Gifts of Life Community Fellowship is a place to fellowship with like-minded believers in collective praise, collective thought and collective unity through the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus, the Christ.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Attack-back 7 - Umoja Sermon 3

© 2008 by Deidre Campbell-Jones (AKA ~Min. Dez)

You have been wounded. You have been hurt. There is serious damage to your psyche, your soul, your being, personality and self-esteem. You’ve been so lied to about yourself and who you are, that now, you not only believe the lies, but you perpetuate them. You are hurting and it’s time to find out why.

The enemy has used your family, your friends, educators, lovers, bosses, co-workers, strangers and even yourself to shoot flaming, poisonous arrows at your self-worth, your spirituality and your life. He is out for one thing: to steal, kill and destroy. He will use any means necessary to steal your joy, kill your spirit and destroy any ability you have to live the life you were meant to. He will stop at nothing to steal you away from Christ; physically kill you dead in this separation and destroy any hope you may have of eternal life.

Many of his attempts to do this are benign, innocuous, overlooked and seemingly harmless – until we begin to turn our face toward God. As we become closer to the creator and the source of all life and hope, the enemy will up his efforts to end your life and make you feel hopeless. Then as you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, realizing that there is no God but the one, true living God and that He was born of flesh, lived an example for us all as Jesus Christ, bled and died on the cross as the one pure sacrifice for our sins and then rose again so that we might have eternal life through Him – the enemy will balk and try to buck you off your spiritual high-horse with renewed effort, interest and vigor.

It is in this stage we find ourselves confused by the “new” God we serve. You see before coming to Christ – we all serve the enemy. He is a god we know and understand and are comfortable with. Then once we turn to Christ and our old god turns on us, we tend to blame the one true God for the new source of pain and trials in our life. Some even turn away from the Lord, convinced that all of their grief started once coming to Christ.

This is exactly what the enemy wants. He wants to lure you back into that easy way of life when he had you in his control and didn’t have to think about you. He didn’t have to cause damage to your life because your life was already lost and separated from God.

But the enemy is not that slick. “Greater is He who lives in me than he who lives in the world.” God is above whatever the enemy can throw at you. “You can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you!” And no matter whether you are a new babe in Christ; just born again and still drinking spiritual formula or whether you have been weathered and aged in the scriptures, eating the toughest meat of His word – the enemy can launch a new attack (or revive an old one), and unless you know how he works you’ll be caught unaware, with no spiritual leg to stand on.

There are seven stages to this attack and your attack-back if you have enough fortitude to be aware of them:
1) Deny
2) Full-frontal blast, heavy damage sustained
3) Duck & cover
4) Stand and withstand more damage
5) Repel
6) Hit & miss
7) Charge and attack-back

1) Deny
The analogy: Until you get hit with the heaviest ammunition you can stand, you’ll deny you’re under attack. You’ll be seemingly oblivious to the fiery darts of the enemy’s lies whizzing past you. You may sustain surface burns and grazes but no serious damage until you feel the sting of shrapnel in a sensitive area. You may even undergo repeated hits to the same unhealed wound before you realize you’re under attack. But even then the damage may be so slight you will more than likely deny the true source of the attack. It is common that you may make up excuses or justifications for the damage done. You may even try to bandage up the wounds but in most cases, people just say “it’s nothing, it will heal by itself,” and leave the wounds open, exposed and prone to infection.

The reality: You may have been told you are worthless, stupid or ugly. It may seem as if everyone you come in contact with treats you as if you are incapable, ignorant and insignificant. Someone breaks up with you with a sneer of contempt; you are passed over for a deserved promotion, raise or job and your worthiness is never even considered. Friends forget your birthday, family members patronize you and strangers seem to take advantage of you. You’ll start to make a change in your life, start to accomplish something for yourself, start to act better, be better or even understand the Lord better and those closest to you will shoot you down. They think they know you or remind you of who you used to be. They’ll say you can’t start that business, can’t go back to school, can’t do that job, can’t be that person or can’t serve the Lord because of what you’ve done, what you do, who you were or who you are.

The Truth: These are the enemy’s fiery darts of lies and you are in denial as to the truth of their damage!

2) Full-frontal blast; heavy damage sustained
The analogy: Suddenly you notice after being hit once too often in the same wounded area that there is a tiny little dart impaled in an open, gaping wound of our soul. You pluck that arrow out and look for the source of the damage – you look to family, friends, coworkers, bosses, strangers and whoever else only to recognize soldiers in the army of your pain. But when you get too close to the general you find yourself staring back into the muzzle of an AK-47. You turn to run but it’s too late, you are hit square in the back and nearly too wounded to stand and run again before you are unbelievable hit again! The enemy is relentless!

The reality: You have made up your mind that you are not worthless, you are not hopeless and you do not have to live the lies all your life. You boldly confront your family, friends, coworkers, boss and even strangers with your new truth. Yes, you can start a business you tell the loan officer at the bank; yes you can go back to school you tell your friends; yes you can do the job you tell your boss, yes you can serve the Lord you tell your family. And when they jeer, sneer and snort with derision and contempt; when they dismiss you, dis you and miss you for that raise and promotion you dig in your heels, and make up your mind to take that next step and instead… your identity is stolen and your credit is shot, your student loan is denied and your transcripts are lost or worse you fail a class; you don’t get promoted you get laid off; and your ex shows up with the temptations of life and you find yourself wavering and easily slipping back into the old habits and ways.

The Truth: Life is no accident! Those struggles and pains are not proof of what you can’t do; they are proof that the enemy wants to keep you from accomplishing what God really has for you!

3) Duck & cover
The analogy: You run from the attack and duck behind the nearest cover of safety. All you need is time to recuperate from your wounds and reassess the situation. You realize you need a new battle plan and yet, you even contemplate retreat. This battle is more than you can handle – perhaps you are outnumbered and out gunned? Perhaps you are not equipped to even fight, let alone win. You are about ready to raise up the white flag and give up the fight for good.

The reality: Retreat is exactly what you do. You stop trying. You stop talking to family and friends and probably even stop talking to God. You keep your head low at work (if you still have a job) and just “Yes, Ma’am” your way through to a peaceable day. You do just what you need to do to stay under the radar and avoid detection. All the while you are confused and on the verge of tears. Life seems hopeless. You consider maybe those lies are true. You become depressed by the possibility that they really are true. You’ve given up the fight, you’ve given up hope and very nearly you wish that some how you could give up on life as well.

The Truth: Remember I said the enemy wants to kill, steal and destroy you? Depression and thoughts of “disappearing” or worse – even suicide are the enemy’s fatal attempts to succeed. If he can separate you from God, separate you in the midst of your sins and then kill you dead in your grave – he has won, and that is his only goal. He will not stop until he can accomplish that – but he can’t do it unless YOU let him! Give into depression and you are giving him permission to take your life!

4) Stand and withstand more damage
The analogy: And so somehow you get a glimmer of hope – your life is not over yet, there is something left to live for and you are better than that. You stand, ready to jump back into the fight, but still you are out numbered and out gunned. But this time you look the rifle down the barrel and you take the hit. Low and behold, you didn’t die! And so you take another hit. The hits keep coming and yeah, they hurt, yeah, you even think you will die – but amazingly you do not, no matter how much the bullets keep flying. You continue to stand and take it.

The reality: You can call it rebellion or grace or maybe just an encouraging word from a loving friend, a Sunday sermon or an angel of mercy. Slowly but surely you’ve decided you will not let the enemy have his way… your family can believe what they want to about you, your boss can promote that person with less experience than you – he’ll see the truth soon enough. Your friends can betray you – it’s their loss and that boyfriend, well you don’t need him “no how.” And yet they keep talking about you, crap still happens to you, the fiery lies of the enemy are still being hurled at you… but low and behold, you really aren’t dead yet! Yeah, it hurts, yeah it’s wrong, but even you are amazed you are still standing and withstanding all that mess!

The Truth: You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! God does not want to see you fail or falter! And just like the poem, “Footsteps” God is carrying you through even when it doesn’t feel like it or seem like it.

5) Repel
The analogy: You are buoyed and encouraged by the renewed strength but when you get tired of being hit you reach out and realize like an old Kung Fu movie you have snatched one of the enemy’s arrows out of the air before it hit its intended target. And you look at it with bewildered amazement. Try it again you tell yourself. And sure enough, you catch another one. Then you bat one away, then you knock one down. Those fiery darts can’t land any more! Each time one misses its mark you are encouraged all the more! Your back is straighter, your shoulders are squarer, and you are empowered!

The reality: One day you are tired of your mother’s criticism and before you’ve even thought about a response you find yourself telling her for the first time, no - she’s wrong, you have changed and will continue to change for the better, even if she can’t see it. What? Where did that come from? You find yourself standing up to your boss, and meaning it. You find yourself defending those unwarranted overdraft charges at the bank and they remove them, depositing back your money. Some how life is turning around and you feel stronger, invigorated, and hopeful and yes, empowered to be the person you know you can!

The Truth: Truth is sinking in. You are beginning to see yourself through God’s eyes! And what God sees in all of us is a capable, beautiful, wonderful creation! His creation, created in His own image! Now you are realizing you have to defend that image, protect it and nurture it!

6) Hit & miss
The analogy: You are so encouraged by the deflection of the enemy’s attacks that you delve into the armory, pick out your own weaponry and attempt to launch a defensive strike. The attacks keep coming and you fire back. You keep firing but your shots don’t land. You consider whether or not you were really meant to be on the front lines. It’s too late for target practice – it’s either hit or miss and it seems all you can do is deflect the enemy’s hits and miss your own.

The reality: You’ve made up your mind! You’ve gone to God’s word, you’ve read Psalms 139 and you believe God’s promises for you. You know God loves you because He’s brought you this far. He’s kept you even in the midst of trials and tribulations and you know He will never leave you or forsake you. You take the knowledge of that truth and you hurl it at your attackers who laugh in your face. You are determined to show them that God does have a purpose for you, but even you begin to wonder. The more they laugh the more you consider what if they are still right even after all this.

The Truth: You know God loves you and has a purpose for you, but your flesh still tries to tell you otherwise. You’ve seen proof of God’s love but the truth is you still haven’t seen enough proof of the truth you feel for your own life. You are really beginning to wonder if you can walk by faith and not by sight because what you see still ain’t right!

7) Charge and attack-back
The analogy: Hold up, wait a minute! You realize you have been a foot soldier trying to defeat the general! You realize you need a General of your own and you go to the Master for the master plan! He gives you whole armor of God; He gives you weapons of mass destruction and He gives you the keys to the Kingdom! This battle is not yours to fight it’s His and His alone! And with His covenant you can send the Lord into battle for you! That’s your armor, and that’s your best weapon! God’s got your back and He charges into the fray ahead of you! The battle is still vicious but the taste of victory is already sweet!

The reality: Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world! You realize there is nothing any man (or woman) can say or do to you to change the fact that God loves you, God wants you to succeed and God’s got it all under control! You cast ALL your cares on Him and find out; God is faithful to keep His promises! The devourer is defeated before you. Your enemies don’t have a leg to stand on. The attacks keep coming but you see them for what they are now: weak and ineffectual. The enemy is using the sins and weaknesses of others to play upon your own sins and weaknesses. You pray for those who come against you and watch as roaring lions become like mewling kittens, and their jagged claws become meaningless scratches.

The Truth: God has not given the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind! What is there to fear but fear itself and God said fear not. When you see God in the midst of all you do, when you ask God into the midst of all you do, there you will find the God in you! And through God, there is nothing you can’t do!

Graspers! Umoja/Sermon 2

© 2008 by Deidre Campbell-Jones (AKA ~Min. Dez)

I've realized that I've spent most of my adult life grasping at life. And, like a kid in a bet, grasping at straws, I keep pulling out the short end of the stick.

Then it dawned on me that there are probably a lot of us "graspers" out there. Some grasp at love, or acceptance or security; notoriety or career. Yet others may be like me - grasping at several aspects of life aspects all at once - because for me career and acceptance seem to be inseparable.

There are even those who grasp at religion or grasp at faith like life-vests thrown from several different ships - not knowing which one came from the ship that will take them home. The Bible calls these individuals "searchers" and some of these searchers believe in an "unknown God." You know them as well as you may know yourself. A searcher is reluctant, almost adamant about not being an atheist, but is comfortably agnostic with phrases like "I'm very spiritual".

A spiritual searcher is touched by the spirit of God, the force of a "higher power"; angels as protectors, and mystical forces that compel the "universe" is if it were a sentient being. You can recognize these searchers through comments like, “angels are watching over me” and “I’m not going to put that out into the universe.” Both comments have nothing to do with Christ and are misleading as to the true spiritual nature of the speaker.

You can also recognize a “Life Searcher” because we tend to wander aimlessly from job to job, career to career and seem flaky, unfocussed, indecisive and almost incapable of managing our own lives. Some may actually be recognized as brilliant, talented, capable or smart - but their lack of any substantial life roots may negate what they are truly able to accomplish.

Put them both together and you've got a "grasper" of exponential proportions - an individual who is lost, lonely and confused in their own skin. This is an extreme case for sure, but all of us at one time or another has lived within some area of our lives on a “grasping” scale from mildly hanging on to scratching and clawing.

And no matter what range you or I fall within, there is just one rope to hold on to.

Many of us are lost when it comes to true biblical spirituality because we cannot grasp the fact that God loves us. We cannot grasp that fact that a loving God would “let” so many terrible things happen. We have difficulty grasping the Word of God. We have difficulty relating to such spiritual mumbo-jumbo as a God who became a man by being born of a virgin, dying on a cross and then being raised from the dead. We have a hard time grasping that this person would forgive us – or even that we need forgiveness in the first place – after all, we’re good people, we try to be kind to others and do what’s right – how could a loving God send a person like that to hell? And speaking of hell – that’s another subject we have a problem trying to grasp.

Setting all that aside, however, and no matter what we do or do not believe, I believe the biggest challenge for everyone is grasping the fact that God does have a purpose for lives – that there is a higher purpose for each and every one of us.

So grasp onto this: God is a loving God and God loves YOU! How do I know He loves you, even though I don’t know you? Because God loves me and you don’t know the kind of life I’ve lived or what I’ve done either.

Grasp onto this: God gave all mankind free will. We have the freedom of choice when it comes to loving Him, choosing Him and believing in Him. And God does not take away the choice of anyone to choose sin. Sin and the destruction of this world are not because of God they are because of the sin of mankind – a mankind that chooses not to accept God. You see, the definition of “sin” is separation from God.

Now grasp onto this: A loving God does not "let" such terrible things happen - mankind does. It started from the dawn of mankind in the Garden of Eden – man chose sin over God, evil over good, death over life. It was like the opening of “Pandora’s Box”. We chose to open it and closing it now is too late – sin and evil have been released into the world. So what’s the alternative? God can help us navigate the mess of this world. God still loves us enough to help us through the sin of our lives, the sins in our lives and the mess we’ve created of his beautiful creations.

Oh yeah, grasp onto this too: God created us and loves us. He made you the way you are for a reason! He did not create you as a sinner; you were born into sin, born of flesh – a flesh corrupted by sin. But God is a deliverer and a restorer! He wants to restore you back to His original grace! He will deliver you from your sins no matter how terrible you think they are and he will restore you back to the beautiful creation you ARE. You see, God sees you as beautiful and wonderful! Why? Because He’s already forgiven you! Psalms 139 says we are fearfully and wondrously made! God doesn’t make mistakes, people do! You are not a mistake!

And there’s one other thing I want you to grasp onto: Psalms 139 also says that God has a purpose for you! He has a plan for your life – and trust me, it is wonderful! Beyond what you can imagine! How do I know? Because God had a plan for my pitiful, jacked-up life that I had messed all up and let others mess up for me, and once I discovered that plan I realized it was more wonderful and more phenomenal than anything I could have imagined for myself!

But first I had to learn to see myself through God’s eyes. Then I had to believe in what I saw through God’s eyes. You see, it’s been too many years I believed the enemy’s lies about me. You know those lies – you believe them about yourself too. You’ve heard them through family, through friends, through lovers and spouses. You’ve heard them through bosses, through potential bosses and employees that wanted to be bosses. You’ve heard the lies all your life and now you tell them to yourself – just like I did. You’ve believed the lies for so long that it’s hard to even recognize the truth and the truth becomes a lie to you. That’s how the enemy wants it – to keep you separated from God, separated in your sins and as good as dead.

But if you can grasp onto nothing else, then grasp onto this – you are not the sum of all your parts. You were created in the image of God. And that image has been covered, masked, concealed, warped and twisted into an unrecognizable shape by pain, heartache, sickness, struggle, evil and the stench of death from the pit of hell. For most of us our lives have been a living hell at one point or another and we can’t even imagine there is a heaven here on Earth – a heaven that is meant for us to live. Abundant life – isn’t that the after life?

No, the promise of abundant life was meant for you and me, right here and right now. Come to the Father – whether you recognize Him or not. He recognizes you! Grasp on to Him as tight as you can! You’ve got to hold on tight because the enemy will try to strip you away with those same old lies you are comfortable hearing. Just hold on to the Father and let him strip away the pain, the heartache, the sickness, the struggle, the evil and especially the stench of death from the pit of hell! Let God replace that stench with the sweet savor of life!

Let God help you see your own life as a sweet incense unto Him – Grasp onto God and let Him wipe the fog from your eyes so you can see truth, hear truth and even taste the truth! Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Continue to be a grasper and grasp onto God!