Hearing God in Unexpected Places

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'”  Isaiah 30:21

Portland, Oregon; sometime in 2003.

I was beginning my weekday as I often do when I’m on the road for work.  On the hunt for coffee.  Little did I know that this morning was going to be quite different.

I would like to say I was just sitting in a coffee house on NW 23rd having a quiet time with God before getting into the flow of the day….but I wasn’t just sitting.  I was wrestling.  I had reached a point of exhaustion with my back and forth compulsion that many men struggle with.  Porn.

When I began my walk with God, He had either instantly or fairly quickly transformed my mindset, speech and attitude in many areas.  But porn still had it’s hooks in me and it had for years.  It started with Playboy magazine at my buddy’s house in second or third grade and grew from there.  After becoming a Christian, I would have seasons of success in this area of my life.  Looking back though, I can see how I would use it as a coping mechanism.  When I was lonely, down or stressed it was my drug of choice.

Back to the coffee shop….

It was a busy morning and the shop was bustling with the northwestern crowd coming in to escape the rain.  We were all in need of our caffeine fix.  While many exchanged pleasantries or read the paper (yes an actual newspaper), I was having a heart to heart conversation with God.  Actually, it was more of me just talking at God….’God, I’m sorry.  How many times do we have to keep having this talk?  I’m so upset at myself that I went back to that again.  I’m sick of this….’  Then out of the blue, a voice, clear as day cut through my self-pity/prayer.  Above the noise I heard this statement very directly:  “You need to talk to someone about this.”  That’s it.  Nothing else was said.  No further direction.  I silently laughed to myself and responded, “What do you mean?  To who?  I don’t know anyone here….”

As that last sentence wafted up to the ceiling of my consciousness, my attention was immediately drawn to a voice behind me.  A man I hadn’t heard or noticed previously was on his phone….praying for someone….

I sat in stunned silence for a few seconds….”Okay Lord, I get it….”

I waited until he finished his phone call and tried to maintain my composure.  Slowly turning around, I could feel my eyes already beginning to well with tears when I said, “This might sound strange but I think I need to talk with you.”  He paused for a second or two, looked at me quizzically and said, “Okay….how can I help?”

I went on to explain my struggle to a complete stranger….and that’s when class began.  You see, he was a Christian missionary, back in the States for a brief sabbatical before heading back overseas and into the mission field.  He talked to me about the art of spiritual warfare and explained the spiritual strongholds the enemy had set up in my life.  He then asked if, by Jesus’ authority and in His name, I had ever verbally commanded them to leave.  I had not.  Right there in the coffee house, he said, “repeat these words after me…out loud.  You have to say them out loud because they can’t hear your thoughts.

I wasn’t going to argue.  I immediately agreed and off we went.  Neither his words nor demeanor were anything sensational or dramatic (which I appreciated).  It was all very calm and matter of fact.  The missionary prayed and I followed his lead.  Using the authority that Christ has bestowed on those He has saved, I began to command these spirits to leave and go into the pit, never to return.

And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will cast out demons;”  Mark 16:17

It didn’t matter that the place was packed.  During that time it felt like it was just he and I going to battle.  He explained that true Christians can’t be “possessed” as the Holy Spirit lives in us, but we can be demonized, through compromise in our lives or unconfessed sin.

The lesson I learned that day, I have applied countless times since.  Whenever I discern a spiritual attack or subtle demonic influence going on around me or in my life,  I will follow the same example.  Again, it’s not drama filled, or sensational but very matter of fact and to the point.  For me, the physical sensation has always been the same.  Maybe others have had a similar experience?  It has always felt like layers are being lifted or peeled off of me.  After the first layer lifts, the rest follow in rapid succession.

So the next time you pray about something going on in your life, make sure you are listening for God’s response.  It may just happen in a place or way you would never expect….

“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed to the topmost steeple; but God declared ‘Go down again, I dwell among the people.'”  John Henry Newman

Advertisements

Embrace the Grind (II: Prayer)

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go.  My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”  Abraham Lincoln

I had my first experience in the mission field about three years or so after I had begun my earnest walk with God.  I was in Cluj, Romania with a team from my church in California (shout out to Community Presbyterian Church, Danville!).  During that trip we had delivered food and clothes to poor families, helped paint a church, minister to gypsy families and street kids, encouraged the local pastor(s) and I even had the chance to preach in a little village church (with a translator).  During all of these activities there was one thing we never stopped doing….we prayed.  The flow was constant.  Morning, noon and night we continued to lift everything up in prayer.  I remember sitting on the back porch of the house we were staying in and literally feeling spiritually fatigued.  If there is such a thing as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) in the spiritual realm, I most definitely had it.  Physically I was fine.  Mentally and spiritually it was another story.  I had never prayed this much and I distinctly remember thinking that this felt like a “spiritual workout.”  Looking back I think it was more like a spiritual boot camp….   In this sense, this was my introduction to the grind.

Growing up Roman Catholic, prayer was usually something we tended to do in a formal sense.  We would pray before meals or recite words during a Sunday liturgy or sacrament.  While often times the words spoken during those prayers were “good,” (the “Lord’s Prayer” for example) by their repetitive nature, year after year, this type of praying can potentially lack a deep connection to the heart.  I see it as akin to learning to swim but never leaving the shallow end of the pool.  It lays a good foundation but if that is the extent of our prayer life….it is not where we want to stay without ever going deeper.

Now, you might be thinking “prayer shouldn’t be a grind…how could you say that?”  The ultimate goal of the grind in this context is not to leave you broken down but to make you better able to do something than you were previously able to do.  It’s about applying the discipline to an area of your life in order to allow you to be refined, sharpened and ultimately strengthened by God.  To become even more fit for His service.  Our ultimate example is Jesus Himself….

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark; Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35

A couple of verses prior we see why:  The whole town gathered at the door and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.  He drove out many demons….” (Mark 1:33 & 34a)

He wasn’t going off to procrastinate.  He was going out to spend time and speak with His Father.  He was being briefed and prepped for His mission that day.

Much like our busy world today, His world was also teeming with activity.  In His wisdom, He recognized the need to separate Himself from the constant flow of activity in order to pray.  He built His day around this meeting with the Father.  Notice how he departed early to go to a solitary place.  This is so counterintuitive for us.  We feel that if we’re not busy then it means we aren’t being productive.  As we can see by Jesus’ example, this is not the case.  The enemy of your soul wants you to stay too busy to pray because he can then move more freely in your life and the life of your family.

As we get started, I would challenge you with this:  Wherever you are in your prayer life, ask God to help you grow (be ready as He then gives you things you need to be praying about).  If you don’t know where to begin, start with finding a quiet (solitary) place, and read the “Lord’s Prayer” (found in Matthew 6:9-13) out loud, every day, for a week.  Pause after each line in order to let the Holy Spirit help you begin to grasp the depth, concepts and meaning behind the words.   Don’t allow familiarity to breed indifference.

Also begin to include small, unscripted, conversational moments with God throughout your day.  For example, every morning when I would wake up I would say (out loud) some variation of, “Good morning, Lord.  I love You.”  These little habits can start to shape and dig out the deep end of the pool in our spiritual lives.

Just like beginning a new workout routine, this may not feel natural at first and even feel forced.  Remember how tough those first two weeks of a workout are?  The same applies here.  Don’t give in.  Persevere and rise to the challenge and it will go from something foreign to becoming a habit and ultimately, a lifestyle.

See you in Part 3.

Dig in.

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  Bruce Lee

 

The Barabbas in the Mirror

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

The house was quiet last evening.  Jen had taken Sean to an offseason hockey workout and I had prepared my bachelor meal of Hawaiian grilled chicken and a giant salad for dinner.  I settled in on the sofa, grabbed the remote and pressed play….

Every year during Holy Week, I will sit down and watch “The Passion of the Christ” in order to help me reflect on the power, depth and magnitude of Jesus’ redeeming love for humanity.  As many may know, this is not an easy film to watch but for me, it is necessary.  In my mind I can easily “whitewash” the events that happened that day, as if seeing them through rose colored stained glass windows.  This film helps prevent me from doing that.

As the story progresses I arrived at the scene where Jesus is brought back to Pontius Pilate for the second time.  The crowd has grown even more visceral and in what is seemingly Pilate’s attempt to talk some reason into the crowd, he brings out a convicted murderer, Barabbas.  “Which one do you want me to release to you–Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?….the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas…’Barabbas’ they answered.  What shall I do, then, with Jesus….?’  They answered, ‘Crucify him!'” (taken from Matthew 27)

The scene continues….

After a series of mocking gestures to both his Roman captors and the crowd, the newly freed Barabbas glances at the Man who has just taken his place.  Seemingly a look of both sorrow and conviction momentarily flashes across his face.  He, a guilty man has been set free.  Jesus, an innocent man, silently and faithfully accepts His purpose.

Now before we go on thinking, “That horrible man! That murderer!  I hope he realized the undeserved second chance he got!  I hope he ended up getting what’s coming to him!”…. Let’s reflect on the words of scripture:

“Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer….” (1 John 3:15a) 

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  (James 2:10) 

If we are honest with ourselves and our own human condition, it is easy to see that we….we are all Barabbas. 

Yet there stands Jesus….taking our punishment on Himself to fulfill the requirements of the Law, so that we may go free.  This is how much He loves YOU.  He has gone to every length to demonstrate His Love for you.  What will you do with it?  How will you live the rest of your days knowing that this is the truth?

If you’ve never responded to Jesus, I would encourage you to do just that.  Turn from your past and your sin and into the outstretched arms of your Savior.  Call out to Him and He will hear you and save you.  There is no better time than now….

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Welcome to the family….you are richly loved by the Creator of the universe and you have a unique purpose in God’s unfolding plan.

Be vigilant in love.  Be watchful.  Stay faithful.

Embrace the Grind

“Though the mills of God grind slowly; yet they grind exceedingly small;  Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”  Freidrich von Logau

The current UFC light heavyweight champion (and former U.S. Olympic and Oklahoma State University All-American wrestler), Daniel Cormier calls himself the “King of the Grind.”  U.S. Navy SEAL’s have coined the phrase, “Embrace the suck.”  The Apostle Paul said, “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave….” (1 Corinthians 9:27)  What do they all have in common?

The grind.

The grind can be physical, mental or spiritual.  Over the course of your lifetime, it will be found in all three aspects.  What you choose to do with it is up to you.  Many will choose to run from it but this is to their own detriment.  For this is where the deep roots of faith, perseverance, strength and character are grown.

“….I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”  Louisa May Alcott 

I would venture to say that most, if not all of us will begin from a place of pride.  Pride in our own strength.  The problem is that ultimately our own strength is not enough.  For the believer, the Warrior Soul, we need to start from a place of humility and reliance on our loving and faithful Father to lead us, guide us and supply the strength we need to persevere, no matter the circumstances.  We remind ourselves that we can only do “all things through Christ, who gives us strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

“….Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff (a shepherd’s instruments of discipline, guidance and protection), they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to be an accountability partner/coach with many different people in different phases of life.  Usually this has been focused on either exercise/nutrition or encouraging them get to the next level in their relationship with God.  What I’ve learned in all of this is that we can learn to incorporate the same mindfulness into both areas of life.

Again, at the foundation is our humble trust in God.  Many people will often misquote the Bible saying, “God won’t give us more than we can handle….”

Actually He will.  God will give you more than you can handle on your own, in order that you understand your need to be more reliant on Him.  He may run you through the same gauntlet over and over again throughout your life, until your heart is humble enough to acknowledge and embrace this truth.  Our pride and self  reliance, though often embraced by our culture, is actually what can keep us from reaching our full potential in our God ordained purposes.

I will often workout five or six days per week and each day consists of a slightly different routine in order to prevent dreaded “plateau.”  Resistance training is done in each workout session (although by different means or exercises that focus the brunt of the intensity on different body parts).  Cardio work is also done during each workout but some days it may be steady state cardio and some days it might be “high intensity interval training” routines.  It is this repetition that can help take it from something we try and do to becoming a lifestyle and a part of who we are.

In part two, we’ll discuss how and what we can implement in our walk with God to create this same manner of being.

Let’s get after it….

“You become a champion by fighting one more round.  When things are tough, you fight one more round.”  James Corbett

The Crushing Business of Our Salvation

“God’s response to the belittlement of His name from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a Roman Cross.”  Matt Chandler

Free gift.  If we’ve been in church long enough you have most likely heard about the “free gift” of salvation, offered to us by Jesus’ atonement on the cross and by His death-defeating resurrection.  But the term “free gift”….it just doesn’t sit right with me.  It never has.  A “free gift” is what you find at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box or the t-shirt you get when you sign up for a new credit card at the airport.  Now I understand the theology and the well meaning intent behind this statement.  You and I have done nothing to earn Heaven.  Our salvation comes strictly because of what God did on our behalf.  This is absolutely true.  We didn’t ever “find God” as the saying goes.  He found us.  Yet somehow, to me, this term reduces the power and value of this grace that we’ve been offered….

Just this morning I read an article about a group of Jewish activists (if interested, check out The Temple Institute’s website) in Jerusalem that are planning to conduct the ritual Passover sacrifice of a lamb in full view of the Temple Mount.  Historically speaking, an unblemished lamb is bled out and it’s blood is caught in cups and sprinkled on an altar.  It is then hung on hooks, skinned and it’s fat is burned.  This is not a “pretty” thing but at the time of the Old Testament writings it was necessary, per God’s instructions.  In my opinion this was a tame foreshadowing of what the one true “Lamb of God” had to endure.

Familiarity can tend to breed indifference.  Many people have grown up hearing the story of Jesus’ crucifixion told through classical art, stained glass windows and felt boards in Sunday School.  However, if we only see Jesus’ sacrifice through this lens, it easily becomes sterilized and loses its power.   It inadvertently becomes just another story we grew up hearing as we file it away in our minds under “religion.”

Have you ever thought this through?  I mean really thought it through….

We don’t pause to hear the lies and abuse heaped upon Him by the false accusers.  We don’t see His expression when all of his friends desert Him when he’s taken into custody.  We don’t hear the crack of the whip and the tearing of His flesh as he’s flayed open.  We don’t hear the mocking as He’s beaten or see the spittle dripping off of his swollen face.  We can’t imagine watching a human being, let alone Jesus, being laid out in front of us on planks of wood as iron spikes are violently driven through his hands and feet….hearing his gasps and guttural groans as he’s lifted up for all to see…hanging there for three hours being mocked, insulted, cursed and told to come down from the cross.

“‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself!  He’s the king of Israel!  Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him.  He trusts in God.  Let God rescue him now if he wants him….'”  Matthew 27:42 & 43(a)

Yet Jesus stays.  Faithfully doing the will of His Father, so that those doing this to Him and those who continue to mock God today, have a chance to be with Him in Heaven.

“Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'”  Luke 23:34(a)

Then for the first time in all of eternity, the Father leaves Jesus as the full weight of the world’s sin bears down on the Lamb.  ‘My God!  My God!  Why have you forsaken me?’ (see Matthew 27:46)  I can’t help but imagine His cry came from a place of pure, heart wrenching anguish.  Yet still, He stays.   Never wavering.  Strength.  He knew this is why He had come….to seek and save the lost, of which you and I either were or still are.

Let us be purposeful in that when we think about this gift of salvation, we no longer think of it as receiving a “free gift” but instead, the most costly of gifts.  Purchased in the most sacrificial way….by way of a most tortuous death.  His life for ours.  Only then will we begin to see and grasp the true nature and depth of the God’s love for us.

“My command is this; Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus speaking in John 15:12 & 13

 

Choose to See

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to cause many ripples.”  Mother Teresa

Poverty.  This can mean many things to many people but most see it in a negative connotation.  However poverty opens up many doors we would never get the opportunity to walk through otherwise.  Let me explain what I mean.

Downtown Chicago, 2014.  It was late afternoon and I had just crossed the DuSable Bridge on foot and was taking in the sites of the famous “Magnificent Mile” on Michigan Avenue.  It was an extremely busy afternoon, the sun was shining and well dressed shoppers bustled about from shop to shop.  As I continued my walk through the endless stream of people, my gaze was drawn downward.  Sitting on the sidewalk by one of the many concrete planter boxes that line the street, was an African American woman who seemed to be in very dire straights.  She was by herself and not asking for help but instead stared at the ground, despondent and weeping.  I paused for a split second to take in the scene because it was so startlingly out of place.  Person after person continued to walk past her…maybe hundreds or even thousands had passed her by over the course of the day.

Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.'”  Luke 10-30-32  

I made my way to her and putting my hand on her shoulder, I knelt in front of her on one knee, introduced myself, asked her name and inquired about how I could help.  With tears streaming down her cheeks she explained, “I have been sitting here all day asking for help and no one has even talked to me.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody…I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty, than the person who has nothing to eat.”  Mother Teresa 

Over the course of our conversation and in the midst of the passing crowd I was able to pray with her, speak the Fathers’ truth into her ear, that she was deeply loved by God, listen to her story and help her in a practical way.  I believe the Lord guided the conversation that day and He (not I) get any and all the credit.  I am just grateful for the opportunity to have played a role in what He was doing in her heart and life at that moment….what an honor.

“‘But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him….Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell….?  

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.'”  Luke 10:33 & 34, 36(a) & 37

Poverty is all around us.  Not just physical poverty but also spiritual poverty, as could be reflected by the multitudes who passed by the woman in need that day.  There is a direct correlation between the depth of our walk with God and how we treat those around us, especially those who can do nothing for us.  I believe my “chance” meeting was actually a “divine appointment” where God, in His great wisdom, had a guy from Oregon be in that place at that time to give a specific word of hope to a soul who needed to hear it.  The Good Shepherd is always searching….

You and I have countless opportunities (I know that I have also missed many of these) to reflect the light and love of Jesus in this dark world.  If you choose not to, heir of God through Christ, then who will?  “You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they  may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:14-16 

Be sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit in your life and don’t let the fear of being “different” keep you from obeying His direction.  The blessing of stepping out in faith in this manner can be as rich for you as it is for the person you’re speaking with.  Train your eyes, mind and heart to see Jesus Himself in their faces and remember His words, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, YOU DID FOR ME.” (emphasis mine)  Matthew 25:40

Be ready.

“Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”  Rich Mullins

 

One Evolution at a Time

“Both fear and faith may sail into your harbor, but only allow faith to drop anchor.”  Bear Gryllis

Worry.  It’s been said that worry and faith are actually the same thing, only going in opposite directions.  Finances, marriage or relationship issues, looming work or school deadlines and your kiddo’s well being….these are just a few of the things that can and will stir up worry and fear in each of us.  How easily we can get wrapped up in the “what if’s” of an unknown future.  “What if we can’t get through this?”  “What if our daughter doesn’t get into that prestigious Ivy League school?”  “What if we have to file bankruptcy?  It will destroy our marriage!”  “What if I give my tithe but then don’t have enough to buy groceries next week?”  On and on, these worries of tomorrow can paralyze us as they flood our consciousness.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians he reminds the reader, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING….”  (Phil. 4:6)

Anything?  You might be thinking to yourself, “Now Paul, that looks all good and holy on paper but really?  How can I really implement that in my life?  It’s just not realistic.”  Let’s unpack this a little bit….

The U.S. Navy SEAL’s (of whom my father-in law was one) have a saying when they’re going through BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition School), which is the most brutal physical and mental training one could ever dream of subjecting themselves to….”Take it one evolution at a time.”  

That’s their secret.  

They take what comes at them moment by moment….often times minute by minute and second by second.  They stay completely focused on accomplishing the “task at hand.”  In his book, “Navy Seals Training Guide:  Mental Toughness”, author Lars Draeger writes about how successful SEAL candidates will have the long term goal of getting through the program but don’t spend much time there.  They end up making micro-goals made up of things such as finishing the set of push-ups they’re currently doing or getting “wet and sandy.”  That’s it.  They don’t let their mind drift into what’s coming next week or tomorrow or in an hour….  Task. At. Hand.

Jesus said to his disciples:  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:31-34

Even here, we’re reminded by the words and wisdom of Christ to stay present and focused on what we need to do today, in this present moment.  A few verses prior Jesus asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life?” (Matt. 6:27) 

So what must we do, in a practical sense, to deal with our worries and fears?

I believe we can start by putting a positive spin on it.  Our worries and fears are actually an opportunity to “work out” our faith.  Ultimately we can gain strength through this adversity.  The key to faith however, is that the power behind that faith is only as strong as who or what we place our faith in.  For example, secular humanists (a fancy name for atheists) put their faith in their own intellect and abilities, which means that the true power behind their faith is only as strong as they are as individuals.  A “religious” person’s faith might be focused on the outward adornments, idols or traditions of their particular religion…. “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak, they must be carried because they cannot walk.  Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.”  Jeremiah 10:5

Those that have put their faith in Jesus….they can walk on water.

Picture the scene.  The disciples are deathly afraid, cowered down on a boat being tossed by the stormy sea and Jesus appears out of the darkness:  “‘Take courage it is I.  Don’t be afraid.’  ‘Lord if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  I wonder how often our own fears are nothing more than promptings to get out of the boat, where we can pray, “I know you are with me, Lord!  You’ve promised never to abandon or forsake me (see Joshua 1:9) and I trust You.  I don’t know what to say or do but I need Your help!  Be my strength, I want to honor You.  Thank you for Your faithfulness and Your blessings!  Please be with me right now and in all of this let not my will but Your will be done!”

Can you see the difference between trusting in ourselves or a religious idol and trusting  in the one true and living God?  When we are redeemed by Jesus we are in an actual, practical, loving relationship with Him.  In fact, Jesus calls us “friends” (see John 15:13-15).  Let yourself marinate in that thought for awhile…you are friends with the One who set the earth on it’s axis and engineered your DNA….and He’s got your back.  This doesn’t mean that everything will be easy because it won’t be.  Remember how I had mentioned in a previous post that we are living in a world at war and we have a very real spiritual enemy.  What this does mean is that He will supply you with what you need, through His grace and strength.

Let’s go back to the verse that we started earlier:  “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 minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 

These are our instructions.  This is our focus and our “task at hand.”  Think of it as a spiritual “stop, drop and roll.”  When those unsettling thoughts begin to wash over you like the waves of the sea, call out to Jesus.  When he says “Come!” then it will be your turn to get out of the boat.

Faith> fear.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“I set the Lord always before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  Psalm 16:8

 

Our Calling

“There are a lot of things a warrior can do at a certain time which he couldn’t do years before.  Those things themselves did not change; what changed was his idea of himself.”  Carlos Casteneda

Bondage.  I believe the majority of humankind traverse life unconsciously trapped by the negativity, cruelty and lies that they’ve come to believe about themselves.  “You’ll never amount to anything….you’re ugly….you’re not smart enough….you’re not good enough….you’re a burden….you don’t have what it takes….you’re a mistake….you have no purpose here.”  There is a reason our spiritual enemy is called “the accuser.”  That is his purpose…with his end game being the destruction of those made in the image of God, which happens to be you and I.  He doesn’t care how long it takes.  Little by little, over the course of our lifetime he tempts us to compromise and make decisions that lead us down the well worn path that so many have previously tread.  It’s not hard to see the evidence of the devils having their way with so many.  We can walk through any city and witness the countless number of those beaten and broken down, now only shells of their former selves.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  We don’t have to accept the lies.  We don’t have to live in this shame.  Remember what Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free….So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:32 & 36 

This is our starting point.

If you have never recognized your true spiritual state, that you are a sinner, separated from God (although you experience his grace, given to all of humanity as Paul reminds us in Romans….while we were still sinners, Christ died for us).  In this natural state you are no match for the darkness.  Whether they actively attack you or passively lull you into a state of spiritual indifference, you are trapped all the same and under God’s wrath.  However, if you are of humble heart, recognize this and are willing to turn from your sin and call on Jesus to forgive you, He promises to save you from both this present darkness and the very real Hell that will follow.  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Romans 10:13  

My brother used to say to me, “If there are 100 steps between you and God, he’s taken 99 of them you, just need to respond to Him.”  

My friend, you are being called to something more.  You were created in His image, so truth be told, you’re a MASTERPIECE and all of the spiritual realm knows this.  In Him, you DO have what it takes.  In Him, you ARE good enough.  In Him, you HAVE everything  you need to fulfill your GOD ordained calling.  This is the truth.  Hold onto it.  For when the attacks come (and they will) and those familiar lies starting ringing loudly in your ears,  you’ll need to actively resist with this truth and ask for God to cover you.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:10-18

Welcome to the family, Warrior Soul.  How far you take it is up to you….

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here….We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”  2 Corinthians 5:17 & 20

A Needed Shift in Our Paradigm

“The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor.  If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.”   Samuel Smiles

Comfort.  Does any one word more accurately define the ultimate goal of western culture?  Instant gratification, smart phones, instant messages, entertainment at our finger tips at any time and in virtually any place.  We live in a “plug and play” world.  How often do we find ourselves willing to grind, spend, invest and struggle….not in order to be able to give more….but just in order to chase the elusive “security” of comfort?

But here is what the master marketers of our day neglect to tell us.  The “comfort” and “security” they’re selling us is just an illusion.  It is an illusion that can blind the vast majority of those around us.  The spirits that rule this realm (for the time being) prefer to keep things this way.  We can almost hear them saying to one another, “Keep them busy, ‘happy’ and fattened for the slaughter!”  This darkness understands that when an individual begins questioning this “reality”… that is when the Light can begin to illuminate our minds and more importantly in many cases, our hearts, to what truly is.  I like to call this an individual’s “Matrix” moment….

“This is your last chance.  After this there is no turning back.  You take the blue pill-the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.  You take the red pill- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.  I know that you’re afraid…you’re afraid of change.  I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end.  I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.”  (Morpheous in the film “The Matrix”)

We need a shift in our world view.  We need to understand that this current world, in this current age, is a world not of comfort but is in fact a world at war.  It may not be a war we can see, smell or touch but it’s all around us, all of the time.  The spiritual warfare never sleeps.  We see it throughout scripture:

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8 & 9 

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  1 Peter 4:12

“In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  Jesus speaking in John 16:33

This blog will be dedicated to those who decide to take the red pill.

How about you?  How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?  The choice is yours….