Are Excuses Keeping You From Your Potential?

I-cantWe humans are creatures of comfort and ease. When given a choice, we will usually take the short cut, the easy road, the comfortable way. We tend to complain when life is difficult, things don’t turn out as we planned, or we encounter setbacks. Rather than becoming more determined to accomplish what we desire, resolving to do whatever it takes, we begin to make excuses for why we can’t do it. It has been said that if something is important to you, you will absolutely find a way. If not, you will find an excuse. This is so true. Those who are desperate are willing to do what it takes, no matter how hard it may be, how long it may take, or how much it will cost. As the old adage goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The best illustration I can think of is someone who is physically impaired in some way, yet trains for years, taxing their strength, draining their emotions, and pushing beyond their limits to achieve what most would have deemed impossible. Yet they refused to accept that because somewhere deep inside them they believed it could be done, and that they could somehow accomplish it. Why is it that some have that kind of determination, while others seem content to just give up and accept defeat? I don’t know about you, but I have often pondered that question.

I’m sure there are many reasons, but I believe the core difference is that some people seem to have an innate sense of destiny, purpose, and greatness. Not necessarily that they will be famous one day, or publicly applauded for some great achievement, but that they are capable of so much more than they have yet to attain. Trials, difficulties, and setbacks only seem to spur them on even more. The thought of quitting or settling for less is reprehensible to them. We often call such people overachievers, driven, overcomers, as if their behavior is abnormal; they tend to overdo too much, are too extreme, or don’t know when to quit. Those kinds of people make the rest of us look bad, because if they can do it, that means it can be done. Which leaves the rest of us without a real excuse. We then have to face the truth – why am I not reaching my full potential?

The truth, I believe, is that most of us don’t see ourselves as worthy of achieving great things. After all, we’re all just ordinary, run of the mill folks just trying to get through each day and pay our bills, raise our families, do our jobs…right? We are content to live mediocre lives, believing that’s the best we can hope for, and to do that is better than most peoples’ lives. Besides, if we get our hopes up too much, we may be disappointed. Then we would know that we are nobody special. And therein lies the root of our excuses.

You were created for greatness by the all-powerful, all-loving Creator of the universe. You have been given destiny and purpose far beyond surviving each day. If you are a believer in Jesus, He lives within you, enabling you to do ALL things. He is with you, for you, and in you, therefore nothing and no one that matters can be against you. I encourage you to dare to believe Him. Dare to believe that what is impossible for you is possible for Him, working in and through you. When you live a life without excuses, you glorify the One who does all things well.

Truth is a Refuge

He will rescue you from the trap of the hunter and from the plague of calamities; He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge: His truth is a shield and protection. – Psalm 91:3-4

Psalm 91 is a favorite psalm of many believers. In it, God has given us a powerful picture oftruth the protection that is ours when we take refuge in Him. This doesn’t mean we are exempt from suffering, however. More important than just physical safety, God is able to keep our soul from eternal destruction. Nothing can snatch us from His hand. Nothing can separate us from His love. He will deliver us from the schemes of the enemy when we put our trust in Him.

The enemy, who prowls around hunting for his next victim, cannot find me when I am hidden in the secret place of the Most High. I am also safe from the plague of calamities – circumstances that test, hinder, and try to defeat me; that steal my peace and joy. I am oblivious to them when I am hidden in Him, for He is all I see and am aware of. When trials come, keeping my eyes fixed on Him instead of my problems will enable me to stay at peace.

He will rescue me though it may often appear as if I will be overtaken. He will come and snatch me out before I am overcome. He is my God, in whom I trust. I must trust Him no matter what is going on around me or how things may appear. He will rescue me, for that is His promise and He cannot lie.

Pinion is another word for wing or feather. His wings and feathers cover me. His truth is a shield and protection; a covering and refuge. His truth is His Word, His name, His nature, and His character, for He is the truth. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus. Truth is my covering, my shield and protection; it is my refuge where I am safe. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are kept safe.

When I live, walk, and speak truth I have nothing to fear from God or from man, for the truth sets me free. The enemy has no place in me when I walk in agreement with God, so I don’t fear what he could do to me either. Truth is the belt that holds all the other parts of the armor of God in place. To live in truth is to live in Him, and to live in Him is to live in truth. There is no darkness or deception in Him.

 

The Full Armor, Not an Exercise, But A Way of Life

db6990f53da4480d112fd1333a3dbe3aAs a believer for forty years, I’ve heard many interpretations and teachings on the full armor of God. It is a subject that many are familiar with. The main passage of Scripture that speaks of it is found in Ephesians 6:10-17. Most have turned it into a mental exercise where one visualizes “putting on” each piece of armor every day. The reason being, this is supposed to keep one safe from enemy attacks, almost like a magic charm or something. Frankly, this is a labor of futility. Not only does it not work, but it also misleads people into believing that going through the motions of this operation can protect them, rather than how they choose to live each day. I do not believe this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote this passage, as inspired by the Spirit of God.

When taken at face value, the meaning seems really simple to me. Each piece of the armor is symbolic of one aspect of Jesus’ nature or ministry. There are two different words translated “put on” used, the first is in Ephesians 6:11, the second, in 6:13. The first one means, to sink into clothing, to clothe one’s self, to envelop in, to hide in, to clothe with a garment. The second one means, to take up, to take in (to one’s self), to raise. The word used in 6:11 is the same word used in Romans 13:12, …“put on the armor of light,” and in Ephesians 4:24, “…put on the new self.” In fact, the whole verse of Ephesians 4:22-24, to me, is a precursor to the passage in chapter 6, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When interpreted in context, as all interpretations should be, the armor of God is, in essence, the nature of Christ. The first piece, the belt of truth, speaks of Jesus who said He was, “the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) This means that we should walk in truth in every area of our lives. Since satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), truth will always defeat him. The second piece, the breastplate of righteousness, speaks of Christ’s righteousness which is credited to us at salvation (Phil. 3:9), He, Himself, is our righteousness. The third piece, the shoes of peace, speak of being a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9, James 3:18), and also walking in the peace of God. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6), the gospel is to restore peace between God and man (Luke 2:14, Col. 1:20). The fourth piece, the shield of faith, speaks of our faith in Christ which helps us overcome (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:4). The fifth piece, the helmet of salvation, speaks of the protection of our soul (mind, will, emotions) that comes from the hope and meditation of our salvation (1 Thess. 5:8). The sixth, and last piece, the sword of the Spirit, speaks of the Word of God, which we use to refute the lies of the enemy (Heb. 4:12, Rev. 2:12, 2:16, 19:15). Jesus used the Word to defeat the enemy in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-10). It is our offensive weapon.

Finally, it is striking that Paul uses the word “stand” four times in verses 11, 13, and 14. This word literally means, be kept intact, to escape in safety; to uphold or sustain the authority or force of anything; to stop, stand still, to stand immovable, stand firm; to be of a steadfast mind; of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver.” This describes what our position should be when faced with the enemy. We do not fight, but rather stand, clothed with the nature of Jesus, in His authority which is above all authorities. We remain immovable and unshakeable for greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. 

When we clothe ourselves in Christ, taking on and standing in our new self made in His likeness, we have the greatest protection possible against the attacks of the enemy. This requires us to die to our flesh, surrender our ways, deny ourselves, and walk in obedience to the Lord, by His grace. It doesn’t mean we will never be assaulted by the enemy. It means we will continue to stand, and we will overcome him because Jesus did and He now lives in us. “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.” (Eph. 6:13)

Walking in Truth in an Epidemic of Deception

truth-lies-signIn today’s world, we see deception growing at an alarming rate. It seems more and more people, both believers and the lost, are being duped by fake news sites, false teachers, and duplicitous leaders than ever before. For years, a growing belief that truth is relative has become widespread. Many think that as long as they are sincere in their beliefs, they can decide for themselves what is true or not. But they are sincerely wrong, because truth is not relative, it is absolute. Truth is defined by one person only – the One who IS truth, and His name is Jesus. (John 14:6)

Jesus said the devil is a liar and the father of lies, and there is no truth in him. (John 8:44) So we know that much of the deception we are seeing is a result of people who are believing his lies. But Scripture also tells us we can deceive ourselves. This can happen in several ways: our prideful hearts can deceive us (Obadiah 1:3, Jer. 49:16); sin can deceive us (Rom. 7:11); believing God can be mocked can deceive us (Gal. 6:7); believing God tempts us can deceive us (James 1:13-16); and believing hanging out with the wicked won’t corrupt us, can deceive us (1 Cor. 15:33), to name a few.

Jesus said that knowing the truth will set us free (John 8:32), so seeking after, loving, and embracing truth should be one of our greatest desires and pursuits. We have been given God’s Spirit; He is also called the Spirit of Truth, who will lead us into all truth, according to Jesus. (John 16:13) He also acknowledged that God’s word is truth. (John 17:17) It is through speaking the truth in love that we grow into maturity. (Eph. 4:15) The belt of truth, in Eph. 6:14, is symbolic of truth being the piece of our protective armor that holds all the other pieces in place. Walking in truth is indeed great protection, guarding us from the enemy’s attacks. The Father seeks worshippers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

Truth is vital to our spiritual growth and maturity. We must not settle for mere head knowledge of it, however; we must daily apply it to our lives. Deception is the enemy’s greatest weapon because the nature of it is that you don’t know when you are being deceived. To get free from deception requires one to humbly submit to someone they trust more than they trust themselves. Believing lies will always lead to deception – always. We must know the truth for ourselves, believe it, receive it, and walk in it, no matter the cost. To not do so is spiritual suicide.

One of the scariest passages in Scripture is Romans 1:18-32, describing the downward spiral God allows in the lives of those who know, but suppress, the truth. This word, “suppress” literally means “to detain, hold back, hinder, or restrain the course or progress of.” These people knew God, but didn’t glorify or give Him thanks. They exchanged His glory for His creation, worshipping and serving His creatures rather than Him. And they exchanged His truth for lies, and did not believe knowing Him was worthwhile. They even knew that doing these things is wrong, but continued to do them, and approved of others who do likewise. We can see this happening all around us even now.

Obviously, God sent His Son to show us and teach us the truth so we can be free to know Him as He truly is, and to know ourselves as well. He has given us His Word and His Spirit to help us. It is up to us to take advantage of what He has made available, to ask Him to, “Show me Your ways, Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God, my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.” (Ps. 25:4-5)

The Liberating Power of Truth

truthbreakchainsIn a society where almost anything goes, truth is becoming increasingly offensive. Only the truth seekers are willing to embrace truth, even when it hurts, as it often does. Paul foretold of this time in Romans 1:18-32. In this sobering passage, he states that suppression of the truth leads to utter depravity and wickedness of every kind. In other words, ignoring or refusing to accept truth leads to demonic bondage and ultimately, destruction.

In stark contrast, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32) The teaching He referred to was His word. He is the word made flesh. He is the way, the truth and the life. Truth is not a set of rules or a standard of morality, it is a Person. This should help those of us who are truth seekers to better understand why the rejection of truth has become an epidemic. Jesus and His disciples were also rejected, and He told us the world hated Him and would therefore hate us as well. 

Already we are seeing increased hostility directed against those who are bold enough to speak the truth, especially in a public forum. I believe this animosity will become greater and even more violent in the coming days. As believers and truth seekers, we must prepare our hearts, our spirits and souls, for the troubles many will face. We must know what, and who we believe, and why. We must know God’s word and His truth, for He is the Rock upon which we stand through the storms. We cannot look to our pastors, spouses, friends or leaders to be there to help us. We have the greatest Helper – Holy Spirit. He has promised to never leave us and to give us the words to say when we are confronted by opposition.

Holy Spirit can remind us of the things Jesus said, but He cannot renew our minds, or read and meditate upon Scripture for us. That is our part and only we can do it. Jesus forewarned His disciples of His impending death and resurrection. He did this, not to frighten them, but to inform them so they could prepare, as much as they knew how, to face those challenges. May the Scriptures I’ve mentioned here, along with many others, do the same for us. May God give us the grace to seek to know, live, and speak the truth every day of our lives. He will be faithful to His promise that those who seek, will indeed find what they are looking for.  As we choose to love the truth, we will have nothing to fear.

 

The Deception of Denial

denialIt has been said that the first step to healing is to acknowledge one’s need of it. Living in denial is a deceptive trap that keeps us in bondage. An example of this is seen in Mark 2:15-17: While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The tax collectors and sinners recognized their need of a Savior, and followed Him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law, on the other hand, showed contempt of His association with those considered the outcasts of society. Their self-righteousness blinded them to their own need, thus, cutting themselves off from His salvation and mercy.

When we live in denial, we create our own false reality that is rooted in pride. This can be seen in those who believe that everyone else is the problem; they couldn’t possibly be to blame. When others disagree with our views, we automatically believe that they are wrong, we certainly couldn’t be! Denial is also categorized by refusal to acknowledge painful memories, thoughts or feelings. Doing so, of course, cannot make them go away. Facing the truth about ourselves and/or our hurtful situations is very hard, but it’s the only way to get healing and freedom. 

Jeanne McElvaney wrote, “There is a moment in our healing journey when our denial crumbles; we realize our experience and it’s continued effects on us won’t “just go away”. That’s our breakthrough moment. It’s the sun coming out to warm the seeds of hope so they can grow our personal garden of empowerment.” 

Jesus said that when we know the truth, the truth will set us free. May God give us all the grace we need to face the truth, acknowledge our need of healing, and receive the freedom He has already paid for and longs for us to have.

Insights from Ephesians 1- Every Spiritual Blessing

Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the EphesiansMessiah. Praised be Adonai, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who in the Messiah has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven. In the Messiah He chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in His presence. (Eph. 1:2-4)

The first chapter of the book of Ephesians contains some of the most powerful truths in the Bible. It reveals great insight into who we are in Christ, and what we have been given as a result of being joined to Him. Meditating upon these truths over several years has been life changing for me. Since God is no respecter of persons, I know it will impact you powerfully as well.

God provides grace for us, the power to live this life to which He has called us. Through the enablement of His indwelling Spirit, we can do all things that He requires of us. Shalom literally means, “security, safety, prosperity, bliss; the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.” This shalom is ours because of what God has done for us through Jesus. Yet this is just the beginning of what we have been given!

Paul goes on to say that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven through Christ. Everything that Jesus is, and has, is ours. We are joint heirs with Him. (Rom. 8:17) This includes being conformed into His divine image and nature. (2 Peter 1:3-4) Since God is not bound by time like we are, He sees all of eternity as one continuum. He sees us as already perfected because He sees the end from the beginning.

Through Christ we have wisdom, for He, Himself, is our wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:30) We have revelation through His Spirit, who guides us into all truth. (John 16:13) He has given us power, manifested through the gifts of the Spirit. We have been given His nature which is seen when we bear the fruit of His Spirit. There is absolutely nothing He has forgotten, excluded, or withheld from us that is of, or from, Him.

We were chosen because of His love for us. (1 John 4:19) Knowing before creation that we would sin, He made provision, through Jesus’ sacrificial work on the cross, for our sanctification. Jesus was slain from before the foundation of the earth. (Rev. 13:8) All of this was planned in advance because of His desire for relationship with us. He sees us as holy and without defect (Song of Sol. 4:7) because of the blood of Jesus.

In just three verses, we get a glimpse of the great love that God has for us, His beloved children. I encourage you to meditate upon these truths and pray that as you do, He will stir within your heart a greater love for Him than you have ever known. Since He has given so much to us, He deserves all that we have to give to Him.