It’s tempting…

  • That lovely slice of pecan pie, the last one left in the pan, the one you’re supposed to be saving for somebody else.
  • That gorgeous outfit on sale “One Day Only,” so absolutely right for you but not for your budget, sale or no sale. Or those cute earrings, nobody’s watching, the store can afford it, it’s not all that bad to shoplift those cheap little things, is it?
  • That temper tantrum against your children or your spouse, the one you’ve been resisting but now feel absolutely justified in throwing, “I’ve had it, they’re really going to get it!”
  • Those ugly, fuming thoughts and words, turning into ugly, fuming deeds because after all you’re right and they’re wrong, people who had the audacity to question your – (fill in the blank, your truthfulness, your honesty, your integrity, your motives, your actions. Even your faith.)

We’ve all been tempted to think, say and act in ways (minor and major) we’ll be ashamed of later. Haven’t we? “You know better than that!” my mother would say. “You weren’t raised like that!”

Did you think such temptations would miraculously fade away and vanish as you grew older, more mature, more “Christ-like?” They don’t. They still come, more serious and sometimes more frequent.

Why? What is the purpose of temptations / trials? Think of it like strength training. Spiritual resistance training. Exercising our faith muscles, our trust muscles. Our prayer muscles.

Remember John 10:10? The enemy comes. His goal is to steal, kill and destroy, and one of his primary targets is our faith; to ruin it, nullify our testimony; hinder our prayers.

The enemy uses trials and temptations (same word in the original language, by the way) to discourage and distract us, to prevent us from living by faith or from praying in faith.

But God can and does use them to prove that our faith is real, strong, and supernatural, since it originates with Him. He uses them to make us stronger, more effective.

Matthew 4 and Luke 4 describe the temptation of Jesus in the Judean desert. Most of my life I had a mental image of that desert as being mostly sand dunes, rocks and lizards. One day, out of curiosity I decided to check out that wilderness, where it was, what was in it, what it was like at that time.

I wondered, what was there out there that could tempt Jesus? During the 40 days before Satan showed up, that is. Here’s some of what I learned:

East and south of Jerusalem, it’s one of the smallest deserts in the world, much of it lying adjacent and west of the Dead Sea. Craggy and rough, it’s hilly and mountainous with steep cliffs and deep ravines. It was difficult but not impossible to traverse on the well-used paths and trails that criss-crossed the area.

 

There are streams and many wadis, some containing pools of water in shaded areas; and also beautiful oases. The most famous oasis in the Judean Desert is in Ein Gedi near the northern part of the Dead Sea, called David’s Waterfall.

There are also many fruit trees and other vegetation (see the section on trees below).

Sparsely inhabited but not empty, the desert contained several small villages on its edges. Bethlehem was one, a place where many of Jesus’ relatives lived.

Bedouin encampments the size of small towns (the Bedouin were and still are very hospitable people to visitors) plus camels, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Leopards and other wild animals also inhabited the area, although leopards are scarce today.

 

Herodium today seen from the side.

The spectacular Herod’s Palace (Herodium) south of Jerusalem may contain his burial site (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herodium and http://allaboutjerusalem.com/attraction/herodion-national-park).

This palace complex was atop an artificial hill built by Herod the Great, the site of several archeological digs through recent years. After his death this opulent summer “resort” was used by many Roman officials.

Also in the desert is the fortress of Masada which overlooks the Dead Sea, captured and built up by Herod the Great as a military base. Both Herodium and Masada were occupied by Roman officials and solders who regularly traveled to and from those sites. Both are Israeli National Parks and popular tourist attractions today.

Many fruit or nut trees occupy wadis and oases, including date palms, pistachios, wild figs, carob and acacia:

Carob / Locust trees bear fruit that is edible green or dried; the dried fruit is used in candy and other foods as a substitute for chocolate. The sweet, soft flesh of the green fruit is called “honey.”

Carob and acacia (below) are legumes, members of the pea and bean family.

Acacia is a “rain tree,” so-called because its leaves fold together in rain or high humidity. Edible and primarily used as animal fodder, it provides helpful gum and has many medical applications also. The Tabernacle and Ark were made of acacia wood.

Considering everything there was for him to see and do in that wilderness, what was Jesus tempted with?

Food, people, animals, a magnificent natural environment and impressive man-made structures — a better question might be, what wasn’t Jesus tempted with?

Anything and everything that human beings today are tempted with, including distractions, tempted Jesus in that desert. Think he doesn’t understand your situation? He does.

I Cor. 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (NIV)

And Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

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Have you forgotten?

Symptoms of a “persecution complex” continue to pop up here and there on social media platforms, even affecting some believers who should know better.

Don’t they know what real persecution is? (Torture? Beheading? Bombings? Destruction of homes, whole communities, houses of worship? Murder of children?)

Differences of opinion and criticism simply don’t qualify. Yes, we should stand firm for what we believe. No, we shouldn’t react with drama, outrage, smart alecky or vile responses. A few reminders are needed, I suspect:

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)
  • “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
  • “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matt. 10:24-25 NASB)
  • “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23 NIV)
  • “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:26-28)
  • “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
  • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
  • “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
  • “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”  (I Peter 4:12-14)

The linchpins are moving

Prayer is a linchpin, the Holy Spirit told me one day. It’s not the only one; it is just one of many supernatural linchpins. Linchpins that have prevented some things in the past will start moving this year. Linchpins can also cause things. They will also begin moving this year.

As I tried to recall what linchpins were, he continued speaking.

ropeYou know what a rope is, he said. A rope is made of several cords, each cord made of several strands, and each strand made of many threads, some very fine.

If you unravel a rope, untwist the cords and strands and lay out the individual threads, the rope becomes longer. Sometimes much longer.

 

wheel-linchpingrenadeTo refresh my memory I looked up that word, linchpin. Originally it referred to a pin that ran through holes in an axle and wheel, preventing the wheel from falling off. They have been found in ancient chariots and wagons.

Some linchpins prevent things from coming together, like in a hand grenade. When the pin is pulled, two things make contact and cause an explosion.

ChurchillFDRStalinYaltaConfIn political circles, it refers to a person and their work, or to a specific event that causes another larger event in the world. During and after World War II, Allied leaders British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and USSR’s Joseph Stalin met a number of times. Historic linchpins, they are called.

The Lord went back to discussing rope. He showed me an unwound rope with one end tightly fastened. Hundreds of individual threads were stretched out in a fan-like pattern. Each thread end was attached to something different, a different linchpin. Some were people, some were events. Here are a few of those:

– Buying something from a particular store on a particular day at a particular time
– Traveling at one time rather than another
– Traveling by one route rather than another
– Taking one job rather than another
– Speaking to someone that causes behavior or actions to occur
– Publishing an article in one of various venues, print, television, radio, internet, etc.
– Reading that article and then doing something because of it
– Meeting certain people, sharing and learning specific information
– Being in a certain place and time that acts as a catalyst
– A weather event that causes delays or cancellations
– A solar event that disrupts electronic communications, resulting in faulty or erroneous messages, or missed data, such as spy satellites, communication networks or weather satellites not receiving information and/or not transmitting information, which results in other things happening or not happening

He showed me many other examples, too many to list, ending with the most important one of all:

Praying God’s will onto the earth.

The most critical linchpin of all is a prayer that allows God to intervene on earth, gives him permission to act in certain situations, with certain people, places and times.

Then he showed me the rope in his hand, slowly twisting the fastened end to regather the threads into cords, the cords into rope. As the rope turned, it shortened, and the linchpins began to move out of their individual places, away from whatever they were keeping together. The final results will be an event the Lord has planned.

I don’t know what that is, he didn’t tell me. Middle East warfare? Another Great Awakening? Both of those is what I’ve been feeling for months now.

No matter what it is, every linchpin is important. Praying what God says to pray is the most important one of all.

White House prayers

As I was praying about various things this morning, the Holy Spirit began to talk to me. Here’s what he said:

Many ordinary people work in the White House. They have ordinary concerns, interests, hobbies, fears, anxieties and worries. Some have financial problems, some have family conflicts, some have health issues. Some have feelings of frustration or anger.

Not all are military or law enforcement personnel, but of course some are. They have extra concerns that civilian employees don’t have: security of people and property, intelligence, keeping constant contact with higher-ups and each other, always with an eye out for any hint of danger.

And with all their extra training and duties, these people have the same kinds of life concerns as all the rest in the White House.

Think about all the normally behind-the-scenes people who work to maintain the White House complex. Those who mop and vacuum the floors, polish and rearrange the furniture. Designers and decorators. Those who select and care for the many floral arrangements. Those who wash the laundry, fix the plumbing or replace the light bulbs. Chefs, cooks and bottle washers. Helpers of many kinds in many departments.

Think about the inside and outside maintenance staff, like electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters, brick masons. Gardeners and groundskeepers. Heavy lifters to carry and move whatever, whenever, wherever it’s needed. HVAC and other mechanics who see that every piece of machinery works how it’s supposed to. The White House is a pretty old building complex, after all.

Then there is the administrative staff, the secretaries, clerks, assistants, aides, the audio-visual and digital technicians, not to mention the various communications personnel. The social staff necessary to help with calendars and planning for necessary events, travel, meetings, invitations given and accepted for the First Family and their personal aides.

White House historians, photographers, and audiovisual experts are tasked with keeping detailed records of comings and going. For every staffer who is seen, there are many folks behind the scenes. How many might there be in all, throughout that complex?

Some of them are doing the best job they can, whether out of loyalty or in hopes of a promotion or raise. Some are doing the least they can, keeping out of sight and out of the way, hoping not to get fired.

And naturally, some in the middle are working dutifully, concerned more with the paycheck and providing for their family, less concerned with the politics of it all (national politics or job-site politics).

Some White House workers despise the current President, although they tend to keep their opinions to themselves. They disagree with his politics, dislike his personality, and if given the odd chance to throw monkey-wrenches into the works somewhere, they might consider it. In the meantime they keep a low profile.

But others genuinely like or admire the President and his family. They may not like his tweets or his occasionally colorful language, but overall they are glad he was elected and happy to be working where they are.

So, why bring all this to mind today, I asked?

Because every one of them needs prayer. Intercession. Petitions. They need the Gospel. God’s grace. Forgiveness. They need Jesus as Lord and Savior, they need his favor, his provision, his Word. They need the filling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to do whatever job they have.

All those things you’ve been praying for the First Family over these last months? All these people also need those things. Don’t forget them, when you pray for the White House.

http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/

2018

2018 will be a year of contrasts, I think. I have been sensing some things about 2018. On the one hand, there will be more and worse disasters, chaos, tragedies, deadly weather, weird unique and odd evil happenings. So-called natural disasters will clearly be supernatural in origin. The magnitude and acceleration of these events will be impossible to miss.

There will be more political and religious deception, misdirection, sleight-of-hand and fake news. “Out and oust” has been my prayer in 2017 and we certainly have seen quite a lot of that! There will be more, occurring in many spheres of influence. Business, entertainment, media, and government will all experience their share of unpleasant revelations.

On the other hand, in this coming year millions more new Christians will come into the kingdom of God. There will be more appearances of angels and of Jesus. Breakthroughs will arrive – answers to long-time intercessions – as well as instant answers to current prayers, miracles and miracle healings; unusual supernatural events will become usual. Excitement, joy, exuberant praise and thanksgiving will fill the gatherings of excited new believers and mature disciples alike.

Sadly, while this is going on many people just won’t notice. The status quo will be the status quo. Many church members who like things the way they are, who like doing things “the way we’ve always done it” will be oblivious to marvelous miracles right outside their doors. Some of those churches will have the little spiritual life they still possess flicker and finally extinguish this year. As their numbers dwindle they may ask each other, What happened? By then it will be too late.

Teaching is one of my ministry gifts; some people know that prophecy is another. Prophetic prayer is one of the manifestations of that gift and prophetic teaching is a combination of both.

I pray for people around the world as well as here in Florence. Sometimes that does include prophetic prayer, but over these last few years prophecy and prophetic teaching have been reserved mainly for articles posted on Esther’s Petition. It’s true that quite a few of them have sounded pretty grim, but they have come to pass, nevertheless.

Many folks in our area don’t know about those articles. Many don’t even know I write Esther’s Petition, for that matter. I do post new articles on Twitter and Facebook, but of course not everyone uses those forms of social media.

2018 may be a year where those gifts are used more openly, more publicly, or more widely. I don’t know. But this one thing I do know: God is up to something, and he’s not going to be quiet about it.

The contrasts in 2018 are going to be vivid and obvious.

Praying for rain?

Several Middle Eastern nations have been asking their people, especially their religious leaders, to pray for rain recently, including Iran, Syria, and Israel.

Iran’s drought continues, although it is suffering a worsening rain of discontent and violent protests in the last few days.

http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iran-water-20140928-story.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-42529576

Syria is also asking their people to pray.

https://www.wthr.com/article/syria-prays-for-rain-at-president-assads-request

Meanwhile, following prayer, Israel has had a downpour of rain and snow.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/thousands-pray-at-western-wall-for-rain-to-break-drought/

“Rain and snow cover Israel as cold front sweeps in – Israel News, Dec 25, 2017: Snow fell on Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights and the first real rain of the winter season swept over Israel Sunday and on Monday morning. Central and northern Israel received between 30 to 50 millimeters of rain, according to the Water Authority, adding that rain even fell in the northern Negev.

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.831066

Hmm. Do you think it may depend on whose God those prayers go to?

Distractions: weapons against you

“We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Or are we?

When you’re distracted, your attention changes. Your focus  shifts. Suddenly you’re side tracked, off target.

This doesn’t just mean an annoyance; if you’re a soldier in a for-real war, a distraction can be fatal. Wounded or dead, distractions prevent your objectives from being accomplished.

Enemies use distractions like slick magicians, but the result isn’t just a laugh or two, the result is death. Think suicide bombers dressed like pregnant women. Think Trojan War. Distraction is a well-known, well-used warfare strategy. (See below.) How is it that the church at large isn’t recognizing that fact?

If he can’t kill you outright, the devil will try to nullify your faith, thus your effectiveness. An attractive con man, Satan can be an enemy spy in the camp (i.e. the church, or in the mind of an individual). He’s pretty good at it.

Too many Christians seem to have forgotten we’re in a real shooting war. There’s a real enemy who has thousands of years of experience in destroying humans. (But our commander-in-chief has way more experience in combating the enemy!)

Right now the enemy is using distractions across the body of Christ as effective weapons. Some distractions that I see across the globe right now include:

  • Offense. Feelings hurt. Self-pity. Rights violated. Poor me. Bad you!
  • Pride. Self-righteousness. I’m right, he’s wrong. I have to tell him that he’s wrong. Gossip. Social media!
  • Deceptions. Fake news. Half-truths. Exaggerations. Believing a lie. Not believing the truth.
  • “Discussions” of politics and religion. Smart alecky comments degenerate into bad manners. Rudeness. Spite.
  • Busyness. Laziness. Ignorance. Schedules packed too full of non-essentials.
  • Disagreements leading to arguments. Strife. Church splits. Denomination splits. Family splits.
  • Worry. Anxiety. Depression. Lay-offs. Poverty. Hunger. Homelessness.
  • Disease. Pain. Cancer. Stroke. Heart attack. Accidents.
  • Troubles in family and friends.
  • Fear. Paranoia. Crime. Terrorists. Human trafficking. Children stolen.
  • Technology. Hacking. Stolen identity. Smart phones. Reckless driving.
  • Too much stress. Alcohol. Drugs. Pornography. Spending. Movies, magazines, television, sports. Anything to take my mind off my troubles.
  • Apathy. Spiritual fatigue. Doubt. Unbelief. Nothing does any good, why try.

What happens when all these distractions are going on? Rather, what is NOT going on? Our personal assignment is not getting done. Our personal mission is not being accomplished.

What to do? Open your eyes! Pray for gifts of discerning of spirits, so you can see what’s really happening – this is a spiritual battle, this is a real war, and these are real dangers.

———————————————–

Distraction in warfare

  • Fake targets:
    • In open field with mass military strategy, sometimes a contingent of troops distracts the enemy army to expose their flank, or to draw them away from a key point or fortification.
    • Flares can divert enemy soldiers’ gaze.

Distraction was a key battle strategy in tales from the Trojan War. According to the legend, the Greeks seemed to have retreated by pretending to sail away. In their stead, they left a large wooden horse, which the Trojans then chose to bring back within their walls in order to celebrate their supposed victory. The Greeks used the Trojans’ pride as a distraction, as they actually hid men within the Trojan Horse in order to let the rest of the army in during the cover of night. The Greeks then entered and destroyed the city of Troy, effectively ending the 10-year standoff that was the Trojan War.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distraction#In_warfare