My sun porch

My sun porch

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't give the devil too much credit...

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,  "Abba,  Father." (Romans 8:15)

Lately I have been writing about the devil and how we fight him and the evil forces he uses to try to bring us down. Last night I was talking about this with some very smart and spiritual people. One friend said something that has made me really think...while the devil is real and does try to mess up our lives, we need not to give him too much credit. While some people deny there are evil powers at work in our world, there are also those who blame the devil for everything and don't take responsibility for anything. "The Devil made me do it."

We need to be aware of the dangers of ignoring the devil while also not using the devil as an excuse for bad behavior and bad thoughts.

So....what is the best way to do this? Ask your Father. Cry out to Him...Abba! This is like crying out "Daddy!" God doesn't want us to be afraid of the devil. When we cry out for his help and protection, God will give us the power to fight. 

My parents raised me with the saying "You can do anything you put your mind to." I heard that so much, I finally paid attention, listened to what they were saying and I believed it. While I haven't always lived up to those words, that belief has helped me achieve many things in my life. That was a gift from my loving and supportive parents. Our Heavenly Father does the same thing for us...if we pay attention and listen. 

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

The world we live in is a scary place. It's a frustrating place. It's a place filled with other humans who don't know the power of God and will never realize the loving, supporting relationship they can have with their Heavenly Father. It's a place that makes it hard for even those of us who do know God to remember the power we have in Him and we become afraid. It's also a place where the Devil and his evil forces take advantage of that fact and uses our own fears against us. But...the fact that this world is scary, frustrating and dangerous should not cause us to give up! It should cause us to rejoice! 

A friend who is going through a tough situation told me something amazing last night. When I told her I couldn't imagine how hard this was on her heart, she said that she felt it causing her faith to become stronger. Her pain, her struggle was causing her faith in a loving and supportive God to grow stronger!!! Take that Satan! She's not giving you ANY credit! 

My wish for you today my friends is THAT kind of faith! Be strong in the Lord and his mighty power, whatever your situation may be!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Remembering the tools for the fight...

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

Yesterday I wrote about how easy it is for me to be led astray and get bogged down in my own selfish thoughts. Why??? Why is it so easy? And, conversely, why is it so hard to stay close to God and remember all his promises and be obedient to him? 

I think the verse above says it all...we are not fighting a battle just with ourselves, but we are fighting a daily battle with the devil as well. Even though I have Jesus in my heart and KNOW that I am safe in his arms, I think the devil gets inside my head and messes with my confidence. 

Ok, before some of you stop reading because you don't like the whole thought of the devil and demons and evil else can you explain how a smart woman who KNOWS what she should be doing and KNOWS she is going to heaven, can so easily forget that fact and get tangled in selfish and self-destructive actions and feelings? I read the Bible, I pray, I hang out with other Godly people, I talk about my faith with anyone who will listen. If the devil is not involved, how else could I allow myself to get down and depressed over my own unmet wants and desires?

If you believe in God and believe in his word, then you have to believe there are evil forces and a devil who is their leader. Even though God is all powerful...the devil wants to bring us down and will do everything he can to do it.  

Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)

Often times, the devil uses our own thoughts to confuse us. Have you ever thought things like "You are talking too much." "You aren't talking enough, they probably think you're stupid." "Give it up, they don't like you." "You don't fit in." Do any of those statements sound familiar? We think they are our own thoughts, but why do we think such negative things about ourselves...???

There is a battle raging every is hard and it takes effort to fight it. But, you are not in the battle alone. God knows you are fighting and if you look to him, lean on him, and use his resources, he will give you the tools you need to fight.

"Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7 NIV)

When I am daily reading the Bible and spending intentional time with God, I feel stronger to fight. God's word is full of instruction and encouragement....but the key is the first word of the James 4:7 verse above...SUBMIT. You have to be willing to let God have all of yourself and obey him before you have the tools to cause the devil to flee from you. If the devil finds even a crack in your armor, he will continue to work on you.

There are still many cracks in my armor...I have a lot more work to do before I can say I totally submit to God. I still try to take care of things myself...I still so easily slip back into bad habits. But, the difference in my life now than several years ago...I recognize that slipping feeling much quicker than I used to. I find myself picking up my Bible or saying a prayer quicker than I used to. God's tools are handier to me now. I can find them easier and fight back quicker and harder than I used to. 

The devil is still trying to bring me down, but I am quicker to remember that God has already won the battle! I am a child of God and I remember my Father's promises..."You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:4 NIV)

God is in me and he is more powerful than the one trying to bring me down! Amen!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hearing God's voice isn't about me...

James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

I have discovered, or better yet, I have been reminded that I am a big baby. I am capable of acting so childish that I can forget all the good teachings and lessons I have been taught. It doesn't take much to lead me astray...if I am not staying close to God.

Many people have asked me why I haven't been writing in my blog much recently. There have been many reasons, from lack of time to quite frankly, a lack of desire. There are times I wonder why anyone reads my words...Especially when I am not practicing what I preach. And, there are times I doubt my own words. Luckily though, I have a God who understands me and understands my periods of doubt and confusion. I do not doubt HIS words...and since it is from HIS words that my words come from...I need to stop doubting, right?

Have you ever thought you REALLY knew what God was doing in your you actually felt and heard in that "still small voice" the direction your life was heading? Except...what you THOUGHT was going to happen doesn't causes confusion and doubt and you just aren't sure of what you thought you were sure of. 

I have had that experience is hard to write spiritual encouragement to others when you get spiritually disappointed yourself. So this morning I looked for verses that would help me listen for God's voice again. I said "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." I found some verses that I thought were appropriate and I LISTENED to my audio Bible, thinking that hearing the majestic "god-like" voice reading them would be better than reading them silently. I have been in this place before...truly wanting and waiting to hear God's reassuring voice. mind just wouldn't be own thoughts and "noise" kept interrupting and I became even more discouraged. 

Finally...I looked at the James 1:22 verse above...I can't just listen and expect miracles...I have to be DOING what God's word says too! I looked at my actions in the past several weeks and realize I have been very selfish...I am making it all about me. 

Why was I worried about my mom's health? Partly for her benefit, but because I can't picture MY life without her in it. I have talked "gossipy" about some people in my life, thinking I had been mistreated or hurt...again, it's not about them, it is about me. And I made something spectacular yesterday all about me as well. 

It is time for me to put me aside and focus on what God is calling me to do...not what I WANT to do, but what HE wants me to do. My life is not about ME...I was created to do God's will. Not because he needs my help, but because he wants me to obey his word and his call. Yes, I believe God wants me to be happy in the things I do...but it may not be easy, and it may not be what I THINK will make me happy.

So, these are my words of advice to myself and to you as well. In everything you do, act in a way that would make God happy. Follow the teachings of Jesus and do what he says to do. Don't just listen to the Word of God...don't just wait around waiting to what is right. God will speak to you eventually and guide you where you are to go. Perhaps he is just waiting on you to "grow up" and act on what you already know before he gives you something new to do.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Under attack...

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,  "Abba,  Father." (Romans 8:15 NIV)

I am reading a book about women...Women's hurts, Women's pain, Women's needs that aren't met. I feel for the women in the story. My heart breaks for them. But, I began this morning finding it hard to relate to them. I have not had a pain-free life, but I have not been abused, neglected or assaulted...I have no idea of what things do to a woman's soul.

I think the book is trying to get the reader to see that while some of us have been hurt more deeply than others, we ALL have hurts and feel the fear of abandonment. These are very deep feelings and the authors are trying to make us understand that these deep hurts are understood by our God. They began for women in the Garden of Eden and have followed us ever since. God was there then, and He is with us now...we are not without hope.

Do you ever wonder why women have been mistreated and kept down over the years? Why women are paid less? Why women are raped? Why mutilation of women still takes place all over the world? The authors of "Captivating" write that it all comes back to Satan. 

Satan, or Lucifer, was a most beautiful angel. He was a guardian angel and his beauty was breathtaking. The problem came when his beauty went to his head. He thought he was so amazing...he deserved to be worshiped and adored as much as God was. He was jealous of the affection given to God. That was why God banished him from heaven. So...Satan attacks anything beautiful...mostly women. Women are the life-givers of earth. They grow beauty and give life to it. What better target for Satan who hates any beauty besides his own! 

I don't know about you, but when I first read this, I felt a little funny. Satan makes me nervous. I try not to focus on the bad I choose not to give Satan much thought. But, I do believe Satan is out there. If you believe in God and what he have to believe there is an evil one out there who is trying to destroy everything God created.

Have you ever thought about where the hatred for women all over the world comes from? Why is it so diabolical?

This week, I am going to reading and writing more about this topic...and not just directed at women. The Bible does give us lessons about how to fight the evil that comes from the devil. This all makes me uncomfortable and makes me sound very religious...but I see what happens in the world each day...just watch 10 minutes of the news and you'll see it too! How do we cope with all the evil in the world? Keep reading my blog this week and we will learn together! God does not give us a spirit of fear, but we are his children and he will protect us!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

One body working together to heal hearts

"...Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many." (1 Corinthians 12:14 NIV)

When you think of church, what do you see in your mind? What does the word "church" make you think of? For as many people reading this, there will be that many different explanations of what "church" means.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about his vision of the church. Many people living in community together with all things in common as the body of Christ. He compares this body of Christ to the human body...made up of many different parts with many different purposes all working together to cause the body to live, breathe and work. All the parts have to work together, but they are not all doing the same thing.

I believe that we forget that part...that we don't all have to be doing the same thing. We want everyone to be doing what we are doing...or better still...we want to be doing what others are doing so we don't feel different or left out. We get angry, frustrated and bitter when other members of the body need or want to do something different than what we are doing. That anger, frustration and bitterness comes from our wounded hearts.

We have all been wounded. Every one of us has had our heart broken to some degree, and we carry that brokenness around with us wherever we go. 

When Jesus begins his ministry, he quotes Isaiah.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." (Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV)

Jesus is offering freedom, healing, comfort and joy to all who need it, including you and me.  He is knocking on the door of our hearts...all we have to do is open the door and let him in. The problem is, many times our wounds are locked up tight in the deep chambers of our heart and we don't even know they are there. But, Jesus does know. He knows where, why, and how to heal us, we just have to ask him to.

How do we learn how to ask him? How do we learn there is a Savior named Jesus who is there waiting and willing to heal our wounded hearts? By turning to the body of Christ...the church.

THAT is why it is so important for us, as the church, to constantly be in prayer, keeping our own hearts healed through Christ. So many different people with different talents, gifts and yes, hurts, make up that body of Christ. If we do not keep asking God to allow Christ to heal and re-heal our hearts, those wounds get deeper. Anger, frustration and bitterness set in and we are no longer able to show others the way to Christ's healing love.

When many people think of the word "church" they think of judgement, bigotry and hypocrites. Many people have gone to church looking for healing and have left more hurt than when they came in. I bet this makes God very sad. Our churches, whatever denomination or affiliation, should be loving, caring, open places...showing each person walking through the door the way to allow Jesus to heal their wounded hearts.

"But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way" 
(Casting Crowns song)