Shackled By……?

It appears that Satan is quite successful at taking captives; sometimes in ways that his victims do not realize until it’s too late. However, there is hope of rescue. Paul speaks of this in his letter to Timothy. In II Timothy 2:26, it reads, “….that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” While this seems to relate to all men, it certainly also applies to Christians who are too often victims to his wiles. First, why is Satan so successful? The answer is simple. It’s a lack of a working knowledge of the Scriptures and a will to apply its Truths to one’s daily life. Various traps lock us into captivity. There are various vices, such as dope, drink, smoking, sex, lust for things and/or fame, gambling, etc. Less obvious traps include things like being too busy, getting distracted, living for entertainment, striving for physical achievement while neglecting spiritual development, wrong friendships, etc. In short, anything that keeps us from becoming a disciple or a maturing disciple shackles us from experiencing freedom in becoming all that God wants us to be and enjoy. Have you fallen into any of these traps? Rescue is available!  John 8:36 guarantees escape. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” And the means? “And ye shall know the Truth, and the Truth (God’s Word applied) shall make you free” (Verse 32). Selah! Throw off the chains that have held you and go all out with God. “Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; my chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.” (“And Can It Be, That I Should Gain” Charles Wesley).    Ron

A Prisoner to the Past?

Think about it! Who hasn’t failed in the past and who hasn’t done wrong many times over? Really, did we honestly expect it to be otherwise? Think on our heredity, all the way back to the “Adamses.” Why then, are we discouraged? We can understand guilt and regret. We should feel that and let it motivate us to repent and move forward. Discouragement is like a chain that Satan uses to keep us as a prisoner to the past. As long as we are bound by memories of our past mistakes, failures and sins, we pose no serious threat to Satan’s agenda. Actually, borrowing a title from a book by Erwin Lutzer, we discover that failure can be the back door to success. We are to learn from our past, not linger in its prison. Doesn’t God promise us in I John 1:9  that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness?” Didn’t we learn, when we came to Christ that, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)? God doesn’t lock us into our past. We do, by falling for the devil’s clever use of discouragement to disable us in the present. If anyone had a basis for being discouraged by his past, Paul did. Yet, he wrote, under inspiration, “….forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize.” (From Philippians 3:13-14). Selah! We can’t change the past. When we enter the future it instantly becomes the present. The present is the only place we can function. Do that with eternity’s values in view.   Ron

Locked in to Bitterness?

The bonds of bitterness generate suffering of the soul. The situation is critical. There seems to be no way to sever the bonds that bind us. We are so used to the bonds that we cease trying to escape. We become discouraged and defensive. Our demeanor becomes sour and keeps help away. Slowly, we are dying inside. We blame our captivity on the person or thing that we think wronged us. Somebody might get beyond our negative vibes with a desire to help but they add to the confinement by sympathizing with us, affirming that it is no wonder we are bitter. There is a way of escape! We have to transcend our emotions and make a conscious decision to release our offender, even if he or she doesn’t deserve our forgiveness. After all, God would have a right to be bitter toward us for the way we have wronged Him. This is especially true in light of the unspeakable cost to Him to be able to grant release from the ways in which we have offended Him. Decide to release your offender(s) and go a step further and pray for them that they might know God’s wonderful working in their lives. Do this and watch the bonds loosen and fall off that have held you tightly for far too long. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled(Hebrews 12:15). Selah! Come into the sunlight of God’s love for you and pray for your offender(s) to experience His love through your example, and you will enjoy glorious freedom and cease infecting others with the poison of bitterness.  Ron 

Unseen Bars

There is more than one kind of prison. Imagine a prison in which you are confined. There appear to be no bars on the doors or windows. You “feel” free to stay put or leave whenever you want to leave. However, when you decide to escape, you run right smack dab into invisible bars. Someone watching all this might say to you that you are a prisoner and you might reply that you can leave whenever you want to and yet when you try, there are those unseen bars. One kind of unseen bars is religion. We find many Christians in this kind of captivity. They have become bound to a routine that they pursue in the same habitual way, day by day, week by week, etc. They have let exciting Christian experience deteriorate into a religious exercise. They go through the motions with little or no thought and with no real heart in it. They become passive and bored and those observing have no intention of getting involved in this kind of activity. Conversely, those Christians whose faith is on fire with love for the Lord, excited over their ever deepening walk with Him, enjoying the abundant life, manifesting a quality of character and conduct that is vastly superior to what the typical worldling enjoys, have escaped from behind those invisible bars. Religion is confining, often dull and boring, many times prideful and selfish and offers no real hope beyond the grave. Religions’ invisible bars cannot restrain those who have whole-heartedly embraced authentic Christianity. Jesus speaks of His mission in Luke 4:18. Quoting Isaiah, the prophet, and relating it to Himself, He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor: He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Selah! Are you behind invisible bars? Escape is offered!   Ron

Care and Concern

Paul finishes his letter to the Ephesians (and to us) in Chapter 6, Verses 21-24. Make no mistake, his closing words were not just a formality. Saul, now Paul, had experienced a life changing encounter with the risen Jesus, when on his way to Damascus to put a stop to Jesus’ followers. In a moment of time, intense despising of Christians turned completely in the opposite direction. From then on, Paul came to love Christians as intensely as he had despised them previously. A heart of animosity now beat with compassion and concern for God’s people. This is reflected in the closing of this letter. Paul bares his heart in these words, “But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” He valued their love and concern for himself and dispatched Tychicus to bring them up to date on his affairs and that they might be comforted. He continues, expressing a prayer for their peace, love, faith and grace and for all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. So….that passionate prayer has impacted God’s children for around 2.000 years right up to the present time and will continue to do so,  on into the future. Selah! What amazing grace it is that can turn a fanatical enemy of the gospel into one of its most powerful preachers, teachers and defenders!   Ron

I’ve Got Your Back!

In earthly battles, it may seem that we are all alone and, in fact, we might just be all alone. However, in a tight and dangerous spot, we might suddenly hear a voice say, I’ve got your back!” What an encouragement! Not only that, it might be the difference between victory and defeat. What if, instead of being grateful, we told our back-up that we didn’t need him or her? That would be prideful and foolish. We need all the help and support available. Of course our ultimate back-up and support, in our Spiritual battles, is none other than the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, we are also to be there for each other, as well. We also need others to be there for us. In short, we need each other and, most of all, we need Him! Paul underscores this in Ephesians 6:18, encouraging us to be, “praying always…..with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” He then continues in Verses 19-20, “and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Who can tell how many battles have been lost for lack of prayer? Selah! Let’s back each other up, as we would have them have our back!   Ron

Don’t Lose Contact!

Fighting under enemy fire, in the enemy’s territory is very dangerous. We need to be in touch with leadership for support and, if need be, for rescue or back-up. The battle is not ours! We are under orders. Our assignment and instructions come from the top of the chain-of-command. Staying in touch is essential; going it alone can ruin the whole mission. In battles with which we are familiar, communications can be and have been disrupted. In our Spiritual battles, only we can cut off communication. Our battle plan is found and our mission is explained in the Bible. The means of communication is prayer. The difference between earthly battles and our Spiritual battles is that in the latter, the Holy Spirit provides the strength, power and guidance for victory through us. This is why we are told, in Ephesians 6:18, to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” This brings home our oneness of purpose and motivates us to be there for each other, working in harmony and with a common goal. Jesus wants the use of His whole body in the conflict. Selah! Be in touch with headquarters and obey orders.   Ron

On the Offensive

Satan is a clever adversary! He knows that the way to our hearts is through our minds. He also knows that the way to our minds is often through our emotions. He appeals to our lusts to stir our emotions. His ability to get to our minds is why we need the helmet of salvation. Part of our salvation is using the lens of God’s Word to determine His will and ways and to discipline our minds to respond Biblically. Going, not by “feelings” but by Scripture, involves “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). Doing this is how our salvation protects us from Satan’s schemes to get us “off mission.” Keep in mind that we are discussing here going on the offensive, invading the enemy’s territory. The helmet is part of our protective gear while we invade. Our sword (the sword of the Spirit; the Bible) is our weapon to defeat the enemy. Ephesians 6:17 speaks of this. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” We are to carry the Word in our minds and hearts. However, the Holy Spirit aims the sword and thrusts it in the right way, at the right time. When we speak out the Scripture that He brings to mind, we find that, “….the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Selah! Move into battle fully prepared!    Ron

The Ultimate Shield

The enemy is always trying to penetrate our defenses. He’ll use multiple weapons attempting to wound or otherwise damage us, rendering us helpless and ineffective. While under fire, our ultimate defense (in this context, a shield) is faith. Ephesians 6:16 wisely reminds us, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (one). However, this is not a nice feeling or basically even trust, in its use in this verse. Remember Romans 10 17, “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” What Paul appears to have in mind is the skilled use of the Word. We should study it, obey it, apply it and have its principles so internalized that when under fire all we need to “dodge the bullets” is the right portion of Scripture to use as a shield. We must become adept at using the right Truth(s) of God’s Word to deflect any incoming missiles of deceit, discouragement, doubt or distraction. When the Bible’s content is filling our inner beings and we are knowledgeable in knowing how to wield it, we will see the enemy disabled. Selah! Make no mistake about this: Satan will be routed but will be seeking ways to outflank you. Be alert! I Peter 5:8. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll look at offensive strategy.   Ron

Proper Footwear

We were given something for basic training that seemed to just be part of our military dress. After all, shoes and boots are only shoes and boots. It wasn’t long, however, until we realized just how important a part of our gear that these were. We had to walk (or run or jog) long distances. On a battlefield, we would confront enemies. We would need to be able to move swiftly for attack, retreat or escape. In combat, we have to stand our ground. Nevertheless, we also have to advance and engage the enemy. This all requires dependable footwear. This is true in the Spiritual realm as well. We are to take the gospel to others. We need to move out from our local churches into the enemy’s territory and offer the peace that the gospel gives. We don’t want to stumble or be crippled. Therefore, we need to be adequately prepared to share God’s Truth. Satan will try to distract us or the ones to whom we are offering escape. With our feet properly shod, we can move right into his kingdom and show his captives how to escape. This is what Paul was talking about in Ephesians 6:15. Having presented the need for our loins to be girded about with Truth and for our hearts to be protected with the breastplate of righteousness, he adds, “and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” Selah! Let’s not be caught without any of God’s protective gear! Ron