Am I in the Fight?

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I read this CS Lewis quote recently and it both excited and challenged me. It made me wonder, is Satan threatened by my faith? As a follower of Jesus I am not only a child of God, I am a solider fighting in a spiritual battle against darkness. The battle has already been won, but the fight isn’t over, and it won’t be until Jesus returns. In 2 Timothy 2:4 Paul is talking to Timothy and says “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” ‭‭(2 Timothy‬ ‭2:3-4‬).

A good Christian soldier focuses on pleasing God. In Colossians 1:10 we learn that through knowledge of God’s will, wisdom, and spiritual understanding, we can walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), and that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Pleasing God requires faith that leads to good works. In fact, Ephesians tells us God created us in Christ Jesus for good works!

If my goal isn’t to please God it means I am caught up with the affairs of this life. This is one of Satan’s battle plans. Distract God’s people in whatever way he can to keep us from the fight. If he can keep us distracted and focused on ourselves and our worries he can keep us from fulfilling God’s plan for us. And what is His plan? Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God has good works planned for us, good works that we won’t walk in if we are distracted by things that don’t matter. The Bible tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter‬ ‭5:8). Does Satan see me and my family as a threat to his plan to destroy and devour? To answer this I have to ask myself a few questions.

What is it that distracts me from the fight? The answer to this question could be anything. It could be career advancement, relationships, possessions, selfish ambitions, fear and insecurity, the need to please people, an incorrect view of God, fill in the blank. Ask God to search your heart and show you what it is that’s distracting you from your faith and the good works He has planned for you. This is something I have to do regularly to stay focused. Satan won’t let up, in fact, once you become a threat he will target your faith all the more. Don’t be afraid of him, as you resist him he will flee from you (James 4:7), rather be on guard, submit to God, and keep focused on truth.

What are the good works that God has planned for me? The answer to this question is vast. I think we can get wrapped up in the idea that until we receive some special revelation from God on what He wants us to do we shouldn’t do anything. The truth is, God’s Word provides countless examples of the good works we are to walk in as followers of Jesus. God definitely gives specific callings to believers but waiting for this is no excuse. James 1:27 tells us to visit widows and orphans and to be separate from the world. Hebrews 13:16 tells us not to neglect doing good and to share what we have, as this pleases God. 1 John 3:17 tells us that if we see someone in need and neglect them how can God’s love be in us? Galatians 6:2 tells us to bear each other’s burdens. Acts 20:35 tells us it is more blessed to give than to receive. In Mark 16:15 Jesus tells us to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Paul echoes this in 2 Timothy 4:5 when he tells us to do the work of an evangelist. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to warn, comfort, and uphold one another in patience. There are so many more works Jesus Christ calls us to I could never list them all here. As Christians our goal cannot be to simply refrain from sin. In fact James 4:17 says “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James‬ ‭4:17‬). The Bible tells us we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, if we choose to ignore this we are sinning.

The final question to ask is am I walking in the good works Jesus has for me? This is a simple question to answer. Take the verses mentioned previously, and any others you can find regarding the good that Jesus asks us to do, and ask yourself if you are obeying. Am I sharing what I have? Am I reaching out to the unfortunate? Am I comforting and upholding others? Am I doing the work of an evangelist? Am I giving to those in need? Am I bearing the burdens of others? I sometimes have the tendency to focus on the things I am most comfortable with, neglecting the things that are more of a challenge for me. This isn’t a pick and choose situation. Jesus said if you love me you will obey me (John 14:23). One way I show Jesus my love for him is through obeying his commands, even the ones that are difficult for me. Thankfully his strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), so we don’t have to rely on our own strength to obey.

Which of Jesus commands are the most difficult for you to obey? This might bring light to sin or insecurity in your heart, as this has been the case for me many times before. Take action and start walking in the good works He has planned for you and your faith will quickly become a major threat to the enemy’s plans. Not only that, but you will truly discover that life is about pleasing God.

A good soldier not only engages in warfare, as Paul mentioned, but also carefully watches out for danger. If our focus is in the right place, on pleasing God, we will be successful in our fight against Satan. He will certainly feel threatened by our faith and we will walk in the good works God has planned for us. My pastor recently said “a life spent doing nothing for Jesus is a life wasted.” Let’s not waste our lives, let’s make it our goal to walk in good works for Jesus.

Some Christians think that focusing on good works means we are trying to earn our salvation. This isn’t true at all! Our only way to salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. Our good works are meant for pleasing God, not for saving us. This is a direct command from Jesus Christ himself and cannot be ignored. Do we really believe we can live in victory apart from obeying our God and savior? True freedom and victory comes when we start living as God created us to. We need to be on the offense and walk in the good works God created in advance for us. In my next blog I’ll focus on how to defend against Satan’s attacks, as they are sure to come once you start walking in good works.

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Will you Give it up for God?

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I’m sure you’ve all heard the story of the rich young ruler? (Matthew 16: 19-23). He comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to be complete. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give to the poor so he may have treasure in heaven. We all flinch when we read this, fearful of the chance that we may be asked to do the same. How about when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Issac? (Genesis 22: 1-19). The son he waited years and years to have, the son his wife doubted was even a real possibility. Can you imagine? Thankfully God provided another way in this specific situation.

In the last five years life has been quite challenging for me and my husband as God has asked us to give up a lot to follow His plan for our lives. Things we thought we really needed and wanted and placed way too much trust in. Despite the struggle, these have been the best years of our lives and will only get better from here! God has stretched us, challenged us, walked us through many trials, and has been transforming us into the people He created us to be. It’s been incredible!! Although we have had to suffer in a lot of ways, (and have failed in a lot of ways) we have experienced more peace and joy and have seen more spiritual fruit than we ever could have imagined.

To be honest I expected things to go a lot differently and a lot more smoothly than they have. But guess what? I would do it all over again despite the struggles. With each small step of faith I’ve been shown that God is faithful, He always comes through. One of my favorite lines from a Sunday morning service that I heard years ago from my pastor is this: “God doesn’t know you believe Him until you give up your Issac.” God didn’t know Abraham trusted Him because he said he did. It was because Abraham did exactly what God asked him to do, even though it was the hardest thing he could have ever been asked to do. Are you willing to do this? Am I? Jesus asked the rich young ruler to give up his wealth because that was his “Isaac”. The thing he held onto so tightly and placed his trust in. Abraham went from believing God would make him father of the nations to believing this responsibility fell on Issac. His trust was misplaced. He depended on Issac for this promise to be fulfilled instead of on God. Maybe you believe that what you can’t give up is truly what you need, rather than God’s best for you.

What are you holding onto so tightly that it’s hindering your relationship with God? Maybe you really struggle to believe that His way is better than your way. Maybe it’s legalism, materialism, alcoholism, pornography, an affair, control, fear, pain, harmful relationships, a career. Whatever it might be that you’re holding onto I promise you it doesn’t hold a candle to the possibilities you have with a deep and intimate relationship with God. No matter how good or promising it might feel, those things will always end up betraying you. He has outrageously incredible things planned for your life if you will take Him up on the offer. The freedom you experience when you surrender these things to God and make the choice to do things His way is remarkable.

God didn’t ask the young ruler to give up his wealth and Abraham to give up Issac for fun or to play games with them, there was a purpose behind this. He knew these things were getting in the way of Gods ultimate plan. What’s getting in the way of His plan for you?

I challenge you to sit down with God today and ask Him to show you what your holding onto too tightly and putting your faith in. I pray that as you do this God will reveal Himself to you and transform your heart so that you can live out the life He has for you. A life that reflects Jesus Christ and impacts the world.

Is There Fruit on the Vine?

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John 15:8: “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (NKJV)

To love God and to love others is to produce everlasting fruit. We show our love through serving God and others, placing them above our own desires. During the unfruitful times in my life it never fails, I feel a deep sense of longing and emptiness for more, not much different than the emptiness felt with depression. One thing I’ve learned is that the only way to quench that longing is to set aside my selfish excuses and produce fruit through loving God and others more than myself.

Have you ever prayed for opportunities to serve or share Christ only to talk yourself out of it? I always wonder why the heck I do that. Its like I am warring with myself. On the one hand I am desperate to serve, and on the other hand I am lazy and think only of myself. It goes something like this: God, are you sure that’s what you want me to do? As if I’m waiting for Him to say, nah just do whatever makes you feel good.. yeah I don’t think so.

I wonder what it was like for the apostle Paul to give up everything he had (Phil 3:8), his friends, his job, his comfort, to follow Jesus Christ’s command and produce everlasting fruit for the Kingdom of God? I can imagine there were times when he was sick and tired of dealing with it all. But I can only imagine what it must have been like when he stood before his creator. Paul understood that eternity and producing fruit far outweighed any earthly treasure or comfort. An understanding I sadly so often fail to grasp.

Why is it so important to produce fruit for the Kingdom?

It Pleases God  

Galatians 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (NKJV)

Our focus in life should be to please God. If it isn’t then we need to make it our focus! I recently heard someone say that there was a time in her life when she wasn’t quite as crazy about seeking God. She said she begged God to make her want Him! This was such a powerful thing for me to hear. How badly do I want to please God, my redeemer and faithful father? If the thought to please God isn’t all consuming then I need to beg Him to consume me! I want all of my thoughts to be focused on pleasing God and making a difference for His kingdom, not my own. Don’t I want other people to experience the freedom and restoration that I have? If I truly do then I will make producing fruit and pleasing my God and Savior my focus in life.

It is All That Matters for Eternity

Francis Chan illustrates it beautifully in a video I recently watched. His illustration shows how short our time here on earth is compared with eternity. After watching it I was embarrassed by the way I have often lived my life for foolishness rather than for God. I have spent so much effort focused on meaningless things. For crying out loud, Paul wanted to die and be with Christ rather than be on this earth! His only reason for wanting to stay was so that he could impact the lives of others for Christ. Thats heavy. How badly do I want to impact people for eternity and what am I doing about it?

Philippians 1: 23-24 “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.”

Paul understood that Eternity is all that truly matters. I want to be like Paul!

The only thing I can control are my own choices. I have to wake up every day and make the choice to focus on eternity, loving God and loving others in all I do, so that I don’t get to the end of the day, or life for that matter, with regret.