Friday, October 26, 2018

Strongholds- "Do you want to be healed?"

“Do You Want To Be Healed?”

This seems like a strange thing to say to someone who has been an invalid for 38 years lying beside a pool which waters could heal him. But in John 5:6 we can read such a story by the side of the pool of Bethesda. I have been meditating on this question and the concept of strongholds. Strongholds are issues, problems, burdens or illnesses in our lives that seem to hang around like parasites. They just don’t seem to go away.  Now these may be problems that are not going to leave or be healed. For example in 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul asked Jesus three times for the “thorn in his side” to be removed. The Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.”  There are times when God wants us to live with a problem. This is hard to understand. Is it because He can’t- no. Is it because He won’t- perhaps. In Paul’s case it was to cause him not to become conceited or prideful with all the benefit and spiritual visions that God had given him. God may be teaching a lesson to us or causing us to repent of something and turnaround.

What about you? Do you have an issue that just keeps troubling you? Why don’t you do something about it? Perhaps because it is a stronghold or difficult problem that you really have not faced or don’t really want gone. It might be a crutch for you. For example, perhaps you get home from a difficult and stressful day at work or with the kids and you pour yourself a glass or two or three of wine to relax. It is now a habit and maybe a stronghold if it is causing problems. Is your response to the stress the best alternative solution or help? Do you notice your so-called solution having aberrant side effects on you or others? Then perhaps it is a stronghold that needs to be broken down. Are you getting angry now? Maybe anger is a side effect, or your actual point of struggle.  Once recognized or unveiled, the challenge is to disarm, confront or heal it.

There are many places or counselors to see for help. However, the Bible has directed us to the source. In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talks of spiritual warfare and battles of the mind. We have them because Satan is alive and well and wants us disabled and ineffective in the world. He wants us to be stuck in our anger or grief or depression.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3).  

He is telling us that we are in a battle and that it is the Lord’s.  He will help us overcome the struggle or stronghold and make it obedient to divine power through the Holy Spirit if we know Him. I like the word demolish as it implies complete. We don’t just want to cover over it or weaken it. I am reminded of the time I was bitten by a deer tick and had classic symptoms. My physician prescribed an empirical dose of antibiotics that simple sent the virus subliminal. It came back and I became very ill and disabled, to the point of despair, but God healed me through His fervently prayed word.

We want to confront and demolish the offender, the fortress. This may take a lot of help from friends and counselors. It may seem insurmountable. It will not fall by worldly weapons alone, but with spiritual ones. In this “me generation” people believe they have rights to have certain things or habits even if they may be destructive to them and others. Who are we to judge them? We are not to judge, unless a Christian has fallen into sin, then Scripture says, “Brothers (or sisters), if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). 

Our family has struggled with a stronghold for generations, alcohol. I have previously written about my own mother’s alcoholism and the denial from my father that continued until her behavior was disastrous. “Wine is a mocker, and beer is a brawler” (Proverbs 20:1).  Photographs of my grandfather’s drinking clubs and several beautiful drinking mugs decorated our home. I was taught to make my parents evening cocktails when I was only eight years old. This routine of bartender weakened my own strength to not drink.  I knew there might be a problem when I won the beer chugging contest on my college campus. This was not something to be proud of or put in my resume. Our fraternity was kicked off campus after my graduation because of its drunken behavior.

Our sons are grown and married, both into families with drinking problems. They recognize now the dangers that exist. “The Lord...visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 5:8-10).  These problems that are passed on are not unfixable curses. These issues can be confronted head on. Not doing so can make it worse and/or delay healing or release.  Habits are not easy to break, except by a new better habit. I have quoted Scripture that tells us that our weapons are spiritual. We use “weapons of righteousness” to confront our strongholds. We are to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to God.” We are to pursue righteousness or holiness. Paul told the Philippians when faced with anxieties or problems that it is the peace of God that overcomes. He tells us to think on and put into practice that which is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.”  God has given us the fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control or discipline.  He has admonished us to put on the full armor of God to fight the wiles of the devil.

Our Declaration of Independence tells us of the “pursuit of happiness.” I believe that God wants us to pursue holiness to overcome the world. “For sin shall not be your master, for you are not under the law but grace” (Romans 6:14). Whatever our problems, the Bible has solutions for them. Walking in obedience to God’s word and will is our calling always. God will give us the strength to walk in His way. He will direct our steps in His way if we trust Him wholeheartedly. This walk is daily and for many of us a battle.  Paul told Timothy to be strong, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6).  Keep walking.

I have overcome strongholds with God’s help and continue to need Him daily as the serenity prayer says- daily. It requires continuous prayer and God is faithful. The following is a list of practices that will help in overcoming the stronghold:
·      Confess and Repent - your stronghold as sin (Acts 3:19)- “Repent and turn to God.”
·      Seek Light- There is plenty of darkness in the world that will drag you down (1John 1:5)-“God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, Hi Son, purifies us of all sin.”
·      Helpless- As all 12 step programs realize that you are helpless to overcome (Matthew 9:36) “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
·      Prayer- (1 Thessalonians 4:18)-“Pray continuously for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
·      Praise and Thanksgiving-  (1 Thessalonians 4:16)-“Rejoice always, give thanks in all things”
·      Hope- Keep hoping for something better (Hebrews 6:19)-“We have this hope as an anchor.”
·      Realize Patterns or Triggers- What causes you to fall or be weakened? (Proverbs 16:18)- “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
·      Seek Peace- God’s peace and presence is power (Philippians 4:8,9; John 14:27)-“Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition bring your requests to God, with thanksgiving and the peace of God that transcends your understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, think about and put into practice and the God of peace will be will you.” And Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world I give unto you, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
·      Read Scriptures- There are 7,500 promises in the Bible for all things (Isaiah 55:11)-“For so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
·      Proclaim/Preach- There is power in the Word of God! (2Timothy 4:2) “Preach the Word, be prepared in and out of season…”
·      Put ON- intentionally clothe yourself with and (Ephesians 6:11-18)- put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes. All parts of the armor are essential, the buckle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the Gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, The shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and keep praying.
·      Clothe Yourself- Scripture tells us continually to clothe ourselves in: Jesus Christ, His splendor, strength and dignity, humility, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12-14, 1Peter 5:5, Psalm 45:3, Isaiah 52:1).
·      Accountability Partner/Mentor- We cannot be alone in our stronghold or Satan will win. We must find a friend, a mentor and accountability partner to keep us honest and to pray for us (Proverbs 27:6,17)- “Wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses…as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”
·      Perseverance- We need to hang in there steadfastly (Hebrews 12:1)- “Run with perseverance the race set before us.”
·      Seek Solitude and Silence- Jesus Himself sought solitude to be alone with God (Mark 1:35)-“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”
·      Fear Not- Fear cancels faith. Scripture says some 365 times to fear not- (Psalms 23:4)-“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.”
·      Journal-Write it down so that you may meditate on it (Proverbs 7:3)-“Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
·      God Control-Self control vs. God control; we are not in control of our lives (Romans 8:6)-But the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
·      Be holy- Scripture says often, “Be holy for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44). This is the process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. We are purified by Christ’s death, but we must purify ourselves as well by seeking righteousness. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on it produces a harvest of righteousness, and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This list is meant to be a set of disciplines to help us overcome strongholds. All disciplines require perseverance and steadfastness to continue in the faith. I have written them down for others and myself. Perhaps you have some of your own that you can share on this blog in response to help other fellow strugglers. Let us pray for one another.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018



Do you see a wood nymph rising out of the mist in the photo? I love to wander through fern growths deep in forests. They don’t prick or have toxins; in fact they are very tasty sautéed with mushrooms and onions. They set off flower arrangements bringing somewhat of a regal look even as roadside Queen Ann’s Lace does along a the River Road in summer. They are whimsical. 

Some write that ferns symbolize sincerity towards others. They can also be a symbol of magic, fascination, confidence, shelter, discretion, reverie and a secret bond of love. They are the “glory of the forest” in New Zealand and surround you with smiles in the Hoh Rainforest of the Olympic National Park in Oregon. The annual 170 inches of rainfall brings mosses and mushrooms and ferns over six feet high. It is a magical place where we have visited with my photographer cousin Douglas Frank and his wife Marnie. The photo above brings us the whimsical beauty of the fern. 

So whimsy is a word that brings out my creativity. My special book editor, Leslie encouraged me in my latest book God’s Gracious Creatures: Tales of Wings and Tails, to find the mystical in the whimsy of the creatures in our Sanctuary. She suggested that I sprinkle fairy dust on the characters to make them more fun. I believe some of my critters might have attained a bit of it as they run along through the sanctuary fields, forests and ponds. writes: Whimsy is what a person who's a dreamer and out of step with the real world might have lots of. People who are full of whimsy are odd, but often fanciful and lovely, like Harry Potter's friend Luna Lovegood.  This friend is a free spirit and a little airy-fairy like; now on Dancing with The Stars. Yes, Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland are beautiful examples of whimsical writing. I love C.S. Lewis’s series including the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as Mr. Toad’s wild ride in The Wind in The Willows. The characters come to life in their own context bringing whimsical wisdom for young and old alike. 

We live in a very serious world where any kidding can be taken as some sort of assault. I know overzealous Christians who would say that reading Harry Potter is bringing witchcraft into your heart. Frankly I just find that fanciful. I love Author/Preacher Chuck Swindoll who says, A refreshing sense of humor is never distasteful, ill-timed, or tactless. Instead, it lightens our spirits and energizes our thoughts. It helps us step back and not take this fleeting life quite so seriously.”  He speaks of a joylessness, “The final result of a joyless existence is sad—a superhigh-level intensity, borderline neurotic anxiety, an absence of just plain fun in one's work, a lack of relaxation, and the tendency to take ourselves much too seriously. We need to lighten up! Yes, spirituality and fun do go well together.”  Don’t get me wrong in that there are indeed times to be serious. 

Scripture is direct in speaking to it saying, "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken" (Proverbs 18:22). It is saying that joy actually is healing. I spend much of my days with hospital cancer patients, which can be deadly serious, excuse the pun. It has been shown that immune-therapy including endorphins secreted by exercise and laughter are better than most Chemo treatments.  By the way, this applies to dementia as well. I definitely find the angry and down patients the least likely to succeed. It is in finding the humor in the banal daily living that we can stay on the light side. I illustrated my recent book God’s Gracious Creatures: Tales of Wings and Tails with the animals from our sanctuary. My wife calls them “primitive art.” I like that, it’s whimsical. Check them out on

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Darkness Rising

Darkness Rising

It is not the cold and snow that is hard for me as winter approaches, it is the darkness. I rise at 0400 daily to do devotional meditation in Scripture and exercise. Then I ride my bike in the pre-dawn hours unless there is snow or ice. I love the quiet and solitude. I sing and watch the rising sun bringing light to a new day. Sometimes it is silver or gold, other times the pink rises to crimson and purple. Light rises and scatters like diamonds across Lac du Cours as I ride up the River Road. God’s creation is majestic and changing dramatically as the seasons and their kaleidoscopic color changes. This morning I am writing after riding as I am trying to throw off an annoying cold. 

My writing is a discipline to keep me focused on God and His word. Pastor/Writer Charles Swindoll reminds me in his little book Intimacy with The Almighty of key attitudes or disciplines to achieve better connection with God: Silence, solitude, surrender, and simplicity. I add more with seeking and submitting to the sacred. It takes intentional effort to find these in an increasingly loud and hate-filled world where God is being pushed out of all communications. I describe two places that I find first, in our basement and in the pre-dawn solemnity. Surrendering myself to God in prayer, reading, meditating and journaling of His word are essential to finding God’s voice and truth. Notice that first we individually must seek and find that it is only God in us that is the hope of glory and the peace that passes understanding. We can’t do it or find it on our own, as the world believes. This requires submitting and surrendering our soul and spirit fully to God. It is not just a short prayer, or mindfulness exercise; it is a heart over mind surrender. 

The Good News comes from John 5:1, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The Light of course speaks of Jesus. We know from Genesis that God brought light out of the darkness. God speaks out of the darkness, and the Book of Job tells us that He brings utter darkness into the light. “You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28). In Psalm 112:4 we read “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.” One of my favorite verses in Psalm 139:12 exhorts us, “even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”  We also know from Psalm 119 that God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths so we know how and where to walk. 

So in this darkening world God can still bring light. We have been turning away from the light of the Lord in every way in our culture to our own peril, but God will not be mocked. So what do we do? “Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name” (Psalm 80:18). Yes, we need to return to the Lord, repent and seek Him and His loving promises. “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6). I am studying the Prophets and their brave condemnation of Israel and their hard heartedness. They had turned from God and it was the prophets’ dangerous assignment to turn them back. In Hosea God even tells him to marry a wayward prostitute, read Israel or us today. After dealing with the unrepentant people he says, ‘“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but will bind up our wounds.”’ After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we might live in His presence”(Hosea 6:1-2).  God is faithful even when we are not. We will suffer consequences for leaving Him because no one has an excuse. So what does this potential revival look like?

“This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7 NIV). 

This strong admonition to all mankind unmasks our deceptive and dark walk, revealing what God has done for us through His Son. He purifies us; He revives us through His Holy Spirit. Through many generations in Europe and American there have been revivals and even “Great Awakenings.” These times of repentance and cleansing of God have been powerful, but not enduring. Revival swept through Europe and the 13 colonies in the early 1700s through evangelists like Edwards, Whitfield and Wesley. What is amazing is that these American revivals started at the Ivy League colleges, now bastions of antagonistic liberalism. The Yale Revival led by Timothy Dwight in his words brought an “ungodly” place to one to where God dwelled. The revival swept throughout the whole country as people repented and sought the Lord. Sadly in Europe and America many people were burned at the stake for choosing God. Oh, religious extremism can run amuck as in the Salem witch trials and executions. Extremism is now raging through our country again. But this time it is in a nation of “practical atheism.” I should be a little stronger as slander and hatred, brother and sister towards sister and brother have epitomized this time. It is most apparent in the nation’s capitol where political rancor has turned to salacious malcontent. 

It was in 1997 that I led a group of some 100 men from Faithwalker’s men’s Bible study to Washington, D.C. to join over 1,300,000 to a revival meeting called Stand in The Gap. It was the largest meeting ever in the Capitol. Prayer for our nation and repentance surged. This was a sacred assembly as had been called in Old Testament times by men like Ezra and Nehemiah, even Solomon who heard directly from the Lord saying, “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). That was the Scripture theme of our missionary trip to Washington and that should still be ours today as we seek God’s face and merciful justice. You know that revival starts one heart at a time. Let it start with you and burn across our nation once again. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Repentance and Rest

“In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength. But you would have none of it” (Isaiah 30:15).

Here is one of the saddest thoughts in Scripture. Isaiah is addressing the Israelites about the presence, strength and forgiveness of God, but they wanted a military solution. They made bad choices and chose alliance with Egypt, which brought calamity. How are you doing with your choices?

This theme verse gives dramatic guidance to life. Yet it starts with the recognition that we have been going the wrong way and need to turnaround. We need to return to God. Repentance is turning around, it is confessing our wrong choices, or sin. I make wrong choices every day because of my selfishness and or stubbornness. It is often pride that causes my fall. I can do this my way I might say, or I am better than him/her, so I will ignore them or their suggestion. I don’t know if this sounds familiar to you or not. But read on anyway.

Rest in your salvation.  Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12, “work out your salvation with fear the trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure.”  This is not a contradiction; it is a broader explanation of our life in God. If we have repented and turned to God for our salvation or help then we will work according to His will and purposes. We are no longer on our own, unless we choose to be. This would be a bad choice.  Salvation is a gift for spiritual growth and development. As we grow in God, we also need to rest in Him. This means to be renewed, refreshed, and restored. We cannot respond to God’s grace and will while distracted like Martha in Luke 10:38-42. We need to rest in God like Mary chose to do and was rewarded for it. God is our strength and our refuge Psalm 46 reminds us. We need to go to Him in times of trouble and calm. The psalms are full of admonitions to seek and praise God and to not fear. God is in the praises and draws near to those who call upon Him. Those who fear or fret forget about His power and presence.

The second stanza of this couplet, “in quietness and trust in our strength” reinforces the first. We cannot find God if we are fussing and fretting. We find God in silence and solitude. Recall how Jesus went to the mountains to pray often. He went alone to find His Father and so should we. He trusted completely in God the Father, even though He was and is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). That’s where His strength for the journey came from. That’s where our strength lies also.

I am always amazed and comforted when I read of how the Apostle Paul prayed to God for his thorn or burden to be removed. But God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). He said, when we are weak God is strong in us. This is a paradox of Christianity. It is the better solution to remove Paul’s thorn and our trouble. Paul prayed three times, and Jesus prayed three times for His cup to be removed. It is a human thing to want our burdens, troubles, fears, and diseases removed now! But God is faithful and if we trust in Him He will work for our good and His glory. God said to hang on, obey, and trust. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Go first and always and continually to God for solutions and wait on Him. Don’t give in to your own solutions, but trust in God. Also rest in Him and wait on Him. He is your strength as you rest in Him.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Titanic II

In 1912 the Titanic sailed from France for the United States. The renowned Olympic Class ship was on its maiden voyage with much fanfare, constructed as no other ship, unsinkable.  However, we all know the story.  The captain ignored the repeated warnings of icebergs in the area they were to sail.  Some 1,500 passengers perished.

This week the maiden voyage of the Anthem of the Seas, larger and stronger than any other disregarded weather reports of hurricane force winds and headed straight into the storm.  By the grace of God, no one perished. The passengers and crew were traumatized for hours until the Coast Guard brought rescue.

What is it about humans who say, “I can do this?” There are continuous stories of men and women thinking that they can handle it, whatever the challenge. The movie A Few Good Men tells the story of a Marine Colonel, Jack Nicholson, who was arrogant and prideful about his accomplishments and ability to coerce anyone to follow his commands, regardless of the danger. He famously told court-martial prosecutor, Actor Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle it,” speaking of the truth. The Colonel went down in trial.

In Proverbs 8:13 God said, “I hate pride and arrogance.”  There are actually six things that God hates and He tells us in the Bible. Why? Because “Pride comes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). Solomon writes “Pride will bring him/her low” (Proverbs 29:23).   The King Nebuchadnezzar was overthrown for pride. I once had a longtime friend tell me that I had once been very arrogant, but I had changed. I was thankful for the second phrase.

Why do people treat others badly? Often it is pride or arrogance that causes someone to think that they are better than others. This is a fatal flaw. In my book This is The Way; Walk in It I write about this character flaw as what not to do if we wish to walk in God’s ways. It seems to me that we are not only in a selfish generation we are also in one where people have pride for behaviors that are not pleasing to God. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christians principles.  Whether a leader tells us that this does not matter, we must be obedient to God’s Word, not men’s. Don’t go down with the ship.