produce, and the final harvest!

  • “…but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

The final harvest is everlasting life. The fruit is the character of Jesus Christ. As we sow, we must not grow weary. If we sow in faith, we will reap in joy – if we do not lose heart. God is watching over the seed that we sow. He will not be mocked. As we sow to the Spirit, as we invest in the Kingdom of God, as we do good toward others, God will water our seed and bring in the harvest. We will see an ever-increasing crop of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Lord, give me strength today to sow seed to the Spirit. May I sow in faith, and await Your harvest with joy!

In Jesus Name!

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IT’S TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD!

II CHRONICLES 17:7, 9-12: “Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah.

“So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the LORD with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people. And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. Also, some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. So Jehoshaphat became increasingly powerful, and he built fortresses and storage cities in Judah.” NKJV‬‬

OBSERVATION: It’s time to get back to the Word of God! If there is anything we can learn during these trying times, it is the need to make the Word of God the foundation of our life. As threats and difficulty change by the hour, we need a constant that never changes. And, that constant is the Word of God!

  • “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

One thing that we will take away from the 2020 pandemic is an understanding of what is truly important in life. As our lives have been turned upside down, we realize that as long as we have our families we really have everything we need. And, as the church had to close its doors, then opened its doors, and then had to close them once again, we realized that there is more to church than the programs we are missing.

Perhaps, it is time to reorganize our priorities in our personal lives, the lives of our families, and the life of our churches. Perhaps, it is God calling us back to the foundation of God’s Word in everything we do. Whenever God’s people returned to His Word, powerful things followed!

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD!

Jehoshaphat followed his father Asa as King of Judah. Asa was a godly king. He started off by seeking the Lord with sincerity. However, at the end of his life, he no longer pursued the Lord or His Word with passion. We read this sad epitaph of his final days.

  • “And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign.” II Chronicles‬ ‭16:12-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Asa had stopped seeking the Lord. Asa had stopped seeking God’s Word. What a sad ending to a life with such great potential. Yet, Asa’s son did not follow suit. Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and he recognized the importance of the Word of God. He valued it so much that he assigned many of his leaders to go throughout the territory of Judah and teach them the Book of the Law. When they returned to God’s Word, powerful things began to happen.

  • “And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat. Also, some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver as tribute; and the Arabians brought him flocks, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred male goats. So Jehoshaphat became increasingly powerful, and he built fortresses and storage cities in Judah.”

The enemy of our souls knows the power of God’s Word. This is why he will try to preoccupy our lives with everything but the study and meditation of the Bible. When the enemy cannot dissuade a church from following Christ, he will try to get them focused on peripheral matters, so that they neglect the Word of God, and thereby forfeit the power of God in their life.

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD!

This is exactly what was taking place in Acts 6. The enemy does not have to use bad things to redirect our priorities. He will also use good things and legitimate needs. As the new young church continued to grow there was an increasing need to minister to the widows. This responsibility naturally began to fall upon the apostles. After all, they were the church’s leaders. However, giving their time and attention to this legitimate need began to take time and attention away from the Word of God and prayer.

The disciples were prompted to take quick action to rearrange the church’s priorities so that the needs would be met, and the ministry of the Word and prayer would continue to take first place.

  • “Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts‬ ‭6:2-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Can I say something to every church right now? If you are not freeing up your pastor to focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer to your congregation your priorities are misaligned! And, pastors, if you are not heeding the call of the Holy Spirit to rearrange your church’s priorities so that you are free to give yourself to the ministry of the Word and prayer, you are missing the voice of God!

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD!

Just like in Jehoshaphat’s day, when this new young church called and commissioned the deacons, and when the apostles returned to the ministry of the Word and prayer, God’s power was released!

  • “And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.” Acts‬ ‭6:5-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Notice the similarities between the accounts in II Chronicles 17 and Acts 6. In both, as they returned to the Word of God, they received God’s blessings of provision, power, and influence. What would happen in our communities, cities, states, and our nation if our churches would spend more time focusing on the Word and prayer – than on bake sales or potluck dinners?

Pastor, leader, worker, and worshipper – is the Word of God the center of your life and ministry? One might object and say – “Jesus needs to be the center!” Yet, the Word is Jesus, and Jesus is the Word. You cannot focus on one if you aren’t focusing on the other. You cannot focus on Jesus without focusing on the Word of God!

  • “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” John‬ ‭15:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Abiding in Jesus is abiding in His Word. Abiding in the Word is abiding in Jesus. And, when we abide in Him – God releases His power in and through our lives! We need a revival today. It is a revival back to the vine. A revival of God’s Word. A revival of prayer. A Jesus centered revival.

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO THE WORD OF GOD!

Lord, may I hear the still small voice of the Spirit calling me to Your Word, calling me to my knees, calling me to abide in Jesus!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in II Chronicles, Leadership | 1 Comment