Spiritual Warfare

In a Dry Place

I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. (Isaiah 41:18)

082515_1919_InaDryPlace1.jpgA few weeks ago, I wrote about the Cape Code Sand Dunes, which I’d visited many years ago. The dunes covered miles of land with no water in sight. I suppose if we’d walked far enough we would’ve come to the ocean. As refreshing as the “big lake” would’ve appeared, it wouldn’t have quenched our thirst. A dip in salt water may sooth a sweaty body. However, it does nothing to comfort a dehydrated body.

We didn’t walk the width of the dunes the day I visited, but we did walk miles and carried canteens of water to prevent dehydration. While we explored, the blazing sun burned our backs through our shirts. The sizzling sand scourged our feet through our sneakers. The glare from both the sun and sand stung our eyes. Yet, we plodded on, searching, digging, and sifting. No one forced us to endure the heat. We chose our own course all for the thrill of unearthing a piece of glass.

That excursion was the closest I’ve ever come to trudging across a physical desert. Nevertheless, I have spent plenty of time in spiritual deserts. I moped and struggled for years for lack of productivity, wondering why here and why now. And where exactly was “here?” How do I escape? My soul cried out with the Psalmists who penned, “How long, oh Lord? Why are You silent? Have You forgotten me forever? Turn Your face toward Your child and rescue me?” Although He seemed distant and far too quiet, the Lord had purpose in leading me through that parched land.

Here are a few things I learned during that “desert experience:”

  1. God uses dry ground to get us to the other side of the sea where we can flourish. Think of the parting of the Red Sea. If God hadn’t placed the Hebrew’s feet on dry ground to cross that great divide, they would’ve drowned in mud.
  2. God often places us in arid surroundings when He has something special to show us. Moses tended his father-in-law’s sheep in a desert the day he saw the burning bush.
  3. God stretches us and strengthens our faith through desert experiences. The apostle Paul caught a glimpse of Jesus, fell blind, three days later, received his sight, and immediately went into the desert to gain insight through fasting and communing with the Lord.
  4. God tests us in dry places. Even Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days where Satan tested Jesus with every temptation that besets us.
  5. God ministers to us in desert places. He provided food and water for the Hebrews while they wondered in the wilderness. Their clothes and sandals never even wore out! The Father sent angels to care for Jesus after the enemy tried Him. And Paul was accepted by the Christians he’d persecuted.

I don’t have space here to go into details of how God used my “desert experience” in my favor. But I will tell you I can see the green pastures of hope on the other side. My faith is stronger now. And although Satan continues to test my allegiance to the God of my Salvation, Father God has not and never will turn His back on me.

How about you? What have you learned from your “desert experience?”

Next week:

We’ll be starting a study on Rocks. Yes, Rocks! When mentioned in the Bible, Rocks can be metaphoric and quiet enlightening. Our first Rock is found in Genesis 49:22-26.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Power in Water

“Whoever drinks the water I [Jesus] give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Hunter water dish

EMPTY!

At 8:00 this morning, the heat and humidity began to rise. Going for a two-mile walk just about did Hunter and me in. We came home invigorated, yet panting and sweating. I poured water into the dog’s dish then filled a glass for myself. And the race was on. We gulped up our H20 like we’d just crossed Death Valley. Nothing quenches thirst like a tall glass of ice water.

Our bodies crave water for good reason. We’re 55-60% water depending on our gender. You knew that, right? But different parts of our bodies contain different percentages of water. For instance, our brains are 70% water. Our blood is more than 80% water. And our lungs are 90% water. Think about that. Our lungs consist of 90% water, yet we can drown on a small amount of water in our lungs (http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/h2o3.htm). We are truly intricately and wonderfully formed.

We cannot exist without water. However as soothing to the body and soul as it is, water is dangerous and destructive. Ask anyone who has lived through a flash flood, a hurricane, or a tsunami.

Here’s the thing:

Jesus said He is the living water—the element we all need to sustain our spiritual life. Without Him, we’ll surely die spiritually just as someone who refuses to drink physical liquid will die physically. Jesus wants to be that saving, refreshing, sustaining force in our lives. It is His greatest desire. And He gives it freely. So much so that His Living Water springs up within believers to eternal life and draws others to the Well.

Nevertheless, He is the most powerful force in the universe. Jesus Christ will destroy the enemy and his followers with the splendor of His coming like a tsunami, striking out in a mighty wave of destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

I’m thankful I’ve chosen the Living Water for sustenance. When my soul is parched, I drink from the Well through prayer and Bible study.

How about you? How do you refresh your parched soul?

Next week:

We’ll consider dry ground. Is it the path of the enemy or of God? Prepare by reading Isaiah 41:17-20

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Fueling Optimism

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” (Ezekiel 37:9)

Wayne's Trout 4 webDo you remember the commercial for a carpet cleaner in which the lady kept saying, “It’s okay” in a sickening sweet voice every time someone yelled, “Johnny just spilled … ?” I wanted to slap that lady silly while screaming, “It’s NOT okay. Teach that kid some manners. Sit him on a seat at the table where he belongs.” And then at the end, the lady’s friend, apparently the mother of the klutzy kid, chimes in with her own gotta-brush-my-teeth-to-avoid-cavities sweet tone, “It’s okay!”

That kind of “Pollyanna” attitude cleans the carpet about as well as it helps cope with daily stressors. Tough stains take knuckle-scrappin’, elbow-bendin’, muscle-tautin’ work to remove. And whether daily stressors or huge disasters threaten our tranquility, relief comes through more effort than a cheery “It’s okay.”

Fueling optimism involves a more solid conviction than merely reciting “positive” quotes and Scripture verses. In order to find peace in these troubled times, we can learn a few valuable lessons from Ezekiel and his dry bones.

  1. The Lord told Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones—Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!’” (v.4)—Speak the truth to the problem. Find Scripture relating to your situation and remind the enemy, the problem, and yourself, this is what God says about me and my dilemma. Yes, I said in the previous paragraph that merely reciting Scripture isn’t going to do much to change our circumstances. But we have to start somewhere. And Scripture remains the best starting point.
  2. Ezekiel obeyed faithfully (vs 7 and 10). He spoke words of life and breath into the bones as he repeated the utterances of the Sovereign Lord. Ezekiel didn’t know the outcome before he obeyed. But he trusted God had a plan. Notice Ezekiel spoke the words God told him to speak with confidence and conviction, knowing, without a doubt, God would do what He had said.
  3. Ezekiel anticipated learning a greater lesson than the obvious. God seldom gives us things at face value. He has a deeper purpose with eternal significance.

Ill-health, bankruptcy, and rejection pressure-cook us until our spirits become as dry and lifeless as Ezekiel’s dry bones. But God offers a remedy. He promises life. He provides hope. All we have to do is fuel our souls with optimism rather than feeding ourselves the lies of doom and negativity … with confidence, purpose, and conviction.

How about you? How do you fuel optimism to get through these trying times?

Next Week:

We’ll consider the power of water. Please prepare by studying John 4:7-15

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Good Deeds—Spiritual Weapons

 “You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14 and 16).

Who has not looked at the sky in admiration and wonderment of its vastness and beauty?

Who has not looked at the sky in admiration and wonderment of its vastness and beauty?

Light is amazing, don’t you think? Without it, we’d all be like moles running around in a dark world, bumping into everything, and mindlessly tunneling in endless circles.

Not only that, nothing could grow. And there’d be no color. What a bleak picture!

Yet, God, in His infinite wisdom, created light as part of His first day’s work. Then, He separated the light from the darkness. But He didn’t stop there. The fourth day, He fashioned the sun, moon, and stars to govern the seasons and tides on the earth. How marvelous is His passion for His creation!

As though all that light wasn’t enough, He sent the Light of the world, His Son Jesus Christ, so we wouldn’t have to live in spiritual darkness. It gets even better. Jesus, in turn, imputed His light in every believer that we may shine in the darkness like the sun. With the Light of Jesus Christ, our spirits grow and produce an array of color for the world to see, enjoy, and even crave. The Light dissipates darkness and sends the enemy running.

How do we let our light shine for Jesus? The above verse is clear—good deeds that cause others to glorify our Father. I’m currently reading The Red Letter Life by Bob Hostettler. He said, “Don’t do good deeds to be seen. Be seen doing good deeds.”

But who are the recipients of our deeds? Our family? Our neighbors? Our fellow church members? Those who do good to us? Jesus had something to say about this as recorded by Luke, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (chapter 6:27-28).

Our lights only shine when we are willing to expel the darkness with goodness. Doing good to those who hate us and mistreat us therefore becomes one of our greatest spiritual weapons.

How about you? Where are you shining your light in this dark and dying world?

Next week:

We’ll talk about fueling optimism. Prepare by studying Ezekiel 37:1-3.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Sifted

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Sandcastle 2As a small child, I played in my sandbox for hours. I dug and sifted the sand, hoping to find buried treasure, too young for understanding pirates didn’t hide their valuables in a child’s sandbox.

Long after growing out of the sandbox stage of life, I visited my uncle in Massachusetts. He took me to the Cape Cod Sand Dunes—miles and miles of unbelievable, white-sand mountains, a sandbox-child’s paradise—which offered an opportunity to sift sand for treasures. Not hidden pirate chests bursting with precious gems and gold coins, but weathered glass smoothed by years of shifting sand awaited discovery. Shades of brown glass popped up frequently. An occasional blue or green nugget remained in the pan after sifting. And then, if the “glass gods” favored you, your pan captured the rarest of all—reds and purples.

Without walking miles, searching, and sifting, we had no hope of discovering the rarest and best pieces of glass. I remember finding a couple brown ones, a green one, and a blue one. I never saw a red one or a purple one, but my uncle assured me they did exist.

Likewise, Jesus assured his disciple that Satan not only existed, but desired to sift Peter like wheat. The enemy knew Peter held very valuable spiritual gems.

Notice:

  1. Jesus warned Peter about the upcoming trial—the sifting at the hands of Satan
  2. Jesus granted Satan the opportunity to sift Peter
  3. Jesus prayed for Peter’s deliverance before the sifting began
  4. Jesus knew the outcome—Peter would return strengthened, focused, and equipped to help others

While Satan intended to sift Peter, and through it, destroy his testimony, Jesus permitted the sifting to reveal Peter’s strengths as well as his weaknesses. Peter held clout—in his fists and in his strong opinions. Peter needed sifting. Jesus permitted Satan to do the work, knowing the disciple would come away with a full dependency on the Lord and that was where Peter’s strength flourished.

Satan lost the battle with Peter but has not given up the fight. Through the ages, the enemy continues to sift believers. But as soldiers of the cross, we have an advocate in Jesus Christ. He is our shield, defender, and deliverer.  Paul reminds us in Romans 8:34b, Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Let us rejoice and march onward with confidence.

How about you?  How has the enemy’s sifting strengthened your faith?

Next Week:

We’ll take a look at what it means to be the light of the world. Prepare by studying Matthew 5:14-16

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Adoption vs Foster Care

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:16-17)

Jesus Cares for MeWhen my daughter and her husband adopted two teens, those children received the same provisions, the same shelter, and the same protection as our biological grandactives. The adopted children’s school photos were added to our family photo wall. We celebrated their victories and offered assistance during their struggles. Actually, they received all the benefits of being part of the family long before the paperwork made it official.

Although they had no choice when they entered the Walter household, when it came time for those papers to be signed, both teens were given a choice. They could have chosen to remain in foster care and still received all the necessities of life and the love, care, and nurturing. Even their pictures would’ve remained on the wall. So why opt for adoption?

It boiled down to security, knowing they belonged, knowing they always had a place to go to—a place to call home.

Entering the Kingdom of God is much the same. Jesus said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). In other words, unbelievers receive the same benefits believers receive. Wick, evil people are often wealthy and prosperous in many ways, almost enviable. So why opt for adoption into God’s family? The same reasons teenagers want and need to be adopted into physical families—security, a sense of belonging, and know we have a place to call home. Like our adopted grandactives share in all our family activities and benefits, we share in Jesus’ sonship. Our heavenly Father sees us as His own. His provisions belong to us. His protection surrounds us. His strength empowers us.

With all that going for us, we need not fear the attack of the enemy. All we have to do is call on the One who protects and proclaim victory.

How about you? What benefits have you experienced as a member of God’s family?

Next Week:

About being sifted like wheat at the enemy’s hand. Prepare by studying Luke 22:28-34

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 Dead but Now Alive

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

God's Not DeadA few years ago while Gene was at work, I discovered a small water snake cheerfully sunned himself on our driveway. I wasn’t about to give the creep-crawly the opportunity to take up residence in our garage or under our front deck, so I grabbed a garden hoe and chopped at it. It took several good blows before its head was severed from its body enough to suit me. However, the stupid creature would NOT stop wiggling. I knew it was dead, but the snake refused to acknowledge the fact and continued to squirm. I became so unnerved by the sight of it, I ran to the neighbor for help. He laughed, picked up the snake, and dropped it in the burn barrel. I was relieved to see it gone from my sight.

That wiggly, dead snake bears a strange resemblance to sin and our flesh. When we submit and commit our lives to Christ, our flesh is dead in its sin. But our spirits our alive in Christ. We seek to do His will His way. We work hard to put others’ needs ahead of our own, knowing God will take care of us. We run the race. We fight the fight. Yet, our sinful flesh wiggles within us, refusing to give up and acknowledge that it is indeed dead. The struggle might even unnerve us to the point of succumbing to the whims of our flesh.

But we don’t have to let sin back into our lives. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us Like a good neighbor, He is ready and willing to dispose of the temptation. He offers relief at our moment of despair.

This is what it means to live in Christ or in the Spirit. Not that we won’t be tempted or that we’ll never give in to the squirmy sin nature that remains within us and wars against us, refusing to admit defeat. But that we recognize our inability to cope by ourselves, and therefore, we cry out to Christ for help with the realization that victory is ours.

How about you? What sin wiggles its way back into your life on an almost daily basis? How has the Holy Spirit helped you resist the temptation?

Next week:

We’ll talk about sonship. Please reread Romans 8:9-17 in preparation.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Fine China Breaks Easily

The Past—Not So Much

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

 Every family seems to have at least one person who is directed to the sturdiest chair in the house and given a paper plate for his/her meal, while everyone else is eating off of fine China. Some people have a knack for breaking things. They’re the reason plastic was invented, I’m sure of it.

If only the past could be broken as easily as fine China. We’d all line up, eager to hand our past to these I-break-everything-I-get-my-hands-on people. They’d be commended for their special gift and mostly likely well paid.

At least, I’d be glad and grateful to paid someone to break my past for me. But that’s not how it works. I’m learning I have to do that every day for myself. Yes, I have given my past to Jesus—my sins, along with the hurts caused to and received by others.  But the devil has a way of bringing back the pain of the past.

I’m learning throwing up our past is one of Satan’s mightiest weapons in spiritual warfare. If he can beat us down with the past, we become ineffective in battle. We spend more time licking our own wounds than helping others heal. Our testimonies become weak or fizzle out completely. We fear more hurt and pain. We become paralyzed in our witness. We concentrate more on what was rather than what will be. In essence, we lose sight of the victory, which is complete in Jesus Christ. We stop praising and worshipping God, which is the enemy’s ultimate goal.

Breaking with the past is our only hope. But how do we do that? Here are a few weapons I’m learning to employ during the battle:

  1. Ask God what areas need to be addressed
  2. Confess the past, whether former sins are haunting your or broken relationships continue to devastate you. Tell Jesus these things still bother you and you need His help.
  3. Tell Satan you’ve given your past to Jesus. The Lord has relieved you of the stronghold.
  4. Memorize Scripture that comforts you in your hour of struggle.
  5. Praise God. Shout praises to the Eternal, Majestic, Sovereign God. Nothing chases away the enemy faster than praise.

Some of my favorite verses include:

Psalms 42:11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Romans 5:1-2- Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 8:15- For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

How about you? What are some of your favorite verse to combat the devil?

Next week:

We’ll discuss being alive in Christ. Prepare by studying Romans 8:9-17

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Follow Me!

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Follow Me!

Follow Me!

Follow me on Facebook. Those words have become commonplace in our society. When we meet someone, whether an old acquaintance or a new friend, our departing words are often follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Good Reads or a half-dozen other social media sites. Social media has gotten so big, businesses entice us to follow them by offering discounts on their products if not free merchandise.

To some Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” sounds as inviting as following a business on Facebook. He offers rest (Matthew 11:28), the light of life (John 8:12), and peace (John 14:27). Ah, yes, let’s rush over to His page and click the follow button before the offer expires. We accept the deal with great expectations of a life of ease. We treat Jesus’ call the same way we treat 99% of the people we follow on social media. Sure we read His posts … occasionally … when Bible verses pop up on Twitter … if it’s a convenient time. We even like and share Scripture on Facebook, along with those catchy little sayings that make our spirits say, “Yes and amen.”

???????????????????????????????That’s all fine and good—except when we get right down to it, it’s all pretty shallow and not at all what Jesus meant when He said, “Come, follow me.” When He spoke those words, people knew He meant “stop what you’re doing and do what I do.” Along with offering rest, light, and peace, Jesus’ call to follow Him involves denying ourselves (Mark 8:34), tending to the poor (Luke 18:22), and taking up our crosses (Luke 9:23). It’s not a random act of following to receive. Instead, it’s an act of following to give of ourselves without thought of receiving. It’s an act of following to allow God to do whatever it takes to create a Christlike image within us. It’s an act of following to proclaim the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ to the world.

Following Jesus is the most important aspect of spiritual warfare. Without making that decision, we’re defeated.

How about you? What motivated you to follow Jesus? If you haven’t decided to follow Him, what’s stopping you?

Next week:

We’ll look at breaking with the past. Please prepare by studying Ephesians 4:17-32.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

Repentance

What does it Actually Mean?

I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)

Jesus Seeks the Rejected

Jesus Seeks the Rejected

How many times have you made a wrong turn and had reroute? I did it twice in the same day this week. On the way to the doctor’s office, my mother and I were talking and mentioned my daughter who lives in the same town as the clinic. So I headed for Rachel’s house. I had to swing around the block to get my mother to her appointment.

On the way home, we discussed our plans for planting the flowers we had bought after the doctor’s visit. My mind was figuring out what flower to put in what pot. Again, I missed the turn toward our hometown. I drove to the nearest gas station and turned around.

Life is full of U-turns and about-faces. But it’s not until we recognize our error in our thinking and our actions that we decide to make the necessary changes. Then and only then does true repentance take place.

Therefore, repentance means:

  • Realizing we’re headed in the wrong direction
  • Entering a covenant with Almighty God
  • Picking up a new lifestyle
  • Engaging in spiritual warfare
  • Navigating on the road of righteousness
  • Trashing inappropriate behavior
  • Admitting we need a Savior
  • Nurturing others instead of ourselves
  • Continuing the course, even through difficult circumstances
  • Employing Godly principles found in the Bible

Even the best Christians find themselves on the wrong path from time to time and have need of repentance. How do I know this? No human, except Jesus Christ, has or will ever lead a perfect life. As Paul stated in Romans 7:21-24a, So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am!

So we struggle with our inner thoughts, our words, and our actions, none of which is uncommon for followers of Christ.

But we can rejoice in this one thing: We have the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to help us choose what is right in God’s eyes and to show us our need for repentance when we fail to do so.

Repentance is one of our most powerful spiritual weapons. It draws us closer to our Lord and puts Satan in his place.

How about you? What does repentance mean to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Next Week:

We’ll take a look at following Jesus. Prepare by studying John 6:60-70

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Sheep on the Battlefield

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:25)

Sheep on the Battlefield

Sheep on the Battlefield

When my husband served in the U. S. Army Reserves, he often came home disgruntled. Many men and women who signed on the dotted line for the pay didn’t want to do the work. Imagine that. They thought their weekend maneuvers and summer camps were meant for relaxation and partying for which they’d get a monthly check.

Some of the women stuffed their duffle bags with mirrors, makeup, hair dryers, and curling irons to spend two weeks in the field (as in simulated combat conditions). Where’d they think they’d plug their electrical appliances in? Trees and rocks don’t come with electrical outlets.

The men showed up wearing leather jackets sporting their gangs’ logos, do-rags, and earrings. They had to be told to change or leave.

These people didn’t take their training seriously. They had no real commitment to their duty as soldiers in the U. S. Army. Because of their self-centeredness, they were vulnerable and would’ve jeopardized the lives of everyone in their unit had they been placed in a combat situation. They were like sheep on the battlefield.

We, Christians, are also like sheep on the battlefield. We want the benefits of following Christ but often neglect the work. We have little commitment to winning souls for the kingdom. Let’s face it, because of our self-centeredness we are vulnerable and jeopardize the advancement of the Lord’s kingdom.

Jesus’s purpose was to advance His kingdom when He said to take up our crosses and follow Him daily (Luke 9:23). In the same verse, He demands that we let go of our selfishness—“You must deny yourself.”

Join the Lord's Army

Join the Lord’s Army

Good soldiers deny themselves and enter the battle wholeheartedly. They concentrate on what they have to give, to pour out, to sacrifice for the cause. They cannot wander off with their own agenda in mind or ponder the benefits and metals they’ll receive when the war is won. They must follow the lead of their commander.

So it is with the Lord’s Army. He offers protection and all the benefits of an abundant life. But we must deny ourselves. The battle is not about us. It’s about Him. When we get that straight, we’ll march to the beat of a different drummer—His drummer. We will get wounded, discouraged, and fatigued. That’s a given. Jesus said, “In this world, you will have troubles” (John 16:33). This world is the battlefield. We can expect difficult situations. But Jesus didn’t end there. He said in the same verse, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

How about you? What part of yourself do you need to deny so that you can join Jesus on the battlefield as a ready soldier?

Next week:

We’ll look at repentance. Prepare by studying Luke 15:7-10.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Rejection is a Nine-Letter Word for Grace

 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.” Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. (John 9:35-38)

Jesus Knows Rejection

Jesus Knows Rejection

Years ago, I desired to join a community of believers who seemed to have a handle on support and service to others. They rejected me. I don’t know why to this day. But I can tell you that it hurt me to the core and caused me to question my worthiness in every area of my life, even my salvation. Rejection can do that to a person.

Instead of looking at rejection as a negative response from those I admire and with whom I’d like to be associated, God is teaching me to use rejection as a spiritual weapon in the form of grace. But before I can offer grace to those who reject me, God, also, must help me understand His grace to me.

Using the word rejection as an acronym, here’s what I’ve received by God’s grace through others’ rejection:

  • Restoration, which Jesus brought to my shattered life just as He did for the blind man
  • Equipped with grace to offer others, even those who reject me
  • Joy which comes from knowing I am accepted into the kingdom of God
  • Enthusiasm in my service for the Lord
  • Christlikeness—rejection teaches me to respond as He has responded in all circumstances
  • Tolerance for others’ behavior as I gain understanding
  • Insight into spiritual matters
  • Oath—divine promise of acceptance, which will last for eternity
  • Network of believers for support in my growth and service
Jesus Seeks the Rejected

Jesus Seeks the Rejected

Through rejection, I have learned many spiritual lessons I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Rejection also connects me with Christ’s suffering as He, too, was rejected by the ones He came to heal and to save.

How about you? How has God used rejection in your life to teach you His ways?

Next week:

We’ll look at sheep on the battlefield. Study John 10 in preparation.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Humility—A Mighty Weapon

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. (Luke 18:40-41)

Girl and Bug 2During her toddler years, my granddaughter had a condition known as low muscle tone, which made some activities at the playground a little difficult. But it never stopped her from playing with other children. When they climbed to a higher level on the jungle gym, she simply called out for help. It made no difference if she knew the other children or not. She admitted freely that she couldn’t manage without assistance.

The others came to her aid without hesitation. Some stood behind her and pushed. Others grabbed her arms and pulled. Each time, she ended up on the same platform as her friends, and they resumed their game.

Sydney knew her needs and limitations, but wasn’t willing to content herself at a lower level. She cried out for help just like the blind man on the road to Jericho. When Jesus’ followers told the man to quiet down, he called out louder, “Jesus, Son of David, help me.”

Jesus stopped in front of the man and asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” It wasn’t like Jesus didn’t know the man was blind and wanted his sight restored. Rather, He wanted the man to admit his need and expectations as a matter of humility and faith. I doubt the blind man thought about childlike faith and humility as He answered the Lord’s question. He, like my granddaughter, simply knew his need and grasped the opportunity to receive help.

 Jesus Will Carry You

Jesus Will Carry You

Likewise, Jesus wants us to cry out to Him in our hour of need as a child, full of hope, faith, and humility. Children don’t think about such attributes. They just embrace them. They understand and accept that they cannot do certain things and, without reservation, ask in faith, believing their requests will be met.

Unfortunately, somewhere along life’s journey, we lose our humility and find it increasingly difficult to admit we cannot do everything ourselves. We believe the lie that asking for help signifies weakness. We take pride in handling difficult situations our way. Ah, pride—it delights the enemy that we are so prideful. Satan encourages us to walk with pride strapped to our backs. When we are too prideful to seek help, we bind Jesus. But when we humble ourselves and ask in childlike faith, Jesus hears our cries and comes to our aid, thus binding Satan.

Victory is ours through humility.

How about you? What do you need Jesus to do for you? How can you approach Him with childlike faith and humility?

Next week, we will consider another blind man to whom Jesus gave physical sight and later sought out to offer spiritual sight. In preparation, study John 9.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Generational Curses—Stop the Slavery

And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. (Acts 12:11-12)

Anger Paints an Ugly Portrait colorGenerational curses come in many forms from drug and food addictions to anger induced rage. Not every obese person, tyrant, or pedophile can claim their conduct stems from a generational curse. We all have a sin nature and basically choose the path we travel. But some of our characteristics are passed down from generation to generation as the Bible says, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18). We learn and repeat the behavior patterns of those around us—good and bad. But generational curses go deeper into the soul than learned behavior.

How to recognize a generational curse:

  1. The behavior is present from a very early age
  2. There is no apparent cause
  3. Typical human means of control don’t work
  4. The behavior is evident in parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents
  5. The simplest irritant stimulates the behavior

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. And the best way to know for sure if you or someone you’re concerned about is bound by a generational cure is through prayer. Ask God to reveal the truth of the situation to you. He will answer you so that you can deal with the problem properly.

What a generational curse is NOT:

  1. An excuse to continue in sin
  2. A reason to blame or take blame
  3. Unforgivable
  4. Unsolvable/unbreakable
  5. A matter of control

How to Break Free:

The Chain Can Be Broken

The Chain Can Be Broken

  1. Pray
  2. Assume responsibility to break the pattern/curse. Let it end with you.
  3. Ask others to pray—as with Peter’s escape from prison, prayer warriors are detrimental in breaking the shackles of generational curses.
  4. Take Action. Notice when the angel came to Peter, he didn’t carry the man out. He told Peter to get up, get dressed, and get out. At that point, Peter had to trust that he was indeed being delivered and walk away from the prison.
  5. Praise God. All the people rejoiced when they realized Peter had been delivered.

Life of Freedom:

Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). Our freedom is sure. But be prepared, the enemy doesn’t quit nor does he rest. Just like Peter had found himself in prison several times, we are subject to Satan’s attempts to recapture us.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (Gal_5:1).

How about you? What steps can you take to break free from a generational curse or to help someone else?

Next Week:

We’ll discuss Being Set Free through Recognizing Our Needs. Prepare by studying Luke 18:35-43.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Fear—Whose Weapon is It?

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

The Fear Factor

The Fear Factor

After watching one of the Star Wars movies, Melinda had a nightmare. She ran out of her bedroom screaming and bumped into her father, who was on his way to her room. He wrapped her in his arms to comfort her. But the caress frightened the sleep-walking child all the more.

“They’ve got me!” she shouted and squirmed in her father’s arms.

“Hush, Melinda,” he said, holding her closer. “Daddy has you. You’re all right. Shh.” He smoothed her hair and rocked her. She quieted and relaxed in his embrace.

My Fears

Like Melinda, I have experienced fear that makes me want to run and scream. But my fears come from other sources, which Satan uses in an attempt to paralyze me. His weapon is real, sharp, and cuts to the core of my existence.

Satan’s Attacks

He may use my children, grandchildren, or husband to strike fear into my heart. You know the “what-if” factor. What if they’re hurt or don’t come through this alive? What if they stop loving you or run away? What if God leaves you? What if you’re not good enough to get to heaven? Oh yeah, the what-if’s are enough to send me running.

And then there’s the “You-should’ve” syndrome. You should’ve been kinder. You should’ve accepted that job. You should’ve spoken up. You should’ve kept quiet. The enemy never stops with his relentless attacks.

Every one of his accusations strikes enough fear into my spirit to make me want to run and hide. But where can I go to get away from him? I can try to handle it on my own by fighting back. But arguing with the devil usually results in more bruises … for me.

??????????????????????God’s Deliverance

One option remains. I can run straight into my Father’s arms. He not only embraces me, he turns the tables on Satan.

You see, Satan’s devices are always, with no exception, used to drive us away from God. With fear, the enemy tries to convince us our Savior cannot be trusted nor can he truly save us. The enemy uses fear to rob us of our peace, joy, and contentment. But when we run to God, the Father snaps the enemy’s sword in half.

The Truth about Fear

We are not disobeying God because we experience fear. Fear is part of our human nature. It is a safety net God places in us to draw us to Him in times of distress. We please Him when we cry out to Him, “Father, I’m frightened, save me.”

Jesus didn’t rebuke His disciples when they cried out to Him in fear during the storm. He calmed the sea and their spirits (Luke 8:23-25). He didn’t turn His back on Peter when he began to sink. Instead, Jesus reached out to the drowning disciple, caught him, and returned him to the boat.

We have nothing to fear when we run to our Savior. He use our fear to prove our faith in Him and to show His love for us. Don’t deny your fear. Embrace it by taking it straight to our Lord.

How about you? Where do you run when fear grips you?

Next week:

We’ll look at generational curses. Please study Acts chapter 12.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Good Works–
Spiritual Weapons?

Jesus answered, “It is written …” (Luke 4:4, 8, and 12)

On the wings of opportunity

On the wings of opportunity

 

I was recently offered a ministry. Totally unexpected. Totally worthwhile. Totally out of my comfort zone. But God often does that, right. He wants us to spread our wings, share His goodness, experience new realms of His glory. And I’ve been pleading with Him to use me in whatever capacity that pleases Him.

So what’s the problem? Why didn’t I immediately jump at the opportunity? It’s an answer to prayer, right?

Here’s the thing:

Satan knows how much I want to be used by God. The enemy also knows how to sidetrack all of us from our calling. One of the diversions he uses to lure us away from God’s intended work is to offer another form of good work.

Look how Satan attempted to confuse Jesus. Luke tells us three occasions where Satan tried to lure Jesus away from the task God sent Him to accomplish. But Jesus knew the full will of the Father  and was not swayed by the devil’s diversions. Instead, Jesus drew His sword when He answered, “It is written.” He not only knew the Father’s will for His life, He knew the plan … both the Father’s and the enemy’s. When I read this passage the other day, I realized something I hadn’t seen before—Jesus gave us an example of how to defeat the enemy in spiritual warfare.

Here’s how it works:

Before the attack, Jesus prepared with fasting and prayer.

During the attack, Jesus answered with God’s word.

After the attack, God sent His angels to comfort Jesus.

I also realized something else. Jesus knew His purpose and the reason for it. He trusted the Father to bring about the end results according to prophesy. God allowed Satan to tempt Jesus at His weakest moment to solidify the Lord’s commitment to the plan, to prove His motives were right, and to show Satan that he had no authority over Christ.

In much the same way when Satan dangles opportunities, even worthwhile causes, in front of us, the temptation proves our allegiance to the Father.

There you have it, the real reason I hesitate to “jump” at the offer of a new type of ministry. This opening stirs questions within my soul, which I must answer before proceeding. Are my motives pure? Do I desire to serve others as a service to God? Or am I seeking self-gratification above His will? Am I considering the offer because it’d bring me some form of honor? Can I hide myself behind the cross so that Jesus alone will be glorified?

I have a lot of praying to do in the next week or so.

How about you?

How do you combat Satan’s attempts to divert you from your God-given tasks?

Next week:

We’ll take a look at the fear factor. Is fear a spiritual weapon used by God or the enemy? Prepare by studying Psalm 27.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Not My Army

Not My Battle

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you …” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

Disclaimer: If you feel uncomfortable or singled out while reading this post, know it’s the Holy Spirit’s voice not mine. That’s His job. I’m simply obeying the call to write about my recent experience with spiritual warfare.

Unwanted VoicesThe enemy seems to hit me from behind…as in the past. Throughout my life, I’ve been left out of a lot of activities with people I care about. Every time it happens, questions arise that threaten my self-worth, my usefulness, and even my salvation. I know these matters don’t depend on what anyone thinks of me. The Lords says I’m worthwhile. I’m useful as long as I’m obedient to Him. And Jesus paid the ransom for my salvation. Nothing can change those things.

Yet rejection by people we want desperately to accept us can give the devil a foothold into our souls. It’s like being clubbed from behind and drug off into the enemy’s den to be scrutinized.

Like most other times, Satan attacked me unmercifully, relentlessly with negative thoughts. Yeah, I know “think happy thoughts,” right? Easier said than done, trust me. I tried. But the self-degrading ideas flooded my mind, reducing me to tears again. For two days, I felt totally isolated. The voice told me, “No one cares. Those who once cared are tired of hearing about this same old story. Don’t bother them, or they’ll turn on you too and leave you like everyone else has.”

So I wrapped the wound up tight within my spirit and chatted with my daughter on Facebook. I finally mentioned that I was under attack again. I didn’t go into detail. It wasn’t necessary. She knew. What was amazing was she had just read and posted an article about spiritual warfare. The scripture the author used was 2 Chronicles chapter 20. He reminded his readers that God dwells in the praises of His people. Not only that, the Lord fights our battles when we worship and praise Him. Satan can’t stand to hear the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, glorified. The enemy fleas at the sound of saints praising God the Father, especially when we praise Him for His Son and for our salvation.

Thanksgiving comes from the heart

Thanksgiving comes from the heart

Then I read the verses above: Don’t be discouraged; the battles not yours, but God’s; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. I read them several times. Yes, I could do this. I could praise God in my spirit if not with my lips. But the words would come … eventually.

For hours, I listened to praise and worship songs. My head began to clear. The self-degrading thoughts diminished as words lifting up Jesus’ name increased and became stronger in my mind. The next morning, I sang countless songs to the Lord in praise and admiration of His sovereignty, grace, mercy, and love. I felt the release of the enemy. My spirit soared. The Lord’s deliverance was sure and sweet as His presence washed me in His love.

During Sunday worship service that week, God spoke to me through the sermon. Jesus was rejected by those who should’ve loved Him the most. His own people, those He came to save, hung Him on the cross. The pain of rejection helps us understand and connects us to Christ like nothing else can.

How about you? How do you ward off the enemy’s attacks?

Next week, we’ll take a look at Jesus’ example of handling spiritual warfare. Prepare by studying Luke 4:1-13.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Captive without a Cause

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

 

Accused and Enslaved

Accused and Enslaved

Have you ever been punished for someone else’s behavior? My mother told of a time when her mother’s horseshoe pen holder went missing. Grandmother lined up all of her nine children and questioned them. My mother found humor in the situation and couldn’t hold back her chuckles. Grandmother assumed her guilt and spanked my mother for stealing the pen holder. Shortly afterward the pen holder was found behind the piano. My mother had received unjust punishment for something she obviously hadn’t done. Her only crime was grinning at the wrong time.

Like my mother, Joseph’s descendants found themselves in predicament beyond their control. Although the new pharaoh didn’t remember Joseph, he feared the Hebrews. He considered them a threat simply because God had blessed them with a great population and a staggering amount of livestock. Pharaoh decided they needed to be controlled before they joined with neighboring nations and had opportunity to overthrow his empire. They remained in slavery for 400 years. That’s a long time to suffer for simply being in the wrong place with a smile on their faces. (See Exodus 1:4-18.)

Similarly, many Christians undergo spiritual captivity simply because God is blessing us and Satan wants to destroy our faith. We remain in bondage for decades, assuming this is our lot in life. We go through the motions of existence. Yet, our spirits are weighted with undo shame, despair, and grief. While we experience moments of happiness, we never know true joy.

REDEEMED

REDEEMED and FREE

The good news is, we don’t have to live in slavery. But like the Hebrews who couldn’t free themselves, we cannot break free either by our own strength. We must call on Jesus to deliver us from Satan’s rule. The way may not be easy. We might run up against a raging river, wander in the wilderness, and fight unnumbered foe. But God promises to guide us, provide all our needs, and never leave us.

How about you? What keeps your spirit captive? How is God reaching out to free you?

Next Week:

We’ll talk about spiritual weapons, beginning with the one of our most powerful weapons. Prepare by reading and meditating on 2 Chronicles 20:15-23.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Identity Theft

Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.” (Mark 13:5-6)

TheifA handsome young man speaking with the voice of an elderly woman announces his “paid vacation” in the Bahamas. The scenario grabs our attention and even provokes a laugh … until we realize what the commercial is really depicting.  Then we quickly sober up. Identity theft is anything but funny.

I have never been a victim of such a crime. But I know several people who have been. One of my friends recently discovered someone in South Africa had made substantial purchases on her credit card and had dipped his hand into her savings. Fortunately, her credit card holder notified her of the extreme charges and voided them as well as the card. However, the stolen savings were not so easily restored. Furthermore, the bank froze all of her assets to protect her other accounts. That’s a good thing, except she has bills to pay. The mess could take several months to cleanup and to release her money. How is she supposed to pay her bills without access to her checking account?

Like I said, identity theft is a serious crime and causes a nightmare of complications for the victim to resolve. But Jesus warned us about a much more critical form of identity theft—His own. When deceivers claim to be the Messiah, they rob people of their joy, their peace, and most important their eternal home.

We’ve already seen, on a small scale, the results of deceivers claiming to be the Messiah in horrific events such as the 1993 massacre in Waco, Texas.

These events should not take us by surprise, however. Jesus cautioned about false prophets and false messiahs rising up with the ability to perform signs, miracles, and wonders that could deceive even believers if it were possible (Mark 13:21-23).

Praise God for His word, which is sure and true and for His Spirit who dwells in us to protect and remind us of all Jesus did and said. Praise Him for His fool-proof, theft-proof plan of salvation.

How about you? How have you warded off identity thieves? How does that experience relate to an imposter claiming to be the promised Messiah?

Next, we’ll consider another form of slavery. Prepare by studying Luke 4:17-19.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Prison or Training

But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (Genesis 39:20b-23)

A Single TearDepression unjustly imprisons us within our own minds with no means of escape. Concentration becomes almost impossible, most routine task undoable. When I suffered this disease, I questioned daily, “Why, Lord, why am I going through this? What have I done?” I felt abandoned, useless, and helpless. Yet none of that was true. God promises to never leave us alone, and He faithfully stayed by my side even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. God also said He has prepared us for work, and He used me to help others who were also going through depression at the time. And continues to use me to encourage others. God also says He will help us in the time of trouble. He empowered me to cope and to overcome the strongholds that held me emotionally captive. He is faithful even when we are in the deepest pit.

Joseph was cast into a literal pit by his brothers. Did he despair? I imagine Joseph reacted much the same way any of us would. He was human. He was a teenager. He was scared. He felt abandoned, useless, and helpless. They sold him into slavery his new owners carted to a foreign country. Yeah, Joseph was scared. He felt abandoned, useless, and helpless. Because his master’s wife lied about him, his master threw Joseph into prison. Yeah, he was scared. He felt abandoned, useless, and helpless. But he didn’t let his circumstances control his life. Joseph maintained his dignity and the work ethics his father had taught him. And most important, he trusted his God—the God of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather—to fulfill the promises He had made.

The results of Joseph’s reliance on and obedience to God:

  1. God was with Joseph
  2. God showed Joseph kindness
  3. God granted Joseph favor
  4. God blessed others through Joseph
  5. Joseph became humble, yet stronger in his faith
  6. Joseph learned to govern others and manage businesses

Whether we are in a prison built with mortar and brick or an emotional, physical, or financial one, we have two choices in which to respond. We can get angry and make life miserable for ourselves and everyone around us. Or we can be like Joseph. We can trust God, work hard, and maintain our dignity. If we do, we too will reap the same results as Joseph.

How about you? How have you reacted to your present situation?

Next Week:

We’ll look at the captivity of the Israelites. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Exodus 1:8-14.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

I’m a Prisoner and so are You

So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Genesis 3:23)

Prisoner #0213Remember high school? Fun, excitement, zeal for life mingled with the longing to be free—free from books, rules, teachers, principals, and parents. We thought we’d be our own bosses after the completion of our education. Some opted to take four or six more years of the drudgery of school. Some dove head first into the real world.

No matter what path we followed after graduation, we all eventually discovered freedom from school only imprisoned us in some other form of institution. At work, we are accountable to those above us. Even if we’re self-employed, we conform to the demands of those who patronize us. At home, we answer to our spouses, our children, and even the dog. On the road, we succumb to traffic regulations.

Add to that our health, finances, and emotions and we hear the clank of the prison door slamming shut, the tumblers on the lock falling as the key turns. We are incarcerated in a world of shame, suffering, sin, and death.

No wonder there is such a longing for freedom.

Adam and Eve knew freedom in a sense none of us since them could ever imagine. They knew a time of carefree living, a time of true peace, a time without suffering and death. They lived free from guilt and fear. Then the serpent tempted them and they sinned. God had no choice but to cast them out and “lock” the gates to the Garden of Eden, thus imprisoning not only humanity, but all of creation.

The longing for freedom engrained in every man, woman, and child stems from the need to re-enter that place of contentment Adam and Eve once knew.

Unfortunately, the gates to the Garden of Eden remain locked and guarded. We can never go back there. But God, in His mercy and grace, has provided a way to rediscover the freedom for which we long. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36). If we come to Him, believe in Him, confess our sins, we will know freedom like we’ve never known it before.

Yes, as long as we trod on the streets of this earth, we are subject to trials, suffering, and death. But our spirits are no longer enslaved by those things. We are free and have a hope and a future in the presence of Almighty God for eternity.

How about you? What steps do you need to take to experience true freedom?

Next Week:

We’ll look at Joseph’s response to prison. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Genesis 39:19-23.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Lies Shatter Relationships

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

Maui Blue 4 webSeveral years ago, I caught a new acquaintance and her daughter in a bold-faced lie. Not only had they lied, they looked me in the eye and did so. I’ve always heard that a liar can’t look a person in the eyes while telling a lie unless they are compulsive liars and are no longer capable of discerning the truth from the lie. That incident destroyed all hopes of developing a healthy, godly relationship with those women. We are cordial to one another. We smile and chat about superficial topics. But our relationship has little chance of evolving into a deeper, more meaningful friendship. Bottom line: I don’t trust them and have no desire to risk being hurt.

Just as a lie can destroy all hopes of developing a healthy friendship with other people, a lie can demolish our relationship with God. Through his lies, the devil works hard at eradicating our trust in the Lord.

The past few weeks we discussed the lies the enemy tells about himself, about God the Father, and about Jesus Christ. This week, let’s look at some of the lies Satan tells us about ourselves.

  1. I am worthless. Granted, the Bible says I am unworthy. All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6). We are all sinners, and there’s nothing we can do to become worthy of God’s grace. But there is a huge difference between unworthiness and worthlessness.

But the Bible says:  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). If you and I were worthless, God wouldn’t have sent Jesus to die in our place. God finds great value in us.

  1. I am hopeless … or my situation is hopeless.

But the Bible says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

  1. I am unlovable. This lie seeps into our thoughts when we feel rejected by those we love. And Satan doesn’t stop there. He adds: if those you hold dear don’t love you, how can Almighty God?

But the Bible says: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

From these three lies, all other lies seem to stem and produce a mistrust in God. But if we can grasp this one truth—God loves us with an everlasting, unfailing love—we can refute all the lies of the enemy and live in the Light of Jesus Christ, trusting God to fulfill all of His promises concerning us.

How about you? Have you been listening to Satan’s lies? Write them down, find Scripture that proves him wrong, and memorize it.

Next Week:

We’ll look at freedom, what it is, and why we seek it. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Genesis 2.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Lies in the Christian Camp

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)

Let's PLay FootballFootball season is upon us. Now, I’ve never been in a locker room during football training, but I’ve heard they discuss game plans. The locker room preparation doesn’t end there. In fact, any coach worth his pay will tell you discussing game plans is only the beginning of a well-informed, ready-to-win team. To prepare for the pigskin battle, the team has to know their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses … basically how the other side plays the game. The team watches videos of past games, analyzing offensive and defensive moves.

We Christians must also study the enemy’s tactics and analyze his every move. It does little good to know the game plan without knowing how the enemy intends to counter our purpose. Although the victory is sure through Jesus’ sacrifice and not of our own works, the battle rages on. We have to fight the fight during this lifetime. That is the reason for recognizing Satan and his plan of destruction.

My past two blogs focused on the lies the devils tells about himself and God. This week, let’s take a look at some of the lies he tells about Jesus.

  1. Jesus was not God in the flesh

But the Bible says: This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:2-3)

  1. Jesus did not die on the cross

But the Bible says: For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2)

  1. Jesus didn’t resurrect from the dead

But the Bible says: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him (Mark 16:6)

  1. Jesus has no power or authority

But the Bible says: That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:19-21).

Knowing God has placed all authority and power in Jesus’ hands helps me to focus on the game plan and act as a confident victor rather than a half-defeated bench warmer.

How about you? What game plan are you following? What tactics of the enemy have you learned to stand up against?

Next Week:

We’ll consider some of the lies the enemy tells us about ourselves. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Jeremiah 31:3.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

But It’s Only a Tiny Stretch of the Truth

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)

Trust is like Blown Glass Once Broken, next to Impossible to Restore.

Trust is like Blown Glass Once Broken, next to Impossible to Restore.

I absolutely loathe being called a liar. Not that I’ve never misled someone or told an untruth, but I don’t deliberately lie. I have very deep feelings about lying. The practice stems from Satan himself. And I want no affiliation with that old snake.

 Lying is by far the quickest way to break trust with our closest associates, friends, and family members. I used to drill my daughters about the importance of telling the truth in ALL situations, even if it meant punishment was sure to follow. I reinforced the significance of lying by promising a much more severe punishment if they chose to lie and I found out the truth. There are several reasons why I hammered them constantly with this concept.

  1. Trust is like a delicate ornament made of blown glass. Once broken, it’s almost impossible to restore. Only God can fix broken trust.

    Lies Shatter Relationships

    Lies Shatter Trust

  2. Satan is the father of lies. Liars belong to him. I don’t want my children to belong to the devil.
  3. Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” I want my children to have access to the Father. Jesus is the TRUTH. To be affiliated with Him means we, too, must speak truth.

If truth is not on our lips, if lying is easy, it’s obvious to whom we belong. The devil’s greatest tactic in spiritual warfare is lying. He twisted God’s word, convincing Eve to disobey the only restriction God had put on her and Adam. And the serpent has continued lying to humans ever since. Last week we looked at some of the lies he tells us about himself. This week let’s think about the lies he tells about God.

  1. God is powerless

The Bible says: God is our fortress, our rock, our deliverer (2 Samuel 22:2

  1. There are many gods

The Bible says: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me (Isaiah 46:9)

  1. God is dead

The Bible says: But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King (Jeremiah 10:10)

  1. God doesn’t care about you

The Bible says: The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3)

The above verse serve as weapons to defeat the enemy’s fiery darts, which he hurls toward us even on a daily basis. Use them wisely and watch him flee from you.

How about you? What lies has Satan been telling you lately? What does God’s word say about your situation?

Next Week:

We’ll consider some of the lies the enemy tells. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about 1 John 5:20.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Conquering Belief

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say … .” (Genesis 3:1 NIV)

Dawning of a Brand New Day

Dawning of a Brand New Day

From the beginning Satan has messed with our beliefs. Adam and Eve had a simple life and belief came easy. They walked and talked with the Lord who came to them every evening. Satan could not attack their knowledge and belief in their Creator by insisting He was a figment of their imaginations. So the enemy devised a plan to instill doubt of the Maker’s words in the mind of the woman.

Our minds are the battle field and the place where the enemy always begins his assault. I mentioned this tactic in a post a couple of months ago. There are several things Satan wants us to believe:

  1. Satan is powerless.

But the Bible says: he’s like a roaring lion seeking those he can destroy (1 Peter 5:8). A lion is far from powerless. He stalks his prey, silently creeping as close as possible before he pounces on his victim. Satan attempts to catch us unaware. He’s sneaky and cunning. Be aware of your surroundings, of your choice of entertainment, of your choice of friends. Satan uses the familiar to lure us into his snare.

The Bible also compares Satan to a snake, and not just any snake, but a venomous serpent. The venom of a serpent affects the nervous system of its victims, paralyzing them thereby making the kill sure. Satan sinks his venom deep into the minds of his victims, spiritually paralyzing them thereby insuring their surrender to him. But we have the antidote in the blood of Jesus Christ.

  1. The devil is just a force not a living being.

But the Bible says: he was created a living being and rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12). If we consider the devil nothing more than a force, we give him power to control us by our lack of concern. God is more than a force and so is the enemy.

  1. Satan doesn’t exist at all.

But the Bible says: Jesus acknowledged Satan’s existence (Luke 10:18). The Bible cautions us about Satan’s tactics and reminds us of his destiny. If he did not exist or was not a threat to us, there would be no mention of him in God’s word. When we refuse to acknowledge the enemy’s existence, we open the door for attack. We might as well announce on Face Book that we’re leaving for a week and the doors are open … and here’s a list of our valuables and where to find them. Basically, we’re not going to build a defense against a non-existent foe.

  1. There’s a party going on in Hell.

But the Bible says: hell is like a burning furnace and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal torment for Satan and his followers (Malachi 4:1, Matthew 13:42, Revelation 20:1-10).

Although Satan is a powerful being and not to be reckoned with alone, we have no reason to fear him if we’re walking with Jesus. Adam and Eve were in no danger when they maintained their walk with Creator God. It was when they walked outside His presence that they fell into Satan’s snare. We, too, run the risk of falling captive to the enemy if we walk away from our Captain.

How about you? Are you walking close to our Lord or have you been lured out of His presence? What can you do to return to Him?

Next Week:

We’ll consider some of the lies the enemy tells. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about John 8:44.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Purity is What You Think

 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:5 NIV)

Double-Minded 3In high school, I had a friend who proved somewhat less than trustworthy. She’d start a conversation about another girl, and I willingly added my thoughts. I might mention the other girl and I liked the same young man. The “friend,” in turn, took my comments back to the other girl. It didn’t take me long to realize what she was doing and refuse to talk to her about my feelings. Back then, we called people who pretended to be a friend only to get something two-faced. Sometimes we added liar to that label.

Along the same lines, in old western movies, the Native Americans said white men spoke with forked tongues. Time has not changed the way people treat one another, certainly not in politics. In government, the color of the skin makes no difference. They all speak with forked tongues.

I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to trust those who speak with forked tongues.

Apparently, God’s not too thrilled about two-faced people either. He calls them liars. He commands that they purify their hearts.

But before I get to self-righteous, I need to examine my own hearts. Am I double-minded about spiritual matters?

One thing I find myself double-minded about is my writing. I tend to think I’m not making any progress. So I procrastinate. Then, I lament about all the wasted time. I chide myself. I tell myself never again. I ask the Lord to forgive me. I am sincere, but I find myself still procrastinating … still wasting precious time the Lord has given me to work for His glory. If I’m still wasting time, I’m still telling myself my writing projects aren’t important.

Another thing I lie to myself about is acceptance. I hear a voice in my head saying I’m not likable. I’m not accepted by my peers, let alone by God and never will be.

When thoughts like these enter my mind, I’m under spiritual attack. I need to fight back by purifying my heart through the Scriptures. That’s right. I need to tell myself the truth. I need to put into action verses like 2 Corinthians 10:5—We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

How about you? How do you purify your heart?

Next Week:

We’ll begin to study the enemy’s tactics. Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about 1 Peter 5:8.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Draw Near to God? What Does That Even Look Like?

 And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings … (Hebrews 10:21:22a)

Draw Near to Me

Draw Near to Me

While meditating on the portions of Scripture that require us to draw near to God, I wanted to know exactly what that looked like. So I prayed and contemplated about it all week. I know Bible study and prayer help. But is there something more.

I thought of my grandactives standing or sitting across the room. We have conversations about all sorts of stuff that are important to them—the sports they like to play, school, their friends. But when we touch on a subject that bothers them, I pat the cushion beside me and urge them to “draw near to me.” Each one, at one time or another, has sat close to me on the couch or on my lap. We snuggle. At times, no ears or lips are engaged. The moment becomes a communication of the heart.

I picture intimacy with God—drawing near to Him—like that. He doesn’t want me to feel alone in my struggles. He wants me to snuggle in close to Him and rest in His presence.

Yet, there is more to drawing close to someone. Last night as I lie in bed thinking about this, another vision came to mind concerning my grandactives.

All six of them have drawn or painted pictures and proudly presented them to me. Why? They know how much I appreciate art, especially theirs. But there is more to it. A subconscious effort to connect with me … to draw near to me. That’s the beauty of it. They desire to draw near to me through something they know I enjoy.

240001There we find the other side of the draw-near-to-God coin. Communication through prayer and Bible study is a key. Resting in God’s presence where no words are exchanged is another key. But the one I seldom consider is the one He perhaps looks forward to and enjoys the most—my efforts to connect with Him through things I know He enjoys. What does God enjoy? Praise. Yes, He enjoys that so much He takes up residence where people praise Him. And He enjoys creating, just like my grandactives and I do! No wonder I feel so close to Him when I paint and write.

So now that we know what drawing near to God looks like. What does it have to do with spiritual warfare?

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name (Psalm 91:14).

We show God we love Him by our desire to connect with Him through our communication and activities. He, then, assures us of His protection and deliverance from the enemy. What a victory guarantee!

How about you? What does drawing near to God look like to you?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about James 4:8.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

To Whom do You Submit?

 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 KJV)

 

 

Submit to the Lord as a child submits to her father

Submit to the Lord as a child submits to her father

We are submissive-bound creatures in a submissive-oriented world. God created us to submit to Him. Despite the fall of man and this sin-cursed world, that has not changed. We still have a basic need to submit to higher authority.

Most counselors will affirm this, however unintentional, when they say troubled youth need structure and boundaries. Children get messed up when those who represent authority neglect to enforce appropriate discipline and fail to demand proper submission to the rules. Although in a state of rebellion, these young people long for someone worthy of their submission. Thus gangs are formed.

Nevertheless, let’s back up here a minute. We all, not only need to be submissive to someone, we need to be submissive by default. If we’re employed, we submit to our bosses. If we’re married, we submit to our spouses. If we have children, we often submit to their schedules and desires. Even if we are none of the fore-mentioned, we submit to the laws of the land. If we don’t, we end up incarcerated and submit to wardens. See what I mean? We are compelled by our nature, by God’s design to submit to authority.

Like I said, we are not our own. Whether we believe in God or not, He designed us to be submissive. No matter how high we are in the hierarchy of humanity, we are submissive to someone and are accountable to that one.

Although there are a myriad of persons to whom we can and/or should submit to in this world, there are only two choices in the spiritual realm. Furthermore, the one whom we choose in the spiritual realm will greatly affect our choices in this terrestrial ball.

Understanding the impact of submission helps us to understand spiritual warfare. It’s all about submission. Satan wants us to surrender to him and deny Christ. He does everything within his power to accomplish that single goal.

However, God has a counterattack built into His plan of salvation. All we have to do is submit to Him … to His love, grace, and mercy and declare our allegiance to Jesus Christ. When we do, we put the enemy on the run.

 

How about you? To whom do you submit?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about James 4:8.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Who’s Inhabiting Your Atmosphere?

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Psalms 22:3 KJV)

Atmosphere Created by You.

Atmosphere Created by You.

Have you ever noticed when you complain about one small thing, it starts that proverbial snowball of complaints? Before you can say snowman, it has accumulated a myriad of troubles and everything that’s wrong in the world.

I’ve been working on my complaint factor. In the process, I’ve discovered the opposite also exists. When I find positive things to talk about, the conversation blossoms into a delightful garden I want to return to often.

As with winter and summer, atmosphere determines the climate of our existence. We have the power to create atmosphere within our own souls, our homes, and our workplaces. If we saturate our environment with complaints, Satan notices and opens our eyes to even more faults. He wants to strangle our attitudes, choke out our testimonies, and eventually destroy our faith. Complaining creates an atmosphere in which he can move toward that goal unrestricted.

Praise, however, drives Satan away. He hates to hear Jesus’ name exalted. The enemy holds his hands over his ears and screeches when we admit God is in control and does all things well. The devil runs for hiding when we proclaim the saving power of Jesus’ blood.

Not only does Satan flee when we praise, God enters the building … our workplaces … our souls. He inhabits the praises of His people. God loves a thankful, joyful heart. He takes up residence there. Jesus stands and takes notice of the celebration in His honor and joins us in our worship. Imagine that! Jesus celebrates with us in sheer delight because Father is honored and pleased with our choice to bring Him glory.

Therefore, praise becomes our most powerful weapon against an attack from the enemy. We get him on the run, and God blesses us by His very presence.

How about you? Who’s inhabiting your atmosphere?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about James 4:1-10.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Words—Powerful Weapons

They [believers] triumphed over him [the accuser of the brethren] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  (Revelation 12:11)

Anger Paints an Ugly Portrait colorAn always-in-trouble five-year-old attended the Sunday school class I helped with. The other teachers had nothing good to say about the boy. And he never failed to live up to their words…except when I taught the class.

My secret? I ignored many of his shenanigans and watched carefully for that split-second of good behavior. I praised him for it with applause and stickers. He responded to kind words the same as he responded to negative input. He repeated the behavior.

It’s really no secret. Words matter. They’re powerful. One of the biggest concerns in our society today is bullying, which causes the victim extreme loss of self-esteem. Our words can have just as powerful positive effects on people if we use them to uplift and encourage.

The impact our words have on people is no secret or surprise. But have you considered our God-given authority over demons through our words? Three weeks ago we discussed the power of God’s word—His written word, His spoken words, and His word made flesh. Through His word, God spoke the universe into existence. Through His word, He sustains His creation. Through His Word, He brought salvation to humans. Through His Word, He keeps the enemy at bay. The Bible tells us: And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). What an exciting day that will be!

In the meantime, the Father has not kept the power of words to Himself. When He created mankind in His own image, He included the power of word. He knew we’d need it to fight Satan. To those who accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as their Redemption, the Father strengthens their words so that they can overcome the “accuser of the brethren.”

When he brings up my past, I remind him that my sins have been washed away by the power of Jesus’ blood. The enemy’s accusations dissolve, and he flees in fear knowing the power Jesus holds over him. When Satan attempts to convince me of my unworthiness and ineffectiveness, I’m learning to combat his fiery darts with “Because of Jesus’ blood, I am worthy. As ineffective as I may be, Jesus’s blood contains all the power and authority I need.”

How about you? How are you using your weapon called words?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Psalm 18:3.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Unforgiving—A Weapon Formed Against You

And even if he sins against you seven times in a day, and turns to you seven times and says, I repent [I am sorry], you must forgive him (give up resentment and consider the offense as recalled and annulled). (Luke 17:4 AMP)

What's Keeping You Boxed In?

What’s Keeping You Boxed In?

“This will hurt me worse than it does you,” Mother said just before she “introduced” me to the unfriendly side of the hairbrush. She, actually, did more grounding than spanking to discipline me. But I do remember the reference to the unfriendly side of the hairbrush and her mentioning my punishment hurt her worse than it did me. I could never figure that out—how could she hurt worse than I did? Wasn’t I the one at the stinging end of the brush? Nevertheless, my mother always forgave the offense quickly.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus teaches the necessity of discipline. But He also commands that we forgive the transgressor as often as he seeks forgiveness.

That’s a difficult command to follow. But in a spiritual battle, the enemy can shape our unforgiving attitudes into the strongest weapons and lead us into captivity with them if we’re not careful to obey Jesus’ orders. Satan uses our lack of forgiveness to stir up anger and bitterness within us. Anger and bitterness spread quickly into our character, controlling not only the relationship with the person we refuse to forgive, but also our disposition. Everything and everyone associated with that person becomes a “thorn” and a heartache. But Satan doesn’t stop there. He uses that weapon to pile guilt and despair on us. Eventually, the attack binds our spirits, and we blame God.

We can disarm the enemy by one single act—forgiveness. It’s the only weapon we have that will bring peace to our souls.

Just like my mother’s discipline hurt her worse than it did me in many ways, an unforgiving attitude hurts me worse than it does the person I’ve refused forgiveness. I’m learning to dispel unforgivingness before Satan has a chance to form a weapon to use against me. But old, unfortunate incidences remain deep within my soul. And the enemy loves to remind me of the pain they caused. I don’t have to put up with his tactics anymore. Jesus has a better way…forgiveness. Here are some of the maneuvers He’s teaching me:

1)      Forgive in Jesus’ name. Every time someone offends me, or Satan brings up a past offensive, I tell the accuser, “I forgive them in Jesus’ name. I love them in Jesus’ name. You will not use this to damage our relationship or to hurt me anymore.”

2)      Don’t talk about the incident. This is not to say you cannot speak about it to anyone ever. However, pick one or two trustworthy friends, and no more, to confide in who are honest enough to help you see through the pain and point out what you could’ve done differently to avoid the conflict. Remember, the more conflict is mentioned the deeper the hurt is seared into our souls, and the harder it becomes to forget the incident and be healed.

3)      Never entertain thoughts of revenge. If the offender needs to be taught a lesson, our Father can handle the discipline.

How about you? Have you disarmed the enemy by forgiving as the Father has forgiven you?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Revelation 12:11 and 19:10.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Prayer…a weapon? Seriously?

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:18)

A Child's Prayer

A Child’s Prayer

The morning of his death, Bernardo the Belligerent tightened his belt, shrugged into his breastplate, jerked on his boots, grabbed his sword and shield, and bypassing the commander’s station, rushed to the battlefield. He had no clue the strategy for the day had changed. He never gave a thought to where his battalion was. He even found it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between the enemy and ally forces. He discovered too late that he was fighting the fight alone. The war had already been won, victory declared, the spoils gathered. Only a few stragglers refused to surrender that day… .

And Bernardo the Belligerent had died in vain.

Bernardo’s story is a sad one indeed and should never be repeated by any faithful soldier. Unfortunately, many of us Christian warriors mimic Bernardo in our routine schedules. We awake, dress, and enter the workforce, bypassing the Commander’s station entirely. Then we wonder why we can’t make headway with our daily struggles.

Although the enemy of our souls is already defeated, we give him easy shots at our emotions and thoughts when we don’t pray. How can we know the strategy God has worked out for us, if we don’t stop long enough to inquire? How can we hear His commands when we’re so busy spouting out our demands? How can we know which course to take when we rush headstrong into battle using our own understanding and tactics?

God ordained prayer as a means to combat the enemy. If we learn to use this powerful weapon as He intended, the battles in which we engage will not cause fatigue. They will strengthen and energize us.

  1. Using prayer only to request favors is like using a sword for the sole purpose of peeling grapes. It can be done, but what a waste of time and weapon.
  2. Our surrender to pray affords God the opportunity to keep us informed of His plans. It’s His plans that have guaranteed victory.
  3. With the guidance we receive through the Holy Spirit, we enlist angels to fight for us.
  4. Prayer empowers our swords. As mentioned last week, our sword is the Word of God. And Jesus is the Word personified. More on this to come.
  5. Prayer tears down the enemy’s strongholds and builds up God’s kingdom in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we intercede.

How about you? Are you engaged in spiritual warfare without the advantage of The Commander’s orders? Take time to pray.

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Luke 17:3 and 4. We’ll look at forgiveness a secret spiritual weapon the enemy hates.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

What’s in Your Scabbard?

Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17 NIV)

 

Sword of the SpiritWhether written or spoken, words are powerful tools.

When my husband started elementary school, other kids harassed him unmercifully, calling him names like “monkey” or “monk.” The seeds of self-degradation began to sprout. The poor little guy cried to his father about it. His father didn’t approach the bullies, their parents, or even the school.

Instead, he said, “Son, what’s your name?”

“Eugene Van Hendricks,” the boy replied.

“No one can take that from you. Be proud of who you are.”

Not only did those words empower my husband to thwart the insults of those grade-school bullies, they enabled him to become an advocate for other kids who received unjust ridicule. It doesn’t end there. Some of those bullies became Gene’s closest friends and call him Monk to this day. Rather than destroying his self-image, the nickname shaped him into a confident, well-balanced individual. His father’s words stuck with him for a lifetime and produced a man who knows who he is, respects his family name, and conducts himself accordingly.

If our earthly fathers’ words produce confident men and women, how much more so do our Heavenly Father’s words produce positive results?

God intends for us to use His word in combat 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). Quoting Scripture when under attack forces the enemy into retreat. But there is an underlying, stronger force than mere repetition of words written by prophets and eye witnesses. In fact if you don’t tap into that force, spouting memory verses at Satan will get you as far as a plastic sword against a fully-equipped army tank.

What is this mighty power you need to stand against the devil’s schemes? Jesus—the Word of God—gives us the strength and the victory.

In the gospel of John, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). This is a reference of Jesus Christ. He is the Word of God made flesh. The Greek term used “Logos” means the mind and reason of God which God used to create the universe. That power is made available to the believer through the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Jesus Himself empowers our “sword” to defeat the enemy.

That’s why when we pray we end with “in Jesus’s name.” It holds the authority of our awesome Lord and Savior. Often we rattle off those words without thought of their meaning and power. In reality, the rest of our prayer does nothing to disengage the enemy. It’s like holding our sword at our sides and shouting “on guard.” But when we say “In Jesus’ name” our sword rises with fire like a laser, sending the enemy running.

How about you? Have you empowered your sword of the Spirit with the invincible force of Jesus Christ?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Ephesians 6:10-17. The more we study this passage the better prepared for battle we’ll be.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

What’s that on Your Head?

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 NIV)

I recently attended a costume party. People adorned their heads with everything from curly wigs to lighted buckets, from tiaras to goggles, from cowboy hats to alien heads complete with buggy eyes and antennae.

While all brought a little laughter, none would’ve proven beneficial in combat. Throughout history people have worn headgear to intimate their enemies and to protect their heads. Native Americans wore impressive, massive headdresses incorporating feathers, animal pelts, bones, jaws, and even heads of fierce beasts. They did this to make themselves look bigger, scarier, and mightier than their foe.

 

In Biblical times, Roman soldiers wore plumes on their helmets. A soldier decked out in his military garb and helmet marching down the streets in Jerusalem struck fear in the hearts of the people. Not only did the helmets frighten defenseless people on the streets, the headgear warded off the blows of the enemy on the battlefield.

 

As effective as these headdresses and helmets were in their day, they would do little to intimate or protect against today’s warfare. They would do even less in spiritual combat.

 

What we need in spiritual battles is something that will intimate Satan and protect our minds from his attacks. Paul recognized that and strove to remind his readers to equip themselves with the helmet of salvation.

 

How does that help? Just the mention of Jesus’ sacrifice strikes fear in Satan. But it doesn’t end there. The knowledge of our salvation wards off his fiery darts aimed at our minds. Satan’s intention is to make us doubt our salvation, our worth, and our purpose. He wants nothing more than to destroy our faith and ruin our testimonies. Remember he cannot possess us. However, he can oppress us. He can imprison us in our own minds and stop us from being effective witnesses. Securing the helmet of salvation in place puts up a strong wall of defense to guard the battlefield—our minds.

 

How do we use our helmets?

  1. Memorize scripture pertaining to salvation
  2. During attack remind the enemy to whom you belong
  3. Rebuke whatever the devil is telling you—if your thoughts are not godly or biblical, they are from the author of lies
  4. Learn to recognize the lies—he mostly tells us the same degrading, self-destructive stories over and over
  5. Combat the lies with the truth—what does God’s word say about you and your circumstances
  6. Remember  you are a child of the King of kings—you belong to Jesus
  7. There is no power greater than our God—tap into it
  8. Fight back

 

How about you? What’s on your head?

 

Next Week:

 

Prepare by reading, pondering, and praying about Ephesians 6:10-17. The more we study this passage the better prepared for battle we’ll be.

 

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Fatal Faith

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV)

SHIELD OF FAITHEngaged in brutal combat, Bernardo the Belligerent swung his shield to the left, warding off a flaming arrow. He tilted the hunk of metal over his head to escape the blow of a sword and pivoted in time to thrust his own sword through the heart of an enemy soldier.

Bernardo plunged the tip of his shield into the ground. Crouching behind it, he took aim with his bow and arrow. He fought diligently until the enemies attack seemed to subside. He sank to his knees behind his shield and surveyed the area. Soldiers lay dead or dying all around him…some his foes, some his friends. The stench and terror of the battle crushed his soul. He stood and walked away, leaving his shield stuck in the blood drench sod.

Bernardo died that day.

During spiritual warfare, Satan wants nothing more than for Christians to walk away from their shield of faith. He attacks our belief system relentlessly through cultural change, education, and religion all in the name of tolerance. His schemes to divert our focus on the Almighty God are as believable as evolution itself. Yet, Christians succumb to science and to man-induced logic. Perhaps, battle fatigue sets in as it did for Bernardo, and we walk away from our faith disillusioned and distraught.

But we don’t have to end up a casualty on the spiritual battlefield. If we learn to use our faith the same way a soldier learns to use his shield, we walk away from every battle the victor not the victim.

In days of armor, swords, and shields, the soldier prepared for battle by polishing his equipment with oil especial his shield. This practice served two purposes: 1) the oil gave the armor, sword, and shield a sheen that reflected the sun, thus, blinding the enemy. 2) The oil also helped deflect the enemy’s blows.

I’m sure you are aware that the anointing oil in the Old Testament is a symbol or foreshadow of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. I’m equally sure, Paul, along with most of his audience, knew of the soldiers’ practice of polishing their shields with oil. The people in those days would’ve understood the implications. Praying in the spirit daily, like polishing a metal shield with oil, aids in reflecting the Son of God right into the enemy’s eyes, blinding him. The Holy Spirit also helps deflect the enemy’s blows.

Paul used the shield to describe our faith because like a shield, faith is intended for the protection of the entire body. The security of every aspect of our spiritual being depends on faith.

How about you? Are you battle-weary? Have you walked off the battlefield, leaving your faith stuck in the mud? What steps do you need to take to retrieve it and polish it to a high shine

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17. The more we study this passage the better prepared for battle we’ll be.

See you in a twinkling,
Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

What’s on Your Feet?

Stand firm then…with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.   (Ephesians 6:14-15)

Peace BootsSince the beginning of the year, my family has been inflicted with issues of all sorts and every one of them have taken a bite out of our wallets.

Both my daughters have been diagnosed with gallstones. One daughter has had her gallbladder removed, while the other one awaits the insurance and grace periods at her new job to kick in. Their children have had bouts with intestinal flu, bronchitis, and ear infections. The younger daughter has had two flat tires that needed replaced, a water heater die, and an unexpected health care bill amounting to $700. As well as the aforementioned health issues, the older daughter had been hit hard with high fuel/heating costs and a deceased refrigerator.

About a month or so ago, my mother had a pout with her heart and ended up in the emergency room. The rapid pulsation receded on the way there. She spent a few hours in the ER and was released. God is good.

To put the proverbial icing on the cake, my mother-in-law had a stroke just the other day. Her debilitation is minimal. We’re reasonably sure her recovery will be 100%. God is merciful.

My husband and I have been caught in the crossfire, trying to be supportive to everyone.

These circumstances are minor mishaps in comparison to the disasters some people suffer. Still, the road feels a bit like an uphill climb on a steep, fine-gravel and loose-dirt path; and all I have on my feet is a pair of smooth-soled sandals. Add an inconsiderate word or a thoughtless deed to the mix, and my steps falter. My peace slip-slides away.

I need to exchange my smooth-soled sandals for the hiking boots Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:15. You know, the ones with the thick, slip-proof treads. In Paul’s day, soldiers wore boots with cleats to help them stand their ground. When the enemy attacks, we, too, must stand our ground. So Paul advises us to “put on the boots of peace.”

This is the peace that remains in our souls in spite of our circumstances. This peace comes only from knowing the Father through Jesus Christ. Look at the calamity that beset our Savior—rejection, persecution, torture, death. Yet, through it all His peace never slipped or faltered. He believed and trusted the Father to do what needed to be done for the salvation of the world. Jesus took the Father at His word and knew, even in His darkest hour, the light of life would shine on Him again. He trusted God to raise Him from the dead.

If the peace of the gospel dwells in us, our feet won’t slip on that disastrous, loose-dirt path.

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV)

How about you? What’s on your feet?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17. The more we study this passage the better prepared for battle we’ll be.

 

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

Take off Your Breastplate of Righteousness!

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place… (Ephesians 6:14 NIV)

Breastplate of RighteousnessI’d never compromise my Christian standards. Really? Not long ago, I slipped out of my breastplate of Christ’s righteousness and shrugged back into my old self-righteous breastplate as I focused on all the negatives in my life and all the positives in everyone else’s lives. Comparing my slow progress with others’ giant leaps of success opened a passageway to my heart. The enemy lost no time in stringing up his bow and shooting his fiery arrows straight into my vulnerable vitals. Swoosh—you’re not good enough. Swoosh—you’re being punished. Swoosh—you’ll never amount to anything. Swoosh—you deserve better. Swoosh—God has turned His back on you. Each accusation easily penetrated my self-righteous breastplate.

When we rely on our own righteousness, we often compromise our standards, leaving our hearts exposed and vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. The Psalmist penned, “No one living is righteous before you [God] (Psalm 143:2). We all fail and fail miserably. Isaiah reminds us: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6).

I tried my best to do what seemed right and honorable, but the enemy’s attack broke me down. I stood helpless before him. Until I cried out to God for help. I don’t remember if the answer came through a sermon or through private Bible study. Maybe a little of both. But I finally heard the message, “Take off your breastplate of self-righteousness and put on Christ’s righteousness.” I found a glimpse of hope in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Isaiah 61:10 shed even more light on the subject: “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God of salvation and arrayed in a robe of his righteousness.”

I had been relying on my own goodness and not on Jesus’ righteousness, trying to fight my own battle without His protective, fiery-arrow-proof vest. I slipped off my self-righteous breastplate—trying to convince Satan that I had earned respect and deserved success—and clothed myself in Christ-righteous breastplate. The battle is not mine, but Jesus’ and the victory is already won.

How about you? What steps can you take to take off your flimsy self-righteous breastplate and replace it with Christ-righteousness?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17. The more we study this passage the better prepared for battle we’ll be.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

Truth is a Choice

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist… (Ephesians 6:14).

Belt of Truth

Belt of Truth

“I’ve told you the truth. You decide to believe it or not.” My husband responded to my accusations with a statement that washed my doubts away. He had been at a meeting and out much later than I’d deemed necessary. His excuse? He had stopped on the way home to help a woman with a flat tire.

Gene’s words stuck with me all these years. Truth agrees with reality and is not altered by my belief or disbelief.

The same goes for the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s truth is more than some He has declared. It is His character…His very essence. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV). No one’s lack of belief can alter that statement. It’s not only true because Jesus said it, but because Jesus is Truth.

However, Satan wants to destroy our faith and trust in our Messiah. He does so through small seemingly insignificant twists in the truth. His lies are as subtle as microorganisms that invade our bodies…undetectable yet deadly if not dealt with. He assaults our intellect, attacks our health, and violates our emotions in order to convince us that salvation through Jesus Christ is a myth of no merit.

It was NOT by chance that Paul lists the belt of truth as the first piece of armor to be put in place. Upon the truth of Jesus Christ rests our protection and strength. In Paul’s day, soldiers wore metal girdles or wide leather belts around their lower trunks to hold their armor tightly against their bodies and to support their swords. They also carried money and other valuables within the belt or girdle. In other words, the belt or girdle served as an anchor for all the other equipment necessary for battle. Modern day soldiers still gird themselves with a belt in which they carry shells, knives, grenades, and other weapons for combat. This is Paul’s mindset, then, when he tells us to buckle the belt of truth around our waists.

A tight hold on the Truth assures us stability and readiness for battle. It is our choice whether or not we accept and use God’s truth of the gospel.

How about you? Is the belt of Truth firmly fastened around your waist and equipped with the weapons needed for combat? If not, what steps can you take to secure the Truth?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17. Yes, again.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

The Only Good Christian is a Dead Christian

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24 NIV)

To the enemy, the only good Christian is a dead Christian. He commands that no soldier of the cross be left alive. Should one survive, the gospel of Jesus Christ will continue to spread.

Crucified with Christ

Crucified with Christ

Don’t panic! Satan has no authority to kill any of us before our appointed time, which God determined before our birth. Satan can, however, kill our testimonies. When we act like the world in our speech, in our dress, in our temperament, our testimonies are deadened and worthless. He strangles our joy when we allow grievances to overpower us and refuse forgiveness to others.  He suffocates our enthusiasm for the things of God when we permit temporal self-gratification to rule our lives. Thus, we become complacent prisoners of war.

Most Christians in a complacent state don’t seem to realize they are being held hostage. In fact, some become quite comfortable in chains with no desire to be free. They become “By The Way” believers who sit back not wanting to get involved. They never dream of sharing their faith outside the church. They claim to respect other religions. Tolerance becomes their new doctrine.

If they remain complacent long enough, they are in danger of becoming “In the Way” believers who block the progress of the church. They forcefully stop all attempts to support missions. They openly rebuke and ridicule their pastors at every opportunity. Eventually, the Christlikeness in these “In the Way” believers is squelched to nonexistent.

The apostle Paul was an “In the Way” believer. Remember how he persecuted Jesus’ followers even to the point of turning them over to be imprisoned (Acts 9:1-2)? That was before he saw the Light of Christ literally and was blinded for three days (Acts 9:3-19).

After his conversion, Paul became an “On the Way” believer. He taught the Gentiles about our Resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. In doing so, Paul became aware that to Jesus the only worthwhile Christian was a dead Christian.

You see, Paul learned we cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ until we die to the things of this world, to our selfish desires, to our emotions, and to our flesh. Jesus said, “…those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” (Luke 14:33). Paul, later, wrote, Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

On the Way!

On the Way!

As we die to ourselves, Christ creates a new nature within us—one that strives to please Him above all else. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)! Jesus cannot make this change in us without our willful death to our old nature. At that moment, we can proclaim with Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Then, we too will be “On the Way” believers ready to serve in the Lord’s army.

How about you? Are you a “By the Way” believer, an “In the Way” believer, or an “On the Way” believer? What’s your plan of attack?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, pondering, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17. Yes, again. We will study the armor of God at His appointed time.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

Authorities, Powers of this Dark World, Spiritual Forces of Evil

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11 NIV)

Before we discuss the full armor of God, establishing our beliefs about the enemy seems beneficial and necessary. After all if we don’t believe there is an enemy, why bother with armor?

If I asked one hundred Christians, do you believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? I’d get an emphatic YES, of course.

If I asked one hundred Christians, do you believe in angels? I’d get a majority to respond with absolutely.

If I asked one hundred Christians, do you believe in demons, spiritual forces of evil, powers of this dark world, and Satan? I’d get an unbelievable amount of different answers. Some would say definitely. Others would say not as real beings but as negative forces. And others would respond with a flat out no.

Recently, I shared a scene from a novel on which I’m working that involves demons with my writers’ critique group. One member of the group said, “I can’t give any advice on this. It’s just not my reality.” His response neither surprised me nor upset me. He’s not a Christian and doesn’t believe in the supernatural.

What surprises me is the number of Christians who respond with similar disinterest and unconcern. I wonder how people can believe in Jesus, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and even angels without believing in Satan and his fallen angels who are out to destroy the human race.

Satan is mentioned at least forty-six times in the Bible. He spoke directly to God about Job (Job 1). Satan, not an evil force, but a real, created, supernatural being, tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus spoke of Satan as though he were a real entity (Luke 10:18). John the Revelator spoke of Satan’s position, authority, and place of eternal punishment. If Satan did not exist or if he were no more than a negative force, would Jesus address him as a person?

Instead of Satan, the word devil is used thirty-one times in the New Testament (NIV version).

Jesus Casts Out Demons Mark 5:1-20

Jesus Casts Out Demons
Mark 5:1-20

Jesus addressed the issue of demons, which are mentioned thirty-nine times in the New Testament (NIV version). He cast them out of people who suffered from possession (Mark 1:34). He also instructed His disciples to fast and pray so they too would have the power to cast out demons (Mark 3:14-15). Jesus gave His disciples the authority to drive out demons (Luke 9:1). Again, if demons did not exist, why did Jesus spend so much of His time dealing with them?

If Jesus believed in the existence Satan and demons, if He took them seriously, if He said we should take authority over the powers of this dark world, should we deny their existence?

There is a battle going on. How can we fight if we don’t recognize the enemy?

“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36 NIV).

How about you? How do you recognize the enemy?

 Next Week:

Prepare by reading, thinking about, and pray about Ephesians 6:10-17.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

 

 

 

Who’s Fighting?

For 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 NIV)

Join the Lord's Army

Join the Lord’s Army

Recently a visiting pastor told our congregation about a young woman who sat in a church service. Her spirit, dark and anxious, caused her to fidget in the pew as the preacher gave the altar call. The woman had a sorted past marred by witchcraft and drugs.

No one in the church encouraged her to step forward, although some may have felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging. The service ended. The woman walked out and got in her car. Twenty minutes later, she was found dead in the church parking lot. She had taken her own life.

That true story tore at my heartstrings.

Everyone—Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, agnostics, Satan worshipers—all of us are engaged in spiritual warfare. Whether we realize it or not, we are fighting a battle for our souls. Within us, flesh battles against the spirit. Without, God wars against Satan.

It’s all about eternity and where we’ll spend it. There are only two choices. There are only two armies. And each one of us has the choice to make. We are not drafted into God’s army or Satan’s army. We choose to enlist. We pledge our allegiance to one or the other.

If we choose against Christ, we enlist in Satan’s army by default. There are NO conscientious objectors, NO bystanders, NO draft dodgers.

Non-believer have you ever wondered why you get so tense when Jesus is mentioned? Someone says something about “god” that doesn’t have the same effect. “God” can mean anything from one of the thousands of gods worshipped by Hindus to the one Muslims serve. But the name of Jesus curdles your blood, and you either want to run or smack the person who said the name reverently. Yet, taking the name of Jesus in vain makes you want to cheer…makes you feel good about yourself. Have you ever thought about why Jesus has that effect on you?

You are in a spiritual war, my friend. Right now, this very moment, Jesus Christ is fighting for your soul. You feel the tension, the anxiety, the stress of it as though a thief is knocking at your door and threatening your life.

Christ is relentless in His pursuit to win you for Himself. But so is the devil. They both want you to spend eternity with them. So the battle rages on. However the results rest in your hands. You choose this day in whose army you’ll serve.

When you choose Jesus, and I sincerely pray you do, the war doesn’t end. Although you’ll have peace in your soul that passes all understanding, you’ll join the battle for truth.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV).

How about you? Whose army have you enlisted in? How do you fight against the unseen foe?

Next Week:

Prepare by reading, thinking about, and praying about Ephesians 6:10-11.

See you in a twinkling,

Brenda K. Hendricks

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3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Spiritual Warfare

    • Wow!! POWERFUL words!! I think too often I slip into “By the way” mode. Lord, that I might become an “on the way” Christian again. That I might put to death the lusts of the flesh and allow Christ to live in me fully! Amen!!

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