Of course, I thought in the back of my mind, I don’t HAVE to post what he tells me, I don’t have to share it with anybody. And, some of what he says is uplifting. Sometimes.
There are many times when I’d just rather keep these things to myself, because after all, few people are paying attention, that’s obvious. Just read the newspapers, listen to the TV nightly news, surf the web.
Then Jeremiah 20:9 will pop into my mind: “But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Here’s what the Lord showed me the other night:
Remember when your children were young? You’d give them some instructions, something you wanted them to do, or not do. But they’d ignore you. Remember those times? What did you do?
You would devise consequences. Perhaps take away a toy for a while, or revoke freedom to do something they wanted like watch television, or go to a friend’s house. Nothing too drastic, but made to fit the situation. I’m not talking about simple mistakes or forgetfulness, I’m talking about rebellion. Determined disobedience requiring action.
Later on, as they were older, consequences for disobedience had to increase in severity, and if that still didn’t work, more severity. From withholding privileges, loss of allowance, to various kinds of restrictions, whatever had the best chance of success.
The laws of sowing and reaping were working then, as they always do. They are working now.
As I meditated on what he had said, I realized some things.
All of that necessary training, physical and spiritual discipline for my children, was to prepare their growing souls to function with self-control as adults. It was quite unpleasant occasionally… but it worked.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
And the Lord showed me, that is what’s happening in America. Warning after warning has been given. Disobedience and rebellion have been met with consequences, and the consequences have been increasing in severity. Unpleasant. Painful. Dire.
Fires. Floods. Famine. Disease. Lawlessness. The laws of sowing and reaping are still at work.
Consequences of rebellion cause anxiety, frustration and anger – even at God – for some who simply don’t or won’t believe His word (yet). But those same consequences result in repentance, prayer, intercession and pleas for mercy for those who do believe, some of whom had not been taking God’s word very seriously.
Is it time to quit warning people? That time will come one day, I know. It’s not time yet, but how much more severe do the consequences of sin and rebellion have to get, before people listen?
“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10)
Why doesn’t God stop him in his tracks?
It’s obvious that the enemy of our faith is at work in the world, sometimes very close to where we live. We wonder why he seems to be getting away with so many murderous acts, causing so much chaos, turmoil and tragedy.
Reminders of several basic facts:
- War is being waged for control of this planet, control of the people who live on the planet, and eradication of the people inhabited by the Creator of the planet.
- God gave control of this planet to human beings. Stopping the enemy is our job. We’re not doing a very good job of it, but it’s still our responsibility.
- It’s not an even fight, the sides aren’t even close to equal – but you’d never know that from the way some folks act. Or don’t act.
- We are the conquerors!
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
“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 be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NIV, emphasis added.)
- “(God our Savior) who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4)
- “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
- God made a way for that to happen: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The devil’s goal:
His goal is to destroy the things God loves above all – people, human beings created in His image. To do that, the enemy will try to:
- Kill every human being he can, Christians or not
- Prevent every human being he can from becoming Christians
- Prevent every Christian he can from bringing other human beings to Christ
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)
Well, the enemy himself is not flesh and blood. He just stirs up flesh and blood to perform as his willing servants, or as his unwitting instruments.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
Stopping particular people the enemy is using will not stop him from picking other people to use. We should indeed do whatever we can to stop (or prevent) attacks by those people. But that’s certainly not all – we should also:
Learn how to fight the real enemy:
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)
Changing the mind and heart of the person is the only answer to shutting out the enemy from using that person to do evil. Praying, sharing God’s Word, God’s kind of love and life (living the gospel), displaying a God-filled life, are steps toward that change.
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26)
You can shout and yell at people, but that won’t make them listen. You can shout and yell at the devil, but that won’t make him listen either.
Only taking authentic authority over him will work to stop his activity. And first you have to know he’s real, and that he’s really the one behind the evil actions.
“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’
“Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19:11-16)
Weapons of war:
Acknowledge that YOU have been given spiritual weapons. Know what they are and learn how they work. Recognize who is actually behind the evil activity you see. Ask God what to do about it and listen for his reply. The Holy Spirit will tell you what to do. Some weapons at our disposal include:
- Spiritual armor. (Eph. 6:10-18) This includes defensive and offensive equipment. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Withstand and resist are the same Greek word.
- Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12) We need supernatural information, wisdom on how to make use of it, faith, miracles, healing.
- Discerning of spirits. (I Cor. 12) We especially need to know whether the wicked behavior is caused by human or evil spirits. Believers can exercise authority over evil ones, but human spirits require other approaches.
- The Word of God. (Hebrews 4:12) Knowing it’s in the Bible isn’t going to help if you don’t know the scripture itself. Study. Learn. Get it in your memory banks.
- Prayer and intercession. (I Tim. 2:1-2) Ask specific requests, based on knowledge of the scriptures and who you are in Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit as you ask.
- Love and forgiveness are powerful weapons. “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Remember, the kindness of God leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
- Your own testimony. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:11)
- Spiritual authority. (Matt. 28:18-20) Jesus told the disciples to do what he had been doing, and to teach others to do the same things. That includes you and me. He gave us this authority because he knew we were going to need it.
Matthew 18:20 says, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20) Note: signs won’t confirm God’s word that isn’t preached, taught, or spoken.
- Stand firm in the faith. Having done all to stand, stand. Stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)
- Pray in faith, speak in faith. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17-18)
If you look up those events in I Kings 17 and 18, you see that Elijah didn’t actually pray about the rain stopping and starting – he just spoke about the rain. Whatever praying he did, he did beforehand, surely to ask the Lord for instructions on what to do next.
- Don’t waver back and forth in doubt, hoping for the best. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
- Confidently expect results. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:14-15)
Weapons don’t wield themselves:
The problem is, too many Christians think all this is automatic – that they don’t have to be on their guard, don’t have to put on any armor, don’t have to exercise authority, don’t have to resist the devil, don’t have to pray for their enemies, don’t have to share the gospel, in other words, they don’t have to wield any weapons.
It’s as if they think, Let the preacher do it, let the missionaries do it, I don’t have to do it myself. They may pay a high price for that mistaken belief.
Being “occupied until Jesus comes” means some of our time must be spent learning how to spiritually feed ourselves, strengthen our faith, and learn “best practices” in living in a world that grows ever more hostile to Christians.
Books, magazines, devotionals, sermons on CD or internet sites can be added resources, but they are not our primary source for God’s life.
God’s word is.
Jesus said, ” … the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63 NIV)
Meat and milk, our spiritual food for life, health and growth, is contained in his word. It’s also our faith producer, faith exerciser, armor and weapon against the enemy.
Having God’s word on hand in your memory isn’t just a good religious idea, it’s life-preserving. Basic survival gear. So, how to get it into our memory? Here are some practical tips.
- Read it regularly.
- Think about what you’re reading. Pray for clarity and listen to the Lord as you read.
- Write out verses you particularly want to remember.
- Read them out loud as you write. Index cards can be useful tools, one or two verses per card. Keep the ones you’re currently working on handy – in your kitchen, your office, even in your pocket or purse.
- Re-read them every chance you get, out loud when possible, and occasionally re-write them. Every time you work on the same verse, that memory is reinforced and becomes easier to recall.
Memory is a complex brain function but not that complicated. Each individual step in the process of learning is stored in its own memory cell. Plus, each combination of those steps is stored in a different memory cell. For instance,
Seeing a word = 1 memory cell
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Combination of seeing and thinking about the word = 1
Total = 3 places that word is stored
Seeing the word = 1
Thinking about meaning of the word = 1
Speaking the word out loud = 1
Hearing the word spoken = 1
Seeing and thinking = 1
Seeing and speaking = 1
Seeing and hearing = 1
Thinking and speaking = 1
Thinking and hearing = 1
Hearing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and speaking = 1
Thinking and seeing and hearing = 1
Total = 12
Hope I didn’t miss any combinations… When you add any element to this process, such as speaking out loud (movement of your lips and tongue), or writing (movement of your hand, gripping the pen, putting the pen to paper) you add each step and each combination of steps — multiplying many times over the places in your brain that memory is stored.
Every time you do this with the same word (or verse), other memory cells store that same information and the ones where it is already stored are reinforced. If you include background elements such as music playing, fragrances wafting through the room, or walking around while reading, the memory effect is multiplied exponentially.
Here are some excellent verses to remember, and why we should remember them.
- “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
- “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (I Peter 2:1-3)
- “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)
- “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (II Peter 1, v2)
- “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (v3)
- “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (v4)
- “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;” (v5)
- “and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;” (v6)
- “and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (v7)
- “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v8)
- “But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” (v9)
- “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” (v10)
- “and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (v11)
Learning and remembering the scriptures is essential for increasing our knowledge of God’s word and will, and with it, increasing our faith.
For part one, see Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Really?
No bill collectors calling, no kids sick or flunking, no major house or car troubles. Mostly happy. Pretty much satisfied with life.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, it is “A state of peaceful happiness: satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more.”
That’s what I always thought contentment was. Not exuberant joy, but not bad. If circumstances lined up, then I’d be content.
Of course, it did depend on those circumstances… there have been days when I wanted to yell and throw things. At the wall, at other people, at God. When I was angry, frustrated, exasperated and afraid. When I wanted to curl up in bed all day, take pain pills or sleeping pills or “chill pills.” Give up and quit everything.
Times when I had to bite my tongue to keep from speaking my mind, had to leave the room to keep from lashing out at my children. Disappointed. Hurt. Broke. Hungry. No joy. Not much faith. Certainly no contentment. When I had to make a decision, grit my teeth and say, I will survive this. I will survive this. God, you have to help me! And he did.
In his thank-you letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote:
“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance.
“I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.
“I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].” (Phil. 4:11-13 AMP)
“Those things, which ye have both learned, and received (accepted), and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Phil. 4:9 KJV)
Here are a couple of interesting definitions from the Greek:
- Learned – manthano – to be apprised; to hear, be informed; to be increased in knowledge; to learn by use and practice; to be in the habit of, accustomed to.
- Content – autarkes – sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest.
Hmmm. He was chained up in prison when Paul wrote the book of Philippians. By then he’d been traveling, working, preaching and teaching for over 25 years.
When he first started preaching, you’d think everybody would be so excited. And some folks were, but some were suspicious (rightly so, considering) and some were murderous. (Acts 9:20-31). He had to escape from Damascus over the city wall in a basket, and then escape from Jerusalem to Caesarea, where friends arranged to ship him back home to Tarsus.
Over the years Paul had lots of opportunities to see God perform spectacular miracles, acquire lots of friends and supporters, and write lots of letters. Along the way he also saw the enemy stir up lots of opposition, some of it vicious. Some of it downright terrifying.
… I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (II Cor. 11:23-28 NIV)
So did Paul’s inner attitude fluctuate up and down with whatever was happening, as ours is apt to do? It may have, in the beginning. He certainly had a right, if anyone had! It takes time for the fruit of the Holy Spirit to grow, time to learn a new habit, make a new response.
He had to learn some things as a baby Christian just like we do. Contentment was one of those things. He learned it by being taught by someone, by listening, paying attention, making a decision to go for it, and by experience – by putting into practice what he was learning. Same way we have to learn it.
Who taught Paul to be content that way, despite the circumstances? The Teacher. The Holy Spirit. The same indwelling Spirit of God who will help us learn contentment, too. It takes practice – a lot of practice! But it’s a lesson worth learning.
God’s grace isn’t always “good” like gooey apple pie, moist pound cake or luscious love songs. Sometimes it’s power tools. Weed killer. Paper towels. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, for whatever he wants to do through you – that’s grace.
Here’s a related post from last year… https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/the-anointing/