The List (April 2016)

This captivating true story was written to honor a friend. Her interesting life journey will captivate and inspire you. ♡

Random Thoughts & Non Sequiturs

A friend shared with me a testimony that I felt compelled to share with others. It seems many years ago, when she was much younger, she went through some tough times. I won’t go into the gory details, but she was even told by some ‘professionals’ that she would never be able to hold down a job. One evening while she was at a prayer meeting, a woman approached her and said she ‘had a word’ for her. The woman told her that “God wanted to give her the desires of her heart, but she needed to tell Him what they were”.

My friend took this to heart and that evening began to make a list of things she wanted in her life. Top of the list was to find a man who would love her for who she was. He had to be artistic and enjoy music. He had…

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You are So Loved

I’ve been a Christian for many years, but it caught me by surprise a few years ago when I realized I never truly understood how much God loved me. At the time, I was going through some of the hardest months of my life.youaresoloved

It seems God uses the “deserts” of our lives to give us revelations of His providence, goodness and His love. Next time I enter another desert, I will go with confidence. I am loved no matter the outcome of my situations, and I know He is always with me. He guards my path and makes my steps secure.

Today in worship, I saw a beautiful vision of the expression of God’s love for me. Below is a description about what I saw. If you are going through a wilderness in your life or, if you have never known whether or not God loves you, I pray this blog post will speak to your heart.

You crushed me under the weight of your love, Lord. I felt your powerful presence as I entered your throne room. The angels and the elders surrounded us. I heard them singing; but somehow in that moment, it was intimate like it was just us in the room. I saw you, Father, on your throne. Jesus was at your side. The Holy Spirit’s bright glory burned like a furnace, igniting the room with splendid light, almost too bright to bear with my eyes. Although, I could not see you directly, my heart immediately knew it was you.

I saw myself in rags kneeling before you. The act of bowing didn’t seem like enough, but I didn’t know what else to do. Perhaps, I should kneel lower, I wondered? But when I looked down, I realized my rags were gone, and you had adorned me in a beautiful flowing dress of deep purple. The dress fanned over a cushioned stool of red velvet. The legs were twisted spindles resembling a ram’s horns. You fitted me with shoes of fine, glittering diamonds. I felt like a beautiful bride on her wedding day or – I suddenly realized – a princess – the daughter of a King.

This image of royalty overwhelmed me, but you weren’t done lavishing your love upon me. When I reached upon my head, I felt you place a golden crown, encrusted with precious gems there. I knew I was unworthy to wear it. My cheeks reddened as I quickly removed it. But, Jesus, when I attempted to hand it back to you, the rightful owner, you pointed to other crowns at your feet and the one upon your head.

Abba, your words sounded like trumpets and whispers all at once that permeated and electrified my soul: “favored”, “daughter”, “beautiful” and “loved.” I had so many words I wanted to say back, but I couldn’t find my voice. None of my words felt to be enough. All I could do was fall on my face and worship you. It was in that moment, I felt you and Jesus hugging me. I wept happily and worshipped you again because you are worthy of much more honor than I could give.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your revelation of love. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for me. Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me and rising from the grave in triumphant victory so that I might live abundantly. Thank you, God, that you don’t simply tolerate humanity. You love us. You made us coheirs with your Son. Thank you for your extravagant love.

Is God Real?

Is God real? How do you know? Faith is often intangible; therefore, how do you explain to others how God is real to you? These restless questions from friends and strangers echo in my ears. The latest praying_on_bible_redPew Research polls show a record number of people leaving and rejecting organized religion.  The people who responded to that poll join the chorus of dissatisfied people who no longer see value in following the traditions of faith. Some people want nothing to do with God or church. Others are simply looking for something – anything – real. Intellectual debates about faith are fun but rarely persuade minds to think differently. In a world filled with sorrow and chaos, words often seem empty.

If words simply aren’t enough to change a mind, what can? Evidence of changed hearts often change minds where words fail. Below are eight amazing personal stories about the reality of God. The people who graciously contributed to this blog post come from different backgrounds, upbringings and views about faith. All stories paint a beautiful picture of a powerful, personal and loving God. Here are their stories:

Andrea
I experienced God’s reality from a very young age because of spiritual warfare. At night, I saw terrifying waking nightmares. They weren’t night terrors, but they were just as frightening. When I experienced those terrible visions, my mother talked about Jesus who could protect me. I memorized Scripture and cried out to Him when the tormenting images reoccurred. The Word became my armor and my sword against the enemy.  God was always there to comfort me.

As an adult, I feel His heart and His love for me and other people. I’ve seen Him perform miracles and accomplish the impossible. He is my provider and sustainer. This knowledge of His reality has changed everything about me. He is like my breath. We are one and cannot be separated.

Barbara
I had a pastor years ago who said, “God is more real than my right arm!”  I didn’t get it for years and then one day, it was like a lightbulb turned on.  I’m right right-handed.  If I couldn’t use my hand or arm, it would be extremely difficult to function.

God has done so many miracles for me.  When I was seriously ill with cancer, I thought I was dying.  God came to me, comforted me and touched me.  He is the very breath I breathe.  His Word says the Holy Spirit is always with us, and He’s a very present help in time of trouble.  I have found this statement to be true.  Belief and trust in Him has changed my life.  I don’t always get it right, but I know God is with me and will be with me until the end.  Because of His peace, I know we will be okay; and one day we will be with Him forever.

Heather W.
I’ve been a Christian for many years, but on one particular day, God encountered me.  It’s a day I’ll never forget.  In a moment of prayer, He healed me from crippling anxiety.  For the first time in my life, I felt true IMG_7190_p_smpeace and joy flood my soul.  I found Him in the midst of sweet surrender, after finally letting go of the power and control I thought I had (but never really did).

He changed the lives of others around me.  Nothing speaks louder of His reality than to see Him at work.  It’s awe inspiring to see lives completely change when people are in His presence.  It is mind blowing to see Him heal injuries, remove fevers, grow legs, heal stage four cancer and the terminally ill.  It’s impossible not to fall on your face when you hear His whispers and minutes, hours or days later see Him confirm something you’ve heard Him say.  Yes, God is real.  He is love.  He is an encounter.

Daniel
Yes, God is real. How do I know? I believe there are good, rational arguments to be made; but those reasons are not why I believe. I have witnessed and experienced too many healings, miracles and prophecies that attest to the existence of a God who loves me more than I could ever imagine to not believe He is real. This belief changed my life and caused me to reevaluate my view of myself, others and the world; and it convinced me to sacrifice many things in my life because of my relationship with Him. Grace has completely ruined my life in the best possible way.

Matt
God miraculously saved my eye once when I was a baby, and He spoke to me once when I was a young child. That being said, I’ve never been a believer in “Jesus as the Son of God.” I feel that God allows one to believe as He sees fit for you. My belief in God hasn’t really changed me other than the memories from when I was young. Whatever “God” is, it’s omnipresent.

Gary
I’ve seen God do the miraculous and become the perfect, just-in-time solution to impossible situations throughout my life. All the little pieces always fell into place at just the right moment.  It could have never happened that way by chance. He literally saved my life. I saw His hand provide for me even when I didn’t know Him as my Savior. As a result of seeing how Jesus has protected me, I recently decided to follow Him. Now, I am exploring my new life with Him.

Heather H.
I know God is there.  I see Him work in my life and through others around me.  I’ve seen too many things happen to not believe He is real.  When everything in life goes horribly wrong and you shout and scream at Him, He shows Himself.  Trust me.  He makes Himself known, especially when you’re angry with Him.  He changed everything.  If He wasn’t here, I wouldn’t be here.

Leslie
I spent most of my life as an atheist/agnostic after several bad experiences with the church. However, that all changed when I was going through a tough season in my life; and I began to feel God walking withhands-compassion me and comforting me. When I felt depressed and angry thoughts, He whispered words of encouragement. It was His relentless love that drew me into a decision to follow Him.

His reality has caused me to realize how blessed I am. I recognize how loved I am by my wife, family and friends. If I were to die tomorrow, I’d go a fulfilled man because I know what it means to feel true joy and love beyond what I ever thought I’d have.

Final Thoughts
Testimonies, encounters and love will always speak louder than words from any pulpit or through online arguments with others who believe differently.  This world is starved for hope, encouragement and reality.  I hope you will be brave and share your stories with others around you.  You are His vessel for someone else’s encounter with a very real God.

Cherry Pickers? Why Most Christians Don’t Follow Old Testament Laws

Bible

Have you ever read the Old Testament, especially the Laws of Moses, and thought, “I love bacon, wear mixed fabrics, really like shellfish and got that tattoo of a butterfly on my ankle when I was 18 — am I a hypocrite because I choose not to follow those Old Testament laws?” Well, have no fear. You’re not alone in your bewilderment. Old Testament laws are frequent points of confusion inside and outside Christian circles. This topic contains several small nuances, but for the sake of brevity, here are some points to consider from a 30,000 foot view:

What are the Covenants between God and Man?

There are five covenants between God and Man: Edenic, Noahic, Mosaic, New Covenant in Christ, and Heaven. Answers in Genesis has a great chart explaining the differences with each covenant.

Why Did God Make Covenants with Man? Does God Change?

God makes covenants with man for specific seasons and purposes in time. God never changes; however, since the Fall, man’s evolving relationship with God has changed as He restores our broken relationship with Him (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). Although Christians may disagree with how/which laws still apply in a post-Resurrection world, most Christians agree Old Testament laws were changed, modified or affirmed by Jesus. Verses supporting this stance include, but are not limited to: Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 22:37-39; Ephesians 2:15-16; Galatians 2:16; 3:8, 13, 19, 23-25; Romans 3:21-24; 10:4; Luke 24:44; Hebrews 7:12; 8:6, 13.

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” – Galatians 2:16 (NLT)

What are the Divisions of Old Testament Law and to Whom Do They Apply?

There are three main divisions of Old Testament laws found in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) — civil, ceremonial and moral laws:

Civil/Judicial Laws – Civil laws provided instruction for the Hebrew people’s daily life and culture. These laws were written for the nation of Israel not Christians, and they dissolved when Jewish civil government ended. These laws instructed the ancient Hebrews about the proper way to handle disputes, appropriate dress, how to resolve and determine penalties for various crimes, debts, children rearing, etc. These laws were also designed to set apart the nation of Israel as God’s people because the way they conducted themselves as a society was starkly different from their foreign neighbors.

There’s a fantastic list of different types of civil/judicial laws on Carm.org’s website if you’re interested in doing more research on your own.

Ceremonial Laws – Ceremonial laws instructed Hebrew priesthood practices and rituals and gave detailed directions about how to perform various sacrifices to cleanse the nation of Israel of sins. The sacrifices offered by priests did not provide final atonement of sins and required ritual sacrifices to remain pure and holy before God.

Christians believe Christ, our High Priest, permanently fulfilled sin offering requirements with His death on the cross. The sacrificial processes outlined in the Old Testament are direct parallels and prophecies to Jesus’s death on the cross as the final payment for sins.

Moral Laws – Moral laws include the Ten Commandments, and they are based on the God’s character. Unlike civil and ceremonial laws that culturally based and intended only for the nation of Israel (although, Christians are certainly allowed to practice civil and ceremonial laws), moral laws are universally binding to all humanity. For example, in most cultures around the world (whether they know God or not), it is a terrible crime to torture and murder another human being. Moral laws are generally easy to differentiate from the civil and ceremonial laws because the behaviors of people who don’t follow these laws are referred to as “abominations” that “defile” the land and the nations and are “detested” by the Lord (Leviticus 18:24-30).

There is some disagreement about moral laws and whether or not they still apply. Some Christians follow the belief that Christ was referring to the moral law in Matthew 5:18 which states that the Law is in place until the earth passes away. Other Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled this requirement and Matthew 5:18 refers to the new commandments to love God and others (Matthew 5:17). I personally believe that God’s love for us is more than enough to provide grace for Christians who share either view (Colossians 2:16-17).

Resources:

Female Leaders, Apostles, Disciples, Prophets and Other Women of Influence in the Bible and Early Church History

The more I spend time in the Scripture and study the Greek and Hebrew lexicons, the more I believe many of our disagreements over the roles of women in church leadership are frequently based on misunderstandings of the original languages and a loss of cultural context.  The intended audiences would have easily understood the depth and breadth of the meanings of the words used.  However, our English translations often fail to sufficiently explain the authors’ intended messages and grammatical nuances.

This is not to say the Word of God contains errors.  For example, in the English language we use the word “love” to describe a wide range of feelings or actions.  It may be used to describe a deep affection for a spouse, child or close friend.  The emotions may be complex and shift in meaning depending on what, whom, how or why I love.  However, the word “love” may also be used to describe a favorite food or song on the radio, which are obviously shallow expressions of the same word.  These examples may be oversimplified, but they were my starting point for researching and understanding this topic.  After all, God’s Word never changes but my understanding should as I read the Scripture, spend time in study and commune with Him.

I humbly pray the summaries of the influential Old Testament and New Testament women below will inspire you to perform your own research. After all, our most powerful tool as Christians is knowledge. Our most destructive weapon is ignorance.

“God never violates His Word. But He’s quite comfortable violating our understanding of His Word.” – Bill Johnson

INFLUENTIAL WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

Ancient inscriptions upon the walls of early church tombs and catacombs indicate many women were leaders within Gentile churches between the first and sixth centuries. Women were recorded as apostles, synagogue leaders (archisynagōgos or archisynagōgissa), elders (presbytera), deacons (diákonos), church mothers, bishops and other prominent roles.  Many of these inscriptions were found in Tripolitania (former province of Libya), throughout Italy, Malta (European island country in the Mediterranean Sea), Turkey and Kissamos (Greece).

Examples of a few historically recorded female deacons include Sophia he diakonoshe deutera Phoibe (the second Phoebe) and Maria of he deacons whose name and title is etched into a stele of grey marble inside a Byzantine church.  More evidence of female leaders can be found in the historical records of the reign of Trajan (98-117 C.E.).

Although some early church leadership titles were honorary or given by inheritance or marriage, many titles of these women differ from their fathers and husbands, if they were married at all. This indicates these leaders were likely given these roles for their level of importance, influence and dedication at their local churches.  Based on the root of Greek words like arch (meaning “ruler”) used to describe many of these leaders, a person with these roles would have overseen the organization of the church or synagogue, taught, preached, collected money from congregants and performed other administrative duties (Brooten, Bernadette).

PRISCILLA – AN EARLY CHURCH MISSIONARY, CO-PASTOR AND THEOLOGIAN

Acts 18:24-27 – Meanwhile, a Jew named Apollos, an eloquent speaker who knew the Scriptures well, had arrived in Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. He had been taught the way of the Lord, and he taught others about Jesus with an enthusiastic spirit and with accuracy. However, he knew only about John’s baptism. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God even more accurately. Apollos had been thinking about going to Achaia, and the brothers and sisters in Ephesus encouraged him to go. They wrote to the believers in Achaia, asking them to welcome him. When he arrived there, he proved to be of great benefit to those who, by God’s grace, had believed.

Romans 16:3-4 – Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers (“collaborators” or “fellow-workers”) in the ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me. I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches. Also give my greetings to the church that meets in their home.

I love the picture Paul paints of the powerhouse couple named Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila. They were pastors, traveling missionaries through Asia Minor (Acts 18), church planters and theology teachers. According to Romans 16, they were well known in the Gentile churches and preached the Gospel courageously, risking their own lives for Paul’s ministry.  Together, Priscilla and Aquila taught and encouraged Apollos who was already a passionate man of God with a gift for preaching and teaching. As spiritual parents to Apollos, they, along with the encouragement of other believers, launched Apollos’s pastoral ministry in Achaia (Acts 18:24-26).

PHOEBE THE DEACONESS AND LEADER OF THE CHURCH AT CENCHREAE

Romans 16:1-2 – I commend to you our sister Phoebe (Phebe), who is a deacon (diákonos) in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been especially helpful (prostatis) to many, and especially to me.

As the first recorded deacon in the history of Christianity and someone who was given the titles “deacon” and “prostatis”, Phoebe was a notable woman within her church. Many scholars believe the church met in her home, she was Paul’s courier for the Book of Romans and a wealthy financier for Paul and others (McKnight, Scot).

The Importance of a Courier: The role of courier was not usually given to women because the roads used to deliver letters were dangerous and full of bandits. Paul must have trusted Phoebe greatly to give her such a responsibility.  As a courier, coworker and emissary of Paul’s ministry, Phoebe likely would have read the Book of Romans aloud to congregations as a normal duty of a courier for that time period.

It’s All Greek to Me: Paul used the masculine Greek work diákonos (meaning “minister” or “servant” depending on the English translation) to describe the ministries of Phoebe, Paul, Stephen and Philip (compare Romans 16:1-21 Corinthians 3:52 Corinthians 3:6,6:411:23Ephesians 3:76:21Colossians 1:723251 Timothy 34:6 and the Greek Lexicon). The term “deacon” has various meanings to different denominations today; therefore, when looking at an New Testament character like Phoebe in relation to her role in early church leadership, it is important to understand the original Greek terms and context compared to similar Scripture passages.

The Greek word prostatis means “female guardian”, “protector/protectress”, “patroness” and “caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources” (see “Strong’s Greek: 4368”, Bible Hub). When reviewing the meaning of this word, it may be helpful to review its context through the lens of epigraphical evidence to understand the complete Biblical implications of this statement (McCabe, Elizabeth).

MARY MAGDALENE THE APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES

Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47, 16:9; Luke 23:49, 55; John 19:25; John 20:1, 11, 16, 18; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1-5

St. Thomas Aquinas famously said, “Just as a woman had announced the words of death to the first man, so also a woman was the first to announce to the Apostles the words of life.” (Pope Benedict XVI).

Mary of Magdala (The Magdalene) is famously known as the severely afflicted and demon possessed woman that Jesus miraculously healed. After He removed the demons, she became a devoted disciple, traveled with Him and the Twelve, and she became one of Jesus’s closest friends.

Mary is well known for her devotion to Jesus. The depth of her commitment to Him is best exemplified through her presence during His crucifixion and burial. Unlike most of the other disciples who fled or denied their association with Jesus during crucifixion for fear of being arrested or killed, she never abandoned or denied Him.

True to Jesus’s cultural taboo-crushing nature, He bestowed the high honor of heralding His resurrection to a woman — Mary Magdalene — earning her the title “Apostle to the Apostles” in early church history (Biblical Archaeology Society). This may not seem like an extraordinary event to us in our modern times; but in those days, a woman’s word was often discredited.  Women were typically not well-educated; and it was not considered socially appropriate for women to learn or debate spiritual truth with men.

According to scholars and based on Luke’s references to the women in his Gospel account, Mary was also likely present with the Twelve and the other female disciples in the upper room as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit’s pouring upon all flesh (Elliot, Paul).

MARY OF BETHANY SITS AT A PLACE OF HONOR

Luke 8:35, Luke 10:38-32; John 11:1-44; John 12:1-8

Jesus exalted women as worthy friends and disciples in a society that considered such behavior inappropriate. Like Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany was one of Jesus’s closest friends, a disciple, a financial supporter of Jesus’s ministry and present at Jesus’s crucifixion and tomb.  She is famously known as the sister of Martha and Lazarus and the woman who anointed Jesus with extravagant nard perfume.

Jesus exalted women as worthy disciples and broke several cultural norms when He and the Twelve went to Martha’s home for fellowship and discipleship. The act of visiting the house of a woman was not considered culturally appropriate. In addition, although Martha was fulfilling the female cultural expectation of preparing dinner for a guest’s visit, Jesus commended Mary for sitting at His feet to learn.

To Sit at the Feet of a Rabbi: The idiom to “sit at someone’s feet” is used to describe a student being formally trained as a disciple by a respected rabbi. This story illustrates Jesus’s respect for Mary because He gave her permission to sit at His feet. Women were considered to be a lower class of citizen than men and her primary role was to work in the home. As a student, Mary would have likely been actively engaged in learning and asking questions along with the male disciples (Attenberry, Shawna).

MARY THE MOTHER OF JESUS

Luke 1-8; John 2:5; Acts 1:13

Mary is one of the most intriguing women in the Bible because we know so much about her.  In fact, we know more about her than any other disciple. Her name mean’s “wise woman”, and the Biblical accounts of her certainly appear to justify her name.  Through the New Testament, we are taught her life story.  God chose and entrusted Mary to bring salvation to the world. She was familiar with the Scripture and had prophetic gifting for what it meant. We are also told Mary was at Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection; and she was present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. She is sometimes referred to as Jesus’s first disciple. Through the development of Christian traditions over the centuries, she is regarded as a saint and an intercessor within the Catholic Church.  (Women in the Bible).

TABITHA THE RESURRECTED DISCIPLE

Acts 9:36 – There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (original Greek: Dorcus, meaning “gazelle”). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”

Tabitha is one of only two people recorded in the Book of Acts as being resurrected. She is the only woman in the New Testament identified with the female version of the word “disciple” (mathetria).

PROPHETESS ANNA

Luke 2:36-38 – Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but stayed there day and night, worshipping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Anna, the only named prophetess of the New Testament, was present at the Temple for the purification ceremony for the baby Jesus. Anna recognized Jesus and prophesied about His significance to everyone who was “waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem” (v. 38).

LYDIA FROM THYATIRA

Acts 16:13-15 – On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged until we agreed.

Paul met Lydia, a merchant of expensive indigo cloth, from Thyatira (modern day Turkey) on his second missionary journey through Philippi. She holds the distinction as the first person to convert to Christianity in Europe.

An Indication of Her Wealth: The Scripture specifically states that she bought and sold expensive materials which would mean she had the money necessary to purchase expensive wares.

An Indication She was the Sole/Primary Leader of Her Household: She is never mentioned as being married, but she has a household is responsible for making decisions on their behalf. She decided to follow Christ and had her family baptized along with her. She invited Paul and others into her home.

EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE CHURCH LEADERS IN PHILIPPI

Philippians 4:2-3 – Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner (“companion” or “yokefellow”), to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers (sunergoi), whose names are written in the Book of Life.

Paul’s public letter to Euodia (her name means “prosperous journey” or “fragrant”) and Syntyche (her name means “fortunate”) serves as reminder to the Church about how to resolve disagreements and build unity within the body of Christ. Some scholars believe these two women were deacons or held some other significant leadership role in their church. They are mainly remembered for their dispute; however, Paul’s interest in their quarrel speaks to their role in the church’s leadership according to antiquity scholars (New Life).

Early church bishop John Chrysostom, who was in no way a champion of women, made this statement about Euodia and Syntyche: “These women seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he commendeth them to some notable man whom he calls his ‘yokefellow,’ to whom perchance he was wont to commend them, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he doth in the Epistle to the Romans, when he saith, ‘I commend unto you Phebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church that is at Cenchrea.’ (Romans 16:1)” You can read Bishop Chrysostom’s homilies at Bible Hub.

THE “OTHER” FEMALE DISCIPLES OF JESUS

Matthew 12:48-50; 20:20-28; 27:56; Mark 10:35-40 15:40-41; 16:1-2; Luke 8:1-3; John 19:25

Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!”

Jesus referred to His disciples as his mother, brother and sister. Jesus chose twelve men as disciples, symbolic of the twelve tribes of Israel, but Scripture also references an unspecified number of women who followed Jesus as disciples in addition to Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and Martha who were close friends of Jesus. The other named female disciples are Susanna, Joanna, Mary Salome, and Mary of Clopas known as “the other Mary.” Some scholars also include the “sinful woman”, the “bleeding woman” who traveled 30 miles to receive healing and the mother of the demon possessed child; however, the Bible does not directly call them disciples or specifically talk about them following His ministry. Many of the women became Jesus’s followers after they were healed from demons and infirmities. Some of these women were wealthy and supported Jesus’s ministry financially out of their own private means and were frequent traveling companions (Bible Gateway).

JUNIA THE APOSTLE

Romans 16:7 – Greet Andronicus and Junia (Iounian), my fellow Jews (“compatriots”, “kinsmen” or “relatives”) who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles (episemoi en tois apostolis meaning “regarded as apostles” or “outstanding among the apostles”) and became followers of Christ before I did.

Bishop John Chrysostom (345-407 A.D.) famously stated this about Junia: “To be an apostle is something great! But to be outstanding among the apostles – just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.”

Junia/Junias Lost in Translation: Some translations of Scripture call Junia (Julia) the uncommon masculine name “Junias.” As a result, the enigmatic Junia is fiercely debated among modern theologians because if she was indeed a she, it would mean a woman was directly acknowledged by Paul as an apostle. The oldest ancient manuscripts use the common feminine name “Junia” while newer manuscripts (the masculine form of Iounian first appeared during the Medieval period) use the less common “Junias.” In fact, there are no known ancient manuscripts or literature that mention the name “Junias” in Latin or Greek (Preato, Dennis).

NYMPHA OF LAODICEA

Colossians 4:15 – Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha (Nymphas) and the church that meets in her house.

Nympha led the church in Laodicea that met in her house. The passage indicates Nympha was likely a female pastor of a church that met at her home. Like Junia, the gender of Nympha is greatly debated and was altered to a masculine name and pronoun in the Middle Ages. This was likely not done intentionally to purposefully corrupt the Scripture, but instead was corrected because it was thought to be a mistake. By the Middle Ages (several hundreds of years after Christ walked the earth), the traditions of men leading the church had become well established, and it was assumed women were not allowed in church leadership roles (New Life).

Was Nympha accidentally written into the original Greek as a woman, therefore, justifying the correction by the scribes in the Middle Ages centuries later? At this point, the gender identities of Junia and Nympha are impossible to know with all certainty and will likely be debated by theologians until Christ returns, yet another reason why we as Christian brothers and sisters should be careful not judge each other’s opposing convictions.

TRYPHENA, TRYPHOSA, PERSIS, MARY, JULIA, NEREUS’S SISTER, AND PHILIP’S PROPHESYING DAUGHTERS

Joel 2:28-29; Acts 1:13a, 14; 2:17-18; Romans 16:6, 12, 15

Philip the Evangelist had four unmarried daughters who proclaimed God’s will and truth (Acts 21:7-9). They have been added to this list of influencial women because God appeared to use these women to fulfill the prophecies in Joel and Acts of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon men and women after the resurrection of the Messiah.

Some scholars think Typhena and Tryphosa (Greek pagan names meaning “delicate” or “dainty”) were likely twin sisters or close relatives who were likely missionaries or deaconesses. Paul asks the congregation in Rome to greet them as two of many friends or co-laborers in the Lord. Bible Gateway has an interesting commentary about their names and their prominence and influence in the early church.

Persis, Julia and Nereus’s sister are also listed as women “who worked hard in the Lord” or supported home churches. I have included these women on this list because, when compared to early church history outside of the Scriptures, it seems evident these ladies, along with others mentioned on this list, were the first of many women who led or co-led home churches or at the very least were prominent figures within their churches.

SAMARITAN WOMAN FROM SYCHAR

John 4:1-30

It would be easy to pass over the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who speaks with Jesus. For those of us in the West, our society see the verbal exchange between the woman and Jesus as trivial because we don’t tend to see how violating the woman’s behavior would have been of social norms of that day. I find it intriguing that she was at the well by herself as it was uncommon for woman to go out in public alone. Also, she openly held a discussion with a controversial Jewish rabbi named Jesus. After her encounter with Jesus, she shared her testimony with her community. Women in the Bible has a great article on the Samaritan woman.

 

INFLUENTIAL WOMEN OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

DEBORAH A “MOTHER OF ISRAEL”, JUDGE AND PROPHETESS

Judges 4:4-5 – Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging Israel at that time. She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites would go to her for judgment.

Judges 5:7, 31 – (v. 7) There were few people left in the villages of Israel — until Deborah arose as a mother for Israel. (v. 31) “Lord, may all your enemies die like Sisera! But may those who love you rise like the sun in all its power!” Then there was peace in the land for forty years.

Deborah, who was considered a major judge in the Old Testament, acted as a commander-in-chief for ancient Israel. In addition to her powerful leadership role over the ancient nation, she was a gifted prophet. She prophesied the ruthless and oppressive Canaanite King Jabin would fall at the hands of the Israelites. When her commander, Barak, failed to have faith in God’s provision, Deborah foretold King Jabin’s armies would fall at the hands of a woman instead of him. In his fear and disbelief, Barak refused to go into battle without Deborah. As a result, she went with him and oversaw the battles against King Jabin’s commander Sisera and his armies, and led the Israelites into forty years of peace.

What’s a Judge: Judges were used by God to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of foreign oppressors. Judges served as reminders of God’s promise of mercy and grace to deliver and restore Israel from their enemies.

JAEL THE BRAVE

Judges 4:9 – “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”

Judges 4:21 – But when Sisera fell asleep from exhaustion, Jael quietly crept up to him with a hammer and tent peg in her hand. Then she drove the tent peg through his temple and into the ground, and so he died.

Jael bravely used her husband’s friendship with King Jabin’s family to lure his commander Sisera into her tent to rest.  As he slept, she drove a tent peg through the commander’s skull. As Deborah had prophesied, Jael, a woman, is credited with delivering Israel’s victory over King Jabin’s armies.

ESTHER THE HEROINE OF THE JEWS IN PERSIA

Esther 1-8

After King Xerxes (Hebrew name: “Ahasuerus”) of Persia banished Queen Vashti for disobeying him, he gathered beautiful women from his kingdom in search of the “most beautiful woman.” He formed a haram from his selections and eventually chose Esther to be his new bride.

Some theologians don’t consider Esther a leader because Xerxes held the position of authority; however, God placed her in a strategic position of influence, and she interceded on the behalf of Israel and saved them from certain genocide. Plus, she gets extra bravery points in my mind because she spoke to King Xerxes without being summoned which was a crime punishable by death (Womeninthebible.net: Clever Queen, Foolish King).

MIRIAM THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETESS AND LEADER

Exodus 15:20 – Then Miriam the Prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.

Micah 6:4 – For I brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from slavery. I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to help you.

Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. She bravely saved Moses by sending him down the Nile in a basket to spare his life from certain slaughter. She was also considered a prophetess, worship leader and considered part of the core leadership tetrad that led Israel out of Egypt. She was specifically acknowledged for leading the Hebrew women from Egypt (Women in the Bible, “Mariam: Her Story”).

HULDAH THE EXCEPTIONAL PROPHETESS

2 Kings 22:8 – Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.

2 Kings 22:14 – She [Huldah] said to them, “The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken! Go back and tell the man who sent you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this city and its people. All the words written in the scroll that the king of Judah has read will come true.'”

After the Book of the Law (Torah) was found during the restoration of the Temple, Huldah interpreted and confirmed the Book of the Law’s (Torah) authenticity. She must have had an exceptional reputation for her gift as a prophet since she was consulted instead of the famous Prophet Jeremiah.

Huldah’s prophetic words of impending judgment over Israel’s evil and unrepentant acts and the discovery of the Torah assisted King Josiah with leading the nation into revival.

THE SHUNAMMITE WOMAN

1 Kings 1:3; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 1 Samuel 25:2; 2 Samuel 19:33

Although the Shunammite woman’s name is shrouded in mystery, the Scriptures refer to her as someone in her community who was of high rank and wealth within her community. She is known for her hospitality and care for God’s people who were travelers through the Jazreel plain. There is lots more about the Great Woman of Shunem at Bible Gateway.

RESOURCES:

Heart Matters and the Idolatry of Religion

Here’s a provocative statement that may offend some fellow believers: love and our relationships with God and other people are more important than obeying rules and laws. If this statement is true, howBible then do we reconcile Jesus’s statement, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15)? First, we must love, then we can demonstrate that love through obeying His laws.

The Shema (Jewish prayer) from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 emphasizes love/faith over law through this statement, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.” The Shema is a filter to be applied to the laws that follow it. Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain in his article Why is the Shema so significant? explains this sentiment beautifully: “The Shema stands out as a cry of belief, something that cannot be simply carried out or avoided but has to be personally taken to heart.”

Religion without Relationship is Idolatry

If idolatry is the act of worshipping something other than God, than it seems fair to state religion without a personal relationship/love of God is essentially idolatry (Colossians 2:23, Acts 17:22). James A. Fowler in his article God Hates Religion puts it this way, “The English word “religion” is etymologically derived from the Latin word religo, meaning to ‘bind up.’ Religion binds people up in rules and regulations or in ritualistic patterns of devotion.” The religious spirit controls its followers through fear and guilt by demanding perfection through works to better one’s stance with God and man (Matthew 6:1-8, Philippians 2:3, and 2 Corinthians 12:7, and 1 John 4:18). In this scenario, God is viewed as a demanding boss; and His followers are underperforming employees with whom He’s frequently angry and dissatisfied.

A sacrifice given out of pride or apathy is another religious idol. It is performed out of self-exalting piety, without thought or thankfulness to God. Prideful giving is often haughty and flaunts how well one is able to meet such requirements compared to others. However, it’s the not quantity of what we give or the awe of others that makes us right with God but the quality of our motivations and the thankfulness of our hearts for all that God has given us. Isaiah 1:10-15 and Amos 5:21-24 illustrate this idea through God’s repeated rejection of “meaningless offerings.”

Cain’s Offering – An Example of Religion, Wrong Motives and Why it Matters

In Genesis 4, we see religion and love’s stark contrast. Abel was a shepherd who offered God the best of his flock which God accepted. Cain was a farmer who offered God some of his crops, but his offering was not accepted. Why? The words “best” and “some” provide clues. Abel gave God his best; Cain only gave God some of his crops, indicating he kept the best for himself. When Cain was angered by his offering’s rejection, God told him that he must first “do what is right.” Instead, jealousy over his brother’s offering lead him to kill Abel. Cain’s jealous was birthed from wrong motivations, giving from an ungrateful heart, instead of thanks. Even if Cain had given the best of his crops to God, the offering would have still been rejected due to the state of his heart.

Other Scriptures Confirming the Importance of Love/Heart over Law

  • Desiring mercy not sacrifice – “But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.’ Then he added, ‘Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices. For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Matthew 9:11-14).
  • Food restrictions – In Romans 14, Paul instructed early church believers not to judge each other over what food should or shouldn’t be eaten. Christians in the early church were Messianic Jews (Jewish converts to Christianity) and gentiles. Jewish laws prohibited the Jewish people from eating certain foods; gentiles were not required to follow the same laws. Therefore, some believers felt convicted to not eat certain foods while others did not. Interestingly, the Bible says a believer who feels convicted that he should not eat the food in question but does it anyway has sinned; the person who did not feel the same conviction did not sin by eating the same food.
  • Giving, prayer and fasting with the wrong motives – “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them.” (Matthew 6:5-7).
  • Condition of the heart when approaching God with prayer – Before we approach the throne for prayer, God requires that we come to Him with faith and trust that He will do what we ask of Him and that we will pray with the right motives. See Why Won’t God Answer My Prayers? for a deeper study of this topic.
  • The wicked hearts of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah – these towns were destroyed for their willful disregard for others who were suffering and their depth of depravity (Ezekiel 16:49, Jeremiah 23, and Isaiah 1). See the Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols and Ponderings Series Part 3 – Sodom and Gomorrah for an in-depth study of the people who lived there.
  • Worshipping God with modesty not out of showy materialism (1 Timothy 2:9-10) – See Relevant Magazine‘s article Yoga Pants and What the Bible Really Says about Modesty about this topic.
  • Measuring gluttony  How much of something is too much? Who determines the measurement? Could it be the answer lies in the conviction of the heart about what is just enough and what is too much? (Proverbs 23:20-21)

Jesus is Our Perfection

Doesn’t God demand perfection from us? Yes, He does, and we should do the best we can to live righteously because we love the God who gave His Son for us (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:48). However, it’s important to remember, our measuring stick is not how well we’re able to keep the laws because we all have fallen short of the glory of God (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23). Perfection is something we can never attain. Instead of focusing on our lack of perfection, we should fix our eyes on Jesus’s grace (Galatians 2:20). His blood sufficiently covers what we’ll never attain on our own (Romans 3:21-24, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Why Won’t God Answer My Prayers?

I’ve spent countless hours praying for God to answer my requests. I remember the tearsorrow-bw stains on my pillow over the figurative “closed doors” and the heartbreak over not receiving the answer I wanted or expected. And although I have seen God miraculously heal the sick in a moment of prayer, I’ve watched others die of cancer, suffer from pain or experience immense hardship. Why does it seem like God is occasionally silent to our prayers?

As I think about how our Father receives and answers our prayers, I am reminded about four key absolutes: 1. God is good all the time (Psalm 100:5). 2. God works all things for the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). 3. The Father loves to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11). 4. When we ask Him for a desire that aligns with His desires, His answers are always “yes” and “amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). You may be thinking if you’re a fellow believer, “Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of that before. So what?” Let’s paraphrase to find applicable meaning within these absolutes — we have a loving, all-knowing Father (Matthew 6:27-30) who adores us (Isaiah 43:5) and wants the best things for us, and He promises to give us whatever good and righteous thing we ask of Him because He’s a good daddy.

He’s a good daddy.

“But what about all those closed doors? What about my heartbreak? What about the failure to come to my rescue? Where was God?” you may ask. If we think about what a good parent might do since God is our Father, the answers to these questions become a bit easier to understand. Good parents don’t say “yes” to every request just to make the child happy. Good parents look at the situation and determine if responding “yes” to a request would be hurtful, helpful or if waiting for a better solution is actually the best option. Many times, God answers our prayers and sets things in motion behind the scenes, but we don’t understand it or see the answer right away, if at all (Proverbs 3:5-6). Dependency deepens trust. Hardships aren’t meant to crush us; they are meant to make us stronger (Romans 8:35-39). We learn to rely on God for answers instead of ourselves, especially if we have little or no control over the situation; and our victories glorify Him. If we instantly received what we want all the time, we would become ungrateful and settle for less than the abundance God has planned for our lives. Essentially, we’d miss out on the better blessing.

Dependency deepens trust.

As we lift requests up to God, He expects obedience and partnership as part of our relationship and communications with Him. Just as our natural parents often set boundaries and expectations with our requests through them, so does our Heavenly Father. When we pray, we must believe He will provide (Matthew 21:22, James 1:6-8). We must confess and remove anything that separates us from God: sins, idols, wrong motives, ignoring the plight of others around us, or a heart that is not Christ-centered (Isaiah 59:1-2John 15:7). If you’re like me, I look at the list of God’s expectations and feel somewhat overwhelmed at times; but God knows the intentions of our hearts. He knows our needs, and many times in spite of our failures, He mercifully answers prayer requests anyway!

I remember when I got out of high school. I was planning to become a graphic designer in Japan. I studied the language and immersed myself in the culture. I practiced designing, writing and drawing almost every day. Becoming a graphic designer was everything to me at the time. Then life took several unexpected twists, and circumstances occurred that kept me from fulfilling that dream. Many years later, I can see the journey that brought me to where I am today. I would not have the same blessings today if I had gone to Japan. Would I have settled for less? Maybe whatever waited for me in Japan was the lesser blessing, or it could have just ended up as an alternate route. Either way, it was obvious at the time that the doorway to Japan slammed shut, and a different life awaited me. I could be bitter or angry at the death of that dream, but it’s hard to regret something that never occurred. After all, I would have missed out on my husband, valuable time with my grandfathers who have since passed away, the friends I’ve made along the way and my personal and spiritual growth. I can honestly say that my spiritual walk and personal growth as a person have grown exponentially out of the dependence and deepening trust in God through many hardships, changes and miracles over the last several years. Also, I’ve had the amazing privilege of watching God transform lives through close friendships. If I could do it all again, I think I’d want to do it the same way.

Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer.

My short answer to the complex questions above is this — if you’re praying to God for an answer, keep praying. He loves you and has your best interest in mind. He will never forsake you. Sometimes, “no” or “wait” are the wiser alternatives to “yes.” Silence doesn’t mean there’s no answer. Hardship may occur, but our sovereign God goes before us, walks with us and carries us through to the other side (Psalm 139:5, Jeremiah 29:11).

In the words of Paulo Coelho, “Don’t give up. Normally it is the last key on the ring which opens the door.”

A Christian Response to Social Issues

I am humbly reminded each day when I read the news and interact with my fellow man that the highest calling in my life is to love God and love people. Sometimes, neither call is obvious or easy. I confess, when I read the headlines day after day, I’m perplexed and torn about how to obey God and yet not cause my friends, family and neighbors that don’t share my views such division that it keeps them from exploring a relationship with the Father. hands-compassionWhat do we do? Do we bend and cave on our convictions? Do we sit back and watch? Do we become outspoken activists?

 

The issues and injustices I am confronted with may force me to respond. We don’t always have the luxury to be a passive observer. However, the basis for the response should always be the same — I am compelled to love above all else. Love is my only option. I must consider all aspects of the debate. I must weigh the outcomes of my actions and the actions of my brothers and sisters in response to an issue or injustice. I must consider whether or not such an action will close doors for people to hear the Gospel. I must always remember the difference between the message of primary importance (God’s love and compassion and the power of the Gospel) versus lesser, but still important social issues of the day. I must look for common ground with those who stand on the opposite side of the dividing issue. In the end, although we differ in our methods, most people want the same things ultimately — to be loved and accepted for who they are and for someone to understand even a fraction of the mile trod in their shoes.

 

The world often doesn’t look the way I want it to look. I should not be surprised or upset or allow myself to appear arrogant or finger wagging. We should carefully pick our battles, always in love and without agenda except to further the message of the love and hope in our Lord. What we say and do affects people. Our tongues, as provocative and powerful weapons, have power to divide nations. Will we wield it for good?

We are the Kingdom: Bringing Heaven to Earth

The question “what is the Kingdom?” colors my view of everythingkingdom as I walk around on this physical earth with a resurrected mindset. It describes the future and the present. It is simultaneously a place and a description of God and His people. If you’ve never really thought about the “Kingdom”, God says some amazing things about it.

Examining the Words of Jesus and Personal Analysis

The “Kingdom” is talked about several times in the Bible. According to Luke 17:20-21, a religious leader asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus answered by stating the Kingdom “can’t be detected by visible signs…for the Kingdom of God is already among you (‘among you’ in the original translation also means ‘within you/within grasp’).” Some Christians believe this section of verses depicts Jesus talking about His second coming which is detailed in the Book of Revelation. But is seems possible that He was also talking about His resurrection. Both views seem perfectly accurate. It’s my personal belief God intentionally provides us Scriptures that hold multifaceted levels of understanding.

Revelation 5:10 says we are “a Kingdom of priests for our God”

Revelation 5:10 says we are “a Kingdom of priests for our God” who will (“are” is used in some manuscripts) “reign on the earth.” If we compare His pre-resurrection statements to this post-resurrection Scripture, it appears God is calling us the Kingdom.

Heaven on Earth

If we are the Kingdom as the Scriptures state we are, then it opens up a whole new level of revelation when we read the part of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” It appears Jesus taught us to pray for a revelation of our identity — that we bring heaven to earth in His name as priests for our God (and model after Jesus who is our High Priest). Also, it is a reminder of the powerful Holy Spirit who lives inside of us and excitedly waits to spill out upon others around us.

If we are to follow the Great Commission, we should preach the gospels, heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead as Jesus did. it makes sense to me that we are the hands and feet of Jesus that will bring Heaven to earth now. I can personally testify as a witness and a recipient that God has used a “Kingdom is now mindset” as a vessel for healing several times.

May this post encourage you and inspire you, priests of the Kingdom. Let’s bring Heaven to earth!

Spiritual Warfare: Finding Victory in the Midst of Battle

If you’re a follower of Christ and you’re trying to live out the Great Commission,savior prayng you’ve probably experienced spiritual warfare at some point or another. That’s not to say everything that happens to us is spiritual warfare. In a fallen world, bad things sometimes just happen, or we experience hardship or pain because of our own sin or the sin of someone else. In contrast, sometimes as Christians we are not prepared for true spiritual attacks because we don’t expect them to happen or don’t believe they happen. Jesus faced temptation; therefore, I believe the battles in the spirit realm are real. Scripture reminds us in 1 Peter 5:8 to always be vigilant of Satan who is always looking for ways to destroy us. Since spiritual attacks are real, how do we learn to recognize and overcome them?

In my own life, I have experienced hardship, difficulty when trying to pray, threatening dreams and other unexplained events that seem to happen without reason. Do I believe these issues were caused by spiritual warfare? It is possible and likely that not everything I just described came from the Devil, but some of it certainly seemed to be. Why would I assume the cause was spiritual warfare instead of something else?

The Bible says the spiritual realm is always active around us, fighting for us or against us. At the time, I was purposely attempting to spend quality time with the Lord because I wanted to grow closer to Him, and I wanted the friends around me to know Him. I also wanted to encourage and assist those friends with restoring hope in their lives during difficult situations they were walking through. Within a couple days, the craziest things began to happen. Everything in my life that was a stability point for me (my basic needs, financial needs and my health) was turned upside down. I also experienced trouble in my prayer life. I couldn’t focus. I went from feeling closer to God than I ever had felt to feeling like I was unable to hear His heart at all. I felt alone and completely separated from Him. If you’ve ever lost your connection to your Father then you know it feels like your whole world has ended. Then the dreams started, and they were awful. I would dream things that were not normal nightmares for me. In one of my dreams, I found myself standing alone in my house. Suddenly, I heard a disembodied voice laughing sardonically and taunting me by saying, “You keep doing what you’re doing, and I’m going to destroy you. Give up.”  This dream repeatedly occurred over several weeks. At the time, I didn’t make the connection that I might be battling spiritual warfare, but before all of those strange events were over, they intensified and got much worse and much more troubling.

What should we do when we think we’re being attacked spiritually? Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-18 to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For 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. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

In addition to following Paul’s instructions, I generally try to analyze the situation before anything else. Was I going after the things of God when the bad things started to occur? Did I cause my own grief? Did someone else hurt me? Did the issue seem to happen randomly? If my sin appeared to be the root of the problem(s), I should ask God for forgiveness. If the problem involved harming another person, I should ask the offended person for forgiveness and reconcile the relationship. What if someone else harmed me? Christ says I must forgive and pray for the person. Basically, forgiveness leads to healing and restoration. Both of these scenarios could include elements of spiritual warfare, but they are likely caused by my actions or someone else. If the issue appears random, sometimes it’s harder to figure out what to do. In any of these situations, I try to keep my eyes on Christ. I ask for protection, wisdom and help. Through God, we find our victories. As Mark Batterson puts it, “I have an unshakable sense of destiny that as long as I pursue God’s calling on my life, then God is ultimately responsible for getting me where He wants me to go.”

The verses below have helped remind me who is in control in the midst of strife. They are written on paper and affixed to my computer to remind me every day of His goodness, provision and protection:

  • Isaiah 41:10: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
  • Isaiah 43:2: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
  • Isaiah 58:9a: “Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”
  • 1 Peter 5:7: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
  • Psalm 121:1-2: “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”

If you’re looking for a visual reminder, you are welcome to pin, download or print these Pinterest quotes: