Self-defeated

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*Image from Generationchurch

There exists a conflict that runs the length of the Bible. I’m not talking about the wars to take back the promised land or even to defend it from the Assyrians or Babylonians. Neither am I referring to the struggles to throw off the oppressors in the book of Judges. Nor am I speaking about the war to end all wars in the book of Revelation.  I am talking about the one that began within the very first humans and continued in every human after. The conflict is with ourselves.

I will be right up in the front of the line with those arguing in support of spiritual warfare. It’s all over the pages of the Bible and all through the years of everyone’s story. However, where I tend to veer off is when I hear people passing along what I consider too much blame.  Let’s be clear, the devil doesn’t make us do anything. The buck stops with us. We make the choices that steer our lives, for good or for ill. We choose whether or not to sin. We choose to believe lies or seek the truth. We choose whether or not to get educated on why we believe the things we do. We choose to hate or to love. We choose to forgive or to hold on to offenses. We choose how to let the things that happen to us mold us. There are rare occasions where people can be possessed. Jesus set several people free from demons during His time among us. But that does not translate to the vast majority of our stories.

The good news is, all of us can have victory over ourselves. What I  mean by that is, our natures can change. How we view our existence can all be commonly viewed through the same lens. Our experiences do not dictate our place in this world nor our value. Our origins (being made in God’s image), our purpose (to be with and love God forever), and one extreme act of love (Jesus giving His life for us) can change everything for you and me.

When Jesus was addressing the churches in the book of Revelation he made a statement to each one about how to have victory. Not all of the churches were following Him as they should. Just like not all of us are following Him as we should. But He left that beacon of hope for every single one of us.

Jesus said, “To him who conquers…

  1. I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. Rev 2:7 (ESV)
  2. will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:11 (ESV)
  3. I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it. Rev 2:17 (ESV)
  4. I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26 (ESV)
  5. will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Rev 3:5 (ESV)
  6. I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:12 (ESV)
  7. I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Rev 3:21 (ESV)

What are we conquering exactly? We’re conquering the enemy (the satan) by not listening to his lies or modeling his character. We’re conquering life’s circumstances by not letting them dictate our own view of ourselves. We’re conquering the world by choosing a higher path and not conforming to the patterns of godlessness celebrated in the world. We’re conquering persecution and trials by enduring till the end. And we’re conquering sin by not choosing it and repenting in the times we fail. This sounds like a heavy load and tremendous responsibility. But it comes with an incredible series of promises to all those who give their lives over to Christ. The even greater news is, we’re not alone in this endeavor. As Paul tells us in Romans, our life circumstances cannot separate us from the Love of Christ. The times we fail to glorify Him don’t even separate us. When we choose Him, we are His. We can rejoice in that security and the strength that Christ gives us to be conquerors in His name.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.   Romans 8:35-37 (ESV)

On our own, we will be self-defeated. But through Him, we are more than conquerors! rejoice, believer, and go and live in that freedom.

A new path

Look back over the last year and a half is someone depressing when it comes to taking care of myself. I’m not huge on New Years resolutions but something has to change. I could make excuses all day. We had a new baby join the family, my business has taken off, my two older children are in school now, I have lots of new responsibilities at work, etc…But when it all comes down to it, I’m just not making it a priority to take care of myself. I don’t want to be dramatic but if I want to make it 50 I better reverse course immediately. I’m driving myself into the dirt and not feeding myself with the right fuel. Too much soda, sweets, and fast food and not enough vitamins, nutrients, water, rest, and exercise. I get lazy with taking care of myself when I’m busy taking care of my family, business, and over 160 high school kids. But laziness will be the death of me.

I’m putting my foot down. Enough is enough. I’m tired of feeling drained and depleted. My life won’t be slowing down any time soon but I can make the choice to refill my body and soul with the right stuff to keep running strong. I will choose to study and meditate on the Word more. I’ve already started studying the book of Mark and a memorization of scripture with my good friend Matt. I will work out consistently, eat better, stop and rest more, do more of what I enjoy with those random minutes of free time. I will do better in every area.

A man without self control is like a city broken into and left without walls. Proverbs 25:28 ESV

A year from now I hope to be celebrating with all of you are fighting the same fight. The fight for self control. The fight to no longer be controlled by indulgences. I hope to celebrate victory through more health and wholeness. That is my new path. One that I hope to never leave.

How the satan will defeat you

 

The satan is the title reserved for the one who opposes God. By extension, he is also the one who opposes those who follow God. He is sometimes referred to as the devil, the prince of the power of the air, and the enemy of God. Jesus told us his mission in John chapter ten when He said, “the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy…” He is the leader of rebellions and the father of lies. And his sights are set on you and me.

Reading the title, you may think that I have a very cynical view of the fight for our spiritual survival. I assure you, it’s very much the opposite. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important struggles in every human’s story. It’s one in which the follower of Christ has every tool to win, yet every opportunity to still lose. I know many believers who are faithfully waging war every day and walking in victory. However, I see people every year fail to see the subtleties of their own crippling. Which, if left untreated, will lead to paralysis.

In any war, the most valuable information would be the enemies strategic plans. Fortunately, in this spiritual war, that’s exactly what we have. This enemy of ours doesn’t even change his strategy through the ages. It’s been the same since the very beginning. We already know that the satan wants to kill, steal, and destroy, but how? It’s simple, and very subtle. He wants to divide and cause doubt. Whenever and wherever you see those two things, you know who is behind it. That’s why Paul says in Romans 16 to stay away from people who cause divisions. And doubt is nothing short of the opposite of faith.

Jesus said in Matthew 12 that a house divided against itself cannot stand. On a personal level, that’s exactly what doubt does for a person’s mind. It tears it into opposing directions. And on a collective level, the illustration is obvious. I’ve seen several instances where certain people will come into a church and start causing rifts and divisions. My family and my wife’s family have fallen prey to the same thing. Friendships have been torn apart, teams collapse, business go under, all because of division. In terms of military strategy, the best way to defeat and enemy is to divide their forces and to cause confusion. In this war, I see the enemy’s fingerprints nearly every day.

It starts, often times, by being too busy. When we’re honest we have to admit that there is no such thing as too busy to spend time with God. We simply choose to use our time for other things. We make work, kid’s activities, and hobbies our priorities. Interject some entertainment in the mix and all of a sudden we are just too tired. Believe me. I get it. I have a full time job, I also own a business, and I have three kids. Life is full and it is hectic. And what the enemy of our souls wants us to believe is that we are just too busy for that bible study time, to get away to pray, to sing worship songs, or to serve others. But, we all know that’s deception at its best. The life that crowds out God is the life divided from God. There’s nothing more that the satan would want then for parents to not spiritually invest in their children because they’re too busy, or go to church because they made other plans, or leave the Bible at home while we race off to work. It’s not about being busy. The apostle Paul and all the other first century church planters were busy. It’s about losing sight of what matters. We’re prospering and are successful in life yet our souls are wasting away from starvation. That is how we lose. That is how the satan will defeat you. He will separate you from your source of life and from those in your life that can help nourish it.

I’ve done a few weeks without going to church and I feel it. Sure, I do my own study, devotionals, and podcasts. But there is no replacement for being in a group. We lose our rear guards, our accountability, and our encouragement. We drift into a life of self-centeredness. When separated from others, we shrink back into ourselves.

The more we get divided from God and His people, the more we begin interpreting the Bible on our own terms. Truth begins to lose its footing in our hearts. Compromise after compromise leads us further down the black hole of spiritual ineptitude. The further down we go the less God and His mission become a priority to us. We are losing. And we are withering away and don’t even know it. Oh, we can feel something is off. But the fall has been a gradual one. And the climb back up seems insurmountable. So why try? Well, because your life depends on it. And so does your family. And your friends. And every other relationship you have.

For the one who relates, and finds themselves in this story, don’t let him win. Reconnect with others and reunite with God. Sing more, pray more, read and study more. Make time to soak in His presence. There is nothing more valuable in life. There is no one too far from God to be restored. There is always hope for the wandering heart. Because our Good Shepherd is always looking for His sheep. If you know someone who has drifted away, stay close to them. Don’t lose hope. Keep praying. The darkness can be lifted any moment and they will see the light. For those in step, undivided, and devoted. Remain strong and vigilant. It only takes one choice to derail the train. Stay strong and stay faithful. Us weaker people need your example.

God bless brothers and sisters and remember the victory has already been won for us. We just have to walk in it day after day.

The Message Can’t be Stopped

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“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV

ISIS swept through the Near East like a wildfire leaving havoc in their wake. But just like a fire, they burnt out. The ideology still persists among the radical Islamic populous, but movements are not sustainable. Even though that is the case, one cannot ignore the impact they had. But persecution and hate don’t have the final say. In a recent article, I read, the hot spot of death during the peak of ISIS has seen a rapid rise in followers of Jesus. Kobani was once in the spotlight for horrific reasons. Now, its making headlines because lives are being transformed and God is sweeping through the region with a revival and message of hope.

Kobani is just one example of how the word of God pervades all generations and all obstacles. As the western world becomes more hostile towards Christians, it is only skimming the surface of persecution that Jesus followers have faced around the world. But no amount of threats or violence have been able to extinguish the message of the Gospel. Check out these statistics below:

Africa: Home to many Islamic terrorist cells, Christians have long been the target of hate crimes. But the numbers of Christians are exploding. In 1900 there were around 9 million Christians. Today, there are over 600 million. Polls suggest that Africa will be home to the largest number of Christians by 2050. Nigeria, for example, just surpassed Russia, is way higher than former Christendom (European nations), and are estimated to catch the United States (highest Christian population) in the next couple of decades. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania are seeing similar rises in believers.

Asia: This continent has a long history of religious struggles. It’s a broad mix of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and more. The rising faith, however, is Christianity. In Nepal, the world’s only Hindu kingdom, there are more than 500,000 Christians. This is amazing considering that the first modern church was planted in 1959. In Mongolia, the four Christians of 1989 have exploded to over 20,000 today. Cambodia is equally fascinating. In the late ’70s, there were around 2,000 believers. Today it’s approaching 250,000. What makes that even more incredible is that the communist wave swept through the country between 1975-1977 killing around 2 million people, many of whom were Christians. The most inspiring, in my opinion, is China. The introduction of communist persecution in 1949 caused a tidal wave in conversions and a burgeoning underground church. The Christian population went from just over 1 million in 1949 to over 100 million today.

Looking back through history, it was persecution that drove the spread of the faith. As psychotic Roman Emperors cracked down on followers of Jesus, the faith ignited into a world-shattering movement that eventually overtook the Empire itself. No ruler, ideology, or armed hate group can ever put down the Gospel. The message of Jesus transcends time. Its power is far greater than anything this earth has ever seen. Hope is rising in this world of darkness. The Gospel has prevailed and always will!

Don’t forget to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who are choosing Jesus ahead of comfort and conformity. Their bravery is a beacon of hope and courage for the world to pursue.

I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

Job 42:2 ESV

Peace brothers and sisters. The victory is His!