"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to our holy name and glory in your praise." Psalms 106:47
Holy God, the heavens are your battleground! You fight against the cosmic forces over darkness. Your power and majesty are at work all around me through the unseen world of the spirit. And through my earthly worship I take up your sword each day to withstand any evil, in your Son’s name. Amen
One of my favorite lines by Jesus in the Bible is, “Get behind me, Satan!” as He rebukes Peter for having the wrong mindset about Jesus’ work. His exact words are repeated in Matthew 16 and Mark 8. Jesus also uses similar words in speaking directly to Satan in Matthew 4:10 with “Be gone, Satan!” I jokingly use these phrases when donuts appear in front me. Recently, however I heard teaching about spiritual warfare and I realized I had the completely wrong approach to it.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him."Psalm 28:7
We so often talk about rebuking Satan or fighting our “Goliaths” when in reality we shouldn’t be speaking to the devil at all. It’s dangerous work that I would venture to say most of us are not prepared to withstand. Even the archangel Michael used God as his shield rather than his own words. Instead, we should be relying on the incredible power of the Trinity to fight our spiritual battles.
Along this same line I once told a friend we shouldn’t be asking, “What would Jesus do?” but rather what would Jesus want me to do? We are not fully man and fully God. We are just man. And we need to acknowledge that alone we only have the power given to us through the Spirit. God, through His great love for us, will take care of the rest. Isn’t that beautiful and amazing?
So what do we do? We enact the famous lines from Ephesians 6 and put on our armor of God. We stand firm in God’s truth. We fit our feet with Jesus’ gospel of peace. We arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word. In other words, we allow God to fight His glorious fight with the devil while we do the seemingly mundane acts of worship, studying our Bibles, praying for intercession, baptizing in His name, and spreading His Word of peace and salvation.
Friends, we need to start saying, “Get behind my Lord and Savior Jesus, Satan.” He is the blinding shield, the kryptonite against evil. He is the most powerful weapon we could ever imagine to ward off the arrows lobbed at us. Each time we open our Bibles, go to church, show love to a stranger, speak the Gospel truth into a friend we place that shield firmly in place for God to enter into battle.
“At this they tried to seize Him but no one laid a hand on Him because His hour had not come.” John 7:30
“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Exodus 6:22
My church is in the midst of a study of Genesis and a few weeks ago we landed on the story of Noah. Christians and non-Christians alike are very familiar with this famous Bible story. How often do we see cute children’s books, artwork, decorations that take up this story showing all the cute animals piled into a tiny boat riding out the storm with a rainbow overhead?
During the sermon I was struck with the thought that this is not a sweet story at all. It’s a story of total depravity on the part of man versus the faith of one warrior for God. The face-off between a world bathing in the flesh and one, lonely soul swimming against that tide. The ark was a last chance lifeboat built by a soldier, an obedient servant who loved God.
For anyone who has ever seen the movie, “Evan Almighty” – a theatrical depiction of a modern-day Noah – the result of being a warrior for God, even a reluctant one, is shown in all its technicolor truth. Friends, family, neighbors, the media, and even the government may come against us.
“When you give your best to the Lord, it’s not unusual to be criticized by people who ought to encourage you. Moses was criticized by his brother and sister. David by his wife, and Mary of Bethany by an apostle.”
Warren Wiersbe commentary on 1 Samuel
During the extreme lockdowns of 2020 there were many “warriors for God” who found themselves on the receiving end of much criticism from Christians and non-Christians. Pastors and even Catholic bishops who insisted that churches needed to remain open and serve their flocks were impugned by church authority, the media, non-believers, and parishioners. In some states the government brought the full force of the law down with arrests and extravagant fines.
Now, some might still say churches should’ve been closed to protect people from illness. But these flock protectors felt called by God to bring healing to people’s hearts and minds and souls. Church attendance has never been a requirement for anyone. And they believed those who needed church should be allowed to partake in its offerings. Parallel arguments about keeping people from getting sick included the admonishment to obey governments based on Romans 13. And yet the clarification of hierarchy of obedience is spelled out in Acts 5.
"The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” Acts 5:27-29
About a few months into the lockdowns, I started seeing a confident warrior for God pop up in my Instagram feed. This young man had originally run for a state office in Northern California. He ran as a conservative Christian in a heavily liberal area and lost. I had donated a small amount to his campaign about a year before and had apparently “followed” his account. He is a musician by trade, a devout family man, and a fervent follower of Christ.
And when our churches shut down in California, he stepped out onto a stage bigger than he’d ever imagined. Compelled by visions given by God, he would show up at a beach with a local pastor, his family, a few other musicians and put on a revival meeting of sorts. As word grew, each time he held a “Christ concert” more people would find their way to listen. More people asked to be baptized in the cold ocean waters. And more people started harassing them. And fines by local authorities started piling up. And he wouldn’t stop.
You may have heard by now about Sean Feucht and his merry band of “Let Us Worship” team. They’ve since led large worship services all over the United States, including Washington DC. Sean may have lost a politician’s job but he gained so much more. Throughout the pandemic their small pastoral team helped lead thousands to give up fleshly addictions and find Christ. All the while, others would show up at these events screaming demonic words, throwing blood on them and even accosting his pregnant wife.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10
I can only imagine how many times Sean and his family have reminded themselves of this statement by Jesus to Satan. I’ve watched the videos of Sean’s meetings in Portland and Seattle. It’s some of the most disturbing things I have seen in terms of demonic possession of people. You may raise an eyebrow at that statement but truly, I have never seen anything like it.
Sean is just a man. A man with a family to protect. A man who is trying to make his way through this world just like you and me. He didn’t start serving the Lord suddenly during the pandemic, he has a quiet history of spreading God’s Word including countries outside the United States. He has led missionary trips to Afghanistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He is obviously a man used to trusting God. And isn’t it fascinating to know that he went to those dangerous places to share the gospel seemingly as preparation to lead thousands into worship in a “safe” place like the United States?
We won’t all be warriors for God just like Sean but every person who chose to attend one of his meetings during these difficult times was a warrior in their own way. Today, every person who hears God’s urging to step out in faith and stand for Him takes up the armor and can call themselves a warrior. We have a lot of good soldiers who have paved the way for us, to drawn on how they trusted God to protect them until their time was done.
As God always does, He has placed quite a lot of podcasts, sermons, and Bible studies in front of me in the last few weeks on this very character trait of Jesus. I wanted to share with you a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to help spur our warrior character on.
Lord, help me start seeing myself as a might soldier in the army of God. You have provided every weapon I need to prevail against the enemies that come against my life, my family, my business, my friends and my church. I want to stand tall and firm against the wicked plots the devil tries to exert against people’s lives whom I love and need. Holy Spirit, give me the power and strength I need to successfully resist every attack and to drive all dark forces from my life and from the lives of those close to me! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
I was having lunch the other day with a friend and she shared with me a disturbing trend in her two Bible study groups. She said to me, “I’ve had it. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to hear either side anymore.” You see, the Christians in her group forgot who was in charge of their lives and the great gift of peace bestowed on believers. They started arguing about politics. In fact, one of her groups completely dissolved because of this.
When we think about the status of our faith, we usually concern ourselves inwardly. But throughout the New Testament we are charged with guiding our fellow believers closer to God’s truths and blessings.
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
So often that “bitter root” that gets fomented in our churches, faith groups, Bible studies, etc causes people to disconnect from their faith journey. And if we have joined in creating that situation, we must count ourselves at least partially responsible for the results.
It is easy to throw stones at others, but glass houses should whisper caution.
Charles Spurgeon on A Political Dissenter
That’s not to say we aren’t to discuss the worldly goings on and the effects they have on our lives. But our primary focus should be always on God and being peacemakers.
When the Covid pandemic hit and a Bible study I was in was still meeting we were discussing our fears and such. The group leader proclaimed, “I believe God is sending us this pandemic as punishment for what we have done to the environment.” I’m sure that just caused everyone reading this to divide into camps. Now, I love the environment but I’m not an “environmental activist.” And that statement didn’t sit well with me. But instead of going on the attack I kept my mouth shut for once realizing that nothing I might say would change her mind or be helpful.
We seem to have evolved into a society where our opinions absolutely must be heard and must be accepted or else we are prepared to judge our “adversary” in all manner of ways. And when this happens within a Christian group, I can tell you one thing for sure, Satan is quite happy.
This quote by AW Tozer is a bit long but he handles this issue very well:
One thing must be kept in mind: We Christians are Christians first and everything else after that. Our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are grateful for political freedom. We thank God for democracy as a way of life. But we never forget that we are sons of God and citizens of another city whose builder and maker is God. For this reason, we must not identify the gospel with any political system or make Christianity to be synonymous with any form of government, however noble. Christ stands alone, above and outside of every ideology devised by man. He does not join any of our parties or take sides with any of our great men except as they may come over on His side and try to follow Him in righteousness and true holiness. Then He is for them, but only as individuals, never as leaders of some political faction. The true Christian will be loyal to his country and obedient to those in authority, but he will never fall into the error of confusing his own national culture with Christianity. Christianity is bigger than any country, loftier than any civilization, broader than any human ideology.
I’ll be honest, I’ve really struggled with this issue for the last few years. I want to live in God’s peace but I also am a lover of freedom and America. For the last few months each time I work myself up to being outraged over some issue I’ve turned to God. I remind myself that He is ultimately in charge. I remind myself that my job, as a Christian, is to share His Word and live faithfully by it. That means showing grace and compassion. It also means “allowing” God to handle everything until He tells me He needs me to do my part.
When we truly desire to be peacemakers and have Christian solidarity as a goal, we change our conversations and words. Instead of sending around an inflammatory news article or Facebook post to our Bible study group and letting it drop like a bomb, we should share with them the struggle we have with the issue and where we see God in it.
The apostle Paul dealt with strife amongst some of the churches. Because let’s face it, our churches are just made up of people. People with varying points of view and opinions.
I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:2-6
We should not be “waging war” like the world does. Our fight should not be with each other – working to destroy one another’s faith. We need to turn our focus back on to God and help our brethren to do the same.
Life Lesson #15: Our best defense against false teaching is to stay rooted in the Word of God.
But even the archangel Michael, when
he was disputing with the devil about
the body of Moses, did not himself dare
to condemn him for slander but said,
“The Lord rebuke you!”Jude 1:9
We find ourselves at the end of the Tiny Yet Mighty series appropriately enough with a lesson on defensive strategy against false teaching. False teaching comes in many forms. We may initially think it’s just a televangelist telling followers if they pray hard enough all their financial woes will be eliminated. But the world of false teachers reaches so much farther than our Christian leaders.
You’ll notice in our Jude verse today that even the archangel didn’t take up an argument with the devil using his own words or knowledge. He relied on God’s Word. And when unbelievers or doubters take verses out of context it’s our opportunity to use the truth of God’s Word in reply.
But we can’t stand for a God we don’t know.
Too many Christians are not Bible scholars. And yet, it is our greatest comfort and weapon against the devil. I, for one, in the first 10 or 15 years of being a Christian rarely even opened a Bible. During one season of sermons at my church we tried something “out of the box.” The pastor wanted each of us to take the pew Bible and mark it up as he spoke. You could see the hives break out on people instantly!
I’ve been in plenty of Bible study groups where more than half the people didn’t read any of the study, hadn’t been to church the Sunday before to hear the sermon, or hadn’t gone on-line to hear the sermon being studied. And somehow we expect to be filled with the Word of God.
No soldier, no athlete, no surgeon, no salesperson would ever enter their arena of expertise expecting success without first preparing. So why, as Christians, would we expect any different?
Put on the full armor of God,
so that you can take your stand
against the devil’s schemes.Ephesians 6:11
The full armor includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness given by Jesus, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit – the word of God. Without any of these we are left to the evil devices of false teachers.
But let’s back up and start at the very beginning of false teaching.
"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’?”
We were babes in God’s glorious garden when the first false teacher spoke to Eve. He tried to weave his way around God’s Word and deceive her. One of the ways I’ve personally experienced this is concerning how God communicates with us. How often have you heard someone say they received a directive from God but yet claimed God doesn’t “speak to them.” I’ve heard famous preachers dismiss the idea of God actually speaking, using words, to speak to people. We seem to have the need to define God “speaking” as someone standing before us speaking out loud. This unfortunate definition has led so many people to feel as though God is ignoring them.
I have a friend who has frequent interaction with God through others, music, signs, etc, and yet she spoke with sadness that she had never heard God speak. The parsing of God’s messages, directives and laws to find the “out” or the “exception” is the devil’s work.
“You will not certainly die,” the
serpent said to the woman."Genesis 3:4
Sure, Eve wasn’t going to physically die (although she couldn’t know that for sure) but the death she was to experience would be much harsher. Satan was relying on Eve not trusting the Word of God.
In our modern times sexual immorality has become our apple in the Garden. “What’s the big deal?” “God didn’t actually say a man can’t marry a man.” Like the statement to Eve of death, this one is true on its surface. But God does, throughout the Bible state that a man shall take a woman for his wife.
That is why a man leaves his father and
mother and is united to his wife, and
they become one flesh.Genesis 2:24
But the Bible was written long ago and cultures change and we evolve, right? There was only one great change in our Christian history – Jesus. He did not come to remove the laws of God. He came to fulfill the law. God’s law reveals our sin, our brokenness. We can never completely fulfill the law through our own means. Jesus gives us the grace and righteousness needed to be right with God.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today and forever.Hebrews 13:8
These are but a few examples of how both believers and non-believers twist and turn the truth of God’s Word. It’s all an attempt to live in the world of the flesh. We are called to be a people set apart. To know God as best we can. To stay in constant communion with Him.
To him who is able to keep you from
stumbling and to present you before
his glorious presence without fault
and with great joy— to the only God
our Savior be glory, majesty, power
and authority, through Jesus Christ
our Lord, before all ages, now and
forevermore! Amen.Jude 1:24-25
When we find ourselves in the midst of false teaching it is Jesus Christ who we can draw on, both in Word and Spirit, to keep us from the fire. Stay close to Him and the devil cannot strip you of God’s blessings.
I hope you enjoyed this series, “Tiny Yet Mighty!” Stay tuned for my next series, “Fresh Fire — 25 verses to invigorate your faith,” starting March 29. Just in time to celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice and amazing resurrection!
But mark this: There will be terrible times
in the last days. People will be lovers of
themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud,
abusive, disobedient to their parents,
ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal,
not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash,
conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than
lovers of God— having a form of godliness
but denying its power. Have nothing to do
with such people. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
So often when we turn to God for help we look for comforting words. I’ve heard it said many times recently that our churches have mostly eliminated the “difficult” messages in the Bible. And while Jesus’ messages to love one another are powerful tools in our battle against the devil He never asked us to turn a blind eye to sin and lies.
Satan is constantly at work trying to turn us away from the entire message of God. In fact, when I went back to edit my post titled, “Identify the Enemy,” I ran into a number of technical glitches. You see, my original post didn’t include the name Satan. After praying about what I had written I received a clear message to highlight how Satan is the Great Liar. I first couldn’t access the document. Then my computer kept saying I was off-line. Then the document wouldn’t save. I closed my eyes and said, “I know this is you at work, Satan. I’ve got all day and God on my side.” And lo and behold everything started working!
Satan is in our midst. He uses the greedy, the boastful, the abusive, the deceitful and lovers of pleasure to try and destroy our faith. And if we choose to turn a blind eye to his ways then we become his instruments. When we face the enemy head on, with our God-given armor, we step on to the battlefield. Our weapons against these “terrible times” are the truth of scripture, prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and our God All Mighty.
Here’s a prayer I read that we should all speak each day:
Lord, help me stand my ground and defend what I have gained, no matter how difficult it might be to do this. I know that with Your supernatural help, I can outlive and outlast the resistance. With Your Spirit’s power working inside me, I know I can indefinitely and definitely stick it out until the enemy realizes he cannot beat me and decides to retreat! I pray this in Jesus’ name!
Lesson #13: To win a battle you first need to identify your adversary.
For certain individuals whose condemnation
was written aboutlong ago have secretly
slipped in among you. They are ungodly
people, who pervert the grace of our God
into a license for immorality and deny
Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.Jude 1:4
About 10 years after I started at my first professional job out of college, I decided I needed a new experience. So, I accepted a job at one of our vendors. I was worried that I wasn’t as experienced as the other professional staff because I had only worked at one job. But almost instantly I was able to identify the warring factions.
You see, the fire I went through starting a new public relations and marketing department at the age of 21 prepared me in more ways than I had realized. While others at my new company struggled with office politics I already knew how to work around the “up, in your face, dragon lady” and the “she speaks sweetly to your face and then stabs you in the back.” These two women were powerful forces who worked solely for their benefit and at the expense of others. Had I not quickly assessed the situation I would’ve been tossed about in turmoil like the rest of the staff.
They are wild waves of the sea,
foaming up their shame; wandering
stars, for whom blackest darkness
has been reserved forever.Jude 1:13
A number of the letters written by Jesus’ disciples include warnings to churches about the enemies within their midst. It’s appropriate that our next mini-letter, written by our LORD’s half-brother Jude, is a call to arms against the infiltrators. Why? Because it also is the last book before Revelation. It’s almost a final warning to secure the gates, gather the brethren, and stand strong against the enemy before Christ comes.
These people are blemishes at your
love feasts, eating with you without
the slightest qualm—shepherds who
feed only themselves. They are clouds
without rain, blown along by the wind;
autumn trees, without fruit and
uprooted—twice dead.Jude 1:12
So how, as Christians, are we to discern who the “blemishes” are in our churches and protect our hearts and minds from them?
Let’s first state that every false teacher, every apostate comes from Satan. He is the enemy. As the Great Liar, Satan has plenty of fodder to create chaos in our midst. When our motivations stem from fame or popularity, greed, lust, and more, Satan is quite happy to make us like yeast — using us to spread his lies about God and Jesus.
I am currently looking for a new church. But I’m going about it much differently than in the past. For the first time I’ll be able to truly evaluate whether the teachings of a church are biblically based. It’s amazing how what God has led us through in our lives always serves to prepare us for the next trial. I could never had known that starting a small Bible study over a year ago would be one of my greatest weapons against falling prey to apostasy.
apostasy [ uh–pos-tuh-see ]
a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.
When I first started going to church, we selected the church of my husband’s family. I trusted my in-laws’ choice and therefore felt comfortable with attending the same denomination. As for the theological ins-and-outs, I really didn’t understand them or care to know much about the details.
And there lies the dangers. Satan loves when we are ignorant about God. Sometimes we take more effort dissecting the ingredients in our cereal than what is taught to us from a pulpit. We think, “Hey, they’ve got training and approval from someone higher up so they must know what they’re talking about.” And for the most part that’s probably true. But there’s plenty of churches that have few ties to standard, accepted, religious teaching. There are also all the authors, TV and radio preachers, podcasters, Instagrammers, and yes, bloggers.
Dear friends, do not believe every
spirit, but test the spirits to see
whether they are from God, because
many false prophets have gone out
into the world.1 John: 4:1
My younger daughter was mentoring a new, young member of her church. This young woman was distraught and thought she had failed God. Why? Because she couldn’t speak in tongues. Her church, in which she had grown up, taught that every single person who truly is a follower of Jesus speaks in tongues. In one short conversation based on scripture this woman’s life was changed. Because of the truth of the Bible.
My parents are in their 80s. I find that when they speak to their doctor, they treat what he says with almost reverence. They don’t question a word any doctor says. I keep telling them that doctors are just people. They also don’t always have the best bedside manner. So, questions go unanswered. And fears and missteps with their health abound.
The same is true with faith leaders, be they pastors, priests, elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, famous authors, or church committee members. They are all people. Yes, they may have at some point received a calling but they are still people. And people sin. Some get greedy. Some lie to protect themselves. They all make mistakes. It’s our responsibility as Christians to know the Word of God enough to question if something doesn’t sound right.
The short letter of Jude has an emphasis on sexual immorality and its promoters who have burrowed into our Christian lives. How many of us are willing to say to our pastor search committee that our applicants must not be living with someone outside marriage or can’t be homosexual? In fact, our major denominations have decided neither of those is a “big deal.” And I ask, is that biblically based?
If we want to escape the (Christian) struggle we have but to draw back and accept the currently accepted low-keyed Christian life as the normal one. That is all Satan wants. That will ground our power, stunt our growth and render us harmless to the kingdom of darkness.
The struggle, the battle, the enemy. The Christian life is not a playground. Yes, we have peace in the fact that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit have our backs. They direct us and empower us. But to truly live a complete Christian life is to face the enemy. We are to be always on watch for those that would twist the Word of God.
It sounds harsh to say but according to the renowned Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe an apostate is not a true believer who has abandoned his salvation. Instead, it is a person who said they accepted the truth but then turned away from the truth.
These are the people who divide you,
who follow mere natural instincts and
do not have the Spirit.Jude 1:19
As Christians we want to live by Jesus’ admonishment to love one another, especially our brethren. But at the same time, he called out the “den of vipers.” Jesus has never asked us to forgo the truth in the spirit of getting along. Our first steps are to be honest as to who our adversaries are and to acknowledge that Satan is always at work creating chaos. Only then can we pray for direction and preparation for any battles that may ensue.
It has given me great joy to
find some of your children walking
in the truth, just as the Father
commanded us.2 John 1:4
I was reading a new book recently that said, “Today, America is rich but morally rotten. Our heads and our hands have outrun our hearts. We have gained the world but have lost our souls.” The author went on to describe the lawlessness and chaos that fetishism, polytheism and any number of ‘isms’ have wrought on our society. I looked back to the beginning of this little book to see when it was published – 1969.
I could take just about any paragraph from this book, “In Times Like These,” and you would surely think the author was writing about yesterday or today. The frightening results of our demand for “progress” in all parts of lives are prophetically found in this fascinating group of sermons by Vance Havner, a contemporary of Billy Graham.
“The time is short, and the fashion of this world is passing away”
For the Christian, we are admonished to live as people set apart from the world. (Romans 12:2). And yet we have homogenized so much of what it means to be a Follower of Jesus. I heard a pastor once say, “The world doesn’t hate ‘nice’ people.” Think about that for a moment. So many of us want, as our goal, to be seen as ‘nice, Christians’ — certainly not ones that cause waves like Jesus did day in and day out.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers
and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living
sacrifice, holy and pleasing to
God—this is your true and proper
My BSGs and I were finishing up a week of Bible study about what the church means to God and to us as Christians. We got into a discussion about how easy it is to be a Western-world Christian. And although we’ve seen that challenged over the last year, we still don’t face the threat of death when choosing to worship. Prison, maybe, but not death. (A little over a year ago I wouldn’t even have thought to write that last sentence).
At a church one of my Bible gals and I attended for many years, there was a pastor of Egyptian origin. He would tell us of the inherent dangers of even wearing a cross or holding a Bible while travelling in Cairo. He regaled us with stories of various mission trips back to his homeland fraught with intrigue. And after an hour listening to his sermon and beautiful music we would go back about our “other” lives – not having risked anything ourselves.
We are promised an everlasting life, through faith and obedience to God. The type of obedience John writes about in 2 John. “A walk in obedience to His commands.” Earlier, John tells us of Jesus’ prayer to His father on the eve of His death.
I have revealed you to those
whom you gave me out of the world.
They were yours; you gave them to
me and they have obeyed your word.
Now they know that everything you
have given me comes from you.John 17:6-7
The “knowing” then requires the “obeying” – a living out of what God expects from us now that His Word has been revealed. But how many of us offer our entire lives over as a “living sacrifice?” One of my friends and I have this now running joke that we have our “faith life” but then we have our “real life.” Knowing that in God’s expectation those are to be one and the same.
“Devotion to Him (Jesus) must be so high and so deep and so intense that all other loyalties must seem in comparison as though they did not exist.”
That takes obedience to a whole new level. I fear that modern Christians read this and immediately assume we must be the rich prince of whom Jesus asks to give up all his possessions in order to follow Him. (Matt 19:21-24) And in fact, many a breezy, occasional, Sunday-only Christian has misinterpreted that to be the case. But Jesus only ever asks us to give up what is separating us from Him. What idols have we placed in front of Him so that it blocks our view of Him or our ability to obey Him?
The world is full of gadgets and facilities that are not wrong unless we make them ends in themselves or turn them to evil uses.
For some that idol is time. Or more specifically who or what gets our time. In the 2 John letter, John calls out the “lady chosen by God” for her love of God. And he knows of this love because of her obedience to the commandments. She walks in love of God. Even Satan knows God. But the chasm between the lady in John’s letter and Satan is her obedience. She most likely spent much of her day praying, guiding others to God, teaching her children about God, and working as God’s daughter.
“Christian love is not just some special emotion that makes us accept others. It’s an act of will – treating people the same way God treats you.”
Warren Wiersbe on 2 John
An act of will. That’s not some squishy, marshmallowey feeling. It means 1) knowing the will of God and 2) committing our entire body to obeying His commandments. It means living a life set apart from this world – and maybe even your current church or group of friends. It means being in danger of getting called “weird” or “freak.” It might even mean being labeled a “bigot” or “hatemonger.”
Some of you may recall seeing the storm that descended upon New Orleans Saints football quarterback Drew Brees when he joined Focus on the Families’ call to “bring your Bible to school day.” He was called all manner of hateful things and a call went out to shame and silence him. For promoting bringing a book to school.
The time is nearer now than ever before to awaken in obedience as Christians. I read a comment that the Bible is a disturbing book. It “bids us to stir up the gift of God.” We are admonished to “gird our loins (Luke 12:35),” disrupt our sleepy scheduled lives (Rom 13:11) and grasp the seriousness of our times. We are closer to the coming of Christ than yesterday. And it doesn’t take much to see how anarchy and apathy are playing a role in God’s timetable.
When I started fresh out of college at my new job, I was just barely 22 years old. I was given a lot of responsibility to set up a brand new marketing and public relations department. The corporate culture was very resistant to the new ideas I brought to the table. I was called all manner of terrible things. But I learned a valuable lesson. When the “big boss” has your back you can forge a path through any swamp, forest or desert. As Christians we have the mightiest “boss” of them all – God. We should walk in obedience to Him knowing that He has our back. We should walk in the knowledge that we are just passing through this world and will do so as God’s children. We should look forward to making a few waves, in Jesus’ name.
I’m in it (the world) but not of it; I’m a pilgrim and stranger; I’m not a citizen of old Babylon, I’m looking for another city.
Anyone who runs ahead and does
not continue in the teaching of
Christ does not have God; whoever
continues in the teaching has
both the Father and the Son.2 John 9
We hear a lot of “my truth,” “your truth” these days. What that really means is telling someone that their experience of a situation makes the facts of that situation flexible. The use of this term makes it clear you aren’t to question someone’s opinion. For example, we all know how human life is created. When a human sperm fertilizes a human egg, the new life begins its process toward a fully created human baby. Those are facts. The circumstances surrounding that creation of new life may be slightly different for one person or another. But those circumstances don’t create a “new truth” about the creation of life.
We have now entered into the teachings found in the small letter by John (2 John) to a woman, whom scholars believe to be a home church host. In it, he reminds her that there are self-professed “teachers of the word” who have either added to or distorted Jesus’ words. He cautions her to not even allow people like that into her home for fear that people will be led astray.
There is a frightening movement in our time that says we can’t agree on even basic truths. In the world of “church,” entire denominations have turned away from scripture by voting on accepting “new truths.” I’m not sure what the end goal is behind this movement except chaos. And as Christians we know who the king of chaos is – Satan.
“If ‘moving forward’ leads us away from the doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ then that is dangerous.”
Warren Wiersbe on 2 John
I had a great discussion with a friend about the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi. Once the apostles trained more and more missionaries, the Word spread far and wide. But that also meant the Word of God got more and more distorted. In fact, all the letters written by the apostles and included in the Bible have some focus on sticking with the truth of the Gospel and Jesus’ words. Sure there were folks that simply misunderstood the message but there were also those that craved power and the possibility of making money off new believers (something that still happens today!)
I’m always surprised when I’m in faith-type discussions with fellow Christians and a statement about God or Jesus is said that just doesn’t find its truth in the Bible. For some, studying and reading the Bible just isn’t a priority. Yet those same Christians go out into the world professing to know and understand its truths. Here’s a few you might recognize:
“Jesus is a socialist.”
“Jesus says to love and accept everyone no matter what.”
“The Bible doesn’t have a problem with homosexuality (or any kind of sex outside marriage).”
“The Bible hates women.”
“I love Jesus but there are lots of different ways to salvation and God.”
“The Bible teaches us to hate rich people and the accumulation of wealth.”
“If you pray hard enough God will answer you.”
“If God doesn’t answer you then you obviously have done something wrong.”
“The Bible teaches that women are less respected than men.”
“Jesus was just a man.”
“Christians aren’t supposed to express their beliefs if in a government job.”
“Christians are supposed to obey the government no matter what.”
“Faith should be private.”
“Sharing the gospel is like being a used car salesman and isn’t something we should do.”
“Jesus wants you to give up everything you own and follow him.”
A few years ago, the denomination that I’ve been a member of for about 20 years authorized same-sex marriages and voted to divest from Israel. I wrote to the leadership and made a simple request. “Show me where your decision is based on Biblical truth.” And what I got in response was crickets. Because, “who do I think I am questioning those in the know?” But the great thing about Jesus is He brought the Word to all of us.
“I am the vine; you are the branches.
If you remain in me and I in you, you
will bear much fruit; apart from me
you can do nothing.”John 15:5
In other words, our job is to stay tightly attached to Jesus. Stay anchored in His Holy Word. If we could even stick with the basic message of Jesus day in and day out, we would be victorious in living out the one, most important truth – that God sent His son to give us redemption for our sins. And our acceptance of this truth leads us to behave like saved people, attached to the great vine.
Keep this Book of the Law always
on your lips; meditate on it day
and night, so that you may be careful
to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and
Throughout the Bible we are told to have His Holy Word on our lips, on our hearts and on our minds. How do we do that? For many it stops at going to church occasionally. But what my BSGs (Bible study girls) have discovered is that to truly know and understand the great truths of the Bible is to be immersed in His Word. To truly study on it, meditate on it, sing it, speak it and even defend it. And then it becomes imprinted on our hearts and minds. Too many of us go to the once a week lecture in the lecture hall and then fail to do the assigned homework.
If our homes and churches are to be true to Christ and oppose false teachers, we must know the truth.
Warren Wiersbe on 2 John
There is no true love apart from the truth of God. He sets us on the right, good and loving path. Love, because we know the truth, becomes action.
Stand firm then with the belt
of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness
in place.Ephesians 6:14
We hear a lot about the need to be “progressive” in our faith so that it has relevance – or new “truths.” Yet, when we read the Bible we see the same sinful behavior played out year after year, century after century. The Greek word prokopé (progress) means something different to Christians.
For the believer, this means going forward in sanctification, cutting through obstacles by the Lord’s power.
“By the Lord’s power” – His Spirit and His Word. Progress to a Christian is not about creating a “new truth.” It’s about applying God’s truth to our lives and cutting out our worldly ways. It’s about resting in the knowledge that God is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. It’s about having peace that Jesus taught us what is right and good. It’s about knowing that the Holy Spirit guides us through the chaos of this world. It is our responsibility as God’s people to know the truth of His Word.
A prayer to be deeply knowledgeable about God’s Word
Holy God, I confess that I have spent much of my Christian life hearing your Word and yet not absorbing and living out our Word. I’ve sat in your Holy presence at church and listened, then walked out of the doors and turned my thoughts solely on selfish and worldly pursuits. So I often, when I hear a conviction through your Word, I think of someone else who needs to hear the message – all the while it is me that needs to accept the correction. I allow my endless “to do lists” to take time away from learning more about you, from soaking my soul with your loving spirit. I allow my “study” of your Word to just be catchy verses that scroll by on social media. LORD, with your teaching and guidance I will proclaim that I am deeply knowledgeable about your character through your Word. I will be your faithful student. I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to live a joy-filled life.
Gracious God your gifts and blessing to me cannot be counted. And yet so often I turn to the negative parts in my life and place my constant thoughts in them. When I rise I forget to be thankful that I have yet another day in which to serve you and be blessed by you. And as I go about my day when you place joyful moments at my fingertips I take them for granted. When I lay my head down to sleep I can easily recall all that went wrong in the day rather than what went right. But your joy is there for the taking. I want to live basked in your greatness, your beauty and your joy. I can and will, with your help, find joy in every circumstance. You are working for my good at all times and I just need to remember that promise. Thank you for giving us your Son who implanted the Holy Spirit in us – a spirit of joy and of goodness. I pray this in your Son’s Holy name, Jesus. Amen
A prayer to be a patient person
Faithful Father, I get so caught up in the busyness of life that I forget that my needs and desires are not the same as everyone else’s. When I’m running late, I want to yell at the drivers in front of me for not moving quickly enough. The slow grocery store bagger receives my glare when she doesn’t work at the same speed which I expect. Or when a friend doesn’t respond to my text as prompt as I need, I get frustrated. I’ve come to realize, LORD, through your holy Word that my impatience is an outgrowth of my lack of humility. Your admonishment to love one another needs to be on my lips when I feel that frustration and anger well up inside me. LORD, I know there is nothing more important to you than having your children express compassion and love for each other. Rest your loving hand on my shoulder as a reminder for when I forget this. Quell my impatient heart and mind and replace it with grace. In your Son’s name I pray, Amen.
A prayer that I would share the Gospel with others
Merciful God, your Word has healing power for the sick and your Word gives hope to the downtrodden. Your promise of eternity is a promise for all who believe. But I allow my worries and my fears about worldly judgement guide my discipleship. I keep your holy and powerful gifts to myself, not sharing them with those who need them. LORD, our one true purpose here on earth is to serve you and by doing so we are asked, even required, to speak of you to all who will hear. Help me to succumb to your strength and guidance rather than that of the world. I know you will put the right words in my mouth at the right time. I just need to be willing to speak them. Each day place someone who needs to hear from you in front of me. With the strength of the Holy Spirit urging me on I will be faithful in spreading your gospel of Good News. In Jesus name, Amen
I rest my worries in constant prayer
LORD, I confess that I can cite Philippians 4:6 quite easily but it is the actual doing that I struggle with. In fact, when I get very distressed, I forget about you and turn inward to try and solve my problems. Or I call friends and family to lay all my worries upon. Too often it seems you are my last gasp when all else fails. Thank you for giving us your Son to remind us that you are the only source we need to turn to in times of trouble. With His guiding words I will place you front and center of my difficult situations. Through constant prayer and communion with You I will find everlasting peace. I lift this up in Jesus’ name. Amen
A prayer to speak only when needed
LORD, I would like to make this brief but I seem to have an issue with words. They flow freely from my mouth without filters. At times I gasp at myself for the words that exit me. James is so right when he shows me that my mouth is like the rudder for my ship. And I want to be on the right course with you, God. Sometimes I need the entire trinity to help me grab hold of my rudder. But I know with practice, your grace and the urging of the Holy Spirit I can and will be the quiet captain of my ship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to keep my body strong and dedicate it to serve God
Heavenly Father, I regularly make the commitment to keep my spiritual life active and strong. However, when I make choices about exercise or my diet, I rarely see that as part of my devotional life. My spirit, my soul and my body all belong to you. You ask us to be your warriors in the name of Christ. And warriors are strong spiritually, mentally and physically. Starting today, LORD, I recommit my entire body to you. When I am weak and want to forgo exercise or eat food I know just isn’t good for me I ask that your Holy Spirit remind me that I need to be strong to accomplish all that you have planned for me. I lift this up in your Son’s Holy Name, Amen.
A prayer to live without regret
Holy God, it’s been many years since I accepted your gift of salvation, which along with that gift came forgiveness. And yet, so often I am unable to forgive myself. My heart still twinges when I think of the times I lived in sin. And once saved, I look back at the years I realize I wasn’t fully committed to obeying your Word. I’ve wasted enough time, however, not accepting your grace. I am learning how much you love me, LORD. And with that, I’m working to accept that I am a new person because of your son Jesus. The old me can’t take up any more precious time when you are filling up my heart with overwhelming love. I admit I sometimes need stern admonishment from you to keep me on track. But at other times please send me a gentle kiss or unexpected hug to remind to live in today, not the regrets of the past. I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A prayer to act when directed by God
Dear God, I used to think that my faith was solely a personal, spiritual pursuit. But I keep hearing the word “obey.” I admit that obeying isn’t a comfortable word for me. It implies me giving up something for someone else. In your covenant world however, “obey” just means holding up my end of the bargain. You are always faithful, LORD, and I need to be faithful as well. James said it best when he admonished us to be “doers of the Word, not just hearers.” Sometimes I allow the world to drown out your Holy Spirit who speaks your will to me. Or I worry that I’m not worthy or ready to do your work. But I’m tuning in to you and listening, watching, and anticipating for your direction. Give me opportunities to be your hands, your feet and your heart. I will obey. In your Son’s name I pray this. Amen
A prayer to always speak kindly of others
Merciful God, so often when I think of sinful behavior, I rarely attribute my own tendency to gossip and tear down others. And yet throughout Jesus’ time here on earth he reminds us to love one another. Help me to remember to love not just with deeds but with my words. You speak so kindly of me, LORD, and I have many, many flaws. Not only do I need your help in not speaking unkindly, but also in being your servant to exalt your people. I know that a kind word is all that is needed to cure so many of our world’s ills. Guide me in controlling my lips so that they drip with kindness rather than bitterness. In Jesus’ name I lift this up to you. Amen
A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community
Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me. I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor. I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up. I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.” Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work. But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it. LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by. Today, I will be that blessing. Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work. I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
A prayer to not be judgmental of others
Holy God, we live in a world that judges us on a photo that gets scrolled by in an instant, our decision at the ballot box, the type of car we drive, or even the color of our skin. I am guilty of making snap judgements about the people I encounter throughout my day. But in your world, LORD, we are all equally loved. I have discovered the uniqueness of your message through Jesus – that you are the father, king, counselor, protector of ALL people. You are at work in all of our lives, believer and non-believer. Through the life lessons of Jesus and the prompting of the Holy Spirit I will be the type of person who loves first, rather than judges first. I want to be loved and accepted for who I am uniquely made to be and I will see others in that same light. I pray this in your Son’s name, Amen
A prayer to avoid using coarse language
Holy Father, it has become so easy for me to use your name in un-holy ways. There was once a time that when angered or frustrated I would just say some silly old saying. But as I drew closer to the ways of the world my language followed. I want to be closer to you instead, LORD. I want to speak like your son, Jesus. I know that anger, impatience, laziness, and bitterness are all roots of my use of foul language. Help me, Holy Spirit, to cut out those roots so that out of my mouth comes praise, prayer, forgiveness and grace. I will use my mouth, with your guidance, for these rather than obscenity and coarseness. Amen
A prayer to constantly praise and thank God
Mighty God, I admit that when things go wrong in my life I am quick to ask for help. But when my life is running along smoothly or even when a prayer is answered I’m equally quick to forget to thank you. Each and every morning when I rise, I commit to thanking you for what you will send my way that day – even the “not-so-good.” Because even in those times I know I have the opportunity to grow in my faith. And throughout my day I will remember to thank you even for the little gifts you send my way. LORD, at the end of my day I’m frequently so tired. But you are never tired of hearing my praise for you. I will, before my eyes close, remember the ways you revealed yourself to me that day. Whether you acted as my counselor, comforter, King, creator, or protector, I will praise you. In your son’s name I pray, Amen.
A prayer to love myself
Heavenly Father, so many of my perceived short falls come from my poor sense of self-worth. I look in the mirror sometimes and to be honest I don’t always see what you see – a beautifully, wonderfully made daughter of God. And I confess that my lack of love for your creation can spill over to my inability to openly love others without judgment. But I don’t want to grieve the Holy Spirit any longer. My heart, body, mind and soul were created by and belong to you, LORD. With the reminders found in your Holy Word to love my neighbor as myself I will look into that mirror with newfound love and admiration for your creation. Thank you for my life, thank you for making me uniquely me. I lift this up in Jesus’ name, Amen
The Lord will march out like
a champion,like a warrior he
will stir up his zeal;with a shout
he will raise the battle cry
and will triumph over his enemies.Isaiah 42:13
Like you, I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult people throughout my life. Whether it was at work, my children’s school, youth sports, or even my church, I encountered people who just wanted to be adversarial. And I am certain I was someone’s “difficult person” at one time or another. But I think the most painful experiences surrounding adversaries are when they are part of our family.
I was talking with a good friend of mine the other day about our two families. We both struggle with difficult parent situations. One day she and her sister had a heart to heart about a disagreement from a few weeks prior. With my Christian friend’s kind and gentle approach she spurred the revelation that they had become their parents. Each sister taking on the personality and fighting style of one of their parents. That revelation started a healing process in both of them. Truly a small victory.
In my own life I have transitioned through the stages of grief when it comes to my relationship with my parents. I denied there was a real problem in my family. When I finally recognized the problems, I became angry and fought constantly with my mother – trying to change her. I even had my own way of bargaining to try and create a Hallmark-style mother-daughter relationship. I would do things for her to help her see what a good person I really was. But my expectations and hopes were always dashed. I became depressed for awhile when I realized we would never be a family that loved being together. I just wanted to untie myself from my parents and let them go adrift. All of this was before I finally surrendered. I raised my white flag. But not to any human. To God.
But thanks be to God, who in
Christ always leads us in
triumphal procession, and
through us spreads the fragrance
of the knowledge of him everywhere.2 Corinthians 2:14
Paul wrote this to the church of Corinth during a very difficult time for him and his relationship with this church. They were angry with him for changing his plans about visiting. Some had started false preaching about him behind his back. And, as Warren Wiersbe states, “When Christians misunderstand each other the wounds can be very deep.” Isn’t that true of our families as well?
During the last few years, I have experienced that Christ-given “fragrance of knowledge of Him.” And as I have done so, I finally had to experience that last stage of grief – acceptance. For us Christians that acceptance comes, more importantly, with forgiveness. I stopped trying to change the situation by myself. And I started to rely on God to handle the situation with my parents. I hold on to the truth of who loves me for all eternity. And I’m learning how to stay tied to my parents without feelings of hurt and anger. As I spoke of this with my friend she announced very boldly, “And now you have VICTORY!”
..so you should rather turn
to forgive and comfort him,
or he may be overwhelmed by
excessive sorrow. 8 So I beg
you to reaffirm your love for him.
9 For this is why I wrote,
that I might test you and know
whether you are obedient in
everything. 10 Anyone whom you
forgive, I also forgive. Indeed,
what I have forgiven, if I have
forgiven anything, has been for
your sake in the presence of Christ,
11 so that we would not be
outwitted by Satan; for we are
not ignorant of his designs.2 Corinthians 2:7-11
I forgave my parents for not being able to provide me with what I was looking for in a relationship. I realized they had never been the recipients of overwhelming love. I stopped being angry and instead became thankful for the life which God has blessed me – a loving family of my own. Had I given up at any of the other 4 steps of grief surely Satan would have won. But like Paul, I am no longer ignorant of the devil’s designs.
Thanks be to God for the triumph He has promised us. We can hold fast knowing that, not only will He have victory over those who would do us harm, but also over our own souls which get injured and hurt by the world. We can have victory because the Spirit of God rests in us.