Expressing Thanks, “Thank You. Well Done!”

Expressings Thanks

I want to take a moment to say, “Thank you. Well done!” A fruitful, productive life requires effort, perseverance, and faithfulness, among a multitude of other qualities. Though our efforts don’t always produce the benefits hoped for, our attempts to follow Christ’s example have not gone unnoticed, either in Heaven or here on Earth.

A distinct vein of musical ability runs in my ancestry. For many of them, music flowed as easily as water running downhill. For me, however, it required much effort and dedication. Years ago, I had the privilege of being the accompanist for a choral group. My mother acknowledged the excellence of the performance with, “Well done! Your father would have been very proud.”

That simple and unexpected expression of gratitude caught my breath away. Something in me inexplicably broke. I loved my father deeply and desired to please him. The thought of him finding pleasure in my accomplishments, even years after his passing, touched a chord indefinably deep within me. It didn’t matter that I was decades old. Again, I felt like a child, known and loved by her father.

Romans 1:8

Today, I’m seizing this opportunity to express appreciation and gratitude for every kind word and gesture you have shown toward me and others.

Thank You

Paul articulated the Father’s heart so well.

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like I fall short of God’s desires for me. We live bombarded by put-downs, critical attitudes, and never-quite-enough expectations which often taint our perception of ourselves, God, and others.

Although I don’t personally know the vast majority of you, like Paul, I thank God “for all of you and continually mentioning you in (my) prayers.” What an honor to have you take time, stopping by to read these little God promptings. With sincere humility and gratitude, I thank God for you.

Philemon 1:4,5

God sees everything you do — “your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” He recognizes your effort and says, “Thank you. Well done!” Your example forms a powerful witness to others as they watch you set your goal, again and again, toward excellence in Christ.

Well Done

People don’t always notice, but God sees. He knows both your faith and faithfulness as you work to overcome an area of struggle, perform silent acts of service, offer gentle care to the vulnerable, or give sacrificially of your time, attention and resources. Well done, my friend. Thank you.

Paul wrote to the church in Colossae,

” . . . I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works in me.”
Colossians 1:29 NLT

Living for Christ often feels like real work and hard struggle, right? In one way or another, we are all working out our faith, struggling with everything in us, while leaning wholly on God to do the impossible through us. Like a mother giving birth, we endure the pains of labor because of our love for Him and each other. Jesus alone gives us all we need to endure.

Ephesians 1:15-16

God sees the weariness of our hearts. He understands how we’ve poured ourselves out without seeing tangible results. He looks upon us, not with disdain, but with deep compassion, and whispers, “Thank you. Well done!”

The Lord’s Delight

God works in you, through you, with you, and for you. He walks beside you each step of the way. He leads and empowers to live fully, bringing Him great pleasure.

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what please him.”
Philippians 2:13

May we each take a moment to rest and sense His pleasure, as our Father delighting in us, His children.

1 Timothy 2:1

” . . . the LORD’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Psalms 147:11 NLT

God doesn’t evaluate us like the world does. Rather, He measures us by our love and devotion to Him — our willingness to wait, hope, and trust in Him. Then, He encourages, “Thank you. Well done!”

Agreement

So today, let’s come into agreement with God’s assessment. Set aside the weariness of labor, the shame of failure, and the heaviness of defeat. God is pleased! What else matters?

Let’s give Him our best, allowing Him to do the rest! Like a little child, sink deep into the love of your Heavenly Father, feel the pleasure of His heart.

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Numberss 6:24-26

That word “rejoice” literally means that God jumps with great joy, twirling and spinning as He triumphantly delights over His “kids.” What an incredible image of His extravagant pleasure in us! As we come into agreement with His great happiness over us, our response aligns with His,

“Sing . . . shout aloud . . . be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . “
Zephaniah 3:14

For good reason, the Bible commands us to “be glad and rejoice.” When we do, we share in His over-flowing joy. Thank you. Well done!

Expressing Thanks

Finally, I want to be sure to give you my sincerest thanks. Every time you read these posts, share them with your friends, or offer comments, you bring tremendous encouragement to me. Your gracious support means more than simple words express.

In return, I faithfully pray for you and your nation. God knows your name, situation, and the circumstances you face. He loves you and believes in you, as He calls you to Himself. I join my voice with Him, “Thank you! Well done!”

1 Thessalonians 3:12

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Blinded! To See or Not to See

Blinded

Have you ever been blinded? The flash of a welder’s arc caused damage to our son’s eyes when he was still in high school. He was hospitalized with his eyes bandaged over for several days as a result. Afterward, he carefully avoided any similar incidents.

I have sometimes thought about which one of the five senses, I value the most? If I had to part with one, which one would I choose? Perhaps parting with the sense of taste might not be a half-bad idea — especially the taste of chocolate! Though hard-pressed to decide, the ability to see would definitely be at the top of my priorities to keep.

Perhaps that reason undergirds my compassion toward the blind who came to Jesus. We see them, like blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, crying out, by-passing protocol, refusing to be permanently imprisoned in darkness by silence.

However, the gnawing awareness of my own “blindness,” resulting from the equally imposing confinement within the dark recesses of my heart, makes up the greatest reason. I cannot deny my inability to see as God sees.

Palm Trees Water

“Lord, have mercy.” I too cry out, “I want to see!”

A Blind Man

“They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.”
Mark 8:22

Bethsaida, a fishing village north of the Sea of Galilee, became one of the most frequently mentioned places in the New Testament. Here, Jesus performed many miracles. Peter, Andrew and Philip, with faith, all left Bethsaida and everything in it, to follow Jesus. Now they, with Jesus, returned.

Whether they were friends or family of the blind man we’re not sure, but they came looking for Jesus to help where no other help was found. “They . . . begged Jesus to touch him” — “parakaleo“-ing Him, “calling for His aid, beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort.”

I appreciate Mark’s short, to the point, action-packed, essentials-only writing style. Every detail significant. Every word precise. Painting clear visuals for our imaginations.

Blinded

Jesus’ methods of healing changed with each encounter, because He did only what He saw the Father do (John 5:19-20). Here . . .

“He took the bind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hand on him, Jesus asked, ‘Do you see anything?’ “
Mark 8:23

I wouldn’t recommend this healing scenario as a prayer model! Can you imagine the shocked expressions, air-gasping, and indiscreet murmuring of onlookers?

Sunlight through Trees

With the exception of the ten lepers who were healed as they went (Luke 17:11-19), Jesus healed diseases and infirmities instantly. This time, He sensed an invisible block to this man’s complete restoration. He asks, “Do you see anything,” moving the blind man from passive by-stander to active participant in his own healing.

“He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Mark 8:24

At one time, he saw people and trees. Before being blinded, he saw both. Now he recognized the difference.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Mark 8:25

See Clearly

Jesus touched my eyes when He touched my heart and claimed me for His own. I gave Him my resolute, “Yes!” to follow Him wherever He may lead, and yield to Him whatever He asks. He touched the eyes of my heart to see. Once was good but not enough!

Again, He moves me from by-stander to active participant in my healing as He asks, “Do you see?” How often I’ve come begging Him for clearer vision — for Him to touch me “once more!”

Honestly, most of the time, I see people who “look like trees walking around.” My heart is still blinded to truth, warping my perception of others.

Brilliant sky

Some I see as palm trees of rest and refreshing. Others I see as thorn bushes, cutting deeply, drawing unnecessary blood when I get close. Still others resemble junipers, sapping strength, resources and life with each encounter. Many appear fickle — green and growing one season, barren and dead the next. A precious few become shelters of prayer with their spreading canopy protecting me from the enemy’s onslaughts. Still others stand menacingly tall in high positions, with deadly accuracy striking like lightning in a prairie storm.

I need to be honest before God, myself and you as I write with genuine tears. I’m blinded to His perception of all those He loves and has given His life for. I’m unable to see clearly His reflection in their faces.

The root of this man’s blindness remains hidden — the cause undisclosed. The source for my own inability to see hides concealed in the recesses of both my past and present. Whether I’m blinded by cynicism or criticism, unforgiveness or judgement, self-protection or ignorance, Jesus offers the only “parakaleo.” He alone provides both help and comfort.

Although miracles validated Jesus’ ministry, His intension went far beyond easing temporary pain. The miracles He performed were supposed to stir repentance, build faith and bring glory to God. That primary purpose remains unchanged!

Once More

Once more, I need Jesus to miraculously touch my blinded eyes and soften my hardened heart. Paul, someone else formerly blinded to truth, exhorted his spiritual son, Timothy,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people . . . this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunrise Trees

Paul “urges” (parakalo,” the same word as “parakaleo” in Mark). He calls for Timothy’s aid — “beseeching with strong force, entreating and looking for comfort,” for everyone based on the cross.

“Touch my heart again and again, Lord. Spit upon my spiritual eyes that I would see people as you do — valued, significant, worthy of love, honor, and dignity. Like the blind man, may my eyes be open and my sight restored. May I clearly see each one as You do.”

Go Home

Mark ends the account with,

“Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Don’t even go into the village.’ ”
Mark 8:26

I’m not exactly sure why Jesus gave such specific instruction not to go into Bethsaida. Jesus, who led him by the hand out, warned him not to go back. Was something about this village the source of his blindness? Or was Jesus protecting him from falling under a soon-to-be-proclaimed curse?

Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago . . .” Luke 10:13

God graciously offers seasons of visitation and repentance to us — turn around moments, fresh starts and God encounters. When Jesus comes, He longs to do far more than physical miracles. He desires our hearts, wanting us to see with clear vision.

Road Home

Miracle moments often incite overconfidence or pride, causing us to think we can handle situations we’re ill prepared for. Jesus knows when it’s essential to establish a distance between us and the things, people or places that blind. So He takes us by the hand and leads us.

Those who responded to Him, headed straight home. No detours or distractions! Like Peter, Andrew and Philip, they followed Jesus, not blindly, but with fresh faith and sight.

Perhaps with His once-more touch upon my heart, I too will see and follow Him the same way.

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From Stuck to Unstuck! A Change of Position

I can’t count how many times I’ve gone from stuck to unstuck—overcoming seasons of immoveability from places, positions or ways of thinking. Can you relate?

Yesterday, while ice fishing, someone’s vehicle became stuck on the ice. Though his new four-wheel-drive truck contained the capacity to move, his inexperience driving in icy conditions held him at a halt.

A little pull from another vehicle was all it took to get him mobile again. First, however, he had to do a few things: admit he needed help, agree to receive help, and co-operate with the help given. Does this sound familiar?

Admit

For me, the first step is the hardest—admitting that I’m stuck. I’m stubborn! Born that way, I think! The last thing I want to acknowledge to myself, or anyone else, is I’m in a bind. The quagmire labeled “STUBBORN” overflows with bull-headed stuck ones like me.

Stuck on Lake Ice Fishing

“So with the wisdom given to me from the Lord I say: You should not live like the unbelievers around you who walk in their empty delusions. Their corrupted logic has been clouded because their hearts are so far from God—their blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness keeps them from the true knowledge of God. Because of spiritual apathy, they surrender their lives to lewdness, impurity, and sexual obsession.”
Ephesians 4:17-19

I don’t mind reading Paul’s lists if I can’t find myself within the lines. It bites when I do!

When you read through the Bible, you find us: stuck in sin, stuck in the past, stuck in fear, stuck in shame, stuck in bitterness. Perpetually stuck ones blame others for their stuck-ness. It exemplifies the things we struggle to admit about ourselves—empty delusions, corrupted logic, hearts far from God, blinded understanding and deep-seated moral darkness.

No wonder I don’t want to admit how stuck I am—spiritually, relationally, or morally. I honestly desire to move from stuck to unstuck. But, I need help. I often feel like the man on the ice, knowing that God has already equipped me with everything I need, but somehow unable to move. I too must develop the expertise, strength and wisdom to apply God’s provision.

Stuck Snow Storm

Agree

Paul sought to use his own traction to inspire others into faith mobility. Throughout the Book of Ephesians, he pulls his readers to the solid ground of their identity in Christ.

” . . . To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 1:1-2

Often, just being reminded who we are in Christ is enough to pull us up and out. Other times, considering how God supernaturally grafted us into an incredible global body of believers inspires us to step into united momentum.

With God, yesterday never dictates tomorrow.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Stuck in Snow

Assuming a new attitude enables us to receive the help God sends. Honestly, my mind contains more slippery patches of faulty logic and selfish motivations than the lake we were fishing on.

Consistent daily disciplines help me become spiritually mobile again. Simple practices like worship, prayer, Bible reading and meditation. Each one helps move me out of stuck to unstuck, gradually bringing me into agreement with God’s ways, thoughts and purposes.

Co-operate

Many years ago, our old yellow Chev station wagon, packed to the roof with children and groceries, stopped several miles from home. No amount of coaxing persuaded the worn out engine to turn one more time. After a frantic call home, help arrived. (To ensure a speedy rescue, I probably added, “Your ice cream is melting!”)

Rather than a gentle pull, my help gave me a firm push—a push over the side of a steep hill, a push through the valley, and a push up an even steeper grade on the far side. With each jolt, my muscles tensed and finger whitened as I gripped the steering wheel. Although I absolutely needed the push, it felt dangerously uncomfortable.

Helpful push

I’m reminded of other situations, when I’ve needed even more intensely uncomfortable “pushes” out of apathy or self-protection.

Paul pushed too!

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully . . . Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold . . . steal no longer . . . work . . . do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths . . . do not grieve the Holy Spirit . . . get rid of bitterness, rage and anger . . . ”
Ephesians 4:25-31

Paul pushes some serious touch points, refusing to soften his words. Unconcerned whether his listeners become uncomfortable or offended, Paul speaks bluntly, saying what he needs to say, because he loves!

Love risks everything to move us from stuck to unstuck. I’m thankful for those who love enough to speak truth to me.

Reposition

Breaking out of old patterns represents an accomplishment worth celebrating. Paul points to positional change, requiring continued movement in an intentional direction.

Driving in Snow

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 4:32-5:2

I desire instant change—microwave moments. God prefers to work through process—slow, crock-pot-style process—moving us from stuck to unstuck.

Paul exhorts, “Get up everyone and walk! Take a step; then another. Put one foot ahead of the next and move, creating a momentum of change.”

No Parking!

On New Year’s Day, I crawled out from under my warm blankets early to walk into the new day, and year, with a friend. Poplar bluffs shielded us from -20C windchills, while relaxed conversation warmed our steps. We admitted areas of stuck-ness, pulled each other up to our position in Christ and sometimes even pushed each other toward godliness. We’ve given each other permission to speak boldly, honestly, even bluntly, into our lives. Though not always comfortable, we know it’s necessary for God’s purposes to be worked through us.

We desire to

” . . . Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-9

Winter Walking Trails

At one point along our walk, we stopped, breathed deeply and turned to enjoy the quietness of our surroundings. At that precise moment, the sun rose, bringing in a new day. Although God allows brief moments of refreshing and renewing, He posts “No Parking” signs along our path of progress. He walks beside us, pulling us forward, pushing us higher, extending His strong arm of help whenever we need it.

I pray we all begin this year by celebrating the steps we’ve already taken, trusting God with those still ahead, and then picking up the pace and moving on toward goodness, righteousness, truth, and all that pleases God.

With God, we can do it, moving from stuck to unstuck.

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Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come

Joy to the World

Some of my fondest Christmas memories include the singing of “Joy to the World.” Its familiar chords link my past with the present, and then reaches forward to a future time.

How comforting when warm memories spring forth from some hidden well — cherished for a moment, then returned for safekeeping.

Today’s memories swirl around Austrian-German extended family and Christmas Eve services. Of course the beautiful German classic, “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) would take prime position, but inevitably, “Freude der Welt” (“Joy to the World”) would also take its place. Though I never learned to speak German, even decades later, whenever I hear either of these melodies, the familiar blend of German-English simultaneously flows through my heart.

After meditating on Psalm 98, Isaac Watts scribed “Joy to the World” as a poem, pointing not to the nativity, but rather to the triumphal Second Coming of Christ. His adaptation of the psalm, usually sung at Christmas, draws us to both bow in reverence of His humble birth while also considering His return to rule and reign as Sovereign King.

Christmas Carol

Shout for Joy

Perhaps, if there is one thing we could each use a little more of this Christmas, it would be joy. Or rather, a re-centring of joy. Honestly, I have overly depended on family gatherings, church community celebrations, school programs, sparkle tours, and a host of other activities to open my joy portal at Christmas. As wonderful as they are, most only vaguely reflect the real purpose of our celebration.

The battle for joy darkens many of my Christmas memories. Oh, I “joyfully” busied myself with shopping and baking, cleaning and decorating, hosting and serving, singing and celebrating. All my efforts somehow fell short of the anticipated pinnacle I hoped for. Deep inside, I knew I was missing an important something — or rather Someone.

The days following Christmas often brought an emotional crash!

Shout for joy to the LORD,
all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn
— shout for joy before the LORD, the King.”
Psalm 98:4-6

Pipe Organ

Shout for joy to the LORD,” the ancient psalmist admonishes. Not, “Wait until you feel joyful. Then shout!” He calls for the shout of joy before the fulfillment of promise. Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Choose Joy

Rather than an emotion, joy is a decision that leads to emotion. At any moment, even in the darkest and most hopeless of moments, it is possible to “shout for joy.” When shouts rise to Him, because of Him, for Him, and through Him, the “shout for joy” often brings breakthrough.

When I remember the significance of His first coming as a helpless babe lying in a manger, I’m reminded that everything good about my life results from His grace, reaching into my helplessness, bringing hope, purpose and dignity. Countless others experience the same!

Though we don’t yet see Jesus Christ as He is, someday we will. In anticipation of the coming of the King of all kings, we shout. We shout for joy!

Here is my personal paraphrase of Psalm 98:4,

“Make a joyful noise (split the ears and shout) to Yahweh, the LORD (The One Who makes that which has been made, Who brings into existence all that exists, the All-Powerful Creator, Redeemer, and Preserver) of all the earth, break forth with a ringing cry of celebration in song and music.”

Joy to the World

You may feel very little cause for such exuberance in your present circumstances, but in looking up and remembering Him, choosing joy becomes possible.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come!

Justice Reigns

Whether it sounds joyful or not, begin making a noise. Give an ear-piercing shout to the One worthy — not because of what we now see, but what will eternally be. Celebrate His birth. Then celebrate His coming again.

“Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth,
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the people with equity.”
Psalm 98:7-9

King Jesus is coming to reign and rule with justice and righteousness. Get ready! Receive Him!

King Christmas

Christmas is an extremely difficult time for many people: some grieve the loss of or separation from loved ones, others struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), fear and anxiety plague even more. There are no pat answers or quick fixes. Our assurance rests in the truth. Some day — on that awe-some day — tears will be wiped away, answers will become clear.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.

Joy to the World

No wonder this powerful carol stirs something so inexplicable within us. Listen again to the words scribed so long ago:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! The Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

Christmas Music

No more let sins and sorrow grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

One More Memory

Many years ago, a young schoolteacher quietly made her way to the front of the sanctuary to accompany a small hodge-podge choir. They assembled for this one occasion — a small church program. At the nod of the director, her agile fingers descended upon the keys of the nondescript piano with intensity.

The chords resonated with force and accuracy, as the tiny candelabra all but lost its grip on the polished walnut surface. The entire piano seemed to come alive under her masterful touch as the audience voluntarily stood in united declaration, ‘”Joy to the world! The Lord is come!”

The Lord is Come!

Everyone present felt the significance of the moment, as they temporarily cast aside weighty cares. Some lingered in stunned silence, others stood in awe, many were filled with fresh anticipation. Christ is come; He is with us!

For a moment this little assembly caught the essence of the “why” behind the joy.

“Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.”
Psalm 98:1-3

Whether the psalmist looked behind or ahead, He saw the magnificence of the LORD. Joy to the world — the whole world!

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Notes: History of Hymns: “Joy to the World”
https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-joy-to-the-world

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue: Minister Out of the Overflow

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

These last few months have been a sometimes-up-sometimes-down battle to overcome spiritual fatigue. It’s a battle I’m winning! Sensing the pressures, first emotionally and then physically, I realized too slowly the true intensity of the battles I was facing.

God desires that we minster out of the overflow of the Spirit, rather than a dry well of exhaustion. Recently, I knew I was due for a personal inventory check. It was time for me to lean into God’s promise through Isaiah.

“He gives strength to the weary and
increases the power of the weak.”
Isaiah 40:29

At times, we all become weary and weak. However, when fatigue lingers, becoming constant and limiting, we are wise to take heed and evaluate the cause.

Fatigue

“As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13-14

Dust is the humbling, present reality of these bodies we occupy.

Taking Inventory

My first step to overcome spiritual fatigue began with this basic inventory check:

  • healthy diet
  • adequate sleep
  • routine exercise

It sounds far too practical, but these daily consistencies are critical for overall health and vitality. Any lack in these areas seriously affects my ability to function and reach my potential. Unhealthy cravings, irritability or lethargy often trace back to imbalance in one of these three elements.

Lethargy

Jesus set such a wonderful example in caring for His disciples. When they were hungry, He provided food. He often drew them away from the demanding crowds for much needed rest.

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ “
Mark 6:31

A healthy diet goes far beyond food. What am I filling my mind with? Am I pacifying, or medicating, an important need with a cheap substitute?

What about rest? Am I getting adequate sleep and guarding a “Sabbath” rest? (This has honestly been a struggle for me!) Exodus 31:17 tells us that God, who never runs low on energy, “rested and was refreshed” on the Sabbath. How much more important for us? Recreation gives God time to re-create and re-fresh us. Having fun is seriously important for stress packed lives.

Sometimes, to overcome spiritual fatigue, we must begin by taking care of physical and emotional needs.

The Problem

Because much of the work I do involves people in critically disturbing situations, it often drains my energy reserve and leaves me feeling fatigued. Some of what I witness is extremely dehumanizing. Ultimately, behind the scenes of each one of these lives lurks spiritual entities, attempting to “steal, kill and destroy” people whom Jesus loves deeply.

Sleep

Regardless of the situations which are making withdrawals from our inner reserve, God’s promise remains,

” ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ ”
Matthew 11:28-30

Just reading these words offers insight and breathing space. Whenever I’m feeling “weary and burdened” and the “yoke” weighs heavy, I know I’m carrying something God willingly offers to relieve me of. Only He possesses the strength and power to carry the weight of human oppression, injustice and indignity.

“Come to me,” Jesus invites.

The Solution

Don’t discard God’s solution as overly practical. “Come!”

Do you know Jesus Christ? Are you living in personal relationship with Him? Great!

“. . . He saved us through the washing of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”
Titus 3:5

The renewal by the Holy Spirit is ours. Not just a onetime, special, salvation offer, but a continual opportunity to come to Him for a redo!

Tired

The solution to overcome spiritual fatigue also appears simple and practical. In coming, we:

  • spend time with Him daily in prayer, Bible reading and meditating on His Word
  • pursue a heart attitude of worship, quietly or expressively
  • adopt praise, being thankful to God in the midst of all situations and struggles

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:30-31

When you’re feeling more than a little fatigued and stumble, don’t panic. For those who “hope in the Lord,” it is a temporary condition.

Sit at Jesus’ feet, receiving and being filled anew with His Spirit, He will renew your strength. Just like exhaustion came gradually, often restoring takes process as well. Come! Drink deep from His reserve — drink again and again.

Resting

Overcome Spiritual Fatigue

To overcome spiritual fatigue might require one more step — identify unnecessary hindrances.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith . . .”
Hebrews 12:1-2

I’ve been asking God to examine my heart to expose any unresolved issues of unforgiveness, bitterness, critical judgements, selfishness or pride. Yours may be different, but these are often my tangle points. God clearly says the responsibility to “throw off” these weights belongs to us.

After this last step, the flow into our lives through Holy Spirit runs pure and strong. As we identify the problems and develop solutions to overcome spiritual fatigue, the overflow comes clear and constant.

Horse sleeping

How much better and more fulfilling to minister out of the overflow of Holy Spirit, rather than from the stagnant sludge of spiritual fatigue. Through these practical steps, God’s renewing and revitalizing pours through us and from us to others.

I hope my brief progress report on how to overcome spiritual fatigue encourages you. My dad would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Whether we’re needing prevention or a cure, an ounce or a pound, God is able. Come!

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Overcoming Spiritual Impotency: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency

Overcoming spiritual impotency starts by recognizing and accepting personal responsibility for both gains and losses. Impotent means “unable to take effective action—to be helpless or powerless.”

Before you get any wrong ideas, I’m talking in the broadest sense of living the Christian life at half-throttle, never reaching God’s full potential. Jesus set a high standard of ministry for His disciples,

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

How wonderful to be called and given full authority to do the impossible! With opportunity comes responsibility.

Our Commission

Just a few verses later, Jesus spells out their mission more clearly,

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:6-8

Colt

As Christ’s followers, we are all called to “go” and “proclaim” the Good News of the Gospel. Each of us will carry out that mandate a little differently, depending on our situation and spiritual gift mix. We are all called to share God’s love with a world in need, however.

As well intentioned as I may be, I have been unable to reach the high mark Jesus has established. Although there’s a faint smattering of a few of these victories, I fall far short. I’ve been honestly seeking God and asking why. The lives of others depend on my overcoming spiritual impotency.

Pinpointing the Cause

Rather than focusing on the symptoms, we must go deeper to the cause of our powerlessness. God makes it clear, He desire us to freely give away all that we have received.

One day, Jesus invited His inner circle, Peter, James and John, up the mountain for an out of this world encounter with Moses and Elijah. Though the supernatural occurrence left them confused and questioning, they witnessed unbelievable things. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples weren’t idly waiting below. They were ministering — or rather they were unsuccessfully trying to!

” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ ”
Matthew 17:17

Rodeo Horse

Ouch! How’s that for a scathing performance evaluation that no one desires to hear from their Superior? I feel the sting from this side of two thousand years!

It’s not just you and me working on overcoming spiritual impotency; the best of the best struggled too.

Matthew, who records the account, witnessed the suffering of this poor father and son. He felt the failure of his inability to set this young lad free from demonic possession and heal his troubled body and mind. Matthew knew that every Christ follower would face these same hurdles to effective ministry.

The First Problem

Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit become a visible testimony of our salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4). God delegated these things for us all, not just those in “ordained” ministry. So what keeps us from fulfilling our calling? What’s the problem?

Jesus spells it out in two words: “unbelieving and perverse.” We tend to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Both are critical if we are going to be effective at overcoming spiritual impotence.

Unbelieving” goes beyond a littleness of faith. It also contains the aspect of not being worthy of confidence or being untrustworthy. Perhaps we have all experienced, either in our own lives or in the lives of others, a powerful sense of divine potential or excellence of calling. Yet, practically, we fall far short.

Wild Horses

I have to be bold in my self-evaluation, if I desire to overcome this malady of spirit. Can Jesus depend on me? Am I trustworthy with the gifts, abilities and opportunities He offers? Do broken, hurting people come to me and leave just as broken and hurting, or does Jesus pour out from me with healing and deliverance? Do I make excuses for my failures?

I can fully believe in God and the inerrancy of His Word, yet without verbalizing it, justify why healing won’t work this time, deliverance isn’t for me to get involved in right now, and don’t even mention raising the dead. These things belong to super-gifted, anointed Christians! Right? Here lives unbelief at the core. Yes, we know Jesus is present to heal, deliver and restore to life, but we doubt His willingness to do it here — through us.

Jesus uses the opportunity to build up their faith.

” . . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

The Second Problem

The Bible tells us that God has already given to each of us a measure or quantity of faith. Beyond question, we possess at least a mustard seed sized amount (Romans 12:3).

Overcoming spiritual impotency depends on our willingness to deal with both problems Jesus addressed. He identified the second hindrance to vibrant ministry as being “perverse.”

Horse grazing

The dictionary says that “perverse” is

“showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

The Greek word, διεστραμμένη (diestrammenē), means to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, or oppose. Literally, it means to be “wrong-headed, arising from stubbornness.”

I’m perhaps way more “wrong-headed” than I realize. Every time my thoughts don’t align with His thoughts, I’m wrong-headed. In every situation where I vainly think my ways will get it done, instead of leaning into Him, I’m wrong-headed.

I can’t sluff off my stubbornness to Irish genetics. Since the fall of mankind, wrong-headed thinking has led those whom God loves to “show a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable and unacceptable (to God and others), often in spite of the consequences.” No one can justly claim immunity in this regard.

The Solution

God never pinpoints a problem without offering the solution. The disciples recognized they hit a legitimate ministry wall of failure and limitation. They sought Jesus’ help in overcoming spiritual impotency.

“He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:29

Powerful Horse

Prayer and fasting align both our hearts and minds to God’s. These two disciplines draw our spirit, soul and body in surrender to the sovereignty of God. Prayer doesn’t just change things — it changes us!

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”
Psalm 103:7

During Moses’ daily times in the Tent of Meeting talking with God, he came to know God — His character, His attributes, and His nature. He saw clearly the ways of God.

The people who stood back and watched God from a distance only experienced God’s deeds. They saw His miracles, ate daily of His provision, and sat under the fire by night and the cloud by day. Still, they did not “know” God! They continued to walk in deliberate and obstinate disobedience, even while knowing what was right.

Be Free

When Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was he referring just to a demon in a child? Could He also have been referring to our unbelief and perverse tendency?

It’s not just the demon possessed who suffer. We all do! Prayer and fasting is essential for us to overcome spiritual impotency. Only God can set us free from every “unbelieving and perverse” way. Prayer and fasting releases us from our boxes of little faith and wrong-headed thinking. Then what we have so freely received from Jesus will flow freely to others.

Horse portrait

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The first month of the year is an excellent time to designate for prayer and fasting, resetting priorities and giving God first place. I’m asking Him what He desires to set me free from. Undoubtedly, unbelief and wrong-headed thinking hold prominent position on His list.

Unbelief originates in the heart; perversion flows from the mind. With hearts faith-filled and fully devoted to God, let’s endeavor to live with minds “clear-headed” free from every perverse way. Then we will gain the power to live victorious, bringing freedom and hope to those around us.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
1 Peter 4:7

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Tenant or Landlord? Do You Know? Remember and Appreciate!

Beachfront Home

Do you rent your home or own it? Are you a tenant or landlord? Though there are benefits of both, the difference between the two becomes increasingly obvious.

Searching for great tenants is a skill developed over time. Try as we might, we don’t always acquire tenants that value our property as much as we hope. We’ve repaired fixtures, removed left-behind garbage and paid bills accumulated by others,

Fortunately, many people consider tenancy a privilege. They view it with respect, thoughtfully taking care of everything. These folks are the gems we usually come to view as friends.

Tenant or Landlord

Paul reminded the Christians in Corinth of this important principle. He admonishes them to consider carefully their position as tenants, because a new Landlord had taken possession of their lives.

Family Dwelling

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you. You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary? You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Another version asks, “Do you not know?” Good question! Do I fully comprehend this truth? The word “know” includes “to perceive, be aware of, understand, remember and appreciate.”

Reading these verses again, I gained a new appreciation and understanding of their meaning.

Rights of Ownership

People often declare, “It’s my body! I’ll do what I want with it!”

Such statements verify that we’ve forgotten, failing to appreciate and recognize the complete ownership God has over us — not just the spiritual us, but ALL of us?

“Have you forgotten that your body is the sacred temple of the Spirit of holiness, who lives in you.
1 Corinthians 6:19

Country Cottage

Honestly, I’m no different from the Corinthians believers. I quickly forget that every part of who I am belongs to God. Too often, I stubbornly push for rights of ownership even after I have relinquished the deeds.

Attitude and actions reveal whether I live like a tenant or landlord in God’s house.

God has been challenging me over the last several months to value this body, His temple. Only by grace am I allowed to live in it. God desires that I value it as much as I want tenants to appreciate the home we lease to them.

Practical

For me, this boils down to daily struggles, like taking exercise breaks between writing spurts or ensuring I get adequate rest while juggling a busy schedule and shift work. When the temple of our bodies wear out or break down, God doesn’t provide a substitute. This is it, folks!

I don’t battle addictions or major issues, but God has led me to recognize my sweet cravings and to fast from sugars. I’ve gained increasing awareness of healthy eating choices. Though I might forget, He remembers I am spirit, soul, and body — one complete unit.

You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary?
1 Corinthians 6:19

High-Rise Apartment

When the truth of this verse becomes my living reality, what lifestyle changes will I make? Living with eternity in mind influences my perspective, recognizing that even the “little” things matter.

I hope to be here for the long haul. There is so much more I would like to accomplish for God. Every day of this life is a gift from Him — precious and valuable.

Time and Talents

God always invest wisely! He didn’t consider any of us “junk!” He paid the highest price, an unbelievably enormous price, to purchase us for Himself.

You were God’s expensive purchase, paid for with tears of blood, so by all means, then, use your body to bring glory to God.”
1 Corinthians 6:20

We could never pay Him back for all He has done. Yet, when I experientially “know” and remember His ownership of every aspect of my life, I am able, if in a limited way, to “bring glory to” Him.

Our bodies are His! Treating His body with respect becomes a privilege. Remembering He is in charge helps us pursue His glory and praise with excellence.

Beach House

The things I consume, invest in, absorb or spend time on suddenly contain new purpose. When I know, really know, my Landlord, life holds increased potential and greater fulfillment.

Do I treat God like a tenant or Landlord within me? The answer to that question affects everything!

Set Apart for God

Earlier, Paul wrote,

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

We may falsely believe we get away with mistreating these jars of clay behind the priming and pampering, but God knows us better than we know ourselves. He calls our bodies “sacred” — set apart for Him alone. We are exclusively His.

There is comfort in being “exclusively His.” The landlord, not the tenant, pays the highest price for mortgage, taxes, upkeep, and improvements. The tenant enjoys the benefit of the landlord’s investment, living securely within.

Mountain Home

If my tenants destroy the building they lease, I have to send them a hefty bill to cover the costs. Why would I think God would do any less with what He values highly?

The choice is mine! Will I consider God a tenant or landlord, recognizing the blessing of relinquished ownership?

It is All His

Rather than being harsh, Paul invites us to discover the peace of resting and knowing that everything belongs to God. If I follow Paul’s example and willingly surrender the keys to God, the worry vanishes. Joy replaces struggle.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100 1-5

Take heart! We have a wonderful Landlord.

Tenant or Landlord

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Recipient of Good News: Time for a Good Report

Good News

Have you been the recipient of good news recently? Are you looking forward to, and hoping for, a good report? Perhaps, we all are!

Not all news has been positive, but, over the years, we’ve experienced many excellent reports: the births of healthy babies; a cancer free diagnosis; an impossible healing verified; grandchildren successfully completing a task or excelling in an endeavor; a promotion or new position granted; financial provision just in time. So much to be thankful for.

Exotic Bird

Yet, we’ve dealt with heart-breaking reports as well: brain cancer; spinal injury; creditors calling before paychecks come through; addictions; divorce; and more. Whether the report announces good news or difficult times, we press close to God, knowing He holds us and everything else in His hands.

Good News for a Nation

As I was reading the historical account of Israel’s exodus from Egypt, I couldn’t help but wonder how they responded to such good news. “God is coming to rescue you!”

Were they in disbelief? Did they celebrate?

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
Exodus 2:23-25

Over four hundred years previous, their ancestors honored and worshipped God. Now, generations later, their descendents knew nothing of God. Though they forgot God, God remembered them; He knew them and longed to see them set free.

Bird in Cage

“The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them . . .’ “
Exodus: 3:7-8

Consider, for a moment, their bondage to cruel dictatorship and alienation from God. Though they cried in misery, they had drifted so far from God that they didn’t even know how to cry to Him.

Perfect Timing

Only those who experience it comprehend the weight of slavery, the cold-blooded murder of infants, and inhumane conduct of cruel taskmasters.

God heard! Through Moses, He came to rescue. That’s good news. With signs, wonder and miracles, He pulled one nation from another in a single day — not just any day, but the exact day of God’s choosing.

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt. Because the LORD kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt. . .”
Exodus 12:40-42

Though God lives outside of time, present in eternity past while present in eternity future, He has a perfect time for His people, both Israel and us. That’s good news!

Another Deliverance

God’s deliverance of His people from bondage marked the high point of the nation. What could possibly compare?

During another brutal season of captivity for Israel, Jeremiah declared an even greater deliverance.

‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up from David’s line a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteous Savior.”
Jeremiah 23:5-6

Hummingbird

Jeremiah is speaking of another deliverance for Israel that will make the exodus from Egypt pale in comparison — the greatest deliverance of all time.

He points all eyes, not just to the end of seventy years of captivity in Babylon, but to King Jesus, who would save forever Jews and Gentiles from the bondage to sin and rebellion.

Good News

In the fullness of time, God looked again on the misery of humanity and came to rescue.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.’ Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
Galatians 4:4-7

At “the right time”, “the fullness of time”, His perfect time, Jesus came, born of a virgin to live a sinless life. He died a cruel death on the cross and was resurrected to newness of life, doing it all to purchase for Himself a family of believers.

Parrots Flying

I often cry when I receive bad news. I sometimes even cry as the recipient of good news. This news, the greatest news ever, stirs my heart to the deepest level. God offers His good news to the worst of criminals, the loyalest of saints, the weakest among us, the richest and poorest, the old and the young, those of every nation, tribe and tongue.

Jesus Christ, The LORD Our Righteous Savior, Jehovah-Tsidkenu, came to rescue!

Get Excited

Whatever bad news you are facing, this good news exceeds it all! Whatever bad report has reached your ears, God came to rescue, through Jesus Christ.

Even imprisonment in a Philippian dungeon couldn’t keep Paul and Silas from praying, singing hymns, and praising God for such good news. An earthquake may have shook the jail, but it was the Spirit of God that shook a Roman jailer to his core.

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.’ “
Acts 16:29-30

No one needs to wait for an earthquake or a desperate situation. God offers the same good news to each of us. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” It sounds too simple; yet, that simple it is.

Birds Singing

The time is perfect! Today, believe the good news.

I know that there will be seasons of both good and difficult reports ahead for us all. Yet, the good news is we can walk through the good and the difficult with God as our strength and comfort.

Share the Good News

William Carey, who started a worldwide missionary movement in the nineteenth century, said,

“If it be the duty of all men to believe the Gospel . . . then it be the duty of those who are entrusted with the Gospel to endeavor to make it known among the nations.”

Gospel literally means “good news.” Let’s follow his example by first believing and then sharing such good news.

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No Marketing Scams: What Is Inside Counts

What is Inside Counts

Bombarded daily by sales pitches, catchy jingles, and slick packages, I need to remind myself that what is inside counts. Have you been enticed by crafty advertising, only to discover that the latest “must have” product represents a cheap replica of what you expected to receive? I have. In more ways than I’d like to admit.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve worked to create products that both look appealing and, hopefully, become beneficial to the recipient. The old adage to not judge a book by its cover goes far beyond novels. I wish it was only merchandise we cast instant judgment on. Unfortunately, we do it in a multitude of ways.

A Little History

Long ago, Samuel led and served Israel as priest, but after Israel demanded a king as leader, God led Samuel to anoint Saul as their first king.

“Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”
1 Samuel 9:2

At first appearances, Saul looked the part: handsome, hardworking, fearless, and humble. It didn’t take long before a hidden side of Saul became apparent and the whole thing turned sour! Saul overstepped his bounds, became proud, and rebelled against God. He eventually turned into a raging maniac who was demon possessed.

Inside a Piano

Did Samuel misjudge Saul’s potential? Did God make a mistake? Hardly!

I’ve ministered to many husbands and wives who have found themselves in a similar predicament. That future spouse who once seemed gentle became violent, once level-headed now unpredictable, once generous turned self-seeking, cruelty replaced kindness. Who or what they fell in love with dissipated into a faint memory.

Whether in personal relationships or business associations, most of us have discovered something other than what we bargained for.

What is Inside Counts

When it came time for Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to replace Saul as king, God warned him,

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7

Heart matters! Those excellent qualities Saul once possessed evaporated because he failed to guard his heart. Solomon gives perfect advice on how to do just that.

Inside a Camera

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity, keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
Proverbs 4:23-27

Guard Your Heart

What is inside counts the most, requiring vigilant and active protection. Solomon reminds us that everything flows from within us. He encourages us to pay attention, offering practical examples in the way we talk and think, what we look at and the places we go. Even so-called “strong” people fall into deception, thinking they are powerful enough to play on both teams: God’s and the devil’s.

The cost of such negligence proves greater than any expects.

Jesus reminded His listeners,

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”
Matthew 15:19

“Out of the heart” comes both evil and good. What is inside counts and matters most because everything flows from that deep well within.

Judging

“Don’t judge a book by its cover!” is still good advice, but we do. “Don’t believe everything you see!” But we do!

Whether for personal promotion or financial gain, humanity knows how to package for appearance, for the quick sale, or the easy fix. Often, too quickly, we form character judgments, whether out of a critical spirit or through rose-colored glasses.

Watch Works

Working in the legal system, I’m appalled at how rarely I identify a murderer or rapist. In ninety percent of the criminals, I see mercy, justice, faithfulness, and empathy. Their eyes show brokenness or hopelessness. Something within me resists the notion that people can, and often are, deceptively cruel or inerrantly evil. So I judge — most often incorrectly.

What is inside counts! No one sees the whole heart except for Jesus.

“Now while he (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.”
John 2:23-25

Jesus Knows

Often it’s possible to fool a few people. Fooling everyone all the time, rarely, if ever, happens no matter how slick the appearance. No one ever fools Jesus! He knows what is in each one of us.

I have often heard people say, “Jesus knows my heart.” Often the comment is spoken to justify a failure or moral offence. Yes, Jesus does see our hearts. He sees all of our hearts — the good and the corrupt.

Proverbs reminds me,

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”
Proverbs 27:19

Heart Monitor

Our lives reveal what is really in our hearts. The thoughts no one hears, the wayward glances no one sees, the dishonest deal we hope others won’t uncover, the addiction we try to hide, angry words, or self-seeking behaviors also form the accurate reflection of our hearts.

New Heart

God promises good news. We can be “new-hearted” people. My prayer often echoes David’s,

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Psalm 51:10

Ezekiel offers us even greater hope.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
Ezekiel 36:25-26

Inside Bible

Tears of gratitude pool and flow as I remember God’s great grace. Yes, He challenges us to guard our hearts with diligence, because what is inside counts! He also knows and sees our inability to change apart from Him. So He comes. He comes with mercy. With love, He comes, removing the crusty hardness, transforming it to tender flesh.

Through this partnership of God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and us doing all we can, comes cleansing in the inmost part. A pure heart unattainable without Him.

“Yes, Lord,” I pray again, “give me a clean heart.”

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Overcoming Deception: What Makes Deception so Treacherous?

Overcoming Deception

The great difficulty we face in exposing and overcoming deception, both personally and corporately, makes deception so treacherous? One of the chief ploys of the enemy is to deceive believers. Not only are we all capable of being deceived; we have already being deceived in a multitude of ways.

Yesterday, three times the topic of deception arose in three different settings, with three separate groups of people. Since my conversations rarely bend in that direction, I knew I had better pay attention.

Should we say of our world like Jeremiah did of his,

” ‘Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declare the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:4-6

Mask

We find solid ground only in the truth of God’s Word. Truth becomes hard to find in a culture negligent of God, however. Without truth, overcoming deception becomes impossible.

Satan the Deceiver

We find satan as the original deceiver in the Garden of Eden, coming in the form of a snake, twisting God’s words and motivation. He first convinces Eve, then Adam, to outright disobedience to God’s command. He made it appear that he knew better than God and guaranteed them benefits presently hidden from them.

Deception always promises good, but delivers harm.

Adam and Eve knew God, Elohim, as their Creator, in covenant relationship with all He made — fully committed to them. But God had also introduced Himself as LORD God, Jehovah (Yahweh) Elohim — righteous and just. Loving commitment required Him to judge all wrong.

Trap

Yet when the serpent spoke, he refused to acknowledge God as LORD. “Did God really say?” He enticed Eve closer.

Eve grabbed his hook like a hungry fish, “God did say, . . .” she responded.

Only after the failure of both Adam and Eve did they remember God’s fullness. Frail efforts and ridiculous coverups at overcoming deception and hiding sin have been repeated throughout the ages — by me and others. Too late we remember He is both LORD and God!

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8-9

All Deceived

As “children” of Adam and Eve, we possess the same failures and disobedient nature to go beyond or around God to gain something we perceive He is withholding from us.

I’m convinced that every sin and addiction is rooted in our failure to fully acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, marriages, finances, futures, gifts, and ministries. We may have surrendered ninety percent, but there will be that one place, that one thing, we tend to grab with tight fists, denying God access.

Cage

Deception is a heart issue!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

God alone can bring the cure we so desperately need in overcoming deception. Yet, in our hiding, we avoid the healing balm found only in the finished work of the cross.

Warning

The very nature of deception grows out of ignorance of the hidden enticement. I need others who will ask me the tough questions, challenge my motivations, and test my faithfulness to God and His Word. The deceived consistently fail to recognize the deception others see so clearly. It requires someone outside looking into our lives.

James pinpoints a key area of deception.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
James 1:22

Only Jesus walked out obedience perfectly. The rest of us struggle to do the good we know we ought to do. Paul, concerned for the Corinthian believers, warned them that what happened to Eve happens to us all!

Serpent

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3

It’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s craftiness. The phrase “be led astray” means “to destroy, ruin, shrivel, wither, corrupt and spoil” any “sincerity, simplicity, purity and graciousness.”

For good reason, every writer in the New Testament warns how treacherous deception is.

Winning the Battle

Just as warnings abound in the Word of God, so does encouragement and winning tactics. Paul says to the Ephesian church,

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden with the serpent’s deception, Jesus secured back through the cross. By realigning ourselves to that reality, we regain the ability to live in the image of God in “true righteousness and holiness.” Paul instructs us to resist deceitful desires, twisted serpentine thinking and lies. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds,”

Deception is a battle first for the mind, then for our devotion! Thankfully, God has equipped us with the spiritual weapons necessary in overcoming deception.

Obedience

Jesus paid a heavy price for humanity’s disobedience. Every believer, through the cross, now possesses the capacity to make the devil pay for his deceptive tactics.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 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 Corinthians 10:3-5

What disobedience lost, obedience gained back. However, we cannot do it alone! We need Jesus Christ and other Christians in the body of Christ.

Spider web

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
Colossians 2:8-10

Just like satan used a snake as a cover for his true identity, he often disguises himself behind smooth talk of others we trust. Christ is our shield. In Him is all the fullness. Wherever we lack, He is sufficient.

Test It!

I will close with this solid advice from John, the Beloved:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1

I wonder how different the scenario would have been if Eve would have sought Adam’s advice or if Adam would have spoken up, when he heard satan lie.

Together

We walk on dangerous ground when we choose to walk alone. I have learned, though slowly, how invaluable walking in community with others is. Together we protect each other from deception by encouraging each other in the Word of God, supporting each other in prayer, and when necessary, challenging each other to walk faithful.

Though we are prone to fall, overcoming deception becomes possible through Jesus Christ. He has exposed the enemy’s tactics and given us everything we need to overcome. As we trust His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know we will stand firm, withstanding every temptation.