On the Battlefield: Ready or not

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.”  J. Sidlow Baxter

As a child playing Hide and Seek, I remember closing my eyes, counting, and then yelling out, “Here I come, ready or not!” We as Christians are in a spiritual battle, ready or not.

“Spiritual warfare is very real. There is a furious, fierce, and ferocious battle raging in the realm of the spirit between the forces of God and the forces of evil. Warfare happens every day, all the time. Whether you believe it or not, you are in a battlefield. You are in warfare.” Pedro Okoro from Crushing the Devil: Your Guide to Spiritual Warfare

Ephesians 6:10-20 says:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (New King James Version, Bible Gateway.com)

In September I accepted the challenge of leading InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) by becoming the president.  Edward Bulwer-Lytton said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words are powerful and can be used for good or evil. The members of ICWF all seek to honour God with their words. God is using those words to change people’s lives. Although I knew in theory that I would be subjected to spiritual attacks because of my leadership position, I wasn’t totally prepared. In this past year I have experienced struggles in areas where I never struggled before, or at least not to the same extent. Other members of the executive have also shared battles they are facing.

Yesterday I commented, “We’re in the lion’s den.” Thankfully, we serve the same God that Daniel served. We’re not in this battle alone! God has provided weapons for us to use, but we need to choose to use them – not once, but every day. Too often I rush into the fray in my own strength. Too often I see other people as the “enemy” instead of remembering that my battle is against spiritual forces. Too often I fail to wait on God; I fail to pray for His strength, guidance, and protection. I find it amazing that God chooses to use weak, frail, imperfect people like me to accomplish His will.

Heavenly Father, teach me to pray. Help me to wait on you and your perfect timing in my life and ministry. Thank you for the protection, armor and weapons you provide. Help me to take them up, to step out and do battle. Help me to be faithful in the things you’ve given me to do. Thank you that the battle is not mine, but yours. Thank you that the victory is up to you. Help me to be obedient in doing what you give me to do and to trust you for the results. In Jesus Name, Amen.


Awards, Writing, and Motivation

first place ribbon held by manLast Friday I cheered as my two youngest children participated in their annual AWANA Grand Prix. Each child chose a design for a novelty car, crafted it, and then participated in the races. At the end of the evening trophies were handed out to the three fastest vehicles and the top three choices for design. My youngest daughter was devastated that she didn’t receive a trophy. (Her car was one of four that had to run off for third place.) She leaned against me and sobbed.

Last week I received an e-mail announcing the finalists for the 2014 Word Awards. I submitted an entry, but didn’t make it onto the list. One of my friends who submitted an entry published in the same collection as mine did get her name on the list. When I first read the names of the finalists, feelings of discouragement, envy, frustration, and defeat hit me. I wanted my name on the list! I could understand why my daughter reacted the way she did.

Instead of focusing on my feelings, I decided to focus on congratulating those I know who made the list. I reread the list and was pleased to find the names of many InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship members. I sent out congratulations by email and posted congratulations on Facebook. As I focused on celebrating with others, my sense of loss diminished.

I also thought about my writing and what motivates me. In her recent blog post, Susan Barclay said:

I want my work to please an audience of One; the One who predisposed me to write. If I succeed in doing that, I’ll be satisfied.

I agree. Pleasing God is what motivates me to write. If I’ve been obedient and He is pleased, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. The results are in His hands. They are His responsibility.


Writing so that . . .

I’m currently participating in an online Bible study from Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are studying Scripture using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. She explains:

“. . . our lives should not be self-centered and static; rather, they should be others-centered and active, making a difference for the kingdom of God.”

“The authors of Scripture . . . intentionally chose to use these two words to connect a truth of Scripture to a practical application of that truth. They used them to bring truth alive and make it relevant and applicable to our everyday lives.”

This month we’ve been encouraged to think about what we want our writing to make happen inside our readers. This is one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer. Each of us as writers is unique with particular giftings from God.

  • Some are “prophets” – called to point out and correct error
  • Some are “teachers” – called to help others understand God’s truth
  • Some are “helpers” – called to come alongside others
  • Some are called to hospitality – called to make others feel comfortable

And the list goes on (See I Corinthians 12).

As I thought about my writing and how I want it to affect my readers, I realized that no matter what type of writing I’m doing, whether memoir, fiction, devotional, creative non-fiction, etc., I want my writing to evoke emotion. Readers become engaged when their emotions are involved.

I also want my writing to effect change in the reader. This change could be as simple as giving the reader a good chuckle or as complicated as shifting the reader’s world view. When I write, I want to be intentional, not haphazard. Mary DeMuth sums it up well:

“I’m on this world to write words that change people.”

I am writing, so that my readers are engaged and moved to change. These are lofty goals, but I remind myself that I’m employed by the King of Kings and empowered by the Holy Spirit. I dare not aim for anything less than the best.

What do you want your writing to do?

 

NOTE: This was first posted on the InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship blog www.inscribewritersonline.blogspot.com


3 simple steps to combat the flesh and feed the spirit

Which one should I feed?
Which one should I feed?

In our Proverbs 31 online Bible study of Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That, we are learning many practical things about growing closer to God. For the blog hop this week, we could choose one of four topics. I’m choosing to share how we can combat the flesh and feed the spirit. If you haven’t heard the parable of the two dogs, I would encourage you to read it here.

We just finished celebrating Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection at Easter time. Why did Jesus endure betrayal, false accusations, excruciating physical pain, and unspeakable spiritual suffering? He did it so that you and I could accept His gift of salvation and be set free from the power of sin. If you’ve never taken this step of faith, and want more information, please read The Four Spiritual Laws.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Once we accept forgiveness for our sins and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we need to continually follow three steps. At first glance, they are simple. However, that doesn’t mean the steps happen without conscious effort on our part.

1. Choose to say yes to God. Wendy says:

“The more we say yes to spending time with God in His Word, the more we will recognize His voice. The more we recognize His voice, the more we will live in expectation of seeing Him at work. The more we see God at work, the more we will experience Him in our midst. And the more we experience Him, the more we will be able to trust Him in all things. It all starts with saying yes to God’s invitation to meet with Him.”

There are many things that can and will distract us from putting God first in our lives. We can be distracted by family responsibilities, our job, church activities, etc. Did you notice that these are all “good” things? Often we allow good things to crowd out the best. In Matthew 6, we are told we don’t need to worry about what we wear or what we’ll eat or anything else. Instead:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (vs. 33)

I find that I have to choose to spend time with God first thing in the morning or it doesn’t happen, because I get caught up in the daily activities of life. I would encourage you to find a consistent time when you’re alert to meet with God.

2. Saturate yourself in God’s Word

The Bible has been described as God’s love-letter to mankind. If we don’t read it, study it, and memorize it, we won’t be able to discover who God really is or what He wants us to do. Our memory verse for week two of the study was:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Wendy shares:

“The key to establishing our faith is spending time in God’s Word. We can’t accomplish it by attending worship once a week, by periodically participating in Bible studies, or by watching a televangelist on Sunday mornings. We must commit to reading and studying God’s word for ourselves.

“God’s Word is our contact with Him. It’s how we hear His voice, discover His direction, receive His correction, and obtain His hope.”

I have found all of these approaches helpful at different stages of my life:

  • Read a verse and study it in depth. Check out Heather Bleier’s suggestions on verse mapping.
  • Use a devotional such as Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, or The Upper Room.
  • Study a book of the Bible, such as John, looking for key words or the names used for Jesus
  • Read through the Bible in a year. Our Daily Bread has a plan included with the daily devotional. There are many other plans people have put together. Find one that works for you.

3. Pray

Sylvia Gunter defines prayer as, “radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Wendy reminds us that:

“Prayer is a gift.

Prayer is a privilege.

Prayer is two-way communication with God.

Prayer is a love relationship with the God who created us.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can ‘approach (God’s) throne of grace with confidence’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).”

Whole books have been written on the topic of prayer. At it’s simplest I would say that prayer is talking with God. I have found that if I start my day by focusing on God, it’s much easier to talk with Him throughout the day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. (Rick Warren says, “Everything you do can be ‘spending time with God’ if he is invited to be a part of it and you stay aware of his presence.” In my last post I shared a call to prayer along with many quotes on prayer. Ask God to teach you how to pray more effectively and see what happens.

Three simple choices. Will you take the first step and choose to meet with God today?


A Call to Prayer for InScribe

Pen as ICWF Prayer Prompt
When you see a pen, pray for InScribe!

This morning I was planning to write a post sharing some practical tips on getting writing done. However, God redirected me.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way through a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study using Wendy Blight’s book, Living So That. This week we are focusing on prayer. At the beginning of chapter three, Wendy quotes Sylvia Gunter:

“Prayer is radically and gloriously encountering God, knowing Him better and loving Him more.”

Later on in the chapter, Wendy says:

Show Me God

Wendy also shares some tips from Lisa Allen on bringing watchfulness to our prayer lives:

“When you have a person for whom God calls you to pray, be creative. Think of something that reminds you of the person. Invite God to open your eyes to see that trigger and use it to remind you to pray . . . If you assign triggers to special people in your life, think of how many times throughout the day you will pray!”

In my last post I shared some thoughts from fellow executive members of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship regarding the need for prayer. I believe God is calling me to action. The prayer trigger I’ve chosen for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship (ICWF) is a pen. Every time I see a pen, I’m choosing to pray that God will work in and through members of our organization:

  • Wisdom and strength for executive members
  • His Imprint Conference April 26, 2014
  • Fall Conference September 26 & 27, 2014
  • God’s empowering for members as they write
  • Monthly word challenges
  • God will use our words to reach His target audience

Here are some quotes on prayer:

“God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”  John Wesley

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God or man is pray.” S.D. Gordon

“Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” Sidlow Baxter

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more prayer there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces of against evil …” E.M. Bounds

“Satan does not care how many people read about prayer if only he can keep them from praying. Paul E. Billheimer

“Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees.” Corrie ten Boom

“0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper – and sleep too – than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber.” Andrew A. Bonar

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” E.M. Bounds

“The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see mighty wonders of divine power and grace wrought in the place of weakness, failure and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not!'” J. Hudson Taylor

“Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees.” William Cowper

“You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.”  Matthew Henry

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.” Brother Lawrence

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”  Samuel Chadwick

“The man who mobilizes the Christian church to pray will make the greatest contribution to world evangelization in history.”  Andrew Murray

Will you join me in praying for InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship?


Chocolate Soldiers or Soldiers of the Cross?

SONY DSCThis week Christians are celebrating the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. These events that happened thousands of years ago still have an incredible impact on our world. Jesus died so that every person who repents of his or her sin and asks for salvation is able to receive it. Jesus conquered the power of sin and death on the cross and He invites us to live for Him.

What does it mean to live for Jesus? Some people who call themselves Christians attend church on Sunday and live the rest of the week as they please. Others sacrifice health, convenience, time, and family to serve God. (Check out Jack Popjes’ post, Why is it so Hard?)

Lately I’ve been reminded that we are in a spiritual battle, which although mostly unseen, is very real. The Apostle Paul spoke very plainly about this battle in Ephesians 6:10-19:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,” (NIV from The Bible Gateway)

We can choose to ignore the battle, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Satan is not a funny little caricature with a pitchfork; He is a fallen angel intent on destroying God’s creation and leading as many people as possible away from truth and salvation. The Bible calls him a deceiver, the Father of Lies (John 8:44), and warns that often He comes disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14,15). The only way we’ll be able to stand against his attacks is by putting on God’s armor and going to war.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/jiTrsTReiXg]

C.T. Studd reprimanded people for being “Chocolate Soldiers”. Here’s part of what he said:

To the Chocolate Christian the very thought of war brings a violent attack of ague, while the call to battle always finds him with the palsy. “I really cannot move,” he says. “I only wish I could, but I can sing, and here are some of my favorite lines:

“I must be carried to the skies
On a flowery bed of ease,
Let others fight to win the prize,
Or sail thro’ bloody seas.

Mark time, Christian heroes,
Never go to war;
Stop and mind the babies
Playing on the floor.

Wash and dress and feed them
Forty times a week.
Till they’re roly poly—
Puddings so to speak.

Chorus:
Round and round the nursery
Let us ambulate,
Sugar and spice and all that’s nice
Must be on our slate.”

C. T. Studd’s complete article can be found here or you can download it as a free e-book from Project Gutenberg.

God calls each of us to fulfill unique places in His army. Some people are called to intense battles against Satan and his henchmen (demons). Others are called to minister in remote areas and translate Scripture into peoples’ heart languages or mother tongues. Yet others support God’s work by skillfully and honestly running a business and donating money to missionaries or people in need. Still others of us are called to honor God in our vocation, living godly lives and impacting people where we are. All of us can enter into the battle through prayer.

At present, God has called me to be a wife, mother, music teacher, writer, and President of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. A couple weeks ago Bobbi Junior, one of our executive members, wrote a post challenging us to pray for authors. She followed that up by urging us to become Word Warriors. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Sheila Webster, another executive member. She stated:

“I feel the first thing we need is a team of at least three people that will commit to pray each day for the conferences that are upcoming.  I feel this isn’t a nicety but a necessity to have three people designated and dedicated to this task.

We are at a crucial point in the history of writing and Christianity where there is a window of opportunity to impact on a large scale the world for Christ with our words.

All leaders in higher Christian Education in Canada are pointing out to us that a larger scale persecution of Christians in Canada will be happening starting in the recent past and will escalate.”

 

Will you join me? Are you willing to count the cost and step forward as a soldier of the cross? Also, if you’re interested in supporting the work of writers who are Christians through prayer, send me an e-mail at sun dot beam3 at yahoo dot com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 


Wisely making use of every opportunity

officejuggler_tns

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

This last week I had two friends ask me the same question in different ways:

“Give me an idea how we can keep up to the latest technology – have time to write – give our kids attentions and keep the house clean.”

“Where in the world do you find time to do all that you do? God must stretch the hours so you can fit it all in.”

I smiled when I read these questions, because often I’m frustrated that I’m not able to get more done in a day. My “to do” list seems to get longer instead of shorter. However, there are some strategies that have helped me to get many things done. In this post I’ll share ideas that work for me. If you want even more, I highly recommend Tricia Goyer’s book, Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. 

  1. Commit your time to God. Start out your day by spending time alone reading God’s Word and praying. Make sure you don’t skimp on this, even when you’re busy. (I’m preaching to myself here!) If we are aiming to serve God, we need to know what His priorities are and listen to His instruction.
  2. Recognize your limitations. None of us are able to do everything. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We all have different seasons in our lives when we are able to do less than other seasons. When my children were preschoolers, I was very limited in what I could do outside my home. Now that they are all in school, I have more time to dedicate to other pursuits.
  3. Use a notebook and planner. I find it helpful to “clear my mind” by writing down thoughts that are distracting me. (Tuesday is a birthday, so remember to . . . ) After I write things down, I try to put them into my calendar right away so that I don’t have to think about them any more until it’s time to deal with them. Jack Popjes recommends writing down 10 things every morning that you want to accomplish. Then pick the top 3 to focus on for the day. If you have time for more, keep going down the list. If you revise this list every day, you’ll succeed in accomplishing many things.
  4. Find tools that will help you. I don’t have time to read through every blog post, or find out about the all the newest technology. I do subscribe to feeds from sites like http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com and scan through for helpful information. If I find something I want to follow up on, I copy the information and make a Word document I can save on my computer to reference later. Ted Talks is one of my favourite places to listen to current thought leaders.
  5. Do a little every day. If there’s something you really want to get done, do a little every day. This can be applied to reading a book, cleaning your house, writing, or whatever else you want to accomplish. Those small steps add up. I was recently challenged by this quote: Anthony Trollope demanded of himself three thousand words each morning (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for 33 years during the writing of more than two dozen books.” No excuses!
  6. Be flexible. This is a hard one for me. When something’s on my schedule, I want to get it done. However, sometimes my family has unexpected needs, or my neighbor is sick, or . . . . I need to remember that I don’t own my time. God does.

I’m still learning how to use my time wisely, and probably always will. Do you have any helpful tips to share?

 


God must Cry

Wooden candlestick being crafted on a homemade lathe in Botswana, Africa

I met a man selling African carvings at the Northwood Centre in Edmonton last week. No one was around, so I stopped to chat.

“I’m curious which country these curios are from.”

“Ghana.”

“I spent my childhood years in South Africa and Botswana.”

“That’s a long way away.”

“Yes, it is. My sister and her family are living in Cameroon, which is closer.”

“Yes! Right around the corner from Ghana.”

“Are you selling these carvings for friends?”

“Yes. I go back to Ghana every year for a visit. When was the last time you were in Africa?”

“I went with my husband and daughter in 2003. We visited Victoria Falls. The day we went there were over 100 vendors trying to sell curios to buy food for their families. It made me very sad, because I knew I couldn’t buy from all of them. It’s a beautiful country, but the politics is ruining it.”

“Politics in Africa is interesting. Everyone has an idea of what should happen. And many people end up very poor, with nothing.”

“They may be poor, but they are generous. They’ll give you the shirt off their back.”

Yes, they will. There are also many greedy people. Like churches. In Ghana every second house is a church.”

“Really? Every second house?”

“Oh yes. People have figured out there’s money to be made if you have a ‘church’ and they invite people in and take their money. They even ‘hang them upside down and shake out the pockets’ to make sure they got it all.”

“God must cry when He sees that happen.”

This conversation has continued to play in my head. And I ask myself, “How do people see me and my faith? Am I living so that they see a true picture of God, or is it all distorted? Do I make God cry?”