Deceiving Deception

James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

Deceived: mistaken impression, fail to admit to oneself that something is true.

A friend a few months back sent me a link to a David Wilkerson teaching on Deception and Hearing the Voice of God. To be totally honest, I saw it and thought, “Yeah, I’m busy. I don’t really need to listen to that.” I’m not saying we have to listen to certain teachers, but I am saying God uses them.

Interestingly, I was praying for others to have their eyes opened from deception. I was grieving (as was my husband) over a friend who seems to be losing their way. They are choosing money and title over the Holy Spirit. They’ve walked away from their first love. When a person stops listening to the Spirit, after a while they get used to their sin.

Compromise eventually leads to death.

James 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

A once loving, godly person was becoming full of apathy. I still pray for them daily, as eternity is nothing to play with. Once our love walk fades, we’re in trouble. We are no longer emulating God. We’re emulating ourselves instead.

But there was a problem.

I spent so much time praying for others and thanking God for where I was at that I fell into deception myself.

The danger of deception is you don’t know you’re in it.

There was a level of spiritual pride that I stumbled into. When we spend too much time focusing on what’s wrong with other people, we do something scary.

We exalt ourselves as God over their lives. We become judge.

We pray what we think they need deliverance from. We have a list of issues we ask them (or God) to fix. Healthy boundaries are good of course, but control is not. We love on our terms. It’s control, and only the Holy Spirit should ever ever have that position in someone’s life. Prayers must be in line with scripture and God’s will.

There are basic things we can pray and always know are in God’s perfect will: love, peace, unity, forgiveness and that we emulate Him. But we must leave God to be God-in other’s lives and our own.

I eventually listened to that David Wilkerson teaching. Something he pointed out stuck with me, and I’m reminding myself of it often.

No one is immune to deception. The greatest men and women of the Bible fell into it, excusing the worst of sins.

We can be terribly mistreating someone or practically spitting in God’s face and not see it. I’ve learned it’s too easy to wrongly judge. Things are not always as they appear. As Jim Staley has said, “Assume you’re missing information.” If you’re going to assume, assume that. Just recently something was bothering me and appearing bad. When I told my husband, he reminded me that I don’t know all of the details. Maybe I should just let it go. So I did. It worked out, and there was something that happened that I didn’t know about. I was so glad I decided to stay quiet and wait.

Today, I want to encourage you to pray daily that God will reveal any hidden sins or deception in your life. Be humble and willing to obey whatever God tells you to repent of. I’ve been doing it recently and it’s uncomfortable. But, at the same time, my spirit has never felt better.

James 1:12-25 ESV Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Winter and the Wilderness

Psalm 65:12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy

I don’t celebrate Christmas, though I do celebrate Hanukkah and do a little holiday decorating. I’m a sensory person. I love peppermint mochas, pretty lights, nice Christ centered hymns, a few winter classic songs, cookies, fireplaces, poinsettias etc. Winter is especially cold and dark in Minnesota, so the holidays in a way make ringing in Winter more tolerable. But then, they make it less so too.

Jesus wasn’t born December 25 and January 1 is the Gregorian calendar new year but it’s not the biblical one. Once January rolls around people start taking down the decorations. Trees aren’t decked out with sparkling lights anymore. Except for some evergreens, the trees in this cold climate are barren. Leafless. Vacant and brown.

Wilderness.

That’s what it feels like almost every winter. I enter a type of wilderness. Things normally full of life are dormant. In slumber. Quiet. You don’t hear the crickets chirping. Only a few brave birds sing. There’s nothing lush or fruitful. I naturally feel more down, more tired. But I’ve lived plenty long enough to realize Spring will come. I don’t panic when it’s twenty below and I don’t want to open the front door. I may complain a little I admit, but it doesn’t phase me for very long. Why?

Because I recognize the season.

Imagine if someone from some remote tribe was placed here suddenly. They have no understanding of climate or seasons. Where they’re from is right on the equator. I’d imagine they would be fearful and confused. The dark, cold days of Winter would seem endless.

Is this how it always is here?

They might wonder. But then Spring comes. It’s warmer, days get longer, and trees start to bud and flowers bloom. After witnessing a few changes of season, the perspective shifts. Winter may not be my-or your-favorite season. However, now it’s seen for what it is. A set period of time with colder temperatures and less daylight. But unlike physical winter, spiritual winters can provide much growth. It’s a time of humbling and refining.

Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

Winter humbles me. It tests me. Every time a snowstorm comes or the temperature dips too drastically on the thermometer, I want to complain. And a few times I do. But I force myself to find the beauty in it. Enjoy it. Those exact moments will never come again. So I deliberately take time to notice and appreciate them.

We need to force ourselves to see the beauty in the winter and the wilderness.

Winter and wilderness are a bit different in definition, but they have something in common. They are not comfortable, lush times. This isn’t where the fruit is hanging off the trees, ripe and plentiful. It’s not where you soak up the sun next to green pastures and clear water streams. It’s not full of vibrant life and positive abundance. It’s why I find Psalm 65:12 so intriguing. The joy is ultimately in the Creator, not the current state.

But it has its purpose.

Today, I want to encourage you to face your winter and wilderness in faith. See the beauty in it. Enjoy it. Realize it is temporary. As we enter 2019 I pray that this year is our best yet in spiritual growth and maturity. May we all reflect Messiah more than ever before. May our hearts be clean and our attitudes be righteous.

Winter, no matter how cold, can be safe and enjoyed when we’re dressed properly. The same is for our wilderness. Wear the armor of God faithfully, and use that shield of faith often. It will see you through.

Spring will come. Until then, rejoice in your Creator. Rejoice in the winter and the wilderness.

Psalm 23:2-4 ESV He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Hebrews 3:8-11 ESV do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.'”

Confess and Pray

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

On Facebook I happened to see my memories from that day the previous year. There was a post I did on James 5:16. I opened up about sins I was struggling with. I didn’t think I’d get more than a handful of comments and “likes.” After all, it’s not a fun post.

Confession.

I saw firsthand the power of confession. When I opened up, risking embarrassment and sacrificing pride, others did too. It was very healing. But it was also ridiculously uncomfortable.

Do you like me now? Am I still ok?

Those questions were, I admit, playing in the back of my mind. My mind gasped as I laid my heart bare.

  • Is this really a good idea?
  • Am I ruining my credibility?
  • Am I giving people ammunition to dislike me and attack me?

And this question…

What will people think?

Ever thought this? Most, if they’re honest, have. I wonder if those few that say they’ve never thought it are lying. It’s part of human nature. We are hardwired for approval. We can overcome rejection and mature to a place where it doesn’t affect us. But this takes time. Growth. And often healing.

But there’s another part.

Prayer.

Pray for one another.

I find it interesting that this verse says we are to confess our sins and pray to one another that we may be healed.

I’ve wondered why confession was listed as an ingredient in healing. Why not just “pray for one another that you may be healed?” It is more blessed to give than to receive (see Acts 20:35.)

Why confess?

While I believe this verse is pretty face value in meaning, regarding accountability, I also think there’s something greater inferred. This is also about forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s a call to make sure we’re at peace with others so there’s no hindrance in healing. Few things, if anything, can hinder God’s hand in our lives more than bitterness or offense.

I’m learning this two-step process for healing in a greater way than before. I’ve always been a fairly transparent person. Being vulnerable is a step greater. It’s allowing others to minister back to you. It’s being open to also receive.

I’m also understanding the importance of being at peace with others and keeping a clean, forgiving heart. It’s changed how I see myself fitting in the body of Christ. Where I once saw myself as “just another piece in the giftings puzzle” I now view it as being a part of a family. Community. And that changes everything.

Today, I want to encourage you to find someone you can confess your sins to and be accountable with. We must use wisdom. Some people offer a running mouth with their listening ears. But we all need this. Accountability helps to keep your heart pure and to stay on track. Our focus should primarily be on ourselves, but sometimes we need a gentle nudge from a brother or sister in Christ to steer us back to the right path.

And don’t forget-pray for one another. The prayer of a righteous person has great power. The King James Version says it “availeth much.” Prayer isn’t a last ditch effort of desperation. It’s a beautiful privilege and blessing to speak to the Creator of the Universe. And prayer changes things. It changes people. It changes you.

Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Confess and pray.

James 5:14-18 ESV Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

…Yet

“Ok Abba, I’m here. Where do you want me to go?”

I looked around at the people laughing and playing on the warm, inviting sand. Some were just laying there, soaking up the delightful scene.

“Go into the water.”

The voice was loving but strong. So I dipped my toes in the massive ocean.

“Keep going.”

I heard it several times. It wasn’t until my head was barely above water that I stopped.

“I can’t swim”, I said with a twinge of fear and confusion.

“But I can. That’s all that matters”, was the reply.

My eyes scanned the surroundings. I saw no one nearby. I felt loneliness, sadness, confusion, fear, and doubt.

I felt so many things.

I couldn’t help but notice all of the people laughing and enjoying the sand. Some would dip their toes in the water. But I’m all the way in the deep. The sunshine is still here. This feels very different though.

“Where is everyone?”

I couldn’t help but ask.

A few on the shore called out to me, asking me to come closer.

“It’s too much for us out there! What are you doing? That’s not safe.”

Love isn’t safe. But His love is everything.

I wanted so much to leave where I was. I didn’t like so much water. So much quiet. So. Much. Stillness.

God spoke to me, as clear as it gets.

“You are not called to come closer to the shore. You’re called to invite people to the deep.”

Hmm.

“I know this is hard. I know you feel misunderstood and judged. Trust me, I know your pain. Someday you won’t be here. At the moment, this is where I’ve placed you. You will hear my heartbeat in a way few have. But with this privilege comes solitude. It is a gift.”

A gift?

In the distance I saw someone who reminded me of myself. I recognized that look. They were stepping into the waters, searching for signs of life. Hope.

It was then I realized why I’m here.

“I’ll soak up the sun on the sands too one day”, I said aloud.

But not now.

Not yet.

Isaiah 55:1 ESV “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

Matthew 5:6 ESV “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 4:13-14 ESV Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Humble Bite Their Tongue

Proverbs 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

I’ve been praying recently (more than usual) that God would humble me. Break me.

He answered.

If you’ve ever felt like your prayers go unanswered, let me assure you that a) God always answers and b) this type of prayer is often answered swiftly. Life provides oh so many opportunities to get a little more (or a lot more) humble.

Just in the past 24 hours, several tests came. Some I passed. Some I didn’t. One in particular came this morning.

Long story short, I spoke to my middle son’s school about a concern. About halfway through the conversation, I realized that I was incorrect on something. But I didn’t want to appear wrong, or argumentative, or perhaps stupid. I don’t quite know. But I talked more than I should have. I finally sensed the Ruach (Spirit) say, “Enough!”

Nothing terrible happened. The interaction ended pleasantly. But I let pride lead me, not humility. Not even integrity. I was just wrong. I repented.

And it wasn’t even 9 AM. Oh my.

God, help my day to go better.

But then I realized that my day isn’t going that bad after all. God disciplines those He loves.

Hebrews 12:6-8 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Discipline testifies of my legitimacy. And yours.

Sometimes we need to just bite our tongues. It isn’t always worth saying. And all of us, the moment we start really thinking we’re something, need to get on our knees before the Father. May we make decisions and treat others through a spirit of humility, not pride. It’s much easier to clean up other people than it is to examine ourselves.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Today, I want to encourage you to watch your words. Or perhaps your silences too. Make sure it’s from an attitude of humility, not pride. We are called to love and serve. I believe we are not led as often as we think we are to correct others. Or to prove a point.

Being right is walking in love. So, bite that tongue. Be kind. Humble. Gentle. Willing to admit your mistakes and sins. Consider others.

It’s not all about you. It’s about Him.

Always.

Philippians 2:3-8 ESV Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Follow in His Steps

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

Follow in His steps.

What does that mean? I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve spent many years seeking God and crying out to Him in some way. There’s times when I feel I know Him as a best friend. Then there’s times when He feels distant and like a huge enigma.

There’s two types of knowledge listed in New Testament scripture. 2 Peter 1:5-8 lists the Greek gnosis and epignosis. One involves information and the other involves knowledge on an intimate, relational level.

Since becoming Messianic, I’ve noticed so many in their desire to know the Jewish roots of the faith get puffed up in knowledge. The pursuit of special, “secret” knowledge. They learn the Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. Some study the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, and Talmud etc. Some read about conspiracy theories and the Mazzaroth (constellations.) They’re learning about God but not God Himself.

How do I follow in His steps? How do I know Him?

It’s been wonderful, don’t get me wrong, in knowing Abba intimately. The most wonderful relationship I’ve ever experienced. But this has come with discomfort. Death to my flesh and my carnal, immature desires. I’ve had to lay idols on the altar I didn’t want to part with. I’ve said, “Not my will but Yours” with tears. God has nudged me to forgive those that hurt me and show kindness to those who showed anything but that.

  • Don’t say that
  • Go apologize
  • Pray for them
  • Love them
  • Give them something
  • Surrender this
  • Repent of that
  • Do this instead

The list could be very long. What I realize is knowing my King intimately is knowing His character and nature. It’s becoming like Him.

Humble. Loving. Forgiving. Wise. Discerning. Selfless. Faithful. Peaceful. Honest. Proclaiming truth. Enduring humiliation and ridicule. Trusting the Father with my reputation.

It’s biting my tongue when my flesh wants to say something it shouldn’t. It’s speaking up when it’s more comfortable to stay silent. And it’s humbling myself to glorify the Father. It’s serving. Following in Messiah’s footsteps is being everything the world says you shouldn’t be. Everything is lived through dying more each day. I lose my autonomy in total surrender to the Creator.

1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

My hope is that someone, in reading this, will be encouraged to follow Jesus and know Him intimately. It took many years for the head knowledge to start truly changing my heart. But that’s what this spiritual journey is all about. Bearing His image. The world can sense a phony a mile away. We must be authentic.

Suffering isn’t fun. I get it. Dying to the flesh hurts sometimes. But remember, following in His footsteps has a happy ending. After the cross was a crown.

Matthew 24:13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Endure well. There’s a crown to gain.

1 Peter 2:21-25 ESV For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Search Me

Psalm 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!

Maybe if I just say this, I’ll feel better. They just might see it. Perhaps then they’ll get convicted. It was wrong and someone needs to tell them.

Ever been here?

You’re not a manipulative or controlling person by nature. You’re a loving, laid back, kind person. But you feel pushed. You genuinely care about others. Then something happens that seems wrong. Unfair. You’re hurting and there seems to be no restitution. No justice. Nothing.

Where is God?

I know this feeling well. But we cannot give in to it.

Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

And this…

Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

God is the judge. We can follow Matthew 18 when there’s been an offense, but we are not the Holy Spirit. It’s not our job to convict people.

There’s a place for warning others about their sin or confronting an offense. But our job is to focus on ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites.

So what do we do when we feel mistreated? Pray. Love.

What does that look like?

God has been showing me this a lot in the past year. Per Matthew 7:2 we will be judged with the measure we use. So we must be careful. Very. We are not walking in their shoes. We don’t know what they are going through or what God might be dealing with them on.

We. Don’t. Know.

So we love.

I personally pray for certain people for the things I’m needing and wanting most. When the tears come and I walk away with beautiful peace, I know I’m making progress.

I’m not perfect. I have made many, many mistakes in my life. I’ve sinned to the point of utter shame. But I’ve been healed, delivered, and redeemed.

I am forgiven.

So I live forgiven. Forgiven people forgive. Forgiven people give mercy, for they’ve felt it themselves. Forgiven people love, for true forgiveness involves love.

Where I’m at right now is what I call the “search me” season. But it should always be our prayer.

Search me God. Search my heart. My motives. Get in every corner, in every single part of me. Wash me clean. Show me any hidden sin I may have so I can repent. I want to emulate You more. Even if it’s hard. Father, give me the strength to do it even if it hurts. Even if it embarrasses me or hits my pride. Keep me broken and humble. Help me to be a God pleaser and not a people pleaser. Help me.

This is what I pray. It’s hard. There are days I don’t want to. I have a flesh. It likes to feel comfortable. But I want to hear, “Well done…” when it’s my time to leave this earth. I want to glorify my King. Truly.

Today, I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that someone will fully let it go. Let go of the pain. The need for justice. The desire to talk about it. Remind them of the offense. God knows. He’s always known. We are all jars of clay. We’re just dust. All of us are broken and in need of a Savior and refining. All of us. We are changing little by little if we’re surrendered to Him.

Surrender to Abba right now. Every time that hurt or offense rises up in your flesh, say, “Search me Father. Search me.”

The greatest thing I’ve learned regarding offense is that God desires to work on both sides. He’s not just interested in making something right. He’s interested in making someone right. Not just them. You.

Let Him.

Colossians 3:2‭-‬3‭, ‬12‭-‬15 ESV Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.