Every day we’re bombarded with messages — true ones which come from God — falsehoods which come from Satan. Most of us cannot decipher Satan’s lies because we do not know God’s truth. Like a field, what we allow to take root will grow. If you’re ready to stop believing the lies, take the first step — learn who you are in Christ, then get to weeding.
Just like God speaks through people to encourage, the devil speaks through people to tear down. The devil is your enemy and his only goal is to bring destruction. The next time someone unleashes a verbal attack, look past their face and start digging — Satan, the Destroyer, is always at the root.
When it comes to meal planning skills, I’m definitely limited; I don’t think I’ve ever planned out more than two consecutive dinners. Feeding a family of five means constant grocery store trips. Daily shopping is normal; not finding what’s on my list isn’t.
With the onset of the Covid-19 panic, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaner wipes, bread, eggs, beans, rice, pasta, ground beef and chicken (just to name a few) are suddenly MIA. Empty store shelves and wiped out frozen food sections have became overnight norms — a glaring reminder of the power that the Talons of Fear can have on our lives. Fueled by a Lord of the Flies mentality, many items are gobbled up as soon as they arrive by truck.
Amid the picked-over aisles, I pondered this question — if we don’t have a food shortage, then what’s the problem?
There, in the market, the Lord reminded me of Exodus 16 — the story of the Israelites in the Wilderness. Hungry, afraid, frustrated, and in deep need, they cried out for help. In response, God provided Manna, a daily portion of bread that fell from heaven. Every day it rained down. Every day they had enough. Nothing more. Nothing less.
This pandemic is our Wilderness — it’s where we’re all stuck. Like the wind which changes direction, we cannot predict where new infections will emerge, how long the Coronavirus will continue spreading, or when shuttering of households or social distancing restrictions will be lifted. Despite these Unknown Factors, we don’t have to live in Fear; we can choose to live in Faith by placing our trust in the One who is Faithful — who owns the cattle on a thousand hills — who shelters us under His wings — who provides what we need, when we need it.
In John 6:35, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” It’s no coincidence that God gave the Israelites Manna — their Daily Bread — in order to sustain them. While we certainly need food, water, clothing and shelter, we also desperately need Jesus. Without Him, we succumb to Fear; with Him, we walk in Faith.
Each time I go to the store, I keep the word Manna in mind. It’s my reminder to buy what my family needs — nothing more — nothing less, so those who shop after me can buy their daily share as well.
Stories about Babylon, the most infamous city in ancient Mesopotamia, appear in numerous books of the Bible, the most prominent of which is likely the prophesy in Revelation 18:2 which says that Babylon the great will “become a dwelling place for demons.” While the other Biblical stories involving the city are likewise Unfavorable, Babylon makes a unique Cameo Appearance in Daniel Chapter 3 as a place of Light rather than Darkness.
Here’s the backstory.
After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, the Chaldeans took control of the throne. King Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned from 605–562 BC, wielded Babylon’s military might. After laying siege against Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar hauled off to Babylon members of Judah’s royal family, nobility, those skilled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge, along with anyone competent to serve in his court.
Babylon, which is referred to as the cradle of civilization, was seen as a great seat of learning and culture. Open-Minded, the Babylonians were knowledge-seekers, widely respected for their study of mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy. Polytheistic, they held a belief in multiple gods and were known for their astrology and witchcraft. The Hebrews, on the other hand, were monotheistic — holding the belief in the existence of only one God — the Great I Am. This conflict in Belief Systems may explain why the Jerusalem captives, upon arrival in Babylon, were so quickly groomed for an All-In Babylonian life. Their Hebrew names were replaced with a Babylonian alias, and they taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans. This grand investment had one Soul Purpose — to create a void. Individuals who are emptied of their past ties are more likely to accept Educational and Cultural deposits. Old Ways must be disposed of so New Ones can take root. The Hebrews were poised to Assimilate into the Chaldean Culture.
But when Nebuchadnezzar ordered the construction of a gold image that was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, decreeing that anyone refusing to bow down and worship it would be cast into a fiery furnace, he drew a Line in the Sand. In Daniel 3:13, when everyone else bowed, three men stood, setting the stage for a Supernatural Showdown.
Nebuchadnezzar’s face darkened upon hearing the news that three men defied his order. Calling Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to appear before him, he gave them another chance to comply. When they refused, the king ordered them to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Raging, the king ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.
The three men, bound and fully clothed, fell into the flames.
Moments later, Nebuchadnezzar rose in astonishment. Unbound and unharmed were the three men, along with a fourth man who resembled a son of the gods. Rushing to the door, Nebuchadnezzar blurted out, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.”
Inspection revealed the Impossible. Neither their bodies or clothes were damaged, nor did they smell like smoke.
Nebuchadnezzar, a Chaldean who had been hostile to the Great I Am, displayed a radical transformation — he issued an edict protecting faith in the God of Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego saying, “there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (Daniel 3:28-30). This single act of courage opened a Miraculous Door. Through their Obedience, faith in the Great I Am spread throughout the region. Today, Chaldeans comprise a large number of Christian and Catholic believers. Three men, who chose to Stand Up, literally changed a nation.
The Bible is not a worn writing that needs to be reworded or tweaked. The Word of God is a Timeless Truth that was Right yesterday, is Right today and will be Right tomorrow. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego defied Current Culture by doing just one thing — they refused to stick a Right label on what God said was Wrong. That’s it. They didn’t try to change anyone else. No drama-laden speeches, megaphone rants, social media posts, fist pumps, or cardboard signs — just a willingness to Stand Up.
Because culture will always try to Push Ideas that contradict scripture, believers must be prepared to go against the Grain when Cultural Norms go against the Word of God. Following God’s principles is always better than following the Crowd. And like the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, perhaps your boldness will ignite a Revival of the God-honoring Culture our nation so desperately needs.
Kings have gone by many titles, but the one I love most is His Grace — it describes a kind-hearted king, seeking the best for those in his kingdom.
Historically speaking, though, some kings were downright wicked. Drunk on power, they elevated themselves to a god-like status, mercilessly snuffing out all forms of rebellion, real or perceived.
While Jesus is often called the King of kings, power-grabbing isn’t part of his DNA. Unlike the wicked kings of old, His approach toward us has never been Top Down — forcing our obedience through manipulation or coercion. Instead, Jesus works from the Bottom Up. Getting down on our level, His Grace enters into our Mess. Holding us in His arms, He whispers His plan for getting us out of the Pit.
Tragically, this is the place where many of us Tap Out. Like seeds that fall among thorns, the spark of excitement is quickly choked when we realize His plan targets the Renovation of our heart, rather than the Removal of our problems.
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
I’ve gone through Traumatic Trials which threatened to deplete my strength, steal my joy and crush my resolve. I’d never choose to repeat those Difficult Days, yet I cannot deny that these pain-filled events propelled a growth spurt in my faith. When chaos descends, we often desire to be Lifted Out of our issues; however, it is the Walking Out of our Faith that produces the fruit of steadfastness.
God’s good plans for us sometimes involve a Change of Heart. While Humble Pie is certainly not the best-tasting dessert, His Grace adds just enough sweetness to make it edible.
The King of kings calls you His own and you have permission to call upon Him any time. When you do, know that He’ll not only meet you in the Midst of Mayhem, His Grace will guide you all the way through.
Thanksgiving is special — it’s the One Day a year we all stop the busyness, slow down, and purposefully acknowledge the blessings we have. But what about those who are knee-deep in the Turmoil of Tragedy? Is it possible to be Thank-Full in the midst of deep sorrow, grief and pain?
The answer to that question lies in the Last Supper scene.
As recorded in Mark 14:22-24, after taking the bread, Jesus blessed it and gave it to the disciples to eat in remembrance of his body. Jesus then took the cup, and after giving thanks, distributed it among the disciples, as a symbol of the blood He was about to shed. What makes this so remarkable is the timing. On the very night Jesus is betrayed by Judas into the hands of those who would mock, insult, hit, spit upon, flog and crucify Him, Jesus doesn’t lash out. Instead, He utters a blessing and gives thanks.
In the quiet moments of the Last Supper, Jesus models something quite profound. He chooses to be gracious, grateful and Thank-Full.
A dear friend once told me that although we cannot always choose the Painless Path, we decide our mode of travel along those Rough Roads — we can either walk them with God or without Him. This Thanksgiving, if you’re in the midst of a Valley so Deep and Dark that Shadows threaten to overtake you, make the choice to allow God to enter into your Pain. The Father is the Only One who can Heal you — take your Broken Halves and make you Whole again. Even on Empty, it’s possible to be Thank-Full.
Elevation Worship’s lyrics “Walking around these walls, I thought by now they’d fall” (from the song Do It Again), always reminds me of the story of Jericho. Recorded in Joshua 6:2, God tells the Israelites to march around the fortified walls of the city once a day, for six straight days, in complete silence. Then, on day seven, the Lap pattern changed. Instead of marching just once, the Lord instructed them to circle the city seven times, the first six silently. On the seventh and final Lap, however, the Israelites were given the green light to make as much noise as possible. At their unified shout, the reinforced walls fell. Open and defenseless, the city quickly slipped into the hands of the Israelites.
Those Laps are my visual of what I call the Waiting Season – that seemly Frozen Period of Time – where we continually circle Our Walled Jericho, petitioning God to bring an answer to our One fervently-repeated prayer. The Bible is filled with such examples – the story of Abraham and Sarah is just one of them.
At the age of 75, Abraham received a promise from God that he’d be the father of many nations. The problem? His wife, Sarah, hadn’t born him any children. Obviously passed their prime childbearing years, but believing God’s promise, Abraham and Sarah waited. And they waited. And waited longer still. They waited and waited and waited.
But after nearly 10 years had passed, seeing absolutely no movement by God in this area, Sarah allowed her frustration to open the Bad Decision-Making Door. And in this mode, Sarah voices her Solution – she tells Abraham to sleep with her Egyptian servant, Hagar, saying, “it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” (Genesis 16:2) Abraham did as Sarah said; he slept with Hagar. Hagar became pregnant and bore Abraham a son, naming him Ishmael. At 86, parenthood had finally arrived, but ONLY to Abraham; Sarah was not part of it. This one decision created chaos and disorder. What was expected to unify only brought division, quickly consuming Sarah with Buyer’s Remorse. Pitted against one another, Hagar and Sarah quickly dove down into the depths of Baby Mama Drama.
Yet God had not forgotten His promise. When Ishmael was about 14, Sarah finally conceived, and at the age of 90, bore a son, named Isaac. Abraham, now 100 years old, held what God had promised nearly 25 years earlier – a son through which the nations would come. The Promise Maker showed that He’s also a Promise Keeper.
We get frustrated because our timeline never matches His. We are in a hurry. He is not. This is compounded by how we view the Waiting Season – we often see it as Wasted Time – Futile rather than Fruitful – Pointless rather than Powerful. The Waiting Season teaches us what no other Time Span can – it stretches us, producing change and maturity.
Last Lap Syndrome enticed Abraham and Sarah to “solve” their dilemma by stepping into God’s shoes and bringing about the answer in their own power. But despite Abraham and Sarah’s faith-less-ness, God remained faithful – He delivered exactly what He promised. That alone should give us hope – it’s evidence that even Wrecking Ball Decisions cannot derail the promises of Almighty God.
The Promise Maker is, and will always be, a Promise Keeper. What God promises will come to pass. Don’t give up. Keep circling your Walled Jericho. Your Deliverer is counting your Laps and He will crush those walls at the perfect moment. Hang in there. God’s never late. God’s never early, either. He is, however, always right on time.
Current Culture has become increasingly hostile to the idea of going Through nearly all forms of Hardship. This has fueled the misconception that in Tough Times, we should take the first exit off the Hard Highway. As the view of Struggling continues to be devalued, it’s become more popular to point the finger, rather than take a pointed look at ourselves. But the Storms of Life do have value — they ignite maturity, breaking off the things which Hinder us. Repeatedly skipping the Storms by constantly taking Detours around what’s Difficult only serves to stagnate our growth; we end up more focused on what’s wrong with others, rather than what’s wrong with us.
Although, at times, we may be pitted against a person or a particular group of people, we have to look Beyond them because our Greatest Opponent isn’t physical — its spiritual.
The Bible plainly tells us that Satan is our enemy. While we may easily see the manifestation of the devil’s Lies in others, we are often Blinded to the ones WE house in our hearts. Scripture describes the devil as roaming to and fro, searching for Open Minds in which to plant Weeds of Anger, Dejection, Disappointment, Despair, Disillusionment, Discouragement and Resentment.
Although not built of stone or brick, a spiritual Fortress is similar in design to a medieval castle. But instead of safeguarding people, a spiritual Fortress protects Lies, which it will defend against attack at all costs. Belief drives Behavior, so if we take Satan’s Lies to heart, then the devil becomes the one we listen to …. submit to … and follow. The more Lies we ingest, the quicker we spiral downward into his Dark Dungeons of Unforgiveness, Co-Dependency, Anxiety, Fear, Doubt, Depression, Bitterness, Envy and Jealousy.
What starts as a Foothold can quickly grow into a Formidable Fortress, and the only way to demolish it is from the Inside Out.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”
The Word of God is the only weapon capable of bringing down a spiritual Fortress, but we cannot wield it unless we know it and accept it as true. God’s Word tells us that we are loveable, worthy, forgiven, cherished, adored and treasured. Satan, on the other hand, tries to get us to believe the opposite: that we are unloved, unworthy, unforgiven, despised and rejected.
Jesus came to free us, but there’s one catch — we have to partner with Him and go Through the process of being set free. Always the perfect gentleman, Jesus will never Liberate you against your own will. Instead, He stands outside the door, waiting for permission to enter. Open the door — allow Him to tear the Weeds of Distortion out of your Mind-Field, and replace them with the Fruit-Bearing Seeds of God’s Word. Let God’s overwhelming love wreck your Fortress, tearing it down, Lie by Lie, from the Inside Out. It’s the only way you’ll ever truly be Liberated.
Based solely upon distorted accusations, fraduluent charges, and the testimony of lying witnesses, Jesus was pronounced guilty of crimes He never committed. Betrayed, abandoned, spit upon, mocked, beaten, whipped, and then nailed to a cross, Jesus’s last breath was expelled in the presence of more enemies than friends. Clearly, Jesus suffered great Injustice.
Scripture warns that those who follow Him should expect to suffer as well. The question is: who are we to expect it from? God, the Maker and Creator of the Universe, established the idea of justice; therefore, Injustice does not come from His hand. Rather, Injustice comes from the hands of Unjust Men — those who either do not believe in, or are hostile to, God. Unwilling to submit to His Authority, they walk the path of their own ideals — what is (or isn’t) acceptable — without any sort of checks and balance system to gauge their thoughts or actions. Simply stated, they do what seems right in their own eyes. Instead of caring for others at the expense of self as the Gospel directs, they care for themselves at the expense of others. That sort of Injustice is the rocket fuel of Unjust Men.
Vile things happen, not because God orchestrates it, but because Unjust Men follow their own, deviant will. While we cannot always get the target off our back, there is a Biblical principle to follow when their arrows strike. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good….” Unfortunately, this verse is often rephrased as “all things happen for a reason.” If you’re like me, that’s a hard pill to swallow in the midst of an unforseen and unavoidable disaster that has just descended upon you or your loved ones. While that phrase is okay for the Fluffy things in life, it doesn’t hold up against the Fury that sometimes life unleashes.
The crucifixion was horrible, period. Yet what happened three days later was expectedly beautiful: Jesus rose from the grave. It’s interesting, though, that despite returning from the dead, Jesus remained a Marked Man — the nail Marks in his hands and feet, along with the spear Mark in His side, were still there. But instead of evoking painful memories, those Marks became a source of hope — that the evil plans of Unjust Men will never prevail against the plans and purposes of a Just God.
To bring something good out of what is clearly bad involves a transformation process that requires our participation. We must submit our Unjust Circumstances to God and give Him permission to dig through the Ash Heap in order to find the Gems. Only God, the ultimate Recycler and Restorer, can make something Beautiful out of what is Horrible. That’s the essence of Romans 8:28.
Every Unjust Circumstance we endure leaves us with a Mark — some sort of emotional wound — that needs to be healed. Without healing, these wounds can easily fester, leaving us with a defensive, hard, unforgiving heart. I call that place Victim-Hood — a Place that’s easy to move into but nearly impossible to move out of.
If you have a smoldering emotional wound, allow Him to dig through your Ash Heap and pull out the Gems. The Master stands ready to transform your Marks into a Masterpiece, but He cannot do it if you’ve parked yourself in Victim-Hood. To exit, take the Romans 8:28 Road — it’s the only path that will ever guide you back to the Victorious Life.
The Bible says that we are Beloved by God. While I firmly believe it’s true, I have to admit that my feelings don’t always match up. In other words, I don’t always feel as though I’m Beloved. If I followed my feelings (rather than scripture), I’d probably never believe I was good enough to Be Loved.
However, Romans 5:8 gives us the assurance that God deeply loves us. That verse says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus died on the cross while we were still in our sin, without any requirement that we clean ourselves up or get our messy lives back on track first. At the very point when we were at our worst, Christ responded in love, not anger or punishment. Many have laid down their lives for their friends; others for complete strangers; but Only One was willing to die for His enemies — Jesus. We cannot save ourselves because we need to be saved from ourselves. Jesus is the Only One who can save us, and His gift of forgiveness is available to all who call upon His name and ask for it.
God’s love heals; not hurts. It builds up; not tears down. God’s love empowers; not controls. We have to remember that we live in a sin-filled world and that people (not God) hurt us. Wounded hearts keep a record of wrongs, and our defense mechanism is to guard our hearts behind a brick wall. Each time we are hurt, we put another stone on top. This is effective in keeping people at a distance, but those same cinder blocks have a major downside: they also keep God’s love out.
If you really want to be His Beloved, you have to be willing to Be Loved. God’s love for you is strong, and if you allow Him access to your heart, He will destroy the brickwork separating you from Him. Accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior instantly makes you a princess of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Your King is on His throne and you are His prized, cherished, respected, and esteemed treasure. Accept His gift. Allow yourself to Be Loved so you can be His Beloved princess.