Friday, October 25, 2013

Staying clear of the lurking evil …

I’ve said it before … I want to be on the offense against the enemy and powers of darkness, rather than just playing defense.  The scripture in Ephesians 6 rings over and over in my spirit:

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:11-12 NLT

I have this written on my bathroom mirror so it’s the first thing I see when I get up in the mornings (yes, it’s long … but so good!).

As I was driving home from growth group the other evening, I was reflecting on all God did in our group that night.  It was a wonderful time. 

Yet as I drove through the darkness, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it … the uneasiness in my spirit.  Of course, I try to be extra cautious, especially this time of year, as I drive back roads in the dark.  Now that I live in the country, I see a lot more deer.  I try to be aware and drive carefully through.

Yet, there was more to my uneasiness than just that …

When that happens, I just pray.  Pray for safety, covering, and for the Holy Spirit to go before me and guard me … physically and spiritually.  I was also praying to the Lord: “God, show me.  Speak to me in this.” 

Suddenly, I saw an armadillo venture out into the road, stopping just short of my tire’s pathway.  Those are such creepy creatures to me.  And it was a bit startling as I was already a bit uneasy.  I was glad I didn’t hit it. 

About a mile further and almost home, I saw the back of a large deer grazing along the side of the road.  I immediately slowed down, looking all around, hoping not to encounter its friends in the road.  Thankfully, I saw no more deer. 

I heard God’s voice in my spirit.  “See, you need me in everything.  I know what’s ahead of you and behind you.  There is much that goes on in the darkness around you.  You cannot always see it or feel it, but it doesn’t stop.  The enemy is on the prowl.  Listen to me.  You need my Light to illuminate your path.  And always be alert.” 

Ephesians 6 immediately came to my mind.  There is a real darkness and a real enemy that operates in darkness.  It has dominion over this world.  Whether we are aware of the enemy or not, it is still at work around us.  The Lord was showing me … to remind me of my need for Him, to be clear and sharp, to walk in the Light, and to always have on my armor.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm … Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  Ephesians 6:13-18

The very next morning as I was having my Bible time, God led me to Proverbs 4. 

The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over.  Proverbs 4:18-19

Did you catch that last verse?

But the way of the wicked is like total darkness.  They have no idea what they are stumbling over!

They have no idea because they are walking in darkness.  Without the Light of Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit in their lives, they have no illumination to see the path or anything for that matter!  They may or may not collide right into the large creature in their way that could harm them and destroy their lives.

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 4:25-26

The only way to keep our feet from evil is to walk in the Light of Christ and seek to gain His wisdom in all things. 

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.  Proverbs 4:5-8

I want to follow His ways and gain His wisdom in all things! Even if it means that I’m considered “weird” to the world …

God has called us to be holy (which means ‘set apart’), as He is holy. 

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16

And more about the enemy and those under evil authority … God warns us in Proverbs 4:

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. Proverbs 4:14-16

See friends, if we are followers of Christ, our lives are going to look different.  He wants our feet to stay clear of the path of the wicked.  He wants me to be different, in a loving, yet truthful way. 

So how do I stay on the offense against the enemy? 

Walk closely with the Father in His Light.  Read His Word daily and listen to Him as He speaks through His Word and to my spirit through prayer.  Put on His armor!!

God, help me remember EVERYDAY to wake up and put on Your armor.  Help me to be ever mindful of the spiritual realm around me, even though I cannot see it.  Help me cling to You and Your wisdom as I live.  Lord, help me not stray from the convictions you have put in me, and help me be bold and unashamed as I live out my worship to You in all I do.  And Lord, help me as I guide my children in Your Way.  Let them see You in me.  In Jesus’ name! Amen.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Done with doubting!!

Hi friends! It's a cloudy morning outside here, but oh how the "Son" is shining in my soul today! :) 

In the reading plan today, the assignment is 1 Kings 3-4.  As I read 1 Kings 3, I am intrigued at the conversation between Solomon and God. 

Why am I so intrigued? 

Well, the Bible is God’s living word.  2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  God breathed His Divine breath and life into this book for us to know Him more!  Doesn’t that get you excited?!  

Anytime I can get a glimpse of the “greats” in the bible talking with God, I get giddy inside.   We can learn SO much about our Lord and about how to talk to Him by “listening in” on conversations between Him and His servants in the Bible. 

This entire chapter is extraordinary to me.  The exchange between Solomon and God is beautiful.  Let’s hone in on 1 Kings 3:5, 7-9:

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, "Ask what you wish Me to give you." … Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?

God appears to Solomon in a dream … I wish I could have these kinds of dreams every night! I love hearing from the Lord in an intimate, vivid way.  

And look at what God says! “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”  This seems too good to be true, huh? If only we had God’s attention and favor like Solomon … right?

But you know what?

We do!!

John 14:14: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  To me, this verse directly correlates with Psalms 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” 

If we delight in the Lord, in being in His presence, and in pleasing Him, He will make our desires His desires for us!  He changes and molds our hearts to be for Him and His glory!  And when we come before the Lord, asking boldly in the name of Jesus according to His purpose, God will honor our prayers and answer us. 

If we are truly seeking the Lord, He will hear our prayers and give us a heart like His.  He will give us the desires of our hearts.  And when we ask anything in His name, He will do it!

I don’t know about you, but this gets me fired up!!

Now look back at 1 Kings 3.  We can learn so much from Solomon’s response to God.  He comes in humility saying he’s a little child.  "The statement is actually Solomon's poetic way of expressing his inadequacies as he faced the awesome tasks of leadership." (Dilday)  He wasn’t actually a child.  He just saw himself as under qualified for the great task at hand.  He knows he can only do it with God giving Him the strength and power to accomplish success. 

And what does Solomon ask for next? He asks God for an “understanding heart.”  He desires wisdom and discernment as he leads God’s people. 

And how does God respond in verses 11 & 12? God grants Solomon his request.  And not only does He promise to give Him wisdom and discernment … He is so pleased with Solomon’s heart that He also promises to give him riches and honor, more than any other king in his days. 

Friends, how often do we live in confusion or doubt, unsure of God’s will for us? 

If we’re being honest, it’s probably more often than we’d like to admit.

If only we had godly wisdom and discernment in our lives, right?

How do we do the right thing when dealing with our spouse? Our children? Our friends? Our coworkers?

Well, let’s take Solomon’s cue! I don’t want to spend one more second in doubt or confusion! I want to come boldly before the throne of God and ask Him to give me wisdom.  This is something I pray everyday as a mother of four children and devoted wife.  I cannot do any of this with success unless I’m seeking God’s will.  His wisdom is perfect.  And I want that in my life!

All we have to do is ask Him for it! And if we’re in His Word and in His presence in prayer and worship continually, He is going to be pleased with us.  And He will answer our prayer!

God, give me Your wisdom today.  Help me have discernment in all things, whether big or small, today.  God, I desire to please You and lift high Your Name! Please hear my prayer this day and grant it, Lord, according to Your perfect will.  In Jesus’ name! Amen! 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rotten fruit ...

I've still been reading through the reading plan that my church, Eastridge, provides (and that SHINE Girls participate in).  I'm so enjoying the Old Testament.  Having read through 1 Samuel a couple months ago, I was thrilled to continue with the story of David in 2 Samuel!

In reading 2 Samuel 11 about David and his sin with Bathsheba and then in the following chapters through chapter 19, I started thinking about the snowball affect of David's sin.  In chapter 12 we see Nathan tell him what the Lord said:

"From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. 'This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you.  I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view.  You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.'” (2 Samuel 12:10-12 NLT) 

And so we see the 'fruit' of David's sin begin to fall. It unravels: he lost his son born out of his sin with Bathsheba. Then later, David's son, Amnon, rapes his sister, Tamar (David's daughter).  Sin!  Another son of David, Absalom, avenges his sister and kills his brother, Amnon.  Sin!  Absalom, after fleeing Jerusalem for fear of King David's reaction to his murdering Amnon, returns only to become full of pride, ultimately conspiring to overturn his father's throne for himself!  Sin!  All of the events trace back to David's sin, and they are the fulfillment of Nathan's prophecy from the Lord. 

I'm not even through the whole book yet, but the Holy Spirit has been reminding me that sin breeds sin.

As the wife and mother of my family, I need to take my calling and responsibility seriously every minute of every day. I need to be in constant communication with the Lord in prayer and in the Word.  My appetite for Him needs to win out over my flesh.  And I need to continually be filled with His Spirit so that I am led by Him and don't fall into the temptations of sin.  

Why is this so critical? Because my choices and my sins don't just affect me.  They poison my life and impact all those around me. I don't want to be a reason for sin in my family, my church, or my realm of influence. 

Lord, today, by the same power that raised Christ from the dead … the power of Your Spirit in me, help me overcome the temptation to sin! May my life bring glory to You and magnify Your name.  I desire to daily put on Your Armor! Help me not just play defense against the enemy, trying to overcome sin.  God, I want to be on the offense! I want my children and others around me see Your Light! I desire for others to enter Your kingdom because of my testimony.  I will daily make this choice, Lord. Help me, Holy Spirit!  In the powerful name of Jesus!  Amen. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Through Thick & Thin

“Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” So the two of them renewed their solemn pact before the Lord. Then Jonathan returned home, while David stayed at Horesh. (1 Samuel 23:17, 18 NLT)

So solid and strong. It strikes me as I ponder friendship. Men have such a bond, especially the ones from the Lord. James has friends that have been with him since elementary school whom he is still close with now.  These are lifelong friendships that God brought together. 

Why as women do we have a difficult time keeping friends or being good friends to the ones we have? Perhaps it's the very thing we discussed in my growth group I'm a member of this past week ... judging from the appearance rather than the heart ... being petty and not acting in true love towards one another. Maybe hormones play a role. Maybe emotions take over. Maybe it's a combination of factors. Nevertheless, when you consider all that I just mentioned, one common denominator comes into play ... flesh. It seems that we as women like to use our hormones and emotions as an excuse to act however we please.  I believe God is calling us to love at all times and not allow the enemy’s temptation to use excuses to overcome us. 

for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons [and daughters] of God.  – Romans 8:13-14

As believers in and of Christ, are we to die to sin and flesh daily? Yes. Are we to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16)? Yes. And most importantly, are we to love others as Christ loves us (John 13:34)? Yes!

I want to be loyal and faithful to all the women God has put in my life. I want to love each of them with a sisterly love and lift them up in prayer. And I want to treat the God-bonds (those who I know the Spirit has forged together) like David and Jonathan did: a solemn pact before the Lord even to death.  He is calling us to LOVE.  Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Love forgives. 

Let me leave you with what the bible says about love:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails … - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God, help me to love this way.  Help me to embrace the women you’ve put in my life.  And help me to treat all my friendships the way Jonathan and David did.  

***Side Note: As I've said before, if you don't follow already, you should! Jill and the girls have so blessed me in the short time that I've been a part.  :) And since we're all studying the same scripture at the same time, Jill's post today is very similar to what God spoke to me about the same passage.  It's so exciting to me how God's Word is alive and speaking to us! Check it out too:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Lesson Learned

Don’t you just love how God speaks to you through a combination of His word and your children? Sometimes it takes a while for me to get it … but when I do … Man! It pierces me.

So I’m sure you can imagine, or for those who have several children already, you know full well the challenges of disciplining children.  Not to mention, three boys under the age of 8 and a sweet, yet walking and exploring, 14-month-old baby girl.  We definitely have days where the children are especially well-behaved.  But most days, they test and push to see how much they can get away with (particularly with all the rain we’ve had this summer which equates to being cooped up). 

James and I have tried many different plans of discipline (charts, strike system, etc.), all while praying for the Lord to show us His plan.  What will work for our family? And I know you are familiar with how difficult parenting can be, no matter how many kids you have! It’s a tough job! No joke! But it’s also the most precious gift from God.  A privilege.  A reward. 

Recently, while hanging out with some dear friends, we started discussing what the bible says about discipline.  This family is so special to us.  They are godly and wise.  And they have some children who are older than ours, so we glean from them.   In talking that evening, we all agreed that first-time obedience is what children need to accomplish.  The motto at our sons’ previous Christian school is: “Obey – right away, all the way, everyday, in a cheerful way!” And I love it!

When James and I debriefed after such a good talk with our friends, we decided to try things a little different.  Our children have never been crazy bad, per say.  But we so desire to achieve complete obedience with them now so that later on in life, when there’s a lot on the line, they will be trained in obedience.  This is huge to us! So we explained to our children that we expect them to obey us, and that going forward, we are doing things differently.  No more warnings.  No more threats.  We give the direction and expect their direct obedience in respect.  Anything less than a simple yes ma'am or no ma’am (or sir) along with obedience (such as talking back, whining, asking WHY, disregarding what we say, or dare I say – telling us NO) is direct disobedience, and we will no longer tolerate it.  Zero tolerance in the form of immediate discipline.  Yeah, spelling all that out seems a little harsh, but once they ‘get it,’ oh my goodness, things are grand!  We have seen a huge difference, especially in our spunky and active three-year-old! (I could go into the whole spill about why children need boundaries, why they need to learn direct obedience early in life, and so on and so forth.  But that’s another post for another day.) 

As I was drying my hair, I was praying about the scripture I read this morning in 1 Samuel 15 that so ministered to me.  I’ve been chewing on it and thinking about it, trying to let it sink in to my spirit and mind. 

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” 
-       1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

Saul didn’t directly and completely obey God.  He did what he thought would be okay, instead of exactly what God commanded.

Sure.  Sacrifices and offerings seemed good.  God has asked for those before.  But God gave specific instructions for this specific time, and he expected direct and complete obedience.

So back to praying while drying my hair … as clear as day, God said to me in my spirit, “Christa, do you directly obey me? You have been enforcing this with your children at home.  But are you also obeying me the first-time I ask and completely?” 

Wow! Talk about His words being sharp! He cut to the core with that one.  There are several things I’ve been thinking and praying about that require God-sized answers.  I need to hear from Him before I do anything.  And I feel like He is causing me to evaluate my own obedience to Him from the past, present, and what He expects of me in the future, no matter how difficult or daunting the task may be.  He expects full obedience and submission!

Friends, as you seek the Lord, His word will change you.  It requires action.  And when He speaks, He expects us to listen and obey. 

God, today I desire to completely and directly obey you right away.  Show me all the ways that I have been disobedient.  I repent for my disobedience, Lord.  Make me right with you, Father, so our fellowship is unobstructed.  And help me to walk forward with you leading me that I may be a faithful, obedient follower.  I love you, Lord! Amen!