The Cure for Bone-Deep Pain

bone-deep-pain

I once met a man who had become addicted to prescription painkillers.

“That must be terrible,” I empathized. “Where is your pain located?”

I expected the man to tell me about migraine headaches, pain in his back, or some other kind of physical agony. But, to my surprise, he took the conversation in an entirely different direction.

“Well, my wife left me a few years ago, and I’ve been really lonely. I’m also having conflict with my kids, and I don’t like my job. I basically hate my life and feel like a total failure.”

I wasn’t prepared for his explanation. What did any of those circumstances have to do with getting hooked on prescription pain medicine?

However, as our conversation continued, I began to see the connection. While some people become dependent on pills to alleviate their physical  discomfort, this man was desperately trying to numb his emotional  pain.

Perhaps you can’t relate to this. I hope  you can’t relate!

Yet here’s the sad reality for many people: There’s a kind of pain that goes far deeper than pain in our physical body. It goes to the very soul—to the core of our being.

I call this “bone-deep” pain, but it’s actually much deeper even than that.

King David seems to have been quite familiar with bone-deep emotional pain. While some of his psalms are exuberant and celebratory, many describe his deep internal agony, all the way down to his bones:

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled…
(Psalm 6:3).

My life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;
My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away
(Psalm 31:10).

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long
(Psalm 32:3).

Some of David’s psalms attribute his bone-deep pain to things like grief, betrayal, and the torment he frequently received from his enemies. But other passages, such as Psalm 39, acknowledge that some of his emotional pain was the direct result of his own sinful, foolish choices:

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,
Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!
For Your arrows pierce me deeply,
And Your hand presses me down.

There is no soundness in my flesh
Because of Your anger,
Nor any health in my bones
Because of my sin
.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
My wounds are foul and festering
Because of my foolishness…

I am feeble and severely broken;
I groan because of the turmoil of my heart 
(Psalm 39:1-8).

Fortunately, there’s hope for those who are suffering bone-deep pain. David goes on to conclude that God is with him and well aware of his turmoil (v. 9). Even though there is no lasting relief for such pain through prescription painkillers, alcohol, or illegal drugs, David has found the only source of true hope: “In You, O Lord, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God”  (v. 15).

David had experienced the incredible pain of internal torment, but that gave him authority to speak with great eloquence about the Shepherd who offers to lead us to a place of peace, safety, and renewed joy: “He restores my soul”  (Psalm 23:3).

Let those four beautiful words sink into the core of your being today: “He restores my soul.”  The Lord understands the severity of your pain, and He offers to penetrate—bone deep and beyond—to restore your soul.

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The Key to Experiencing Thanksgiving All Year Long

Rockwell, Freedom from Want 1943.jpg

Thanksgiving is clearly the greatest holiday ever created in America—and not just because of the great food and football games.

A few years ago I had a new revelation while writing Thanksgiving notes to some friends. In past years, I would say something like, “I’m thankful for YOU this Thanksgiving.” That certainly was true enough, but it missed an important point: I wasn’t only thankful for these friends on one day of the year, but rather was grateful for them all year long.

Suddenly my mind was flooded with Paul’s words to his friends in Philippi: Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God”  (Philippians 1:3 MSG).

Isn’t that cool? At the mere thought of his friends, Paul had a “Thanksgiving moment.” Even when distance or jail cells prevented him from seeing them face to face, his Thanksgiving rose to God whenever he even thought of these people he loved so much.

I hope you have friends and loved ones who brighten your life like that. Whenever someone mentions their name or the Lord brings them to mind during your prayer times, you light up inside. You find yourself welling up with gratitude that such a person would be a part of your life.

This year I found myself realizing in a whole new way that if you have good friends and are a person of prayer, you can experience Thanksgiving anytime. There may not be any turkey or football, and your loved ones may not be physically present with you at the time. But you can “break out in exclamations of thanks”  nevertheless.

Let’s be honest, though: We all know people who don’t bring such a cheery reaction when they come to mind. Rather than sparking joyous praise, they bring us concern or sadness or even a tinge of anger when they come to mind. This could be someone who has wronged us, who we’ve not yet forgiven. Or perhaps it’s a spouse or child who’s not living like we think they should.

Fortunately, Paul has an answer for this kind of situation too—when instead of thankfulness, we feel burdened down when we think about how another person is doing. Just a few verses after the words above, Paul adds one of the most beautiful promises in the entire Bible: I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns”  (Philippians 1:6 NLT).

Look at how these two verses work together: In verse 3 Paul describes his great joy and thankfulness every time he remembers his fellow believers in Philippi.

But in verse 6, he reveals the secret of why he could rejoice even when some people weren’t doing very well: He knew God was still at work! Instead of remaining distraught about the circumstances of such people, Paul knew He could commit them into the Lord’s loving hands, confident in His ability to change their heart and turn things around for them.

Do you see how your whole perspective changes when you look at the people in your life through this two-fold lens in Philippians 1? Every day—and every moment of every day—can become a time of spontaneous Thanksgiving. So you don’t have to wait another 364 days—let the hallelujahs ring out now!

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Thanksgiving, God’s Kindness & the ‘Giving Back’ Question

hands-giving-back

I’ve never really liked the phrase “giving back.” Maybe it’s because we’re often called to show kindness to complete strangers and people who aren’t in a position to give us anything in return. Although we’re possibly “giving back” to God  in some way, we’re usually not reimbursing people for anything they’ve first given us.

Yet this Thanksgiving I find myself reflecting on the responsibilities we all have when we realize how blessed we are. On this day when we recount the blessings we’ve received from God, it’s also a great time to ask ourselves how we can BE a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2).

One day King David woke up with this same quest on his mind: “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?”  (2 Samuel 9:3)

If you know David’s story, he had experienced lots of hardships on his way to becoming king and fulfilling his destiny. As part of God’s training process, he had overcome lions, bears, giants, and a deranged, homicidal king. At times he had to run for his life, living in caves and other dark places.

But by the time we get to this episode in 2 Samuel 9, David was feeling overwhelmed by how much God had blessed him. He recognized that he had abundantly received “the kindness of God.”  And as a natural by-product, he wanted to find someone to share the blessings with.

Sounds something like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

David had a particular desire to bless those from the lineage of his former enemy, King Saul. What a great example this is for us. Perhaps there’s someone you need to reach out to who was once your nemesis. Maybe there was friction or suspicion in the past, but it’s time to overcome all of that with kindness and generosity.

Remember the Pilgrims and the Native Americans? Talk about cultural differences! But what if we could reenact that same kind of spirit in our cities today, where police officers and the black community sat down to break bread and share their resources together?

In David’s case, the options were pretty limited. It turned out that the only person left of Saul descendants was a bitter, crippled man named Mephibosheth.  This son of Jonathan was living in a desolate place called Lo Debar, and his self-image was so low that he considered himself no better than a “dead dog”  (v. 8).

Just the kind of person you should invite to your home for Thanksgiving, don’t you think?!

Remember: When you’re looking for people to show kindness to, they might not be the easiest people to love! In fact, you can count on the fact that the people who need love the most will be the hardest to love.

But love them anyway.

Mephibosheth was described to David in such a way that the king might have been reluctant to get involved with such an unsavory character. Yet David immediately had the man brought to Jerusalem to eat at the king’s table—just as if Mephibosheth was one of David’s own sons (v. 11).

Thanksgiving is a time for families, of course. But it also can be a great time to invite someone else  to sit at your table, as David did with Mephiboseth.

I hope you are feeling blessed today. If so, is there someone you can show the kindness of God?

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A Vision That Will Change Everything

sunlight

Have you ever had a time when you realized your perspective was totally misguided? Perhaps you saw a relationship incorrectly, or you misjudged the leadership of your church. Or maybe you sunk into despair as you read news headlines about your nation or the world.

I recently was challenged when I read the life-changing vision Isaiah had after King Uzziah died:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
  (Isaiah 6:1-3).

Uzziah had been a good king, but he had a rather bad ending (2 Chronicles 26). And just as today, the political changes in ancient times often made people apprehensive.

But Isaiah saw beyond the troubling headlines of his day to a much more important reality: The Lord  was sitting on the throne of heaven. He was high and lifted up, with a vantage point much better than ours.

Nothing on earth was going to change the majestic scene in heaven.

Lately I’ve been stunned by the angelic song: “The whole earth is full of His glory!”  I’ve read this over and over, even checking it out in various translations.

How could the seraphim declare that the whole world was ALREADY full of God’s glory?

If we could get a glimpse into heaven today, I’m sure we would hear this same song being sung. In the earthly realm, we see Democrats and Republicans waging war. Terrorists seem to be multiplying. The economy goes up and down. Racial tensions won’t seem to go away.

As an optimist, I’ve often cited Bible verses promising that God’s glory would one day fill the earth (Habakkuk 2:14, Numbers 14:21). But while my perspective has generally been limited to “the sweet by and by,” the heavenly creatures saw God’s pervasive glory as a present-tense reality.

Pause and consider how your life would change if you regularly sang the seraphim’s song. Wouldn’t there be a profound transformation if you realized that the glory of the Lord was filling your home, your office, your church, your community, and your nation?

And think about the new level of peace and hopefulness you’d experience if you believed—really  believed—that God was ultimately in control of the universe. No election can alter that fact. So let’s all take a deep breath and determine that we will entrust ourselves to Him, no matter what’s going on around us.

When Isaiah saw the Lord on His throne and recognized that His glory was already filling the earth, the political and economic news of his day suddenly faded in importance. And rather than setting himself up as a judge over the leadership changes around him, the prophet found himself repenting of his sins, humbling himself, and listening for a new mandate from God’s throne room.

“My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts,”  Isaiah said (v. 5). A vision like that will change everything, no matter what is happening in the world around us.

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Whose Side Is God On?

elephant-and-donkey

One of the fascinating aspects of each election cycle is to watch both Democrats and Republicans imply that God is certainly on their side of the issues. Meanwhile, theologians debate whether God is a Calvinist or Arminian. And sometimes entire nations—especially the United States—portray themselves as being on the side of God and righteousness.

So how can we tell whose side is God really on?

There’s a great story in Joshua 5:13-15 that should give us cause for concern on this subject. The scene takes place shortly before Joshua is planning to lead the Israelites against the formidable city of Jericho. This was the first step in his campaign to take possession of the Promised Land, and Joshua was facing some anxiety.

As he was gazing at Jericho in preparation for the coming events, Joshua was suddenly confronted with a mighty angel of the Lord, with his sword drawn for battle. The angel clearly would be a formidable warrior, and Joshua certainly hoped he had come to fight on the side of the Israelites.

“Are You for us or for our adversaries?” was his logical question for the angel (v. 13).

However, the angel didn’t frame his answer the way Joshua might have hoped: “No,” the angel replied, “but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come” (v. 14).

Do you see the irony here? Joshua hadn’t asked a yes or no question. He wanted to know—as we all do—whether God was going to fight on his side or his enemy’s side.

But God never comes to take sides—He comes to take over! The angel’s reply let Joshua see an important insight about spiritual or political battles: Instead of trying to get God to fight on our side, we had better humble ourselves to make sure we are aligning ourselves with His side.

Joshua got the message loud and clear. Falling on his face to the earth, he worshiped God and said, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Liking this response, the Commander of the Lord’s army told Joshua to take off his sandals, for he was standing on holy ground (vs. 14-15).

What a great model for us as well. The Bible declares, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). But the surest way to know that God is truly “for us” is to make sure our highest objective is to seek His kingdom and accomplish His will. When we’re willing to do that, Jericho will be no match for us.

If the recent election was won by the political candidate you supported, here’s my advice: Don’t stop praying!

And if your preferred candidate lost the recent election, here’s my advice: Don’t stop praying!

Rather than either gloating in victory or moaning in defeat, it’s now more important than ever to seek God’s grace and favor on the nation. That will only happen when we lay aside our personal assumptions and agendas, seeking His kingdom and glory above all.

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Daniel, the Blind Men, and the Election

blind-men-elephant

“Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both,

before we commit ourselves to either.” – Aesop

I recently studied the life of the Old Testament prophet Daniel and discovered that he had lived under the reign of 10 different kings. That got me thinking about my own life…

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m so old that I was born during the final years of Harry Truman’s administration! Wow. That seems like ancient history.

Donald Trump will be the thirteenth American president in my lifetime. Some of our presidents have been good, some have been bad, but none have been perfect.

Somehow America has survived our very flawed leaders, and Daniel’s story has helped give me perspective and hope for our future.

The people of Daniel’s generation had no opportunity to vote on their leaders. Instead of being able to change the course of history through political campaigns, he had to trust that “[God] removes kings and raises up kings”—even rulers like Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, and Darius (Daniel 2:21).

Rather than put his hope in any of these human leaders, Daniel took comfort in an entirely different kingdom. Even though he was greatly alarmed by events on earth at times, he came to see that “the Ancient of Days” would ultimately sit on the throne of heaven, ruling over an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:9-27).

Seeing the Big Picture

Our perspective on America’s recent election could profit from lessons in this famous poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887):

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a WALL!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho, what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a SPEAR!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a SNAKE!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he:
“Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a TREE!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a FAN!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a ROPE!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

It’s no wonder this story has spread across the world in various versions. People find it fascinating that each of these men could be both right and wrong at the same time. They were correct about what they perceived, yet each of them had perceptions that were incomplete.

We see this principle at work all the time, both in politics and in the church. People tend to feel very certain about what they have experienced, and rightfully so. Those from minority groups are more likely to have experienced racial prejudice, and that is very real to them. Meanwhile, those in the white majority often have a hard time believing that racial discrimination is still much of a problem a full century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation.

We all have a limited view of the “elephants” in the room, don’t we? Smug about what we think we “know,” we don’t recognize that we can be right and wrong at the same time. As a result, we tend to adopt half truths, not realizing that the other half may be in error.

Unless we keep this principle in mind, we’ll be much too prone to attribute nearly messianic qualities to our preferred political leaders, willfully blind to their flaws. If you’re an American, I hope you voted in the recent election. But I also hope you did so prayerfully and with your eyes wide open.

God is the only One who sees the whole picture. Yes, we can experience more and more of the Lord as we read His Word and draw near to Him in prayer. But nevertheless, the Bible says, “we know in part and we prophecy in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). In eternity, we will have a much fuller view of the elephant, but “now we see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Although the fog of human events may often obscure this fact, someone is still seated on heaven’s throne (Revelation 4:1-2). We’ll find great solace when we accept His invitation to “come up here” and take a look.

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When a Nation Needs Divine Favor

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The Intriguing Message of “Annuit Coeptis”

I can’t tell you for sure whether America’s Founding Fathers were influenced by the New Age or infiltrated by the Illuminati. But some of the Latin phrases they used are pretty intriguing.

For example, a few years ago I took a look at Annuit Coeptis, which is found on the Great Seal and the back of our dollar bills. This Latin phrase can be translated “He (or Providence) favors our undertakings” or “He has prospered our endeavors.”

Wow. Our Founders somehow realized they never would have succeeded without divine favor. This recognition of the need for God’s favor should be our quest as well—especially in the chaotic times our country now faces.

A psalm attributed to Moses reflects this passion very well:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).

So what does it take for a nation to gain—or to lose—the Lord’s favor? Amid the horrors of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln wrestled with this very issue:

We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or follower of some other political philosophy, I hope you will grasp the power of Lincoln’s message. We need more than better politicians or better policies. We need a spiritual awakening that begins with you and me.

In addition to President Lincoln’s diagnosis of our need for national repentance and revival, the words of nineteenth-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville are amazingly prophetic today:

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Forgive us, Lord. Heal our land. May Annuit Coeptis be our testimony once again.

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When the Curtain Is Pulled Back

wizard

One of my all-time favorite movie scenes is in The Wizard of Oz. “The great and powerful Oz” was trying to intimidate Dorothy and her friends, and his scare tactics appeared to be working.

But right when all hope seemed lost, something quite providential happened. Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulled back the curtain Oz was hiding behind. It turned out that despite all the smoke, sounds effects, and bombast, the mighty Oz was actually just a feeble old man.

Shockingly at times, God has been “pulling back the curtain” lately. He’s exposing things for what they really are—and the reality behind the curtain is alarming.

When the Wizard was exposed, he famously said, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

In the same way, today’s embarrassed politicians try to persuade us to “pay no attention” to the video clips, emails, and other evidence we can plainly see with our own eyes. But it’s too late. Once the curtain is pulled back, how can we not pay attention?

Yet for months it seemed that most Americans were paying no attention to the foibles of the candidates they were supporting. As long as a candidate was from their own party, all sins could be forgiven. But now that God is pulling back the curtain, the corruption is simply too blatant to ignore.

When the curtain is pulled back, we see things as they really  are, not just as they appear. The “spin” is gone, the hype looks foolish, and our heroes as seen as mere mortals once again. It’s as if the Piped Piper’s spell is broken, and we wonder how we ever could have been so gullible.

It’s interesting to see how someone responds when their deception is exposed. When Dorothy and her friends discovered that the Wizard was a fraud, he initially reacted in great rage. “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz, you ungrateful creatures?” he asked indignantly.

Doesn’t this sound like how many politicians act when the curtain is pulled back? They blame their accusers, castigate the news media, and act as if they should be immune from criticism.

When the curtain has been pulled back this year, corruption has been exposed in both political parties and even in revered institutions like the FBI and Department of Justice. And while the news media is sometimes unfairly criticized, it turns out that much of the criticism is deserved.

As God has mercifully pulled back the curtain, the unseen realm has been exposed, and the apostle Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6:10-13 has rung true. Our real battle is more than a clash between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. A demonic spiritual element has been working “behind the curtain” to pull strings of influence in our political affairs.

Thankfully, some of this wizardry is finally being exposed for what it is. I’ve heard that if anyone catches a glimpse at how sausage is made, they will never eat sausage again. Hopefully the same wisdom will apply when the curtain is pulled back on the corruption of our political candidates—how can we ever vote for such a person again?

One of the other great scenes in The Wizard of Oz occurs when Dorothy accidentally pours water on the Wicked Witch of the West, causing her sudden demise. “I’m melting!” she says pathetically as she dissolves on the ground. Dorothy is astonished, not just that the Wicked Witch is dead, but that the Witch’s followers rejoice  when they realize her power has been broken.

I rejoice that the Lord is pulling back the curtain today, because I know that repentance is always a precursor to revival and national restoration.

However, I’m also aware of the sobering fact that the curtain will one day be pulled back on each of us. Today our political candidates are being exposed, but tomorrow it may be you and me. How would you fare if all your conversations were recorded and your emails were leaked to the press? What if the whole world saw what your marriage is like behind closed doors? What would the IRS find if they audited your taxes?

It’s such a great time to search our own hearts and ask the Lord to deal with any sins we’ve tolerated “behind the curtain.”

“Cleanse me from secret faults,” King David prayed (Psalm 19:12). “See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

That’s a great prayer for us as well.

 

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The Exorcism Before the Election

fog

Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or simply a member of the Apathetic Party, I feel an urgency to bring something to your attention. In the fog of the election season and all its political ads and pundits, it’s easy to overlook root issues that must be addressed before Election Day.

Although I don’t usually write much about the devil and demons, the current situation demands an exception. Whether you are for Hillary, Trump, or someone else, there’s an important matter not mentioned in any of the party platforms…

Before the final votes, we need a National Exorcism.

Yes, you heard me right. Our central problem isn’t the Democrats or Republicans, but rather the demons and strongholds.

I don’t really need to provide specifics at this point, but the evidence is clear to anyone willing to face the facts and look beneath the surface…

Hillary has her demons. Trump has his demons. And let’s face it: American has its demons, and this has led to our crazy match-up of candidates.

The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that their real battles were not a matter of flesh and blood. Likewise, I’m sure he would remind us today that our struggle isn’t primarily between political ideologies:

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

Thankfully, Paul also wrote that Jesus is positioned higher than any of these unseen enemies:

He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church (Ephesians 1:21-21 NLT).

You see, our prayers have spiritual authority to lift the demonic fog that’s blinding so many people’s eyes to the real issues facing our nation. Romans 11:8 calls this fog “a spirit of stupor,” and it’s extremely dangerous to have an election unless that spell is broken.

Before it’s too late, will you join me in praying for our country? Will you join me in humbling ourselves before the Lord and repenting of our national sins and narcissism?

Frankly, I don’t want the Democrats in power. But I don’t want the Republicans in power either. Nor the Libertarians or Green Party.

I’m not particularly excited about having the first woman President or the first billionaire President. The governing establishment has become too demonic to be remedied by any mortal person, whether male or female. And the strongholds are too deeply entrenched for any single election to fully change.

It gets down to this: Instead of just having the right outcome in the election, we need right hearts and a spiritual revival. Rather than just choosing the best person to be President, we need to look to King Jesus for “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17).

When we submit ourselves to God, the Bible says we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). That’s really good news, isn’t it?

May our nation submit to God once again, starting with those of us who profess to follow Jesus as our Lord (1 Peter 4:17).

Then let the national exorcism begin!

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New Births & New Beginnings

skipping

On January 25, 1969, I experienced the miracle of the new birth when I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.

If you’ve never been born again, the experience Jesus described to the religious leader Nicodemus in John 3:1-8, you’re really missing out—not just in this life, but in eternity as well. There’s no other way to become a “new creation,” where “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

However, lately I’ve been meeting lots of people who’ve already experienced the new birth, yet now they need something else: a new beginning.

You’ve probably met these folks too. They tell you something like, “I got saved back in 1995, and everything changed.” However, the more you get to know these well-meaning believers, the more apparent it becomes that something’s drastically missing. Maybe Jesus forgave their sins and stamped their ticket to heaven many years ago, but now they seem stuck in a dreary, unappealing religiosity.

Other religious folks eagerly tell you about the day they got “filled with the Holy Ghost.” But although that may have been a glorious day, now you can’t help but wonder if their filling with the Holy Ghost somehow leaked over the years. The love, joy, peace, and other fruit that’s evidence of being filled with the Spirit is nowhere to be found in their life anymore (see Galatians 5:22-23). Perhaps it’s time for a Holy Spirit “refill.”

I’m not trying to be mean. But these observations are unmistakable and troubling.

The reality is that we all need new beginnings at various points in our lives. The Bible is filled with stories of mighty heroes of the faith who needed a fresh start at one point or another:

  • Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 when everything changed for them at the birth of their child Isaac (Genesis 21:5, 17:17).
  • Jacob experienced a new beginning when he saw a ladder reaching to an open heaven (Genesis 28:10-22), and then his life was transformed even more when he wrestled all night with God (Genesis 32:24-32).
  • Joseph suddenly went from the prison to the palace and became the Prime Minister over all of Egypt (Genesis 41:14).
  • Moses’ life was radically changed at age 80 when God spoke to him from the burning bush in the backside of the desert (Exodus 3:1-22).
  • Gideon was living in fear and self-preservation right before the Angel of the Lord appeared and commissioned him as a “mighty man of valor” to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6:11:24).
  • David desperately needed a new beginning after his adultery and murder were exposed (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).
  • Elijah was weary, depressed, and practically suicidal before God gave him a new purpose in life: mentoring the next generation (1 Kings 19:1-21).
  • Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road would surely be considered a new birth. But he later experienced several new beginnings too: when Barnabas got him involved in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:25-26) and when the Holy Spirit commissioned him and Barnabas to plant churches across the Roman Empire (Acts 13:1-4).

This is just a small sampling of the Bible’s stories about people who experienced a new beginning. If the Lord was willing to give these people a fresh start, don’t you think He’s able to give YOU one as well?

In the Gospels, Jesus triggered new beginnings everywhere He went. The list includes the woman at the well (John 4:1-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:1-44), Jesus’ discouraged disciples receiving new hope after cowering behind locked doors in the wake of His cross (John 20:19-23)—and many more.

Do you see the message here? Even though I’m thrilled if you’ve experienced the new birth, it may be time for a new beginning as well. The good news is that God gladly offers to provide one when we ask Him (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19).

That means you don’t need to live a purposeless life or remain stuck in quicksand. Nor do you have to flounder in a sea of frustration and hopelessness.

But let me be clear: New beginnings aren’t always easy and pain-free. You could be required to make a geographical relocation and leave friends and loved ones behind (Genesis 12:1-4). You may need to wrestle with God until your hip is out of joint, or He could totally reroute your life by speaking to you from a burning bush.

You shouldn’t t be surprised if you have to strip off some graveclothes, as happened with Lazarus (John 11:44). And don’t forget about Elijah if your new beginning starts in a cloud of depression while you’re having a “personal retreat” in a dark, damp cave.

Finally, let me ask: Has God already given you some instructions for launching your new beginning? If so, this is no time to procrastinate or be bound by fear.

You see… the best way to get a fresh start is to get started!  Even if you don’t know where the path will lead, today you could take a step of faith that dramatically impacts your future.

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