Category Archives: Christian teaching

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 6) — Keys for Overcoming

It’s not enough to identify problems and then be told by someone to overcome them. I want to be given practical tools to get me there. Maybe you’d like that kind of help, too. Here are some steps to help you win those personal spiritual battles you encounter:

Get used to the idea that you are in a war. 1 Peter 1:13 exhorts us, “Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Girding up the loins” refers to how people of Bible times prepared for battle. They tucked their long robes up into their belts, so that their legs were free to move unhampered. “Be sober” means to understand the seriousness of what we’re involved in and to stay on the alert. “Hope to the end” indicates that we’re in this for the long haul. Individual battles may be short or prolonged, but the war lasts throughout our lives. We can’t quit at any point. If we stay at it, we will assuredly finish our life-race well, because the Lord Himself is right there fighting with and for us.

Corral your mind.1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” Now, that’s the truth, but walking it out requires some effort. We have to continually “be sober; be vigilant, because [our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We have to “resist him steadfastly in the faith” (v. 9). This means we don’t let our thoughts flow unchecked. When we notice our mind going places which are not in keeping with the way Jesus would think, we need to “cast down [those] imaginations, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The Holy Spirit is willing to expose those wandering thoughts to us, if we invite Him to. But it is up to us to keep on bringing them back to where they should be. This takes practice. Sometimes it is exhausting, especially if we are dealing not only with our own soulish nature, but with thoughts implanted by the devil.

The secret is to keep at it. If you notice wrong thoughts dozens of times a day, every time you corral them and push the reset button, you have taken a few steps toward ultimate victory.

Take a worship break. — If you have already taken authority in Jesus’ name over any evil spirits which might be bombarding your thoughts, worship can refocus your mind where it needs to be. It’s great to keep worship music playing in the background, if you can. Worship music changes the atmosphere around us. But take it a step further. Go beyond listening to worship music, to actively doing the worship yourself – out loud, if possible. Worship connects us spirit-to-Spirit with the Lord, and when our spirit-man is in the right place, it can help our mind to line up as well.

Focus on Jesus more than the battle coming against you. – This goes along with taking a worship break. The enemy wants to get us obsessed with him and the problems he is causing. When we put our attention on him instead of the Lord, we play into his hands: we end up giving him the glory which belongs to the Lord Most High.

Jesus wants us to fasten our attention on Himself, the Author of peace, the Deliverer, the One who has already overcome on our behalf. How easy it is to forget that the battle is the Lord’s! (1 Samuel 17:47). The moment we cry out for Jesus’ help, He goes to work for us.

So don’t spend all your time and energy on contending with the devil. Worship. Tell Jesus you are setting your heart on Him. Express to Him your confidence that He will take care of you and get you through.

Do the exact opposite of what you are tempted to do. – This is a simple, but highly effective, warfare tactic. We can frustrate evil desires, deflating their sails, by taking an opposite course.

Do you feel the urge to give somebody a verbal slap in the face (maybe because you felt like that’s what you got)? Be cordial and friendly instead. 1 Peter 3:8, 9 addresses this very issue: “… Having compassion toward each other, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or railing for railing. On the contrary, bless them, knowing that is what you are called to, so that you will inherit a blessing.”

Do you want to avoid or run away from someone who has hurt you – an individual, a pastor, or even a whole church fellowship? Conquer that flight desire. Show up, converse, be kind, participate. If you need to express that you have been hurt, try to walk through the reconciliation / forgiveness pattern Jesus laid out for His Church in Matthew 18:15-17. Don’t go into hiding mode.

Doing the opposite of the temptation is part of how we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). It disarms the enemy’s ability to manipulate us.

Next time, we’ll wrap up this series with some final keys for overcoming.

Previous: Part 5 — Long-Term Assault  

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 5) — Long-Term Assault

After reading my last post, you may have thought, “She makes it sound like ending the enemy’s assault is so simple, but I’ve tried rebuking the enemy over and over, using Jesus’ name and pleading His blood, and I’m still struggling!”

Overcoming spiritual attack on our minds can be simple, but it isn’t always. You don’t need to feel like a failure if the struggle continues long-term. It isn’t necessarily your fault, and you are not alone.

Resisting the enemy and causing him to flee is not a mere formula. Sometimes, he keeps on insisting on having his way, especially when the stakes are highest (and we don’t always see clearly when that is). During such times, the battle can be severe and extended. It is absolutely essential that we continue to stand our ground and not surrender.

Some years ago, I went through a period of many months when the assault on my mind was incessant and exhausting. Every day, every few minutes, I had to deal with another thought, all of which had their roots in the fear of man.

My head swirled. I corrected one thought, only to have another follow on its heels. It was hard to focus on prayer, although I persevered. The torment was extreme. I cried out to the Lord to help me. I countered with Scripture. I commanded the enemy to leave. But pretty soon the thoughts were back again.

Hardly anybody outside my family knew this was going on — because I was afraid people would decide I was unstable if they knew. One day, a highly prophetic lady who knew nothing of my struggle shared a word she had received from the Lord for me. She spoke many blessings, but what caught my attention the most was that she said the enemy was attacking my thoughts intensely because he was trying to destroy my destiny. She assured me that the assault would come to an end, and my mind would be filled with peace.

Only the Holy Spirit could have given her this information. It took several months more before I saw the fulfillment of what she had shared with me. In the meantime I often cried out in desperation, “Lord, WHEN is it going to end? You said it would!” And it did end – suddenly. There was no special overcoming prayer moment which brought it about. It just stopped. The peace and quiet were wonderful beyond belief!

Since that time, I have talked with others who have been through the same thing. The assault they experienced was similar — but they got through it, just like I did. You can, too. Sometimes it is a huge comfort to know that someone else has been there before you and has made it to the other side.

So, what is going on when such extreme attack comes upon us? In my case, I had initially cooperated with the enemy by not recognizing the deception in the thoughts which had been injected. My own insecurities and the fear of man which I had unwittingly harbored fed the blaze until it got out of control. When I finally realized that I had let my thoughts go on at length in wrong places, I began the process back with repentance and greater vigilance to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The Holy Spirit was so kind and gracious during that time. He often intercepted the wrong thoughts by interrupting with His truth. And He comforted me in the midst of it all.

I asked the Lord why the torment went on and on. He responded by telling me He was refining me in the process. He also said He was allowing it so that I would grow strong for battle, as in Psalm 18:34: “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.”

Another factor we could unknowingly be dealing with is the level from which the spiritual attack is coming. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” “Principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places” are beings which are high up in the command hierarchy of the spirit realm. Their involvement could have bearing on the intensity and length of the conflict.

What can you do to make sure you come through a long season of warfare against your mind successfully?

  • Entrust yourself into God’s hands. James 4:7 instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We are assured that if we keep ourselves submitted to the Lord and continue to resist the devil, eventually he will flee.
  • Decide upfront not to quit. Ephesians 6:13 exhorts us, “Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Perseverance wins the battle.
  • Be diligent to use the Word of God to repulse the enemy. Ephesians 6:17 says to “Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” When we’re in the midst of a heated thought battle, pulling out the Word and wielding it may seem like extra work, but it is absolutely essential. Jesus, while being tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), consistently used the Word to deflect the assault: “It is written.”
  • Worship your way through. That’s what Paul and Silas did when they were beaten and thrown into prison. The result? The doors were opened; their bands were loosed (Acts 16:25, 26).
  • If you fail, ask the Lord to help you get up and keep going. Psalm 37:24 says of the righteous person, “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”

If you persevere, you will win. The key is in not quitting.

In the final two posts of this series, I will share some additional practical steps we can take to win our personal spiritual warfare.

Previous: Part 4 — Discerning the Source of Thoughts
Next: Part 6 — Keys for Overcoming

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 4) — Discerning the Source of Thoughts

Personal spiritual warfare involves combatting the world system, our own soulish nature (the flesh), and the devil.

Temptations from the world come through our senses, particularly our eyes and ears. You may be familiar with 1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Furthermore, James 4:4 tells us, “Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” We keep our battles with worldly temptations to a minimum by guarding our senses and restraining our actions.

But, what about evil thoughts?  How do we know if they are coming from our own soulish nature or from an evil spirit? While we might not always be sure, the more we are able to discern their source, the more effectively we can war against them. Thoughts from within ourselves can be dealt with by simply refusing to think them, repenting if we have indulged them, and then deliberately turning our mind onto a different track. Thoughts which have been injected by evil spirits, however, not only need to be rejected, but rebuked. We do that by commanding the evil spirit to be silent and telling it to be gone, in the name of Jesus.

If you are thinking in one direction, and suddenly an evil thought or a fear appears out of the blue, that’s a good indicator that it is coming from outside yourself. I wish I had been taught about enemy-injected thoughts years ago.

While still in my teen years, I experienced a mental attack which horrified me — because I thought I was the originator of what was happening in my head. Every time I was in church, profane words and blasphemies flooded my mind. I immediately asked God to forgive me, but it kept happening. I thought I must be a terrible person! Those words were not part of my normal vocabulary, I didn’t want to be thinking them, and I didn’t know why I was! They totally shut down my ability to hear the sermon. I spent my entire church time repenting, and repenting again. I felt so awfully condemned by my “sin.”

I pleaded with the Lord to help me stop this terrible behavior, and praying about it did help. God is merciful and comes to our assistance, even when we, through ignorance or immaturity, don’t address situations exactly right. But I still felt like an awful person — UNTIL I learned that these were not my thoughts in the first place, and I could deal with them by resisting the enemy in the name of Jesus. Once I learned where those thoughts were coming from and how to address them, the problem faded away.

Here are some other examples:

  • Perhaps you see someone, and the thought goes through your head, “I hate that person.” In reality, you know you have no reason to hate him or her. That is an injected thought, not one of your own.
  • You are shopping, and you have a sudden urge to shoplift something, even though you have always been an honest person.
  • You have been happy at your job or your church. Nobody has said or done anything significant to change that, but you find yourself thinking, “They don’t appreciate me here. I am not valued. Maybe I should move on.”

Injected thoughts can range from the extreme (which are usually easy to recognize) to very subtle shifts in our thinking (not so easy to recognize). We must be vigilant to uncover them and deal with them. If we do not, we will start to agree with them, thereby feeding them until the problem has become huge.

It’s not only our thoughts. Our emotions can be manipulated by evil spirits as well. Sometimes we’ve given them an opening through a weakness we have, or through indulging in fleshly thoughts such as self-pity. However, that is not always the case.

I remember feeling extraordinarily blue one morning. There was nothing going badly in my life at the time, but the heaviness persisted, and it mystified me. Finally I asked the Lord, “Why am I feeling so down? I have no reason to feel this way.”

He quickly responded, “You are being oppressed by an evil spirit.”

I was relieved, because by this time I knew what to do. I took authority over the spirit which was harassing me, commanding it to let go and be gone in Jesus’ name. Immediately, the heaviness lifted, I felt joyful, and I began to praise the Lord.

When my emotions are not in a good place, I often ask the Holy Spirit to take control of them and reorder them for me. That has been an effective tool for me. My feelings usually take on a happier tone within a few minutes, even if I felt justified in being upset or sad. This is an especially helpful tactic when emotions have gotten out of whack due to our own soulish thinking and speech.

While often it is a fairly simple job to silence the thoughts coming from the enemy, that is not always the case. Next time, we will talk about how to handle long-term attacks upon our thoughts.

Previous: Part 3 — Mindsets and Strongholds
Next: Part 5 — Long Term Assault

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Guidelines for Good Prophecy (Part 3)

Under the New Covenant in Christ, we don’t stone prophets who prophesy inaccurately (although sometimes I see harsh comments from people who would like to!). Instead, God has given us safeguard measures to be used within the Church to protect us from false or inaccurate prophecy.

He has now made the ability to prophesy available to all believers. “For you may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Corinthians 14:31). A key phrase in that verse is, “that all may learn.” In making prophecy available to every believer, the Lord has also allowed for us to learn how to do it right over a period of time. Learning to hear God accurately is a process. So is learning to prophesy accurately.

Many of the modern-day prophets who are now known for getting their words right did not start out hitting the bullseye every time. They made mistakes. But they submitted themselves to mentors who patiently taught them, picked them up and dusted them off when they fell on their noses, and then sent them back out to try again. Thank God for shepherds like that!

Each of us who wish to prophesy must be willing to submit to a mentoring process as well. Not being open to learning from others indicates pride. Most of us start out prideful to some extent, but if we are ever to be a blessing to the body of Christ, we’re going to have to be teachable and let God refine us. God shaves away our pride through correction, making embarrassing mistakes, and bearing the brunt of criticism or ridicule, as well as other forms of painful refinement. God needs broken, crucified people to speak for Him. If we’re not broken, we end up speaking only for our own egos — and, spiritually speaking, that smells really bad.

Besides mentors, God guards the body of believers, as well as the person who prophesies, from inaccurate or even utterly false prophecy through allowing corporate discernment of whatever prophetic words are given. Discerning can be done by prophetic mentors and pastors, but others in the church may also fill the discerning role. Let’s look at a couple of verses which talk about this:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and [then] let the others judge [discern; weigh].1 Corinthians 14:29

Do not despise prophesying. Prove [judge; discern; weigh] all things; hold fast that which is good.1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21

If we’re going to prophesy, we should already have done some weighing of what we’re about to say before we speak. But once it is said, it is out of our hands. Others in the church now have the responsibility to discern what we’ve spoken. We don’t exclusively judge our own words, because we are not a law unto ourselves. We are members of a body, and the other members assist us with their discernment — for the entire congregation’s protection as well as ours. This is really risky to our pride, but if the family of God is functioning properly, there will be grace given, and we will benefit in the long run.

What if the church family isn’t functioning well? Truthfully, this is the case a lot of the time. Too many prophetic people have ended up in the boneyard because of it. But God will use even the horrible experiences to shape us and bring us into a greater depth of accuracy in the prophetic, if we will lean into Him and let Him heal our hurts, rather than becoming angry and bitter.

If you can, find a group of Christians, whether a church congregation or a home fellowship group, where you feel safe in making mistakes as you learn. This may be a group which is in addition to your church family. If you don’t know of one, ask the Lord to lead you to one. He is very good at setting up circumstances so that we come in contact with the people we need in our lives.

And don’t give up on using the gifts which God has planted in you because of some bad experiences. God hasn’t given up on you. Besides, we’ve all had some pretty bad experiences. It goes with the territory of taking a risk and stepping out into the spiritual gifts.

Next time, I will give you some criteria I use in discerning all those prophecies we see out there on the Internet.

Previous — Part 2
Next — Things I Look for in a Prophet

Personal Prophecy

 

The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy

The Shelter of the Most High (Book Review)

by Francis Frangipane

The Shelter of the Most High, by Francis FrangipaneI love Francis Frangipane’s writing.  His gentle but uncompromising commitment to humility and the servant lifestyle just grips me. He carries the authority to be able to say the things he does, because he has been through the fire and allowed the heat to refine him.

The Shelter of the Most High is a book about intimacy with God and dwelling under His protective covering through prioritizing relationship with Him. It gives deep insight into what it means to cease striving in our own strength and truly enter into the rest of God (Hebrews 4). Basically, it’s a book about what the Christian life was always meant to be.

Here are a few quotes:

  • God has always been more concerned with the condition of our hearts than the activity of our hands. What we become to Him is far more consequential than all we will ever do for Him.
  • He will not fight for our attention; He must be sought. He will not startle us; He must be perceived …. We must learn to see Him Who is unseen.
  • Before the Lord is through with us, the way of Christ will be more than something we know; it will be something we instinctively choose in the midst of temptation or battle. This is where we graduate into the power of God.
  • Rescue is the constant pattern of God’s activity.
  • [God] intends to make your life a key that unlocks God’s shelter for others.
  • Our primary purpose in life must be to abide in Christ. Otherwise, we can become so   consumed with the deteriorating condition of the world that we fail to see the deteriorating condition of our own soul.

Other concepts revealed:

  • If we know God, we are in companionship with Him. If we are companioned with Him, He sees to it that we dwell in His rest. God’s rest means we are not fretting or striving to work. God works in us, with us, and surrounding us.
  • When we grasp Who God is, we enter into a place of spiritual immunity. We receive into ourselves the victory Jesus won for us — oneness with God in Christ.
  • Seeking and finding God is our end-all purpose and goal.
  • In the abiding place we are fascinated with Jesus, fastened on Him, guided by His voice, surrounded by His love, sheltered from distresses and distractions.
  • To Him, the voice of our weak prayers is sweet. We are lovely to Him.
  • The secret place of the Most High is not only a place of shelter, but also of restoration.
  • We come to a place where we can carry out our spiritual warfare from our position in the shelter of the Most High.

I highly recommend The Shelter of the Most High as essential reading for any Christian who desires to live an overcoming life in Christ from a place of absolute security and safety. If you long to go deeper in relationship with the Lord, absorbing the keys presented in this book will help you to get there.

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The Season of Sifting (Part 2)

sifterIn our last post, we talked about a season when God allows us to be sifted, so that our character can be tried and refined. There is another kind of sifting season — a prolonged time in our lives when we are the ones doing the sifting, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In this season, we examine in detail traditions, beliefs, or teaching which we have accepted, but which may not actually be true. As we’ve traveled through life, all of us have been told things which sounded valid, and we consequently swallowed them without a lot of thought.

Sound-good teaching, which actually is not, regularly goes on within the secular education system. Thus, without thinking twice, many of us have accepted portions of evolutionism without realizing it. For instance, even if we wholeheartedly believe in creation as it is recorded in the Bible, we might find “millions of years ago” suddenly popping out of our mouths — and then we suddenly step back and think, “Wait a minute. That’s not right!”

This goes on just as much with church teaching as it does with secular ideas which blatantly oppose the Bible. The difference is that ingrained, incorrect “Christian” teaching is often a lot more subtle, and therefore not as easily detected — until the Holy Spirit puts His finger on it, and starts to reveal genuine truth. John 16:13 calls Him “the Spirit of truth,” and tells us that one of His functions is to guide us into all truth. He is continually attempting to adjust our theology, and He may do it in a variety of ways, including through the reading of the Word, by whispering questions into our thoughts, or via another believer.

In addition to the gradual adjusting of our beliefs, we might also find ourselves in a prolonged season of examining teaching we have always taken for granted to be true. This is a time when the Lord deliberately slows us down or even puts us on the sidelines, when it comes to whatever ministry function we serve in. He does so to give us time to look long and hard at where we’ve been, what we have come to believe, and to examine bit-by-bit which parts of our thinking need to be preserved and which parts need to be discarded. It is like a spiritual house cleaning.

During this season, genuine truth, after being scrutinized thoroughly, is reinforced, while non-truth is exposed and thrown out. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, dismantles pet theological strongholds which we may have been holding onto for a very long time. I am not speaking of the foundational beliefs to which the Church as a whole adheres. I am referring to ideas which do not line up with the Bible, but because we’ve heard them so often, perhaps from trusted preachers or teachers, we’ve just accepted them. These beliefs usually started out with a kernel of truth, but human if/then logic caused additional assumptions to be tacked on, and after a while we ended up with set-in-stone dogma which is twisted.

The good news is that we will come out of the sifting season stronger and purer in what we believe than we have ever been before. We may also find that the attitude with which we approach serving the Lord and people matures during the process. For these reasons, the season of sifting for the gold of truth is often preparation for what God wants us to be doing next.

So, take courage as you work your way through a sifting season. God won’t leave you in it forever. It may be your launch pad into a new level of fruitful living for the Lord.