January 28, 2011

Day 28: Childlike or Childish?

Human Wisdom
Today I am in great need of wisdom. I'm so grateful for my friend who helped me see where I am using human wisdom to govern my life instead of God's wisdom. My prayer for myself is that I would be like a child in my trust and in my faith; that I would allow Him to reveal His plan to me rather than spinning my mind around logic and human wisdom trying to figure out what it is that He already knows.

When I plan a trip, I typically wait to tell my children about the details of the plan until we need to get ready to leave. In the meantime, I may be making all the preparations, and we may be doing some of them together (like cleaning house or taking a bath). However, they are not weighed down with issues of finances, logistics, or details.

I may even give them hints along the way, telling them they're going to be surprised and excited or that I am planning something special for them. They may bug me for awhile to tell them, but eventually they lose themselves in their play, their books, or their movies and "forget" about it all until I tell them to get their clothes and shoes on so we can leave.

A New Thing
There is something I've been given a hint about...a change that God has up His sleeve for our family. I've been told to pack and get ready to move, but I don't know where or when we are going. He has told me that I will like it, and I have been filling in the gaps with my human wisdom, thinking of the place(s) I want to go where I think I will be happy.

I have days when I get absorbed in my adult version of play (sorting, organizing, packing, writing, reading, working), but there are other days when I argue with Him and tell Him how I think things ought to go or nag Him to tell me more. There are days when I pout and petulantly tell Him I won't go anywhere but where I want to go. I've cried, yelled, and pouted...yep, did all that this morning. I've ranted and raved about how I just want to go where I want to go. I've told friends and my husband, but always I hear the same message, which sounds a whole lot like Acts 1:7 with the insertion of "location" in the mix:

"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority."

Father's Embrace
Thankfully, I know that God is not concerned about my bad attitude or temper tantrum anymore than I'm afraid or worried when my kids pout and kick and fight with me. He's perfectly happy to wait for me to come around to a place where I can feel His arms enfold around me and His lips kissing away my tears.

In those moments He thoroughly comforts me and reminds me that He knows what is best for me and knows exactly all that I'm hoping for and longing for. He reminds me that when the time is right He will reveal it to me, but in the meantime that my security never comes from where I am. He knows that what I am really longing for I already have in Him.

The Secret Place
I am learning, day by day, step by step, tantrum after tantrum, what it means to abide in Him; what it means to find my peace, my security, my hope, and my joy within, in the secret place in my heart where He dwells. I am so grateful that He knows exactly what I need to come back to that place of safety...of remembering that He is my only true home!

January 26, 2011

Day 26: Turning Order On Its Head

Black Or White Thinking
So, I struggle with black-and-white thinking, and with it comes an insatiable need to put things in order. If I do a word study, I typically start with the first reference that's listed in my concordance. I set out this afternoon and found myself thinking, "Where do I start? I know, I'll start in Genesis, where it all began."

There was another voice in my head saying, "You always start at the beginning. You always have to know the end before you know the beginning." Yes, that voice sounds very accusatory, and really it doesn't matter where I begin as long as I begin.

However, this whole month the theme has been changing one small thing to see bigger change in the rest of my life. This is what I have now come to recognize as the "wisdom" of fasting. When I fast I have the opportunity to see my life through a different lens. I have an opportunity to see where I have been allowing my routine to camouflage sneaky habits and mindsets that otherwise wouldn't be exposed to the light of introspection.
Furthermore, in light of the heaviness my writing has taken on, I really want these posts to be spontaneous rather than having a plotted destination in mind. I'm going to focus on the theme of wisdom, but I don't want to get locked into a regimented study of it. I want to sit down at my computer and start fresh with each post. In order to ensure that I carry this out, I want to break my pattern of going "in order."

Perhaps in working "out of order," I will find divine order in the area of wisdom. I have a feeling that wisdom is the opposite of black-and-white thinking, and I'm excited to see where I have made strides toward it and where I need improvement. So I've done a random search of four verses dealing with the subject of wisdom. I hope you enjoy the journey with me.
Corinthians Wisdom
1 Corinthians 1:19
(NIV) "For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'"
(NLT) "As the Scriptures say, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.'"
(ESV) "For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'"

Standing alone, this verse implies to me that God will frustrate man's ideas of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Certainly, I've had Him frustrate my ways of thinking and understanding. So many times I believed I knew what was right and wrong, only to find that when faced with an individual in front of me needing counsel, my rules and regulations didn't quite fit their situation. It is from my own wisdom and intelligence that I usually form my judgments of others.

In looking at the broader context of this verse, I see that this is the exact topic Paul is addressing. In the verse right before this one, he declared that Christ sent him to preach the gospel, but not with words from human wisdom. In fact, he warns that preaching the gospel through our lenses of human wisdom will rob the cross of Christ of its power! It is in the power of the Cross that we find the power of God, not in the rituals, rules, and regulations of men and women.
Jesus Grew
Luke 2:52
(NIV) "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
(NLT) "Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people."
(ESV) "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man."

This verse has been such a comfort to me so many times throughout my life. First, it tells me that Jesus grew into His role as Savior of the Universe, even as I am growing into the call He has placed upon my life. If He had to grow in wisdom, that means I have to grow too. This means that mistakes are inevitable. I will make mistakes, but will not be condemned by them. It also says that God grew in favor with people as well as with God. This is my goal too.

I know that not everyone will agree with me, and I understand that living for the radical truth of the gospel can get a person into a lot of hot water (or hot oil if you lived back in Bible times). However, it is still my goal to live at peace with all people as much as it depends on me.
Joseph Before Pharaoh
Acts 7:10
(NIV) "...and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharoah king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace."
(NLT) "...and rescued him from all his troubles. And God gave him favor before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God also gave Joseph unusual wisdom, so that Pharaoh appointed him governor over all of Egypt and put him in charge of the palace."
(ESV) "...and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household."

As you can imagine, Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. His life is filled with betrayal, suffering, and loss of reputation. Yet, he continues in an unwavering steadfastness of faith that I find inspiring. I love the first part of this verse, which is in the middle of a thought. God rescued Joseph from all his troubles and afflictions!

He did this before He endowed him with an unusual wisdom. I find comfort in this as I am knee-deep in a refining process that feels like a dark dungeon of never-ending battles sometimes. I trust that because I've cried out to God for wisdom, He will be faithful in not only giving me wisdom, but that as He infuses me with His wisdom that I will know how to partner with Him in dismantling the foundations upon which my troubles and afflictions rest.
Lady Wisdom
Proverbs 5:1
(NIV) "My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight..."
(NLT) "My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel."
(ESV) "My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding."

The intimacy of the Proverbs is something I have missed in the past. The majority of these wisdom sayings are written from a father to a son. This makes me think of the part in 1 Corinthians 13 that says if I operate in the gifts of God but do not have love, I am useless.

Even though wisdom isn't expressly mentioned here, I realize that I must be careful who I share with and why I'm sharing with them. It is appropriate for me to share my wisdom with my children. They know that I love them and that I have their best interests at heart.

But I have to ask myself, Is it appropriate for me to share my perspective with someone I don't know? Even if I have insight into their situation, perhaps I will be like a gonging cymbal if they do not receive my words in the spirit of love.

I know that I've taken liberties with the whole "speak the truth in love" verse that were not intended to be taken. I've found that true wisdom is often knowing when to keep my mouth shut, when my pearls will be trampled and misunderstood, thereby rendering them useless at best and harmful at worst.

It is my prayer that we will grow measurably in wisdom and favor with God and man in the weeks to come. Don't worry, I won't be praying that we will be growing in stature. I know most of us do not want that.

Peace & Joy,

January 24, 2011

Day 24: A Promise

Abundant Life

I have finally chosen the word I want to study first:


When I was pregnant with my son, I was determined to name him in such a way that every time I spoke his name or considered his name it would lead me to declare over him all that I hoped he would become one day. I made all my lists, but it was my husband who actually chose the name Orion. It was one of those seemingly casual moments that changed my course. I was very resolute about the names I had chosen. I was sure I would be able to eventually talk my husband into naming him what I wanted to name him. But when he said the words, "What about Orion," something in me shouted, "That's it!!" Of course, being resolute in naming him something meaningful, I had to look it up. It means 'son of fire' and 'valiant.'

"It's perfect," I said incredulously. "Do you really mean it? Can we really name him that?" Well, he didn't agree right away, but as far as I was concerned the search for the perfect name was over. It was several months later that we finalized it and chose his middle name. That wasn't as hard. We both wanted to honor my step-dad, who had no children bearing his name, so we chose Joseph as a middle name. Even though nothing would have made me change my mind about the middle name, I still wanted to look it up. Joseph means 'God will add' and 'wisdom and understanding.'

My pregnancy was what some people would call an open heavens experience. It was as though this new life growing within me had opened a sort of gateway between my heart and God's words. There have been very few years in my life where I have felt as though God was right beside me all the time, whispering sweet nothings and sweet everythings all the time. Not only was God speaking to me about my son, but other people were speaking to me about my son, as well. It was clear that there was a call on his life, and I was excited and terrified all at the same time.

Most days I didn't feel up to the task of raising any kid, let alone one with a Destiny. Of course, now I understand that every single one of us has a destiny. God has a plan for each one of us. Some of us are going to live our destiny out in public and some will live in sweet anonymity, but we all have a destiny. As my son has grown, I have seen many of the things God whispered to me about and still I am thrilled and terrified all at the same time.

Silent Wisdom
But it was this name, Joseph, that rang clear as a bell...a promise, not for Orion so much as for Eric and me. It was the whisper, a sense of God's intention toward me and toward Eric. We both knew we weren't up for the task of raising our son. Orion is an intense, intelligent, remarkable little boy. I still feel that I am usually one step behind him at least once a day. What is amazing to me is that now that doesn't terrify me quite as much.

That promise that God gave me...I have also seen it growing in Eric and in myself. He promised that He would add the wisdom and understanding we would need to raise Orion right. It was so fitting, too. My heart, since I was a teenager sitting in my room at night praying and reading Scripture when I couldn't sleep night after night, prayed and cried out to God for wisdom. I feasted on the Old Testament stories of Solomon, who could have had anything he wanted in the world, and I would pray with him for wisdom. Of course, in the beginning there was probably a little bit of hope that great riches would follow after such a "noble" prayer. However, as I grew up I began to realize that wisdom was far more important to me than riches.

I have been on a quest to uncover the hidden riches of wisdom and last week my friend posted Job 28 on the 30 Days of Praise page on Facebook. I have read Job several times, and I have never had this passage about hidden treasure and the value of wisdom impact me so profoundly and so deeply as I did then. I have been rolling it over and over in my mind, and it has inspired me to look once again at the depth of what that word "wisdom" really means.

I will leave you now with a verse to ponder until next time. Please feel free to share your thoughts about wisdom in a comment on this post. I would love to hear how this verse speaks to your heart.

Ecclesiastes 7:12

Ecclesiastes Vase

(NIV) "Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: that wisdom preserves the life of its possessor."

(NLT) "Wisdom and money can get you almost anything, but only wisdom can save your life."

(MSG, v. 11-12) "Wisdom is better when it's paired with money, especially if you get both while you are still living. Double protection: wisdom and wealth! Plus this bonus: Wisdom energizes its owner"


January 21, 2011

Day 21: Lighten Up

Lighten Up
Haha! I wrote that title just for myself. I have been in a heavy mode for the past couple of weeks, and I'm coming out of it finally. I decided to abandon the rest of my discussion about Achan. It's totally depressing what happens, and I think last time I really got out of the whole study what I needed to for myself. These past couple of days have been so full for me that I haven't had a minute to think or breathe for the most part. Please know that I'm just reporting, not feeling negative about it at all.

In the moments I have had to think on things, I have realized that all of my writing has gotten a little heavy for me lately. After a long discussion with my mom tonight, I have decided I need to lighten up in all my blogs. Therefore, rather than continuing this heavy discussion about strongholds (which I think is important enough to return to at a later date), I want to talk about something else on my heart. Studying God's Word in general.

I just started a study with a friend on Colossians. We are going verse by verse, sharing our thoughts about it--very light, but very powerful. She and I did a study on Romans many years ago this same way via e-mail when she was out of the country for a time. I am so excited about it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what God has in mind for us as we learn and pray for each other every day.

As I was doing my study today, I remembered that some of my sisters in the 30 Days of Praise group have been looking up verses about particular words, like praise and joy. I love word studies. They're my absolute favorite way to study the Bible, so I'm working on finding a word that means something to me to study about each day in these posts.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will have found my word and you'll be able to read all about it.

Until then, I wish for you sound sleep, sweet dreams, and insight and solutions to problems upon waking.


P.S. Once again, when I typed in "lighten up" in Google images, I found a great photo and an interesting article that dovetails with the precise topic I've written about.

January 17, 2011

Day 17: A Call to Honor

Before we get back to Achan, I realize I glanced over Joshua's response to the defeat at Ai a little more lightly than I had intended. Remember, he tore his clothes in mourning before the ark of the covenant and proceeded to take God to task for leaving them high and dry. I know that I, like Joshua, have been guilty of blaming God when things go wrong. In fact, my family has struggled financially for the past twelve years. We are deeply in debt, even though we've done our best to follow God's lead in what we believe is the work He has called us to. There have been many years when I've blamed God and my husband for the lack of funds. This year, though, God started knocking on my door with verses like James 1:17, which says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

I've begun to learn that my favorite parenting line really does apply to me: "You are responsible for your own fun." If I'm responsible for my own fun, then that must mean that I'm responsible for my own misery. Ouch! In spending so much time blaming God and my husband, I was shifting the attention and blame away from my own part...my responsibility. I am learning that God is as clear about finances as He was with the Israelites about what would cause their defeat. It has been a slow climb out of poverty thinking and bad habits of spending instead of budgeting, but I we are starting to see a shift in our finances. We are still in debt, but we have been in settlement negotiations with our creditors. We still live paycheck-to-paycheck, but we have a system in place that helps us direct our funds where they are needed instead of paying whatever came in the mail first.

When I set this system into place, it dawned on me that our finances would truly have room to grow. Now we know where to put money when it comes in, so it won't be running through our hands like water any longer. We have a system in place that will allow us to save and spend in reality rather than a fly-by-night operation that is always sinking on one end to pay for another end.

I am surprised to be able to say here that even though money isn't pouring in from every corner of the globe (yet), I am at peace. The stress is leaving, and when a bill comes due I no longer fret over whether we'll have the funds to pay it because I've been saving for it with every paycheck. Stress is not my friend, and I am celebrating the victory I am finding day by day as I trust God to supply AND myself not to be careless with what He provides.
Okay, moving back to God's response to Joshua:

"I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction. Get up! Command the people to purify themselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Hidden among you, O Israel, are things set apart for the Lord. You will never defeat your enemies until you remove these things from among you. In the morning you must present yourselves by tribes, and the Lord will point out the tribe to which the guilty man belongs. That tribe must come forward with its clans, and the Lord will point out the guilty clan. That clan will then come forward, and the Lord will point out the guilty family. Finally, each member of the guilty family must come forward one by one. The one who has stolen what was set apart for destruction will himself be burned with fire, along with everything he has, for he has broken the covenant of the Lord and has done a horrible thing in Israel." (7:12b-15, NLT)

I like to think that God was giving this family every opportunity to throw themselves at Joshua's mercy and confess their wrong and ask for pardon, but they didn't do this so we will never know if God would have mercy or not. I tried imagining what it would have been like that day to stand in assembly, having fasted and ritually cleansed myself, unsure of whether it was going to be my clan or family standing guilty before the Lord.

God did just as He said He would. First singling out the tribe of Judah, then the clan of Zerah, then the family of Zimri. "Every member of Zimri's family was brought forward person by person, and Achan was singled out." (7:17-18, NLT)

I'm so curious as to how the Lord singled him out. There is no explanation. Did he get highlighted in some yellow light? Did he turn bright red in shame? Was it more subtle than that? Did Joshua see the Holy Spirit somehow hovering over Achan? I know I have felt singled out in a crowd, but I never knew if everyone else knew it or if it was just something I felt. It must have been an awful feeling, sitting in silence filled with guilt as the eyes of the Lord drew closer and closer. He knew he was going to burn; perhaps he didn't step forward because he was hoping Joshua would read the signs wrong. But Joshua got it right:

"Then Joshua said to Achan, 'My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, by telling the truth. Make your confession and tell me what you have done. Don't hide it from me.'"

Wow! I am amazed at the gentle call for repentance from Joshua. No fingers pointed. No reprimand. Just a simple call to be all that he was meant to be: "Give glory to the Lord by telling the truth! You are still a noble warrior. You are still a child of the Most High God. You will be paying a high price for your sin, but we will not put shame on you in the process."

I am in awe of such an honorable leader. I want to be that kind of leader. Of course, Achan rose to the occasion and told the truth:

"It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest." (7:20-21, NLT)

He rose to the occasion. I think the rest is a little heavy to end on just now, so I will save it for tomorrow. Until then, I hope that you are encouraged to tell the truth even in the face of dire consequences so that you, too, will give glory to God in the midst of your struggle.


January 15, 2011

Day 15: A Loving Reminder

I know...I know...by the time I get to the rest of the Battle of Ai, we will have forgotten what the point was...maybe. But I found a post titled Less Than a Christian Wife over at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee. This post struck a deep cord in my heart, as I recently have been convicted of the very same thing she's talking about. It is short, and I would encourage you to read it before you read the rest of what I've written here.

My favorite line in the post was: "If you find yourself hard-pressed to love someone, there is almost surely an idol lurking."

Can anyone say knife in the heart? The Lord and I will be having a serious conversation about some things this evening, and I'm glad. When it comes to defeating strongholds, pulling out roots, and breaking down idols I am on a ruthless quest to leave no stone unturned and no hidden thing left lurking!

To keep things open and honest, I will confess some of own club memberships, how the idolatry was exposed, and how I have begun to revoke my membership from these clubs.

Nursing Mothers Club
(I cut up my membership cards the week I found out my daughter was losing weight because my milk had dried up)

Worship Team/Ministry Club
(I'm not convinced that I've cut these cards up; however, I recently removed myself from ministry because I recognized the pride that was growing in my heart; now I believe that we're all in the ministry when we believe, and I am not better than anyone else even if I see God's power working in and through me)

I'm a Christian Club
(I cut up these cards this winter;
I'm no longer convinced that my definition of a Christian is the same as Jesus' definition)

Girls Are Better Club
(I cut up my membership card this fall;
my husband is a son of the King of kings, and I'm not always right)

Christian Maturity Club
(I cut up my cards this summer when several friends started struggling in their marriages; I have believed that I cannot be encouraged in my faith or learn from those who are actively struggling with sin; I've since learned that the roots of all sin are the same, and I am always one step away from making the mistakes I've judged others for making)

I know that the Lord will reveal the other clubs I have membership cards for, and I thank you for praying for me as I continue to clean out my wallet and walk free of idolatry in my life. You are in my thoughts and prayers today, too.

Here is a verse that inspires me in my quest for freedom:

"But the [woman] who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does."
~James 1:25~


p.s. These images were chosen only for illustrative purposes. I do not endorse or have anything against any of the sites I borrowed them from.

January 14, 2011

Day 14: Interlude

Collage by Susan Stopinski, Altered Lives Studio

I know I promised to finish the story of Achan and the Battle of Ai, but I ran out of time to give it my attention today. I would like to take this interlude to contemplate my personal fast. I have not been able to get to bed early, despite my valiant efforts. My husband and I are making many weighty decisions at this juncture, and it seems that our best discussions always begin about an hour after the kids go to bed and last several hours into the night. We have many things that need to be decided, and we have been so enjoying connecting and talking and sharing our thoughts, fears, and concerns. It seems sacrilegious to stop him midstream and say, "Sorry, gotta go to bed." It's still a goal of mine to go to bed by 10:30pm, and I do that whenever I can but I haven't been able to be consistent in that.

I feel complete peace about this, and the past couple of days the Lord is waking me around 7:00 in the morning just for a little visit before I get out of bed. This morning was extra special. I had a wonderful dream, and I was talking with Him about it while I laid in bed. This is a new thing for me. I used to get so distracted when I wasn't writing in my journal. Now, I seem to be developing an ability to hold thoughts in my mind and carry on a conversation with Him without writing or talking. It is such a quiet and gentle way for me to wake up fully.

I have been keeping my vow to turn my computer off in the middle of the day, and I have had so much more time to spend time with my kids, pack, and take care of my body. I am so grateful that I included this in my fast this time around. I realize now how much time I was wasting checking my e-mail here, surfing Facebook there. I equate it to grazing instead of sitting down for satisfying meals. My days are much more satisfying now, and I enjoy the few minutes in the morning and evening that I get to check in with all of you and other friends without it taking over my life.

Sugar...I am standing in a place of sheer amazement and victory. The physical effects of withdrawal seemed to end after the first week, and the emotional pull has remained at a low ebb. Last night I deliberately and consciously chose to break my fast to enjoy a piece of pie with a dear friend. The whole process of making the decision felt wonderful. I was in complete control. I did not feel it was calling my name. I just felt that it would be strange for her to be eating something at the restaurant and me only drinking water. It seemed like one of those relationship over rules situations. I confessed to her that I was breaking my fast for the night, and I confessed that I wasn't sure if it would make it harder the next day or not but that I really didn't think it would.

I was right! I didn't feel a pull or temptation to eat sugar at all. In fact, I think the emotional pull of sugar was even less today than usual. I really believe I am dealing with the roots of why I eat sugar, and God is using this time of fasting to show me how much He has shown me and how much He has healed in my life. I am giving Him great praise today for that!

Well, it's dinner time here. I'm off to feed my family some yummy food, and hopefully I will have time tomorrow to finish my examination of Joshua 7.

Until then, I wish for you Peace, Joy, and Triumph!

P.S. The link will take you to this collage and the poem my friend Susan wrote by way of explanation. I was searching Google Images for an image to represent Triumph. Suddenly, I was inspired to just take a look at her website. This collage and poem sang my soul for this season of my life.

January 13, 2011

Day 13: The Battle of Ai

I'm dropping the Game of Risk comparison for now. Explaining all the rules has become too cumbersome for me right now. If you're saying, "Phew," know that I am too! That being said, I want to continue with a discussion on strongholds. I think this is exactly what God wants me looking into right now. I'm glad you're coming along for the ride.

Today I was reading about the battle of Ai, the second battle Joshua faced with the Israelites in the Promised Land. As I read the story, I was encouraged to know that the struggle against disobedience and strongholds has been around for a long time. However, I was slightly discouraged because even though I won't die physically for my disobedience, something definitely dies when I don't make the right choices in my life. I have asked the Lord to reveal to me how this story can relate to my life under the New Covenant. Hopefully, He'll give me an answer by the time I'm done writing.

Here's the story (my paraphrase from Joshua 6 and 7 with quotes from NIV, unless otherwise noted):

The Battle of Ai actually begins just before the Israelites gave the great shout that demolished the wall of Jericho. On the seventh day, Joshua gives this command: "Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it." (6:16-19)

Just like a parent, Joshua gives the boundary and the clear consequences for disobedience: Take stuff, and you'll bring trouble upon yourself and the community. Of course, their shout is a smashing success, and "they devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it--men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys...They burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord's house." (6:21, 24)

The next verses remind me of what I learned when I wrote Utter Annihilation. Joshua pronounces: "Cursed before the Lord is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates." (6:26) After this great victory, the chapter ends with the statement that the Lord's favor rested with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land (6:27).

The Israelites were well on their way to a spectacular life filled with milk and honey. They conquered their enemies in their first battle in the Promised Land. Unfortunately, their victory didn't last long. I turned the page and read these fateful words: "But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites." (7:1, NLT)

This breach of command was kept as a family secret within the household of Achan. Confident of their strength, the spies Joshua sent to investigate the next stronghold, Ai, returned saying, "There's no need for all of us to go up there; it won't take more than two or three thousand men to attack Ai." (7:2, NLT)

"So approximately 3,000 warriors were sent, but they were soundly defeated...Joshua and the elders of Israel tore their clothing in dismay, threw dust on their heads, and bowed face down to the ground before the Ark of the Lord until evening. Then Joshua cried out, 'Oh, Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! Lord, what can I say now that Israel has fled from its enemies? For when the Canaanites and all the other people living in the land hear about it, they will surround us and wipe our name off the face of the earth. And then what will happen to the honor of your great name?" (7:4, 6-9)
So, we know something Joshua doesn't know. Joshua trusted that his command was obeyed, so when Israel was defeated at Ai, he assumed that God had turned his back on them for an unknown reason. There's nothing like an unpredictable deity to grip a nation with terror and hopelessness. No wonder they tore their clothes in mourning. It wasn't just the loss of his men; it was the loss of the favor of the Lord that caused Joshua to tremble in fear.

He was wrong to blame God, though. Joshua made a very common human error--he blamed God for the defeat! He did not put two and two together and assume that there was a breach of the command. He trusted his people more than he trusted his God. I hang my head in sorrow at how many times I have blamed God when it was my own error, or a family secret that created the environment for my trials and troubles.

What does God say for Himself? "Get up! Why are you lying on your face like this? Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction." (7:10-12a, NLT)

There is more, but this last sentence is ringing like a clarion call in my ears! The command was clear. It was not confusing or unclear. He told them exactly what He wanted, and they understood. The fact that Achan lied about the things he stole proves that he knew it was wrong. I know that I don't lie unless I fear punishment or retribution for a wrong.
It was a family secret, likely not even discussed within the family. It's likely that everyone was walking on eggshells around Achan. Whenever I hide something, I'm grumpy and defensive. I put everyone around me on edge. Someone surely suspected what was going on. In fact, he may have even had some accomplices. They didn't tell anyone outside their family, yet the whole of Israel was held accountable for their sin.

It reminds me of how everyone over the age of 18 in a household with drugs can be put in prison for drug trafficking in the event of a bust. There is a complicity in keeping a secret...in not calling someone out on the secrets they're holding; on allowing the secret to fester untouched. It will infect the whole group. This is how strongholds begin.

I'll finish tomorrow with the rest of the story. Until then, I wish for you courage to face down the strongholds in your life.

Peace & Joy,

January 11, 2011

Day 11: Interlude

I got a new job! Yeah!!!! I start Wednesday, so I have been spending my normal writing time to prepare and learn the job. I will resume posting Wednesday evening and will continue with daily entries as I can after that.

Until this evening, Peace & Joy be yours in Christ Jesus our Lord,

January 10, 2011

Day 10: The Rules of the Game (Risk, pt. 4)

In case you've never played The Game of Risk, I decided to give you a brief rundown of the rules. Risk is a game of strategy and careful planning. It is the perfect combination of luck and artful positioning and maneuvering of armies. The game board shows a flat map of all the continents of the world divided into main countries (called territories). There are several variations in how you can start the game, but my favorite is to deal all the country cards to each player evenly for a more randomized beginning. Once everyone receives their territory cards, each player places a single army man of their color (I always choose purple if I can) on each territory. The card deck is then shuffled and returned to the dealer for later use in play.
The second round of game play is still setup, but this is where strategy becomes important. Tomorrow we will discuss the strategy at greater length. At this stage of the game, each person gets a certain number of armies (men) to shore up defense of their territories. There are three types of army pieces: The single army man, the cavalry rider (representing five men), and the cannon (representing ten men).
This is the point at which you need to carefully determine whether you will forfeit a territory by leaving just one man or whether you will add armies to fend off your opponent. Oftentimes, the winner of the game is decided in these opening moments of the game. Of course, the luck of the die can swing even the most cunning strategies in favor of your opponent, so no strategy is truly surefire at this stage of the game. Once everyone has decided their opening setup, the game begins.

So at this point, I'm asking myself, "Can I really bring this back around to battling strongholds?" It seems like it was a long time ago that I made this correlation, and even though I believe it still exists, I'm wondering if I'm on the right track here.

I'm going to keep at it until I feel the urge to abandon ship or until it all comes together. I think that rather than going further into the instructions today, I will turn my attention to the definition of strongholds. Before I do, though, I want to share that Risk was one of my favorite games to play when I was in college. It is especially fun to play at large parties with a mixed-gender group of five or six people. The time it takes to play and the strategy involved affords a great amount of time for getting into other peoples' heads (people watching) and intellectual stimulation, as well as the thrill of winning or losing big on every turn! You are challenged to determine when to take risks and when to stand firm and hold your ground. Yep, the more I write about it the more I realize it's a definite winner in terms of comparing to strongholds. We just have to get through the preliminaries so everyone can be on the same page with me in my understanding of the game and of strongholds.

I guarantee that once you read all these posts, you will be able to stand your ground firmly and play a good game of Risk, whether you win or lose! I will indeed want to hear about any of you who put my strategy to work and win against your high-brown husbands or friends!

All right, so in keeping with setting a firm foundation, let's start our discussion of strongholds with a working definition. The Oxford Dictionary defines a stronghold as: (1) "a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld"; (2) "a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack."

Now we're getting somewhere. In The Game of Risk, each territory is an opportunity to develop a stronghold. Of course, in the game we're talking about definition number two. Likewise, in the Old Testament, most of the verses about strongholds relate to definition number two. Here are some verses that speak of these types of strongholds:

Judges 6:2 (NIV) "Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds."

Jeremiah 51:30 "Babylon's warriors have stopped fighting; they remain in their strongholds. Their strength is exhausted; they have become like women. Her dwellings are set on fire; the bars of her gates are broken."

These two verses speak of physical places of refuge, fortified to provide shelter and rest when under fierce attack. We all need a physical place to feel safe. For many of us, our homes provide this kind of shelter. However, there are some of us who do not find rest even at home. It is my prayer that God will show us how to prepare our homes to be shelters for ourselves and our families. I hope and pray that this time of fasting will be a time of revelation from Him in how to exchange our old ways of fortifying ourselves for His ways of fortifying us. Praise and thanksgiving are certainly strengthening, as they pave the way for the joy of the Lord which is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

I also found some passages in the Old Testament which I believe refer to the first type of stronghold, the one we are more likely to deal with in our adult lives; the heavy grip of ideology. Here are some examples:

Lamentations 2:5 (NIV) "The Lord is like an enemy; he has swallowed up Israel. He has swallowed up all her palaces and destroyed her strongholds. He has multiplied mourning and lamentation for the Daughter of Judah."

Isaiah 23:11 (NIV) "The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenecia that her fortresses be destroyed."

Doesn't it often feel like God is our enemy when we are holding onto things that He wants us to let go of? We do indeed have to grieve the loss of the things we trust in if we are truly going to release them to Him. I believe many of us during this fast have felt the excruciating loss of not having the thing we usually rely on any longer. I know I have!

So, we can now compare the territories in The Game of Risk with the territories in our minds, the ideas and causes that we defend with all our might. Oh boy, I can tell this is going to get harder before it gets easier! I am up for the challenge, and I pray you are too!

Let's leave it at that for now.

Until tomorrow, I wish for you to experience the Joy of the Lord as your strength.

Day 9: Sunday Break

It felt so good to leave my computer off all day long yesterday. Never turned it on once, though I did turn my hubby's laptop on for about two minutes to see if there was anything I could do to ease the discomfort of too-cold fingers coming in from playing in the snow! But I resisted the temptation to "check in" with the "real world," and boy am I glad, especially since I believe the "real world" of Facebook and e-mail can slip into yet another distraction from the real world of inner peace and fulfilling the individual calls God has given each of us.

Hope your Sunday was restful. My prayers were with each of you as I was considering the struggles of remembering the things I am fasting from besides sugar. It was becoming far too easy to slip into showing my annoyance yesterday. Thankfully, my husband is quick to forgive, as is the Lord, and I'm learning to be quicker to forgive myself and start fresh. His mercies are new every morning!


January 8, 2011

Day 8: Utter Annihilation (Risk: Part 3)

Yesterday, I asked the question about how to apply the passage in Deuteronomy 13 to today. I hope you will be able to track with me and see the parallels with these New Testament verses. This group of verses pretty much say the same thing (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; 1 Peter 2:1; James 1:21). I've given links to each of the passages, so I can just paraphrase them here:

"Therefore, get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, filthy language, malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."

The phrase "completely destroy" from Deuteronomy made me think of the phrase "get rid of" in these passages. With the help of Strong's Numbers Online, I found the Greek word, "apotithemi", which is translated "get rid of." It means "to put away (literally or figuratively)", and is translated "cast off, lay apart, lay aside, lay down, put away, or put off."

Whenever I find a composite word like this one, I like to also look at the root words for more depth to understand how the translators chose the words. The root words for this Greek word are "apo", and "tithemi". "Apo" means "off," as in "away (from something near) in various senses (of place, time, or relation; literally and figuratively)...In composition (as a prefix) it usually denotes separation, departure, cessation, completion, reversal, etc.); and "tithemi" means "to place (in the widest application)...advise, appoint, bow, commit, conceive, give, kneel down, lay, lay aside, lay down, lay up, make, ordain, purpose, put, set, set forth, settle, sink down."

As I read these definitions, they bring to mind a picture of changing a garment or giving old stuff to the Goodwill. I don't need it anymore. I don't want it anymore. It's just clogging up the works and cluttering up my space.

The Hebrew word translated "completely destroy" is "charam," a root word which means "to seclude; specifically (by a ban) to devote to religious uses (especially destruction); physically and reflexively to be blunt as to the nose." It is translated "make accursed, consecrate, utterly destroy, destroy, devote, forfeit, have a flat nose, utterly slay, utterly make away." When it says by a ban, I wonder if we can apply this same thing to our current use of the term fast.
I know that when I originally set out to give up sugar last May, I wanted it to be a complete and utter destruction of my addiction to sugar. I had hoped that I would finally succeed in cutting the roots to the reasons behind my addiction so that I would either never want it again or be able to eat it without slipping back into addictive behaviors. I wanted to believe that I could end my affair with sugar for the rest of my life.

Though I made great strides against this stronghold, in that I'm beginning to understand the things in my life that trigger binging on sugar, I slipped back into the addictive behavior in late November. Yes, the holidays were a part of this, but there were also points of stress driving my addictive binging. The difference this time was that I did not beat myself up over it. I gave it a lot of thought and decided I would not attempt to stand firm again until after the holidays, when the temptations would be far less. Thankfully, as soon as I committed to this fast I've had very little trouble fighting the emotional temptation to eat sugar. However, where the emotional pull has decreased this time around, the physical effects of going off it were far more intense.

The longer I fight against this habit, I realize that I'm fighting something far deeper. I'm determined to get to the root of the reasons that I eat sugar for comfort...my strongholds. I know He has continued to show me the seduction that comes from within to numb myself out by binging on sugar, to treat myself when I've had a particularly hard day, or to use it when I'm bored or tired and need a pick-me-up.

I'm hopeful that this is exactly what it means to lay siege to a stronghold. Continually resisting the temptation to keep my old garments, my old coping habits. Continually exposing the temptation to hide my secret binges to the light; not losing ground, but steadily advancing by taking new ground with each successive fast.

These are just my thoughts about what these passages mean. I'm eager to hear from you about the insight or pictures these words evoke in your mind. Please leave me a comment with your thoughts here when you have a minute.

Thanks for reading. Until tomorrow, I wish for you Peace & Joy,

January 7, 2011

Day 7: The Game of Risk (Part 2)

A good day of rest. I took a detour from normal life and decided to give my kids my full attention today. It has been a lovely, quiet, and wonderful day. Not only did we enjoy each other's company, but we also got a big project done; one that I have been procrastinating for far too long. We cleaned everything out from under the couch (mostly toys) and put it all in a big box and then sorted it all out and started putting things in their proper locations.

We worked in 15-minute increments, with movie breaks, lunch breaks, and time spent reading books alternating between. By nap time, the box was nearly empty, and there has been hardly a raised voice in the house all day. Thank you, Jesus, for the wisdom of rest and living in the present moment.

I've been pondering for many months now the parallel between the Old Testament battles against kingdoms and the battles we fight against the principalities and powers in high places under the New Covenant. I've longed to take the time to study each of the old battles in order to learn strategy for taking ground in my life today.

God has been speaking to me about the year 2011 being my Joshua year...the year that I cross my personal Jordan River and step into the Promised Land. I know there will be battles on the other side. In fact, it may be that the battles will feel more intense, as they have already been feeling these past several months. However, I am no longer afraid of the battles. I'm eager to begin taking ground instead of just maintaining my own uncertain footing.
I hope you will enjoy this trek into the Word to find the parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament battles as well as the parallels between spiritual warfare and The Game of Risk. In the official instruction manual for the game, it states that the objective is "to conquer the world by occupying every territory on the board, thus eliminating all your opponents."

My mind immediately jumps to the admonition God gives to the Israelites many times as they do battle in the Promised Land. Over and over again, the Lord commands the Israelites to utterly destroy their enemies, including their women, children, animals, wealth, and lands.

In Deuteronomy, we can read one example and the reasons the Lord gave for executing such a powerful (and even distasteful) command. I say distasteful, because it goes against our Western grain to believe there is ever a good time to kill children and animals or for that matter that there is ever a good time to destroy valuables and land. In this passage and many like it, God instructed them to do both of those things.

Deuteronomy 13:12-18 (NLT)
"When you begin living in the towns the Lord your God is giving you, you may hear that scoundrels among you are leading their fellow citizens astray by saying, 'Let us go worship other gods'--gods you have not known before. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find that the report is true and such a detestable act has been committed among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the open square and burn it. Burn the entire town as a burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town must remain in ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a large nation, just as he swore to your ancestors."
(I discussed the Lord's anger in this post, which also touches on some of the things the Lord has been showing me about tearing down strongholds.)

I was surprised in this particular passage by three different things; that this order was given not if someone from the outside was trying to seduce the Israelites, but rather if the seduction was coming from the inside; by the admonition that the town must never be rebuilt; and by the promise that the Lord will make Israel a large nation. I feel strongly that this promise is still on His heart today, now for the Church.

In light of this, how do I apply the lessons of Deuteronomy 13 to the strongholds in my life and in my family? Tomorrow, I will take a look at some New Testament verses that came to my mind.

Until then, I wish you Peace & Joy,

January 6, 2011

Day 6: The Game of Risk (Part 1)

Scripture for today: 2 Corinthians 10:4 "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."

I'm feeling a shift in my heart. At certain points today I found myself wondering if I had bitten off more than I could chew in this fast, and of course those thoughts were countered by thoughts like, "You're not even doing the full Daniel Fast." But today I did not entertain these thoughts for more than a second or two each time they came. In fact, I crushed those thoughts with the faith that I'm stronger than I think and that the things I'm fasting from or adding to my life are the exact things God has been whispering to me about in the quiet moments of the past few months.

I am still a little more fatigued than usual, but I've infused my body with plenty of water today and plenty of restful activities, mainly writing and spending time at the library with my kids. I love the library! So now that I'm walking a little stronger on this path, I'm eager to think about the topic He has impressed upon my heart today, demolishing strongholds.

I'm going to draw a parallel between strongholds and The Game of Risk. If you've never played the game before, some of the comparisons may not work for you. However, I will do my best to explain the main tenets of the game and some of the strategy employed in winning. I know this will take some careful thought and explanation on my part, so I'm going to break it up into a few posts over the next few days.

The past four years have been a concentrated effort in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to break down strongholds in my life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the faithful intercession of friends and strangers, words of wisdom and love from sisters and brothers in Christ, and sheer grit and determination on my part, I have gained victory over the strongholds of depression and fear. Currently, I am in the midst of heated battle against the stronghold of codependency and addictive behaviors.

In the process of gaining victory over these strongholds, I have been healed of the physical effects manifesting as fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, severe allergies, and hormonal imbalance. I still have to be on guard against the triggers for these things, especially stress, sleep, some foods, and negative thinking, but the battles feel a little more like a schoolyard squabble rather than World War II.
I've known about spiritual warfare since I was a teenager. I know how to resist the enemy and have conquered him on many small fronts throughout my life. I will compare this level of spiritual warfare with taking the continent of Australia in Risk. As long as you men on at least two of the countries in Australia, it's easy to bulk up your army and take on the other countries on the continent. Once you conquer the territory, it's easy to keep it because there are only two access points into the continent.

The strongholds I'm talking about here are the more on the lines of taking Asia or North America. Again, I will spend tomorrow's post going into more detail about how the game is played and begin bringing Scripture in to help us with the parallel.

Before then, I want to explain what led me to this topic in the first place and what it has to do with my fast from complaining, arguing, and making requests of God in prayer. Currently, some of my dearest friends are battling their own strongholds on the order of Asia and North America. One of these friends e-mailed today with a mixture of revelation and request for encouragement. When I typed the words I sent to her, I immediately thought, this will "BLOG."
Here's what I wrote: "What I have learned in the battle against strongholds is never, never, never give up. It's okay to grow weary; it's okay to cry and scream and rage against the whole process; it's okay to feel like you will faint or stop; it's okay to run and hide for a little while; but it's not okay to give up completely. In fact, I've decided it's not even a matter of okay or not okay...I know in my particular battle, giving up is just not an option...it's not even on the table. I can get almost to that point, but then something or someone comes along to rally me. That's what I'm hearing from you, too. All that you are feeling and experiencing is normal in the struggle against spiritual strongholds.

This has been a week of intense battle for me, too. But I am holding fast, clinging to the promises of Scripture and of Jesus in my heart, and I know you can and will hold fast too. This is why we need each other, as a part of the greater cloud of witnesses cheering us on from a little farther ahead, letting us know that what we are experiencing is normal and that just when we feel we will fail, God will send a sign...in the form of a Scripture, a blog post, or [words from an unexpected source]."

Until tomorrow, I wish you Peace & Joy,

January 5, 2011

Day 5: The Court of Sin

Philippians 2:14-15a
"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life..."

Even though I have yet to conquer the complaining bug, I decided to forge ahead and take a look at the other "without" word: "argue".

According to Webster's Dictionary, "argue" means (1) to give reasons (for or against a proposal, proposition, etc.). (2) to have a disagreement; quarrel; dispute--by giving reasons; maintain; contend (3) to give evidence of; seem to prove; indicate [ex: his manners argue a good upbringing] (4) to persuade (into or out of an opinion, etc.) by giving reasons. (Interestingly, it gives as a synonym the word "discussion.")

My first thought about this is: "Surely this doesn't mean that we can't disagree with someone. Unity is NOT conformity. This I know to be certain. So, once again, I surmised that Paul must be speaking to our methods of disagreement as opposed to actually commanding us not to disagree. As I was reading the definition of argue, another word jumped prominently into my mind. It turns out this word is a synonym of the word "argue".

"Justify" means (1) to show to be just, right, or in accord with reason; vindicate (2) to free from blame; declare guiltless; absolve (3) to supply good or lawful grounds for; warrant. (4) As a legal definition, it means to show an adequate reason for something done.

In summary, I would say that arguing is making sure that you are proven right based on your own reasons. To illustrate this, let's take a jaunt into the Court of Sin. All of us have been in the Court of Sin at one time or another, likely more than once (a day).

Just as in a court of law, there are certain players in the Court of Sin. There is always a prosecutor and always a judge. There is sometimes a plaintiff, a jury, and a crowd (spectators). There is always at least one witness and hopefully a defense attorney. Finally, there is always a defendant. Let's take a look at the different roles of each player to discover where we Paul is exhorting us to stand in the Court of Sin, according to Philippians 2:14.

The prosecutor "supplies good and lawful grounds to prove" that the defendant is guilty and deserves to be punished. Since we are told not to accuse (complain), give evidence for (argue), or attempt to prove a matter (argue), then we know we do not act as prosecutor in the Court of Sin.
The judge hands down the sentence and determines the severity of the punishment .It's his job to bring vindication to the matter if the judgment of guilty is handed down. Since we are told not to justify (argue), and since Paul tells us in Romans 12:19 not to avenge ourselves, then we know we are not the judge in the Court of Sin. The role of judge is always played by Father God.

The role of prosecutor is always played by Satan. He can provide lawful grounds in the Courts of Heaven, as he did in Job's story (Job 1:6-11), or he can provide evidence in our own minds or in the minds of others with fiery darts that manifest as negative, blaming, or accusatory thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 6:16).

Turning now to the plaintiff, this is the one who brings the accusation. Since we are told in our passage not to accuse (complain), then we know this is not the position we are meant to hold in court. Scripture says that Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). It looks like he can play a dual role in the Court of Sin.

It is the jury's job to weigh the evidence and determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Since we are told not to declare someone guiltless (argue) or vindicate a wrong (justify), then we know that we are not meant to be in the place of the jury. I believe that in a true Heavenly Court there is no jury.

The crowd is made up of spectators. Spectators are often members of the press, family members of the plaintiff or defendant, and/or interested parties who read about the case in the news and wanted a front row seat for the drama. Regardless of who they are there for (themselves, the plaintiff, or the defendant), spectators usually make their own judgments about the case. Since they are not held to secrecy, they are at liberty to report what they see and hear to anyone who will listen. This is sounding dreadfully similar to the definition of "gossip": "a person who chatters or repeats idle talk and rumors, especially about the private affairs of others." I believe that this role of spectators is meant to be filled only by the fallen angels that cohort with Satan.

The trouble here is that some of us have been known to listen to the fiery darts of the prosecutor and step into the role of plaintiff. I know I have dared to stand before God and make accusations against my husband, demanding that God change him so that we can get along better. Other times, we step into the role of jury, declaring someone guilty or not guilty based on our won human understanding, or worse on the basis of the prosecutor's evidence. I have definitely gathered with others in my churches and decided the fate of a leader or member of the body who had fallen into sin. Finally, we are all too prone to step role of the crowd, as well. I have listened to the struggles of one person and then taken what I've learned to another party to share my "concerns" and "prayer requests" for them. Is this really intercession and prayer?

I am thanking God that He has changed my heart toward my husband and that I am now learning to follow Paul's admonition to judge myself so that I will not come under judgment (1 Corinthians 11:31). I am thanking Him for the faith that is growing within me to believe that my prayers are powerful and effective (5:16) and that I am a royal priest (2 Peter 2:9), which means that by myself I can approach His throne of grace on behalf of one who needs His aid. I am thanking God that He has given me eyes to see that I am no different from my brother; that if I'm pointing my finger at you, then I am pointing my finger at me (Matthew 7:4).
Moving to the next player, it's the defending attorney's job to speak on behalf of the defendant; to explain the defendant's actions and determine how best to prove the client innocent in the eyes of the Court. Scripture says that Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), that He spends His time sitting at the right hand of Father God (Colossians 3:1) interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). It is clear that Jesus is our defense attorney in the Court of Sin. [By the way, the right hand of God symbolizes his strength, power, and justice; the hand of the Judge in the Court of Sin (Exodus 15:6; Psalm 118:16; Isaiah 41:10).]

This leaves only two positions that we as humans were meant to hold in the Court of Sin: That of Witness or Defendant!

Other than the role of defendant, which we will look at last, this is the only position Jesus' teachings supports for us in to hold in the Court of Sin. The Bible speaks of a great cloud of witnesses who speak on our behalf and encourage us not to lose heart as we run the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1). This is the position of support and intercession. Witnesses are sworn to silence outside the court. They are not allowed to discuss the case with the press, with each other, or with members of the jury. They are called upon by the defense attorney to give account of what they know, and the attorney coaches them in putting forward the best case for the defendant. If we are not sitting on the defendant's seat at any one given moment, then we are part of the great cloud of witnesses for another brother or sister who is in the hot seat. Since we have all been in the hot seat at one time or another, we know just the right things to say to give hope and to extend grace.
Every one of us has been the defendant in the Court of Sin at one point or another, quite possibly at many points (Romans 3:23). I want to note here that the defendant who goes to court without proper counsel is foolish and will likely lose his case. In the Court of Sin, we need legal counsel in the matters of our pain, annoyance, disagreements, and displeasure, and we also need witnesses.

I'm so grateful that I do not have to defend myself (argue) any longer, and I'm so grateful that I have sisters and brothers interceding on my behalf, sharing in my struggles, and encouraging me along the way.

Peace & Joy,