Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

The Fog of Religion

I’m going to talk about something today that will not be very popular with many people.  This has to do with the religious veil that is pulled over many of our faces still to this day.  A veil that Jesus himself brought down and that was torn in two, forever opening the door to the Father through Christ.  I guess it’s appropriate that this is on my mind today on Ash Wednesday.  This day is observed by many as the start of Lent, leading up to Easter.  Even before I fully came into my faith, something never sat right with me about it all.  Now that my eyes have been opened, I see it more clearly.

We have a serious religious problem across the Christian faith.  I guess it’s bound to happen over a 2,000 year period as messages get skewed and people begin to prop themselves up through the creation of new religious practices.  While Lent and Ash Wednesday are not referenced anywhere in Scripture, I don’t have an issue with people that want to observe this time.  The problem lies in the motives of the heart.  There are many people and I know many, that use the time leading up to Lent to indulge however they want. To live like hell and just whatever.  Then Lent comes, they get the ashes on their forehead and then portray to be living a like a Christian for 40 days.  Easter comes and goes and right back to life as usual.  Living a life in Christ.  Seeking holiness and sanctification is not for only 40 day out of the 365 days we have each year.  This is meant to be a 24/7 365 life.  People think that this time can make up for the rest of their crazy living.   Doesn’t work that way.

a43673c9d067ac92903fa8250de42be5In his book, ‘Beautiful Outlaw,’ John Eldredge speaks to the religious fog and how Jesus himself was very much anti-religious.  That’s who he went after directly more times than not through the Gospels.  John says this, “The religious fog uses sanctified worlds and activities, things that look and sound very Sunday school to distort our perception of God and our experience of Him.  It is cunning as a snake and adaptive as the flu, infiltrating our practices to make them ever so false.”  Read the Gospels and as John stated, there is one thing that is unmistakably clear…religion is the enemy.  “Every hostile encounter Jesus has is with very “churchy” people.  This spirit is the great enemy of our life with God, and it is this spirit that Jesus warned his boys about when they were whispering in the boat about the bread” (See Matthew 16:6-12).

Religion is a major problem that we to contend with.  Religion is built by man on rules and regulation that continually build up larger walls between man and God.  Jesus tore those walls down.  Our salvation, our freedom, our restoration, our eternity lies with Him and Him alone.  Not in religious practices and rituals.  We are to be disciplined spiritually through prayer, studying and learning Scripture, and so on, but getting caught up in religious discipline and practices can be a real problem and can begin to pull you away from the heart of God.  Following Jesus does not require the burden of religion.  Matthew 11:29-30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

9780060694425_p0_v2_s192x300Why do we forget this?  There is a cost to following Christ as it will pull you away from many around you, even if you are close them them, if they do not follow as well.  However, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  Jesus did not put up more religious walls to shield us from God.  No…He opened the door. The goal of living a life in Christ is to live as Christ lived.  Not to follow every little thing that He may did, specifically, but to follow His example.  In ‘The Spirit of the Disciplines,’ Dallas Willard explained it this way, “The secret of the easy yoke is simple, actually.  It is the intelligent, informed, unyielding resolve to live as Jesus lived in all aspects of life, not just in the moment of specific choice or action.” 

I have grown to become very much against religion.  Actually, I hate religion.  It is the enemies ploy to skew the message and the Good News to pull us away from the heart of God and truly living our lives in Christ.  Christ is the example, not the pompous religious pharisees of today that prance around with so much pomp and circumstance just as the pharisees and religious leaders in Jesus’ time did.  Christ challenged them directly and fiercely.  We should not let our lives fall into their trap again.  Clear the religious fog and live in the freedom and restoration found in Christ alone and is directly available to each and everyone of us.

No religious ritual can ever make one’s heart right with God.  That only comes through the grace and spiritual blessings of the Father through the works (life, death, resurrection, and ascension) of Christ Jesus.  Religion keeps you in chains and bondage behind a veil. Jesus tears down the veil, breaks those chains, and sets you free.

The Warfare Intensifies

I’ve become a firm believer in the existence of spiritual warfare.  I’ve experienced first hand and the evidence of it is all through Scripture.  It’s been around since time began.  Jesus encountered this warfare in the wilderness when He was tempted by Satan.  Jesus warns us about this war by.  In John 10:10 we are told that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”  Peter puts out the warning in 1 Peter 5:8 to believers that our, “Adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”

These are just a few examples in Scripture, but it’s been going on from the very beginning.  There is a war in the spiritual realm and we are right in the midst of that war.  We have gained victory through Christ, but I don’t think we would warned about it time and in Scripture if the war weren’t still going on.  Jesus has been given authority, but this world is still fallen and the enemy still prowls this earth with his armies with one goal in mind.  To destroy the human heart and pull us further away from God by taking us out through warfare.  He knows he stands no chance against God, so instead he attacks that which is nearest to God’s heart, which is the human race.  Imago dei.  God’s image bearers.

As I mentioned, I’ve experienced this warfare first hand in many ways.  There are many that believe if you come to faith in Christ, you should be without problems.  The fact is, often times, the believer, is the one who has to battle the most.  The enemy currently has the non-believers already, which are the lost we need to fight for.  The enemy will next try to take out those which do believe through various ways.  The closer to you come to God, many times, the harder the battle will become.  I’ve experienced it and I’ve seen it in people I love that have been surrendered to Christ for years.  The enemy will continually try to get you to fall back.

I’ll give a couple of examples that have happened to me and to my family in the last year.  One, I wrote about recently, which happened before leaving for Wild At Heart.  I spent most of January 2015 suffering continuous headaches.  Had never had them like that before, but they were relentless.  Almost to the point of my cancelling the trip.  When arriving and John Eldredge says after prayer, “Great job men…You’ve made it,” the headaches left.  I knew after that, this was warfare.  The last week, before getting to baptize my family this past Sunday, we came under attack again.  It was disruptive to the point that we were under such distress.  We regrouped as a family, prayed over it and were freed from that leading to a wonderful and unforgettable day.  Being stronger in the faith, we recognized the attack for what it was and took the steps to fight back though the power of Jesus Christ.

There is no way to deny that this warfare exists.  It’s apparent throughout this world.  The enemy is using so many different things in this enlightened and post-modern world to take us out and draw us away from the heart of God.  The answer in this is Jesus Christ.  Stand firm in our faith in Christ and we can be victorious through Him against the warfare we face.  Billy Graham is quoted as stating, “Whenever I am conscious of Satan’s presence, I try to follow the formula once offered by a little girl: “When Satan knocks, I just send Christ to the door.”  The answer lies in Christ.  Bringing the blood, life, and authority of Jesus against every evil power we face.

Armor yourself everyday with the full Armor of God.  Pray for it every day.  The belt of Truth, breastplate of Righteousness, shoes of the Gospel, helmet of Salvation, shield of Faith, and sword of the Spirit.  Do this in prayer and by staying in God’s Word.  This is your armor.  Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…”  

037512John Eldredge writes in his newest book, Moving Mountains, “Resist, Fight back. Take your stand. The Scripture is very clear on this point. First, Jesus models it; the the disciples do it; the Paul and the early church. To make it all perfectly clear, the command to fight is also written down in black and white.  This is part of what it means to be a Christian.”  

James 4:7, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  We must submit the Lordship of Jesus Christ and stand firm resisting the attacks of the enemy.  The closer to press to God, the harder the battle will become.  The attacks will persist as the enemy wants nothing more than to take you out and pull you away from the heart of God.  He knows he already lost the war and he wants to take as many of us with him as he can in each individual battle.  Don’t let him claim victory in the battle over you and over those you love.  Resist and stand strong

Trust Him Through The Distractions

You ever feel like life is overtaking you?  Like there is just so much going on that you can’t tell if you’re coming or going.  If you say no, then I don’t think you’re honest with yourself.  I think at one time or another we have so many things piled on that it gets difficult to stay afloat.  I certainly had one of those weeks this week as I began a new semester of school on top of increasing work demands.  I found myself at a point where I was just spent.  I stared at my computer screen last night to finish some work that was due for one of my classes and the mind was racing.  When you get to that point, it definitely gets difficult to focus and get anything accomplished effectively.  I was sitting in prayer this morning and called out to Jesus. I needed to reset myself.  To get my life…my body, soul, and spirit realigned.  I left the gym and came home and stopped again.

I share this because it helped me to remember that through all of life’s demands we need to trust in the Lord, knowing that Jesus is enough. I’m reminded of something I heard recently, which is that life is filled with a thousand distractions.  Things that will try to pull you away from the heart of God and His call on your life.  It can be so easy to let all of that just consume you and take you out.  If you let it, the world will devour you and spit you back out into a heap of nothing with no sense of direction or purpose.

Bruce Larson stated that “On days when life is difficult and I feel overwhelmed, as I do fairly often, it helps to remember in my prayers that all God requires of me is to trust Him and be His friend. I find I can do that.”  When we find that all just need to trust in God and follow His lead, there is a greater sense of peace to be found in that.  Does that mean we will be able to get rid of all of these troubles?  Absolutely not.  While we live in this fallen world, we will continue to have these kinds of things happen.

GraceIsSufficientPaul writes in 2 Corinthians 12 that to keep from exalting himself he “was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud” (Vs7).  In verse 9 he reminds that Jesus says “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  He goes on to say that “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  

This is important to remember.  The grace we are given because of Jesus Christ is sufficient.  We need to learn to let go of those moments of weakness.  Those times when we just feel completely overwhelmed and unsure of our direction.  Come back to the Lord and remember that Jesus + Nothing = Completion.  He is enough.  Troubles will come.  It’s a part of this world.

Even Paul recognized he had to deal with this thorn of the flesh, whatever that was for him, particularly.  Troubles come and troubles go.  We won’t be without troubles in our life until we enter the Kingdom.  With that as the case, it is important to remember that Jesus is enough.  Trust Him through all of our troubles and pains. Whether small or big, trust Him.  His grace is more than enough.

the-sacred-romance

I am reminded this morning from The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis that we live in a larger story that is far beyond ours where God is the central character.  He is the hero of the story that we live in and we belong to Him.  Eldredge also wrote in Waking The Dead that, “When we are in the presence of God, removed from distractions, we are able hear Him more clearly, and a secure environment has been established for the young and broken placed in our heart to surface.”  Walk in His presence and trust Him through it all.  Trust in Him through the troubles and through all of the distractions.  He is enough.  Trust in God’s heart and His endless pursuit of ours.  That’s eternal.  That’s where life is found.

Trust in Him at all times, O people. Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. – Psalm 62:8

Daring To Risk

There seems to be a theme that has been building in my life that has really began to come full circle as we begin this year.  I wrote about this last week when talking about living an adventure and that theme falls back to risk.  Throughout life there is the challenge to enter into risk or to avoid it.  To try things that are dangerous with an uncertain outcome or to play it safe and follow the straight and narrow.  There are good risks and bad risks.  When I was a kid, we didn’t think twice about stacking all kinds of junk and leaning a long board against it for a ramp to jump our bikes.  What was probably even less genius about it is that the ramp was on the driveway and the landing point was the road.  We certainly had our share of close calls with cars flying through.

There’s another type of risk that is good risk.  It may still be dangerous.  It can leave you with a lot of uncertainty, but the outcome in the end will be more wonderful than you can imagine.  That is the risk to follow Christ.  The risk to say to the world that I don’t belong to you and I am going to follow where God leads.  This may not seem like a risky thing on the surface to some, but this type of risk is more opposed than anything in this world.  There is so much spiritual warfare pitted against anyone that wants to follow God’s lead.

I remember this time last year.  I was just a couple of weeks out from flying to Colorado for the Wild at Heart Boot Camp.  As the day drew near, I came under attack, although I didn’t know it at the time.  Every single day for the weeks prior, I suffered continuous headaches.  It bothered me a random times of day.  When I was working out, when I was reading, when working, and other strange random times.  It continued so persistently that I was contemplating cancelling the trip.  I was worried about what was going on.  I had never suffered those kind of headaches and haven’t since then.

I fly out and it’s still bothering me.  I get to Denver and board the buses out to Crooked Creek Ranch, it’s still there.  Thinking this may also be altitude, I ignored it, but it still worried me.  Then we get to the first session on Thursday evening.  We prayed as a group.  Me and 400+ other men.  Then John Eldredge says, “Congratulations men, you made it.” The rest of the time there, the headaches were gone.  I came home, the headaches were gone.  I didn’t realize this until later that this was spiritual warfare.  The enemy was trying to stop me.  I took the risk however and followed God and life hasn’t been the same sense.  That was a good risk.

Risk is such a powerful thing and God calls each of us into risk.  Being willing to risk it all, no matter the cost, to seek out His will and allow Christ to come in and transform us.  Risk is always opposed by the enemy when we are following God, but God has been taking a risk on us from the very beginning, first in creating us, and now in his pursuit of us.  Then we see stories of people risking it all for the Lord.  All the way from the beginning.  Abraham followed God to Canaan.  Moses stood against Pharaoh to free Israel.  David stood against the giant, Goliath.  Jesus lived His life on earth following the Father’s will even to the point of His death.  Then we have the apostles, most of whom lost their lives in service of Christ Jesus.  Such amazing stories of incredible risk.

God is calling each of us into risk as well.  He called me to Colorado and is now calling me to do Kingdom work seeking the lost through counseling.  I pray about this change everyday.  I don’t know what God will have in store as this work truly begins.  He is using the gifts He granted me for His glory now and I have surrendered to that.  That is a big risk.  It’s going to bring about massive changes for my family, but it’s something having a renewed heart, mind, and spirit that we welcome wholeheartedly.

Too many people are complacent in where they are in life.  Especially many Christians.  God calls us into risk and into spiritual growth and maturity.  We can’t be stranded in stale adolescence.  David Wilkerson wrote, “Today, some Christians are content to merely exist until they die. They don’t want to risk anything, to believe God, to grow or mature. They refuse to believe his Word, and have become hardened in their unbelief. Now they’re living just to die.”  Don’t live life to just die.  As one of my friends, Jeff, wrote today on Facebook, live to live.  God has so much in store when we enter his Kingdom.  Be willing to risk now so that you can live life and not just live to die.

Let’s get out of mediocrity.  Let’s get out of stagnant and stale adolescence and risk it to follow Christ no matter the cost.  The enemy will oppose you.  His demons will oppose you. The world, even including people you love, will oppose you.  You, however, need to be willing to oppose all of that in order to live for the Kingdom.  To win for the Kingdom.  To be sanctified by Christ daily in your walk with Him.  To follow Him no matter the cost and if He is calling you to move, being willing to move into the unknown.  Dare to risk!

I want a lifetime of holy moments. Every day I want to be in dangerous proximity to Jesus. I long for a life that explodes with meaning and is filled with adventure, wonder, risk, and danger. I long for a faith that is gloriously treacherous. I want to be with Jesus, not knowing whether to cry or laugh.” – Mike Yaconelli

Willing To Live An Adventure

What comes to your mind when you think of risk and adventure?  When I think of this, there are often images of being a kid, jumping on the bike and riding around town, through the woods down trails, and exploring everything.  When your a kid, everything seems to be an adventure as you are starting to try new things.  You’re willing to get out there and try new things, go new places unsure about what lies ahead, but still you want to go.  For my kids, they love to get out and explore.  We have a river that runs along our neighborhood and they will get out there and explore through the woods, even stretching the limits to follow the river to see where it goes.  That’s a part of being a kid.  God set in us the desire to explore and take on adventure. The desire for adventure.

Something happens though.  We grow older.  We become tainted by the world and we lose the adventure.  Some become stranded in adolescence and try to keep it going, while many of us grow older and begin to do what the world expects of us.  We begin to lose the adventure.  We fall into complacency in our lives and start to do ‘the right thing.’  For me, I know that is definitely the case.  I’ve mentioned this a bunch, but I went college have multiple degrees in areas I really didn’t have a passion for, but thought, “Hey, that’s how to make more money and be successful.”  I thought that was what mattered.

Sitting in our men’s study this week I was reminded of things I learned reading through Wild At Heart and at the Boot Camp last year.  We all have an adventure to live.  As I mentioned before, God set adventure in our hearts.  The desire to risk and follow the desires of our hearts.  I was listening to a recording with Bart Hansen from Ransomed Heart where he talked about the adventure and risk.  Something he shared with us a Boot Camp.  Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Life is meant to be lived as an adventure.  This comes with living with faith in where God is leading us and being willing to follow wherever He is leading.  I read this in Wild at Heart, but at first didn’t know what this meant to me.  Risk. That’s a scary word for many.  It was for me.  I was so complacent and comfortable for so long.  I felt I was doing what I was supposed to and was able to provide adequately for my family.  We started so young, Amber and I, and I wanted to prove I could do it.

I realized that God had another plan for me though.  I had been feeling this calling on my heart for a while, that there was something more I needed to do.  I didn’t know what that was.  I began writing on this blog.  I knew I was being called to help people in someway, but didn’t know how.  Ideas came and went.  Then it all happened last year.  I realized that God was calling me deeper to help seek the lost and help them find breakthrough and restoration as I did.  This led to counseling.

When this first came up, I really looked at it like, “Really God?  Counseling?”  He affirmed this, not only in my heart, but in the conversations I later had with Amber and then with my pastor and friend, Tim, as well as others.  So I did it.  I jumped in.  It was time to go on an adventure.

Bart Hansen shared something significant when it comes to adventure and risk.  We can risk all day long, but if we don’t follow God in faith through it, we will have nothing.  Also, we can spend our days trying to follow God and putting in the study and work, but if we don’t jump out and risk when He is calling us to adventure, then we are left with nothing as well. Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Follow God, no matter where He is leading.  Follow in faith. Be willing to risk it all, but to risk it all for Him and Him alone.  That’s the kicker.

In Wild At Heart, John Eldredge wrote, “Life is not a problem to be solved, it is an adventure to be lived. That’s the nature of it and has been since the beginning when God set the dangerious stage for this high-stakes drama and called the whole wild enterprise GOOD. He rigged the world in such a way that it only works when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, which is to say, only when we live by faith. A man just won’t be happy until he’s got adventure in his work, in his love, and in his spiritual life.”

The drama that is playing out in front of us in God’s epic story is full of danger.  Risk is ingrained in our every being.  Every part of us.  We are meant to live a life in faith that is willing to follow God, to follow Christ, no matter the cost.

I still look at the work that lies ahead of me.  I don’t know what God will have in store as time moves forward and as I complete my studies.  I know there is a tremendous amount of risk and change that will come our way.  The difference however, and Amber and I both see it this way, we are now following what God’s call is for us.  We are willing to go on this adventure, because we know following Him is what we are meant to do.  It’s what all of us are meant to do, but sadly only a few do it.  It took us until our mid-30s to figure it out, but that’s how He worked it out.

If you trust Him, He will lay the path before you.  Jesus calls us to follow Him.  Living a life that is unscripted and lived by faith, is the only life worth living.  As John Eldredge wrote in Fathered by God, “This is the time for a young man to stop saying, ‘Why is life so hard?’ He takes the hardness as the call to fight, to rise up, to take it on.”  

It’s time to stop standing still.  Time to stop letting the world dictate what you do and how you live.  Rather, it’s time to start following the desires of your heart which is where God is leading.  Follow Him on the adventure that is being laid out in front of you.   Be willing to risk it all for Jesus.  It won’t always be easy, but the cost will be worth it.

Don’t Let Busyness Kill The Soul

As we start the New Year, I was reminded this week about something that is very critical for all of us in this day and age.  I have been blessed to spend these last couple of weeks home with the family to enjoy the Christmas and New Years holidays  and some good down time from work and between semesters in my counseling studies.  What I was reminded of is the need to unplug from the matrix.  The need to slow down, be still, and spend time away from the chaos and noise of this world and what often encompasses our lives.

I was listening to a recording from Ransomed Heart Ministries the other day called “The Spirit of the Age.”  John Eldredge talked about how each age, each period of time is defined by something.  The spirit of this age we live in now, of this world, as John says, is drivenness or busyness.  We are in a world of now, now, now…go, go, go.  We are constantly plugged into social media and the news.  We spend our days trying to fill time with things to keep going.  We always feel like we have to multitask everything. Multitasking by the way, is the ultimate myth.  You cannot be fully present in any situation at any time to two or more people or tasks.  As the Christian musician Propaganda says, when multitasking, “You ain’t doing anything good, just everything awful.”  Lot’s of truth here.

We live in a very driven world.  We are always on the go.  I’ve been guilty of everything I’ve listed and more.  I have grown to believe that this driven nature.  This need to always stay busy is soul killing.  It is pulling us away from the priorities in life.  Not just in our families but also in our walk with God.  In our ability to have a real conversational relationship with the Father.  In our ability to really dive into His Word and study and get to know all that God has revealed to us.  busyness-01

Why do we always feel like we have to be so busy?  Why are we so driven to go, go, go?  Why can’t we unplug from the matrix?  Why can’t we put our phones down and just be present?  I believe it’s a scheme of the enemy.  He uses this need for busyness to keep us distracted.  Then when everyone else is always going, we feel like we have to do more and more to keep up.  It’s soul killing and it’s just what the enemy wants.

Look, I’m not saying it’s bad to be busy, but what I’m saying is that when it runs your life, and this day and age it does, with so much noise all around, that becomes a problem.  Like I said, this is something I’ve been guilty of.  I’ve been out at a restaurant with Amber and often times I have my work phone and my personal phone sitting right there.  How many of of you do the same?  It’s called a lunch break for reason, yet we never fully take a real break away.

I look at the life of Jesus when I think of this.  Jesus constantly had crowds following Him.  People wanted to be healed and have demons cast away.  Jesus could easily have just spent his time healing non-stop, but He didn’t.  Look at Mark 1.  Jesus heals Peter’s mom and then more and more people come for healing.

In verse 35, Jesus did something many of us don’t do.  It says, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”  Jesus left to be alone.  To be in solitude and pray.  Peter and the others find Jesus and tell Him everyone is looking for Him.

Now at this point, Jesus could have done what many of us do.  Do what others expect us to do.  Do what the world wants us to do.  Stay plugged in and keep busy.  Not Jesus.  You see He did not conform to this world and showed us that we don’t have to.  In verse 38, Jesus says, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.”  Jesus left.  He was not going to let the demands of others control what He was doing or deter Him from what the Father sent Him for.busyness-the-thief-of-prayerblog

You see, busyness and constantly doing what the world expects will drain us completely.  It will take us away from what really matters in life.  This culture we live in will suck the life out of us if we allow ourselves to let the world consume us.

Paul tells us in Romans 12:2, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  This is so important.  We cannot live a life driven and controlled by the demands of this world.  Part of coming to faith in Christ is allowing our hearts and minds to be transformed.  We need to be renewed daily, as well, so there is a real need to find time away from the busyness of this life to just be present with God.

Just think about this as you start the New Year.  Think about the priorities of your life.  It is so vital that we find time to unplug from the matrix.  It is also vital to understand that you do not have to maintain the crazy pace the everyone else thinks you need to.  Slow down and live.  Be still and find time to be with God.  Find time to be completely unplugged.  Find time to converse with God daily.  Find time to be fully present with your family.  Don’t be conformed to this world and don’t let busyness kill your soul.   You will miss so much if you stay plugged in and let the busyness run your life.

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Thankful For God’s Pursuit – Christmas Reminder

Here we are, just two days from Christmas.  Such an awesome time of year and has always been one of my favorites in terms of traditions with family now and in years past as a kid.  As I wrote last week, I’ve also gained  new perspective on Christmas and one that I realized last year and now more than ever as I see the turmoil our world is in.  I am given a stark reminder of God’s willingness to pursue our hearts and restore us by invading this world, sneaking behind enemy lines through the womb of a teenage girl.

If you think that Christmas was is not part of the spiritual war that takes place, you have not read enough into the Christmas story.  It’s far more than just a manger, shepherds, wise men, animals, and gifts.  It is war.  This part seems to always be overlooked, or if not overlooked, minimalized.  Read Matthew 2 and really soak that in.   Starting in verse 13, Matthew shares of an angel coming to Joseph and telling him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt until they are told to return.  Herod was coming to kill Jesus.  Starting in verse 16, we learn of the ‘massacre of the innocence,’ when all male children under the age of 2 were slaughtered by Herod’s soldiers.

The real  and true story of Christmas is an invasion, a great battle, and the demonstration of God’s love for us that he was willing to leave his thrown put on a robe of flesh and become fully man so that we may be restored and come fully alive in the holiness we were meant for.

I for one, am ever thankful for God’s continuous pursuit of my hearts.  No matter how far I ran, He never gave up on me.  His Word shows that He would never give up on me and I see that now as I see the story of my life played out.  Because of Jesus, I can now live.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 4, I can now put on my new nature and leave my old self behind, and now begin to pursue living as God created me and all of us to be as His image bearers, imago dei.  

I know I have written about this before and even some last week, but I think it is so important to remember.  Don’t get so caught up in the commercialized and traditional side of Christmas that you forget the true story and what is, in fact, going on.  The story goes a lot deeper and God is showing us that He is willing to go wherever we are, even to sneak in and walk among us in order to restore us to Him.

With that, I want wish you all a very Merry Christmas from my family to all of you.  I pray God’s peace, love, and joy to fill your hearts and your homes.  I look forward to my final post of 2015 next week as I go through what has been an absolutely amazing year of transformation for my heart, my life, and that of my family.  God Bless you all!

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Unending Pursuit – A Changing View of Christmas

Well today, we are 1 week away from what has always been one of my favorite days of the year, Christmas!  I’m reminded each year of Christmas’s gone by.  Times when I was a kid and the excitement of Christmas morning.  The time we had as a family when all was good and there were no worries in the world.  The trips to my grandparents each year to spend the day with the rest of our family. Then as I was married and had a family, seeing the same joy of Christmas in my children as they have grown.

Something changed, however, in the past couple of years.  I’ve always know that we Christmas was meant to mark the birth of Jesus.  We always see those nice manger scenes all over and the signs that say happy birthday Jesus.  But to me, as I have grown in my walk with God and have grown to know Him more, I know it is so much more than that now.  It is now a reminder each year, despite all of the distractions we have, of God’s endless pursuit of our hearts and His desire to restore us to who we were always meant to be as His children and image bearers.

I wrote about year ago about The Great Invasion that Christmas symbolizes.  God’s willingness to pursue us behind enemy lines and sneak in through the womb of a teenage girl.  It was exactly that.  Jesus’s first coming was a covert action that invaded a world that had been handed over to the prince of this world, Satan, in order to win back the hearts of man.

With that, I see Christmas a reminder each year, that God has been willing to go through some extraordinary lengths in order to restore our hearts to Him.  There are so many that this has been lost on.  Christmas is much more than what we have made it out to be.  There is this one commercial that come on that drive we crazy, where a lady sings that Christmas does not happen without her.  Every time I see it, I say, ‘I beg to differ.’  This secular world has skewed us from what Christmas is.  Because of Jesus’s coming and because of His willingness to live as man and to ultimately die for us, we can be made alive like never before.  We can now freely pursue God and live to glorify Him and be sanctified as saints living for Him.

We have to look at God’s great and epic story to really appreciate this.  It is laid out in His Word, Genesis to Revelation.  His 66 book love story of His desire, after we jacked it all up, of wanting to restore man.  Through all of the failures and trials that man suffered, God was always there with a desire to restore us.  With the coming of Jesus, God gave us the example of who we were meant to be and now we can live alive in Christ.

I love this time of year.  I love the time I get with my family to celebrate the season.  I love old school Christmas songs.  All about the classics.  But now through it all, I recognize and we should all recognize the absolute significance of what Christmas symbolizes.  A God that loves us with out end and was willing to go through extraordinary lengths to win back our hearts.  Something I am ever thankful for.  To have a God that loves me that much that He was wiling to become man, sneak into this world, live as man, and die to set us free.  Heavens invasion of this world, some 2,000 years ago, was just the beginning.

Stripped for Battle

Our world is wandering into a very scary place and nearing the tipping point for something huge to happen.  If you’ve ever doubted the existence of evil, it stares us right in the face every single day.  There is evil perpetrated across this country on a daily basis by people who place very little value on human life.  Across the globe we have brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing a greater evil and being martyred because they refuse to renounce their faith in Christ and turn to Islam.  A month of ago, we saw that evil stretch out into western Europe as Paris was hit and then last week, it came back to US soil again in San Bernardino, CA.  This comes from a group that is bent on destruction and killing anyone who does not share their religion.  So much suffering and violence everywhere.

With all of this, there are many questions on what we should do.  How do we as the body of Christ, as the church, deal with this evil and how do we go about our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ and continue to declare the Good News to the world.  I’ve heard talk of people in this country…In the United States of America that are starting to go underground with their faith so as to hide themselves and out of fear of possible attacks.  Is that the place we’ve come to in this country?  We have people across the world dying and put in prison for declaring the faith in some of the most dangerous parts of the globe and people here in this country are hiding.

As I wrote last week, following Jesus comes with a cost.  We have a responsibility and  privilege and brothers and sisters in the faith of Jesus Christ to continue to stand strong with the armor of God in the face of the evil of this world.  Satan already knows that his days are numbered.  Because of this we are coming under constant attack in this world spiritually and physically, as we see play out on the news everyday.  Christ has already claimed victory, yet we continue to fight until His final return because we still live in a fallen world.

So what do we do?  First, there is a real necessity for each of us to stand strong and defend our lives and that of our family.  I challenge you, if you have not done so, to obtain the right training and arm yourselves so that you can protect you, your family, and those around you in the face of evil.  It’s become a necessity.  First we never know when someone may go off the handle around us, and we also have a growing army of people (ISIS) that has declared war on us and our faith.  We have to fight, not just spiritually, but physically if it comes down to it.  As for me I, I will stand and fight.

I shared previously, the King, that’s Jesus, is striped for battle.  He is not here to hang around in peaceful harmony.  He isn’t, as John Eldredge points out in his book “Desire,” “quite like the pictures we have in Sunday school, Jesus with a lamb and a child or two, looking for all the world like Mr. Rogers with a beard,  The world’s nicest guy. He was something far more powerful.  He was holy.” He is stripped for battle.  Exodus 15:3, “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.”  Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The world was lost to Satan.  After the fall of man, this became his world.  All-out war has been waged to win us back from Satan and from the fallen world.  To restore us to who we were meant to be.  To restore our hearts.  Jesus was full of passion in his life, not apathy.  “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).  He knew his purpose and mission in this world and was not to walk around carrying lambs.  It was an all-out war to win back the human race from the prince of this world and restore our hearts to the glory that God created us for.  He was poised for warfare with the enemy.

Also, I wrote before that spiritual warfare is very real folks.  It is on-going everyday.  We have to arm ourselves to be able to take it on and not let it take us out.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God, “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm in the faith” (vs 13).  The armor is the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel, helmet of salvation, shield of faith, and sword of the spirit.  This is real and very necessary.  As Paul said, it’s so that you will be able to resist.  We have to resist the devil.  Going back to 1 Peter 5, we as believers are called to resist the devil and stand firm in the faith.  This is not Old Testament.  This is after the ascension of Jesus.  Meaning, the war is still ongoing and still is today.

In the face of evil, armored with God’s Word (the sword of the spirit), and His full armor, we need to stand strong and unashamed of our faith and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16).  We will be tested over time.  In our personal battles with the enemy and in the face of this evil.  The ultimate goal of the enemy is to pull us away from our faith.  He is relentless on those who draw nearer to God as he is trying to separate us from God.  He started that in the Garden with Adam and Eve and continues that pursuit now.  The closer we draw to his end, the harder he will fight us.

So arm yourself.  Don’t sit back waiting for things to happen.  Don’t let the enemy sink his claws into you.  Don’t walk through life alone and let the enemy push you away from from the Truth and Love of God.  Stand firm in your faith in Christ and stand unashamed of your faith. Don’t let the attacks of the enemy deter you.  We are victorious because of Jesus Christ.

“There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian’s right to live luxuriously “as a child of the King” in this atmosphere sounds hollow — especially since the King himself is stripped for battle. ”  John Piper

A Thankful Heart

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I pondered this post for a few days.  Thinking exactly where I would focus as we draw closer to Thanksgiving.  When I look over my life and all that is around me, it fills me with a thankful heart.  I have been blessed with such a beautiful wife that is such a beautiful soul.  A true Proverbs 31 woman in my life.  We’ve been blessed with 3 beautiful kids.  They are our pride and joy.  My boys are the apple of my eye and my daughter is my delight.  Proud of all 3 of them.  We’ve gone through a lot together as a family and we’ve made it through storms together.  I’m very thankful to the Lord for having each of them in my life.

There are so many other things I can call out to be thankful for.  The biggest thing above all things, however has to be full and complete transformation.  I can stand here today and say that 2015 has been a year of complete transformation, not just for me, but for my family.  Jesus took a hold of my life this year like I had never imagined possible and boy oh boy, this is just the beginning of what I can tell already will be an exciting life of following Him and leading the lost to Him.

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Through all of this transformation, through all of this change, there are so many things, just in this short period of time that I can point to and that am very thankful for.  I am thankful for my church family at The Cross Loganville.  My pastor, Tim Cash, and the rest of the team, our men’s ministry, the awesome small group Amber and I joined, and all the connections and friendships we have made so far.  Truly blessed to be walking with such an awesome body of believers.  They’ve welcomed us in and have been very instrumental to our lives.

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I’m thankful for Ransomed Heart Ministries, led by John Eldredge, and the opportunity to attend the Wild At Heart Boot Camp in Colorado.  This was the pivotal life changing moment for me.  One that God was prepping me for through many encounters right up to the day I left and I knew He was really leading me to, because of the spiritual warfare I dealt with before I left.  When I made it there, however, I was able to let go.  My life completely surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ as I stood in those mountains and I knew I would never be the same.

I’m thankful for the change of my heart to know I needed to follow Jesus into the unknown.  To live the unscripted life and follow Him to wherever He is leading.  I’ve always lived a life with a plan about where I was headed.  I can no longer do that and since then, there is so much freedom in knowing God is now leading the way, not me.  I go myself out of the way and stopped trying to control things that were not in my control and let Him take control.

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I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend Liberty University to pursue a Masters in Counseling.  Something I never thought I would do, but somehow, I feel as if God has been leading me here for many years through the many encounters I’ve had and the moments of counsel that I have given to others.  I never recognized it until this year, but once did, He put me on the fast track.  I’ve been blessed with great teaching, great fellowship when getting to go on campus, and great Christ centered learning and development.  Truly excited to see what the Lord is going to do with my life through all of this.

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I could honestly go on and on and on here.  All of this points to what the Lord has done in my life since I surrendered completely to Him.  He’s been leading me back to Him for the last few years and this was the year He decided it was time to unleash.  The transformation for my life has transformed my home.  Seeing my kids light up, but most of all seeing my bride light up.  Now watching her day after day getting into the Word on her own and journaling.  Seeing her build up the courage to break out of her shyness to fellowship and know others in our church family and building the courage to share what is a very powerful story.  She just glows in it as I see her eagerness to grow and know God.  Of that I am also very thankful.

2015 has been the Lords year for me and family.  He’s taken the reigns and is leading us into the unknown.  It’s no longer about living the good, comfortable, content, and ‘successful’ life.  It’s about living the unscripted life that follows where we are led.  My heart is very thankful for this transformation and where He takes us from here.

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I want to wish every one of you a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15