Tuesday, July 17, 2018

STRONGHOLDS and STRONGMEN

My heart is troubled as I consider the sad revelation of so many people who get freed only to return to slavery.  Jesus speaks of this in John 8:30-38.  It is here that Jesus tells us that the return to sin is the return to slavery.  Furthermore, “So if the Son frees you, you will really be free” (Jn 8:36).  If we are really free then why do we return?  Let us direct our attention to words penned by Paul in Galatians 5:1 where he writes, “What the Messiah has freed us for is freedom! Therefore, stand firm, and don’t let yourselves be tied up again to a yoke of slavery.”

May I suggest that one of the main reasons we find ourselves returning to slavery has to do with our stance.  Paul warns us that the way to stay free is by standing firm.  This term of standing firm or standing fast in the Greek is STEKO, meaning to stand in persistence and keep one’s footing.  This is the same term used by Paul in I Corinthians 16:13 where we are told, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.”  I am reminded of the product Stucco and the firm grasp it holds against the conditions of nature.  This binding agent is applied wet but hardens to a very dense solid.  In many ways we too are to be on guard, persistent toward the forces of the enemy like Stucco to the forces of nature, courageous, and strong.  The question is, are we?  Are we persistent against the enemy and his desire to bring us back into slavery, or is our footing found in our standing in mush?

Once we have experienced the freedom that can only be given by the LORD, we are to not allow ourselves to be wrapped up again in the slavery that once bound us.  This in essence was the true downfall of William Wallace, depicted in the movie Braveheart.  Despite his victories in battle, the one loss at Falkirk pushed him to see himself again as a defeated Scotsman.  His footing moved from solid and persistent to standing in mush, opening the doors of slavery.  When he did pass away, and if he did indeed cry out, “FREEEEEE-DOM,” as portrayed in the movie, was his victory chant only because he would no longer be slave of his own demise?  I cannot answer this, but I can take note that for myself I want my declaration of freedom to be one of freedom from the sin that had for so long enslaved me.  Furthermore, I want my footing to be solid as opposed to wavering and allowing a return of slavery and bondage.  The Messiah’s sacrifice has freed me once and for all, but unless I stand firm I am subject to return.

But let us go one step further.  Looking again at Galatians 5:1, and our stance against the enemy, once we have been set free from the slavery we were in, we are urged not to return.  Now I want to continue this thought with a look at the strong man as named by Jesus in Matthew 12:29.  To understand this teaching of Jesus, let us begin in Matthew 12:22.  It is in this portion of scripture that people brought to Jesus a man controlled by demons who was blind and mute.  The Bible records that Jesus healed him and the man was able to both see and speak.  While some onlookers were amazed and asked, “Could this be the Son of God?,” others said, “This man only drives out demons because he is the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub.”  To these ideas Jesus responded, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself, and every house divided against itself will be ruined.  Furthermore, if I drive out demons in the name of Beelzebub, whose name do you drive them out in?  But if I drive them out by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  ‘Or again, how can someone break into a strong man’s house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? After that he can ransack his house.’”

In looking at this passage I believe we see a few key points.  First, in this passage Jesus is explaining that in order to overturn the works and activity of the enemy, we must bind him.  We must go into battle with the name, the blood, and in the power of Jesus and His Word, and neutralize the enemy’s works, dealing directly with the source and binding up the foe so that his hands are rendered useless. It is only in doing this that we will be able to take back what was stolen and halt further negative actions.  Second, we must realize the power of the enemy.  I say this not as a factor to cause fear, but as a reminder to the weapons of warfare we have been given in Ephesians 6.  This enemy inflicting God’s people is strong, and he is titled the “strong man”, but we must not forget that our God is stronger and our God has given us the shoes, the belt, the breastplate, the helmet, the sword, the shield, and the spear with which to battle against him.  And third, I believe it is important to point out that a ‘stronghold’ is not only defined as demon possession, but as any strong influence or grip on a person.  In our passage the man was titled as a “demon possessed man who was blind and mute.”  The blindness and muteness of the man was his stronghold.  Other strongholds could be addictions, oppression, obsessions, or hindrances and these too must be bound up.

There is still one more factor I want us to look at in relation to our freedom from strongholds, but before we go on, I set before you a challenge.  We have looked ever so briefly at the stance we are to make after freedom, and we have looked at Jesus’ words concerning binding the strong man.  So my challenge to you is to consider what strong man is inflicting damage on you.  What addition, oppression, obsession, hindrance, ailment, or harassment is keeping you enslaved?  That is your stronghold, and that needs to be bound.  Do not let it continue to keep you as the slave or victim.  In the mighty name of Jesus, and in whose blood you have been washed, bind the enemy!  It is for freedom that Christ has come to set you free.

To wrap up this detail of the strongman and our stance against him, I feel we need also to consider the words of Matthew 12:43-44.  It is in this section of scripture that Jesus notes a very valid point in relation to spiritual warfare.  “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.”  Quickly defined, once a spirit is cast from a person, the spirit begins to find a new place or person to inhabit.  If it cannot find one, it decides to return to its previous victim only to find the place swept clean.  The spirit then makes a decision to go and retrieve seven spirits more wicked than itself and bring the whole gang to live in this victim.  In the end, the condition of the man is worse than when he started.  It sounds hopeless, yes?  It sounds as though we will never know freedom.  But wait, it gets better and there is hope.  I pray I do well to explain this to you as I have been learning this myself.

It is no secret to any of you who follow my writings that for many years I was bound in my own personal addictions.  I too was bound by a stronghold.  Many times, starting at the age of twelve, I would go up for prayer to be delivered from this strong man’s grip.  Yet it seemed that with each prayer the deliverance only lasted three days at most.  It wasn’t that the prayers weren’t working, but rather that I was the problem.  In some instances I did not really want it to go while in other instances I didn’t have the strength to say no to its temptations.  What I realize now is that God did bring deliverance with each prayer, but I was subject to the warning Jesus gave concerning the return of the spirit and his friends.  This in part had to do with my stance, but also in the term “swept clean”.

First allow me to point out that a spirit cannot enter a person’s body without legal right.  A spirit gains legal right based on the doors we open.  Obvious doors are occult activity, witchcraft, and the like, but doors can also be opened because of thievery, pornography, anger, lies, and the like.  Any action that is disobedient to the Word of God becomes an open door that the enemy can come in through.  In opening the door even a crack we allow the access of the enemy.  If the enemy is not cast out, as it will not voluntarily give up its position, it will stay for the long haul.  However, when the enemy is cast out, the once victim now free man has a clean house.

It is important to point out next that this spirit will return as Jesus said.  The spirit remembers its past home and decides to return.  But what will it see?  If the spirit finds the home empty, then he apparently has the legal right to return back to that person.  Now I know what you are thinking because for so long this was my thought also.  Isn’t empty good?  Yes and no.  Empty in the sense of no evil spirits, yes.  Empty in the sense of not embracing of the Spirit of God also, no.  If the evil spirit sees it was kicked out but that the place has not been re-inhabited with the Spirit of God, then he will work hard to return.  This then shows us the importance of filling the empty places of our life with God’s Spirit, knowledge, presence, and grace, allowing ourselves to grow and mature in Him.  It is when we fail to do this, and the single enemy spirit returns to see no change, that he calls for his seven buddy spirits which all then take their legal position in the believer, making the end worse than the start.

In many ways it is like a circle.  A person is freed, the strong man bound and defeated.  However, without us taking our stance against the enemy and filling this empty voided area with growth in God, we become subject to another, more forceful attack.  Furthermore, the doors we open, whether on purpose or not, give the enemy legal right to infesting us.  As such, we need to walk carefully.  I will admit that growing up, my parents seemed to have so many rules about what we could and could not do that I felt I was unable to have much fun.  There were rules concerning the music we listened to, shows we watched, and peoples’ houses we went over to.  But now as a parent myself, and as one who is not wanting to let the enemy in, I find myself being the same way with my children.  I do not want to give the enemy grounds to come in.  I was bound for way too many years to let anyone go on without this warning.  So in closing of this topic, I urge you once more to name the stronghold in your life, bind it in Jesus' name, and receive your freedom.  Remember this next portion too, though, that we need to fix our stance and find a growth toward maturity in Christ so that when the spirit returns, and it will return, that it does not find an empty place but rather a place inhabited by God’s Spirit.

Friday, July 13, 2018

WHAT'S YOUR APPLE?

As cunning as the devil is, it is obvious what he desires.  He desires our destruction.  Jesus told us this by exposing the enemy’s plan in John 10:10.  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”  Yet while the end result is known, the way in which he carries out his mission is different for each person.  Whereas for me the apple used was an addiction, for another person it may be money, pride, or idleness.

Look at some of the apples he managed to use throughout the Bible.  In Genesis 3:4-5, we find the enemy in his serpent form tickling the ear of Eve.  “’You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman, ‘For God knows that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”  In this case he used the apple of vanity, and with it came the entrance of sin and physical death.  It is in Judges 16:4, we find the enemy using lust as an apple.  Here, as ever so constantly, Delilah was used to obtain from Samson the secret of his strength.  In the end, Samson would break and be taken as a slave of the Philistines.  And in Acts 5:1-11, the enemy uses greed as the apple.  In this account we find the full promised amount not given, and both Ananias and Sapphira finding physical death as a result.

On and on, example after example, the Bible is full of accounts where the apple caused the doom.  I wonder if that is where the Brothers Grimm took the idea of the apple in their classic tale of Snow White.  All it took was one bite from the poisoned apple and the princess would be done for.  How fitting then, that the devil works to do the same with us.  He presents the apple to us, dangling before us in all its hidden yet wicked glory, and encourages us to take just one bite.

So what is your apple?  What is it that the enemy has as his go to in order to bring your destruction?  I have learned, albeit the hard way, what my apple is.  I have come to realize that as long as I live for Christ the enemy will continue to come after me with his apples in hopes that I will take a bite.  His apple may promise to be fun, to meet our needs, and to satisfy our souls, but in the end it will only lead to a spiritual and perhaps physical death.  So then, it is imperative that we deny his apple and instead eat of the Word of God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

NO HEART, WHOLE HEART, HALF HEART, YOUR HEART

Saul, David, Solomon. These were the first three kings to rule over the nation of Israel in the time when the kingdom was still united. But while their title as king was a commonality, their hearts were very distinct. The Bible points out that one of these men had no heart for God or His ways. It is stated that another of these men had a heart that was fully given over to God. And the last king, as smart as he was, still only managed to give half his heart to God. Let’s attempt to do some heart surgery for a moment.

First to be king over the nation of Israel was King Saul. The Bible records Saul as one without equal, a head taller than the others of his tribe. Under the direction of God, Samuel anointed Saul as king when the people cried out for one as opposed to a judge, despite the warnings that also came. But Saul’s heart was far from God. On two specific events Saul was rebuked by Samuel for his behavior against God’s ways. The first occurrence is in 1 Samuel 13 where we read of a battle between the Philistines and Israel. Saul was in Gilgal waiting on Samuel as instructed. After seven days, Samuel had still not shown up. Saul then decided to take matters into his own hands and complete the burnt and fellowship offerings, a task only done by the priest. As he finished, Samuel came to the meeting place. Samuel was angry with Saul’s actions and spoke to him that his actions were foolish. If Saul had obeyed God, God would have established Saul’s kingdom in history. But instead, God would look for one who would obey with a whole heart.

But God gave Saul a second chance in 1 Samuel 15. We see again, though, that Saul refused to fully obey the command of God. Here Saul marched against the Amalekites. The command was to kill everything, from people to animals. Nothing was to survive. Saul’s army went out and fought, but in the end they held back the Amalekite king and some of the animals. When Samuel arrived on the scene and saw the king and heard the sheep, he questioned why Saul had not obeyed. Saul’s response was to blame the soldiers, but Samuel quickly pointed out Saul’s lack of obedience. As a result, God was now rejecting Saul as king.

Saul continued in the role of king, but God found a man whose heart was completely for Him to take the king’s place. His eyes landed on David. In the very next chapter, 1 Samuel 16, Samuel anointed David as the future king of Israel. It is soon after that David also defeats Goliath, which opens the door of jealousy in Saul over David. Vexed with an evil spirit and suffering from jealousy, Saul begins a bi-polar fit to end David’s life, rule a nation, and conquer his enemies, all with no heart for God.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was made the people’s king with the passing of Saul. One of David’s first acts as king would be to bring the Ark back to Jerusalem, as it had been with the Philistines for some time. As the Ark was coming into the city, David was dancing before the LORD. What embarrassed his wife was not his dancing, but rather what he was dancing in – his underclothes. When she confronted him about his clothing he told her that he was dancing before the LORD, not people, and he would get more undignified than he was if need be. His concern was not of how others viewed him, but rather how God viewed him.

One of the most famous stories concerning David is found in 2 Samuel 11, where David is out walking one evening and lays eyes on Bathsheba. Not only did he see her, but he liked her and ordered her to spend the night. She became pregnant with a child, and David found himself in trouble. Bathsheba was married to another man, Uriah, and David panicked that since Uriah was out serving in his army, the truth would be found out. David decided in the end to have Uriah killed in battle to hide his sin. But his sin wasn’t hidden from God. Instead God exposed it through the prophet Nathan, and Bathsheba lost the child. It was here, where his sin became known, that Psalm 51 was written, a psalm of confession and repentance from a king who still strived to serve God with a whole heart.

David would pass eventually, and the kingdom would be given over to his son, Solomon. Solomon started well, for when given the option from God of what he desired, his response was wisdom. In his early years he served God well, but in time his heart was swayed. Solomon is an example to us all that no man can serve two masters. He could not serve both God and his thirst for women without one or the other being compromised. In the end, Solomon’s choice was women, having 700 wives and 300 concubines. It is for this reason that Solomon is known for having only a half heart towards God.

But this brings us to look at ourselves. How is your heart? I am not asking you how others view your heart, but rather asking you specifically to look at your own heart. Do you have no heart for God? Is God simply pain in your backside, a prelude to a curse word, or a person that you blame when life takes a bad turn? Or is God the only one you desire, the only one you want to please, and the one you give your all too? Perhaps you are on the fence, wanting to give God some of your heart, but not the whole thing. You want to give Him enough to keep you from hell, but not the whole. After all, how will you have any fun if you don’t have some control of your heart, right? Consider this, Jesus gave His WHOLE heart for you, not none and not half. For Saul, David, and Solomon, their choices have been made and their heart conditions told, but what will be said about your heart?

Friday, July 6, 2018

AN INSIDE LOOK

In light of my new book, CRAVING, I wanted to provide a small sample of what you can expect, while still leaving you with a challenge to think on over the weekend.

Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

"Being a bit of a bookworm and also a fan of research, I often find myself digging in Scripture for what the Bible really says. When I read the Bible, I normally read it with the intention of looking up words in the Hebrew or Greek in order to get a solid understanding of that word. With this in mind, I decided to look more in depth at the Hebrew words here in Psalm 34:8, the words ‘taste’ and ‘see’.

Taste – TA’AM – to taste, eat, perceive
See – RA’AH – to see, look at, inspect, consider

In looking at just these first two words it becomes clear that David is encouraging us to both eat of the Lord and inspect the Lord. Why? Because as the phrase continues, he wants us to perceive just how good, how pleasant, how excellent (TOWB in the Hebrew) the Lord really is.

When I decided to go to college I chose a school in Oklahoma. I wasn’t trying to get away from my family who lived 2600 miles away in California, it just so happened that this school was where I felt God calling me to attend. But beings that my family was not abundant in finances, I was not able to inspect and explore the campus in person beforehand. Instead, the knowledge I had of the school was based on what I read in pamphlets, heard from current and past students, and saw on the school’s daily prayer show.

When I finally arrived at the school, there was so much more to be experienced. The buildings were bigger than I had pictured in my mind. The campus itself was bigger. The student life was abundant with clubs and organizations I had not even fathomed. And as I walked the sidewalks between the classes, dorms, cafeteria, chapel, and library, I began to take in for myself the fullness of this place. I began to see then how both my imagination and the reports of others failed in comparison. In this case, what I saw was becoming my knowledge of the school instead of the knowledge of someone else.

I can attest this same concept in some ways to the birth of my children. While my children were both in the womb, I did not know them fully. I knew I was having a child, but with both we did not know the gender till the actual delivery. With both there was that feeling of excitement in the air. But the details were not known. Would the baby be a boy or girl? Would the baby have brown hair, blonde hair, or no hair? Would the child be colic, or would the child be one to rarely fuss? As long as the child was in the womb, these questions could not be answered. I could only wonder. However, once the birth happened I was then able to begin to know the child for myself. And this is what God is wanting of us – to know Him for ourselves.

I am reminded of Moses also. Moses became the channel of communication between God and the people. But this was never supposed to have been. In Exodus 20:18-19 we read, When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ God wanted a relationship with His people, to talk directly with them, but they refused a relationship with Him. Instead, their whole experience in the desert was based on Moses’ relationship with God as opposed to their own personal relationship. While they may have been hungry and thirsty to get out of Egypt, they did not appear to be hungry and thirsty enough to seek God for themselves."

Thank you for allowing me to share this portion with you, but as I said in the beginning, I want to leave you also with a challenge for the weekend. First I would question of you, how hungry and thirsty for God are you? Have you tasted and seen for yourself how good God is? Do you find yourself craving God and all He has? Or are you, like the Hebrews, hungry and thirsty only to leave your situation but not to have a relationship with God? Take some time to think about it this weekend.

If you would like a free ebook copy of CRAVING in exchange for your written review of the book, please email me at: danonthevanguard@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 5, 2018

PRESENT AGAIN

Hello...

It has been a while, I know. You may be wondering where I went and what I have been doing. The answer is a little bit of everything. I have been busy with second jobs, school, writing books, raising kids. Don't worry, I'll will touch a little on it all.

My last post shows February 2016. I had returned from England in January and soon after dove into my schooling so that I could finish my Master's program. I am happy to say that in July of 2017 I finished my Master's degree in Business - Human Dynamics. However, as if school was not taking up enough of my time, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to finish the book I had started in 2009. So in October of 2016 I self-published my baby, ON THE VANGUARD. (If you are looking for a good read that mixes war history, the Bible, and real life together, then I would suggest this book.) It wasn't soon after I completed my Master's, though, and life threw a little curve ball. As such, I had to go out and do the 2nd job thing. Since October 2017 I have worked as a dessert caterer, worked at Fed Ex loading trucks, and begun driving for Lyft. About 4 nights per week I find myself driving for Lyft, and while some may not think this is the job for them, I absolutely LOVE it.

In March 2018 I had this pull to return to school again, in addition to the 2nd job. I am currently working on my PhD in Theology with an expected graduation of Sept 2019. Why go back? Well I feel a pull to open a Bible School. In working with a friend from India, God has spoken to us both to team up together and open Warriors of God Global Bible Institute. It is still in its early stages, but you are free to check it out here and even enroll in the 3 classes we currently have up and running.

Capping off my disappearance, I actually just released my 2nd book, also in June 2018, titled CRAVING. This book is the first in a 6 part series of Bible Studies I felt God orchestrate.

So as you can see, I have been busy, but I have also returned. Writing and teaching remain my passion, so I plan to be around again for a while. This time around, however, I want to engage the audience more, highlight the writings of my friends more, and make new friends also. So I am calling out to all the writers, bloggers, and poets; to all those who have God's word in your heart and a pen in your hand...I would love to read and highlight what God has given you. Please feel free to send me a chapter, book, post, etc and let's help each other out as we move toward the goal of where God is leading.

Friday, February 5, 2016

A RECAP OF ENGLAND

Greetings! So it has been about a month now since I was sitting on the plane bound for the United Kingdom. As I reflected on this thought, I realized that many of you have not heard the stories of all that I saw God do while out there. For this reason I felt that for my entry today I should share. While I understand that to some this may be nothing more than boring chatter, I trust that for others it will be a moment of encouragement as you also begin to feel faith rising in you.

The journey in many ways does not start on January 7, 2016, but rather months before in June, 2015. It was here that I felt myself putting faith into action as I told my contact I would come to his city. I had no idea how it would all happen, how the money would come about, or even what God would have me to share. I only knew I was to go. As the months turned into weeks and days, God gave me ideas for fundraising and quickly brought in beyond that amount needed. But God also began to plant in me His words that I would share with the people. He began to give me an urge to speak boldly in faith, even though I was no one special, and to usher in to this church God's wave of urgency.

The plan was to speak in the church's Bible School on the topic of Spiritual Leadership, but also to share in two evening services and a Sunday service as God was leading. Quite honestly, my first sermon was written in the Dublin airport as I waited on my transfer. But from the moment the pen touched the paper, I felt God stirring my faith with an expectancy. God was about to do something big. He didn't really need me, but was allowing me to be the tool that He would minister through. As the evening service began, God moved on the people and brought an awakening to spirits. (More details on this message can be found in the prior blog).

The next day began with teaching in the Bible School, and ended with a late night at McDonalds. But the events that transpired in between still have me in awe of who God is. When I was about 10 or 11 years old, my local pastor asked me to pray over all the men in the church, laying hands on and staying till I felt a release. I had felt God's power then. But as I shared once more in the evening service now, I felt God's power once again. With a simple message concerning taking God at His word, believing the book of Acts to be true, and testing if in fact God was the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), I invited people to the front for prayer.

As God's tool once more, I felt His Spirit again like I did as that young child. I laid hands on people and God's words came through me. Prophecy was coming forth, people I barely touched were falling out, and healings were being done. When the presence began to subside I was in tears, thankful to have been a tool of God. There was no doubt that God was doing something for these people, but the fact that God was doing something in me was just as important.

The final service was had on that Sunday morning, where again God showed up. It wasn't in the form of healings and such, but in the form of rallying the troops. The message God had put on my heart was Joshua 3:5, to be consecrated. Before the army of God under Joshua's command was able to cross into the Promise Land and take possession of what was theirs, God needed them sanctified. It is no different today. God is moving this year, and He is moving us into what He has for us. But if we are not consecrated, we will not enter. In this grand chapel where His Spirit was moving, God was consecrating His people, and I was a tool used by Him to spur His people.

I came back from England a different man. I came back able to hear His voice in a new way, to move out in a boldness that wasn't fully developed prior, and hungry for what He has. A few days back, as we were having our family Bible time, my wife felt I was to pray over all the kids. It was as if the Spirit was standing next to me. I was seeing visions, hearing words of warning and prophecy, and breaking the grips that the devil wanted on our kids. This time, though, while still allowing myself to be the tool, I knew that God could and was doing it. I knew His power.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven in Acts 1, He spoke about how the Spirit would come upon the disciples in power, enabling them to be His witnesses. Not before this trip have I ever felt this degree of His Spirit and power. But who I am that I should experience it and not you. So it is to you that I want to offer this encouragement - that you too shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you too shall be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Do not discredit yourself, for God has plans to use you in a big way.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

AWAKE!

"Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God."
Revelation 3:2

In the first few days of 2016 I had an opportunity to travel to Wolverhampton, England, where I was asked to teach in a Bible School and preach in evening services for a pastor friend of mine. As I prepared my messages, I specifically heard God telling me that it was time to call the people to AWAKE! God took me to Revelation 3:1-6, where the letter written by John to the church of Sardis is found. As I read this passage again, with eyes as if reading for the first time, I began to see clearly what God was saying to the church I would be sharing with, but also to church as a whole.

It is recorded that in the history of the city of Sardis, the city had been captured twice before while sleeping, both in 549BC and 219BC. Was it coincidence that now, years later, they were being called out for sleeping again? Truth be told, the church at Sardis was going through the motions. From the beginning of John's writing we read that the church had a reputation for being alive, but in reality was dead. The church had at one time had a fire, but now they were on cruise control and simply leaving an image that they were still following hard after God. The truth was that they had allowed too much of the world to come in and now they were living off of the reputation of the good old days. If we were to be honest, how many of us does that define today. How many of us were at one time sold out for God, but along the way began inviting sin in? To the outsiders we may still appear to be godly, but to God we are seen as dead.

To this church, and to people who fall into the same definition today, the answer was given...WAKE UP! I love how in the New International Version there is an exclamation mark. This isn’t a nice suggestion, it is a urgency. WAKE UP! Stop being dead. Stop living off the 'used to be' reputation of the past. WAKE UP! Give what is being said here real attention. God is telling people that He sees what no one else sees. He sees that the church is skating by. He sees the inside areas and they are death. WAKE UP! To this urgent plea God then adds to strengthen what remains and is about to die. It is time to restructure your life before it is too late. It is time to refill what has been lacking. It is time to retake action and be that positive reputation again that you used to be. Shake off the dust that has sat on you and remember what God has given you. Come out from the cloudy fog that rested on you and now begin to obey God's Word, and repent from the allowance of things you have let come into your life. If you chose not to, you will be robbed from. So that this does not happen, God is saying to re-engage in the intimacy you once had with Him.

When are we going to stop hitting the snooze button on our alarm clocks? I am guilty of this. I know my alarm will go off at 5:00am every weekday. I set it at that time so that I can allow myself time for devotions in the morning before the rest of the house is up and moving. But there have been many days when 5:00am comes sooner than I want it to. As a result, I hit the snooze button. then I hit it again, then again, then again. Before I know it, I have hit snooze so many times that now I am late to get in the shower, let alone spend time in devotions. But with every press of the snooze physically I am pushing the snooze spiritually. God is calling me to WAKE UP, and I am choosing to remain under the covers.

One of the greatest pictures God gave me in illustrating this point was that of a defibrillator. Having being trained in using one, I know that you must clear the people away from the action before allowing the machine to charge the patient. But how many of us could use a good dose of Godly defibrillating? Just like the church of Sardis, we are on the verge of death in the path that we are going. Just like the church, we have a reputation of godly living, but we are on the verge of death because of our sins.

If you, like me, are serious about coming back to life, then make this your prayer: God, I pray, place the paddles of Your defibrillator on my heart and AWAKEN me. Bring me back from the death of my sin. God I cry out to You and ask that You would forgive me of my sin. God I make the choice to obey You. I chose to remember what I have received and heard from You. AWAKEN ME God, before it is too late.

STRONGHOLDS and STRONGMEN

My heart is troubled as I consider the sad revelation of so many people who get freed only to return to slavery.  Jesus speaks of this in J...