In 2 Kings 18-19 the King of Assyria is using psychological warfare against God’s people. He is reminding them how he has devastated nation after nation and how each nation’s “gods” have been insufficient to stop him. He warns King Hezekiah and God’s people not to be deceived into thinking that the God of Israel will protect them. The Assyrian king assumes that the God of Israel and His people will fall before him or be miserably defeated just like all the rest.
Well he assumed wrong! The Assyrian king and the Assyrian army never even stepped foot in Jerusalem. They paid a high price for underestimating the power of God and rebelling against His authority.
The enemy uses psychological warfare in your mind as well, doesn’t he? He whispers things like this: “The problems are just too big. The addiction is just too strong. The temptation is just too powerful. The struggle just isn’t worth it. Others have failed, so will you. Not even God can help you now.” The “father of lies” constantly and continually bombards your thinking and seeks to defeat you before the battle ever begins. However, take a moment and listen to God’s response to the King of Assyria:
“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When YOU and I walk in obedience as a result of our faith in God and His Word, the enemy fails and falters each and every time. However, when we listen to his “psychological” warfare, filled with lies about God’s insufficiency and inability, we are “ripe for the picking.” If the enemy can defeat us in our minds then he has already won the battle.
We must know the Truth, believe the Truth and live out the Truth by faith. Satan is called the “father of lies” for a reason! Just remember, it is the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32)! Read, memorize, love, act upon and rest in the TRUTH and you can experience victory in every area of life.
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
We all know someone who is broken, someone who is wounded and hurting. Truthfully, we are all broken people. We have been broken by grief, poverty, infertility, abuse, depression, torn families and marriages, and shame from past mistakes. For some of us, the wounds are raw and bleeding. The pain is real and fresh. It is a hurt so great that we feel like we might suffocate beneath the burden of it. For others, the pain is buried. It is carefully hidden and tucked away deep inside. Oh, but it is still there. Every day, every moment that we can’t escape it, we are reminded that we are broken. God sees our brokenness. God feels our brokenness, and He loves us in our brokenness.
Mary and Martha were broken. Their beloved brother had died, and their best friend, the Healer, wasn’t there. They must have felt abandoned. They were hurting, and when Jesus finally arrived, they cried out in despair. Why? They didn’t know or understand His ultimate plan. Even though Jesus knew that His friends would be reunited with their dearly departed brother, He was moved by their brokenness. John 11:35 says that “Jesus wept.” I’m here to tell you, Jesus weeps for you, too. He loves broken people.
There is a blessing in brokenness. When we find that there is nothing left of ourselves, nowhere else to turn, there is potential for something miraculous to happen. When we get out of the way, quit fighting, God has room to work in our lives. Often times, we don’t quit fighting until there is nothing left in us to fight. Our strength is gone. God is ready and willing to rescue us; He wants to save us—to reveal His glory in us.
“ ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. . . . For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ ”
God Loves the Sick.
There is a story in the Gospel of Mark of a man named Legion. His name was a reference to the many demons that vexed him day and night. Legion was sick, very sick. Out of his mind, he lived in the tombs where they buried the dead. He couldn’t be contained—by clothes or by chains. No one liked Legion; no one went to see him. But one day, Someone came to see Legion. “And when [Legion] saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him” (Mark 5:6). The day had finally arrived. Legion was going to be sick no more. Jesus was moved by the sickness that plagued him. From that day forward, Legion was forever transformed by the miraculous mercy and healing power that Christ showed that day.
Have you ever met someone that is so deep in sin that they can’t even see their way out? Their lives are so consumed by addiction and destruction that disaster is left in the wake of every move they make. What is even more confusing, it seems that they are choosing to live that way. How desperate they must be; how empty inside they must feel. These are the people that destroy homes and families. Everything they touch turns to ash, and they are killing themselves with each new choice they take. They are the people we tell our children to avoid and the ones that fill our prisons. And God loves them. He loves them deeply, and He longs to heal them just as He did Legion. Satan has gained a foothold in their lives and will continue to destroy them until there is nothing left. God wants to bring them hope. He is offering them the gift of new life.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
~Romans 5:6, 8
God Loves the Ugly.
I heard of a man who sold out his best friend for mere chump change. Another guy I know abandoned his loved one in his darkest hour. Maybe worse than that is the story of a man who lost everything and then these three guys that were supposedly his friends told him it was his fault! You may have heard these stories, too. Judas, Peter, Job’s Friends—the Bible is full of stories of ugly people. We don’t have to look very far to find ugly people in our own lives. There is the person that cuts you off in traffic and then has the nerve to drive slowly. What about the person that gets angry with you because the store where you work ran out of their favorite item? Sometimes the ugliness hits closer to home. Maybe it is the person you share your life with, the person lying next to you in bed. When was the last time you felt they loved you, appreciated you? Maybe it is the person you sit next to every Sunday at church. You give and give and still they expect you to give more. They expect you to be perfect and condemn you when you are not. Maybe it is a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor. Ugly people can be found anywhere. They taunt us and know exactly just what buttons to press. Yet, God loves them. He sees them for what they really are—weak, alone and lost.
If you are a believer, the truth is you were once an ugly person as well. God didn’t wait for you to become good before He saved you. Romans reminds us that God reached down when we were utterly helpless (5:6). There was nothing good about us, certainly nothing to be worth the ultimate sacrifice. But He did. He gave His life for ugly people like you and me. Today, God is still saving ugly people. He is making something beautiful with their lives. One of my favorite choruses written by the Gaithers says “Something beautiful, something good / All my confusion He understood / All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife / But he made something beautiful of my life” (“Something Beautiful”).
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’ ”
Whose heart doesn’t break when you see children who are being neglected physically or emotionally? Our hearts should be broken when the most vulnerable among us are ignored, mistreated, or neglected as a result of an addiction or even a parent’s hobby. Yet many of us who are horrified at this type of neglect, can be guilty of or apathetic toward a different, and potentially worse type of neglect . . . SPIRITUAL NEGLECT. It is our responsibility to take the initiative to train our children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6) and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Dads have been commanded by God to step up to the plate and teach their children God’s Word and we’ve all been called to be godly examples. No doubt the church has an important role to play in all of this, but the church can never take the place of a godly mom and dad who are madly in love with Jesus Christ.
What kind of Christian young man or young lady will your child be if they follow in your footsteps? Where will they spend eternity if they choose to do with Jesus, what YOU have done with Him? Men, if your daughters marry a man who is just like you and treats them the way you treat your wife, would you like your son-in-law? Ladies, if your boys married a wife who is just like you and treats them they way you treat your husband, would you like your daughter-in-law?
I don’t ask these questions because I’ve got it all together. I am FAR from being the model dad or husband. However, I think it’s time we begin to ask some hard questions and its time we quit playing Russian Roulette with our families.
Flagship Church is committed to helping equip parents with the information and tools from God’s Word to enable them to be successful in God’s eyes in regards to having a Christ-centered home and having marriages that thrive. Plan on joining us this Sunday, and determine through God’s grace that 2014 will be the year that you reclaim your home and family for the glory of God! Let’s work together to see this happen.
This may come as a surprise, but your marriage isn’t about you. It isn’t about your spouse or even your kids. Your marriage is about showing God’s glory. Paul writes in Ephesians, “. . . we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (5:30-33). Over and over again in the Scriptures, God uses marriage as an illustration of His loving and eternal covenant with His people. We are told that “whether [we] eat or drink [or marry], or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Here’s another shocker—it doesn’t take two committed Christians to show God’s glory. It only takes one. How can I say that? Take a look at 1 Peter 3:1-2: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.” Again in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband.” Please do not misunderstand. If you are not yet married, I am not encouraging you to marry an unbeliever. The Bible is clear—Christians should be joined in marriage only with other Christians. Still, these verses remind us (and give us hope), that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in presently, we can still bring glory to God in our marriage.
How did I come to this conclusion? I have been married for ten years, and for the first time, I myself am learning that my marriage isn’t about me. There are so many adjectives that I could use to describe our years of marriage. There have been times of joy, intimacy, love, friendship, forgiveness, trust and laughter. But not all of the adjectives would be so positive. There have been moments of anger, pain, tears, heartache, betrayal and loneliness. Truth be told, there were moments that I didn’t think we would make it. Some valleys were so dark that I couldn’t see the light at the end. Pain so real, I felt it might suffocate me. But God has never been more real to me than when I needed Him most.
I have a confession to make. I am a hopeless romantic. Yes, it is true. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books (and movies). However childish it may be, I still dream of being a Disney princess who is saved by Prince Charming. I long to be swept off my feet, protected and adored. My heart yearns to be his whole world. But can I tell you something else? My husband doesn’t share my same romantic imaginations. No doubt about it, he loves me, but he would rather take a nap than pry his eyes open to watch another one of my fairy tale movies. The two of us couldn’t be more different!
Over the years, our differences have produced many arguments and lead to countless tears. In my prayers, I have begged God just to help him see. Lord, help him see how much he loves me, needs me! Right God? He does love me? Or is there something wrong with me? Tell me what it is. I will change. I will do it. Whatever it is. But please, do something. Recently, I have felt that God has been gentling telling me “no.” My dear child, I love you. I’m hurting with you. Trust me. Let me work through you. I will show you what to do, one step at a time, but you have to trust me. I want to use your marriage to reveal my glory. It’s not about you. My eyes are drawn to the page in my Bible that reminds me “this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).
I do not know exactly how God will use our marriage to bring Him glory, and I do not understand every step I need/should take. Yet, tonight I am trusting Him. I believe that if my marriage had always been easy, I would not have come to rely on the Lord as much as I do. If I would have been swept off my feet like some princess, I would have depended on my husband for that which I can only truly find in the Lord. As my husband has reminded me, God shines best through cracked pots, and well, we are certainly a couple of cracked pots! I have learned more about the character of God through my marriage than anywhere else. Every passing year of our marriage, I grow more in love with my beloved husband and my beloved heavenly Father. Through all the trials, I would not take anything back because He is working it for His greater good, for His glory. I am honored to be a part of that.
Let me reassure you. I love my husband. He is strong and not afraid to get his hands dirty. He is my best friend and knows me better than anyone else on earth. Even when I am angry, he can make me laugh. He is an amazing cook and can sweet talk his way right into my heart. He is a hard worker, a faithful provider, a committed father and husband. But he is not perfect. Neither am I. With all our quirks, our differences, our baggage and our brokenness, God made us for each other. My prayer for you and for me is that we would allow God to take the good, bad and the ugly in our marriages and use them for His glory. Right now in this moment, I hope I am!
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so thatthe power of Christ may rest upon me.”
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that the words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel”
~Ephesians 6:18-19 ESV
I love a good mystery! A book or movie that keeps you guessing and is full of twists and turns until the answer is finally revealed in the end! But what is this mystery of which Paul speaks? Why is it so important that others know it? Paul mentions the mystery several times in the New Testament and throughout the book of Ephesians. In chapter three he describes it as the mystery “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (verse 6). It is the same mystery that the angels proclaimed on the night of Jesus’ birth: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for allpeople” (Luke 2:10, emphasis added).
To answer the second question . . . If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, then you know the freedom that comes from having a relationship with Him. A popular song on the radio says, “I am redeemed/ You set me free/ So I’ll shake off these heavy chains . . .I am redeemed” (Big Daddy Weave “Redeemed”). The freedom and redemption we have in Christ is not for us alone. Jesus called us to proclaim the gospel, to make this great mystery known to all people! Paul reminds us that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). God wants to use us as vessels to bring a broken people to him to be restored and made whole.
Despite seeing the need people have for the Lord and undefined gratitude I have for the grace bestowed on my own life, I have a hard time with this. I don’t know what it is. Stick me in front of a crowd and give me a topic and I could lecture for hours, but send me to the next door to my neighbor’s house or in the living room of a family member and I freeze. I want so badly to see my loved ones in heaven. I want them to know in their heart the mystery that has been made known in my life. It is the mystery of God’s undying love for a fallen generation. Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So what do I do? First, I am asking that God would give me a deep, inescapable burden for them. I want Him to help me see them as He does—as sheep without a Shepherd (see Mark 6:34). I want to pray and not give up. Second, I’m seeking to show love to them in practical ways—breakfast, a card, taking interest in their lives, etc. Lastly, and this is where I struggle, I want to make the most of the opportunities that God gives me. May I not shy away from proclaiming the truth. Sometimes, I am the most fearful with my family members. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it is because they know me, and they have seen me fall on my face so many times. Maybe it is because I am afraid of their rejection or coming across as pious and unloving. Or maybe it is because I am afraid their hearts are too hard and their rejection is imminent. Whatever the reason, I know the Lord is able to do the impossible, if only we are willing.
I recently spent a wonderful weekend with my family, including a dearly loved grandmother who was celebrating a very special birthday. My heart was burdened for her because I’m not sure where she stands with the Lord. I kept praying that God would give me opportunities and boldness to proclaim the gospel. The last day with her, I went for a walk early that fall morning. Looking around at God’s majestic beauty, I was praying, Lord, don’t let her miss this. Help her to see from where this beauty comes. Help her to know you have loved her all along. Lord, I want to see her in heaven one day. As I left that day, I told her I loved her and was praying for her. I still don’t have any definite answers, but I believe the mystery of the gospel is working on her heart.
Close your eyes and think of someone who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord. Who came to mind? Who do you need a burden for? Are you proclaiming the gospel with boldness? It is not just a job for your pastor. God called us, as His disciples, to take the message to the whole world (see Acts 1:8). Are you making the most of the opportunities that you have been given? Would you pray for me? Pray “that the words may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” Let’s go in the Lord’s strength and share the good news with those who have not yet experienced the glorious freedom in Christ!
“Look carefully then how you walk . . . making the best use of your time.”
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .”
~Matthew 28:18-19a (emphasis mine)
Something miraculous happened at my house this weekend. The Latte Ladies, our church’s women ministry, met at my house for breakfast and Bible study. You may think this sounds mundane, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You see, in between bites of pancake and sips of coffee, discipleship was happening.
In the little over a year since we began our ladies’ Bible study, I have come to love these women as my own family. They have been a blessing to me in so many ways—helping, praying, encouraging, laughing, relating, fellowshipping, sharing . . . the list goes on. Yet, possibly my favorite thing about this group of women is their willingness to be so brutally honest. They aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions, and they are truly seeking the answers. I often think of Phillip when he asked in Acts 8:30, “Do you understanding what you are reading?” Only, I feel so helpless sometimes to answer their questions. Sometimes, I have to honestly have to say, “I don’t know.” They challenge me to dig deeper into God’s word and seek His face. Their burdens have become my burdens, and these wonderful women are constantly on my heart.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:5). Although the Latte Ladies aren’t my children, I feel abundant joy in seeing them grow in grace. Just thinking about them and how they have grown brings a smile to my face. Nothing makes me happier than to see them experience Christ in a very real and personal way! I think of the grieving mother who is beginning to heal. I think of one who has served in the church for many years and is now seeing Christ move in new ways in her life. I think of a hurting mother who is learning to love her kids again. It doesn’t stop there. The light God is shining in these women’s lives is coming into their homes. God is using them to reach their families for His glory. So I rejoice in hearing that an unbelieving husband took his kids to church for the first time! I give praise to the Lord for the husband who has been saved and is now following in believer’s baptism! What amazing joy I have in seeing a stony heart become softened by the gospel—the gospel that is being lived in her life!
What a privilege it is to be a part of something so incredible! I am humbled in knowing that God chose me to lead them, to disciple them. At times, I feel inadequate. After all, I am far from perfect and my family has its own mess of problems. How could I possible help another when sometimes I don’t know how to help myself? I find hope and encouragement from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (18:27). By becoming a vessel for God to use, He can work through me to do works greater than I. Last Saturday, that is exactly what He did. The Potter took this scarred, broken pot and used it for His glory. As I sat at the table with tears streaming down my face, I looked at each of the women and my heart was crushed with love for them. After a night of battling my own demons and fruitlessly arguing with God, He was bringing me my own healing. We didn’t end that day knowing the answers to our hardest questions, but I believe we grew one step closer to knowing the character of God, to grasping at His awesomeness.
As our time drew to a close that day, I challenged the ladies (myself included) to “be Jesus with skin on.” It is the same challenge I present to you today. Someone you know (or will soon meet) needs to see Jesus in your life. There may be a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a person in your church that is hurting and searching for some answers. Don’t expect to have the all the answers, but God can still and wants to use YOU in their life. He is calling you to surrender your will to His purposes. Sometimes He will call you to pray at an altar with someone or share God’s word with them, and other times God will call you to humbly serve them or to meet a need in their life. When you allow Him to take the brokenness of your own life into His capable hands, He can do something far greater than you can imagine! Discipleship is a beautiful thing! Christ set the example for us. He surrendered His rightful place on a heavenly throne and knelt before a fallen creation to serve and to save. God calls each of His followers to “go and make disciples.” No one is exempt from this calling. If you have been mercifully and wonderfully saved by the grace of Jesus than there is someone you can serve through discipleship. God can bring a miracle to your home, too!
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from the supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet . . .”
The truth is Jesus knows all about YOU! He knows your heart, your motives, your desires, your faults, your failures, your weaknesses, your struggles, your sincerity, your ____________________________________ (fill in the blank). He knows. The amazing thing is that even though He knows, He still loves us.
As I was reading in my devotions this morning I came across this Scripture:
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. John 2:24-25
There were many who “believed” in Jesus the “miracle man” (see John 2:23). According to the Amplified Bible they simply “identified themselves with His party” after seeing the signs and wonders He performed. However, we know that the new birth is more than verbal identification. We are to trust in, cling to and rely upon the risen Christ as our Lord and Savior. Faith in Christ leads to the New Birth (John 3:3) and a total transformation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
So as He looks deep into my soul and yours what does He see? Does He see a meaningless mental consent to Christianity or does He see a genuine faith in Him? We often talk about committing our lives to Christ, but we see from this passage that Christ commits Himself to those who truly believe.
You will cast all of our sins into the depths of the sea. (ESV)
Through the new birth God forgives our sin and He removes the penalty of sin from us and He removes us from the power of sin (see John 3:3-21, Romans 6:14). He declares righteousness where no righteousness has been. This happens because Christ’s righteousness is added to our account when we trust Him by faith (2 Corinthians 5:21).
It is through Christ and His atoning sacrifice that we can experience this forgiveness and have the assurance that our sins have been placed in the “depths of the sea” and have been placed behind God’s back (Isaiah 38:17).
Have YOU trusted Christ to forgive YOU of YOUR sins? He is able to remove the guilt of YOUR past, He will enable YOU to live in victory in the present and give YOU an amazing future. Trust Him today!
In today’s devotion from Fusion (p. 18) (http://www.randallhouse.com/shop/fusion/) we are reminded that SIN keeps people from the Kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul lists several of these sins that were prevalent in the Corinthian culture.
Corinth was a sex saturated culture (sounds like our society). They had taken God’s gift of sex and had deviated from His plan. The same is true today. People are taking fire (God’s gift of sex) out of the fireplace (marriage). Because of this people are getting burned and getting burned bad. Paul reminds the Corinthians that sexual immorality, adultery and homosexuality keep people from inheriting the Kingdom of God.
Paul also deals with some others sins that were prevalent in the Corinthian culture. He mentions idolatry, thievery, greed and drunkenness among other things. Sin keep us from God’s Kingdom! Paul wants to make this perfectly clear.
But then listen to what Paul says in verse 11:
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Did you get that? Paul is writing to a group of people who WERE (past tense) sexually immoral, drunks, crooks and the list goes on. However, they are not that anymore! Something happened! What happened?
They were washed! Praise God for the precious blood of Jesus Christ that washes away our sins! (1 Peter 1:18-19)
They were sanctified. Because of their faith in Jesus Christ they had been adopted into the family of God and were “set apart” from the world unto God.
They were justified! The penalty for their sin was removed because the righteousness of Jesus Christ had been credited to their account. God now looked at them “just as if” they had never sinned! (Romans 5:1)
It is easy for us to point out sin and point at people who are guilty of sin, but may we never forget where we would be today without Jesus Christ. The fact of the matter is we are ALL SINNERS in need of a Savior. We like to categorize our sin as “little” compared to some, however any SIN breaks fellowship God regardless of what category we would like to place it in. It needs to be forgiven and cleansed and this takes place through faith in Christ and Christ alone!
Let us offer this hope of forgiveness to those who are still bound by sin. Let us remember the forgiveness that we needed and hopefully have already experienced through our relationship with Christ.
Timmy Brister lists six ways we can minimize the sin that is in our lives. The six ways he mentions are:
God help us not to minimize the very thing that separated us from YOU and that sent Christ to the cross in order that we might be set free from the penalty and power of sin. Help us to hate sin. Help us to despise that which is evil and cling to that which is good.