The Enemy Unveiled

Reading Nehemiah 6 I discover the enemy’s tactics fully exposed. When he sees you in the will of God, he brings on an assault of relentless attempts to distract and intimidate you.

Not to give any more focus to Satan than necessary, I write this post merely for education, in keeping with biblical truth that we are not unaware of the enemy’s schemes.

Nehemiah was in the process of leading Jerusalem’s citizens in the rebuilding of the walls surrounding the city. They were realizing much success. God’s work done God’s way will have His provision.

Tobias and Sanballat were the willing instruments to carry out Satan’s scheme. They solicited a meeting with Nehemiah who wisely saw through the distraction tactic and responded, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).

Expect the enemy to come and distract you from the work of God.

One rebuttal will not be sufficient in withstanding Satan’s goal to distract you. He sent the same message FOUR TIMES to Nehemiah, and all four times Nehemiah restated his focus to carry on the work of completing the wall’s rebuilding. It is no wonder the Scriptures teach us,  “… so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” (Ephesians 6:13-14).

Be prepared to resist the enemy not just one time, but multiple times.

The unsuccessful attempt to break down Nehemiah’s will through persistent soliciting grew to an all-out intimidation via blatant lying. Nehemiah received a letter stating, “It is reported among the nations- and Geshem says it is true- that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall… Now this report will get back to the king…” (Nehemiah 6:6-7).

Nehemiah knew that Sanballat was trying to frighten him and the Jews, to get their eyes off the goal of the finished wall and to place them, instead, upon the unknown future should these lies get the best of them.

If you can’t be distracted, be prepared to hear the enemy voice lies about you.

But Nehemiah prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9). Now. That is the prescription when the enemy threatens you with an unknown future. What if the work appointed me doesn’t get finished? What if all that I set out to do fails? In that moment we pray for the now. The future is God’s business. You and I are responsible for the now- to stay in step with the Spirit now is to walk in faithfulness to God’s will for our lives.

When the enemy tries to incite fear over the unknown future, pray for God’s NOW provision.

Do you think the devil relents at this stage of your resistance? Oh, he is not done! Nehemiah found that one who should have rallied with him in the completion of Jerusalem’s wall instead was a hired instigator of Tobiah and Sanballat. Nehemiah visited Shemaiah who gave counsel under the pretense of concern for his leader’s safety. He suggested that Nehemiah and he go to the temple to hide from those who threaten to kill him. Nehemiah responded, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go” (Nehemiah 6:11)! Nehemiah saw through the counsel as an attempt to discredit him and ruin his reputation as a leader with integrity.

The enemy will use the voice of others close to you to entice you with a compromise of your conviction in order to ruin your reputation.

Again, Nehemiah prayed to God and lifted up the names of those who relentlessly sought to intimidate him.

Dear fellow Christ-follower, are you in the will of God for your life? If so, you are well aware of the distractions and intimidation coming from the enemy’s camp! Our good Father in heaven douses us with needed wisdom for how to withstand the devil’s schemes. Take comfort that you are not experiencing anything uncommon to all who are in the body of Christ and doing His work, and know that your prayers are powerful and effective.

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A Fresh Daily Approach

“God, You are a gracious giver.”

Isn’t it truer than any truth? God gives. God demonstrates His love. He always is communicating His nature to us, but we can be distracted by trouble and our needs. We can be stuck in the default mode of complaining.

In an effort to daily discipline my thoughts, I began to journal the things I’m receiving from the Father. These may be tangible, spiritual, relational… In everything I’m recognizing Him as the source. I’m giving Him praise for a life I don’t deserve to live and for the hope that is to come when Jesus returns for His Church.

I’m even hoping that this tactic becomes a conversation hack! So often our exchanges with others are filled with laundry lists of things we do. Nothing wrong with that- I am a goal-oriented person who enjoys checking off the to-do list. But in a renewed sense of identity, I want to focus on the truth that I’m called to be a good receiver.

He gives; I receive. Everything.

So, the next time someone asks, “What have you been up to?” (I’m always at a loss at how to respond- all that I do is unto the Lord), I believe I’ll be more prepared to say, “Currently, I’m practicing my receiving, and this is what my good Father in heaven has given to me today…!”

Benefits of daily disciplining the thoughts to what is being received from the Father:

  • He loves to be acknowledged
  • Overflow of thankfulness
  • Override of the complaining default mode
  • Praise is a weapon
  • Mindful of His nature
  • Continual inheritance of spiritual truths
  • Development of a healthy dependency
  • Growth of expectation in His goodness
  • Influence others to think on and speak about God’s goodness

On this beautiful spring day, I wrote the following entry:

Father, today I’m receiving from you the beauty of nature in bloom, the sweet song of birds, and the constant presence of my pup. In everything You are communicating Your faithfulness to me.

 

God Spoke Last Sunday

I love corporate worship, don’t you? God is revealing Himself as our hearts are fixed on Him in humble adoration. It is always such a special time in which we discover the unity we have in the Spirit.

Sunday, April 2, 2017 was no exception. I began interceding for our church- that the gifts expressed through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment would be freely released. I sensed that God had a word for us, and I prayed against any limitation that would be blocking it. During our meet and greet time, I approached Demetria, a guest in the service, and assured her that Pastor Jim is receptive to her speaking a word if she has one. I just sensed she was the one. She confirmed it by saying she had already spoken to Pastor.

Pastor asked her to come to the platform and share what the Lord had given her; he is very familiar with her prophetic gifting and trusted her with his flock that he faithfully shepherds. Demetria took the mic and released a prophetic song- that which she heard during the time of corporate worship.

“Though the times are changing, My Word remains the same… Be still and know that I am God.”

The congregation was encouraged. God is speaking, of this we are sure. The Holy Spirit is moving and promoting our unity in Him.

Today, I continue to digest this spoken word, because I know that individually we each have responsibility concerning our response. God is giving His Word priority in relationship to change. The manner and degree of change is not clarified; what is emphasized is the unchanging nature of God’s truth.

Allow me to employ some deductive reasoning: If God says that being still is a necessity, then we must posture ourselves to hear from Him. His Word is the source of truth, and the expectation is that we have a daily diet of God’s Word coupled with prayer to have eyes to see and ears to hear. Why? Why does Holy Spirit speak this direction to us in this day? What change is coming?

I share what I perceive from the Lord… the thing that takes me into prayer again and again. The power of deception is at work; it always has been, but the fruit of its work is defined now as good in our society.

In the community of faith, the gifts are given by Jesus for the purpose of preparing God’s people for works of service. The goal is for the body of Christ to be built up, “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). The following attributes will accompany the on-going process:

  1. Unity in the faith
  2. Knowledge of the Son
  3. Spiritual maturation
  4. No longer tossed back and forth by the waves
  5. No longer blown here and there by every wind of teaching
  6. No longer influenced by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming (See Ephesians 4:12-14).

I have been saying for three months, “The winds of change are blowing.” The scripture above pinpoints the wind manifesting as teaching- teaching that takes an unsuspecting soul far from God’s truth. Friend, you and I must not be unaware and caught off guard by what is surely a pervasive thrust in our day. There is an all-out demonic attack to bring spiritual blindness through deceptive teaching.

God’s antidote is that we be still and know Him; position ourselves to hear Him speak truth to our innermost being as we consume the Word. The times are changing, but God’s Word remains the same.

Let’s Talk Words

“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

That is what I was- a slanderer. I talked about people, putting them down in my conversations with others. It was destructive behavior, and as much as I wanted to be a nice girl and to be accepted by others, gossip was still a part of my nature. I couldn’t overcome the temptation.

“But you were washed…” When I confessed my sin and surrendered my life to Jesus, everything changed. The temptation to gossip was still present, and at times I stumbled, but the transformation increasingly happened as I took in the truths of God’s Word. A holy reverence and a Spirit empowerment became the guards of my mouth.

The Bible makes clear that every word spoken in secret will be openly proclaimed (See Luke 12:3). That puts a holy fear in a girl whose past included loose lips! Thank Jesus that He is faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness when we confess our sins. All  record of  my rebellion to God in the form of beliefs, words, and actions is washed clean. I have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Early in my learning about how to live my faith in Jesus, I remember hearing the testimony about someone who was known for never speaking a negative word about another person. Of course, a reputation like that struck me with awe. Oh, how I wished that was my testimony. I was beginning to understand for the first time that every person has been created in the image of God. Every person has an inherit value because the Creator deemed his/her existence. Therefore, what I speak to another or speak about him is vital. I must use my mouth to make agreement with God, because words hold power of life and death (See Proverbs 18:21).

Paul’s words recorded in Philippians 3:12-14 encourage me, and I hope they encourage you: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Did you blow it last year, last month, or last week? Even if your failure was as recent as yesterday, embrace the truth that God’s mercies are new every morning (See Lamentations 3:22). Make amends with the one you have hurt in any way that you have power to do so. And let this mercy we have in Jesus revive your spirit and bring rest for your soul!

Are You Identifying the Root Cause?

Last week I wrote about root fears that feed worry. You can read that post here. Today, we’re going deeper to consider the root that demands inspection for every Christian wrestling temptation to sin.

I hit pause on John 13 in my reading. The disciple invites us to engage in Jesus’ suffering. Initially, the Lord was betrayed, and John did not gloss over it. In fact, there are five statements in the passage about betrayal. John wanted us to get this. He also emphasized the humble act of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. As Jesus taught them and prepared them for His departure, why was this illustrative lesson the one He targeted?

We’ll come back to that.

I asked the Holy Spirit what the enemy found in Judas’ heart to latch onto that enabled him to betray Jesus. Something the passage makes clear for us: The evil that found partnership in Judas was not more powerful than Jesus to escape it. Let us be clear: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God…” (John 13:3). We know from the Scripture that He laid down His life; no one took it from Him. Even the act of betrayal, fueled by evil and granted partnership through a willing vessel, even that was allowed by the power of God to accomplish salvation for humanity! In fact, access to Jesus’ life was only permitted when He conceded-  Jesus gave a piece of dipped bread to Judas. “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered him” (John 13:27). How many other times had Jesus escaped man’s attempt to apprehend Him and kill Him? It was not yet Jesus’ time to surrender His life in all the other instances. This was now the appointed time, and He allowed it to happen.

So what open door did Satan find to use Judas as an instrument of betrayal? Greed. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it (John 12:4-6). With greed in his heart, Judas would find himself susceptible to the enemy’s scheme.

Maybe greed is not a weakness of the flesh that you and I wrestle, but what about lust, fear and pride? Do Christians really deal with these sins? Of course we do! But we are not without recourse. The Holy Spirit grants us insight as to why these sins manifest and plague our Christian witness.

The root of all of them is unbelief.

Judas’ unbelief fueled his greed even though he was in constant company with the One who rested in God the Father, in spite of His having no place to rest His head. Jesus and His companions did not own a compound or a shelter, but they were always provided for because God the Father is faithful to take care of His own. This is why Jesus confidently taught that in the kingdom of God there should be no worry concerning our needed provision.

Lust stems from unbelief because there is no trust that God is the author of true and lasting pleasure. A soul unsatisfied because it is unknowingly thirsty for the living water Jesus gives will fall easily to lust again and again.

Fear is rooted in unbelief of God’s protection.

Pride finds its source in unbelief that the God-given identity is the true and lasting basis for significance. Oh, how Jesus modeled this for humanity in surrendering His holy life on behalf of sinful mankind. He did the most humble of all acts, allowing all those inspired by evil to believe that Jesus was dutifully charged. But His confidence in who He was never diminished. Though Jesus suffered at the hands of men, still they could not strip Him of His identity.

“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am who I claim to be” (John 8:28).

Notice how Jesus taught His disciples and continues to teach us through the Spirit-breathed scripture. “… He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him” (John 13:5).

The scene is dramatic. Jesus is their teacher and their Lord, but He conducted Himself in that instance as a slave. It was repulsive to Peter. He told Jesus that He should never wash his feet. He honored the Lord too much to allow Him to lower himself to that menial, less-than-human task. But this is the exact point Jesus is making. Nothing He does and nothing that happens to Him will ever shift the factuality of who He is! His identity is secure. He remains Lord while washing their feet, and He will remain Lord while hanging on a cross to die.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).

One of the biggest pitfalls for all Christians- pride- has been countered by Jesus’ most important illustrative lesson that He chose to teach hours before His departure. Pride will grant the enemy access into our hearts, and from there any partnership with evil will result in the tainting of our Christian witness. But, we have this example from Jesus Christ the Lord, and we have the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, and we have the knowledge afforded us by the written Word of our true identity- no matter the false accusation, no matter the level of betrayal or offense against us, no matter the humble path we are called to walk, our confidence in who we are in Christ never alters. You and I can be mistaken, misunderstood, misjudged, and mishandled, but we will never lose the essence of our identity granted us by the blood of Jesus.

Friend, I pray this revelation of unbelief washes over you anew. It’s the age-old sin of not trusting God to be who He says He is and to do what He says He does. As His child, you are continually learning His heart toward you is to be secure in your identity in Christ. You are increasingly trusting that He has all provision stored for you and will continue to bring it to you in the proper time. You are experiencing His eternal source of true and lasting pleasure that is found only in His presence. You are growing increasingly confident in His promise to protect you and bring you safely into your eternal reward.

Position Yourself to Receive from God

IMG_0011When you agree with God, you position yourself to receive from God.

  1. FORGIVENESS. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).
  2. SALVATION.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17).
  3. LOVE. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
  4. ACCEPTANCE. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by an new and living way opened for us through the curtains, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22, emphasis mine).
  5. REST.  “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
  6. STRENGTH.  “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:18-20).
  7. SECURITY. “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:17-19).
  8. PRESENCE. “If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
  9. PEACE.  “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
  10. WISDOM. “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
  11. PROVISION.  “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).
  12. OVERFLOWING LIFE. “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38).

Be Free from Worry

Freedom from worry is a reality, and the basis for such a state comes not from a prescription drug or from a cushioned life. God’s all-encompassing love secures your freedom and my freedom from worry.

Worrying is bad. It’s never healthy, so stop believing that. Stop with the excuse of defining yourself as a worrier. There is no place in Scripture that God defines you as a worrier in Christ. Warrior, yes. Worrier, no.

Worrying chokes the work of salvation in your life. Jesus told the parable of the sower and said the seed that fell among the thorns never had a chance to produce. He likened that seed to the truth of God’s Word falling upon a worrier’s heart and mind. Hashtag, unfruitful. You don’t want that final assessment upon your life, and neither do I. (See Matthew 13:1-23.)

In teaching the realities of the kingdom of God, Jesus told His hearers, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25). He emphasized the unproductive state of mind, not just once but five times. Repetition is the best teaching method, and this topic requires highlighting pounding if we’re going to go forth in freedom.

So let’s pound this out!

The truth about your surrendered life is this: Nothing will be able to separate you “from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). So, through your identity as a child of God, the assurance you have from the Father is because you have believed upon His Son, you are afforded presence, and not just any presence.

“If you love Me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).

So, we say with the psalmist, “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). And this brings us to the point of discovering the root of worry. It’s easy to identify concerns that lead to worry; it’s harder digging out the root cause, namely, a fear of abandonment, failure, or death.

Think about it: why do you worry for your kids or your grandkids except that you believe they will fail or  potentially will be unsafe and perhaps die? Why do you worry over relationships except that in the end you fear abandonment? And why do you worry over finances except that you know little income or poor financial management could lead to loss and failure? These are but a few examples of worry stemming from core fears common to man.

Here’s a truth that requires our full acknowledgement: We make many decisions based on fear. I wish I could say it ends there, but the ripple effect of maligned thinking produces messy results, and our lives get more complicated than necessary. Do you see why Jesus pounded the truth that in God’s kingdom there’s no room for worrying?

Consider the fear Peter confronted and responded to when Jesus was arrested. Keep in mind that Peter heard the Lord counsel them to have a sword for what they were about to encounter. After Jesus and the twelve finished the Passover meal, “He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: “And He was numbered with the transgressors”, and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in Me. Yes, what is written about Me is reaching its fulfillment'” (Luke 22:36-37). The disciples presented two swords which satisfied Jesus.

Following the meal, Jesus and the disciples went as usual to the Garden of Gethsemane. After He engaged the Father in an intense time of prayer, Jesus readied Himself for the betrayal that was to come. Peter also readied himself by wielding the sword upon one of the temple servants making Jesus’ arrest. Interestingly, Jesus told Peter, “Put your sword back in its place… for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

So, which is it? Did the disciples need a sword or not need a sword? Did Jesus just contradict Himself? Hardly! He knew what was beyond the betrayal, arrest, and suffering. Jesus was hours from dying, and His death immediately would bring something the disciples had not experienced over the past few years of following Him- separation. Sure, we know it’s Friday but Sunday is coming, but the disciples did not have the Lord’s pending resurrection on their radar. In the two days of separation from their Lord, they would know fear. Their Master died; surely, they saw their own deaths as imminent. With Jesus absent, perhaps a sword or two present would warrant a greater sense of security.

Do you identity with the feeling of vulnerability that the disciples undoubtedly faced? Do you wonder if you and your family are truly safe? Do you fear having sufficient means to face tomorrow’s uncertainties? Do you worry that a state of abandonment will be the death of you? Do you have a white-knuckled grip on a sword or some material substance like a bank account? Are you gripping onto an ideal that because you successfully employed every resource money can buy that you are protected? Are you tight- fisted on some fountain of youth promise because you fear the results of age will leave you unattractive and unwanted?

Fear. Worry. How am I going to protect myself? 

The disciples had two swords while holed up in a room fearing for their lives. But the point Jesus made in suggesting the swords is that He was about to be away from them. While He is with them, they are safe. Allow these words to wash over your soul:

While Jesus is with you, you are safe.

You see, in Gethsemane, at the time of His arrest, Jesus was with the disciples, so their self-protection was unnecessary. After Jesus reprimanded Peter for using the sword to harm a man, He said, “Do you not think that I can call on my Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). We know that Jesus never would have disobeyed the Father and escaped fulfilling the needed salvation for sinful humanity, but the principle to grasp here is the supernatural protection that accompanies Him– twelve legions of angels can fill a Texas football stadium! We’re talking sixty to seventy thousand! Child of God, that’s an inconceivable throng of protection for all of us who are hidden in Christ! He is the God of the Angel Armies! When you have Jesus with you, you have all of heaven’s resources with you as well! 

Why would I bring life to fears through worry? Why would I grasp onto meager resources when the reality of heaven is I am well defended in every situation? Jesus is with me, even better- in me! “The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6).

You are not to live a life plagued by worry because you can put your confidence in God’s unfailing love. He takes care of you infinitely more than you could ever take care of yourself!

These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence (1 Corinthians 10:11-12, MSG).