When “ONE” Really Does Matter

When “ONE” Really Does Matter

 

Earlier this year I felt led to start a life group at New Life Community Church—a life group that focused on spiritual freedom, spiritual healing, spiritual warfare, and the icky issues that often get overlooked in favor of more traditional studies by famous authors. You know, the studies about Grace, How to Pray, How to Disciple, How to do this and that and the other. Don’t get me wrong, I love those types of studies too, but sometimes people walk into church a little “messy” on the inside, and sometimes those people need something a little different than another “Five Steps to Being a Better Christian.”

I was excited as it got under way. There were four of us ladies, which would be perfect when it came to discussing the more sensitive issues we were likely to explore. (It’s easier to share in a small small group then in a room with twenty people.) But after just a few weeks our small group was reduced to microscopic proportions as just I and one other woman remained. Not surprisingly I struggled with the doubt of whether or not I had really “heard” God’s voice in this endeavor. Apparently I had some unmet expectations regarding the “success” of this group. (Don’t you love how God kicks us off our platform of pride rather bluntly?) But in the end I knew I had followed His leading, and I committed myself to sticking it out, even if it was only so “ONE” little life could possibly be affected in a positive way (and even if that “ONE” just happened to be ME!).

Surrendering my expectations to God lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I could walk into the “group” (I mean, if two people can be called a group) excited about the study and what God had revealed to my friend during her week. We probably learned more from each other’s insights and experiences then either of us thought possible.

A few months into the group I had the opportunity to share a testimony at a Life Group Leaders meeting our church held. I had “ONE” little testimony to read, but God had more in store as a result.

After the meeting a woman approached me and asked if there was room for “ONE” more (Oh nope, sorry, three is a crowd—NOT). So she started attending the group even though the study was ending soon. She shared some of her struggles and asked us to pray for some of her family members who were struggling with some specific “icky” issues we often addressed in our study. The three of us developed quite a bond through this “doing life” together thing. We now pray for each other on a regular basis and know we can depend on each other for a listening, non-critical/judgmental ear. We have a “safe” place to share what many people may find “taboo” in a Christian environment (after all, Christians shouldn’t be depressed or have anxiety, right?!).

A few weeks after this woman joined our group, one of the Pastors referred another woman to me who needed a listening, non-judgmental ear regarding her “issues”. She ended up coming to the group, even though she was only able to make it to a couple meetings before it ended.  (I’ll share more about her amazing spiritual transformation in a later post, but you won’t want to miss it! It’s powerful!) So, by the end of the semester, our little life group was up to four. Then the summer came and I found out God had some major plans!

Now, we weren’t even meeting in the summer, nor was this group specifically advertised at church—but the church happens to have a website where people can browse through the life groups and read a little paragraph about it to see if it’s something they are interested in. Through this website, a few more ladies contacted me and a few others were referred to the group via word of mouth. I like to think of it as a carefully God-selected group of women called to come together in this special way.

In a matter of two months I went from prayers of, “Lord, only one? Ok, I’ll trust that this “ONE” is exactly what you have planned,” to, “Ok Lord, where am I going to find room for all of these people?!” You see, the Unexpected God came through again with His awe-inspiring blessings.

In just a few weeks our group begins again, this time we have two different meeting dates because there isn’t enough room for all of us in the room we had been using! So we’ve expanded to two days of meeting, and TEN women searching for the same thing: a dynamic and intimate relationship with Christ. Woo! God is GOOOOOD!

So I said all of that to say this: if you’re leading or mentoring just “ONE”, or maybe you write a blog and only “ONE” person reads it, or maybe you work hard to serve but not “ONE” person notices your efforts, then take heart! Maybe God will grow your ministry and maybe not, but either way, the “ONE” He gave to you is the perfect one because He chose it. So embrace it! Every “ONE” is important in God’s kingdom and we really CAN change the world one person at a time. It starts with our own spiritual freedom, and then through building relationships—one at a time—and trusting God with the results. You never know how your influence, testimony, or freedom in Christ could be used to affect the life of another…and another…and another…

…Or, as it was in my case, maybe that “ONE” God wants to transform is actually YOU.

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Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 3)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 3)

Rebuking the Devil 

Today we’ll be discussing Deadly D #6. (To read about 1-3, click HERE. To read about 4-5, click HERE.)

 

6. Distraction

In Satan’s economy, distraction is about as subtle a ruse as you will find. Not because he distracts us with horrible, grotesquely sinful things, but because the distractions are typically good and wholesome things. These good and wholesome activities keep us busy—too busy to find God’s best for our lives.

                                      

•In Ministry

Good counterfeits will look different to each of us because God hasn’t called us all to the same ministry. But in many Christian’s lives it looks like a heaping plate of hyper-involvement in various church activities with a side of complaining about busy-ness and a decadent dessert of stress levels through the roof. Rather than devoting 100% to a specific ministry, many Christians devote 10% to ten ministries, resulting in a good “product” that is not God’s best.

Stay Armed: Pray against a spirit of distraction, and begin your day arming yourself with the truth. If you do, you will have the peace of knowing your every activity—from preparing a meal for a needy family to sending a note of encouragement—is exactly what God would have you do at that moment. At the end of the day you’ll experience a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that only God can provide to those who walk in His will consistently and are led by the Spirit.

Seek Ye First: Prayerfully consider what ministries or activities God would have you involved in, and joyfully pursue them with your whole heart. Choose to focus on your own calling, not the calling of others. Cultivate your spiritual gifts instead of trying to develop a gift you haven’t been given.

 

•In Every-Day Life

Satan also uses our daily needs to distract us. Consider this short excerpt from Hal Lindsey’s book, Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth (I strongly encourage you read this book!)

 

“The Devil exploits our personality quirks, the lusts of the flesh, and our natural physical drives to conspire against us.

There are times when I have a message to prepare or studying to do. I gather my materials and settle down in my study. Then they hit me—hunger pains! Now I know I shouldn’t be hungry—I probably had breakfast less than an hour before—but a built-in excuse has been offered me to get away from the Word of God.

I wish I had always said, ‘Satan, be gone,’ but I don’t. I begin prowling around, getting something to eat, and before I know it I’ve killed an hour—an hour of valuable time. I didn’t really need that food, but Satan can use any natural drives we have if they are not being controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (pg. 220)

 

Satan will use anything to keep us from time with our Lord. Just ask any stay-at-home mom who is often distracted with piles of dishes, laundry, dirty counters, and toys strewn about. It’s hard to get on our knees and into God’s word when there are a thousand things screaming for our attention (sometimes even children screaming for our attention).

Stay Armed: When it comes to combatting such daily disturbances, the best remedy is of course, beginning the day (before your feet hit the floor) with a prayer of protection.

An Ounce of Prevention: It is also important to eliminate potential distraction by practicing good stewardship. Keep the clutter to a minimum, don’t let the dishes pile up, keep your work space neat and tidy, eat healthy meals that nurture the body rather than work against it (maybe you’ll even save some money on doctor’s co-pays), get plenty of sleep (exercise helps with this too)…etc. Working from home and doing correspondence schooling, I have learned these lessons through trial and error (with an emphasis on error). But I’ve noticed a huge improvement in focused productivity when I consistently adopt these preventative measures.

 

“It has been rightly said that often the real enemy of the best is not the worst, but the good.

To be distracted is to forget Matthew 14:30, ‘But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, “Lord, save me!”’”¹

 

If you’re struggling with the Deadly D of Distraction, pray out loud: “Jesus, I confess that I have been distracted with so many good things I have failed to pursue the best things you have designed for me. In the name of Jesus I now renounce the spirit of distraction and choose to focus only on your will for my life. Please reveal any activity I need to let go, so I can whole-heartedly pursue the good works you ordained for me². Help me to be content in all you have called me to do, knowing that even the seemingly mundane things of life bring glory to you when my heart motives are pure³.”

How often have you been distracted with something good, only to miss out on God’s best?

(Speaking of which…I think I’m hungry now, the dishes are piling out of the sink, and I think my smartphone is buzzing…)

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1-      Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.

2- “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10, NIV

3- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” 1 Timothy 1:5, NIV

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You can support Rebecca’s ministry with one click! If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

Teaching Our Children to Fight

Last night my daughter, once again, cried as she walked past my darkened office. Once again I asked her why she was crying. Once again she told me she was terrified of the darkness. I’ve been struggling with this for weeks now, my daughter crying when we walk outside at night, or when we’re turning off the lights to go to bed. Perhaps most parents would shrug this off as “normal” child behavior, but I knew it was more.

 

 
I asked her why she was afraid. In between sobs, she replied, “I think something bad will happen to me.” Ironically (not really) this extreme fear took hold of my daughter around the time I started teaching a new class about spiritual warfare. A lot of strange things have been happening since our life group met for the first time. In fact, a few of the ladies have had a hard time even getting to the church to meet for our study. Seems *something* is blocking the way—or at least sending a lot of distractions.

 

 
It’s been no different in my life. In a conversation with my Pastor this week I shared, “If you’re feeling comfortable, if you want to throw a monkey wrench in your cozy life, just start teaching a series on spiritual warfare. That’ll shake things up.” It’s true. When the opposition is ignored, we don’t notice its effect in our lives. But when we start perking up and paying attention, we see how much of a hand the devil really has in the details. This includes our children.

 

 
Recently, a Pastor and Author whom I have grown to respect and admire (his teaching has helped me a great deal) advised me to reconsider a portion of my book manuscript where I mention Satan’s activity in the lives of children, because too many people could have a problem with that, and might not like it or agree with it.

 

 
I thought about it for a few days, until this situation with my daughter came to the fore-front. No, I can’t ignore what I know is the truth. Satan seeks to kill, steal, and destroy, and there is no age limit on his schemes! It is true that God cares for and looks after children, and there is even some evidence in God’s word to suggest that special angels are given charge over children. Yet, that doesn’t make them exempt from the tricks and manipulations of demonic activity, any more than being a Christ follower makes us, as adults, exempt from temptation, testing, and trials (see the book of Job).

 

 
So last night, as my precious five-year-old laid on my bed weeping in fear, I knew it was time to share more with her about her Enemy. My daughter has a wonderful prayer life, and has memorized a great deal of Scripture (the truth—God’s word—is the most important thing we can fill our children’s minds with!), so I knew she would understand and be able to apply the truths we were about to discuss.

 

 
“Where do you think fear comes from?” I asked her.

 
“I don’t know,” she whispered.

 
“Well, you know how God has angels watching over us? Satan has his own angels too, and they are called demons. These demons try to trick us, make us fear, and get us to think about things that go against God’s word, but Jesus is in us, and He is wayyyy more powerful than those demons.”

 
“Ohhhhh,”her eyes were widening.

 
“Because we have Jesus in us, protecting us and watching over us, we also have Jesus’ power over these evil spirits. Whenever we feel afraid we need to pray. We need to thank God for helping us and watching over us, and then tell Satan and his demons to GO AWAY!”

 
“How do I do that?”

 
“First, we thank God for beating Satan the day he died on the cross and came back to life. Jesus beat Satan already, so we always need to thank Him for that. Next we need to say, ‘In the name of Jesus, I command the evil spirit of fear to leave me alone!’ And you know what? That evil spirit has to leave; he has no choice, because Jesus has already beaten him. Sometimes, though, those spirits need a reminder. Because you have Jesus living in you, you are able to tell those spirits to leave in the name of Jesus, because they hate that name and it causes them to run away.”

 
“Can we pray now?”

 
And we did. Samantha prayed first, she even said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus, you evil spirits have to leave!”

 

 
We proceeded to talk for nearly two hours about God, the Bible, and Satan. She kept asking, “Mom, can you tell me another story?” So we talked about all the stories of angels that Mommy could remember, and we talked about Jesus’s life, John the Baptist, and Balaam and his angel-seeing donkey. After a while Samantha, relieved, said, “Mommy, these stories are really helping me feel better!”

 

 
Before closing her eyes to sleep, she asked God to replace her bad dreams (another problem she’d been having) with good dreams of Jesus and angels. And for the first night in weeks she slept soundly—with the lights off.

 

 
This morning she woke up and the first thing she wanted to do was tell me about her dream. She recounted the angels, the pink grass, and Jesus coming to our house for lunch. At the end of her dream, Jesus told her He had to leave, but would be back soon.

 

 
I sat on the couch with my coffee, smiling from ear to ear. “Thank you, Jesus, for giving that gift to my daughter. Thank you for setting her little heart free with your truth.”

 

 
My daughter is only five years old, but she is already well-equipped to continue fighting this battle. She knows Philippians 2:5 and 2 Corinthians 10:5, and she knows how to pray and how to use Scripture to fight her enemy. Most importantly, she has learned not to fear her accuser. Because as big of a bully he is, Jesus is bigger.

 

 

 

This fight is real, friends, and it’s real for our kids too. What are we teaching them? We don’t need to freak them out, but we do need to teach them the truth—all of it, not just the parts we think they can handle. You see, if we try to wait until they’re “old enough” it’ll already be too late. By the time they are teenagers, they may well have succumbed to a variety of destructive thinking patterns if they have not learned how to deal with those thoughts and emotions in a biblical way. Instead of leaving them defenseless, we need to start teaching our children to fight back.

 

(See also Discerning the Devil: In Childhood)

 

 
Instead of singing this with our kids:

 
“I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the calvary,
shoot the artillery,
I may never fly o’er the enemy
but I’m in the Lord’s army yes sir!”

 
(What exactly is the Lord’s army doing, if not fighting? Should we scratch out Ephesians 6:10-18 too?)

 

 
We need to be singing this:

 
“There is power, power, wonder working power,
in the blood, of the Lamb!
There is power, power, wonder working power
in the precious blood of the Lamb!”

 

 

And this:

 

 

“I know Who goes before me,

I know Who stands behind.

The God of Angel Armies,

is always by my side!”

 

 

(This happens to be one of mine and my daughter’s favorites!)

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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You can support Rebecca’s ministry with one click! If you enjoyed this post and others, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

Spiritual Warfare 101: Is it Real?

shieldoffaith

Spiritual warfare is real, whether you believe it or not. If you think I’ve gone off the deep end with my theology, consider the following evidences (I’m going to assume if you’re a regular reader of this website that you believe the Bible to be the true, infallible word of God):

•The Lord of Hosts

You can scarce read the Old Testament without running into the phrase “Lord of Hosts” (using the King James Version, anyways). The name “Lord of Hosts” in the following Scriptures all have the same Hebrew meaning, and there were dozens more I didn’t include for reasons of time and space.

“As for our redeemer, the Lord of Hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 47:4

“Again the word of the Lord of Hosts came to me.” Zechariah 8:1

“The Lord of Hosts is with us.” Psalm 46:7

“Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts…” Jeremiah 23:15

“Hear ye and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of Hosts.” Amos 3:13

The word “hosts” (tseb-aw-aw’) is derived from the root word meaning assemble, fight, perform, or war. The term “Lord of Hosts” can be translated “The Lord of Armies” or “The Lord of War”. He is an active God of the ARMIES! Why do you suppose the term “Lord of Armies” would be included in the Bible, at least a hundred times in just the Old Testament, if it didn’t mean exactly what it says, that God leads an army? What exactly is an army used for? Battle!

The battle is so real, the people and prophets of God referred to their Leader as the divine captain of the largest host of armies ever amassed (Isaiah used the term “Lord of Hosts” more than thirty times in his book). Our Lord is not passive, He is active and fighting a very real, very serious spiritual war. So why aren’t we?

•The Apostles (After the Cross)

Paul (and the other apostles) had a godly view of spiritual warfare. Paul often spoke of principalities, powers, forces, spirits, Satan, the enemy, the battle, and other “spiritual warfare” terms. He spoke of it as if it were a fact, a reality, a real issue the Church needed to be aware of. (I’m purposely not mentioning the work of Jesus here [casting out demons…etc.] which will be discussed in later posts.)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 3:10

“Resist the devil.” James 4:7

“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:9

•Noema

It doesn’t get more straight-forward than this, friends. Noema (no-ay-mah) is the Greek word for “mind”. Consider these uses of this specific form of the word noema:

“If there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (noema).” 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

“In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds (noema) of them which believe not.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

“Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought (noema) to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Did you notice anything interesting? The same Greek word, noema, is used in three different passages of the same context—how Satan directly influences the minds and thoughts of people, believers and non-believers alike. Another definition of noema is perception. In other words, it is a satanic perception of circumstances that influence us toward unforgiveness (2 Cor. 2:11), and a satanic perception of circumstances which blinds the minds of unbelievers against the true knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4), and also a satanic perception of events that infiltrate the minds of believers which can lead them into sinful behaviors (2 Cor. 10:5).

Satan is real, his influence is real, and the battle we face every day is real. God is fighting, his angelic armies are fighting, but are we as the bride of Christ fulfilling our role in this area (see Eph. 3:10)? Why aren’t we talking about this in our churches, teaching this in Sunday Schools, and hearing this from our pulpits? Perhaps the greatest deception of all is the belief that no “battle” exists, and if it does, I certainly don’t need to get involved. After all, didn’t Jesus defeat the enemy at the cross?

Well, if that is what you have believed I pray your eyes will be opened now to see the dangerous “perception” of that thinking. If you’re not fighting, Satan is gaining ground in your life. As I pointed out in the above section “After the Cross”, all of those Scriptures were written for believers after the death and resurrection of Christ. Obviously, we still have a battle to fight.

Now it’s your turn. What role do you actively take in spiritual warfare? Do you believe it is important? Why or why not? Is it an easy battle for you? On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the lowest, 10 being the highest) how would you rate your daily participation and awareness of spiritual warfare?

As the scales begin to fall from your eyes and you take a more active role in fighting Satan’s schemes (noema), you will face more spiritual (and physical) opposition, I can guarantee it. Write the above verses down, keep them with you and memorize them, because you will need the truth to fight. Without the truth, you are defenseless and will be rendered an ineffective, unarmed soldier.

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In my next post I’ll be discussing the voices in our head (the Holy Spirit, Satan, and our Flesh) and how you can recognize what voices are coming from where (remember, Satan quotes Scripture too!). If you need to catch up on what all this spiritual warfare talk is about, check out my last post. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog (it’s free and your information is not shared) in the space provided on the upper right hand area of this web page so you can receive future posts. I look forward to getting to know you and hearing what your battles in the spiritual realm have been like. Comments are encouraged (however, insults, personal attacks and foul language will not be allowed on this website).

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit I recently made several dramatic changes to my lifestyle (1 Cor. 6:12-13, 19-20). I’ve found, through the implementation of these new habits, many “bad” habits came to light I was unaware of. As I mediated on such things I discovered three sources of influence over my choices:

#1-Parents

Some of the things I’ve done my whole life are a direct result of how I was raised (this is not a ding against my parents but merely a fact-see Proverbs 22:6). It’s extremely difficult to replace habits practiced for more than twenty years-but it can be done. The Holy Spirit has strengthened and enabled me to follow His will for my life today. (Phil. 4:13)

#2-Media

If I spend too much time reading/viewing secular media, I find it tempting to become overwhelmed with a wide variety of opinions (Rom. 12:1-2).  One week something is bad for you and the next week that same thing is good for you. If I choose to believe everything I read without seeking the will of God through His word and prayer, I will be on a constant roller-coaster of frustration.

#3-Christians

Many well-meaning Christians have a variety of opinions based on their interpretation of Scripture and their own experiences in life (often relating to how they were raised-something we all do). More often than not, I have experienced a great deal of criticism within Christianity regarding lifestyle choices, especially anything that contradicts what someone else is doing. Everyone has an opinion, interpretation, and a judgment. (Matt. 7:1-5) The only way I can really know what is best for me is to spend time in the word and prayer. (Phil. 4:6-7)

This isn’t the first time I’ve received negative feedback regarding a personal choice, but I do believe I am following God’s will for my life (recognizing this is not His specific calling for every believer). I’ve done research and made, what I believe to be, an informed decision based on that research and my relationship with God. I am the one who will answer for my choices; it is imperative I do whatever it takes to maintain a clear conscience before God. (James 4:17)

I’m now questioning every choice I make under this light: is it God’s word and Spirit guiding me or the habits and opinions of others?

I’m Hearing Voices…

“Every negative thought about yourself or another person is not from God. It cannot be from God. It is either from the Enemy, the World, or the Flesh,” Steve told me after I asked him about the negative thoughts that had possessed my mind for two decades.

Such a simple statement and yet the truth is profound, even life-changing for someone like me. I started hearing that “voice” at a young age, maybe 6 or 7. The voice said, “You’re not good enough” and “They don’t care about you.” I also heard voices like, “He’s such a jerk” and “She is always using you, wiping her feet on you like a doormat.” I’d venture to say I am not the only one who has experienced such mental interference. Even in prayer the voice interrupts. “God doesn’t want to hear from you” and “Isn’t it selfish to pray for yourself?” What would my life look like if I believed these lies and behaved accordingly? Well, until recently, my life took on the form of these lies through my behaviors. It required honesty, confession, repentance, and spiritual warfare to break free from those chains of bondage.

Any voice of condemnation, shame, or slander could not come from my Holy Heavenly God. When I look at my husband and think, “He is so mean”, I can acknowledge this voice for what it is: a liar. I can acknowledge where the voice came from: the Accuser. I can renounce the enemy and his lies, and choose the way of truth: “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16) and “He first loved us”. (1 Jn. 4:19) All of us were created in His image (Gen. 1:26) and I am to think and act blamelessly towards my fellow creations, regardless of how I’ve been treated.

*Recognize the Enemy’s influence in my thought life:

“How is it that Satan has filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3)

*Recognize the World’s influence in my thought life:

“We know…that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn. 5:19)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” (Rom. 12:2)

*Recognize the Flesh’s influence in my thoughts.

“For the sinful nature [flesh] desires what is contrary to the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:17)

The next time I hear the negative voices, I can identify where it is coming from and renounce it in the name of Jesus. “We also know that the Son of God has come to give us understanding, so that we may know him who is TRUE.” (1 Jn. 5:20)

I cannot think on what is pure, lovely, good and wholesome (Phil. 4:8) if my mind is filled with lies and slander towards God’s creation, people. I’m determined to make a daily trade in my stocks of beliefs. I’m trading the lies for the truth; what is ugly for purity; what is demoralizing for what restores. If my gaping wounds of lies are left open, they will quickly fester into infection of more lies. The only way the wounds heal is if they are soothed with the balm of truth.

Lies steal; truth heals.

“[I] demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and [I] take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5)

“By faith I choose to be filled with the Spirit so I can be guided into all truth. I choose to walk by the Spirit so that I will not carry out the desires of the flesh. I choose to renew my mind by the living word of God in order that I may prove that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. I put off the old self with its evil practices and I put on the new self. I declare myself to be a new creation in Christ.”Statements of Truth, (The Steps to Freedom in Christ -Neil Anderson)

Godly Friendships and the Bible

Godly Friendships and the Bible

 

What does the Bible say about Godly friendships? What does the Bible say about how we are to conduct ourselves once we have found ourselves in a Godly friendship? We can be certain that there are principles to be found in the Bible relating to this important message and how we can be sure our friendships are God-honoring, personally edifying to the glory of God, and sanctifying to both individuals.

First and most importantly we are told in Ecclesiastes 4:12 that a close Godly friendship is essential in our Christian walk. It is not really an option if we want to be successful and victorious in our Christian living.

“A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

 

A Godly friend is necessary if we hope to stand firm against the Enemy’s attacks. Without that companionship we are made weaker. So, once we have found that Godly friend/s, how are we to act within that friendship? Will it always be perfect since all people involved are “Godly” and seeking Him first with their whole hearts? What happens in real life within the parameters of these friendships?

1-Face to Face Fellowship

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Exodus 3:11 (NIV)

In this day and age this simple concept is quick to be overlooked. We text, we type, we email. Rarely do we meet face to face in real time fellowship with our friends. Can you imagine God texting Moses? Did you laugh? It sounds ludicrous doesn’t it? You might argue that this is the day and age we live in, and while there is truth in that statement, there is even greater truth in the words we read in Exodus. Friends see each other face to face. Let’s face it, when we can talk to each other and see each other’s facial expressions, hear each other’s tones, it lends itself to a lot less misinterpretation, misunderstanding, hurt feelings…etc. (Why didn’t she text me back? Why hasn’t she emailed me in 3 days? She hasn’t called me back, I know she must be mad, I better call so and so and talk about it!) Let’s commit to getting back to basics within our Godly friendships and just have some coffee (or tea or whatever!) and have some real fellowship, because that is how true Godly friendships are cultivated in a healthy way.

2-Influential

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

It’s very clear from this simple verse that those we choose to keep company with will influence our attitudes. Whether that’s in a Godly way or in a worldly way depends on those we spend time with. Proverbs is full of wisdom written by the wisest man on the earth, and we would do well to listen to the advice given when choosing that Godly friend. If we have our radar set on someone, we should ask ourselves, is this person going to influence me towards the character of Christ? Will this person be “sharpening” me into the fruits of the Spirit or the lusts of the flesh?

3-Openly Honest and Always Sincere

“An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:5-6 (NLT)

Sometimes even our best intentions are hurtful. The fact of the matter is this: even in the closest and Godliest of friendships, people are going to get hurt. This proverb tells us as much. It also tells us that this “friendly fire” is better than an enemy who merely pretends to be nice to your face while speaking blasphemies behind your back. I think we all know what it feels like to be betrayed in this way. You find out this person who you know and trusted has been gossiping about you, spreading hurtful rumors about you all the while pretending to be something totally different to your face. We are warned about this person, this person is double-minded, and not to be trusted. The friend who wounds us in their sincerity is much more desirable.  You can be reminded that even this wounding is a blessing! Your Godly friend is being honest and sincere as God has designed! Not that it makes the hurt any less painful…but we will deal with that.

4-Loves at All Times

“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

Here we have the first solution to our issue of hurts. Love. It doesn’t say “A friend loves when it feels good”, or “A friend loves until he is hurt”, it states very clearly “all times”.  Love is an action, and it is a choice. Love is not a feeling in the context of this verse. There comes a point when the hurts are going to be so deep, perhaps the pain so intense that love will not come easily, and it may not seem possible. The most logical choice may seem to move on and be done with the whole mess. It is at this moment we are faced with a crucial choice-will we love at any cost? This is the Godly friend that you want in your life! This love has no strings attached, it is unconditional, and is not related to circumstances. It is the love that Jesus has for us, and the love He tells us to have for each other.

5-Forgives First

“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” Matthew 5:23-24 (The Message)

Loving through hurts must involve forgiveness. This passage could not possibly be interpreted any other way then to forgive first before bringing your worship to God. God is not interested in your lip service when you have outstanding debts of bitterness against your friends. Settle all accounts before offering your praises to God! He sees our hearts, knows our thoughts, whether or not we like it! There is no way around this one. If we are hurt by the actions or words of another, we need to speak up and be honest and sincere always of how we feel, in love. Our feelings are valid, and our friend’s feelings are valid. We need to be heard, and they need to be heard, and we need good communication in order to have Godly friendships that glorify and edify each other towards love and good works! When we fail to communicate in a timely manner we allow the hurt to fester as we turn it over in our minds, often making things bigger than they are, and further misinterpreting the situation, so by the time we do talk about it, emotions are really running high. It makes things that much harder to be made right. These are the times we are tempted by our Enemy to “end” relationships. We are whispered lies that we must give up on this friendship, that it wasn’t what we thought, it wasn’t the right person, we were wrong, we failed again, we messed up again, we better just start over with someone who agrees with us on everything we believe in or hold to so as to avoid any problems. That is when we need to hold fast to the TRUTH of God’s Word, and what He says about Godly friendships. If we have already determined that the friendship we are in is an “iron sharpening iron” friend for Godly character then we must go back to our principles laid out under such a friendship. Am I loving, am I being honest, am I forgiving. Have I laid aside all my offerings to run to this person and make things right? Have I done all I can do to bring restoration, or am I insisting on being right and is that getting in the way of peace? I think the most important question here even than all of that is: am I honoring God in my decision to end this, or would He want me to obey His own command in Matthew 5:23-24? That seems rather clear. (There are SOME exceptions where relationships do need to end because of excessive sinful lifestyles or rebellion…etc, but for the sake of our discussion, I am not referring to those specific incidences.)

6-Sacrifices

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NIV)

Jesus as our Friend made the ultimate sacrifice for our sin, the price we could never pay. He gave His life, so we could have eternal life with Him. With this He modeled His idea of the Godly friendship for us. The true Godly friend is one who sacrifices without question. I’m not just talking about the sacrifice of taking a bullet for your friend in some “what if” scenario that will likely never occur. I am talking about the much smaller things, but perhaps more difficult. The sacrifices of time: the middle of the night phone calls, the house calls, the food delivered when sick, the trips to the hospitals, the sleepless nights, the hours of Bible study when your friend has a crisis and needs an answer, calloused knees from hours of earnest prayer….on and on it goes. These are the sacrifices of life that the true Godly friend gives without a blink of an eye. This person is selfless, and giving, and authentic. This is the person you want as your Godly friend, helping you on your journey of sanctification. If you have this person in your life, thank them, and pray for them! Because you have an Enemy who wants to destroy the beautiful relationship that God has joined together. Satan knows you are stronger together, and it scares him!

Remember to keep up the face to face contact with your dear friend to avoid that confusion and misinterpretation of email and text that may occur, especially in the early stages of a growing relationship. Ask God to help you have the Christ-like influence on your friend that you desire them to have on you, and commit to always being openly honest and sincere no matter how difficult that may be. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in speaking the truth in love at all times. Face to face is best! Throughout everything, choose to love and forgive quickly. As you reflect on building your own character, ask God to help you continue to become the sacrificial friend that He modeled for us in His Word. Putting the needs of our friend first, and truly esteeming each other better than ourselves. In this way we can cultivate our Godly friendship deeper and draw closer to our Creator in unity.

A Godly You+ Your Godly Friend+God Himself=A Triple Braided Cord Not Easily Broken!