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Rain, Holy Spirit Blessing

When God Sends the Rain

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. Isaiah 44:3

Monday night I stood in the rain with some beautiful sisters in Christ. Some of them I had never met before. I don’t even know their names. But they’re family.

Have you ever been a part of something so simply profound you knew God was in it?

We held hands in a sweet circle of fellowship, petitioning the throne of grace. We cried out for our nation. For our husbands and children. We cried out for repentance. For His church.

Rain splashed down unrelenting, soaking us to the skin. No one cared that our hair stuck to our faces, or if mascara ran down our cheeks. We were free. Free to worship. Free to love. Free to receive.

Position didn’t matter in that place. Only Jesus mattered. And as we cried out to God uninhibited, He responded to us with rain.

The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 28:12

One of the women voiced what stirred in my own heart. It felt like a fresh baptism. God was washing us in His Spirit. He heard us. And He moved.

I can’t help thinking of David’s words from Psalm 133:1-3.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Beloved, God pours out a special anointing when His people come together in unity. The oil of the Lord pours forth and runs down, covering His precious sons and daughters. There the Lord commands the blessing of life.

Do you know that life, dear one? Have you known the fellowship of uniting with other believers—regardless of church or denomination—to seek God’s heart and accomplish His purpose?

Jesus promises to show up in those moments.

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:19-20

Jesus manifests when His people agree in His Name. Why do you think the enemy works so hard to keep us fighting? If he can keep us pushing our own agendas, wounding one another with the sword, he can keep us floundering in our flesh while Jesus remains distant.

But when we agree—when we bear the image of our Lord who is One and join our hearts in His purpose—Jesus can’t stay away. His very presence comes with anointing power to strengthen His people to fulfill His plans.

And the enemy trembles.

Let the promise of Psalm 23:5 fall afresh on you, beloved.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Satan quakes when he sees the family of God approaching the Father’s table in unity. He is forced to watch helplessly while God anoints us with the power to defeat him.

Jesus calls us to the table, dear one. It’s time we humble ourselves and set aside our differences. It’s time to forgive. It’s time for fellowship in the Holy Spirit.

We need Jesus to manifest.

Spirit empowered

The Gift You Don’t Know You Have

“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” Numbers 11:29

The words in our opening scripture came from the mouth of Moses. He said them in response to concern that men in the camp were found prophesying in the Spirit. Up to that moment, that job had belonged to Moses alone. He served as the mouthpiece between God and man.

But a problem arose. The people had started grumbling. Again. They were tired of the manna God had provided. They wanted meat—meat they expected Moses to provide.

So Moses approached God with this complaint.

Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.” Numbers 11:11-14

I wonder if you can relate. Have you ever set out in obedience to God only to find that the people He sent you to serve didn’t appreciate it?

Moses lived in that place. He gave up the palace in Egypt for them. Then he left his peaceful life and the home he’d made with his wife to deliver them from slavery. And he succeeded, with God’s help. God enabled those grumbling Israelites to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground.

The people had moments of gratitude. But mostly, they grumbled. And now they found themselves in the desert, the place between their deliverance and their blessing, and they weren’t happy. Moses found himself so tired of their ingratitude that he asked God to kill him.

“If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.” (verse 15)

But God didn’t kill him. Instead, He gave him help.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone.” (verses 16-17)

I love the picture of God in these verses. He comes near to help us. And I will come down and talk with you there. God desires nothing less than intimacy with His people. And do you see what was needed to fulfill God’s purpose, beloved? God Himself.

We can’t fulfill the purpose of God apart from the work of the Spirit of God.

We can’t fulfill the purpose of God apart from the work of the Spirit of God. #LiveSpiritempowered Click To Tweet

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. (verses 24-25)

Did you notice what took place when the Spirit of God rested on these men? They prophesied. They spoke the Word of God by the power of His Spirit.

But two men of the chosen seventy hadn’t joined the gathering at the tent of meeting. They remained in the camp. And when God poured His Spirit out on them, they also began to prophesy.

This is what brought the young man to Moses, concerned that others were doing what he could do. Even Moses’ aid Joshua, who would later lead the Israelites into their Promised Land, said, “My Lord, Moses, stop them” (verse 29).

Isn’t it funny how our human nature wants to control who does what. And we fear—even within our churches—that God moving through someone else somehow diminishes our own significance.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (verse 29)

Moses understood that what he had with God couldn’t be diminished by someone else having it too. Each of us hold special priority in God’s sight. When we understand our significance to Him, we can applaud when someone else discovers the beauty of what we have.

“Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

Jesus answered that prayer through the cross, beloved. Now every one of us has been empowered to hear from God and boldly declare His Word.

Let’s walk in the power we’ve been given!

discover your promised land

Have you Discovered Your Promised Land?

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

What are you really after, beloved?

As Christians, most of us say that we seek God. But if we’re honest, I think many of us have been tricked into settling for something less. We encourage one another to fix our eyes on God’s promises. But what if by fixing our eyes on those promises we miss the blessing of God Himself?

Our enemy has convinced us to focus our desires on the blessings found in this world. Our hearts long for material things. For honor. Comfort. Wealth. Security.

And we’ve incorporated those things into our understanding of life in Christ. We know Christ has blessed us, so we interpret those blessings to come through material provision, expecting God’s generous overflow. Christ promises victory and authority, so we assume that means we’ll get everything our heart desires. Chasing that promise, we seek power we’re not yet ready to handle.

But many of us have missed what God taught Abraham when He called him away from the life he knew to a life of radical faith.

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1 NKJV

God Himself is the reward, beloved.

Moses discovered that promise to be true. He grew up in the palace of a king in the wealthiest nation in the land. He had everything a worldly heart could desire. Money. Prestige. Comfort. He lived the life that many of us long for. Yet Hebrews 11:24-26 tells us this about him.

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.

Think this through with me a moment, dear one. What reward was Moses looking toward? He had everything the world would tell him to desire. Yet he was willing to suffer dishonor for the sake of Christ, because what he would gain surpassed the wealth and treasures of Egypt.

What was Moses after?

I doubt he knew, until 40 years later when God showed up in a burning bush and called him to Himself. And after encountering His glory, Moses made the same choice Abraham made. He’d follow wherever God led, even if it took him back to Egypt.

God sent Moses to deliver Israel from their slavery. But He wasn’t just taking them from Egypt. He was taking them to their Promised Land. After 400 years, God was fulfilling His promise to Abraham.

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” … “To your offspring I will give this land.” Genesis 12:2, 7

God had promised Israel the land of Canaan. And finally, after centuries of waiting, He sent Moses to deliver them and take them to their land of promise.

But it didn’t take long for the people to start grumbling. They complained about their lack of food in the desert, and God sent bread from heaven. He drew water from a rock when they complained of thirst. And after the people began to worship a golden calf, God offered Moses an opportunity to end the grumbling.

The Lord said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 33:1-3

I wonder how Moses felt in that moment. God offered to send them from the desert into the land the people had longed for. And He vowed to send an angel to drive out their enemies. God promised power and provision, and Moses would regain the people’s favor by giving  them what they wanted. They could finally exchange the lifeless desert for the land of promise.

You might be surprised at Moses’ response.

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” Exodus 33:15

You see, Moses realized the Promised Land wasn’t the true blessing. God Himself is. An angel wasn’t good enough. He wanted God. And he was willing to forsake God’s promised blessing to have His Presence.

What would you choose, beloved? Is Jesus your means to an end, or the end you’ll pursue by whatever means?

Don’t fall into the trap of wanting God’s promises more than you want Him. Jesus is your promised land, dear one. In Him you will find fullness of joy.

And He’s worth whatever it may cost you.

What Holds Your Gaze, Your Pain or His Promises?

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

I find myself struck by the power of the message tucked within our opening scripture.

The scene takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane, just after our Lord’s agonizing prayer submitting His will to our Father. Jesus had struggled so intently to yield His heart, great drops of blood mingled with His sweat and dripped to the ground.

Then He rose to face His accusers and surrender His life for you and me.

Matthew 26 tells us a great crowd with swords and clubs approached Jesus to arrest Him. His disciples rose to defend Him, and Peter struck the servant of the high priest with his sword, slicing off his ear.

Here we come to our opening scripture.

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:51

I wonder how the crowd must have felt, witnessing this miracle firsthand. They had come to arrest Him for blasphemy. After all, He had claimed to be God, and that idea was impossible. Yet who but God could reattach an ear with just His touch?

How fear must have gripped them. Yet that same fear drove them to kill the Savior who had come to redeem them.

But here’s the thought that struck me today, beloved. Jesus intervened on behalf of one who had come to harm Him. He healed him, and the man hadn’t even asked Him to. He gave of Himself on behalf of one who hated Him.

How much more will He give on behalf of one who loves Him?

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11

I pray that thought encourages you, dear one. It encourages me. You see, at times life seems to offer one hurt after another. Circumstances arise that we would never choose. Trials come that seem to have the power to end us. They rob us of our breath—sometimes even our will to breathe.

But in those moments, we are never forsaken. The God who loves and gives stands ready to give of Himself to us. But He often waits for His children to fix our gaze upon Him. To know who He really is. And understand who we really are.

I have wept over the promises found in Psalm 27.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident… For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. (verses 1-3, 5)

He will, beloved. He always keeps His Word. But the key to experiencing His promise and rescue is found in verse 4.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

You see, most of us fix our gaze on this life. The things we desire. The people we love. Even on our enemies. And we often find ourselves overcome by disappointment and pain.

But David shows us the way to peace and victory in Psalm 27:4. He set his heart on one thing alone: intimacy with his Lord. He desired to see Him—to gaze upon His beauty—and to hear from Him. As long as David could search out his God and inquire of Him for help, he knew he’d be ok.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Psalm 27:6

David knew that even when our enemy comes from every side seeking to drown us in fear and hopelessness, if he fixed his gaze on Jesus and His plan, his Lord would lift his head above his enemies and he would rise victorious.

I have lived the promise of these verses, dear one. Many times over the last year, I sensed a great army encamped against me. Over and over, opportunities to fear surfaced. The enemy whispered he would take my parents, my son, even my ministry. Illness and discord fought for prominence in my life.

But I determined I wouldn’t bow down to fear. I set my gaze upon the beauty of my Lord, proclaiming His promises and inquiring in His temple. And I discovered what David had found.

Peace.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

 Our Father will not forsake His children, no matter what circumstances suggest.

He implores us to believe Him.

man experiencing spiritual power

Faith that Promises Power!

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

You probably love the message found in our opening scripture. I do. It holds a beautiful promise. Our faith isn’t limited to words and creeds. It promises power.

But I have to ask, dear one. Are you experiencing that power?

I think it’s safe to say that many believing Christians don’t. We’ve settled for something that falls short of scripture’s promises. Most of us don’t really live as new creations in Christ. Very few actually witness any miracles. And we have no expectation that anything’s going to change.

But what if God is just waiting for His people to stop settling and take Him at His Word? What if we really could experience moments like Luke 5:26,

And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

Extraordinary moments happen when God shows up. And that’s what we’ve been missing, dear one. We haven’t learned how to carry His presence into every circumstance.

Years ago, God captured my attention with Romans 8:14.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

I’ll be honest with you. For years, I called myself a child of God, but I wasn’t led by the Spirit. I made my own decisions without ever inviting God to participate. And I never experienced His power manifesting in my life.

Beloved, God shows up when we are yielded—when we allow Jesus to take His rightful place on the throne and lead. You see, Christianity isn’t just about acknowledging Jesus is Lord of all. It’s personal.

Real life begins when you choose to make Jesus Lord over you.

That’s what the early church had that many of us don’t, dear one. They were filled with the Spirit, yielding to His leadership. And where they went, God made Himself known.

It began on the day of Pentecost.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4

Do you see it, dear one? Power poured out when they were filled with the Spirit. Suddenly, they had capabilities they hadn’t had before. God’s Spirit enabled them to speak in languages they didn’t know!

Acts 6:5 describes Stephen—the first disciple martyred for his faith— as, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. What did that filling accomplish for him?

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8

When we are filled with the Holy Spirit—fully yielded to His plans and purposes—anything is possible.

That’s why Ephesians 5:17-18 commands us.

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

Scripture compares being filled with the Spirit to being drunk with wine. What happens when people are drunk? The wine influences and controls them. God uses that analogy so that we can understand what it means to be filled with the Spirit. In Scripture, filled with means to be under the influence of and controlled by.

Are you controlled—or led—by the Spirit, dear one? That’s the only way you’ll access heaven’s power.

The Apostle Paul lived in that power.

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Act 19:11-12

Can you imagine being so filled with the Spirit—filled to overflowing—that clothing that touched you would carry the power of God’s Presence to others? Many people long for the authority and power that Paul had. But they don’t want to follow the path he chose to achieve it.

You see Paul suffered greatly to live surrendered. 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 offers a taste of it. But through all his suffering, Paul would let nothing come between him and the will of God. Not even death.

When the Holy Spirit warned him and several other believers that going to Jerusalem would mean his death, he went anyway. When his friends tried to stop him,

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:13-14

Paul did go to Jerusalem and found himself in another jail. Acts 23:11 reveals what happened to him there.

The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

Our Lord Jesus never leaves a surrendered heart, dear one. In fact, yielding to His leadership causes Him to manifest, just like He did to Paul.

John 14:21 remains my life verse. You see, like Paul, I have lived its promise.

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Beloved, God defines loving Him as yielded obedience. And when we submit to His Word, He promises to reveal Himself.

Are you ready to believe that the kingdom of God is more than talk? Do you long to experience its power?

Yield, beloved. Love Jesus with obedience.

And watch Him manifest.

Are You Washing Your Clothes?

Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. Revelation 3:4 ESV

You might be surprised at how many times scripture references clothes. Particularly washed clothes.

We find our opening scripture in Jesus’ address to one of the seven churches in Revelation, penned by the apostle John. John opens the book with a blessing included in no other book of scripture.

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. Revelation 1:3

I don’t know about you, but I could handle a little blessing. After all, the opposite of blessing is still cursing. And God declared that those who hear and keep His words written in Revelation are blessed.

Are you listening?

Since God has captured my attention with garments, we will focus today on Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis.

He begins His address with some unsettling words.

“I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1

Do you know your reputation, dear one? What do those who know you believe about you? Does it match what God sees?

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Jesus shows great concern that our outward appearance matches our inner reality. That shouldn’t surprise us, really, when we consider that Jesus is the Truth and His enemy deceives.

Yes. Jesus desires authenticity.

I know this from experience, dear one. Several years ago, God used Revelation 3:1 to get me to deal with an area of sin in my own life I’d been trying to ignore.

At the time, God was in the midst of opening doors and expanding my borders in ministry.

Yes. God still uses imperfect people.

And to the outsider looking in, God’s hand was apparent. I had dedicated myself to earnestly living my faith, and God was actively using me to reach people and awaken them to His truth.

But God desires far more from us than our service, dear one. He wants our whole hearts. And He requires us to freely offer them so that He can transform them into the likeness of Jesus. That means holding nothing back.

So one day during my study of scripture, He spoke straight to my heart through His words to the church at Sardis. “I know your works, and I know your reputation. You have a reputation for being alive, but in this area, you are still dead.”

His next words through those verses brought me straight to my knees in repentance.

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:2-3

Jesus spoke these words to one of His churches, beloved. And He spoke them to me.

I wonder, dear one. What does He desire of you?

Repentance is the precursor to every blessing available to us in Christ. Without sincere, repentant hearts we will never transform and become His righteousness. And that leaves Jesus unable to use us to pour out His blessing on this desperately needy earth.

Jesus is asking us to trust His Word, dear one. To believe it and live according to it so that He can manifest our faith as righteousness. When we don’t live by what we have received and heard from Him, we soil our garments.

Thankfully, scripture also reveals that what Jesus requires of us is absolutely possible to accomplish, even in our humanity. It’s possible because God Himself provides the power to succeed when we choose to trust Him.

“Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:4-6

 What will you choose, dear one? Will you overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of your testimony? God longs to see it, beloved, to make you a living witness to His glorious power.

And consistently throughout His Word, He offers an unbreakable promise. God fights for and rescues the righteous.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands . . . These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. …Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Revelation 7:9, 14, 22:14

Liberty or Death…Why Do We Choose Death?

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

We Americans love the Fourth of July. We raise our flags proudly, celebrating our great nation and the freedoms it offers. And we applaud Patrick Henry’s bold cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

I get it. I love it too. But I wonder, dear one. How many of us really live free?

I know we live in the land of the free, but I’m talking about the freedom that comes from the One who gave it all for you and me. The freedom that poured out through the cross, triumphantly disarming every evil power.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15 (NIV)

Do you live celebrating that freedom, beloved? Do you even know what it means for you?

Most of us don’t really understand the freedom that’s offered to us. We’ve lived under the authority of evil for so long that we don’t even recognize its fingerprint. We’ve just gotten used to it.

So we live with it.

We tolerate our fear. We succumb to our depression. We give in to hopelessness.

Can you relate to that feeling of hopelessness, dear one? Do you imagine that your troubles are far beyond Jesus’ reach? Or perhaps you think you simply have too much to overcome.

Let me introduce you to a man drowning in hopelessness, living among the tombs in the Gerasenes, across the sea from Galilee. A prisoner to his mind, he had suffered a long time, an outcast welcomed only by the dead.

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. Luke 8:27

You may have already tuned out at the mention of the word demons. I understand. The word makes us uncomfortable. We’d really rather pretend they don’t exist.

But scripture reveals that much of what we battle results from their oppressive influence over our thoughts.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Whether we like the idea or not, evil is real, and its servants seek to exert its power over each of us. Perhaps it would be wise to learn to recognize their handiwork.

This man overcome by demons in Luke 8 offers a glimpse at what life can look like when evil influences are allowed to flourish unchecked in a man. Look at the devastation they cause in verse 27:

  • For a long time he had worn no clothes. They rob us of our dignity. The enemy loves to produce destructive behavior in us and then gleefully expose our shame. Then he uses that shame to keeps us securely under his thumb.
  • He had not lived in a house but among the tombs. They isolate us from our family and friends. Demons love to drive us away from the people who care about us. Loneliness and solitude are sure marks of evil’s handiwork.

They also make us self-destructive. Verse 29 reveals that when they put him under guard and shackled him to stop his tirades, “he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.” Under the enemy’s influence, we will even fight any measures put in place to protect us from ourselves.

No wonder God wants each of us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). A mind influenced by evil oppressors eventually self-destructs.

 Verse 33 provides a clear picture of the enemy’s plans for us when he is left unhindered. When Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave the man, they begged His permission to enter a herd of pigs, and Jesus gave it.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. Luke 8:33

What does the enemy do when free to exercise his will? He drives us right over a cliff to the death of all that we are. John 10:10 says it plainly:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

That’s a heavy thought if that were the whole truth of it. But praise the Lord, Jesus offers the way for us to escape the enemy’s clutches and live the life God intended for us. He promises in that same verse:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved, while the enemy destroys, Jesus saves. And He’s come to set us free!

How did that translate in the life of our demon-possessed friend?

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Luke 8:35 ESV

Oh that we would come to understand the magnitude of an authentic encounter with Jesus! The man’s transformation was so radical, the people responded with fear! They witnessed a miracle in the life of a hopeless man—once without dignity and out of control, now clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus; previously out of his mind, now clearly in his right mind.

Jesus set him free! A man abiding in death suddenly experienced the liberty found in Jesus’ name.

You can too, beloved. Jesus carries the power to rescue you from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). He longs to remove your shame and restore your dignity, to robe you in His righteousness and cloak you in His power.

Your situation isn’t hopeless. You just need Jesus.

Don’t Miss Your Miracle!

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Sometimes I get frustrated with prayer.

I probably shouldn’t say that. But I’m just being honest. After all, we live in a society of instant gratification. So we get wearied when prayers seem to go unanswered. And our enemy fuels that weariness, feeding our flesh with thoughts of futility.

It’s hard to have faith when we lose hope.

I know you’ve been there. I certainly have. Maybe you’re there right now.

What situation in your life have you labeled hopeless? What have you stopped praying for because you didn’t see God move the way you’d hoped? What if you’ve given up right on the threshold of your blessing?

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

Scripture calls us to pray without ceasing—to continue steadfastly—and to watch for the movement of God with thanksgiving. In other words, never lose hope.

I know. Easier said than done.

Especially when the road is long.

A few months ago, my husband and I met a wonderful Christian couple from Alabama while vacationing. God intersected our paths, and we quickly became friends.

Over the course of the week, we shared our stories and lots of laughter. But I also discovered that a deep pain lurked behind their friendly personalities and bright smiles. One of their daughters had suffered from illness for all of her twelve years.

At birth, because of a hole in her diaphragm, some of her organs weren’t where they should’ve been. Surgery corrected the problem, but it left its mark. Eating remained a constant struggle. Consuming food hurt, so she never wanted to eat. Every meal became a battle. At twelve years old, she weighed only 58 pounds.

Her parents shared stories of God’s faithfulness over the years. Through their hardship, they had been watchful, offering God praise for bringing their daughter through so much.

But they were weary. Twelve years is a long time to watch a loved one suffer. And to experience that suffering yourself as turmoil disrupts your days.

God stirred my heart to pray for our new friends and their daughter. And to rekindle their hope.

We won't believe without hope. Don't let the enemy steal yours. Click To Tweet

After we’d returned home, I was praying for this dear child I’d never met but loved in Jesus’ name. I felt the ache of this family’s twelve years of suffering. And Jesus reminded me of the woman with the issue of blood who had suffered twelve long years. Twelve years of seeking doctors only to worsen. Until one day, Jesus of Nazareth intersected her life and she touched the hem of His garment. Grace poured out from her Savior and healed what doctors could not.

I texted my new friend that April morning to encourage her that I was praying for her, and to share what Jesus had revealed about the woman with the issue of blood. The Spirit stirred my heart that it was time for fresh hope, and I told her I believed Jesus wanted her daughter living free from this burden over food. I would fight the battle with her in prayer.

Just last week I received incredible news from my friend. A new medication has stimulated her daughter’s appetite and she’s eating everything in sight! She has begun to enjoy her food and even tells her parents she’s hungry—something they’d never heard from her before. She’s also gained a few pounds.

Why do we keep praying, beloved? Because God moves through faith. And you never know when God’s perfect timing will intersect your circumstances—and you’ll receive your miracle. Even after 12 long years—or twenty, or thirty.

Which is why our enemy promotes hopelessness. We won’t believe without hope. And we’ll quit praying. So we miss our miracle.

And he [Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8

Beloved, your heavenly Father asks you to consider. If an unrighteous judge will give in to a persistent demand, will not the God who loves you move in answer to your perpetual prayers? He has staked His Word that persistent prayer will move Him, which is precisely why our enemy convinces us to lose hope.

To believe God for something when your circumstances consistently tell you something else requires tremendous faith. And faith is the catalyst that releases the grace of God to pour out salvation (Ephesians 2:8).

So Jesus asks you.

When He looks into your seemingly hopeless situation, will He find faith?

 

When Favor Brings Opposition

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

 But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9 NIV

 I used to believe that God’s favor meant ease. Then I felt the touch of God’s favor.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade following Jesus for anything. I want to walk in the steps of the God who goes before and experience His presence. And at times I am astounded as I witness His unmistakable hand making the impossible possible.

Yet there are other moments along the journey when difficulties arise that sap my strength. Doubt surfaces, bringing with it a lingering question: Have I stepped out of God’s favor?

Have you ever been there? Have you stepped out in faith, following a prompting God stirred in your heart, only to discover that opposition and difficulty seem to overshadow the favor you thought God had given?

If you have, you’re not alone. Scripture is full of stories of faith heroes that clearly possessed God’s favor yet faced terrible opposition. Nehemiah is one of those heroes.

His story begins with a stirring in his heart for the Jewish remnant returning to Jerusalem after 70 years of Babylonian captivity. He had been told,

Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:3-4

Nehemiah poured out his burden before the Lord, confessing the sins of the people and recalling God’s covenant promises. He finished with these words,

“Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king. Nehemiah 1:11

Nehemiah needed the favor of the king he served in order to return to Jerusalem and fulfill his calling to rebuild the city walls. When the time came to seek that favor, Scripture tells us he “was very much afraid” (Nehemiah 2:2). He had reason to be. The king did not serve Nehemiah’s God and had no reason to want to help Israel—or to release Nehemiah from three years of service to complete the project.

Yet after seeking the Lord, Nehemiah stepped out in faith and asked the king for permission to go. But he didn’t just ask for time off. He asked for letters giving him safe travel and for King Artaxerxes himself to provide materials for the project. Nehemiah should certainly have been executed for such a request, and yet Nehemiah 2:8 reveals,

And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.

 When God’s favor rests upon the head of His own, even a pagan king bows down.

And so Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem—papers in hand—accompanied by army officers and cavalry sent by the king.

Unfortunately, others aren’t always happy to see God’s kingdom advance. As soon as Nehemiah and the Jews began to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, men from surrounding communities who feared Israel regaining strength began to mock and ridicule them.

Still, they worked to rebuild the wall, crying out to God, “Hear us, our God, for we are despised” (Nehemiah 4:4). They managed to rebuild until the wall reached half its height.

Then their opponents plotted to fight against them, so the people prayed to God and posted a guard day and night to meet the threat. Half of the men worked while the others kept watch armed with weapons. Supply transporters even worked with one hand and carried weapons in the other (Nehemiah 4:17). Still, the work progressed.

Then Nehemiah began to help the poor, bringing further opposition. This time they schemed to bring harm to God’s servant another way. They drafted a letter accusing Nehemiah of trying to incite a revolt and proclaim himself king. Now we come to our opening Scripture,

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

 But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9

And God did.

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two daysWhen all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Nehemiah 6:15-16

God’s favor rested upon Nehemiah from beginning to end. His hand never left him, even when he weakened under oppression. The difficulty didn’t mean God’s favor had departed. No. It gave God an opportunity to provide Nehemiah strength in his weakness and became the very thing that proved God’s hand was with him all along.

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Dear one, if opposition comes against you when you set out to answer God’s call, don’t despair that God has abandoned you. He hasn’t. He is faithful to keep His Word no matter how circumstances appear. Opposition often affirms your stance in God’s will and provides an opportunity for Him to reveal His Glory.

And He may just be doing a good work in you in the process.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Do You Seek God’s Heart or His Hand?

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” Genesis 15:1 NKJV

Most of us struggle to realize that God Himself is our reward. We long for the things we believe He can give us. After all, we have desperate needs. But we often keep God at a distance.

Ten lepers met Jesus in a village as He journeyed between Samaria and Galilee. Luke 17:12 tells us they stood at a distance as they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (verse 13). Jesus responded with an unusual request.

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. (verse 14)

Place yourself in the scene, dear one. Ten lepers—outcasts because of their condition—had heard about a healer from Nazareth. Hope stirred their weary hearts. Maybe—just maybe—He could fix their problem. If He did what the stories promised He could, their lives would change forever. Healing meant they could reenter society. They’d return to their families.

They would live again.

They weren’t disappointed. Jesus answered their hope with direction. He told them to show themselves to the priests.

That might seem an odd request to you and me, but according to Old Testament Law, lepers could only return to living among their people if the priest declared them clean. By sending the lepers to present themselves to the priest, Jesus had declared their healing.

But I’d like you to notice something. He sent them away before they were healed.

When those ten men departed from Jesus, their skin still oozed from open sores.

And as they went they were cleansed. (verse 14)

Can you even imagine how they must have felt? Still bearing the marks of their defiled condition, they departed from Jesus in obedient faith. With each step toward the priests, they left behind their sickness and moved toward healing. By the time they reached them, they were completely cleansed.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (verses 15-19)

My heart stirs with the same question Jesus asked that day. Where are the other nine?

Jesus drastically changed the lives of ten men that day, yet only one of them thanked Him. Only one returned to look upon his Savior. Only one fell on his face at Jesus’ feet.

And only one will rise in glory when Christ returns. “… your faith has made you well.”

 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

Beloved, nine received an external cleansing and were satisfied. Only one believed Jesus worthy of honor for restoring his body, and he received the greater work. Jesus also healed him on the inside.

You see, his position had changed. This Samaritan started out just like all the other lepers. They all stood at a distance (verse 12), crying out to Jesus in desperate physical need. But even after Jesus healed them, the other nine remained there.

Nine had no desire for Jesus’ presence. They just wanted His blessing. They didn’t want Him. So they received their healing and went on their way as though they’d never met Him.

But one couldn’t stay away. With praise on his lips, he immediately turned toward the One who had healed his body. And he offered himself. He fell on his face before Him, close enough to touch His feet. Distance no longer defined his relationship to the Healer. And that made him more than well. It made him whole.

Have you come close to Jesus, dear one? Do you seek His presence? Or do you seek His hand?

Most of us seek God for external works. We want Him to heal our finances, our marriages, our bodies. But we don’t really want Him. We aren’t willing to fall on our faces. We just want to take from His hands and get on with living our lives.

We want what He can do, but we don’t desire Him.

Jesus is the reward, dear one. He’s the treasure. Seek Him as one, beloved, and you’ll experience what the leper did. He will make you well.

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46