Spiritual Warfare


I know many of us were hoping we would get another chance, through the election, to turn this country around and stall off the impending and long over due intervention of Justice. The elections have caused us to see more clearly than ever, the terrible state of moral decay and blatant rebellion we are in as a nation, and we are sad. The mourning is appropriate, and actually a gift from God, that we ourselves will begin to take this spiritual battle more seriously.

Many of us have been swept along in a kind of complacency. Many have spoken out boldly. Many made great personal sacrifices to bring this country back to the God of the bible. Many prayed. Many talked, and listened, and campaigned. Many hoped. Many counted the votes ahead of time to see if the scales would tip back to righteousness. Many crossed their fingers, waiting to see if America had had a big enough change of heart to make a change in the White House. God has spoken. He said NO.

The good news is that God is STILL with us. The good news is that we are more aware of our sins and the need for prayers of repentance then ever before. The good news is that if we allow God to continue to open our eyes to the truth, He will give us the strength and wisdom to stand for righteousness and declare His truth so desperately needed in this hour. The good news is that the crisis is not past but that Jesus’ return has just been moved up by four years.

If things would have gone the other way, we would all have settled back down on our couches and watched three and one-half more years of TV and spend ourselves into three and one-half more years of self-entitled oblivion, eating and medicating and escaping the inevitable reckoning of the Last Days. The door to the easy way out is now shut!

The line has been drawn. Peace with God is not found in the pursuit of secret knowledge or in discovering some hidden passage way or in fervent loyalty to the theologies of dead and traditional religion. Jesus discarded all our human notions of what needs to be done to make God happy when He boldly said, in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

Now is the time to “get in or get out” as far as God is concerned. Only you can make that decision for yourself, but none of us can make it by our self. We desperately need the strength of the Holy Spirit Who is still here to lead us and keep us in the midst of the greatest treachery and spiritual deception the world has ever known. Only see that you do not reject Him.

I have found this passage to be remarkably accurate in summing up where we are at and what is going to happen next. The deception and the seduction are all part of the signs of the end time prophecy and the wonderful confirmation that God is still in control.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 Amplified Bible (AMP)

2 But relative to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and our gathering together to [meet] Him, we beg you, brethren,

Not to allow your minds to be quickly unsettled or disturbed or kept excited or alarmed, whether it be by some [pretended] revelation of [the] Spirit or by word or by letter [alleged to be] from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has [already] arrived and is here.

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the [a]apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great [b]falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition),

Who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God.

Do you not recollect that when I was still with you, I told you these things?

And now you know what is restraining him [from being revealed at this time]; it is so that he may be manifested (revealed) in his own [appointed] time.

For the mystery of lawlessness (that hidden principle of rebellion against constituted authority) is already at work in the world, [but it is] restrained only until [c]he who restrains is taken out of the way.

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming.

The coming [of the lawless one, the antichrist] is through the activity and working of Satan and will be attended by great power and with all sorts of [pretended] miracles and signs and delusive marvels—[all of them] lying wonders

10 And by unlimited seduction to evil and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing (going to perdition) because they did not welcome the Truth but refused to love it that they might be saved.

11 Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false,

12 In order that all may be judged and condemned who did not believe in [who refused to adhere to, trust in, and rely on] the Truth, but [instead] took pleasure in unrighteousness.

13 But we, brethren beloved by the Lord, ought and are obligated [as those who are in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, because God chose you from the beginning [d]as His firstfruits (first converts) for salvation through the sanctifying work of the [Holy] Spirit and [your] belief in (adherence to, trust in, and reliance on) the Truth.

14 [It was] to this end that He called you through our Gospel, so that you may obtain and share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions and instructions which you were taught by us, whether by our word of mouth or by letter.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who loved us and gave us everlasting consolation and encouragement and well-founded hope through [His] grace (unmerited favor),

17 Comfort and encourage your hearts and strengthen them [make them steadfast and keep them unswerving] in every good work and word.

So, what is our disposition? To stand firm and hold fast to the Word of God as it was originally presented to us through the Holy Scriptures, as given by the Holy Spirit through the pens of those anointed to write it down.

We are to comfort and encourage our own hearts and strengthen those who are wavering, to continue in every good work and word. He told us the world would know we were His disciples by the “Love we had for one another”. Unselfish, unconditional love will be the sign we will give to one another.  We are to continue to occupy and proclaim the coming of the King of Kings and His unending Kingdom until He returns. It is time to pray and believe, to bind and loose, to join together as the true body of believers because, right now, and from here on out, we only have Him each other. So, it is time to lay down offenses, stop trying to get the world to like you, and discern true intentions.

The very good news is that God is watching over us and is ready to answer our prayers. He is ready to turn around impossible family situations and intervene in the worst of your personal health problems or financial disasters. It is time to know you are loved by Him. It is time to know that He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. So we may boldly say: The LORD is my helper; I will not fear, What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5).

It is time to do what He said; “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Approaching our life in the context of spiritual warfare gives us several advantages over those who would appear to have all the advantages of an uncomplicated and easy life. And though many would like to live their lives not bothered by the condition of the world or the lost souls that live in it, and though they are busy with pursuits that focus on monetary and momentary gain and the approval of others and taking care of ourselves, they have gained nothing of lasting value. None of these things, or titles, or tributes can bring any reward or protection from the disasters of either this life or the next.

Though their houses are well supplied with food and the latest forms of entertainment with which to escape the nasty pain of reality, many of them are still lost. And though their whole life is consumed with protecting themselves in trying to anticipate the next threat, and hedging themselves in with well padded accounts and investments, “what will a man give in exchange for his soul”, (Matthew 16:26), and what will it profit them when the fire of God passes over?

Psalm 37: 1 – 4, tells us to “fret not, nor be envious of the wicked”. Instead we are admonished to “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

The stakes are high. Eternal life with God or eternal damnation with Satan awaits every man, woman and child ever created. And even though the full price for freedom and eternal life with God in Heaven has been paid, how will they know, unless someone tells them? That is why, even though  “It is finished”, and  our eternal life and righteousness has been restored and there is a place reserved for us in heaven,  the final count in not yet in on the issue of eternity. Who will end up with who – is yet to be determined. That is why the battle still rages in the world and in the hearts of all of us.

Satan’s strategy against the saved is to make life too hard, to fill it with distractions, urgent needs, troubled relationships, sickness, and discouragement, anything that can get us feeling overwhelmed and side-tracked from the call to preach the Gospel of Grace or tell people about the way of salvation.

To make sense of the battle we must understand that almost everything we have come to believe as true is only, at best, real, and that real truth as contained in the Word of God, has been twisted and obscured and discussed and disregarded by the great majority of humankind. What an unthinkable tragedy? And because there are only a few good men and women willing to make the sacrifices needed to lift up the banner of truth, the battle field is strewn with casualties and the corpses of the once living.

Making sense of the battle comes with understanding your personal trials. Through the fire, God is refining us. As silver is purified in the refiner’s fire until the silversmith can see his reflection in the molten silver, so too, our faith is tried. Malachi says it well: “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire …”.

James encourages us to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces patience…that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4). Most people do not consider it fortunate when things go wrong. They do not see problems and opportunities but as obstacles. They do not rejoice when they are under pressure, or misunderstood, or in pain. Immediately they look for a way out.

The Enemy is right there to blame us, condemn us, criticize us and make us feel stupid for something he talked us into doing. OR, he is right there to give us an alibi, an excuse, a reason for justifying our behavior, and give us a way to get even.

Both of these paths are futile and filled with folly. Jesus told us that when we are persecuted for righteousness sake, we are to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is our reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:12).

Fire-proofing your life and its contents, including stewardship over the precious relationships God has given you, begins with trusting God to provide for us and bring justice in the end. Knowing He is the righteous Judge gives us peace in surrendering all that we had used to fortify ourselves, to the will and purposes of God Who is good.

This means we can turn our full attention to the work of the Harvest Field of souls without reservation. Only that which is of real value will remain. God has already told us what those things are. We have no excuse. We have been given His Spirit that dwells in us. He is the One Who fire-proofs our souls and makes us mighty in God.

Dear Fellow Pilgrim,

We are in dark days. The second coming of our great God, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer who is returning to the earth to deliver us from this present evil world system draws nearer. And though this is a cause for rejoicing, many of us are experiencing our own personal days of trial and fear that massive tribulation is no longer in the far distant future.

We cry out with the prophet Habakkuk. And even though we have never met him, the world that prompted him to cry out, “O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear?” (Hab. 1:2), seems to be a world much like our own. Violence and iniquity surrounded him. Trouble and strife and contention and plundering were swallowing him up. He did not think God was hearing him or seeming to care about what had happened to law and justice. The “law is powerless and justice never goes forth”. The wicked surrounded the righteous and perverse judgment prevailed in the affairs of mankind.

The good news is that God is watching! He speaks to the prophet and to those of us today who have “ears to hear”. He tells us we are to “look among the nations and watch – and be “utterly astounded!”  He goes on to say “I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.” Now we know what happened in hind sight. The tribe of Judah was in its “death throes”.

They had rejected to heed the warnings of many of the prophets by continuing to practice idolatry. They refused to repent of their ways. The very ones who had been given the revelation of the law were now stubbornly continuing to follow the pied pipers of Darkness who presented themselves as prophets, priests, and spiritual leaders.

Things were not all that different from us today who often unwittingly take our spiritual leadership from demons posing as angels of light and ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:13-15), and spirit guides. We allow discussion groups to reshape the truths of the Word of God to fit our opinions, and inadequate theologies that deny the truth of God’s Word and fail to account for or explain what is going on within the context of human experience to mould our behavior.

This leaves us vulnerable to the lie and unprepared for the judgment. We are left to our own devices, basing our conclusions about God and our relationship with Him, based on our own personal opinions and experiences, signs and wonders, eastern mysticism and spiritual exercises. We are so much like the tribe of Judah. But God tells the prophet to “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.” (Habakkuk 2:2).

Though Judah was familiar with the words of the prophet, they were more comfortable with the works of darkness that had blinded them to the danger of the impending judgment God was being forced to bring upon them. Their hardness of heart left them no longer shocked by the things that were going on. They became indifferent and stubborn. Their stiffness of neck manifested a hardness of heart that blinded them to the needless pain and willful killing of the innocent for money and gain. They either joined in willing or ignored the need by giving their consent through their silence.

Fear is on every side for those who do not rest in and rely upon their God, (the One True God), to save them. God is not an opiate for the weak but counsel for the wise. When the world would deliberately try to create mass hysteria through the threat of international violence, economic collapses, and a variety of natural disasters that no terroristic group can boast claim to, we can rest in knowing that those who KNOW their God will be kept safe.

And isn’t it marvelous how God can preserve those who trust in Him. Though they be but a small remnant, they are never too few for Him to bother with. You can be counted in that number if you want to be.

There is no need to loose your peace or forfeit your chance to have the assurance of eternal life because, at no point in this war can the value of your soul be measured to cost more than what has already been paid for it. The price of its redemption, the death of God’s Son, can never be counted as insufficient, though the careless spending of our live in self pursuit can never gain for us enough to purchase our own salvation or safety.

He is no fool who willingly gives up that which he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose, (Jim Elliot, martyr to the Waodani tribe of Ecuador).  It is time to give up your life to the One Who gave up His life for you. Only those who let go of this life will be able to keep their life. For some that is a simple matter of surrendering your will and intentions over to the truth that “who so ever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”  (Romans 10:13).

For those who consider themselves saved, check the fine print. If you are trusting in some form of Karma for Justice which insists that you must obtain your own righteous perfection through good deeds in order to stop an insidious circle of reincarnation, you are under the gospel of works. God offers us redemption, not recycling. Read the contract. And if the agreements you have made with the false peace of the new age promise peace through a transcending awareness with nothingness in order to find that peace, get out now! God does not require us to empty our minds to abide in His peace.

If the worship and preaching and work of the Kingdom that you are involved in does not look like what is happening in the New Testament, you may be under the influence of a false gospel. Many of the look-a-like gospels contain just enough truth to get the hungry eaters hooked in.

Satan has always preached a gospel of mixed grace and works because that way he can offer his victims the “best of both worlds”. Because it works so well, nothing has been changed but the outward appearance to keep it looking modern and trendy. Inwardly, the gospel of works, or its newer version,- the mixture of grace and works – is still full of dead men’s bones like the tombs Jesus used to illustrate the folly of following such traditions, trends and death trap theologies.

For those of you who think you are a Christian, check out what brand of theology you have embraced or your leaders are promoting. This is not the time or place where we need to look for our “our best life now”, though it is a time of sweet promise and strength for the journey. Jesus in not about pony rides and inflatables! His church is a body, not a circus. We are a family, not a corporation. Jesus is the attraction. He is enough.

As believers, we sometimes experience a loss of joy and feel disconnected from our own lives. We feel numb and maybe a little alarmed by the lack of genuineness we feel toward God or see demonstrated in our own lives toward others. Compassion for the lost and a sense of urgency have been replaced by the endless demands of the immediate.

We begin to see how far we have fallen from the Grace of God. We may have gotten caught up in squandering our lives on another gospel or in turning aside to fables of any sort to find meaning and enough reason to continue living. These have proven to be  only temporary and ultimately unsatisfying for those destined to rule and reign with Christ.

 Our lives are filling up with disappointment and troubles, more than anyone should have to endure. The answers to life’s problems are as elusive now as they were when we first begun the journey. 

It is at this point of disappointment and frustration that we are again drawn by the Holy Spirit, our Helper, to search out a deeper, more serious place of surrender and abiding. This desire to draw closer to God has presented a real and hidden danger to those who would desire to experience Him at a deeper level of intimacy and meaning.  But, alas, experiencing God at a more personal level is not accomplished by our own desire to make it happen or through greater searching of our souls or more will power or self effort.

The Devils’s prescriptions for the purification of our souls centers on strict self discipline and strenuous religious exercises for the development of a god-consciousness that  only end up wearing us out. These efforts often lead either to”self” deification (we become our own god), or we wander away in pursuit of some more tangible and temporal happiness.

Strenuous soul-searching, self-monitoring, and strict adherence to the dictates of some cultural or individualized cult promote a sort of “religious neurosis” in those who would follow God, not the cultivation of virtue that promotes the natural or supernatural healing of the soul. Only life and peace in God can promote our desired rest and relationship with Him.

The strenuous expectations of religion only create a tension  and pressure that allow the burdens of life to become heavier and open wider the door for guilt and condemnation giving the Enemy even more opportunity to find fault with every move we make.

This sets up a vicious circle of seeking and striving that spins an endless cycle of “not good enough” and “never enough”. Searching our souls becomes the perfect mechanism through which the Enemy can take advantage of us. He uses our desire to “know or be closer to God” to put all sorts of unscriptural demands upon our souls.

He manipulates our thoughts and forges fake feelings to manage our experiences around God. He then counsels us on how to “get closer to God”.  His suggestion made under the guise of our own thoughts and meditations which end up either making us feel more condemned or deceive us into evaluating our spiritual progress in God based upon our own feelings of how we are doing, which can be self-deluding at best. 

Which ever way it goes, using the Devil’s counsel on how to get closer to God is doomed to discouragement and disillusionment and destruction of those who would follow him. Jesus Christ never left our salvation and sanctification in the care of demons, be those demons ever so persuasive and familiar enough to pass off their thoughts as our own. He sent the Holy Spirit to in-dewll us to lead us into all truth and triumph. He is our Helper and preserves for and in us, the hope of eternal salvation.

The Word of God is very clear. We will not nor can we ever be “good enough” to earn or deserve Heaven or eternal salvation on our own. They have been given to us freely as the gift of God, given out of the goodness and generosity of His Own Heart and desire to see His children saved and set free.

Because most of us, however,  are taught to be responsible and do things for ourselves, we are led to search our souls to find the answers to life’s pressing questions, rather than search out the Word of God. In searching our souls, we can only draw from our past experiences. Mixing those experiences with our present thoughts and feelings about those experiences can only generate another set of experiences patterned after those we already are struggling to work through.

The Enemy of our souls has used those experiences to weave lies and error to craft our mindsets, our world views and basic value structures from which we form our concepts and perceptions. This information is gathered and organized under the counsel and direction of another spirit that would instruct us to try harder to fix and figure out what is wrong.

It would counsel us to get closer to the God we feel has already rejected us. We are confused and angry tempted to give up and wonder why following God has to be this hard and complicated.

The Bible clearly tells us to walk in the Spirit to avoid fulfilling the lusts  of the flesh, (Gal. 5:19). Instead of searching our souls and opening ourselves up to the deceptive counsel of the impersonators, (those who would guise themselves as either we ourselves, or as God), let us search the scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to do His job.

My salvation and sanctification is His problem. I am His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Those good works do not come out of striving, but out of abiding. As the Holy Spirit leads us into a genuine life and relationship with the Lord God, our lives will take on all the meaning and purpose they were intended to contain. The weak and weary dictates of religion will drop off like the dead leaves of winter giving way to the first fruits of summer.

Consider His Gift, and let the Holy Spirit be your comfort and counsel as you journey through this life and into the next.

What’s Wrong With This Spiritual Picture?

This is an excerpt of Joyce Meyer’s book. “Eat the Cookie, Buy the Shoes”, presented on the front page of Joyce Meyer’s website. And though it appears, as does much of her teaching, to be good advice and readily connected with the Bible, at least for many followers of Jesus Christ, it is not as scripturally sound as you might think.

Read her article and then consider my comments. The following are not intended to reflect upon her motives, but rather, to consider the very subtle but deadly differences between the gospels we hear preached and the one presented in the New Testament.

Why It’s Okay to Reward Yourself Now and Then – by Joyce Meyer

Enjoyment is the fuel we need to reach the finish line of an endeavor with a good attitude. We may drive ourselves to finish, but somewhere along the way we will probably become bitter and get a chip on our shoulder if we don’t lighten up and take time to celebrate the journey.

I believe that we must confront the reasons why we tend to feel guilty about enjoying and celebrating life when God has clearly ordained and commanded both.

Our thinking has been warped in these areas. Satan has managed to deceive us, and by doing so he succeeds in keeping people weary and worn out, feeling resentful and taken advantage of because of excessive work and responsibility.

We need times of refreshment and recreation as well as work and accomplishment. Learn to reward yourself because you are worth it!

Why Your Guilt Doesn’t Belong
When I ask large audiences how many people feel guilty when they try to rest or entertain themselves or even do things they enjoy, my guess is that at least 80 percent of the people raise their hands. I was part of that 80 percent until I decided that I was not built for guilt, and I was not going to continue allowing a renegade feeling to rule my life.

I studied God’s Word about guilt and studied His character and nature until I was totally convinced that God is not the source of guilt.

I see guilt as an illegal alien that attacks our mind and conscience, attempting to prevent us from enjoying anything God has provided for us. Guilt has no legal right in our lives because Jesus has paid for our sins and misdeeds. If it is in us illegally, then we need to send it back where it came from—which is hell!

The Trouble with Guilt Addiction
I was once addicted to guilt. The only time in life that I felt right was when I felt wrong. I especially had difficulty enjoying myself because I didn’t feel that I deserved it. I was most definitely a person who needed to give myself permission to lighten up and not be so intense about basically everything in life.

I was intense about how my children behaved and looked. I was intense about how my house looked, how I looked and what people thought of us. I was intense about trying to change my husband into what I thought he should be. I really can’t think of anything I wasn’t intense about!

I remember going to a doctor once because I was exhausted all the time and generally felt horrible. He talked to me five minutes and said, “You are a very intense woman and your problem is stress!” I got offended, left his office and continued with my intense, stressful lifestyle.

I didn’t know how to trust God with daily life.

Your Permission to Lighten Up
I was out of balance in almost everything. I did not yet realize that celebration and enjoyment are necessary in our lives—we cannot be healthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically without it!

We must remember that we are not built for guilt, and we should deal with it aggressively anytime we experience it.

The best gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you—and you cannot be healthy without celebration being a regular part of your life.

You can change the entire atmosphere in your home by simply giving yourself permission to lighten up.

____________________________________________________________________

A Disclaimer

It is very difficult to identify the counterfeit to something that is not easily recognized in the first place, or correctly understand the meaning of something that has been deliberately redefined since the beginning of its inception. Nothing in the Earth has been more disputed, and repackaged and reinvented, misinterpreted, mutilated, misrepresented and redefined than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In taking on the task of “rightly dividing the Word of God”( II Tim. 2:15) and “contending for the faith that was once delivered to us” (Jude 1:3), I must speak out against the messages of many who preach what I consider to be “another gospel”. I risk several things; first: adding to the confusion, second: being misunderstood myself, and third: discouraging those who are searching.

The only way to ultimately discern the truth of a tree is in its fruit, Jesus said. Many have become exhausted and may carry a “chip on their shoulder” or become bitter in trying to walk out their faith doing what they’ve always done, or been taught to do, by a myriad of teachers and preachers who have turned their desire to follow God into a stronghold of striving and bastion of confusion. Where is “bitterness” from? The Holy Spirit? Or is it the fruit of “another gospel” that does not give us the tools of comfort and encouragement that were given to Paul and the early disciples, in their many trials, which often ended in martyrdom?

Many of these “pull yourself up by your own boot-straps” Christians have tried to “make better choices” and “be responsible for their own spiritual life and development” only to find themselves worn out and in serious need of a “break”. Many of them do not see the fruit of victory or authority or power in their lives that comes from simply abiding. Instead, they struggle constantly to “balance” their lives with Biblical truths that seem to be contradictory like, “being killed all day long” while we are still, “in all these things, more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:36-37).

As anyone who follows Jesus knows from the example of His first followers, being a disciple is neither without reward nor without persecution.

The bone of contention I raise has nothing to do with not needing a reward or deserving rest.  It has to do with fruit and feelings. Jesus tells us to be “fruit inspectors”. Only when we are willing to examine the fruit of the various renditions of the gospel we are listening to will we see the error and insufficiency of the gospels we have blindly embraced and promoted without questioning.

The point I am making has to do with examining the fruit of whatever “gospel” you are listening to. (Many of us follow parts of many different gospels which does not allow anything to fit well together or allow us to abide in true peace), leaving us to suffer from an often undiagnosed case of Christian neurosis or spiritual fatigue. Most of us do not know the joy or inner peace of God’s promises to strengthen and support us; to stay with us in the midst of the storms of our lives.

We cling to a need to feel the reassurance of His presence and grow weary or bored or over-anxious when we feel the heat of the sun begin to scorch our resolve. (See Matt.13:6 & 21). This demand or need for an assurance of our salvation based upon “feelings” subjects the power of the Gospel to human weakness and increases the demand for positive experiences, including seeing “signs and wonders”, to a premium.

The Enemy uses human weakness and our vulnerability to deception to create in us a demand for tangible evidence to verify our position in Christ that allows the Kingdom of Darkness to feed our increased appetite for the “mystical”. He creates a whole raft of bogus “signs and lying wonders”, and a “smoke and mirrors” light show, put on courtesy of Hell and company, to mislead those most hungry for God.  All of this begins to make the true things of God indistinguishable from the real things of Satan, leaving the followers of Jesus Christ the laughing stock of Hell for not being able to discern the difference.

We all have grown up on the Devil’s imitation/artificial flavored everything to the point that real strawberries now taste sour and eating them gives us an allergic reaction. We have grown up on the weak and diluted mixtures of faith and programs, mingled with liturgy and traditions that cannot give us either peace or the assurance of a job well done. And though we practice them faithfully and defend them to the death, the only reasons for doing most of the religious things we do is out of fear and not love. These are the beliefs we were born and raised in. They are familiar to us, which makes them neither right nor inerrant.

I have nothing against eating a cookie or enjoying a piece of chocolate cake now and then. Nor do I define God or our devotion to God or the true Gospel of the Kingdom by high collars, long dresses, hair buns, or no make-up. His favor is not to be found in fancy cars, earthly possessions, stunning jewelry, soft clothing or the praises of men anymore than His distain is to be found in a jail cell, being made a reproach, driven out of the city as a troublemaker, or crucified.

My reason for writing this response to Joyce’s “Eat the cookie…Buy the shoes” is by no means made or meant to be a legalistic attack against the common joys of life, or the need for refreshing. I am not here to come against eating a cookie, or buying a new pair of shoes, or renounce those who would.

Though we might disagree with “when” it is “okay” to eat the cookie; or how many becomes too many. We could disagree upon the price and the place “where” the shoes might be purchased and any number of other debatable points that could tip the scale in making it difficult to draw the line between edifying and indulgent. Not to mention how this advice might affect someone with a cookie addiction or a shopping obsession.

And with these few considerations we only open another whole can of religious worms on how much is too much to spend and what about all the other more helpful and loving ways this money or time could have been spent to aid the less fortunate, to sustain a desperate mother or feed a hungry child.

And what if I cannot find the balance, or be sure of where to draw the boundary between right and wrong and between how much is too much and still be within the guidelines of moderate use, as I wrestle trying to walk the tight rope of righteousness? And how can I be sure that I am better and more deserving than those I would step in front of?

And how do I shut the door on the guilt such activities might stir up should I not be able to quiet my conscience on the moral discrepancies of my self-indulgent purchases or pursuits? Will I still be able to feel good about myself even though I put my wants ahead of someone else’s needs? How can I be sure I am being fair when I am sure that I deserve the bigger half, the place ahead of you, and or that I have not taken unfair advantage of someone else in order to promote my own self interests?

And what has ever been OK about letting any one else who “sounds like they know more about God” tell me what is “OK” with God? That it is “okay” to do whatever I want just because I have worked so hard and now I deserve it? Whose opinion will over ride God’s? Whose servant am I and to Whom will I give an account some day? My favorite TV preacher? Theological seminary professor?  Pastor?  Or to Jesus Christ Himself?

My question is, “How do I know when“now and then” is, and at what point, it is “okay” to “reward myself”? Am I qualified to make that critical moral decision; when is it time to “give up” and when is it time to persevere? Where is the line between endurance and “letting go”? Where does submission turn into abuse and service becomes oppression? Zeal in following God has more than once changed from devotion into spiritual abuse at the hand of those like Jim Jones who, under the delusion of watching over the souls of his followers, told them to drink the “Kool-Aid” in the name of God.  Who will direct my path along this treacherous journey of life?

The Lord has provided a simple and sure answer to that. “ However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13 NKJV)

The Devil has tried to complicate everything by impersonating the voice of the Holy Spirit to us. He uses scripture to confirm the things he is misleading us to believe in our souls.

Jesus Christ counters the corruption of the human operating systems housed in our souls by grafting us directly into His Spirit.“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”(Jn. 15:4 NKJV)

Being attached to the Vine takes all the guess work out of being a branch. The vine supplies nourishment and sustains the branch, giving the branch everything it needs to work in harmony with the vine in bringing forth fruit.

 “Enjoyment is the fuel we need to reach the finish line of an endeavor with a good attitude. We may drive ourselves to finish, but somewhere along the way we will probably become bitter and get a chip on our shoulder if we don’t lighten up and take time to celebrate the journey.”  – Joyce Meyer

Enjoyment: the act of having a good time (as defined by Webster’s dictionary) is the fuel we need to reach the finish line of an endeavor with a good attitude. Is this how Jesus instructed us to fight the good fight of faith? To reach the finish line? The finish line of what? Our projects? Or the Lord’s course? Was enjoyment the key to victory in Paul’s remarkable summary of his life’s work?

“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim 4:5-8 NKJV) 

“Be watchful”, “endure afflictions”, “being poured out as a drink offering”, does not sound like “enjoyment” by any stretch of the imagination, though he knew the “joy of the Lord that was his strength”. It was “joy” and not “the act of having a good time” that sustained Paul and Peter, as it does all of us engaged in the daily battle to stand and prevail against the feelings and thoughts that would so quickly swallow us up. The Bible tells us that “the just shall live by faith”. (Rom. 1:17), not by feelings.

So what was the secret to Paul’s great strength and resilient mind? Was it a self-reward system which neutralized the pain, or was it the anticipation of being given a crown of righteousness which the Lord would give him on Judgment Day? (II Tim.4:8).

Are we to be purpose driven or Spirit-led? The modern gospels have rewritten the abiding scripture of, “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 15:5) into “I can do it if I just try harder” and “it’s up to me”. In charting our own spiritual course and determine our current level of need for reward and refreshing, we learn to set goals, form discussion groups and take spiritual inventories based upon popular psychology and the latest fads in self care and positive mental health.

And in the process of being in charge of defining the process of our own spiritual life and development, we have made God into our own image and deceived ourselves into believing we can control whatever we can conceive. We have become responsible for preserving and defending our own rights and assigning our own version of meaning to almost everything including God’s Gospel of Grace. For many this means we have worked to procure our own salvation and must now also work to keep it.

Salvation has become a matter of “doing” instead of “abiding” and striving instead of “calling upon the Name of the Lord”. “Doing” pushes the envelope of “works” and “striving” to exhaustion. We have to “do stuff” and “work the program” to stay saved. Although works are part of the outcome of our abiding in Christ just as fruit is the result of the branch abiding in the vine, works are not the prerequisite for salvation any more than keeping the Law can justify us. (Gal. 2:16).

Many of us have, most tragically, missed the whole point of both “grace” (power and desire to do God’s will), and the rest given in the one, true Gospel. “I am the Vine and you are the Branches” (John 15:1-5), is the essence of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, that is so often rejected for the wrong gospel,  the one crafted in Hell and tailored to suit our own individual ideas and theological mind sets of independence, self improvement and dialogue.

Bitterness comes out of misunderstanding the chastening of the Lord, (Heb. 12: 5-7). It is swallowed anger, stored in the soul, kept until the day justice can be restored. It brings disease to the body and death to the soul.

 “And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? (Heb. 12:5-7 NKJV)

If we do not understand the purposes of the trial, we are tempted to become upset and take things personally when the Lord is simply teaching and refining His workmanship in us. God intends that our trials make us better, not bitter.

What a tragic and sobering thought, that it is possible to study the Scriptures and yet never understand their true purposes in our lives; to miss the point of our trials in search of eternal life and reject the author of eternal life Himself.

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)

Exhaustion, joylessness, burn out, and self rewards all are the fruit of taking care of yourself. They are the kinds of issues that surface when we preach and practice a gospel of works. The fruit of trying to be good and get rid of our sin so we can feel better looks like pious exercises in holiness and self-denial, when in fact they ultimately make our Christian walk not about Christ or His deliverance or His finished work of salvation, but about me. Even trying to get rid of my sin is still, all about me!

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”(Acts 20:24 NKJV)

So none of life’s set backs or trials moved Paul. He did not count his life dear to himself. He did not need special thanks or personal rewards or a shopping trip or a box of chocolates to feel loved and appreciated or good about himself. Enjoyment and entertainment are a cheap and temporary remedy for feeling exhausted. Enjoyment can never replace joy because “joy” is not obtained by earthly means, nor is it maintained by temporal comforts.Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”” (Nehemiah 8:10 NKJV)

God is not opposed to celebrating as He Himself instituted many days of rest and feast days for celebration and the refreshing of His people. But, refreshing always comes from abiding in His peace, not “doing more”.

Jesus never said it would be easy. Nor did He tell His disciples to “be good” or admonish them to “try” to heal the sick, or that it was up to them to “make right choices”. How shocking! He simply said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

“I believe that we must confront the reasons why we tend to feel guilty about enjoying and celebrating life when God has clearly ordained and commanded both.” – Joyce Meyer

This is the power and the folly of trying to manage a feeling with a feeling. I feel guilty about feeling good. This type of examination of the soul provides an exercise in spiritual futility in trying to manage our own “emotions”. We are caught up in trying to manage our “spiritual growth and development”, in our own strength. This forms the core of almost every religious program in the church today.

Guilt and condemnation are not lifted off of us by reasoning or defending our own innocence. Declaring my own innocence has no real power to prove I am innocent. The Devil will have no mercy and God already knows the truth. The Devil knows this. This is why he works to get us to take the blame for what he just deceived us into doing. So, rather than confessing the sin, and admit we have fallen for the lie, we do penance, try to make it right, blame ourselves, or God, or somebody else and never get around to canceling out the agreement we made with the lie in the first place.

When we feel guilty, we are tempted through a feeling to think that what just happened is “my fault”. Why do I feel guilty? Because I am made by God to not feel comfortable when I sin. If I were not “built by God to know the truth” sin would not have any effect on me. Guilt would have no power over me. But if we are born “depraved”, as so many in our main line denominations preach, sinning would be no big deal. Dogs do not feel guilty when they bark. Why? Barking is part of their nature. The very fact that I feel guilty about sinning proves it is not part of my original divine nature.

How can God command that we confront the reasons “why” we tend to feel guilty about anything when He is the One Who sent the Holy Spirit to do that? It is the Holy Spirit’s job to “convict” us. Guilt implies I was acting as a free moral agent who was making a choice on my own. If that is true, then Paul was wrong when he said, “If then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Rom. 7:16-17). At that point, the Holy Spirit should have  intervened to correct his statement and told him to take responsibility for his sin and the choice he was making.

We must realize we can only be held responsible for the things we do if we are free to do them in the first place. Paul tells us that we are enslaved by sin, and “under sin, [held down by and subject to its power and control], (Rom. 3:9 Amp. Bible). God knows our hearts and what needs to be done to set us free from the snare of the Devil.

Clearly, true guilt can only be assigned where one is free to act. Romans 6:17 tells us we are slaves of sin. II Timothy 2:26 expounds on the condition by telling us we have been held captive or enslaved by the Devil and “taken captive by him to do his will.”

 “…if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (II Tim. 2:25-26 NKJV)

“Oh, but you had a choice”. “It was your choice.” “You chose to sin.” “You just need to make better choices” are all the opening remarks made by Condemnation and his agents. But, I can only accept responsibility for the outcome of using my free will if I consented to the fact that I was being lied to.

If I knew I was being given “bad information” and I was okay with being deceived while in the process of making of that choice, then I could legally be held responsible for the outcomes of that choice. What I find curious is why does the Deceiver never get tagged for lying to us? He tricks us into using our “free will” into make a choice he deceived us into thinking was our own and slaps the guilt and the responsibility for that bad choice back onto us.

We are not bad or evil or depraved, even though we can do bad things. We are not created depraved, though we are created with a vulnerability to believing lies, just like Eve and Adam. They were deceived by the lie. When we come into agreement with the lie it binds us into doing the thing we hate. Being saved does not prevent us from being deceived, or from believing any more lies. Therefore, being saved does not make us immune to sin.

That is the job of the Holy Spirit, Who is in charge of our sanctification process. It is His job to expose the lie and strengthen us to recognize and overcome the power of sin. The Word of God says:  It is Christ in me, the hope of Glory. It is the Holy Spirit Who is sent to “lead us into all truth”. (John 16:13). “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” (II Cor. 2:14).

So how scriptural is Joyce’s admonition that “We must confront the reasons why we tend to feel guilty”, if we are to be led by the Spirit of Truth into a place of triumph? What Joyce is promoting actually causes more work and self-examination and stress and confusion and recycles the process of making me spiritually responsible for my own personal spiritual growth and development.

The gospel many of us believe ends up being a gospel of works where “it is up to me to not feel guilty for feeling guilty. I must manage my feelings, thoughts, and even temptations, for that matter, to make myself feel better – by making myself feel better or at least, not feel bad for not feeling better – cause, after all, I am doing the best I can and if all this work is not enough religious “plate spinning” and living in a “three ring circus” of gospel programs, then, what is? So, do not let the Holy Spirit spend His time in you waiting in the unemployment line. Let Him do His work!

There are two fundamental problems why Joyce and many like her are left stranded. We have painted ourselves into a theological corner with exhaustion and bitterness standing on one side and self-indulgence and vanity on the other.

The First Problem – Preaching a different Gospel

The root of the problem is that they are preaching a wrong gospel! They may say it is a Gospel of Grace, but it really is a Gospel of Works wrapped in feelings. The Bible never gives us the job of spiritually managing our feelings or directing our own spiritual walk with God. We are told to obey God and walk in the Spirit. To live we must die. To enter into the Kingdom of God, we must reckon the old man dead. (Rom 6:12).

We are told to trust and obey. We are not told to use our reasoning or manage our spiritual condition based upon our feelings or our thinking. Feelings change from moment to moment. How can we manage them? How can you stop a thought from coming into your mind? What more impossible and stressful thing could you try to do than stop a thought by trying to stop thinking about what you are thinking about?

Some people even go so far as to try to control their minds by emptying them. They use occult methods of mind control, meditation, and management to stop thinking so they can relax. How are we to keep ourselves happy and well adjusted, especially in this present evil world, when all of us who follow Jesus Christ are told that all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will “suffer persecution”? And when persecution happens Jesus says we have the option to “rejoice” or get offended. (Matt. 5:12 and Matt. 11:6 and Luke 7:23).

If anything, the Bible warns us not to base our walk on what it looks like or what it feels like. It tells us to “walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the lust the flesh”. (Gal. 5:16). The “flesh” is not the “sinful human nature”, a term coined by theologians but not actually found in the Bible, or clearly understood by most believers. (See – “If I’m Saved, Why Do I Still Sin?” 4-CD set)

The flesh is not sinful or evil at all. It is a fearfully and wonderfully made container (vessel). “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (II Cor. 4:7 NKJV) We have been made in the image of God. But because these earthen vessels are weak, they are vulnerable. And because we are vulnerable, (James 1:14-15), we are defenseless in any number of situations from needing the right air temperatures and pressures to having adequate food and water. This makes us susceptible to the suggestions and solutions of Satan who takes advantage of our vulnerabilities and offers to care for our needs in a way that brings us into agreement with him. That agreement opens the door to sin and bondage.

The “flesh” can only be completely defined in the context of the soul. It is the body-soul connected that gives us life. Without the soul present and operating in the body, the body is merely a corpse. Life is manifested through the workings of the soul. The soul is made up of the mind, will and emotions. This is the navigating system through which the body conducts the business of life and through which decisions are made.

“Our thinking has been warped in these areas. Satan has managed to deceive us, and by doing so he succeeds in keeping people weary and worn out, feeling resentful and taken advantage of because of excessive work and responsibility.” – Joyce Meyer

Warped and twisted by Satan, I agree. What are the lies he has been telling us? How does the Devil deceive us? “O, that we could count all the ways!!” Does he only come to us sounding like the Devil? Who would ever believe him if he did? How better to deceive us than to come to us acting like and impersonating the Holy Spirit to us, or as a familiar spirit impersonating us to ourselves? If you think or believe the thought you are having is your own, how will you resist it?

If the fruit of what you are listening to in your head is making you weary and wearing you out, and resentment and feelings of being used are overtaking you, if you are feeling over committed and under valued, then you may be listening to a demonic impersonation of you to yourself. How clever!

If we are taught to see the “flesh” as the root of all our moral weakness and failure, we will be easily persuaded to reform and eradicate the “works of the flesh”.  Satan uses our hatred of sin and our motivation to get rid of it as bait to catch us on his unsuspecting hooks of religion and works. Do we ever see someone trying to crucify themselves? It is physically impossible. Our death and deliverance are the work of the Holy Spirit, not the results of our own religious efforts to crucify our “flesh”.

The problem is that the flesh is NOT the problem.  Obedience is the problem. Paul says “in me, that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.(Rom. 7:18 AMP). Notice, he does not say that he does not WANT to perform that which is good, nor does he say the flesh is bad. He says that “in my flesh nothing good dwells”. Just like you can have sour milk “dwelling” in the pitcher, the pitcher itself is still good and useful. The milk is bad.

The “flesh” is NOT lust, lasciviousness, and drunkenness, etc. as so many would define it. Those are the WORKS of the flesh! Nor is the flesh “purged” by penance, peace offerings, or personal management of its weaknesses. We cannot control the flesh because there is something in the flesh that controls us!

The flesh is being controlled by a spirit that is impersonating us to ourselves to “help” us get to heaven and be good. It may be shocking to think that the wiles of the Devil would go so far as to impersonate God to us, or us to ourselves to get us to “buy into a lie”, but that is really the shocking truth. The Word of God says that the Satan comes as an “angel of light” and “his ministers as ministers of righteousness. So we would only find this shocking if we do not believe or understand the depths to which the Devil would go to deceive us, or that he does not exist. (II Cor. 11: 13-15).

If we take our walk with God seriously, it is fairly easy for the Enemy to get us to take “responsibility” for our own improvement and transformation. Our life in Christ becomes one of “works” and striving and not of grace or “rest”. Though we were never expected by God to procure our own salvation, neither are we expected to map out our own sanctification. We are expected to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit Who dwells inside of us and has been sent to lead us into all truth.

Because we are built by God to hate sin, it is easy for the Enemy to “con” us into trying to get rid of sin and be good. We become perfect candidates for the Devil’s self improvement works program, which happens to be well funded  and deeply rooted in almost all of today’s churches.

Because the gospel of grace has been swapped out for a gospel of works and religion, or worse yet, a humanized mixture of the two, we find ourselves curiously caught between saved and condemned, between resting and working, between striving and stupefied, and never knowing who is talking to us. “ Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29 NKJV)

The true Gospel can be summed up in one word, “done!” Every other gospel can be summed up in another word, “do”. Jesus said, “It is finished!” He has called us to abide in His finished work. That does not mean we will be able to cruise on into heaven without lifting a finger. We are called to be fruitful. That requires staying attached to the Vine and remain viable branches.

Swapping out the Gospel of Grace has other detrimental effects on our health, our mental well being and our endurance. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.  Just as it is written: God has given them a spirit of stupor, Eyes that they should not see And ears that they should not hear, To this very day.” And David says: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, A stumbling block and a recompense to them. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And bow down their back always.”” (Romans 11:6-10 NKJV)

We become blind, hardened and trapped. Even the food we eat becomes a curse.  The tables we use to negotiate contracts and establish relationships become a snare. Our backs become bowed down, depressed and hopeless. A spirit of stupor and foolishness takes over our minds and we become deceived. (See Cravings -Why Do I Do What I Don’t Want To Do? manual)

We assume the thoughts we are thinking are thoughts we thought, therefore we do not ever question the advice we hear coming from ourselves. We simply take it and then wonder why we are so discouraged, and see so little progress in our Christian lives.

Most of the ideas and feelings, including the feelings of guilt, shame, condemnation, try harder, and I’ve got to quit, etc. coming through our mind, will or emotions, (soul) are all from the pit of Hell. (I agree with Joyce on this). But, we are no match for the Devil’s debate team that disguises his thoughts as our own and sends them to us as temptations we must fight. He uses our very own souls to set up his torture rack and makes me “responsible” to quit what I cannot stop. He tempts me with lust or a craving for something and then makes me responsible to get rid of it.

My question is, what was Paul instructing us to do when we find ourselves, like him, doing the things we do not want to do? Does the Word tell us to “try harder” to get rid of the sin or the temptation to sin, or to cry out “WHO will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:15-8:2). Paul found himself stuck, not able to find “how to perform what is good”. (Rom. 7:18) Now if Saint Paul could not find the way to perform what is good, how can we hope to do any better?

We are living in a life project doomed to fail if we take on our own sanctification. That is why the Holy Spirit has been given to us. To set us free and let us know “that there is NOW, therefore, NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”, (saved), who choose to walk, not in the flesh, under the counsel of the soul, but in the Spirit, under the counsel of the One sent to equip and inform and sanctify and deliver us. It is His voice of comfort that leads us to triumph in Christ Jesus.

The Second Problem

Those who propose that they must manage their own thoughts and feelings in order to be holy are being set up to fail because they are listening to a spirit that they believe to be the Holy Spirit. This is an innate problem for most of us, especially for those who are “trying”, another word never used by Jesus to instruct His disciples, to “hear His voice”.

We are not able to discern who we are listening to because we are so used to listening to this familiar spirit that sounds like the Holy Spirit. He places words and ideas in our minds that sound like God. He twists verses from the Bible with his directives to persuade us we are hearing from God.

In either case, whether we are listening to demons who are impersonating us to ourselves, or impersonating the voice of God to us, the effects are the same, deadly confusion! The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 NKJV)  “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It also tells us to take captive every thought and check out its origin. Simply asking the question, “Who said that?” and “where are you from?” would take the guess work out of so much of what we do and think and feel.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, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:4-5)

Guilt and confusion and condemnation are common accusations the Devil makes through our hearts and minds to weight down our hearts and crush our spirits, to bring discouragement and uncertainty to our life in Christ. False prophecy, spirits of error and deception and divination work in the individual to pervert the Gospel of Grace on the Church level.

The simple solution to how to know the voice of God is to believe what Jesus said. He said, “My sheep know my voice”, (Jn. 10:3-4). We already recognize His voice! How do you see? How do you breath? How do you hear? You just do it! You do not have to understand breathing or have studied the eye or have heard lectures or sermons on “How to Hear” in order to see or hear or breath. We have been created with a spirit given to us by God that resonates with His Holy Spirit to recognized His Voice. How easy is that?

If we do not recognize thoughts that are from the Enemy, but think they are our thoughts or from God, how will we effectively resist or rebuke them. How will we keep ourselves from spiritual error or be able to send “guilt” back to the Pit, if I cannot sort out guilt and feeling guilty from my own self?  Only as we walk in the Spirit will we be able to be guided into the Will of God. Walking in the will of God is walking in the Spirit of God. Allowing the Spirit of God to move in and through us will be in accordance with both the Word of God and His Spirit.

We must turn our vindication and the rescue of our souls back over to the Holy Spirit. If we do not, we will continue to live as most believers, confused,  – both “saved” and “condemned” at the same time. This is exactly what Paul says will happen if we do not walk in the Spirit, (See Romans 7-8.) “Who will deliver me from this body of death”, (the feelings of depression, guilt, and doubt), etc.?

He answers his own question by saying there is “NOW, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1). So, if NOW is now, then what spirit are we listening to that has opened us up to condemnation and guilt, in reliving and regretting the things we have done or seeing our life through the filter of  “I should have”, or “why didn’t I?”

The easiest way to discern a false prophet or any lie from within is by examining the fruit that comes out of it. You will know them by their fruits. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16 NKJV)

If the fruit of your thoughts is stress and fear and condemnation, you are not listening to the Holy Spirit. He convicts but He does not condemn.For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17 NKJV)

How can we be held responsible for the things we have no power to control? It would be like taking personal responsibility for the tornado and feeling guilty for all the damage it did, when, in fact, we neither had the power to start it or the power to stop it? Being taken captive by the Devil to do his will, (II Tim. 2:25-26) does not sound like I am free to do what I want to do. If we are not free to do the things we want to do, how can we take responsibility for stopping the things we do not want to do?

Satan deceives us by getting us to practice a gospel of works and performance until we are weary and discouraged and mad at God for making it so hard. Jesus never told us to take responsibility for our own perfection or that following Him would be “a piece of cake”, or a “chocolate chip cookie”. He told us to repent and rest our hope fully in Him.

 The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (Ps. 138:8 NKJV)

“We need times of refreshment and recreation as well as work and accomplishment. Learn to reward yourself because you are worth it!”  – Joyce Meyer

Where does the Bible say “learn to reward yourself”? Maybe I missed that in one of the multiple translations. When the disciples asked Jesus how they could increase their faith, He told them to be more faithful.

 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink?’ Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.” (Luke 17:7-9 NKJV)

Come, sit down and reward yourself, you deserve it. I can wait. After all, you worked hard all day…

 “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33 NKJV) The cost and call of the Gospel is pretty self explanatory and expensive. It cost God His Son, it cost His Son His life and it costs us more than we can pay.

And if I believe I am “worth it” then, it can just as rightfully be concluded that I am, “not worth it”. Worth implies to deserve. To deserve implies to earn. If I can earn my salvation by being good then God owes me eternal life. Determining my worth by what I can earn will eventually catch up to me when I am too old to do a full days work any more.

And if my net value is based on what I do and my performance and not upon God’s goodness, my value will never exceed my ability to earn and prove it. I make God my debtor, and reduce the work of the Cross to nothing by canceling out the Gospel of Grace by my works. No wonder I am tired and need to buy a new pair of shoes.

“I deserve it”, and “you owe me” is the mentality of the world, not the servant of Christ. As a matter of scriptural example, see how modern day disciples measure up to this common check list of spiritual experiences found in the early church. If we would factor feelings into the mix, I wonder how many of us would last a week.

 “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—  always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 NKJV)

And let us personalize the Word a little more:

 “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; 13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off scouring of all things until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13 NKJV)

“When I ask large audiences how many people feel guilty when they try to rest or entertain themselves or even do things they enjoy, my guess is that at least 80 percent of the people raise their hands. I was part of that 80 percent until I decided that I was not built for guilt, and I was not going to continue allowing a renegade feeling to rule my life.” – Joyce Meyer

I agree, we were not built for guilt. We would, however, be wise to be consistent in our understanding of what we are telling people to do with their feelings. If we recognize “guilt” as a renegade feeling, then we know where it comes from. If it is not from us, we are told to resist it, not manage it or take responsibility for it. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NKJV)

However, if it is up to me to “police” my thoughts and feelings to sort them out from others that mingle with my own, on the one hand, but on the other, I am counseled to medicate and manage them, it gets confusing.

“I studied God’s Word about guilt and studied His character and nature until I was totally convinced that God is not the source of guilt.” – Joyce Meyer

Again, I agree. God made us in His Image. There is no guilt or wrong-doing in God. Therefore, when He made us in His Image, He could not impart to us anything that was not part of Him. Guilt is a demonic “add-on”, an “app” created in Hell to make us feel bad, and that what just happened was somehow our fault, as if we could control the velocity of the wind, or the speed of the oncoming car, or being abused as a child.

“I see guilt as an illegal alien that attacks our mind and conscience, attempting to prevent us from enjoying anything God has provided for us. Guilt has no legal right in our lives because Jesus has paid for our sins and misdeeds. If it is in us illegally, then we need to send it back where it came from—which is hell!”  – Joyce Meyer

I agree. Guilt, like condemnation, confusion, depression, addiction, and sinus infections are just a few of any number of “illegal Aliens” that can set up camp in our heads, our hearts, or our bodies to steal our sense of peace and joy. And they do debate with the promises of God’s love and care, challenging everything they can, calling every feeling and experience based in reality to testify against the truth of God’s faithfulness to us.

The only way this matter can be handled successfully is in court where God is the Judge and Jesus Christ is handling my defense. Since He paid all the fines and charges in connection with my ransom, He is the One to make the final determination. And since Satan is the one who deliberately set up the snare to entrap my soul, let him be the one to pay!!!

The problem is we will only know the true nature of the attack if we are resting in the finished work of Christ in the Gospel of Grace. Otherwise, we will still try to deal with the feelings of guilt, not as an alien, but as ourselves. We will still be trying to earn what has already been freely given.

We are using the advice of the Evil One when we try to discipline ourselves, and exert more will power. We are deceived into doing self-modification, and using the advice of the “pious deceivers” who have come to make us think we are bad because we sinned and now are here to help us “make it right with God” so we can feel better.

The way to make anything “right with God” is to confess the sin of believing the lie, even if the lie is one you believe about yourself. Repentance means to “change your mind” and stop believing the lie.

The problem is that there is always the other side of the Devil’s argument that would try and stop our stand for freedom. He never fails to remind you that it was still “your choice” and therefore you are guilty, not matter what. These two demons pull the believer in opposite directions to create a torture rack between “it’s my fault” and “I didn’t want to do it”. This irresolvable conflict from Hell does not take into consideration the fact that it was their deception that led me to believe a lie and do the sin in the first place.

“I was once addicted to guilt. The only time in life that I felt right was when I felt wrong. I especially had difficulty enjoying myself because I didn’t feel that I deserved it. I was most definitely a person who needed to give myself permission to lighten up and not be so intense about basically everything in life.” – Joyce Meyer

If we find ourselves in the irresolvable conflict of feeling bad about feeling good or only feeling right when we are punishing ourselves, there is definitely something not right with our rendition of the Gospel. God does not contradict Himself nor does He create confusion in our lives or set us up in opposition to ourselves.

We will never be free from the lies of the Evil One as long as we let them help us try to manage our own sanctification. Guilt and self-judgment remain, therefore, constant options. If we give heed to any of the Enemy’s suggestions, however, we are only opening the door to religious striving and insatiable legalism which will wear us out and move us further from a gospel of grace to a gospel of works; to a gospel of indulgence, exhaustion and self-justification.

Ask yourself “whose talking to me?” “Who said that?” “Where are you from?” Do not assume that every thought or feeling that comes from you IS you. Then, send those lying impersonators back to hell! And go and enjoy a little cake or a walk in the park, or whatever God has given you, with gratitude and rejoicing. Perfect love casts out fear and his little traveling buddy, guilt.

If our peace and the privileges of grace were deserved and able to be earned, they would be wages owed, not grace. Why is that “too easy” and “too good-to-be-true”? Because the Devil only knows complicated, and HATES what the Father has done for us, His Children. We, therefore, must demonstrate our trust in God by receiving the expensive gift He has so graciously bestowed on us by saying “thank you” not by turning it aside and saying, “I don’t deserve it” or “come back later when I can pay for it myself”.

“I was intense about how my children behaved and looked. I was intense about how my house looked, how I looked and what people thought of us. I was intense about trying to change my husband into what I thought he should be. I really can’t think of anything I wasn’t intense about!” – Joyce Meyer

Definitely a strong case of man-fear and “what will other people think”? Trying to change others is about control. Control is about fear, not rest. Intense is an adjective that describes the world of one who is full of fear and the need to control. How many of Joyce’s following of religious mothers and fathers are suffocating their children in the name of “holiness”. It does not sound much different than the Crusaders back in the medieval days. Nor will the spiritual blood shed be any less.

“I didn’t know how to trust God with daily life.” – Joyce Meyer

I cannot argue with that. But I believe the real problem is NOT a matter of knowing “how to” trust God.

Do we have to learn “how to trust” our mothers? Babies are born trusting. That is why we are so vulnerable to the devastating effects of their betrayal. Why then, would we have to learn how to trust our Heavenly Father? Could it be that we are believing a lie about having to learn “how to” do something we already know how to do? It would be like going to class to learn how to breathe, or teach myself to learn how to breathe so I could breathe.

“I was out of balance in almost everything. I did not yet realize that celebration and enjoyment are necessary in our lives—we cannot be healthy spiritually, mentally, emotionally or physically without it!”  – Joyce Meyer

“Balance” and “boundaries” are trash! They are not the cure for the “unhealthy, unholy habits” but an explanation for the absence of real peace and joy and celebration in our lives!

Many Christian authors have used “balance and boundaries” to fashion a new suit of clothes for the Emperor. The folly and futility of their effort appears only those who are willing to admit the truth.The others keep themselves busy trying to sew a new set of buttons on the Emperor’s invisible attire.

Another slight problem is that neither balance or boundaries is, as a word or as a concept, found in the Bible. They are both exhausting to define and just as difficult to defend. Which leaves the question unanswered; where is the boundary between turning the other cheek or going the second mile, and shaking the dust off our feet and not eating with one who practices wickedness? The real question is not “where is the boundary”, but “what time is it?” There is a time for purpose under heaven.

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:” (Ecclesiastes.3:1 NKJV)

“We must remember that we are not built for guilt, and we should deal with it aggressively anytime we experience it.”  – Joyce Meyer

Guilt is part of the human landscape of life. It must be dealt with by the Blood of Jesus Christ, and the Sword of God’s Word, the only two remedies for this serious infection of the soul.

“The best gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you—and you cannot be healthy without celebration being a regular part of your life.” – Joyce Meyer

There is nothing wrong with rejoicing and being thankful. Both of these are remarkable in maintaining good health and provide a divine antidote for stress and anxiety including in our homes, offices and everywhere. We are to be the fragrance of Christ diffused to all those around us. Hope and thankfulness are well demonstrated through rejoicing in the midst of adversity and are the witness of our faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

“You can change the entire atmosphere in your home by simply giving yourself permission to lighten up.” – Joyce Meyer

You can change everything including the atmosphere by simply following the lead of the Holy Spirit. He is our wisdom, strength, freedom, and celebration

 “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,  that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,  being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11 NKJV).

Judge and Jury? by Marjorie Cole, Life Recovery, Inc.Do you ever feel like you are your own judge and jury? Like your whole life is a result of either being judged by others or,  worse yet, yourself? Do you live constantly going over your mistakes, debating with yourself, re thinking your options, feeling guilty and judged by failed outcomes, trying to figure out how you might have done things differently and feeling responsible for other people’s responses?

Add to the confusion the fact that many of us continue to live our adult Christian lives using the insights and conclusions we gathered during our childhood. We determine our worth, our value and the current status of our “love-ability” based on these subconscious conclusions made as children.

As a result, many of us take a moral inventory of our spiritual lives only to come up agreeing with condemnation, that we didn’t do it right, don’t love God enough and maybe aren’t even saved! We spend our lives moderating the debate that goes on in our minds and emotions to determine if we are trusting God enough, sincerely convinced in our hearts and really born again.

We grew up in performance-based conditioning that caused us to believe that whatever was happening in our world was “all up to me” and if anything went wrong, “it was my fault”. “I’ve got to do it right”, “be good”, and “figure it out” in order to be “okay”. (For more teaching check out “It’s My Fault” cd.)

"It's My Fault" by Marjorie Cole, Life Recovery, Inc.

And though this blog is not a clever justification for sin and reckless abandon of moral absolutes, the “it’s up to me” gospel has created a deep and serious challenge to the Gospel of grace. Failure to embrace the Gospel of grace has widened the separation between us and our merciful heavenly Father, and is creating  a growing number of neurotic Christians.

Confusion and condemnation are spreading like a contagious disease among unsuspecting believers who rewrite the Gospel of God from “Done” back to “Do”. Confusion around the Bible’s declaration that “it is finished!” has exchanged the absolutes of the final and  finished Gospel of Jesus Christ for one of powerless uncertainty. This unfinished Gospel allows the Enemy’s to constantly accuse us that we are never quite good enough or certain that God’s acceptance of us is unconditional.

Things  like “I have to , I should, I need to, or I feel like I have to keep myself in line, or “I feel like I have to choose the right thing”, bind us in the constant fear of NOT choosing the right thing. And if our salvation all comes back to and rests upon us and our choosing the right thing, the entire work of the Cross rests, not upon the Word of God or the Blood of Jesus, or upon the Faithfulness of God to pay the penalty for sin and buy us back, but upon our ability to choose rightly!

Was this not the very foundation upon which the Law was built? Putting the work of redemption back on us puts the work of Christ in jeopardy of being undermine and cancelled out by the choices I make. How devious! How arrogant! How clever of the Enemy who knows he cannot erase or undo or remove the Word of God or the Work of Christ, to make them both subject to my performance, my feelings, and my choices.

Does not Paul in Romans 6,7,and 8 make it abundantly clear that we were slaves of sin, programmed to sin, controlled by the sinful lusts and cravings of sin that war in our members? As he writes is it not clear that  he was experiencing these same powers controlling the members of his own flesh? And that they were controlling him in spite of his love of God’s Law and his will (intention) to follow it?

Simply repeating the “try harder” cliches of taking personal responsibility to be more diligent and self-disciplined did not resolve the dilemma. The insidious entrapment opened Paul’s eyes to the need for deliverance which causes him to cry out, “O wretched man that I am, Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). ”

The good thing he wanted to do he did not do; the bad things he did NOT want to do, he found himself doing. (Rom. 19). Observing and basing his conclusion upon his will and intention to love and want God instead of the bad and unruly behavior that he saw going on in his members caused him to conclude that “it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells IN me.” (Rom. 7:20).

Paul immediately stopped trying to be good or control his behavior or condemn himself for not being able to be good or control his behavior or stop the war going on inside of him. In stead, he stopped it by crying out to God for deliverance from the grip of the body of death – the operating software from Hell – that was running in his soul. He realized he could not deliver himself by good works or by trying harder to stop sinning. It was not up to him to deserve or prove or complete the work of the Cross. All he could do was cry out for “deliverance”.

Even evidence of sin and the presence of the battle that continued raging within him were not able to persuade him that the Cross and the Salvation it secured were lost. There is NOW therefore, no condemnation to “those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1).

Walking in the Spirit make us immune to the ongoing blasts of Satan that debate our position in Christ based upon our performance or our feelings. Condemnation is a feeling. As a feeling it is often used by Hell to frighten the sheep into believing they are not safe, okay, or saved. It creates a low grade anxiety in the souls of those who would follow Christ.  In searching for relief from the uncertainty, they turn aside from following the commands of the Good Shepherd, into the pastures of religious performance, legalism, and self-doubt.

These little sheep become caught up in trying to be their own shepherd. They base their love for God on how well they think or feel they are doing (performance). When we try to please God by keeping the Law to be holy and judge our progress by how we feel we are bound to fall into condemnation!

When we base our salvation or run our relationship with God through our minds (thinking) or through our hearts (emotions) we  give the Enemy all kinds of opportunities to hurt and confuse and condemn and strip us of our authority as believers.

If Satan can get me to doubt, or second guess, or believe that the work of Jesus Christ is dependent upon me, or how I feel, or how I am doing , or on what kind of choices I am making, then he had slipped a noose around my neck to drag me back into the pit of despair. If all I do is spend the rest of my saved life being drug around by Satan what good am I to myself or what profit will it be to Christ?

If the devil can get me to agree with him, he then has the power to control me. If I let him get by with speaking words through my mind and out of my mouth that I do not “take captive” ( II Cor.10:3-5), if I do not “resist him” (jam. 4:7) he will not flee. The Enemy is a wiley foe and a master deceiver. He is the author of confusion and his strategy is to divide and conquer.

He desires to control you. If he can “set you up in opposition to yourself”, (II Tim. 2 25  KJV)  by getting you to monitor your feelings and your behaviors, he can divide you and set you up against your own self.

He deceives you into sinning. He then uses the evidence of the sin you just committed as proof that you disobeyed God. He then has you read some scripture that he can reinterpret as condemnation to get you to question or worry about your love for God. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (Jn.14:15) gets re-framed and the Enemy begins to condemn you for not loving God enough because you sinned.

Our sinning gives the Enemy an opportunity to discuss ways we could improve which opens up the way to bring striving on board to more closely monitor our life in God. This sets the stage for condemnation to come in and creates a vicious circle of try harder-never good enough that leaves us  always wondering if God really loves us. God’s love becomes conditional and grace must be earned!

The only way this vicious cycle can be broken is by Abiding in Christ! This revelation changes everything, including our vigorous and sketchy attempts to be good, make right choices and follow God. And if we add to this folly, the notion that we can assess our current state of holiness and acceptability with God based on how we feel, we  have handed the appropriation of the Work of the Cross and its power to save, over to Satan!

“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If we “Walk in the Spirit” we will not give Satan the opportunity to use our souls to debate the work of Christ being done in us through His Holy Spirit. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1). We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. (Eph. 2:10). Know that you know that and you will live an abundant and meaningful life in Christ.

Amen!

Standing at the top of the new year, what better time then to consider the most timeless question of all. How will you die?  This blog will be posted in eight installments. This is the first.

If you are a saint, and the rapture of the saints does not occur in your life time, you will die, no doubt about it. Death is not a topic up for discussion. It is not assigned according to merit nor can it be reassigned or delegated to someone else on your behalf.

Though none of us starts out thinking about dying, or knowing when or how it’s going to happen, very few of us take much time to prepare for it. We are too busy living to think about our final days or years here on earth. Besides, it is such a morbid subject.

And yet, for as much as is NOT said about dying, it is always hanging out in the back of our mind. Why else would we be so intensely interested in ways to stay young?

You will have a funeral with flowers and a eulogy. You will be put in a box or in an urn and set on a mantel or sprinkled over some cold bit of earth or forgotten piece of ground, if you are one of the more cared for among us.

Or you could be left to die without help, found by the vultures who have encamped against your lifeless form, fallen on some street or wilderness place or battlefield or snuffed out by some holocaust, struck down, silent and left, without a tear or a song.

The only good news is that these are only possible endings to your BODY. The life you lived in it for that first tiny portion of your existence here will go on to be judged and relocated. The greater question is, then, where will we spend the rest of eternity that has no end.

The account of those things we did in our body, during our life spent here will determine that answer. Then everything will change. Those who have been rich and well off may find themselves poor and without comfort. Those who were downtrodden and lived in shame and reproach as second and third class world citizens may end up presiding over kingdoms and live in mansions.

Jesus Christ said “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; …I go and prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2).

Finally, we will have a place! A place to be safe and loved and wanted. “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” God is going to share His Kingdom with the poor and cast offs of this earth. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled”. He is giving food and substance and satisfaction to those who didn’t have a chance, who were not born well positioned for the race of life.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh”. How many here have been so overtaken by the injustices and abuses committed against them that they couldn’t even hope, let alone laugh? And, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you and cast out your name as evil, …Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven.”

Justice is coming! Truth rules! Righteousness prevails! But only those who live their lives loving the Justice and truth and righteousness, and in favor of Mercy will be given mercy.

Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Do you have your reservations in the Kingdom of Heaven, or have you neglected to look into your eternal life options. The stakes are high. To be wrong, at this stage of your life would be and incalculable tragedy.

In the words of Jesus, “it would be better for (that man) if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in he depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6). It would have been better if we would never have been born than to have been born and to be cast into everlasting hell fire.

So, seriously, what is the point of being stubborn and self directed when, in all reality, we can not even create one blade of grass on our own. The loss would be unbearable and absolutely a needless, pointless waste!

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