Archive - July 2015

A Risk Worth Taking

Driving home from church a couple of Sunday nights ago, I had to steer around a piece of lumber in the road. As I passed it I thought briefly about pulling over and moving it out of the road. Or having my teenage son move it.

But, there was traffic, and what if something happened?

That piece of lumber wasn’t really causing too many problems. It was easily avoidable without interfering with traffic.

It didn’t seem worth the risk.

Still, I felt a little guilty as drove on by.

What if it had been causing a problem? Would I have felt more compelled to act?

It got me thinking as I continued home. If I’m not willing to risk harm to myself, or my child, to prevent a potentially deadly car accident, what am I willing to risk harm for?

What if God asked me to put my life in harms way to reach the lost? What if He asked one of my children? Or my husband?

If God called my son to work as missionary in a country hostile to Christianity would try to persuade him to stay? I hope that I wouldn’t.

I recently heard a pastor’s wife say that she hoped her husband retired before they start putting people in jail for preaching against homosexuality.

Before you accuse anyone of being an alarmist, consider that it’s already happening in places like the U.K, Canada, and Sweden. The Canadian pastor was later acquitted, but that fact that he was arrested at all tells us that it can happen. And what if it did happen? Would we stop preaching? Would we ask our husbands to stop preaching?

Realistically we’re probably years away from seeing that happen here in the United States. But what about what’s going on right now?

Today there are many countries around the world where simply admitting to being a Christian can get you thrown in jail or even killed.

I know personally men and women who have put themselves in harms way to preach the gospel. I’ve heard their stories of foreign jail cells and gunfire. Instead of quitting and going home they went back. They refused to let threats to their safety stop them from preaching the Gospel.

In the book of Acts the apostle Paul, when he was about to return to Jerusalem where he knew he would probably be arrested, told the believers at Ephesus; I know the dangers, but the Gospel of Christ is more important.

But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)

Would I have that kind of courage? Would you?

Most American Christians won’t risk being embarrassed when someone turns down the Gospel tract we’re offering. Never mind going to a foreign country.

We’re so concerned with our personal safety that we walk past the kid in the hoodie without looking up. There are some areas town we won’t even drive through. I’m not criticizing anyone, I’m just as guilty as you are.

But the world doesn’t need Christians who are are afraid of their own shadow. They need Christians who will speak with boldness. Who aren’t afraid to go where people are hurting. Christians who will got to the people we are most afraid of to proclaim the gospel of Christ.The people we are afraid of

Often the people we are most afraid of are the people that most need our help. 

The young man in the hoodie, the drug addict in the alley, the men with turbans overseas, they are the ones that need the Light of the Gospel. They are counting on us to find them and bring them that light. If we want to reach them, we have to let go of our fears and put our lives in God’s hands.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; (2 Timothy 1:7-8)

It’s one thing to talk about God’s love in a church service. But the people outside of our church buildings are the ones that really need to hear. If you light a candle in brightly lit room, it doesn’t make much of a difference. But if you take that candle to a dark room it changes everything.

Taking the Gospel to those who need it is always worth any risk.

It's one thing to talk about God's love in a church service. But the people outside of our church buildings are the ones that really need to hear. If you light a candle in brightly lit room, it doesn't make much of a difference. But if you take that candle to a dark room it changes everything.

 

Praying For God’s Will

I live in the south. The south is hot. I hate the heat. I mean, I really hate it.

While most of the people I know are running outside in their shorts and flip flops to celebrate, I’m inside trying to find a bucket of ice to immerse myself in.

About a month ago I was trying to get some work done in the house, but the air conditioner was barely keeping up with the ninety-five plus degree weather, and it was almost too hot to even move, never mind doing housework.

Then I heard thunder. It was most wonderful sound I had heard all day.

Please Lord, let rain, I prayed. I mean, I really prayed. Not wished. Not hoped. I didn’t send positive thoughts. I prayed for rain.

Please send the rain to cool the house off so I can get some work done without dying of heat stroke fainting too much discomfort.

And then I walked out on our back porch and looked over into the neighbor’s yard. They had just had a new cement patio poured. The cement truck had probably only left an hour before.

I didn’t ask them, but I’m betting they were praying just as hard that it wouldn’t rain.

That story probably seems pretty trivial, but it plays out in not so trivial ways every day.

Rival sports teams both pray to come out on top. One commuter prays the plane will leave on time so they can make it to their interview, while another is praying for a late departure because they were caught in traffic. Opposite sides in a war both pray for victory. A patient needing a transplant prays for a new heart, while a family prays that their loved one won’t become a donor.

If God answers one person’s prayers and not another’s, does that mean He loves that person more than the other? Does He care more for one than the other? Is He angry at one of them?

Of course the answer to those questions is, no.

What does it mean then? How do we answer this problem? Is it even a problem?

Maybe the answer lies not in what answer God gives to our prayers, but how we prayed in the first place.

When Christ gave us his model prayer, one of the first things he prayed for was God’s will to be done.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.(Matthew 6:9-10)

When He prayed in the garden the night before he was crucified, Christ prayed intensely that he be spared. He prayed so intensely that His sweat turned to blood. Have you ever prayed that intensely? I know I haven’t.

Jesus was just as much man as He was God. He didn’t want to endure all that He was about to endure. So He prayed that The Father would remove that bitter cup from Him. But then He said not my will, but thine be done.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)

What if we all prayed this way? What if, instead of merely wanting to have our needs met and our desires fulfilled, we wanted most of all to see the heart of God?To See The Heart Of God

What if instead of trying to convince God to give us what we want, we surrendered our will to Him, and let Him change what we desire?

It can be hard, I know. Trust me, I know. It can feel like your heart is being torn from you body, when you say “Lord just do your will,” and to accept that God’s will may be the exact opposite of yours.

But He wants us to trust Him, and to trust that He knows what’s best for us. He knows better than we do what we need, and what will help mold us into a picture of Christ.

Part of that picture is the setting aside of our own plans, and desires, and letting Him fill us with the desire for our will to be aligned with His.

A side note: it never really rained that day, but it did cloud over and we got a few sprinkles. Just enough to cool the house off so I could get my work done without passing out too much discomfort, but not enough to wash away the neighbor’s patio.

When Christ gave us his model prayer, one of the first things he prayed for was God's will to be done.

 

Pulling Down Strongholds

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

I’ve heard many people say, that in the places around the world where there are no churches and few Christians, the devil works more openly. In the jungles and savannas, in the desolate places, he does as he pleases. He doesn’t even try to hide who is and what his purpose is.

The stories from missionaries and pastors working in those areas leave little doubt that what they say is true.

I think we as Christians often sit in our churches, listening to stories of shamans and medicine men, and think how relived we are that we don’t have to fight those kinds battles. We think they are safe here in the good ole U.S.A.

We think, because the witch doctor isn’t threatening us with bad crops because we upset the spirits, that the devil is leaving us alone.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The local shaman may be leaving us alone, but the devil isn’t. He’s on the attack in our bible-belt hometowns just as fiercely as he is the jungles of South America.Strongholds

He works under cover here. He’s hiding behind every picture of a half dressed woman, at the bottom of every bottle of booze, and in the pages of our favorite romance novels. He’s building strongholds on every street corner, right under our noses.

Even in our own lives.

We all have areas in our live and homes in which we’ve allowed the devil to build strongholds. Whether it’s television viewing habits that we don’t want to give up, or bitterness over past hurts, the strongholds are there.

It’s time we got busy pulling them down.

Every time we read our bibles instead of watching television, we loosen another stone. When we pray for our husbands instead of camplainins about them, his foundations shake. If we would witness to the waitress instead of complaining about the service, then we would see the strongholds start to crumble.

The Word of God, the Gospel of Christ, and the power of prayer, are our weapons of warfare. The way strongholds are pulled down.

But casual use won’t get the job done. We have practice using those weapons until it feels natural to use them. Until they become an extension of who we are.

We have to hide so much of God’s word in our hearts that it pours out of us as easily as our own thoughts do.

We have to become so accustomed to telling others about Christ that we don’t hesitate when given an opportunity.

We have to pray until praying is no longer the last thing we do. Until the first thing we think of doing is praying. And the next thing we do is pray. And then we pray some more.

I admit, I’m not there yet. I’m still breaking in my weapons. I can’t remember the laundry in the washer, let alone memorizing scripture. Talking to strangers is so far out of my comfort zone that I panic because I cant see it anymore. And prayer is often an afterthought as I go through my day.

But it’s not about me and my limitations. If I make it about what I can’t do, I’m forgetting The One it’s really about and I let the devil build a stronghold on the foundations of my limitations. It’s not about me it’s about Christ and His victory on the cross.

If you’re still struggling too that’s okay. Let’s get to know our armor together. Start now and keep learning and growing. Let’s get familiar with weapons God has given us, and to never put them down. Never be without them. Not ever.

When we are unarmed the enemy knows it. And he will exploit it.

But his strength can be broken. He has already been defeated on the cross.

We all have areas in our live and homes in which we’ve allowed the devil to build strongholds. Whether it’s television viewing habits that we don’t want to give up, or bitterness over past hurts, the strongholds are there.

Now lets remove his strongholds.

When Children Are Broken

Over the weekend I received news of a family that lost their teenaged son to suicide. It’s heart wrenching whenever anyone has bury their child, but when the loss is due to suicide, the loss is even more excruciating.

I can’t even imagine the pain those parents are experiencing.

Not only his parents, but siblings, distant relatives, and friends must all be grappling with questions that will never be answered.

How could we have stopped this?

What should have done differently?

Was there something we missed?

What did we do wrong?

Was he hiding something?

Was he being bullied?

Why didn’t he come to us?

As much as I would like to, I can’t answer those questions. The truth is that sometimes, there wasn’t anything that anyone could have done. Sometimes the pain is so deep not even the most discerning eye can catch it. Even the best of parents can experience this kind of tragedy.

Sometimes though, something can be done. Sometimes there are clues. If anyone is looking closely enough to see them.

This tragedy got me thinking about my own children, and my failures as a parent.

I know I’m not alone in catching my mind wandering when one of my children is trying to tell me a joke they heard at church. Or being too busy to play a game with another. Or being so absorbed in my own thoughts that I don’t hear my daughter telling me something that happened while she was at a friend’s house. Or just wanting my toddler to let go of my leg so I walk across my kitchen, when all he wants is cuddles from his mamma.

Or being too tired to stay up and listen to whatever my teenage son wants to tell me. My son that is the same age as the young man that took his own life.Struggleing

What do I miss in those moments? If my children were struggling would I notice? Or would I be too wrapped up in what was on my phone screen?

We have to pay attention to our children. The enemy wants them desperately. They have to be more important than the dirty dishes, or the grocery shopping, or whatever it is that calls us away.

Not only do we need to pay attention to what our children want to tell us, but we also need to communicate with them more freely. I don’t mean “the talk,” I mean our love for them, the things that make us proud to be their parents, and even sometimes our own struggles.

And not just with words. Our actions speak volumes. When we put their needs before our own, we shout louder than we ever could with words “I LOVE YOU!”

When we stop what we’re doing and listen, we’re telling them they are more important.

Have I communicated my love to my children? Do my children know they can come to me with their problems? Have I shown them that I will fight for them? Can they trust me to be there for them when they need me the most? Do they know I would lay down my life for them?

I hope that they do. But, just in case they don’t know it well enough, I’m going to tell them more. I’m going to say more “I love yous.” I’m going to give more hugs, and make more time for the silly games.

And I will make it a point to listen. No matter how important what I’m doing may seem, it isn’t more important than they are. I will make it point to know the state of my little flock.

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. Proverbs 27:23

I have been speaking from a mother’s perspective, but what if you are the teen who is struggling? Know that there is hope. How ever bleak your circumstances, God can make a way.

I know what it’s like to believe that suicide offers a way out, that dying is better than living.

But that is a lie. Don’t believe it.

The only life that God can’t restore is the one that is no longer living.

Hope stops when your heart stops beating.

Get help. Talk to someone. If you can’t talk to your parents, find someone else, another relative, a teacher, a counselor, or leader in your church.

Remember that God created you for a purpose, and that He loves you so much more than even the most loving earthly parents ever could.

And nothing you could ever do, and nothing that happens to you can make God love you any less.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

 

I know I’m not alone in catching my mind wandering when one of my children is trying to tell me a joke they heard at church. Or being too busy to play a game with another. Or being so absorbed in my own thoughts that I don’t hear my daughter telling me something that happened while she was at a friend’s house.

Dear Sisters, We are all called to fight

For centuries the tradition has been for the women to stay behind and keep the home fires burning while the men went off to war. When the women did follow the men to the war front, it was to offer support not to fight. It wasn’t that men believed that women couldn’t fight, but they were seen as too valuable. A society can go on after the loss of a large portion of it’s men, but not without its women.

When it comes to spiritual warfare, there is no such thing as behind the lines. No such thing as on the home front. In spiritual matters everywhere is a battlefield, our churches, our workplaces, our schools, and even our homes.

Especially our homes.

There is no sacred ground to the enemy. No person, no place, or thing is off limits to the one seeking to destroy.

It doesn’t matter who you are, or how old you are, Satan has you in his sights. Whether you are eight or eighty, man or woman, his only goal is ruin you. Peter warns in his first letter:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 1 Peter 5:8

As women, the roles we fill may often look different than those filled by men, but we are on the front lines just the same. We may be married or single, raising small children or empty nesters, businesswomen or homemakers, girly-girls or Tomboys. Whatever our ethnicity, age group, social status, or economic position, as women of God, we need a dramatic shift in the way we see ourselves.

As women, the roles we fill may often look different than those filled by men, but we are on the front lines just the same. We may be married or single, raising small children or empty nesters, businesswomen or homemakers, girly-girls or Tomboys. Whatever our ethnicity, age group, social status, or economic position, as women of God, we need a dramatic shift in the way we see ourselves.

We need to view ourselves as warriors for the kingdom heaven. We are not helpless damsels in distress, or ditzy cheerleaders off on the sidelines.

We cannot be passive in this war. There is too much at stake. There is too much on the line. We’re in the fight whether we like it or not.

Keeping the home fires burning is all well and good, but we need to understand that it takes a battle light those fires and to keep them going. Keeping the home is not just a physical responsibility, but a spiritual responsibility as well.

The home fire is one of Satan’s top priorities.

God tells us in his Word over and over again to be strong. Nowhere is that exhortation limited to just men. The woman of Proverbs 31 is described twice as being strong.

She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. Proverbs 31:17

Strength and honour are her clothing; Proverbs 31:25

Yes, I think a woman should be feminine. And I’m not really talking about physical strength here, but I’ve yet to find a Biblical example of a woman that didn’t possess some degree of strength whether physical, mental, or emotional. There’s nothing feminine about helplessness. (Jacqueline form Deep Roots at Home makes a good case for being sturdy womanhood.)

But if we try to rely on our own strength the enemy will crush us. The strength we need comes from the lord. It’s through the strength of God and power of the Cross that our enemy is defeated.

Satan was defeated at Calvary. His fate is sealed. He cannot win. And he knows it. His aim is to take as many as he can into defeat with him.

If you are a child of God he can’t touch you, you safe forever from the powers of Hell.

But Satan can still wreak havoc in the lives of Christians. He will throw everything he has at us to make us ineffective for the kingdom of heaven.

But we don’t have to let him. Through the Blood of The Lamb we have the power to stand against him.

…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Ephesians 6:10 (Emphasis added.)

We can’t let ourselves think that because we’re not preachers or preacher’s wives, that spiritual warfare doesn’t apply to us. The devil is on the attack in our Bible belt hometowns just as much as he is in the shaman’s hut in Africa.

The women of God are being attacked by the enemy, and very often they don’t even realize it. I see it more and more as Christian women become more and more enamored with the things of this world, the enemy moves in to devour the things they hold most dear.

Children are rebelling against their parents. Husbands and wives are turning away from each other. Families are being torn apart. Lives are being destroyed, and we’re busy with all of things we’ve decided are more important.

Satan wants us distracted and not giving any thought to spiritual matters. But if we would stop for just one minute, and look not with physical eyes, but with spiritual eyes, at the world around us, we would begin to see how urgently our engagement in the battle is needed.

And we’ll begin to understand and to teach our daughters, and the younger women around us that among all of our preparations for the day, nothing is more important than how we prepare our hearts for the spiritual battles of the day.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:12-13

 

The Question No One Would Have Asked

By now, we’ve all heard the stories about Christian businesses that wouldn’t have anything to do with a gay wedding. Most of them were boycotted, some were sued, and a few shut their doors. With the recent ruling in the Supreme Court ruling, we can expect to hear more of those stories. And see more Christian businesses close their doors.

To my knowledge, none of these businesses refused to homosexuals at all, they just declined to have a part in their weddings. There’s an important distinction.

The right for men to marry men, and women to marry women has now been declared a human right. And the militant left will defend human rights that are moral wrongs as though there were no higher cause.

They’ll tell conservative Christians that not participating in these events is un-christian. They’ll say that the Christian baker should bake the cake for the gay wedding because it’s what Jesus would have done.

But, would He?

I don’t think He would have, for one simple reason, no one would have asked Him to.

They knew better. Not because times were different. Read up on that period in history and you’ll see that things weren’t really all that different. No, Christ Himself is the reason no one would have asked.

Of course we know that Christ lived a sinless life, but we rarely think about how His perfection affected those around Him. He didn’t just preach righteousness He lived it. It was part of who he was. There was no hint of hypocrisy in Him, and everyone around Him knew it. All those who encountered Christ would have seen their own sinfulness reflected in His lifestyle, and without Him uttering one single word, been convicted. You see this in the way the people He encountered approached Him.

The humble came to Him seeking forgiveness, while the proud came looking for justification.

We see many times Pharisees and others coming to Jesus trying to explain away their sins, or have Jesus explain them away for them, but never once do we see anyone saying, “Yes, I know this is sin. Would you please bless my sin?” Or, “I know you said this is sin, but I don’t think it is sin so bless me already.” Which, essentially, is what gay couples that ask people to participate in their weddings are asking.

We don’t see it that way because we don’t view weddings as the sacred and solemn events that they are. We see weddings as parties.

Yes, it’s a celebration, but a sacred one that should be approached with as much seriousness as taking the witness stand in court. Would you testify in court on behalf of someone you knew was guilty? Would be willing to swear under oath that they weren’t? Would you ask some who knew you were guilty to swear that you weren’t?

Not if you wanted to be considered a person of integrity.The real problem

The problem isn’t whether or not it’s right for Christians to participate in gay weddings; it’s whether or not people feel comfortable asking them to.

We as Christians are often very good at preaching righteousness, but fall sort when actually living it. We teach our children that lying is sin, while we tell the boss we’re taking a sick day, when we’re really just goofing off. We say that it’s wrong to steal, but neglect to mention that side income on our tax forms. We preach against extra marital sex, but tune in to watch it on television every night. Or pay a small fortune to watch it on the big screen.

We read the world’s books, use the world’s words, drink the world’s drinks, and wear the world’s clothes. If we’re not doing it, we’re making excuses for those that do.

I strongly suspect that none of the Christian businesses under fire for not participating in a same sex wedding have ever enquired whether either of the participants in a traditional wedding has ever been divorced. Despite the fact that Christ himself said not to divorce, and not to remarry if you are divorced.

I wonder if they would refuse to participate in a divorce party. Yes, that’s real thing.

I’m not picking on divorced people. I have plenty of my own faults. I understand, sometimes divorce is unavoidable, and it’s hard to be alone. But can’t the homosexual say the same?

Am I criticizing those businesses for taking the stand that they did? No, not at all. They simply reached a line they wouldn’t cross. But the secular world doesn’t understand that line.

It’s difficult to explain why a heterosexual couple can bend the rules, but a homosexual couple can’t.

If Christians were known for being consistent, for not compromising for convenience sake, no one would be expecting us to compromise now.

But aren’t we supposed to love people the way Jesus did? Yes, but loving someone doesn’t mean we condone bad behavior, or participate in it.

We don’t have to shun people either. Jesus ate with sinners, but he didn’t adopt their sinful lifestyles. They were changed by his presence, not the other way around.

After an encounter with Christ, Zacchaeus was moved to make right his past wrongs. (Luke 19:1-10) In verses 9 and 10 we see Jesus’ joyful response:

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:9-10)

He said this is why I came. To rescue the perishing. To turn them from darkness to light. He gives us that same commission, to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

But, the light isn’t light if it looks and acts just like the darkness.

Of course we know that Christ lived a sinless life, but we rarely think about how his perfection affected those around him. He didn’t just preach righteousness he lived it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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