The Power of Truth Destroying Lies

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{I encourage you to first read my previous post, I believe Jesus….but I really believe Satan.}

“Christina, look at me. Look at me!”

The shame I felt from believing lies is too much that I can’t hold Brett’s gaze.  He takes my face in his hands to force me not to look away.  His face is blurry since the tears can’t stop and I’m shaking.  I know what he’s about to do. Because the roles have been reversed in his moments of being overcome with lies and fear.  He drops his hands and opens his Bible and starts reading in Psalms.  He reads one chapter, then another. He doesn’t stop. My tears do. I take a deep breath. My body relaxes in his presence and my Father’s Words. Calmness. Peace. Brett finally stops after he senses an evident change in my demeanor from being free of the tormenting lies.    

He holds me. Prays. Then lets me rest. The Truth pushed out the lies that were swirling throughout my mind like Hurricane Irma on her way to destroy Florida.

When you are at the end of your own strength…when you are so low that you can’t do anything but look up…when you want to give up fighting…give into Satan’s temptations…you do the only thing you have the strength to do in that moment…cry out to Jesus. So I did. And because there is power in the name of Jesus, I said His name over and over and over again.

My strength starts to return as I whisper His name.  “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live like this. Get up, Christina!  You know what Satan is doing!  You know these are lies!  Yes, I’m done with his games!”

And so I got up. There is one answer…Truth.  I have to start living out what God says to be true. Even if right now in this moment I don’t really believe it because my actions are not in sync with who God’s Word says I am. There came a turning point when I finally understood that my mind needed to be renewed or I would never change my behavior. Oh, I have Romans 12:2 memorized, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind…,” but as I wrote in my previous post, my practical theology on this truth was not being applied. Then began my quest for really believing Truth. Being consumed with it. Hungering. Thirsting. More and more. The Word of God coming alive right off the pages of my Bible every time I opened it…

And here started my quest for  Truth…wait for it…reading the Bible every day. What? No way, Christina!?”  Ok…I’m being sarcastic but answer me this: Do you really believe that the Word of God has answers for every question? Circumstance? Problem? Temptation? Wound? Joy? Peace? Hope?  Because if we really believed it… we would be consumed daily, hourly with it.  No, we don’t really believe this to be true: 

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16

AddictionsABnqtinGrvBook_1Remember what Edward T. Welch says in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave“When our desires conflict with Scripture, human beings do not always live according to what we say we believe. We can say we believe one thing, but our lives betray other allegiances…It’s as if we practice two different religions. We believe one thing, but really believe another.”

We say the Bible has all the answers, but our second religion has become Google. Social Media. News. Pinterest. Friends. Celebrities. Health and wellness. Programs. Pastors. Literal Religion. Speakers. Bloggers. Books. Movies. Music. Coffee (yep for all you “I need Jesus and coffee” peeps 😉 ) …on and on…

Even if these mediums are saturated with the Word of God, they should only be supplemental, not our primary source to find Truth. Our actions reveal who we believe by who we choose to listen to first. And if opening up the Bible is not our first response, then we really don’t believe that it gives us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him” (1 Peter 1:3).  Many of the above have been an influence in my growth and learning more as I seek Truth (which you will see as you continue to read), but it can never replace the actual, literal words of God.  His words only have power, no other words.

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Also, if we believed this to be true, reading the Bible wouldn’t be on our daily to-do listAs my pastor recently said, “Duty is not delighting.” Before, I read it out of duty.  Now, I read it because I am convinced that I cannot live without it.  Because in order to overcome lies I have to know who Truth is… His character. The more I look at Him and know Him deeply and passionately, the more I can perceive the lies and deceptions…the distance between light and darkness…and the gray in-between that Satan uses to cause us to doubt. 

One way that has helped me is journaling.  At the start of the summer, my mentor challenged me to read through Psalms. I actually had already been reading a Psalm a day for a couple of years now.  However, she said to specifically journal what each Psalm says about who God is. Writing it down helps me comprehend and apply the practical theology of Truth instead of only reading and moving on. I pray over each Psalm, praising God for that specific character trait, thanking Him for what He has done, and applying the words to my own circumstance, temptation, fear, lie. 

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It’s easy to read, pray, and then rush on to the next thing in my day and fail to take the Truth of what I learned with me.  Therefore, if I need to soak in and be reminded of a particular passage, I leave my Bible open to that page on my bed.  If you are like me, my bedroom tends to be my escape room.  If I need to get away, take a deep breath, have a good cry, “hide” from my children (even for 1 minute!)…you will find me there.  And how much encouragement, hope, and refreshment I have found when I walk in my bedroom and see my Bible open. His words bring comfort and focus. I can walk out ready to fight again. 

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“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

IMG_4771I also set my phone lock screen to Scripture memes that I need to renew my mind with when I’m struggling with a specific lie and need reminded of the Truth.  

I previously wrote a post that we cannot do life alone.  When the lies become too much to bear, someone else comes to my rescue by speaking Truth over me and releasing me from the black mesh of darkness.  The example story of Brett at the beginning is real. And sadly has happened more than once. Yet, I have felt the power of God’s Word in my darkest and lowest moments as Scripture is being read over me. Light shows up more in darkness, and since Jesus is the Word (John 1:1), I have felt Him there with me.   

We need each other to be vessels of speaking Truth.  My relationship with my mentor has grown significantly as we have made it our goal to try to meet every other week.  I pour out my heart and share my struggles, temptations, sins, victories, lessons God is teaching me, etc.  And yes, as a more experienced woman who has walked in my shoes before me, she shares her own life lessons. But these times together are not a vent session and for her to pat my hand and tell me she understands. Her response is always first bringing me to what the Word says. She immediately opens the Bible to a passage, turns it around and tells me to read it out loud. This is what God says. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. She knows it’s the Word that will change me. Not her words.  No matter what we talk about, she constantly brings me back to Truth. And I always leave her home with peace, hope, and confidence to keep up the good fight.

Not only having someone fight for me by speaking Truth over me, but turning around and speaking it back to someone else has tremendous power over lies. When I speak or write it out, I hear it again. It makes it more real and alive than keeping it only in my head. This is another reason I journal and even blog. Journaling is where you can be real and raw with God. No one reads it. Only Him and He listens. In fact, the Spirit speaks to me often as I’m journaling.  Many times my entry starts with frustrations, fear, struggles, confessing of sin, and ends with a revelation of truth, hope, peace, and thanking and praising God for who He is and what His Spirit is doing in my heart and life. This is how David wrote many of his Psalms. If you take a peek, you’d see that some of my journal entries look like modern day Psalms. (Read Psalm 22 as an example.)

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” Psalm 22:1

And when I sit down to write a blog post, it brings so much healing to me because I’m recalling to mind the Truth of who God is and what He has done. This is why I write. I have thought of making something more of this blog, whether trying to monetize it, hone in on writing about something specific (I laugh because it’s called Varvelicious because my original plan was to write more about nutrition… for those of you wondering about the name!), promote myself, “sell” it to get more readers… ya know… make myself a “real” blogger.  But if you read my post, I’m Giving Up, God has told me no and to just write as He tells me to. And I know why. Because this is a crucial part of my sanctification process.  Yet, I am humbled with the response of those that read my posts and how God has used them. Therefore, my goal is for my writing to be saturated with Truth, and I pray that lives can be encouraged as I am a vessel to type out His Words on my laptop.

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“I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you.” Psalm 22:22

Reading, writing, and speaking God’s Words has renewed my mind with Truth and ultimately changed my actions. Yet, when I’m lying in bed and can’t sleep, or I’m driving, or a child is throwing a fit, or a trigger of past pain hits in an unexpected way, or Satan is dangling temptation in an area of weakness, I may not always be able to get my Bible out and find the Truth that needs to attack the lie, fear, doubt, or temptation in that moment. This is why memorizing Scripture is crucial. Jesus is the ultimate example of recalling Scripture to mind when Satan tempted Him in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).  The more we hide it in our hearts, the more we will be able to apply practical theology to our everyday lives, and therefore not sin (Psalm 119:11).   

Therefore, my mentor has inspired and challenged me to get back to memorizing.  I write passages on cards that I can take around with me to read over and over. Then, when I’m lying in bed beating myself up for the mistakes I made that day, or I’m driving and my mind can’t shut off from fear or doubt, or I want to…um….yell back and lose my temper at my child, or I’m about to give in to that temptation that I can easily justify, the Word of God comes to mind and fights for me! The power of Truth wipes away my guilt, chases away my fear, reminds me I have access to the fruit of patience, and gives me strength to violently say NO! and walk away from sin.   

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“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

My mentor’s example of memorizing and immediately speaking God’s Word to me is an example to follow.  Now, when I have a friend share her struggles, fears, temptations, or lies, I want to be able to do the same for her. Not a paraphrase of what I remember or think the Bible says, but “this is exactly what God says.” We can never argue with that.

FullSizeRenderAnd I have found this to be true when a dear friend recently asked for prayer over a situation. In the past, I know I have failed by initially responding with my own words, experience, and emotions (which can be helpful)! But now I first try to respond with Truth from God’s words, not my words.  Later, she told me how my text with Scripture influenced her to make right choices in a conflict she had to face that day, which she was extremely nervous about.  In fact, she screenshot my text to pull it up immediately when she needed it.  And I can walk away humbled that it is the power of Truth and praying Truth over her that won that battle!

These are only a few examples of the ways that I seek and thirst after Truth. I also read books that expound God’s Word, listen to worship music, play podcasts of sermons, worship dance to music that is speaking to me, and read inspiring blogs.

It’s more than listening. It’s more than duty.  It’s being consumed. A constant state of  hungering and thirsting. Not being satisfied with anything else except His Word. The more Truth I really believe, the less I believe lies because I can clearly decipher the deception from Satan that he is flooding my life with everywhere I turn.  The light of Truth shines out the darkness. It’s obvious. Not murky like Satan makes it to trap us.

And once Truth comes alive, you find yourself wanting nothing to do with darkness. You turn on the TV and instead of staying immune to it all, you find it hard to choose anything to watch that will bring life when it’s filled with sex, profanity, or glorifying lifestyles and behaviors that do not stand with Truth…

You are drawn to friendships where you spend more time talking about Jesus than the latest gossip…

You hear stories of another fetus aborted, a child sex-trafficked, porn statistics, poverty, orphans, abuse, murder, riots, souls in need of Jesus…and you can’t help but stop to cry out to God for justice and mercy and then go do something about it to show the love of Jesus…

Instead of being numb to the sin in your own life, repeating them over and over, you are weeping at Jesus’ feet over the things he hates and making decisions to do whatever is necessary to repent even if it hurts…

And the next time temptation knocks at your door, you are ready. In fact, you can already determine Satan’s next move. He’s been around since the beginning of mankind. Our struggles are nothing new to him. But now that I am committing to really believe Truth and understand Satan and his darkness better than ever up against the light, I’m ready for his next lie. His next beautiful enticement. I no longer want to be on the floor in defense mode with my arms over my head as he attacks.  My battle plan is standing  in offense with the Word of God in my mind, my heart, my hand, my home. 

This is evidence of the power of Truth attacking, fighting, destroying the black mesh of lies, deception, and fear with a vengeance. Violently. Fervently. Urgently. Warrior-minded.

So get up, friend, and stand with me. Because the devil then has nothing left to do but flee… when we have submitted ourselves to Truth (James 4:7).

“Then I can answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your word.”  Psalm 119:4

{Part 3 to come.}

 

 

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I believe Jesus…but I really believe Satan.

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I sat in my seat in the dark basement theater.  Three girls dressed in black walked out on the stage and it went quiet.  They lay down on the cold cement floor and covered themselves with a black mesh sheet.  I leaned forward in anticipation for the dance to start.  I whispered something to my friend sitting beside me, who co-choreographed the beautiful piece of art that I was about to see.  I smiled over at Brett, excited that he was with me.

We were in a theater on Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis, for IndyFringe, a festival for theater arts. What may surprise you is that I actually considered auditioning to perform in this dance.  I wasn’t able to commit this summer, so here I was supporting my friend and thought it would be a fun and different date for Brett and me.

The music started. The dancers moved. And within minutes I was captivated.

This wasn’t just a dance. This wasn’t just art. This was spiritual.

The girls dressed in black were tormenting a girl while she slept. She dreamed of death. Fear gripped her. She was overcome by the black mesh that trapped her. She was almost paralyzed, tossed around as she was held captive by Death. Darkness. Defeat.

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The girl dreamed of other girls like herself. Lost. Dry bones dead (Ezekiel 37). No life.

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Then girls dressed in white appeared. They brought Life. Light. Hope to all the girls. Life wins over Death.

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I sat there mesmerized.  This was the gospel of Jesus Christ demonstrated through dance, which is the passion behind Elisha Movement Christian Dance Company (EMCDC). It was a reminder that I am alive in Christ. I am no longer dead in my sin, which separates me from God. Jesus died and then became alive again to conquer death, and because of that, I have life for all eternity with Him.

But since art is interpretive, I heard the Spirit speak to me in a more specific way than death coming to life through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ…

The black mesh was Lies. Deceptions. Doubt. Fear. The imagery of the mesh trying to hold the dancer captive hit me so hard.  As my eyes couldn’t look away for even a second in fear of missing a move, my mind was racing throughout the dance:

“That’s me. Yes, I know how that feels! The lies and the darkness are horrific. It’s suffocating. I have felt paralyzed by fear. Look at her face. If this was real life, she would be screaming right now. Because I have definitely screamed in my pillow.  She’s covering her head from the tormenters. The lies can be so loud sometimes it’s deafening and all you can do is try to hide. But they won’t go away. She’s not getting up! She’s not fighting. She’s being carried as almost dead. She’s lost hope because she’s been deceived.”

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I knew then why God told me to pass up the audition. He didn’t want me dancing on the black floor, He wanted me sitting in the red chair to speak to me.

The dance didn’t end there. If it did, we’d all be lost. I’d still be a heap on the floor where Brett has found me with my hands over my head overcome by the lies that are shouting so loud that I can’t hear anything else. And I can’t get up because I am believing lies about myself that are completely contrary to the truth of who I really am in Jesus Christ: Alive. Dead to my sin. Forgiven. Loved. Redeemed. God’s daughter. Accepted.

Oh! But here enters three dancers in white on the stage, representing the Trinity (Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit).  My own words stop in my head as the power of the Spirit speaks through the dancers moves to say, “Christina…this is Truth. Truth always defeats Lies. Truth sets you free from the mesh of darkness. Truth prevails against deception. Truth is louder than your fears. Truth helps you breathe. Truth raises you up. Truth fights for you!”

I held myself back from weeping from the Spirit’s refreshing voice.  I’m quite the emotional/sensitive type, but in this moment I didn’t want to miss anything by being clouded with tears.  By the end of that 45 minute performance, I felt different from when I first leaned forward in anticipation expecting to only watch the art of dance.

I stood up from my red chair. I hugged my friend. I left the basement theater. I walked along Mass Ave, passing people on this busy Saturday night as other IndyFringe performances were ending.  I sat in the car and the tears then came as I shared with Brett what the Spirit said to me through each movement.

You see, I know the Truth of who I am. I’ve been hearing the Truth of God’s Word since I was in the womb of my mother. I’ve heard all the Bible stories as a kid. I’ve memorized hundreds of verses for church programs and school assignments. I’ve read through the Bible several times. I have been going to church every Sunday since the first time my parents brought me as a newborn. I have heard sermon after sermon from a variety of pastors and teachers. I went to a Christian school from kindergarten to 12th grade where Truth was taught in Math as well as Bible class. Ok, you get my point.  But I need you to realize that God’s Word has saturated my entire life.

Then why? Tell me why do I sometimes reject the Truth of what God says about me and I find myself in such torment from lies like the dancer above? 

In his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Edward T. Welch asks the same question regarding a friend, who like me is not living out what he believes:

“How, then, could he believe correct theology and at the same time not believe it? How could his everyday theology – his actual or practical theology – be so contrary to what he recited in church on Sunday?”   In my case, be so contrary to what I have heard and known to be true my whole life.

How then?  Edward T. Welch answers by saying I have “no practical theology.” Practical theology is “simply theology in action. It is the application of theological teaching to life. It is asking, ‘So what’ of our theological propositions. What difference does it make that I am united with Christ…What difference does it mean that I am created in God’s image? All theology is practical theology, but some theological statements are still waiting to have many of their applications unpacked.”

Christina’s layman terms: I know what the Bible says about me.  I choose not to believe what it says, and therefore, do not apply it to my daily life. 

And furthermore, he continues: “When our desires conflict with Scripture, human beings do not always live according to what we say we believe. We can say we believe one thing, but our lives betray other allegiances… It is as though we have partitions in our minds where contradictory beliefs and behaviors live in separate compartments and never meet…It’s as if we practice two different religions. We believe one thing, but really believe another.”

I believe the Truth. But in some moments, I really believe the lies.  And because I really believe the lies, my thoughts betray the Truth and my actions follow based on those lies.

And that’s when I find myself paralyzed, wanting to give up fighting this fight. Hide and not let people too close. Doubt what God has called me to do.  Stop loving when it’s hard.  Stuck in past sin and fearing the future which causes me to escape my present reality. Fallen, and truly cannot get up as Brett carries me.

Which then makes me ineffective. Apathetic. Lukewarm. Selfish. Exactly where Satan wants me. He and his rulers of evil are cheering, “Yes! Another one down for the count!!! Let’s keep it up. Don’t let her get up!”

I am not really believing Jesus who is…

Truth (John 8:3)

Creator of All (1 Cor 1:16-17)

Alpha and Omega (Rev 22:13)

Son of God (Matt 3:17)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

I Am (John 8:58)

Immanuel (Is 7:14)

Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5)

Mighty One (Is 60:16) 

Bread of Life (John 6:35)

Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25)

And when I am not believing Jesus, I am really believing Satan…

The father of lies (John 8:44)

A lion who is prowling around to devour (1 Peter 5:8)

A deceitful serpent (Genesis 3:1)

The god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)

A murderer (Revelation 9:11)

An oppressor (Acts 10:38)

An accuser (Rev. 12:10)

That cuts me so deep. That I am willfully making the choice to believe Satan.

How does this happen? Why do I choose to believe a liar, murderer, oppressor? 

Because his weapon is to constantly be filling my mind with thoughts that are against the Truth.  Neil T. Anderson in his book, Victory Over the Darkness, says “Satan’s strategy is to introduce thoughts and ideas into your mind and deceive you into believing they are yours. If Satan can place a thought in your mind -and he can- it isn’t much more of a trick for him to make you think it is your idea. If you knew it was from Satan, you would reject the thought, wouldn’t you? When he disguises his suggestions as your thought and ideas, however, you are more likely to accept them. That is his primary deception.”   

Whoa. That should stop us in our tracks. If we were actually sitting across from Satan and hear him speak to us, we would run. Not even give what he says a second thought because we see in the Bible who he really is (listed above).  However, what an excellent war plan to subtly whisper a thought that I do believe comes from me. And since I struggle with pride and thinking of myself more highly than I ought to (Romans 12:3), of course I don’t think that my thoughts are initially that bad.  Usually the first thought seems “innocent” or at least I can justify it really well. It doesn’t look sinful. But whether it is a bold-faced lie or a twist on the truth…Satan’s already on his way to deceiving me.

“If Satan can get you to believe a lie, you can lose some element of control in your life. If you fail to keep every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), you may be allowing Satan to influence your life in a negative direction,” Neil T. Anderson continues to say.

When a thought comes into my head and I don’t immediately evaluate it but believe that thought, Satan then has power over me. And that’s when I am on a path of destruction. Like a snowball effect. 

One lie…

I am left out and alone…

That person rejected me and therefore I am a failure as a friend…

leads to more…   

My past sin defines me…

I’ll never overcome this sin. It has a hold on me…

I can handle this temptation… 

and even more…

I am not satisfied so I need more of ________

If only I had _______ I’d be happy…

I need to try harder, do more, be more for God…

…and before long there are so many lies that have built up that everything is dark and gloomy and my attitude and demeanor soon follow; I lose discernment and make wrong choices; I’m paralyzed, hiding, doubting, fearing….

because I’m believing a murderer whose one goal is to intimidate me and hinder any impact God can have through me.  That is the truth. And I better start really believing it, so that my action response is attacking these lies with a vengeance. Violently. Fervently. Urgently. Warrior-minded.

You wanna fight, Satan? Let’s go. Your battle weapon is deception…my weapon is gonna make you flee so fast you’re gonna wish you messed with someone else…

{Continue reading Part 2.}

*Pictures are from scenes in EMCDC’s debut show “Lilly of the Valley.” Photo credit: Charles Borowicz.  

 

Do the Demons Know Your Name?

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I can’t breathe.  My throat is constricted like hands grasped around my neck.

I can’t move. What’s holding me down?

I can’t see. Heavy darkness surrounds me.

I can’t speak. I’m yelling and nothing is coming out because the hands are too strong around my throat.

“In….the….name….of….Jesus…” I try to scream out but there’s no voice. I try again. Again. Silence. Suffocation.

“BRETT!” I try instead, forcing my arm to try and hit it him as I lie paralyzed in bed.

Finally after fighting, I feel him. He moves but rolls over.

Then I’m released. I sit up exhausted. Confused. I lie back down and fall asleep.

Yes, this happened to me one night last year.  When I woke up in the morning, I asked Brett if he felt me grab him. He said no.  I told a close friend of my experience and she said it was similar to what she experienced in her life from her past: demonic physical oppression.

The next night, Brett and I prayed over our bedroom asking God to remove any spiritual darkness and protect us.  However, for whatever reason it happened to Brett.  I woke up to him screaming, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” over and over again, which released the demon’s hold on him.  Prior to the oppression, Brett was dreaming about the calling God has given him to be a missionary who makes movies.

Some people may read this and be skeptical or think it was just a dream. Or wonder why we would be spiritually oppressed like this. It was real, and here is why. Let me start from the beginning.

Brett became very active on Facebook at the beginning of 2016 using it as an avenue to share the gospel and minister to people. Brett led a girl to Jesus, whose powerful transformation by the Spirit was a domino affect to leading others to accepting Jesus into their life as well.  However, this new daughter of God had a horrific past of abuse, and specifically to this topic, demonic oppression.  Let’s just say, Satan was not happy that he was losing more and more people from his grasp as they were found by the Savior.  And if Satan can’t have our souls, he will try to ruin us in any way possible by distracting us from our mission on this earth and forgetting that he is the real enemy.  He causes as much confusion and disunity among believers as he possible can to deter us from our calling and winning more souls for Jesus.

Facebook can be a great tool for Christians to use to share the gospel; however, more often than not Satan is in the background playing his games of destruction.  Brett, this girl, and others were being attacked by satanists on Facebook.  Yes, you can block and report, but it won’t stop Satan’s work.  Then one February night, Brett was messaged by a satanist.  Over the course of 2 days, Brett talked to him. He could feel the presence and weight of darkness through his computer screen.  He responded with the only thing that has power over the darkness: the Word of God. The man was demon possessed at times throughout their conversations and the Word penetrated making him physically sick and blurring his vision, until Brett told him to cry out to God and ask if He was real.  Immediately he was made well. Sadly, he still did not choose Jesus in fear of what his cult would do to him.  He ended his conversation with Brett by telling him he failed his mission to distract Brett from serving God.  Then the words that I try not to let haunt me, “Just know that the demons now know your name.”

Brett and my physical oppression is one evidence from this past year that the demons know our names. The satanist told Brett that since Satan and demons are not omnipresent like God, they do not know every Christian. They know only the ones who are a threat to their mission to keep souls from Jesus.  This is not bragging rights; this is the reality that we are in war.  This may be changing very soon, but here in America we have not been in war against other people for our faith. Yes, you may get criticized, rejected by a friend, unfriended on Facebook, laughed at, questioned, etc.  However, unlike our brothers and sisters over seas, we are not getting tortured, shot, burned, beheaded.  It may only be a matter of time, but at least right now, Brett and I are not being thrown in jail or threatened for being missionaries who make movies.  No one is stopping us. Except….Satan and his demons.

The year of 2016 has been a year of waiting. God has made his mission for us known, yet like David, Joseph, and even Jesus, we must wait for His timing to live it out. And in the wait, Satan has been working behind the scenes trying to distract with sin, plant seeds of fears and insecurities that have grown to paralyzing mountains, discourage us from our calling, doubt who God really says He is and who we are in Christ, destroy relationships….all to hold us back from obeying God even in the wait.

Satan is the real enemy.  Even for other believers who face persecution from people, Satan is still the enemy behind it all.  This sounds pretty discouraging and even haunting, especially since our culture has its own ideas of the spiritual forces around us.  My response can be to fear him and be intimidated by him.  Honestly, that is has been my initial response and I’m still battling it. And I can tell you by experience, that’s exactly what he wants. It gives him more power; he knows my weaknesses and can shoot his flaming arrows right where my armor his down.  He sets up camp in my territory and whispers that lie. That thought of doubt or insecurity. That tempting fruit of desire that if I don’t take captive it will lead to sin. He also likes to give me the club and I beat myself over and over with it while he sits back and enjoys the show.  Many times I think I came up with the thought or lie, and because “there is a way that seems right to a man (Proverbs 16:25),” I don’t instantly shove it out. I easily think it could be truth.   Where as if I focus that my enemy, the devil, who is prowling around like a lion looking to devour me (1 Peter 5:8), spoke that lie, doubt, tempting desire, it’s easy to fight back! To face him and chase him out of my territory.  To speak the truth of God’s Word to shine the light which scatters the darkness (1 John 2:8).

Not only do I need to remember that Satan is the enemy, but that people are not the enemy. Even people who do not have the Spirit inside them are not the enemy. They have been blinded by Satan from the truth of Jesus Christ and his saving gift of grace that He offers them (2 Corinthians 4:4).  I was once lost and blinded; yet in God’s grace I have been found and forgiven.  This past year I have understood the grace of God more than ever before.  And because of that, the Spirit has enabled me to show more grace to others and look at them differently, no matter who they are and what they have done.  I have been living my life with fuzzy blinders over my eyes.  Now, God’s grace, unconditional love, and forgiveness towards me overflows even more to others.   Whether it’s someone from a completely different walk of life or someone who has sinned against me, they are never the enemy.  I can love with open arms. I can be rejected and know that I’m still a daughter of the King and no one can change that.  I can forgive completely when someone has hurt me.

Instead Satan wants division, arguing, unforgiveness towards one another.  When we see people as the enemy, it is so easy to do this!   Someone hurts us or someone we love, and we want to fight back and get revenge.  We feel unloved or unwanted by someone who should love or want us, so we start to believe we are unloved and desperately try to find love in the wrong places. Or we stuff down pain from the past and put up a wall from those who do love us, causing bondage rather freedom.   We fight over the meaning of a Scripture passage and churches are split into two.  Our spouse sins and we add it to the list of wrongs, and even bring it up in a later argument.  Our children are acting like little demons (can I get a raised hand!?) and we yell, become impatient, and frustrated that they are not obeying every word we say.  We even can struggle to forgive ourselves for hurting the people we love.

And Satan loves it.  He is the master of disguise. He is not the devil with the red suit and pitchfork. He’s beautiful; he even twisted our minds in our culture to think that beauty is to strive for and without it, you are not worthy. Another deception.  So he is weaving himself unnoticed throughout our minds and our relationships, and without realizing it you are believing that you (beating myself with the club example) are the enemy, or your spouse, children, friend, coworker, annoying Facebooker who won’t shut up about the election, the persecutor, yes, even the ISIS leader who has been brainwashed by THE enemy.

My friend who is reading this, there is hope.  Satan is a wimp.  It doesn’t sound like it from what I wrote above.  And as I said, I struggle with seeing him for who he really is: a punk with cheap parlor tricks as Brett tells me.  But the only way I put him in his rightful place (um…hell), is to look to the One who is on the Throne.  When I see Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, in His rightful place, everything changes. I remember that the Spirit of God lives in me!  He’s not in a tabernacle where I go worship.  He’s not here in flesh and bone like Jesus walked on the earth 2000 years ago. He is here with me. In me.  And that blows my mind. That God the Creator, the powerful I AM would come live inside me.  I have the same power to defeat Satan and my sin as Jesus had to raise from the dead!   I do not live like this every moment of every day.  What would my days look like if I did?  Satan’s doubts, lies, deceptions, luring temptations would have no place in my mind.

Oh but if only it was easy. This is war. It’s a daily battle. Some days the struggle is so real and I feel so weak. I have sat in my shower crying out to God to take the battle away because I don’t want to fight anymore.  I have 2 choices in that moment:

1. Allow Satan to stay in my territory, giving in to despair while focusing on my fears, doubts, insecurities, and temptations of sin. Which then paralyzes me and weakens my effectiveness in the mission God has called me on this earth. Causing me to miss out on receiving and giving blessings. Wondering through life without joy or peace.

-OR-

2. Ask God to fight for me, to give me the strength I need when I am weak. Take his grace that is sufficient for this day (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Give up control. Close my eyes and see Him as John did:  “…like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Revelation 1:13-16)  Then I stand up and be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that I am ready to take my stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11)

The best part: we already know who wins the war. And it surely is not Satan. He will be thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:10).  Meanwhile….

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

This rider called Faithful and True is on my side.  I have nothing to fear when I trust the Word of God.  What about you? Do you see the war around you? Is the king of kings and lord of lords on your side?  If so, are you allowing Satan to devour you or are you standing firm in the strength of the Word of God?  Do you think the demons know your name?

The battle has been won. The victory is ours. Let’s live with this Truth in mind.

Fruit that is Good and Pleasing to the Eye – Part 2

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img_3260In Part 1, I touched on ministry and social media.  Here are two more fruits that are good and pleasing to the eye that can turn into the bitter fruit of disobedience.

Food:  I’m going to be blunt and just say it. We have made food a major sin problem.  Food was one of the things that God created for Adam and Eve to enjoy in the Garden of Eden. And they most likely did not need to eat the fruit since their source of life was God.  However, since sin came into the world, food is one of the necessities of life.

God gave us food not only to live but also to enjoy.  Yet if you haven’t noticed, we enjoy it a little too much.  40.4% of women, 35% of men, 29.5% of girls, and 29.7% of boys in the US are obese. (stats from World Obesity Federation 2013-14).  We don’t eat because we are hungry.  We eat because we are bored, stressed, and highly addicted to the taste.  Eating is a major part of celebrations and holidays, culture traditions, and social events. And we have all heard, “eat your plate because children are starving in Africa.”  What? Who even started that phrase?  Eat everything regardless if you are full because some child won’t get any food. It’s almost an insult when you really think about it.  Waste the food by shoving it down your own throat just so you don’t feel guilty that someone somewhere won’t have a meal tonight. C’mon.

Oh and speaking of wasting food…..do you know that we waste 50% of food grown, prepared, served?   50%. I’m guilty myself; we all are.  But I wanted to puke after hearing that and then listening to an agriculture company (which I will not name) explain why they believe genetically-modifying food is absolutely necessary: because we won’t have enough food to feed the 9.7 billion people by 2050, according to the UN.

I’m not here to give you my opinion on GMO foods. (although it is a little “trying to be God” when you watch how they extract the DNA from strawberries or change the DNA of corn so that worms won’t eat it).  My point here is that at this conference I attended, basically in the same sentence I heard how much food is wasted, there’s too many people in this world, and therefore, we need to create more food. Ok. But how about making strides to re-purpose or prevent food waste so that we can take that 50% and feed the kids who are starving in Africa.    We either over stuff our faces….or we waste it.   This is a problem.  And honestly, we can try to do everything right, but it won’t ever go away until Jesus Christ comes back and redeems this earth.

My question to you then is this: what can you personally do about this problem of stuffing or wasting? It would be an interesting challenge to calculate how much money we personally waste in food. That would include both the amount we eat more than our bodies physically need (stuffing) and and the amount thrown out that we bought but didn’t eat (wasting). Then give that estimated amount to our local homeless shelter.

Or is food a source of sin to you in another way?  I could go on and on with several other examples of how Satan uses food to destroy us instead of bring blessing.  Enjoy the wonderful and delicious food that God has given you but ask the Spirit to show you if food is an idol and/or is destroying your health because of personal choices.

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Sex: “Really, Christina?” Yep. I’m on a soap box roll, so I might as well keep going.  This topic is an awkward one and no one wants to talk about it.  I grew up in the generation where no one talked about the s-e-x word.  But it needs to be talked about because Satan has taken the shiny fruit of beautiful, God-given gift of sex and DESTROYED it.  And I know that you have noticed this apple being a major source of sin outside marriage and how God intended it to be.

I have recently been so burdened by how destructive sex has become in our world. I literally wept and wept the other week crying out to God regarding this issue.  If I could have washed Jesus’ feet with my tears, they would have been clean over and over again. I cried out for..

…my dear friends who have been sexually abused, used, raped.

….my husband who has to daily fight temptation when he goes to the store or is on his computer and an ad pops up when he is researching film equipment.

….the thousands of women and children who are forced into sex slavery all over the world, and maybe right in your neighborhood.

….my little boy who has to grow up and face his own temptations.

….my beautiful little girl who is becoming not so little anymore and is growing up to be looked upon as a sex object.

…my new friends who dance at the strip club where I minister.

Since I have a growing intense compassion for anyone a part of Satan’s destruction of sex, this past year I became involved with a local ministry at a church in Indianapolis called, Unconditional.  Once a month, we divide up into teams and head out to 7 different clubs in Indy bringing gifts to all the employees, specifically reaching the dancers.  Our mission: “to unconditionally love women in the sex industry with the love of Christ, to empower and encourage them on their journey, and equip them for a full and healthy life.”   Jesus went to the sick who needed a Savior.  Many of these girls will not step foot in a church, so we, the Church, are going to them. I have been so blessed and humbled by this ministry. God is moving in the Indianapolis strip clubs!

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When I was weeping, I thought abut how sex is a gift that God gave us to enjoy only here on earth.  I mentioned this to Brett and this was his response: Everything about marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ (the Groom) and the Church (the Bride). That includes God’s gift of sex. The enjoyment that a husband and wife experience during sex is a foretaste of the heavenly bliss, the ultimate ecstasy that the Church will experience in heaven. So why wouldn’t Satan attack and seek to destroy one of the most beautiful moments that God has given us to experience?

And Satan has done exactly that.  And this is why I will fight to preserve this gift by waging war on my knees in prayer, teaching my children biblical truth over the world’s lies, showing love to a dancer, and sponsoring a child to meet his needs and rescue him from the evils of sex slavery.

Food and sex: 2 necessities of life. 2 choices. Obey God and take a bite that brings life and blessing or follow the ways of Satan and take a bite which will steal, kill, and destroy.

Fruit that is Good and Pleasing to the Eye – Part 1

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In my last blog post, That Darn Apple, I expressed what I thought the fruit tasted like that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; now I wonder what the fruit might have looked like.

Genesis 3:6 says, When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…”

Therefore, it had to be very similar to the other fruit on every other tree in the garden that she could eat from. God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and everything God made was good.  So the fruit itself was not sin.  The act of eating the fruit was sin because it was disobedience.

God has given us wonderful good things for us to enjoy. Yet, Satan is the complete opposite of God and uses those good things to tempt us to disobey God’s commands and bring death, like that fruit in the Garden of Eden.  Read the contrast in John 10:10 ~

“The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Satan uses things in this world that are good and pleasing to the eye to steal, kill, and destroy us from all the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical blessings God has for us!   Here are a couple good and pleasing to the eye fruits that Satan lures us from being obedient to God’s way:


Ministry: “Oh but it’s ministry, Lord!!  I am working for YOU!  I’m serving You and discipling others!”

Raise your hand if you have ever neglected your spouse and kids because you were involved in some ministry or service to someone outside your home?  2 hands raised here.

I have made the mistake of getting meaning and purpose from ministry. Satan discouraged me first by whispering in my ear, “You are only a mom. You aren’t making big a difference at home. You change diapers, split up sibling fights, say the same things over and over again and no one is listening.  Don’t you remember what it is like to be “Christina” and not just “Mommy”?”   I believed him and took a bite of the good fruit of ministry and it soon became my idol.   He distracted me from my primary ministry: my husband and kids.  As Stephen Kendrick said recently at the True Woman conference, “You may be the most influential person in your husband’s life and the most influential person in your kids’ lives.”  Why would God ever bless any outside ministry if I am not serving my family first?

I praise God for the lessons He has been teaching me as He is stripping me down to a place of minimal ministry outside my home. By God’s grace, He is getting my focus back on the good fruit of my family. Then, I trust that He will continue to guide me to minister outside my home when I obey Him first inside my home.  (Sometime soon I will share about our future ministry as a family that God is preparing me for).

Are there any ministries outside your home that Satan is distracting you too much away from your first calling inside your home?  I love what Paul David Tripp says in his newest book, Parenting:

“Committing yourself to obey one of [God’s] commands never means you will suffer and be punished because it has caused you to disobey another. None of his commands exist in isolation and none of them conflict.”   ~Meaning whatever God has called you to do inside and outside the home, there should be no conflict between the two.

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Social Media:  Yep, going there.  God has and will continue to use social media for good.  In the last year, I have watched Brett minister to hundreds of people through social media, and even led a few people to a real relationship with Jesus Christ.   If you are reading this blog, you may have come across it on Facebook!  I praise God for the opportunities to instantly connect with people and share the love of Jesus.

However, Satan is all over social media if you haven’t seen it.  I could go through several examples, but for the sake of your time reading this, I’ll touch on a few and see if it hits a nerve.

The comparison trap: “your life is way better than mine” which leads to discontentment.  Or the fact that we can truly have instant communication with anyone, anywhere. It can be secret (if you or your kids have Messenger, check out the secret encrypted messages that are sent and can be instantly deleted).  When your husband asks you to check his requested messages because of girls sending him nude photos…yeah…that’s a BIG problem!   It can suck up time and keep you from doing life on life with real people in front of you.  It can be a “look at me” or “woe is me” temptation. Depression, suicides, friendships break up, affairs, families are never the same, apathy, do I need to go on?

Because of what God has been convicting me about getting my focus back to my husband and kids, I have stepped away from Facebook and Instagram for some time.  It’s actually freeing.  I love it. Instead of scrolling through other people’s lives, I’m taking the time to earnestly pray for my family and friends.  I realized that I don’t need to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives.  It has kept me from comparing myself to others or reading the latest article making me feel guilty for what I’m doing wrong; instead I have only the Word of God and His standard for how I should live my life. You should try it. Take a social media break and see how it impacts your life.  I am convinced you will not regret it.

What are the good and pleasing to the eye things in your life that Satan is distracting you with? I have touched on only two but there are so many more that may be personal to you: food, sex, body image, exercise, spouse, friends, money, career, etc. Ask God to reveal them to you so that you are not taking a bite of something that God means to bring blessing where Satan means to destroy.

That darn apple.

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That darn apple.

Many reading this may be very familiar with the Genesis 3 account of Adam and Eve committing the first sin, which brought sin and death into the world. Let’s review God’s command:

“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”            Genesis 2:9, 16-17

As I wrote the above, it hit me that food was used as the determining factor of either continuing life or choosing death for Adam and Eve.  I mean, duh, I knew that but it didn’t really sink in until now.  I sit here and wonder if Adam and Even had to eat in order to live. They were human, although perfect. Yet, on the other hand, they were in the presence of God, the source of Life.  And death was only brought on if they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (aka “the tree”), and not because they didn’t eat at all. Which we imperfect humans would die if we don’t eat. Maybe someone with a bunch of theology credentials behind their name can tell me that one.  Either way, God gave them food to eat. And not just any food, but good and pleasing to the eye food.  I’d like to have a taste of that.

Well, if you know the story, Adam and Even ate the fruit from the tree and death entered the world.  One fruit. One bite each. Forever their lives and the rest of mankind changed for all time.   That darn fruit. We don’t know what it was but I’m gonna just say it’s an apple from good ole children’s Sunday school curriculum.   I wonder what that apple looked like?   Genesis 3:6 says, When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye…” Therefore, it had to be very similar to the other fruit on every other tree in the garden that she could eat from.  It was good and pleasing to the eye. It was shiny and perfect and clean. After all, God did create it.  All that He created was good. And God does not create sin. Keep in mind that the apple was not sin; the act of choosing to eat the fruit was sin because it disobeyed God’s command. Big difference.

I can picture hundreds of trees in the garden, and somehow Eve and Adam ended up right beside THAT tree.   Were they going on a leisurely, romantic walk hand-in-hand one day and came across the tree?  Maybe they were chasing an animal for fun and it led them under the tree.  Or maybe they just plain were curious.  They wanted to see if the fruit was really any different than the other fruit trees.  You know how we humans are: say don’t touch or don’t do, and we want to get as close as possible, and if you are my kids, you do the opposite of what was just told.   Regardless, the Bible doesn’t say how they got to the tree.  All we know is that they were at the tree and a serpent started talking.

Satan hasn’t changed since that first encounter with humans in the garden.  I’d like to give Adam and Eve the benefit of the doubt, and maybe they were taking a leisurely walk minding their own business and then out of nowhere, a serpent is talking from the tree that they didn’t even realize they were so near to.  Once Satan got their attention, he laid it on them with half-truths. He knew right where to lure Eve. He had the perfect bait. All he had to do was keep her focused on that fruit on that tree.  Distract her from the hundreds of blessings of good and pleasing to the eye fruit around her.  But oh, it looked just like the others! How could it be any different? And if it looked the same, wouldn’t it taste the same?

I do wonder what it tasted like.  Because Eve chose to disobey God, I like to think that it was bitter.  The Bible says that she took some and ate it, and then gave some to Adam.  Maybe the first bite wasn’t so bad.  However, I want to believe that each bite would have been more bitter than the first.

Take a bite. “I can get away with it because it wasn’t so bad.  No one noticed.”

Take another bite. “I can handle this.”

Take another bite.  “Ugh. Yuck. I don’t care though because I need more!”

Take another bite.  “This isn’t satisfying me. The next bite will!”

Take another bite. “I’m addicted even though it leaves a horrible aftertaste.”

Solomon described this well in Proverbs 25:16 ~

“If you find honey, eat just enough— too much of it, and you will vomit.”

I have written beside this verse in my Bible, “What I think will fulfill my desires only makes me sick!”

Oh that darn apple.  I think it will satisfy me because I believed the lies of Satan: “See, it’s perfect and shiny.  It can satisfy you even more than the others! God’s design of love for you is not good enough.  Take a bite. Try it and see.”

And then after the first bite and then the second and third and so on, I realize that this ain’t tasting so good. This is not satisfying me, and instead I’m sick!

Why? Because there is only one thing that truly satisfies. Everything else is a copycat that Satan dangles in front of us to convince us that it’s better than the original. And it will all make me sick if I’m replacing it for Jesus.  Oh, I’ve been there my friend. Haven’t we all?  Replacing Jesus, the only One who can fulfill me for a darn apple that Satan lured me with. Just taking a leisure walk and he called me over. Distracted me. I ate and ate. And soon got sick until I realized that this will never satisfy.

OH! but I praise Jesus for redemption. For paying my penalty of eating the apple so that I do not have to experience eternal death and separation from God!   My sins have been removed from the east to the west and remembered no more.  Yes, when I choose to disobey and take a bite, I must pay the consequences of eating the apple. But by His grace and everlasting love, Jesus’ death and resurrection once and for all flushed out all remnants of that bitter aftertaste left behind.

What’s that darn apple in your life? What is the copycat fruit that Satan is luring at you? Walk right on past it. Don’t look. Don’t believe his lies and half-truths. Don’t get distracted on what you can’t have and look around to all the blessings that you do have. That apple will never satisfy.  Run my friend. Run into the arms of Jesus who will always satisfy.

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you. ~Psalm 63:1-5