Can God Bless an Unhappy Marriage?

When I was a parole officer I had a certain partner for many years. He was a bit older and married for several years while I was seeking a mate. One day he said of marriage, “There are days that you really hate that person you married.” ‘Agh!’ I thought, ‘what kind of marriage does he have?’

That was probably 30 years ago.

Paul’s prophetic warning in II Timothy 3, “There will be terrible times in the last days” also depicts therein the state of marriage. While the world is bombarded with immorality and apostasy, Christian marriages are a prized target because our life and marriage should be a light that honors God. The shock, betrayal and anguish caused by discovered adultery, pornography and deception is doubled by the confusing questions, “Didn’t I marry a Christian?” “How did God allow this to happen?” “How could he/she do such things – where was the Holy Spirit?” and…

“What should I do? What would God have me do?” “Is God finished here?”

(If someone is in an abusive marriage there should be no question about leaving, only prayer for strength to leave. Nearly every large precinct has a ‘domestic abuse officer’ – call them. Believe me, many people find God in jail and so can your spouse.)

However, most marriages are not dying from abuse, they are either a) suffering deeply from the pummeling anguish of betrayal and/or b) slowly dying from erosion, drifting, and indifference. The questions however, remain the same.

Many Christians consider adultery to be the doctrinal ‘ticket out’ of a broken marriage. This may be the right choice if the offending spouse wants to leave. However, in many cases, the situation is complicated with remorse and some level of repentance making decisions deeply troubling. The ‘open door’ to flee marriage is an option, not a mandate, neither does it signify God’s specific will. Consider Paul and Silas captive in a harsh dungeon, Acts 16. After being humiliated, beaten and chained, the prison gates miraculously spring open! They were well able gain freedom through this ‘open door’ but their freedom would have foregone the higher will of God to save the jailer and his family. The jailer, destined for suicide, was instead saved and salvation brought to his whole family.

While no one should consider staying in an abusive or harmful manipulative marriage, there are many truths to consider when the turmoil of your relationship crushes you with disappointment, emotional pain, and loneliness.

1. God established marriage and He is for it. For those whose lives are in Christ, our Heavenly Father stands to defend His daughters and sons and will pay back those who afflict them. If the offender is a backslidden Christian, believe in God’s ominous chastisement – it is inevitable.
2. God hates divorce, as stated in Malachi 2:16, which does not mean it is always avoidable but woe to he or she that irreparably damages what God has established. Adulterers, abandoners, and abusers will be held accountable.
3. Satan loves divorce, it is highly valuable to destroying a home and family with lasting consequence on future generations. In divorce Satan can “steal, kill, and destroy” all at once. His schemes orchestrate opportunities for a spouse to fulfill the lusts of his/her heart. Or, like a barrage of termites, devilish thoughts target our hearts, eating away marital foundations, while embellishing every suspicion and inflaming every wound to build an accusatory case against our spouse.
4. God foresaw your marital unhappiness, even misery. Only the Holy Spirit can reach those depths of emotional pain and He awaits our cry. Committed into His hand, He will intervene, He will make His word alive with healing and He will weave our pain into the “all things” that “work together for good”.

Whether our relationship is blown apart or dies slowly the turning point will always be when one or both parties get alone with God and determine to hear from Him. No one can  hijack God’s plan for our life if we remain faithful. While the entire world fixates on personal ‘happiness’, ‘self-gratification’, and ‘self-fulfillment’ God is calling us into a separated walk with Him. “That which is highly esteemed by man is despicable in God’s eyes”. When the world, our friends, our family and even church members say “leave and move on with your life” the Lord may be saying “stay and stand in your faith”, that He may unfold His plans for our life and marriage.

Wise counsel is important and marital counseling may help but no intervention can compare with the true believer hearing from our Heavenly Father. The Lord alone responds to our hearts with promise – when He calls us to stay, He is staying with us, maintaining divine purpose in our life. ‘Divine purpose’ is nothing like worldly esteem or prestige…it is found in the inner suffering that leads to God’s glory and His eternal Kingdom. It is through suffering that we can be “conformed to the image of His Son” who suffered greatly and taught us to carry our cross and die to self will. Marital suffering hammers out the ‘self will’ with painful precision but more than that, it avails us to a deeper and more intimate walk with the Lord.

It is not easily said but God does bless the unhappy and difficult marriage when one or both therein are surrendered to Him. He stands by His sons and daughters who have been downcast and betrayed and upholds those who have been damaged by sinful and offensive decisions. But more importantly, God unveils the darkness in our midst and even in our own hearts and, in doing so, does the most critical work of sanctifying us.

I pray that, in this brief space, we can consider the complexity of marital discord for the believer. Marriage for some believers cannot be saved and they remain blameless. No one should remain in any relationship that is physically or emotionally abusive. However, most issues rooted in selfishness, carnal living, unfaithfulness to God and/or spouse, and neglect lead to increasing ‘love-less-ness’ and resentment. These are often the fruits of devilish whittling and needling, “the schemes of the devil”, targeting our own fleshly inclinations for our destruction.

We have authority in Christ to take a stand in our home and marriage and, in these end times, we dare not waste any more time lamenting of the past, ruminating over offenses, or feeding suspicion and accusations. If we’ve grown to ‘hate’ our spouse, don’t avoid prayer – take it to prayer, pour out honestly to God who already knows our inner battles and pain….

“Lord, I confess to you every dark and painful thought and inclination of my heart – come into my heart with the flashlight of your word and lead me to your living hope! Don’t let me be governed by feelings but lead me in the power of the Holy Spirit! Speak to my heart, speak to my husband/wife’s heart. Bring conviction where there is sin and rebellion. Incline our hearts toward Your will for our life and marriage. Grant me wisdom and discernment to hold fast to truth and dispel the lies of the devil and the deception of my own heart. Help me to trust You for the invisible work in my spouse and help me to be humble to see the darkness of my own heart. I pray for supernatural renewal. May we fix our eyes on You, Jesus, to honor you as we await your coming Kingdom.”

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Satan patiently prepares a household, inflaming our flesh for breakdown and divorce – STRIKE!

Finding Victory In Failure

The prevailing American Christian culture has unfortunately produced an artificial Christianity that is polished, happy-clappy, and entertaining. Celebrity pastors coach and stir congregants toward success instead of leading them to carry a cross and follow the Lord. When moral failure cannot be hidden it is somehow justified and  redefined.   Worse, dramatic public repentance may scripted and scheduled – all to maximize damage control to maintain the following and funds.

But for the sincere follower of Christ, those who truly seek to know and serve God, where is the victory in our failures? Is failing, falling short of God’s standards, inevitable? I believe and embrace the scriptures, “He is able to keep us from falling” but, realizing His standard is total humility and perfection, there are endless opportunities for failure  growth.

Our failure may be hidden, an inner flirtation with sin, hatred or unforgiveness in our hearts, or unchecked dark imaginations. Worse of course are the repercussions if we act on sinful inclinations, causing great harm to ourselves and others. In the unseen spiritual war to dishonor God, the devil is ready to reap much benefit from our resent, blame, and justify.

But with God, victory in failure is not an oxymoron it is a promise for us who realign ourselves with the Lord.

Victory: “the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in battle”   You may think the battle is lost but God holds the last strike and blow.

If you are united with Christ through repentance and new birth, God is your Father. This does not change when you fall or fail. He proves His love and His relationship to us through chastisement, “He disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:4-11). The inner conviction of sin is painful but let it be an inner call to draw near to our Father. Our first stand toward victory is on our knees repenting, which is agreeing with God.

When aligned with God, the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, avails Himself as much more – supernatural teacher, counselor and comforter. He brings the Word of God to life, “rewarding those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are not shunned by God – on the contrary, our relationship with Him can grow deeper.

Victory may not erase the damage caused by our failure and disobedience in areas of important relationships, financial stability, reputation, position, freedom and health. Consequences will not disappear “like it never even happened” but the promises of God stand unshakable:

God is our Father, He will not disown us in our defeat. “A bruised reed He will not break” (Isaiah 42:3). He calls to us in our confusion and quagmire, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18-20). However, if we deny God, if we disown Him, He will disown us. (Matthew 10:33, II Timothy 2:12) Failure will not separate us from God, unbelief is the offense that cuts us off. “…they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israel), He will not spare you either….” (Romans 11:17-22)

Trials, tests, and failures reveal our weaknesses, the very chinks in our armor. Our Heavenly Father Himself tests us and tries us, humbling us with the truth that we are totally dependent upon Him to live a holy life. The devil may orchestrate scenarios to ensnare us and bring dishonor to God but failure, even the ‘surprise of sin’ necessarily exposes our most vulnerable areas that prevent us from moving forward in serving the Lord. As soon as we repent and obey, the Lord ministers correction and leads us to straighten that crooked path.

His purposes for those surrendered to Him will go forward. Even if sin or failure robs us of position and reputation, God’s call and His giftings upon us, remain viable. A marred vessel can be valuable in the Hands of the Potter. The Lord is not at all limited by our circumstances but stands alone as the One who can renew, remake, and resurrect.

God can use every battle and trial to refine us for His high calling, ‘to be conformed to the image of His Son’. “And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…” For the surrendered heart, failure will not change our ‘final destination’.

The world is ready to comfort us in failure and encourage us in failure by, largely, redefining sin and failure as viable choices. Beyond rejecting the ways of God, our world culture now focuses on anesthetizing our conscience. (World to God: Don’t Disturb Our Conscience! http://www.theburninglamp.com)

But our conscience is a gift from God, it is installed to lead us to Him as the only source of deliverance, forgiveness, and renewal. Opposite to worldly culture, through God there is power through brokenness. When our self-will is broken, our best efforts thwarted, our flesh and own wisdom proved futile….God sees a useful and ready vessel.

When we get our ‘test results’ and find that, based on the unchanging standard of God’s Word, we have fallen short…there is cause to repent but also cause to worship and praise God…

Praise God that He cares enough to correct us….praise Him that He stirs our conscience…Be glad that He does not give up on us but can move forward through us if we trust Him at every juncture.

When God Strips and Shrinks Your Life

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), starring Grant Williams

There is no need to describe how God can strip our lives of the very things that fulfill us, define us, and give our hearts joy. He can do it in harsh succession – uprooting and shaking the very foundations of our lives – our job, marriage, health and subsequent emotional stability. Those who have walked with the Lord for any length may, at first, rally great inward faith, “I lost my job but I know God has something better!” But the ‘better’ job or calling doesn’t come. Instead, other pillars of life begin to shake and crumble, stripping your sense of security, strength, and pleasure. Emotional damage begins to take root.

What should we believe and do when God strips and shrinks our lives?

1. Believe that, if your life is in His hand, if you’ve truly given your life to Jesus Christ, nothing that has occurred is random, nothing is outside of His personal view, nor is it outside of His personal will for your life. While God doesn’t owe us explanations, we must build and renew our thinking on the foundation that He is sovereign.

2. Meditate on the testimonies and truths in God’s word. Numerous godly men were stripped of their life’s strengths, familial standing, and provisions while at the ‘top of their game’. We often make quick and convenient connections in the lives of Biblical heroes – neglecting to meditate upon, for example, Joseph’s captivity as a slave, his years languishing in a dungeon. We believe spiritual exploits and victories but rarely consider the years of obscurity, loneliness, and ‘insignificance’. We are slow to imagine how Job prepared 10 funerals, clearing the rubble of his children’s home and cattle.

We read Revelation with awe, but what was John’s life like every day on the tiny barren island of Patmos? He had walked with the Son of God, witnessed miracles and partook in world evangelism. Overseeing the churches of Asia, John was a prominent elder, pouring into the foundations of Christian growth. Yet, aged and frail, he was exiled and stripped of familiar fellowship, position, and provisions – with untold sufferings – did his life shrink?

3. When life is shaken, don’t condemn yourself for bouts of depression, anxiety or panic attacks. We wouldn’t lecture a brother or sister suffering from cancer, neither should we lecture ourselves or others when struggling with emotional damage. Healing and deliverance can come instantaneously or can be upon a steady road, walking slowly alongside our Savior.  Resolve to DERAIL patterns of wrong thinking as the Lord brings revelation and renewal. Here is where emotional damage can lead to true spiritual growth.

4. Believe that the world sees suffering as misfortune, bad luck, victimization or bad karma but we, as believers can see suffering as separation unto God, allowed and/or brought about by God Himself.

5. Believe that we as Christians, may have consciously separated our thinking and values from those esteemed in the world but, in these last days, the Lord want to call out His remnant from world-like Christianity. The ‘happy clappy biblical coaching’ that masquerades as truth sets grooves of wrong thinking in our soul, building a perishable faith. God expressly calls us to ‘stand’ in these increasingly wicked last days. When God separates us for personal suffering it is refining fire but not futile fire. 

6. Believe and trust God for today and resist predicting what He will do tomorrow. God is absolutely not a formula God. What He specifically did for Moses, Paul, Ruth or the brother at church may not at all be His plans for us.

American Christianity rejects the truth that God can strip us and shrink us to prepare us for something so small, seemingly inconsequential, of no worldly value or importance. Rare is the sermon or even reference to verses such as Colossians 3:22, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything….with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.” God is not at all condoning slavery – regardless of race or national origin. However, Jesus did not come to abolish social order or establish prosperity. He came to ‘save His people from their sins’, a freedom won at great cost. He calls us to obey and flourish in Him regardless of our temporal worldly position or social standing, setting our eyes on eternity where God’s order and rewards are forever.

God’s appointed place for us while in this world may seem to diminish and suffer ruin but great loss lays bare the great need to find contentment and sufficiency in our Savior. Perhaps we will not proclaim great spiritual exploits, evangelize in exotic lands, win over death row inmates, or plant churches. Perhaps we are caring for a mentally or physically infirm spouse, a disabled elderly parent, or showing kindness to neighbors in crisis. Perhaps we are in a solitary place, called to intimate fellowship with the Lord at length and in depth.

As these last days rapidly downward spiral, those in Christ surely want to make a mark on this generation and touch lives for eternity, knowing the power of the Holy Spirit living in us and through us.  Yet still, the Potter decidedly smashes our life at times, ruining it to remake it. I pray that during seasons of smallness and disappointment we resist the temptation to compare our lives against others or measure ourselves with worldly values.  Regardless of our circumstance, may the Lord be enlarged and lifted up.

“Lord, open our eyes to Your ways. In whatever You deem right to take from our temporal lives, I pray that we find our contentment,healing and encouragement in You. May we surrender our lives to Your sovereignty and fulfill Your unchanging exhortation to “stand firm in the faith” and “stand firm to the end.” Help us to “set our hearts on things above” and “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things”, being obedient to Your call upon us today.”

This Should Encourage Us Greatly

Of the many things that I am not, a race runner would near the top. Out of total necessity I have, as a Parole Officer, run after absconders and now occasionally chase after city buses. However, more than once people have commented, “Have you ever seen yourself run? It’s so funny.”

Perhaps since I am no runner I can appreciate the difficulty in committing to an obstacle course, marathon, or triathlon. And, perhaps non-starters can imagine the deep despair upon a runner who is somehow disqualified or injured – unable to compete and finish the race. Likened to this, there are several scriptural references to “running the race”, our journey of faith through this world. Many are the Apostle Paul’s admonishments to run, “compete according to the rules” (II Timothy 2:5) to “finish the race” (Acts 20:24) not to “run in vain” (Galatians 2:2) but run for the “crown that lasts forever” (I Corinthians 9:24-25).

By far, the ‘triathlon’ of faith, hope, and love is the most difficult race any of us can run. While those training for a physical race hope to run in the peak of health, we who run this race of faith can only succeed in as far as we die to self.  We may be surprised by temptation and grieved at encounters of disappointment, tragedy, pain and even martyrdom. But the Lord assures us that victory is surely ours, He has run the race ahead of us and will be alongside of us the whole way.

Hebrews 12:1 declares that we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” and we are admonished to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” so that we may,

“…run with perseverance the race marked out for us”.

A runner must be confident of the race marked out before him, that the course is certainly mapped out,  that he, in no way,  runs blindly on an unmarked, uncharted, haphazard course.   Likewise, we must be secure that our spiritual race is “set”, “marked out”, and designed by a Sovereign God, a Heavenly Father who loves us. We must believe that God loves us as much as He loves Jesus, and with this trust proceed through difficult, at times confusing, and often painful times.   Why difficult, confusing and painful? It is the pathway of the cross.

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We don’t know what lies ahead but God does…He has it marked out to heaven. 

Tomorrow is known by God alone but the devil seeks to discourage us at every turn and harass us at every unknown corner…

“You will never make it!”
“That thing/person/circumstance will plague you the rest of your life!”
“You’ve failed too many times. You’re not even saved!”
“Look at what’s happening! Do you really believe that God loves you?”

Satan will ‘enlarge’ our perceived enemies, distort circumstances, and even misquote scripture to lead you into ‘quick sand’.  The devil’s lies have not changed neither has his treacherous aim to “steal, kill and destroy.” Moreover, the darkness grows thicker in these last days as man is given over to all kinds of debauchery and increasingly ‘Christians’ succumb and fall into apostasy. The path of our race can seem totally encumbered with heaviness, doubt, and fear…and loneliness.

Much anxiety comes from mapping out our own course, figuring out which way to go, even devising a contingency plan “just in case”. I pray we resist fleshly inclinations and set our minds upon…

The ‘cloud of witnesses’: Read and meditate upon the Biblical heroes who, in themselves were of no repute or strong standing but through faith made an eternal mark in God’s Kingdom. Consider the testimonies of many humble missionaries, pastors and martyrs who fulfilled their callings, finished their race, by living a supernatural life through the promises of God.

The living Word of God: We need to study more than ever and learn to meditate upon the truths to allow God’s Word to be pressed in and rooted in our hearts. Once rooted, I pray we call upon those truths to combat the lies of demons, the fears within us, and the seemingly unsurpassable obstacles laid upon our path. We must know this “two edged sword” in order to wield it and gain the victory.

The Holy Spirit: Jesus sends us the Counselor, the Spirit of truth and states that, “you know Him for He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16&17) The indwelling Holy Spirit of God makes us Christ’s Body in this world, enabling God to work in us and through us as we obey His Word and surrender to His leadership.

Our race is marked out – every runner and contender should find great security in that. God is in full control of the course and every event encountered. Like the cloud of witnesses, we may run into grief and confusion. Like godly men and women from Genesis to present day, we may be slandered, wrongly punished, misunderstood and betrayed. But like our forefathers and brethren before us, we must commit to press on, delving deeper into God’s Word and declaring it inwardly and outwardly. To ‘carry our cross daily’ means to decidedly surrender to the Lord and trust His leadership through the race He has preordained for us…

“The steps of a righteous man are ordered by God.” (Psalm 37:23)

The Miracle We All Need

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Matt 14:25)

For most of us landlubbers, the thought of walking on water – as miraculous as it is – may not seem to be the most sought after experience. Surely we would aspire to have ‘healing hands’ to relieve the suffering of ailments and disease. Who wouldn’t want, even once, the miraculous power to multiply food and feed thousands of hungry folks?

In his teaching series, “All That Jesus Taught” Zac Poonen, overseer of Christian Fellowship Church in Bangalore, explores the teaching of Christ through the four Gospels. Beyond what the Lord said, there is great lessons to savor in what He did. Brother Zac aptly demonstrates that “every miracle is a parable” and as such there are unseen depths to discover. In this passage, expounds Brother Zac, Jesus compelled His disciples to get into the boat and sail onward to the other side, evident from the wordage that the disciples were reluctant – they really didn’t want to go. Did they have weather indications? Were they exhausted from the day’s events? In any case, “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat”. At the fourth watch, between 3 and 6am, after a time of sequestered prayer with His Father, Jesus walked out to their boat as they struggled and strained through the storm.

‘Walking on the water’ proclaimed Jesus’ power over the laws of nature. More than that however, it is a powerful pictorial of Christ’s power over man’s sinful nature. While we are powerless over the law of sin which reins over us, Jesus demonstrates that He overcomes the laws of nature and we also, as His followers can overcome. “The law of gravity is like the law of sin” expounds Brother Zac, “it pulls us down in every way, every moment”.

There is much more though. Jesus didn’t just appear at their boat, He walked a considerable distance from the shore, on the water in the dark through the storm.  We must believe that where the Lord sends us – where He assigns us – He also comes to us with enabling power. Moreover,  He has the authority to defy the storm and the darkness, bestowing that authority upon His followers that we may also ‘walk upon the storm’ and see our way through the darkness.

He bids us, “Come”, walk the distance with Me through storms of anxiety and fear – when tribulations, betrayals, and tragedies threaten to overturn and destroy your life. If your life is in His hands, He may well have put you in that ‘boat’ and if so – He will without doubt be there to walk you over every upheaval. (However, if you put yourself in a boat, set yourself assail outside the will of God, you may find yourself rowing alone with increasing futility until you repent and turn around)

Two types of believers are in this boat. While all are ‘terrified’, one moves forward with boldness toward Christ while the others remain in the boat. We are no different. There are times we move boldly toward the Lord and His high call and other times we stay firmly planted in the boat, waiting out the storm. But note: Jesus brought all the disciples safely to the other side.

If we are obedient, allowing Jesus to compel us where we may not want to go, we will see His power and presence revealed in greater measure. Half steppers and carnal Christians miss the supernatural. The appointed storm is Christ’s classroom and He is in full control. His call has not changed, “Come” and “Follow me”. Some of us in that storm rowing and rowing, tossing and turning, already at the fourth watch, have lost sight of Jesus, “It’s too dark… I can’t see my way through this!” “When will this ever end?” 

Our Savior however, never loses sight of us.  

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Sometimes the inner storm is worse than outer weather – bring the Word into your boat and let Christ lead you out…

The supernatural power to walk upon the waters in the storm comes forth through the power of His Word as He speaks it to us. Peter walked with God incarnate, we have His living Word in entirety. While our flesh wants to keep rowing, keep crying, or just give up, the Lord’s simple call is “Come”. It is imperative to hear the Lord’s supernatural call, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow Me.”

Where Jesus walks is not ordinary ground. It is not a smooth way but hard and narrow. The weather conditions may be terrifying. Those in Christ ALL get to the other side, some stumbling out of the boat clutching oars, others walking behind the Lord with victorious testimony drawing others. While I may prefer to “stay in the boat” with covers pulled up over my head, I pray for the boldness to step out and trust in God’s promises…

“Lord, I pray for all of us who need clear direction and light – help us to see a way out after we’ve rowed and rowed, tossed and turned. Lead us into Your powerful, living Word and open our hearts to the truth. Push back the harassment of anxious and fearful thoughts – bits of truth entangled with threats and lies. I pray for boldness in these last days, raise us above the crossfire and breathe your peace upon us. As we open Your Word, give us patience to seek You and hear from You. Lead us to that higher ground where we may walk on the water, supernaturally above all fear, anxiety, wounds and loss. Order our steps… lead us through to the other side. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Victory Over Witchcraft

“But woe to the earth and the sea because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Revelation 12:12

Every manifestation of demonic power such as Wicca, Santeria, Obeah, Voodoo, Hoodoo or Macumba is subject to the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Many believers assume that they are immune to the supernatural powers invoked by participants in various forms of sorcery. Witchcraft, however, can cause damage in our lives through two separate avenues:

1.  We may open the door to demonic presence through sin. While the Holy Spirit will warn believers again and again, the Christian who neglects these warnings and proceeds into sinful behavior such as adultery, deception, idolatry, greed and other offenses against God will find strategic doors open to demonic influence. How many men or women have fallen to adultery with someone involved with witchcraft?

If Satan is full of fury and with very little time and he is powerful, deceptive, and cunning, won’t he utilize every opportunity and every emissary to entice, trap, engross and destroy? He is not complacent but works “day and night” assessing each saint of God to determine weakness, open wounds, or vulnerable areas for temptation. The Apostle Paul was “aware of Satan’s schemes” but many Christians are not. Alluring participants of witchcraft strategically destroy marriages, homes, and church leadership. To turn from the Lord, to neglect His warnings, and partake in sin opens dark doors that only Christ can shut. True repentance brings restoration but there may be damage and suffering. There is always consequence to sin. Painfully, God can also use enemies to chastise us.

2.   Secondly, the Lord Himself may allow demonic influence to impinge upon our lives. However traumatic and confusing at the time, it is the Lord who is in full control. It is the Lord who measures out the fire and with great purpose. Biblical accounts include the satanic assaults upon Job, the messenger of Satan tormenting Paul and the harassment of Satan upon Jesus in the wilderness. The Word of God is replete with spiritual battles, wars and schemes as dark powers undergird, incite, and target attacks against the people of God. Jesus did not insulate Himself from Satan’s schemes but walked in perfect power to overcome them. At times He allows the devil to touch our lives so we may walk as He did – not in the natural, depending on and engaged with the world – but in the supernatural, depending on God. Demonic attacks should launch us to the Savior’s side, draw us deep into His Word and compel us to trust in His overcoming power. It is God’s will that we spiritually mature through the battle and endure refinement through fire to prepare us as useful vessels for His kingdom.

Many Christians are alive to the world but asleep to the Kingdom of God. Lukewarm and thus useless, God often uses pain to quicken and awaken them, to stand strong against powers and rulers of darkness,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Ephesians 6:10-18 has sadly become almost cliché. This is not a spiritual mantra, it is powerful war cry against the “Amalekites” the “Philistines” against the wiles of demonic powers that come to ruin us today. Against such the Lord does not give us incantations, spells, or rituals…He gives us His authority!

Satan himself does not need spells, incantations or rituals to inflict personal harm, mental anguish, injury, confusion, fear and anxiety. However, luring and engaging people into witchcraft provides emissaries to broaden and personalize his assaults. The power comes wrapped in pure hatred, knowing that those who partake in his evil will share in his eternal condemnation. Foolishly, man believes he is using powers when in fact the powers are using him.

Every battle and cunning scheme we could possibly face is personified in the Word of God. Our measure of victory lies in this one strategy: total alignment and dependence upon God Almighty. As soldiers train before combat, we too must ground ourselves in God’s Word, “living and active, sharper than any two edged sword” to be armed and shielded when the enemy attacks. Our power, our foothold in the trenches, depends upon the authority we weld and grasp through God’s Word. We must recognize the voice of the Lord and discern His will in the battle.

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

Overcoming strength comes as we determine to shut in with Him and His Word without restraint…search and study the scriptures prayerfully until, like Living Water, they speak into our heart…listen to the Lord’s direction…commit as He leads to ‘late night’ even ‘all night’ prayer. Fast. Pray for partners to join in. Avail ourselves to powerful messages by godly pastors who know victory through fiery trials….determine to praise and worship Him before the victory is revealed.

Christ died to set us free. He ‘disarmed the powers of darkness and made a public spectacle of them’. Brothers and sisters, we are loved by God. God is for us. But anyone who “practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, casts spells, anyone who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead” is detestable to the Lord. (Deuteronomy 18:10-11). Pity the one positioned against Christ’s Body, of whom God declares, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”.

We are in those “terrible times” described in II Timothy 3, the ‘last days’ before Christ’s return as Judge. Ruthless and heartless, treacherous and brutal, men will seek outlets of power in their rebellion to God. They find that source through witchcraft in its many forms, mainstreamed through culture, religion, and entertainment. It appeals to man’s most deadly lust – the prideful lust for power and control.

We are not immune to demonic assaults but we must resolve to trust our Lord as Defender and Commander over the battle. As we surrender to Jesus Christ, He girds us in His living Word and reveals more of Himself and His power, enabling us as His witnesses in this dark world.

“Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” (Isaiah 48:23)

 

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“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  Jesus Christ

 

(Do not be alone in your struggle. Reach out to believers even join in prayer meetings online such as http://www.tscnyc.org Tuesday nights, 7pm, EST. Submit prayer requests online or through text message.)

Break Out of False Guilt

True Guilt: a God given vital catalyst for change, a turning point for freedom when “godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret”. True guilt is purposeful conviction for a yielded heart. The conscience that seeks deliverance or the believer that seeks restoration finds forgiveness in a loving Savior.
False guilt greatly differs from true guilt. It is a snare for the believer, without purpose nor possibility of freedom through repentance. False guilt charges a believer with undue responsibility for a situation or condition upon himself or others. When ‘strong suggestions’ find the weak link of our conscience, seeds of false guilt can grow into a harassing stronghold. The devil furnishes a miry quagmire. No one has a greater vested interest in disabling you and no one works harder to do it,

“…the accuser of our brethren, who accuses them before our God day and night…”

While the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to bring conviction leading to repentance, false guilt often intertwines Biblical principles into situations for condemnation, leading to confusion. Jesus said, “Love your enemies” however we do so under His guidance, with His wisdom and His preparation of heart.  “Love your enemies” but don’t open your door to the devil. The devil can quote scripture far better than us and with crafty motives, often to accuse and harass, finding the weak link of your mind and heart….

“Supervisor X has done you a lot of harm, he is malicious and vindictive. While he hasn’t changed, you have fought the spiritual battle and forgiven him. He has slandered you now and you have the opportunity to press charges and/or transfer to another area. “If I’m a Christian should I stay under Mr. X and show him love, “love your enemies”? Is it not unloving to file a complaint and transfer? The daily anxiety of working with him is crushing me…..but I must love my enemies…” Substitute ‘supervisor X’ with toxic relatives.

You and husband Bill have a heated argument. Bill leaves home in a huff, drives off in his car and is met with an accident, fracturing his neck. Now hospitalized and in great pain, you realize that it is YOUR fault…if only you had ‘submitted to your husband’ there would be no argument, there would have been no accident…..your fault….why didn’t you just submit to him, even though he was wrong? “Wives submit to your husbands….submit to your husbands in everything” if he loses his job due to this injury, it’s YOUR fault….

You and your wife take an extra day off for a spontaneous weekend away….when you arrive you get a phone call that your mother had a heart attack…you try to re-route back, is it too late? Did you REALLY pray before making these getaway plans? James 4:13-15…we shouldn’t even go to the next town without consulting the Lord. “I should have known, Mom didn’t look so good last time I saw her…I should have prayed before making these plans, my ‘life is not my own’….if she dies before I get there it’s MY fault, I’m not there at her moment of need….can’t even say good-bye….”

 

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“I should have…I shouldn’t have…It’s my fault…I should have known…”

Enough!
The devil knows how to tailor a fitting temptation and trap. If he cannot lure us into destructive sin, he devises schemes to impede our walk, rob our joy, and oppress our testimony to others.  He will contort the truth and embellish culpability to ensnare us with false guilt. The focus on ‘self’ always diminishes the the trustworthiness and sovereignty of God.

Dan Vander Lugt aptly states, “False guilt cannot be neutralized by confession.” The devil’s accusations are “often vague, indefinite, and persistent…They throb like a spiritual migraine”. Pointedly he adds, “Satan delights in our anxiety and fear.”

Lord, I pray, let us untangle the tethers of false guilt and move forward into emotional freedom!

The only answer to onslaughts of darkness is exposing them to the light. Like destructive mold, the devil’s wiles grow best with time in sequestered darkness.  Unfettered, reserved time of prayer brings the battle into the Lord’s presence for victory…

1.  Speak the ‘accusations’ out loud to the Lord, even present your ‘evidence’ of guilt. Let the Holy Spirit unravel the poorly connected dots that hold the case against you. Wait upon the Lord with the assurance that: He wants to set you free from any entanglement. Refresh yourself with the fundamentals of ‘sin’, such as the Ten Commandments. Say aloud, “I am guilty of….” What? And the evidence for this sin is, what?
2,  Pray aloud about that issue for which you ‘are responsible’, that calamity, that tragedy, that broken relationship. “Lord, it’s my fault this happened, and this is the evidence why…” Wait upon the Lord, let Him speak into the miry details as you present them to Him. Let the Truth take the flame out of fiery accusations.
3.  Spend time in the unchanging, living Word of God. Refresh yourself with God’s conviction of sin for His followers, chosen ones such as David, King Saul, and even all Israel – the Lord addressed their sins specifically, seeking repentance. God never casts a vague dark cloud of innuendos and condemnation. We must increasingly grow in our knowledge of God’s character and ways to better discern what is spoken in our hearts and the source.
4.  Unfold and expose your dark thoughts and accusations to a strong believer. Let them reflect the truth of God’s word in counsel. Wise counsel from a godly vessel can set you free with few words, “You have nothing to be guilty about!”

Jesus paid a high price for our freedom from sin and condemnation. “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1) The devil works hard to rob us of this freedom by tempting us with sin, harassing us with old sins, and concocting emotional webs of false guilt. But, in the courtroom of accusations and condemnations, we have a mighty and all-knowing Counselor.  The Holy Spirit is with us in every battle and every argument that besets us.  His victories bring us closer to the Lord, making us useful vessels for service.

Lord, let this be our testimony….

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“We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.  Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 124

(photo: Micea Cotina/Rex Features)