The devil – a real and present faith foe

“The Bible names a real and  present foe of our faith: the devil. . . .  The devil is a splitter, a divider, a wedge driver. . . .  He wants to take unbelievers to hell and make life hell for believers.”- Mas Lucado

“Our fight is not against people on earth, but against rulers and authorities and powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.  That is why you need to put on God’s full armor.  Then on the day of evil you will be able to stand strong.”- Ephesians 6:12-13 (New Century Version)

In Chapter 3 (“The Devil’s Days Are Numbered”) of Unshakable Hope, Max Lucado takes us back to July 21, 1861.  Since it was a quiet and sunny day, residents of Washington, D. C. prepared for a picnic in the countryside.  And the beautiful place they picked to unpack their baskets – a battlefield, Manassas.  They intended to sit on their blankets, eat chicken, and watch the battle from a distance.

However, reality soon set in.  When the gunfire started, blood spilled, and wounded soldiers screamed, people realized this was no picnic.  They quickly packed up and left.

Yet, Pastor Lucado asks, do we embrace a similar false assumption?  Do we believe that Satan’s real?  According to 2009 research the Barna Group conducted, four out of ten Christians consider Satan merely a symbol of evil.  In contrast, a minority of Christians (35%) believe Satan is real.  In other words, most Christians refuse to believe that Satan exists.  Thus, Max explains the consequences of this deception, and why this greatly pleases Satan:

“As long as he (Satan) isn’t taken seriously, he is free to work his evil. After all, if you can’t diagnose the source of your ills, how can you fight them?  The devil wants to make your life a mess and to keep his name out of it.  But God doesn’t let him do so.”

Today’s question: Do you consider the devil a real and present foe of your faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The enemy of your God-given destiny”

The case for God’s dependability

“From the first chapter of Scripture, the Bible makes a case for the dependability of God.   Nine times the text reiterates ‘God said.’  And without exception when God spoke, something happened.  Something wonderful happened. . . .  The reader is left with one conclusion: God’s word is sure.  What he says happens.”- Max Lucado

“Let the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him.  For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”- Psalm 33:8-9 (NIV)

As Max Lucado continues Chapter 1 of Unshakable Hope, he comments on Matthew’s account of The Faith of the Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13).  Therefore,  Pastor Lucado notes that Jesus applauded the faith of the centurion.  Why?  Because the man believed in Jesus’ power to keep His word.  In fact, Max asserts, Matthew’s account gives us Jesus’ definition of faith: faith is the deeply held belief that God will keep his promises.

Consequently, the Roman soldier understood the simple truth that God not only won’t, but cannot break His promises.  Also, God writes His irrevocable promises in granite because He is:

  • unchanging– the unexpected never catches God off guard.  He never makes midcourse corrections.  As we read in James 11:17 (NLT)- “He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”
  • faithful– we can trust God to keep His promises.
  • strong – as Max states, God does not “overpromise and underdeliver.”
  • unable to lie – Hebrews 6:18 tells us that it’s impossible for God to lie.  Not unlikely or improbable.  Impossible!  Hence, Scripture’s quite forthright on this subject.

In conclusion, Pastor Lucado reasons that if good people are serious about keeping their word, how much more serious is our good God?  Thus, the question isn’t whether God will keep His promises.  Rather, will we build our lives upon them?

Today’s question: For you, what Bible verses make the case for God’s dependability?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Ponder, pray, and proclaim God’s promises”

When we stop pressing forward in faith

“When we pray and nothing changes, many times as believers we use the outcome as an occasion to alter our theology to match our experience.  When we do this, we stop pressing forward in faith to find out why the natural world didn’t line up with what we expected.”- Christa Black Gifford

“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”- Ezekiel 11:19 (NIV)

In Chapter 5 (“The Undivided Heart”) of Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford describes the therapeutic technique of Father Andrew Miller.  Father Miller, an Anglican priest, encountered cases that modern psychology – and even Christians – labeled as hopeless.  Thus, Father Miller studied, prayed, and tirelessly pored over the Scriptures.  He determined to find tools to help his clients know freedom and deliverance from their horrific earthly chains.  Like the tortured demoniac in Mark 5 regaining his right mind after he encountered the mercy and love of Jesus.

Most noteworthy, no matter how life’s punches tatter a heart, Jesus has never faced an impossible case.  Therefore, Father Miller believed Jesus’ promise that we’d do greater things than He did (John 14:12).  As a result of clocking more than 4,000 clinical hours loving broken hearts, Father Miller uncovered a common thread in all his patients.  Every person on the brokenness continuum possessed the same primary components in their heart: the emotional heart, the guardian heart, and the function heart.

Consequently, God revealed and unpacked these parts of the heart to Father Miller.  Hence, he started seeing many miracles in his counseling practice.  For his patients’ broken and divided hearts encountered Jesus – Someone more powerful than their pain.

Finally, Christa observes, “God’s intention for your heart has always been to bind it up, making it undivided and whole.”

Today’s question: What, if anything, keeps you from pressing forward in faith?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your emotional heart – connected to your pain”

Pregnant with a word from the Lord

“When you’re pregnant with a word from the Lord, it might be months, years, or decades before the word comes full term and you can deliver it, but you have a responsibility to carry that word until then.  How you carry that word matters greatly.”- Banning Liebscher

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied. “I am a woman who is deeply troubled . . . . I have been praying here out of my anguish and grief.”  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”- 1 Samuel 1:15-17 (NIV)

In Chapter 8 (“What to Do When You’re Expecting”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher states you’ll encounter the Lord speaking to you when you plant yourself in the inner room of prayer.  Therefore, when you’re pregnant with a word from the Lord, it’s time to start preparation for His word to come to pass.

However, Pastor Liebscher observes, many times we press in for things.  Yet, the Lord doesn’t give us what we desire at first.  Rather, He give us a word.  Many people, though, find themselves tripping up in this process. Because they don’t know how to carry God’s spoken words to them.  And when Hannah received words of comfort from Eli, she rose and shifted her focus.  While Hannah had yet to receive a child, she did receive a word.  Physically, nothing changed.  But, Hannah heard Eli’s words of compassion.  She craved affirmation.

In addition, looking at the original Greek of John 15:7, Banning notes that the word translated “words,” rhema, refers to something uttered by a living voice.  Thus, the author states, Jesus’ words include what He has said and what He is saying.  Also, the word “abide,” the Greek word men o, means “to be held, kept continually.”

Putting the two terms together, Pastor Liebscher observes, we find we first access the realm of faith as we draw close to Jesus and hear Him.  That includes what He spoke in Scripture as well as through what He speaks to us today.

In conclusion, we must do more than simply hear Jesus’s words.  As we hold and keep His words at all times, they abide in us.

Today’s question: What word from the Lord to you long to deliver?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Firmly anchored in Scripture”

The God who raises the dead

“It’s one thing to say we believe God raised Jesus from the dead and that we have the hope of eternal life through faith in Him.  It’s another thing to put our faith in the God who raises the dead as He leads us into experiences of weakness.”- Banning Liebscher

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. . . .   Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead.”- Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 5 of Rooted as he underscores that your faith gets reals when you experience weakness.  Most noteworthy, when you discover Jesus is always with you and He’s the One you rely upon, that changes everything.

Furthermore, Pastor Liebscher notes, when God asks you to step out in faith, He doesn’t toss you in the deep end, leaving you to figure it out.  God’s with you in the deep end.  And He wants you to experience that reality.  So, in moments of failure or loss, Banning hears God saying, The story is not over.  I’m the God who raises the dead.  I’ve got this covered and I’ve got you covered.

Therefore, when we emerge from the deep end, we possess an awareness of God’s abiding presence.  That sense of God’s abiding presence forever changes the way we view impossible situations. The Holy Spirit firmly establishes our rots as He reveals the Father who never leaves us.  Pastor Liebscher explains:

“Nothing is worth more to God than our faith.  It’s what pleases Him, and He loves to put us in situations where we can please Him. He also loves to put us in situations where we get to experience and see that our faith is genuine.”

Today’s question: How do you live your faith in the God who raises the dead?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Tested, proven, genuine faith”

Step into greater faith and rest

“God is always going to be inviting, nudging, and challenging you to step into greater faith and rest.  The Enemy, however, is going to push you to step into fear and ungodly striving by trying to make things happen in your timing and through your own wisdom and effort rather than God’s.”- Banning Liebscher (emphasis author’s)

“I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safely.”- Psalm 4:8

In Chapter 4 (“Nothing to Prove”) of Rooted, Banning Liebscher stresses that the journey of trust = a two-way street.  As God builds our root systems, He directs our hearts into greater intimacy and dependence on Him.  But, He also entrust us with specific assignments, gifts, opportunities, and resources.

Thus, stewardship comprises the other side of the journey of trust. And the goal of stewardship is faithfulness.  Yet, the weight of what God entrusts to us creates uncomfortable pressure.  However, as Bill Johnson, Pastor Liebscher’s mentor, once told him: “God is not interested in your comfort; He is interested in your growth.”

Therefore, it’s not a question of whether or not we’ll face uncomfortable pressure in the process.  Rather, it’s how we should respond to that pressure.  Most noteworthy, Banning states, we must be aware of two different types of pressure we’ll encounter in the growth process:

  1. God invites, nudges, and challenges us to step into greater faith and rest
  2. Satan pushes us to step into fear and ungodly striving

As a result, the key to faithful stewardship consists of learning to resist any pressure that is not from God.

Today’s question: What Bible verses support your step into greater faith and rest?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Sleep in the storm, calm the storm”

Faithfulness to build the wall

“Faithfulness to build the wall is not giving up on your dream; it’s trusting God with your dream.”- Banning Liebscher

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”- Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)

Banning Liebscher continues Chapter 2 of Rooted as he observes why many people find it hard to focus on the task in front of them.  Because the test in front of us bears no resemblance to the promise, dream, or vision in our hearts.  Thus, Pastor Liebscher underscores, it takes faith and commitment to trust God.  For God gave us both the dream and our current assignment.

Therefore, Banning exhorts, you must realize that getting you to your dream is God’s job.  Your job, in contrast, consists of the wall in front of you.  Yes, Pastor Liebscher explains, he wholeheartedly believes that you should embrace and pursue the passion in your heart.  However, ultimately, you’re called to be passionate about Jesus and His cause on earth, not your dream.

As a result, the author cautions, if you simply follow your passion you won’t accomplish things for God.  You must show faithfulness and obedience to what God has placed in front of you.  In addition, this will be tested in your life.  Banning asks: Are you more passionate about pursuing a dream or following Jesus?

Pastor Liebscher reminds us – God first develops our root systems.  And He does that through putting our hands to the assignment in front of us.  But, a problem results with making your passion the thing that guides you.  For passion can trick you into avoiding tasks you deem boring.  Yet, these tasks are absolutely vital to get you to where God wants you.

In conclusion, Banning encourages:

” It’s amazing how many believers disqualify themselves and stunt their growth because they don’t just do what’s in front of them.  Do what’s in front of you and do it well.”

Today’s question: What Bible verses sustain faithfulnes to build the wall in front of you? Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Trying to get you off assignment”

God – as near as our next breath

“We can calmly take our concerns to God because he is as near as our next breath.”- Max Lucado

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”- Psalm 118:6 (NIV)

Max Lucado concludes Chapter 5 of Anxious for Nothing as he reinforces Paul’s point in Philippians 4:5-6.  Because the Lord is near, we need be anxious for nothing.  Also, Pastor Lucado reminds us, Paul wrote Philippians as a letter.  And letters don’t contain chapter and verse numbers.  Therefore, Paul intended that we read this passage in one fell swoop.  As Max points out, two early commentators saw this:

  1. John Chrysostom: “The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety.”
  2. Theodoret of Cyrus: “The Lord is near.  Have no worries.”

In addition, Pastor Lucado believes, we learn this reassuring lesson from the miracle of the bread and fish.  While Jesus desired to feed the entire crow, the disciples wanted to get rid of everyone.  In fact, Max detects anxiety, aggravation, and frustration in their response to Jesus.  The disciples don’t call Him “Master” or offer a suggestion.  Rather, they approach Jesus en masse and tell Him what to do.

Although the disciples felt unsettled, they had every reason to be at peace.  For they witnessed Jesus perform many miracles.  Yet, they failed to pause long enough to think or to ask Jesus for help.

So, on the one hand, a problem exists in your life.  On the other hand, you possess a limited quantity of wisdom, energy, patience, or time- nowhere near what you need.  As a result, Max exhorts:

“This time, instead of starting with what you have, start with Jesus.  Start with his wealth, his resources, and his strength.  Before you open the ledger, open your heart. . . .  count the number of times Jesus has helped you face the impossible.  Before you lash out in fear, look up in faith.  Take a moment.  Turn to your Father for help.”

Today’s question: What makes you aware that God’s as near as your next breath?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the Easter Short Meditation, “The loudest voice in your life”

Tomorrow’s blog: “A child of the King – the front of the line”

Contending – harder than conceding

“Contending for what you believe in is harder than conceding to what you’re afraid of, but it’s the only option if you want to live by faith.”- Mark Batterson

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”- Psalm 32:7 (NIV)

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 11 of Whisper, he exhorts you to contend for what you believe. Hence, when adversity strikes, you have choices to make.  Thus, Pastor Batterson stresses that you can:

  • stand down – or – stand on the promises of God
  • give up as you give in to guilt, fear or anger – or – contend through prayer as though it depends completely on God, yet work as if it depends completely on you

According to the psalmist, God continuously sings songs of deliverance around us.  As a result, Mark observes, God provides three lines of defense

  1. First line of defense = God’s surround-sound songs
  2. Second line of defense = the intercession of the Holy Spirit
  3. Third line of defense = Jesus seated at the right hand of God, interceding on our behalf

Therefore, Pastor Batterson exhorts us to quit living as if Jesus is still nailed to the cross.  Consequently, the author considers three words in Psalm 5:1 among the most comforting in all Scripture: “Consider my sighing.”  God’s so intimately tuned to us He hears our wordless sighs in our most profound pain.

In conclusion, Mark states, we must give God the sacrifice of praise to make it through the tough times.   Mark shares a mantra often repeated at National Community Church – don’t let what’s wrong with you keep you from worshipping what’s right with God.

Finally, Mark offers three thoughts about worship:

  1. The hardest praise is the highest praise.   When you learn to praise God in really tough times, the best is yet to come.  You’re God’s joy.  Is He yours?
  2. Whatever you don’t turn into praise turns into pain.  Verbalize your pain to the Lord.  Sing over and through your pain.
  3. Sing like you believe it.  If you truly believe what you’re singing, notify your face.  Then add your hands and feet.  And don’t just sing it.  Declare it!

Today’s question: Are you contending for what you believe or conceding to your fears?  Please share.

Coming Monday, March 12th: the annotated bibliography of Whisper

Tomorrow’s blog: “Part Chicken Little, part Eeyore”

All a work in progress – exercise your gifts

“I’m a work in progress, and so are you.  But don’t let inexperience keep you from exercising your gifts.  Don’t let doubt keep you from exercising your faith.  And don’t let the fear of people keep you from speaking into their lives, as God leads.”- Mark Batterson

Today in Chapter 9 of Whisper, Mark Batterson shares some hard-earned advice about common misuse and abuse of the fifth love language – people.  While God speaks through people, they’re as imperfect as we are.  Therefore, Pastor Batterson offers a good rule of thumb: consider the source, the character, of the person speaking to you.

In addition, Mark believes that it’s an earned right to speak the truth in love.  It’s the by-product of relationship.  So, the stronger the relationship, the more weight that person’s words carry.  Also, make sure those words pass through the filter of Scripture.

Furthermore, Pastor Batterson observes, if you’re dealing with the Holy Spirit’s still small voice, moments occur when God gives you a word to speak into someone else’s life.  Mark asserts that “if you cultivate a prophetic voice, God will give you a prophetic voice.”  However, there’s a right time for the right word, or it might actually produce the wrong effect.

Pastor Batterson also reminds us that the Bible doesn’t depict prophets as oracles that predict the future.  In fact, Mark describes a prophetic word as:

  • more forthtelling than foretelling
  • strengthening, encouraging, and comforting
  • always redemptive, even when confrontational
  • delivered with a gentle spirit
  • edifying, not insulting
  • endowing hopefulness, not helplessness
  • bolding believing that the best is yet to come

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how would you describe yourselves as a work in progress?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Your Soulprint – the truest thing about you”