When the Enemy Comes

It was just after my husband got baptized when they asked me to do a video of my testimony. Life was going really well. I was working at the church, we had a stable small group, I was volunteering in women’s ministry; about to embark on leading my first Bible Study. Everything seemed to be in place. I felt innocent and free so I said, “Yes!” Being convinced of the power of healing and transformation through faith in Jesus Christ, I sat in front of the camera with joy. Little did I know that my pot was about to be stirred.

It started pretty small. A few offenses here and there, constant banter of gossip trying to deepen the offenses, a rift between me and my supervisor at the church. I thought I was being stalked. You read that right, someone was watching me and it scared me. A new manager was hired at my husbands job. This man was out for blood and his aim was to take out anyone who didn’t dance on his command. For months, my husband walked on eggshells. He worked long hours and weekends trying to keep the peace. Life was growing difficult with both of us working on the weekends. I resigned my position, on my last day of work, my husband called to tell me he was laid off and on his way home.

In the middle of all of this, the video was finalized. The enemy was doing everything he could to keep that video from seeing the light of day. About a month before the video was to be released, a storm sat over the foothills where we live. A torrent of water rushed down the hillsides into the cities that lay at their feet. The home where the film edit took place was flooded. Thankfully, a first draft had made it’s way electronically to the pregnancy center. Nothing is left of the video other than the few scraps that were taken out of the initial edit. After all of that, the pregnancy center was talking about not using it at all. It grieved me. It is a true miracle that this video made it to the airways.

I honestly thought I would be blessed as a result of telling my story. To have so much commotion at one time left me confused. I blamed myself, believing that I sinned and grieved God. It never occurred to me that the video would be a player in what seemed like my life being laid bare. Instead of landing on my face in prayer. I fell on my back. I was a dead bug scrambling to hold on to life.

It’s been four years. I have learned a lot. Most of it lies in how I was being raised up in Lord. It is called sin doctrine (a.k.a. religion). I was believing a lie. Religion says that you are a sinner striving to do good. When bad things happen, there is sin in your life. I’ve had to go back to the beginning of my faith cry. Jesus died for all my sin, I am forgiven past, present and future. I am forgiven. Religion and grace cannot coexist. I choose grace. There I can put the blame on the one who caused the calamity, Satan. I declare God is good and the lover of my soul. Satan is my enemy. The mistakes made during that time are covered by the grace of God. 

If there is calamity on your life, take a look at what you are doing for the Lord. You are likely stirring up the powers that aim to keep the Kingdom from growing.  The enemy is after God, not you. It isn’t personal. If you can take the blame off of yourself and God, things will start to turn around. Remember: God is for you, who can be against you? If Satan comes against you, he is already defeated. What is coming against you has to end. It is a matter of getting understanding from the situation, putting the blame on the one who caused it, and seeking God for relief and restoration. God cannot fail in this because His promises are always true. Freedom lies in understanding that we have overcome by the blood of the lamb. When the enemy comes, land on your face and pray!

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8 Things I Wish Every Christian Knew…

  1. I wish Christians knew it was scary and overwhelming to walk into church for the first time. Being greeted at the door can be a little uncomfortable for us. Worship can be a little weird for us.  A new Christian needs a soft kind word and space to let God work.
  2. I wish Christians understood that our lives are a mess! We lived without Jesus! Of course our lives are messy. If you have a new Christian in your group and they feel comfortable enough to tell their story, let them tell it and afterward thank them for their vulnerability. Sharing our stories heals our wounds.
  3. I wish Christians knew how much we need a prayer covering. A lot of us don’t have families who pray for us, spouses who pray for us or anyone for that matter. It’s just us and Jesus. Please pray for our spiritual growth and protection.
  4. I wish Christians knew that we need a new family. Our earthly families are often confounded by our new found faith. They haven’t forgotten how we lived our lives before Jesus and being made new is not within their understanding. Being with our families in our new found faith is often difficult and painful. We may need or want to spend holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, with our faith family.
  5. I wish Christians knew that we have really strong convictions. Our convictions may not be yours and vice versa.  Let the Holy Spirit convict. You have the blessing of supporting us while we walk it out.
  6. I wish Christians knew that our eyes are wide open. Amazing Grace says, “I once was blind and now I see.” New Christians are watching with their eyes wide open. You are an example to us.
  7. I wish Christians knew that God has called us. We haven’t prayed for 20 years to be in ministry. That doesn’t make us unqualified to be a part of ministry work. The Bible says that we are ministers of reconciliation, all of us. New Christians often have a passion and boldness because this whole thing is new and fresh. We have something to offer the body of Christ. Help us find our place and receive us with open arms.
  8. I wish Christians knew that vulnerability is important. We want to hear your faith stories. Faith stories are inspiring because it shows us that God is faithful. Your stories tell us how God showed you who he was in a place where your life was less than perfect. Your faith stories give us encouragement and hope.

So, there it is. Eight things I wish Christians knew about being a new Christian. I hope it urges you into love and good works.

The Blessed Life

Ah, yes, the blessed life. Christians truly live under the blessings of God. It makes us special. But what happens when circumstances seem to reveal the opposite? Where do you land when things go wrong, when you get sick, someone stole from you, or you lost your source of income? Let me be totally honest with you, I thought that when I gave my life to Jesus I would have an easy life. I actually thought I would not have trouble in my life anymore. I was so ready for life to be on easy street because, frankly, life without Jesus was hard! I guess from the outside looking in, you might think I was experiencing hardship. But for the first three years of pursuing faith in Jesus, life was changing for the better, consistently. I could see very clearly where God was working and blessing with a yes and Amen. Then…the bottom fell out. I should say, it seemed like the bottom fell out. A lot of really tough circumstances hit my life all at the same time. It’s like my seat in heavenly places disappeared and I fell into hell. While that may sound dramatic, if you build your belief system of a blessed life as no trouble in your life, it will be a big wake up call when difficult times hit. What happened when trouble hit was an education only Father God can give.

I have to back to when my son was learning a new Bible verse. It was John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” I took a “that’s nice” approach to the scripture, I encouraged and facilitated the memorization and maybe spoke into it without really experiencing a revelation of the meaning of it. Little did I know that the timing and the scripture were prophetic. I needed to take heart and know that Jesus has overcome all the trouble I would go through. God was trying to prepare me for what was to come. I ignored it because it didn’t fit into my blessed life bubble.

So, what did Father God teach me? He taught me about sanctification. What’s that? It is God transforming us into what He created us to be in the first place. He is changing us from sinner into saint. Sanctification is the process of transformation. I call it the burning fires of God (see Hebrew 12, read the entire chapter for context). Why would it be the burning fires of God? Well, let’s take the process of making gold as an example. While gold automatically has value, it is not shiny and useful when it is mined out of the earth. It looks like a rock with gold coloring. In order to make something of use out of the gold, it has to be refined. Fire and heat are required to refine gold. Refining it makes it shiny and makes the rock soft enough to be shaped into something for use. God wants to use us to change the world, we have to be transformed so that we can be used. While there is an instantaneous transformation at salvation, sanctification is a lifetime process that we undergo as we endure the troubles and victories of life. It is the process of learning how to love and trust God and to love others. I don’t believe that sanctification ever stops, although, I do believe that sometimes refining is intense and sometimes refining come easy.  Some call these hills, valleys, and mountains. I like to call it life on earth, being subject to evil, the interference of other’s free will choices and learning to trust God in the midst of it all.

So what does this have to do with blessing? Well, in the midst of difficult situations and circumstances, it is easy to fall into a belief system that says your life isn’t blessed anymore. I am here to say, it is impossible for you to lose your spiritual blessings. What God showed me about blessing during troubled times is that I have to remember the simple things He has done, my identity as a child of God, and that He is with me the whole way through. Trials throw us into a time where gratitude for the simple things, for the simple blessings, brings joy in the midst of trouble. It is a time where we need to remember what we have been blessed with: salvation, provision, protection, victory and more. In the meantime, we wait patiently on God to show us the way through tough times. Take heart new believer! Jesus has overcome every trial you will have. Rest and know that you are blessed.

Mentoring and Marriage

“Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God.  They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers.  Instead, they should teach others what is good.  These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands.  Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.” Titus 2:3-5

I don’t believe in fate or coincidence or luck anymore (although I still wish people good luck sometimes; old habits die hard).  I believe in destiny.  I had a date with destiny in June of 2010.  I met a Titus 2 woman.  A woman who became my mentor.  She is like a second mother to me.

There is no way that I could have entered the battle for my marriage alone.  While I had Jesus at my side, I simply did not have the courage to act the way I needed to without someone’s guidance.  Not only was my mentor my cheerleader but she was my prayer warrior and support to run to when things got really hard.  My marriage got worse before it got better.  With a new identity, a new heart, and a mentor to train me I was ready to be open to what it would take to save my marriage.  I was embarking on a journey that I know many would not take.

Without my mentor I was on rabbit trail after rabbit trail reading books about how to win over my husband.  A lot of what I was reading suggested things that I had already tried and worked for a period of time; then we’d have a fight and all was lost.  It was a constant one step forward, two steps back.  The question I had before me: was I going to control my husband and be controlled by my need for him (the curse of Eve) or was I going to allow Christ inside of me to prevail?

My mentor gave me a sheet of paper with 1 Peter 3 on it, from the Amplified version. Even though I was offended (well, probably mad is more like it), that is what I went after.  Standing behind me was a mentor encouraging me to practice it, no matter what my husband was doing to me or behind my back.  Christ in me produced the 1 Peter 3 woman.  Who is she?

In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them], so that even if any do not obey the Word [of God], they may be won over not by discussion but by the [godly] lives of their wives, when they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes: to respect, defer to, revere him – to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband.] Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of the hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes; but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God.  For it was thus that the pious women of old who hoped in God were [accustomed] to beautify themselves and were submissive to their husbands [adapting themselves to them as themselves secondary and dependent on them].  It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his leadership over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority).  And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you]. 1 Peter 3:1-6

My mentor gave me a copy of the first chapter of Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartin.  This prayer is AMAZING!  It changed how I prayed for my marriage and my husband.  Her prayer asked God to change her, not her husband. With answered prayer for a new heart in me, my new prayer was: unify my husband and I and change me, Lord.  It was clear that me trying to change my husband wasn’t going to work.  Changing me was the only thing I could call upon God for and he has answered with a resounding yes.

During this stage of my walk with Jesus, I learned discipline.  I chose to have faith that God would work in and through me to be what my husband needed.  I had to allow my husband to continue to do whatever it is he wanted to do without a peep from me.  I cannot say that walked this scripture out perfectly, I got scared and anxious sometimes.  But it was enough; grace and mercy found me when I needed it.  I decided to hold on to my faith in Jesus and let God work it out.

What does that look like?  I stopped fighting for my marriage.  I allowed God to go to battle for me.  Instead of holding on tight, I let go.  I told my husband that I was not holding him hostage in our marriage and that he could leave any time.  These words were said with peace in my heart.  He knew that he could leave and I wasn’t going to cling to him.  I also told him that my choice was to stay in the marriage and work though our problems.  Although it was extremely hard, I had faith that if he did leave, I would be taken care of because God loves me and provides for me.  I had to allow my husband to say whatever he wanted to about himself, about me, about our children and our marriage without defending any of those things.  We have had a lot of uncomfortable moments. I have had mud pie on my face more times than I would like to admit.  I chose to keep quiet.  God is my defender, not me.  What made this possible?  The understanding that my husband is separate from me.  He is responsible to God for everything he says and doesn’t say,everything he does and doesn’t do.  If I control him, he cannot be Fathered by God; instead he is controlled by me so that I don’t look bad and we don’t receive consequences.

I understand today that my husband is a son of God.  God is his Father and because God is a good Father, my husband is under the law of grace and mercy, not failure and consequence.  God is gentle and kind, a controlling wife is…well…not.  Prior to our mess, my husband had not received Jesus.  He was leading a selfish life and it hurt his family greatly.  However, I pursued my relationship with God and fellowship with a mentor who supported my cry to be changed.  My husband now knows Jesus because I trusted God to work.  I laid down my fear and anxiety to save my marriage.

A New Heart

She is clothed in strength and dignity and she can laugh at the days to come.The cry of my heart was for God to put a new heart in me.  God is faithful to answer prayers like that because that is His promise to us.  During my time in counseling, I spent so much time with God; with kids in school and no job, I spent my days in Bible Study, prayer, and reading books on Jesus and Christianity.  I had very little understanding of what I was actually doing other than looking for answers.  Looking back, I now know I was pursuing God.

Enter again Beth Moore.  So Long Insecurity was the book I was reading when God gave me a new heart.   I was on my knees, on my bedroom floor, bending over the book, and bawling. The truth is that my insecurity is what drove my life, my decisions, and most of the trouble I got myself into.  Insecurity caused me to put on the clothes of someone else in order to be accepted by others.  God exposed insecurity as the true motive of my heart; the lie and the sin that drove me to the end of my rope. What God had for me in this book was one sentence that I needed to hear so badly in my life.  The way Beth phrased it is: “You are clothed with strength and dignity and no one can take that away from you.”  Proverbs 31, verse 25 says “she is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  I own that scripture!  It is my foundational scripture, and it is available to anyone who wants it – for free!  Just walk with it hidden or in your heart, say it (and believe it) when you feel insecure, and it is yours.

The cause of the circumstances in my life was insecurity; it was now exposed so that I could deal with it.  The beauty of God is that he doesn’t expose a lie to you without replacing it with truth.  Lie: I am insecure.  Truth: I am clothed with strength and dignity!  I was designed that way! I truly believe that I had an encounter with the Spirit of God that day.  My prayers were answered. I was transformed. I got the new heart that I had asked for.

God promises us that he will give us a new heart, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  With a new heart, we see ourselves and others differently.   We view our world with a soft and squishy heart of compassion, which is the heart of Jesus.

My favorite scripture on this topic is from Ezekiel 36: 25- 31
“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from your idols.  I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people and I will be your God.  I will save you from all your uncleanness.”

When I received this revelation as mine, I felt so free.  With these scriptures in my pocket and the Holy Spirit living inside me, I was now prepared to fight my next battle; the battle for my marriage.

A New Identity

I am a serial personality test taker.  If there is a test that tells me who I am, what I should do, and how I can get there, I take it.  I have always wanted to know who I am and how that applies purpose to my life.  As it turns out, I was defined – both in my mind and in the minds of others – by the details of my life lived, including how I was raised, the decisions I made, and what others said about me.

What defined the old me?  My shy nature, an inclination toward rebellion, insecurity, a lack of self confidence, an unplanned pregnancy out of wedlock, wanting to be anyone but me.  All really dark things.  This is the baggage I carried into a relationship with Jesus.  The good news?  He took my baggage and showed me who I really am.  In my journey with Jesus, I have been redefined.  I have a new identity!

God says, I am created in His image (Genesis 1:27). God knew me before I was born (Jeremiah 1:4-5). He predestined me before time began (1 Corinthians 2:7). He knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). He has chosen and appointed me for a time such as this (Esther 4:14). He clothed me with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25).  God created each of us with his own hands.  He gave us purpose and instilled in us the confidence to carry it out with Him as our guide.  This looks very different from how I have been defined by myself and others.

Knowing my identity in Christ changed how I view myself and how I view others.  The beauty of Christianity is that we are all valuable to God, even people who do not believe in Christ.  I believe the reason bad things happen in our lives and the lives around us is because our primary thoughts about ourselves are: I am not accepted, I am insecure, and I am insignificant.  The truth is:
YOU ARE ACCEPTED…YOU ARE SECURE…YOU ARE SIGNIFICANT.
Humanity was created for purpose and significance.  Each and every life is precious to God.

My counselor gave me a beautiful document that I still cherish today.  It is entitled: In Christ I Am.  It is a list of scriptures that tell me that I am accepted, I am secure, and I am significant.  The proof is all in the Word of God.  The list is not exhaustive but it is a good start.  Search the scriptures for yourself, you will see that we are created by a God who designed us with love…for love.  Receive it in prayers of thanksgiving that you are God’s child, accepted, secure and significant.

You have a new identity!

I am accepted:

I am God’s child (John 1:12)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I have been justified (Romans 5:1)

I am united with the Lord and one with him in spirit (1 Cor. 6:17)

I have been bought with a price and belong to God (1 Cor. 6:19, 20)

I am a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12:27)

I am a saint (Eph 1:1)

I have been adopted as God’s child (Eph 1:5)

I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18)

I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins (Col 1:14)

I am complete in Christ (Col 2:10)

I am secure:

I am free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1,2)

I am assured that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)

I am free from any condemning charges against me

(Romans 8:31-34)

I cannot be separated from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39)

I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God (2 Cor. 1:21,22)

I am hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3)

I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected (Phil 1:6)

I am a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20)

I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7)

I can find grace and mercy in time of need (Heb 4:16)

I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)

I am significant:

I am the salt and the light of the earth (Matt 5:13, 14)

I am a branch of the true vine, a channel of His life (John 15:1,5)

I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit (John 15:16)

I am a personal witness of Christ’s (Acts 1:8)

I am God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16)

I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Cor 5:17-21)

I am God’s co-worker (2 Cor 6:1)

I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm (Eph 2:6)

I am God’s workmanship (Eph 2:10)

I may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph 3:12)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)

Falling In Love

The first Bible Study I ever did was Revelation by Beth Moore. Yup, I started with the hardest book in the Bible. The one with the dragons and crowns. The – seemingly – doom and gloom book where heaven and hell collide. But I didn’t learn a thing about Revelation and I sure didn’t take away doom and gloom. I saw a man on a white horse who was going to rescue me. I fell in love with Jesus.

You might wonder how you could fall in love with a man in a book who lived 2000 years ago. I still wonder that myself. I had a tough time even saying the name Jesus, let alone believe in Him. But love Him? Now that is unbelievable. But this is where my journey lightstock_150150_small_user_4272779begins, learning who this person Jesus is, what He says about me, what he came for, and how that transforms me.

So what did Jesus live on Earth to do? I believe Isaiah 61 tells us the purpose of Jesus’ life:

  • He binds up broken hearts
  • He sets captives free
  • He releases prisoners from darkness
  • He comforts those who mourn
  • He crowns us with beauty in exchange for our ashes
  • He anoints us with the oil of joy instead of mourning
  • He gives us a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair
  • He makes us mighty oaks for the display of His splendor
  • He restores the places long devastated
  • He makes us ministers of our God
  • He gives us the riches of nations and we boast in their riches
  • Instead of shame He gives us a double portion (life more abundantly – freedom)
  • Instead of disgrace he teaches us to rejoice in our inheritance (we are sons and daughters of the King)
  • He gives us everlasting joy
  • He clothes us with garments of salvation
  • He arrays (dresses) us with a robe of His righteousness (we become Godly)

For me, this was the Good News. Jesus came so that my life could be transformed. All the bad stuff could be turned around and made good. Before Jesus, every religious experience in my life involved earning love by doing what religion asked me to do. When my eyes started to open, I saw Jesus as a savior. I received what He did as my release to know and love Him in return. I saw Jesus as a man, fully alive and accessible; not a dead man on a cross. I saw that what He came for applied to every life, every mess, and every good deed. I saw the very goodness of a God that knows what being human is like because he came to Earth as a man and experienced what we experience.

Jason Gray is one of my favorite Christian music artists. He wrote a song called “More Like Falling In Love.” The chorus says:

It’s gotta be
More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance

At the end of the song it says: “Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me.” At 36 years old, I gave my life to Jesus. I was baptized in water on May 9, 2010; Mothers Day. That day I was made new.

Why Jesus?

When I look back on my life, I am amazed that I am a Christian. I don’t consider myself to have been raised a Christian, I was raised to be a Catholic. I could not see that Catholicism and Christian were one in the same. I mostly saw it as a “we and they” sort of deal. What I witnessed of Christianity was television evangelists who yelled, cried a lot, and often times they seemed to be sweating profusely. To me, there was a big difference between the passion of Christianity and the reverence of the liturgy. The two did not make one.

During my formative years I was antagonistic toward Catholicism. I attended parochial school which meant I attended mass at least once a month as a part of my schooling. I received the sacraments as a part of my schooling. Being a part of my family meant that I attended church every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not. I did not understand what going to church meant, I did not experience anything but sitting, standing, and kneeling in a pew before the altar with Jesus hanging on the cross. I did what I was told I had to do. Religion was a function and I resented it.

As an adult, I was very cynical. I rejected God and Catholicism altogether. I couldn’t see how the function of my religion brought anything good to my life. I blindly pursued the opposite of what I was being taught. Rebellion became the substance of my life and I really enjoyed it. Until, one day, I got myself into a lot of trouble. But even with heavy consequences, Jesus would be no part of my life or pursuit of it. I’d rather be “spiritual” knowing there was a higher power. I’d rather just keep trying to change myself, force myself to be what I thought I should be, rather than see a Man who came to earth for my ultimate freedom so that I could be who I was created to be.

Well into adulthood, the pressures of life became too much for me to handle. I would briefly get some relief from my overwhelming emotions by reading a self help book, doing yoga, working out in the gym, drinking wine, taking anti-depressants. I knew there was something very wrong with me. I just couldn’t get it together. I found myself at a crossroads, a moment where I said enough was enough. I walked into our local non-denominational church, there, I had an encounter with Jesus. I met someone who had given her life to Jesus and really meant it. Because He loved her and she loved Him, she loved me. A love encounter is what turns us to the One who loves us most.

So, what was so wrong with me? Most Christians would say that sin is what was wrong with me. I believe that to be true. However, I would say that being separated from God was my problem. Not being able to see God for who He is because of how life turned out and because I was offended by those who represented God. That is what kept me from God. That kept me away from unconditional love. While I was separated from Him, He still loved me. That is the key that won my heart. What I had done in my life, what was done to me in my life, the current circumstances of my life didn’t matter. I am loved, dearly loved. That is why I chose to follow Jesus.