Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Understanding The Flawed Motives

There is motive and motivation that drives nearly every aspect of our decisions and directions.  Motivation can impact our family life, our careers, our spiritual choices, and so much more.  I’ve written about this before, but reading this week and then in conversations I have had, it reminded me again about the importance of understanding our motivations behind everything we do.  Something we all have difficulty with is allowing our motivations to be driven by anything outside of relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This is certainly a flaw in my life that I have had to come to terms with and still struggle with and I know I will continue to struggle with throughout the course of my life.  The problem here lies in the fact in our fallen nature, and with so much to tempt us in this world, it is so easy to strive to seek having our needs net apart from a relationship with with God through Jesus Christ.

In his book, “Effective Biblical Counseling,” Larry Crabb explains that motivation is “the drive or urge to meet our needs.”  It is that sense of momentum that impels us to do something to become significant and secure. As a fallen people we experience an acute, keen desire to be significant secure.”  Simple stated we are all filled deep down a sense of longing and need.  We know there is something out there we need to fill that need to help us feel significant and secure.

In this world it is everywhere.  We may tend to feel secure in our work and career and believe that striving to continually earn more will show significance to your life.  Believe me, this is where I was for a long time.  For married couples, it could be trying to find significance with your spouse and thinking you need to keep doing things to make them love you.  Crabb gives a great example of this.  Even in the church, we may find significance in getting ourselves involved in every aspect of what is going on and allowing people to take notice of your works.

Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with career advancement, anything wrong with doing things for your spouse, or anything wrong with heavy church involvement.  Those are not the problems.  The problem here in can lie in the motivations behind that.  Is the motivation driven for self or is it driven out of a sheer desire to glorify Christ in your life.  Proverbs 16:2 says, “All ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.”  James 4:3 says, “You ask and do not receive, because you with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”  Lastly, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

Our motivations drive our lives in many ways and if the motives are not right and are not centered on our faith in Christ, which for one is called sin, then we need to do some serious re-evaluating ourselves.  Like I mentioned, I had to do some real evaluating of my life.  For a long time, I found my significance and security in career advancement.  Building my experience and education so that I could make a higher income and give my family more.  You know what I found in that? Emptiness.  Why?  Because the motivation was wrong.  It was all built around me and what I wanted and thought I needed to do.

Now moving into a life as a Christian counselor, once again, I had to check my motives.  Was I doing this because I was stuck and wanted an escape or was it really driven on faith and the desire to truly glorify God and fulfill the Great Commission making disciples for Christ through helping people find their significance in Him and healing and restoration through Him alone.  I cannot heal people and I know that.  I can only help lead them to the one that can provide the real healing and restoration.  The same thing that I found through Christ and is available to everyone.

I’ve had to do some evaluating of myself nearly everyday to ensure my motives are in line with my faith.  I pray every morning to have my actions and thoughts centered on Christ. With each passing day, I realize that God is leading me and now being centered on Him, I can follow Him as my motivations are now centered on Him. Is this the case for every part of my life? No.  I have to continually check my motives in everything.  We all do.  Understand the results that flawed, self-driven motivations bring.  Real significance and security in this life is not possible apart from a relationship through Christ.  Trying to seek it through worldly things will lead to emptiness and deeper brokenness.  This is another part of the reason why I believe God is leading me as a counselor.  So many have found this emptiness through self-reliance and need to be led differently.  Having been there bares a strong testimony.

So I’ll close with this, motives drive us.  We need to closely evaluate what really drives us in our desire of significance and security in this life.  Don’t let a self-driven life be your motivation.  Instead, seek your motivations through your faith in Christ and let Him be the driver of your motives.

“We have a Father, and He cares about our internal world – issues of motive, issues of fear, issues of validation.”  – John Eldredge

Where Does Your Story Fit?

Our life is one big story.  There are so many things in our lives that make up the person we choose to become and the decisions and directions we choose to go.  In my counseling studies the past couple of weeks, I’ve written a series of essays around human development and the impact of things such as trauma, abuse, and addiction to development.  These things that cause deep seeded wounds in each of and if not addressed can drastically impact where our story leads.  Larry Crabb provided that in the pursuit of satisfaction, people will often exchange one error for another in trying to find what feels good.  It’s often an issue of trying to cope with the problems and not knowing where it is they fit in the world due to the pains they have suffered.  This suffering is not new to any of us. We all have fallen and have been faced with tough choices and decisions that have drawn from wounds we have suffered.

All of this is very interesting to think about because I know people, myself included, that have gone through sufferings and struggles in life and unsure of where they fit and what purpose their story has in it all.  What do you make of everything that happens and how are our choices influenced by what we know in life.  Then one day, I realized something.  I realized that my life and story is simply a small section or even paragraph in the grand epic story of God.  He is the real hero of the story that we all belong to.  Then I realized that it was not even my story, but His.  I belong to the Father now and ransomed by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, I now get to live my life through the life of Christ.  I found out that all the things I purposed of this world were meaningless and futile if the motives did not come out of faith.  Ecclesiastes 2:11 says, “But as I looked at everything that I had world so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless–like chasing the wind.”  A new purpose and direction was shown to me.

This may seem a bit deep for some, but I often think about life in this way now.  For years, probably the first 33 years of my life, I didn’t realize where my story fit.  Yes, I knew the faith on a surface level, but I never sought to know Christ deeply and pursued things that I thought were going to bring me satisfaction in this life.  I had a false sense of life and the story I lived and direction I was headed.  I stayed lost in myself and my sin.  God began to wake me up nearly 4 years ago around my 33rd birthday.  He struck my curiosity to really try to know Him better and develop and deeper faith.

Fast forward 3 years, just turning 36 and I could feel the Spirit stirring in me again, and this time on a deeper level.  Deeper than anything I had ever noticed before.  I began to really see my life and who I was to the Father.  I was not going to let myself get caught up in a religious fog, but rather get to know Him and finally realized who I was as His son, bought through the redemptive blood of Christ.  I learned a critical thing that I had never been open to.  I found out why I was created.  Having fully surrendered my life, God revealed to me why.  He showed me that I am His beloved son, that I had what it takes to live out my life as a reborn warrior, and was now calling me to be a warrior for the Kingdom.

It was awesome having my thoughts around all of this, and then at worship yesterday, my pastor, Tim Cash, shared a great Mark Twain quote.  “The two most important days in your live are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  I heard that, I was like, YES!  It’s like an awakening when I was able to truly see who I was in Christ and what it was I created for.

But, now that I realize this.  Now that I know who I am in Christ.  Now that I know that I am bought and justified through God’s grace with the goal of reaching glorification when I enter the Kingdom, there was no way in the world that I could sit by and not do something about it.  How can you?  When you know your purpose and where you fit in God’s story, how can you simply ignore Him when He calls?  I was no longer going to do that.  I belong to the Father now, and through the full works of Christ, I get to live my life in this light. While I know I won’t get it all right, I pray that my life stands as a reflection of Christ to others.  We should all pursue this. God is calling on everyone of us.  It just took me 36 years to FINALLY act on it.

Your Father Is Always There

I wrote last week before Fathers Day about the problem with fatherlessness and the struggles that many kids today face when their dads checkout emotionally or simply walk out completely.  It’s a cycle that is too common today.  It’s a problem of the heart.  There are many of us that may have experienced this or even lost their dad like I did and left in a state of loss, not knowing where they can turn too.  For many, their life turns to complete self-reliance and thinking they have to trudge through life on their own and figure things out on their own.

The fact is that we were never meant to go through life alone and in fact we are never alone.  You see the main mission of a dad is to raise up their children so that they learn to live a life with a heart for God.  Dads are meant to raise kids up part of the way and teach them to lean to the real Father.  But what happens when this does not happen?  Kids grow with a life fixed on the world, distant from the father and chasing after things of this world.

As I’ve shared before, when I lost my dad, I was lost.  I didn’t have a heart for God to where I learned to let Him guide my heart and Father me.  I learned this in the years that followed his death. When I did learn this, it completely changed my life and my heart.  I realized that my real Father has always been there.  He was looking to pull me out of that pit whirlwind of bitterness, self-reliance, and world driven.  I was so worried about what I thought I was supposed to do and not on who I am as God’s son allowing Him to take control of my life.  When I figured it out though, just as the prodigal son, the Father was their with open arms ready to bring me back in.

We are his children.  His sons and daughters.  In his book Fathered by God, John Eldredge says, “When a man gives his life to Jesus Christ, when he turns as the prodigal son turned for home and is reconciled to the Father, many remarkable things take place. At the core of them is a coming into true sonship.”  I can testify this to be so true.  Coming into sonship and now asking God to Father me everyday has changed my life so dramatically.  I realized that it is not about me, but about Him, the real hero.  The Father has a place for me and all of us in His story, his larger story.  I learned to stop living in my small story and live for the larger, epic story of God.

The Father is always there for us.  He has always been there.  He waits for us to realize this though.  While his desire is for all of us to turn to Him, He gave us the will to freely choose.  We can choose everyday to live for Him.  We don’t have to live by what this world says we should do.  We don’t have to go through life trying to figure things out on our own, fatherless.  Our Father is there to guide, so walk with us, to counsel us, to heal us through His son Jesus Christ, and to armor us for the spiritual warfare we face everyday.   We don’t have to go alone.  Seek the heart of God and he will restore yours to Him.

Sweet Victory That Can’t Be Taken Away

I’ve been inspired about a word this week that is so very true for our lives, but for many it just is not grasped as important or they don’t really understand the depths of this word.  That word is ‘Victory.’  Victory brings about a great deal of thoughts and even emotions for people.  It’s associated with sports when a team comes out on top to win, particularly a championship like Duke just winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball title last month or the Patriots pulling off a last second Super Bowl win.  It’s also more associated with the battle field and war.  The dictionary defines victory as ‘a success or triumph over an enemy in battle or war.’  For the victorious, there is a great deal of joy.  A great deal of pride.  The triumph can mean so much to the victorious.

I’ve began thinking and meditating on this word recently and the thoughts about another victory.  One that many lose sight of.  Actually a victory that is more significant and everlasting than any battlefield triumph or sports championship here in this world.  That is the victory that we have in the finished works of Jesus Christ.  This is so significant to all of our lives, yet so many fail to really grasp the real victory that we have and the battle that was won through Christ.

We live in a world filled with darkness and chaos all over.  It’s all over the evening news.  Look at what happened in Baltimore this week with the riots that broke out.  Also we saw where more brothers in the faith were martyred by ISIS when they were marched to the cost and killed.  The faith is under attack by post-modern thinking that discounts our faith or diminishes pieces of the Word for their own purposes and demonizes believers for staying true to God’s Word.  It’s running rampant and throughout history our fallen world has been filled with darkness and chaos.

Some 2,000 years ago, however, something significant happened when Jesus was crucified, he was then raised to life, and ascended to the thrown at God’s right hand.  Jesus has won the ultimate victory for us in many ways.  Sin was forever defeated, death was conquered, and Jesus is given authority over heaven and earth.  Jesus’s blood paid the ransom for our lives.  He took everything we deserved having fallen so far from God and now we live under God’s undeserved grace because of the obedience of Jesus.  It’s quite a victory and nothing could ever top just how significant a victory it was and is.

1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “but thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is victorious.  He has already won the battle and what a sweet victory it is.  What’s even more awesome is that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing can ever take this victory away.  The only thing that can happen is that we choose to turn away from it, but that’s our own choice in then end.  Jesus said in John 16:33 that we can take courage because He overcame the world.  1 John 5:4 tells us, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

I write about this because I feel it’s so significant to our lives.  Day after day we see suffering.  We see people that feel like there is absolutely no hope.  Not just in the news, but in our everyday lives.  They feel lost and don’t know where to turn.  I have seen this very close to home from kids to grown adults losing all hope feeling all alone. People just lose complete sight of the victory because of trauma and wounds they’ve experienced or just feeling like that they have no body.

The enemy sees this hurt and plants a foothold blinding them. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might now see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Now this points to the unbelieving, but the same can be said for the believer when they allow tribulations in their lives to pull them away from Christ.  It boils down to faith. In Matthew 17, Jesus said that faith as small as a mustard seed is strong enough to move mountains.  Nothing is impossible.  For many, because of our fallen nature it’s still so easy to lose heart and fall back away and forget that the victory is won.

I love the hook in Trip Lee’s song, “Sweet Victory” where it says:

I feel thorns where my crown was
I’ll be weak but I’m alive
From the dust until dawn yeah
I’ll survive cause I got
Sweet Victory
Nobody can take it from me
Sweet victory
Cause I got, sweet victory yeah

I feel like this so powerful for all of us to remember.  We may feel weak.  We may have times where we just struggle, we may feel down, but we are alive in Christ.  We have sweet victory that can’t be taken from us, ever.  We win because Christ already won for us.  As Jesus said, we will still have trials and tribulation in our lives.  Until His return that’s the world we live in still.  We can take heart and bring the finished works of Jesus Christ over our lives and bring the Cross of Christ between us and any struggles we face.  We are victorious in Him, forever.  Let’s take great joy in this and know that no matter what we face, Christ overcame to free us and we can overcome through Him.

“God expects you to have the mentality of a conqueror. See yourself as a victor in Christ Jesus, and go about life with a holy swagger!” – Pedro Okoro


Stand Ready to Defend

The Christian faith has been persecuted and under attack for centuries.  Since the beginning, of the faith, the world has tried to stop what has proven to be an unstoppable force.  The persecution started with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  He disrupted the ways of the religious elite.  They were threatened by him and lied anyway they can to remove what they saw as a threat, not as the Savior.  The first apostles were nearly all martyred for their faith and boldness in defending the Good News and sharing the hope they had in Jesus Christ.  Down through the centuries, this has been the case.  People who have been bold enough to declare their faith in Jesus getting persecuted or even killed.

Today, this is going on many different ways.  The most prevalent we in the news right now is with ISIS.  An Islamic group that is bent on expanding their control and killing without mercy.  We all saw the images of 21 Christian men being marched out onto a beach and then beheaded.  The are a violent and purely evil force that must be dealt with and stopped.  Unfortunately, they’ve been allowed to grow in their control and influence.

Elsewhere we have what’s going on in this post-modern society we live in.  People have trivialized and minimized God’s Word.  Many will try to do anything they can to remove any reference from Scripture, like the Ten Commandments from public locations.  Things like removing “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, the secular side of holidays like Christmas and Easter becoming more powerful.  The post-modern thinking that tells us we have to accept and be tolerant of everything, no matter what God’s Word says, yet the same acceptance is not passed back.  You name it, it’s continuous and it grows.

So what do we do about this.  What can we do to combat the efforts of many to silence our faith.  1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be “ready to make a defense to everyone who as you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  We are told to be ready to make a defense for our hope.  To defend our faith whenever we are challenged.  To defend the Word of God.  To defend our hope in Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin, tortured and crucified  to concur sin, rose on the third day defeating death, and ascended into Heaven with all authority in Heaven and on earth now given to him.

This is a pretty serious command.  Peter said in versus 14 that if you suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed so do not fear intimidation and do not be troubled.  What it takes now is for those of us in the faith to able to stand firm in our faith.  Not letting society or evils of the enemy stop us from proclaiming our hope and faith.  This kind of warfare has continually been going on.  We are to be bold in our defense yet.

It can be easy when your in a crowd and people just talk against faith or the Word to just go along for the sake of not being confrontational.  Was Jesus non-confrontational.  Absolutely not.  When Jesus cleansed the temple in John 2, what does he do?  He made “scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple.”  He made a whip.  Think about that.  He did not walk in carrying a lamb asking politely for people to leave, no, he made a whip and drove them out.  His love of the Father was so strong that he was going to defend his faith.  Imagine the chaotic seen this would be.

Jesus said “whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 10:33).  So we are not to shrink back and deny him.  Stand bold with the courage and faith that he showed for us.  It’s all of our responsibilities as believers to stand firm in the faith.  No matter what struggles you come through, even when someone comes right at you to challenge your faith, you need to be bold.

If you are unsure of how to defend it, then find your way back into Scripture and pray for the wisdom you need to be able to defend the faith.  2 years ago, I easily would have shrunk back.  Gone along with the crowd and not speak of my faith boldly, not matter where I was.  I refuse to fall into that trap any longer.  It’s all a part the warfare we face.  The enemy is after our hearts every single day.  Armor yourselves with the full armor of God every day so that you can be ready to stand firm in the faith and make a defense for our hope in Jesus.

Diving Deeper – Spiritual Warfare

I have written several posts about spiritual warfare in some sense.  About things I have encountered and have learned over time.  What do you make of spiritual warfare?  Do you find it an odd topic to talk about?  Do you even think it’s real?  For many, it can be difficult to accept that there is a battle within the spiritual realm and that we are stuck smack dab in the middle of it.  I have to admit, that up until about a year and half ago, the idea of spiritual warfare never even crossed my mind. The reality is that warfare is all through Scripture and it is still very real.  1 Peter 5:8 tells us to be on alert, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.”  This is a warning to believers from Peter that this is very real.  The enemy and his demons are always on the prowl.  They don’t want to just hurt our feelings.  They want to destroy us…devour us.  Verse 9 says, “resist him, firm in your faith.”  We are too stand firm and resist the devil.  We have to stand firm.

This is spiritual warfare.  It is so real and a significant part of our everyday life in this fallen world.  If we don’t recognize it, it is that much easier for us to be taken out.   I was taken out for years.  Lost in my own sin, my agreements with the enemy, my wounds, and my passivity. I knew I was lost, I knew there was something more, but I did not know where to turn to deal with it.  The enemy had a foothold in my wounds and my sins and I never recognized it or resisted.

I’m going to dive deeper into this with some things I’ve learned through Scripture, speakers and books , and my own experiences.  As with each of the 4 Streams, I am still studying and learning to apply it more to my life so as I go along, I want to share and help you apply it to yours.  We talked about Walking with God the other day.  That’s the fundamental foundation of it all.  Through walking with God, he has helped me to accept and now recognize the spiritual warfare in my life and around us.  It’s very real and we either accept it and fight, or we let it take us out by denying it.

John Piper shared that, “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.”  The king himself is striped for battle.  That tells us something very significant.  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 striped 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.

Let’s start with Christmas.  As I have pointed out in previous posts, Christmas was an invasion.  Christ’s coming was Heavens invasion of this world.  A covert invasion at that.  Many of the Jewish faith were looking for a king to rise up to save them.  But God had another plan.  He was going to sneak in behind enemy lines through the womb of a young teenage girl.  You think this was not an invasion and a battle, then ponder what happened next.  The “Massacre of the Innocents.”  When figuring out this was to be a child born, Herod sent soldiers into Bethlehem to have every boy child under the age of two killed.  Satan knew that the Messiah was born and used Herod to try to kill him.  An angel appeared to Joseph to tell him to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt until Herod was dead and the angel sent word for them to return.

Jesus encountered warfare directly when he was in the wilderness.  Satan came and tempted and tested Jesus throughout those 40 days.  This was warfare.  Jesus, who was fully man had to endure this battle, but rather than shrink back or succumb to the battle, he stood firm.  He resisted by the power of the Word of God and faith in the Father.  There is not a single one of us in this world that could have endured the battles Jesus did and come out unscathed.

Good Friday and Easter.  Also spiritual warfare.  Adam’s passivity brought about sin and the world for was lost and given to Satan as his domain.  He was given authority over a world that was meant to be given to man.  Man, ever since, was trapped in a world of sin.  Jesus’s death on the cross defeated sin, however, being offered as the perfect sacrifice.  By his resurrection, death is defeated.  By his ascension to Heaven and the Father’s right hand, all authority in heaven and all earth was given to him.  He won it.  He warred with Satan and demanded the keys to the world.  It is no longer the enemies.  Now, by his authority, Jesus has given us authority to fight for our world and fight for our faith.

The war is not over.  Look at the world around us.  We have believers still being martyred because of their faith in Christ.  You want to look at the works of the enemy still trying to wage war on us?  Simply look at ISIS.  Look at the Islamic Terrorists, who follow their law to the letter with the goal of destroying all who don’t believe in their faith.  Look at this post-modern culture we live in now that does whatever it can to remove mention of Jesus or the Bible.  Amber and I were driving to my son’s baseball game the other day and we were behind a car with a sticker that said ‘Respect’ in all different religious symbols from around the world.  Not one Cross.  Basically the message is that Christians need to respect other religions, but the same is not required for respect for our faith.  The Christian faith has been under attack, continuously for 2,000 years.  If that does not tell you that spiritual warfare is going on, then I don’t know what will.  Satan is doing whatever he can to keep us from turning to God and turning to faith in the works of Jesus Christ.

Another example of Spiritual Warfare is religion.  We encounter the religious spirit throughout our lives.  Jesus was and is anti-religion.  The religious establishment became so bloated and were all about their own glory.  Jesus called them out directly for the hypocrites they were.  In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy.” Jesus called them out.  He did not shy away from them, he went directly to them and boldly.

Today, the same thing is happening in our churches, world religions, and cults.  The religious spirit of the enemy has infiltrated the church and filled it with division, man made-dogmas and traditions that are not based on Scripture, and churches have skewed away from truth and trivialized the Word of God.  This is all spiritual warfare and is the enemy’s way to divide the faith.  We have to recognize that for what it is to stand more united in our faith and hope in Jesus.  As my pastor says, Jesus + Nothing = Salvation!

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.

It takes practice and work each day to be able to recognize spiritual warfare and be able to armor up to resist it.  We can stand firm in our faith in Jesus because it is by his death, resurrection, and ascension that we are restored and now can be armored through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If you are unsure of what to do to resist, start with prayer.  Learn to walk with God every day.  Talk with him and ask him to help you recognize the warfare in your life.  Invite Jesus into your heart to help you armor up.  If you are unsure of how to pray, I want to share a prayer that I have used which has helped me each day to set my mind right, open my heart to God, and enable me to stand firm in the faith.  It’s a Daily Prayer that John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart adapted based on God’s Word and is a great tool and weapon.  There is also a Daily Prayer (Head of Household), which I actually use as part of my daily walk.  Another great tool for also bring the works of Christ over you and your family.  If you’re unsure how to pray, look at these prayers.  It’s prayer that works.

Again, Spiritual Warfare is very real.  We cannot deny it exists.  Be ready to stand firm in the faith, because the enemy is going to be there to try taking you out every single day.  Look at my post from February 4, “The Realness of the War We Live.”  The enemy will try to take us out even in the smallest ways.  If we don’t resist, it can be easy to fall again.  We have to recognize the warfare, accept that it exists, and bring the works of Jesus over our lives to help us armor up for the war that’s ongoing.  Stand firm in the faith and resist.

The Great Invasion

I hope all of you are having a great Christmas season.  It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of another year.  2014 certainly seemed to fly on by.  As we move into this Christmas season, I find myself reflecting quite a bit about the time Christ was born and what that was like.  What it was like to have that bright star shining down.  What is was like for the shepherds to be in the fields and see an army of angels make them selves present to praise God and celebrating Christs birth.  I wrote on this last Christmas as to just how huge a moment that was to have so many angels appear.  To have the 3 wise men travel so far just to see the new born king.

I have further began to think about what this time was like and just how pivotal of a moment it was.  The birth of Christ was an invasion.  Think about that.  We live in a fallen creation.  We live in a world controlled by Satan because of the fall of man.  This has become his domain.  Due to this, we live in a world full of pain and suffering and so many trials and tribulations.

Christs coming was Heavens invasion of this world.  A covert invasion at that.  Many of the Jewish faith were looking for a king to to rise up to save them.  But God had another plan.  He was going to sneak in behind enemy lines through the womb of a young teenage girl.  He was not going to come in with the pomp of royalty, no.  He was going to come in and be born humbly and without much fan fare.  The fan fare came however in that the angels came to earth to praise God, and many including the wise men came to visit them in Bethlehem in the days and weeks following his birth.

You think this was not an invasion and a battle, then ponder what happened next.  The “Massacre of the Innocents.”  When figuring out this was to be a child born, Herod sent soldiers into Bethlehem to have every boy child under the age of two killed.  Satan knew that the Messiah was born and used Herod to try to kill him.  An angel appeared to Joseph to tell him to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt until Herod was dead and the angel sent word for them to return.

Just take a moment to stop and think of all of this.  I know in Christmas time we always have the wonderful scenes of mangers, Christmas trees, wonderful plays in church with children singing, and many other awesome traditions.  But this Christmas, take time to really reflect on what really happened that night the Word became Flesh.  God incarnate.  Emmanuel.  Can you just imagine how mad this made Satan and his demons.  They know the stage is now set to reach their end.  They are going to lose.  Christ’s birth was God’s great invasion to set all of us, Jew and Gentile free from the bondage of sin and fear of death.  We now have a new Hope in Christ Jesus.  We are now set free.  The Armies of Heaven were victorious when Christ was born, which is why the angels came to shout and praise Glory Hallelujah.  Glory to God in the Highest, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to men.  The battle had been won.  This then set the state for the next great victory in the battle of good and evil when Jesus declared on the Cross that “It is Finished.”


An Unending Pursuit

Have you ever felt that there was something you needed to go after and you would not stop until you got it?  Have you ever fell head-over-heals in love with another that you felt there was nothing that would keep you pursuing them and staying close to their heart?  Have you ever had anyone betray you repeatedly, but no matter what you loved them through it?  Do you that this is just a glimpse of the level of love that God has for each one of us?  He loves each one of us so much that He will continue pursuing us through all the junk that infiltrates our lives.  Have you ever stopped to just contemplate how deep of a love He has for us?  It’s really something quite awesome to think about and really goes beyond our realm of understanding.

The Father wants nothing more than for us to be drawn to Him in faith and connected close to His heart.  His desire would be for everyone, no matter where they’ve been in life, to come back to Him.  Simple fact is that His love for us is so great that he willingly sent His son, Jesus Christ, to come and die for us all and be resurrected to life to give us a doorway to eternal life through Him.  We are called to return to the Lord in faith and turn away from sin.  We are called to share the Good News with others and steer them to faith in Christ.  Through all of that, we face a number of challenges and obstacles that will always try to pull us back.  You will see negative reactions from people, you will seem to face new and greater challenges that threaten your faith.  Satan has so many tools at his disposal to try to stop us and will try harder and harder to pull us from God.  Through all of that, God never lets go and will never stop pursuing us.  Those that have not come to faith or lost faith, He will always continue pursuing them.  His desire is to open our eyes to His glory and set us free from our sin and death.

My family and I were re-watching the movie, God’s Not Dead last night.  If you have not seen this movie, I would highly, highly recommend it.  There’s a couple of theme’s from this movie that are so real and evident for all of us today.  First, the main character in the movie, Josh, is challenged to prove God’s existence.  What a challenge and one that so many would shy away from.  What I want to look at is the negatives that Josh faced.  Not only was this atheist professor going to try to shut him down at every turn, but his family discouraged him, and his girlfriend, whom he loved a great deal tried to forbid him from it, ultimately leaving him.  A lot for a college freshman to deal with.  The Holy Spirit kept pursuing him though and gave him the strength and courage he needed.

Then we have his professor.  An atheist who because of his own struggles turned completely away from God.  He instead was stuck on human reason and logic which in his opinions did not support the existence of God.  (Spoiler Alert)  Through all of his anger and hatred for God from what he felt was God’s betrayal, when his mom died, the Lord finally opened his eyes.  Josh was used a tool to open his eyes and many others.  He comes to Christ in the end and finally sees the truth and reaching his salvation and accepting Christ right before he dies.  The same happens to a liberal blogger who is left alone when she discovers she has terminal cancer and cries out in desperation.

I share all of this for one reason.  No matter how far down our journey goes, God never stops His pursuit of our hearts.  He will pursue us to the very end all the way through our death.  Christ came to save us and rescue us from the death that we all deserved.  God took on himself as the son, all the suffering and punishment and death we deserved.  There is no love greater in all of the world.

The Love of God Never Fades

I’ve written often about the pains and struggles that we all face in this world.  It doesn’t matter who you are, there is not anyone who has not had to face trials and sorrows, pain and suffering, temptation and sin.  It’s a simple fact of our fallen world.  I know there are some of you right now, who are going your own personal hell where it feels like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  You find it difficult to see where God is at work in your life.  You could be someone that has been full of faith, prays, and walks with the Lord, but then something comes along that just knocks the wind out of your sails.  I’ve read the book, “Heaven is For Real” and my family and I sat and watched it yesterday.  The Burpo family was going through some serious struggles of their own.  This was a family where the Dad and Husband is a pastor and they are all about their faith.  Boy does it get tested though, especially when their son falls ill and nears death.

Often times, the more locked into our faith we are, the tougher the struggles are and the harder and faster the arrows come to pierce our hearts.  My pastor, Tim, said in his sermon yesterday, that if you are locked in your faith, the devil is more ticked off now that your heart has turned to God, so he will come at you even harder.  This is so true too.  In my faith walk these last few years, there are times where I just get bombarded with junk, whether it’s how I respond with my attitude, junk from my past trying to creep back, or new struggles and temptations that try to pierce into me.  I have to fight just as much. We all do.

There’s one thing I’ve learned for sure with all of this, however.  The best thing we can ever hope to do, no matter how hard things may get is keep our eyes fixed on God.  David said in Psalm 42, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad? I will put my hope in Go! I will praise Him again – my Savior and my God!”  No matter how much junk tries to eat at us in this life, we have to keep focused on God.  Our hope lies in our faith in Jesus Christ.  Because of the love of God shown by the blood of Christ we have overcome just as Christ overcame.  We are already victorious through Him!  In my church we have been going through the book of 1 John.  1 John 5:4 says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith.”  Our faith gives us victory and sets us free if we can keep our hearts fixed on God.

I ponder on this daily when I sit in my Scripture reading and prayer time or just when I am wandering through the day thinking.  I think just how awesome God’s love is for everyone of us.  I can’t think or fathom anything greater than the love of God.  I used to not ever think about this.  God would cross my mind, but never in such a way that I just sat in awe of His glory and love.

We are in a constant war in this life.  As I’ve said before, God is always pursuing our hearts to turn to Him, but the adversary is trying to use this world and his demons to attack us daily.  Trying to eat at our souls and our hearts to make it impossible to keep our hearts fixed on God.  Know that through Christ you are made victorious.  There’s nothing more freeing than to know that.  Because of our faith, we are born again of God and are His children.  His love will never fail or abandon us.

Romans 8:39 says, “No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Meditate on that.  How awesome is that to know.  Yes, we will tested and attached constantly in our life.  Sin will always try to win out.  But if you are faithful and in those times of struggle keep your hearts and thoughts fixed on God, know that He is always there to pull you through.  There’s a framed picture in the entry way of my home that says, “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.”  God will never abandon you to this world.  Even if it feels like all hope is fading, that’s when you need to lock in more.

The Christian life is never rosy and perfect.  John Piper said, “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.”  We are victorious in Christ because of the unfailing love of the Father who has never stopped pursuing us.  He is constantly ready to go to battle for us.

The Lifelong War to Come Alive

Many of you have heard the quote from Saint Irenaeus that says, “The glory of God is man fully alive.”  I use that quote as the banner on this site and on my Facebook and Twitter pages.  It is a powerful statement that speaks to what it is we are created for in living out God’s purpose of glorifying Him through our own lives.  What does this statement mean to you.  Many will look at it and shrug their shoulders at it thinking it’s just another cliche statement that doesn’t carry much weight.  If God is really about us coming alive, then why do we find so much trial and difficulty in our lives that seem to draw us back into a world of heartache and difficulty.  We get bombarded with so many challenges day and night that it becomes difficult for many to see just where God is working.

What I’ve come to realize is that all of this difficulty and struggle comes about because we are born into a world that constantly at war.  We are faced with a world that is full of struggle and difficulty, anxiety, worry, and pain.  Since the fall of man in Eden, God has been constantly waging war against Satan and his demons that are constantly trying to overtake our lives and turn us away from God.  In Exodus 15:3, the Hebrews proclaimed that “The Lord is a Warrior.”  God has waged a continuing battle to win us back every since the fall.  What is He battling for?  For our hearts and that we can turn to Him and finally achieve the purposeful life we were created for.

Now for many, they may see that our faith in Christ grants us life in Heaven.  They miss a key part of what eternal life is about.  Eternal life begins now.  By our faith in Christ we are open to eternal life and fully our full design.  That does not start after we leave here, but it starts now on this earth.  Eternal life means always living, not living after we die.  Jesus came with the promise of life.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Through Christ we have a chance to defeat the evil in this world and beginning to come alive through Him.

Now back to the war I was talking about.  God has been waging a war for us since the fall.  We face so much difficulty in this world because we face an enemy that is trying to always pull us away from God.  You see it today in the media as people are so bent on being in this progressive society and discounting anything that is spoken from The Word.  That is Satan at work.  Jesus told us that we will continue to have trials and sorrows in the world.  Through our faith in Him, we can overcome all of that because He overcame this world and stole the keys of hell and death and was risen to new life securing our rebirth.

We have to always remember that we are at war and God is at war for us.  Jesus has brought us new life and now we have the opportunity to fully come alive through faith in Christ and what He has secured for us.  In the book, “Waking the Dead,” John Eldredge said, “War is not just one among many themes in the Bible. It is the backdrop for the whole Story, the context for everything else. God is at war. He is trampling out the vineyards where the grapes of wrath are stored. And what is He fighting for? Our freedom and restoration. The glory of God is man fully alive.”

We are going to be continually at war in this life.  Don’t let struggles that you face pull you away from your faith.  I know that it will be easy to turn away.  We’ve all faced struggles that make it difficult to see where God is at work.  Trust me, He always is at work and will never stop fighting for us and pursuing our hearts.  That’s how much He loves every single one of us.  We can come alive through Christ and start living out exactly what we were created for in the eternal life that begins now through our faith.