As you can imagine, receiving the news that I had breast cancer was devastating and life changing. Fighting cancer has not only been a physical battle, but an emotional and spiritual one as well. This has been a time of pain, fear, and sorrow, but it has also been a time of joy, gratitude, and hope, and as the Lord guides me, He has been teaching many lessons about life and faith. One lesson I have learned is to embrace the magic of the moment.
As I went through chemotherapy and the subsequent surgery (from which I am currently recovering), God has given me many magical moments. When I got the news that I had no cancer in my bones, that was a magical praise worthy moment. While I was extremely grateful and relieved, and I gave God the glory and the praise, I couldn't help but quickly move on to the next worry: "Is it in any of my organs?" Yes, that was a pressing concern, but I wish I had unleashed my right now praise. I did thank God, and I did praise Him for His goodness, but that worry prevented me from really giving Him the praise He deserved. This became a pattern: I found out there was no cancer in my organs, and I began to worry about the bilateral mastectomy surgery that awaited me. I made it through the surgery, and after thanking and praising the Lord, became anxious about the pathology report that would tell me if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. And when I received the AMAZING news that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes, I began to worry about cancer popping up in another organ. It was at this point that God revealed to me that I need to focus on the current victory and not worry about tomorrow's possible defeat.
Psalm 103:1-5 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;
Yes, I gave God the praise and I was filled with immense gratitude, but I did not truly unleash the praise I should have. A "right now praise", to me, is a praise for where you are right now. You don't worry about what you might have to overcome tomorrow, you simply lose yourself in praise and worship right now because your AWESOME God has blessed you. You dwell in that moment. You let Him know that He is amazing and that you are humbled by his grace and love.
Of course, we know that tomorrow is not promised; we simply choose not to dwell on that fact. We know that we must live as if there's no tomorrow or whatever the clichés say, but often time this is not the case. Too often we are so consumed with tomorrow that we forget Jesus' words in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
It's human nature to worry; however, if all we do is worry, we'll never truly be able to praise the Lord. The fact of the matter is, we don't know what tomorrow may bring. Our concerns are often very real and valid, BUT God gives us "magical moments." These are little, and not so little, victories that should focus our attention on Him and bring peace and joy to our hearts.
Hopefully, cancer is not the battle you're facing right now. I truly pray it isn't, but even if it is, I'm sure you can see God's grace sprinkling these moments of victory in the midst of your pain and hurt. Sometimes it is the love of your family and friends. Just a moment of realizing that you have been blessed with amazing people in your life. It could be being able to pay that bill that you knew you had no way of paying. It could simply be the unexpected kindness of a stranger. Whatever it is, keep your eyes out for these "magical moments." I promise you they are there because our Father has promised never to leave us nor forsake us. Yes, He may allow us to go through the storm, but He reassures us that He's there and that He still cares by allowing us to have little slivers of sunshine break through the clouds every now and then.
Unleash your right now praise. If you're having a hard time, gratitude is the best place to start. He has done something awesome for you today. Even if it is simply the fact that your heart is beating or that you are in your "right" mind, praise Him. Praise Him! Forget about what might happen and praise Him because He deserves it.
Happy New Year! If you're reading this then that means you have survived 2016! To God be the glory because we know how harsh 2016 was for many, many people. Some didn't make it to 2017. Even in the last few days and hours of the year, I heard news of people losing their lives, and many families started the new year in mourning. Still, to God be the glory. We made it!
If you are a believer, a devoted disciple of Christ, then you have probably noticed that the days are growing shorter and more wicked. You have noticed that many of the things that the Bible prophesied are coming to pass. Second Timothy 3:1-5 says, "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people."
Hmmm...lovers of themselves...abusive...disobedient to their parents...ungrateful...without self-control...conceited....yep that sounds like some "terrible times" indeed, and that pretty much encapsulates the treacherous times in which we live. On a daily basis we are bombarded with news of death, destruction and disease. Terrorism, superbugs, mass shootings, the list goes on and on. We are living in the end times. In Matthew 24: 6-8, Jesus said, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." Well friends, it's time to go to the hospital because the pain is very severe. We are living in the end times and anyone who owns a bible and reads it regularly can see it clearly.
So what's my point? Why am I talking about the end times in a blog post titled "Happy New Year?" Well, it's because I think there couldn't be a better time. Right now is a perfect opportunity to do a ministry check. Yes, I know, I know, you might not be a minister, however, EVERY Christian has a ministry. We have an assignment from our Savior to GO! He expects to return and find his people serving others and doing the work of the Kingdom. As we read the news each day, we should be horrified, disgusted and appalled at the horrors it contains, but it should also be an impetus and motivation for us to share the gospel, to lend a helping hand, to be Christ's hands and feet.
My dear Devoted Disciple, the same Holy Spirit who empowered twelve ordinary men to "turn the world upside down" works in us today. He is able to lead, strengthen, embolden, and empower those who seek to be about the Lord's business. Yes indeed, we are living in truly evil and treacherous days. It is clear that our enemy is very busy at his work because unlike too many Christians, he can read the signs of the end. When darkness rises up, it is up to the light to drive it out. We must be desperate for the lost. The harvest is truly plenteous and abundant. There are people perishing daily right before our eyes. Yes, they may scorn us. They may ridicule us. They may even throw profanities in our faces. But if one is saved. If one is snatched from the fire, then it is all worth it.
So, as we look at the year ahead, we truly have no idea where it will take us. However, we do know that Jesus is on His way. We do not know the hour, but the signs are too large to miss. So in the words of Longfellow, "Let us then be up and doing..." Let our Master return to find us hard at work. So as you write you list of resolutions and goals for the New Year, don't forget about the Kingdom. Let this be the year you do the most you've ever done for the Kingdom of God! God bless you and have a happy, safe, and prosperous 2017!
Today in my personal bible study, the Lord gave me John chapter 8. As I was reading through the chapter and ruminating on each verse, the Holy Spirit began to speak to me as I read verses 42-47. I’d like to share what he gave me with you.
First off, looking back at verse 12 Jesus states, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Then in verse 31 he says, “If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In the verses between verse 12 and verse 31, Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, lays down his case as to why they should trust him and believe his word. In short, he is trustworthy because he comes from the Father and the Father is his witness.
As the Pharisees continue to reject his teaching they invoke their lineage as Abraham’s descendants as proof that they have never been slaves meaning “We don’t need your freedom, Jesus. Thank you very much.” Jesus responds with “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” In other words, “Don’t be so lofty because of your connection with Abraham. You are sinners in need of a Savior.”
In verses 37-38 he hits them with a truth bomb, “I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you do what you have heard from your father.” He is pulling no punches at this point. They are so full of pride, arrogance, religion and the enemy's lies that they can neither recognize nor accept the truth. Their response to this slice of truth? “ ‘Abraham is our father.’”
Well, they clearly are not getting it, so Jesus has to give it to them bluntly ,
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” (John 8:39-41)
The key part of the scripture that I want to really look at are verses 43-45. I have read this scripture many times and have highlighted and underlined and starred it quite a few times, however, as I read it this time the Holy Spirit gave me a deeper revelation. I’d like to share with you the insights that he gave. Hopefully, you’re still reading after all the background.
He was a murderer from the beginning , not holding to the truth for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)
We say all the time “The Devil is a liar.” We know that he’s a liar. However, do we really, really believe it? In verse 44, Jesus tells us that Satan was a murderer from the beginning and that he did not hold on to the truth for there is no truth in him. That means that everything that the enemy tells us is a lie. However, like the Pharisees we choose to take what they enemy says as the truth and we question and reject the truth of God.
Let's say that we know that someone is a pathological liar. We have caught them telling lies repeatedly, and they have proven themselves to be a swindler and a deceiver. Wisdom demands that we stop believing their words. Common sense says that everything that they say must be fact checked and examined because they have proven that they are not to be trusted. Our experience with them have shown us who they are, and so we know that we better not believe a word they say.
Well, as believers we KNOW that the devil is a liar. In the first place, Jesus told us so, and in the second, the devil has lied to us enough times for us to know he can’t be trusted.
In the Bible, the first time we see the devil, he’s telling a lie. He reveals himself immediately to be a big, fat, rotten liar. We see the master deceiver at work as he first causes Eve to question God’s word (the truth) and then blatantly lie to her to get her to disobey God’s command. His lying skills are so exceptional that he causes people who have been in intimate, constant fellowship with God to put aside all their trust and faith in their Creator and instead believe the lies of a snake.
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3: 1-4)
That same lying serpent is at work in our lives today, doing the same thing. I heard a preacher say that Satan doesn’t have any new tricks. So just as he tried and was successful in separating Adam and Eve from God with lies, he’s doing the same thing to us today. We become so full of his lies that we have no room for the truth of God, and so, we find ourselves in bondage to strongholds and sin. We suffer needlessly because we hold to the deception instead of to the truth.
When we listen to the enemy instead of to God, it opens a doorway into our lives to the devil. Now he can wreak havoc and cause us to question God and to disbelieve his truth. I experienced this recently which is probably why this scripture resonates with me so powerfully. I have struggled with low self-esteem for practically my whole life, but as I grow in the Lord, he has reinforced and reaffirmed my worth. However, because I felt like I had let the Lord down (I broke a fast), I listened to the enemy when he began to tell me that I was a loser. He told me that I was weak and worthless and that I was good for nothing. Usually, I counter those thoughts immediately with the truth aka the Word of God, but my disappointment was so great that I believed the enemy’s lies. When the Lord immediately began to remind me of his truth, I refused to accept it. I had fallen from my own lofty and perfectionist heights, so I must be worthless and I must be a loser.
Thankfully, the Lord brought people and circumstances to reaffirm his truth, and I was convicted and repented. However, the damage that the enemy did is still fresh in my mind and in my life. When we believe his lies, it causes a rift between us and the Lord because we are no longer operating in faith. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. So when we believe the father of lies, we reject the truth and that means that our faith in a God who is truth, falters.
So I leave you with this: what lies have you been believing? In the previous blogs, we examined the armor of God, and so we know that we are constantly under attack. When he throws his darts of deception we must raise the shield of faith and counterattack with the sword of the Spirit. We don’t have to believe his lies. We have the choice to reject them. It is so important to stay in constant prayer and bible study because that is where we find the truth of God. That is where the Lord points out the lies we have believed and restores us in his truth. We must be diligent and earnest about holding to the truth. As devoted disciples, we have to grip, clench, clutch, grasp, and embrace the truth of God with everything we have. That is the “lamp to our feet” and “light to our path.” The enemy’s lies come at us constantly from the media, from the mouths of others, and from our own thoughts. Let us be aggressive truth pursuers and truth tellers. Just now, the Lord dropped into my spirit that we must be truth spreaders as well. We must know the truth, believe the truth and tell the truth. If the enemy is lying to us, then he is also lying to others. So when God gives us the opportunity, let us be prepared to share the truth. I hope this has been a blessing to you. Thank you for reading!
Discouragement. Anxiety. Fear. Doubt. Insecurity. What do they all have in common? They all plague the mind. In the last post, "Armed for Battle: The Shield of Faith," we talked about the battlefield of the mind. The enemy's goal is always to conquer the mind because he knows it is the key to complete victory over the soul. One key way that he attacks us is through insecurity. Recently, I went through a time of being insecure. Not about my physical appearance (been there, done that). Not about my friendships. Not about my job (at least not this time). I was insecure about something that I should be most secure about: my salvation. It was only when I finally brought it to the Lord, that he gave me peace by reminding me to put on the helmet of salvation.
Helmets are used to protect the head, specifically the brain, from injury. They are very integral in many professions and incredibly so for a soldier. Whether on the battlefield of yore or of today, the importance of the helmet is profound. According to a paper published by the Journal of Military and Veteran's Health, "The primary role of the combat helmet is to protect the soldier’s head against injury. In modern warfare there are a variety of threats to a soldier’s head which include: gunshot wounds; blunt force trauma such as in hand to hand combat, motor vehicle accidents, aircraft crashes and parachute jumps; and finally, blast impact." Yes, a helmet doesn't always guarantee immunity from injury, but it greatly diminishes the possibility. We all know how dangerous head injuries can be. They can lead to disability and permanent impairment or even worse, death. Clearly, a helmet is of utmost importance to anyone engaging in any activity that may lead to head injury, but how does this relate to us? How are salvation and a helmet connected?
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! /O what a foretaste of glory divine! /Heir of salvation, purchase of God, /born of his Spirit, washed in his blood."
As I thought about the helmet of salvation, the first thing that popped into my head was the hymn by Fanny J Crosby, "Blessed Assurance." This immensely popular and well-known hymn begins,"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! /O what a foretaste of glory divine! /Heir of salvation, purchase of God, /born of his Spirit, washed in his blood." I believe these word perfectly capture the beauty and wonder of salvation, and the peace and joy we obtain from the "blessed assurance" that Jesus is ours. It is this blessed assurance that the enemy wants to steal. When we don't have confidence that we are truly saved and that we belong to God, we become plagued with anxiety, uncertainty, fear and of course, insecurity. This attack is not only targeted at new believers; all believers can fall prey. That is why the helmet of salvation is so important.
We live in a society, in a world where our worth is often judged by our appearance, our possessions, our success or lack thereof, and of course our works. We look at someone who gives to charity or who spends time helping others and label them good. In God's economy, works mean nothing. Nothing we can do or say, have done or have said, will do or will say, will ever be able to qualify us for heaven. The only thing that can do that is believing in Jesus and accepting his free gift of salvation.
The key word of course is free. The problem with free is that we don't know how to act when we get something priceless for free. We figure that there must be some kind of catch and we are distrustful. Of course God expects us to "work out our salvation," but we must accept that salvation is something that we could never "work" enough for. So what am I saying? The helmet of salvation is necessary because we are human and we mess up. We make mistakes, and we have flaws. This is where the egregiousness of the enemy comes into play. He tempt us and walks hand in hand with us to the sin. Encourages us while we're engaging in it, and as soon as we've fallen, he immediately turns on us. In my case, I was not spending as much time with God as I believed I should. I would be tired after work and studying the bible required too much concentration and focus, so I would tune into youtube or netflix instead where I could mindlessly waste a few hours. Of course, the same demon that talked me into shirking my time with God also began to plague me with guilt and insecurity. Yes, we definitely should spend time with the Lord and bible study is an absolute necessity. However, when we become overwhelmed with guilt, it builds a wall between us and the Lord. The enemy doesn't make us guilty so that we can go and repent. He does it to drive us away from God. Remember, that Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in the garden after they had disobeyed him and eaten of the fruit.
My insecurity was feeling that I had to be a perfect Christian and that somehow was tied up with my salvation. I didn't realize that that was the issue until that night when I poured my heart out to the Lord. I just knew that I felt a terrible burden and a lack of peace. This was affecting my prayer time, and I just felt as if I was constantly letting God down and that I would lose my salvation. It was the Lord who finally had to open my eyes to what was really going on and use the truth to set me free. He told me that I needed to put on the helmet of salvation. The enemy was using doubt and fear to bind me up as I worried about losing my relationship with God . He showed me how because of my guilt about not spending time with Him, I wasn't able to really get into His presence like before. Then He said that Jesus' blood covers every sin, mistake, flaw, imperfection, and weakness of the flesh that has ever and will ever exist. He said that when I accepted Christ, I became a part of His family and He will never let anyone or anything (even me), pluck me from His hand. He told me that His love is unconditional and everlasting. He reminded me that His grace is abundant and that his mercy is abounding.
Be encouraged today. We serve a beautiful, awesome, powerful, forgiving and faithful God. We serve a God who loves us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to suffer and die for our sins. If you have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in your heart that God raised him from the dead then you are saved. Salvation is yours. Dwell in that blessed assurance. Jesus is INDEED YOURS! Don't let the enemy steal your joy or your peace. If you have sinned, confess it and ask God for forgiveness. Then go and sin no more, equipped with the helmet of salvation and the knowledge that God will never leave you or forsake you.
For a Christian, faith is a big deal. It's so big that Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Wow! We have NO hope of pleasing God if we have no faith. So it's fair to say that faith is incredibly important in the life of the believer. But still, why does Paul tell us to "take up the shield of faith?" How are faith and a shield related?
Let's start by examining what a shield is and what purpose it serves. Merriam-Webster defines a shield as "a large piece of metal, wood, etc., carried by someone (such as a soldier or police officer) for protection" and "something that defends or protects someone or something." So the key word here is protect. A shield is used to protect the soldier from the attacks of the enemy. However, a shield is useless if it is not a.) made of the right material and b.) used properly.
The usefulness of a shield depends on what it is made of and the type of weapon the enemy is using against the shield bearer. The material of the shield must be strong enough to prevent the enemy's attack to penetrate. For us as believers, the scripture is telling us to "take up the shield of faith." It also tells us that the enemy's weapons are "flaming arrows" and reassures us that the shield of faith is capable of extinguishing them. Something to take note of is that Paul says take up the shield of faith. It doesn't say a shield of faith which would denote more than one. The usage of the signifies to me that there is one shield of faith and that it is accessible to all believers. That means that the faith that we must use as our shield is not our individual faith that is unique to each of us, but the faith that we all share as believers. This faith then is that Jesus is the Son of God. That he willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice for his sheep. That we who have accepted his gift of salvation have been redeemed and are co-heirs with Christ. The faith that extinguishes the darts of the enemy is the complete trust and confidence we place in God and in His goodness. It is our strong conviction that he holds us in the palm of his hands, and that he has good plans for our lives.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." ~Romans 10:17
The arrows of the enemy are doubt, fear, anxiety, distrust, disbelief, discouragement, and a plethora of other soul devouring afflictions. While the enemy can attack our bodies, our finances, our families, and other external areas of our lives, his real aim is our minds. Any thinking Christian can testify that the real battleground is in the mind. If the devil can steal our peace or our joy or our trust in God then he has really gained a foothold that can lead to our downfall. Therefore it is imperative that we take up the shield of faith. Just as with the other pieces of the armor that we have studied so far, we must consciously and intentionally use the shield.
A shield is worthless if it is not utilized or used properly. If I have the shield but I don't know how to use it, then it has no true power to protect. So how do we use the shield of faith? Well let's look at what scripture says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." We build our faith by constantly hearing the word of God. Hearing the word of God comes in many forms, through messages preached in church or on podcasts or tapes, through teaching heard when we go to Bible Study, from hymns and other Christian music, or even from simply reading the bible out loud to ourselves. Another great way to hear the word of God is from the testimonies of others. When they tell us of how God has moved mightily in their lives, our faith also increases. Remember that the faith that we are using for protection is the strong belief in who God is and what He has done through Jesus.
When the enemy comes in with doubt, we must speak out loud scripture like Isaiah 40: 28-31, "Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." When he comes at us with fear, we raise the shield of faith by reciting 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Every arrow that he can throw at us can be extinguished by the word of God.
It is so very important for believers to know the word of God. We live in a time when it is more accessible than ever before. If you would prefer not to read it, there are audio versions. If you can't understand the King James Version, there are tons of others like the Message or the NIV. There are also bible apps that make it very easy to access wherever you are. We really have no excuse as modern day believers for not knowing or studying the word of God. If there was ever a reason why we should be consistently reading, studying, and meditating on the Word, then it should be so that we are equipped with the shield of faith. Without the shield, we are open to everything that the enemy throws at us and eventually our ability to stand will be so compromised that we will fall. Therefore, we must do as Paul says and take up the shield of faith.