For the past few weeks, the Lord has been bringing to my mind a vision as I’ve reflected on prayer. The scene is so unlikely to ever happen in the natural that it is almost humorous! Yet the Lord is impressing on me that this scenario happens daily in the lives of many believers, and spiritually, it can mean the difference between victory and defeat.
Today I’d like to share this vision with you because I believe it identifies a particular problem we face in prayer and gives us a strategy for greater victory. This vision could be the one major reason why Christians are defeated on the battlefield, and I don’t want you to be a casualty!
As I listened to the Lord this week, I heard God saying that He is cultivating in His people an ability to work through the noise and distractions of battle right now. It is so easy to be distracted by the sights and sounds of spiritual war! The battlefield can be a painful, ugly place, and not an easy road.
For those of you who feel like you are in the middle of a battlefield today, I hear the Lord saying,
“I am calling My people to take a higher view of their territory, looking up from those wounded and slain who are past help and returning wholeheartedly to their true mission, which is to make Me known. Do not be surprised by the torments of the enemy! Learn to live and thrive in the midst of his noise, for I will create an oasis of peace for you if you look only to Me.
“Ten thousand will fall at your right hand” - you will see My miracles here on the battlefield more clearly than in any other place of your life, and praise Me for My goodness! Your praise will then become a gateway to greater victories overall, as others around you join in your song. I will set ambushes against the one who destroys when you repeatedly surrender to Me on your battlefield. Don’t look around you, but look UP to the heavens and see My salvation. My mercy is always at hand. Only believe and you will see My goodness!"
Standing with you for your victories!
Around the world today, people are dealing with unprecedented levels of stress. Never before have we had such widespread fear, anxiety, and even terror. In response to this, I believe the Lord wants to release not just the grace to deal with stress, but strategies to overcome it. Keep reading for a prophetic word on this subject, and a prayer strategy you can use to eradicate stress from your life altogether!
This morning as I sought the Lord, I had a vision of great activity in heaven. I saw a flurry of people bustling about here and there, all under Christ’s command. Although heaven seemed busy, those who moved about moved with specific orders and definite purpose, obeying what I understood to be Jesus’ plan.
As I stood and watched, it occurred to me that as an observer, I myself had no place in this busyness; I was unsure what my role should be in the unfolding drama.
“What would you have me do here?” I asked the Lord.
Immediately, the answer to my question arose in my spirit: “Do you type? I need cryptographers – urgently!”
Suddenly, the nature of what was happening in heaven became clear to me. A war was on, and the Lord had need of those who could interpret and decode strategies, communicate them to His people on earth, and assist in the winning of their battles.
“Yes, of course,” I replied, and I immediately found my laptop and began writing out what I had seen.
During the month of January, many Christians have been fasting and praying, seeking God for His plans for the coming year. At the same time, many of us have felt like the enemy's attacks also increased. This Facebook Live video is meant to encourage you if you feel wounded, battle-weary, or abandoned. (20 minute video replay with prayer for listeners included.) Click the link below to watch!
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Sometimes the voice of the enemy is LOUD. Embarrassing. Even publicly humiliating. Sometimes the devil is uncomfortably close to home. Like a strong-willed child, he tries to draw you into a power struggle. He hopes you will cave to the factual truths of his accusations against you. Has this happened to you?
It happened to King Hezekiah. And it’s happened to me. The question is, what do you do?
Of course persecution will increase, but let's not let that upstage what God is doing in the foreground of this story - expanding His Kingdom. - Southeast Asia's Regional Director, Voice of the Martyrs Ministry
Early this morning, the Lord woke me and began releasing words of encouragement for the WOMEN in His Kingdom. These are not just "Esthers" and "Deborahs," as we have heard previously, but also "Annas," those welcoming new things of the Spirit for this new season. I heard Him saying:
“There is a Spirit of GRACE upon My women today which will carry them through the next season. There is grace in the Spirit on them the way strength of the flesh rested upon Samson. These women will do mighty exploits in My Name, because they have believed.
I am calling forth the “Annas:”* prophetic intercessors whose eyes have been opened to see the new season that is upon them. (As Anna welcomed the arrival of the age of Christ.) They will prophesy of the new miracles just birthed, identifying them to a deaf and blind people who cannot see My promises in their midst.
These are the nurturers of the promise, women who cherish deeply the things of God. They will not only see these promises manifesting and identify them to others, but they will also take the promises in hand themselves and bless Me for them.”
God is Raising Up Mighty, FEARLESS Warriors
Click to Watch Video or Scroll Down to Read:
God is looking for fearless leaders who are unafraid of confrontation. If the words "fearless," "leaders," or "confrontation" make you think of other people, not yourself, then rejoice! You are a work in progress!
However, it is the wholehearted warriors who win the war. This is the truth the Lord is impressing on my heart this week, as I return to Deuteronomy 20: the Lord's protocol for battle.
In 1943, artist Norman Rockwell created a series of four oil paintings which would become known as the Four Freedoms. Based on a wartime speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, these paintings depicted basic human rights that later became a part of the United Nations charter, including Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. This last painting, Freedom from Fear, is the image that the Lord brought to my mind early this morning.
What are you building?
How are you using your talents to further the Kingdom of God?
Have you started something for God, only to not finish it for some reason? What got in the way?
If you’re like me, you’ve had lots of wonderful ideas of things you’d like to do for God, maybe even done a number of them. But for many people, your spiritual to-do list looks more like a hoped-for “bucket list” than a resume of accomplishments. Even when God tells us what should be on our lists, we sometimes fail to persevere and finish the tasks. Why is that?
It’s easy to be excited about prophetic words, especially when they promise growth, expansion, restoration, or blessing. The prophetic word I released at the beginning of 2017 contained all of those. God is speaking about Kingdom expansion in the coming year. Yet God also gave us a prophetic mandate to re-examine Nehemiah’s “growth strategies,” found in the scriptures. This post on discouragement is the first in a series I will write on combating the enemy’s attacks during a time of growth.
As I write to you on this Election Day, the winner of the 2016 election has not yet been determined. Even as this decision unfolds, the Lord is stirring me to remind you that the warfare and deception we have seen on a national level applies to believers at an individual level. Satan, our enemy, is still "seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8.) To forget this would be to surrender again to an apathy far more dangerous.
Thankfully, many Christians have been stirred by the election process to wake up from apathy and passivity, and are praying fervently for our nation. If you are one of these people, it might comfort you to know that the fear, complacency or even apathy you have felt for some time is not entirely your fault, although the enemy would like you to believe it is!
In prayer this morning I heard the Lord say, “Your victory does not lie in your defense but in your offense.” He followed this with a prophetic word (below) that will encourage you to resist the temptation to trust in your defenses and instead, to advance with Him in a victorious offense!
Because prayer is a work done mostly in secret, it is rare for an intercessor to immediately know whether his prayers are effective. It is rarer still for someone to realize they are being prayed for, since humility constrains us from boasting about our praying!
Yet from time to time, we do hear of amazing answers to prayer, and have the joy of knowing that there is indeed power released when we pray. In the midst of a very difficult week, God allowed both me and my pastor to see the power of prayer. I want to use this story as a "case study" on prayer.
I have prayed for people in some difficult situations lately. I’ve talked with people who are struggling with significant changes in their lives that leave them wondering, ‘What now? Did I do something wrong?’ Life suddenly threw them a curve ball; something unexpected sent them spinning, wide-eyed, into what felt like a dusty, dry, desert season.
Last week I shared the story of my relationship with my husband. When we married, he said, “Everything I have is yours.” And later, when God walked us through overwhelming financial battles, God repeated those same words to me: “Everything I have is yours.” (Click here to read previous post). He unlocked strategies for me that I had not seen before. Today, I want to give you three of those strategies.
My husband and I attended a wake this week for a young man who died in the prime of his life after a long struggle with addiction. He leaves behind a wife, two brothers, and parents who are also struggling, with questions like: “Why? Why him and not me, Lord?” Despite a wonderful show of support from family and friends, the situation is heartbreaking. No one should have to lose a child, and no words can touch that kind of pain.
I took a walk yesterday after visiting the boy’s family. Although I have known his parents for many years, I had met the boy only once, in their church. On that day, the Lord had given me a prophetic word for him, which I shared with his mother and then with him personally. At the time, I did not know the extent of what he was going through.
The wonderful thing about prophecy is that no matter how rough life is at the time, a word from God almost always conveys hope. I felt the love of God for this boy and knew that God envisioned good things for him – saw him as complete, competent, and strong in Him.
It is hard not to get excited about prophetic words when they come; they are like Jeremiah 29:11 in living color, with specific and personal applications for us. We feel God’s pleasure; we know that He is unquestionably for us. It is like the feeling we have when a teacher gives us a good grade on a test, tells us he believes in us, that we will become something great someday. Something in our soul responds deeply to this kind of encouragement, longs to become that wonderful person that has been described; could that really be me, we wonder?
I and this boy’s family believed that what was prophesied to him could really be him. That he could overcome the challenges he faced and turn his life around for the better. I know that his mother has stood her ground spiritually and prayed that word over him for many years since. In fact, when I saw his mother a few weeks ago, she told me how much she had appreciated the word I gave her son, and that she was still believing for those good things God had promised to manifest in her son’s life. Her words greatly encouraged me.
But he died.
And as I walked, I couldn’t help but ask God, “Why?” Why, when parents who are prayer warriors have battled courageously, do children still fall? Why, when a powerful word is given, do we miss it? Why, when we do wage warfare with the prophecies we are given, do we still sometimes suffer defeat?
This is what He said: “Prophecy is not a guarantee; it’s an opportunity.”
In other words, when God releases a prophetic word to you, it’s an open door. He lets you take a look at your future from His perspective, and promises that if you walk through that door with Him, He will do everything in His power to back His words to you. There are some things He will do, and there are some things we must do. It’s a bit like the cutting of a covenant: each party has responsibilities to fulfill. When you receive a word, you must ask: what is God's part? What is my part?
There are prophetic words for all of us in scripture (See Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6), and there are personal prophecies that we receive through His people as we walk with Him. All are meant to encourage, exhort, and edify us – to help us envision a life of peace and fruitfulness when we do what He is doing. (See John 5:19).
Words of correction and direction may also come, with the intended goal of getting us back on track spiritually - always for our good. (For example, Jonah’s prophetic warning to Nineveh didn’t sound very encouraging on the surface. But it resulted in repentance. God’s heart is always for relationship, not destruction.)
However, most prophecies are not guarantees. They are conditional, based upon our acceptance of them by faith and by our willingness to yield or to seize the opportunities we’ve been given. I believe many of us are quick to accept prophetic words by faith – we even run after prophetically gifted people to get them – but not all of us act on them. Just as faith without works is dead, so prophecy without action becomes a missed opportunity. We have a part to play.
Though we pray, prophesy, disciple, give, and encourage others, the one thing we can never do is take away their right to choose, to make their own decisions based on the promises they are given. Sometimes people choose not to walk with God. Sometimes they walk with God, yet don’t take the steps needed to walk into the better future He invites them to experience while they are here on earth. This is a hard thing to watch from the sidelines, like a dropped catch on the football field or a wrong note in a concert. We cringe inside, we wish it had been different, we wish we could go out and “catch” the ball for them, run the touchdown, correct the mistake.
But we can’t.
In the end, I must both believe and act on what I receive. This is the way the Kingdom of God operates.
Overcoming our own fears, weaknesses, anxieties, or addictions is not an easy task. We need each other more than we care to admit. We need the encouragement that comes through the prophetic gifts, the pastoral gifts, the counseling, teaching and discernment gifts, and all of the other wonderful gifts God has made manifest in His Body. We need each other because without that encouragement, we do make wrong choices sometimes.
We’re at war, a war so evil and intense that precious lives are lost along the way. The enemy meant for me to be discouraged when things didn’t go the way I had hoped for this young man. He meant to quench my hope, to make me doubt God and question His wisdom. But he only strengthened my resolve. I cannot choose for another person what he should do. But the losses challenge me to encourage more, to prophesy more, and to pray more, because I see that our resolve must at least match that of the enemy’s. We must remain as committed to life and hope as he is to death and despair.
We serve a great God whose plan is unfathomable, whose Kingdom is eternal. In Him, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted. We will see this young man again in heaven. We celebrate all the ways he did acknowledge God. And we will pray, prophesy, disciple, love, and encourage as many others as God leads to us, in the hope that they will choose to accept their prophetic destinies and live the fruitful lives God is calling them to. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
c. Deborah Perkins / His Inscriptions.
Deborah Perkins is passionate about connecting others with God. She writes about knowing God and hearing His voice at His Inscriptions. To subscribe to her free weekly blog, click here.
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
What is Jealousy?
Jealousy can manifest as at least three kinds of moles: covetousness, misplaced ambition, or mistrust. Let’s study each one so we’ll recognize them when they pop up unexpectedly.
1. Covetousness: The most obvious and widespread form of jealousy is covetousness, prohibited by God in the 10th commandment. (See Exodus 20). Coveting is wishing you had a prettier wife like your best friend. It’s resenting the large house your neighbor built next door – with a chef’s kitchen and custom details throughout. Covetousness lusts after the diamond engagement ring your best friend is flaunting shamelessly.
Covetousness is wanting “anything that is your neighbor’s,” according to God. With a definition that broad, covetousness hard to escape! All of us have admired something to the point that lust for that object has subtly taken over in our minds. This is why Jesus says that a man who is “just looking” at another man’s wife has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He is coveting. Covetousness leads to adultery and idolatry, and idolatry leads to death:
…One is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin,
2. Misplaced ambition: The Bible makes a distinction between ambition and selfish ambition. Galatians 5:20 says selfish ambition is one of the “obvious works of the flesh, along with idolatry, witchcraft, and quarreling. Those who yield to these things do not inherit the kingdom of God. (See Galatians 5:20, NIV or HCSB). The trouble is that selfish ambition is not always as “obvious” as we think it is. Sometimes it is hidden, and God must expose it.
For example, one day I discovered that an old college friend had made it “big” in the business world, with all the books, awards, and positions to go with it. Instead of celebrating her success, my initial “wow” moment quickly morphed into self-pity. Our paths over the last 20 years were radically different. I chose to set my career aside for a time and raise a family. She had worked her way to the top of her industry, and is doing things I’d give my eye teeth to do.
In an instant, all the wonderful things I value: time at home with my children, time to pray and write, and a refreshing distance from the pressures of work & ministry, evaporated. Inferiority and regret surrounded me and I bemoaned the years I’d “wasted” as a wife and mother.
Sound ridiculous? It is! Once you get over yourself you see the eternal value of what you’ve accomplished by following God’s will for your life. Your walk with God is uniquely your own. My friend’s promotions came at cost, too – a price God might not have wanted me to pay. Until circumstances made this particular “mole” pop up, I didn’t even realize it was there, lurking just under the surface.
While selfish ambition is not a godly attribute, ambition for the things of God is something to be desired. The apostle Paul writes: “…we make it our aim (we have as our ambition) to please Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9, RSV). He says his ambition is to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known, so that he doesn’t build on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20). Paul also directs us to “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts such as prophecy; something we could not do without a measure of ambition (1 Corinthians 14).
1 Thessalonians 4 reads “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life. Mind your own affairs and work with your hands so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (1 Thess. 4:11). Ambition isn’t wrong. But it needs the right focus.
3. Mistrust: At its heart, jealousy reveals a basic mistrust in the goodness of God. We doubt that God cares as much for us as He does for our neighbor, since our neighbor’s life seems so much better than ours! Doubt turns to unbelief, and unbelief is sin. If we fail to whack this mole immediately, it will only multiply and pop up in other areas of our spiritual lives.
The devil hopes to overrun your mind with moles of mistrust in order to keep you from hearing God. Every step you take on the road to jealousy is a step farther away from intimacy with God.
The Kingdom of God operates by faith. When our lives seem to lack the “substance” we desire, faith is the means of obtaining that substance. Jealousy covets. Selfish ambition forcefully takes what it desires. Mistrust fears it is not worthy of God’s blessings. These three things cause us to hide from God because we hurt inside, aching for things that have not manifested yet.
Faith, on the other hand, believes in the love of God to provide. Faith trusts in the equal concern of God for all His children. Faith accesses the redeeming power of forgiveness, which restores hope and trust.
How Can We Win the Battle Against Jealousy?
Within all of us, there is an innate human tendency towards envy and selfish ambition. Doubt and mistrust are seeds Satan planted at the fall of man. We long to be known, heard, and appreciated. Yet as believers we are called to know, hear, and appreciate God above all else. As in every area of our spiritual life, acknowledgement of sin is the first step towards healing.
Once we admit we are human and must fight jealousy just like everyone else, we can begin to be proactive about defeating it. God is a strategist. He’s an expert at revealing things hidden in darkness (Daniel 2:22). We can ask Him to expose jealousy’s moles and show us selfish ambition’s ambushes before we get there, so that they won’t get the upper hand.
The value of confronting jealousy is that it exposes areas of our lives where we have not yet died to self and embraced God. Instead of being jealous, we can be content to allow God to weave us into the fabric of His masterpiece when He sees fit, and in the places where our true colors will best be displayed. We can celebrate, not covet, the beautiful hues and patterns already knitted together, even when we feel like forgotten balls of yarn left in the basket. We can tame the ugly green monster. We can stop allowing jealousy to destroy our relationships and make it a catalyst for growth in God.
c. Deborah Perkins, His Inscriptions
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?
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.
There's a big lie that the devil has promoted among God's people since the beginning of time. It is so big, and so successful, that his strategy really has not changed much over the years. From Genesis to Revelation and right into the present day, Satan and his minions have invested untold amounts of time and energy into marketing this lie. Do you know what it is?
It is this: "Did God really say...?"
Early one morning the Lord woke me, saying: "Treat obstacles not as occasions for worry but as opportunities in the Spirit." It was an encouraging word He wanted me to share with a friend who was about to experience several days of new obstacles. I shared the word, thinking it was a catchy little phrase! Not long after that, though, He showed me a picture of the rapids.
The image of a river is powerful in Scripture; Psalm 46:4 speaks of a river "whose streams make glad the city of God," and Ezekiel prophesies about a river in God's temple whose waters will increase until they become too deep to cross. It is a picture of the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, a popular expression in the Charismatic renewal of the 1990's was: "Jump in the river!" (Meaning, jump into the flow of the Spirit!).
But rivers, especially the rapids, contain obstacles. Some are small and easily floated over. Some are so deep they are virtually unseen. It is the larger ones that tend to cause us difficulties in our faith-walk. The ones that seem to block our way or hold us back from going to where we want to be. The ones that are too big for us to move.
We are not meant to get stuck behind obstacles, but to continue flowing in the river of the Spirit as we journey along. In order to do this, we must know what kind of obstacle we are bumping into. It is here that the wisdom of God is indispensable.
Two Types of Obstacles
Here's what I felt the Lord was saying. Obstacles along the side of a river - usually rocks, soil, or branches - comprise the boundaries of the river. They are there as protection, as an obvious division for us between the Spirit and the flesh. If we are bumping into these it often means we have drifted to the edges of the movement of God in our lives. Staying here can mean stagnancy, like being caught in the circular undulations of an eddy. We haven't abandoned God or gotten out of the river to walk on our own, but we may not be making any progress. Fear of the rapids may have caused us to return to safer ground. We may be fascinated with those outside of the river, who seem to skip along so cheerfully in the greener grass. Perhaps we are snagged on a painful outcropping that just won't seem to let us go.
Whatever the reason, we recognize that our pace has slowed, but with a little effort, we can return to the flow of the river. God has not abandoned us, and our momentary collision with the banks of the river only teaches us to run more consistently down the central channels of His grace.
Rocks or boulders inside the river, however, pose a different challenge. In most cases, these obstacles are meant to redirect us as we flow in the Spirit. These are obstacles whose roots are so deep or whose surface so great that we cannot float over them. They must be recognized for what they are and confronted with God's strategy so that we can move beyond them. What is that strategy?
Water flows over and around the rocks in a river. Rarely are rocks are dislodged to make water's passage easier! God might choose sometimes to supernaturally remove a boulder that is blocking us, but more often than not, God expects His river to flow around and beyond the things that would try to block the water's flow. We are not meant to hold on to these obstacles or become stuck when they arise.
In short, too often, our prayers focus on asking God to remove things that are meant to redirect us. We are never called to grow stagnant in the Spirit, whining and complaining about the impassable boulders we face. Life in the Holy Spirit is a life of constant movement and change, just like the life of a river. A better prayer might be, "Lord, help me to see this obstacle for what it is and to navigate around it so that it doesn't stop me from going on with You."
Returning to my time with the Lord early that morning, I realized: the key to navigating obstacles of any kind was right there in the word He gave me initially: obstacles are nothing more than opportunities for us to stay in the Spirit.
Let the Source of the river set your direction. Let the flow of the river keep you within His boundaries. And let the strength of His current propel you over and around every obstacle you might encounter.
c. Deborah Perkins, 2015
Deborah Perkins is passionate about helping others connect with God.
She writes about Knowing God and Hearing His Voice at
His Inscriptions.com. Follow her on Twitter@DeborahSPerkins,
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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.
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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.