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The Bible is filled with accounts of God's supernatural protection. Remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace? What about Daniel and the lion's den? God has no problem bringing you out of threatening circumstances. Time and again He has proven He is well able to get the job done.
But God's protection is not automatic. There are choices you have to make for God to be your refuge. The psalmist says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust'” (Ps. 91:1-2, NKJV). read more
Every day from every direction the winds keep blowing. The continuing war with Iraq coupled with the ongoing global war on terror threaten to disrupt the peace and calm so many of us have taken for granted. Since 9/11, it has been easy to see that we in America were not prepared for this period of instability.
Often there is a parallel between the natural and supernatural realms. In the supernatural realm today, the winds of war are blowing as well. The church in America needs to be prepared for the spiritual challenges that lie on our very doorsteps. But are we?
In Judges 3 we read how a generation of Israel was somewhat oblivious to what war was really about. The Lord remedied this situation by allowing some enemy nations to exist so that "the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war" (see v. 2, NKJV).
For Christians, learning to do "war" means gaining measurable victories over the kingdom of darkness. Think about it this way: When a thief gets saved, stealing diminishes; when a wife-beater gets saved, a family might be restored; when a drug dealer gets saved, drug dealing decreases in one neighborhood. As James 5:20 says, "He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins."
There are five primary ways for us to effectively fight the good fight of faith--the kind that changes lives for Jesus.
The will to work, fight and win. Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it." The Bible says that the Jews in Nehemiah's day "had a mind to work" when it came time to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the face of their enemies (see Neh. 4:6).
Knowing and having faith in Jesus' victory at Calvary and how it has changed countless situations, lives and families through the ages ought to provide plenty of motivation for pressing through to victory.
Righteous living. A clear heart and life allow us to stand in the face of adversity as well as to draw inner strength and stamina for undertaking spiritual action. Without righteousness, the devil can rightfully accuse us of attitudes and actions we have not repented of.
If our lives are not right with God we can pray the prayers, sing the songs and yell the formulated declarations but our voice is a shout with no clout. The condition of our heart matters: "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
Prayer. So much can be said about praying, but I like what James wrote best: "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). The "much" it avails includes the power of God being loosed in us and through us as we fight for the lives of our family, friends, cities and nations. I have watched it thwart the works of darkness and help open the doors to evangelistic ministry.
The Word of God. God's Word ought to be stored up in our lives so that when we need it, we don't have to run to a bookshelf to find it. The Word is to be hidden in our hearts where it is available to be brought to our minds by the Holy Spirit on a moment's notice. In this way, Scripture becomes "the sword of the Spirit"--ready to be used when we face a situation in our own life or in another's. Is your ammo ready?
Winning people to Christ. This could be the most underused or even forgotten weapon of spiritual warfare, especially when influencing families, neighborhoods--even cities. There is no spiritual weapon that can replace evangelism. There is no spiritual substitute for evangelism, for it is the primary way of actually reaching out and touching another person with the life, love and gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the easiest ways to measure the victories of our war is with this question: Are lives being changed and people getting saved? People coming to Christ and lives being transformed are a sure way to measure if our ministries or churches are effectively waging war in our communities.
Let's not be like the Israelites in Judges who knew nothing of war. Every day gives us great opportunities to make a difference. Let's move to the front lines. read more
God wants our communication with Him to be unencumbered by rules and legalism.
Do you realize that even directing a thought toward God qualifies as silent prayer? It's true! Whether you have been praying for years, are just learning to pray, have hit a "slump" in your spiritual life or simply want your prayer life to improve, know this: God wants you to learn to pray more effectively, and He wants your prayer life to become more fulfilling.
Short, simple prayers can be mighty beyond description, but this does not take away from the fact that prayer is also a grand mystery. Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian who wrote many profound books while imprisoned for his faith, wrote: "Prayer is the most wonderful act in the spiritual realm, as well as a most mysterious affair." read more
Short, simple prayers can be mighty beyond description, but this does not take away from the fact that prayer is also a grand mystery. Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian who wrote many profound books while imprisoned for his faith, wrote: "Prayer is the most wonderful act in the spiritual realm, as well as a most mysterious affair."
I believe the greatest mystery of prayer is that it joins the hearts of people on Earth with the heart of God in heaven.
Prayer goes into the spiritual realm. It brings things out of that unseen realm and into the world around us, right where we live. It ushers spiritual blessings into our natural, everyday lives and brings spiritual power to bear on our earthly circumstances.
We human beings are the only creatures in our known universe who can stand in the natural realm and touch the spiritual realm. When we pray, we connect with God, and He affects our daily lives beyond our comprehension.
I believe prayer is one of the greatest powers available in the entire universe. That's a bold statement, given the other kinds of power that are available today, but I am convinced beyond the slightest doubt that it is true.
When we think of atomic power, we think of forces greater than we can imagine. When we think of something as basic as fuel power in a motorcycle on the highway, we think of something extremely noisy, intense and potentially dangerous.
But every kind of power we encounter on Earth means nothing in heaven. Atomic power could wipe out an entire city of people, but it cannot give them eternal life. This power once commanded the attention of every nation, but it never healed a broken heart. Fuel power takes us where we want to go in the world, but it does not help us make any spiritual progress in our lives or move forward in God.
Prayer opens the door for God to work. It is the activity that you and I can engage in on Earth when we need the power of heaven to come into our lives and bring wisdom, direction, encouragement or a miraculous breakthrough. Prayer connects us to the power of God—and that is why it is a greater force than anything else we can ever imagine.
Only the power of prayer can move the hand of God. And only the power of God can change an individual heart, free a person from bondage and torment, overturn disappointments and devastations, break an addiction, or heal a person's emotions. Only God's power can bring peace, instill joy, grant wisdom, impart a sense of value and purpose to a person who doesn't know what to do in life, and work every kind of miracle.
The awesome, tremendous power of God—the greatest in the universe—is released in our lives through simple, faith-filled prayer. And because we can pray, we have extraordinary power. We can overcome problems we thought we could never overcome; we can do things people did not believe we could do; we can make brilliant decisions. We can walk in victory through all the challenges in our lives.
I have learned that God has not made prayer complicated. Sometimes our religious mind-sets and "systems" present prayer in such a way that it seems out of reach for many of us. But God wants our communication with Him to be unencumbered by rules, regulations, legalism and obligation. He intends for prayer to be an integral part of our everyday lives.
If you want power in your life—power over anything—I encourage you to simply pray!
Joyce Meyer is a New York Times best-selling author and one of the world's leading practical Bible teachers. She has written more than 70 books, including the popular Beauty for Ashes and Battlefield of the Mind and her first novel, The Penny (all FaithWords). She is also the founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries Inc. and the host of Enjoying Everyday Life radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide. read more
Using a map of the world as an aid to prayer helped me discover several keys for influencing both those residing in my "Jerusalem" as well as those living at "the ends of the earth" (see Acts 1:8).
1. The Motivation Key: biblical purpose. Having a map in my hand motivated me to move beyond mere "bless me" prayers to touch multitudes that have never heard the good news of Jesus. More specifically, it added a biblical purpose to my praying. Purpose is defined as "something set up as an object or end to be attained" or "what one seeks to achieve."
When I first began praying for the nations I was driven by God's promise to His Son, "Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possession" (Ps. 2:8, NLT).
I almost stopped using this promise as a basis for my praying after a Bible professor, who heard me quote it in a seminar as a foundation for praying for the nations, suggested the verse was given exclusively by God to His Son. It wasn't for us, he said.
Thankfully, I read the rest of my Bible before tossing the promise aside and discovered in Romans 8:16-17 that any promise God gave His Son is ours as well. That's because we are co-heirs with Christ of all the Father has given Him.
Paul wrote: "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:16-17, NIV). The New Living Translation reads, "Everything God gives to His Son, Christ, is ours, too."
That settled it! I could ask God for both my neighbors and the nations. This has provided me with a biblical purpose and a powerful motivation. And holding before me a map of both my nearby neighborhood and the distant nations brings this purpose alive every day.
2. The Ministry Key: biblical passion. The second key helped release in me a biblical passion. For many people, prayer provides a specialized ministry when other popular callings may seem out of reach.
Most followers of Jesus won't become apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers (see Eph. 4:11). The majority won't serve as bishops, deacons, or elders, or even sing in a church choir. But all can embrace a twofold ministry that truly has eternal implications.
First, every follower of Jesus can minister to the Lord. This concerns our personal worship. It focuses on a passion for the Lord. There is no higher calling than ministry to the Lord.
Second, every follower of Jesus can minister to the lost. This concerns our personal witness. It focuses on a passion for the lost. It involves not only praying for those who don't know Jesus but also developing a plan to share our faith in Christ with them. This includes supporting missionary endeavors in distant nations with our resources.
Notice how the psalmist links these two themes in a single psalm: "Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Sing to the Lord; bless His name. Each day proclaim the good news that He saves. Publish His glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does. Tell all the nations that the Lord is king" (Ps. 96:1-3; 10, NLT).
Holding a map of the nations (and our neighbors) before us in prayer and saturating that map with worship and intercession brings Psalm 96 alive in our praying.
3. The Mandate Key: biblical pattern. All true followers of Jesus have been given a mandate to help fulfill the Great Commission. Praying over a map of the world (that includes a map of our neighborhoods) brings new life to this mandate. It also provides us with a biblical pattern to help carry it out.
A mandate is defined as "a resounding directive" or "a clear and focused objective given by a person or persons in authority." Another definition reads, "To put into one's hands; to command or entrust."
We discover our mandate from Christ in such commands as, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations ... teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20, NIV).
Luke provides a description of the biblical pattern for fulfilling this mandate when he tells in his gospel how the early church responded to Christ's command: "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:42).
4. The Mission Key: biblical plan. The final key introduces to each believer a biblical plan that enables us to truly affect both our neighbors and the nations for eternity. This model for missions is increasingly being described as the "prayer, care, share" plan.
Based largely on such Scriptures as Luke 10:5-9, it has been embraced by Mission America, a coalition of 80 denominations and 400 parachurch ministries, as its primary objective for influencing our communities as well as nations.
Prayer focus. When Jesus commissioned the 70 to go forth with the gospel, He admonished them, "'When you enter a house, first say, "Peace to this house"'" (Luke 10:5). Prayer for our neighbors (and nations) is the primary blessing we can give them. Prayer additionally prepares the way for the rest of the plan to be effective.
Care focus. Next in the Luke 10 model, we read Jesus' commands to "'Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you,'" and "'Heal the sick that are there'" (vv. 7,9). His words speak of a willingness to fellowship with those around us as well as to look for ways to meet their needs (such as through healing the sick). These qualities embody the care focus.
Share focus. Finally, Jesus said, "'Tell them, "The kingdom of God is near you"'" (v. 9). God's kingdom, of course, is revealed only through Jesus Christ. Thus, to witness to a lost person about Christ is to point that person in the direction of God's kingdom. To lead him to Christ is to bring him into the kingdom. What began with prayer and was nurtured in care now opens the door to share who Christ is and how He can transform that person's life.
We have an urgency to vastly increase an army of those who are focusing prayer on all the nations of the world, especially in light of intensifying global tensions. Therefore, we encourage believers to pray daily for their neighbors and the nations.
Dick Eastman is international president of Every Home for Christ, a global home-to-home evangelism ministry that has planted more than 2.6 billion gospel messages in 198 nations. His books about prayer and evangelism have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. read more
When we intercede in prayer, we plead our case before the eternal judge of the universe. Every case we present to God calls for genuine preparation. Without proper preparation a lawyer would make a fool of himself before the judge, his client, his adversary and the gallery of people.
Before we prepare a case, we must first prepare ourselves. We do this by experiencing salvation, coming to know God and recognizing our position in Christ. read more
You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy regarding your fathering abilities, but you have a God-given role to protect and provide for your family. And you have great impact on developing character in your sons.
Fathering is at the heart of masculinity, of what it means to be a man. Godly fathers put others' needs before their own. If you're like me, you spend the majority of your conscious thought and effort on satisfying your own wants and needs. It's almost an unconscious response to life. But if we are to be authentic men and fathers, we need to rethink that attitude and consciously make sacrifices so others can benefit and prosper.
When fathers neglect this duty or are absent from the home, predators attack families. Young men, such as gang members, who are raised without the influence of older men often become marauding wolves themselves–predators preying on women and children for their own self-gratification. read more
Live in a sex-charged culture, without getting zapped!
Jim is in my office one Saturday morning crying over the lust, guilt and terrible sexual choices that are destroying his life. I don't know whether to empathize with his pain or kick his butt for going to sleep on his watch!
I remind him that the battle for sexual integrity demands constant vigilance. It's a wrestling match with Satan, and any time you let your guard down, you get body-slammed. read more
"Integrity" is a word that is widely used—and widely misunderstood. If you were to ask the average person for a definition of integrity you'd probably hear a lot of hemming and hawing. The origin of the word makes its meaning very clear. "Integrity" comes from the Latin adjective integer, which means "whole" or "complete." In mathematics, an integer is a positive or negative whole number or zero—a number without any fractional part.
A person of integrity is honest and upright. His soul is not divided or compartmentalized. read more
Question: Doug, I'm married and know that 1 Timothy 5:1-2 says, "Treat … older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity" (NIV). But I struggle with impure thoughts when I'm around women. What is the best way to keep my mind sexually pure?
Answer: I recommend a few strategies. One, wear a rubber band on your wrist and every time you lust at a woman, snap it. This will stop reinforcing this behavior. Two, memorize some Scriptures on purity so you can access them when in need. Three, do what 1 Timothy 5:1-2 suggests—view all women in the context of a relationship. read more
John Wesley said, "Money is an excellent gift of God if it is used excellently, answering the noblest needs of humanity." To Wesley, you see, money was not the enemy. The enemy is my own sinful nature. Therefore, in order to arrive at a balanced view of money, I must ask myself frugality's simple questions:
1. What is money for? Money is for exchange. Money is for goods and services that may, without corrupting my spirit, add education, comfort and beauty to my life and to the lives of those I love. Furthermore, money is for the good of humanity and the expansion of the kingdom.
Money is never to be used for the purchase of status. Neither is it to be used for the demonstration of power. James, in his epistle, talks about the way we treat the wealthy in church. (See James 2:1?9.) Money often speaks in church, and it does not always say, "Praise the Lord."
Man cannot serve two masters at one time. He will always love one and hate the other. Financial expediency corrupts faith like demonic rust and eats away at character, destroying submission to authority, humility, obedience, holiness and patience.
Money must never control us. We must control it. I do not believe there is some mystical, evil power inherent in the dollar bill. What I do believe is that there is a weakness in my own flesh. Therefore, I must humble myself under the hand of God. I must show mammon who is in charge here. It is the Lord Jesus Christ--not mammon.
3. Will I let character set the limits? Am I willing for God to limit aspects of my life through a commitment to frugal living? In other words, when there is not sufficient money for me to pursue a certain course of action, am I willing to believe that it is not God's will for me to do it now?
We easily confess that the positive abundance of funds can be used by God to affirm a course of action. If that is true, the contrary may also be true. From time to time God may pull tight the purse strings in order to stop me from a course that is not in His will. Therefore, lack of funds may be a way that God can use my commitment to frugal, modest living to keep me from continuing in a path that is wrong for me.
Frugality is the willingness to endure limits on myself. A grave danger inherent in the American credit system is that it allows me to consume at a level of superficial prosperity, which is not based on any real wealth. Sooner or later, of course, the piper must be paid. Bankruptcy in America comes dressed in a tuxedo, not in rags. Fooled by their own mirage of wealth, Americans are amazed when financial disaster hits them.
We must again master the primeval art of waiting on things until we can pay for them. Credit can be a good thing, but its misuse destroys character. It creates a mirage of prosperity, becoming a self-made sword of Damocles.
Cars, houses, furniture and clothing dangle dangerously above the heads of the indebted. If they have no real wealth, sooner or later the whole bundle will fall.
The Place of Prosperity
If I live a frugal life with a balanced view of money, what about prosperity in my life? I think the church has often failed to communicate a balanced view of prosperity.
On the one hand there are the hyperspiritual who say money is altogether evil. Get it away from you. Give it away. Do not have anything to do with it. It is nasty, dirty and filthy, and it has a spirit in it that will get you.
Then let there come a need to pay for something in the church, and they will ask folks to give money. You see, having told them how bad it is, they now ask God to give the congregation enough of it to support the church.
On the other hand, others say that God is a God of riches. God wants to bless you, they reason, and if you are right with God, you are going to be rich. Therefore, if you are not rich, it must be because you are not right with God.
Stranded in between these two extremes is the great body of people who are living day-to-day on the money that they can earn, while trying to provide for their families and improve their lives. What can we say to them?
There is nothing inherently evil about needing or having the finances to get by in this life. John Wesley had a magnificent equation for this. He said to earn all you can. Earn it righteously. Earn it in a way that brings no shame to people and no shame to God. Earn all you can.
Second, save all you can. Now, saving all the money you can does not mean hoarding it. It means setting limits on my lifestyle in order that more might be made available to the kingdom of God and not go up in the smoke of mere consumerism. Saving all you can is crucial to frugality.
Earn all you can. Save all you can. Then Wesley adds the missing element: Give all you can. Frugality saves to give. Greed gives to get. Frugality plots and plans, schemes and denies self, and sacrifices in order to give more next year than this year.
I want to suggest that you have a family meeting. Ask yourselves: "What can we do to give more than we gave last year? Is there any way we can live a more modest life, something we can do without, some excess we can lay aside in order that we may make a greater investment in the kingdom of God than we have ever made?"
Frugality is the strength of character that will set us free from the terrible grip of mammon.
The prosperity of God is a great blessing--dangerous, but great. If greatly used, prosperity can do much good. Hoarded or squandered, it corrupts character and destroys families.
Work hard, serve folks joyfully, save frugally and give generously.
Mark Rutland is the president of Southeastern College in Lakeland, Florida, and the founder and president of Global Servants (globalservants.org), a missions ministry to national pastors and leaders. He is an international conference speaker and evangelist, and the author of many books.
Dear Dr. Doug, My wife is an inanimate sex partner who occasionally allows me to use her body out of duty. I feel like I am slowly being strangled. I long for intimacy and hate her label of "sex maniac." I did not get married to practice celibacy. I have prayed and fasted, been patient, tried to jump through many hoops, gotten angry, even threatened divorce, and nothing has changed.
A Hopelessly Frustrated Husband
I don't think wives are often aware that we don't want sex just for release.
Husbands hate "duty" and "pity" sex. Men's souls connect through sex in ways that our wives have difficulty even understanding.
But I have to be honest with you. You are your own worst enemy right now. You're hopeless, angry, stuck, fearful and probably haunted by lust. These are not very Christlike traits.
You must start to be proactive or your self-pity, wayward sexual thoughts and resentment will completely destroy your marriage. Please take these action steps and start making changes:
1. Be an empathetic detective and think outside the box. You say that you have tried every solution possible. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is not how hard you try but how smart you try that can change your sexual situation.
Why do you think your wife is so afraid of sex that she would jeopardize your marriage rather than work on this issue? She isn't shutting you off because she doesn't want you happy. Something is broken and shut down for her.
You may be too simplistic in assuming that your wife hates sex and has no desire. Is she tired? Could there be physical pain or some hormonal imbalance? Read the book Secrets of Eve (Hart, Weber, & Taylor, 1998), and find out more about your wife.
Take time to discuss the following question: If there were miracles and the changes took place that you each wanted, what would your marriage and sex life look like then?
Become a detective and force yourself to risk conflict and discussions.
2. Become a servant-leader and change yourself. Right now your wife's deficiencies have you so absorbed, you aren't looking at yourself.
I know you have felt like every time you jumped through a hoop, she chose another one and raised it higher. But, what do you think are the accelerators and brakes in your sexual relationship that you control?
Women need to feel emotionally connected before feeling romantic. Are you doing the little things that help her feel in love with you? Making those phone calls, sharing your feelings, giving gifts, getting more involved with the children and sitting close to her on the couch?
Wives need to experience romance and to feel special. How could you do this better?
What chores could you do to help with her fatigue? What could you lighten up on sexually that would help her feel less pressured? Is there some activity that she thinks you associate with sexual passion and you need to quit bugging her?
3. Practice tough love and assertively pursue God's ideal of passionate intimacy. Practicing tough love is never threatening divorce. Christians don't threaten but try to align themselves with God's truth.
Guys, there are some hills that are not worth dying on. But pursuing God's gift of sexual intimacy is one on which you must make a humble, loving stand. Do not threaten divorce but gently and persistently insist on God's realistic expectation of a fulfilling sex life in your marriage. Help her understand that this objective is not selfish but intended for mutual pleasure and loving closeness.
It is not easy to be a leader and a catalyst for change. Do not quit this time. Conflict and painful discussions are a part of any great marriage and sex life.
You will probably need professional help. Get medical assistance in checking out hormonal and physical problems. Find a marital therapist if sex is a symptom of deeper relational issues. Search out a sex therapist and get sexual counseling (see my Web site).
Courageously pursue God's gift of an intimate marriage.
Doug Rosenau is a certified sex therapist in Atlanta, and is the author of A Celebration of Sex. You can visit his Web site at sexualwholeness.com. read more
Let me just tell you right from the beginning, I know that you've tried. And you know that you've tried.
Lord knows that you have scratched your head in wonder and profound confusion when it comes to the woman that you love. You've tried to hear and understand. You want to give and respond.
Ten fabulous dates. Seven promises. Five love languages. Three counselors. Anything. Everything. But whatever you do, it's never enough. The target of her desire moves and you can't seem to hit the bull's-eye.
You've tried; we both know it. But the truth is that you can't. read more
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