Walk Free

“Yeah, all that spiritual warfare stuff you been teachin’, pastor, that’s a little out there, dontcha think? I mean, I know missionaries gotta be up on that stuff, but I’m just not seein’ it here in America.”  A few members complained about a series Ken chose to do on the believer’s position and authority in the supernatural realm. This parishioner received a crash course in demonic activity and believer’s warfare shortly after this conversation.

These folks loved the Lord dearly and made regular short-term mission trips to Haiti.  After one trip, they showed us some evil-looking masks they brought back as souvenirs.  Ken and I felt uneasy about them immediately and warned the couple that objects like that are often cursed by various priests and shamans of false religions.

The couple looked at us askance and assured us that these were merely objects of art, which they then displayed in their home.  After a series of strange home accidents and some weird goings on, they started to re-think their position and decided to get rid of the masks by burning them in the fire.  They told us that when they threw the masks into the blaze, they emitted screams.  No joke.

I still meet Christians who are unconvinced that every day, all day, there is a vicious enemy whose sole purpose is to either steal what we have, kill or destroy us.  As the days grow closer to Christ’s return, it is very unwise to be uneducated about your position and authority as a child of God.  The two books I want to recommend today, discuss this topic.

“A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare,” by Quin Sherrer and Ruthanne Garlock, is a little older but remains a go to book for me.   When we are faced with serious battles like a child’s addiction to drugs, a spouse’s addiction to pornography, anxiety, fear, depression, financial deprivation and the like, we do well to understand that we can break destructive cycles and bondages.  Our homes should be a refuge from our enemy, Satan, but they cannot be that if we do not understand the conniving ways he can erect strongholds in our lives.

I didn’t know nothin’ about fightin’ in the supernatural until I was in my thirties and frankly, I was afraid to mess with any of it.  I foolishly hoped that if I didn’t fool with that stuff, Satan, would sort of pass me by. My ignorance astonishes me still.  I became attracted to this book on a friend’s recommendation and purchased it because of the first chapter’s title; “But I Never Wanted to Be in a Battle.”

The authors address the hesitancy of the church to even embrace the phrase, “spiritual warfare,” and the lack of sound, Biblical teaching on the topic.  They quote another of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, who said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

This book is balanced and will open your eyes to Satan’s low strategies and the believer’s high position in Christ.  Other chapter titles include: “Who is The Enemy and What Does He Want From Me,” “Breaking Bondages,” “Fight for Your Children,” and “Fight For Your Marriage.” They assure us that most of our warfare occurs on our knees with focused, informed prayer arrows.

The second book today, is “The Bondage Breaker,” by Neil Anderson.  The focus is very specific towards walking in freedom and the abundant life Christ died to provide for us.  Using personal accounts (with names changed), Dr. Anderson teaches methodically on how to recognize bondage and obtain freedom.  His abundant use of Scripture provides a wealth of memory verses that we can retrieve when confronted with our own bondages or others.

If there is a reoccurring issue in your life like habitual sin, irrational feelings, chronically negative thinking, confusion, despair and other such destructive tendencies, there’s a possibility you are dealing with a bondage that needs breaking.  Sometimes we inherit these patterns from our families and others are all our own making.  Either way, Jesus does not intend for his children to walk around dragging chains behind them.  This book will lovingly take you down the pathway to freedom in a logical, no heebie jeebie nonsense, sort of way.

Ken taught this as a class several times with outstanding results and it could be a great book to use in your small group or to go through with a spouse or close friend. There is an accompanying workbook that we found to be very useful in applying Anderson’s principles to our specific situations.

Jesus is coming soon, dear ones, and I fear the enemy is more aware of that than we are.  The darkness will grow more intense in the last days and the apostle Paul warns us that many will fall away from the faith, towards the end.  If Satan’s already achieved a foothold in a life through a stronghold, how difficult will it be for him to pile on more deception on top of that?

Be armed and dangerous.  Whether we like it or not, every believer is in the battle between darkness and light which will rage until the end of days.  I want to be using every single weapon and tool God provides for me to advance his kingdom and force Hell’s retreat, don’t you?

 

Fresh Wind and Fire

“You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning.”

“You can tell how popular a pastor is by who comes on Sunday night.”

“But, you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.”

These words echoed a private word which God spoke to Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, in New York City, several years ago.   In his book, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,” pastor Jim shares his story of the discouraging, early years of his church and how God led them to become the congregation they are today, known around the world.

Jim Cymbala’s story changed my prayer life.  A watershed moment occurred when I realized that I treated conversation with God like a garnish on the plate of my spiritual life.  How many of us are mucking about, wondering why we aren’t moving forward, seeing progress and victories, simply because we are slothful about prayer?

This is not a book about church growth. It’s the story of what happened to a group of believers when they prayed and asked God for “fresh wind and fresh fire.”  The principles and applications that pastor Jim shares apply to any believer who is discouraged in their pursuit of dreams and destiny, or just plain discouraged.

When Cymbala assumed the lead pastor role of the tiny church with less than 20 in attendance, they struggled to pay the mortgage for their building let alone pay a consistent salary to a pastor.  One Sunday evening after doing everything he knew to do to grow the church, Jim was so depressed, he couldn’t even preach.   The church limped along for a couple years until one day, ready to walk away from the ministry, God spoke plainly to pastor Jim that his best energies should be focused on their Tuesday night prayer meetings.

After pastor Jim shared this word with his congregation, a visiting minister stood up and affirmed the idea with the quote you see at the top.  The pastor and the church obeyed God’s directive and the rest is history with the congregation now numbering in the thousands, many of whom attend the Tuesday night prayer meetings.

Pastor Jim taught me that God will birth new ideas, solutions and strategies for our lives when we are in communion with him faithfully. He’ll show you the details of how to proceed when you earnestly seek Him every day. More than anyone else, he wants us to achieve all that he designed us to accomplish in this life, but, he is not obligated to bless ideas we pursue out of our own ambitions and desires.

My second book today is a fat devotional I willingly lug on vacations, to the beach, even sometimes out to breakfast with my husband.  It’s worth it!  “Sparkling Gems,” by Rick Renner, comes in two different volumes, each one providing 365 days of devotional study and prayers.  The “gems” are the revealed facets and colors that come from Pastor Rick  helping us understand the meaning of key Greek words and phrases within one or two verses each day.

I am continually astonished at how many Scripture passages I understood at a surface level only, by not knowing the original context and definition of important words.  Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from volume 2, July 12, in which Renner discusses Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

“The phrase, ‘all things’ is from the Greek word panta, the word pan with ta attached.  The word pan is an all-encompassing word that includes everything and excludes nothing.  The little word ta, denotes even the smallest of things. So, when Paul uses the word panta, he is proclaiming that through Christ, he has the upper hand over everything with nothing excluded, including even the most minute details.”

Along with jewels like this, pastor Rick shares many stories from his remarkably interesting life.  As the pastor of a large church in Moscow, he’s endured unique trials and some crazy experiences.  For example, one involves the early days of their television broadcasts in Moscow.  A team member found the perfect bright light bulbs to try and create their first-ever television recording studio, no easy feat in the collapsed former Soviet Union.

After sitting in the makeshift studio for eight hours, Rick and his staff discovered that the bulbs were bulbs for sun lamps.  Pastor Renner not only endured severe sunburn but eye damage, which threatened to take his sight.  His story of fear and faith during the dark days of lying motionless, wrapped in compresses, not knowing if his sight would return, is remarkable in its honesty and encouragement.   Many other personal stories help me remember the truth nuggets found in various verses.

These two volumes are treasures that belong in any believer’s library.  I cycle back around to them several times a year when I’m in between other books or need a break from more intensive study. Over time, I’ve accumulated knowledge of important Greek words and ideas that help me understand the New Testament so much better than I ever did before.

I love great historical fiction or a captivating mystery, but I need to be careful that the time I devote to reading is balanced with books that challenge, provoke, teach and instruct in the ways of God, not just fun, recreational reading.  Don’t brag to me that you never watch TV if you’re plowing through an Amish Christian romance every few days without cracking open something with spiritual steak in it. There’s lots of great brain candy books out there that are wonderful to rest the mind and allow ourselves to be taken into different worlds and cultures, but, a steady diet of sugar isn’t good.  Okay, now I’ve gone from teaching to meddling, as my pastor says.  Til next time, read often, read well.