Every Spiritual Blessing

The Scriptures declare the true followers of Christ are blessed in Him “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Notice, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing, not necessarily physical blessing. We are not promised earthly wealth, great health and longevity of life, popularity, or freedom from suffering. Yet, regardless of one’s position/condition here on earth, the person who is in Christ has every spiritual blessing. But what does this mean?

In the first chapter of Ephesians we are told that the true people of God are chosen in Him. We are made holy and blameless (that is, cleansed and made new). We are predestined for adoption as sons and daughters of God. We are redeemed, forgiven, and granted an (eternal) inheritance. And we have been sealed with His Holy Spirit.

In the second chapter of Ephesians we are told that we were once dead in our sins, followers of the devil, and children of wrath who lived in the passions of body and mind. But God, in His marvelous love and grace, made us alive in Christ. All of this is given to us by His grace. We do not—cannot—earn it. All of it is given to us as a gift.

We were once separated, alienated,  and at enmity with God. However, in and through Christ, we are brought near and reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus. Through His cross He killed the hostility.

I do not know what your circumstances are, but I do know that life is difficult. Look upwards to Christ, cling to God’s promises, and remember your identity and position in Christ. All of this is by His great mercy and grace, not by our doing. Regardless of how lowly our position is on earth, every spiritual blessing belongs to each person who is in Christ. Be encouraged, my friend!

Armed for Battle

In such times as this, when evil is advancing, it is all too easy for the follower of Christ to mistake the real enemy. While there is an element of truth in wicked people being our foes; yet, Jesus died so that persons, regardless how evil, might repent and be saved. Yes, we are to resist the advances of the wicked, but the true war lies beyond our natural realm. 

We read in the Scriptures,

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. ~ Ephesians 6:11-12 (ESV)

From whence does this modern thrust to abandon God, decency, and all that is sacred? From whence comes this push and applause the unnatural killing of offspring, and the morbidly growing dismissal of the heinousness of pedophilia? From whence comes the growing renouncing of order and justifying the criminal? While it is true each of us is plagued with a sinful heart, throughout history most civilizations still valued virtue and shunned vice. But our present world is changing this. Why?

We are told in the Scriptures that our real enemies are wicked, demonic spirits that hate God and humankind made in His image with an absolute, malicious hatred. How are followers of Christ to engage in the warfare? With blazing guns like the heroes in the movie, The Matrix? Certainly not! 

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

We are told our armor consists of truth, faith, righteousness, (knowledge of) salvation, and the gospel of peace. Our weaponry are the Word of God (the Bible) and prayer (see Eph. 6:10-18).

If we, the people of God, truly desire  to see the advancements of evil hindered, it will not happen by vehemently opposing rioters or simply casting a vote, and it will not come by being either passive or aggressive. Positive change can only come as God’s people engage in battle through honest prayer, both individually and corporately.

Know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. ~ 1 Samual 17:47

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~ 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Rising to Challenge Our Thoughts

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

The mind is an incredibly complex entity. Intangible, yet amazingly powerful. Still, for many of us there are predictable patterns—ruts—our thoughts will follow if we are not active in taking control over our thoughts. Such proactivity is not easy, but requires diligence and discipline.

Our thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to the “gutter,” focus on destructive desires, toxicity (e.g., thoughts of sense of meaninglessness, failure, worthlessness, self-harm, etc.). Such thoughts trigger feelings, and the feelings will add reinforcement to unhealthy thinking. This will further distort our perception of reality and become a “stronghold” difficult to penetrate and conquer.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

The Relevance and Hope of Nehemiah’s Prayer

Recently, many of us saw the video of the unjust treatment and killing of George Floyd. Since then, chaos and destruction have inflicted cities all across the United States. There is a lot of concern, fear, anger, and rage. But is there hope?

Nehemiah was a Jew and served as a cupbearer to a foreign king. Word was brought to Nehemiah concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, the great city of his homeland. Upon hearing the news, he sat down and wept. For days, being anguished in spirit, he fasted and prayed.

I believe within Nehemiah‘s prayer we can find hope and healing for our nation.

First, he humbled himself before God, acknowledging His faithfulness in both love and word. As he prays, he says:

I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.” ~ Nehemiah 1:6-9 (ESV)

Notice, he confesses the sins of the people at large, he then shifts attention to his own sin and those of his father’s house. All of these sins contributed to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Our nation is spiraling downward. It has been for some time, but the pace seems to be increasing. There is not just a single sin by a particular group of people. Rather, there are a host of sins each of us have contributed.

At large, we have so many politicians and big businesses cemented in corruption—greed, lust for power, sexual scandals, deceit, and even crimes of all sorts. Then there is Hollywood with all its vain extravagance, well known for all its immorality and mockery of God. Added to this is its love for debauchery, not only indulging in sex, but also substances. Even the church is not guiltless, as many churches have turned away from the faith and true teachings of the Bible. Churches are well known for hypocrisy and judgmentalism. Yet, the sins do not stop here. Added to these are the areas of education and journalism, rewriting history and polishing stories, not for the sake of truly educating or showing what is happening, but rather propagating and brainwashing. Yet, again, the sins do not stop here.

Now, bringing it in closer to—but not quite—home, I saw a touching video. There were two groups: one side was “whites” and the other side “blacks.” The whites were kneeling, and one man prayed aloud, confessing to God our sins and the sins of our fathers. Acknowledging real injustices done to blacks. The black community joined in prayer, as a man pronounced forgiveness, then acknowledged the anger and resentment of theirs and their fathers. I know of one writer who mocked this video; yet, the prayers of these men and communities are in line with the prayer of Nehemiah. Neither side blamed the other, but simply owned up to personal sins and sins of society before God. This, I believe, can open genuine discussion and healing—IF we will let it.

Now, bringing it home, personally. This has been difficult as I have taken some spiritual inventory of my own life. I find it easier to burn bridges than to build them. I am guilty, at times, of being biased, partial, and assuming the worse in others before taking the time to know them. There are times when I do not validate another’s words or feelings. This is all sin, because I am not honoring those made in God’s image. I am not loving them as I love myself nor treating them the way I want to be treated. Thus, I have had to do my own share of confessing. But this has led to the reconciliation between a friend and me.

A lot of healing can take place in our world if we would humble ourselves, validate and honor others, genuinely own up to our own offenses, and let go of the anger, rage, biases, presumptions, refusal to forgive, and the like. Healing and hope are possible, even for our nation. However, the challenge for each of us is following the directions of what God prescribes to us. For many, this is too big a pill to swallow. Our own pride is often one of the biggest obstacles to genuine unity and healing.

    

When I Only Want to Go Home

There are times when I really want to go home. No, I do not mean the place of my upbringing; rather, to breathe my last breath so I can go to my eternal home. I was experiencing this longing recently. Perhaps you can relate?

Mind you, this is not a morbid death wish, nor is it a grunge rock anthem about how life sucks. Life is precious and creation is beautiful. For me, the crushing weight is the inner loneliness I feel and the gnawing question as to why am I here?

I used to be a pastor. Yes, I preached sermons of encouragement and hope, but I also preached against sin. While I made my share of mistakes, I also did a lot of things right. Yet, in the end, I was betrayed and deeply wounded by certain individuals. I now loathe church politics and want nothing to do with it.

I have been ordained. I worked hard to earn my bachelor’s degree in ministry (graduating with honors) and my master’s degree in discipleship (graduating with a 4.0 gpa). All of this, for what?

I am a theologian, in my own right. I am an introvert and deep thinker, with a melancholy temperament to match. I am not the life of a party, to say the least. Genuine friends are few.

My desire is simplistic: for people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, and to truly grow in relationship to Him. Yet, when all is said and done, I often feel like a vagabond.

So what do I do when I am feeling weary and useless? What do I do when I only want to go home? I try to look to Christ, and remember that I am not an accident or a mistake. God was actively present when I was being formed in the womb (see Psalm 139). I try to remember that He is at work even when I cannot see or understand. I continue to write, even if readers are few—trusting that God will use my writings to minister to someone’s heart and spirit. Finally, I try to remember my real purpose is to glorify God. If I can maintain this, then I am fulfilling my destiny regardless of the perception of my eyes and heart.

Although I look forward to going home, God has me here for a reason. I do not need to understand, but I do need to trust. Perhaps today was simply to offer some needed hope to someone reading this—like you?

Books on Hope and Faith

My blogs, overall, are meant to encourage and hope for those struggling with depression, anxiety, and the like. I rarely use posts to advertise. However, at this time I do want to mention some books I have a available through Amazon. For a limited time each book is under $10.

Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World – This book is intended for the Christian always on the go. There are 150 brief reflections with Scripture and questions to help a person think about eternal things in the midst of the busyness. $5.99

In the Eye of the Calm: Reflections and Poems on Faith, Hope, Love, & Life – Approximately 100 poems along with numerous, more in-depth reflections on many of life’s experiences, both joyful and painful.  $4.99

Light in the Darkness for Weary Travelers – A compilation of 35 of my blogs on hope and encouragement. $5.99

Take Up the Shield of Faith: Christian Reflections for Young Adults Serious About Their Faith – 100 brief reflections with Scripture and questions, covering twenty subjects, such as: the Bible, the Fall’s effects, faith, truth and wisdom, false teachers, spiritual warfare, conduct, etc. $4.99

A Royal Priesthood: The Christian’s Privilege and Responsibility – Studies in Practical Theology – The Apostle Peter says believers in Christ make up a holy and royal priesthood. How should this change one’s perception of God, himself, other believers, and the world around him? This books seeks to answer these. $6.99

I hope you will take the time to check these out. Again, these prices are for a limited time.

Blessings!

Peace in the Coming Night

Uncertainty is a mark of the time we are living in: What is going on? Who can we trust? Where are we headed? When is the storm going to hit? Why is this happening? Our world is giving ample reasons to fret and fear. I want to encourage you to  place your faith in Jesus Christ.

Oh, I know the “experts” say to jettison the faith. Many university professors, celebrities, and politicians scorn such faith. This is fine, but I ask you to ponder this: The more the world pushes out Jesus, do things get better or worse? Does the world become more peaceful or more turbulent?

I know it is common for some (e.g. Mikhail Gorbachev) to blame wars on religion, but this is not true. Most have to do with a lust for power. Have you ever considered dictators are never religious individuals? Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, etc. were neither religious nor virtuous. And this New World Order we occasionally hear about, this will be an atheistic, secular humanistic totalitarian government. This might be closer than we realize.

The Bible has warned us for many years there would come a time of great difficulty (see 1 Tim. 3:1-7); a time when many would reject the Christian faith (see 2 Thes. 2:1-12); a totalitarian government and cashless society (see Rev. 13). I do not profess to know when all this will fully fall into place, but the process has begun. Even now, there are many within the U.N. pushing for a one-world government and an ecumenical one-world religion. The present Pope Francis does not hide his ambitions concerning these.

All of this gives us multiple reasons to be afraid, but Jesus invites is to find refuge and peace in Him.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~ John 14:1, 6 (ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:6-7

The world continues to promote the myth and superstition of a secular humanistic “utopia.” This tale is but a smokescreen for a lust for power of the elite. Nothing less. And like deadly spiders, they will spin whatever lie to catch and devour.

Jesus is up front with us and tells us there will be difficulty; however, in Him we can have peace, and He will get us through the difficulties.

May these words encourage your heart, and help you fix your eyes on Jesus with a renewed confidence.

Jesus and Prayer

Jesus and prayer. Many scoff at these during these difficult times, saying they don’t work. However, this is like a person cursing tools because he can’t get a screwdriver to screw in a nail or a hammer to saw through a plank. The problem is not the tools but the one misusing them. 

There is peace, guidance, and even healing for our nation and its citizens; Jesus and prayer are the means by which these can be attained. However, we want to approach Him, the King of the universe, as if He is some waiter still in high school: “Hey buddy, yeah, we’d like riches, cures, and power. Do these and you might get a $5 tip and maybe even a thank you… Oh, and make it quick!” We treat the King like some schmuck, then wonder why we seem to be ignored?

Yet, the Scriptures give us promises for if we are ever really ready to do business:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. ~ Isaiah 1:18

But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:2

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

So much good can happen if we would but go to God with humility and sincerity. Jesus and prayer are not the problems. We are. 

If we would but go to God on His terms, acknowledging our guilt (guilty we are), and truly seeking His face—only heaven knows what incredible blessings would come!

Lose not hope. Instead, let us lose our pride.

Our Refuge

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea. . . . ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’” Psalm 46:1-2
Augustine writes, “Our hearts are restless until we find our rest You.” How often our hearts are restless, uneasy, on edge, and fearful. Just as there are numerous natural phenomena that pose very real threats of destruction (e.g., tornados, floods, hurricanes, fires, etc.), so there are also numerous stressors that pose very real threats of mental and emotional trauma (e.g., loss of loved ones or work, betrayal, marriage conflict, financial debt, etc.). We can feel like we have been pulled into the depths from a riptide, dangerously far from shore. Nevertheless, our God promises to be a refuge for His people. While He will not always immediately take away the storms, He will protect us through them. May we learn to be still before Him, and that in doing so our hearts may experience peace.
~ From the book, Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World

Spring’s Declaration of Our Everlasting Hope

Living in Minnesota, the winters can seem rather long. In fact, some can seem forever. The sky is often gray and dismal, and the temperature biting. “Seasonal depression” is not uncommon here.

March and April can be taunting months. Warm, sunny days and melting snow—then comes another snowfall. Repeat the process. I remember one year this happened several times, and one could sense the irritability in many people (including myself). Although the blustery, lifeless winters would appear to have a stranglehold, spring proves to be victorious as life bursts forth throughout the landscape.

In his book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis tells of the evil white witch who brought perpetual winter to the land of Narnia. Yet, certain citizens (i. e., the Beaver’s) remained steadfast in their hope in Aslan and his promise of the coming spring. Mr. Beaver quotes the ancient rhyme:

“Wrong will be right,
when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar,
sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth,
winter meets its death
And when he shakes his mane,
we shall have spring again.” [1]

Lewis’ series, The Chronicles of Narnia, is an allegorical story of Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. The winter wonderfully portrays the brutal coldness of the witch’s heart, as well as the barrenness and harshness of the ice and snow. These capture well the absolute evil of the adversary (the devil), and the  impoverishing effects of sin: loneliness, guilt, greed, violence, evil, and death. I know Hollywood makes entertainment of these, the education system scoffs at the source of them, and Washington and world leaders make use by exploiting these. Regardless, the reality of these is before us continually.

The situation, indeed, appears hopeless. However, just as the Beaver’s held to the promises of ancient rhymes, we also have ancient promises we can hold onto with confidence.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~ Romans 8:18-25

Because of sin, creation was subjected to bondage, corruption, and futility. For centuries, for millennia, creation has been groaning—left to suffer in the ever bitter winter. However, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sunlight has pierced the dreary skies. The temperature is rising, and the snow and ice are melting. Although the winds still bite, the eternal Spring draws ever closer! At that time,

A new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ~ Revelation 21:1-4

Although the devil and wicked men sought, and continue to seek, to silence Jesus, His Gospel continues on and will not stop.

As Lewis writes, in a manner as only he could,

“‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards’” [2]

Darkness will continue to try to smother the light; evil will continue to resist the good; and the wicked will continue to persecute the righteous. These would forever perpetuate the winter; however, the light of Christ has already dawned. Even now the ice is melting. Although the blustery, lifeless winter of sin at times seems to have a stranglehold, when Christ returns His Eternal Spring will prove to be victorious as life bursts forth gloriously throughout the landscape—to never succumb to another winter again.

Notes:

[1]  C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1950), 74-75

[2]  Ibid., 159-160.