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Remember This

We humans live in a world that isn’t very conducive to living peacefully in the moment. Instead of helping us to be present in the present, the world is constantly tempting us to project into the future. Instead of making it easier for us to rest in today, the world works to keep us distracted by bombarding our brains with “what if” worst-case scenarios.

In the last four months, this reality has become more obvious than ever before (at least in my lifetime). For proof, just turn on the news and watch it for five minutes. Since March, nearly every story has been about “the virus” and the “experts” doom day predictions. Every headline plants a seed of fear that “things are going to get much, much worse” and “might never get better.” If you choose to believe these headlines, chances are you’re convinced that what lies ahead for America is nothing short of apocalyptic.

But these projections and predictions do us no good, especially since most of them never come true. What’s more, Jesus specifically told us that only God – not a human with a PhD or a news anchor – knows what the future holds. Yet these gloom and doom talking points have completely overtaken every airwave in America, from commercials to billboards to email inboxes. And, in the process, they’ve infected the human psyche with fear, worry, depression and hopelessness.

Friends, regardless of which news station you watch or political isle you stand on, you must understand that this future-centric fear mongering is straight from the enemy.

The enemy wants to keep us so obsessed with what might go wrong tomorrow that we miss the blessings of today. Behind every worldly mouthpiece, actively distracting and disquieting us with predictions and projections, is satan himself. He is purposefully feeding us this fear and doubt because it furthers his agenda to kill, steal and destroy the peace and rest that thrives when we humans embrace and live fully in the God-given moment.

The bad news is that satan and his doomsday minions aren’t going anywhere – at least, not until Jesus returns. But there is good news! Thankfully, God has not left us defenseless against these fear-filled attacks. In fact, God has implanted within each of us a precious tool to help defeat fear and restore peace. This tool is the human memory.

Our ability to remember is a priceless treasure – and a powerful one, too.

When we actively set our minds on remembering who God is and what He has done in the past, both in our own lives and in the lives of the saints who have gone before us, we disarm the enemy’s problematic projection tactics. As we recall how perfectly faithful God has been in the past, our present faith is strengthened and future hope restored.

Psalm 77 is a perfect example of how this works. As the Psalm opens, we find David crying out to God in his day of trouble. But he doesn’t linger long in tearful laments. Very quickly David switches his focus to the remedy for his heavy heart: remembering. “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)

As the Psalm progresses and David does more remembering, the mood of the chapter changes. As he recounts past events that demonstrate the wondrous and mighty power of God, David gains more confidence. From God’s authority over the sky and sea to His redemptive grace and perfect faithfulness dating back generations, David’s hope is revived by remembering the goodness of his Lord.

The restoration of peace that David experienced by using his memory is a lesson to us all.

Just like David, each one of us has been gifted a memory that can be used to recall the unmerited mercy, love and grace of God poured out upon our own lives and the lives of our fellow man. Like David, we can actively choose to remember God’s wonderful deeds and blessings He has bestowed upon our nation for generations.

And, most importantly, we can remember the promises and eternal truths found in scripture. We can open up the Bible, a great treasure trove of memories, and remind ourselves of the words spoken by our Lord and Savior, Jesus. We can feast on the Good News that the peace of Christ is with us in every season and all situations. We can read God’s love letter to us and receive the blessed reminders that our Heavenly Father, our refuge in every storm, will never leave or forsake us.

Beloved, when the world starts tempting you to look ahead and project fearfully into the future, pause and remember Psalm 77. Remember the Gospels and every account of the unfailing, unchanging, unshakable greatness of our God. Remember that God is good and perfectly faithful. And remember at He isn’t even close to finished yet.  

 

 

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The Color Red

Across my FaceBook feed black boxes are appearing.

Friends are posting them. Churches are posting them. Businesses are posting them. Ministries are posting them. The black boxes are in observance of #blackouttuesday, a day set aside by Black Lives Matter to recognize “violence and systemic racism against black people.” The details of the Black Lives Matter movement are not the main point of this post. To delve into that topic would take far more than one blog post. (An entire book could be written on the subject.) What I intend to to address tonight is the root of the division in our nation.

Movements like BLM tell us that our country is divided along the lines of color. It’s one race against the other, according to the media. But the Bible makes it clear that our battle is not against races, it’s against evil. The dividing line is not color. The dividing line is the cross.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote to his fellow believers about the topic of division. But before we get into what Paul actually wrote in that letter, it’s important to understand the audience and who received it.

First, the letter was written to an entire network of churches and not just one individual. Ephesus was a pagan worshipping culture that did not take kindly to Christianity so most believers gathered in home churches to avoid persecution. Second, the city was diverse. Because of its seaport location, Ephesus was a multi-ethnic hub of activity with a thriving trade industry. It was also a travel destination for those eager to lay eyes on Artemis, their Greek goddess of the moon.

It was to this community that Paul penned these famous words: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:10) Here, Paul addressed the dividing line and made it clear to his readers that the root of their struggle was not a man’s skin color. Their war was not against a race. It was against the evil one.

If I were to pick up a pen and write America a letter I would begin with Ephesians 6:10. I would write that what divides us is not black and white but red. You see, Jesus did not see skin color. He did not shed His blood on the cross exclusively for one race nor did He die for only the members of a particular ethnic background. His sacrifice was truly equal opportunity. As scripture says, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21).

Therefore, the struggle we face is not rooted in a racial divide but, instead, is rooted in the divide between those who have been covered by the blood of the Lamb and those who haven’t. It’s good against evil, light against darkness and life against death. Our nation, like Ephesus, is divided into two groups: those who have been reconciled to God and those are living as enemies of the cross.

And this is why I am not posting one of those black boxes on my FaceBook feed. Because race isn’t the root of our nation’s division.

Race is a diversion from the true battle being waged for the heart of our nation and its citizens. Skin color is nothing more than a weapon wielded by the enemy to distract us from his evil schemes. If he can keep us focused on the race war, he can keep us blind to the spiritual warfare. And if we’re blind, we won’t fight. And if we don’t fight, we won’t win.

To finish his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote:

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

(Ephesians 6:10-18)

If I were to write a letter to Christians in American, I would end it just as Paul did – by encouraging my fellow believers to keep their eyes on the spiritual battle being waged for souls and suit up in the full armor of God. As an added warning, I would caution my readers about one of the enemy’s favorite tactics that is currently being used in America: cooping “Bible” words.

You see, at times, the enemy pelts the believer with weapons called “love” and “justice.” Although these words sound well meaning, take a closer look and you will discover that they are not defined according to the Bible nor are they furthering the Gospel. In fact, the enemy is using these fundamentally scriptural words to destroy, not promote, the Gospel. He’s seized and twisted these words for the sole purpose of confusing and manipulating God’s perfect love and perfect justice.

Due to this danger, it is critically important that we not only test every spirit but also investigate all movements. Who is behind the scenes of the movement and what do they stand for? How do they define love and justice – in scriptural or manmade terms? Is their mission Gospel centered or is it purely humanist?

Dear friends, we must stay laser focused on “the way, the truth and the life” and stay suited up in the armor of God.

As Paul urged the Ephesians, I urge you today: pray. Pray at all times and always with your eyes set on the Spirit of the living God. Pray for discernment and wisdom. Pray for peace and unity. Pray for awakening. Pray for revival and repentance. Pray for perfect love and perfect justice to reign in our nation and in nations across the world.

“Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (Ephesians 6:24)

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The Cure for iPhone Addiction

Smartphone addiction is no joke.

On average, smartphone users check their phones forty-seven times a day due to social media fixation and texting-obsession. Studies show that we even admit to being smartphone dependent with over forty percent of smartphone users acknowledging that they have a phone addiction.

I am one such user.

I am a smartphone addict. iPhone to be exact. My phone is as much a part of me as my right arm (not left, because I’m right handed.) Although I’ve tried to curb the addiction many times my efforts have been futile. The technicolor screen keeps calling me back. Telling myself not to look at the phone and self-imposing rules never did the trick to cure my addiction. I needed to take more drastic measures. I needed the help of gray scale.

The gray scale smartphone setting transforms the screen’s vibrant color into various shades of gray. With one click of a button your smartphone can step back in time. Think pre-1970 when new-fangled color TVs had yet to infiltrate living rooms all across America.

The addiction-combating benefits of gray scale are psychological and scientifically proven. A technicolor smartphone screen stimulates neurons and triggers the release of dopamine, one of the body’s feel-good hormones. The chemical reaction of checking a smartphone is to the brain what handing a banana is to a monkey. It is a reward, enticing the monkey (and brain) to come back for more.

Switching the smartphone screen to gray scale dramatically reduces the appeal of the neurological reward. In monkey terms, gray scale feeds the monkey only a little slice of banana instead of the whole piece of fruit. When the monkey isn’t content with such a small morsel (and who is content with just a single slice of banana?) he will seek other sources of satisfaction.

And so it is in the brain. Without the color to feed the need for neuro-stimulation, our brains will naturally seek other ways to meet the need.

Switching my iPhone to grayscale has been an addiction-kicking game changer. By changing the screen’s setting my phone checking compulsion has substantially dissipated. Without color, apps have lost their allure. The temptation to scroll, search and surf has been greatly reduced. And, as an added bonus, my desire for real books (printed in ink, on paper, without back lighting or buttons) has been naturally reawakened.

But the greatest benefit of switching to gray scale hasn’t been a change in behavior; it’s been a two-part spiritual awakening.

First, I realized that the color of this earthly world is gray. Upon reading that pronouncement you might be thinking, “No, it’s not. The world is very colorful! I can see it!” It’s true that by using our limited human vision this certainly appears true. But when we reframe our thinking to consider the reality of heaven and the unimaginable splendor that awaits in glory, this world suddenly looks awfully gray.

The colors on earth cannot compare to what God has prepared on the other side of the pearly gates. Think about it like TV in the 1960’s, before the experience of a colorful screen. No one knew what they were missing and they were content to watch and enjoy the black and white program. But once full color came along no one wanted to go back. They saw the fullness of the picture and it was far better than they had imagined the show could be! This is just a small picture of what it is like in Heaven. Our eternal home is unparalleled in glory and once we experience it, we’ll never want to go back. 

Which leads me to the second part of the revelation: the world we live in and the creation we enjoy is God’s gift to wets the appetite and entices us with glimpses of the glory that awaits.

God has designed our world to be sprinkled with sweet samplings of Heaven’s splendor, but they can’t be experienced while lost in a one-dimension smartphone world. By looking up from my iPhone and out at the world, it dawned on me that this life is like the trailer for Heaven’s movie. God is showing you and I clips of the feature film. He is given us a foretaste of what’s to come and, unlike most Hollywood movies, He isn’t even showing us the very best scenes. God is reserving the finest glory for the grand premiere – the moment we arrive in Heaven.

Paul wrote, “Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.” (Romans 8:24). Paul didn’t need a smartphone to know that this world is just the grayscale preview of the technicolor eternal dwelling God has prepared for His own.

We can’t see Heaven’s full glory just yet but when we put down our phones and feast our eyes on the world around us, our hearts will be quickened and hope will be renewed as we travel through this life on our way to our ultimate, final destination – our everlasting home with God in Heaven.

Find out how to turn your phone to gray scale:
https://lifehacker.com/change-your-screen-to-grayscale-to-combat-phone-addicti-1795821843

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Frenemy on Facebook

I have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one frenemy named Satan.

I never intended to add the enemy of heaven and earth to my friend list. I don’t even recall receiving a friend request with his name on it. Yet, there he is, cluttering up my newsfeed with envy and dissatisfaction.

The enemy first slithered his way onto my social media while I was feeling weak and lonely. Before I knew it he was in nearly every post, hijacking updates of joy with his malice and discontent. My frenemy is so deceptive he has even invaded likes and shares. He even exerts his evil influence in smiley faces and pictures of furry pets. How dare he.

When my frenemy is online he fills the comments and likes with jealousy and discontentment. For far too long I have scrolled by the enemy’s posts and given him the evil pleasure of stealing my stillness and peace with his social media sabotage. I’ve clicked “unfollow” here and there, but I’ve never blocked him entirely.

Until today.

Today I am unfriending the enemy and blocking his influence. With the joy of the Risen Jesus Christ I am kicking Satan off of my social media and out of my soul. To simply “unfollow” isn’t enough. The enemy must be blocked entirely.

In order to remain united with my very best friend, Jesus, I cannot tolerate a single post from His arch enemy, the destroyer of eternal peace. The destructive influence of Satan must be forcibly removed and only the power of Christ’s Risen life can do it. Only God can effectively and entirely block the enemy from my heart, mind and soul.

 

The love of Christ cleanses my Facebook of the enemy and rids my feed of his hate. Transformed by the Savior’s redemptive mercy, my social media is made new in the presence of His amazing grace.

I still have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one best friend named Jesus Christ spreading abundant, everlasting joy all across my eternal feed.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-7