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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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Who is our enemy?

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When we fail to identify our enemy!

     His manipulation and deception go forth unhindered. He is able to move incognito throughout the world and mess with people’s lives.  His efforts to turn humankind away from God meets with little resistance.

     Even Christians are susceptible to his deception and manipulation.  By ignoring those tactics, our attitude toward those who reject God and are living in rebellion towards Him can take on a condemning nature.  Thereby painting Christians as enemies. The enemy’s temptations can influence us to treat those who live contrary to God’s word in a less than loving way.  Our misconception is by showing love towards those who have rejected God and His ways then we are condoning their sin. However, when we fail to exhibit love and forgiveness, we take on the characteristics of the true enemy. 

     The world doesn’t understand how a person can be accepted, while their sin can be rejected. Christians understand by acknowledging and forsaking our sin and receiving Christ’s forgiveness, we are accepted. 

     The true enemy of our souls shoots lies towards us with the intention of destroying us. Why? He hates God. Therefore he will steal, kill, and destroy every aspect of God in our lives. 

     The enemy is exposed by the light of God’s word. But if we haven’t given our lives to Christ, we will remain blind to this fact. Apart from God’s truth, we won’t recognize thoughts, feelings, or actions that are being influenced by our enemy. We won’t recognize when our faith is being compromised to believe things contrary to God’s Truth. 

 

 

 

 

     

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. 

A Christmas Letter to God

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Dear God, 

     I’m so sorry about all the disunity among Your children right now. Humility, gentleness, patience, accepting one another in love (Your gifts) are in short supply. 

     The enemy has really done a number on us. I suppose he is working overtime because he is running out of time to steal, kill, and destroy the life You have planned for us. 

     We can’t see beyond all the hatred, bitterness, and personal attacks on each other to be able to recognize how Satan has duped us. He is our enemy, not each other.

     Those who reject You don’t understand that it is their own disbelief that condemns them. But Satan conceals that from them too.  I am so sorry that Your children don’t show more of Your love towards those who have rejected You. Satan blinds the world to the fact that Your love leads to peace and sets them free from their bondage of disbelief.

     Perhaps we could start by asking for Your help to trust You more, especially during these dark days. Help us to trust You like Mary and Joseph did when they faced the dilemma of Mary’s untimely pregnancy. Help us to quieten down, let go of the negativity all around us, and trust that You ARE in control (for we act as if You are not)!

 

Ephesians 4:2-3, “with all humility and gentleness with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with peace that binds us.”

What is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches? 

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Some subtle alterations take place when churches fail to grasp the balance that needs to be maintained concerning conversion and discipleship. Consider these:

    Churches over-focus on evangelism while the role of discipleship fades away into confusion. Evangelism must be followed by discipleship if the church is to be filled with Christians who are growing and maturing in their faith.

Satan doesn’t shutter in fear when we become believers in Christ. It’s our being discipled that sends shivers up his spine!

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     New converts are often left to fend for themselves as they face the world and encounter life’s challenges. Without the counsel of a discipler, we fail to learn that God’s plan is to take what Satan means for bad and turn it into good. Romans 8:28

     Consider what often happens to new adult converts. Too often they are given responsibilities within the church by virtue of their physical age, not spiritual maturity. In the physical world, no one would expect an infant to teach a class of adults! No wonder many face burn out and/or disillusionment. They need to be a learner; not a teacher. Many leave the church because they were put in just such a position. 

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     Without discipleship, our churches are likely to be filled with immature Christians. These baby Christians, simply put, are suffering from failure to thrive. Due to their immaturity, they are easily deceived and manipulated by Satan. They haven’t been taught how to recognize the truth from a lie. Which is why fiery darts can be so deadly in these cases.

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Fiery darts of Confusion dull our understanding of these terms

Conversion births us into God’s kingdom. Discipleship means to allow God to form our lives, our real, everyday, actual practices, choices, and beliefs – to look more and more like Christ.

Conversion and Discipleship are the two parts of the whole. Conversion is all about the birth and Discipleship is all about growth after the birth.

Disciples making disciples go out into the world impacting for Christ the systems we create and participate in. (and that makes for a better world for all.)

 

What do fiery darts have to do with making disciples?

Recently I was privileged to speak to a group of ladies highlighting the connection between fiery darts and making disciples. Here’s some excerpts from my presentation:

image_e0cd94a2-91ee-495f-a44d-4233da788f56.img_7328     Satan has very cleverly devised fiery darts aimed to create confusion concerning how evangelism and making disciples work together to fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19)

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     Terms Satan does not want us to understand:

Conversion which leads ultimately to salvation begins with an awareness of sins that we’ve committed, as well as the fact that we have a nature inclined to sin.

Conversion makes us a follower of Christ; not necessarily a disciple.

Discipleship is about teaching; teaching new converts how to obey the commands of Christ.

A disciple is one who learns from another disciple how to live the Christian life, then shares what they are learning to produce more disciples, who share and produce more disciples. . . (But a disciple must be a convert)

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What is Satan up to by concealing from individuals the importance of making disciples?

His plan is to manipulate us into thinking that once we are born into God’s family, then that’s all there is. (thus concealing our need to be discipled) John 10:10a

By not being discipled our spiritual growth can be hindered thus rendering us weak and ineffective as Christians. A weakened Christian looks no different from a non-Christian. Matthew 5:13

Due to the lack of training in understanding the truths from the Bible and how those truths apply to our daily lives, our foundation lacks stability. And the assurance of our salvation becomes sketchy. John 10:28

Without discipleship, we are uninformed on how to handle life’s problems. We are doomed to be manipulated and deceived by the enemy. Ephesians 6:16

Christianity becomes something we consume for ourselves; for what we can get out of it. Bible study after Bible study, without applying those truths and sharing those truths with others, benefits no one but ourselves. Matthew 5:15

Satan doesn’t want our foundation to be established upon the Rock; no he plans for it to be formed on sinking sand (without discipleship this is a real possibility.) Matthew 7:24-27

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Next time, let’s delve into what is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches.