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Don't let your guard down, enemy devours

Don’t Let Your Guard Down

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25

Every year as spring begins its march toward summer, I prepare for a season of gorgeous, knock-out roses by feeding and protecting our bushes with a systemic fertilizer and insect repellant. Well, almost every year.

Not this one.

This year just got busy, and I didn’t make the time.

And my lack of preparation left me with a nasty, tedious task: hand-picking Japanese beetles from the plants that were feasting on the leaves and new buds.

I know I’m supposed to love God’s creatures. And I do. Most of them. But my experience with these beetles has me almost convinced that these creatures weren’t part of God’s original creation. Like the thorn, they must have come after the fall.

You see, I can’t see what benefit they bring. They eat everything, leaving destruction in their wake. Buds that began with unhindered potential for flourishing beauty never get their opportunity to open. Instead, these creatures devour them, biting holes right through the layers of delicate petals until the bud withers and dies on the stem without ever opening.

Buds created with promise never satisfy their purpose.

And those clingy, crawling creatures had access to my garden because I got lazy. I let my guard down and rested from the work instead of doing what I know to be best for my plants.

Proverbs 6:10-11 and Proverbs 24:33-34 offer this sobering warning.

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

When God repeats Himself, we should take notice. Slumber allows poverty to overtake us like an armed man. Just like folding my hands allowed an enemy to destroy my roses.

I can’t help thinking that’s precisely how our spiritual enemy works in our lives. He waits for us to let our guard down, then lands where we’ve given him access and eats away at us little by little, leaving holes and scars that rob our potential. And if permitted, he’ll continue to nibble away until the glorious beauty that God wove into our DNA withers without ever blooming.

You know that’s his goal, don’t you? He doesn’t want you to become who God created you to be. So he steals, kills, and destroys (John 10:10), hoping you’ll never discover you hold the power to defeat him.

1 Peter 5:8 clearly describes his intentions.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Like those beetles in my garden, our enemy devours. Thankfully this verse also offers the means to our defense. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Know he’s coming, dear one, and proceed with diligence. Don’t let complacency give him a foothold.

 Trust me. I learned from those beetles. It’s easier to block his access than to remove him once you’ve given him ground. And scripture is your systemic fertilizer. It provides what you need to grow strong and repels the enemy’s advance.

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

You and I can’t get lazy about feeding on scripture. It’s our lifeline.

Take the time to read the Word, beloved. Meet Jesus in it. His Word is your impenetrable defense against the enemy. And if you have stumbled and given him unwanted access, don’t despair. Keep planting seed.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

It’s Christ’s power that defeats your enemy and establishes you.

His Word releases His power.

Are You Under the Influence?

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)

Anybody else sensing a darkness creeping in on the body of Christ like a thick fog?

Anxiety and fear have become common place, surfacing in places we never expected to see them. Depression robs our joy. Many of us live defeated, shrouded in a misery of our own making.

You see, we have forgotten to believe. Let me remind you of some things Jesus said.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Precious one, you hold the power within you to defeat the darkness. In fact, that’s your calling. Christ didn’t suffer the cross so His family could live defeated. He did it so you and I could dispel the darkness and live free.

The question is, do we?

I wonder if you can relate to that feeling of hopelessness. Let me introduce you to a man drowning in it, 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 permitted to have their way in the mind of man. Look at the devastation they caused 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 manipulate us.
  • He had not lived in a house but among the tombs. They cut us off from our families and leave us feeling we belong among the dead. Demons love to drive us into isolation. 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. Once 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 straight over a cliff to the death of everything God created us to be. 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.

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! His 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 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.

And He has conquered the enemy who torments your mind.

Believe, child of God.

Let Him prove it.

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.

Connections that Cure the Soul

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Corinthians 7:6

Do you ever notice that when things aren’t going well we tend to withdraw from the people we love?

Maybe we find we’re too busy to answer the phone. We ignore texts. We’ll cancel the lunch we had looked forward to with a friend.

When we need people the most, we often run from them. Have you ever considered why?

I have a suggestion for you, a reason why our flesh does all it can to convince us to separate from the people who love us. You know who governs your flesh, right? The enemy of your soul. And Jesus plainly revealed the distinct differences between His desires for us and our enemy’s.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

The thief—who has manipulated our flesh since the garden—wants to destroy us. And as he attempts to facilitate that destruction, he isolates us from the people who care about us. He convinces us to withdraw instead of connect.

Why would he do that?

Because God heals our souls through people. And the enemy doesn’t want us whole.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. James 5:16

Beloved, 1 John 1:9 assures us that confessing to God releases forgiveness and cleansing. But James offers another step on our journey to wholeness. God releases healing as we confess and open our hearts to people.

It makes sense when you think about it. God dwells in perfect fellowship with Himself, and He created us in His image. Life flows unhindered through agreement and unity with the Godhead. Disagreement and division sever that flow.

The enemy seeks to separate us from God and one another to block the flow of God’s life and power through His people.

No wonder Jesus asked,

“…that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:22-23

When people unite in love and godly purpose, God manifests. Jesus said so in Matthew 18:20.

 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

God longs for people to unite in Him so that He can make Himself known. Which is why the enemy continually convinces us to separate.

But when we connect with other believers, we experience the grace that flows through divine unity.

Even the apostle Paul needed others to revive his heart.

In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus. 2 Corinthians 7:4b-6

I don’t generally think of Paul as a man who struggled with fear. But his own words testify to a season of affliction that left him afraid. Yet God faithfully comforted his downcast soul.

How did He do it? He sent a man. Titus. And Paul experienced this result. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.

Dear one, I don’t pretend to understand all the workings of God and why He does what He does. But I have learned to trust His Word. And His Word tells me that He releases healing through people.

So we have a choice to make. Will we continue to let hardship separate us from the body? Or will we unite and experience Paul’s blessing of overflowing joy in the midst of affliction?

Let me leave you with God’s design for His church.

Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

Beloved, when each of us grow up in every way in Christ, we carry divine power to grow others. When working properly, we build up and restore.

Love propels us. Love results. And life flows as God manifests.

Are We Helping People into Hell?

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter. Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. Isaiah 59:14-15

It’s getting harder and harder to stand in agreement with God’s Word without being attacked. Isaiah 59:14 reveals why. Truth has stumbled in the public squares. The deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) has established his agenda, convincing the public that wrong is right. Even self-proclaimed Christians have bought the lies and wandered from God’s truth, allowing society’s convictions to dictate theirs. Now,

Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.

Recently, my husband’s defense of biblical marriage between a man and a woman earned him the accusation of being homophobic. Today people rush to judgment without understanding. I’d like to set the record straight.

While I’m aware that homophobia is all too real and even dangerous, many people who don’t support the LGBT lifestyle for biblical reasons aren’t projecting fear or hatred toward those involved in it. We fear for them.

Beloved, we believe in Jesus, and Jesus came to deliver mankind from our destructive bondage to sin. He came to sever our attachment to anything the enemy of our souls planted in our hearts that pulls us away from God and the life He planned for us. Those things are the natural desires of the flesh that find their root in darkness.

Ephesians 2:1-3 describes our fallen, natural condition.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Beloved, without Jesus, our very nature condemns us. Ephesians 2 explains the reason we have need of the cross! The natural passions of our flesh come from the evil one instead of the God who created us. Our sin nature that sets us following the course of this world instead of God’s desires positions us for wrath.

But God loved us too much to leave us in that state! So He sent Jesus.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

John 3:17-19 confirms God’s intentions for mankind through Jesus.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Beloved, I fear for those who choose to remain in darkness. Because I know where that choice will end. And my heart aches for the influence the darkness wields over their minds and hearts.

Do you know what lies at the heart of the transgender movement, dear one? The prince of this world has convinced people to hate who God created them to be. The inner voice telling them something is wrong with them has become so powerful they’re willing to mutilate their bodies to try to feel better and escape the pain. Pain that only exists because the deceiver has blinded them to the beauty of who they are. God did not give them that misery, dear one. The thief robbed their identity. Jesus said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

What these people are searching for can’t be found by different clothes or a surgeon’s knife. Bruce Jenner proved that. People applauded his bold step to come out and reveal his life long struggle with his identity. But my heart broke as I saw the pain in his eyes during his interview. He fought tears much of the time.

You see, taking that step didn’t make him feel any better. Becoming Caitlyn didn’t end the pain.

Choosing a new gender identity didn’t fix the problem, beloved. Happiness still eluded him. And it will until he discovers that true joy only comes when we find our identity in Christ.

Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it.

We think the way to help people who suffer this way is to support their decision and make them feel safe. It isn’t. The problem isn’t that God made a mistake and gave them the wrong parts. He doesn’t make mistakes.

They suffer from a heart condition. The deceiver has darkened their thinking and stolen their joy.

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Ephesians 4:18

Beloved, only Christ can deliver them from the darkness. I’m not against establishing LGBT rights because I hate them. I believe Jesus wants to save and restore them.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 NIV

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross provided a miraculous gift. He saved us from our condemned condition. He died to redeem our flesh, taking our sin so He could give us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus has literally provided us with divine power to change our natural, self-destructive desires (2 Peter 1:3-4)—the desires that keep us bound to the prince of darkness and will also bind us to his eternal fate. But we must, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

If we keep pushing an agenda that supports the LGBT lifestyle—establishing what God has declared wrong to be right (Romans 1:18-32)—we only help send people to their eternal destruction. And we keep them from discovering the answer to the pain that their heart really longs for. Jesus.

Love doesn’t establish law that makes sin easier and helps people self-destruct. It speaks the truth and extends a hand to pull them out.

[bctt tweet=”“Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s highest good.” -C.S. Lewis #thecrossdelivers” username=”Kelley_Latta”]

Their highest good is their deliverance!

Jesus said, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He was either a lunatic, a liar, or exactly who He claimed to be: The Son of God who came to save the world.

I happen to believe Him.

Is This What Love Looks Like?

“Choose Love, not Hate.”

I believe it’s an excellent proposition. Everything in me agrees with its message.

But as I watch the behavior of many who presently proclaim that message, I find myself confused.

How does throwing water on people just trying to attend a party demonstrate love? When did hurling insults at strangers—or spitting on them, for that matter—become an expression of love?

Yet people claiming that “Love trumps hate” are doing these very things. In the name of denouncing prejudice and discrimination, they project hatred toward people who have done them no personal offense except to think differently about something.

Isn’t that discrimination, dear one?

What about the right to have an opinion? Isn’t that a human right?

It’s amazing what fear can do unchecked in the human heart. It brings out the very worst in us. And make no mistake. That’s precisely the intent of the one who invokes it.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Whenever fear governs us, God does not. Instead we have allowed the deceiver to whisper his vain imaginations into our hearts and received them as truth, giving him control of our thoughts. That control allows him to manipulate our wills. And what he incites us to do will always reflect the ugliness of his nature.

Jesus clearly defined that nature in John 10:10.

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

We are seeing these truths played out before us on our streets and video screens. People are randomly destroying property belonging to the very humans they claim to love and fight for—people they don’t know and who have done them no personal harm—out of an irrational fear of the power one man holds. A man the enemy has convinced them to hate.

Now they act from that hate while proclaiming a message of love. And they are blinded to their own hypocrisy.

This, dear one, is why Jesus came. He came to sever the power and influence the deceiver of the world wields over the minds and hearts of man. He came to restore love and prove its power over hate.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words as He hung on the cross, He Himself a victim of the destructive power of a mob incited through fear.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

How is it possible that people can be so deceived about their own actions?

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Our unseen enemy deceives and distorts, hindering our ability to see truth clearly. Jesus proclaimed that He came to restore our sight and set us free from the oppressor.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18

You see Jesus became to us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). He came to reveal truth, to enable us to see.

James 3:13-18 reveals how we can distinguish between the wisdom that comes from the prince of this world and the wisdom that Christ brings.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (emphasis mine)

Oh, beloved, may we seek God to become a people of true wisdom—wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, impartial and sincere. To receive that wisdom, we need only ask its source, the One who created wisdom before He created the earth.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psalm 51:6

We have great and precious promises through the Word of God. But we must seek to know true wisdom through Christ, or we will be tossed to and fro. If we aren’t careful, the hatred of the mob will draw us in, and the pure love of Christ within our hearts will grow cold.

Jesus said it will happen to many in the last days.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13

Oh, beloved. Let’s not follow lawlessness and be counted among the cold.

Love is our answer. Only enduring love can save.

A Matter of Life and Death

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days . . .” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (ESV)

All choices have consequences.

Do you believe that, dear one? We often like to think that when we belong to God, our choices don’t really matter so much. We assume that He’ll cover our bad decisions and work it all out for our good. After all, God forgives.

True. God forgives and redeems. But redemption from sin always carries a cost. Just ask Jesus.

Beloved, Moses spoke our opening scripture to God’s own people.

“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life . . .”

Like it or not, every decision we make carries the potential to bless or curse. And according to our opening scripture, those blessings and curses don’t just affect us; they affect our offspring.

David learned that lesson the hard way.

You may be familiar with David—God’s chosen king over Israel—described by God Himself as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22).

And he was. Well, most of the time. David loved the Lord and desired to serve Him wholeheartedly. But there came a time when David distanced himself from God’s presence. And only strength drawn from God’s presence can make us victorious when the tempter comes.

David should have stayed close to the Lord.

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1

At the time when kings go off to war, David stayed at home. Bad decision. He wasn’t where he should’ve been.

Beloved, every choice we make opens a door to life or death.

David did not accompany his men to fight a war God appointed. He chose his own desires over his kingdom purpose.

[bctt tweet=” Neglecting our kingdom purpose makes us vulnerable to sin.”]

God Himself had established David on that throne. Yet when God led Israel to war against the Ammonites, David opted to stay home. That choice slipped him out of God’s will and separated him from His presence.

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. Isaiah 59:2a

David’s separation was more than spiritual. It was literal. God’s presence rested over the Ark of the Covenant, and David’s army carried that ark with them to the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:11).

Do you see the danger, dear one? David didn’t go with God when He moved. That separation left him open and vulnerable to the schemes of the tempter.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. 2 Samuel 11:2-3

David discovered Bathsheba was married to one of his own warriors. That should’ve stopped the man after God’s own heart. But David had distanced himself from God. So instead of God’s Spirit stirring his heart and equipping him to do right, the hiss of the serpent convinced him the woman was a prize he deserved.

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. 2 Samuel 11:4

Beloved, when we distance ourselves from God’s presence, we take on the nature of our enemy. What does that nature look like?

 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:10

David didn’t just steal what didn’t belong to him. When he found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he killed to cover it up.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:14-15

Beloved, any one of us is capable of anything when we distance ourselves from God. That’s the nature of sin. It takes over. And it’s never idle. It’s strength and appetite will always increase.

The man after God’s own heart became an adulterer, a thief, and a murder simply because he got complacent about his relationship with the God he loved.

We must be diligent, dear one, or sin will take us too.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Without seeking God’s presence to stir up His truth in our hearts and minds continually, we will fall into sin. Sin we never thought we could be capable of. Sin that will carry great cost.

Next week we’ll explore the cost of David’s choices. We’ll also discover the beauty a God of grace will bring from the ashes when a heart returns to Him.

Choose life, dear one.

…that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days . . .” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 

Free to Choose

But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. Jeremiah 13:17

For reasons beyond our understanding, God chose to hand the earth He created over to the dominion of man (Genesis 1:28). It pleased Him to give us a say in what happens here rather than force us to cooperate with His desires. You see, love is only love when it’s offered freely.

So He set His perfect will in place over His creation, and He gave man the authority to choose whether he’d walk in those blessings or live according to his own plans.

He chose poorly.

I sure wish Adam had taken hold of the truth revealed in last week’s opening scripture.

“For the simple are killed by their turning away… but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:32-33

Adam turned away from the protective counsel of His Creator and walked straight into disaster for us all. Why did He do it? He followed the wrong voice. He chose to trust the serpent instead of trusting God and found himself caught by the terrifying reality of Romans 6:16.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

The moment Adam did what the serpent desired of him and bit into that forbidden fruit, he became a slave to the one he obeyed. Sin entered his heart and took control of his will, tainting his desires with a bent toward destruction.

I can only imagine his horror as the tide of emotions brought on by his sudden knowledge of evil flooded his mind. Shame, guilt, fear, blame—all of which he’d never known—tumbled into his heart like a torrent.

I wonder if the realization even hit him in that moment that he’d lost his God-given position. One moment—one choice—diminished him from ruler over the earth to slave of the evil one, shattering his perfect world and altering the course of history.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10

Indeed. The thief stole man’s dominion and claimed it as his own. There’s a reason evil increases with each generation. The reigning prince of this world manipulates mankind to see his agenda played out here instead of God’s.

And most of mankind blindly cooperates, powerless to stop it. Until Jesus . . .

God could’ve left us here to rot in our sin, dear one. After all, we chose it. But that isn’t what love does, and God is love (1 John 4:8).

So He sent Jesus—destined in God’s foreknowledge to become a perfect, sinless sacrifice— to bear our sin and conquer its power so that you and I could live free.

Do you see it, beloved? Jesus restored our right to choose. We don’t have to be carried away by the encroaching tide of evil. Instead, we have the ability to do what Adam failed to do. Set free by the blood of Christ, we can choose to embrace and loose the will of God.

That’s really what prayer is, dear one.

Prayer is the heart of a human vessel coming into agreement with the will of God and choosing to release it on this earth by faith.

That’s why Jesus instructed His disciples,

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

According to Jesus, the primary objective of all prayer is to glorify the name of the Father and release His will on this earth as He has already prepared it in heaven. That’s why scripture can make so many extravagant promises about prayer, dear one. True prayer finds its source in Christ itself,

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Romans 8:14

So let’s review. God gave dominion of the earth to man. Man handed it over to Satan. Jesus gave it back to the church. The only thing that can presently thwart the will of the enemy on this planet is the body of Christ releasing the will of God through prayer. That’s where you and I come in.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

And when you and I submit ourselves fully to the leadership of the Spirit, trusting God for His best for us instead of insisting on our own, miracles happen. When we willingly choose to agree with God and let loose His desires through prayer, blessings flow in Jesus’ name.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’m game. Are you?