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31 December 2012

Year End

I was reading a forwarded email -- normally I don't read anything that's been forwarded, but this happened to be about an "entertainer" I never cared for. Part of the message was that this person and their spouse were both dead. I began to wonder whether they were in hell or in heaven. Did any of their friends know Christ? Did anyone share the Good News that we are sinners, but that Christ came to this earth to save each of us from certain eternity in hell if we did not repent and believe in Jesus as the only way to heaven? What if I knew this person? Would I have been afraid to share, or would I have spoken out about Jesus? How about you? Will you hide your light, or will you take a stand? This world is getting worse day by day. Things are more complicated. Many people who attend a church on Sunday never hear the Good News. When Jesus takes us home, will you be ashamed of your stand on earth? Time's short. GO TELL!!!!

It's been a great year and I am thankful that God has allowed me the privilege of hosting this blog. I pray that you have been strengthened in your faith as you've studied with me. Next year's blog is 2013musing.blogspot.com - join me!

Spiritual Warfare - December 31

We are at the end of the year as well as the end of our study in Spiritual Warfare. I pray that you have grown in Christ during these studies, and that you will return in January to study the book of Romans. Tell your friends, too!

We’ve read to the End of the Book and we know that God wins. As Christians, we know that we are under God’s protection, so we win, too. However, God doesn’t expect us to sit back and let things happen all around us. We have responsibilities as Christians.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

Satan is ANGRY! He knows the end of the Book, as well, and he wants to devour every person that he can. He’s especially fond of “helping” Christians sin!  We are to resist the devil, and we know that God gives us the tools to resist – knowledge of Scripture (the Sword of the Spirit), prayer, faith, truth and peace. But can we do more than resist Satan? Is it possible to overcome?

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:13-14 (ESV)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:4-5 (ESV)

YES we do! As Christians, we overcome the world, and the world belongs to Satan. We do this through God, of course, because we certainly can’t do this ourselves.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Ephesians 6:10 (ESV)

When things look impossible to you, remember that God gives you the ability to resist. Sharpen your mind with the Sword of the Spirit! Satan was defeated on the cross. His power and authority are limited by God. But remember – YOU can’t resist Satan’s schemes without GOD.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7-8 (ESV)

Stay in the Word, friends. If you have not read the Bible through, find a one-year (or even two-year) Bible plan. Read, take notes, memorize scripture. The more you understand God’s plan, Satan’s authority, and your responsibilities as a believer, the better your life will be.

May you have a blessed and safe New Year’s Eve celebration. May these words from King David go with you into 2013, and may all your resolutions be attainable.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
Psalm 40:1-4 (ESV)

See you on January 7.

27 December 2012

Spiritual Warfare - December 27

Two more lessons in 2012. Hard to believe the year is passed already. We begin a study of Romans on January 7.

Today we focus on prayer.

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:18-20 (ESV)

Praying in the Spirit – that sounds so technical, but it’s not! We don’t have to have a special language or pray in a special place. Praying in the Spirit means that we pray in the Spirit’s power – the only way to pray in the will of God. When we pray in the Spirit, we are prevented from praying selfish prayers which aren’t in God’s will.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)

Paul specifically asked for prayer that the Spirit would control his mouth, allowing him to speak for boldly for Christ. Since our words are a product of our mind, it’s a great idea to pray for the words we speak.

Another point Paul makes is that praying in the Spirit will allow us to intercede for others when we don’t even know how to pray!

We are to pray at all times. This doesn’t mean that every word is a prayer; it means to pray with perseverance – keep on praying until you get an answer.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 (ESV)

The Ephesians passage reminds us that we should pray for all the saints. Praying for other believers will help strengthen them to Satan’s attacks. I have personally discovered that when I pray for someone that I’m not particularly fond of, the Spirit gives me grace to love that person even more. So praying for others strengthens them and strengthens you!

Today we’ve focused on prayer and learned that we should continually pray. When we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray, we can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us. We should pray for our words, because our words come from our mind, and we need to be sure that those words have not been hijacked by Satan. We also know that praying for others helps them to withstand Satan’s attacks.

As this year closes, will you commit to praying daily for one person that you’re not fond of – and one person that you like – each and every day? I am already doing this, and I can’t begin to express the difference it’s made in my life. I have a particular alarm which goes off long enough after I’ve awakened to get my caffeine fix. When that alarm sounds, I pray for three very specific people/entities. The prayer isn’t long, but it’s a daily habit. I won’t know how that helped those people/entities until I get to heaven, but somehow that prayer has illuminated other areas in my life that need God's help, and as a result, I'm growing every day. Try it. It will change your life!

I will talk to you once more before the New Year. May this weekend be safe and blessed and may your New Year’s resolutions become habits!

24 December 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 (ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
Luke 2:1-21 (ESV)

May the Peace of Christ rule your hearts, and may that tiny Baby show you that you are in need of a Savior. If you have not accepted this Baby as Savior, today is the day. Let the peace of Christmas be in your heart forever. Just tell Him that you are a sinner, ask Him to come into your heart and begin a life change, and thank Him for coming to earth to live and die – just for you! Then, like the Shepherds in the field… GO TELL!

Merry Christmas. We resume our study on Thursday.

20 December 2012

Spiritual Warfare - December 20

It’s time to suit up with God’s armor!

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 (ESV)

We are told to put on the belt of truth. Because Satan is a liarer, (John 8:44), we must be controlled by the truth so we can combat his lies.  This belt, like our contemporary belts, also serves to hold the “outfit” together.

Next, it’s the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate was made of metal plates or chains and covered a soldier from the neck to the waist, front and back. It symbolizes our righteousness in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) as well as our righteous life in Christ (Ephesians 4:24). Satan can accuse, but if there’s nothing for him to grab onto, he must fall mute (as he did with Job, and as the “advisers” had to do when they looked for fault with Daniel [Daniel 6:4]).

The shoes of the Gospel gives us the peace of God (Romans 5:1). We can’t defeat the devil if we aren’t at peace with one  another (James 4:1-8). We are ambassadors for the Gospel wherever our feet take us.

The shield of faith protects our bodies from Satan’s fiery darts. In Paul’s day, these shields were about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide and were constructed so each shield would interlock with the next person, forming an impenetrable wall. This would resist the literal “fiery darts” shot in combat. Satan’s darts are lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful and bitter thoughts, and the sins that we most crave.

Our heads and minds are covered by the shield of salvation. Satan easily deceived Eve, and he wants to deceive us as easily.

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)

We prevent Satan from attacking our mind my Bible study and prayer. When we study, we learn and grow. The more we grow, the greater our ability to withstand Satan’s attacks.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:17-18 (ESV)

In our original passage, the final item of armor is the sword of the Spirit. This is our offensive weapon, and in Roman times it was used for close combat . The writer of Hebrews says the Word of God is even sharper than a sword.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

A “real” sword dulls with each use, but the Word of God sharpens us. The sword of the Spirit isn’t operated by human hands; a member of the Trinity is there to guide it. Although the Word of God “cuts to the heart” to convict us of our sins …

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:37-38 (ESV)

…it ultimately heals us and brings us eternal life. When we use God’s Word against Satan, we deal a crippling blow that hinders his work.  Jesus used the Sword of the Spirit to defeat Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Satan knows enough Bible to quote verses (Luke 4:10), but like his disciples (false teachers), Satan misquotes the Word to twist its meaning. (Be careful when you quote Scripture that you don’t take it out of context or skip words. Even the little words matter!)

The whole armor of God is a beautiful picture of Jesus – the Truth (John 14:6), our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), our peace (Ephesians 2:14), whose faithfulness makes our faith possible (Galatians 2:20). Jesus is our salvation (Luke 2:30) and He is the Word of God (John 1:1, 14).

We’ll look at prayer on Monday. May your weekend before Christmas be stressless and blessed, and please remember that it’s not YOUR birthday we celebrate – Christmas is Jesus’ birthday.