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
"It is not My will that man be governed solely by the voice of man. Throughout Scripture I have governed man's actions, and I intend for that to continue. But the traditions of men remove Me from governance, requiring My people to adhere to rules instead of My voice. This is dangerous. Not only does this practice obliterate any direction My Spirit is giving, but this also causes a dependence on man and his structures that is unhealthy.
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?
What do you think of when someone mentions the word "shelter?" Where is your "safe place?" Do you think of your home, tucked away in a quiet neighborhood? Are you reminded of the steel roof of an underground bunker, bomb-proof and secure? Perhaps you are in the arms of a loved one stronger and wiser than you, who protects you or with whom you have built an implicit trust?
Shelter, for me, conjures up many different images. When I was a little girl, there was a willow tree out in back of our house, with a child-sized picnic table underneath. For the first six years of my life, this was my favorite place to be. Here was a secret hiding place where I held court with my dolls, served tea to imaginary dignitaries, and peeked secretly out at the world through draping, sun-kissed branches. Sometimes, my best neighbor-friend, Wendy, would come visit me there, slipping through the stand of trees that divided our backyards. It was the perfect escape for a little girl!
My old willow tree now shelters other children, and as the years have passed I have known many other forms of shelter: new homes, private retreats, loving relationships, just as I'm sure you have. But the most powerful image in my mind is that of a shelter that protects my life, not just my body or my soul. (See Ecclesiastes 7:12). It is the shelter found in the Name of God.
The Blessing is in the Name
When we become believers, a divine transference takes place. Through adoption, we receive the Name of God as our own. This doesn't just mean we call ourselves "Christians" from now on; it means that the essence of God - the manifestation of His Spirit, nature, and Presence - is imparted, or "rubbed on," as an anointing. Hebrews speaks of God engraving His nature on our hearts and minds. Numbers describes the priests "putting My Name on the people of Israel, so that I will bless them." (See Hebrews 8:10; Numbers 6:24-26).
So how does His Name become a shelter? Deuteronomy clarifies this for us:
All the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the
Name (or the Presence) of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you.
Deut. 28:10, AMP
Think briefly of Israel's journey through the wilderness. We often attribute the pillars of fire and cloud only as easy-to-follow "road signs" out of Egypt, when in truth, these manifestations of the Presence of God were for shelter and protection as well. The cloud sheltered them from oppressive desert heat. It darkened the path behind them. And no enemy would dare approach a traveling caravan protected by a supernatural column of scorching fire!
Exodus 14:19 connects the movement of the Angel of God to the movement of the pillars of cloud and fire. When the cloud moved, it literally "came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel...so that the one did not come near the other all that night." (Ex. 14:20, NKJV). In this way, the Name, or essence of God manifested over His people, sheltered and delivered them from Egypt.
David also knew this kind of protection, writing of it often in his Psalms. Psalm 31:20 reads, "You hide them in the shelter of Your Presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in Your Presence, far from accusing tongues." (NLT; for more examples, see Psalms 27, 91 & 138). Because of our relationship with God, we are able to run in to our Father's arms and find safety from physical or verbal threats (Proverbs 18:10).
Why is all of this important? Because the days to come will be more challenging than ever before.
This morning's headlines included yet another Asian plane crash, a commuter train wreck in New York, more Syrian executions, and record-breaking snowstorms in New England. We need the kind of shelter that only the anointing and Presence of God can provide for these times. Fortunately, Isaiah gives us a promise of what this looks like for a redeemed people:
... then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion,
and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining
of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.
And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat,
for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain."
Isaiah 4:5-6, NKJV
If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are living under the covering of His anointing. Anything that touches you must pass through the fire of His Presence first! You are shielded and sheltered under His wonderful Name, the Name that is above every other Name! (Philippians 2:9-11). He is "tabernacling" with you daily, overshadowing you with His glory. He is both leading and protecting you. Glory to His Name!
But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever.
May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.
Psalm 5:11, HCSB
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting people with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at HisInscriptions.com. To subscribe to her blog, click here.
There’s going to be a time, in your life as a believer, when your witness or your worship of God differentiates you so much that it infuriates the enemy. When you suffer, not because of some sin in your life, but because of something you’ve done right. It is a time when your enemy turns the fiery furnace up seven times hotter – and then throws you into it. Congratulations… you’ve just been promoted!
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:
Just for a moment, think of the smartest person you know. Who do you think is the wisest, the most inspiring, maybe the most revelatory person you've ever met? Do you have someone in mind? Good. Now hold on to that thought as you read today's story!
My high-school-aged son came home with his new Honors Biology textbook this week. It is a monster of a book, several inches thick and so heavy that his teacher has the students keep one at home and one at school to avoid carrying them back and forth! It was on the table where I had my quiet time one morning, so I opened it up to take a look.
Impressive, I thought. Just one sentence from the first chapter intrigued me, and here was a whole wealth of information about our biological makeup. A handy little diagram in another chapter explained the respiratory system in beautiful detail. I called my 8-year-old over to see it. "Look!" I said excitedly, "This is how you breathe!" I began teaching him about carbon and oxygen molecules and how they interact with our blood.
Thinking I'd probably lost it, my unimpressed 8-year-old found something better to do. But as I sat there, amazed at the amount of information contained in just this one volume, the Holy Spirit interrupted me. "You are impressed with just one line of this book," He noticed. And rightfully so, I thought, since just one word from Your mouth has the power to change a life! "This," He reminded me, "is just a beginner's book in the entire field of Biology. There are volumes more to be learned."
So true, I thought. Here was one book, in just one field, in a world containing many other fields - chemistry, language, history, sociology, computers - and on and on. The spiritual implications were staggering. I was suddenly awed by the vast quantity of information we know, and how little even the most degreed specialist knows in comparison to the whole. How immense is the sum of all knowledge! How amazing the God who created such wisdom, and how much more there is to know!
The prophet Isaiah came to a similar conclusion thousands of years ago:
"Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
or as His counselor has taught Him?
With whom did He take counsel,
and who instructed Him, and
taught Him in the path of justice?
Who taught Him knowledge, and
showed Him the way of understanding?"
Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket,
and are counted as the small
dust on the scales."
"To whom then will you liken Me,
or to whom shall I be equal," says the Holy One.
Isaiah 40:13-15 & 25, NKJV
In the midst of Isaiah's revelation, God questions Israel as to why they complain that their way is hidden from the Lord, and that He does not see or know what is going on in their lives. (See Isaiah 40:27). To question a God whose understanding "cannot be fathomed" is ridiculous, really, and yet we are all guilty of it at times!
We listen with alarm to the doomsday prophecies of the week: Isis, Obamacare, global warming, and we wonder whether God knows. We would do better to meditate on the immeasurable magnitude of God! If we would do this, Isaiah notes, we would be invigorated and strengthened again (Isaiah 40:29-31).
While God is not dispassionate about such things, (nor should we be), He is not worried about them (and again, neither should we be). Psalm 2 gives us His perspective on the nations:
Why do the nations rage,
and the people plot a vain thing?
The king of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against His anointed,
saying, "Let us break their bonds in pieces
and cast away their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh,
the Lord shall hold them in derision...
the Lord has said to Me...
Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations
for your inheritance, and the
ends of the earth for your possession."
Psalm 2:1-4 & 7-8
Like my musings on the vast sum of academic knowledge, we need to see the bigger picture: the nations, God says, are our inheritance. Neither Isis nor Congress can defeat God in all His immensity! When we begin to take hold of the basic idea that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord, we will be less fearful of what the nations do and more impressed with what God can do through us.
The wisest man's thoughts and a nation's best-laid plans are no match for an unfathomable God. As a pastor-friend of mine used to say, "It's not: 'God, look at my problem!' It's: 'Problem, look at my God!' " The next time the wisdom of the world renders you awestruck or fearful, remember this: to God, it is nothing but a drop in the bucket.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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I was reading the parable of the ten talents last week and I noticed something I hadn’t before. It is fear that causes man to hide. It is love that causes God to seek. There is no fear in love. But it is a choice to believe the love.
Fear causes us to hide ourselves and our talents so that God cannot use either. Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in Matthew 25 as a Kingdom whose Lord entrusts his servants with gifts, goods, or talents. Then he leaves. Those who use and multiply the talents are rewarded; those who do not, lose even what they had. There are several great principles in here, not least of which is the law of diminishing returns. In other words, you use it or you lose it.
I believe this is true in the area of prayer as well. But what causes a person to lose it? Even the wicked servant, who hid God’s talent in the ground, acknowledged that the talent belonged to God: “Look, there you have what is yours.” But just before this, he said, “I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” (Mt. 25:25)
Fear doubts the character of God. This servant wrongly perceived God as a hard and unfair man, reaping where He did not sow. Although the seed actually belonged to his Lord, this servant resented, perhaps, the labor he must invest to grow that seed. He decided instead to hide it.
Adam and Eve responded similarly in Genesis chapter 3. As a result of their sin, shame and fear entered their minds, and verse 9 says “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the Presence of the Lord among the trees of the garden.” When the Lord called to Adam, asking where he was, Adam responded: “I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And of whom have you been afraid, or feared,
that you have lied and not remembered,
nor taken it to your heart?
~ Isaiah 57:11
We know that throughout the Bible, God commands us NOT to fear. Fear is not an option for the child of a loving Father. 1 John 4:18-19 says that he who fears is not made perfect in love. Why? Because fear has to do with punishment. The only one who wants us to be punished is the devil.
The love that causes God to seek us out when we sin is the same love that provides clothing as a covering for our nakedness. It is the same love that causes His Son to bear the punishment for our failings so that we don’t have to. (See Genesis 3:21 & Isaiah 53:5).
Compare Genesis 3:7 with Psalm 27. Fear induces us not only to hide ourselves, but also to provide for ourselves, usurping something that our loving Father planned to do. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together in order to make themselves a covering. But it was God’s intention to provide our covering Himself: “He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:5)
Hiding and providing are God’s prerogative, not ours.
It is in the absence of God’s Presence that the enemy tempts us to sin. Therefore, our best defense against the spirit of fear is to stay in the Presence of God as much as possible. “Pray unceasingly,” we read in a letter to the Thessalonians. How can we do this? Aren’t we busy enough? To pray nonstop, engaging our minds and our mouths, would be nearly impossible!
Strategically, God has given believers one unique gift (or “talent”) to help us in this area: the gift of tongues. As we pray unceasingly in tongues, our spirits remain active in the Kingdom realm while our bodies are able to continue with whatever work we are doing in the natural realm. I believe that this particular talent is grossly underused, and has been even hidden by the church out of – you guessed it - fear. We fear the denominational division that comes from this kind of spirit-to-Spirit prayer, and yet it is indisputably one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal.
I have said often that the believer’s “secret weapon” is hearing God. Speaking in tongues enables us to communicate with God directly and to establish a “secure connection” in the Spirit which the enemy cannot penetrate. Think of it as Kingdom WiFi that is password-protected. Once we connect to this power source, we have access to all the wonderful wisdom of God, downloaded to our minds through our spirit.
God has reversed the curse that came from Adam’s original sin. The shame of eating from the tree of knowledge has been replaced with privileged access to all wisdom and knowledge through the gift of the Holy Spirit. In this Jewish month of Elul, the traditional season for the King to visit His fields, our Beloved is searching for His Bride. He is walking through His Kingdom garden even now. When He asks where you are, will you be hiding?
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014. All citations NKJV unless otherwise noted.
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There are so many wonderful gifts that God gives us as we follow Him! I wrote earlier about the gift of the Word, which Jesus both brought to us (speaking the Words of the Father) and became for us (obeying and embodying the Word completely). This Word is precious: so much so, that the apostles in Acts later gave themselves "continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word," saying it would be "undesirable to leave the Word of God." (Acts 6:4).
We are challenged in 1 Peter 2:2 to "desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby." 2 Peter says to "be mindful" of the Word, since by the Word the heavens and earth were created and are preserved. (2 Peter 3:2, 5, & 7). We know that when the Word is preached, the Gospel multiplies exponentially. (see Acts 8:4) Today, I'd like to look at the Word as it relates to prayer, and share with you a fun, real-life story to illustrate its power.
Some of you know that our family is believing God for a home with more land, specifically to raise livestock. We have been "frustrated farmers" for a while, having a vision for a farm and slowly working toward the fulfillment of that dream. Two months ago, by a small miracle, we obtained both a coop and fencing, along with feeding and watering supplies, for a mere $10. We began to pray that God would also give us chickens for our coop. Within 24 hours, we had a small flock of four chicks called "Easter Eggers," known for the colorful eggs they lay in shades of blue and green. We were amazed at God's quick provision!
The boys have needed no reminders to care for their new "pets" daily, feeding and watering them, and our oldest son has taken on quite a fatherly role towards these birds, repairing the fencing as needed and becoming sweetly protective of the flock. Interestingly, our family devotional reading around this time was on the biblical book of Jonah, which ends by mentioning God's concern for both people and livestock (see Jonah 4:11).
I had an interesting dream the other night. Dreams are not unusual for me; they are just one of the biblical ways God speaks to me, clarifying things or bringing direction and insight. This dream was more like a parable, and it illustrated exactly what I have wanted to write about: Psalm 91.
Psalm 91 speaks of abiding and dwelling in the shelter of the Most High, of trusting in God and making Him our refuge. This Psalm rivals Psalm 23 in its popularity; just about anyone who has been to a church service, or read even snippets of the Bible, will be familiar with it. We send Psalm 91 to our troops on the field as a promise of God’s protection, and we quote it to comfort those in hard circumstances.
I have often wondered how to “dwell” and “abide” better; it seems like such a slippery task sometimes, given the demands we feel to be anything but still! Just making eye contact and listening to someone for more than a moment requires such discipline sometimes! (My husband can confirm this…)
Yet the reward God promises for abiding in Him is extraordinary – deliverance from a multitude of dangers. Here is a summary:
God also promises:
My favorite promise from this psalm, however, is in verse 4: “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4). All this, just for abiding in Him! Who wouldn’t want to stay close to a God like that?
Well, I do, but like you, I don’t always succeed at this. So the Lord gave me a dream to illustrate the idea, and I hope it will be meaningful to you, too.
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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.