No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Spiritual Kryptonite

imagesSuperman is an iconic and enduring image of strength in our Western culture and around the world.  We know about Metropolis, Clark Kent, the phone booth, Lois Lane, and Superman’s arch nemesis Lex Luther.  We also know there is nothing that could take Superman down, except for one glowing green gem called kryptonite from his home planet of Krypton.  In the presence of kryptonite, the man of steel became mortal, weak, confused, and subject to attack and ultimate defeat. 

Believers and Christian leaders too have a kryptonite from our home planet that works the same, draining us of life, joy, peace, and victory.  Our kryptonite, however, is more of the carbon based variety than some precious element.  The kryptonite our arch enemy uses to defeat us is people.  You see, animals don’t offend us, the oceans, forests, mountain ranges, and skies don’t offend us.  People offend us. 

Sooner or later we all have our own encounters with kryptonite.  Sooner or later we all have our stories of spending years investing in people only to have them turn on us, bending over backwards to make sure a family in need is taken care of only to get mad at you for some unspoken reason, experiencing disappointment in some bold endeavor, trusting a good friend only to find out the friend is one of your biggest critics, making great sacrifices with little to no appreciation, watching church members get in conflict with one another and take it out on the entire church, experiencing a crushing loss in life or ministry, or navigating the sting of a Judas kiss from a coworker or staff member. How we respond to the these kryptonite encounters determines whether we will reach our destiny or fold under the hurt, betrayal, and cynicism.  

I know what that’s like after nearly 30 years of ministry service.  Ministry does not exempt a person from kryptonite.  On the contrary, ministry just gives the minister more exposure to kryptonite – more opportunities to get offended.  One pastor I served slammed his hand in anger against his canoe during and outing breaking his hand and then blaming me for the injury.  Another church leader invited us to serve as his associate pastor, promised that we would soon transition into the lead role at the church, and then weeks later informed the people, after we had moved across the country, that he would have to let us go if the money did not start coming in.  My home church voted me down as their pastor, twice, after a spurious search process that included drawing names out of hat (no, I’m not joking), putting my name back into the hat, realizing the other man wasn’t going to come, and finally submitting my ministry to the church for a vote.  Rejected and dejected, we walked back into the church to face the people with a warning from the loving Holy Spirit: “Be very careful what you say next, for what you say will impact your destiny and their future.”  It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to it that matters in life and ministry.

In each situation, and countless other encounters with kryptonite through the years, I had to make a decision whether to let it poison me or move forward trusting God.  Our failure to perceive what the enemy is actually trying to do with the kryptonite of people is his greatest weapon.  Paul admonished Timothy to stay out of strife with people because strife is the doorway to becoming captive to the devil to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24).  Imagine claiming Christ and yet living your life as a tool for Satan.  If we go through things without letting that kryptonite get inside of us and affect us, the devil cannot have his way with us.

Psalm 55 provides special insight for identifying kryptonite and overcoming its power in your life.  The Psalmist cried out to the Lord for help saying, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught.”  When we are distraught we are deeply agitated, upset, unable to think or behave normally, and extremely distracted.  In reality, however, the Psalmist was distraught and close to imploding from the kryptonite because he was thinking about all the things people were saying about him, all the things people were thinking about him, and all the things people were doing to him.  There’s nothing we can do about what people say, think, or do, but we have the power to choose not to think about it. “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).  The key to defeating the kryptonite is to not even touch what THEY are saying, thinking, or doing with your thoughts.

I heard a preacher once tell the story of a jet airliner beginning to make its initial decent.  As it flew below 10,000 feet, the electronic and communication systems began to go haywire. After aborting and pulling back up to 20,000 feet the systems became normal.  After flying back down and pulling up several times with the same results, the co-pilot went below to find out what was happening.  He discovered there were rats chewing on the power conduits.  At the higher altitude the rats couldn’t function, but at lower altitudes the rats would come to and begin chewing on the cords disrupting the systems of the aircraft. 

As believers, God has called us to a SUPER life, but if we choose to live at the lower altitudes of hurt, offense, and bitterness, we will be short-circuited and defeated every time.  We need to habitually live at the higher altitudes where the kryptonite infested rats can’t affect us.  Our spiritual altitude is set by our time in prayer, time in the Word, and practically by what we choose to think about.  “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8, NLT).  Our lives tend to go in the direction of our most dominant thoughts. Whenever you are given an opportunity to get offended with people just tell yourself it’s kryptonite, and then choose to go up even higher where the rats can’t play in your head.

The Accumulation Effect

20130325-192332.jpgLike many in my generation, I grew up watching the animated antics of the likes of Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye. I particularly enjoyed that predictable moment when Popeye, just before pulling out the famous strength-inducing spinach, would exclaim, “I’ve had all I can stand, and I can’t stands no more!”

Most of us can relate to that level of frustration when it seems things have reached a tipping point and the next person adding their two cents is likely to feel the force of Popeye’s might. In reality we simply don’t get to that place overnight. Peace-stealing frustration, instead, is the result of issues, mistakes, problems, slights, misunderstandings, and pressures that accumulate over time without processing them spiritually in a timely manner.

Think about it this way. Do contractors build a roof on a house in Colorado the same way one would be built in Florida? Obviously the force of snow on the roof in Colorado demands a design and structure capable of handling severe winter weather not experienced in a warm climate. Like that hypothetical roof, our lives spiritually require reinforcement before the snows of life begin to fall and accumulate on the roof of our hearts. Like the overburdened roof, our hearts collect wounds, hurts, disappointments, and stresses over time that demand that  (1) we strengthen ourselves from the inside, and (2) we regularly clear our hearts of those things that harden or cause our hearts to grow cold.

Remember the principle of the accumulation effect. The roof does not collapse and our hearts do not implode from the first dusting of snow or life challenges. The structure is compromised from the accumulation of weight over time. Implosion is a gradual process. Let me encourage you to inspect your heart daily and remove every weight, burden, or sin through the receiving and giving of forgiveness.

Tomb Dwellers

imagesThere is no question that our culture today is fascinated – no obsessed with death and the symbols of death. Interest and viewership in death-based themed movies and television programs are at an all time high. Shows about witches, vampires, werewolves, and zombies fill the airwaves and theaters all over the nation. This death culture, unbeknownst to most who expose themselves to it, brings with it all kinds of demonic activity and strongholds. You cannot abide in the darkness without being assaulted by those that lurk there. It is striking that millions upon millions would rather hang around the tombs of the dead rather than enjoying the abundant life Jesus offers and promises in his word.

The Bible speaks of a demon possessed man Jesus encountered and then set free from his bondage. Notice the similarities between this man and so many in our culture today. First, he literally lived in the tombs among the dead. When you hang around death, death is going to manifest in your life. Second, he was known for violent fits and then at the same time had periods where he seemed to have it all together. What people today may write off as an explosive temper or life-controlling moodiness is often a manifestation of demonic activity in a person’s life. Third, like some in our society today, he was known to cut himself and mutilate his own flesh. The influence of death all around him egged him on (and the enemy does with so many young people today) towards self-destructive behavior. Fourth, even though he was able to snap chains holding him fast, he still walked around with the cuffs and leggings of a person in bondage. Jesus came to break every chain off of our lives but all you have to do is listen carefully and you will hear the sound of clanking iron all around in you world. Finally, this man moved more and more towards isolation. When you see people withdrawing from family and friends and avoiding human interaction and fellowship, you can know that the enemy is at work in their life trying to isolate them with that death spirit and influence.

Let me encourage you to identify the influences of the death culture in your life so that you can stop dwelling around the tombs and start living the abundant life Jesus desires you to live. First, identify the death communications in your life such as words and thoughts that are negative, destructive, and self-defeating. Your life will go in the direction of your most dominant thoughts and words and if your most dominant thoughts and words are saturated with death, negative and destructive things will manifest in your life. It’s amazing how many of our colloquial phrases are filled with death references. Life and death are literally in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Second, remove all death seductions from your life such as hidden or secret desires, behaviors, practices, or habits that are impure and unholy. The best thing you can do is to expose those in your life and judge them as inappropriate for the believer. You cannot indulge in such conduct without being seduced (gradually drawn away from godly behavior and devotion) by that death influence. Third, be aware of any death attractions in your life such as media, television, movies, books, music that glorify death, spiritism, fear, or the paranormal. You may view this as harmless entertainment but in reality these attractions are an open door for oppression and destruction in your life. Instead of allowing death inputs into your eyes and ears, choose to look and listen to those things that are of life and bring life. Finally, decide to withdraw from any death associations. These are people who are dead spiritually and tend to pull you down (even if you had the noble goal of bringing them up). While you should reach out to the lost, you cannot have close, intimate  friendships with people who are lukewarm or dead spiritually (and for sure should not marry such a person). Don’t assume because someone says they are a Christian or because they go to church that they are sufficiently alive spiritually to have great access in your life (as Corrie ten Boom often said, “just because there’s a mouse in the cookie jar doesn’t mean they are a cookie”).

Just like the demoniac in the Scriptures, the Lord delights in setting his people free from every bondage and every chain. If you have allowed death communications, death seductions, death attractions, or death associations in your life, repent now and ask the Lord for his deliverance, protection, and preservation. You do not have to be possessed to be demonized or oppressed by the enemy. You may have opened the door to oppression by “hanging around the tombs” but you do not have to stay there. Get up and get back into God’s Word and presence. Jesus came that you might have life and that life is found in His Word and in His Spirit.

Resistance Is Not Futile

Borg 1If you’ve been exposed at all to the television or movie versions of the Star Trek productions you have become very familiar with the strange world of the part human, part machine colony of the Borg. Their ultimate goal is in assimilating others to be exactly just like them. The famous declaration of the Borg when challenged is to say, “resistance is futile.” This is exactly how the enemy works against the believer. He knows that if we resist him, he has to flee (James 4:7). Actually resistance is not futile – it’s the key to overcoming the devil every time.

The ultimate goal of the devil, then, is to get us into a position of non-resistance to his influence, his negativity, and his accusations. We all know that the greater one lives inside of us but if we, in the heat of battle, begin to stop resisting, we will be defeated every time. Because we are born of God, we have through faith everything we need to overcome this world because the victory that overcomes this world is our faith (1 John 5:4-5). But the key is to stand in this revelation and truth against the influence of the enemy and the circumstances in our lives that are running contrary to the Word of God. Even though we ARE overcomers, we can be overcome if we falter when it comes to resisting those things that Jesus died to redeem us from.

There are many things that subtly but effectively steer the believer towards non-resistance such as spiritual laziness (the lack of discipline to continue in prayer, worship, and Bible study), weariness (the effect of long protracted battles where one literally gets tired of fighting), and emptiness (we give everything we have in service scraping the bottom of the barrel instead of keeping the barrel full and giving out from the top). The more lazy, weary, or empty we become the less likely we are to stand and resist the enemy. The more non-resistant we become to the activity and agenda of the enemy, the more defeated we become. We have been redeemed from the curse according to Galatians 3:14, but the curse will still prevail and advance in our lives in an atmosphere of non-resistance. 

The reason for this is we are defeated by whatever we yield to in life (give up to, surrender to, relinquish to). According to James 4:7 we are to resist (withstand, strive against, oppose) the devil and his thoughts, but unfortunately, many believers forget about the first part of that verse that commands us first to submit to God. We cannot effectively resist the devil while we are actively resisting God. Make sure you eliminate every single area of non-compliance with God and His Word in your life if you want to see the devil flee. The other critical factor, according to 1 Peter 5:9, is the quality and level of our faith. We are told to resist him (the devil) steadfast in the faith. The quality and level of our faith determines our capacity and readiness to resist and continue resisting. The key to raising both the quality and the level of our faith is always more time in the Word because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17).

I love the story of Jehoshaphat in the Bible when he was facing an insurmountable alliance and attack of enemy forces in 2 Chronicles 20. His example shows us how to resist the enemy while under pressure. First, he immediately went to the Lord in prayer. Unfortunately, many believers today try everything else under the sun and only after every single other option has been exhausted without results, they turn to the Lord in prayer. It reminds me of what Winston Churchill said of Americans in light of World War II. He said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” Christians are a lot like that today, but prayer should be our FIRST resort not our last resort. Second, he gave his ear to the prophetic word of God. In this case, the Lord raised up a prophet in their midst to declare that the battle was the Lord’s and that they were to stand and in standing (resisting) they would see the victory. We may not all have a specific prophetic word in our situation, but we have something more sure and certain, the Word of God (2 Peter 1:19). Like the people in Jehoshaphat’s day, we need to believe the Word and in doing so we will be victorious. Finally, he released his people to sing and praise God in the midst of the battle. In fact, the singers and praisers were placed at the head of the army without weapons. In the natural this does not seem like a very good strategy for winning a war. In fact, it sounds like a recipe to lose any element of surprise and to precipitate a massacre. But the weapons we fight with are not carnal – they are mighty (2 Corinthians 10:4). Praise, in fact, is a supernatural weapon of our warfare that literally silences the foe and the avenger (Psalm 8:1-2). This actually brought confusion to the enemy’s camp and their ultimate defeat.

The enemy may try to tell you that it is futile to resist him, but according to the Word we know that if we will submit to God and stay strong in faith we will abide in a position of resistance to the enemy and in doing so he will have to flee. If you are feeling lazy, weary, or empty, get busy right now building up your resistance capacity by spending time in God’s Word and presence. Like Jehoshaphat, you too can believe God’s Word, stand, and watch the defeat of the enemy in your life.

Don’t Pull the Pin, Part 3

My spirit was deeply stirred when I first heard the vision given by a Hope Harbor Church staff member regarding the grenades of deception, distraction, and dis-ease the enemy has been hurling at Christians hoping that they will pick them up, pull the pin, and set off a chain reaction of devastation in their lives. As a pastor I see many believers today pulling the pin rather than ignoring the efforts of the enemy to steal the abundant and victorious life God has for them. The blog series, Don’t Pull the Pin, is designed to help you understand the nature of the grenades and how to overcome the temptation to act on those devices or schemes. 

In today’s blog I want to discuss the grenade of distraction. Unlike deception which is designed to outright deceive the believer into wrong decisions and behavior, the grenade of distraction is designed to steal and disrupt our focus, concentration, diligence, and follow through so that we are fruitless, frustrated, and defeated believers. Distraction literally means to divide the mind or the attention, to block concentration through amusement, entertainment, or diversion. We have all seen the carnage caused these days by drivers on the road distracted by loud music, passengers, eating or drinking, or texting. Our lives face disruption or destruction as well when we are distracted from a holy concentration on the priorities of God. Too often, our breakthroughs are delayed not by God’s will, but because we did not stay focused or single-minded long enough to get the job done.

We are all subject to loss when we allow ourselves to be distracted by the enemy. We lose opportunities when we are not focused. We lose revelations when we are not focused. We miss vital signals from the Lord when we are distracted. Many believers have made enormous mistakes just because they could not pick up the still small voice warning them about the direction they were headed or the choices they were making. We miss deadlines and fail to complete vital tasks when we are not focused. We compromise our very destiny when we are not focused. The amazing plans God has for our lives will never materialize if we can’t stay focused long enough to pursue those plans. We lose a measure of effectiveness when we are not focused. We all know how hard it is to do something with excellence while being interrupted repeatedly. We miss divine appointments for our lives when we are not focused. The Lord has ordained a series of divine appointments along our path that are designed to make a huge impact and difference in our lives but too often we are distracted or apathetic and miss out on a life-changing encounter. Finally, we fail to complete our objectives when war are not focused. Life becomes a series of half-hearted efforts and half-completed projects. We could become great but we never seem to be able to finish anything.

If you desire to overcome the grenade of distraction and stay focused and productive in your Christian life there are some things you must do. First, make Jesus the clear focus of your life. This one quality decision made daily will keep the rest of your life vision clear and in balance. Second, focus on the unseen realm. For the believer, the seen realm is not the ultimate authority in life. You may see and hear things in the natural realm that demand your attention but you do not have to give in to them. Third focus on God’s instruction. Keeping God’s Word in our eyes, ears, and hearts will help keep us focused on what really matters. Fourth, focus on right thinking. When we think right our vision is right. Blurry spiritual vision is often the result of fuzzy and unscriptural thinking. Finally, focus on heavenly things rather than temporal or carnal things. Carnal Christians tend to be undisciplined and unfocused in their lives and their efforts are constantly sidetracked by the appetites and screaming of the flesh to be catered to or fed.

The next time the enemy tosses the grenade of distraction your way, have the wisdom to stay focused on the things of God instead. We all have too much to do in the Kingdom of God to be distracted even momentarily from our high call and destiny. When you see that grenade flying through the air just turn your attention to the voice of the Word of God and the Spirit of God and make up your mind that you are not going to be distracted from God’s best for your life.  

Don’t Pull the Pin, Part 2

In an earlier post I mentioned the short but powerful vision one of our HHC staff members had one morning on the way to a prayer meeting. The individual saw the enemy tossing grenades at believers and then standing back to watch how those believers would react. Would they ignore the attack and ignore the grenade or would their attention be arrested and would they pull the pin? The key to understanding the vision is to realize that the enemy would not be able to cause destruction or devastation without the help or cooperation of the believer. Veterans who have handled actual live grenades know that the pins do not come out without some deliberate force. There simply would be no explosion without believers exerting some effort to pull the pins on the grenades.

Three of the most common grenades are deception (loss of truth), distraction (loss of focus), and dis-ease (loss of peace). The enemy is very proficient at creating tailor-made or custom-made assignments or grenades designed to entice us to react inappropriately and cause our own demise. One of the wisest pastors I’ve ever known used to say repeatedly, “It’s not what happens in life that does all the damage. It’s how we react that does all the damage.” It is vital during this hour of intense spiritual warfare and encroaching darkness that we discern the devil’s efforts and make up our minds that we are not going to pull the pin on his grenade no matter what. If we go ahead and pull the pin on the devil’s devices or schemes we will certainly take ourselves out of God’s plan and off our path, we will lead others astray and destroy others with the impact, and we will model wrong behavior under pressure.

In today’s blog I want to discuss the grenade of deception. The enemy is skilled in the art of seduction or the gradual moving of a believer from right conduct, right believing, and right devotion. Coupled with the process of seduction, the enemy, the father of lies, unleashes an array of lying spirits to distort our perception and attempt to entice us to believe a lie. This grenade is particularly effective even among the most seasoned of believers. The enemy’s goal with the deception is to convince believers of some untruth in an all out effort to redirect their lives. The distortion of the truth is just a tool for his greater goal of diverting us from God’s best. Deception, time and time again, is the devil’s choice weapon to accomplish his agenda of stealing, killing, and destroying.

The following “recipe for deception” will help you guard and protect your mind and heart from the schemes of the enemy. The first ingredient is to induce weariness in the heart and life of the believer. If we would learn to wait on the Lord for restoration instead of scurrying around trying to fix everything ourselves we could head of deception immediately. Next, the enemy adds a dash of pressure such as strife, responsibility, or financial challenges. Instead of casting our cares upon the Lord we try to bear up under the pressure as if that was some kind of believer’s badge of courage. The enemy will then add to the pressure a few setbacks, disappointments, or failures and we begin to think about throwing in the towel. At this point we are becoming more susceptible to deception. Next the enemy will fold in a few interpersonal issues and our thinking and behavior becomes more and more reactionary, a quality the enemy depends upon to get us to pull the pin. Finally, he inserts a lie or two and in many cases, the believer will buy the lie, and react in a destructive manner.

During this spiritually volatile time we need to be aware of how the enemy predisposes and prepares us to accept the lie as truth and then induces us to react in such a way that we bring devastation and destruction into our own lives. Remember to wait upon the Lord, roll the cares of life over on the Lord, realize that failing does not make you a failure, walk in love with people at all times, and measure everything you hear against the Word of God. Remember that without your cooperation – unless you pull the pin, the grenade of deception will not explode and damage your life and the lives of those around you.

Don’t Pull the Pin

Recently a staff member at Hope Harbor Church had a short vision from the Lord regarding the warfare currently being waged against believers in the body of Christ. The picture she saw was of the enemy throwing grenades in the direction of Christians and then just sitting back to see what the believer would do. In other words, there was no explosion and would not be until and unless the believer pulled the pin. 

The key to this vision is the realization that the enemy cannot take out the believer without his or her cooperation. A military veteran recently asked me if I had ever held a military issue hand grenade or tried to pull out the pin (I had not). His point was that it is not easy to pull the pin and arm the grenade. He said the movie image of a he-man pulling the pin out with his teeth is fictitious. In reality it takes deliberate force to remove the pin (for obvious) reasons. The enemy needs us to pull the pin on the grenade that is at our feet. The damage then comes not because the grenade was lobbed our way but because we picked up the grenade and then pulled the pin.

The grenades being thrown at the believer include the deception of the enemy, distraction, and what I call dis-ease or a reduction in the peace or wholeness of God in our lives. The idea of the enemy is to get us to pull the pin by acting on the deception, distraction, or dis-ease. It is when we act on these that the real damage is done.

It is important to understand that the enemy has schemes, devices, tricks, and intrigues (Ephesians 6:10-12) uniquely and specifically designed to take us down as individual believers. These tailor-made or custom-made attacks are only effective if we react inappropriately to them. He may know how to pull our chains but he cannot force us to pull the pins on those custom attacks or grenades currently be thrown at us.

In coming posts I will be discussing each of the three grenades (deception, distraction, and dis-ease) in detail to explain to you how they work, what they are designed to do in your life, and how to defeat them every time. For now, remember that the enemy must have your cooperation and effort if the pin is ever to be pulled. Just don’t give him the satisfaction.

Serious Christians

It should be no surprise to any believer who desires to go beyond the religious, superficial, or ornamental variety of Christianity that there will be a significant push back from the enemy. Paul warned Timothy (3:10-17) that everyone desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus would be persecuted (opposed, hindered, maligned, attacked). It’s common sense. As long as we are spectators sitting in the stands of some football game, we are never going to be subject to the bumps and bruises of those on the field actually playing the game. It’s the same way in the life of the serious believer. When we come off the bench of apathy, lethargy, indifference, and sloth and actually engage Christianity the way God intended it to be lived out, we become a greater threat to the enemy and with every step we advance, Satan is there ready to turn up the heat to steal our hope, dream, vision, blessing, development, and destiny.

Hebrews 10:35-39 exhorts us to hold on to our faith because it will be richly rewarded if we do not faint, quit, or give up. The pressure of the enemy in the life of a serious Christian is designed to push us off the Word and away from the promises. But we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11) and we can push back by first submitting to God and then resisting the devil (James 4:7). If we do, we are assured that the enemy will flee. We should not, however, ignorantly believe that he will never return to try his old tricks on us again. If you think you are being picked on by the enemy (and he does use people to do it), you are not paranoid or imagining things. The enemy is coming after you to shut you down.

The bottom line is that as we progress from nominal Christian to authentic, reproducing Christian, the enemy is going to respond with his choice weapons of temptation, discouragement, offense, and deception to slow, hinder, or altogether halt our progress. Through the years, I’ve identified seven specific developmental levels where we can expect the enemy to move against us to thwart our process and stifle our influence:

Level One: Born Again – when we move from religion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we can’t expect the devil to stand up and applaud. As long as we are in religion induced darkness we are not a threat to him. But when we get born again we come alive and we begin to discern truth and evil and now have the spiritual tools to walk in the truth and reject the evil.

Level Two: Believing Believer – some Christians get born again and then never progress to the point where they embrace the integrity of the Word of God and dare to believe the promises and principles in the Bible. A believing believer is capable of producing great results, fruit, and breakthroughs. The more we embrace the Word (Mark 4), the greater the persecution from the enemy.

Level Three: Active Participant – when we come out of the stands and into the game we can expect the enemy to come after us to attempt to push us right back out of the game. His goal of his devices here is very plain – to make you think twice about serving or leading in the body of Christ in any substantive way.

Level Four: Person of the Spirit – there is nothing more dangerous to Satan than a born again and Spirit-filled believer. We all receive the Holy Spirit at salvation but there is an additional endowment or empowerment that is available to all Christians (Acts 2) that gives us power to live this life and power to share the good news with others. Spiritual warfare goes to an entirely new level in the life of the Spirit-baptized Christian.

Level Five: Soul Winner – with each level of progress we become more dangerous to the goals and agenda of the enemy. The Christian who is not content just to sit in church waiting for their death and heavenly reward, but actively seeks to depopulate hell and populate heaven with precious souls is the arch-enemy of the devil. He literally hates soulwinners with a passion. Don’t expect a spiritual reprieve from the enemy if you’ve made up your mind to obey Jesus and reach the unreached and tell the untold.

Level Six: Budding Leader – there are many in the body of Christ that seem to literally take off in their own discipleship and development. They have truly become disciples (self-discipline learners of the Lord Jesus Christ) and budding leaders. The enemy becomes very creative in his effort to take down budding leaders before they can reach their full potential.

Level Seven: Developer of Others – the devil will do everything he can to stop a believer from getting to the place where he or she is effectively discipling and developing others to reach their potential in the Kingdom of God. The most dangerous Christian is the one who takes a person from being lost to discovering and inserting his or her gifts in the body of Christ. The level seven believers are reproducing themselves and showing those they develop how to do the same.

So, as Peter warned, you should not be surprised concerning the fiery trial you are facing (1 Peter 4:12-19). You are not crazy. Someone really does hate you and wants to stop you from releasing the greatness that is in you through Jesus, the Word, and the Spirit of God. As we study the serious Christian in upcoming blogs, my prayer is that you come to understand how each of the devils’ schemes (temptation, discouragement, offense, and deception) operate and that you learn to consistently repel them. It’s not always easy, but becoming what God has dreamed for you to become is worth all the attacks and difficulties you will encounter on your journey.

The Spirit of Confusion

I don’t think I can remember a time when the enemy has moved more powerfully to bring confusion in the minds of believers. Believers today are confused about their relationship with God. They are confused about their place in the body of Christ. They are confused about their world view. They are confused about their priorities. They are even confused about their sexuality. I see believers accepting compromise, lies, and contradictory lifestyles almost with the same reckless abandon as people in the world who claim no revelation of the Word or relationship with God. Since God is not the author of confusion, we can know for certain that the presence of confusion in our lives is evidence of the enemy’s operation against our minds.

It’s as if the enemy has literally lured a large segment of the Church to sleep through spiritual lightness and a strong bent towards personal fulfillment and happiness. Our greatest fulfillment as believers comes as we discern and act on God’s Word and will for our lives. The pursuit of our personal passions, interests, and goals at the expense of the Kingdom of God always results in a feigned fulfillment, hollow because it lacks the substance of the peace that can only come from doing things God’s way.

To be confused is to be perplexed or bewildered. It is to make unclear or indistinct or to fail to distinguish between. The more confused believers become the more indistinct from the world they become. If we maintain the same values and priorities of the world we will find it impossible to (1) distinguish ourselves from the world, and (2) influence the world for Christ. Malachi 3:18 declares, “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” It’s high time we awoke from the confusion least we find ourselves on the wrong side of that distinction as individuals, families, churches, and even as a nation.

Today I want to share a few thoughts about how to come out of that confusion and back in to a place of peace and victory…

First, spend some time specifically in the presence of God and ask the Holy Spirit to expose any area of confusion or compromise in your life. Be ready. Prayers like that are always answered and often the answer goes way beyond what we are prepared to hear. Repent of any wrong motive, agenda, priority, behavior, or thinking. Trust the Lord to put you on a path of personal revival and restoration.

Second, find that Bible, dust it off, open it up, read it, think about what it says, and then make up your mind to do whatever it says. The simple truth is that the more time we spend in the Word the less confusion manifests in our lives. Confusion increases in the mind of believers who systematically fail to put the Word of God in their eyes, ears, and hearts. Confusion is evidence that the believer has been neglecting the Word in their lives.

Third, evaluate who you have been hanging around in your life. One man of God recently stated that we are the sum total of the five people we hang around the most. Think about that. If you are running with people who reject the standards and values of the Word of God it’s just a matter of time before you begin to do the same. Iron sharpens iron and bad company corrupts good character. This means if we hang around spiritual dumb dumbs (or dumb downs) we will begin to think, act, and talk just like them rather than living as the overcoming, powerful, and victorious believers God wants us to be.

Fourth, it’s a little known secret that the healthy and faithful participation in a local body of believers is a powerful antidote to confusion. As you gather together with other believers in praise, worship, prayer, and Bible study, a faulty world view, wrong priorities, and fleshly pursuits begin to melt away. For many, the first step into confusion is to step away from the local church. The reality is that faithful church goers are far less likely to be bamboozled by the enemy than those that habitually absent themselves from the house of God (and no, you are not the exception and if you think you are then you are already confused).

Finally, if you want to avoid confusion, open yourself up to the direct accountability of another strong believer. Give him or her permission to tell you like it is (including the right to kick you in the pants occasionally as needed). There is wisdom in a multitude of counsellors and we all need to grant someone the right to get right up in our face and tell us boldly if we are going down the wrong path in life. One of the reasons there are so many confused believers today is that so few of us allow others to get close enough to challenge our thinking with the Word of God.

Remember the admonition of the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5:8 – “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” We need to understand that it’s easier to defeat and devour someone if they are first drugged, stunned, or debilitated first. The enemy uses confusion as a means of stunning the believer so that he can move in for the kill. It’s time for believers everywhere to recognize any confusion in their lives and act quickly to wake up and shake it off before the enemy builds in them a stronghold of unscriptural thinking and ungodly living.