The Two Battles We Face in Life

saint-georgeLast week, I wrote about the basic truths, or keys, of spiritual warfare. If you didn’t see it, you can read it here. Today I want to expand upon these truths so that we can learn not only how to get free, but also, how to stay free. These are the two battles we must deal with throughout our lives – getting free from bondage, and staying free. Then we can walk in victory and the abundant life Jesus died to give us. Both battles require several things: 1) we must first recognize our need, 2) we must be willing to get help from trusted friends and/or leaders, 3) we must realize that we have to do things differently than we did before, and 4) we must be determined to persevere and not give up. Getting and staying free requires work, but if we are willing to do our part, God will always be faithful to help us in our weakness.

In my twenty plus years of ministering to people in bondage, I have often seen those who come for ministry expecting a quick fix. Our human nature, or flesh, wants to get out of pain as quickly and easily as possible. Unfortunately, God didn’t set it up to work that way. He works through process, and we must learn what that process looks like and how to cooperate with Him in it. The whole point of the process is to conform us into the image of Christ. That is always His will for everyone. This is why it’s impossible to by pass or cut short the process; He simply won’t allow it. He is fully committed to completing the good work He began in us. Therefore, it would be to our benefit to learn to cooperate with Him.

The greatest challenge in these battles, I have found, both in my own life, and in the lives of those I’ve ministered to, is changing the way we think. If we don’t learn to do this, we will never get free. Jesus’ predominant message when He walked the earth was “Repent!” To repent means, to change the way we think. Most, if not all of our problems, stem from this one issue. We do not think the way that God thinks. (Is. 55:8-9) We are not even close! To truly repent, we must learn to renew our minds.

There are three areas we need to renew our minds in – 1) our thoughts about God, 2) our thoughts about ourselves, and 3) our thoughts about others. This goes along with our ability, (by God’s grace), to fulfill the greatest commandment – to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. When we renew our minds to the truth of who God is, we will see ourselves as He sees us, and we will see others as He sees them. This must happen before we can love anyone. To know God is to love Him; to love God, is to love ourselves the way that He does, which then enables us to love others as He does.

Think about how different the Church would be if we all had our minds renewed! This is precisely why the enemy’s greatest weapon against us is deception. For when our thinking is distorted by lies, we are unable to love God, ourselves, or anyone else. Love is our greatest weapon;  without love, as Paul said, we are nothing. (1 Cor. 13:2) Having an unrenewed mind is like looking through a window that is severely cracked. Everything on the outside looks skewed and awry; we cannot see anything clearly. This is our hardest and most important battle, and God won’t do it for us. If we are willing to put forth the effort, He will certainly help us!

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to renew the mind is simple, but it does require time, effort, and patience. First, we must recognize and break agreement with the lies that we have believed, and receive the truth, as God reveals them to us. We must meditate on the truths every day for 30 – 60 days, until they become real in our heart, not just in our head. Head knowledge will never change us; it must be experiential, revelation knowledge that Holy Spirit reveals to our spirit. This comes from daily meditation. Meditation is simply thinking about, pondering, contemplating, “chewing on,” praying over, repeating the truths until they become second nature to us. It is similar to a cow chewing on its cud. The cow eats, regurgitates, and chews its food several times before finally digesting it. We must do this mentally, which requires disciplining and training our minds, literally.

We can do this as part of our quiet time each day, picking a Scripture verse, and journaling our thoughts and what God reveals to us. I won’t go into detail here about how to do that, but if you want to know more, you can read an article I wrote about this here. Learning to renew our minds is one part of the battle to get free. It is also a life-long habit we must practice to win the battle to stay free. It is God’s command to us (Rom. 12:2), and He never commands us to do anything He doesn’t give us the grace to do. We can do all things through His strength!

 

 

 

 

4 Keys to Prepare Our Hearts for the Coming Days

Charlene S Hughes

As a believer, if you pay much attention at all to current events in recent years, it is 4keyseasy to see that the world we live in is rapidly changing. Every day it seems, there is another headline about Christians being martyred, children being abducted and sold into sex trafficking, racial riots, celebrities changing their gender, and others. It is as if we are living in the days of Isaiah 60:2, See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,…” It can be hard, at times, to stay focused on the Lord and His promises as we watch so many sliding deeper and deeper into depravity. 

Even the Church is becoming more divided over basic biblical truths such as the institution of marriage, denying the reality of sin, hell, and eternal judgment, and claiming that all are already saved without the need for repentance. Certainly, all…

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4 Keys to Prepare Our Hearts for the Coming Days

As a believer, if you pay much attention at all to current events in recent years, it is 4keyseasy to see that the world we live in is rapidly changing. Every day it seems, there is another headline about Christians being martyred, children being abducted and sold into sex trafficking, racial riots, celebrities changing their gender, and others. It is as if we are living in the days of Isaiah 60:2, See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,…” It can be hard, at times, to stay focused on the Lord and His promises as we watch so many sliding deeper and deeper into depravity. 

Even the Church is becoming more divided over basic biblical truths such as the institution of marriage, denying the reality of sin, hell, and eternal judgment, and claiming that all are already saved without the need for repentance. Certainly, all is not lost, nor is the Church doomed to fail, but we must be aware of the signs of the times in which we live. In fact, Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of His day for being unable to discern the signs of the times unfolding before their eyes, saying, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” (Matt. 16:3b)

The danger in not being familiar with the signs of the times we live in is that we will be unprepared to face the difficulties, and take advantage of the opportunities that the signs are foretelling, when the time of their fulfillment comes. We could possibly be among those Jesus prophesied would fall away (Matt. 24:10-11). Many people, including believers, choose to turn a blind eye and not think about what could happen. Others give in to fear and self-preservation by stockpiling food, water and other material goods, hoping to somehow avoid any coming crisis. Still others are counting on being raptured away before the real troubles begin. Do any of these choices reflect the nature of Jesus?

I believe the best thing we can do to prepare ourselves for increasing difficulties is to spend time preparing our hearts. By that I mean, spending both quality and quantity time in the Lord’s presence, meditating upon His Word. The more we do this, the greater our faith will become, enabling us to stand no matter what comes against us. We also need to seek inner healing and deliverance in order to recapture any legal ground the enemy has to attack, torment, and deceive us. It also helps break lies we’ve believed about God, ourselves, and others so we can have healthier relationships. We need to be a part of a life-giving community, whether traditional church or small group, with people we know and trust. We are called a body because we need each other. We need to spend time in worship and prayer, not just at weekly meetings, but in our homes every day. Worship and prayer help us refocus on how big and awesome our God is, taking our focus off of our situations or the latest world crisis. Whatever we focus on grows.

I’m sure there are other ways, but these are a great place to start preparing your heart. Each of these require time, and time is short. We can’t afford to put off or wait until we feel like it to begin this critical preparation. Step out in faith, and trust the Lord to meet you and help you; it will be worth it!        

Get Victory Over a Victim Mentality

Have you ever known someone with a victim mentality? If you have, chances are likelyvictim sign you would know it. However, it is highly unlikely that the person who has chosen to believe this lie is aware of it. Of all the issues I’ve seen and ministered to over the years, this is one of the most difficult to get people to recognize and be willing to deal with so they can be free.

Someone with a victim mentality tends to wallow in self-pity. They believe everyone and everything is out to get them, and they feel powerless to do anything about it. When difficulties and disappointments come, as they do for all of us, they feel particularly targeted, as if nothing ever goes right for them. It seems to them that everyone else has it easier. They feel continually attacked by people, life in general, and even God, at times.

Often, this belief has its root in some traumatic experience. The “victim” felt violated, taken advantage of, unfairly accused, mistreated, etc. When it seems to happen over and over, they become convinced that this is just their lot in life; it will always be that way. This expectation then gives place to behaviors that actually set them up to be re-victimized. They usually become angry at the people or situations that have “done them wrong,” but underlying the anger is the feeling of powerlessness.

The belief of being powerless leads to blame-shifting, i.e., “it isn’t my fault; it’s someone else’s fault.” Victims refuse to take responsibility for their own behavior. They will make excuses for themselves, while blaming others, God, or life in general. Their outlook on life is negative. They find it difficult to trust anyone. It is a very debilitating lie!

So how does someone get free from this belief system? Often, inner healing and deliverance is needed first, so that the person is able to recognize the lie. We all choose to believe the things we do – no one can make us believe anything. Realizing they have chosen to believe this lie and live accordingly, is the first step to getting free. Repenting means, “to change the way you think,” and is necessary, for believing any lie is sin; it is coming into agreement with the enemy, the father of lies.

The next step is learning to take responsibility for their actions. This may take time, for old thought patterns don’t go away immediately. Meditating on the truth often, will accelerate the change in thinking. The truth is, God has given us free will, which means we can choose what we want to believe. Even when painful things happen that we didn’t choose, we can determine to respond in faith, believing God’s Word to work it all for good in our lives. He desires truth in our innermost being (Ps. 51:6) because He IS Truth and what He says about us is true. Growing in intimacy with God will further help us become aware of, and secure in, our true identity as God’s beloved child. We can be free, if we choose to be!

The Vanishing Virtue of Faithfulness

According to the dictionary, faithfulness means: strict or thorough in the Faithfulnessperformance of duty; true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.; steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant; reliable, trusted or believed; adhering or true to fact, a standard or original; accurate. It implies qualities of stability, dependability, and devotion; long-continued and steadfast fidelity to whatever one is bound to by a pledge, duty, or obligation; unswerving allegiance to a person, organization, cause, or idea. Unfortunately, this compelling virtue is becoming more and more scarce in our society and even in the Church.

It is not so surprising to see faithfulness vanish from our self-centered, self-serving society, but to see it diminishing in the Church is really inexcusable. Faithfulness is one of the foremost characteristics of our God. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Even creation is faithful (see Psalm 85:11). In Scripture, faithfulness is often mentioned in conjunction with God’s love (see Ps. 117:2, 138:2; Prov. 3:3, 14:22, 16:6, 20:28 for just a few). In marriage, and any relationship, the two go hand in hand. If you love someone, you will be faithful to them.

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for their lack of faithfulness: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” (Matt. 23:23)

He also said that if we want to be entrusted with more from God, we must be found faithful with the little we have: One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12)

Unfortunately, dishonesty and unfaithfulness seem to abound in every sphere and level of our society, from government, leaders in the Church, athletes, celebrities, the medical industry, business and marriage partners, parents, etc. The repercussions have taken a devastating toll on our society: a fatherless generation who distrusts and thus, disrespects authority, adulterous marriage relationships, even in the Church, people who go from church to church looking for leaders they can trust, a nation of cynics and skeptics who don’t trust or believe anybody anymore, even when they are actually telling the truth.

God’s people should be a reflection of His faithfulness to the world; however, we cannot do so apart from His empowering grace. We become faithful by meditating upon His faithfulness to us. Meditation upon His nature is the key to our becoming transformed into His image. If you want to be more loving, meditate upon His love. If you want more peace, meditate upon His peace. If you need more joy in your life, meditate upon His joy.

If you struggle with faithfulness, I encourage you to try this simple technique. Find the Scriptures that refer to His faithfulness and read, study, and meditate on them. List the ways and times He has proved His faithfulness to you and ponder them. Ask for His grace to enable you to be faithful to Him and to others, just as He has been to you. He loves to answer these kinds of prayers. Let us represent Him accurately; let us be faithful even as He is.

What is one way God has proved His faithfulness to you? Please comment below.

How to Thrive, Not Just Survive in the Wilderness

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. – Hosea 2:14

Have you ever been in a wilderness season in your walk with God? Maybe you’re in one wildernessnow. If you haven’t, chances are really good that you will. Not just once, but possibly several times. How do I know? Well, I’ve been through a few myself. And if you’ve read much of the Bible, you’ll notice most everyone God ever used had their own unique time in the wilderness, even Jesus. In fact, the wilderness is a common theme; the word is used over 270 times in the Old Testament alone.

The term can refer to a natural area of uninhabited land or pasture. The Hebrew word used literally means, a region suitable for pasturing sheep or cattle; an uncultivated place; not a barren desert. When used figuratively, it often depicts a place of barrenness and dryness, with little to no life or activity. Many times in Scripture it was a place of encounter with God, as seen in Hosea 2:14.

The Israelites encountered God as a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire in their wilderness wanderings. Moses encountered Him in the burning bush. David discovered God as his refuge during his years of running from Saul, hiding out in a cave. The Shulamite maiden encountered Him as a Bridegroom. There are many others as well.

So what does this mean for you and me? Why does God repeat this pattern so many times in Scripture? What are His purposes for these wilderness seasons in our lives? I’ve come up with at least 8 reasons God allows these times in our journey, based on Deuteronomy 8:2-9:

  • Reveals the hidden things in our hearts that hinder our relationship. (v. 2)
  • A time of testing our obedience to Him. (v. 2)
  • Humbles us, causing us to depend upon Him more fully. (v. 3)
  • Produces greater spiritual hunger. (v. 3)
  • We learn to hear His voice more clearly. (v. 3)
  • Proves His faithfulness to us. (v. 3-4)
  • Can be a form of discipline. (v. 5)
  • Preparation for a season of blessing. (v. 7-9)

Learning to understand God’s ways and purposes doesn’t always make these seasons easier, but we can learn to embrace them by His grace, when we realize the good that He wants to accomplish in our lives. I believe we can discover how to thrive in the wilderness, not just simply survive. How should we respond in order to do this? Here are a few suggestions that might help:

  1. Rather than run from the issues in our heart and soul, seek help and healing to get free. The more we are healed, the greater our intimacy with God can become.
  2. Seek His grace daily in areas you struggle to obey. Ask for help and prayer from those you trust.
  3. Humble yourself; trust Him to do what you cannot do. Let His strength come forth as you embrace your weakness.
  4. Make spending regular time with Him a priority. Increase that time as much as possible.
  5. Meditation in the Scripture is a great way to learn to hear His voice. Ask mature friends and leaders to help you if you struggle with this.
  6. Develop a daily attitude of gratitude. God deserves our gratitude, worship, and praise. Remember, grumbling and complaining cost some of Israel their promised land!
  7. Submit to His discipline. Repent, confess your sins to God and to trusted friends. Remember, He disciplines those He loves.
  8. Commit to continue this process when the season changes. Israel is one example of how quickly we can forget God during times of blessing and favor.

As we learn to embrace God’s ways rather than resist them, we can accelerate our spiritual growth. We can thrive, not just survive, in the wilderness.

What has God taught you in the wilderness seasons? I would love to hear your comments!