Arise and Shine . . . 12/27/11
Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising - Isaiah 60:1-3.
Will you be one upon whom the Lord may show His glory? Or will you only display the glory bestowed by this world? At this critical fork in the road, each of us must choose. If you decide to "arise" and "shine" with God's glory seen upon you, then be prepared to bow humbly before Him, submitting your life completely.
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain - John 12:24.
Submission to the Lord often requires living honorably amidst unkindness and inequity; praising the Lord throughout it all. Submission does not require acceptance of the sin around us; We should always pray for the offenders and listen for direction from the Spirit. However, Christians are required to humbly live by faith, trusting that God sees all, knows all, and has His sovereign hand on all things. We must know that we're being transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) while the world is secretly taking notice.
Learning to submit to the Lord may be the most difficult lesson we ever learn. But when this goal is achieved, the reward that comes is worth every heartache and tear. We will then arise from the rubble of life with proven, authentic faith. We'll shine with the glory of God's presence as we walk in the light of His love and His favor.
For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield - Psalm 5:12.
Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy and grace that draw us deeply into submission and closer to the promotion we all desire. As You humble us, please give us times of healing rest and encouraging revelation. Open our eyes so we may clearly see Your purpose and Your plan.
Whatever You Ask . . . 12/13/11
Being with family at Thanksgiving and Christmas may be wonderful for some. But for others, this time is filled with frustration, disappointment, and pain. Our families are "works in progress," with some needing heavy renovation. Some Christians think of these occasions as a time for witnessing and influencing. Relatives seen only once or twice a year become targets of their zeal. Other Christians simply hope to survive the ordeal of being with non-Christian relatives who've been honing their passive-agressive skills for the past year. Their modest goal is to "not overreact."
The variables of family interaction are endless, so there isn't a "how to" guide for achieving success at any particular gathering. And besides, God's idea of success may be different than yours. For example, through no fault of your own, someone might verbally unload on you. This could be the Lord's way of revealing an enemy stronghold. When the dust settles, you may discover that God has given you a vital key for intercession. (While the enemy meant it for harm, God meant it for good - Genesis 50:20.)
Don't ever forget: Fighting for souls must be done in the Spirit. Human reasoning will always lead us astray, but listening to the voice of God awakens us to His strategy.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . . 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
As always, prayer is our spiritual nuclear weapon. It can vaporize strongholds, arguments and all high things that prevent our loved ones from knowing God. Armed with the Word and guided by love, our prayer simply cannot fail.
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it - John 4:13-14.
Jesus emphasizes this promise by repeating Himself. He says it twice! He means it!
Lord, Your word is so exciting! We take great courage from Your promises. Thank You for the hope that comes from receiving Your truth. Thank You for our families. Please guide us as we battle in prayer for each one of them. Help us to not be offended by unkind words or actions but instead to be filled with Your love.
The Lord Earnestly Waits . . . 11/30/11
And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship] ! - Isaiah 30:18 AMP.
These words from the Amplified Bible are music to my ears. They reveal the strong desire of the Lord to bless me. He really is on my side! I particularly like the words, "He lifts Himself up . . . " This helps me envision my Father standing up to put His utmost love and effort into His action on my behalf.
As I contemplated this scripture from Isaiah, I decided to read the entire chapter and learn why the first sentence begins with "therefore." Keeping the Word in context helps us to apply it effectively. I was deeply touched by this verse, and I wanted to be sure that I could claim it as my own. I was elated to find that the rest of the chapter magnifies the relevance of verse 18:
Isaiah, chapter 30, begins with the Lord saying, "Woe to the rebellious children . . . who take counsel and carry out a plan, but not Mine, and who make a league and pour out a drink offering, but not of My Spirit, thus adding sin to sin; who set out to go down into Egypt, and have not asked Me—to flee to the stronghold of Pharaoh and to strengthen themselves in his strength and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!" (Isaiah 30:1,2 AMP).
In other words, God is not pleased when we make our own plans and disregard His desires for us. He doesn't want us trusting in our own strength or that of worldly, unholy powers, as signified by Egypt. The Lord gives us plenty of freedom, but He knows that our plans are often flawed by sin, and our strength is insufficient. Because the Lord's plans for us are perfect, and His strength is superior to all, He wants us to follow His counsel. He wants us to prosper and be safe.
This teaching from Isaiah is exciting to me. I'm at a place in my Christian growth where I've stopped making my own plans and "taking matters into my own hands." Over the years, I've learned that I'm extremely weak. My progress with God has been slow, but today I'm no longer a rebellious child who can't be blessed because of defiant thoughts and behavior. (Thank You, Lord, for insisting that I grow up!) I'm not perfect, but I'm on the right track with a proper attitude. And now, when I read this promise of blessing, I know it's for me. My faith can rise up and claim it!
What about you? Are you still self-centered and defiant? Do you hide behind a religious facade of "good works" that line up with your agenda more than with God's? Please ask the Lord to enlighten you in this matter. He longs for you to let go of the reins. He waits expectantly to bless you.
Dear Lord, please shine Your light of truth deeply into our hearts. Show us that You are always good. Teach us that You can be trusted with all that we hold dear. Cleanse us from any rebellion so You can bless and use us more fully. As You take us "from glory to glory," help us to bless You in return.
From Failure to Victory . . . 10/15/11
Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker - 2 Samuel 3:1.
The battlegrounds we encounter in this life can be frightening. But if we abide in Christ, every skirmish is an opportunity for learning, for growth and for ultimate glory. Nobody looks forward to trials and tribulation, but without them we would miss the amazing experience of God's victory and deliverance.
Within a spiritual war zone, even our failures can be important steps toward victory if we embrace God's powerful, loving grace. We can stand and look ahead with bold determination—to face the next fight with decisive, righteous precision.
No matter how painful our failure, we can refuse to let it define us. Failure should only be a teacher. Our Christian identity lies firmly in the realm of victory.
I was once blind-sided by harsh words from an angry, manipulative woman. My response was brief but much too reactive. In other words, I responded in the flesh. The attacker then reported my "verbal failure" to some people that I respected. The Spirit immediately convicted me of my sin, but this woman was bent on condemning and slandering me. Circumstances prevented me from revealing to others the proper context of the incident and setting the record straight. So then, within my mind, a second battle raged. I felt maligned and rejected. But I knew this was a test of my faith, so I called to God—the only One who could really help. His response to me overflowed with compassionate grace. He unfolded His battle plan, showing me exactly how to pray. Within 48 hours, the enemy's canon was backfiring into its own camp. Watching the Lord act powerfully on my behalf was priceless.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength - Isaiah 40:28, 29.
Looking humbly and wholeheartedly to God in the midst of weakness will always tip the scale in our favor. When His breath of truth and revelation flows onto the scene, our failure becomes a turning point.
Thank You, Lord, that Your strength is always available to those who know You. Please keep us humbly aware of our weakness and our desperate need of You. Thank You for training us to fight ever more effectively with Your holy weapon of prayer; moving us from positions of basic defense to the front lines of combat where a strong offense is required.
Choosing Our Thoughts . . . 10/2/11
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he . . . - Proverbs 23:7.
The true man is the inner man. A Christian whose thoughts are consistently pure will glorify God through his actions. Since our thoughts and beliefs are a foundation for our behavior, it should be no surprise that the enemy targets our minds for corruption.
Christians may be quick to discard a lustful thought or a clearly sinful idea, but we're not always in a hurry to stop being angry, depressed or judgemental. Maybe we've accepted the enemy's premise that it's all right to have negative thoughts as long as our mouths stay shut. However, the Word tells us clearly that sinful actions are born from sinful thoughts, so they're definitely notokay (Mark 7:20-23).
How we choose to think is how we choose to be.
Now here's some very good news: We can choose the origin of our thoughts—whether they come from the heart of God, or from the enemy. We've been issued mighty weapons, capable of taking every thought captive "to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4,5). We can set mental boundaries, telling the enemy that our mind is "off limits," and our weapons will be used to enforce this.
Once aware of our options, we must practice embracing God's truth for every situation in life. Each day, we can partake of the mind of Christ—through the written Word and directly from the Spirit. A personal Word from God is the most powerful anti-depressant in existence. It heals our wounds and brings new life.
Of course the enemy wants Christians to forget what God has said about any matter at hand. Oppressive demonic influence works around the clock to distract us from the truth. For example, we may be tempted to mentally reenact a painful situation, over and over, like a broken record that's stuck on one song. And every time we relive the story in our thoughts, the depth of our wounds will increase. The vivid images and the pain are intended to harm us, but they're sent primarily to distract us from God's perspective. The Lord may be saying, "Thanks for not arguing with your neighbor. Now here is how I want you to pray..."
Demons will torture our minds indefinitely if we don't choose to make them stop.. The authority to bind enemy lies and loose the Spirit of Truth is a privilege we must embrace (Matthew 16:19). And don't forget: God's life-saving truth is always close at hand (Psalm 119:105).
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things - Philippians 4:8.
Father, thank You for Your presence and for Your truth. Please make us more sensitive to enemy advances into our thinking. Please keep Your Word at the forefront of our minds. We want our thoughts, our words and our actions to repel demonic activity instead of reinforcing it. Lead us daily to a place of praising You—a place where the enemy can't approach.
Call to Me, and I Will Answer . . . 9/18/11
My Florida vacation had finally begun. Waiting for check-in time at my island condominium, I was walking along a bayside beach, photographing beautiful birds. My lens was focused on an Egret when I was approached by a man who asked, ''Don't you want to photograph that rare horizontal rainbow?''
''Sure! Thanks a lot!'' I had never seen or heard of a horizontal rainbow, but now I was photographing one. Just as the name implies, the rainbow was straight and flat. It was also very bright. The following week, I learned that the scientific name for this visual phenomenon is "circumhorizontal arc." These rainbows only form when plate-shaped ice crystals are present in cirrus clouds, and when the sun is a certain distance from Earth. At some latitudes, these arcs can never be seen.
Because I'm accustomed to the Lord speaking to me through nature, I thought this event might hold a personal message. I would have missed it entirely had it not been pointed out to me, and that in itself seemed significant—as if the message was hand delivered. I prayed for revelation of the meaning for me, and the Spirit soon answered:
Scripture declares the rainbow to be a sign of covenant between God and the earth (Genesis 9:12, 13). In addition to God's original specific promise to never again cover the earth with a flood, I believe the rainbow symbolizes His intent to honor any covenant or promise He has made to His people, either corporately or individually. It's a visual reminder
from God that He keeps His promises.
The Spirit revealed to me that the unusual "horizontal" aspect of the rainbow was animportant part of the message. Strong's Concordance presents to us the Greek word, ''horizo" (3724): to mark out or bound ("horizon"), i.e. (fig.) to appoint, decree, specify:—declare, determine, limit, ordain.
God was clearly saying to me: "Susan, look up and see. My promise to you has been marked out. It has been specified, determined, ordained and decreed. My promise to you is specific, and it is limited (fitted) to my purpose for your life."
In other words, I should be encouraged. God's promise to me is surely coming to pass, according to His purpose and His timing. He has written this in the sky as a loving reminder.
I have shared this story with a goal in mind: I want you to want to hear God's voice. (If you don't care about hearing from the Lord, then you won't.) I want you to know that He has good news for you. I want you to believe that He has things to say about your future. If you're not hearing God's voice, then I want you to be jealous that He's speaking to me and not to you. I want you to chase after Him. (The truth is, if God will speak to me, then He will certainly speak to you.)
In my experience with the Lord, He is the ultimate cheerleader. When I ask Him for encouragement, He quickly responds. In the case of the horizontal rainbow, I don't remember asking for a word of support, so God's sign in the sky seems more like an anouncement. (Nowthat's exciting!)
No matter who you are or what you've done, the Lord will speak to you. Others' opinions of you don't matter at all to Him. He has purpose for you that is quite specific, and He's placed great potential within you. However, you must have faith. You must believe that God will talk to you on a personal level. You must get direction. The fact that you're living and breathing is proof that your business on Earth isn't finished. Beginning today, you can start listening for God's voice. You can start receiving His direction. Just don't be surprised when you find yourself encouraged.
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know - Jeremiah 33:3.
Dear Lord, thank You for including and using us in Your plans. Please open our ears so we can always hear Your direction. Clear our eyes and minds so we can receive every powerful word of encouragement. Lead us each day to relevant truth. Please prepare our hearts so You can show us "great and mighty things."
Lord, Teach Us To Pray . . . 8/23/11
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” - Luke 11:1.
I used to think intercessory prayer was one of God's more boring assignments. I thought of it as something given to Christians who didn't have talent for something more interesting. I'm sure I never said that out loud because part of me knew it wasn't true, and verbalizing this belief to my friends would have certainly caused some trouble.
I was so happy when God first told me to write. I knew my assignment was important, and secretly I was glad that I wasn't called to be an "intercessor." Now don't get me wrong. I've always considered prayer to be vitally important, and I've done plenty of it. I just haven't felt like doing it for long periods of time, and I was definitely not consistent. Because of my lack of desire, I was convinced that I didn't have the calling.
Now, if you've been a Christian for very long, you know that God has ways of changing our minds about things. By His mercy and grace, my eyes have been opened to the amazing privilege of prayer—to the impact it can have on every day of my life—and to the new dimension of purpose it imparts. The veil that kept me ignorant has been lifted. The Lord has revealed what prayer can do for me, for those I love, and for the world at large.
I no longer consider prayer to be a tedious calling. It is a privilege, an honor, and a great responsibility. Prayer is a calling for every Christian.
Regrettably, most of us don't pray fervently unless a serious problem exists. Therefore, when the Lord is teaching us to pray effectively, He lets problems come our way that can only be solved through prayer. He puts us between the proverbial "rock and a hard place" by allowing situations that we simply cannot tolerate and that are only worsened by human effort. If we want change, we must learn to pray correctly and consistently.
Dear Lord, please awaken our sleeping hearts! Draw us irretrievably into Your holy chamber of prayer. Whether it be intercessory prayer or the prophetic prayer that proclaims Your will, please teach us to do it properly and effectively. Reveal to us the authority that comes with abiding in Christ. Give us deeper understanding of the power in Your word when it's spoken forth in prayer. Help us to "rise and shine" each day (Isaiah 60:1) as intercessors and warriors—as Your anointed priests and kings.
Thank You, Lord, for the privilege and honor of prayer! Thank You for the joy we have in knowing You prompt us to pray for what You intend to deliver!
Authority . . . 8/12/11
Our world appears to be coming apart at the seams. Some are overwhelmed by the trouble we see around us, but if we listen to the Spirit of God, we'll hear Him telling us not to fear. Nevertheless, if you are one who thinks that evil has finally gotten the upper hand, then please do not stop reading
The powers of darkness work hard to keep Christians in a fog regarding our authority here on Earth. Satan's goal is to wear each of us down with relentless, cruel assaults. He wants us to turn and run before we fully understand the truth—before we know that we're the ones in charge.
When God created man, He gave him complete authority over all creation. Adam and Eve walked in amazing power and beautiful holiness.
When Adam and Eve sinned, they forfeited this authority, along with other privileges. Satan took control, legally beginning his evil reign.
At the cross, Jesus won back complete authority to rule the Earth. Christians are in charge again if we are abiding in Christ. Using the authority of Christ, we're to proclaim the will of the Father, commanding His kingdom to come.
Satan still has power, but he lost the authority to use it. However, he will illegally use his power if we don't stop him.
Christians have complete authority on Earth, and we have the power of Christ in us to back up our authority. Through prayer and other spiritual warfare, we enforce the will of God.*
Yes, we really are in charge! Christians are "the head and not the tail" (Deuteronomy 28:13). Lest we waste this wonderful gift, let us rise up daily in prayer and in all spiritual warfare (praise, worship, and proclaiming the Word) to expel the enemy from every part of the Earth. Let us claim the salvation of our families and all who God assigns to us. Prayer and warfare will restore our fallen governments, feed the hungry, heal the sick, break down evil strongholds, and "bring into captivity all thoughts to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power . . . Ephesians 1:17-19.
Dear Lord Jesus, we thank You with every ounce of our being for Your victory at the cross. Thank You for winning back the authority we need to reign as Your ambassadors and enforcers. Please reveal to each of us the enormity of this gift and the responsibility that comes with it. Help us to skillfully wield the Sword of the Spirit, Your mighty Word, as we slay every giant in the land.
* These precepts are presented more fully in Dutch Sheets' best-selling book: Intercessory Prayer.
Live Like It's True . . . 7/15/11
When the Lord first promises to meet a particular need, His word seems alive and absolutely true. We receive His pledge wholeheartedly. But if much time goes by, the enemy takes full advantage of this delay to plant his evil seeds of doubt. Before long, conditions around us may scream that God cannot be trusted. The battle is on! We're torn between what we see and what we know. Our physical perception tells us we misunderstood the voice of the Lord. But the Spirit assures us that we heard correctly and that God is not a liar.
The Lord administers many blessings without requiring us to wait. They come automatically. We might take these blessings for granted or mistakenly think we earned them. But certain gifts come only after a season of testing. The promise of their arrival is a tool in God's hand to purify us and strengthen our faith. I think it's safe to say that sanctification and a higher level of faith is required to receive this type of promise. So, if God's purpose is to clean us up and make us strong, then this must transpire before we enter into the victory.
If we press on to fight for what is ours, strong emotions will be stirred up. We'll be attacked by spirits of anger, depression, fear and many of their ugly cousins. Because God's promise is to meet a genuine need of ours, the powers of darkness tempt us to look at a future without that provision. According to them, loneliness, poverty and illness are surely on the road ahead. And this might actually be true if we succumb to negative emotions and take the wrong turn. A growing faith is critical.
Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go - Joshua 1:9.
Each day is filled with choices. We can choose the high roads of holiness where the voice of God is louder and more clear. We can refuse to be afraid, depressed or angry. Choosing rightly, however, doesn't exempt us from walking through dark places, so we must be firmly convinced that God abides in the clouds and in the storms (Nahum 1:3). Then, with eyes of faith, we'll find treasure in this darkness:
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel - Isaiah 45:3.
Much is to be gained while waiting on the Lord. Our emotions may waiver, but if we take courage and live each day like His promise is true, then we'll be on course to receive the blessing in its appointed time.
Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life - Psalm 119:49-50.
Thank You, Lord, for Your many blessings and for all Your precious promises. Thank You for being with us at every step on the road so we need not be afraid. Please open the eyes of Your saints so we can find treasure in every darkness. Please breath life, hope and faith into all hearts that are growing weary. Let Your Spirit rise up in us to fight every battle with power and glory. We praise You, Lord, because all things work together for our good.
Take Up Your Sword . . . 7/3/11
. . . the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil - 1 John 3:8 NASB.
The works of the devil have been destroyed! So, what are we waiting for? Let's take authority and claim every single thing that Jesus won! While abiding in Christ, we have the power to bring His victory into view and within our reach. Christians should never forget this. Of course, that is not our only purpose. We're called to be holy worshippers of God. We're saved so each of us can be His personal friend. But claiming the spoils of the kingdom ranks near the top of His list of things for us "to do."
Are you getting tired of the misery and strife around you? Have you learned that grumbling and complaining only makes things worse, and talking with people in positions of earthly authority often makes no difference? God purposely puts us in situations where enemy strongholds are in place. He teaches us to fight, using His Truth as our weapon. He tells us that difficulties are actually thresholds of touching the visible, tangible results of His victory.
By faith in God's Word, Christians must take authority over the enemy. The sword of the Spirit is mighty in our hands! We must praise the Lord for His victory, even before we see it.
And take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints . . . - Ephesians 6:17,18.
Let's pray for ourselves and then each other, removing the specks and planks from every eye (Matthew 7:3-5). Then seeing clearly, we can pray for the unsaved people around us. People are the most valuable "spoils" that Jesus won.
When praying for the lost, the Spirit has told me to ask for truth and light to surround them. I pray that they will see and hear truth wherever they go—never to be apart from its saving power. I always ask for God's mercy to be upon them because it endures forever. (Psalm 136 repeats this twenty-six times!) I pray for His grace to surround them and bring them to repentance. We're told to not cast out demons from unsaved people unless they're truly repenting and ready for salvation (Matthew 12:44-46).
If you see a problem of any kind, whether it involves people, finances, government, health or the environment—please don't grumble and complain. Instead, do something constructive: Pull out your Sword and pray!
Dear Lord, please stir up Your people to pray according to Your Word. Cause Your holy fire of discernment to blaze within us so we can pray with understanding. Help us bring Your kingdom to Earth.
Holiness Brings Peace and Joy . . . 6/25/11
Okay, I’ll admit it. My thoughts and my words need more sanctification. I’ve come a long way, but I still need fine-tuning in these areas. And if you're honest, you will admit the same things. I’m sure the Spirit will continue working with all of us until the day we enter Heaven. He never lets up because what Christians think and say is a larger issue than simply “resisting sin.” Unholy thoughts and words (or any sin) will affect our ability to enter God’s presence, to know Him intimately, to pray, and to change the world around us.
. . . but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” – 1 Peter 1:15,16.
Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness – Psalm 29:2.
More and more, the Holy Spirit increases my desire to think about Jesus instead of about my earthly surroundings. When I think of the Lord and abide in Him, my mind is filled with love and hope and life. I think about deliverance and freedom for the people around me. I become increasingly aware of the Lord’s agenda. And I get to know Him personally. Jesus has a great sense of humor, and He loves to tell me secrets—the kind that encourage me.
Focusing my thoughts on the Lord and speaking only what pleases Him will always increase my peace and joy, even amidst adversity. These entities grow stronger within me as I consistently turn to Jesus with problems instead of venting to my friends. As the Lord gives me peace in a situation (supported by His word), and as I rest in that peace, I am literally taking authority over the spiritual upheaval. The demons involved must back away because, through me, the Lord and His peace are now on the scene. As this unfolds, then joy is close at hand.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit – Romans 15:13.
Dear Lord Jesus, please help us to walk closely with You, in the beauty of holiness. Please deliver us completely from sinful thoughts, words, and actions. Don’t let us sweep anything under the rug. Thank You for setting the behavioral bar so high. And thank You for the precious gifts of peace and joy.
Imaginations . . . 5/30/11
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ . . . 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 KJV.
Let's look at "imaginations." The Amplified Bible calls them "arguments and theories and reasonings." I think of them as "the fiery darts of the wicked one" (Ephesians 6:16). However we interpret the word, imaginations are sent to torment our minds and steal from our future. Imaginations come disguised as our own thoughts, seeming reasonable and true. They usually present worst-case scenarios, so they set us up for worry, anxiety and full-blown fear.
If the enemy can engulf us with anxiety about next week, then we're more likely to make a mess of things this afternoon. Therefore, to protect us, the Lord tells us to focus on today, and take no thought for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).
Through God, we must cast down every imagination that has come to steal our peace, our joy and our destiny. We must tap into the riches of His mind (1 Corinthians 2:16). When abiding in the Lord and hearing His thoughts, we're strengthened by His joy and blessed by His peace (Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 21:1, and Psalm 29:11).
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? . . . He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision - Psalm 2:1,4.
When in tune with the mind of Christ, we can laugh right along with Him when people around us "plot a vain thing." Because I prefer laughter over tears, and joy instead of fear, I've been asking God to fill my mind with what He is thinking. There's no better way to feel good.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things - Philippians 4:6-8.
Thank You, Lord, for Your continuous salvation. Every day we're saved from snares and hazards because of Your presence within. Thank You for Your beautiful mind that leads us safely along the path of sanctification. Thank You for giving us supernatural peace and joy. Please open our spiritual ears and help us to hear your holy, life-giving thoughts throughout each day.
What Do You Need? . . . 5/7/11
Some Christians only call upon the strength of the Lord in times of major crisis. Sadly, this practice will leave us “on our own” through everything else in life, and this isn't what God intends. Sovereignly and wisely, the Lord has programmed all of creation to need what He has to offer. Man's greatest need is for a personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, loneliness is a blessing if it causes you to search for Him. And He will be found, if you look with all your heart. Jesus will be your delightful Friend who doesn't mind that you're weak and needy. Your problems bring out the best in Him.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.
If you need someone strong to defend you when you're mistreated or wrongly accused, then if you ask, the Lord will lift you to safety. His strong, loving arms will hold you close, and tongues will no longer dare to accuse. When you find that fear is nipping at your heels, the strength of the indwelling Word will deflect every lie and reproach. Persecution will bow to the power of Truth, and distress will dissolve in Love's comforting light. God's Peace will rest upon you like a cool morning dew.
The Holy Spirit delights in telling you secrets that will sustain you in your weakness. A rhema word from Him will give you the push you need to march another hundred miles. A simple vision will encourage you for weeks. Godly revelation always comes with power—like a bolt of lightning to illumine your world on dark and stormy nights.
As you draw near to the Lord and learn to partake of His strength, you'll soon find yourself acquainted with His Hope. This attribute of Jesus is a dear and valuable gift. He presents it to each of us as a lover would give exquisite flowers. Hope from the Lord comes wrapped in strong sheets of purpose and colorful ribbons of joy.
The amazing "power of Christ" will only rest on the weak, so let's rejoice in our frailties. Let's thank the Lord for every bit of our weakness. Let's praise Him for revealing His grace and glory through us—the ones who the world despises.
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence - 1 Cor. 1:27-29.
Thank You, Lord, for inviting us to Your throne of grace—for telling us to come boldly (Hebrews 4:16). Just as You send rain to refresh the grass and the trees, You send us the perfect support in our times of need—if only we will ask. Teach us to always trust in Your love and to ask for Your help. Let us experience Your diversity of strengths and rejoice in every one of them. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Yourself.
God is in the Room . . . 4/23/11
If we are born again, the Lord's presence goes everywhere with us. Of course, all Christians know that the Holy Spirit lives within us and is ready to help in times of need. But how often do we think about the impact God's presence has on others around us—not through what we say or do, but simply because God is in the room?
Stop for a minute and visualize yourself walking through a doorway with the Lord by your side. He is the Most High God—Creator of all that exists. He's standing right next to you, shimmering with holiness and radiating love. His power bursts forth in flashes of light.
Being acutely aware of God's presence will bring us both security and humility. This also makes us responsible to "let God be God" as we move through the day.
Certainly, the Lord wants to speak and act through us. But not all the time. Being filled with the Spirit doesn't mean we need always be talking or doing good works. I think sometimes this gets in God's way. If we get too busy, then we're less apt to hear the Spirit's guiding voice, and before long we're "on our own." More will be accomplished when we learn the value of being still and quiet as it's called for. We can silently pray and praise the Lord, loosing His fullness into the situation around us.
As we abide in Christ, His power, peace and holiness will escape the confines of our inner being, even with our mouths closed, and our hands and feet inactive. God's presence will not be tightly contained in us. As Moses returned from his time on Mount Sinai, his followers clearly saw that he glowed with God's glorious presence (Exodus 34:29). That could be the case with us one day. And as with Peter, the mere casting of our shadow might loose God's healing or deliverance (Acts 5:15). The Lord's light and life in us will find a way to touch the world. We can always trust the Spirit to choose how this will happen.
Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! -
Thank You, Lord, that we are never alone. Teach us to expect Your glory to unfold wherever we may be—because where we go, Your presence goes.
Press On . . . 4/9/11
. . . one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus – Philippians 3:13-14.
We press on—never blindly, but with vision. We look toward the hope that proceeds from the Spirit of the Lord. Christians who have an intimate friendship with God will be given a purpose-filled vision of their future. This vision is periodically updated with new details and confirmation that we're on the right track. The Spirit unveils truth after beautiful truth as our destiny unfolds before us. Without this revelation, we have only a general hope that won't stand up to difficult, lengthy trials. But with revelation, we have a hope so strong that nothing can destroy it.
Maybe you're unable to see the hand of God in your difficult circumstances. If that's the case, then it’s time to focus on what He has told you instead of on what you see or feel. More than ever, it’s time to press on toward the goal that is set before you. The Lord has charted a safe and excellent course, and it's time to get moving. It's time to press on.
Have you been wounded by someone’s words or actions? Well, please consider this: The pain can’t hurt you. Only a sinful response to pain can do you serious harm. Heartache will always bring opportunity for the Spirit to work within you. Abiding in His holy presence will heal your wounds and release His love into the situation. What the enemy meant for evil is then transformed to a positive experience with God. Now, continue to press on.
Are negative voices clamoring for your attention? Are you afraid of what lies ahead? Well, here’s some more good news: Fear can’t hurt you either. It has no power, and you’re completely free to ignore it. Only when you open a door and invite fear in for a chat will its destruction be able to touch you. If you find that fear insists on camping in your front yard, just remember—the antidote to fear is faith in God and His word. Fear will always leave when faith arrives. And once again, it's time to move ahead.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit – Jeremiah 17:7-8
As we press on, our roots reach deeply into the waters of God. As we move steadily forward to “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” we are filled with peace. Changing from glory to glory becomes a way of life (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Dear Lord, please give every one of us a clear vision of our future. Let nothing block our way as we press on.
Loving or Critical? . . . 3/25/11
Christians can easily fall into the trap of being critical. Some of us are already in the habit of labeling behavior as "right, wrong or questionable." Our personality may predispose us to being analytical or opinionated. If we let the enemy exploit these tendencies, then we'll be led down a dangerous path. While our thoughts become overly critical, we'll mistakenly think we're gaining maturity and "discernment."
Unless we no longer listen, God's Spirit will sound an alarm. He will make us aware of the fork in the road ahead. To the right is the road of love and intercession. To the left is a busy freeway taken by angry Christians who respond to the world with bitterness and judgement.
Spirit-filled Christians choose the road of love and intercession. Their Godly discernment is used to act and pray effectively when encountering less-than-holy behavior from those in their realm of influence. "Self-righteousness" and "pride" don't ever choose this route. Neither do "offense" and "indignation." Those aligned with these ungodly spirits will take the crowded thoroughfare. On this road they will criticize with others of like mind.
Being hurt or annoyed by someone's sinful conduct is no excuse for putting up cold, hard walls. Christians are not allowed to take offense, and we're not allowed to judge. Our job is to forgive the sinner and pray for them. Not just once or twice, but "seventy times seven."
Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven - Matthew 18:21,22.
If we want to be useful in the kingdom of God, we must always choose to love. This includes humbling ourselves, laying down our rights and becoming a living sacrifice, just as Jesus did for us. We can't demand the best treatment every minute of the day. Instead, we must look for ways to serve.
. . . love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust - Matthew 5:43-45.
Thank You, Lord, for showing us the way. Your example of humility and love is woven throughout the gospel with beautiful crimson thread. Please keep our thoughts and words aligned with Your purpose. Keep our feet on the "highway of holiness" (Isaiah 35:8) where Your purpose is reached through mercy and grace. Please forgive us for all the times we've been critical and judgmental.
Conformed to His Image . . . 3/1/11
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren - Romans 8:28,29.
God's number one purpose for Christians is that we be conformed to His image.
The number one purpose of our flesh is to get what it wants and be happy.
These two purposes often collide. Our flesh doesn't think and feel on the same level that God does. When abiding in Christ, our spirits are wonderfully meshed with His, but our flesh remains weak and self-centered (Matthew 26:41).
Every Christian is caught in this primary conflict between God's purpose and the desires of their fleshly human nature. Identifying and being aware of this conflict is helpful. It's good to know what may be slowing down our spiritual progress and standing in the way of our true happiness.
Submitting to God isn't easy, but the Spirit always shines His light for us to step forward in the process. He reminds us that "all things" are working together for our good if we are born again and belong to Him. Revelation of God's sovereignty and goodness will ease our anguish when we're engaged in conflict with His purpose. Believing in God's love for us will decrease our fear of feeling trapped or "losing control."
Let me offer an example: If you have ever tried to tame a feral cat, you began with setting out food and water. You talked to the wild animal with a soothing voice, never making sudden moves. Gaining the cat's trust took weeks or months. You wanted to touch it, bring it into your home, and eventually take it to the vet for protection from parasites and disease. Your goal was to have a healthy, contented cat that was safe from harm and able to receive your love. This process is a good reflection of how God deals with us.
The Lord moves slowly but always with purpose. He knows we don't understand His higher ways, so He offers us His Spirit and His Word. When we get comfortable with a new level of trust, then He calls for a little more. During each experience with God, we learn that He is truly good. Whenever we respond to Him by moving closer, we're rewarded by an increase of His blessing and His presence.
Thank You, Lord, for everything you allow to come our way. Thank You for giving us Your best, in spite of our fearful resistance. Thank You for the food of Your Word and the water of Your Spirit. Thank You for calling us to enjoy Your arms of love.
Lord, we praise You for Your patience, Your mercy and Your amazing grace!
It Is Settled . . . 2/20/11
Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides - Psalm 119:89-90.
Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the Bible, and it's also the longest chapter. The author is unknown. The words within its span extol the value of God's word, and they proclaim God's faithfulness to uphold and perform His word. The effectiveness of every Christian life hinges upon our belief in these two things.
Have you received a promise from the Lord about a matter that is dear to your heart? This personal promise, a rhema word, has the power to take you through valleys, floods and fire while you wait for it to manifest. The power stems from two elements—the integrity of God's word (either scripture or a communication that perfectly aligns with scripture) and the faithfulness of His being.
Because Satan has limited power, he tricks us into harming ourselves, just as Eve did, when he casts doubt on God's character and His word:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” - Genesis 3:1.
"Did God really tell you that? Maybe you just imagined those words. Maybe you misunderstood." Every single day the enemy hints that my hearing is faulty or that God is not to be trusted. The powers of darkness know that faith is the key to receiving a promise, so attempts to steal that key will be relentless.
When doubt enters, we should go immediately to the Lord, asking for confirmation. I've been waiting quite a while for one particular promise to take shape. I've asked for verification many times because the issue is of major importance. The enemy taunts me every day, but God has been faithful to encourage and reassure me. No matter how often I ask for confirmation of His promise, He lovingly responds. One memorable answer was His quoting of scripture to me; "Am I a man that I should lie?" At first, I thought this was a rebuke, but then I realized that God was describing His character. He was reminding me that He is faithful:
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? - Numbers 23:19.
Yes, once God speaks, then the matter is settled. He doesn't break His promises. Our trust in His word and His faithfulness equips us to change the world.
Praise and Perseverance . . . 2/13/11
In the Bible, names are especially important. Much meaning is held within them, often hidden from readers with hardened hearts. Taking time to learn the significance of names will help scripture unfold with new depths of revelation.
When Israel came forth out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became [God's] sanctuary (the Holy Place of His habitation), and Israel His dominion . . . - Psalm 114:1-2, AMP.
The name, Judah, means "praise." The inspired psalmist is telling us that God finds sanctuary in Christians who praise Him. We know that God indwells all who are born again, but this verse speaks of something more.
The name, Israel, means "the one who wrestled with God." This definition has a positive connotation because God loves those who persevere for His presence and His promises. One way to wrestle or persevere with God is to constantly remind Him of His word when we pray.
According to Psalm 114, God's manifest presence resides powerfully with those who praise Him and with those who persevere in dependence on Him. Praising God is always good, but praising Him in the midst of lengthy trials that require perseverance will cause His power to explode on our behalf.
The [Red] Sea looked and fled; the Jordan [River] was turned back . . . The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like lambs. What ails you, O [Red] Sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? You Mountains, that you skip like rams, and you little hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, Who turned the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a fountain of waters . . . - Psalm 114:3-8, AMP.
God wants the earth to tremble at His presence within us. So let's get started! Most of us are already "hanging in there" (persevering) with some sort of trial, and now is the perfect time to begin praising God for who He is and for all that He does.
Good Fruit or Bad? . . . 1/31/11
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven – Matthew 7:19-21.
This scripture compels us to look at the fruit we bear. Is it good? Is it born of the Spirit or of the flesh? Do people see the light of Christ shining through us? Or could it be that our "good works" are the result of a selfish agenda, producing fruit that looks pretty but doesn't taste like it should? Possibly, our fruit is visibly rotten.
However it looks or tastes, if our fruit isn't pleasing to the Lord, then His word says we're in danger of being "cut down and thrown into the fire" This is nothing to take lightly.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law – Galatians 5:21-23.
God intends that our branches should bear the fruit of the Spirit. These attributes shouldn’t be confused with personality. They're more closely aligned with character and can’t be imitated for very long. All varieties of this holy fruit simply show up in the right place at the right time with no premeditation. Conversely, bad fruit reveals its rotten smell when situations require something better.
Do you have a viable relationship with God? Do you know Him personally, or do you merely know a lot about Him? You cannot bear good fruit without abiding in the Creator.
The good news is that God is waiting for a change of heart from those with rotten fruit. He's always ready for a cry of repentance. But now is the time for salvation. If the Spirit is calling your name today, then now is the time to respond.
I will say to the prisoners, "Come out in freedom," and to those in darkness, "Come into the light." They will be My sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare. They will neither hunger nor thirst. The searing sun will not reach them anymore. For the Lord in His mercy will lead them; He will lead them beside cool waters - Isaiah 49:9-10 NLT.
While We Are Waiting . . . 1/10/11
Joseph waited several years to see the realization of his dream from the Lord. He had to suffer the initial betrayal of his brothers. Then he dealt with being a household slave and eventually with his dungeon imprisonment. Just when he saw some light at the end of this tunnel, he was required to endure two more years before his release. All this happened while he was "waiting on the Lord."
Most Christians see the glory of God revealed when Pharaoh set Joseph over "all the land of Egypt" (Genesis 41:41). But how many of us see the glory of God revealed through Joseph's attitude in the preceding years?
Joseph had heard from God. A powerful rhema word was given to him in a dream. His faith in this word was surely tested in the years ahead. I'm certain that Joseph cried and poured out his heart to the Lord about the injustice done to him. And I'm sure he asked the Lord to confirm the message in the dream when he was assailed with doubt. Remember that Joseph was a man, just like us. He was human with a heart of flesh. But God worked gloriously within Joseph, strengthening his mind and his spirit. When Joseph turned to the Lord for encouragement, he certainly received it.
Why are you cast down, O my soul . . . why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance - Psalm 42:5.
The years of Joseph's tribulation resulted in a beautiful testimony. The glory of God poured through Joseph as he set his hand to excel at whatever task was before him.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion - Psalm 84:5-7.
Joseph lived in the "Valley of Baca" (the valley of weeping) for quite a while, and we all know that his difficult years were not wasted. While passing through the valley, Joseph "made it a spring." While sitting by the spring, he easily could have written a best-selling book about the challenges and joys of "making lemons into lemonade."
Joseph's recipe for lemonade might be something like this:
1 lemon (a test prepared by God)
1 quart water (the water of the Spirit)
1 cup sugar (the sweet and potent promise of a dream)
Joseph went from "strength to strength" as he walked with God in the valley—and so must we. As we begin the new year, let's not whine or complain about our troubles. Instead, let us praise the Lord and turn to Him for a personal word of purpose and promise. And if we already have that word, let's turn to the Lord for strength.
While we are waiting for God to manifest His promise, may everything we touch become a refreshing spring, and may our valleys be dotted with pools, filled by the His precious rain.