Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Choose

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;  that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.(Deuteronomy 30:19-20a)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:10-17)

I used to read these passages on the choices we make, and the armor of God, and imagine myself wielding a sword and a shield, going out there slaying dragons, rebuking wickedness and just going on a rampage.  Recently I read it again, memorized it, and I started meditating on it throughout the day.  I noticed that Paul kept repeating that we should “stand”.  He says, “take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to WITHSTAND in the evil day, and having done all, to STAND.   STAND therefore…” (verses 13-14)

What peace, what relief to know that I don’t have to go out there expending the little energy that I have left over during and after my homeschool day.   I don’t have to go on a rampage fighting, arguing against temptation or spiritual attack or struggles, strife, or the chaos of everyday life.

I just have to stand.   Take a deep breath and stand.   I’ve girded my waist with truth, I’ve put on the breastplate of righteousness.   And righteousness means “right standing with God”.   I have been made the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19)   Because of Jesus, I can stand proud and upright in the presence of God.   I can represent God in this world and I have been given authority as a soldier for Christ.  Not only do I have authority, but I’ve also been given tools and weapons for warfare.

My feet are dressed in the boots of the Gospel of peace.  Am I standing on the Gospel of war, the gospel of strife, the gospel of doing things in my own strength, the gospel of self?   No!   I’m standing on the Good News of Jesus Christ!  

Have you ever heard the slogan:  Turn or Burn!   Repent your sins or be damned to everlasting hell!   Is that good news?   No!   Wearing the boots of Good News means that wherever I go, and whatever I do, I should portray the Good News of what Jesus has done for me.   So, when I’m walking around in fear and worry, defeated, depressed and demotivated, does that portray the Good News of Jesus?   Mmmm…  ponder that for a moment.

Did you notice that when you take up the shield of faith it enables you to “quench ALL the fiery darts of the enemy”?   That means I can be victorious over EVERY temptation, every attack that comes my way.   When sickness comes, I can overcome it.   When false accusations come, I can overcome it.  When financial troubles come, I can overcome it.

How?    It’s easy to say:  “You CAN overcome it!”   But how do you do that?  How do you apply the shield of faith?  How do I use my shield to protect myself from all the arrows tossed at me by my own kids, my husband, my family, friends, the world?
I’ve read this section so many times through the years, and I’m embarrassed to confess that I only recently finally “got it”.   There’s  a difference between knowing something and truly “getting it.”

I found that the more I’m focused on God, and being in His Word, and meditating on Him, the less focused I am on myself, and the easier it is to just let those arrows fall away without doing any harm.

Isaiah 26 verse 3 says, “You will keep Him in perfect peace whose MIND IS STAYED ON YOU, because he trusts in You.”     

Could it be that the key to being an effective warrior, the key to a successful Christian life, lies between your ears?

Proverbs 23:7 says, “as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Your thoughts are the first level of defense.   Not only the things you dwell on or mull over in your head, but also the things that you listen to or take in.  If you constantly watch ungodly shows and news on television, your thoughts and emotions will be affected by it.   If you hang around a bunch of ungodly people, your mind will be influenced by it, and not for the better.   The Bible says that you are deceived if you think you can hang around ungodly people and not be corrupted by it.   1 Corinthians 5 verse 33 says, Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”

But even more importantly are the thoughts we cultivate throughout the day, about ourselves and others.    “I’m fat.”   “I’m a bad mom for yelling at the kids so much.”   “I’m too impatient and angry.”   “This kid is just a bad apple.”   “My husband is this or that.”  “This family member really hurt me with their criticism and false accusations.”   And so on and so on.

I’ll be the first person to confess that I am the Queen of self pity.   I am an expert on dwelling on hurts caused by others and self-castigation.   The lesson that finally got through my peanut brain is that I have to keep my mind, my thoughts focused on Christ ALL DAY, in everything that I’m doing.   I feel like an idiot for only getting it at this stage of my life and I have no idea why it has taken my so long to come to the realization, because the Bible is full of it. 

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Joshua 1:8)

Psalm 1 begins with, Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners,  Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord,   And in His law he meditates day and night.”  (Psalm 1:1-2)

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”  (Psalm 119:11)

I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways.”  (Psalm 119:15)

I have always read these wonderful verses, thinking they’re so beautiful, something to hold onto, but I never really realized that there’s more to it than just a nice thought, or a beautiful truth.   There’s a difference between knowing this truth and truly KNOWING it.

Jesus said in John 15 verse 7, If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.   Christians and many bible teachers today tend to jump to the “Ask what you desire and it shall be done for you” part, but they ignore the “Abide in ME” part.  Jesus said, “If you abide in Me…”   and then He goes further to tell us how we abide in Him, “and My Words abide in You.”  How does Jesus’ Words abide in you?   It abides in you through your thoughts, by keeping the Word in your thoughts throughout your day.  Not just by reading a passage in the morning, saying a quick prayer and going on with your day.    That’s where I used to be.   If I was able to read a little and pray a little every day, whether in the morning or in the evening before bed, I felt accomplished.  Check!  Check!  One thing on my long list of “To Do’s” to check off.  Now I’m realizing that there’s so much more to it.  

Those bible reading and prayer times were useful to assuage my conscience, but spiritually they were a drop in the bucket.  Very little of what I was reading and learning in my bible study time actually flowed over into my daily life.  

But now I have discovered the Key to a successful Christian life.  By literally filling my mind, my thoughts, my emotions with the Word of God, meditating in it day and night, my cup is filling up and overflowing.   And even though I’m not perfect, I’m not there yet, I certainly have left.  The train has finally left the station!  I’m learning every day, and I’m becoming better and better at it.   My cup is filling up and some days it is even overflowing.

Psalm 119 verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Isn’t that one of the most beautiful verses in Scriptures?   I love that verse!   I’ve had it memorized for years and years, but I’m embarrassed to say that I’m only finally NOW understanding what it means to have the Word of God truly be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

That leads us to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.   Need I say more?  

The key to a successful Christian life that I have finally discovered, is to practice and become proficient in the ability to guard my mind, my thoughts, my emotions.

The night before His arrest, Jesus was giving the disciples last minute advice.  Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” (John 14:1)  Did Jesus say, ask Me and I will take away your worries?   Did Jesus say, “Pray to me with all sincerity and I will remove your depression, your fears, your anxieties?”   No!  He said, “LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED.”   Does that imply that the disciples had control over how they were going to react to the crucifixion?   Did they have a choice as to whether they were going to be panicked and fearful?  If not, then Jesus was pretty mean in telling them that they shouldn’t allow their hearts to be troubled.   It would be grossly unfair of God to expect us not to worry about things, if we are incapable of controlling it, wouldn’t it?

Have you ever wondered about the things you pray for?   I have been recently.    I’ve frequently asked God for peace, or to take away my worries, or a particular ailment.   But Jesus said in John 14 verse 27, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” 

And I’m thinking….  Why am I asking Him to give me peace if He’s already given it?  

Then in the same verse, Jesus repeats, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Do you see what this means?   It means that I have a choice on what kind of thoughts and emotions I’m going to allow in between my ears and in my heart.   So, whenever that negative thought comes, I’m immediately going to block it, stop it, reject it, cast it out.   I don’t have to ask God to give me peace, because He’s already given it to me.   If I don’t have peace, or FEEL at peace, it’s my own fault!  If I’m in turmoil, it’s because I’m ALLOWING my heart to be troubled.

Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10 verses 3 to 5, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God,”  and this is the KEY….   “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”

“Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”   Who is supposed to be doing this?   Is Jesus or the Holy Spirit supposed to guard our thought and cast out unholy criticisms, judgments, negativity, and everything that is ungodly?  No!  We are!

Philippians 4 verse 8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

So, this is what I’m doing.   I’m standing on guard.  When a negative thought or emotion crossed my path, I immediately identify it and stop it in its tracks.  Instead of praying, “Oh, God, please help me!”…  I’m praying, “Dear Lord, thank you that you have given peace, not the peace of the world, but YOUR peace.  Thank you that you have given me the ability not to allow my heart to be troubled by anything.  I am able to counter-act ALL the fiery darts that come my way and I praise You for your mercies every day!”   And whatever the issue might be, I then pray the Word regarding that issue.   “I’m not a fat slob, O Lord, I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!  (Psalm 139:14a)   “I refuse to harbor and cultivate feelings of depression and discouragement, for the joy of the Lord is my strength!  (Nehemiah 8:10)  “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  (Psalm 16:11)

In conclusion, I leave you with this:   

The Key to a successful Christian Life lies between your ears.   And you choose every moment of every day, with every thought and every emotion that pops into your head whether you want to accept it and dwell on it or not.   It is the proven principle of seed-time and harvest.   Whatever seeds you choose to water and nurture in your heart, those are the fruit you will also bear. Thoughts, emotions and activities that bring Life, or thoughts, emotions and activities that bring Death?   Blessing, or Cursing?    You Choose!

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