the Church, a coming storm and let’s just close the door

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

The witnesses. What are they seeing as they peer through the realms at the Church all these many years after them? The ones who left such a legacy of faith in the face of the impossible. And all who have come since, those who endured (and are enduring even today) persecution, oppression, imprisonment, and death. For what whom? For Jesus and His Gospel. That’s it.

But they are not the only witnesses. The world is watching our nation right now, and they are watching the Church. What are the believers in Iraq and Iran and Turkey and Libya and Pakistan and two fistfuls of other countries who persecute and kill Christians, witnessing as they watch us? What does the underground Church in China see when they look at the aboveground Church in the west?

We are being watched and heard and we should be downright disturbed at the thought. Uncomfortable at the very least.

Do they see faith? Do they see love? Do they see a Church whose eyes are fixed on Jesus?

Or are they witnessing us wade into the political and cultural cesspool of this world, shouting our indignation at what the world is doing and speaking and thinking and being? And have they noticed that we are mostly shouting at one another? Brothers and sisters fighting, drawing blood, over…what? Political opinions? Who we voted for? How much faith does it take to be angry and opinionated and downright mean? How much faith is required to be a Democrat or a Republican? How much love is needed to call someone evil that we’ve never met, had a conversation with, or even seen in person? Mothers and fathers and husbands and wives to someone. People who have their own battles within that we know nothing of. In a culture where the vast majority of our information is based on rumors and opinions, how much precious time are we wasting believing the worst of what we hear?

Are they watching us believe what “reliable news sources” are saying, but struggling to believe what God has said? Do they see us believe that Trump is evil and racist and a dictator / Biden is a pedophile with Alzheimer’s who is nothing more than a puppet – because people on the internet said so, while we walk in crippling fear and anxiety even though God has told us not to fear and to be anxious for nothing? And by the way, has anyone else noticed that we have been judging the hearts – the motives and intentions – of men and women we do not actually know? Have we ever considered that we are stepping on the toes of the Holy One when we dare to assume that we know what is in the hearts of other people?

Do the persecuted see a Church that is with them in the fight of faith for the souls of the lost, or do they just see us fighting for whatever platform we have chosen to fly our flag from? Come on. Someone cough or shift in their seat or get up and leave the room. Or be brave and say ‘amen’. Something to indicate this is hitting someone besides me.

We can do better, beloved, I know we can. We can choose where our gaze is directed. We can choose what we have ears to hear. We can choose to either speak life or speak death. We can choose to love in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We can choose to believe that God stills works all things for good and for glory and for a perfect purpose. We can choose to tend to the one anothers among us no matter their gender, color, or political opinions. We can choose to live our lives worthy of the Gospel, worthy of the grace and mercy and redemption we have received. Worthy of the One, the only One, deserving of our deepest affections and allegiance.

Some of us feel run over from trying to fight this cultural and political war. But here’s a thought: the cultural/political war is a spiritual war and we have been fully equipped to fight a spiritual war in Christ. We need to stop separating what is happening on the world stage from what is happening in the heavens. Maybe that sounds contradictory to what I’ve said above, but it isn’t.

We haven’t been fighting the wrong war, we’ve just been fighting it the wrong way (hint: think friendly fire, think wrestling against flesh & blood).

When we trust what our eyes and ears are seeing and hearing in the natural and respond accordingly, we are fighting wrong. When we begin to see brothers and sisters through a political lens, we are fighting wrong. When we spend more time on the internet than in the word of God, we are fighting wrong.

And, (pull in your toes cause I’m about to step on ’em) when we choose to take a political side, we are fighting wrong.

When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua approached him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.”

Joshua 5:13-14

Beloved, heaven is the side we take, every day all day. And let me just go ahead and state the obvious – heaven is neither Republican nor Democrat. Heaven isn’t rooting for either party. Heaven doesn’t have a platform or a political viewpoint. Heaven has a plan of salvation. Heaven’s agenda is redemption and reconciliation.

Heaven is the dwelling place of the Lord God Almighty, who commands an army beyond anything we can imagine. Heaven is where the Holy God, our Father, sits on the throne of thrones, ruling and reigning and rescuing wretches like you and me from the dominion of darkness. Wretches like Trump and Biden and all the other people we’ve chosen to love or hate.

Heaven is where the risen Christ, our Lord and our Savior, sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us. He is not interceding for a political race to go His way, He is praying for you and for me. Praying for His Church in this hour.

I need to wrap this thing up. It’s much longer than a blog post should be, but you know me. I get going and I’ve got a little weight on me so the momentum kind of takes over, know what I’m sayin?

I’m going to share what I believe, based on a number of recent visions God has given me, and words He has shared with me. Nope, it’s not a prophecy. It’s simply what I’m seeing and hearing and believing.

{*whisper voice* – I think He’s speaking to many of you as well, giving visions and dreams and words of knowledge about what’s here and what’s coming. Come out, come out, wherever you are. We need your voice.}

I believe there are dark days ahead, particularly for the Church, and even more particularly for the Western Church. I believe there is a storm, a tsunami of persecution coming our way. But I also believe that it will serve a divine purpose. Not punishment, purpose. I believe it will draw us together like nothing else could, causing us to lean on one another and teaching us to stand together as one. It will strip away what needs to be stripped from us, and there is much that needs to be stripped. I believe all of this is because we are loved by our Father, who refuses to let His Church continue to be absorbed by both self and the world.

I also believe that this darkness that is coming will usher in at least two things – repentance and revival. It will turn our gaze back to where it belongs – fixed on Jesus. It will separate the ones who pick up their cross and those who just hang around the cross. It will reveal lukewarm hearts and force them to choose – cold or hot, what’s it gonna be?

Finally, I believe it is time for the Church to shake off her distractions and get on her face before the throne of her King. It is time to repent and to seek His face and His presence and to desire His glory above all else. It is time to cry out for Him to give us undivided hearts and minds and affections that are for Him alone.

I watched a teaching by Cory Russell recently in which he said that it is time for the Church to go into the secret place and CLOSE THE DOOR.

All I can say to that is Amen and Amen. Let’s close the door on every distraction, every hindrance, every bit of worldly noise, and be with our Father. Oh, I pray we will do this. I pray we will hear His voice calling us to return to Him, to return to the one thing, the better thing. I pray we will begin to burn to close the door and just be with Him.

And finally, this: the pattern of scripture is that persecution causes the people of God to multiply, and the gospel goes forth in great measure.

The suffering of Christ produced salvation. The suffering of the Church produces the reaping for the Kingdom.


The God Who Searches

It was late and I was tired so I began to mumble quick prayers as I thought I was drifting off to sleep. But there would be no drifting. Scriptures began to pass through my brain, acting as a shot of adrenaline, and I knew God wanted to talk. He’s never tired like me and He doesn’t drift.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9)

I searched for a man among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land so that I might not destroy it, but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22:30)

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. (Psalm 139:1)

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

He had my attention and my thoughts began to do laps around my brain –

He searches for His people

I think You looked for me this year. Because it’s been quite the year, You know, and I don’t know the last time I’ve felt this tired. For at least the first half of the year, I was too tired to pray. Too tired at times to even drag myself into Your presence, into Your Word, preferring to join the lamenting and ash throwing and hand wringing. Fear was so tempting this year, Lord. Hiding from the chaos became hiding from everything, including You, because this year, this war, has been exhausting.

But I think You looked for me and it feels like you snatched me up, held me eye to eye and said it’s enough. Stop hiding, pick up your sword, stay close, don’t give up, I’m here. Remember and stop forgetting that I am good and I know what I’m doing and I love you and I will not forsake you. I made you and I called you to be with Me and “if you have raced with runners and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in a peaceful land, what will you do in the thickets of the Jordan?”

And I weep because You notice my absence. You know my tendencies and You put Your foot down and call me back up where I belong because You love me and my place is with You and this is only the beginning of the hard things so I can’t hide and I can’t just drift. And I missed You, Jesus.

He looks for an intercessor

I believe You found what You were looking for because Your Church has awakened and is yet awakening. This year catapulted us into the breach to stand in the gap for our nation. Forgive us, Lord, that it took this kind of year to get Your people on their knees to intercede, to ask for Your mercy and for Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us for our absence in the gap, that we left the wall empty of all but a handful of faithful watchmen. But now, Lord…

let Your eyes find Your devoted ones

and strengthen our hearts. Give us the strength to stand, and put the wind of Your Spirit at our backs to move us forward as one people. We want to run without growing weary and walk without tiring out so strengthen our faith, Father. I pray for the devoted who feel unseen, unnoticed. Let them feel Your gaze as it lands on their devotion and fills them with strength to keep going. I pray they will be lifted up as they remember that You have

searched their hearts and You know them.

You know the depths of us and You love us and You look for us and You see us. You know every weary bone, our confusion and our weeping and our hiding and our longing to hear Your voice and know that You are near and that You see and You know. You know our coming and our going and our thoughts before they turn into words. And we have this place in us that yearns to know the depths of You, to know Your coming and going and Your thoughts and to see Your hand in everything.

Keep searching us, Father, revealing our every anxiety and offensive way and the places we’re hiding. Keep piercing our hearts with Your loving gaze so that they will look more like Yours.

He seeks and saves the lost and He leaves the crowd to search for one and He brings back the scattered and binds up the broken and strengthens the sick. He keeps vigil and He sings over us and watches over our way and though He searches, we are never hidden from Him.

And today I found this in my journal.

I was overcome with both gratitude and laughter because I had forgotten writing that at the beginning of the year. But God remembered and instead of allowing me to go through the motion of prayer as I drifted off, He took the time to remind me of this year’s searching and finding.

Have you felt God’s searching this year? Searching for your fellowship, your intercession, your devotion? Searching your heart, to make it more like His? If so, I pray He found what He was searching for and that despite the kind of year it’s been, you’ve been strengthened and encouraged to take the place you’ve been called to occupy, next to Him. If you have sensed His gaze but pulled away, let me say this – I know. I know that it can feel much easier to stay in the shadows than to come into the light of His searching. But I also know that the shadows are lonely and missing Him is the worst kind of missing anyone. So don’t pull away, don’t shrink back. The shadows aren’t hiding you from God, but they may be hiding God from you.

Hidden in Him, never from Him.

The Giving of Thanks

Got up early. Checked the thawing status of the 22-pound bird that the two of us will sit down to later today. Two of us, who waited until the last minute to decide I wanted to make a small, but traditional Thanksgiving meal, so the only turkeys left were bigger than both our heads put together, and frozen. So he’s been swimming in the bathtub all night. Oh, I know. I can hear what you’re thinking. But thawing our turkeys in the bathtub, well, that just goes way back in my family, and as far I know, no one has died from it yet. Besides, leaving our homes and breathing around humans that don’t live with us are also unsafe, so as far as I can tell, we’re all rollin’ the dice these days.

But that’s not where I was going with this story.

It was my time with Jesus this morning. It actually started a few days ago, as I found myself looking back over my life for some reason, recalling both pain and pleasure, hard and easy, dark and light, sadness and joy. As I took a step back, I became overwhelmed with gratitude for the life God has given me.

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the hardest of the hard parts. The abuse that broke a little girl, the losses, the insecurity, the bad marriage that followed a bad marriage, the hopelessness and cancer and Covid – all mixed in with sporadic good memories of childhood and family and good friends and sitting on the roof eating Kool-aid mix and riding dirt bikes and playing marbles in the dirt, tetherball and hide & seek and being loved, and then children and grandchildren and a marriage that survived and the great big hope that now rests in me.

It surprised me to be thankful for it all, until I understood why.

In years past, when we went around the table to name what we are thankful for, it always went something like this:

I’m thankful for my family. For my health. For my freedom. For my job. For…all the good things in my life. None of that is wrong, or bad. But let’s shift it slightly.

I’m thankful to God for my family, health, etc. Now the focus is not on what we have been given, but who has been the Giver. But that’s not the full shift. This morning I discovered why I feel gratitude for all of the things in my life that, frankly, I’d prefer to forget.

Every bit of it has led me to know God. I’ve known so much mercy, healing, and saving because God is so good to pursue those running from Him. I’ve experienced His nearness in dark places because He is Emmanuel and He came into the dark to comfort me and speak words of kindness to my soul. I know the power of the blood of Christ to save a wretch like me because I was lost and He wanted me to be found.

God didn’t just show up on April 2nd 1989 when a man asked me if I was done living the way I was living and ready to accept Jesus. My heavenly Father didn’t listen to my prayer and then choose to come and stand next to me. He had been there from the time I took my first breath. He was there through all that was done to me through the free will of humanity, all that I did to myself and others through that same free will, and still, He chose to pursue me, to save me, to heal me, and to use every choice that had been made to show me His goodness and His love. He has stayed through all the parts, both good and bad. Never wavered. Always drawing me, inviting me to come closer, to lean in, to look up, and to know His heart.

And now, I can’t take my eyes off of Him. Every part of my life is His, and He is why I have any reason at all to be thankful…He is why any of us can give thanks today or any other day. Today, I give thanks to God, for Him. And I will allow that thankfulness to wash over me again and again as I remember my family and every other blessing in my life.

Give thanks to the Lord, because He is good. He alone is God and is above all titles of men, and He is worthy of our giving of thanks.

He struck down the firstborn of Egypt and brought Israel out from among them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and He is still striking down the enemy and bringing us out, so give Him thanks.

He divided the Red Sea and brought Israel through it and He continues to make a way for us when there is no way, bringing us through. Give Him thanks

He led His people through the wilderness and He is the one who leads us through ours, so give Him thanks.

He made a promise to give His people a home and He kept that promise and we too have a promised land and He is still a promise keeper, so give Him thanks.

He remembers the low estate of His people and He frees them from their enemy and He is still remembering and still freeing and let us give Him thanks.

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.

(from Psalm 136)

Weapons of our Warfare – Let the Streets Resound with Singing (& Some Final Thoughts)

I had to resist the urge to title this one “Worship”, the nomenclature we have given to music in the Church. If I could wrap up the biblical definition of worship in a very short sentence it would be submitted service and obedience to God. While we can certainly include music and singing into our worship, music and singing are not what constitutes worship. But take heart, our worship is a weapon of war because our submitted service and obedience to our King will thwart the enemy’s plans every time.

But the sound of our singing and our music as we praise Him is a different weapon.

“Then he [King Jehoshaphat] consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of His holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for His faithful love endures forever.

The moment they began their shouts and praises, the Lord set an ambush against the Ammonites, Moabites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir who came to fight against Judah, and they were defeated.” – 2 Chronicles 20:21-22

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose.” – Acts 16:25-26

“Your singing will be like that on the night of a holy festival, and your heart will rejoice like one who walks to the music of a flute, going up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. And the Lord will make the splendor of His voice heard and reveal His arm striking in angry wrath and a flame of consuming fire, in driving rain, a torrent, and hailstones. Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the Lord….And every stroke of the appointed staff that the Lord brings down on him will be to the sound of tambourines and lyres; he will fight against him with brandished weapons”. Isaiah 30:29-31

Now the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and an evil spirit sent from the Lord began to torment him, so Saul’s servants said to him, “You see that an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command your servants here in your presence to look for someone who knows how to play the lyre. Whenever the evil spirit from God comes on you, that person can play the lyre, and you will feel better.”…Then Saul sent word to Jesse: “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor with me.” Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would pick up his lyre and play, and Saul would then be relieved, feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” 1Samuel 16:14-23

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil… Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 6:15-20

This year has shown us, in more ways than one, that the days we are living in are evil. The sound of chaos, hatred, and rebellion has filled the streets, and for a moment, it put the Church back on her heels. But now, I hear a new sound in the nation, as God’s people take their song out of the church buildings and into the streets – from parking lot services to huge gatherings of people singing and praising God all across the country. More and more the streets are resounding with the warfare sounds of the saints.

We are at war, whether we like it or believe it. So loose your song, Beloved. Sing praise to your God.

A few final thoughts…

> In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us to put on the whole armor of God, but we are never instructed to take it off. The armor is not temporary clothing, it is a life lived in faithful obedience to Christ. If we take that off, sin is at our door and it will have us.

> Your faith – your dependence on and trust in God – is always the target. Guard it well. Build yourself up in it. Always recall to mind the faithfulness of your Father. He has proven that He can be trusted. Do not let the enemy convince you otherwise.

> The more I walk with Jesus, the clearer something becomes. Spiritual warfare becomes exhausting when my focus is on the enemy. When I’m trying to figure out where he is and what he’s doing, I get overwhelmed. So as I’ve gotten older, I spend much less time trying to get the enemy to move.

Instead, my focus is on moving God.

This is why it is critical for me to have an intimate relationship with my Father, so that I can know what moves Him.

My worship {submitted serving and obedience} moves God. My faith {my trust and dependence on Him} moves Him. My prayer that desires His will over mine, moves Him. My song of praise, even in dark seasons, moves Him.

When I choose love when my flesh would rather hate, it moves God. When I do the work to forgive when walking away would be easier, God is moved. When I choose to live a life that moves God, war is being waged. But God is and will always be my Defender. He is my warrior King and the battle ever belongs to Him.

My final take on the topic of spiritual warfare?

Move God, and the devil will move.

Weapons of Our Warfare – Pt. 5: The Ones Less Taught

We don’t talk about these in spiritual warfare class (is that a thing? Should it be?), but the word of God talks about them, so I will too.

Authority with Humility

“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven…Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:17-18

Jesus never taught arrogance, even arrogance against Satan. Arrogance will take our eyes and our heart off of the grace of God, and put them on us. The key phrase in the passage above is “the demons are subject to us in your name” . They are subject to the authority of Christ’s name, not our own. It is the authority of Jesus, not us, that demons must obey. That gives us zero reasons to boast. When we wield Christ’s authority with pride, it becomes a weapon against us, not the enemy.

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

By all means, use the weapon of authority God has given you through Christ. But watch your heart dear one.

Demons know the difference between the authority of Jesus and pride that simply uses His name.

The secret place, where we meet with God, has a very low ceiling and one simply cannot saunter into it. Pride knows no other stance than on its feet. Humility is more comfortable on its knees. Therefore, our pride is best vanquished by our continual time spent with our Father.

Intimacy with God will ensure that our weapon won’t be used against us.

Finally, when I looked at these two verses from a different angle, I saw this…

Don’t waste your rejoicing on demons who did what demons do when confronted with the authority of Jesus. Spend your rejoicing on what God has done. On the last day, a book will be opened in heaven and your name will be found in it. Just sit with that for a while, and imagine it. Feel the breathtaking joy that your name is written in that book, and understand the equally breathtaking sorrow if it were not. What demons did or did not do while you walked the earth will pale, I promise.


“From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:21-23

I’m going to boil this down to one statement: What made sense to Peter, was not of God.

Jesus was not saying that Peter was Satan, He was saying that Peter’s thoughts in that moment were not from God, they were from Satan.

Like Peter, we rely all too often on common sense, or what makes sense to us, when what is needed is Holy Spirit discernment. Without it, we will talk people out of something difficult, when their difficulty is God ordained. Without discernment, we will allow others to talk us out of what does not make sense to the human mind but has been assigned to us by God.

Without discernment, our common sense will be a stumbling block.

While scripture lists discernment as a spiritual gift, that does not mean that only those with that gift have discernment. We become more discerning the more we spend time in God’s Word. As we learn to distinguish the voice of God, we get better at recognizing a voice that is speaking from a concern for the things of men, rather than the things of God.

Discernment will uncover strategies that were formed in darkness, and common sense is often one of those strategies. Let us take care not to let the common sense of even those who love us derail what God is calling us to obey.

Submission & Resistance

“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

First, we submit to God. hypotassō. Subject yourself to; obey

And then, we resist the devil. anthistēmi. To set oneself against, to withstand, resist, oppose.

Once we have bent our knee to God, we must then set our feet against the enemy. We are not in a boxing ring. We won’t float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, staying light on our feet and ducking and dodging. This is war and we must be unmovable in our stance against evil, and especially its desire to have us.

“If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7

{BTW: Many of my own bondages were formed because I resisted God and submitted to the enemy.}

I believe our ability to resist sin is connected to our willingness to submit to God, – to bend our knee to His Lordship over us and obey His commands. True submission to God is obedience to God.

If we say we are submitted to God but do not resist and oppose sin, we have nothing from which the devil will be inclined to flee.

If we do not submit ourselves to God, then resistance is futile.

Submission and resistance are not two different weapons. They are two halves of one. The deeper and stronger our relationship with God becomes, the greater our submission to Him and our opposition to sin. Again, a spiritual weapon forged through intimacy with our Father.

Our Thought Lives

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:3-5

Here is what I know, and I know it by experience…

Our thoughts are dangerous and one thought leads to another and pretty soon we have a head full of thoughts that will bring chaos to our life, doubts to our faith, and feet to our flesh. Because we will speak and act according to how we think.

We all have disobedient thoughts, and some are living out the consequences of letting those thoughts run free, through broken relationships with others and with God.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Doing this from our own strength makes it woefully impossible unless we’ve had a lobotomy. Then again, I don’t know what lobotomized people think, so even then it may be out of reach.

But we can do all things through Christ, who strengthen us. (Philippians 4:13)

We can take unruly, disobedient thoughts captive and make them obey Jesus. We can choose what we think about, and how long we let wrong thinking take up space in our minds. We can choose to counter an accusatory or critical thought with a thought that is based on grace and love. We can think the best instead of the worst – about ourselves, others, and God. We can force every thought that is lying to us to submit to the truth, assuming we know the truth. We can begin to direct our thoughts to that which is worthy of thinking about.

We can do this. If it were not true, He would not have told us to do it. What we cannot afford to do is let our thought lives go unchecked and unchallenged by truth. Uncontrolled thought lives damage the body of Christ.

Getting the word of God into your mind and heart is where taking thoughts captive begins. If we don’t know what our thoughts are supposed to obey, how will we ever make them obey it? And so it goes back to our relationship with our Father. Knowing Him, knowing His Word, and His ways, will enable us to know when our thought lives need to be made to get in line. Thought lives that line up with truth can resist the enemy’s attempt to sow lies that keep us from walking in the fullness of who we are as children of God.

From all that I’ve written so far, it is clear to me that the majority of spiritual warfare is obedience. Our spirituality will not defeat the schemes of the enemy, but our obedience to God will. How often we are in church, how much we volunteer, our giftings and talents, how much money we tithe…none of it matters without obedience that comes from faith.

Listen, I don’t like the obey word any more than you do. It has made something in me rise up bristling since before I met Jesus. That thing is called rebellion. It’s part of our sin nature. It’s also part of our free will. We choose.

Obedience or rebellion. One is a weapon against the enemy. The other is a partnership with him. So…

Weapons of Our Warfare – Pt. 4 – Prayer

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”– Luke 22:31-32

It’s one of my favorites verses on prayer.

He could have prayed against the sifting. He could have prayed all the things we pray when the enemy picks a fight with someone we love.

But He would have been praying “No”, while the Father was saying “Yes”.

{That’s a mouthful to chew on for a bit, eh?}

What Jesus did pray is so very telling. It reveals what the enemy was after in his scheming and sifting and the arrows he aims.

{Our faith has a target on its back.}

As I said in my last post, the devil isn’t trying to get us to not believe in God, he’s going after our trust in God. Our confidence in His goodness and His faithfulness and all that He claims to be.

Jesus knew what satan was after, so Jesus prayed for what satan was after.

Likewise, the Holy Spirit knows what satan is after, knows what the Father has said yes to, and what He has said no to, and knows what needs to be prayed.

Romans 8:28 ~ “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Ephesians 6:18 ~ “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Jude 1:20 ~ “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…”

Satan wanted Peter’s faith. Jesus used prayer as a weapon against that scheme. Peter still got sifted, but discerning prayer protected what the enemy was really after, and caused that sifting to work for the good of not only Peter, but his fellow believers.

For some of us, our prayers are primarily requests for God to do what we think He should do, or, if we’re honest, what we want Him to do. And while we may follow it with ‘thy will be done’, our minds and our hearts are convinced, or at least hoping, that His will is the same as our will. I know this because I lived it for far too many years. Prayers that are motivated by the wants of our flesh are no kind of weapon.

Jesus knew that part of Peter’s sifting meant that Peter would deny Him. Deny even knowing Him, after everything they had experienced together. If it were me, I would have prayed that God would prevent the sifting, so that I wouldn’t endure the pain of the denial. Those are the prayers I prayed for years. Change him, so that my life will be easier and I won’t cry all the time. Let me get this job so that I can stop worrying about money. Get me out of this situation Lord, it’s so uncomfortable. Make them move so that I don’t have to deal with bad neighbors. Anyone else? No? Ok, just me then.

Our praying is a danger to the enemy when it is motivated by God’s heart, not our own. When it sounds like ‘Father, show him Your love for him‘ instead of ‘change him.’ When it’s our declaration of God’s provision and goodness instead of our fear of not having enough. His purpose vs our comfort. His love for our neighbor instead of their relocation. The plans and purposes of heaven instead of my politics.

This kind of praying doesn’t go unnoticed by heaven. Or by hell.

But I would rather be in the enemy’s crosshairs because I’m wrecking strategies of darkness, than be left alone because I pose no threat.

Be a threat, beloved. Pray fervently. Pray often. Pray His will, not yours.

P.S.– There is a place for praying for our own needs and even our wants. For casting all of our cares upon Him, in being anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. That is not the kind of prayer I am addressing here. We have a good, good Father who inclines His ear to us when we speak to Him, cry out to Him, or just want to pour out our heart to Him. But when it comes to spiritual warfare, to the battle that rages against us, our families, and the Church – we need weaponized prayer. Prayer that calls down the heart and will of God. Prayers that echo heaven.

The Weapons of Our Warfare Pt. 3 – The Armor We Live In

In parts 1 & 2 I talked about the enemy’s domain and his activities. Now it’s time to talk about why I did this teaching in the first place. Honestly, I wanted to show that our victory in the battles the enemy engages us in is tied to the depth and intimacy of our relationship with God.

In pretty much any talk about spiritual warfare, there is a particular passage that comes up that most of us can quote, or at least paraphrase.

Ephesians 6:10-18

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

First, let me say this — there are a plethora of commentaries written about this passage, and I’m not trying to raise my voice louder than theirs. I just want to sit around this small table with you and give my thoughts, and hopefully hear yours. If I get long-winded (and I will), take a break, eat a piece of cheesecake for stamina, and then come back.

Secondly, we cannot detach this portion of scripture from those that come before it. Doing so will make it appear as though Paul had a touch of ADD. The chapter begins with children – obey your parents; then parents – don’t exasperate your children. This is followed by slaves – obey your master, and masters – treat your slaves well. And then Paul says, “Finally…”. So I believe that Ephesians 6:10-18 is less about what we know theologically, and way more about what we do with what we know. In other words, this passage is not about what we know, but how we live. Let’s dig in.

If I had to put a title to what I’ve learned in the past 31 years of following Jesus, that title would be…

No Other

…so I’m going to approach this passage from that perspective.

The very first thing we’re told is to be strong in the power of His might. Other versions say strengthened by the Lord and His vast strength. Your own strength will not be enough. Not by a long shot.

We try to draw strength from so many wells, but there is no other strength that will sustain us through this life, but Jesus. Through dark nights of the soul, or in the valley under the shadow of death. Even just the everyday work of fighting depression, fighting anxiety, fighting fear, fighting pain, fighting to stay above the water. Oh, we can suck it up and hold on and push through, to a point. But, by divine design, our weakness and limitations and our utter lack of strength will eventually become evident, and where we go for strength will determine whether or not we taste victory over what is trying to do us in.

Jesus taught me that there is no other place to find what I need. He’s it. The fellowship with Him that comes from time spent in the secret place has strengthened me for the journey, strengthened me for suffering, for trials, and even for the green pastures and still waters (because sometimes, it takes the strength and power of God to get us to just lie down, be still, and drink deep of Him).

Be strengthened by the Lord…and no other. It is His strength, not our own that is a weapon against the enemy who seeks to wear us down.

truth like a belt

It’s an interesting word, Truth. Most of us would think it means we are to gird ourselves with the truth of God’s word, but it actually carries a little different meaning, so I do not have the standard take on this word that many have.

The root word it comes from means “loving the truth, speaking the truth, truthful.” See what I mean? Interesting. The actual word truth in this passage means “sincerity of mind and integrity of character, or a mode of life in harmony with divine truth“.

It’s not about being able to quote scripture passages, and it’s a whole lot more than not lying on your tax returns. Girding yourself with the truth means living true. Living without pretense, without shadows, without hypocrisy. It is a life that is in harmony with the Truth, not at odds with Him.

When you are clothed in the belt of truth, try as he may, the enemy will not get you to compromise or to live in a way that creates disharmony with God’s truth. You won’t be caught in a lie, found out, or exposed as pretending to be something you are not, because that is not the life you are living.

No other way of living provides this kind of spiritual defense.

the breastplate of righteousness

that word righteousness means “integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting“.

The breastplate is “consisting of two parts and protecting the body on both sides from the neck to the middle“.

Isn’t it interesting that the meaning of righteousness as used in this passage includes correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting? And isn’t it also so interesting that these things protect us against the schemes and attacks of the enemy?

Note: In the armor, the breastplate is attached to the belt. So the breastplate of righteousness for the Christian, is attached to the belt of truth. Here’s what I think – if we aren’t living lives of truth, we will not be able to live a life of righteousness.

This can all sound like a “do it yourself” Christianity. Living righteously out of our own strength. Oh, believe me, it is not. We know that our righteousness comes from Christ alone. Our own ability to be right and live right with God is a big fat zero. And the good news is that we receive the righteousness of Christ upon our confession of faith. Boom. Done. We have been made right with God. But…

If the way we live our lives does not reflect the righteousness of Christ that is in us and on us, then we are unprotected from the attacks of the enemy. This is what I’m saying…this armor isn’t about our salvation, it is about how we live it out. Without the lifestyle that reflects what Christ has done, we are deer in an open field against an enemy with a stellar aim.

There is no other righteousness but the righteousness of Christ that can make us right with God. And there is no quicker way to oppression than for a person who has been made right with God by the blood of Christ, to live a life that is not right with God.

feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace...

I’ll be honest, this one has been one of those things that for years I could not figure out, so I just nodded and quoted and more or less went along with everyone else’s explanation. But that thing in me that needs to know God, and know what He’s actually saying to me, wouldn’t let go of this verse. Once I realized that this whole passage is talking about how we live, then I began to dig and this is what I found that satisfies me, at least for now.

“it also has the meaning of firm footing (foundation);… if that is the meaning in [this passage], the Gospel itself is to be the firm footing of the believer, his walk being worthy of it, and therefore a testimony in regard to it.” (Vines Expository Dictionary) From other sources (which I will list at the end), I found snippets of explanation that helped me form a coherent and less abstract view of this verse:

Be ready to quickly and cheerfully go where you are sent, never allowing your feet to move off the firm foundation that is the gospel of Christ. It is a gospel of peace, so walk worthy of that gospel. You have peace with God, so do not live as though you do not. Let your life be a testimony of the good news, where ever your feet take you.

There is no other gospel worthy of the giving of our lives than the gospel of Christ. No other place for our feet to stand, and move upon, than that firm foundation. All other ground is sinking sand. May our lives speak of this gospel day in and day out, as we move upon the earth.

take up the shield of faith

The word faith is our faith in God, authored by Jesus. It is far more than the belief that God exists, it is the trust we have in Him. Satan is not trying to get us to not believe in the existence of God (even demons believes He exists), but what he’s after is our trust in God. That said, this verse is telling us to take up our shield of faith (trust) so that the flaming darts of the enemy will be extinguished. In ancient times, the shield was made of leather, and they would soak it with water before battle because there would be fiery arrows coming at them. That shield is as big as a door, able to protect everything behind it.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus is called the living water, and the author and perfecter of our faith? So when we raise a faith that has been soaked in Jesus, there is no flaming arrow that will not be extinguished!

No other faith, no other trust that we put into a person or a thing, will protect us against what the enemy is firing at us. It is only our faith (trust) in God that will fully shield us, and extinguish satan’s fiery weapons.

Take the helmet of salvation

The helmet is “the protection of soul which consists in (the hope of) salvation”. (Blue Letter Bible Lexicon).

Our soul is our mind, our will, and our emotions. It is to our soul that the enemy will attempt to bring despair, discouragement, hopelessness, fear (of death), and get us to live our lives in response to those emotions and thoughts. The hope (assurance) of salvation, that future life that awaits us with God, is a guard for our soul. But here’s the catch…that hope of salvation has to trump our desire, or hope, for a good, pleasant, comfortable, unbothered life on this earth. When our hope of salvation is simply a “given” that we don’t think much about as the years go on, then our hopes for a “better” life here will uncover our mind to all sorts of thoughts, emotions, and eventually belief systems that can cripple our soul.

No other hope can protect our soul except the hope of our salvation. We have been promised life with God for all eternity, but we were never promised a life on this earth without trouble, sorrow, trials, or pain. This is life in a fallen world. But we have been given a hope to see us through it all with a depth of joy and peace that cannot be touched.

{“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”} (Psalm 51:12)

the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Here is what we know for sure — Satan is a liar, and God’s Word is true. There is no other way to tear down a lie than with truth. I will preach this until I die – get yourself into the Word of God and keep yourself there. There is no substitute. The best sermon is not a sword. That podcast you listen to is not a sword. Your daily devotional is not a sword. All of those things are good, and they serve to help us grow, but if you try to bring one against the enemy, you’ve brought a butter knife to a sword fight.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t like to read. It doesn’t matter if you find it boring or hard to understand. The fact remains that it is the only sword you have, so by golly you should learn to weild it well. Otherwise, you are susceptible to any and every lie that the liar wants to whisper to you.

There is no other sword. But no other sword is needed. Pick it up. Learn to use it. Start coming against the lies that you’ve been believing.

Prayer is a weapon we will discuss next time, so I won’t go into it here.

I know this was long and if you hung in there with me, you should get the last piece of cheesecake. And, thank you!

But I can’t end it without going back to my first point. The whole reason I began looking at teaching about spiritual warfare in the first place, was to show that it is directly tied to the depth and intimacy of our relationship with Jesus.

Looking back over every weapon, over the life lived in the armor of God, it comes out of time spent with Him. It comes from that place of seeking His face, seeking His ways, and desiring to know Him more. The hours that become days that become years spent in the secret place, in His word, in recurring surrender and repentance and worship, is what fits us for the armor.

After 31 years, the most humbling realization I’ve had is that I have not yet arrived. Like all of us, I have good days and bad days. Victory and defeat. Falling down and getting back up. Learning and forgetting and relearning it all. And yet, His goodness and His faithful love have followed me all of these days and years, and I am forever grateful.

Sources: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; Vines Expository Dictionary; + various NT commentaries.

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