The crucifixion of Christ is a reminder that all of us have to deal with times of death in our lives. We may have to face the death of a loved one, or the death of a dream, or the death of a hope we hold dear. At some point, we all come to our tombs, as Mary did in the resurrection story, and we have to confront the harsh realities of our mortality.
'Tis the season for "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." A green wreath graces my front door, and the sweet smell of cookies fills my home, even this early in December. My kids have located the station that plays continuous Christmas music, so there are carols streaming from our radio in the background. I love the warmth and joy the holiday season brings. It feels peaceful and comforting, like a favorite blanket.
I have been a missionary both at home and abroad. I have traveled to dangerous inner-city ghettos and dusty, dirty African compounds. I have sung songs with poor children in the streets of Mexico and built houses for the homeless in the streets of New Haven. In all my travels, I found that there was only one thing I needed.
I was talking with a friend the other day about prayer, and she shared a great idea, one that got me thinking about harnessing technology for Christ. Faced with a negative diagnosis from a doctor, she decided to take time each day to pray for healing. Because she is on the go most of the time, she decided set an alert on her phone that would remind her to pray daily and confess some healing scriptures over her physical body. Once she prays, she turns off the alert until the next day. She plans to do this until she is healed.
What a great use of her phone, I thought. She is making technology work for her, not against her. In a time where we are never out of reach of our phones and tech, I wondered, how else can we harness the power of technology to work for us, not against us?
One of the main goals of technology is to increase productivity. A worthy goal, to be sure. A secondary goal - one that is often marketed to consumers - is to make our lives easier.
The great irony of technology, however, is that what promises to simplify life or bring us peace can actually end up making us feel overwhelmed. Many of the apps I download to my phone require more maintenance than I care to give! Constant global connectivity, while beneficial in many ways, also takes a toll on us as finite human beings, one that we are not as quick to notice because we are so caught up in it. For the believer, "constant connection" to anything other than Christ is not a good goal.
For example, my husband had trouble connecting to the internet this week on his phone. It had worked before, but he just couldn't connect now. A quick trip to the Sprint store revealed that his profile and several other settings had not updated properly. Ten minutes with a manager fixed the problem. Suddenly, his once-quiet phone began dinging, ringing, and making a ridiculous amount of noise - which after several hours I asked him to please turn off!
Biblical productivity is tied to one thing alone, and that is abiding in Christ. Jesus says: "He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, emphasis mine). I may carry the latest and greatest technology in my pocket, but if I am not connecting to Jesus, I am not going to produce at maximum output. Anything that keeps me from abiding in Him is bound to be counter-productive.
The Way of Peace
"The world's energy," says a pastor friend of mine, "is directed at moving us out of our place of stillness and rest in God." I believe we can take this a step farther and say that the noise of the world regularly stirs our souls to a near state of emergency which we are not designed to maintain. I want to be stirred up in faith, not in fear or crisis. (See 2 Timothy 1:6).
The nightly news tends to stir up anxiety and stress about things over which I have no control. It is not wrong to be informed, but when that information is stealing your joy and peace, it's time to limit what you are watching.
One of Jesus' commands to us in John 14 is "Let not your heart be troubled or afraid." (John 14:2). As technology advances, how can we preserve the peace Christ has promised us? As the noise of our lives increases, how can we stay in the place of stillness?
Years ago, the Lord impressed on me the importance of observing a weekly Sabbath - a rest from life's busyness. The day is not important - it can be a Saturday or a Thursday - but what is important is that I pull away from the things that tend to distract me or add to my stress, and draw closer to a place of rest and peace in Him.
I have noticed, over time, that three things in particular that steal my peace: my work, which piles up quickly; people's demands for my time and energy; and technology, especially my phone and computer. I am learning to disconnect from these three things more intentionally in order to connect with and abide in Christ.
Christ came to give us peace. There is a wonderful scripture in the gospel of Luke that prophesies Christ as the One who will "guide our feet into the way of peace." (See Luke 1:19). In fact, in the Kingdom of God, there is to be "no end" to the increase of Christ's government and His peace. I want to be acquainted enough with the way of peace that I can also lead others to find it.
Practical Plans for Peace
Like my friend with her prayer alerts, I need to find practical ways to keep peace in my daily life. Here are some things that have worked for me:
- Turn off non-essential notifications on your phone. It's amazing how much peace I have gained by taking this one practical step! Choose one or two set times each day to check and respond to your emails, and turn off all the noisy notifications. This is a classic time management skill, but it also minimizes the amount of stress that accumulates throughout your day. The only notifications I "urgently" need are texts from my family. Everything else can wait.
-Set positive, intentional phone alerts (like my friend) to remind yourself to pray, worship, or get into the Presence of God. Make a quality decision to start your day abiding in Christ. He is the source of our greatest productivity!
-Turn off the TV. Instead of listening to another negative newscast, enjoy dinner with your family and talk about your day. Our family has one day a week we call "family day." If we don't have plans to go out, we typically rent a movie we all would enjoy - commercial free - and share a meal and dessert together. By being deliberate about what we are watching, we avoid the "information overload" that is typical when families spend too much time in front of the tube. Most nights, you'll find us reading, talking, or -*gasp!*- even praying; activities that allow time to process what we are learning.
-Set aside a day of rest for yourself. Ideally, make it a tech-free day. Use the time to study, read, worship, nap, or pursue a hobby that you otherwise would not have time for. If, like me, you have a hard time sitting in the house when there's work to be done, get outside into nature and slow down to a more sustainable pace, or find a quiet place to do a mini-retreat.
-In social settings, put away your phone or tablet. If we want to win souls for Christ, we need to take the time to actually connect with them, without interruptions. Constantly checking your device during a conversation increases your stress and makes the other person feel devalued. I sincerely doubt that any Secretary of State would whip out his cell phone in the midst of a Middle-East peace negotiation! We, likewise, are ambassadors for Christ, negotiating peace daily with the people around us. If we can't even make sustained eye contact, we don't stand a chance as evangelists.
-What ideas do YOU have for taking back technology for Christ? I'd love to hear what works for you. If you're reading this and have a good idea, send it to me here. I may publish these ideas in a later post so we can all benefit from what you've learned.
One Final Question...
John Wesley, the famed co-founder of the Methodist church, belonged to a group called the "Holy Club." He and the others asked themselves 22 questions as part of their daily devotions. One of them was: "Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?" When technology is enslaving us, it is time to take back control. Let Christ be the source of your productivity, the center of your peace. He is the only unbroken connection you'll ever really need.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions. All Biblical references NKJV unless noted.
You have just been issued a summons. You must appear in court immediately, and not as a juror. You have been called by the prosecution to take the stand as a defendant in a case with a high dollar value. If you lose, your sentence could include a lifetime in prison. What’s worse: you have been wrongly accused.
If it sounds like I am being dramatic, rest assured, I am not. The first paragraph is entirely true. As a Christian, you are – this very moment – being called by the devil (the prosecution) to take a defensive stand against his false accusations. He is, unfortunately, a very good lawyer, having practiced his craft since time began. Nevertheless, you have an excellent lawyer as well: your advocate, Jesus.
Now, I know you’re on the right side of the law, and you know you’re on the right side, but the prosecution wants to prove otherwise. If he succeeds, he gains access to your money, your mental and physical health, your family, or even your life. His goal is to lock you up for a lifetime.
Having a good lawyer will help, of course, but in this heavenly courtroom what matters most is your testimony. You are about to be tested on the facts, and whether your actions are legal. If you don’t know your rights as a citizen of heaven, or if the enemy can find a weakness in your argument, you lose.
As in any trial, you must have two weapons. The first is an excellent lawyer who is familiar with your case. If you’re a Christian, you already have a good relationship with the best attorney there is in spiritual matters: Jesus Christ. In Him you are on the right side of the law, no matter what you have done. He has also never lost a case. As long as you choose Him as your Advocate, you stand a pretty good chance of winning.
The second weapon is a detailed knowledge of the law, which in this case represents your covenant with God. This is where the prosecution often gains the upper hand, since you do not know the law as well as he does, nor are you used to defending yourself against such deceptive, unfair arguments. You will find that the prosecution has accessed information about your life that you did not wish to be made public. You will be horrified to hear that he can call to the witness stand, one by one, people who willingly testify against you, dragging past sins to the surface and making you look like a heartless criminal.
In the final analysis, it will be very important that what you do and say lines up with the law. Satan’s legal strategy from the beginning has been to cast doubt on our words: “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1-3). Your best defense is going to be to stick to the words your attorney, Jesus, gives you to say, and avoid adding too much of your own.
“Isn’t that deceptive,” you might ask? After all, I really am guilty of a lot of things, and I don’t always do what I should. What that witness said about me was true: I really didn’t like the guy, and I treated him badly because I couldn’t forgive him. I deserve punishment.”
The question is, do you? You might have opened the door to some legal “loopholes” the prosecution is now using against you, but the real test is whether you believe and can prove that you are innocent. In a happier moment, it’s easy to believe your mistakes are covered by the blood of Jesus, which ratifies your covenant with God. But when the opposition mounts, can you still stand on that testimony? Do you know which clauses in your contract validate what you have experienced spiritually?
Those who do cite them and win their cases. Those who don’t have a harder time. Fortunately, Jesus knows what it’s like to be a defendant on the courtroom stand. He was challenged twice: in the wilderness (Luke 4) and before His death (Luke 22-23:47). Both times He adhered to God's covenant and responded only with the Words of God. Both times, He won.
Jesus knows what it’s like to be tried as a criminal on the wrong side of the law. Jesus didn’t allow his feelings to contaminate His testimony. Instead, He studied His covenant with God until He knew the law inside and out. He lived a legal, righteous life even when falsely accused. He accepted a death sentence from the enemy only because He knew that God would ultimately give him the keys to get out of that prison. He spoke only the words of the covenant and He fulfilled the law perfectly in His life on earth.
We believers are summoned daily to take the stand- not as those who have lived a perfect life, as Jesus did, but as those who are protected by His knowledge of and adherence to the law. Every time we are summoned, we should arrive at the courtroom with contract in hand. Everything we say in our defense should be based on what Jesus, our attorney, outlines for us. We should stick to our testimony of His goodness like glue. Anything else we say can and will be used against us!
The more certain you are of your innocence in Christ and your rights as a believer, the more likely you are to live a blessed life.
Prayer: Jesus, You are the most successful attorney I could ever have. I am so grateful that You know how to defend me against the trials and accusations the enemy is using against me. I have been falsely accused, Lord! Give me the time I need to sit down with you and review our covenant until I know it inside and out. Convince me of the blessings and freedom You have already won for me, so that my testimony holds up under every cross-examination. I praise You for your victories! I thank you that You have the keys to unlock every jail cell the enemy throws me into! We win!
"And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2, KJV
Last week I was given a precious gift by a friend in Tennessee, a reader of this blog and one of my strongest supporters. She gave me the gift of time spent with a dear friend relaxing, worshiping, and working together on some projects. What she didn't realize she'd given me was equally important: the gift of perspective.
As a wife and mother, I don't travel nearly as much as I used to. Unlike my husband, I actually love the adventure of travel: visiting new places, interacting with different cultures, and experiencing the "flavors" of life lived in other places! So from the moment my plane began soaring above the clouds, my heart was rejuvenated as well. Here's what I discovered.
Tennessee, as a "Bible Belt" state, is still proclaiming the Word of God. Everywhere we went, from an inner-city high school graduation, to Walmart, to the Christian-owned Hobby Lobby store, what I noticed was the Word of God, expressed in amazing creativity.
The Word is literally "in your face" wherever you turn. Plaques and trendy chalkboard artwork with Bible verses line the shelves of even mainstream stores. A local family whose home I visited makes no effort to hide their faith; it is evident the moment you walk in the door. During a high school ceremony, I heard both ranking Tennessee politicians and local teachers and students pray and cite the Word as they spoke to the graduating class. The choral selection? A rendition of Numbers 6:24, which in case you haven't read lately, is the Aaronic blessing over Israel:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
It was beautiful. After several days of experiencing these constant public proclamations of the Word, I was feeling incredibly encouraged. How refreshing! It reminded me of Moses' instructions in Deuteronomy:
These words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
Comparing Tennessee to my home state, where a simple prayer by a student is outlawed and transgender bathrooms might soon become the norm, I almost didn't want to return home! New England suddenly seemed very dark to me. I had gained some perspective.
A Religious Spirit?
I did, of course, return home to my wonderful family, and know that I am called to New England for ministry purposes. As I shared my news of the trip with a fellow New Englander, however, their reaction was to say: "Oh, all that public display of Christ down South is just a religious spirit. It doesn't mean anything."
Well, apart from knocking the wind out of my sails and quickly deflating any joy I had experienced, this person missed a fundamental truth that Paul brings out in Philippians. Paul writes: "What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice." (Philippians 1:18; see also previous verses).
It is true that some proclaim Christ insincerely or from selfish ambition, while others proclaim Him out of love. It is not our job to decide who is sincere and who is not. Our job, according to Jesus in Matthew 28, is to simply make Him known, and to keep the Word prominent in our lives. The perspective I gained in the South encouraged me to proclaim Him even more loudly in the North.
A Southerner can just as easily say that New England is bound by an intellectual spirit which darkens the light of Christ in us. Rarely do I enter a New England home to find "PDA's" (Public Displays of Affection) for Christ! We are more likely to boast about our impressive array of educational institutions or big-city job opportunities than about our Christianity.
I became motivated to turn up the "dimmer switch" on my faith. Dial it up. Light up the room. Make a greater effort to inspire instead of retire. We sorely need more light here, lest the long, wintry days and spiritual darkness overwhelm us. As a local pastor often quips, "When you love something, it shows!"
The apostle Paul was also confined for a time, far from the sunny green pastures of Tennessee! Yet the letters written from his jail cell impacted more people than he ever dreamed of reaching in his freedom. The darkness of his situation did not hinder him from proclaiming Christ. His limitations became the source of his greatest ministry.
It may be easier to be a Christian down South, where everyone agrees with you. It's certainly sunnier and warmer, and maybe that's why many New Englanders can't wait to go South! The truth is, though, that the light of God already in you is warm enough and sunny enough to radiate a significant amount of heat, no matter where you live. I'm choosing to pursue an assignment to bring His light into what seems like a much darker place at the moment. What will you do?
Instead of being envious of others' situations, ask God to give you perspective on your situation. Are you hiding the light that is in you, for fear of offending someone? Has being "politically correct" become more of the norm for you than being "biblically correct?" Ask God to show you what you can do to put your love for Him on display! Will you be mocked or misinterpreted as "religious?" Maybe. But the wonderful thing is that you might just encourage somebody. I'll be praying for you, that your future shines more brightly than your past.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Sometimes we go through a series of "unfortunate events," as Harry Potter fans would call them, which seem to suck the wind right out of our sails and leave us almost dead in the water. Our beautiful day of smooth sailing suddenly darkens, and we notice ominous storm clouds all around us. The reality of our situation hits us hard: here we are - fools! - in the middle of the sea, without any land in sight, and completely at the mercy of the storm. What were we thinking? How on earth are we going to get out of this?
Sound - the very idea of it - has always fascinated me. I grew up not knowing there were certain sounds, like the sound of birds, or machines, or the tick-tock of a clock. I heard only in part, because of deafness. Childhood nerve damage to my ears left me hearing only the loudest of noises, or those closest in proximity to me. I did not know that some sounds even existed until, in fourth grade, I was given hearing aids.
The shock of sound alarmed me beyond belief. The moment an audiologist turned up the volume for me, I screamed. Suddenly, there was sound, and a lot of it! An air conditioner outside the window, humming noisily, made me jump out of the chair I was sitting in. I remember thinking it was the hum of an aircraft invasion! Refrigerators make noise - did you know that? And birds, mice, all of God's creation has something to say - if you can hear it.
Heaven is like this, too. Not to alarm us, of course, but heaven is a noisy place! John gives us amazing descriptions of the sounds of heaven in Revelation. As one deeply intimate with the Lord, John was given access to sights and sounds that most humans will never see or hear. And it all started with sound.
Look at the first Pentecost. The disciples (including John) were gathered in an upper room, waiting for a promised encounter with God. Acts 2 says that "Suddenly, there came a SOUND from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." (Acts 2:2). I am certain that the noise of this whirlwind made at least some of the disciples jump out of their seats, as I did when I could first hear! These believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4) What a powerful initiation to hearing the sounds of heaven!
Sound Begets Speech
From the moment the Holy Spirit opened the ears of the disciples, He also inspired them to speak the gospel. The Holy Spirit, whose job it is to amplify the sounds of heaven in our ears, filled the first believers with language, not just hearing, so that thousands of others heard about God in their own languages and became believers themselves. The amplification of the sounds of heaven brought the multiplication of men into the Kingdom of God.
And so it still is with us today. If you are listening, you will also be speaking. And speaking - telling others the Good News of the Gospel - is the primary call and commission of every believer. (See Matthew 28:18).
But the reverse is also true: if we are NOT listening, we will not be hearing either. If we do not hear the Words of God, we will not be saved. If believers do not listen daily for the sounds of heaven, those specific and personal instructions He wants to give us, we will not be led by the Spirit. And if we don't know where we are supposed to be or what He wants us to be doing, we will not be living and sharing the testimonies He wants to give us, which will lead others to hear more about Him.
How then shall they believe in Him of whom
What does heaven sound like? John's experience with the incredible sounds and sights of heaven began with the sound of a trumpet: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying: I am the Alpha and the Omega...write what you see in a book and send it to the churches..." (Revelation 1:10-11) This would be the first of over 20 times John would hear loud voices, thunderings, earthquakes, music, loud cries of angels, harps, and worship.
In contrast, only once are we told (in Revelation 8) that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour." (Revelation 8:1). This coincided with the opening of the seventh seal. (Seven is the number biblically connected with rest and sabbaths).
The noises and voices John hears take him successively higher in the heavenly realm, until at last he is able to see the Bride of Christ and the New Jerusalem, the final destiny of all believers. Yet even in his first glimpse of the throne of God, John writes that "...from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings and voices." (Rev 4:5) The seven Spirits of God were burning like lamps before the throne. He also sees living creatures and elders worshiping day and night, speaking of the holiness of God. Their praise never ceases; they do not rest.
What can we gain from this? The knowledge that the closer we get to the throne of God, the more constant our speaking will be. The Spirit of God mysteriously abides both within us and near to the throne. What He hears, He speaks to us. What we hear, we then speak, preach, prophesy, and sing. As we draw as near to God as we can, we will be compelled, as these elders are, to speak of Him constantly, to worship Him 24/7, and to yield to the inspiration of the Spirit within us.
Jesus cried aloud when He gave up His Spirit and when He summoned Lazarus from the tomb. Angels cry loudly and trumpet the proclamations of God. Man cries out in his prayers of distress or decree. All are normal responses to the pneuma, or the breath, of the Spirit of God in us. Hearing from God compels us to speak. Sharing what we hear will cause others to hear Him also.
Hearing and speech are intricately linked in both the natural and spiritual realms. Don't let a deaf and dumb spirit silence you. Listen for the loud sounds of heaven, and then speak in such a way that you'll compel others to hear heaven, too.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes
Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
~ Isaiah 62:7
One of the reasons why I began writing His Inscriptions was to strengthen believers - especially Christian leaders - who are weary and exhausted for various reasons. You may be feeling that way today. It is not uncommon, in an increasingly hostile world, to feel tired or discouraged. Once we are weary, it becomes harder than ever to maintain the good habits we have of connecting with God. Self-discipline eludes us and our communication with God ebbs at the time we need it most.
What makes one person thrive while another barely survives? Why do some people seem to live almost effortlessly, while others go through life hanging on by their fingernails? Even Christians are not exempt. We cling to the Gospel's wonderful hope of heaven. But is that all there is? What about the problems in this present life? What do I do between now and eternity?
I believe there is a key difference between survivors and those who thrive in life. Or for Christians, between the survivors and the revivers! It's not just a difference between rich and poor. It's actually a different state of mind.
To describe this, let's look at the law of the jungle.
What is happening right now in Boston is amazingly prophetic. Just two days ago, I was writing about revival after visiting John Adams' rare books collection at the Boston Public Library. (To see that post, entitled "Step Into Your New World", click here). What I did not know was that the same day I was publishing my article, archivist Pam Hatchfield was prying open a 220-year-old time capsule at the MFA, one that had been embedded in the State House's cornerstone by Sam Adams and Paul Revere in 1795. On July 4, 1795, fifteen white horses - one for each state of our union - had pulled this cornerstone and time capsule through the streets of Boston for the dedication ceremony.
Inside the box (which took nearly 7 hours to open), were artifacts from the dedication of the Massachusetts State House on the 20th anniversary of our independence. A silver plate, probably crafted by Paul Revere, displays an inscription for the building's dedication and names Sam Adams, Paul Revere, and Revolutionary War Colonel William Scollay. (See photo above). 23 coins, including one in a half-penny denomination, and a medal of George Washington are also part of the capsule.
One of our family's favorite movies to watch during the holiday season is Home Alone. You're no doubt familiar with the storyline: 8-year-old Kevin is left behind by his rather large (and obnoxious) family when they travel to France, and ends up defending his upper-middle-class home from a dynamic robber-duo named the "Wet Bandits." Two hours of hilarious pranks and traps set by this tyke end with a Christmas day arrest of the bandits and a much-matured little boy.
What we love about this movie is the creative ingenuity of a child that outwits the "professionals." Using only the resources he has at hand, most of them commonplace in an 8-year-old's world, he masterminds a strategy that is so unexpected to the pros, it almost has to succeed! From the ice on the stairs to the toy cars in the hall, we watch Kevin outwit and - just barely - outlast the enemies, until he is reunited with his family. The cops don't show up until the boy has done his job protecting his home.
Speaking to me yet again in His unusual way, God drew my attention this week to His "Home Alone" story in the Bible. Luke puts it just after the "traditional" Christmas readings of the birth of Jesus, in chapter two:
Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover.
And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus
stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,
but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey,
but then they began to search for him among their relatives and
acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem,
searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
And when his parents saw him, they were astonished.
And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so?
Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”
And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know
that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying
that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to
Nazareth and was submissive to them.
And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:41-52, ESV
Jesus was a boy of twelve who, like Kevin, was left behind in His Father's house. Three full days went by before his parents returned to find Him quite peacefully settled in His temple, debating with the scholars. Like Kevin, Luke tells us he grew and matured after this, due in part, perhaps, to engaging His "enemies" (the religious leaders) who would later persecute him.
In the movie, Kevin listened to the robbers and learned the very hour they planned to rob his family's house, so he had time to prepare a strategy that would defeat them. In Luke's text, Jesus is said to have both "listened" and "asked questions" of His future tormentors. Their dialogue gave Him valuable insights concerning the scribes and Pharisees. It was these very same leaders whom He would "trap" with His own questions later in life.
The boy Jesus grew, matured, and learned how to defend His Father's house - the temple - from those would would defile it. His strategies were different; He used words, not toys, as His traps, but he successfully enacted His plan to restore to God what was stolen by the enemy.
Bringing It Home
Here's what's interesting about these stories. I believe God regularly gives us "home alone" moments in life, too. We are never completely alone, of course, but God gives us moments when our normal support systems - friends, family, or even the voice of God Himself - disappear for various reasons. We come face to face with spiritual or natural enemy forces, and we learn to defend what we love from predators who would rob us. Forced to draw upon inner strength and the resources we have at hand, we learn to stand our ground and fight back.
Like David the Psalmist, we may find that using the standard "grownup armor" isn't the best strategy. We learn that the resources most familiar to us at the time can be effective, no matter what stage of life we are in. Our unique gifts and talents are surprisingly adequate, in God, to overcome our enemy. In fact, it is what enemy is not expecting from us - like our slingshots - that yield the greatest results!
Be Who You Are!
My hope is that this simple analogy will encourage you to be who you are now at this time in God, and not to belittle yourself because your faith or your gifts are too small. The truth is, none of us is fully mature yet. The wonderful thing about God is that He takes our childlike efforts and multiplies their effectiveness with His power. As my spiritual dad always says, "We win!"
Are you ready to use your unique abilities to defend the Kingdom of God in your life? When you use your gifts, you do real and lasting damage to the enemy. Your confessions of faith set angels in motion. You overcome your fears and grow up a bit in the process. And God is gonna be impressed with your bravery and zeal for His house. I guarantee it!
c.Deborah Perkins, 2014
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. Follow Deborah on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins, or click here to subscribe to her blog.
As I worshiped this morning, the Lord surprised me by speaking through the words of a classic hymn. I was singing William Bradbury's familiar song, "Solid Rock," penned in the 1800's and recently revamped by Hillsongs as "Cornerstone." Here are the words:
Do you ever wonder, what's my rooftop? Where is my place of influence? Think for a moment about where you are heard. Who is your audience? A pastor preaches to his congregation. A worship singer considers the stage her place of influence, proclaiming the gospel through song. A politician's cries for justice resound in the auditorium of Congress. but where do YOU make your voice heard?
The mission of every believer is to proclaim the message of the Gospel. As we get to know Christ better and love Him more, we are naturally compelled to share the good news of His redeeming love for us. Never before have we had such a tremendous opportunity to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) by reaching those in "all nations." The question is, how do you carry out your mission?
Ultimately, our mission field is wherever we are at the moment. True, social media is an amazing, world-reaching platform we can use for the Kingdom. But words alone are not always convincing. When people see how we live our lives - how we put actions to our faith - they will take notice of what we say. Character is convicting. And character is best seen up close. As a pastor friend recently said, "Your daily life is the platform your faith is lived on."*
Whatever I tell you in the darkness,
say it in the light;
and whatever you hear with your ears,
preach on the rooftops.
~Matthew 10:27; Aramaic English Bible
It's time to give the devil a one-two punch! You're familiar with the term, of course: a boxer throws a left-handed jab immediately followed by a right cross punch. The same technique is also used in fencing. It's a fast combination of two actions designed to give an athlete the upper hand. If you're a believer, you should be using a "one-two punch" strategy today. Here's why.
Current events are unfolding at an alarming pace. The war on terror is expanding, reaching many nations. Most of us lack the political influence we might feel we need to effect change. In light of this, the enemy wants us to feel hopeless. He knows that powerlessness can lead to fear. Luke 21:26 confirms that in the end times, men's hearts will fail them "from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming in the earth."
Preemptive Prayer & Compassionate Provision
The Bible offers hope, though, in the form of a one-two punch. The first punch is prayer, and the second is provision.
The Bible says that our prayers are powerful and effective (James 5:16). They work because we have been seated with Christ in heavenly places, where all things are subject to Him (Ephesians 1:20-22). As joint-heirs with Christ, we receive the blessing of being "above only and not beneath" (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This means that as we pray, no matter how impotent we may be in the natural, we rise to become agents of transformation in the Spirit. We partner with Jesus in His ministry of intercession. By tapping into the unlimited reach and resources of the Holy Spirit, we now pray and effect change at every level of government, business, education, religion and any other man-made institution.
Joseph as Prototype
The eleventh son of Jacob is a prophetic prototype for us here. After being sold into slavery and betrayed several times, Joseph was transformed from reject to ruler. He left the dungeon of the enemy and was promoted to second-in-command of Pharaoh's kingdom (Genesis 37-50). Like Jesus, he used his prayers of faith to enter in to a place of provision. Having overcome his own adversity through prayer, he then helped others to overcome, through practical provisions for a worldwide famine.
I believe we have a similar purpose. Rather than succumbing to fear, we can throw the first "punch" of prayer and follow it up with a second "punch" of provision for the disasters that do occur. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, we are wise to prepare our families in advance for whatever the "winter" season may bring, so that we are safe and can serve others in time of need. We can be "angels with skin on," ministering servants empowered by the voice of the Lord and serving humanity with practical assistance or spiritual gifts.
No More Shadowboxing
We are created to be strong spiritual athletes: to fight the good fight of the faith and to fear nothing. Paul says we are not called to be shadowboxers, Christians who throw ineffective punches at the air (See 1 Corinthians 9:26). Our faith is the antidote to fear, and our faith gives us a specific strategy for a Kingdom "win." What will you do with your spiritual authority in these dark days?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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"What are you afraid of?" This was the question asked of approximately 150 women one weekend at an amazing women's ministry conference I attended in New England. What is keeping you confined within the current borders of your everyday life, that you fear you cannot overcome? Depression? Abuse? Unforgiveness? Finances? Your need for comfort and security? In Christ, there should be no fear of any kind that holds you back from fulfilling your destiny (1 John 4:18). The limits are off!
Sometimes, God reminds me of simple, familiar phrases and uses them to reveal spiritual truths. He did that again this morning. I'd been studying Proverbs yesterday: "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7-8). I obviously hadn't gotten enough understanding yet, since He startled me awake today with another familiar saying.
"Hold on for dear life!" He said as I awoke, bleary-eyed and not quite coherent. Truthfully, I was more interested in holding on to my pillow at that point than having a theological discussion. But once I had grabbed a mug of hot tea and my Bible, His words began to make more sense.
Proverbs 4 commands us to "get wisdom" and "get understanding," and more specifically, to "Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life." (Proverbs 4: 13). It was this emphasis on "taking hold" that the Lord wanted me to see. Here's what He showed me.
Jesus is wisdom, and so the Old Testament command to get wisdom mirrors the New Testament call to take hold of Jesus and all that He has called us to do. 1 Corinthians 1:24 tells us that Jesus is the wisdom of God, and we know from Isaiah 11:1 that the 7-fold Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom, counsel, understanding, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord, the Bible says, is the beginning of all wisdom. In other words, accepting Jesus is the wisest decision anyone will ever make, since Christ is the author and source of all wisdom. Embracing wisdom brings protection and honor to our lives.
For wisdom is protection just as money is protection,
but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom
preserves the lives of its possessors.
~Ecclesiastes 7:12, NASB
So: get wisdom, hold on to Jesus, gain your life. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, from the time of the prophets until the time Jesus came to earth, His leaders hadn't held on to wisdom at all. In contrast, they had hypocritically laid aside God's commands in order to keep their own traditions. (See Jeremiah 8:5 and Mark 7:8-9). Like Joab taking hold of the horns of the altar, they appeared to be doing the right thing on the outside but were devoid of truth internally. (See 1 Kings 1-2 for the story of Joab and Solomon). Their loose grip on the truth cost them their lives. It was, quite symbolically, the wisdom of Solomon that struck Joab down.
Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord.
but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
all those who hate me love death.
Holding on to instruction requires an attitude of humility: an innate awareness of one's need for wisdom, and a willingness to gain understanding by listening to His teachings daily. We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 1:13 to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words." Jesus, in three of His seven addresses to the churches in Revelation, asks us to "Hold fast to what you have until I come." (Letters to Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia). Holding on to wisdom is achieved by letting go of things that hold our attention elsewhere: children, family problems, job pressures, hobbies that steal our time. It is costly in that we must die to our own ideas of what should be done moment by moment in order to take hold of His plans for our lives.
Life is like riding a roller coaster. You gotta "hold on for dear life" to Jesus, the source of all wisdom, if you're going to survive the ride. His wisdom is life-giving, life sustaining. Had I held on to my pillow instead this morning, I would have missed the wonderful conversation I had with the Lord and the way He opened up my understanding of His Word. Our ability to hold on to Jesus may be as critical to our life one day as staying strapped in on a roller coaster ride. Without His protection, we risk it all.
Prayer: Jesus, please show me what I am holding on to. Are self-reliance, religious rituals or everyday routines replacing my search for revealed wisdom? Help me to make wisdom the principal thing as I press on to take hold of you!
Not that I have already obtained all this,
or have already arrived at my goal,
but I press on to take hold
of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet
to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do:
forgetting what is behind and straining toward
what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 3: 12-14, NIV
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All references NKJV unless otherwise noted.
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They say marriage must be a 50-50 proposition in order to work. You give 50%, and your spouse meets you in the middle, giving 50% as well. In this way, everything is fair: no one is overworked, nothing is overlooked, and disagreements are minimized. But what if your partner gives 100%? If everything is finished, nothing is overlooked, and all is forgiven – then what?
I’ve been thinking about marriage a lot these days. Because I’m in not just one, but two relationships. Before you get alarmed, let me explain! I am married to a wonderful man I met 17 years ago, the answer to my prayers and someone I’m glad I waited for. He gives at least 50% to our relationship every day, and usually much more.
I’m also in love with an even more wonderful man – one who gives 100%, every day, all the time. His Name is Jesus. He is as much a husband to me as my earthly husband is: He provides, He loves, He listens, He helps – but He also saves. He saves me from myself and from the mistakes I make in my more “visible” marriage. He’s got the giving aspect of marriage pretty much nailed down (pardon the expression), and no one – not even my wonderful hubby – can top Him!
So does this mean, as my hubby likes to tease, that I just “sit around and eat bonbons all day?” If a spouse gives 100%, is His partner absolved from all responsibility? Or has the bar been raised just a little higher?
I believe that we as Christians genuinely love and appreciate Jesus and the 100% sacrifice He has made for us on the cross. I believe that we are absolved from the false responsibility of a religious “works mentality” that the enemy promotes: trying to earn the love of a Husband and Father who have already covered the tab for our mistakes – past or future. I also think that we must guard against the lukewarm apathy that enters our souls and robs us of the joy of actually knowing our heavenly husband.
You see, in a marriage, it is the work that gets in the way of the relationship. It is the challenge of communication that hinders intimacy. It is the responsibilities we have that drain the life out of us so that we have nothing left to give to our partners. We are working so hard sometimes that we have no time left to listen, to love, to encourage. We’re simply too exhausted! And if time is not set aside just for our spouse, our love will grow cold.
Here’s the good news: I believe that Jesus loves us so much that he takes ALL the “work” out of the marriage relationship. He takes all the fear out of not measuring up to our new Father. He finishes the work the enemy says is unfinished and clears His schedule for us. We are His top and only priority. He goes ahead of us to get a new house ready for us in heaven, and He is planning the wedding feast!
Why does He do this? Does this mean we get to sit around and just enjoy our “engaged” status? Are we supposed to spend our time on earth “showing off our ring” – sharing about Jesus and making others jealous for Him? Or is there something more?
Marriage: It's 100-100.
I believe that He has given us 100% of His love because He expects 100% back. He chooses to marry us because He thinks we are the right ones. As our heavenly bridegroom, He lays everything on the line when He asks us to be His bride. Having counted the cost and accepted His proposal, our sole desire should be to cherish, honor, and know Him. Do our lives reflect a desire to listen to Him, to spend time with Him, to know Him? Or do we take Him for granted?
Once again, I am not advocating a “works-based” relationship. That is legalistic and unloving. I am simply more aware, today, of our sometimes-tendency to give Christ a meager, token 10% when He has given His all. I want to be the kind of bride who has loved and listened to her fiancé throughout the engagement and knows Him through and through when she gets to the altar. I want to be radiant with the knowledge of His love, someone of whom the world says, “can’t you just tell she’s in love? Who’s the lucky guy?!” I want to spend more time growing the relationship than planning the wedding.
Relationships don’t grow much in the busyness of everyday life. Sure, we establish a functionality to things, maybe a good working rhythm so that we can accomplish things that promote heaven on earth. But real intimacy happens in the secret places of our hearts, where nothing is hidden, where motives are clearer and priorities more defined.
The amazing thing about God is that we get to choose how we love Him. We can go as deeply as we want into our intimacy with Him. His love for us doesn’t change based on our level of commitment. But our lives are changed as we love Him more.
Questions for meditation: When is the last time you closed the door to your secret place to be with your heavenly spouse? When is the last time you didn’t talk and just listened instead? What do you need to do to move your level of commitment closer to His 100%?
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.