I Promise

You stood together at the front of the church and promised to “love, honor and cherish till death do us part.” Yet, here you are alone and hurting. My child promised to come home on time, and two hours later I’m fuming as I hear his key finally turn in the door. They promised advances and promotions when you were hired, but you’re still stuck at entry-level. What happened? Promises were made and then broken. You’ve been on the receiving end, I’m sure. If you’re honest, you may have been on the giving end as well.

Part of our human sinful condition is that we are selfish and self-centered and that often means we will fail to keep our word. We make promises to get our way. We make promises we know we won’t keep. Of course, sometimes we make a promise and something unexpected causes us to break our promise. Whatever the reason someone usually gets hurt. Someone is placed at a disadvantage. Is it any wonder that we find it hard to trust others? Even God.

One thing of which I am certain is that God is faithful to His promises. His Word is as sure as His character, and His character is flawless. He doesn’t make promises based on feelings, so we never have to worry that His feelings will change and His promises will fail. He does not need to make promises to gain an advantage. He always has the advantage. He doesn’t make promises He cannot keep. He is almighty, all-powerful, and able to do everything He says He will do. He never makes a promise He doesn’t intend to keep. God wouldn’t be God if He did not or could not keep His promises.

What has God promised you? If you are in Christ He has promised you salvation and eternal life. He has promised you hope and peace and joy. He has promised His presence, His power, and His protection. He has promised to provide, comfort and care for you. He has promised you victory over sin and death and this world. Elizabeth said of Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished” (Luke 1:45). Blessed are you, Beloved, when you take God at His Word.

Spiritual Battles

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Do you ever feel like life is a war? That’s because it is. Believers in Christ are in a battle, a constant fight of good vs. evil.  The enemy launches his attacks every day, from the culture, from the unbelieving world, even from our friends and family. Anyone who is trying to live a holy and righteous life in these evil days is standing on a bullseye. And our enemy fights dirty. So how do we gain victory in this battle?

I like the example of one of David’s “mighty men” who fought by his side in his many battles.  The Bible says that Eleazar “stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword” (2 Samuel 23:10). Eleazar had a literal sword with a sharp blade and a hilt that was shaped to fit his hand. You and I have a better sword, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17). If you study the armor of God in Ephesians 6 (and I strongly suggest that you do) you will find that this is the only offensive weapon we have, but it is all we need because Satan trembles at the sound of Scripture. It cuts him to the quick and it cuts through his lies. Like Eleazar, we have to keep the sword in our hands at all times, until our fingers are permanently shaped to grasp and use it. The enemy doesn’t take a break so we can’t just pick our sword up and put it down. By the time you reach for it the enemy has already struck. The Word of God has to become part of us, written on our hearts, planted in our minds, and always on the tip of our tongues. That requires an investment of time and discipline. But it’s the best investment you’ll ever make.

But there’s one more thing about spiritual battles you and I need to know. The victory has already been won. The enemy has already been defeated. When Jesus took our sins to the cross and the grave, satan thought he had won. But when Jesus’ chest rose with his first resurrection breath, the devil was forever defeated. And he knows it. He just doesn’t want you to know it. Everything he throws at you has no power against you – unless you drop your sword and shield. God has “given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). His Word and His Spirit are the weapons that will give us victory. Beloved, be assured, you are not fighting a losing battle.

The Week after Covid

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This is a repeat and I apologize for that, but I am tired. Weary-to-my-bones kind of tired. Needing-more-than-a-day-off kind of tired. The tired that drains you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. After a week of battling Covid in my entire family, I’m drained body, mind, and spirit. At times like this, it’s really easy to sink into despair and cry “Woe is me!” and post my feelings all over social media. But how does that serve the cause of Christ?

Paul, who had every right to whine, choose instead to look at his life from a different perspective. “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9). He acknowledged that his circumstances were hard – he was being pressed from many different directions by people who all wanted something from him (boy can I relate). He was perplexed; he couldn’t understand why his own people were rejecting the Messiah they had so long sought. He was persecuted – his life was often in danger, his ministry was detested by the Jewish leaders and even by certain factions of the church. He was struck down – beaten and stoned more than once for his dogged devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Despite all that, he refused to give in to misery. He knew that no human could crush him because he belonged to the Lord. He rejected despair. He reminded himself that his Lord and Savior would never abandon him, and had even come to stand beside him in prison (Acts 23:11). He knew that the Lord he served with all his heart would not allow him to be destroyed.

Beloved – this is YOUR testimony too if you are in Christ. You are not a victim—you are a victor! Yes, life gets very hard sometimes, but you and I need not give in to despair because our Lord will not let us be crushed or destroyed. He has promised to never abandon His own, not even in our darkest, hardest moments. Like Paul, we must learn to hold fast to Jesus and trust Him despite our circumstances or feelings. I am tired, but the Lord promises to give me strength. I am overwhelmed, but He will carry my burdens for me. I am weary, but He will sustain me. I can focus on my fatigue, or on my faithful Father. The choice is mine. The choice is yours too. Where will your thoughts take you today?

Victory Over the Enemy

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Sun Tzu was an ancient Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher in the early 6th Century. He is credited as the writer of the classic, “The Art of War,” in which he said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  Paul cautioned with similar words saying that satan will not outwit us if we are aware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11 paraphrased). We need to know our enemy to the degree that we recognize his evil hand in situations we face.

For example, I have a contentious relationship with a family member who has repeatedly been unkind toward me. My human nature wants to lash out and “put them in their place,” but Paul reminds me “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The person is not my enemy. Satan is using them against me – and they are unaware of it. But because I have the Holy Spirit in me I have discernment and can turn the fight against my true enemy. I pray for and love the person and refuse the let the devil cause division.

There’s another point to spiritual warfare. In ancient Israel, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, marched toward Jerusalem to capture the capital city. He sent a message to King Hezekiah saying, “Have I come to attack and destroy this land without the Lord? The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it” (Isaiah 36:10). But Hezekiah declared that “the living God will rebuke [Sennacherib] for the words the Lord your God has heard” (Isaiah 37:4). Hezekiah knew it was a lie because he knew his God.

Sun Tzu spoke wisely when he said “Know your enemy.” Paul spoke wisdom when said essentially the same thing. But more important than knowing the enemy, you and I need to know our God. If we do not know the Lord God, we will fall to the threats of the enemy every time. Know your enemy. Know yourself. Know your God. Those, Beloved, are the keys to victory.

On God’s Side

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Like the rest of the world, this year has been rough for me. Sometimes life happens that way, one problem piled on top of another. The question now becomes, how will I react to it? I’ll be honest and say I haven’t always been the paragon of faith I hoped to be. At first, I got upset, even got angry, then I settled into a spirit of discouragement.  Of course, I prayed – sort of. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I whined. “God just look at this – what am I going to do? I can’t take this anymore!” And yes, I am the one who writes constantly about having faith and trusting God in our difficulties. Sometimes it’s had to take your own advice.

Recently, as I whined and cried to God, a verse come to mind (see that’s why we need to be students of the Bible). 2 Chronicles 20:12: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” Immediately the question came to my heart, “Child, where are your eyes?” My eyes have been on me, on my problems, on my fears, and what I have to do to fix the situation. They certainly haven’t been on God. All through the Bible, when difficult times came to God’s people, the difference between victory and defeat came down to whether the people were looking at their enemy or their God. David is the perfect example. Goliath was harassing the army of Israel, “When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear” (1 Sam 24). When David saw him, the shepherd-boy advanced with his sling and five stone and declared, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty!” (v. 45). The others saw the giant and ran away from him. David kept his eyes on God and ran with the Lord.  Who do you think won that battle?

Looking back at 2 Chronicles 20, the Lord’s answer to Jehoshaphat’s prayer comes in verse 20—“have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld.” Beloved our only hope in these difficult days – whatever they may be – is to turn our eyes from the things that worry us and turn them to God who cares for and is able to help us. God’s never lost a fight. You’re on the side of victory.

When to Run and When to Stand: How to Fight Spiritual Battles

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We’re working our way through the book of Colossians in our Ladies Bible study group at BCF. Yesterday we looked at Paul’s warning: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2). So we posed the question: what are we watching for? Two points stood out from elsewhere in the Scriptures:

When Jesus confronted his three closest disciples who were asleep in the garden, he admonished them to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). So the lure of temptation is one area where we need to be watchful.

Then Peter, who was one of the three, gives us another saying, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The reality and work of the devil is another.

How are we to handle these two?

The conventional wisdom is to resist temptation and flee from the devil; but what does Scripture say?

About temptation, Paul said, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When we face temptation, we take the way of escape. We flee. We run. We get away from the source of temptation, be it a place, a person, a website, or the office breakroom.

And when it comes to dealing with the devil, Peter’s warning continued: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith . . .” (1 Peter 5:9). We resist the devil, standing firmly and confidently behind our shield of faith in the God of Christ our Lord.

So the conventional wisdom is completely backward – Scripture tells us to resist the devil and flee from temptation. No wonder we’re falling so easily to the enemy.

Why does this matter?

Because as 1 John 4:4 reminds us: “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” If you are in Christ Jesus, then Christ Jesus is in you through His Holy Spirit. The very same Christ who has already overcome the devil. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, the devil has no authority over you. None. And you need to stand firm and remind him of that when he comes roaring at you. Because all he can do is roar.

And because, as Jesus admonished his sleepy disciples, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Your flesh, the part of you that responds to temptation, is weak, even as a Christian. Though we are set free from the power of sin, we are still bound to our fleshly nature that desires sin. Paul said, “I have the desire to do good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep doing” (Romans 7:18,19)

Christ has already defeated the devil, but you and I will battle our flesh every day of our earthly lives.

Understanding the enemy and his tactics is vital – not just to surviving – but to thriving and growing and carrying the cross of Christ into a lost and dying world. You need to know your enemy Beloved. But more than that, you need to know your Savior. He has already claimed the victory over the devil. And He will give you strength – to flee when you face temptation and to stand firm when the lion roars.

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).

Don’t Fear-get about God

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“When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3).

I love how little kids make up words.  Like calling pockets “snack-holes” or shoelaces “shoe-snakes.”  When my son was little he had a word that always made me smile – when his memory failed him, he didn’t forget, he said “I fear-get.”  I thought that was so cute – I wanted to box his teacher’s ears when she corrected him.

That is the perfect word for how some of us live.  We fear-get.  We give in to fear and we forget who our God is and what He is able to do.  We fear-get His power and His promises.  We fear-get His Word and His Spirit.

When Israel battled the Philistine army one enemy soldier caused the whole army to tremble in fear.  Goliath was a giant of a man – “over nine feet tall” – and he used his size to his advantage.  He loomed large and heckled Saul’s soldiers and “all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17: 4-11). Their fear caused them to forget their God and his power and promises as they trembled before their enemy.  Enter David, the young shepherd-boy with a sling, a pocket full of stones and an unwavering faith in the Lord.  He recognized the enemy was defying “the army of the Living God” of Israel (v. 36).   In other words, he knew this battle belonged to the Lord.  While David faced off against Goliath, Goliath faced off against God. And Goliath went down. Hard.

There are two important lessons to learn here.

The Israelite army trembled at the threats and ranting of Goliath.  At words.  They were afraid to stand against the giant because of words.  That is satan’s favorite ploy against us – he is a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) – but roaring can’t hurt you.  He’s just making a lot of loud noise. When we listen to satan’s words, we fear-get the Word of God and tremble like the army of Israel.

But when David went to confront Goliath, he went “in the name of the Lord Almighty” (v. 45).  He carried five smooth stones in his pouch – and the memory of how God had given him victory in the past.  Recalling how he had killed lions and bears in his shepherding work, David declared, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37).  Unlike the Israelite army, David didn’t run from the enemy – he “ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him” (v. 48).  He loaded his sling with one stone and all the confidence He had in the Lord.  He didn’t fear-get a thing.

What makes you fear-get?  What makes you tremble and fear-get God’s love, grace, mercy, hope, power and promises.  What makes you fear-get His Word?  What makes you fear-get who you are in Christ?  What makes you fear-get all the God has done for you?  David Jeremiah says, “When we recognize how God has been our help in ages past, we’ll remember He’s our hope for years to come.”  Beloved, the mighty God of David is your God too.  He delivered Israel and He will deliver you.  Don’t give in to the rants of the enemy.  Don’t fear-get about God.

What’s Bogging You Down? Part 1


What’s bogging you down friend? What’s slowing your forward progress in your faith?  What keeps you from being all you want to be, all you were created to be? I believe the Scriptures reveals many things that impede our progress – things that are all very much under our control.  We would be wise to pay careful attention to them.

The writer of Hebrews addresses three of these in this verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1).  We’re going to look at two of these in this post and unpack more in subsequent posts.

Did you notice that the writer separates “things that hinder” from “sin?” Not everything that bogs us down is sinful. The Greek meaning of the word “hinders” is a weight or burden.  Because the writer uses the image of a race, we can imagine the thoughts of a runner; his goal is to be fast, and so he eliminates everything that might slow him down.  Modern runners search for the lightest shoes and for running garments made from lightweight fabrics.  Everything is evaluated for its weight and how that might affect his time.  A runner would never take his backpack to the track with him.  Yet too many of us are trying to run this race of faith with weights and burdens tied to our backs.  We are still carrying guilt from sins that God has forgiven.  We are carrying pain from old hurts and wounds that God is more than willing to heal.  We are carrying the expectations of others – or ourselves – as so much excess baggage.   As we run this race,everything in our lives should be evaluated for how it can hinder our spiritual progress.  Any weight that is not essential for the race should be eliminated.  Don’t be hindered by excess weight.

The other point that the writer makes is “sin that so easily entangles.”  Continuing with the runner’s example, I Kings 18 has the perfect visual for us.  When God sent rain to end the drought in Israel, King Ahab took off in his chariot to try to beat the storm, leaving Elijah behind.  But “The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel” (1 Kings 18:46).  Elijah, on foot, outran King Ahab in his chariot pulled by a horse (or horses). You can imagine how Elijah’s long flowing robes would have wrapped around his legs as he ran, causing him to slow down and likely stumble.  So, he took the skirt of his robe and tucked it into his belt to free his legs from becoming entangled.  That is the perfect picture of sin.  It wraps itself around us and makes it impossible to “run the race marked out for us.”  Here’s something powerful I discovered when I researched this passage.  The Greek rendering of the whole phrase “which so easily entangles” is a combination of three things. It means “to skillfully surround,” and “to prevent or retard.” Okay, that fits perfectly with the image we have in our minds.  And of course we know that Satan is the one “skillfully surrounding” us with sin.  But I was very surprised to find it also includes the meaning of “well or much admired.”  Do you see it?  What entangles us so easily is the sin that we cherish.  It’s the sin that we secretly love.  It’s the one we won’t let go of, the one we keep returning to again and again.  It has become entangled around us until it seems a part of us, to the point that cutting it off will seem like cutting off a limb. But it absolutely must go – and it is up to us to do the cutting.  Yes, it will be painful because it will involve something that has become dear and intimate to us.  It may even mean severing a relationship that is built on sin.  The writer of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4). That is exactly what you and I must do—fight against that sin, even if it feels like it will kill us. But that’s not what we do, is it? The truth is, we don’t really struggle with our sin. Oh, we may give a wimpy word of protest, but we still give in to it. We don’t look for “the way out” that God provides, because we don’t want to escape it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Beloved, it is time to be brutally honest with yourself about your pet sin. It is not your friend. You need to kill it before it kills you.

Weights and sins are very much within our control.  You and I need to shed every weight and burden and entrust them to the Father who loves us.  We need to cut off and kill the sin that has wrapped itself around us and surrender it to the God who calls us to run the race.   The victory tape awaits you – the prize is in the Lord’s hands – eternal life in an eternal place with your eternal Savior.

Run Beloved.  Don’t let anything slow you down.

 

The post, What’s Bogging You Down? first appeared at https://dbethandrews.wordpress.com/

 

Stop and Think About It

Selah
In the Psalms we frequently see a word, Selah, tucked in among the verses.  That little word packs a lot of wisdom.  The Amplified version of the Bible renders that word, “stop and think about that.”  The Psalmists use it as a word of warning, encouragement, and comfort.  It’s a two-step process to victory in our Christian walk.
“But you are a shield around me, O Lord, you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah” (Psalm 3:3-4).
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with sons of deliverance. Selah” (Psalm 3:7)
  When difficulties come, stop and think about God as your shield and your hiding place.  Think about Him placing His great hand under your chin and lifting your sorrowful head.  Thank Him for His protection and deliverance.
“How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!  He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.  He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah” (Psalm 47:2-4).
Stop and think about how worthy God is to be praised – He is the Lord Most High, the great King, the Sovereign over every nation.  Now stop and think about how He has chosen you as His own.
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah (Psalm 68:19)
When you are weighted down with burdens, stop and think about God calling you to cast them all on Him so your heart can be at rest. Then do it.
If there is a “secret” to surviving life on this side of heaven it is this:  Stop and Think.  Stop worrying, stop agonizing, stop fretting, stop comparing.  Stop letting your thoughts control you and take control of your thoughts. Think about who He is, think about who you are because of Him, think about His faithfulness in the past, think about His promises, and think about what is true and right and pure and worthy.  Beloved, it’s time stop the negativity in your head, to stop the voice of the enemy speaking  doubt and fear and temptation.  It’s time to fill your heart and mind with  the Words of your Creator and Father and Savior – words of truth and hope and strength. 
Stop and Think – and step up in victory!

Advent Devotional Day 14 – Mighty God!

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14)

The Israelite people were fleeing Egypt, with Pharaoh and the Egyptian army close on their heals.  Imagine being part of the crowd of two-million plus slaves being pursued by elite military horsemen and six hundred chariots armed with deadly spears and arrows.  You stand at the edge of a vast, impassable sea knowing that Pharaoh’s army will come sweeping in on you any minute.  You look to your leader Moses for a battle plan and all he tells you is “be still.” How’s your confidence now?

The prophet declared that this Child who was born to save the world would be called “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6).  He would be a Warrior who would fight for His people.  Only the enemy is not a human army; the enemy is death – that is, eternal separation from God.  And He would not do battle with arrows or spears or any man-made weapon.  He would use a wooden cross to gain for us eternal life.  Paul well proclaimed “Death has been swallowed up in victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:54).

We like to keep the Christmas story all light and sweet – a baby in a manger, angels singing, shepherds kneeling, star shining – but the truth is, this Baby came to fight a fearsome foe.  He came with a battle plan in hand – a plan that would mean His death.

Why? Because you and I are unable to save ourselves.  When it comes to this enemy, we are as helpless as the Israelites standing at the edge of the sea.  We cannot defeat death.  This morning our church and community is mourning for a beautiful teenage girl who fought hard against this enemy but lost the battle.  Too soon sometimes, death comes for everyone.  But the blessing in this young lady’s passing is that she belonged to Jesus Christ.  While we have lost her lovely smile and her sweet spirit here, she is not lost forever.  Jesus won the victory for her and she has eternal life with Him in heaven.

Can you confidently say “I am not afraid of death!”?  Are you assured of the same victory as this precious girl?  He came to fight for you, to give you victory over your fiercest enemy.  He came to win eternal life for you.  More than a mere Baby in the manger, Jesus is indeed our Mighty God – our Warrior and our Victor.

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory though our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Read I Corinthians 15:50-58

This devotional is dedicated to the memory of Anna K.