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Strongholds

What comes to mind when you think of a stronghold? No, it’s not someone who is holding your arm too tightly, but it does usually come with a negative connotation. It always has for me too…until recently.

The only Scriptures I remember reading or hearing about strongholds through the years are those where we are reminded, especially in the New Testament, of strongholds that belong to the devil.

When I searched for the dictionary’s definition of a stronghold I found “a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld.”  Unfortunately, these beliefs aren’t always truthful or positive! I think most of us have a negative thought or habit (or two) that we repeatedly fight. For me they are usually a pattern in my mind reminding me of my weaknesses and taunting me that I will never overcome certain struggles.

The devil is all over these types of negative strongholds! He would have us believe we are weak and defenseless against the struggles of this world. Sometimes it certainly feels that way!

What the devil is hoping we will forget is that when we have the Holy Spirit we have all the power we need to demolish these strongholds!

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.                                                                    2 Corinthians 10:3-5

The good news, my friends, is that we are not in this fight alone! When we know Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord we have the Holy Spirit’s power inside of us! We only need to unleash it in the battle for our minds!

Destroying House

I know for me some days it’s easier to remember to use this demolition power than others, but whether we use it or not, it is ALWAYS there at our disposal!

I mentioned earlier that these days strongholds don’t always come with a negative connotation for me. I’ve been dwelling in the Psalms a lot lately during my quiet times and keep seeing strongholds mentioned, especially by David. As I dug around I learned another definition of stronghold; “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” David found and created these strongholds when he was running for his life from King Saul. He was protected in these places by those who fought for and with him and found rest and solace when he was there.

We have it even easier than for David as we don’t have to build our own strongholds to find protection from our enemy! The Lord is our stronghold, and the Holy Spirit fights for and with us! He is waiting for us to stop fighting alone and find refuge in His stronghold.

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
                                                        Psalm 9: 9-10

Once we have taken refuge in the stronghold of the Lord, if we are willing, we will find others who are searching for sanctuary themselves. Together we can bandage each others’ wounds, prop each other up, feed each other with the nourishment of God’s promises and stand together, often on our knees.

Don’t fight this battle alone! Remember the strength available to you through the Holy Spirit, and be vulnerable enough to let God use your experiences to strengthen others for the fight. We are called to fight, but we are not called to fight a solitary battle.

Now go out there and do some demolition with the Lord!!
Paula

 

 

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Just Who Do You Think You Are??

As humans our image of ourselves and others is so often based on external factors.

What will I be when I grow up?

Am I pretty enough, talented enough, smart enough?

Do people like me?

How many times through your life have you asked these questions of yourself or others? I’m not suggesting it is wrong to think about the external or to have goals and dreams about what we desire out of our lives.

The trouble comes when we base our self-image entirely on external factors, or allow others to form our identities for us. We may believe the lies that we aren’t enough unless…and this is exactly what the enemy wants us to do! He wants to make us feel broken down and defeated.

When we examine our lives by our own strengths and weaknesses the weaknesses will always outweigh the strengths. It can be easy to go down the rabbit hole of regret or self-deprecation and become trapped at a dead-end, face to face with the father of lies.

It is vital that we know who we are in Christ:

  • Chosen of God, holy and dearly loved. (Col. 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4)
  • Rescued from the domain of Satan’s rule and transferred
    to the kingdom of Christ. (Colossians 1:13)
  • Victorious through Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
  • Changed into the likeness of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
  • Given exceedingly great and precious promises by God. (2 Peter 1:4)

If we stand on our identities in Christ, the wounds we have accumulated through life, whether physical or emotional will no longer keep us bound in the past, but rather be used as tools in the hands of our God. He will wipe out the lies we have believed for so long and fill us with love, truth, and hope for tomorrow. While it usually isn’t a dramatic, overnight change, if we allow Him, God will shape our present and future into something good. We will look back over months and years and see ourselves more and more the way God sees us, beautifully restored and useful.

The world around us seems to constantly be demanding that we prove ourselves by our external environments. As children of God we only need to declare who we are by standing on His promises and finding our identities in Him. As we do, God gives us the added blessing of learning how to use our past experiences, both good and bad, to walk alongside and encourage others who are struggling and help them find their true identity too.

The next time you hear the enemy say, “Who do you think you are”, remind him that you KNOW you are a child of God and you are no longer going to believe the lies that you are any less.

blessings and peace to you as you walk in confidence and hope today!
Paula

 

 

 

 

 

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Seeing Through the Fog

A thick fog has settled in over my little corner of the world early this morning. It brings with it an eeriness and distorts the view of my surroundings.

Have you ever experienced a fog settling in on yourself? It’s not uncommon to hear someone say they have brain fog when they can’t think of something clearly or are trying to figure something out. Searching for the right words or trying to find car keys in the morning can sometimes make us think we are in a brain fog. We often address these experiences lightheartedly and brush them off knowing that a cup of coffee or a little time will usually clear our brains and make the fog go away.

What about a spiritual fog? Have you ever had a time when life seemed confusing and overwhelming and you felt like your spirit was in a fog?

I’ve experienced times like this. Because of physical tiredness, uncertain situations or confusion I’ve gone through times when life seemed to weigh down on my spirit so heavily that it felt like I was in a spiritual fog. These times may cause me to become overly emotional, and to not be able to sort through a situation clearly. Often these fogs bring on uncertainty of my position in Christ and how much he loves me and is walking with me to give me strength.

Just as fog on the ground can distort our surroundings and make it difficult to see where we are going, spiritual fog can also distort our view.

So what can we do in these foggy situations when we can’t see our way through?

  • Remind ourselves of our position in Christ. Scripture tells us that we are children of God, we have the spirit of God living in us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God.

    For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

  • Put on the armor of God. Go to Ephesians 6:10-18 and put on each piece of armor carefully and prayerfully.
  • Seek out a trusted friend who will help you process the challenge and find your way through the fog.
  • Praise the Lord! Whether through music or speaking scripture aloud, praise, even (especially) when you feel like you can’t. Psalm 147 says God delights in people who praise and fear Him. Even if you think you are just going through the motions do it! You may be surprised how the act of praise will change your perspective.

The fog that was clouding my backyard view has cleared now and I have a different perspective on the day. If you find yourself in a spiritual fog today, I encourage you to ask the Lord to help you fight your way out of it and see clearly your position in Him. If I can help, please drop me a note.

blessings and peace to you today!

paula

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Will You Take The Risk?

I heard John Ortberg on Focus On The Family today. He was talking about how much easier it is to like/love those who are like us. It can be much more difficult to love someone to whom we can easily relate and who is predictable. Allowing ourselves to open up to someone new, or someone with different interests or a different bent can be risky, and may cause us to step out in faith. It is much easier to stay in our comfort clan, so to speak and not reach out. But something John said really made me think. I wanted to share it with you:

We can only be loved to the extent we are known…and
We can only be fully loved if we are fully known.

This is true in relationships for sure. Reaching out to others toward a complete relationship means allowing them to see the ‘real’ us. It’s not enough to only serve on church committees, chat with the other parents at soccer games or lend a hand to a neighbor shoveling snow. If we want to make lasting friendships with people who will love us fully we must be willing to open ourselves up and be vulnerable, both to  rejection and acceptance. We need to be willing to be consistent with others, allowing them to see the real us – our hopes and fears…and our faults, along with the positive, happy parts of us. This can be difficult, and scary, even for adults!

heart mittens

Do you realize there is one who already loves you this fully? We never need to fear rejection from Him no matter what is in our mind or heart. He will always welcome us and we can be certain His actions will be consistent every time. The love we get from God is not always ooey, gooey love that makes us feel all warm inside. Sometimes He loves us enough to discipline us, allowing us to face consequences for our sins. But even in the midst of hard times and hurting, the depth of His love never fades.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Just as in building and growing relationships with others requires consistency from us, so does our relationship with God. We can only know Him fully when we consistently open ourselves up to Him, honestly sharing our heart, our faults and our fears. We might feel like we’re taking a risk to spend time with Him every day and open ourselves up to Him at all times – not waiting until we feel all cleaned-up and ready to talk to Him. When we take those steps of faith we’ll find Him waiting for us, arms and heart open wide.

Growing relationships with other humans can be risky. It’s important to be sure before we allow someone else to know us fully that they are someone God has put in our path who can love us fully and not someone who will take advantage of our vulnerability. This takes prayer, time, and a little testing of the waters. Thankfully growing our relationship with God is never truly risky. God is a solid rock on whom we can depend to never leave us and never let us down.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
~ Isaiah 26:3-4

Take the risk and get to know Him better today. You’ll be glad you did!

blessings and peace as you step out in faith…
Paula

 

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Standards ~ Do You Measure Up?

Comparison begins when we are very young. We think our friends have more toys than us or are more talented, can run faster or are more popular. Healthy comparison can make us better athletes, musicians, students or entrepreneurs. But sadly even in childhood we can be bombarded with the idea that our classmates are smarter or our friends are prettier, more talented, etc. This unhealthy comparison can bring us to a place of unhappiness, anger and fear. Sadly this pattern doesn’t change when we hit adulthood. Instead we are faced with a brand new set of standards and if we let the world around us set them for us we will never measure up!

I realized the other day that becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly change our tendency to compare. Too often we wish we could sing like our worship leader or teach like our pastor. Or we long for the gift of hospitality when we’ve burned every batch of cookies we’ve baked! Maybe we even compare our testimony to someone else’s and feel like we don’t measure up.

As I’ve been pondering all of this I came to the determination that it must make our Lord very sad. Consider this scripture:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10-11

Each of us is created uniquely to accomplish something for God that no one else can. Your blending of gifts and talents is different from mine so we can connect with different people and reach more for Him. Above all we are to use what God has given us to bring Him glory and point others to Him. I am convicted about time I’ve wasted comparing myself to others or whining over what I didn’t have instead of asking God to show me what’s next. I’m going to work on this!

I hope comparison isn’t a pit you fall into often! Hopefully you measure yourself by what God says about you instead of listening to the discouragement and lies of the enemy. If you aren’t sure how God wants to use you, spend some quality time in prayer. He will meet you there and pour out His plans for you.

The next time we begin to compare ourselves to someone else let’s compliment them, thank God for them, then thank Him for what He’s created us to do…then get at it!

blessings and peace to you along the way…

paula

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Walking Out of the Grave ~ HE IS RISEN!!

Reading: Matthew 28:1-8

“He is not here; He has risen, just as He said…”  

Matthew 28:6a

Sabbath was over and the women just had one thing on their minds. They must prepare Jesus’ body for a proper burial. They left quietly as the men had finally fallen asleep after hours of discussion, debate and devastating sadness over the loss of their leader and friend. The women were also mourning but right now they had to set their grief aside for this important task.

They walked to the grave carrying spices and discussing how they would gain access to the body. A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and sealed with the Roman seal. Even if they could get past the stone, breaking that seal would mean certain death for the women.

As dawn broke and they reached the tomb they stopped in amazement. The tomb stood wide open, seal broken and stone rolled away. Frightened and concerned that someone had taken Jesus’ body the women rushed ahead and found an astonishing sight inside the tomb.

Jesus body was gone!

Before the women could process the thought they noticed there was someone there.

Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

Then they remembered his words.   Luke 24:4-8

And they believed!!

The women didn’t stop to ask questions or wonder where Jesus was. They ran back, woke the men and told them the good news!!

Jesus is Alive!!

 Jesus is Alive!!

The men followed the women back to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus’ body was gone, but the cloths He had been wrapped in for burial remained.

Their sadness turned to wonder and hope that Jesus was truly alive!

A short time later Jesus appeared to His friends, confirming the truth that He had walked out of the grave and conquered death. I pray that this Easter you will allow Jesus to walk into your heart. Whether for the first time or as a renewal of your faith I pray you will know the hope of His gift for us on the cross and allow Him to bring you the joy of His resurrection not only today but every day of the year.

 

 Prayer

 My Savior and my God!! You walked out of the grave and beat death so that I can walk into Heaven with you someday. My hope and joy is renewed on this Easter day each year as I celebrate with others this incredible gift.

Lord, this year may the joy and hope not end with the celebration of this day. As Spring turns to Summer and days turn into weeks and months help me to keep the gift of your resurrection in the forefront of my mind. Help me to remember that each day is a gift give to me because of Your life on earth, death on the cross, and Your walk out of the tomb.

And may my joy and hope be contagious, bringing others closer to You.

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Walking in the Sadness ~ Would I Have Believed?

Reading: John 20:24-29

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

“It is finished.”

They were the final words Jesus spoke on the cross.

Then He died.

Jesus was gone.

All those years spent with His disciples teaching, healing, loving, and helping them to know God in a way they never had before were just a memory now.

Jesus was dead and the Sabbath came so quickly they couldn’t give Him a proper burial. Today was supposed to be a day of rest and worship but all the disciples could do was cling to each other and try to understand what had just taken place.

Together they wept and mourned for the One who was their teacher, their Leader…and their friend. For years Jesus had talked about Heaven and His Father, and even about being betrayed and dying but the disciples never quite understood. He even said He would defeat death and would give eternal life to all who believed in Him and His Father.

Still, it never quite made sense.

Now some of it was sinking in but the sadness was so strong that hope was elusive. What did Jesus say about defeating death? He did talk about dying and being raised to life. (Matthew 16:21) In fact, just the other day before they entered Jerusalem He took the disciples aside and said it again:

“The son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”  Mark 10:33-34

Still it was confusing. Did Jesus mean he would come back to earth or that he would rise again in Heaven with His Father? How could they know for sure?

It must have been almost too much to process.

And I have to ask myself, “Would I Have Believed?”

Would I have expected Jesus to come back from the dead?

It’s so easy to be critical of the disciples and their disbelief when we read about the events of Holy Week. After all through the years they had spent with Jesus He kept telling them these things! Why did they mourn instead of standing strong and telling others to wait & see, Jesus would not stay dead?

Honestly I’m not so sure my Sabbath would have been any different. The reality of what I had seen would probably have overridden any truth I had heard from Jesus. The emotions would have been strong and sadness oppressive.

The truth is that even today with all the knowledge I have about Jesus and the power available to me through the Holy Spirit still I often don’t believe. Sometimes I weep and mourn over what I believe has been lost without allowing God the opportunity to resurrect it in His time.

Would you have believed? When you face losses do you weep and mourn or anticipate a resurrection to come? God can do anything, if we only believe.

 

Prayer

Lord, I know how it all turns out. I know You conquered death and walked out of the grave. But I might not have believed on that Sabbath in the midst of my grief. And like the disciples it can sometimes be hard to believe You can bring good out of seemingly impossible situations in my life.

Continue to increase my faith and remind me of Your power to conquer situations that seem impossible to me. And Lord, as my faith increases please help me to help hold others up when their faith is weak.