An Unseen Battle

Satan does exist—our broken society testifies to his reality. Those who ignore him do so at their own peril. This is also true of Christians, because we are all at war against him. Spiritual warfare is personal; Satan crafts specific attacks for each individual. Though he cannot steal a believer’s spirit from God, he can and does harass us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Every ambush and frontal attack is meant to defeat our witness so we can’t live a victorious Christ-centered life.
Our foe is not omniscient, but he is crafty. He observes our strong and weak points to determine the best areas for attack. As soon as his quarry becomes comfortable and least expects trouble, the Adversary springs a trap. Among his most deceptive tactics is hiding behind familiar faces in order to misguide our fury. For example, he may tempt a husband to make an unwise financial decision that angers the wife and leaves her feeling insecure. But the husband is not her enemy—he needs her love and forgiveness. The enemy is always Satan and his legion of demons.
The first rule of warfare is to know one’s enemy, and thanks to Scripture, we can. The Bible also contains an important assurance: “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
The combined forces of hell cannot equal the supernatural power of a single believer. We have Christ living within us—the same Christ who was triumphant on the cross and whose final victory over Satan is prophesied in Revelation. Through Him, we can conquer Satan and win our unseen battles.


A Tough Command

Some verses—like today’s—are easier to memorize than practice. Giving thanks is easy, but giving thanks in everything is a nearly impossible task. And gratitude at times even seems inappropriate, considering the depth of pain or turmoil we are experiencing. But we have a Comforter who helps us exercise thankfulness in every situation.
The Holy Spirit enables believers to do what God requires, and teaching us a gratitude habit is part of His work. Psalm 92 teaches that since “it is good to give thanks to the Lord,” we should “declare [His] lovingkindness in the morning and . . . faithfulness by night” (vv. 1-2). In other words, we should regularly anticipate and recall His provision. But when believers awaken to painful circumstances that have no logical reason for thankfulness, our Comforter provides the motivation and words.
Expressing thanks during turmoil takes place neither spontaneously nor apart from another spiritual activity—prayer. Today’s passage links the disciplines of rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving: both exultation and gratitude hinge upon regular communication with God. A prayerless man cannot remain thankful for long, because he is too overwhelmed by his problems. Talking with God forces problems to recede so they can be replaced by peace.
Why does the Lord command us to exercise gratitude? Because He knows that when we focus on His work in our life, we’ll discover our spirits lifting and courage strengthening. Then as we watch Him intervene, we rejoice more, pray more fervently, and learn to give thanks in everything.


Surviving our Present Culture

When we are called into a new life with Christ, we will encounter obstacles. One of the biggest barriers is the culture in which we live. We may not ever recognize the danger we are in until we fall. Let’s look honestly at our world.
First, it’s a secular culture, which means it has little interest in religious matters or the Bible. It teaches us to trust in ourselves and in the things we can see rather than in our unseen triune God.
Our world is also materialistic. Its primary focus is on accumulating possessions and gaining wealth, not on caring about others and giving sacrificially. Tragically, many of the things our culture values stand in opposition to the way Jesus calls us to live. When Scripture contradicts what our society believes, it’s not uncommon for people to belittle our lifestyle as narrow-minded and extreme.
In many ways, our society is spiritually rebellious, in that it defies both the laws of God and the laws of man; obedience is considered optional. A large percentage of the population rejects God’s viewpoint on intimacy and marriage in order to please self—as a result, immorality is prevalent. But they have been deceived into thinking that they can violate God’s laws without any consequences.
Unless we’re careful, we can fall prey to the world’s traps. The key to avoiding its snares is God’s Word. When we study Scripture, the Holy Spirit will identify lies we are believing and show how we can apply God’s truth to set us free. Are you immersed in the culture or in God’s truth?


When Worship is Misplaced

All Rights Reserved. Via Flickr Photo by: Vladimir Vidanovski

Pastor John preached an amazing message yesterday morning entitled, "You Are What You Worship". Many believers only associate worship with song, dance, skilled musicianship and the raising of hands. However, worship is so much more than a 1 to 2 hr church service with 3o to 45 mins of singing.  
God created us to worship Him. Since we are made for this purpose, we will worship something, even if we choose something other than the Creator. Our lives may be devoted to money, prominence, popularity, immorality, or some other desire or vice that can become a false god. But no matter how many earthly distractions we attempt to worship, none of them can satisfy like the living God—we will still be left with a horrible vacuum of unfulfillment.
In the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul illustrates this point in terms of one particular sin: sexual perversion. You may think you’re okay if that form of iniquity isn't part of your life. But any sinful indulgences—whether actions or attitudes—that take precedence over worshipping the Lord are wrong and destructive. Until we allow Jesus to save us from our self-serving nature, we will spiral downward into depravity.
By acting as if the Lord isn't real and excluding Him from our life, we miss out on the main point of our existence. By ignoring the fact that He wants a personal relationship and daily communion with us, we are rejecting His gracious gift and dishonoring Him. Without His influence, our thinking grows more and more futile, leading us to choose false substitutes as we try to fill the void only God can satisfy.
Denying Christ His rightful place as Lord of our life will ultimately unleash God’s wrath. But the Lord, in His great love for the whole world, does not want anyone to spend eternity without Him 
(2 Peter 3:9). He therefore continues to offer us “the riches of His kindness, tolerance, and patience” in calling us to repentance.


A Time for Courage

Even before the Israelites set out to conquer the Promised Land, the Lord knew everything they would experience—including the unconventional victory at Jericho, the defeat at Ai, and the Gibeonites’ deception (Josh. 6–9). And so He gave a command and a promise to Joshua, His chosen leader of the people. God knows what lies ahead for today’s believers as well, and His words still apply to all who walk with Him.
• The Command: “Be strong and courageous!” (1:6, 7, 9). So many things in this life threaten to overshadow godly hearts and minds. Adversaries assail us in the workplace, our neighborhoods, and sometimes even in our homes. We often have occasion to wonder if we are making a good decision or following the wisest course. Like the Israelites, we face battles, enemies, and trials. And yet God tells us to have courage and strength as we confront what comes.
• The Promise: “I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (v. 5). The Lord’s command would be impossible to obey without His promise. We stand not on our own strength and resolve but on the unwavering power of God. The guarantee of His presence and guidance is ours to claim.
The writer of Psalm 118 trusted in God’s command and promise from Joshua 1. He penned, “The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (v. 6). No one can remove God’s love from us, take our salvation, or make us forfeit our right to faithfully abide with Him forever.


Reasons for Storms of Life

All Rights Reserved; Photo by Karsten of the Island
via Flickr

The Lord is never taken by surprise. He knows everything we’re going through, and He is orchestrating our circumstances for both our benefit and His glory, according to His good will.
One purpose for hardship is to cleanse us. Because of our own “flesh” nature and the self-absorbed world we live in, it is easy to develop me-centered attitudes, mixed-up priorities, and ungodly habits. The pressures bearing down on us from stormy situations are meant to bring these impurities to our attention and direct us to a place of repentance. Our trials are not intended to sink us but rather to purify and guide us back to the way of godliness.
Another reason for adversity is so we’ll bring comfort to others. God’s work in our lives is not meant solely for us. It is designed to reach a world that doesn’t recognize or acknowledge Him. The Lord uses the pressures we face to equip us for serving others. As we endure suffering, we will learn about  God’s sufficiency, His comforting presence, and His provision of strength to help us endure. Our testimony during times of difficulty will be authentic; those to whom we minister will recognize that we know and understand their pain. What credibility would we have with people in crisis if we ourselves never experienced a deep need?
Reflecting on the divine purpose behind our hardships can help us respond to them in a God-honoring way. Take the time to fix your attention on the Lord, and seek to understand what He wants you to learn. His lessons often unfold gradually, but He will be walking by your side the whole way.
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