Strongholds

June 28, 2017

Mark 3:23-27

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

Strongholds

There are strongholds that each one of us deals with in our lives.  Some may be stronger than others, but all of us have dealt with areas of our flesh where we are weak and more prone to failure and sin.  Most all of us tend to want to keep these in the secret places of our closets so others won’t see, but often very ugly things reside behind the closed doors of our home and our hearts.  These strongholds have fettered us and kept us in a state of bondage even as Christians for far too long.  It is most often a love-hate relationship.  We hate our sin and yet we love it too much to let go of it.  As a result we struggle with our hypocrisy, often justifying it or rationalizing it so we can live with this bondage that is crippling our wholeness in Christ.  Many of us live with much guilt and condemnation because we truly love the Lord and yet in these areas that may differ with each one of us, we are weak and seem unable to break free. 

The enemy knows our areas of weakness and vulnerability.  These are his inroads to our soul to hinder us and cripple us in walking in obedience in these areas.  No amount of rules or laws are going to deliver us from these sensual or fleshly indulgences. 

Paul says this in Colossians 2:19-13, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

13When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”  The truth is that Jesus Christ has bound the strong man, disarming his powers and authority.  We now possess in Christ a greater power and authority than that which has bound us.  Verse 10 says ‘you have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority.’ 

So why are we still enslaved by these strongholds of sin and flesh?  God has placed the Spirit of Christ in us to overcome the flesh.  It is easy when someone does everything for you, but it doesn’t help you to grow or to find the strength you need to live in victory.  God has called us to overcome in Christ Jesus. 

We plead, “But I have tried and I still fail. I can’t do it.” 

That is exactly right, we can’t do it, but we have a power resident within us by which we can.   Romans 8:12-14 tells us, “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  The key words here for us are “By the Spirit”.   We have an identity in Christ that we must put on in every area of our lives.  We are no longer identified with the weakness, fearfulness and the lust of our flesh.  We are identified with what we possess which Colossians 2:10 says is the ‘fullness in Christ’.   

Colossians 3:1-11 exhorts us, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” We must know who we are and where we now reside in the Spirit.  We are not an earthly people any longer, we are a kingdom people with the King of Kings setting upon the throne our hearts and souls. 

Some of us cry out in our souls and say, “I want to be free, but I can’t.”  Can’t is not a statement of faith, but of fear and unbelief.  “We can do all things through Christ that strengthens us.”  Our greatest enemy is the deceptiveness of sin.  We hide our sin in the closet because of our shame.  We don’t want people to think of us less than spiritual; when in truth we are all struggling with the same garbage.  It doesn’t matter how wicked or perverse the thing is that you struggle with, God sees it and He knows.  It is not His will that this stronghold possesses you and rules over you.  The greatest tactic of the enemy is to get you alone with your sin, like you are the only one going through this. You are not alone.  We all struggle in areas of our life.  Our greatest strength and victory is going to come when we bring our sin and struggles into the light and we allow the body of Christ to stand with us, pray with us and offer accountability to us.  James 3:16 tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  The reason we confess our sins to one another is to bring them into the light, which renders the devil powerless.   He can only work in darkness.  In the light we unite with the strength and support of fellow believers who can pray with us, stand with us and help us to be accountable in those areas where we are so prone to temptation. 

It is time for all of us to come out of our dysfunctional state of sin and failure.  Let us help one another in coming into the full freedom and deliverance from these strongholds that have so long crippled and hindered us in our walk and full devotion to Christ.  You are not alone in your struggle.  Surround yourself with other solid believers that you can trust and confide in.  You may find that you are able to help them as much as they can help you.   Let us walk in the light as He is in the light.  No more strongholds!

Blessings,

#kent

Colossians 3:18-19
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love [your] wives, and be not bitter against them.

The Road back to Love and Intimacy

Remember when your romance was as sweet as honey and the love of your life could do no wrong. You adored them, idolized them and wanted to spend every moment together. Many of us, looking back at those younger years, ask ourselves, “what happened to that first love?” We still may love each other, but many couples struggle with the “feelings of love” that are missing. The romance has died way down and now you may find that instead of really loving and cherishing that wonderful man or woman you are struggling to get along with them. The man may feel like the wife is always nagging him, he can never do enough or anything right, she doesn’t respect and honor him. The woman may feel like the husband has become an insensitive jerk that never communicates or works through the problems, he doesn’t meet her needs. Over the years and the cycles of good and bad times, we can accumulate a lot of baggage. If I ask you if you love your husband or your wife, you would quite likely reply, “will of course I do,” but neither one of you may be experiencing the love from one another that you feel and know should be there. We may say we hold no unforgiveness toward one another, but in reality both parties bear scars, wounds, unresolved conflicts and issues that linger in the subconscious ready to rear their ugly heads at the right moment, opportunity or provocation. We find that we fail to often treat each other with the love, dignity and respect that both parties are due in a marriage.
Fifty percent of our marriages fail due to these kind of issues, but how many more are struggling and hurting? We need to return to that place of intimacy and closeness that we once shared, but we can’t until we are able let down the walls we’ve built up and are willing to let go of all the offenses, hurts and bitterness that we carry.
When the Word says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord,” that submission might be just creating a safe place where your husband can share with you. It needs to be a place where you aren’t venting your anger, frustration, criticism and unhappiness, no matter how justified you may feel with those feelings. If you want your husband to communicate and be sensitive to your needs, you have to create an atmosphere of submission where you really want to see, feel and understand his heart. That can be a hard place for a man. He may not be in touch with his feelings the way you are, so be gentle and be patient and above all, be kind.
“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Husbands can be very confrontational, critical and harsh, but many repress their feelings and emotions. They retreat into that shell of seeming insensitivity and non-communication. Many times it is a response of self-preservation. Often the harder the wife tries to break through that seeming insensitivity with harsh or critical words the more the husband withdrawals. If you want the turtle to stick his head out of the shell you have to stop beating on the shell and make him feel that when he sticks his head out it won’t get bit off. Husbands can hold a lot of things in their hearts that they may not even be fully aware of. Their means of retaliation may be more passive or subtle, but it may be coming from a bitterness that has built up in their hearts against their wives. They, on the other hand, need to really listen to the heart of their wives and make those needs their goals to fulfill. They need to make them feel secure in your love for them and remember them often in the little gifts, the things you do and say. Marriage is a teaching ground for unconditional love and service. It is where we should both be learning to lay down our lives for the other. Love is not always about feeling, but about commitment, covenant and a decision to love your spouse unconditionally even when they don’t derserve it.
Maybe we need to come together as a couple where we can agree that the love of Christ is going to rule and dictate our behavior and response to one another. We need to hold one another, not sexually, but intimately, while we confess our sins, our hurts and failures to one another. We need to truly commit to a willingness to really forgive and hear the other person’s heart. We need an uninterrupted time of reconciliation where we can write down and commit to one another some realistic goals where we will begin to address some of our deepest issues. Keep it simple and not more than we can realistically deal with at one time. Start with just three things each. Then let’s make a date for our next intimate time we can meet with the same right heart and attitude, in the love of Christ to see how we are doing. Again, we need to keep it safe and non-confrontational. This is a team project and we can’t succeed if we only have our own agenda and interest at heart. We can’t expect to mend and restore a broken down barn in a day or even a week, it will take time to restore, just as it took time to deteriorate. We can change the cycle and the direction of our marriages if we will both commit to it and stay with it. We will begin to see our true intimacy and love begin to come alive in our feelings and the way we treat one another. God wants to see our marriages strong and alive with His love. There is a lot of truth to the addage that ‘the family that prays together, stays together’. It is hard to be right with each other when we are not right with God. If we are committed to Christ, then we must also be committed to one another, for we are one flesh. Together let’s build the road back to true love and intimacy like we had in our first love.

Blessings,
#kent

We, the Lame

July 22, 2015

We, the Lame

Hebrew 12:13
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Have you ever had a broken leg, a dislocated joint or wrenched knee or ankle? When you find yourself in this condition, you find that walking normally is out of the question. There is too much pain and tenderness to walk in a normal way. This is the way we are when we get out of joint in our walk with the Lord. Our spiritual health and harmony are interrupted and our walk with Him becomes crippled and distorted.
I think many of us have areas in our lives where we experience some lameness; an area that is out of joint with God’s will and purpose for our lives. The Lord doesn’t want us to walk in a crooked and twisted path, but in a straight and narrow one. It is like Jesus says in Matthew 7:14, “Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” I would venture to say that most of us have found ourselves off of that straight and narrow more times than we would like to admit. How wonderful that through repentance and the power of the blood of Jesus we have a means to be restored to the path of righteousness.
It is sin that cripples us and makes us lame. It is sin that distorts our spiritual health and wholeness. There are many that are still struggling with strongholds of sin in their lives. While they feel condemned and defeated, they can’t seem to get delivered and free from it. We often make the mistake of judging others in an area of weakness while we may have another area in us that is just as bad. We are all creatures of God’s grace and mercy. We didn’t find our way to Him because our works were righteous and we were so much better than everyone else. Like everyone else, we are sinners saved by the grace of God. That same faith with which we embraced Christ when we first gave our hearts to Him is what we must now exercise as we make straight paths for our feet.
There is something wrong with us as a body of Christ when we are more concerned about judging one another for our faults than we are with ministering to one another in our weaknesses. What does James 5:16 say? “Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” We all have weaknesses and faults that we have not fully gained the victory over or that we are still struggling with. Where are our ministry, compassion and prayers for one another in our weaknesses? We desperately try and conceal our faults and weaknesses, either because we are in denial or just think it is our problem, but more likely because we don’t have a safe place where we can expose and share the sins with which we struggle. Jesus says it is not the well that need a physician, but the sick. The Christ in each one of us is the physician that wants to minister help and healing to those around us. We need each other to help each other. Our sin would always cripple us and dislocate us from the Lord, but the Lord wants to heal our lameness and restore us in a path of righteousness for His namesake. The Lord doesn’t want us to justify and cover over our sin, that would be hypocrisy, but He does want to see us healed in the areas of our sin sickness.
We want to see Isaiah 35 come to pass in each one of our lives, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. 7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. 8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
The Lord is on the side of our restoration and wholeness, but it takes our willingness to forsake our sin. Perhaps we need to seek out those who will stand with us and help us to lay hold of our victory and healing in the areas where sin has held us captive and crippled our walk. We are a body and we must minister to one another’s needs. We need one another to minister and help each other in all of the areas that pertain to life and godliness. Corporately, we are growing up in Christ, ministering to one another out of the gifts that the Holy Spirit has apportioned to each one of us. Ephesians 4:16-18 says,” Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work..”
If you are lame in an area of your walk with the Lord, then find your healing and deliverance so that your path may be made straight. If it is greater than your ability to find the victory then seek out those in the body of Christ who can come along beside you, give you help, prayer and accountability. It is the Lord’s will to restore the lame.

Blessings,
#kent

Romans 5:6-8
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

God Loves Us Even when We are Ugly

Isn’t it wonderful that God didn’t just limit His love and grace to the few us humans that are cute and cuddly? He didn’t just love us when we loved Him and didn’t withhold His greatest expression of love toward us even when we least deserved or merited it.
Have you ever been around someone that was hard to love and get along with? On in any given day that could probably apply to any one of us. We can all have our ugly times and our ugly ways. Then there are some with which it has become a way of life. You know the ironic thing is that it is usually with the people that we love the most that we are often the most ugly. We can be ripping our spouse or children up all-day and then come to a stranger and be perfectly nice and polite.
Why is that? Perhaps it is because we feel safe venting our anger, frustration and anxieties upon the ones that we love because we feel we are safe doing it with them. Maybe it is because the ones we “love” aren’t meeting our expectations or living up to our standards. Perhaps we feel those loved ones will still love me even when my raw side is showing. Unfortunately, what was maybe a once-in-a-while bad hair day, can become a habitual bad hair life. We can become abusive on a continual basis to the ones we should love and respect the most. It may be our husband, our wife, our children, parents, family or friends.
There is a great lesson here as we look at God’s love. We see His love is unconditional and that He did love us in spite of our inward ugliness. He teaches us to be the same in our love for others. We see it coming through in the attributes of His Holy Spirit, love, joy, longsuffering, self-control, kindness, goodness, peace, meekness, faith and gentleness. As His people these attributes should be an ever-increasing part of our lives. When others are ugly toward us we have to look with the eyes of the Spirit into their hearts and ask why is this person hurting so bad that they treat others this way? Is there anything I can do in Christ to minister and help to heal those inner hurts, wounds and scars?
In our closer personal relationships perhaps we may be reaping in our loved one seeds of discontent and strife that we have sown by our own actions or insensitivity. Perhaps we have played a big part in why this loved one has become that not so lovely person. What do we need to do out of the love of Christ and the love we have for them to change our dynamics toward them to relieve these angry and resentful feelings that they may be expressing? So often anger and emotion keep us from coming to a resolution of our issues. Sometimes the expression of our anger and emotion only serve to drive those we love further away from us and cause them to withdrawal. You will never bring the head of a turtle out of his shell when he knows he is going to get clubbed as soon as He shows it. We need a truce, a cease-fire and to lay our emotions aside. We need to reconcile ourselves through the love of God to really hear and respond to the issues of the heart. Most all of us are creatures of habits and it may be those habits that are a constant source of irritation and dysfunction. Let us love one another enough to change those habits and behaviors for their sake and to help them become that lovely person again that we once knew.
What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” Let us love one another as God in Christ has so loved us.

Blessings,
#kent

The Hidden Things

April 17, 2013

The Hidden Things

1 Corinthians 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

Blessed is the person who is open and honest with every aspect of their lives. They don’t scheme to conceal in dark hidden places of their hearts, their sin. They simply are what they are, for better or for worse, their life is an open book. It’s not that they are better than anyone else or have any less struggles with sin and self, but they don’t try to hide it behind a facade of religion or spirituality that builds an appearance of one thing, but the motives and deeds of the heart are something else. I believe God honors the person who is open and honest with their lives. The fact that they are willing to put everything out in the open, without hypocrisy, even when it is less than flattering or pretty, keeps them in a place of accountability before God and man. It keeps them from falling into the hidden sins of the heart. They may be more vulnerable to criticisms and the judgements of others, but I believe God honors the honesty and willingness to expose themselves even in their weakness. This is where God wants to bring more of us.
Unfortunately, many of us have our secret lives, our sins, our little dark closets of impurity where we harbor and feed our hidden passions, desires, lusts, addictions and fleshpots. It is not that we all don’t struggle with these things in different areas of our lives, but it is when we shroud them in darkness and hide them from the light that they become dangerous to us and others. In this mindset we compartmentalize our lives into the spiritual and non-spiritual. We begin to rationalize and justify our sin. A very evident example of this is seen a our former president who appeared one way in his public life, but was something else in his private life. The example and warning for us that practice like things is that one day the light is going to come in and expose our sin. We could all see the shame, embarrassment, and tremendous hurt and pain the former president’s sin brought. It not only hurt and soiled this man’s reputation, but also the office and the country it represented. What would the hidden sins of our hearts do to our lives if they were fully exposed today? The light will expose them one day and we will be found out in our shame. The Lord once spoke to me that if we would keep everything out in the light, darkness would have no place to work in us. Is there anything in our lives today that we would be ashamed for others to see? How many Christian ministries and testimonies have been destroyed by hidden sins that the Lord exposed? The Lord showed me that our weakness and propensities toward areas of sin are like beasts. They start off small and cute, but the more we feed them, the bigger and the uglier they grow, until they are beyond our control.
Hidden sin is especially a concern for those who carry the responsibility of others either as parents, ministry or a place of leadership. When we have these areas in our lives we can be removing the umbrella and hedge of spiritual protection that we should be providing through our lives that are in right relationship and purity before God. We could be facing many trials with children, finances, sickness, or other afflictions, because we have opened the door to the enemy through our sin.
This word this morning, is a warning and exhortation from the Lord to deal with these areas of our heart. We can turn a deaf ear as we have in the past or we can heed the loving exhortation and warning of the Lord before it is too late for us to repent and turn from our sin. For the day will come that it will be exposed and we will face the full consequences of what ever it is that we are hiding. The Word says ‘our sin will find us out.’ Let us remember how many times Israel refused to hear and hardened their hearts against the prophets that were sent to warn them to turn away from their sin and the judgements that ensued, because they refused to listen and obey. Believe me, God has been dealing with my own heart in these areas. What you will find is that as you are willing to acknowledge your sin and repent, putting that sin away from you, you will experience a liberation and freedom. You will experience a renewed confidence in your relationship with the Lord. You will be removing the roadblocks to your spiritual blessings and most importantly you will be set free to live the life and ministry that God has called you too. Make yourself accountable to others so that you keep your life in the light. Sometimes these things are bigger than we are and we need the help of others. Go to someone that you can trust and that has the spiritual maturity to help you get free. A true brother or sister in the Lord won’t judge you or condemn you; they will want to help you to be restored, because they know that you could be them. Many times there are groups formed for just such a purpose. We want to restore and help one another in love, so that we can all operate in the unity and oneness of the faith, ministering to one another in the love of Christ. Let us truthfully examine and judge ourselves today, that we be not judged. Let us deal with the hidden sins of our heart.

Blessings,
kent

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