Every Story Has a Villain, Even Yours

“Every story has a villain because yours does. You were born into a world at war. When Satan lost the battle against Michael and his angels, “he was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev. 12:9). That means that right now, on this earth, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of fallen angels, foul spirits, bent on our destruction. And what is Satan’s mood? “He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short” (v. 12). So what does he spend every day and night of his sleepless, untiring existence doing? “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against…those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17).

He has you in his crosshairs, and he isn’t smiling.

You have an Enemy. He is trying to steal your freedom, kill your heart, destroy your life. Very, very few people live like that. The alarm goes off, and they hit the snooze button, catch a few extra winks, gulp down a cup of coffee on their way to work, wonder why there are so many hassles, grab some lunch, work some more, come home under a sort of cloud, look at the mail, have dinner, watch a little TV, feed the cat, and fall into bed—without even once wondering how the Enemy might be attacking them. All they know is, they sure aren’t enjoying that abundant life Christ talked about.”

John Eldredge, Waking the Dead (pg. 151)

Advertisements

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits your Body and Spirit

**Published with The Christian Online Magazine, November 2012**

Spiritual Reboot: Four Ways Fasting Benefits Your Body and Spirit

A lot of controversy surrounds fasting; a quick Google search reveals doctors who wholeheartedly support it and others who are adamantly against it. As Christians, we need to look to Jesus and what His word says when it comes to these issues. In the book of Matthew (4:1-2) Jesus was led by the Spirit to fast, and later He outlines some simple fasting guidelines (6:16-18). So, fasting was not only practiced by Jesus but also taught by Him.

Fasting Benefits Your Physical Body

  • Reboot your “system” with a cleansing fast.

During the first 12-24 hours of a water-only fast, your body begins to break down glucose stored in your liver and muscles, converting it to glycogen to use as energy. After this energy has been depleted, the body begins to use fatty acids for energy. As the fast progresses past two days, the brain uses glycerol (a product of fat tissue) and amino acids from broken down muscle tissue as energy sources.

“Since the bulk of the toxins in your body are stored in your fat reserves, the longer you fast on water only, the more fat you’ll burn and the more toxins you’ll eliminate from your system.” Dr. Ben Kim

Simply stated, fasting for a few days helps the body get a fresh start as harmful chemicals from processed foods and other materials are removed from the body. Some medical studies have even indicated that a fast may help boost the immune system.

  • Put an end to bad eating habits.

Recently I began a ten-day fast and initially I felt freed from the burden of food. I knew, at least for several days, that cooking and wondering about meals would be eliminated from my daily routine. (Don’t worry– I still cooked for my family!)The first day was great—then the second day hit. I would be lying if I said it was easy, because it wasn’t. But what I did come to realize was just how often I was putting food/drinks in my mouth. As the days progressed I eventually felt very little hunger. After the ten days was over, I realized I needed very little—far less than what I had been consuming—to be satisfied and supplied with energy. Now that I’ve come through the fast and am still very much alive and well, I not only feel better physically, but several bad eating habits were effectively broken. (Anybody else have a problem with late-night snacking?) Of course, the spiritual benefits far out-weighed the physical.

Fasting Benefits Your Spiritual Life

  • Obeying the Word of God provides inner peace and contentment.

Those who follow God’s words are blessed, full of joy and peace, and satisfied (Psalm 1; 119; Proverbs 3:1-8). Obeying God through fasting is no exception—it is yet another way we can place our dependence on Christ and get our eyes focused on Him instead of what we think we need. Spiritual eyes are opened during a time of fasting and prayer and when we choose to eat and drink of the Word we are truly blessed in our spirit.

  • Fasting and prayer encourages spiritual awakening and the breaking of sinful habits.

Joel 1:14, 2:12; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1-3; Ezra 8:23; Acts 14:23; Esther 4:3; Deuteronomy 9:9; 2 Chronicles 1:3; Daniel 9:3–all of these Scriptures reference fasting by God’s people for repentance, direction, instruction, or intervention. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of examples of fasting believers. I hope you’ll take the time to browse the passages listed and see how many ways God chooses to work through fasting.

With only a few days remaining until a critical presidential election, perhaps now is the time to consider fasting for personal and national revival as well as godly leadership in our nation. Or maybe you are struggling with a sinful habit. In any case, seek God first and follow His voice—He is the only one really qualified to lead you in this area.

As always, consult your doctor to make sure it is physically safe for you to fast (but do be prepared to meet mixed opinions from medical professionals on this topic).

New Life

I think I am still “hungover” from Sunday, that is, emotionally hungover. Despite my exhaustion yesterday, I felt as though I were soaring with the eagles. I’ve been trying to stay integrated in the truths that have allowed me to receive the freedom Christ provided.

In The Steps to Freedom in Christ, there is a list of lies believed about God, and the corresponding truth. I have been reading them (out loud) over and over again since Sunday.

I renounce the lie that my Father God is absent or too busy for me and I choose to believe the truth that my Father God is always with me and eager to be with me.

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.'” Ezekial 34:11-12

As I was stepping into the shower yesterday my daughter said, “Mom wait! You forgot to get on the scale!” I stood there dumbfounded for a moment before responding, “You know what? Mommy doesn’t need the scale anymore.” She shrugged her shoulders and climbed in the shower with me. At that moment I realized how my behavior had been affecting my child. She was so used to seeing me get on that scale every day, she had been stepping on it right after me. She is only 4! “Oh God, forgive me for teaching my daughter this harmful pattern, help me create new habits for myself that she will want to mimmick.” One of these new habits is reading out loud The Overcomers Covenant in Christ. Samantha enjoys sitting with me while I read it, and asks me questions about it.

It’s not enough to eliminate bad habits, they must be replaced with new, wholesome habits.

I renounce every unrighteous use of my body and I commit myself to no longer be conformed to this world, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and I choose to belive the truth and walk in it regardless of my feelings or circumstances. – from The Overcomers Covenant in Christ (Neil Anderson)

Today is a new day, the second day of my new life, and I am seeing things with a new set of eyes. My husband came home and I had a new love for him.

I look at my daughter and see radiating innocence and beauty.

I look at food and see nourishment, not punishment. For as many ups and downs as I’ve had in my Christian walk, I have never experienced the life I am living now. I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm (Eph. 2:6) and for once I believe that is true for me, not just everyone else. I am God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16) and I am complete in Christ (Col. 2:10).

Visions

Visions

“I seek you with all my heart.” Psalm 119:10 NIV

“I sought your face with all my heart.” Psalm 119:58 NIV

Car keys

Debit Cards

Remote Controls

People

Love

Happiness

Purpose

Have you ever found yourself searching for any of these things?  I have searched for all of these things at some point in my life! I have been guilty of filling my life with the things of the world in order to find happiness, love, or fulfillment. I have also spent a lot of time searching for missing items, like the remote control! (It’s always between the cushions!) If I were to look back and think, would I be able to determine how much of me was actually involved in the search effort? When I was attempting to find happiness apart from God, I searched with my whole heart! Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied and I didn’t have a purpose! Therefore my mind, will, and emotions were searching feverishly after a source of deep fulfillment. I wanted to be wanted, and I didn’t understand that I already was wanted by the Creator of the universe himself! This search led me to make many terrible choices, some of which will have lasting consequences here on earth. I’m very grateful to God that he continued to pursue a relationship with me, and never let me be comfortable apart from it!

The Psalmist reminds us that not only are we to obey, but we are also to seek after God with all of ourselves. Not just intellectually, but in our wills and emotions. Our affections need to be seeking after the only One who can satisfy.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

“Seek his kingdom.” Luke 12:31

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Luke 10:27, Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:30

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:3-4

One cannot truly obey whole heartedly unless they are first seeking whole heartedly. How do we seek God with all our hearts? The same way we obey with all our hearts! We look for him not just in our minds to expand knowledge, but in our will. We deliberately make a choice to search for his truth. Then in our emotions; when we are feeling like God must not be concerned with our troubles, we direct our emotions to search for God in our circumstances. He promises us that if we seek him, we will find him!

If you are a believer, a Christ-follower, then God is with you! If you don’t see him, it is because you are not looking. God has not gone anywhere, he is there. He never abandons his children, whether or not his children feel abandoned.  Often I am tempted to pray, “Be with me, God” or “Be with them”, and then I check myself. God is already there! If I am a believer, how much closer can God get to me when he is already in my heart? No, instead I need to be praying, “Let me see you, Lord, because I know you are here!” If I seek him, I am promised that I will find him! Likewise, this promise is for all God’s children! What a marvelous truth!

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out to him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27

The problem in seeing God is that we are not looking with a united heart, most notably with our emotions. No wonder we doubt so easily! Our minds look for him in his word, or in outward signs, but our will does not act with the authority of his promises. We don’t realize he has been there all along; we just missed him. We cannot be satisfied to seek him only for greater knowledge; we need to seek his truth with our whole heart. It’s a simple formula; seek and find. This formula involves not only reading his word, but spending time listening to his voice. Usually we are too busy to sit and listen, and we miss his direction and purpose. Prayer is a very important part of uniting the hearts vision of God. We never want to become out of balanced, full of knowledge without application.

The one who is whole heartedly seeking after truth will find it in God’s word and from his voice.

He is not far from us, we simply need to look.

Prayer

Jesus, I know I often get overwhelmed in my circumstances and fail to see you. I often ask you to come to me when you have been here all along waiting for me to catch a glimpse of you! Open my eyes and let me see you in my every day! I don’t want to miss what you have for me because I am too busy looking around instead of at you. Help me to learn how to be still and listen to your voice. Give me a new vision of you, and unite my heart to see it clearly with all that I am!

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art:

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”

Emotional

Emotional

“I obey your commands with all my heart.” Psalm 119:69 NLT

“I will put them into practice with all my heart.” Psalm 119:34 NLT

“Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

“I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 7:35

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Acts 4:32

How many times have you heard someone say, “I know it in my head, but I need to know it in my heart”? I know I have said it!  We are designed very uniquely. We have a heart, or an inner being that is multifaceted. Our spirit is made up of our mind, will, and emotions. We can practice the word of God with our minds (look at the Pharisees in the Gospels) and not have our will and emotions in the right place.

The Psalmist understood that the word needed to penetrate every aspect of his inner being, not just his head. The word needed to be molded through every aspect of his heart. His mind, will, and emotions needed to be bent towards God.  It’s quite easy, actually, to have our minds bent towards the things of God, and not our emotions. Our emotions are often the thing that trips us up. We read the word, and even know the word intellectually, but our emotions tell us we feel different. Much of the world’s philosophies involve living on emotions. “Do what feels right.” Just because it feels right doesn’t mean it is right! The only way we can do what is right, is to know what is right, and to know what is right is to know God’s word.

We must come to the word of God asking him to unite our hearts to his truth; that is, unite our minds, wills, and emotions towards his truth. This involves taking captive our will to do what is unnatural to the word of God, and our emotions that often feel what is not in line with the word of God, and demanding they obey the word of God as much as our minds.

There will be many times in our Christian walk that we don’t feel as if God loves or cares for us even though we know it in our minds; we won’t want to do what we know is right with our wills, yet we must ask God to order all of our heart to obey! We must practice walking in the truth of God with our intellect, our emotions, and our wills. I believe the Psalmist knew how difficult this was, and that is why he stressed the point so many times in this chapter. I can personally attest to making very poor decisions when allowing myself to be ruled by my emotions. I am a very sensitive person, so this is a very hard subject for me. Hard or not, it is the truth of God’s word. I must ask him to unite my heart in order to be effective, stay away from sinful attitudes, and stay in his will.

The only way to stay on the path of holy obedience is to have a wholeness of heart.

Prayer

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complicated, Lord! Teach me how to love and obey you with all of my heart, not just my intellect. I want to know who you are, and I want the truth of your word to penetrate my will that I may walk in your ways, and my emotions that I may be sensitive to your truth.

 

Inward

Inward

“I pondered the direction of my life and I turned to follow your laws.” Psalm 119:59 NLT

Any type of conversion or repentant experience has to start with something. A person doesn’t just decide one day to change; there is usually some motivating factor. What leads a person to desire change for themselves? The Psalmist said, “I pondered the direction of my life.” He thought about it. Where was his life going, how was his attitude, what was the end result of his life going along the current path he was on? He pondered it and decided something had to change. This change required a decision to move or turn from his current course, and go along a new course, the course of God’s word.

The beginning of change within us starts with a time of self-examination. We ask God to search us, but we also look within ourselves to see if there is something wrong. If I keep going on the path I am on, where will that lead me? Is there anything about my choices that needs to change?

Is self-examination biblical? God designed us with a free will, and within that free will is the ability to choose our direction. It’s up to us to make the choice of whether or not to maintain our current heading or put in a new route.

“When you are on your beds search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Before we go to bed is the perfect time to reflect on the day. Take a good look inward and see if there was anything that didn’t line up with the person of Jesus that we seek to represent. Anything less than a perfect representation means turning from that action/thought/attitude and getting back on his path. It is most certainly biblical to examine ourselves.

Do we feel regret over the short-comings we committed? Is there remorse? This remorse is necessary to lead us into a genuine repentance that alters our current actions. Does this mean we won’t ever commit that “sin” again? Of course not! We are human and we fail, but the genuine repentance will put us on a new path moving closer to the character of Jesus. Ups and downs are sure, but a consistent pattern upward will be evident of the repentant heart.

There is a counterfeit remorse, however, and its name is “self-pity”. This destructive behavior appears to be regretful, sorrowful over sin, yet it dwells on the wrongs and the failures rather than moving on and up in Christ.  Self-pity will always distance us from the voice of God. We must not allow self-pity to destroy our fellowship with him. Confess, repent (turn), be restored and move on!

 Unless we are looking in the direction of Jesus (through his word), we cannot know what light and life even look like. The joyful life is the holy life. Anything less will lead to a false sense of “happiness”. This false “joy” is the type of feeling that is easily tossed about whenever circumstances are uncertain. A lasting deep abiding joy comes in the life that is on the path to holiness. Those who appear to be happy in their “sin” will fall at some point, and deep down they will always be searching for the next “thing” to satisfy when all along Jesus has already given the answer to fulfillment!

“These people have stubborn hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.” Jeremiah 5:23

In order to know true joy I must be walking upward in my relationship with Jesus, moving closer to becoming like him. The only way I can see him and know him to be transformed into his likeness is to spend time with him in his word and prayer.

“The Spirit searches all things.” 1 Corinthians 2:10

We ask the Spirit to turn us to the light of his face through his word. We cannot see him unless we turn to look at him!

We look inward then we turn and look upward.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to take an honest look into my heart. Lead me into a time of self-examination and speak to me through your Spirit. Open my eyes to the truth of what lies within me that I need to turn from. You are truth, and your word is truth, so I ask that your Spirit guide me into the truth no matter how much it hurts. I want to press on towards a life of holiness in becoming more like you, and I don’t want anything to hinder that.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)