Mistakes Eat at Us: Dealing with our Faults and Flaws

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Faults, Flaws, and Mistakes

We all make mistakes. By ignoring and internalizing them, these faults, flaws, and mistakes eat at us from the inside out.

Today, I made a fresh batch of breakfast muffins, but I didn’t add quite enough butter to the mix. The first batch revealed my error, but after adding a bit more, the second lot baked to perfection. Either way, I will still eat my mistakes.

We all make mistakes every day — some (like my baking) are inconsequential but others are far more damaging. We don’t always do good, and we know it.

Last night as I prayed, I remembered the first two kings of Israel. They both had faults and flaws. Their different patterns of dealing with those mistakes caused me to consider the two paths mistakes may lead us.

The Path of Saul

One of the first and perhaps most revealing indicators of Saul’s character comes at his inauguration as king.

“So they asked the Lord, ‘Where is he?’ And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.‘”
1 Samuel 10:22

Hiding among the baggage of life always causes our mistakes to eat at us. We all tend to wander down the Saul path of dealing with our faults and failures. We:

  • Self-protect, justifying oneself for poor behavior, which leads to strained relationships (1 Samuel 13:8-13; 15:9, 15, 20-24, 30).
  • Externalize, blaming others to protect fragile our egos and deny personal responsibility (1 Samuel 15:16-23; 19:9-17; 20:30).
  • Become jealous and controlling to prove our own worth, which only leads to more anxiety and irritability (1 Samuel 18:7-9).
  • Internalize through negative self-talk plagued with guilt and shame (1 Samuel 16:14).
  • Withdraw from matters of faith and publicly disobeying God (1 Samuel 13 & 15)

Though remorseful, Saul refused to turn to God in repentance. Sadly, the freedom God provided remained out of his reach. Instead of being victorious, he remained dark, moody, and sullen, until he ultimately took his own life (1 Samuel 31).

“But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
1 Samuel 13:14

The Path of David

Through a quick comparison of the faults and failures of these two kings, we could easily assume that David’s adulterous affair far surpassed any crime Saul committed. But David didn’t respond like Saul. He acknowledged his weaknesses and understood the key principles to effectively deal with his faults and flaws.

  • From young shepherd to an aged king, David put God first, developing a heart of worship (1 Samuel 16:18-23; Psalm 63:1-5; 2 Samuel 6:12-15)
  • He valued spiritual leadership and sought godly counsel and direction (1 Samuel 23:1-3, 4-5, 12-14; 30:8-9: 2 Samuel 2:1-2; 5:17-21, 22-25; 21:1).
  • He honored even corrupt political leaders (1 Samuel 24 & 26)
  • He was quick to repent and fully turn back to God (2 Samuel 12:13; Psalm 51)

David did not allow remorse to shackle him. He pushed past ego and pride, humbling himself before God and those he sinned against. By valuing his relationship with God and others, David earned the title of a man after God’s own heart.

“…acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever….”
1 Chronicles 28:9

The Godly Path of God

David demonstrated the path of God for us. But talk comes easy; doing comes hard.

Without godly counsel and accountability David may never have confronted his sin patterns. In a safe and productive way, Godly counsel freed him to acknowledge and leave his baggage behind.

First Samuel 30:6-8 tells us that when David was in deep distress, he “encouraged himself in the Lord.” Not only did he submit to others, he also knew how to personally connect with God in a sustaining and life-giving way.

Though Saul often allowed “friends” to sway him, David consistently chose to obey God rather than the poor advice of his comrades to seek his own revenge (1 Samuel 24:4-9).

We are no longer talking about baking ingredients and muffins that don’t turn out quite right. The paths we take dictate life choices with far reaching consequences. Taking the God-path leads to turning our hearts fully to God and humbling ourselves before Him and others. Through seeking and honoring godly counsel, God gives us the capacity to leave our hiding places and dusty baggage. He gives us ample courage to face our responsibility regarding our mistakes, faults, and flaws, not in shame but as victorious overcomers.

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White and Black Dog: The One We Feed Will Grow

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog_Black Dog

A wise, elderly pastor shared an illustration, explaining how life resembles living with both a white and black dog inside of us. Whichever one we feed will grow; while the one we neglect will become dominant. The black dog represents the sin nature with all its selfish cravings and demands. The white dog represents a life empowered by the Holy Spirit, following and obeying everything godly — love, grace, and beauty … honor, humility, and honesty. God encourages us to intentionally feed and focus on only the “white dog” of the Holy Spirit.

I know the illustration is faulty, but it also gives a clear picture of the two realms we struggle between. In Romans 7, Paul explained this daily dilemma of living with two desires warring against each other.

Dead

When we commit our lives to Christ, God wipes the slate of past sin clean, erasing all the charges once rightly held against us. The old has gone and the new has come! Done deal!

Although this “legally” holds true, we experience a different reality — a reality of contending for the very victory Christ has already won. The white and black dog war within us. The black dog refuses to accept death, while the white dog welcomes us to the fullness and freedom that is ours.

For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious.
Romans 7:5

How true these words? Whatever we felt we could get away with, we did or perhaps still do.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Black Dog

Alive

But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.”
Romans 7:6

“But now!” Oh, how I love those words! The white and black dog both ask to be fed. But now, the freedom of Christ gives us the power to choose. Will we feed the things of the Spirit or our own cravings?

Deciding to do the right thing, the good thing, the godly thing, often fails us, however. Our past rebellion ingrains our present actions, as we repeatedly say and do things which we know dishonor God and hurt others. Again and again, we feed the black dog.

We obviously need help. The thing we want to do, we are unable to accomplish.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog - Black Dog

Something More

“But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway.”
Romans 7:17-19

God understands our dilemma and has given us all we need for complete victory. The something more we need is Someone more — Jesus Christ. Into our poverty and powerlessness, He comes, providing the way.

“The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
Romans 7:25

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - Which Dog Will We Feed

The Choice

So, we live within a sobering reality. God provided through Jesus all we need for a complete and victorious life in the Spirit. Each decision leads us to feed either the white or black dog.

Jesus summarized all the commandments this way,

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Matthew 22:37-39

Whatever attention we give to the black dog of sin results in a disastrous outcome. It may be delayed, but it will come. But love always feeds the things of the Spirit. As we give our full attention to loving God and others, the things of the Holy Spirit (or the white dog) will grow stronger. Through Jesus Christ, victory becomes our portion over every area of our lives.

When we can’t find the strength or power to will and do God’s pleasure, thank God … Jesus Christ can and does! Let us turn to Him each day in prayer and petition, in reading His Word and devoting ourselves to follow its direction, and to love and serve God and others to the best of our ability.

May the black dog die from neglect and the white dog flourish.

MaryAnn Ward - Blog - White Dog

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Psalm 84 — When All Else Fails God Doesn’t

Psalm 84 — When All Else Fails God Doesn’t

People fail, economies collapse, and nations fall, but when all else fails God never will. He remains constant through everything. How comforting to know that there is One who will never be shaken, who remains consistent and faithful. Jesus spoke of a time when everything that can be shaken will be shaken. Perhaps, He was describing our incredibly insecure global climate.

A few months ago, I felt a “call” from God to write things which I never intended to permanently set in ink. I wept and struggled as I felt the shaking of my comfortable rhythm. His ask meant opening the gates of my heart in incredibly vulnerable ways. Then I turned to Psalm 84,

“LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
Psalm 84:12

Only one path leads to His blessing — the path of humble obedience and radical trust. The Amplified Bible verbalizes this trust as “leaning and believing on (God), committing and confidently looking to (God) without fear or misgiving.” I’m leaning and believing as I commit myself to trust Him in a new way. It would be a stretch to say that my obedience came without fear or misgiving, however.

In these moments, we discover in greater measure that when all else fails God doesn’t!

LORD of Angel Armies

In Psalm 84, the psalmist appeals to the LORD Almighty or the LORD of Angel Armies, just one of many names for God we find within the Scriptures. This name, however, stood apart from the others in that it was understood most deeply when God’s people had fallen away from Him and failed to stand strong in faith.

“In a word, we do not know this name, the ‘LORD of Hosts,’ till we have learnt the Church’s fall … are bitterly divided and destroying one another. But though (we) fail, God ever remains … when His elect have no other helper … God is and must be ever sufficient, for a ruined church as for a ruined world.”
Andrew Jukes1

What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings. They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
Psalm 84:5-7

We each know valleys of pain and tears. When our trust is in the LORD of Hosts, or the LORD of Angel Armies, those valleys become pools of refreshing, not just to us but to others who follow the same path.

When all else fails God doesn’t!

During our hardest times, God promises to take us from “strength to strength” (NIV) or “increasing in victorious power” (AMP). Only by trusting God in the valley of weeping does the fulfillment of this promise come true. Strength to strength! Increasing in victorious power!

God’s Presence

The writer of Psalm 84 expresses His constant desire to be in God’s Presence.

“I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Psalm 84:2

Or,

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
Psalm 84:10

Do these words reflect my heart when I feel the conflicting emotions of weeping in the valley and shouting joyfully in His Presence? How clearly do I recognize my weakness apart from God? Do I long to be close to Him more than anything else — forfeiting everything for even one moment with Him? Or have I grown complacent and indifferent to the open door of access to the Father which Jesus provided?

One Step

The LORD of Angel Armies stands ready to receive us. No matter how far we have fallen or how great our failure, He welcomes us into into His courts, into His house, and into His arms of grace and mercy. One step takes us from where we are to where we could be with Him. We are only one step away!

“For the LORD God is a sun and shield; He [presents] grace and favor and [future] glory, honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss; no good thing will He withhold …”
Psalm 84:11

When all else fails God doesn’t! His promise to us stands firm!

As we take that one step toward Him in obedience and trust, He carries us the rest of the distance. Our fears of being rejected or falling short dissolve in His love and grace. Even our flawed efforts become radiant with His glorious touch over our lives.

If we choose to trust Him, my story, your story, all our stories become testimonies for the LORD of Angel Armies. He is the Lord Almighty who saves and restores the undeserving.

Your present point of trust may far surpass mine and your valley deeper and darker. But let’s move together in our fragile trusting, moving closer to our God who never fails.

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  1. The Names of God: Discovering God as He Desires to be Known, Andrew Jukes, (Kregel,Grand Rapids, 1967), pg 157 ↩︎

This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

This Christmas Celebrate the Ordinary

Even as Christians we can easily become caught up in the busy swirl of the season. But this year may we slow down to celebrate the ordinary.

Many lesser things allure us: $700,000,000 signing contracts, massive stadiums and empires, luxury this, and luxury that. As the spotlight shifts from one elaborate story to another, we might extend our applause here or there. Whether intentional or not, we are tempted to ignore, or even scoff at, the ordinary.

How often do we applaud the mother sacrificially caring for her children? Do we acknowledge the father who consistently wakes up each morning and works to provide for his family/ What about the quiet caregiver who lovingly supports and provides for the infirm or vulnerable? These and many others may not rank high in the list of those worthy of celebrating. However, in God’s record book I think they do.

As we take a brief look at the Christmas story, we quickly discover those whom God celebrates. May it inspire us to also celebrate the ordinary.

An Ordinary Woman

Mary, by all appearances, led an unassuming life of quiet obedience to God. She was just one among many young virgin women, awaiting their wedding day. Engaged to a handsome and righteous young man, she anticipated the time when they would soon consummate their marriage, set up their own home, and begin a family together.

Her life portrayed a vibrant example of how to celebrate the ordinary, like generations of women before her. Until the day when everything changed!

The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

The angel explained how God had chosen her to become the mother of the awaited Messiah — the King who would rule and reign forever. Questions flooded her mind.

“‘How will this be; Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?'”
Luke 1:34

The angel reminded Mary that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).

Until now, Mary appeared completely ordinary. But, we see the extraordinary character and godly integrity of this young woman as she gives God her complete, “Yes!” And with that she laid her reputation, and quite possibly her future marriage, on the line. She risked losing everything, choosing to celebrate the ordinary so we could one day receive Jesus as Savior.

No Ordinary Baby

Mary, through the Holy Spirit, conceived no ordinary Baby. This Baby — fully God and yet fully man — would save people from their sins.

“So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
Luke 1:35

Jesus gave up the splendor of Heaven to be wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. He set aside all His power and authority to become robed in frail humanity.

“Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus willingly chose the suffering of human life for our good, not His. He came as no ordinary baby to cancel a debt which we owed but could never pay.

Too often, we end our remembrance of the first Christmas here. And when we do, we miss the opportunity to celebrate the ordinary in another key figure involved.

An Ordinary Man

Joseph, like any ordinary man, busied himself in preparation for his future bride and family. The day was fast approaching when he and Mary would finally become man and wife. As a typical young couple, they held great hope and anticipation for their future together.

The news of Mary’s pregnancy shattered all that! How could Mary betray him? And in the worst possible way? He considered every option. But because he was righteous, he decided to quietly divorce her. Until an angel spoke to him through a dream.

“…’Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'”
Matthew 1:20

Without hesitation, he took Mary into his home as his wife.

Joseph’s ready response should cause us to celebrate the ordinary who became extraordinary. This one ordinary Joe obeyed God completely and sacrificed himself fully for the sake, not only of his family, but ultimately for you and me.

Celebrate the Ordinary

Yes, Jesus, this no ordinary Baby, should be the central focus of the Christmas season. Yes, Mary deserves full recognition for the humble part she played in the birth of the Messiah. But this Christmas may we also celebrate the radical willingness of ordinary Joseph.

Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to the commitment of marriage when divorce would have been the easier option. He said “Yes!” to adopting, loving, and raising a son not his own. Ordinary Joe said “Yes!” to sacrificial living for the sake of Jesus. He also said “No!’ to social status and the acceptance of his peers. Ordinary Joe said “No!” to defining his life by the expectations of others.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
Matthew 1:24-25

This Christmas may we consider ordinary Joe who allowed God to change his mind, to shift his focus, to soften his heart, and to bring Jesus home. Joseph gave God room for whatever He desired even when it cost, even when it hurt, even when he didn’t understand, and it went against the grain of all human desire.

Value the Ordinary

God has a perfect plan for each one of us. We may feel our lives are far too ordinary to be used by Him. But let’s allow this beautiful and incredible reminder of two ordinary people, Joseph and Mary, to give us fresh vision and assurance that God is able to use our ordinary lives for His extraordinary purposes.

May we be inspired to put God first, to walk in radical obedience to God’s Word, to love sacrificially, to give up our reputation for the sake of Kingdom worth, to live by our convictions not circumstances, and to place the good of others over ourselves. But most of all, may we welcome the living Christ into our hearts and homes.

God calls each of us to lay aside personal agendas and expectations. He calls us to enter a life of divine purpose. He asks us to trust him — not blindly but faithfully. God promises us that no sacrifice will ever be wasted. And He welcomes us to live our extraordinary calling through ordinary lives in unity with Him.

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Know Your Call! Stay in the Right Lane!

Know Your Call! Stay in the Right Lane!

Perhaps the most difficult thing to discover is the call of God on our lives. Next most difficult is to stay in the right lane of our calling.

Like many vehicles, my car beeps a warning when I veer out of my lane. Why? Because veering off lane creates a dangerous situation for me and everyone else. Of course, if I use the signal indicator before changing lanes, I provide everyone with adequate warning of my intentions.

I’ve lived several decades and made more than a few lane changes in my life. Some changes occurred abruptly — the sudden swerves to avoid danger or navigate a sharp corner. For the most part, however, I perceive these changes a long time in advance, allowing for minor or consistent corrections in choices or shifts in priorities.

As annoying as the warning beeper is in my car, I appreciate the safety feature. I want to know how to stay in the right lane.

The apostle Paul knew his call. He provides an excellent example of how he faithfully stayed in his lane.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.”
Romans 1:1

By God’s Grace

Whatever the call on our lives, we remember that it is all by God’s grace!

“God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:9

By God’s grace, He has called each of us to Himself — not so that we could do more for Him, but so that we could be united with Him in fellowship.

He honestly doesn’t need us to do anything. He purely loves us and wants us to know and enjoy an intimate relationship with Him.

But part of our calling to Him does include a calling to serve Him. Those He calls He also equips.

“Just think — you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all. All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”
1 Corinthians 1:7-9 MSG

Isn’t that amazing! God makes His call known to us and He helps us to stay in the right lane by keeping us steady and on the right track.

Know Your Call

The Corinthian church experienced more than a few problems. They became known for disputes and disruptions. Paul makes his call clear to them.

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel — not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1:17

Ministry, and life in general, carry many responsibilities of things that could be done, should be done, or ought to be done. It’s a constant battle to focus on the essentials. We may not feel our calling is significant, but it is. Every act of kindness and everything done out of love has immeasurable impact on those around you. Then that love will flow from them to others and to still others more.

Never underestimate or minimize your call. Own it! Walk in it! Foster it!

God called Paul to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Obedience to the Call

Obedience resembles not just getting into our car but driving it. You will have no opportunity to stay in the right lane while parked in the garage. We use vehicles to take us from one place to another. Obedience turns on the engine, pulls our lives into motion, and moves us into our lane of ministry and service.

Paul placed concentrated effort into extensive learning. Then he walked in the misguided authority of human wisdom and position. The results proved devastating to those whom he imprisoned and murdered for their faith.

After God called and equipped Paul, everything changed. Paul immediately shifted into the right lane.

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
1 Corinthians 2:4-5

Paul’s pre-Christian influence came through “wise and persuasive words.” But now in obedience to God’s call and the anointing of the Holy Spirit everything flowed through God’s power.

Stay in the Right Lane

Because Paul obeyed God to stay in the right lane, the impact of his life probably comes second only to Jesus Christ. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote about twenty-eight percent of the New Testament. He is perhaps the most quoted writer of New Testament scripture.

His in-person preaching reached tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. His writings have turned untold millions to confess their faith in Jesus Christ.

How could one man impact so many people through the centuries?

  • First, Paul received and responded to God’s grace confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
  • Second, Paul committed himself to full obedience to God’s call.
  • Third, Paul continually demonstrated through his life how to stay in the right lane.

“But we preach Christ crucified … Christ the power of God and wisdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:23-24

Prayer

Father God, we receive the grace to know You, the One true God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for welcoming us into fellowship with You and for calling and equipping us to share the gospel with others.
Whether our sharing takes place in our homes, with friends, in the marketplace, or from behind a pulpit doesn’t matter. We desire to walk out our calling in full obedience. Keep us steady, Lord, and on the right track. Help us to stay in the right lane. May the Holy Spirit “beep” a warning whenever we veer from the path You have called us to walk.
I ask for boldness and faithfulness to love as You have called us to love and to serve as You have called us to serve. Fill us with contentment to stay in the right lane.
And Lord, may our lives become a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Amen.

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Two Paths — The Easy or the Hard Way

Two Paths — The Easy or the Hard Way

In almost every decision, we have the option of two paths — the easy or the hard way. Only one way offers a permanent reward.

I crested the rise, coming to a small plateau leading to a forested dip before rising higher up the steep grade. The well-travelled path was broad and deeply indented by annual tourists seeking a better view of the lake below. The path narrowed through the trees, shrinking to a barely visible trail up the steepest and highest slope. The majority of hikers contented themselves to climb the easiest section, declining the more strenuous upper portion. The further the trail ascended, the more difficult the climb became. Because few people possessed the initiative to scale to the upper ridge, the path was barely visible.

Reaching the summit, I scanned the view. From here, I saw details of the lake and surrounding terrain obscure from lower levels. Vehicles and people moved between miniature houses far below. The refreshing breeze tangled my hair as I rested in the warm sun. I quietly watched as groups of hikers turned back after reaching the first plateau, saddened that they wouldn’t see from this perspective.

I thought of these words of Jesus:

“Enter through the narrow gate because the wide gate and broad path is the way that leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road! The narrow gate and the difficult way leads to eternal life—so few even find it!”
Matthew 7:13-14

The Hard Way

The hard and most difficult way always proves to be the least travelled. We all crave the way of least resistance — minimum output for maximum returns. But wisdom leads us through the “narrow gate” and up the steep slope of hardship.

My dad often questioned, ‘Why do you do everything the hard way?”

Sometimes, it was because I anticipated the challenge. At times, no other way but the hard way seemed available. Other times, I recognized choosing between the easy or the hard way determined a lesser or greater outcome. Often, I looked beyond myself to the long-term benefits for future generations.

By choosing the hard way now, I somehow hoped to make life easier for others. I knew that if I didn’t choose the hard path, someone else would have to. I trusted God to help me break through the generational cycles of addictions, depression, and poverty thinking. My tough work would bring freedom for others to come.

Life is hard! God doesn’t promise any of us a fair or easy lot.

My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up in you the power of endurance. And then as your endurance grows even stronger, it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
James 1:2-4

Quick and Easy

Human nature leans toward quick and easy ways. We look for the smooth road and the fast track to success. We sow seeds of faith today, expecting to instantly receive a bountiful harvest.

Advertisers everywhere shout, “7 Easy Steps to …”, “5 Quick Ways to …”, “10 Days to …” Promotions invite us to flock down the wide road of ease.

The hardest way will always be the Jesus way. Jesus calls us to the narrow and difficult path of self-sacrifice and self-denial. He commands us to

 ” … love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:44 

and

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Luke 9:23

When given the choice between the easy or the hard way, few choose the difficult way of fully following Christ Jesus. But those who do, brightly shine among us.

A Reward

Seldom do we reap the full reward of the difficult path on this side of Heaven. Eternity, like the high view, will reveal the full scope of our efforts.

Many who have walked before us left a vivid example of choosing the difficult road — giving abused children a home, enlisting in war to defend godly values, sacrificially caring for the sick and dying, burying personal dreams to promote others, laboring long hours to support the needy, working through difficult relationships for the benefit of the most vulnerable … Their full reward awaited them, not always in this life but certainly in the eternal one ahead.

Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.”
2 John 1:8

The loss people experience in choosing an easier path far exceeds anything this world offers. We have everything to gain and lose through the daily paths we choose.

Faith and Maturity

The sign of true maturity shows in our willingness to choose the hard path over the easy one — to choose to love amidst hate, to give out of our need, to forgive through pain. Such obedience to Jesus carries a deep cost. Are we willing to do the tough thing? Will we abandon the tough to others? Will we choose the easy or the hard way?

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus warns that doing what we want, even if it’s good stuff, will never validate our love for Him. In obedience to Him, we find our true connection to Christ. By choosing the hard road over the easy, we become like Him through suffering.

These thoughts I share with you today come out of a deep conviction to keep walking the tough road, the hard path, the way of sacrifice and pain. Too often, I have quit too soon. Too many times, I have served and obeyed Him from the plateau of comfort and convenience.

God spurs me, and us, further into radical obedience — to fully love Him and others along the gruelling path.

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Prayer

“Father, forgive us for the times we have chosen the smooth road and self-serving ways. Forgive us for narrow-minded thinking and self-seeking intentions. We turn our faces toward You — the One who travelled the most difficult path to the cross because of Your love for us. When we were utterly wicked and steeped in sin, You rescued us, saved us, and claimed us as Your sons and daughters. Give us boldness, courageous fortitude, and faithful, pure hearts willing to take the high way, the most difficult way — representing You well to those around us. In our weakness, give us strength. In our poverty, make us rich in love. Shape us into sons and daughters willing to follow You wherever You lead us. Strengthen our feeble arms and weak knees to go higher and further with You than we ever dreamed. Help us to become faithful and true followers of The Way, leading many others into life eternal.

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Back to the Basics — Humility

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To reach our full potential, we return to the basics — applying and mastering the foundational principles to our pursuits. No matter our field of study or area of expertise, we strive to understand the essential facts or concepts of a subject or skill.

In school, I excelled in mathematics and sciences. I knew that once the basic principles were established, every future aspect would securely be positioned upon it. I never achieved much success in other more vague and subjective studies.

Acclaimed UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, began every new coaching season by teaching his players how to put on their socks. Doesn’t that sound foolish? Wouldn’t these accomplished athletes already know how to put on their socks? Had all their mothers neglected to teach them this basic skill? Coach Wooden knew that if his players put on their socks improperly, they would develop blisters, which would impede their speed and maneuverability. So, he took them back to the basics, teaching his college players how to put on their socks.

Basics are important!

Back to the Basics

People may generally be divided into two distinct groups:

  • The first group proudly wears their credentials, denying any need for instruction or correction and ensuring their superficial masks remain in tack behind busy lives. They consistently avoid situations which may expose personal weakness.
  • The second group humbly receives correction and acknowledges deficiencies. They take personal responsibility for change. With humility, they return to the basics, again and again, seeking authentic transformation — even when it becomes obvious they need to relearn how “to put on their socks.”
Back to the Basics

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23

To go back to the basics of humility, I present three case studies: Peter, Moses, and Jesus. Each walked a similar, yet unique, path of humility. Each learned that by willingly going “low,” God brought them great honor. Of course, there are many other men and women we could add to this list.

Peter

Of all the disciples, I relate to Peter the most. Words like overconfident, proud, or presumptuous accurately describe this zealous leader. Often in the same breath, we find Peter speaking with divine understanding and with grotesque error. His encounter with the Holy Spirit we read about in Acts 2 changes Peter forever.

I believe a prior turning point proved equally significant for Peter, however. His failure to stand faithfully with Jesus when it mattered most caused Peter to question everything about being a disciple. His life’s direction stood in jeopardy. Confused and discouraged, he went back to what he knew — fishing.

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out . . .”
John 21:3

Of course, their fishing expedition proved unsuccessful. After Jesus fed them from His own catch, He confronted the heart of Peter’s dilemma.

” . . . Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me . . .”
John 21:15

Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question. Twice Peter responded, “You know that I love you.” But the third time, we see Peter adjusting “his socks,” as he surrenders in complete humility. Deeply saddened and distressed, he acknowledges that he doesn’t even know his own capacity to love fully.

” . . . He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
John 21:17

Because Peter humbly lowering himself, Jesus granted him the honor of launching the infant church into the first century. Jesus brought Peter back to the basics of humility so that pride would never impede his spiritual growth or the effectiveness of his calling.

Moses

We find a capsulized version of Moses’ biography in Hebrews.

“By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Hebrews 11:24-26

Moses abandoned the reputation and privilege of a king’s palace to becoming a foreigner and shepherd in the back side of the wilderness.

“Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.”
Acts 7:22

Yet when God called him to lead His people out of slavery, Moses claimed no such credentials. In his younger years, Moses, like many of us, acted with pride and presumption. We see no evidence of either in his later years. In fact, this is written of him,

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”
Numbers 12:3

What an amazing declaration. In the wilderness, Moses learned how to “put on his socks” and walk with complete humility. Because Moses willingly turned back to the basics, God used him powerfully.

Jesus

No other person humbled themself to the degree that Jesus did. Leaving the throne room of Heaven, He chose the way of the cross — to be despised and rejected. He didn’t just learn the basics; He became the basics, taking on the form of humanity.

For man to humble himself before God is one thing; for the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to humble himself to such a level is beyond comprehension.

“Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
Philippians 2:6-8

And because of such great obedience,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name . . .”
Philippians 2:9

Perfect Examples

What examples these men are for us all! The greater the level of humility, in receiving instruction and correction, the greater the level of honor bestowed.

To know their example and follow it are two different things. Often, the process for them and for us is painful. It is uncomfortable to discover we might have to relearn the right way to “put on our socks” — to do the very things we once thought we excelled at.

Like Peter, we might be asked to get out of the boat of familiarity and risk failing again. Like Moses, we might to called to speak up, face our greatest nemesis, and give God our radical “Yes!” Or in lesser ways, like Jesus, we might be asked to lay aside every privilege with a willingness to give even our lives for the sake of God and others.

One thing is assured. God calls us all to

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
Ephesians 4:2

This is a new season. The greatest Coach ever, Jesus Christ again teaches us the basics. Whether His instruction comes direct through the Bible, the Holy Spirit revelation, or if He chooses to speak through others, it’s time to go back to the basics. Let’s learn to “put on our socks.”

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Boxing Week — That’s a Wrap!

Boxing Week — That’s a Wrap!

In North American, Boxing Week inspires shopping sprees as people seek post-Christmas discounts. For others, it’s a time to give to the poor. For many, it represents time to wrap up gifts that don’t quite fit or don’t serve them well to exchange for something more appropriate.

This may be an opportune time to perform a deeper, internal clean. Before we leap into a new year with hopeful resolutions and lofty goals, let’s take a look at the year that was.

Maintaining Christ as the focus, let’s bravely and boldly assess these past few months.

What Worked

First, let’s consider what worked well. I know from previous farming experience that often crops do better when they have undergone stress. Was there unexpected pressure this past season that served to refine or teach you? What efforts and investments of time and devotion proved successful? Let’s take a few moments to thank God for our successes and celebrate each one.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Yes, celebrate the successes despite difficulties. Rejoice in the harvest of God’s grace and goodness which you have received, recognizing that everything good ultimately comes from God. He gives us the wisdom and ability to accomplish everything we do.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Proverbs 2:6

What Didn’t Work

As an artist of sorts, I prefer the medium of watercolor. The paint soaks deep into the fibres of the paper. Often, errors are irreversible. Oil and acrylic paints are far more easily repaired. Mistakes can be hidden under new colorful and glossy layers.

Life resembles painting. Sometimes the things that didn’t bring the outcome we expected can be easily remedied. Others are not as forgiving.

“It is better to fail in a cause that will ultimately succeed than to succeed in a cause that will ultimately fail.”
– Peter Marshall

Failure is only final when we stop trying. Honestly, I invested a considerable amount into some areas that have reaped little or no benefit. I can relate to the old prophet’s assessment.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away . . .”
Haggai 1:9

This boxing week let’s carefully consider these areas. What can we learn? What can we redeem from our effort? Are there some aspects we need to “box up,” refusing to expend further resources or energy? Let’s not let any past failure linger, marring the blank canvas of the approaching new year.

What Can be Improved

Most of our efforts land in the “long haul” category. Tangible results won’t be achieved in the short term. Perseverance (not my favorite word) and continuous effort will pay off if we don’t quit. Try again, test the results, and tweak where necessary!

Farmers don’t plant seed one day and then continually turn the soil checking for growth. They know the viability lies anchored within the seed.

Jesus told a simple parable in one of my favorite passages of Scripture.

“Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!”
Mark 4:26-29

Jesus makes it clear that success didn’t result from the man’s careful planting, faithful watering, and application of the right amount of weeding and fertilizer. He threw the seed out there and went to bed. Huh! I could take a lesson from this one on how to stress less and trust more!

This boxing week let’s examine which seeds of effort we need to leave to germinate a little longer, confident God will bring the growth in some future time. Which seeds should I water with a little more effort or investment? How can I improve or improvise to produce the greatest potential?

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
Francis Chan

What Has to Go

Some things will never serve a truly useful purpose. Allowing shame to cloud our perspective, blaming others for things we need to be responsible for, unforgiveness toward those who have wronged us, and casting shadows of judgment all lead us to bitterness rather than to betterment.

Let’s be honest! We all face things the enemy desires to use to disrupt our progress and stall us into ineffectiveness. This past year held painful disappointments, misunderstandings, and points of rejection. But God made a way for us to overcome.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect . . .”
1 Corinthians 15:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
2 Corinthians 7:10

Be confident that God’s grace works powerfully in and through us. He works at changing and transforming us into all He intends for us. Let’s honor God’s process in our lives and in the lives of others. As we repent for whatever part we play in negative circumstances, no residue of shame or regret remains.

Obey the Call

Perhaps the most important aspect of looking back over the past year, considers the question, “Am I obeying God’s call?” God calls each one of us for His purpose and His glory.

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

Time remains our most precious commodity. Are we living it to full potential? Whatever the “good works” includes — as a husband or wife, father or mother, servant or leader — let’s do it well! Let’s continue to obey the call. Whether we feel like we are succeeding or utterly failing, stay the course! God will remain faithful.

“When God calls you to something, He is not always calling you to succeed, He’s calling you to obey! The success of the calling is up to Him; the obedience is up to you.”
David Wilkerson

Obedience remains far more important to God than any measure of worldly success. Let’s not fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others but stay true to the call of God over our lives. To love God with every part of our being and love others sincerely and deeply stands as the greatest and perhaps most difficult call — although, one worthy of all our effort.

Boxing Week

This boxing week, let’s “box up” every ill-fitting, purposeless thing to prepare for what awaits. Let’s not allow our perceived successes or failures to hinder us from stepping into what God has ahead.

Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

Past successes may lead to inflated egos and pride. Failures easily lead to feelings of defeat. God instructs us for “forget the former things.” The word for “forget” doesn’t mean to not remember, but rather to no longer respond or react to them. After examining this past year, let’s box them both up and move forward.

“See, I am doing a new thing!” God promises.

Lord, grant us eyes to see and a heart to perceive the new thing awaiting us. Give us the strength and courage to walk into this new year with a confident assurance that You are with us. You know every twist and turn ahead, and You are making a way for us. There will be moments of refreshing awaiting, even in the “wasteland” — in those places we thought were hopeless. We box up what was. We put our hands in Your hands and our rest our feet upon Your feet as we move into what is ahead. Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness as You teach us to love more and well.

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The 5 Purposes for God’s Blessing

Blessing

Blessing is a frequently used but seldom understood word. Today, we explore five purposes for God’s blessing. What does it mean to be blessed and what is the significance of blessing? We may sing hymns reminding us to count our blessings, or pray, asking God to bless and meet the needs of our family and friends.

In North America, we naturally acquaint blessing with the “extra” things in life: a beautiful home, a flourishing career, a new car (or at least one that gets you from point A to point B), or increased finances. Although being blessed may include these things it encompasses so much more than material possession.

Lately, God has slowed my pace, giving me opportunity to count my blessings and weigh the impact of blessing on me and others. I easily remember not-so-distant times of tight budgets and seasons of waiting for God’s provision or protection. Recently, however, I’m overwhelmed by His blessings — a peaceful and warm home, loving family, a thriving church community, authentic friendships, enjoyable work, good health, and so much more. What money could never buy; God’s blessing provides.

Food

“Yahweh, you are my soul’s celebration. How could I ever forget the miracles of kindness you’ve done for me?”
Psalm 103:2 TPT

Whether God’s blessing measures in mini or maxi “miracles of kindness,” celebration forms the only fitting response. There is purpose in all God’s blessing.

1. To Provide

The Hebrew word barak means “to bless, cause to kneel, or greet,” suggesting the bending of the knee to receive a blessing. We find a similar Greek word eulogeo in the New Testament meaning “to bless or speak well of.”

The Abrahamic blessing says,

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12:2-3

Stone House

The pictographic translation of bless portrays the prince who comes out of the house.

Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, fulfilled this picture of bless in the completest sense of the word. The Son of God, the Holy Prince of Heaven, came from His “house” to pay for the sin that kept us from the Father, bestowing ultimate blessing on humanity. Jesus became a curse so that we might receive God’s blessing now and forever.

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”
Romans 4:7-8

2. To Reach Generations

When Abraham’s son Isaac blessed Jacob, his son, we discover the generational aspect of blessing. God intends for His blessing to result in prosperity and success to be transferred to future generations. The word prosper literally means “to help along the road or to succeed in reaching.” Isn’t that what we all want for our children and our children’s children?

“May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.”
Genesis 28:3

In Deuteronomy 28, we see clearly how God’s blessing produces promotion, fruitfulness, triumph over enemies, holiness, and “abundant prosperity.” (vs 1-14) Those aren’t my words, they’re His. Blessing and helping people along the road to succeed go hand in hand.

Child walking

To receive these blessings requires obedience to God, however. Salvation is freely given through Jesus Christ, but the blessing of God spills over only through obedience.

The extended meaning of barak, to bless, implies the giving of something of value to another who kneels out of respect. As we “kneel” in obedient submission to God, He provides for our needs in every dimension of life. In the Bible, the greater blesses the lesser. He is Master. We are to be His obedient servants.

3. To Achieve God’s Design

Scholars point to the importance of the first occurrence of a word found in the Bible. On the fifth day of creation, God blesses the fish and birds to be fruitful and increase. (Gen1:22)

On the sixth day, after creating Adam and Eve, God blesses them as well.

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the seas, and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ “
Genesis 1:28

Through blessing, God releases divine purpose over humanity to produce and have dominion — increasing and managing creation well. Through God’s blessing, we achieve His full purposes for us.

Relax with Coffee

The blessing of God attracts other people, causing them to wonder in amazement. God’s grace convinces people of how wonderful He is, leading them to acknowledge and believe in Him. (Rom 2:4)

“God blesses us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him [with awe-inspired reverence and submissive wonder].”
Psalm 67:7

Awe, reverence, and wonder follow God’s blessing.

4. To Cover

God commanded the priests, Aaron and his descendants, to speak this familiar blessing over the people:

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Though many Christians might easily recite this portion, the following verse appears unfamiliar. Today, it caused me to pause and consider.

“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:27

What a powerful statement! Invoking a blessing in the name of the LORD releases everything His name represents, like a divine covering over those being blessed. The LORD, Yahweh, identifies God as One who loves righteousness and hates sin. All those under His blessing and bearing His name also love what He loves and hate what He hates. The LORD, our God, loves to bless!

Country Church

Though this specifically speaks of Israelites, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that all who believe in Jesus and receive Him are of Israel. (Rom 9:6-8)

A blessing spoken in His name both covers and imparts.

5. To Share

God’s blessing comes both in earthly and heavenly form, with both earthly and heavenly function. Not everyone experiences the tangible blessings of God here and now, but with certainty, we everyone will throughout eternity.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Ephesians 1:3

As wonderful and appreciative as we may be with our earthly blessings, nothing compares to those that await every believer. Whether we see it or not, “Jesus Christ . . . has blessed us!” Past tense! He has already made every spiritual blessings ours.

As Christians, Jesus calls us to be a source of His blessing to the world, especially to those who treat us unfairly or cruelly. No one merits God’s favor and grace, yet He pours it upon us. As freely as we have received, God asks us to give to others — even the most undeserving.

“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 6:27-28

Family

God blesses so that we will be His hand of blessing to others. Whether we feel like there is overflow in our lives or not, God calls us to look with grace and mercy on others, blessing through words, actions, and material possessions.

Count Your Blessings

As we bless others, God entrusts us with greater and greater blessings ourselves. He knows who the clear channels of His blessing are and desires to use us to extend blessing to others.

I find that when I begin to count my blessings, my attitude toward God and others begins to shift and soften. Gratitude opens my heart and hand to count those whom God longs for me to bless as part of His blessing.

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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 been 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.