Know Thy Enemy

“Satan can’t read your mind so when you take a stand against him, it is important to declare it out loud”

I’ve heard that taught many times over the years and understood the truth behind it, and seen that truth in action in spiritual warfare, and in seeing people set free from bondage and lies. There have been times however when it has been something that has troubled me.

If the enemy can’t hear my thoughts, why does it seem that he can? I know I’m not alone in experiencing time and time again when the lies that he whispers seem to match what I’m thinking.

When I’m feeling unlovable, he whispers to me that no one cares, that I’m all alone. When I’m battling temptation he tells me I’m a sinner and God isn’t going to forgive me.  Whatever the battle in my mind, he is there whispering a lie designed to hurt, confuse, rob and steal.

If he can’t hear that battle in my mind, how does he know what to say?!

I had a bit of a revelation today. Like all revelations it is immediately so obvious that you wonder why it has come as such a big deal when it was surely plain to see all along!

Have you ever heard of mentalism? Mentalism is not magic, but a clever use of science that revolves around understanding human behaviour and predicting different outcomes to mimic the act of reading somebodies mind.  Mentalists use social engineering, reading body language – 55% of all communication is non verbal – (called cold reading), hot reading (having some prior knowledge of the subject), the Forer effect (taking vague and general statements and using them in a way to make the reader feel they are specific – think horoscopes) and various other aspects of human psychology.

We understand that a person can learn to “read” another person and appear to know what they are thinking and we understand that this isn’t magic but science (well at least I hope you do dear reader!).  So it seems pretty darn obvious that satan and the other fallen angels can do this.

They were there when we were created. They have had thousands of years to study us.  Thousands of years of experiments to work out what motivates us.

The first such experiment was the Fall.  If you think about it, satan – as an angelic being created for worship – was most jealous of the fact that God gave man free will – something the angels didn’t have.  Knowing how it made him feel, he could surmise that man would also see not having control was unfair.  He suggested to Adam that surely God didn’t mean for him to not be in control, surely He didn’t mean to restrict his choice, surely it would be ok for him to make his own decision about what to eat and what knowledge to have…

The enemy does not know the specific plan, purpose and promise God has given you until it is declared out loud over you, but he certainly knows The Plan and The Purpose. The enemy knows Scripture (probably better than many of us) and he knows God’s promises to us and over us.  He knows that God uses the weak, the poor, the despised and the downtrodden to confound the wise and bring His truth to the world.  This shows him who to target, shows him who is likely to be the most useful, key people in God’s plans.  He knows that the love of money is the root of all evil so he concerns himself with keeping riches where he predicts it will do the most harm.

The enemy can read our body language. He can hear our words.  He can “sense” our emotions by the vast experience he has gathered on what makes us tick and how we react. Using that knowledge, at any one point, he can appear to know what we are thinking and strike with just the right lie, the right weapon, designed to find our most vulnerable parts.

That is one of the reasons the Psalmist learned the importance of telling his soul (body, mind, emotions) to rejoice and to be subject to his spirit.  We can take authority over those things and so rob the enemy of his source material.

It is also vital to appreciate that, because he isn’t omnipotent, the enemy cannot tell you the future.  Certainly, like the writers of the horoscopes, he will find the right vague statement, a fitting outcome, to suggest to you as your future.  But he does not know.

Satan only knows your past.

Jesus knows your past and still chose the cross, thereby assuring your future.

Don’t ascribe the enemy a power he doesn’t have.

Those thoughts you have?  That mental struggle?  The battle in your mind?  It isn’t the enemy IN your mind, but it is definitely his work.  When we take his lies (whether through direct attack or via the words or actions of people around us) and we internalise them, they do damage.

A bullet can’t hurt you until it penetrates – and the deadliest bullets are those that are designed to ricochet or disintegrate inside the body thereby doing so much more damage than just making a hole in us.

The lies of the enemy are bullets.  They can hurt us but the real harm lies in when they get in and rattle around.

Focus on renewing your mind, learning the promises, declaring them out loud at every opportunity and taking a stand on the Scriptures.  Find ways to spend time in His presence, and feed your spirit by spending time in worship, by speaking in tongues, allowing your spirit to communicate with Holy Spirit, and draw from that the strength to take authority over your mind and your emotions.  Remember, they are yours to control not the enemy’s.

What is the Truth?

I live in a beautiful seaside town. The guide books describe its vibrancy, the quirky shops, the golden sands, the amazing vistas, and its incredible sunsets.

If you got off the train today however, guidebook in hand, expecting to see all those things, you’d find the “reality” very different.

Thick fog obscures everything. Despite the weather app showing full sunshine and 16c for the day, it is currently only 6c and it feels colder as the damp fog envelops you. It is early so everywhere is shut. What the book describes and what you are seeing are very different.

Which version is true? What is the truth? Is this a beautiful picturesque town or a grey uninviting one? Is the beach amazing? Are the sunsets beautiful?

According to what I am seeing, my experience, the book is lying.

I know many Christians who struggle with what the Scriptures say about life. They hear a preach on the promises of God or on His blessings. Maybe they become a Christian after attending a particular service and they start out with this great hope. Their friend who brought them, and the person who preached, described this fantastic life, full of prosperity and peace, free from sickness and worry.

The guide book to that life, that Kingdom, the Bible, is quite clear. You meet people who confirm that yes the Kingdom of Heaven is just like that. God’s promises are true.

But you are unwell. Your job is tough. Your husband is having an affair. Your friends never call. Life is hard. Financial worries, depression, loneliness… even at church you don’t feel connected. You feel as you listen on a Sunday and hear people saying “amen!” and agreeing with the preacher that you must be doing something wrong… your life doesn’t feel like they describe. Your relationship with God doesn’t match theirs. He doesn’t answer YOUR prayers. Your life isn’t life abundant.

You didn’t get the job you prayed for. Your relationship didn’t mend. The cancer didn’t go and your friend died despite your prayers.

Which is true? The Book or what you can see with your eyes?

You can’t pretend all isn’t grey. There’s no point lying and saying you can see a good future or even just a way out of this place. But just like this morning, despite the true and real evidence of my eyes that say otherwise, the truth is this IS a beautiful town and the skies ARE amazing.

I just can’t see that for myself today.

Will that visitor go home and say the guidebooks lied and there wasn’t a great beach and beautiful skies? Will they deny the truth? Or will they just accept that on that day, today, they didn’t get to see it for themselves?

It is all too easy to drag the Truth of Scripture down to the reality of our lives. When my Dad was dying and I prayed for his healing but he died anyway, I could have denied the truth that God heals. I could have blamed God. The evidence I saw was that God doesn’t answer prayers and doesn’t heal.

When we had no money, facing losing our house, as my husband couldn’t find work, and we were surviving on food parcels from my Mum, I could have doubted God’s promises to supply all my needs, to prosper me.

Those things seemed true. But they weren’t The Truth.

The sun is still shining just as hot in the sky now as it does every day. Yet the fog means I can’t see it and I can’t feel it’s benefits. I don’t blame the sun and say it isn’t shining but instead I recognise that the fog is obscuring it.

Today, identify the fog in your life. Recognise the reality of the things that are preventing you from seeing the Son, from seeing His promises. Determine in your heart that you will believe what the Book says, what the Bible says, about the life you have and all your heavenly Father has for you.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Use the Bible as your reference point and purpose to live according to what The Word says, declaring it as the truth over your life and in your life.

The enemy wants you to be grey, cold and miserable. Once you are saved all he can do is bring fog in your life. He means for you to miss the beauty around, to bump into obstacles, to trip up, to feel alone.

But rejoice for in Christ, by the power and wisdom of Holy Spirit, we can overcome those obstacles and learn to see through the fog. As you spend more time in His presence, as you seek His face, your vision will improve. You will be able to “see” the truth despite the fog.

Learning to walk with that spiritual vision is like having night vision goggles!

When we trust Him and not our own senses and understanding we get the opportunity to see His promises and experience His goodness regardless of whether or not there is fog around.

That’s the secret to being content in every situation (Philippians 4:11).

The fog will clear. I promise you.

Making Sense of What You See

When I parked up this morning the visibility was good. I could see the wind farm clearly on the horizon and I counted seven ships.

There was one thing I could see that I couldn’t make sense of though. Right on the horizon was an odd shape. It looked like a dark plume of smoke. I watched it for a few moments and realised that it wasn’t moving so knew it wasn’t actually smoke.

I then rationalised that it must be a ship. The problem was that my brain couldn’t, on the basis of the information provided by my eyes (even with my glasses on!), make that shape match a ship.

It didn’t matter how long I looked at it, I couldn’t picture what must actually be there and make it fit what I could see. It didn’t make sense.

Then the sun came out.

Suddenly the object became clear. Of course it was a ship. The outline was now very clear, as the angle it was at meant the white container ship was dazzlingly highlighted by the sun. The “dark plume” was revealed to be simply the other angles of the ship that were in shadow.

It made sense. It was obvious.

When the sun came out it changed nothing about the truth of what was there, but it completely altered what I could see.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5

Everything makes sense in the light of the Son.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not remain in darkness” John 12:46

When you read Scriptures, they change nothing about the truth of what is around you, your day, your job, your relationships, your hopes, your mental health…. yet they can completely alter what you can “see”.

“For the Word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart” Hebrews 4:12

Whatever it is that you are struggling with right now, that thing that doesn’t make sense, that you can’t get your head around, the thing you are wrestling with, shine the Light on it. Find appropriate Scriptures to read. Ask Holy Spirit to remove the clouds and let the Truth of the Word shine on to the situation.

Nothing will change – other than what you can “see”.

Replace the truth of what you see with The Truth of who He is, what His Promises are.

Everything will look a lot better!

Be on your guard though. When the sun went behind another cloud, despite the fact that I now KNEW what was there, the shape I could see went back to being incomprehensible. Not immediately. My brain retained the shape of the ship at first, but after I looked away and then back again, I realised my brain was trying to match shapes again, seeing smoke or leaping whales, instead of what it “knew” was there.

The same happens with us.

A good meeting at church, prayer time with a friend, reading this blog… the cloud clears and God illuminates your situation with His truths. Then your focus shifts again. You go home. The friend leaves. You surf on to another site.

The clouds come back.

The Truth you saw so clearly before now is murky again.

The enemy will always, always seek to fog your vision. It is easy pickings for him.

“…because your adversary the devil walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Peter 5:8

“Therefore take up the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

The answer? Being transformed by the renewing of your mind.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” Romans 12:2

Read the Word daily. Sit with God daily. However short or long the opportunity.

Keep in touch all day – talk to Him in your head throughout the day.

Keep blowing those clouds away by declaring The Truth, His Promises, every time the clouds start to thicken. Write them out and put them on the walls, on your screen saver, on the wallpaper picture on your phone.

Renewing is an ongoing process.

Who is Waiting for Whom?

I had a clear picture/vision this morning during worship at church.  To my shame, I did not share it at the time.  Sadly, sometimes, the voice of self doubt shouts louder than Holy Spirit and by the time I’d quietened it, the opportunity to share the picture had passed.

I’m hoping sharing it here will still have value.

The picture formed from the juxtaposition of two songs that we sang.  Firstly, “Boldly I Approach (The Art Of Celebration)” by Rend Collective, followed by “Waiting Here For You” by Christy Nockels.

The first song conjured up a vision of the Throne Room – actually a personal vision of mine that I’ve had since the age of 4.  The second song came and suddenly the picture changed as my perspective shifted, and I came out of the Throne Room and in to a waiting room outside.

The waiting room was full.

Many were waiting there for an invitation to go in to the Throne Room.  Despite the fact that they HAD such an invitation in their hands, “good manners” stopped them from just walking in.

Imagine the Queen of England had sent you a Royal Invitation to the Palace.  It gave you a date and time and said that, when you arrived, you were to go straight in to the Throne Room.

You wouldn’t, would you?  You would turn up, in the waiting room, and, well, wait.  You knew in theory it said “go straight in” but no one does that!  Not in to the Queen’s presence! Surely there is an etiquette? A butler?  If you wait around, someone is bound to come past and you can let them know you are there. Ask if it is ok to knock and go in.

Why is it that we are like that with God?

We have in our hands The Invitation. The Gospel. It says we can “boldly approach the Throne”.  It says we are Sons and Daughters.  We have a right to go straight in.

Yet we sing “waiting here for you” whilst God listens from inside His Throne Room, waiting THERE for YOU.  Arms wide. Lap empty.

Others are waiting out here. For them, for a variety of reasons, they wait in the waiting room because that’s what you do when you get summoned but for them, there isn’t an exciting encounter waiting on the other side but judgement.

They sat in waiting rooms outside headmaster’s offices.  Outside the boss’s office.  Outside the divorce lawyer’s office.  Outside the bank manager’s office.  Outside the doctor’s office.

For them, sadly, the experiences they have had means they really truly don’t believe an invitation leads to something good. Whatever awaits them, it doesn’t really fill them with hope but rather fear.

Whilst we wait, the outside door is flung open and some children pile through.  With the noise, bustle, fun and energy of youth they run across the waiting room and straight in to the Throne Room, without even a moments pause.

Go back to the analogy of the Queen.  Do you think, when her children were little, that every time they came in to the room she was in, they stopped and thought “that’s the Queen of England”?  Or do you think they thought “Mummy!”.

When her grandchildren visit, do they wait or do they catch and glimpse and run up shouting “Nanny!” and put their arms out for a cuddle?

They of course get taught as they get older how to behave “in public”, they get taught who Mummy/Nanny is and how important.  But I’m pretty certain the FIRST thing they see when they see her is Mum/Nan NOT Queen.

Holy Spirit is nudging us today, those of us loitering nervously in the waiting room.  He is whispering: “Look up.  Look at the doorway”.

If you do, if you look up at the doorway between the waiting room and the Throne Room you will see it is open.

“Here I am! I stand at the door!” Jesus is calling.  He is the Way to the Father.  He has MADE the Way to the Father.  The written invitation in your hands, the Gospel, is the Living Word who stands at that open door.  There is no barrier between the waiting room and the Throne Room.  This is an “open plan” Kingdom.

God is in Heaven, and Jesus is at His right Hand.  We have to, as it were “go to Him” now, in spirit because He first came to us.  As a man. Immanuel. God with us. Because He came to us we can now go to Him, as spirit, hand in hand with Holy Spirit, in to His Presence. In to the Presence of Father.

Please, please don’t sit in the waiting room.  Don’t picture a door or a barrier between you and Daddy.  Instead become like a child again and run with abandonment to Him, to Daddy, because as His Child you have that right and He is waiting for you.

You Had Just One Rule..

This morning I was mulling over some more the whole “why did God create us knowing what was going to happen” question, and it brought me to the area of the law and grace.

At the beginning, God gave man just one “rule”. He knew it was enough to keep us safe. He knew the best for us.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17 MEV

Man ignored him, giving in to the temptation to follow his own plan, to make his own rules, to be in charge.

Now, man knew the difference between good and evil. Between God’s way and the enemy’s way (i.e. not God’s way). Between the way where it was all provided for us and we had very good thing, and the way of toil, pain, hardship and effort. Going the opposite way to God, the Creator of all, takes energy.

Things went on like that for a while but it was clear that man didn’t have a clue. Just knowing good from evil wasn’t turning out pretty.

God stepped in and, out of mercy, gave mankind a basic blueprint. A way of better understanding what right and wrong looked like. A guide. The Ten Commandments.

It still wasn’t enough. This led to a more detailed framework, the law of Moses, which set out the old covenant relationship between God and man. It covered ceremonial, sacrificial, civil, moral/spiritual matters. A huge list. It showed just how hard it was for man – though his own efforts – to keep to God’s way. It showed just how perfect, how righteous, God is.

Of course the teachers of the law realised this and over time built a “hedge around the law”: a further series of rules designed to keep man out of the grey areas so that they were less likely to stray far enough to break any of the Mosaic Law.

It is a little bit like having a 20mph speed limit in a built up area. If you are driving quite slowly you are more likely to have the time to react to a child running out in front of you, and therefore less likely to hit them. At that speed, even if you did, the chance of death or serious injury is reduced. That restrictive speed limit is a law that helps prevent you from breaking one of the “big” ones – not taking someone else’s life.

Imagine the first time a parent leaves a child alone to play, maybe just in another room or when the child is old enough, because they’ve trusted them enough to stay home unsupervised whilst the parent pops out. “Be good” is perhaps deemed to be enough of an instruction to keep them safe.

When you get back and see they have broken something, done something they know they aren’t allowed to do or hurt themselves, you realise that “be good” isn’t enough.

Next time you might be more detailed! This time there is a list of things, things you’ve realised they are more than likely to end up doing without you there to stop them.

More than likely you get back to find they did something that you hadn’t put on the list, but still wasn’t something you wanted them to do!

The list gets bigger..

In a tiny, imperfect-analogy way, that is a reflection of the journey mankind had with God regarding the rules that were designed to keep us safe once we had stepped out from under His protection.

So what was the answer? A bigger list? More rules? Bigger punishments? Harsher consequences?

We’ve all seen that parent in the supermarket… “Don’t do that!”, “Come back here!”, “If you don’t come back here this minute you will be in trouble!”, “Come here or I will smack you”, ,Come here [usually with expletives by now] or I will [insert ludicrous unlikely response e.g. ‘I will kill you’!]”.

It doesn’t work. It isn’t the answer. It wasn’t the answer.

God’s answer: Jesus.

We simply cannot keep ourselves righteous outside of the original relationship with our Creator, but we cannot have that relationship because we have sinned, gone our own way.

God’s answer was to sacrifice His Son to make payment for those sins in order that we can step back into relationship with Him. DESPITE THE FACT THAT WE KEEP SINNING!!!

Jesus, omnipotent God incarnate, Alpha and Omega, paid the price for every sin. For every one. For ever. Past, present, future.

So despite the fact that I can still chose to go my way not God’s way, despite the fact that I can still give in to temptation, I am now, having confessed Christ as my Saviour, believing that He died for my sins and rose from the dead, has defeated death and is sat at the right hand of the Father, back in that original Garden of Eden relationship.

I’m not worthy. I’m not righteous. On my own, I can never be. But once I accept Christ’s redemption, in Him, I am all those things.

The biggest oxymoron of them all: grace.

What was God thinking?!

There are many topics of conversations when a Christian is talking to a non-Christian about God but there are common questions that get asked.

One is, “why did God make us if He knew we were going to sin?” (it is also a question new Christian may struggle with).

When my husband and I decided to have kids we discussed numbers, preferred sex, names, hopes and dreams for any children we might raise but there is something we didn’t discuss. We never thought that it wasn’t worth the risk of having a child because they might one day reject us. We also didn’t think having kids was a bad idea because they might turn out “bad”.

Let’s face it, every murderer, abuser, psychopath or sociopath is someone’s child – and not all of their actions can be blamed on upbringing… some people just seem to end up bad. Their parents didn’t decide one day to raise a hell child. As parents we all try our best, hope for the best, believing that if we do a reasonable job our child will grow up into a reasonable person.

Sometimes they don’t.

God knows how that feels…

He gave us everything we could ever want or need.

It wasn’t enough.

We also understood we couldn’t make our kids love us. There was a basic assumption that there would be an in built, kind of automatic love (both ways!). However we knew they would be independent people who would make their own choices for their own lives as they grew up.

If you force someone to love you, it isn’t really love and it won’t really stand up to any kind of test.

God knows this. He created the angels to worship Him. You would have thought that would have worked out. But it didn’t. Lucifer, the “worship leader” of the angels, decided that he was worthy of worship too and set himself up against God. When he was subsequently thrown out of heaven he took a third of the angels with him.

God, frankly, fared little better with us. Creating us for relationship not worship, we were given free will. Free to chose to love. Just like my children were.

God gave us every good thing and a few instructions for our own good. Just like I tried to do with my kids. Knowing – from my perspective as an adult and their parent – what would be good and what would be harmful for them.

Just like our kids don’t always listen, we didn’t listen to God. We thought we knew better. Lucifer whispered his lies into our ears and we chose to listen.

Just like when your child decides to listen to the voice of their friends, some YouTuber, some other “role model” and you watch them walk into temptation and danger…

Any analogy drawing parallels between us as earthly parents and God the Creator of all is of course flawed but hopefully you get my point.

God created us for relationship, created us in love and for love, and part of that meant giving us the free will to chose to stay in that relationship, to chose to love Him in return.

Love is costly. It hurts. But it is also infinitely rewarding.

Take some time to really meditate today on how deep, how wide, how endless God’s love for you is. All He has done for you. Always giving and not counting the cost. Never giving up on us. The ultimate parent!

Marvel at how despite knowing the cost, He chose to create us. How despite knowing the cost, Jesus willing came to Earth, Immanuel, God with us. How despite the fact that we routinely ignore Him and shut Him out, Holy Spirit resides in us and is willing to gives us everything we need, a limitless supply of wisdom and power.

That is love.
God is love.
God loves YOU.

Fog

Today’s quiet time at my favourite spot lacked the view. Thickening fog obscured the beautiful vista that normally soothes my soul.

As I am prone to do, I immediately saw the analogy between the fog and where many of us can find ourselves.

I know the sea is still there – I can hear it even if I can’t see it. I know the horizon is there somewhere. The sky. Ships. Intellectually, I know they are there even though my direct experience – what my senses are telling me – suggests they aren’t.

I’m sure you see the parallel. As Christians, especially if we read the Scriptures or listen to Biblical teaching, know the Truth. I know God loves me. I know I have value. I know He has good plans for me. I know nothing can separate me from His love. I know He can work all things together for my good if I allow Him. I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sometimes though, my “direct experience” doesn’t match what I know. Sometimes I feel alone. Sometimes there seems to be no hope. Sometimes it seems He isn’t listening. Sometimes He doesn’t even seem to be there. Sometimes I’m scared.

If you find yourself in that place, remember the fog. Remember that it isn’t sensible to only trust what you can see. To place experience over knowledge. Circumstance over Scripture.

If you were out walking and the fog came in, what would you do?

Maybe you would stay still. Stay where you know you are – where you knew you were before the fog came – and wait for it to pass.

Perhaps you are the sort of person who would get out their phone (let’s assume you had signal!) and rely on the map, the blinking dot, to tell you where you are and show you how to get where you want to be.

Perhaps you have no phone (or no signal!) and instead decide to trust in instinct and common sense. Find a road, find the edge of the field, the shoreline. Find a feature and follow it, knowing all roads lead somewhere and sooner or later you will come to a road sign.

Those are all good options for us when the fog of circumstances or our feelings cloud our trust in God’s Truth.

Stay where you are. Rest. Remember it was ok before and it will be again. This too shall pass.

Take out your Bible. See what it says about where you are and where you are going and rely on what it says instead of what you see.

Find a truth you do still believe, that you can still see, and follow it. Stay with it. Keep confessing and clinging to it until the fog clears and you can see more of the Truth.

One other part of the analogy from today’s fog… The longer I sat in the car the less vision I had. Not just because the fog thickened but because the water condensed on to the window screen and obscured my vision.

When I turned the ignition on and used the windscreen wipers to clear the screen I saw that actually the fog wasn’t as bad as I thought! The lack of vision came from where I was positioned…..

Do I need to spell it out?

Sometimes where we are is what is causing us to doubt, to fail to trust in God’s Word. That relationship. That attitude. The influence of that friend. The TV show you watch. The book you are reading. The music you listen to. That wrong teaching.

Find a friend you trust, someone you know walks closely with God, and get them to be your windscreen wiper. Ask them to pray and seek God for what is blocking your vision or, if you suspect you know the answer, deal with it.

Move from where you are currently positioned and see if your vision clears. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take an afternoon off. Sit in the prayer room. Have a holiday. Go visit someone. Anything to break the position you are in.

If you wake up feeling down and sit around all day on the sofa watching daytime TV, by the end of the day you will feel more tired, more sluggish, greyer, than if you’d got out of the house and gone for a walk or done some gardening… Where you are will affect how you feel and therefore what you can “see”.

Remember I write these words as someone who has been in all those positions, battled mental health issues, fought clinical depression, fought spiritual fatigue, been to the depths of emotions, the edge of sanity… I’ve been there and back.

If you are struggling in a place where you can identify with what I have described, I pray this post has at least wiped the windscreen for you and given you a moment where things are a little clearer. If so, please grab that moment and use that clarity to reposition yourself.

How To Break Into A Fortress

Imagine a house protected by the very best security. Outside sensors. CCTV. The best locks and sensors on every window, at every door. Secure. Impenetrable

There are only two ways anyone is going to get into that house: if the owners give someone the key/code so that they can bypass the security, or if they leave the door or a window open thereby making the security pointless.

As Christian we have an impenetrable defence against our enemy, the devil, the thief who wants to rob and steal all of our treasure (John 10:10).  We have the full protection of the Most High (Psalm 59:1). We have the full armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  He is our fortress (Psalm 18:2).

So how does the enemy still rob us?! Why do Christians often seem as plundered of joy, peace, prosperity and hope as those who are still of the kingdom of darkness?

The same two ways as the thief enters: we give him permission or we fail to “activate” (use) the protection we have.

There are many ways we give our enemy the key to rob us. Sin is an obvious one. Circumstances and situations may have arisen where the enemy has deceived us into believing a lie contrary to God’s Word (“you are worthless”, “God doesn’t care about you”, “you are on your own”, “you aren’t good enough”, “God can’t save you” etc). The moment we believe him instead of God we give him permission to come in and rob us.

Bitterness, resentment, pride, anger… all keys to our house.

I am endeavouring to regularly check just who I’ve given “keys” to. Particularly if I am having a “bad day” I’m learning to stop and and check that I haven’t knowingly or unknowingly (because our enemy is a deceiver and father of lies – the smooth talking conman who gains your trust and entry to your home…) given away access.

Spiritually speaking, who has the keys to you? What friends do you trust that much? Think of the people you allow to influence you. Are they born again? If not, take care that their words, actions and influences don’t lead you to give away access to your heart. Often it is the well meaning “support” from our non-Christian friends (or even more tragically, our Christian friends who aren’t believing and standing on God’s Word alone) that leds us to forget God’s Truth and step out from His protection (Job’s comforters ring a bell?!)

Equally, or possibly more often, the thief gains access simply because Christians fail to use the protection they have against him.

We don’t read God’s Word so we don’t know His Word, so we fail to live in the blessing of His Word. The author of Psalm 119 knew that the key to blessing and fruitfulness came from knowing God’s precepts, knowing the Word, and living in it and by it.

We don’t pray. We don’t spend time in God’s presence, soaking in His goodness, His faithfulness, His love.

We don’t understand or keep hold of the truth that sets us free. Frankly some days we seem to live as if we’ve forgotten just what we were saved from – and definitely don’t live as if we remember what we have been saved in to!

Take time today to check your security. Find the Scriptures to meditate on that declare God’s truth over who you are – and who He is. Find the Word that is truth to counter whatever lie you are believing of the enemy.

We have the best security in the world. Let’s use it.

Prayer Room Reflections

“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”  2 Corinthians 3:18 New Living Translation (NLT)

This verse came to mind this morning in the prayer room. In the middle of the room is a “tree” of lights. As I walked around the room I noticed how it was reflected in various ways.

I saw the reflection of it in the window of the prayer room.

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I saw that I could see through the window, see what was on the other side, despite the reflection of the light.

Then I noticed the same lights reflected in the screen of the monitor on the wall (which was switched off, blank).

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This time all I could see was the reflection of the light.

That’s my goal. To draw nearer to Him, to be changed by glory to glory, transformed into His glorious image, so that all I reflect is Him, and not myself.

Schrödinger’s Cat

Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment examined the absurdity as he saw it at the time of quantum theory’s assertion that observation fixes the state of a particle. The theoretical cat was both (or neither) alive and dead at the same time – unless of course the cat’s observation was the thing that fixed its state…

Why am I writing about the cat? Well this morning in the prayer room God and I were talking about faith and doubt. A well trodden conversational path between us, I was wrestling again with stepping out in the exercising of His Gifts. Not just any specific gifting I may have received but the stuff every believer has. Not “my calling” but His calling – to go and make disciples and teach all He has made known to us.

I have always believed, from a very young age, that if I ever stepped out God would show up. Fact. Go and pray for that guy in a wheelchair? He will get up. Pray over the dead woman? She’ll wake. Pray against the truck rushing towards the child? It will stop. I’ve always believed in an all powerful, supernatural, miraculous God. My “daddy God” could do anything.

As I grew up into my teens, I began to read Scripture and go to church. I began to receive teaching. Nothing changed my view of a God of miracles, and in fact I’ve had the privilege of seeing a few first hand.

I’ve never stepped out publicly and prayed for one myself. Not like that.

I’ve never gone up to a stranger with a word from God. Never asked an unbeliever if I can pray for them, even though I believe if I do, God will be there.

Is it fear of failure that stops me? Doubt? Looking stupid and making that person think a) I’m a nutter b) “prove” God isn’t real if it fails?

I know I’m not the only person to have this sort of internal battle and conversations with God – I think most do!

So, back to Schrödinger.

All the time I don’t step out, I have not “fixed” my faith. God is neither proven real or it, I’m neither right nor wrong. To put it another way, until you roll that dice you don’t know the score – you could still be a winner and not a loser.

Not knowing isn’t the same as the unknown. That future, fixed state, is the unknown. Here and now I am in a state of not knowing. If I act, my state is unknown.

I realise that this is not a position I can stay in! It goes against everything I have ever believed. It is causing a spiritual friction within me, a dis-ease that has grown stronger as every year has passed. The more I learn, the closer I walk with Him, the more time I spend in His presence, the more ridiculous this position seems.

I feel like I’m offending Him, hurting Him, by not moving on from this place.

I read a lovely line today:

“Fear is the guard dog that is protecting the fortress of spiritual prosperity. When the dog starts barking, we know that the treasure he is guarding is near. Most people do not step over the growling dog. The result: They don’t grow because they don’t practice flowing in their gifts.” (Practicing the Gifts of the Spirit: Stories from Spiritual Java, Kris Vallotton).

Last Sunday evening we had a teaching session at our church, part of a “Firestarters” series.  We are looking at these very issues of stepping out, developing and using the Gifts.  One of the themes that developed was the spiritual principle of being filled – the constant, continuous state – and how that filling becomes an overflowing that reaches others.

We surely all know that principle?  We “get it”?  I’m sure you’ve sung a worship song at some point with words like it – calling on God to fill you, fill you to overflowing. I’m sure you’ve prayed it.  I’m sure you meant it.

For me, I know I have. I also know that if I examine my heart, truthfully, in light of all of the above, I have to come to the painful conclusion that at least in some part, I don’t FULLY mean it.

Have you ever left the tap running? Over filled the bath? Over filled the sink? Set your coffee machine to the wrong cup size? Had a saucepan boil over?

It was messy wasn’t it?  Took some clearing up.  Maybe left permanent damage (if it was the bath!).

I don’t like mess.

I was never (to my shame and guilt) a finger painting, cake making, messy play kind of mum (my mother was – I missed that gene!).  I WANTED to be. I TRIED to be.  I would set up the crafts stuff, cover the table with something to protect it, sit alongside my son(s) and make an effort.

It lasted until the mess started.  Then I started to intervene to try to prevent the worst of the mess.  Usually I ended up either taking over completely to finish the craft work myself (in a correct and tidy fashion) or in some sort of a meltdown – mine or theirs.

I don’t like mess.

I’m a chef and I clean as I go.  I cannot understand messy cooks!

Maybe, just maybe, part of me secretly realises that if I allow Holy Spirit to flood me, fill me to overflowing, it will be “messy”.

If I go up to that stranger in the coffee shop and share a Word, it will be messy. Uncomfortable. Challenging.

If God shows up and I heard the Word right and deliver it correctly, what then?!  Yes my faith will grow but hang on, what about the guy at the next table?  What about the woman behind the counter?  Doesn’t God want to talk to them too?  Shouldn’t I go up to them?

Once you throw that dice…. open that box…  you are in a new state. No going back. New ground.

If I don’t get it right (and our pastor shared an amusing – after the event – story of doing just that an approaching some woman with a less than warm reception), what then?  Will it make me doubt God?

“No!” (so my conversation with Him this morning went) “of course it wouldn’t.”

“What then?” (He asked). “Will you try again?  How many times will you try again?”

Messy.

Truthfully, this terrifies me.  How about you?  Will you pray with me? Stand with me?  If you have already opened the box/rolled the dice, will you encourage me?  If you are yet to do so, will you hold my hand and we’ll do it together?

Holy Spirit, reveal to me what I need to do to move past that guard dog of fear. Hold my hand as I step over it and step in to the fortress of spiritual prosperity.