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Unmasking our Idols

Please fill in the blanks below:

_______________ comes first in my life.

_______________ influences the choices I make

______________ forms my perspective, attitudes, & beliefs

______________determines how I spend my time.

Whatever we write in the above blanks, is the force that rules our lives. It is what we worship, bow down to. It is our idol!

Next give the following some deep thought.

Can whatever we wrote in those blanks offer us eternal life? Can they offer peace in the midst of a storm? Can they offer solutions that just seemed beyond our understanding? Can they offer forgiveness. Can they offer guidance or light in our darkness? Can they put the broken pieces of our lives back together? Can they faithfully fulfill our needs?

Yet they do offer something. They can offer us eternal death. And existence forever separated from God.

Have we stopped to think that we have made other people, our jobs, seeking after money or pleasure, or even just pursuing our own will, the things we bow down to instead of God? If we give more consideration to these than we do to God, we have made them idols.

That may be shocking to us. Yet, hopefully this realization will shock us into making God first in our lives. That God’s word will influence the choices we make. That His Truths will form our perspectives and attitudes. That we will seek to follow God’s in how we spend our time.

These are not what they seem!

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:14,ESV

Replacing lies with Truth thoughts…

We have Recognized. We have Rejected. Now it’s time to replace!

Replacing fiery dart thoughts with Truth thoughts

Something that often gets overlooked, is the necessity of replacing the lies of a fiery dart. For the empty space left when the lie was rejected, needs to be filled. Otherwise when the lie returns, and it will return, the lie gains reentry. This is when Truth thoughts come into play. For thoughts about what is true are required to fill the void left by the rejected lie. And to know what Truth thoughts to call upon, we must be familiar with the source of where they are contained. That, of course, is God’s word, the Bible. Therefore, we must be prepared and stand ready to wield this Sword of Truth, if these lies are to be extinguished.

Doubt and confusion, resided in the background of my thoughts. Every ready to spring into action when given the opportunity. Even though I had been a Christian for many years, I had allowed too much of the world’s concepts of truth to influence my attitudes, perspectives, and actions. It was easier to listen to the world rather than take time to delve into the Bible for answers. Needless to say, doubt and confusion were given many opportunities to inject their poison. Plain and simple – I didn’t know enough of what the Bible had to say, in regard to my doubts and confusion. As a result, my skill in the use of my Sword of Truth was sorely lacking.

My only hope to gain strength and successfully fight off the lies of the enemy, was to daily expose my thoughts to the Truths of Scripture. It is the main food for any soldier in God’s army. In my weakened state, God nourished me with a simple but powerful Truth to rebuff the enemy. By applying the Truth of Isaiah 54:17a, “No weapon that is formed against you will succeed;” to refer to the weapon of fiery darts, the lies were thwarted.

This verse has become the first swipe of my Sword of Truth in my attack. This affords me the opportunity to search for a specific word from God to extinguish a specific lie. Thereafter, I could wield my sword with tailor made precision to attack and extinguish the lie.

The benefit of searching for specific scriptures to add to our weapon cache, is obvious. The more our weapon supply is increased, the greater our victories over the enemy. That translates into our becoming more knowledgeable of the Truths of God’s Word. Knowledge that empowers us to be equipped with the weapons needed to counter Satan’s attacks.

This taste of victory over the manipulation and deception of the lies is sweet. It is the one thing that guarantees our release from the bondage we have been tricked into believing is freedom. This Truth sets us free from the lies that have created our bondage.

STORMS! They have a purpose.

Storms are unavoidable. Why on earth do we try to avoid them. It’s a loosing battle.

Storms are no respecter of persons. No one can escape them. Since avoiding them is impossible, where do we find the source that will subdue the storm?

There is no better perspective to embrace concerning storms than what is prescribed in Scripture. Let’s take a look at Luke 8:22-25, only one of the many go to verses during life’s storms.

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

This verse tells us that Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side of the lake.” Now Jesus, being who He was knew there was a storm coming. (Just like he knows about our storms) Storms on the Sea of Galilee come up rather quickly. But Jesus had lessons his disciples needed to learn. The storm was to be their tutor.

The disciples, though seasoned fishermen, panicked at the severity of the storm. Maybe because they saw that Jesus was asleep they assumed he was not paying attention. Well, of course, this was an assumption fueled by fear. Jesus was right there with them. He hadn’t gone anywhere.

The disciples woke Jesus and in response to their pleas, he rebuked the storm. The lesson? Well, they lacked faith and the storm exposed this. I imagine that whenever they experienced fear like that again, they arrested such fear by recalling that day when Jesus calmed the storm.

Let’s not be too hard on those disciples though. Aren’t we much like them when we encounter storms? The fiery darts of fear and even doubt are first at the scene it seems in our storms. So like the disciples we cry out to God.

If we are willing to cooperate with God when we are being buffeted by storms, he will expose the fiery darts that feed our fears and doubts. We will be empowered to extinguish those weapons of the enemy. In their place, depending on our cooperation, He will supply a stronger faith, less self-centeredness, or resolve to focus on the needs of others. He may call us to change our course. Maybe there are others who need a visual example of how they need to turn to God in their storm.

Recently, it seems my storms have come in waves. I find that I am tempted to center my thoughts on myself. I overly focus on how hard things are. I mourn over the things I’ve lost out on. It’s not natural for me to place my focus on God. So I need to cry out to God just as those disciples did and ask for help. God in His faithfulness will supply me with what I need to overcome the fiery darts attacking me. My situation may not ease up any, but my perspective fashioned by God’s truths will calm my storm.

Storms aren’t random oversights of God. They have a purpose. God’s desire is to reveal that purpose so our lives will be characterized by His peace.

Weathering the storms…

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     The years 2020 & 2021 have completely upended our lives! We have been challenged to seek solutions to problems that are unprecedented.  Our days are interspersed with highs and lows. Nothing seems constant. And just when we think we can breathe easy, pow!  Suddenly, we are knocked off our feet again!!!!

     Trying to live life under these circumstances with any measure of victory is humanly impossible. As Christians many are looking to us (whether they or we realize it or not) watching for any clue as to how to stay afloat as the storms rage.

     We know to cry out to the LORD but I wonder how long do we wait around to hear His voice? If He doesn’t remove the problem, bring the healing we ask for, or miraculously intervene to make everything better, we throw up our hands in despair. 

     I’m learning that when it gets this rough, there are choices we can make that will rebuff the enemy and strengthen our witness. First of all, we need to examine our expectations. Do we really think that being a child of God’s means we will know nothing but blessings? Suffering will be minimal and problems will be easily resolved? Do you know any Christian whose life can be described as such? I sure don’t!

   The fiery darts’ intent is cause us to feel abandoned by God, feel overwhelmed by our problems, or wander around aimlessly when we fail to understand why God allows us to suffer.  By focusing on negative thoughts such as these, the truths of James 1:2-4 are hidden from our view. We are of little help to ourselves or to others. 

     If God removed every problem, healed every sickness, or never allowed us to suffer what would that accomplish? Satan doesn’t want us to consider that question. For he knows that solutions are never realized unless there is a problem  to resolve. It is in the exertion of muscles that increases strength.  A diamond becomes a precious jewel due to intense and lengthy pressure. Satan doesn’t want us exercising our faith muscles. We might get too strong for him, if we do!

Here’s the point:

     Like Peter, we will sink when we allow the storms of our days to overtake us. Cooperating with God as He protects and strengthens our witness through the storms will be a lifeline to others to weather their present tempest. 

Fear Reveals Our Focus

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     My first night in Israel, I woke up around 1:30 am (Israel time) and wasn’t able to go back to sleep. Thoughts were popping into my mind, demanding I pay attention to them. (I had to be considerate of my friend who shared the room with me and not turn on any lights). Finally, there was nothing to do but grab my phone, go to my Word app, and begin recording those thoughts. The following are the words that forced themselves upon my mind that night. At the time, I thought they were a personal word for me. Up to a point they were. But after I returned home following my pilgrimage to Israel right smack in the middle of the Coronavirus fallout, I feel those words were also meant for such a time as this.

     Two themes encased my thoughts that early morning–Perspective and Fear.  Our perspective is determined by our focus. But before we choose our focus (and it is a choice, by the way) there is a viewpoint to be considered.

     First,

we need to view our lives within the context of God’s plan for them. He has given us assignments that are fashioned by that plan. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Second,

we need to be aware that Satan also has a plan:

To steal, kill, and destroy God’s plan for us. (from John 10:10a)

     Unfortunately, our human nature is too often susceptible to the manipulation and deception of our enemy, Satan. When we succumb to his temptations, we limit ourselves from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives. How does this happen?

    Satan’s premiere plan is to keep us ignorant of God’s plan. So how does Satan pull this off?

     By distracting us from spending time with God in prayer and His word. Make no mistake about it, that is the foundation stone on which Satan’s destructive tactics are built.

     Now, let’s bring this all down to the trial we are facing at present–the Coronavirus.

     Do we think for one minute that those thoughts of fear and despair come from anyone other than Satan? Of course not! But we are being tempted to take on a perspective of fear, are we not? Then how can we avoid or resist such temptation?

Consider the following:

     A fearful thought will come to our mind. That thought, if allowed to take root, will produce more fear and put us in panic mode. We will begin to behave irrationally. Thoughts of self-preservation at all costs will be entertained.

    YET, if we will but recognize that thought as a fiery dart from the enemy, there is a plan to nullify its effect. Here’s how it works:

Recognize that thought of fear as a fiery dart

Reject it outright. Don’t allow its deadly poison to take root

then Replace it with Truth thoughts.

     This is critical. We can’t just reject fear and expect to be done with it. But when it returns it needs to find no room to plant itself. This is where Truth thoughts come into play. The Truth thought found in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”, will quench such a thought. Just as it says in Ephesians 6:16, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

Therefore, the plan we focus upon will determine our perspective in facing the Coronavirus pandemic.

     

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Spoiling our Perspective

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It’s all in how we look at it!

For example:

     My eyes watch as delicate snowflakes accomplish the task of blanketing the landscape outside my window. Winter birds flit and flutter around the birdfeeders grasping for the sunflower seeds, now that food is in short supply. A lone little squirrel scampers to and fro searching for hidden acorns. From within, the fireplace offers an accent of crackling burning wood. 

     Such a scene has the power to call forth a variety of emotions. Positive flavored emotions of peace, calmness, serenity, thankfulness, or a sense of well-being may settle upon us. On the other hand, such a scene can bring forth negative flavored emotions of unrest, sadness, loneliness, or a sense of despondency.

     If the recent circumstances of our days have been troubling, don’t be surprised if our emotions default to the negative. If that’s the case, it’s not an easy matter to suppress such emotions. Satan, remember, comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Therefore, he will design fiery darts meant to manipulate and deceive how we perceive our world.  

      But we have but to remember that our loving God has come to give us life more abundantly. Therefore, when fiery darts assail us we have but to call upon our shield of faith to extinguish all those fiery darts.

    Something our enemy doesn’t want us to realize is that we can choose to embrace a positive perspective or a negative one. Yep, we don’t have to be victimized by fiery darts. It may take a lot of meditation on God’s Truths to send Satan packing, but it can be done. We don’t have to allow him to spoil our perspective.