Friday, February 25, 2011

Step #6 - The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

an empty cupImage via Wikipedia
Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I pray that my writings will guide you to finding peace in the presence of God and thankfulness in your trials so that you can live an abundantly free life in Christ.

Have you ever been so hungry that you thought you might faint before you could eat?  God has given us an inherent need to take in nourishment in order to live, but there's another kind of hunger - a spiritual hunger.  You'll know when you are spiritually hungry because you'll feel like you don't the strength to go on unless God answers your prayers!  Have you been there?  I have.

As I look around, I am becoming more and more aware that most people, whether believers in Christ or not,  are living defeated lives.  Maybe it's food that is defeating them or poor sleeping patterns, depression, a spending addiction leading to financial ruin, a failing marriage or all of the above (as is usually the case when mental illness is involved) and the feelings of hopelessness and self-pity rob us of the abundant life we so desperately desire. 

What has you defeated today?  These areas of defeat are also known as Strongholds of the enemy.  It is not God's will for you to live a defeated life.  Are you hungry enough for victory that you are willing to let God move in and through you in a way that you have not known before? 

God wants you, every part of you, and He reserves the right to disrupt your plans, your methods and even your strongly-held beliefs in order to accomplish His will in your life.  Even Jesus didn't have a one-method way of doing things.  He healed people in ways that threw the Pharisees into an uproar.  He was not at all bound by the "way-we've-always-done-it".

Fasting is certainly not a new method, but it may be new to you, an uncharted territory -  a method reserved for the extremely religious.  But that is not how God sees it.  God is delighted when we set aside our own inherent needs and seek Him first and foremost.  When we are hungry and raw before God, He is able to fill us with things beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Many people have found that heavy burdens were relieved through fasting (Isaiah 58); wisdom was obtained through fasting (Daniel 10); revival came after fasting (Isaiah 58:6); God's protection from danger was secured through fasting (1 Kings 21: 27-29); healing for a sick loved one came after fasting (Psalm 35:13); demons were cast out after fasting (Matthew 17:21).

Fasting involves prayer, repentance, and the searching one's heart.  There must be a spiritual purpose to fasting otherwise, it is just a diet or cleanse.  I believe that fasting is one way to find deliverance from the strongholds of the enemy, those besetting sins that continue to plague us.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen;To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked to clothe him, and not turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help and He will say:  Here am I.   Isaiah 58:6
When we fast, we demonstrate the sincerity of our prayers and we allow God to transform us by the renewing of our mind.  When we are made new in the attitude of our mind (Eph 4:23), we are able to resist the devil and draw near to God.  This is the mental equipping we need to stand firm so that we will no longer fall into "slavery" to the enemy.

Although the Bible is not extremely detailed about how often or how long we should fast, here are some basic guidelines to get started:
  • Determine length of fast - start with a 24 hour fast (from sundown the first day to sundown the second). This means an early dinner the first night, but the joy of breaking the fast with dinner the second night
  • Determine the type of fast - a 24 hour fast is usually a complete fast, meaning no solid food, only liquid.  Refrain from liquids such as coffee, soda and alcoholic beverages.
  • Spend much more time in worship, prayer and scripture reading.  When fasting, do not be hurried or bound by the clock.  Instead, enjoy the fellowship with God while seeking His face.
  • Prepare your materials: Bible and journal.  Research ahead of time on the Internet specific books and scripture references about your specific area of stronghold that you can meditate upon.
  • Be prepared to search your heart for sin and ask God to help you have the right attitude of confession.  Consider those you need to forgive (see How To Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Me). 
  • Pray, Pray, Pray!  Pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  I find it helpful to journal my prayers. It helps to keep me focused and then I can also go back at a later time to see how God has answered my direct prayers.
  • Break your fast with a small meal so you don't get sick from over-indulgence.  You should eat your meal with the same attitude with which you fasted.  Just as you abstained from food to the glory of God, now you should eat to the glory of God.  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God". (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Will you put it all on the table and allow God to make you new in the attitude of you mind?
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4: 22-24) 
A prayer for you to pray:
Heavenly Father, you say in your word the type of fast you have chosen is to loose the chains of injustice and set the oppressed free.  When I fast according to your word, then my healing will quickly appear.  When I cry for help, you will be right there!
Lead me and guide me, Lord, to the proper time to fast.  Give me the strength to deny myself in order that I may hear from you.  I am so hungry for you that I must fast.
Lord, guide me always and satisfy my needs in a sun-scorched land.  Strengthen my frame so that I will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail, then You will be called the repairer of all things broken (Isaiah 28:11-12)

Grace and peace be yours in abundance today~
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Step #5 - Is God Good?

Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I pray that my writings will guide you to finding peace in the presence of God and thankfulness in your trials so that you can live an abundantly free life in Christ.

For the month of February, I will be giving away a copy of The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. So, leave a comment on my blog and you will have the chance to win this fabulous book.

Now on to my topic:

I have a confession to make... when I came to the end of the decade of my 30's and life was full of disappointments, turbulence and pain, I had a lurking suspicion deep in my heart that God was not really good- or, at least, He was not really good to me.

That was a really hard confession to make.  After all, I knew better.  Theologically and intellectually, I had been taught that God is good, and everything He does is good (Psalm 119:68).   In the midst of my turbulent times, Satan tempted me to wonder, "If God was good, how could he let these things happen?"

In her book, Lies Women Believe And the Truth That Sets Them Free, Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains it this way:
"When Satan wanted to tempt Eve to rebel against God, he did so by planting in her mind a seed of doubt about God's goodness: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the Garden'?" (Genesis 3:1).  The implication was that "God must not be good - if He were, He would not have denied you something you really wanted."
Once we doubt the goodness of God, we feel justified in rejecting His will and making our own decisions, as if we know better than God.  Once we doubt the goodness of God, we lose trust in His ability to do anything good for us at all.  Once we doubt the goodness of God, His promises are no longer true in our eyes.  If the enemy succeeds in making us believe this one lie, our whole world is rocked!

This is where I found myself standing in November 2009, on a precipice of decision - to which side would I jump?  Would I believe that God was to blame for all my misery or would I believe that God was good no matter what the circumstances appeared to be?

Here is the tough question...
Does God send hardship and pain?   If the answer is no, then why doesn't God stop the pain when we ask Him to???

I finally got a grasp on this one question that has been the topic of books on the best seller list for decades.  It is not as difficult to understand as one may think; however, I cannot fully do justice to this deep theological question in a short blog post.  If you struggle with this question, please visit my bookstore.  I recommend: Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free and Crazy Love.

To get a better grasp on this tough question, we need to understand how God created us and the authority He gave us.
I said, "You are gods, you are all sons of the Most High" (Psalm 82:6)
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’ ? (John 10:34)

God created us as "gods", not "Gods" in the sense of divinity, but "gods" in the sense of rulership.  We were given dominion, power and authority over the earth.  Since it was ours to rule and reign, we were gods over this earth.  When God gave us this authority, he took a step back and  said, "Have at it!"  (my paraphrase).  It was ours to do with it as we pleased, whether good or bad.

Notice, His giving of authority wasn't conditional.  God didn't say, "As long as you obey me, you can have dominion."  No, He just said, "take dominion of it!".  At this point in creation, there was only one rule:  "Don't eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil".  He gave us freedom to choose whether to obey God or not.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, EVERYTHING changed!  Humans no longer had full authority and dominion like God intended (see Strongholds of the Enemy).  The earth was now controlled by the rebel holder of authority - the one who stole it away, Satan and his demons. At this point, God set many unchangeable spiritual laws into effect.  He cursed the the serpent, He cursed the earth, He cursed the man and He cursed the woman because of their sin.  All the pain, death and disease we see in the world today is a direct result of sin.

The devil and his demons, as spirit beings, have no power or authority on this earth apart from physical human beings yielding it to them.  Demons are looking for a physical body, a willing vessel.  They need somebody who will submit to them.  The power that the devil or a demon uses against us is our own.  Satan has zero supernatural power.  All his authority comes from man.

Many Christians see Satan as an angelic being with god-like supernatural power and authority over them.   But this is not the case.  You see, when Satan rebelled against God, he was stripped of his angelic power and now operates under the only power available to him...human power and authority.  That's why he seeks whom he may devour.   Satan, who is without a physical body, is absolutely powerless unless we empower him by yielding to and indulging in his lust, lies, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness or some other sin.

As Creator, God could have wiped out humanity, Satan and the demons completely (He came pretty close to doing so with the flood) and started over.  Yet, to intervene would be a violation of His Word and the entire universe would self-destruct because it is held together by the integrity of His Word. (Hebrews 1:3)

The only way He could "save" us from our mess and claim back our authority from the enemy, was to come to earth as a human with the authority given to mankind, and redeem us.  And, of course, that's just what He did!

When Jesus Christ came as a human, his life, death and resurrection accomplished all the saving, healing and redeeming that will ever need to be done.  He has destroyed the rebel holder of authority; however, until Jesus returns again to take us to heaven, we must wait in these earthly bodies and stand firm against the attacks of the enemy.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age".  Matthew 28:18-20
So, the coolest part is, Jesus has reclaimed the believer's lost authority and dominion.  Not only that, but He has been given authority in heaven as well as on earth and He commands us to go with this authority (all authority in heaven and on earth) and make disciples.  WOW!

Let me bring this all back around then to the question, "Is God good?"

God created us perfect with dominion and authority over the whole earth.  We were deceived and Satan stole our authority away and now the earth is under his control because we are submitted to him in many areas of our lives.   God was so good that he did not violate His Word and intervene with our mess; yet, He sent His only Son, as a human, to save us from our own destruction (the only way He could have without violating His own Word).

Jesus has not only restored our dominion and authority, he has also given us weapons with divine power to fight off the attacks of the enemy until Jesus returns to rule and to reign over all the earth.

Yes, bad things DO happen.  Everything bad is a result of sin.  Some of the bad things that happen are a result of our own personal sin because we have submitted ourselves to the devil.  On the other hand, some bad things are a result of the sin of our ancestors, our government leaders or those who have gone before us.  Lastly, natural disasters are a result of the curse God placed on the earth as His creation heaves and groans to be released from it's bondage (Romans 8:20-22).

In short, God is Good and all His promises are true.  The battle is in our mind.  The enemy is working undercover to make you believe God is not good by setting up arguments against the knowledge of God.  Demolish that argument and take that thought captive and make it obedient to Christ! 
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Romans 10:5

A prayer for you to pray :

God, you are good and everything you do is good.  Give me the capacity today to see your goodness in the midst of my pain, turbulence and disappointment.  Increase my faith to the point where I can say with confidence that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

Give me the courage and strength each day to put on my armor and use my weapons with divine power to stand firm and fight off the fiery darts of the evil one, especially the temptation to believe the lie that you are not good to me.

May I not give in to the temptation to live in self-pity or the belief that you are angry with me and are punishing me with bad things.  Enable me to recognize these thoughts from the evil one who makes arguments against the truth and take these thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).

Renew my mind by the power of your Word.  The integrity of your Word holds all things together and you will never violate your Word (Heb 1:3).

In the powerful name of Jesus, Amen!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance today~

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spiritual Bondage and Strongholds


Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I pray that my writings will guide you to finding peace in the presence of God and thankfulness in your trials so that you can live an abundantly free life in Christ.

In my last post, I mentioned that God has given us weapons with divine power to demolish strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).  As promised, here is the post about understanding strongholds of the enemy.

An enemy stronghold is something that holds us captive, keeps us in bondage or makes us a prisoner.  In the spiritual sense, strongholds are ideas, thought patterns, habits or sins that keep us in bondage to the enemy, Satan.

The Bible has so much to say about our enemy with his schemes and tactics.  I am writing this based on the assumption that you already consider yourself a Christian.  If you are questioning your beliefs, please read What I Believe to get your questioning mind settled.

Isn't it true that much stress results from wanting to make things happen before their times have come?  You've been praying for healing, but the waves of despair keep sweeping over you.  You have been deprived of peace and forgotten what prosperity is. Your heart desires rest from the oppression that surrounds you.  Does your heart echo the prayer of the Psalmist:
Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
I say to God my Rock,
Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
Oppressed by the enemy?
Psalm 42:5,7,9
Satan is our enemy, the oppressor!  I believe that the apostle Paul was speaking to every believer when he said, "put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Ephesians 6:11).

Satan is the rebel holder of authority and the god of this world.  Jesus referred to him as the ruler of this world and the apostle John wrote that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19).  But Jesus came to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8).

When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, he made them perfect, in His own image, and gave them dominion and authority over the earth.  The earth was theirs to subdue and rule (Gen. 1:28).  Satan became jealous of the authority God gave to humans, so he sought to steal that dominion and authority away.

By deceiving Adam and Eve and causing them to disobey God, Satan stole their authority away from them.  They gave away their dominion and authority to the evil one without even knowing it.  That is why he is now called the rebel holder of authority and the god of this world.

Many believers think that the devil has no power or influence over them.  If he is not a force to be reckoned with, why would the apostle Paul write to believers telling them to put on their armor and stand firm?  We are in a battle!

The battle is real, my friend, and if you believe that the enemy has no power over you, you may have already given away territory in your own life to the enemy without even knowing it and, most likely, he has you in a stronghold (a.k.a. bondage, in prison, shackled).  Satan is a thief and he is stealing things away from you for which Jesus gave his life:  your freedom, your fullness, your healing, your forgiveness, your peace and joy and the list goes on and on!

"What does that mean for me", you may ask?  Satan has no authority over you, except what you give him, but he is so crafty and deceitful he can stick his foot into the slightest crack in your defenses.
In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 4:26
He a master at spiritual warfare and he is seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Satan is a thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy (John10:10).  Has he stolen your hope and peace and joy?  Has he destroyed your marriage?  Has he killed your dreams for an abundant life?  Has he stolen your health and wiped out your strength?  Is he threatening to destroy your children as well?

There is no need to panic or fear!!!  God says in His word,
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (Isaiah 61:1). 
God is seeking those who will respond to Him.  He has called YOU to put on your armor, head out to the front lines and claim back the territory that you, unknowingly, relinquished to the enemy.  Remember, the weapons we fight with have divine power to demolish strongholds!!!
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ!
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Where is the battle?  It's in your mind!    Remember the song The Battle Belongs to the Lord?  To say the battle belongs to the Lord, does not absolve us of our responsibility to fight.  There is no stronghold which cannot be broken with God's help; however, YOU have to do it!  From what I have found, there are seven critical areas (territories) that one must reclaim in order to be set free from his bondage.

Seven Critical areas of bondage:
    2. Following false GUIDES
    3. Believing LIES
    4. Living in REBELLION
    5. Responding in PRIDE
    6. Failure to acknowledge SIN
    7. Continuing in the sin of your ANCESTORS
I believe that failure to forgive is the #1 area where Satan has taken us captive.  Please, read my post called How To Forgive Someone Who Has Hurt Me and carefully go through the steps of forgiveness.  The Bible is very clear that if we do not forgive others from our heart,to He will turn us over the the jailer (Satan) to be tortured.  Isn't it torture to realize everything that is rightfully yours has been stolen away?  You might even lose your mind, go into a severe depression, become obsessive-compulsive or have a heart attack!  The torture is physical!

It would be necessary for me to write a whole book on each of these areas, but fortunately, someone else already has :)  If you believe the enemy has you in a stronghold, you MUST read Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson.  He has also written a step-by step guide to walk you through the renewing of you mind and experiencing victory as a child of God.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2
A prayer for you to pray:
Most High God, creator of heaven and earth, you have opened my eyes to see a glimpse into your kingdom.  Although you are the King of the Kingdom and are infinitely greater than your foes, you have called me today to stand up and fight so that I don't become a casualty of spiritual warfare.  
Empower me today to put on the full armor you have already provided for me and be strong in your mighty power so that I can take my stand against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6:10).   Teach me how to use your weapons of divine power (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)  to reclaim the territory that is rightfully mine as your child with full inheritance and lead me to those areas that I gave to the enemy without knowing it.   
You say in your word that you came to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1 ).   Give me the capacity to forgive others as you have forgiven me, knowing that when I do I will be set free from the jailer (Satan) and his torture chamber (Matthew 18:34-35).  
Hallowed be Thy name, O Lord.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give me today the provisions I need and forgive me of my sin in the same way I forgive others.  May I not be deceived by the evil one, but deliver me from his bondage.  
For yours, O Lord, is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever and ever.  Amen!
Grace and Peace be yours in abundance today~


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Step #3 - Ask for the Ancient Paths

Welcome friends! I am glad you found my blog and I pray that my writings will guide you to finding peace in the presence of God and thankfulness in your trials so that you can live an abundantly free life in Christ.

The winner for January's book give-away is... Jody at Congratulations!  Please contact me by email with your address before the end of February and I will send you a copy of Jesus Calling!

For the month of February, I will be giving away a copy of The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.  So, leave a comment on my blog and you will have the chance to win this fabulous book.

Now on to my topic:

For the past couple weeks, I have been walking you through some of the key steps that are essential to finding healing and deliverance from the pain and perpetual problems that plague so many believers in the body of Christ.  This is Step #3 - Ask For The Ancient Path and walk in it.  If you missed Step #1 and Step #2, you can read them here.

More than half the battle in life is knowing what to do, which way to go and how to get there.  Most likely, you are standing at a crossroads today.  In one direction, you see huge mountains looming; in the other direction, a deep pit and neither way seems a good option. 

You may be paralyzed with fear to take a step in either direction.  As you stand at the crossroads and look, learn to ask God which path to take.  Relying on your own understanding will only weigh you down with anxiety, fear and disbelief.  When you TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, then and only then, can you walk the high road above your circumstances as He directs your path. (Proverbs 3:5,6)
This is what the Lord says:
Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is,
and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16
The ancient paths have ascents and descents.  There will be places that are grassy and some that are rocky.  Sometimes it will be dark and sometimes it will be light.  The path will be wide at times, but often, it will be so narrow you must carefully place one foot in front of the other.  Alas, there will be times when you stumble and fall.  Resist the temptation to give the object in your path, that caused you to trip, a swift kick, thereby injuring your foot (hint: it's not a rock).  In order for your steps not to falter, you must hold tightly to God's hand.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The Word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
He enables me to stand on the heights.
He broadens the path beneath me,
So that my ankles do not turn.
Psalm 18:30,33,36
 Give up the illusion that you deserve, and that there actually is such a thing as, a problem-free life.  Part of you is still hungering for the resolution to all your difficulties.  This is a false hope!  Peace is found when we learn to respond correctly to these difficulties, when we walk the ancient high road above our circumstances. 

If God were going to resolve all our difficulties, He would not need to enable us to stand on the heights.  As He told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart!  I have overcome the world". (John 16:33) When things go "wrong", thank Him for this spiritual blessing wrapped up as a trial and allow Him to pour his power and unfathomable peace into your life.

Each day, many times a day, we will find ourselves at a crossroad where we will need to call on the power of the Most High God.  Have you not heard, He will command His angels concerning you.  They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

If you make the Most High your dwelling - even the Lord who is my refuge -
Then no harm will befall you,
No disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command His angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways;
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone.        Psalm 91:9-12
You can never draw close to God or get to know him well unless you spend time alone with Him.  God has much to speak to you, paths to show you, healing to give you and peace to lavish upon you, but unless you draw aside from the busy-ness of your day and spend time alone with God in quietness and solitude, you will will miss it.  Even Jesus, himself, spent time alone with God!  If He had to, how much more should we!  

It is in these times alone with God that you see what "making God your refuge" looks like.  It is in these times alone with God that He imparts His wisdom to you and clearly shows you which path to take.  When you encounter God this way, you learn to keep your mind steadfast on the Lord and He lavishes His perfect peace upon you.  He will keep you in perfect peace because you trust in Him.  (Isaiah 26:3)  Please also see my post Year In Review to learn how to spend time alone with God.

A prayer for you to pray:

Lord, enable me today to trust you with every aspect of my life.  Show me the ancient paths, what the good way is and enable me to walk in it.  May I not lean on my own understanding, but acknowledge you in all my ways so that you can direct my paths. 

I am desperately aware of my need for your power in my life in order to walk the ancient paths.  Make my feet like a deer, able to go on the heights.   Broaden my path so my ankles do not turn.

Your Word says that if I make you my refuge, no harm will come near me.  Teach me what it means to make you my refuge.  Thank you for commanding your angels to guard me and hold me in their hands.  May I never come out from the covering of protection you have placed on my life.  I stand amazed in your presence, O Lord, My God and my redeemer.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance today~