The Usual Suspects

devil's lies

The Usual Suspects

At the end of the movie, “The Usual Suspects,” Kevin Spacey’s character states, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” I think that just as insidious, though, are the tricks he still pulls on those who do believe he exists. This post isn’t to give credit to the devil, but it is to address the common tactics he employs against us. We’re engaged in spiritual warfare, not wrestling against flesh and blood, and our enemy is not being passive; he’s like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:8). That’s why we have to put on the whole armor of God to withstand the enemy’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11).

We are in battle and we can’t afford to listen to our enemy’s intel. He won’t give us accurate information; he’ll craft lies to combat every truth that would otherwise set us free (John 8:44) When I examine the common voices vying for attention, I can come up with a few “usual suspects,” a few common lies used to attack our faith. I believe the most common lie is that God’s promises are not for you. This lie comes in many forms and threatens to eclipse the many truths found in God’s Word ― that His grace is not for you, that you’ve gone too far, done too much, strayed too long, that you’re too broken, too damaged, too dirty, that too much has happened, you’ll never be okay, you’ll never recover, never fully be restored. Your enemy knows that if you instead believe the precious promises in God’s Word, you’ll know the Truth, you’ll be completely devoted to the cause of Christ, completely set free (John 8:32; John 17:17).

Another “usual suspect” is when the enemy tells you to look at yourself, look at your situation, look at how long you’ve been waiting for change. All of these ideas are antithetical to the Word of God and the exact opposite of where we find victory. We’re constantly reminded to look to God, look to the completed work of Jesus Christ, crucified, never to look to ourselves. Our enemy wants to keep us from looking to the God from where our help comes, keep us focused on our trials, not on the Truth. Recognize the usual, suspect voice that tells you you’re alone, tells you it’s useless to keep trying, or any of the other usual lies. Partner with a friend and confront each lie with God’s Word of Truth; lies have no power where Truth is spoken and embraced.

lies we believe

by all means paint

Truth will silence the loudest lies.

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What a Mess!

bloody cross

The Messy Foot of the Cross

“This place is a mess!” My mother pointed that out to us when we were kids, and now that I have four active children ranging from preschool to teen years, I frequently point it out, as well. But the messy place I’m referencing today isn’t my home. I’m continually struck by the messiness of another place, a place called grace. Grace refuses to be bound, refuses to be neatly packaged, refuses to land on just me or just you. It’s messy, overflowing onto everyone, getting all over everything. The same grace that is enough for you and me is sufficient for the most heinous of criminals, the most wretched of souls.

No matter what you’ve done and no matter what’s been done to you, God’s grace covers you, the ones you’ve harmed and the ones who’ve harmed you most. This comment is not at all to diminish the reality of suffering you may have experienced or the scars you may still bear. I’m simply sharing what I’ve come to believe, which is that those who’ve wounded me the deepest are living under the same grace by which I stand.

The most concise description of grace is: unmerited favor. We don’t deserve it. There’s nothing we can do to earn grace, and bless God, nothing we can do to be unworthy of it. Grace refuses to have an exclusive target, yet is determined to never miss its intended mark. A friend recently wrote a blog post, Grace Like Snow, and I had the thought, “Indeed, grace is like snow.” It’s not neat; it flutters on down, falling on everything around.

After revisiting a detailed description of the physical death of Jesus Christ, I remain convinced that Golgotha was a terribly messy place and that anyone physically involved in the death of Christ left covered in the same blood that paid their price. Those committing the worst crime against Jesus were the most covered in His precious blood. It’s amazing how the worst circumstances and worst offenses make grace all the more incomprehensible and all the more invaluable. As Christ hung on the cross, He begged for forgiveness of those same, unrepentant sinners who were yet causing His death. They were covered and didn’t even know it, covered by His blood, covered by His grace. What a mess the cross surely was. What a mess His grace surely is. It gets everywhere!

There’s a place exhuming every depth

Climbing every height, spanning every breadth

And this place has covered every cost

Still covers the saved, still saves the lost

Messy grace moves us to love the unlovable.

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Gone in 60 Seconds

Girl Face Woman Carved Fig Madonna Pretty Wood

I turned 33 this month. I began experiencing life’s brokenness at 3 years old, and ever since then, I’d always felt exactly that. Broken. About three weeks ago, I reread the story of the woman with the issue of blood in Matthew 9:20-22. I remember reading that “instantly” she was healed, and I paused my reading to say, “Lord, Jesus! I want that! I want to be instantly healed! I want this pain to be gone! I know You CAN do it. Why don’t You?” I kind of forgot about that prayer and continued along with life (Update: I found the YouVersion note I wrote about it: Immediate Healing). The next week, I went to worship in the quiet sanctuary of my childhood church. As I left, a beautiful sister in Christ who was cleaning the church stopped me and said God told her to tell me that whatever it is, He’s bringing me out of it, to just keep doing what I’m doing, keep worshiping, keep praising, and know that He’s bringing me out.

The very next day, I had a moment of absolute protest. I was so emotionally drained and didn’t want anything else to do with this healing journey God had me on. I adamantly told my husband, “I quit. I’ll heal more, later.” I couldn’t even look him in the eye because I knew that I hadn’t consulted God, and further, I didn’t want to. I was done, and that was that. Thankfully, we had friends over that evening, so there was no room for my pity party. By the time I reflected on that afternoon, I recalled the life-giving words God spoke through His servant the preceding day: “He’s bringing you out; whatever it is, He’s bringing you out of it!”

Fast forward to two weeks later, last Thursday night, when I again found myself reading about the woman with the issue of blood, but this time, from the gospel of Mark. That detailed account indicated the woman had sought many physicians “and was no better but rather grew worse.” I exclaimed, “No, Jesus! She went to all the doctors and got WORSE? No thank you, Lord! Don’t let that be my story!” The very next day, Friday, God realized His promise to bring me out of that lingering emotional pain. God answered the prayers I’d forgotten I prayed, prayers to be instantly healed.

I wish I could more clearly articulate what happened last Friday. But I simply felt myself changing. The hollow feeling in my chest began to fill and just didn’t feel so heavy, the vibration inside of me became calm without me having to take deep, soothing breaths. Fear was gone; sorrow was gone; pain was gone. By the time I could even second-guess this new feeling of peace, the sting was completely gone. Just as Jesus knew that power had gone out from Him, I knew, without a doubt, that God’s power had come into me and made me whole.

You have to understand that at 33 years of age, I had never been able to utter the words, “I am whole.” I didn’t even have a framework for what experiencing wholeness would be like, and yet, as I type this, I assure you I am whole! Think about the lame man in Acts 3. He was lame from birth, so he had no neural networks for what experiencing walking actually felt like, yet, he left jumping and leaping with praise. I immediately began walking in wholeness exactly two weeks after I was ready to give up! I’m convinced the enemy senses the finish line long before we do. I believe he sees the angels coming alongside us to bear us up in their arms, and THAT is when he increases attacks to discourage our faith. When you feel like giving up, know that the words God has spoken over your life will NOT return to Him void. See the warfare for what it is! Never give up, never despair; though the vision may seem slow in coming, it will not be delayed. The brokenness is gone, and I am whole. If Jesus would do this wondrous thing for the woman with the issue of blood, if He’d do it for me, if He’s risen with ALL power in His hand, won’t He do it for you? He WILL do it; just persevere!

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“God is more powerful than anybody’s past, no matter how wretched. He can make us forget – not by erasing the memory but by taking the sting and paralyzing effect out of it”
~Jim Cymbala

“The nature of the enemy’s warfare in your life is to cause you to become discouraged and to cast away your confidence. Not that you would necessarily discard your salvation, but you could give up your hope of God’s deliverance. The enemy wants to numb you into a coping kind of Christianity that has given up hope of seeing God’s resurrection power.”
~Bob Sorge, Glory: When Heaven Invades Earth

Video Testimony Blog ((click))

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I’d Rather Die

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I was reading I Kings 19, where Elijah feared Jezebel’s threats, and, in fatigue, told God He’d had enough and wanted to die. Elijah then lay down and fell asleep. This passage jumped off of the page, because I’ve been there. I clearly remember many days and nights of my youth, laying down and praying God would just take my life. I was never actively suicidal, but I always attributed that to not having the guts to do something, anything about my situation. Instead, I just lay down, weary, and wishing God would end my journey as I slept.

For both Elijah and myself, instead of sending death, God sent His angels to provide sustenance. The angel even warns Elijah, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” This convinces me that when we feel like giving up, we have one thing right: the journey IS too much for us! But let’s get the rest of it straight, too: Our God supplies ALL our needs according to His riches in glory; He gives His angels charge over us to keep us in ALL of our ways; His strength is made perfect in our weakness! Oh how the enemy wants us to only recognize part of these precious truths. He wants us to give up after seeing the journey is too much; he wants us to hear half of the truth, that in this world we WILL have tribulation, but not but not the rest of that promise: we should be of good cheer, because Jesus has overcome the world!

But Elijah wasn’t the only great prophet to despair and ask the Lord to take his life. Moses, too, when his calling became burdensome, essentially said, “I’d rather die,” (Numbers 11:11-15). Likewise, Jeremiah and Job both cursed the days they were born (Jeremiah 20:14-18Job 3:1-16), and Job explicitly wished for God to kill him (Job 6:8-13). And who can forget the drama king prophet, Jonah, who wished to die twice, both for selfish reasons (Jonah 4)? But I found someone else who said, “I’d rather die.” In I Corinthians 9:15-23, Paul contends he would rather die than delay the progress of the gospel; he’d rather die than people not realize he’d preach this great gospel free of charge, just because of the wondrous work of Jesus Christ; he’d rather die than be denied the opportunity to preach the gospel to a dying world!

So instead of just finding a reason to live, God’s given me a better reason to say, “I’d rather die.” Instead of saying I’d rather die than experience pain, I’d rather die than others not experience Christ. I’d rather die than have someone who’s crossed my path leave my presence without ever knowing of the God I love and serve. I’d rather die than sinners live alongside me and go to a Christless grave when I could have told them I heard a joyful noise: Jesus saves, Jesus saves! I could try to contain it, but like Jeremiah also said in the same chapter above, it’s like fire, shut up in my bones, and I’d rather die (Jeremiah 20:9)!

I’d Rather Die

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Blown Out, But On the Road

Blown Out, But on the Road

I saw this picture this evening. It’s of a church bus in Moore, Oklahoma, which was devastated by the recent tornadoes. MSNBC retweeted it with the caption, “Church bus in Moore with windows blown out but they’re on the road.” If that doesn’t have spiritual implications, I don’t know what does! I know some of you are like that bus, you may be tattered and worn by life’s circumstances; you may be bruised and battered, but you’re still here! Thanks be to GOD, you’re still on the road! Let me quit playing, I saw that bus and immediately thought, “That’s me. Still on the road.” I pray everyone reading this and others who see that picture are inspired with the hope that things don’t have to be restored to perfection before getting back on the road. I know my God restores, and until we see His restoration in full, stay on the road!

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

“I’m Here. I’m Free Now.”

Amanda Berry’s words, “I’m here. I’m free now..” will probably echo into eternity. Louder than the dispatcher’s brash tone, louder than the trembling in her voice, those words speak volumes. I thank God for keeping her through such an ordeal and giving her those words to speak hope into the millions of women who will hear them and repeat the same. “I’m here. I’m free now.”

UPDATE: I recently shared this with my sister. I can say this in some ways, right now, but one day, I will say it and mean it from the depths of my being. “I’m Here. I’m free now.”

LATEST UPDATE: I can now say this! I’m here. I’m free now. I am whole! See my post: Gone in 60 Seconds

If you or anyone you know needs help, I pray the following resources can assist you:

  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733)
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

Websites to help end sexual slavery – Not For Sale: http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/ and End it Now (worldwide slavery): http://enditmovement.com/

I’m here. I’m free now.

Cast Down, But Not Destroyed

This is how I saw myself, broken. But below is more accurate, just not yet assembled.

“It is in the quiet crucible of your personal private sufferings that your noblest dreams are born, and God’s greatest gifts are given in compensation for what you’ve been through.”
~Wintley Phipps

I so wanted to blog next about either #Godisnotable or #Jesusthesmuggler, but if you click either of these links anytime soon, you’ll get the gist. For now, I not so randomly remembered the above Wintley Phipps quote and just had to share. I shared elsewhere that in the midst of feeling shattered, God spoke through someone else to remind me I’m not broken, but I am in pieces, and God will have to put me together, maybe for the first time.

I know some of you may feel bruised by life circumstances, but just because a puzzle is in pieces, doesn’t mean it’s broken. I may have been cast down, but I am not utterly destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). In fact, that same passage reminds us that through our sufferings, we share in the suffering of Christ so that HIS life may be seen through ours! Come to God with your personal, private sufferings so He can put you together in compensation for your pain. What a great exchange!

3-D Vase Puzzle – Not broken, just not assembled, yet.