Fervent Prayer: Your Relationships

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.

If I were your enemy, I’d work to create division between you and other Christians, between groups of Christians, anyone with the potential for uniting in battle against me and my plans. I’d keep you operating individually, not seeing your need for the church or tying yourself too closely to its mission. Strenth in numbers and unity of purpose… I would not allow things like these to go unchecked.

Your Relationships. Uniting a Common Cause.

One of our most important strategies – a call for our most fervent praying – must be to stand against all forms of disharmony in our relationships and to battle for oneness among ourselves and God’s people. We owe it to the Lord, and we owe it to one another. The gospel we share in common is meant to be shared together, both the giving and receiving of grace, inspiring each of us to pure living and spiritual fervency so the gospel can shine outward to others through our loving, enriching relationships.

Together, we are a mighty force. Satan knows that. And by remaining united, we can let him feel that.

He hates – hates! – when God’s people get their act together, when we’re unified as a couple, a family, a local church, as well as the global, “capital-C” Church. He hates when we’re all praying for one another’s needs and potential and mission and unity, going to the throne for (and even with) those around us and closest to us.

The hallmark, the true pearl of God’s work on earth that frustrates the enemy’s plans to no end, is this mysterious gelling of people from various backgrounds, experiences, personality types, races, and traditions – the kinds of differences that should easily keep us from being able to get along, much less to work together for kingdom purposes or to care how one another is growing in faith and perseverance.

If we’re not praying for oneness – seriously, specifically, strategically – we’re leaving our hopes for togetherness to the fickle weather patterns of emotion, misunderstanding, and imposed pressure from outside sources and circumstances. We’re giving the enemy room and access to scout for breaks in the line, then to nudge his way into cracks in our relationships, separating us from the people we need most for maintaining our health and balance and authenticity, as well as from shared energy and ideas required for our relationships to thrive.

Prayer helps us stay focused on bigger things, on much more eternal things than the petty stuff that threatens to put itself up beyond actual size and become some huge deal it doesn’t deserve to be. In prayer we experience the kind of hard-fought peace that unites us into an army of soldiers for Christ.

Peace. The enemy is flat-out against it. But what’s he so afraid that it might cause us or lead us to do?

“Having been justified by faith”, the Bible tells us, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace with God. No more fear or condemnation. Unhindered access back and forth between Him and ourselves. So whatever lack of peace you or I might feel with God, and whenever we might feel it, it’s always coming from a source that is not God because He has already blown down every door that keeps us from experiencing total peace with Him.

Strike one. The enemy doesn’t like that.

To ruffle his feathers even more, our peace with God infuses us with the peace of God. It’s a gift that keeps us stable and strong even when our circumstances are the furthest thing away from being peaceful. It also acts as a guide that helps us discern God’s leading and direction toward our destiny. The peace of God is what helps us navigate the will of God.

Strike two. Another thing the enemy doesn’t like.

So this is why he digs in so hard trying to separate friends and churches. It’s all a desperate attempt to avoid strike three. You see, peace with God is individual, Personal. The peace of God – same thing. It’s about you, no one else. But peace with others? Now we’ve got witnesses. Now we’re moving in a pack. We’ve got the strength of numbers. And that makes us more of a problem to him than ever.

The magnet that draws other people out of darkness toward the light and hope of Jesus Christ is so often not the A-B-C evangelism presentation they hear but hte one they see- the recongizable change and difference in people who claim to be at peace with God themselves. Friends who forgive, sisters in Christ whose relationship is an inspiration, husbands and wives who clearly love each other with a passionate sense of loyalty and unity, churches and denominations that are known for celebrating their commonalities more than arguing about their differences – those are the kind of people who best entice others out of their loneliness, pain, and despair to seek their own peace with God through Christ.

So we should not be surprised when Satan thrarts our unity as believers, in all kinds of different pairings and places where we interact with fellow Christians. He’ll do it in your local church. He’ll do it in the global church. He’ll do it in your own personal relationships as well. Mark the ones that form the inner circle around you – the tribe you go to battle with, the people who are most influential in helping you stay spiritually on task and on target. Think of your spouse, your closest girlfriends, you accountability partners, the other participants in your discipleship group. Be strategic in praying for these… this is where he’ll try to attack. I say we throw him that third strike. And get him out of here.

As you begin to develop your personalized approach to this tenth strategy, start by identifying the most common tools of division and disunity the enemy employs to destroy key relationships.

If you have any bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:14-16

Jealousy – the idea of never wanting to take a backseat to someone else’s success or growth pattern
Bitterness – irritations that have simmered inside you long enough until they’ve turned into intolerable dislikes
Selfish Ambition – the desire to dominate or come out looking better than someone else, even someone you care about
Arrogrance – thinking you’re most likely the one’s who’s most right whenever there’s a difference of opinion

So starting today, we craft a prayer strategy with peace in mind, leading to peace of mind for ourselves and the ones we love.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15

Pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming. Ephesians 4:14

Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:18

Let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. Romans 14:13

Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:26

Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Behold, how good and pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down the edges of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing – life forever. Psalm 133:1-3

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important that yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:2-4

…so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:25

The peace of God, perseved by the prayers of God’s people, is meant to forge us together in friendship and unite us in mission. And when it does, not only does it cause the people around us to sit up and notice, but it declares the manifold wisdom of God through the church “to the rulers and authories in the heavens” (Ephesians 3:10). Unity among brothers and sisters puts Satan promptly in his place. And that’s something that ought to make us eager to be watchful, to be encouraging, to be merciful. To be unified.

Fervent Prayer: Your Hurts

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.

If I were your enemy, I’d use every opportunity to bring old wounds to mind, as well as the people, events, and circumstances that caused them. I’d try to ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.

Your Hurts. Turning Bitterness to Forgiveness.

Unforgivness is a strategic design, crafitily implemented by your enemy to outwit you, to cripple your effectiveness in prayer and your power to stand against him victoriously. Which is why, if I were your enemy, I would do everything possible to keep you from forgiving anyone and everyone whos’ done you any wrong.

“Now if anyone has caused pain, you should rather turn to forgive. You should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to affirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything… so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are no ignorant of his designs.” 2 Corinthians 2:5,7-9, 11

Forgive.
Comfort.
Obedience.
Outwitted.
Designs.

Your enemy wants you long-term angry. And he will use even the lightest offense to do it. He wants you to be bitter. He wants you heart coated with the calluses of resentment, crippled by offenses from your past. Unforgiveness is his design to “outwit” you – to keep you not only bruised and bleeding but unable to experience any power in your prayers or intimacy with your Father.

Nobody needs to tell you how bad you’re hurting from the injustices in your life. Even people who’ve suffered similar abuses or offenses as yours could never completely understand how your objections feel. Yours are personal and private and seemingly impossible to forgive.

But forgive anyway. Not because it’s easy but because your enemy gets exactly what he wants from you otherwise. Forgive anyway. Not lightly and quickly but ferociously and fervently. Not only for the other person but mostly for you – so you can be free and full and whole and complete.

If you feel utterly, hopelessly, intolerably reisitant toward forgiving this person or these people who’ve offended you, don’t consider yourself a random victim. The devil is behind this. He’s been strategizing how to suck all the power out of your prayer life. Out of your whole life. He’s likely the same one who started the whole mess to begin with. The same one who stirred up enough sins in the other person to tempt them into doing whatever they did to you, into saying whatever they said to you, into feeling however they felt about you – perhaps how they still feel about you, even now.

Make no mistake, it is his doing. By specific design. Hurting you once wasn’t enough. Those times when the original incident happened, times when you were mistreated or betrayed or belittled – nooo, that level of pain just wasn’t quite enough for him. He wanted more. He wanted permanent loss. Personality change. He wanted to redefine how you thought about God, about yourself, about others, even about those people who truly love you and intend only good for you. He wanted you fixated and patterned in your thinking so that few things would seem more dear or desirable to you than paying them back, getting your revenge. He wants you lifeless. Comatose.

But Jesus… He wants you free. That’s what He created you for.

“Forgive us our debts”, He taught us to pray, “as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), followed by a couple of verses later by this statement, “For if you forgive other for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (vs. 14).

These words of Jesus suggest a connection between the way we handle others’ offenses against us and the way God handles our offenses against Him. Now the whole counsel of Scripture affirms that our salvation (our eternal security with God) is based solely on the work of Jesus on the cross. No action or inaction on our part (such as struggling to forgive someone who’s wounded you) can sever the covenant of grace He’s made with us. But something at least happens to our experience with the Father when we persist in holding others’ sins against them. Unforgiveness puts us in prime position for demonic influence and activity to take advantage of us. And anything that dampens or deadens the freedom that God’s mercy is meant to give us – can it really be worth holding onto?

God knows how to deal with sin. Our sin, their sin. When you choose to forgive someone, you’re not whipping their actions away as if the bad things didn’t happen, giving people a free pass from the harm they’ve caused.  You’re just sparing yourself from the burden of working two extra jobs – being judge and jury for how justice is meted out in this situation. Why not let someone relieve you of the pressure – Someone who actually knows what He’s doing? And Someone who’s just waiting right now to talk with you about it?

His forgiveness, my friend… is freedom. Yes, His forgiveness. His forgiveness of you is what makes your forgiveness possible toward others. We’ve all been redeemed through the blood of Jesus. So there’s more than enough of His forgiveness around you to extinguish all the flames of rage, hatred, bitterness, or animosity your enemy may have ignited within you. Remembering what Christ’s redemption has done for you will make you eager to do it for another.

Genuine freedom and renewed fervency are waiting for you on the other side of forgivness. And the forgiveness you don’t have any desire to give right now can be amazingly enabled through prayer. When galvanied with the living truth of God’s Word, fervent prayer is the bucket that can dip down into the reserves of God’s strength and pull up all the resolve you need for releasing other people from what they owe you. He can produce the healing we so desperately need, before we continue down these same old broken roads that only end up hurting other people – children, grandchildren, people who had nothing to do with this matter at all.

If we want to be someone of serious, fervent prayer, the Scripture will always lead us here. To forgivenss. In some form. In some fashion. Forgiveness is God’s command. And it also comes with the promise that He will provide us the companion power to pull it off. Don’t expect to experience freedom, peace, or rest from your anger until you do.

God’s Word is what we will take into our prayer strategy – a strategy that absolutley ensures a benefit for you. Freedom. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” Galatians 5:1. For freedom. He wants us free. To fan fresh air into the stagnant rooms of your heart. To sweeten the taste in your mouth where bitterness and unforgiveness have soured your appetite for spiritual things. To set… you… free.

So upon these truths, craft a prayer strategy of freedom and forgiveness…

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. Mark 11:25

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengence is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21

Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity. Ephesians 4:26-27

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

As those who have been chosen of Go, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentless, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-13

If he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, “I repent,” forgive him. Luke 17:4

…because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus. 1 John 2:12

The Father’s shoulders are broad enough for you to cry on, strong enough to absorb with compassion whatever you need to vent to Him from the depths of your broken heart. But they are also able to lift you from the quicksand of old hurts and wounds, setting your “feet upon a rock” and putting “a new song” on your lips. Psalm 40:2-3.

Fervent Prayer: Your Pressures

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.

If I were your enemy, I’d make everything seem urgent, as if it’s all yours to handle. I’d bog down your calendar with so many expectations you couldn’t tell the difference between what’s important and what’s not. Going and doing, guilty for ever saying no, trying to control it all, but just being controlled by it all instead… If I could keep you busy enough, you’d be too overwhelmed to even realize how much work you’re actually saving me.

Your Pressures. Reclaiming Peace, Rest, and Contentment.

Pressure.
Pressure to keep up. Pressure to keep going. Pressure to stay ahead, stay afloat, stay relevant. Pressure to do for others what they maybe ought to be doing for themselves.

Pressure to plan for your retirement years. Pressure to lose weight and stay young looking. Pressure to take on another ministry project at church. Pressure to always be the one they can count on to say yes. Pressure to jam another activity for your kids into the schedule. Pressure to do a better job of keeping a journal, organzing your pantry and closets, getting your Christmas shopping done early… then posting your clever thoughts and carefully posed pictures on Instagram when you’re finished.

Pressure to perform a certain way, look a certain way, dress a certain way, be interested in certain things. To be the perfect parent, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect employee, the perfect party planner, the perfect image of everything that everyone expects you to be.

Oh, and pressure to not be the first one who cracks.

Under the pressure.

Granted, there’s a baseline level of pressure that’s necessary to keep us from settling into laziness and self-absorption. Life without any pressure wouldn’t be what’s best for us. But life with this much pressure? From a nonstop pace? A schedule that never allows time for rest or refreshment or maybe actually enjoying the people we’re staying so busy with? Pressure from the unrealistic demands we place on ourselves through our perfectionism, obsession, control, the making of appearances? Pressure from the unreasonable demands others place on us? Pressure that makes us feel like we might be wrong… or selfish… or coldhearted… or snooty to enforce margin and boundaries in our schedule so that we can actually maintain enough time to be obedient to what the Lord has called us to do?

Consider this. Ever notice how many of the pressures in your life resemble slavery? Like you’re just being bossed around, day in and day out? “Do this… go there… now come back over here… do it again…” Slaves don’t rest. Slaves just work. They don’t control their agenda for the day; the day’s agenda controls them. That’s the regular dynamic they’ve come to expect; it’s what the others expect of them as well.

The enemy’s intention is always to ensalve you. Primarily, of course, his stock-in-trade is keeping you bound up and bogged down by all the sins Christ has already died to set you free from. But when that doesn’t work, when you defeat him on the normal temptation front, he’s not out of other ideas… because he’s actually not biased toward limiting his temptations to bad things. He can enslave you to good things too. Your job, your ministry, even your recreational hobbies – nothing is so healthy and life-giving that he can’t turn it into a cruel taskmaster, one that bosses you around and runs your life.

When God delivered the ancient Israelites from four hundred years of bondage in Egypt, slavery was all they’d ever known (Exodus 1:8-14). The rhythms and demands of slavery had been internalized within them from birth. Whatever their taskmasters said, that’s what they did. Refusing wasn’t a choice. Saying no wasn’t an option. I’m sure they didn’t like it, but what could they do about it? – till the Lord sent Moses and ten mighty plagues and delivered them from the iron clutches of Pharaoh.

Israel was free. They were no longer a slave people. But being offically declared free doesn’t automatically take the slave mentality out of a person’s heart and mind, now, does it? God knew He would need to radically adjust their perspectives in order to get them thinking like people who weren’t slaves anymore.

Enter… the Sabbath.

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.” Exodus 20:9-10 (with emphasis). Don’t. Work?

These people had never heard these words before. Never been given that alternative. The whole idea was a foreign concept. All their background and training were built around going, not stopping. Working, not resting. Complying, not declining or decompressing.

So you’d think the prospect of being allowed (no, told) to take regular breaks from their weekly work would sound incredible, relieving, reprieving. Right? Think again. They balked against their seventh-day vacation allotment and went out to work anyway.

Why does the concept of stopping, resting, shutting off, stepping away, pulling back, taking a deep breath- the biblical command of Sabbath – why was it so hard for them?

Same reason it’s so hard for us.

Because to some degree, we’re slaves just as they were. The thought of deliberately choosing a rhythm of rest and margin around our full slate of activities feels almost unthinkable – because it lands on people who still think the way a slave thinks. People who’ve been trained over the years to not say no. People who are unwitting servants to their master calendars.

That’s a slave talking. Hear it? “I can’t just… not… can I?”
No, you can’t. Not if you’re a slave.
But… you can if you are free.
And guess what? “It was our freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). Enough can be enough – not just on our calendars but in every area of our lives. Then we can sit back in the freedom that helps us start again tomorrow with our spirits rested, alert, and renewed.

A free woman possesses the God-given ability to know when He is truly asking her to do something – as well as the God-given ability to know when He’s not. Then, she has the God-given discernment to know her limits and the authority to know when she needs “to cease, to stop, to pause” – accepting the gentle yoke of Jesus instead of the tyrannical yoke of slavery. “For my yoke is easy,” He said, “and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

Your Father just wants you to be you. And that means not have to be two of you to get it all done. Jesus was the poster child for this kind of margin. Listen to Him: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 15:9). Even Jesus – the Son of God – realized that everything wasn’t supposed to be His thing to do. He only did what He saw the Father doing. Nothing more. Nothing less.

See how fear and insecurity come into play in your pressures. Those words always have an enemy ring to them, don’t they? Satan’s ploy is to make you believe your value as a person is tied to how much work you do, how much activity you can accomplish, how much stuff you can accumulate, how much business you can generate… etc. Our insecurities make us fear what others will say or think of us (or of our kids) if we don’t do everything they deem to be required of us or don’t acquire enough to impress them. It’s why we turn Christian living into legalism, for fear that God will be displeased if we don’t rigorously stick to the program. It’s why we don’t know how to sit still. It’s why we’re so rarely satisfied with where we are or what we have.

It’s intimidation. It’s based totally on lies and fear. Fear that we don’t have enough. Fear that we won’t be enough. Fear that we’ll fail and will no longer come off looking as perfect as we want to appear. Fear that somebody else who’s working harder and moving faster will get what was supposed to be ours.”God doesn’t want something from you. He wants something for you.” Your value is not placed in what you do but in who you are. This, too, is what Sabbath is meant to communicate. You don’t need to keep pushing, rushing, gathering, hustling. You’ve already received approval from the only One whose approval really matters. He has stamped His value on you, and that is enough.

One additional thing: pressure is often a mask for idolatry. God’s purpose in giving you Sabbath spaces amid your full, productive life is to help you be uninhibited in your devotion, service, and worship. Margin keeps you from marginalizing God. When our lives are packed to the brim with things that squeeze God to the periphery, it’s a sure sign we’ve replaced our devotion to God with a love for something else. The pressure to perform, for example, often means you’ve made an idol of your reputation. The pressure to maintain a ridiculously jam-packed schedule: the idol of self-reliance. The pressure to maintain an impressive standard of living: the idol of acheivement. The pressure to take on everything in which your kids show even the slightest interest: making an idol of your children. Our hearts can make idols of anything… yet sometimes be the last to realize what’s happening.

The primary purpose of Sabbath margins – of saying no, when appropriate – is to diminish our devotion to all other suitors and crystallize our allegiance to God. The enemy wants other things and people to replace God’s preeminence in our schedule, in our mind, in our heart, in our home. He wants our loyalties lured away from our Creator and dispersed among a dozen others, without our even thinking about it.

Unmanageable, incessant pressure, then, is not just another nagging problem in your average day. It’s an attack against your full devotion to God as your one and only Lord. It’s a cosmic battle for your contentment, your peace, your rest, your sense of balance, health, and wholeness, your ability to worship attentively, to trust fully, to be free and satisfied in Christ, available to move at the invitation of His perfectly timed will.

It’s a matter worth our serious prayer.  We’ve missed the connection for too long. We’ve been too tired and overwhelmed to see it. But now our eyes are open, and we can see the enemy’s stategy exposed. So let’s use prayer, like a sharp pair of scissors, to help cut ourselves loose.

This one life’s all we’ve got. It’s our one chance to choose: Will we let them dominate and define us? Steal our hearts and devotion? Or will our service and adoration of the Father determine how we operate – determine what fills our plate?

When we become strategic and focused in our prayer, God will not only begin the process of tearing us free, but He will weave new threads of peace, rest, and contentment into their place.

Perhaps, before you collect scriptures and develop a prayer strategy in this area, you might want to start by doing a little personal inventory. It might help you be more tailored in your praying. Try identifying the most common pressures and expectations in your life that cause fatique, fragmentation, distress – occasionally even an emotion that borders on despair.

  •  Check your schedule for patterns where you’re allowing yourself to be ensalved to things that aren’t truly as critical, important, or indispensable as they seem.
  • Check your motivations for why you say yes to so many things and why you feel such guilt and loss of importance for saying no.
  • Check to see if the places where you most typically overload your time involve people or goals or interest areas that you’ve elevated to the status of idols.
  • Check how much emphasis you place on the current status of your wardrobe, house, car, job, fitness, education, and any external measure that causes you to feel defensive, pressured to keep up and compare.

    Ask the Lord for real discernment here because some of these can be subtle and hard to spot. A close friend or family member whose wisdom you trust might actually be helpful in this process as well if you’ll promise to consider the validity of everything they say and reveal about you, even the things you don’t quite agree with at first.

    By the Spirit’s power helping you gain control of your schedule, creating spaces within which to breathe, obeying the principles of God’s Sabbath, and establishing boundaries based on the truth of His all-wise Word, your destiny comes into clearer focus. Your worship blossoms into brilliant colors. And your day amazingly brightens into joy.

    The enemy’s going to hate this. Let’s do it…

    I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock, and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2

    From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Psalm 61:2-4

    He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; He does not value the power of a man. The Lord values those who fear Him, those who put their hope in His faithful love. Psalm 147:10-11

    You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By you I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; My praise is continually of You. Psalm 71:5-6

    I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. Psalm 81:10

    If you… call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 58:13-14

    You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.
    John 8:32

    You shall remember that you were a slave in the hand of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:15

    …being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

    Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Matthew 6:33

    Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

    Few things hold the potential to drastically alter the landscape of your life as when you claim godly authority over the insane amount of unnecessary pressures you face. Be ready to see your eyes opened as you close them in prayer.

    One day soon a whole new person is going to be emerging from that prayer closet.
    A free one. A rested one. A contented one.

Fervent Prayer: Your Purity

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.

If I were your enemy, I’d tempt you toward certain sins, making you believe they are basically (even biologically) unavoidable. I’d study your tendencies and proclivities till I learned the precise conditions that make you the most likely to indulge them. And then I’d strike right there. Again and again. Wear you down. Because if I can’t separate you from God forever, I can at least set you at odds with Him for the time being.

Your Purity. Staying Strong in Your Most Suceptible Places.

The enticing temptation that tickles you curiosity, piques your interest, and placates your personal proclivities has been festering in the devil’s sick, sinister mind all morning, all week, all year maybe. Just sitting there, soaking up vileness and filth. Cruelty and conspiracy. Waiting for the right time- the moment when you are most weakened and susceptible to attack. But once he’s cleaned it up for presentation, sliding it meticulously into view, you’d think it was the shiniest, most desirable bit of unclaimed satisfaction you’ve ever seen. He sets it out there where your eyes can’t help but be drawn toward it – at least, you know, to pick it up and look at it. Feel it. Play with it.

The moral compromise. The unhealthy habit. The enticing addiction. The allure toward sexual impurity. Do you think their uncanny ability to show up when you happen to be exhausted or hungry or lonely is just a coincidence? Don’t you detect some design at work in the timing, the placement, the package?

Look at what we know from Satan’s temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The devil came out into the wilderness where Jesus had been fasting for forty days, a time when (physically speaking) the Lord was hungry, alone, tired, and depleted. What better setup and situation to make the suggestion of, well… bread? I mean, I don’t know about you, but slide a warm roll in my direction, topped with a smear of soft butter, and I’m a goner. Even when I’m not hungry. But that’s the enemy’s way. Precision, personalization, and persistence. He’s always scouting for what Luke’s gospel describes as the “opportune time” (4:13) – the moment when a well-placed temptation is most likely to be its most irresistible.

So again I ask – the devil’s temptations, the ones he picks out and personalizes for you… coincidence? Uncalculated? Just happenstance?

Stop and see what’s happening. Stop at the place where you first recognize the scent of temptation in the air. And before you touch it, remember… remember where it’s been. Remember where it came from and who’s behind it. And if it’s one of those repeat temptations you’ve been battling against for years, remember the places it’s taken you… the places it always ends up taking you. Because as soon as you say yes to it, you’re headed there again.

The kind of prayer strategy we’re about to employ treats every temptation as the potent, life-threatening stick of dynamite that it is. Despite how inviting it seems, despite how natural it feels, despite how much simpler the rest of your day would seem to go if you just gave in and went along with it, temptations are never innocuous. The consequences are never minimal. The waves of your choice will ripple outward into your heart, mind, soul, and body, possibly even to future generations.

Sin has consequences. Always has and always will. Keep this revelation fixed squarely in your mind. Because whether we like it or not, here’s how the spiritual economy of life works for believers: Obedience to God garners intimacy and nearness, divine blessing and favor. Always. And disobedience creates a sense of distance and loss, grief and regret. Alway. Sometimes the consequences of caving to temptation are practical and tangible, changing your daily experience, drastically enough in certain cases to fundamentally effect the rest of your life. But no matter how immediately noticeable the cost, the ripple effects of sin always affect your connection to the Father. And this, this is exactly what the enemy is hoping for. It’s why he is so personalized and meticulous in his advances to tempt you.

Impurity weakens your praying – which in turn weakens your power. When our lives are not aligned with the teaching of Scripture and the transforming work of God’s Spirit – when we’re resisting His wise, loving instruction converning our lifestyle and attitudes – our prayer closets start to feel like soundproof rooms. The energy we expect our prayers to access and generate is momentarily choked off and shorted out. We’ve compromsied the system. We’re leaking oil, leaking power. We end up, in practical terms, living like the double-minded man in the New Testament book of James, who the Bible says, “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” because he’s unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7-8).

Separation. That’s what sin creates. Which is why the enemy is dead set on crafting temptations for our lives. He knows that the “effectual fervent prayer” that James 5:16 says “availeth much” contains parameters. Prayers have a power that comes from a person in pursuit of righteous living. Righteousness matters.

That’s why you and I must deliberately strategize a prayer for the daily, ongoing protection of our purity. Prayer keeps us on guard, our spiritual radar sensitive to the enemy’s ploys and clever decoys. Without this close contact with the Father, we become convinced that our careless behavior, our decisions, our habits, our general sense of what qualifies as worthwhile entertainment is somehow OK, that it’s “not so bad”. Yet all the while the enemy’s carefully crafted options of impurity chip away at our spiritual reserves and effectiveness.

Impure living, impure thinking, impure relationships, impure affections – creates the perfect environment and breeding ground for demonic activity. It invites him in and then fosters the perfect place for his turmoil and trouble to thrive. Unrighteousness disrupts our peace. It scares away any lasting sense of rest and contentment. It spoils what could otherwise be enjoyable. It complicates experiences that were meant to be nothing but pleasures and blessings. We can’t knowingly create this kind of an environment – the kind that invites the devil to make himself at home – and then blame God for whatever sense of distance we may feel from Him. We must choose righteousness, while committing to pray fervently and consistently that we’ll recognize the ploys of the enemy the moment they come into view.

Because not only does our prayer deflect the enemy, our purity deflects the enemy. God calls you to purity because He wants your heart protected and at rest, inhospitable to the devil and his intentions. God wants you full of power and confidence and spiritual vitality. He wants you to feel free to bless and encourage others, to receive and celebrate His goodness, to become such a stick-of-dynamite prayer warrior that Satan just hates hearing your coffeepot start up in the morning.

How’d you like to start experiencing those kinds of consequences? Not the ones that leave you feeling disgusted and despondent, misreable from another failure, but totally energized instead. In Jesus.

This doesn’t mean that you’ll never do anything wrong again. We’re not built for that. But a prayer strategy can even help you here too… because the only thing worse than not prevailing in purity at any given moment is failing to respond humbly to God’s discipline after a setback. His conviction is never meant to berate you but simply to correct you and bring you back to Himself. No divide. No separation. Pure.

Purity leads us to fervent prayer, and fervent prayer leads us to purity. And when we start putting this cycle to work, building momentum like a spiritual turbine, surrendering our hearts with the nearness of God’s protection, we strip Satan of the power to rope us down to the same old cycle of sin we’ve always known. We say to him, in so many words…
can’t touch this.

God is inviting you right now to realms of glory. To wide-open spaces of genuine freedom and possibility. To scenes where victory can become, no kidding, an everyday occurance. You’ll think you’re just sitting in whatever little place you call your prayer closet, but you’ll actually be in a whole new world where He is King and where even your nastiest individual sins are utterly subject to His power. Now here’s a place you want to be.

So grab a pencil, get comfortable, and write them down. Your struggles, I mean. Name them specifically, individually. Call them out from hiding. Unmask them and make them show their faces. Because when you come to these Scriptures, you’re going to find some phrases of truth in there that, while you probably know them, perhaps you haven’t been praying them in connection with specific areas of temptation in your life- Scriptures that authorize you to throw off the chains of slavery to sin and put on the breastplate of righteousness. Find the phrases that speak to your heart most clearly in connection with the specific issues you’re struggling with, and then use them (along with all kinds of other Bible verses the Spirit will give you) as part of your customized prayer strategy.

Don’t worry now. This job of overcoming temptation and living in purity is not something you’re tasked with pulling off on your own. When God saved you, it was with the understanding that He’d be providing you “sanctification by the Spirit” all along the way (2 Thess. 2:13), from the inside out, His purity and holiness changing your heart until it comes through as purity and holiness in action. As you yield yourself to Him in prayer, inviting Him to do His work, it won’t just be the sweaty, exhausting chore of avoiding sin. It’ll be God Himself building up strength at your core, enabling you by His resurrection power to passionately pursue righteousness. Then go from your prayer closet, ready to “walk in a manner worth of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Strategize your obedience as diligently as the enemy is strategizing those temptations. You’ll be blown away with the blessings of purity. So why not make them the norm rather than the exception? And here’s why they can be…

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry the desire of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16

What fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:21-23

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14

Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:31-32

My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. 2 Peter 2:9

Let me give you one more. Psalm 91 says that God has created a shelter for you, a place where the covering shadow of His love thoroughly, shades you from the highnoon heat of temptation. Your God, it says, is a refuge. Your God is a fortress. Your God is trustworthy. And your God is a deliverer. The arrows can fly by day, pestilence can stalk in the darkness, destruction can lie in wait for you in the middle of the afternoon. “A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you… For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.” Psalm 91:7,9
And then… you are safe.

Fervent Prayer: Your Fears

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here

If I were your enemy, I’d magnify your fears, making them appear insurmountable, intimidating you with enough worries until avoiding them becomes your driving motivation. I would use anxiety to cripple you, to paralyze you, leaving you indecisive, clinging to safety and sameness, always on the defensive because of what might happen. When you hear the word faith, all I’d want you to hear is “unnecessary risk”.

Your Fears. Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling

That fact is this: fear is one of Satan’s primary schemes for crippling God’s people. I’m not talking about legitimate concern. I’m not talking about protective warnings of wisdom and godly counsel. I’m talking about fear. Incessant worry. Up-all-night anxiety. Worst-case scenario becoming the only probabilities you can think about. Fears like these, instead of simply raising our blood pressure, out to set off some fire alarms. Why am I feeling so paralyzed like this?

We clearly know from scripture that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). So whenever you sense a “spirit of fear” invading any particular area of your life, you can know by process of elimination that it’s not coming from God… which only leaves one other spiritual place it could be orginating from… which ought to make you wonder why it’s there. Aren’t you at least a little bit curious what he’s trying to keep you from experiencing?

I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of Moses and the children of Israel, pinned up against the waters of the Red Sea while the Egyptian pharaoh and his armies were bearing down hard from behind. Israel was fast in the process of being surrounded by people whose nation had brutalized them and their ancestors for four, long horrendous centuries. No escape. And the only direction that wasn’t swarming with enemy hordes, the one path God was directing His people to go, lay straight through the sea.

So these two million Hebrews had every reason to be terrified. Mortified really. There was no swimming out of this one.

Any yet, in the face of such impossible circumstances, with the odds so heavily stacked against them, and with no indicator of the miracle that God had planned, Moses said to the people, “Do not fear!” (Exodus 14:13). His very first instruction to them was to not be afraid.

Notice that Moses wasn’t telling them not to feel fear. The prospect of looming death will just kind of do that. On its own. Fear is a natural human response to a lot of things, a Red Sea moment being one of them. So he knew they would feel fear, but he was telling them not to wallow in it. Not to choose it. Not to make friends with it. Not entertain it, engage it. Because if they did, they risked not sticking around long enough to experience the stunning miracle their God was about to perform. And even more, they risked not getting to the other side. To the Promised Land. To the land of milk and to the honey. To destiny.

Oh, so that’s what the enemy wanted fear to keep them from obtaining. And that’s what he hopes fear will keep you from obtaining too. Your destiny.

But whether you need a gentle hand today reaching out to hold yours, or you could use a little tough love right now to shake yourself awake from the stupor of all those excuses, the prescription is still the same…
Do. Not. Be. Afraid.
The issue of fear is so well-known and important to God that more than three hundred times in Scripture He tells his people – in one form or another – not to be afraid. “Fear not.” “Be ye not afraid.”  “Do not fear.” Look it up. It’s everywhere. You know those times when you’re searching high and low for just one verse to tell you what God wants you to do? Well, there’s three hundred of them. And they’re all saying the same thing, “Don’t be afraid.”

It’s the enemy telling you, “Be very afraid.” Is that the kind of junk he’s been feeding you lately? Twenty million reasons why you can’t? Can’t kick the habit? Can’t stand up and lead a Bible Study? Can’t help start that inner-city ministry? Not qualified enough for that job? Can’t do this, could never do that, be crazy to even think about doing that other thing?

Why not? Might take too much time? Not to mention the pressure? The germs? Do I really want to risk the rejection of being told no? Don’t I realize what I’d be giving up in terms of security and salary and insurance benefits? What would people think if I did something so audacious, something out of my normal routine and pattern? Wouldn’t I just be opening myself up to criticism and catty comments? What about all my food allergies, my fear of flying, all my other various intolerances?

Are those the kind of speed bumps and roadblocks he’s been laying in front of you, seemingly all your life? He’s just full of it. Full of excuses. Invesed in cramming you full of fear. Why? Because fear is the antithesis of faith. And faith is what allows you to step foot on the soil of your destiny.

Hear me out, and hear me good: I’m about to write a long, run-on sentence, but I want you hanging on every word:
If God has given you clear direction, like He gave the children of Israel – direction He’s confirmed by his written Word and by the sounding board of wise, godly counsel – and your only real reason for resisting Him is because you’re afraid of what following Him down his path might mean or cost or entail, then you’re not only on the threshold of being disobedient, you’re about to miss an opportunity to give God some fresh, new glory by doing what He’s wanting to do through you, which is the true impetus behind His invitation for you to join Him on this scary adventure in the first place.

In fervent prayer, we discover something: Our God is fearless. And because He is fearless, we can be fearless too. When His presence is with us and going before us, no Red Sea should faze us or give us pause. So despite your hesitation, say yes. Walk on. Have faith. Fear not.

God wouldn’t tell us to not be afraid – or tell it to us so often – if He didn’t fully realize that fear, worry, anxiety, queasiness, cold feet, sweaty palms, dry mouth, and racing heartbeats are our first, natural reaction to some of the challenges of following Him, especially those (like most) that don’t come with clear, step-by-step instructions on how to handle every possible hiccup or contingency.

Prayer is the difference maker. An invitation for honesty, yes, for telling Him how you feel – infused with the assurance and fearless confidence that comes from God’s promises.

Remember those worries of yours? They’re not just stray thoughts; they’re deliberate strategies. Strategies to derail you from your destiny and calling. And the way to fight them is with a deliberate prayer strategy of your own.

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. In God whose Word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

The word of the Lord came to me: I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am only a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am only a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever  I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. Jeremiah 1:4-8

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Psalm 32:8

I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or fefute you! Luke 21:15

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us… let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:19-20, 23

I am praying for you today, as you read this. I am praying for any areas that you are experiencing fear or worry or anxiety – any of those feelings that are trying to hold you down and cripple you. I feel them too. There are thoughts that always try to creep in, and I have to take them captive – knowing that they are not of God. I’m praying for the areas where fear is the main thing stopping you from doing what God is clearly calling you to do. That is exactly what happened with me before I started this blog. I had a story that I felt called to share, but I was afraid to do it. I didn’t want people to know that story or the insecurities that I dealt with. It was months of feeling this calling to write before I decided to obey. I waited for all the answers – I wanted to know exactly how to do it before I took the first step. But as I started writing, it became clearer to me. I just took the first step, and then He showed me the next. I’m thankful that I decided to obey and that He is using my story to help others. What is it that He’s asking you to do? What is it that He wants to do through you that you have been to afraid to do? Take the first step of obedience, and He’ll show you the next. 

Fervent Prayer: Your Past

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

Ready for the fifth strategy the enemy uses? It’s your past. We all have one, and the enemy loves to let it affect our present and future. You might have heard the quote, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Unfortunately, it’s true. But there’s another one that’s good too, “Free people, free people.” We can be free from our past so that we can live the abundant life that God has intented for us to live… and while we do that we will be doing kingdom-work to help free others from their pasts so they can do the same. What a beautiful thought and vision for us! I feel like the hashtag #goals would be appropriate here, something we can all work towards… being kingdom-minded.

If I were your enemy, I’d constantly remind you of your past mistakes and poor choices. I’d want to keep you burdened by shame and guilt, in hopes that you’ll feel incapacitated by your many failings and see no point in even trying again. I’d work to convince you that you’ve had your chance and blown it – that your God may be able to forgive some people for some things, but not you… not for this.

Your Past – Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret

It’s awful. And it’s personal.
A personal, unwelcome, unwarranted attack.
Using your forgiven past to poke holes in your future. That’s exactly what the enemy does. He absolutely loves living in the past. In your past. In my past. Any why not? Some of his best opportunities to sabatage our potention comes from there.

He carefully archives footage from our history so he can pull from those files and remind us what our days of defeat, sin, and failure looked like. You’ve seen them, as have I, a million times. If your life is anything like mine, I’d imagine he’s turned every room in the house into a screening room at one time or another, popping one of his old favorites into the player – for his amusement, for our humiliating shame and embarrassment.

It’s a painful thing to watch. Even in reruns. Especially in reruns… because every time he cues it up again, it’s with the fresh intent of mocking us, making us feel as unforgiven and unforgiveable as possible, and then even pointing the finger at all the other people who are more to blame, more at fault, than we should even consider ourselves to be. If he can’t make us feel judged, he’ll try turning us into judgers. So it’s quite a show he puts on. And quite depressing. Mostly because, as he loves reminding us, we’re the ones who’ve given him so much material to work with.

Under more constructive circumstances we might actually be able to learn from it – see another option we could’ve taken to avoid ultimately what happened, in order to not be so rash or gullible next time. We might be able to teach from it – help steer others who might one day face the same set of choices (our children, for example) toward and alternate ending that’s likely to result in something more favorable for them. But in the hands of the enemy, it’s always a horror film – run from it, hide from it – keep living and reliving it, over and over again. With no resolution, just a persistent dread and heartache. Always at risk of having it jump up and scare us, just when we thought God had finally settled it for good.

And that’s how, instead of living with assurance, we become bombarded with shame. Instead of celebrating God’s grace, we feel undercut by continual guilt over the same old things. Instead of experiencing the ongoing, residual blessings of being regenerated by His Spirit – all things new – we’re caught in the spin cycle of ceaseless regrets.

But prayer – fervent, strategic prayer – can change things. Even unchangeable things. Even things as unchangeable as real-life scenes from your past – what you did, what you didn’t do, why you did it, why you didn’t. No, prayer doesn’t wipe them all away, doesn’t pretend they never happened. And, no, it doesn’t remove every natural, logical consequence from playing itself out. But just as God says to the ocean waves, “Thus far you shall come, but no farther” (Job 38:11), He has given us prayer to raise up above the sea level of Satan’s assaults from our past.

Cue the hallelujahs and thanks to God for this. Thank you for your grace and your mercy that you have for us, God. Thank you for helping us to rise above these things in our pasts and go to higher levels where you are taking us.

All things… new. Let’s leave the past in the past. The past doesn’t have permission to touch you anymore, if you don’t give it. Let’s go to new places of freedom and fullness.

The enemy’s accusations against us come with a statute of limitations. He can rant and threaten and how-day-you all he wants, but here’s why you can plug your ears and ignore his accusations, and sing God’s praise while you walk away with real pardon in your heart.

God doesn’t live in the past. Because – God – your God exists outside of time. To Him, the past that so haunts and hamstrings you, the past that so ruffles and frustrates you, is not in the past at all. In prayer, you are alone with God who sees you only as you are and have always been since that beautiful moment when you placed your faith in Him – holy, righteous, and blameless; past, present, and future. He forgives your guilt, removes your shame, and declares His work an established, all-the-time fact. Prayer does a complete end run around Satan’s pitiful accusations, ushering us into an eternal realm with God where “the past” doesn’t even compute.

We only live by grace anyway. All that stuff Satan tries hanging over our head – those forgiven failings of ours are no longer reasons for shame but are not monuments to the totally amazing grace of God. I mean just look at what He is able to forgive. Even this. Even that. Yes, devil, even THAT! Isn’t God incredible? That He could forgive even that?!

The glory our God receives and will eternally receive, from having saved our souls doesn’t come from all the good things we do for Him. His glory comes from creating people of purity and spiritual passion who once did things like that. Like we’ve done. Like you’ve done. Like I’ve done.

So talk it up, devil. Because as high as you choose to ratchet it up, you’re only showing off “the breadth and length and height and depth” (Eph. 3:18) of the love of Christ extending toward me!

One of the qualities that makes the gospel so real and so great is that it doesn’t eliminate our past but just so thouroughly deals with it. God forgives it. He changes it. He transforms all that mess into this huge mountain of grace that only takes us higher and closer to Him. So now, instead of being a reason for endless shame, guilt, and regret, our past is a reason for endless worship and free-flowing testimony.

And for continual, grateful, heartfelt prayer.

We’re all on a journey here. We’re not perfect. We all struggle. We can tell from the fatique we feel and the stiffness in our spiritual joints that we haven’t always taken good care of ourselves. But prayer wakes us up with new mercies from God that are “new every morning” (Lam. 3:23). Prayer is how we start to stretch and feel limber again, feel loose, ready to take on the world. And when we start applying prayer to particulat muscles groups – like our confidence in Christ and His victory over our past – our whole body and our whole being start to percolate with fresh energy, with the blood-pumping results of applied faith.

So as you being crafting a strategy for crushing Satan’s backdoor assault on your daily freedom and joy, think on this helpful guide you can use…

  • Praise: Thank Him for completely forgiving you, cleansing your, changing you.
  • Repentance: See the foolishness of anything that perpetuates old sin patterns, and by His Spirit walk away.
  • Asking: Ask for freedom, for release, for the abilitiy to deflect lies and embrace truth.
  • Yes: Because you, by His resurrection power, can now walk in a new way of life.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

    Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil – the commander of the powers of the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that we were saved! Ephesians 2:1-5

    Thus says the Lord… Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

    Sing praise to the Lord, all His godly ones, And give thanks to His Holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.
    Psalm 30:4-5

    He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:29-31

    He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power, is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

    The past, for all its attempts at confining and condemning us, possesses limits  that our enemy doesn’t want us to know about. Well, now we do. And so here we go. We’re moving on. And he can just sit back there in the dark and watch all those home movies of his, all by himself. Because our real life in Christ is just a lot more exciting.

    Here’s to freedom… yours and mine. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

    I am praying for you, as my readers, as you go through this series with me. I’d love to hear how God is using it in your life to being freedom and spiritual growth. Feel free to leave a comment or email me your story so that I can praise and champion God along with you for what He’s done.

Fervent Prayer: Your Family

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This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are going to learn how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?

Lifeway has a Blue, Leatheresque Copy of this book that will be on sale for $5 this Friday & Saturday for their post-Thanksgiving sale. It will be available on Lifeway.com or at your nearest Lifeway store.
Thanks for sharing that with us, Mrs. Holly. 😉

If I were your enemy, I’d seek to disintegrate your family and destroy every member of it. I’d want to tear away at your trust and unity and turn everyone’s love inward on themselves. I would make sure your family didn’t look anything like it’s supposed to. Because then people would look at your Christian marriage, your Christian kids, and see you’re no different, no stronger, than anyone else- that God, underneath it all, really doesn’t change anything.

Your Family. Fortifying The Lives Of Those You Love.

He wants to disintegrate your family, dividing your home, rendering it chaotic, restless, and unfruitful. Genesis 3:1-7

It is a big deal. Our families are a billboard for the eternal, unchangeable love story between God and humankind. Each of their successes or failures is of great importance, both in God’s eyes, and therefore, in our enemy’s eyes. So Satan loves to target families. He targets our role as wives, targets our husbands, and targets our children. He brings dissension, infuses tension, unravels our sense of peace with diunity. Because ultimately he wants to destroy our families – all of our families – so that the billboard message they’re designed to project to the world is a picture that is, at best, laughable.

Marriage was instituted by God to be an object lesson to the world of the relationship of a believer to Himself. Each of you who is married or will be will play a significant role in living our this lesson. A man chooses a bride, loves her, makes a covenant with her, and gives himself completely to her. The woman responds by receiving his love, surrendering to him, entering into this covenant bond with him, and becoming one flesh with him. It’s not a perfect representation, of course, because even the best marriage on earth involves a pair of fallen, broken people. But in it’s deepest level, this primary human relationship between husband and wife is meant to be a living witness to others of the love of Christ for His church. (Epehsians 5:22-33).

Marriage stands for the creation of unity among two people who were one separated in every way before love reached out and found the other – the way God reached out and found us, and covenanted with us, and loved us, and despite who we are, despite what we’re like, still loves us. This image, more than almost anything, is exactly what the enemy wants to denigrate.

Husbands are to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Epehsians 5:25). Wives are to submit to their husbands “as the church submits to Christ.” (vs. 24 NLT). Again, big deal. All around. Much bigger deal than we thought.

So when you and I begin feeling pressure and tension and splintering and conflict at home, when little trifling things start bunching together to become this one big thing- when the nitpicking turns into bickering; the bickering into outbursts; the outburts into rude, below-the-belt unkindness and bitterness; the bitterness into slow, seething pullbacks of silence and isolation – is it just your husband or wife being terrible? Acting awful? Is it just you being overly sensitve, slow to relinguish a foothold of cherished, hard-fought ground? Is it just your child pulling away into isolation or overt rebellion? Is it just all of you going to your own rooms -disconnected, disjointed, fragmented?

No, it bears all the marks of an outside enemy – one who hangs around your family but isn’t part of your family. He’s the one who wants your marriage to suffer. He’s the one who wants your home to be a dueling battleground. He’s the one most likely who’s pulled the wool over your eyes, fooling you with a crafty bait and switch, leading you to focus all your indignation on your man or your kid instead. He wants you misreable and exhausted and joyless and undone. He wants that picture of the gospel – the one you call your marriage and your family – he wants it tarnished. Ripped up. Smeared in the mud of failure. Turning you against each other and tearing everybody in half. As much as the Father loves and embodies unity, your enemy loves and embodies division. Wherever dicord is present, he’s never too far away. And as much of us sadly know from far too much personal experience, no wounds cut as deep or cleave us at the core of our existence more than the wounds we receive at the hands of our family. You’d better believe he wants a piece of that action.

But maybe he wasn’t counting on this: someone who’d had enough, enough to start taking some prayer action. For their marriage, for their children, for all their family. So here we go. This is it. Bring your family issues right up to the line here, and let’s get some stuff out in the open. Let’s get specific. Let’s put a bead on the bull’s eye where the real source of your family strife and discomfort and unmet needs are originating from, and let’s show him the kind of resistance that a steady dose of prayer is able to exact against his demolition plans.

Is it your marriage? Our job is not to change our spouse, but to love and respect and then leave the rest up to the Lord. The more you pray for your spouse, the more the Spirit will shine a spotlight on the places in your own heart and actions that need a bit of work too. The only effective way to fight in marriage is to pray. The way we see the real truth behind whatever’s happening in this whole situation of yours… is to pray. Prayer is how we isolate the real problems. And prayer is how we get up behind those problems and attack them at the roots. It’s how we isolate the real enemy.
Even if things are going pretty well for you right now, even if you don’t have a lot to complain about or feel upset over, the enemy is still there, whether in full-on attack mode or lurking in wait for the next possible opportunity to infiltrate. So pray. And pray fervently.

Is it your children? The Bible says our children are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Psalm 127:4). We raise them up to shoot them out into the culture, bearing the image of Christ to the world. Sounds again, then, like a place that would qualify as a major area of concern for an enemy who doesn’t want any vestige of Christian valor and virtue running loose out there where they might take bold stands of faith and influence. Worst of all, they might marry and raise up a whole other generation of little Christ followers, keeping your family buring red hot on enemy radar long beyond your lifetime, spinning up a legacy of faith that spirals forward undaunted into the future. Your enemy can’t be having any of that, now, can he? So don’t be surprised when he starts coming after your kids. And don’t think it’s all because they’re being headstrong or peed dependent or carless or lazy. Satan knows the parts of their character – both their strengths and their weaknesses – where he can worm in and try shunting their growth, their potential, and their confidence.

Is it an issue with other family members? Maybe it’s other members of your extended family who are unsaved, feeling the brunt of enemy attack on themselves, or who are participating (intentionally or unintentionally) with the enemy’s designs on you as their daughter or son, their sister or brother, their cousin, their daughter or son-in-law, whatever. The forms that these sorts of conflict can take are as numerous as the number of people involved in them. But just as much as the devil loves stirring up trouble in churches, he loves stirring up trouble in families. He know’s it’s a Christian witness-killer, an energy zapper, a time eater, a relationship destroyer. He can do more damage with less effort by attacking us here, within those relationships, than in any other context. But if we’re wise, we can put prayer into effect in places we’re close enough to touch the very people involved. Then as God’s spirit does His work in us and in these situations, the others in our family will be standing close enough to watch it all happen in real time, to see the kinds of change and impact our prayers are able to accomplish.

The family is one of the key axis points of God’s purpose on earth. And your family, at the point of your sphere of influence, is a major component of what He is doing right here where you live. In order to make sure you’re fully cooperating with Him and with the enormous opportunity embodied in your family structure and it’s people, they need you to not be on their backs, not up in their faces, but be down on your knees. Assume a new fighting position.

Now let’s spend some concentrated effort in crafting specific, strategic, personalized prayer approaches for your family. Person by person. Name by name. The stakes are simply too high not to do it. Don’t resort to the roll-call system for covering our family in prayer. Lord, bless my husband. Bless my kids. Be with my aunt and uncle. Be with my dad and his knee replacement. Be with my brother who’s looking for work. Quick. Easy. Over and done. Better than totally ignoring them perhaps, but hardly a satisfying confidence that you’re going all out, participating mightily with God in their future, their provision, or their rescue.

“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” 3 John 2.
“May He give your what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose” Psalm 20:4. The Scripture is full of eternal truths, made even more relevant when framed against the context of your family’s life, specific needs, and dilemmas.

There are verses and counsel related to how a wife treats, blesses, thinks about, and responds to her husband. Pray them for yourself as a wife.

Love is patient. Love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek it’s own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:4-5

You wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.
1 Peter 3:1-2

Don’t you wives realize that your husbands might be unsaved because of you? 1 Corinthians 7:16

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will not lack anything good. Proverbs 31:11

There are verses, particularly in Proverbs, that speak to the blessings of a man’s integrity, his quest for wisdom, the leadership of his family, and God’s desire to prosper him as he commits his many responsibilities to the Lord. Pray them for your husband.

Commit your works to the Lord. And your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7

Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is surpreme – so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. Proverbs 4:6-8

Let your eyes look directly  ahead. And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, And all your ways will be established. Proverbs 4:25-26

Wisdom will rescue you from a forbidden woman, from a stranger with her flattering talk. Proverbs 2:16

Don’t fear sudden danger or the run of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.
Proverbs 3:25-26

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

There are other verses that lead a mother, a parent, to keep her children before the Lord and their protection in His hands. Pray them for your chidren.

In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts. Isaiah 8:18

They were to rise and tell their children so that they might put their confidence in God and not forget God’s works, but keep His commands. Then they would not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not loyal and whose spirit was not faithful to God. Psalm 78:6-8

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.
3 John 4

Then there are passages that caution us not to fight with old weapons but to keep ourselves under control and trusting God’s authority as we relate to one another:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need for the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6

The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgement and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 1 Peter 4:7-9

Pursue the things which made for peace and the building up of one another. Romans 14:19

Not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you can inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:9

Homes and families, marriages and children can all too easily devolve into combat zones – which was the last thing in the world you ever foresaw when you walked down the aisle, or when you brought home that bundle of joy. You may not be able to control all the discord and unwise choices that occur in the various corners of your house or among the people you share a family with. But you can make sure that the only place you engage in combat is in the heavenlies, in prayer, in secret. Take the fight into your prayer room rather than your living room. Write down what you want to be sure your enemy hears you praying. Use the biblical promises and passages from this post as a framework to get you started. Then take your vocal pleas to God instead of making your vocal presence such a common fixture around your house. Get ready to go to war for your family. And get ready to see some changes you’ve never seen happen before.