Release and Renew: Prayers for Those with Heartbreaking Jobs

”I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13 NAS1977)

Be deliberate today in your pursuit of the goodness of God. I speak especially to those in careers where you daily see the ugliest side of humanity, or perhaps the most hopeless-appearing situations. Soldiers, law enforcement, social workers, oncology nurses/doctors, ministers, teachers, counselors, and others–at the end of your day you must find a way to disconnect from the despair, lest you become a casualty instead of a catalyst for healing and hope. You can find that in prayer. At the beginning of your day you have to coat yourself in the hope of the Word to shield yourself from what you’re going to encounter. You might say, “why aren’t you suggesting I pray for the people I encounter instead of myself? This feels so selfish. What about their problems?” I’m writing this today to help keep you strong enough to do the hard work you do. You can’t help others if you wind up taken out by despair. It’s time to gear up because we NEED you doing what you do. Please, stay strong! Take care of your spirit!

Our world is sad. It’s bad out there. There’s so much despair and so many wicked activities taking place. There’s so much sickness and tragedy and cruelty. So many children, elderly, weak, innocent who are preyed upon. So many people operating under demonic influence inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. So much ADDICTION.

I’ll be honest. I went through my Twitter feed earlier this morning and the bad news was exhausting. I wanted to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I honestly thought, “Death’s not such a bad thing…it’ll be a relief to leave this world and go on to heaven!” But then I remembered what Paul said about it being more expedient (needful) that he remain behind to help others instead of going on to be with the Lord. I want heaven. I want to go and be with the Lord and be away from all the madness for all eternity…eventually. But what I really want to do first is effectively hold back the worst of evil by collectively offering up effectual fervent prayer. I want to point others to Jesus and be someone who hammers signposts in the ground of life that show a lost world the direction in which to run to find hope. THE ONLY way I can remain objective is to have God’s Word tattooed on my heart and mind, and to stay close enough to Him to hear His voice. Otherwise I just disappear into the sludge of despair with everyone else who’s given up and is waiting to die.

So for all of you who are so bravely doing the jobs I could not do (or rather, don’t necessarily WANT to do), I just encourage you this morning to cover yourself. Even if you’re already well into your shift, there’s no time like the present to start. Pray with me:

“God, thank You for helping me survive all the situations I encountered yesterday. Your Word says Your mercies are new every morning. Today I receive Your new mercy. Clothe me with salvation, with humility, with strength. Just like the “whole armor of God,” I put on my tactical gear. My head’s covered with salvation. My heart’s covered with righteousness. My tactical belt is truth…I can attach every tool I need to do my job to this truth. My feet are covered with peace. My shield is faith. My defense weaponry is Your Word and Your Spirit! That said, Lord, I’m getting ready to walk into the unknown today. I will encounter messed-up lives. I will meet hurting people. My heart will break over what’s not fair. Use me to make a difference, to be Your light bearer in a dark place. Help me to respond not out of anger, but with great wisdom.

Help me to do my best while I’m on the job and then help me to LET IT GO at the end of the day. Lord, help me not to carry these problems home to my family. I need my family and they need me. Help me to appreciate and be ministered to by the innocence of the home I’ve worked so hard to build and protect.

Keep me safe today, guard me against burnout; help me to strategize with the mind of Christ about how I can use my gifts to bless others and my strengths to help those who are in the place of need. Help me not to lose my sense of compassion nor my sense of duty to minister to the disparaged. I don’t want to be callous or insensitive when someone is needing treated gently. Help me to be just and fair with all people, even those who aren’t just and fair with me. Remind me that I represent YOU and can’t afford to let my words and actions go contrary to Yours. Help me not to think as the world thinks, but as YOU think about situations. Keep me from being jaded. Keep my heart tender even as you keep it from breaking in two at the things which also grieve YOU. In Jesus’ name.”

And at night (or the end of your workday, whenever that is 😉 ):

“Father, thank You for helping me to make it to the conclusion of another day. These burdens I bore all day long, these suffering people I worked with, the situations I can’t necessarily fix with an easy button…these worries and cares all want to come home with me. The memories want to invade my ability to wind down, to hear my spouse and children’s conversations, to keep me from the place of prayer and the much needed place of recharging and sleep.

But just like a set of coveralls, I choose to unzip the activities of the day and I step out of them. What I couldn’t fix today, I will deal with tomorrow, but for now I let it go. I’m not God–You are. I trust You to put things on hold, to keep the people I can’t help 24/7, to send others alongside to help, and to keep this world spinning on its axis for another day. In Jesus’ name I reject the effects of constant exposure to negative forces. I will not cope with frustration and sorrow by engaging in substance abuse or destructive relationships. I will seek out things that keep my heart pure and guileless, I will freely laugh at every possible opportunity, and I will give mindful thanks for the simple blessings You afford me, like a beautiful sunrise or the giggles of a small child.

I boldly declare that the helmet of salvation will keep my mind and protect me from becoming a walking case of PTSD. You are strengthening me, You are renewing my mind, You are restoring my innocence, and You ARE my joy, my strength. I will run to You and not be so “tough.” You’re the One I run to when I’m out of my league. It’s ok for me to be vulnerable in Your presence because You heal me and help me. I plead the blood of Jesus now to wash me clean, to cleanse the portals of my mind from what I need to let go of. Thanks now for blessing my family time, my worship time, my downtime and strengthening me to fight another day. I love You and trust You. Amen”

Repentance: Don’t Hide–HEAL

Don’t let the enemy guilt you out of your #destiny. If you have sinned or otherwise failed or fallen short, repent. Yes, I know there’s seemingly nothing profound in that advice, but it’s still true. I didn’t say resign; I said #repent.

#Repentance isn’t just being sorry for something you’ve done (or in some cases, haven’t done), it’s evaluating where you went wrong and making the necessary corrections to keep it from happening again: a change of heart and action. Maybe you’ve done something or allowed something and it’s wrinkled the fender of your reputation and distanced you from God. Maybe you’re just disappointed in yourself and it’s easier to bail than to humbly start all over. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to HIDE. And may I even say, the more we are respected and admired, the harder it feels to get back up when we stumble because the accuser wants our shame to be very public.

Yeah, Satan’s goal is to take us out and damage as many people as he can in the process…but friends, when we’ve taken a faceplant, the world needs to SEE us recover, even if a few folks (and particularly some who are supposed to be on our “side”) hurl a few insult-and-accusation stones as we are picking ourselves up. Sometimes we privately recover, but truthfully, sometimes what we resolve to just do in private enables us to wallow a little longer in the mess–and kept hidden, sometimes we fix it, but sometimes we just choose to stay broken. Don’t stay in that place. It’s a rat’s nest.

There may be shame in failure but there’s no shame in turning to God to fix us when we have failed. Last night before I went to sleep, this verse went through my mind and I just meditated on it as I drifted off: “So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free from the law that brings sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NCV) The KJV says there’s “therefore now no condemnation.”

Because of our trust in the redemptive power of the cross, we can machete our way through the choking, dense growth of sin’s effect on our lives and emerge back onto the right path intact. Paul realized the possibility of preaching to others but himself becoming a castaway–so he held himself accountable. So should we.

It’s just where we are. Sharing the good news is relatively easy. Being the “living epistle read of every man” part, not so much. The best thing to do is to keep ourselves holy, on guard, prayed-up, free from bondages. It’s a lot easier to maintain than to break down and repair. But if you are reading this from the cave where you went to hide after your embarrassing fall, please know there is HOPE for you. Sure, there’ll be a few who would remind you of your inadequacy, but there is a whole host of witnesses crying out just beyond your earshot, “Get up! Try! Finish! Keep going! You’re almost home!” There’s a Father checking out the window, pacing in the roadway, wanting to put a ring on your stinky, stained hand and restore you with full privilege instead of demoting you from sonship to servitude.

I remember once when I was still in school, one of my schoolmates wound up getting badly burned when he threw gasoline on a bonfire. The kid was ashamed/afraid to tell his parents because it was a foolish act of disobedience, messing with fire and flammables; and because he hid the terrible burn under his clothing without getting help, the burn got badly infected and became a serious, dangerous problem much worse than a parent’s chastisement for disobeying. No doubt the scars are still on that leg, decades later. We hide our burns too, sometimes, don’t we?

Peter had to repent when he fell. Yep, one of “the three amigos” whom Jesus kept privy to His most important missions actually betrayed Him in a most contemptible way when things got too dangerous. But Jesus WANTED him back. He even said to him, “when you’re restored, strengthen the others.” See, your recovery is never just about you. Jesus didn’t choose to just gloss it over and strengthen them Himself in Peter’s absence; He in essence told Peter, “YOU do it.” There’s going to be a visible restoration of the part of you that needs healed, friend, and the people who’ve been let down by your absence are also going to be strengthened…by YOU. It is this action that will bring you full circle and it will keep you accountable in the future because of its humbling quality.

As much as it feels to the contrary, you aren’t expendable. God needs you on that front line. Replacing you is not His ultimate will — redeeming you, however, IS! He saw in ages past where a you-shaped piece of the puzzle needed to go, and He created you to fit exactly right there in the big picture. He doesn’t have a bunch of spare you’s just lying around in case you malfunction! Repentance says you are willing to let Him rebuild you to keep doing what He created you to do. And sometimes, we need rebuilt not only because of our sins, but also even from just being battle-weary, worn-out, and hyperextended. Let Him.

Lay aside what’s holding you back. Phooey on what anyone might say or think, don’t you wallow in condemnation one more day. Your destiny is right where you left it, and Jesus can recalibrate the driving directions from WHEREVER this moment finds you…to make sure you arrive safely. Come home.

Obedience Above All

Years ago when I was just starting out in my young adulthood, I acquired a secondhand hot plate that had only one temperature:  wide open.  It was this Frankenstein monster of a thing—big, heavy, and depending on what you needed, handy—well, handy perhaps if you were planning on smelting iron ore.  You didn’t dare turn your back on it for a second if you actually desired to EAT what you were cooking.  It was a dumpster dive contraption that served a very temporary purpose, and I was so glad to retire it at the earliest possible opportunity…before I burned out the whole neighborhood and not just the scrambled eggs.

Sometimes we as believers are a lot like this old hot plate.  We mean well; but we have no thermostat, no discipline to read, listen, and obey.  And for that reason, God can only use us for very limited purposes.  If we’re stubborn enough long enough, we may find ourselves completely disqualified for the Master’s use…still saved, but not submitted; still rescued, but restricted.  We may be offended and affected by anything that has the ability to tip off our emotions; so although our zeal for the things of God may be genuine, it’s all over the place…instead of targeted where and to what extent God actually wants it.

The Church in the Wilderness had a lot of testing to endure; but it was as much a mercy as it was a proving ground.  There were mindsets to change in between liberation from poverty and the stewardship of promise. God had to prove He could trust them for destiny.  Oh, He fully knew their capabilities, but their very survival as a people—HIS PEOPLE—would depend upon how well they listened and obeyed.  He wasn’t setting them up for failure:  no, to be certain, the try-and-try-again course they were on was setting them up to succeed.  He loved them; He was qualifying them for where He would take them, but He also required their allegiance.  He was aware that some would simply refuse to be obedient—further validating what He already knew about the incompleteness of the Law.  We would need a Savior.  Even then, however, with a Savior, we would still have to choose to be followers and not just freelancers!

James gave us the perfect example of how serious rogue Christianity can be:  But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. (James 1:22-24)  It’s very possible, if we just hit-and-miss with our time in the Word and prayer, to go away and forget who we are and why we’re here.  Our carnal impulses begin to render His commandments powerless in our lives because there’s no discipline to hold to the purity of obedience.  We become religious rather than submitted; self-righteous rather than humble and attentive to His every instruction.  James says we deceive ourselves at that point.  The knob is ripped off and we run wide open, so therefore God can’t trust us for a second.

God winked at (tolerated) our ignorance initially, but He’s calling us all to repentance now. Change must come.  We are in critical times where one misstep, one wrong “my way or the highway” attitude on our part can completely abort a mission, defer an entire movement.  His merciful, extended testing time offers us daily opportunities to grow, to strengthen, and to prove ourselves as fit wineskins to hold His anointing; or we can go around and around the same dumb issues in our lives, unchanged and burning everything entrusted to our care.  At some point, regardless, we must decide whether to follow Him wholeheartedly or be left in on the sidelines.  God won’t entrust His harvest to those who’ll let it be left in ruins while they bicker about who’s in charge, who gets credit.

While He’s pruning us for fruitfulness, you can be sure He’s going to test us by changing up our plans to see whether we’ll accept His will as the final call, or whether we’ll pout and get in strife.  I’ve seen it (and had it happen to me) time and again.  Work toward a particular end—maybe have a new song rehearsed and ready to use in the worship set—just to have the Holy Ghost show up and shut it all down for a different direction entirely.  When it happens, can we joyfully handle submission, or will we instead defy Him by trying to “get ours” while we’ve got the chance to do so?  How you and I respond in these these testing moments either adds to or depreciates our stock value!  Can God trust us?  Is He REALLY Lord of all?

In my prayer time last night, God gave me the perfect example of how critical our obedience really is.  Imagine a “SWAT team” trained for duty, who’ve rehearsed every scenario and know every drill.  But someone on that team is overzealous for a chance to use that newly-acquired skill.  Frustrated.  Impatient.  Chomping at the bit.  In a hostage situation where lives are at stake, that drive to break bad can override the Commander’s instructions; and the undisciplined desire to ACT can result in unintended casualties–maybe even among that rogue member’s own unit.

We are in the spiritual world war of the ages; and if there were ever a time to be with our faces to the ground seeking God’s instruction, it’s now.  Captives are in peril and He’s calling us to pull them from the very jaws of death.  Many are in vulnerable, volatile situations.  It’s just as important to recognize and obey the command, “stand down,” as it is the command to “open fire,” because our spotter has a better vantage point than we do.  If we go by merely our own driven-ness and instincts, we can even forget who the enemy really is.  We then stop engaging in heavenly warfare and just turn on anyone earthly who appears to oppose us and what we preach.

If we crucify our tendency to run wide open all the time (some things go out only by prayer and fasting), we can come out of this with more than just ourselves intact; we can rescue lives.  If we have the attitude of “Don’t tell me to pull back, Lord.  I came here to git-er-done and I’m not going to waste all this adrenaline on waiting and patience and doing it Your way,”  however, then we forfeit His ability to use us in those very ways we long to be used.

Remember, God will always choose the most obedient, least ego-driven to carry out His will and establish His kingdom. Believe it or not, obedience will prove to become the greatest skill in your arsenal of spiritual warfare.  Your qualification to open the valve all the way in those appropriate times will be determined by your willingness to hold a controlled, unambitious grip during the slow-and-steady maneuvers.  If you can contain all that power but handle it with delicate precision that hears only one Voice calling the shots, God will entrust you to complete great exploits in His name!  Remember, obedience above all.  Master it.

Prayer Confession Over Anxiety

Prayer over anxietyI am sitting down in Your presence, Papa God, spending the night with my Most High God. I am pressing in close to You–close as I can possibly get. I’m Your little shadow–right under Your wing! I say to You, “Abba, You’re my refuge. I trust in You and I’m safe!”

That’s right…and even now, I thank You for rescuing me from hidden traps, shielding me from deadly hazards. Your huge outstretched arms are protecting me— under them I AM perfectly safe; Your arms fend off all harm. YOU LOVE ME AND I’M CERTAIN OF IT!

I will fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night, not flying arrows (or bad news, or big bills, or negative doctors’ reports, or money worries, or even family drama) in the daytime. None of these things will cause me to lose my peace and not one ounce of sleep!

I’m not affected by fear of disease that prowls through the darkness, nor of disaster that erupts at high noon. When the enemy does his worst, YOU WILL DO YOUR BEST!  When he tries to flood me with despair, YOU are my floodwall of protection and YOU ARE SHUTTING THE FLOODGATE ON DESPAIR!  I am safe until the torrent subsides.

Even though others succumb all around, drop like flies right and left, no harm will even graze me. I am standing untouched, watching it all from a distance, I watch the wicked turn into corpses, watching it on tv news, yet not being a part of it. I DON’T FEAR THAT THOSE SAME THINGS WILL HAPPEN TO ME!

Yes, Papa, because You are my refuge, the High God my very own home, evil can’t get close to me, harm can’t get through the door. You’ve ordered Your angels to guard me wherever I go…and that’s just what they’re doing! Even if I would stumble, they’ll catch me; their job is to keep me from falling. Thank you, Papa God, for having my back (and all the rest of me) covered!

There may be feisty young lions and cunning serpents lying in wait on my pathway, but You’re keeping me safe. I walk safely along just as though they’re not even there…and if they try to attack, You’re empowering me to just kick them out of my path. I will treat them as the nuisance that they are and nothing more. They will not break my spirit and they will not break my stride.

Abba, You’ve said, “If you’ll hold on to Me for dear life, I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call Me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

Well, that’s just what I’m doing! Thank You for getting me out of trouble, for giving me the best of care as I strive to know and trust You more. Thank You for always answering when I call, for staying right with me through thick and thin. Thank You for rescuing me and then making me feel celebrated and special…because I’m Your child and I know You love me! Thank You for quality of life, a satisfied life, and a perfect salvation which will last me all of eternity.

I am taking a deep breath now and breathing in LIFE. I receive Your Holy Spirit with every breath! I am exhaling and pushing out every negative thought. I expel any thoughts that would crowd my mind from the knowledge that YOU are in control. I clear my soul of any problem that tries to look as tall and strong as my Lord Jesus! Any idea that violates my peace, any thought that would cause me to doubt that YOU are Sovereign, I arrest, handcuff, bind, toss into jail and throw away the key!
In Jesus’ name, anxiety has no more control over my life!

(Adapted into a prayer from Psalm 91:1-16 Message and KJV translations; and also from Isaiah 59:19, John 20:22 and 2 Corinthians 10:5)

The Full Armor of God–in Camo Print

forestOk, you already know I’m a bona-fide hillbilly…so I’m allowing God’s voice to work through me today to share an interesting perspective with you.  Tough country girls will automatically feel a kindred-ness, and you guys will appreciate a teaching moment geared up in manly camo print that opens up the Scripture to another level.  Isn’t He awesome?  He brings the Word to where we are, and like the parables of Jesus, the Word always is relevant.

Here in the rural hills of West Virginia where I live, you don’t have very many straight lines of vision.  The hills are nestled close together and they often hide entire communities from one another.  A destination which is only a mile or two by the way the crow flies may translate into 15 or 20 miles of winding travel; or if on foot, a heart-pounding hike to climb over that mountain. That’s so like life, isn’t it?

Sometimes there are no roads to your destiny.  Very often, I forget that there’s anything beyond that hill which closely faces my office window, when in fact a whole world is out there past my line of sight. In my spirit life, I often have to put effort into seeing beyond the obstructions of the moment as well.  Did you know that you have an awesome destiny, even though you may not see it at the moment?  It’s there…in the dark, behind the curtain, around the corner, over the hill, across the swamp, through the tangled vines of present hindrances.  And I want to remind you that God is timing it all to  intersect with the precise opening of that portal to your life’s purpose.  You have permission, then, even an obligation, to occupy until He comes!  Not just occupying until He returns to get us; but occupying while you wait for Him to swoosh away the busy-ness of your present circumstances to reveal what you’ve waited your whole life to come into. 

I’m occupying, too.  In other seasons, I occupied as a caregiver to a sick or injured loved one.  I’ve occupied while dealing with large-scale personal problems; and I’ve occupied (sometimes bravely, others, not so much) in the place of lack, illness, uncertainty, depression, even despair.  I’ve occupied in the place of giving so much to benefit other people that I had nothing at all left for myself, my dreams, or my revelation of God’s life plan for me.  I’ve even occupied while reaping the tares of poor choices and deliberate sin.  And then there’s the present–the pesky tyranny of the urgent.  Those nagging unfinished tasks which are piled up in stacks all around me, which threaten to swallow up any time I might have to come into God’s true purpose for my life.

Honestly, even now, I can go days at a time without even considering that there is more to life than my present circumstances–a life with a view.  And I know I’m losing my foothold when those circumstances cause me to become sullen, ungrateful, and shallow.  I need to climb higher.  I need to turn down the volume of the world so that I can listen for His voice.  I need to draw from His Word strength and faith…that substance of things hoped for, that evidence of what I can’t yet see in the natural.

Perhaps you, too, are facing your own obstruction.  There’s a tree across the path.  A swollen river raging between you and God’s best for you.  The enemy has built a spite fence which makes the real estate of your life seem devalued and undesirable.  You can’t see any farther than the exhaustion of today’s schedule.  The forecast for tomorrow and next week still calls for fog, fog, and more fog.   And I’m urging you, just as I urge myself–DON’T GIVE UP!  Your destiny is STILL THERE!

I further encourage you to understand that (God’s just teaching me this as I write these words) there is a difference between OCCUPYING and being OCCUPIED.  One involves being deliberate, with a goal.  The other suggests surrender to “the inevitable,” and a sense of futility toward hope and the season of new beginnings beyond our view.  Occupying requires faith.  Being occupied, conversely, requires nothing.  Occupying says, “Yes, Lord, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Even this wilderness place in my life will lead toward a season of blessing and abundance.”  Being occupied just causes us to sigh with frustration and say, “What a waste.  This is not the life I hoped for.  I guess whatever will be, will be.  I’m such a loser.”

THERE IS HOPE, but it’s going to involve some forward thinking and action on your part!  We usually think of the whole armor of God as merely the implements of hand to hand combat; but I challenge you to put it on as WILDERNESS GEAR today!

Put on that Kevlar vest of righteousness to protect you from sharp protrusions as you cut your way through the dense forest.   Proverbs says we are to guard our hearts with all diligence, because out of the heart flows the issues of life.  That heart can’t pump life through the body if it has been pierced.  So we pray, “Father, keep my heart pure, whole, and free from injury as I put on Your righteousness.  The sharpness of my circumstances will not cause the life to leak out of me, for your righteousness guards my vulnerabilities.”

Next, don those Rocky boots (smile) of the preparation of the Gospel of peace.  Peace will protect our feet wherever we go, no matter how rough the terrain.  We don’t go hiking in flip-flops, but we choose sturdy protection for our foundation.  “Father, I prepare myself for traveling through this world in which I don’t belong!  I put on the rugged footwear of peace.  Peace will not allow my surroundings to cripple me.  Peace will allow me to tread on the enemy’s head without getting bitten.  Peace will tromp down the weeds and even leave a path for others to follow.”

Grab up the shield of faith!  And though a shield is typically a full-body implement, I’m going to specify an area we need to protect while moving, and that is the eyes.  “Father, we don’t gauge our lives by what is seen, but what is unseen.  We put on the goggles of FAITH.  Faith will keep us from being blinded.  It will allow us to traverse through dark places, storms of life, and it guard our vision from sudden and unexpected projectiles.  We will see through the lens of YOUR WORD and not the vulnerable sight of our flesh.” Another aspect of a shield, in certain settings, is camouflage.  We are hidden in Christ…so our faith can serve as a shelter not obvious to the enemy.  Faith is our stealth covering.  We can see out, but the enemy can’t see in!  Faith that comes out through our confession hides from Satan when we feel afraid.

Put on the helmet of salvation…or in the case of a wilderness traveler, your HAT.  Headgear accomplishes a lot.  It protects the head from falling objects, insects, it protects us from the burning rays of the sun, and it even helps us to see better in many situations.  Salvation is the best thing you can do for your head–specifically your brain.  Since you need your head for the rest of your body to work correctly, know that a God-controlled life will set you up for right decisions.  The devil doesn’t just attack you from underneath.  He likes to ambush you from a higher elevation, too. But your helmet of salvation will deflect all the debris he tries to rain down on you!  “Father, I put on Your helmet of salvation.  My relationship with You keeps my head straight.  Salvation is my thinking cap, my hard hat, my visor, and my protector.  My soul will not have dominion over my spirit man because Your salvation allows my thoughts to align with what Your Word says.  It keeps the devil from getting into my head.  Thank you that not only is my heart protected, but my head, too!”

Don’t set out on your trek without the sword of the Spirit.  Outdoor outfitters know that a blade is essential survival gear.  Whether you’re using it to cut through the thick brush, or to chop down branches to make a shelter, in self defense from a predator, or your to kill, clean, dress, and cut up your food, it’s unimaginable to be stuck out in the elements without one.  The Word of God and His Holy Spirit accomplishes this in your life–so don’t be caught without Him!  He enables you to move forward, to build, to be not just on the defense but also the offensive.  His Holy Spirit is your comforter, and prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies!  His Word demolishes thoughts contrary to His will.  When you have it in your heart, it will keep you from sin.  “Father, I receive Your Holy Spirit and I purpose to digest and be nourished by Your Word.  Your Spirit, revealed through Your Word, is my weapon against the onslaught of evil; and as blades go, You are my “Swiss Army Knife” of tools for survival all in one.  Whatever I need in the moment, You are to me; and right now, I need the compass of Your Word to lead me in the right direction.  Thank You that all these things are part of Your provision.  You empower me not only to survive, but to be effective and to help others make it through as well.  I am bold.  I am strong in the Lord and the power of Your Might because I allow Your Holy Spirit to reign in me now.  I allow Your Word to govern my thought life and to be the final authority on all my life decisions.  Even death itself has no place to rob me of hope, because I am clothed in and armed with Your gear!’

You are not alone today, friend, and you are not defenseless as you forge through the circumstances you’re facing.  Perhaps you’re like me–more of a “redneck hillbilly” instead of a medieval knight of war–but our need is the same.  We need protection and we need to keep moving forward.  What you cannot see today, “the forest for the trees,” you will see clearly a little farther on the journey; but you’ve got to move.  Rest, regain your strength, but never lose awareness that a journey involves continual movement and change.  And since you are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), He is orchestrating ultimate good for you in spite of the mud, the weeds, the thick brush, the sharp rocks, and the walls you may be encountering.  Know that this journey ends well!  Be strengthened today as you meditate on His goodness…

The Element of Surprise: A Perfect Trap

mouse-trapThe man was led away with hands bound behind him, screaming obscenities and railing on about a violation of his rights.  He used the word “entrapment” over and over.  An online predator, he had taken the bait…and Heather14 turned out not to be a 14-year old girl, but a 40-year old policeman with a mustache and a pair of handcuffs.  The parents in the neighborhood slept a little sounder that night; and the criminals were restless, as they knew they’d have to either lay low for awhile or move on to someone else’s turf.

In the spiritual realm, when we warn about traps, we mostly teach about the dangers of a trap.  Some traps, however, are a good thing.  Think of a few right around your home.  Mouse traps.  Lint traps.  Insect traps.  Sink traps.  Strategy to prevent something we don’t want from causing us trouble later on.  In war,  both sides set traps.  Why, as Christians then, can we not set a few traps of our own to foil the devices of the enemy?

A trap isn’t something obvious!  It’s usually in a place not seen.  Buried in a field, like a landmine.  Inside the dryer, where all the action’s going on.  In the dark recesses of the cupboard, where we store our food.

When the Psalmist penned a very, very long writing in Chapter 119, nestled in its words was the phrase, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (verse 11 KJV)  It’s believed that David was the author of this particular Psalm:  David, a man well-acquainted with defensive and offensive strategies of warfare.  This veteran of battle, as a youngster, guarded his father’s sheep from predators; and no doubt, he knew a thing or two about flying under the radar of the enemy.

We have a real adversary!  Talk to someone who’s fallen into sin…you’ll probably hear him or her say, “I was baited right in.  I didn’t see it coming at all.”  Did you know that you don’t have to be the victim of ambush and ensnarement?  God’s Word is your counter-trap!  David knew that.  He meditated on the law of the Lord day and night.  It wasn’t just a trivial piece of data like the gazillion factoids we digest every day from TV and the Internet; it was his Life Source.

Begin, as you study the Word, to digest and apply what it means in your life.  You will be burying right mindsets deep inside your spirit which the devil cannot steal!  Notice Jesus, in the Parable of the Sower, referring to people “along the way side” (Fringe believers?  A light Gospel that tastes great but is less filling?).  These are people who aren’t down in the furrow the Sower has dug for His seeds…they’re just bystanders picking up a word here and there, “…But Satan soon comes and snatches it away from them.” (Mark 4:15 CEV).  You can’t aggressively fend off the tempter with an occasional sermonette!  If the Word rolls around in your soulish realm awhile and gets gobbled up by carnality before it reaches your spirit, it will not help you when you are in dire straits.  While we don’t know many details about Jesus’ life between age 12 and 30, it can safely be concluded that He had His nose buried in the Word!  When the tempter confronted Him in the wilderness, He wasn’t spouting off advice from Dr. Phil!  No, again and again, He said, “It is written!”  I seriously doubt that He had a pocket concordance…no, He invested in hiding that Word in His heart!

More than likely, you know what your weak areas are.  I urge you, today, instead of randomly flipping through and reading a chapter here and there, to begin researching what the Word says about your particular weakness.  Maybe it’s anger; maybe sexual sin; maybe just complacency.  Read those Scriptures over and over!  Know them as well as you know your own Social Security Number.  They are your Spiritual Security Number!  I would have a hard time forgetting my own birthdate, or my address.  I need likewise to have God’s Word that well-hidden in my heart, to keep me from being ambushed by the attack of the devil.

“Lord, today we come to You, proactive in our determination to walk holy before You.  Speak to us about those areas in our lives where we need to shore up our defenses.  Give us tenacity to revisit what Your Word says—over and over—about these weaknesses, until Your Word becomes second nature to us.  Give us a hunger for righteousness, an appetite for Your Word, and help us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil.  Keep us on our toes!  Keep it in the forefront of our minds to set a watch about what we digest…if it does not line up with Your Word, help us to spit it out like spoiled food.  May we please you in all we do today, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”