Children of Light

Children of Light

Have you ever wondered why the grand battle between good & evil, and light & darkness dominates so many story lines and movie plots? Why are we drawn to these epic clashes between heroes and villains, ultimately hoping that the “good guy” wins and saves the day? I believe it is the internal awareness that there truly is a battle of epic proportions being carried out on the world’s stage, and it is the battle for the souls of men and women. There really is a war between light and darkness. Of course, we know that Jesus has already triumphed over evil through the cross. The Light of the World spoiled all the plans of the rulers of darkness…

“Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it [the cross].” Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)

Though the light (Jesus) came into the world and exposed the works of darkness – indeed it was His mission to undo the works of the devil by healing all that were oppressed by him (Acts 10:38) – many remain in darkness, having loved the darkness rather than light. (John 3:18-21)

For all of those that believe in Jesus and receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God. When we hear the anointed truth of God’s word and faith comes, and we believe on Jesus, we become God’s children – children of light. We are called the “light of the world.” We are exhorted to “let our light so shine before men” that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We are called “children of the light and of the day.”

On the flip side there are the “hidden works of darkness” that are carried out by those “whose minds are blinded” by the god of this world – the devil…

“…among them the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving to prevent them from seeing the illuminating light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 (AMP)

So what is this battle about? It is about BELIEFS. What will you believe. Notice Satan has blinded the minds of the “unbelieving.” What do these people “not believe?” It is the gospel, or the “almost too good to be true news” of the glory of Christ. The light comes to reveal and expose TRUTH, but the darkness is here to mask and hide the truth so that people believe LIES. In fact, the principalities & powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age have a commander, and he is the “father of lies.”

Have you ever wondered why it seems that some people have a supernatural stupor over their minds? It seems that they are completely blind to some things that may seem like common sense to those living in the light of truth. There is a scriptural reason! The Bible says that the whole world lies under the power or influence of the evil one:

“We know [for a fact] that we are of God, and the whole world [around us] lies in the power of the evil one [opposing God and His precepts].” 1 John 5:19 (AMP)

So how do we win this war? How do the “good guys” (God’s sons, soldiers and servants) carry out His mission to seek and save the lost, to set the captive free, to open the eyes of the blind, and heal the broken hearted?

We must be children of light! What do I mean by that? It is our mission to be ambassadors of the kingdom of God, to be “ministers of reconciliation.” We do this by “proclaiming the praises of Him who called us out of DARKNESS into His marvelous LIGHT.”

We must bring the light of God’s truth into every fiber of our being. We must live in truth, walk in truth, share the truth. We are living epistles known and read by men! Wherever we go we bring the light with us, and it only takes a tiny bit of light to chase away a whole lot of darkness. 

Now, I’m not talking about beating people over the head with your Bible, or quoting scriptures to them all the time, or telling them that they are living in darkness and sin. I am talking about being a vessel that carries around the glorious goodness of God. We proclaim God’s praises by being thankful, being kind to others, walking in love, being forgiving, and sharing God’s goodness through our words and actions. When there is an open door, we invite people to come into the light with us, and to taste and see that the Lord is good! Hallelujah!

Let’s WAKE UP, redeem the time, and be the light of the world. The souls of men & women hang in the balance!

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

One of my favorite songs of worship says in its refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

There is something so timeless and so simple about this exhortation, and the truth it contains is so powerful! Think for a minute of when Peter asked Jesus to bid him, “Come” (If it was indeed his Lord standing before him on the water.) With one word, Peter left the safety and comfort of the boat, and stepped out onto the water to follow the lead of Jesus. Really imagine this in your mind’s eye! That first step out of the boat must have been full of faith and trust! This is evidenced by the fact that within the water was a solid force that Peter was able to put his full weight on without sinking! He was walking on the water doing what Jesus did! If Jesus said, “Come,” Peter was going to come!

What was Peter looking at when such faith rose in his heart? He was looking at his Lord. He was looking at Jesus – the one who told him to let down his nets for a catch when he had toiled all night and failed to catch a thing; the one who rebuked his mother-in-law’s fever, and the fever left; the one who healed the sick, raised the dead, confounded the religious leaders and taught with unearthly authority! Jesus said, “COME.” Peter simply obeyed.

We all know the story well. Peter began to look at the wind and waves. Fear instantly vied for a place in Peter’s heart, doing all it could to displace the faith found there. Peter began to turn loose of the revelation of his Lord’s love (which could have cast that fear right out), and he got a quick revelation of cold, hard (and wet) reality – he was sinking!

 But when he saw [the effects of] the wind, he was frightened, and he began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” – Matthew 14:30

I love the next word. It gives me insight into my Lord’s heart for me. It helps me to remember that Jesus is merciful and kind. It gives me hope for when I fail to keep fear from coming into my heart – “IMMEDIATELY Jesus extended His hand and caught him [Peter].” Yes, he rebuked Peter for having little faith, but I’d rather be the wet brother that got rebuked for my little faith than the dry brother that had no faith at all!

Here’s the thing my friends, Jesus is always, ALWAYS inviting us to come – to come out further, to wade in deeper, to trust in greater measure. He invites us to a life of faith adventures! He invites us to follow Him wherever He leads. We are not promised an easy life, but we are guaranteed victory in every faith fight!

“Now thanks be to God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ,” – 2 Corinthians 2:14

When the wind and waves in your life start to speak to you, turn your eyes upon Jesus! That is the answer! When you look at God – eternal, mighty, king of kings, lover of your soul, redeemer, healer and friend – all of the turmoil and chaos of this world will begin to fade, and your perspective will change. You’ll stop feeling like your drowning, and you will begin to rise above it all. IN CHRIST we are always victorious!

When you look to Him, He will show you everything you need to see, and nothing you don’t! He will keep you in perfect peace, and His perfect love will cast out that fear. That’s when you can get sassy and talk back to the wind and waves. That’s when you can act like Jesus and say in faith, “Peace. Be still.” Hallelujah!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus today. Remember who you are, and whose you are. Rise above the wind and waves. Answer the invitation of your Lord to “Come” & you will soon know the exhilaration of walking on the water!!

True Beauty

True Beauty

If you’ve been looking for the best beauty secrets out there, look no further. The kind of beauty I’ll teach you about is timeless, captivating, all natural, and it won’t cost you a dime!

What defines beauty? Is it Webster’s Dictionary? Is it defined by the results of a Google search? Or how about looking to the beauty “Bibles” out there – Cosmo, Elle, In Style and the like. We’ve all read the tips on how to lengthen lashes, make lips bigger, lose belly fat, have flawless skin, perfect eyebrows, and wider eyes. We plump, we primp, we highlight and low light. We suck it in and push it up, and when it gets to be too much we just buy some Spanx!

Beauty is a word that carries many connotations, and brings to the surface many emotions, both good and bad; but what does God look at and say, “Now THAT is beautiful!” According to 1 Peter 3:3-4, it is not all of the outward adorning that turns God’s head, but the, “…hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in [His] sight.”

So if God had a beauty magazine, what would His trade secrets consist of? Here are a few “Beauty Secrets” from the true “Beauty Bible.”

1. Highlight the Heart

Listen, when I wake up in the morning I do not look in the mirror and say, “Now THAT’S beautiful!” My husband is very thankful that I “adorn” the outward appearance, and make myself attractive to him. I do spend time grooming myself, but God’s beauty secret is to spend more of my time cultivating the beauty of my heart. In fact, I’m sure there are days my husband would have preferred I spent more time with God getting filled up with love and peace, than time I spent in front of the mirror trying on my pre-baby clothes that still didn’t look as good as they did prebaby; thus resulting in a funky mood as the mind became preoccupied with how to lose 10 more pounds!

When we cultivate inner beauty, all the issues of life that flow from the heart are also made beautiful. Worry, stress, low self-esteem, discontent, and shallow character do not make a person beautiful. People who neglect the heart may be outwardly beautiful, but they become spiritually ugly. Then there are those who might seem plain in appearance by the world’s standard, but whose hearts pour out such radiance, grace, and peace that their loveliness becomes magnetic and very attractive.

2. Avoid Fashion Trends

Don’t you cringe when you look back at old photos of yourself from the 70s? 80s? 90s? Some of those fashion trends we thought were so “in” at the time turned out to be more of a momentary lack of good fashion sense! Ahh, but there are a few classics that stand the test of time, like a good pair of jeans, and a “little black dress.” Did you know that God has told us what is “in style” for the inner man? It is the incorruptible, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. This wardrobe will always look stunning on you, and it will never go out of style.

So, if you want to wear gentleness like a good pair of jeans, and clothe your heart in quietness, you need to know how to put these clothes on!

Item 1: Gentleness

The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for gentle is (PRAUS), meaning meek, mild, a soothing quality of character. The image is of a horse that can be trainable and teachable. Now, before you go feminist on me, the word is not an indication of weakness, but of strength and power under perfect control. It implies ruling your own spirit well, operating in humble wisdom, and walking in divine love.

What does the heart clothed in gentleness look like? It doesn’t have to exert its rights, have its own way, get the last word, share gossip, retaliate, give in to every emotion, or refuse correction. It does stay open to God, looks for His direction, waits before speaking, submits its emotions to wisdom, chooses to forgive, and chooses to love.

I’m reminded of a scene in the movie Gladiator when Maximus came face to face with the Roman Emperor. He had the strength, capability and opportunity to carry out vengeance upon this man, but he knew it was not time. He brought his strength and power under perfect control. He ruled over his own spirit.

That was a movie, but I know of a REAL MAN, that was meek and gentle, and make no mistake about it, He was not weak! No man took His life, He laid it down. Though He had authority to call down legions of angels, He kept that power under perfect control until He finished the job He came to do. Jesus is gentleness personified.

When you clothe your heart in this kind of gentleness it is BEAUTIFUL. It is PRECIOUS in God’s sight.

Item 2: Quietness

The word used in 1 Peter 3:3-4 for quiet is (HESUCHIOS), and it does not imply that you need to stop talking and keep your opinions to yourself! It actually means peaceful, undisturbed; tranquility arising from within. 

What does a heart clothed in quietness look like? It is a heart filled with faith and trust; a heart that has been quieted by God’s love and filled with His peace – not a heart that is striving and restless. It’s not striving for beauty (consumed by clothes, jewelry, makeup, diets, hairstyles). It’s not striving to be accepted (through perfectionism and people pleasing). It’s not striving to be enough (pretty enough, smart enough, spiritual enough). All of that striving clothes the heart in irritation, frustration and depression. The heart filled with faith and trust is not trying to be beautiful because it already is. It is not trying to be accepted because it already is. It’s not trying to be enough because it already is!

When you have a quiet spirit, in the depths of your soul you are at rest, and from deep within comes a calm and peace that invites those around you to be at rest, and that, my friends, is very attractive!

Have you ever wanted to be that woman that walks into a room and turns heads? Cultivate the inner beauty of the heart and clothe it with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is what will turn God’s eyes toward you, captivating His attention, and leaving Him breathless.

Fight the Good Fight

Fight the Good Fight

“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” ~ Sun Tzu, Author of “The Art of War”

Whether it is widely acknowledged & accepted or not, the fact is, we are engaged in spiritual warfare on a daily basis. We are not fighting for the victory that Christ already won for us, but the Bible exhorts us to occupy until His return. We are to enforce His victory through faith in the finished work of the cross. We have been commissioned to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and the mission is to turn every creature from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God.

Did you know that the enemy of your soul has strategies and schemes? (Ephesians 6:11) As the war hero quoted above reminds us, the strategy of war is to avoid what is strong, and to strike at what is weak.  The devil knows this strategy all too well, and unfortunately many Christians that don’t strengthen themselves spiritually become the weak targets that the enemy looks to strike at. Even the strongest of believers have areas of inherent weakness where they must shore up their defenses so as not to get caught in a trap.

Many Christians get uncomfortable talking about the devil, and others deny that a devil even exists; however, denying that gravity is a reality won’t stop it from affecting you when you step over the ledge of a building. In the same way, denying the reality of the devil won’t stop you from becoming the target of his strategies & schemes! In order to do what we have been commissioned to do, and to lay hold of the promises of God that Jesus died for us to have, we MUST know our enemy, and we MUST become spiritually strong by exercising our faith in God’s word on a daily basis.

Let’s begin this study by first looking at knowing our enemy:

“…so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” ~ 2 Corinthians 2:11

According to this scripture, Satan can actually gain an advantage over us when we are ignorant of his devices; it’s like giving him free ammunition. I know that you don’t want any enemy of yours getting free ammunition to shoot you with! Neither do I! One way we can find out about his devices, schemes, tactics and plans is by understanding some things about his nature and how he operates. The nature of our adversary is outlined in John 10:10:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” ~ John 10:10a

Three words in this verse describe the nature of the thief by outlining what it is that he comes to do: steal, kill & destroy. I want to look at each of these words, not to instill fear in your heart, but to ignite faith in you to lay hold of the things God has promised you, and encourage you to NOT LET GO!

1. Steal (klepto) – this word communicates the idea of a bandit, a pick pocket, a thief that is so cunning and so strategic, he will take from you and you won’t even know you’ve been stolen from.

When I was younger I stayed in Guatemala for several weeks, and during that time I remember walking through the market with a friend. As we looked around at the trinkets and souvenirs there was a point that his Passport was stolen right out of his pocket, and he was unaware until he reach in and realized it was gone!

This is the kind of thief we are dealing with. He is subtle, crafty and he prefers that you don’t even acknowledge his existence! He attempts to steal the joy that strengthens you, the peace Jesus gave you, the love the Holy Spirit poured out in your heart, the passion in your marriage, the prosperity God blessed you with, the health Jesus purchased for you with every stripe laid on His back! DON’T LET HIM STEAL FROM YOU!! Realize that your enemy is not flesh and blood – when feelings of sadness, fear, doubt, worry, unforgiveness, sickness and the like begin to creep in with subtlety, grab that pick pocket’s hands and say, “No! You will not take what God has given me! It’s mine!”

I like to imitate my two year old. He says, “No! Dats mines!” That’s how we have to talk to the devil!

2. Kill (thuo)to sacrifice in a religious way

The killing that is spoken of here does not imply murder; it carries the meaning of sacrifice. Jesus used this word to describe the work of the thief. Whatever he has been unsuccessful in stealing from you, he will try to convince you to sacrifice. His aim is to get you to give up that which God has already blessed you with. Now listen to me closely: it is in the season of waiting that he is most successful with this strategy.

The Bible teaches us to follow after the example of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises. (Hebrews 6:12) Faith requires a season of waiting while we do not yet see! It is during this wait that our faith is tested, and our enemy will create circumstances, use people’s words, plant seeds of doubt, bring us thoughts contrary to God’s word – he will strike, and strike, and strike, attempting to wear us down so that we finally let go of the promise, and SACRIFICE what we were believing God for! This is why the Holy Spirit exhorts us:

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” ~ Galatians 6:9

There is a two letter word in that verse that Satan exploits to his advantage: IF. We will reap at the right time IF we don’t give up! SO DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t let the thief convince you to kill, cut off, abort, or sacrifice the promises and dreams God has placed inside of you! Be strong. Be courageous. Hold on until your faith becomes sight! The harvest IS GUARANTEED if we just don’t lose heart.

3. Destroy (apollymi) – to annihilate, to trash, to destroy

One Bible scholar sums up the nature of the thief in this way:

“The thief wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life, in fact this pick pocket is looking for every way to wiggle himself so deeply into your personal affairs that he can walk away with everything you hold precious and dear. And that’s not all! When he is finished stealing all your goods and possessions, he’ll take his plans to rob you blind to the next level. He’ll create conditions and situations so horrible that you’ll see no way to solve the problem except to sacrifice whatever remains from his previous attacks. The goal of this thief is to totally waste and devastate your life. If nothing stops him, he’ll leave you insolvent, cleaned out and flat broke in every area of your life. Make no mistake, the enemy’s ultimate aim is to annihilate you.”

Now remember what I said when we started: Let the awareness of the nature of your enemy ignite faith in you to never let that sorry rascal get away with stealing from you ever again! Don’t give him any place, or any access. Don’t allow him to take from you. Fight the good fight of faith!

You know, sometimes the nature of people is to let themselves get pushed around a little here and there until they get so fed up with the situation that they say, ENOUGH! Maybe that is where you are at with certain circumstances in your life right now. Let’s agree together as touching this thing, that when the enemy tries to steal, kill, or destroy us the Holy Spirit will sound the alarm in our hearts, and stir up the “fight” in us so that we stand and keep on standing until we see the victory come to pass. Amen?

I encourage you this week to use your fighting words in prayer, and to reclaim any ground that you have allowed the enemy to set foot on. Then, set your face like flint and stand until you see God’s promise come to pass!

Gratitude – The Key to Victory

Gratitude – The Key to Victory

Are you overwhelmed by the circumstances that you find yourself in? Are you stuck in sadness, self-pity or depression? Do you want someone to show you the way to victory?

What if I told you a simple truth; that gratitude is the key to having victory in your circumstances. Not long ago our pastor did an amazing, life-changing teaching series called Thanksgiving Victory. I’ll never forget the impact it had on me as I considered what God had to say about being thankful, and in contrast, what He had to say about self-pity. Now, any time my thoughts and emotions start to move me in the direction of sorrow or self-pity I am quick to rehearse my blessings.

The truth is that we can all easily take for granted the good in our lives, and focus on the “bad.” As humans we tend to magnify problems. We focus intense amounts of energy on thinking about those problems, and those thoughts are expressed in our lives through worry, fear, anxiety, sorrow, anger and general STRESS.

Like a hamster on a wheel, those thoughts run and run and get us nowhere! The problems aren’t resolved, the circumstances haven’t changed, and we have only succeeded in “spinning our wheels in the mud” and getting more stuck than before.

The danger is when we entertain self-pity. The belief is that our circumstances are somehow more difficult than everyone else’s. Our problem is unique, and the pain far greater than what anyone else is experiencing. It is unfair and we are entitled to be experiencing something better (like everyone else)! Here is why it is so dangerous to think this way: you make it impossible for God to extend grace to you. Why? You feel you deserve it! Grace, by its very definition, is undeserved. It is favor that is given, not because it is owed, but because of the loving kindness of the one who extends it.

When you wallow in self-pity and depression you are absolutely cutting yourself off from the grace of God which is the ONLY thing that is going to affect REAL change in the circumstances you are so depressed over!

So what is the answer? Gratitude. Gratitude expressed in giving thanks for all the GOOD in your life! If you are reading this and scoffing at the narrow-minded simplicity of this solution in the face of your “very real” problems then you are exactly the person this message is for! Truth will set you free, but it does leave some feeling offended. Jesus set a lot of people free AND He simultaneously offended a lot of people. You can’t control every circumstance that surrounds you. You live in a fallen, cursed world where people have a free will to do all kinds of things that aren’t the will of God or the plan of God. Sometimes their free will infiltrates your world and the result is bad things happening to “good” people. You can’t control every circumstance around you, but YOU CAN control how you choose to respond!

You can stand right now, lift your hands and your heart to God and say THANK YOU LORD that I’m alive!

Are you healthy? Thank God! Do you have a roof over your head and clothes on your body? Thank God! Do you have food to eat today? Thank God! Do you have an income? Thank God! Do you have friends that love you? Thank God! Do you have a God that loves you and is for you? Thank Him! Are your children healthy? Thank Him! Is your car running? Thank Him!

As you begin to SAY, out loud, all that you are thankful for, as you rehearse how blessed you are, as you declare God’s goodness and faithfulness in the midst of even the WORST circumstances, you give God permission to release His favor and grace in the situation! So do it! Right now where you are. Be grateful! Be thankful! Rehearse your blessings, and continue to do it daily! Then stand back and watch how God brings you out of the pit and into victory!

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