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choices

What We Feed Grows. What We Starve Dies.

What are you growing in your life?

Yesterday I ran into an old story about the two wolves within us. Some people say it is a Native American parable. Others say it came from Billy Graham. I’m not really sure where it came from, but it’s a story that makes me think about how I’m living. It goes like this:

A grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “The battle is between the two wolves inside us all.

“One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“The other wolf is good. It is joy peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked “Grandpa, which wolf wins?”

The grandfather replied, “The one you feed, child. The one you feed.”

The battle between the two wolves is a lot like the battle between our sinful nature and the nature of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says, “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…”

The sinful nature results in a harvest of evil—things such as lust, idolatry, quarrelling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, envy, drunkenness and other sins. The nature of the Holy Spirit brings a beautiful harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We all would probably say we want the harvest brought by the nature of the Holy Spirit. But which one are we feeding?

What are we watching or listening to? What sort of thoughts fill our minds? We choose which “wolf” we feed by how we live our lives, how we guard our thoughts, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.

Matthew 7:13 says, “Come to God through the narrow gate, because the wide gate and broad path is the way the leads to destruction—nearly everyone chooses that crowded road!” Permission to paraphrase? Yes? OK, good, here goes: It takes effort to feed the good wolf but it’s easy to feed the evil wolf. The evil wolf will eat anything, and most people give in to him. But his goal is our destruction.

What we feed grows. What we starve dies. Which wolf are we feeding?

Dear God, examine my life. Am I choosing to give in to my sinful nature? Or am I choosing to yield to the nature of the Holy Spirit? Show me ways how I can feed my spiritual nature and starve my sinful nature. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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choices

It’s Never Been Like This Before

“Listen, all who live in the land. In all your history, has anything like this happened before?” (Joel 1:2)

In the book of Joel, a horrific, never-ending invasion of locusts devastated Judah. The locusts just kept coming and eating until all crops were destroyed, animals were starving, and people didn’t think they could take any more.

Have you ever felt the same way? Have you ever been devastated? Maybe not by locusts, but in a such a way that you knew nothing would be the same again?

What do we do when our world is turned upside down?

When Joel’s world was out of kilter, he turned to God. In times of devastation, we have a decision to make. We can wonder where God is in all the madness and turn away from him. Or we can double down on our relationship with God, cling to him with all our might, and seek his face in the midst of our circumstances.

Joel 3:14 intrigues me. It says, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”  This verse can be applied on many levels, but let’s talk about what it means in our day-to-day lives.

We are part of a great drama involving an epic battle. We have a deadly enemy who actively seeks our destruction, who wants to devour us like a lion chomps down a zebra. On the other side there is a Savior who wants to rescue us from the darkness and fill our lives with light. This battle rages around us constantly.

The most important question of our lives is, whose side are we on? We must choose sides. There is no Switzerland here, no neutral area. Who do we serve? In the words of Bob Dylan, “you gotta serve somebody.” If we think we are neutral, we’re deceived.

One day, God will judge us based on whom we serve. This is the fulcrum of our lives, the choice upon which everything else rests.

Y’all, the valley of decision isn’t the place where people make decisions. It’s the place where God decides and decrees our eternal fate based on whom we served. In the valley of decision, God’s enemies are judged, and his people rewarded.  

What does this mean in our everyday lives? It means when all is right with our world, we serve God. When we face devastation, we turn to God. In every circumstance and every situation, in good times and bad, our devotion lies with God. Our hope remains in God. Locusts ? We serve God. Viruses? Yes, we still serve God. When the world goes mad, our allegiance to God remains steadfast. And when we stand in the valley of decision, we’ll be eternally grateful to be on the Lord’s side.

Dear God, I choose you. I give you my whole heart and I want to serve you with everything I have. In good times or bad, I will serve you. I want to spend eternity in heaven, enjoying your presence forever. Fill me with your light and your love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Fasting

Winning Combination

“But this kind of demon is cast out only through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

Some things just belong together. Macaroni and cheese, a hammer and nail, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, a right uppercut and a left jab—they just go together.

In the spiritual realm, fasting and prayer go together. We see fasting and prayer used together repeatedly in the Scriptures:

  • “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer” (Ezra 8:23).
  • “Jehoshaphat was terrified…and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting” (2 Chronicles 20:3).
  • “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).
  • “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day (Luke 2:37).

When people really seek God, they pray AND they fast. We see it in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And we hear it from the mouth of Jesus.

Jesus affirmed the value of the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. In Matthew 17, we read about a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus. The son had seizures and often threw himself into the fire or into the river. Many commentaries on this story suggest the son had epilepsy and was also tormented by an evil, suicidal spirit.

The father brought the son to the disciples, but the disciples couldn’t cure him. The father then went straight to Jesus. He asked Jesus for compassion, healing, and deliverance, and Jesus took action: “Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was instantly healed!” (Matthew 17:18). In an instant, the boy was miraculously delivered from the demon and completely healed from the seizures. Incredible!

But why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon? Why couldn’t they bring healing to the boy?

The disciples asked the same question of Jesus. Jesus said they needed faith, but faith wasn’t all they needed. Jesus also told the disciples that some spiritual battles are won only through prayer and fasting.

In boxing, a right uppercut, left hook combo is a winning combination that can defeat an opponent. When we’re facing fierce spiritual warfare, fasting and prayer is the winning combination we need to defeat our enemy. Fasting and prayer is a one-two punch that brings breakthrough and victory.

This isn’t a time to play Christian on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week. There’s too much at stake. It’s time to fight for our marriages, our children, freedom from addictions, financial breakthrough, physical healing, and these battles are won through prayer and fasting.

Do you desperately need resolution to a seemingly impossible situation? Involve God in your situation with the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. When you face daunting battles, remember Jesus’s words to his disciples. He said with faith, fasting, and prayer, “nothing will be impossible for you.”

Dear God, you are gracious and compassionate. You are rich in love and kindness. I need you in my life today. I need your peace, deliverance, and breakthrough in my life and in my family. You are Lord over every situation. You are all powerful. Cover me with your presence. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17:14-21

The FWC devotionals are moving to a five day per week format, Monday through Friday. Look for the next devotion on Monday, August 17. Have a great weekend!

Categories
Fasting

Battlefield Strategy

“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3)

Sometimes the mess we’re facing is so daunting and so confusing that we really don’t know what to do next. What does this lab result mean for my future? How will I ever get back to work with this economy? All three kids are throwing up—what do I do with that? There are times when we face too many problems at the same time and every path we consider seems to lead to despair and defeat.

In 2 Chronicles, chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat found himself in just such a situation.

Even though Jehoshaphat was serving God, disaster threatened in the form of two powerful enemy armies on their way to attack and destroy the nation of Judah.

Jehospaphat was terrified.

But he didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He didn’t order his warriors to ready their weapons and oil up the chariots.

His first action was to pray. His second action was to call the nation to a fast.

Prayer and fasting are the best possible actions to take when we are facing an attack, a battle, or a decision and we don’t know what to do. Fasting and prayer bring direction and guidance. We stand in the gap for our children and grandchildren through prayer and fasting.

And we impact our communities and nation through prayer and fasting. I love that in this time of extreme challenges in our country, churches throughout the nation are calling their people to pray, fast, and seek God, just like Jehoshaphat.

Oh, yes, what happened to Jehoshaphat? Did the enemy destroy Judah?

Judah was most definitely NOT destroyed by the enemy armies. On the contrary, they didn’t even fight. They actually sang their way to victory! As the singers began to praise, the enemy starting fighting among themselves until not one of them was left to attack Judah. True story.

It’s really cool that the Bible tells us the words to the song they sang, a song of faith birthed through prayer and fasting: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever!”

When we’re facing a battle, what should our battlefield strategy be? How about this: First, pray. Second, fast. And, finally, sing praise to the Lord for his faithful love endures forever!

Lord, thank you for being a God who battles for me. Though I see so many problems, both in my life and in my nation, I know you are in control. Honor my prayer and fasting as I seek your power and wisdom for the needs of my country, my community, and my family. I praise you, Lord, now and forever. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Categories
Handling Life's Problems

Ready to Build, Ready to Battle

“Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens loaded themselves so that everyone worked with one hand and held a weapon in the other.” (Nehemiah 4:17)

Have you ever tried to do two things at once? It can be tough. In Nehemiah, the people working on rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem had to be ready at all times to build or to battle.

Their city was in shambles. The wall that should have protected them and their families was nothing but ashes and rubble. They were surrounded and regularly attacked by enemies who would like nothing better than to see them fail or see them destroyed. For generations, no one did anything about the dangerous condition of the walls of Jerusalem. Until Nehemiah showed up.

But what to do first? Build the wall? Or fight the enemy? Spoiler alert: They did both.

They didn’t stop building because there was an enemy. No, in the face of the enemy, they began digging out the rubble. They began setting stone upon stone. And, they didn’t ignore the enemy because they were building. They built, but they also remained constantly ready to battle, weapons in hand. We too must build, and we must also stay ready to battle an enemy attack.

Nehemiah 4:13 says, “I stationed the people to stand guard by families…” Nehemiah assigned the people to work as families. He told them to stop being afraid of the enemy and, instead, to remember the greatness of God. He said, “Fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Nehemiah 4:14). They were building for the safety of their family. They were fighting for the future of their family.

Friend, we’re in the same situation. We’ve got an enemy who would love to see our family fail or be destroyed. We’re building and fighting for the salvation and future of our family. Our family may not look like what we expected. Difficult circumstances may have left our families with broken places that need rebuilt. We may be afraid or discouraged, but we can choose to remember the greatness of God and turn our hearts and hands to doing the work needed to rebuild and fight.

Where we find weaknesses in our ourselves or our family, we rebuild. We listen and pray. We adjust and make changes. We seek counseling. We put down our screens and interact with our family. We read the Bible and we apply what we read to our lives. Rebuilding requires effort. It can be tiring, but the end result is worth the work.

When we encounter attacks from the enemy, we fight. Our weapons are the Word (Ephesians 6:17), our worship (2 Chronicles 20:21), and resistance (James 4:7). Our enemy isn’t our spouse or our children. Our enemy is Satan, who wants to destroy our families. If our family is under spiritual attack, we rely on the Word, worship, and resistance to defeat our enemy.

Here’s some good news: If you fight for your family, God will fight for you! (See Nehemiah 4:20.) That ought to put a spring in your step and confidence in your soul. Friend, don’t give up on your family without a fight. If you fight for your family, God will fight right beside you. You won’t fight alone. God is with you. He loves you. He loves your family. And he promises he will fight for you.

Dear God, thank you for my family. Make me an example of a Godly person to everyone in my family. Give me discernment to see where there are weaknesses in my family and give me strength and wisdom to rebuild. When my family is under attack, give me courage and determination to fight. I give you my family. I give you my life. Let my life lead the next generation to you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Recognize Your Enemy

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty power in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

There’s a real-life battle being waged in the earth. The battle is invisible, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

So, who is our enemy in this battle? Who are we fighting against? Ephesians 6:12 tells us we are fighting against, “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,” “mighty powers in this dark world,” and “evil spirits in heavenly places.” Our enemy is invisible. Our battle is against spiritual wickedness.

Sometimes we turn our focus to other people and believe they are our enemy, but our battle is not with any person. It’s not with our spouse or our neighbors. It’s not with people who look different than we do or believe different than we do. Our enemy is not any person or group of people. Our enemy springs from evil in the invisible realms of the spirit world.

Darkness and hatred spring from evil. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” We battle darkness by spreading light. We battle hatred by spreading love. We do not defeat our enemy by quarreling and fighting with each other. We defeat spiritual evil in the heavenly realm by shining God’s light into the world and showing God’s love to everyone we meet.

Matthew chapter 5 says we are the light of the world and that our good deeds should shine out for all to see. It also says we cannot get by with just loving those who love us but must also love those who treat us badly.

The world has plenty of darkness and plenty of hatred. We can change that by speaking and sharing light, life, and love to those we come in contact with. We share God’s light and love when we are kind and generous with people, even to those who we think may not deserve it. What each of us does to spread light and love helps push back the darkness. It’s how we fight the invisible battle and defeat the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realm.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving my sins and filling my life with your love and your light. Help me spread your light and love to everyone I meet. I know there’s a battle between light and darkness, and between hate and love. Make my light shine out to break through the darkness and let me show your love to break through hatred. Help me remember my battle is not with people, but with spiritual evil in the heavenly realm. Thank you for giving me victory through Jesus Christ. In his name, amen.