Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Week Forty-Nine - Where Do You Run?

Dottie Rambo wrote,

Where do I go when there's nobody else to turn to?Who do I talk to when no one wants to listen?Who do I lean on when there's no foundation stable?
I go to the RockI know He's ableI go to the Rock
I go to the Rock of my salvationGo to the stone the builders rejectedRun to the Mountain, and the Mountain stands by me
When the earth all around me is sinking sandOn Christ, the solid Rock I standWhen I need a shelter, when I need a friend
I go to the Rock.

My video blog on YouTube this coming Friday is about our reaction to bad news. I hope you'll take time to listen. But I wanted to use our time today to put a bit more of a preface to Friday because bad news has been something in the forefront, hasn't it? 

I began thinking about where we run when we hear bad news or when bad things happen. Let me assure you that no amount of positive or wishful thinking can change the world. No amount of hiding makes it go away, either. The world is what it is, but we are still called to be His light. But sometimes, we, too, need a place to hide, a place of shelter and security, a place to work from or run to that gives us hope.

God's Word is that place, both a place to live from and a place to run to. This thought brought me much meditation. If I am living from God's Word, then I have a solid place to stand. My thoughts and actions will be based on His directives, and I will avoid fear and confusion. I'll be like the man who built his house upon a Rock; when the storms blow and all around me rages, my life will not collapse.

I remembered verses about the solidness of God's Word; it is our final judge and will be fulfilled to the utmost.

Proverbs 19:21 reads, "The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand." Proverbs 21:30 says, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." God's Word is solid, trustworthy, and consistent.

Ephesians 1:11 tells us God will accomplish all He has planned. "According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  All things! God is fully in control.

My part is to allow His Word to be the light unto my path, to fill my thoughts, and to work within me. It gives me a place to stand.

God's Word is also where I run when things get difficult or fearful. It is my refuge, comfort, and counselor.

As I mused about this, I again began remembering Scripture where the psalmist spoke of God's Word as a refuge, a safe place, a shield, and a buckler. 

Psalm 3:3, 5 reads, But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. . . I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me."

And I love Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe."

So, God's Word is a place to run. 

So here's where I settled. If I want to be effective for Christ and not be blown around by all the bad news, then I must be persuaded that His Word is truth, truth that sets me free. But also, His Word must remain my refuge when bad news comes, and life grows fearful or more challenging. I go there, and He meets me with words of love. Ultimately, I live in and retreat to God's Word in every situation. I go to the Rock! Do you?

Here is the link for this week's video if you'd like an early viewing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Week Forty-Eight - Twelve Thanksgiving Hacks

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have a lovely time with your family and your heart brims with thankfulness. I will be spending time in the home of one of my sons. It's the first time in years I have been stateside for Thanksgiving, and I'm looking forward to it!

Today, I want to share a post by Shane Bishop that encouraged me to refocus on the holiday, made me giggle, and created even more thankfulness in my heart. I hope some of his ideas also put a spark back in your celebration.

He writes, "There is a lot to like about Thanksgiving. I love the fact we don't buy each other gifts. You don't have to draw names in advance. You don't have to get a loan to celebrate Thanksgiving. You buy some food, make it, eat it, and clean it up. Simple. Come to think of it, this year you may have to get a loan to buy food. Gas to go to Grandma's? Another loan, but I digress.

I love the fact that we have one standardized Thanksgiving narrative (regardless of historical accuracy) and we stick to it. I am glad we don't have fictional stories on Thanksgiving. No one wants to hear about the Thanksgiving Puritan riding in a magical Buggy pulled by anti-biotic and steroid-free turkeys who travel all over the world on Thanksgiving Eve delivering unusually appreciative children cans of canned, gelatinous cranberry sauce and tossing in corporately sponsored can openers.

Thanksgiving is about turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, your Nana's special dish, and desserts made of pumpkins, cherries, and pecans. It is about family, friends, and football but most of all it is about taking time to remember. Thanksgiving is where we have conversations with people long since gone who sit in empty chairs in the houses of our childhoods. We smile at them and they smile back. We used to sing a song at church called, "Count Your Blessings," and for me, Thanksgiving is a time to do just that. "Count your blessings, name them one by one."

With Halloween out of the way and November upon us, it is time to lock into Thanksgiving. Here are twelve hacks that I humbly offer to you and yours:

1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. Set a timer. No one leaves. No one. "Are you done eating? Who cares? Sit down," and not a bit of dessert or a sip of coffee for forty-five minutes.

2) No phones at the table. None. If you look at your phone, it goes in the turkey carcass with the stuffing until supper. If your phone rings, you are doing dishes. No exceptions. Late violations can carry over to the next year.

3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. Have the patriarch or matriarch do it. Kids are cute. Let old people say grace. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.

4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out the names of deceased loved ones. Remember their lives, place in your family and their sacrifice.

5) Tell your favorite Thanksgiving stories. The year of the huge Thanksgiving blizzard. The year when it was like summer outside and everyone went on a walk. The big family football game of 1972. The sweet potato casserole debacle of 2001. When the dog ate the turkey. Get out the old photos. The kind you don't have on your phone.

6) Laugh. A lot. Tell your funniest family stories. Make them better than last year.

7) Count your blessings. Slow it down. Focus on what you have in front of you instead of what or who is missing. Have people share one thing for which they are thankful right before dessert.

8) Tell the people around your table just how much you love them and why they are special to you. There are no guarantees they will be here next Thanksgiving. Or you either, for that matter.

9) Help clean up and stick around. Clear the table. Watch some football. Remember great Thanksgiving football games past! Google Clint Longley. Take a nap. Go on a walk. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee.

10) Give thanks. Find a moment to get away, drop to your knees, and personally tell God thank you.

11) Don't talk politics. If anyone does, construct them a home-made political button denoting the opposite party and touting the name of their least favorite president of all time. Make them wear it all day. No button, no pie.

12) Make the best of things. Things will never be "perfect." Take what you have and make the best of it. No matter how things go, at least you are not a turkey.

Why do I write? Because you wouldn't want to eat the turkey and dressing, gobble up the pie, and miss the point."

To add to his hacks, I thought of a few other things that could be part of our Thanksgiving celebration.

1 - After the meal, stop again, hold hands, and pray for your family. Maybe ask the Lord to watch over each one and bring you back safely again next year. Praise Him for the beauty and wonder of family and ask the Lord's blessing on each one, including those away from the table.

2 - Before the dessert is served, join hands and sing a song of thanksgiving. The Doxology, Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart, or Thank You Lord for Saving My Soul, came to my mind. But maybe you have a family favorite.

3 - Recite the Lord's prayer together. Or even use this little verse below to express the reason for the season.

Whatever your time looks like, I hope you don't miss the point of Thanksgiving - "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Be sure to catch my video blog on Friday - Gobble, Gobble, Gobble - as we prepare our hearts for the final celebration of 2023.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Week Forty-Seven - Rich Beyond Measure

We spent this past week with my husband's family enjoying five full days of a family reunion in Oklahoma. We are so blessed to have a large extended family and my children are blessed by the heritage of Christian grandparents on both sides along with loving aunts and uncles. As I stop to count the blessings, these rank high on my list: a heritage of faith, a family of love, and a dearness that binds us together. Our week felt like a little glimpse of the heavenly reunion yet to come.

Watching generations mingle, share stories, and enjoy laughter reminded me of the benefit of the Lord that maketh rich. We are rich; rich in love, rich in joy, and rich in fellowship What a blessing. I pray that this richness will continue into the next generation and that they, too, will come to understand the beauty and blessing of what they have been given through their family and through Christ.

I know not everyone enjoys these blessings and that some families are splintered. That saddens me, and my heart goes out to them. If you are in one of these families, I pray that you would be the avenue of change, that you would covet with God in your heart and life to be the peacemaker, to be the one that creates a new path for your arm of the family and thereby become a blessing to your future generations.

While we were there, I was trying to explain the law of sowing and reaping to my nine-year-old granddaughter. We were talking about the benefit of using good words and having a good attitude. She caught the idea, I think! I truly believe this law also applies to our family dynamics. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). So be that man, that person, implement the law of sowing and reaping in all your decisions and interactions. Choose good words and have healthy attitudes that create happiness and security amid your family. And also practice the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Matthew 7:12). See if God doesn't bless your family with a precious richness. 

Earthy reunions are extraordinary times, but even more incredible; how thankful can we be that God will one day call us home to the marriage supper of the Lamb and a glorious reunion with our fellow saints of God. Are you ready?

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Week Forty-Six - Sap-full

Every year, nature creates a glorious spectacle of autumnal beauty in shades of yellow, red, and orange. Watching the change of seasons reminds us of the life cycle of nature. Comparatively, my devotion today challenged me to think about the beauty of the processes of the Christian life. 

Spurgeon wrote about sap moving up and down a tree, providing life and energy for foliage and fruit. Then, he made the analogy of the Holy Spirit being like sap in the Christian's life. The Holy Spirit moves within the Christian, prompting him to action, bringing Scripture to remembrance, convicting of sin, and bringing rejoicing to the heart. This is the same Spirit Jesus described to Zacchaeus as the wind blowing where it listeth (John 3:8). We cannot see where it comes from or where it goes, but we see the evidence of its effect. The sap of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Christian is similar. It is a beautiful thing to yield and obey its divine prompting. And when we do, our lives produce rich foliage and pleasant fruit.

Spurgeon wrote, "As the sap manifests itself in producing the foliage and fruit of the tree, so with a truly healthy Christian, his grace is externally manifested in his walk and conversation. If you talk with him, he cannot help speaking about Jesus. If you notice his actions you will see that he has been with Jesus. He has so much sap within, that it must fill his conduct and conversation with life."

So let this be our challenge today: May the sap of the Holy Spirit be so allowed to flow in our lives that it becomes evident in the color of our walk and talk. May we be fruitful and sap-full servants of God in every season of life.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Week Forty-Five - What You Need to Know

I enjoy listening to intelligent people talk. Their handle on reason and depth of knowledge impresses me. My little mind wanders along with them as I try to capture their ideas. 

The Bible is full of intelligent people, and we will consider a couple of them today, but I want to remind you of two things you need to know. Wisdom comes from God. It isn't produced by intelligence; it is the submissive understanding that God is the source of all truth. And, according to Proverbs 21:30, "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord." For all our smarts, we will never outsmart God. 

There is a beauty in knowledge that affords us a great wealth of intellect and faith. In Psalm 119, David said that because He meditated on God's Word, he had "more understanding than all his teachers." That's an awfully bold statement, wouldn't you say? God's wisdom plunges deep into the how and why of life, giving this psalmist insight beyond his years.

Daniel was also wise. His wisdom and discernment came directly from spending time with God in prayer. He understood the value and beauty of wisdom when he said, "The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32). This knowledge of God strengthened his faith as he faced Persian captivity and the lion's den.

Let's think of some other things we need to know about Christian knowledge. We have the Spirit of God that leads us into all truth. This knowledge strengthens our love for God and each other. It opens the door to a greater understanding of God and reveals Christ in various facets. 

Ephesians 3:19 reads, "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." That is an amazing statement. Take a few moments to meditate on that. Christ's love for us surpasses our understanding, yet it fills us with all the fullness of God. We can't figure it out, but it fills us anyway. Amazing!

Knowledge also strengthens our hope. It removes distracting objects and teaches us patience. Knowledge is a vast treasure we should continually seek. 2 Peter 3:18 instructs us, "But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." Grow not only in spiritual grace but, more importantly, in the knowledge of Christ.

Let me encourage you today to seek God's wisdom, to rest in Him, and to know the peace of God that passes understanding.

Proverbs 2:1-12 gives us more things we need to know about God's wisdom. I've copied in this passage below. As you read, look for the benefits and descriptions of wisdom. Then ask yourself, "Am I diligently searching for God's wisdom or settling for my own? Am I experiencing the things promised by finding God's wisdom, or am I struggling due to my own rebellion? What would it look like to change my direction, and what blessings might come my way?"

"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things."

Do you know this level of wisdom? You can, and you need to.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Week Forty-Four - It's Too Scary

There was a time when reading the book of Revelation or hearing teaching on the End Times filled me with fear. It all seemed too scary. I’d been taught we could not understand Revelation and there was no sense trying to take it literally, but through the years, my fear has been replaced with joyful anticipation every time I read that final book of the Bible.

Not that I don't shutter at the impending wrath of God upon the unbelieving world, but my focus has shifted to the glory of Heaven, the worthiness of the Lamb, and the rejoicing of the saints. I now look forward to the rapture and the wedding supper in Heaven because I am ready.

If you’ve ever read or watched movies about the coming judgment and things that take place it might feel like something from a horror movie, but for the child of God, it is the fulfilling of God's promise for justice, restoration of divine order, and eternal peace.

Watching the news reminds us that we are being ushered us closer and closer to the final hour. Time grows short on this earth, and God's Word is succinct; what He has designed will be fully completed.

If you are a believer, don't shy away from God's revelation of things to come. All of these things are the product of His perfect will and justice on the unbelieving world, the world that rejects Christ. For you, there is no impending judgment. Your sins are forgiven. Your name is in the Book of Life, and you can rest safely in His provision. 

However, it should be very scary if you do not have assurance of your salvation. There is impending war, starvation, earthquakes, and all manner of upheaval as this old earth moves to its demise. Then, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yet, though they kneel, they will not enter Heaven because they rejected Him while on earth. Don't be among that number.

Today, even as you read this blog, God is warning you and pointing you to a way of escape. Kneel your heart to Christ as King and Redeemer today. The alternative is too scary to imagine.

If you have never heard of God's plan to save you from the wrath to come, please copy and paste this link into your browser and read more. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Week Forty-Three - Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Because I prefer things to flow and go smoothly, I often grow impatient with waiting. How about you? I have found obstacles that make waiting a trial of faith and patience, obstacles like sloppy accounting, lost data, and government decisions. They grind on my nerves. 

Waiting is one of those qualities a Christian only learns with years of experience. And even then, most of us still have a distaste for waiting. 

Spurgeon took up this topic, saying, "Marching and quick-marching are much easier for God's soldiers than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, doesn't know what part to take. Then what shall it do? Vex itself by despair? Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No, but simply wait."

Just wait. Those two words leave us in complete wonderment. Sometimes, we don't know why or what we are waiting for. We are simply left with the instruction - wait. So, what is the best posture for these times? As Spurgeon said, we are tempted to vex ourselves, push forward, or run the other way, but that is not Christian faith. He goes on to give us some wonderful instructions.

Wait in prayer. Lay your situation before HIm. Tell Him your difficulty and plead His promise of aid. 

Wait in simplicity of soul. Be sweet and humble like a child. The Father has promised to answer, so wait.

Wait in faith. Lay yourself before Him for His guidance and express your unstaggering confidence in His Word and faithfulness.

Wait in quiet patience. Don't rebel, murmur, or fight against God. Accept the situation as it stands and "simply, with your whole heart, without any self-will," commit your situation to God and wait for Him to work.

That's not always so easy to do, is it? 

Here's what I've learned about waiting. It can be a wonderful place. While waiting, you do other things and serve in different ways. You rest and watch God at work around you. You pray with greater anticipation. You know you are in God's holding pattern and under His protection, so waiting takes on more of a purpose. Ephesians 1:11 tells us He works all things according to the purpose of His will: all things, even the time of standing still.

So, though it might feel uncomfortable and obstacles grind on, we need to learn to be still, trust God's work, and rest in His promises. When you cease from your labors, you begin to see His better.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Week Forty-Two - Rocks and June Bugs

Back on the farm, part of our summer fun included catching shiny, green, flying beetles called June Bugs that appeared for a short season. We would catch them and tie a string to one of their legs, then hold on as they flew in crazy patterns, trying to escape. Hence the phrase, crazy as a June Bug on a string.

My husband and I discussed June Bugs a while back, which brought us to describe ourselves like this: Tom is a lump on a log, and I am a June Bug on a string. For us, that meant I was the one with crazy ideas and willing to take risks, while he was the settled one who kept things calm and grounded. We laughed about the comparison, but it is a very apt description of us. 

Then, I came to a psalm that resonated with my heart and left me meditating for several weeks. Psalm 89:26 reads, "Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation." Psalm 92:15 and 94:22 also referred to the Lord as our rock. The verses aren't referring to a pebble. This rock is something settled, strong, and grounded. It means a boulder or solid cliff face, something not easily moved.

Let me share what I recorded in my journal. Open your Bible and follow along with these verses. 

"He is my refuge when I am afraid, my courage in the face of mischief framed by law (94:20), my strength when I consider my age (92:14), and my security when I need a place to stand (89:26). He is my rock, salvation, refuge, help (94:17), and my comfort (94:19). He is the Father who loves me and my God to whom I surrender, whose might defends, directs (90:17), and delights. He will never leave me. (89:34). I am frail and limited (89:47, 90:9,12), but He is my Rock."

I might be a June Bug on a string, but He is not. He remains faithful, drawing me to grounding and anchoring me in His love. God, my Rock, is able to keep me from falling. He is consistent, reliable, and sound, full of grace and truth. I am often fleeting, changeable, flighty, and too easily influenced, but God remains faithful. 

Rocks and June Bugs, what a wonderful meditation.

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Week Forty-One - When He Cometh

When he cometh,

When he cometh,

To make up his jewels.

All his jewels,

Precious jewels,

His love and his own.

Like the stars of the morning,

His bright crown adorning,

They shall shine in their beauty,

Bright gems for his crown.

(William Cushing)

When He cometh! O, how we long to be joined with our Saviour, bright jewels for His crown.

My heart began singing this old hymn after reading Psalm 96, which ends with verse 13 saying, "For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth; he shall judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth."

I'd imagine this verse inspired the hymn, but the last phrase, "with his truth, " caught my eye. Not our truth, not any other truth, but His truth. In a world seeking to create their own, we are often tempted to believe their truth is right, but we need not be naive. Man's truth fluctuates. It moves along with patterns of unrighteousness and the demands of those seeking to live without God as a governing factor. Sinful humanity rebels against God's truth. But as much as they want to stomp their feet and breath out threatening, God's truth remains as the determining factor for eternal judgment. 

In John 12:48, Jesus says, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." His Word judges us.

The Bible says Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and His words were written that we might find Christ as Saviour and be assured of our eternal home (1 John 5:10-13). As comforting as that promise may be, His words are also there for condemnation to those who reject them. Those words divide. They demand a decision. They are the standard by which God will judge when all men stand before Him.

Jesus blends truth and His Word in John 17:17, saying, "Thy word is truth." That is a powerful statement and one we cannot ignore. In humanity's eternal search for truth, God's Word stands solidly as the ultimate measure.

We could continue with this vein of thought reading in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Shall not - a definite determination. Though everything we know fails and passes away, God's Word will not. It stands consistent, faithful, and true.

Friend, there are two truths for us to grasp here. First, for those who know the Lord, we can rest assured that God's Word is truth. We can stand confidently because it is established for eternity. It is the ground of our salvation, our soul's hope, and our life's strength. It will not pass away. Everything recorded in His Word will come to pass. He is coming! And we rejoice in anticipation.

But for those who do not know Christ, this truth must be understood: judgment will be based solely upon the truth of God's Word. God is "not willing that any perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And there lies your hope, invitation, and opportunity. Come to Christ today. Repent and turn to the One who gave Himself for you now before He comes to judge. Open the Bible and read to understand His mercy and longsuffering that offers you yet another chance to bring yourself in line with the Word of God and know the beauty of His truth that will save your soul. When He cometh, it will be too late. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Week Forty - King of the Mountain

Is life about becoming King of the Mountain? Do the people at the bottom of the pile matter as much as the ones on top? Are only the top ten percent of a class bound for success and the others for obscurity?

Sadly, sometimes people believe these things to be true. They focus only on being first, best, most prosperous, or most prestigious. For them, being recognized as a success is the only goal of life.

Who is most successful? Grandma Moses or Michelangelo? Dolly Parton or Pavarotti? We measure each by varying standards, don't we? 

Michelangelo's art is so different from that of Grandma Moses, yet each was successful in their individual genre.

Dolly and Pavarotti have commanding voices but weren't cut out for the same stage. Although, I bet they'd have made an exciting duo. Crossing them over to the other's style would probably cause them to fail. I can't imagine Dolly singing opera or Pavarotti getting down home with a country ballad, can you? 

And while Michelangelo might be able to create a lovely country scene, Grandma Moses would have difficulty painting the Sistine Chapel. It's unfair to ask them to be more than they are or to perform in a different manner than that which God ordained. 

What about budding artists? Do we discount their work because it lacks maturity and refinement, or do we encourage growth and appreciate the effort? Would we call Abraham Lincoln or Colonel Sanders failures? Did they learn from their stumbles and hurdles? Of course, they did. Then, so can we1 The same can be said for a young lawyer, doctor, parent, or Christian writer. They all start somewhere. Success is built - not attained. 

An attitude of competition is destructive.We put undue pressure on ourselves and others when we try to fit into boxes we designed to make ourselves successful, boxes God did not ordain for us. We measure ourselves by the success of others and feel like failures. God says comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise, but we fall too often for the comparison game.

We are not yet all we can be, but we are on the path to becoming what we will be. So let's keep going. God's design is individual and unique. Our path is divinely ordained, and as long as we follow our Lord, we are successful.

It's time to stop playing King of the Mountain and let the King show us the way to happiness and contentment. Friend, this competition game kills your joy and never brings the happiness you seek.

Who is most successful? The person whose life is built upon the solid Word of God and who seeks His praise above their own. It's not about purse strings or the accolades of this world. It is about making God King of the Mountain, then hearing "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Week Thirty-Nine - You're Choking Me

David and Bruce McArthur wrote, "Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively."

Being in an "emotional stranglehold," choked by unforgiveness, revenge, or resentment, is not a very happy prospect. I've been there. I'm sure you have, too. As we struggle to find a way to forgive or try and try to make things right, we battle with doubt and insecurity. We muse over what could have been, what could have been said, what was or wasn't done, and we draw the strangling cord tighter and tighter until we are, as God's Word puts it, in a "stronghold."

We reach for every fleshly weapon we can find. Revenge, blaming, guilt, fear, anger, victim-mentality, and all sorts of emotional responses become our fellow combatants as we try to justify our unforgiveness. I hope you see the little key as you read the quote above. Holding on to unforgiveness or being afraid to grant forgiveness only tightens the choke hold. The only way to get released is to let it go.

God says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4.)

Carnal weapons are those of the flesh, based on our lusts and desires. We want things to be even and right in our eyes. We want it to work out our way. The book of James is straightforward when it talks about these fights and wars we have with each other. It concludes that we struggle because of our own lusts. And what does that mean? It's a way of saying we refuse to forgive because we want to be the winner; we don't want to lose face. That is pride. Very simply put, pride is a work of the flesh. 

We might feel the need to defend ourselves or find reasons as to why we won't or can't forgive, but God says they don't hold water with Him. Forgiveness is a command. As He forgave us, we are to forgive others, period.

So, if we aren't going to use carnal weapons, what weapons can we use to pull down strongholds and release the stranglehold of unforgiveness?

Let's take one passage from God's Word to describe our arsenal. I'll highlight each weapon as you read through Ephesians 6:14-18

"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.'

Are those weapons fully active in your Christian life? If so, they will lead you to freedom from the chains.

Another way to read this passage is to look at the actions of our warfare. Standing, girding, putting on, being shod, taking up, quenching, praying always, and being watchful are stances of the Christian ready to obey God's command to forgiveness.

Dear friend, there is no reason to be choked by an emotional stranglehold with these weapons and instruction at your disposal. There is no excuse God will receive from you. He is looking for your faith and obedience. Are you ready to cut yourself loose and stop being choked? Then, put on your armor, take up your weapons, break the chains of emotional strangleholds, and forgive.