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The Blessings of a Long Battle, Part 3


From Jonathan Coe’s website at Thank you gracious brother! (I’m so glad you are my friend.)

As I look over the last two posts on the blessings of a long battle, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians about the importance of not being ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (II Corinthians 2:11). After reading those posts, I realized a word of balance was needed in discussing the relationship of formulaic Christianity to spiritual practices lest the devil distort the truth to his advantage.

Both posts encouraged the believer to move beyond canned formulas to a restful trust in and radical dependence on Christ. A common formula for someone who finds themselves in a protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or some thorn in the flesh is “Read the Bible, pray, and attend church and that will solve your problem.”

These are wonderful spiritual practices but the problem is that people begin to trust in the formula more than the Person who can heal their inner leper. The formula can become a religious idol.

The biblical view of spiritual practices (prayer, Scripture study, church attendance, fellowship, fasting, meditation, and the sacraments) is that they are both avenues of renewal and bridges to intimacy with the Living God. They are sacramental; they are a means of grace.

Christ is the Vine; we are the branches. One of the primary ways that the branches stay connected to the Vine is through spiritual practices. That is how we abide in him and apart from abiding in him, we can do nothing.

This next part is crucial, and, if you only get one thing out of this post, this is it: when the believer gets frustrated enough to forsake impotent formulas, the devil’s primary agenda then is to get that person to forsake authentic, life–giving spiritual practices too.

That’s why the Christian should ask for wisdom every day so that he or she can tell the difference between the two. Satan is more than happy to allow us to forsake the false as long as we don’t replace it with the real.

It’s part of the human condition that, in our anger and frustration, we often throw out the wheat with the chaff. And a person who is involved in a long, difficult battle is going to need all the grace–filled spiritual practices they have time for!

I’m convinced that when the devil sees a believer, who is involved in a long battle, leave anemic formulas and begin to become engaged in regular, soul–nourishing spiritual practices, it fills him with uncontrollable rage. He will come to that Christian with many false voices in an effort to separate the branch from the Vine. Here’s a small sampling:

  • “ You tried this religious stuff before and you still have the same addiction/weakness/problem. What makes you think it’s going to work this time?”
  • “If you have your quiet time with God in the morning when you don’t feel like it, you’re being a phony. You should only do it when you feel like it.”
  • “If your quiet time with God becomes a regular thing, it will become a dead religious ritual. You don’t want to become legalistic. Keep things spontaneous. Just do it when your heart moves you to do it.”
  • “Regular spiritual practices aren’t the real you. You can find God in every day life without them in a way that fits your personality.”
  • “You’re a person of action not of contemplation. You get things done without all this navel–gazing and spiritual stuff.”

These are just a few plays out of the devil’s playbook. May God give us the discernment to recognize his voice and the wisdom to reject his counsel.

Reposted from Thank you Jonathan for your great teaching.

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A Retrograde Faith



  [re-truh greyd]  (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)


1. moving backward; having a backward motion or direction; retiring or retreating.
2. inverse or reversed, as order.
3. Chiefly Biology. exhibiting degeneration or deterioration.
* Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 16 Jul. 2013. <>.

24 “But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward.”

–Jeremiah 7:24, NLT
I seldom seek out things like this to write about. In my 30 years following the Lord Jesus, I have been bludgeoned more than a few times by people wielding Jeremiah like a cudgel. Mostly, these are good people who I liked and honored. (But maybe they had too much coffee that day, IDK.)
But there is a real issue here. Many who start out strong and brave end up on the scrap heap. Somehow, I suppose they were never able to tune their “ear” to His voice. But to be really honest– this can be a hard thing. And many of these dear ones end up with a retrograde walk in the Spirit. They would deny this, but if we look for a passion, we will see that a “first love” it will be absent.
That passion is the pulse, the blood pressure of a walk that is so vital and so authentic. We can measure our own walk by this singular means– “first-love.”  Rev. 2:4-5 shouts to us,
“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 
A retrograde faith may not deny Him, but it can often draw us into the place where our denial isn’t necessary. And that I suppose may be the scariest part of becoming apostate. We just slip; we slip right off of the map into an “almost-discipleship.” We would never dream of speaking an outright denial (never, ever) but we end up in this grey zone, nevertheless.
I have no desire to manipulate you through nice sounding words and phrases. But I feel duty bound to tell you up-front. Having a “first-love” will protect you. A “first-love” will cover you and lead you through many diverse issues. Revelation 2 was the Father’s plea to a Church that had seemingly advanced in every way. (As a pastor I would have loved to oversee this Church.) But the Father spoke a clear word of correction to them. And  I’m sure that it was hard to accept.
The “retrograde Church” exists. Unfortunately, it is alive and well, but we must share with these dear ones about the true freedom which comes from the “first-love” relationship with the Lord Jesus. Our love for Him, and His love for us will protect us from something that goes “backward” and not forward. I can only say, love Jesus, and make Him your “first-love.”
“Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?  –Unknown


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No Substitute for Fire

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

    Albert Schweitzer

“No erudition, no purity of diction, no width of mental outlook, no flowers of eloquence, no grace of person can atone for lack of fire. Prayer ascends by fire. Flame gives prayer access as well as wings, acceptance as well as energy. There is no incense without fire; no prayer without flame.”

  –E.M. Bounds

“Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

 Charles Wesley

“For our God is a devouring fire.”

Hebrews 12:29. NLT



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Quotes on Being a Disciple

Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Take the words of Jesus and let them become the Supreme Court of the Gospel to you. –John G. Lake

Some wish to hear the word of God, others wish to receive it.–Anonymous

Understanding is the reward of obedience. Obedience is the key to every door. –George MacDonald

In the spiritual life only one thing produces genuine joy and that is obedience. –Richard Foster

The level of our obedience is most often determined by the behavior standard of other Christians around us. –Jerry Bridges

Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God. –Jerry Bridges

Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom. –Elisabeth Elliot

The dullness that overshadows a passive person is increased by the mounting number of times one doesn’t respond to the promptings of God. –Greg Manalli

Whatsoever one would understand what he hears must hasten to put into practice what he has heard. –Gregory the Great

I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible. –Teresa of Avila

Let this be thy whole endeavor, this thy prayer, this thy desire,–that thou mayest be stripped of all selfishness, and with entire simplicity follow Jesus only. –Thomas à Kempis

No man has the mind of Christ, except him who makes it his business to obey him.—George MacDonald

One can believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and feel no personal loyalty to Him at all – indeed, pay no attention whatever to His commandments and His will for one’s life. –Catherine Marshall

I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the Church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order. Invariably it is the universal characteristic of all the outstanding men and women of God.—Unknown

The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts.–Blaise Pascal

He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much. –Jesus Christ

If Christ does not reign over the mundane events in our lives, He does not reign at all. –Paul Tripp

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. –Abraham Joshua Heschel

Maturity doesn’t come with age; it comes with acceptance of responsibility. –Ed Cole

To be converted to faith in Jesus Christ is to return to the worship of the true God, and to dethrone all rivals to his authority. –Graham Kendrick

We must assess our thoughts and beliefs and reckon whether they are moving us closer to conformity to Christ or farther away from it. –John Ortberg

Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, Bob, why are you resisting me? I said, I’m not resisting you! He said, You gonna follow me? I said, I’ve never thought about that before! He said, When you’re not following me, you’re resisting me. –Bob Dylan

There is no peace in the border lands. The halfway Christian is a torment to himself and of no benefit to others. –Earnest Worker

The characteristic of holiness, which is the outcome of the indwelling of God, is blazing truthfulness with regard to God’s word and an amazing tenderness in personal dealings. –Oswald Chambers

Christianity does not consist in any partial amendment of our lives, any particular moral virtues, but in an entire change of our natural temper, a life wholly devoted to God. –William Law

Those who teach by their doctrine must teach by their life, or else they pull down with one hand what they build up with the other. –Matthew Henry

…Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. If Christianity … is not reduplicated in the life of the person expounding it, then he does not expound Christianity, for Christianity is a message about living and can only be expounded by being realized in men’s lives. –Soren Kierkegaard

A holy life has a voice. It speaks when the tongue is silent, and is either a constant attraction or a perpetual reproof. –Hinton

Preaching is to much avail, but practice is far more effective. A godly life is the strongest argument you can offer the skeptic. –Hosea Ballou

No one can sum up all God is able to accomplish through one solitary life, wholly yielded, adjusted, and obedient to Him. –D.L.Moody

I surrendered unto Him all there was of me; everything! Then for the first time I realized what it meant to have real power. –Kathryn Kuhlman

I dare not say with Paul that I am the slave of Christ, but my highest aspiration and desire is to be the slave of Christ. –George MacDonald

Nothing is really lost by a life of sacrifice; everything is lost by failure to obey God’s call. –Henry P Liddon

Nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness. The flesh whines against service but it screams against hidden service. It strains and pulls for honor and recognition. –Richard Foster

Today, even amongst Christians, there can be found much of that spirit that wants to give as little as possible to the Lord, and yet to get as much as possible from Him. The prevailing thought today is of being used, as though that were the one thing that mattered. That my little rubber band should be stretched to the very limit seems all important. But this is not the Lord’s mind. The Lord wants us to be used, yes; but what He is after is that we pour all we have, ourselves, to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. –Watchman Nee

The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. –John Ortberg

The Christian ideal has not been found tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried. — GK Chesterton

If thou art willing to suffer no adversity, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ? –Thomas à Kempis

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after. –Rick Joyner

The Bible parable says that while men slept, the enemy sowed tares among the wheat. A boy who rises at 4:30 to deliver papers is considered a go-getter, but to urge our young people to rise at 5:30 to pray is considered fanaticism. We must once again wear the harness of discipline. There is no other way. –Leonard Ravenhill

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. –Simone Weil

Knowing that we are fulfilling God’s purpose is the only thing that really gives rest to the restless human heart. –Chuck Colson

The invitation is not, “Give Me thine head.” The invitation is, “My Son, give Me thine heart.” –John G. Lake

At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy: I will not give up my right to myself–the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.–Oswald Chambers

Whatever God’s dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless man cooperates. –Stella Terrill Mann

Let no one imagine that he will lose anything of human dignity by this voluntary sell-out of his all to his God. He does not by this degrade himself as a man; rather he finds his right place of high honor as one made in the image of his Creator. His deep disgrace lay in his moral derangement, his unnatural usurpation of the place of God. His honor will be proved by restoring again that stolen throne. In exalting God over all, he finds his own highest honor upheld. –A.W Tozer

It is the Father’s life, and the Father’s life alone, that ever lives the Christian life. It is the Father’s life, and Father’s life alone, which will live the Christian life in you. Embrace a formula or a list in order to “live the Christian life,” and you are doomed to frustration. –Gene Edwards

If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead. –William Law

Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self… –C.S. Lewis

It is only by a total death to self we can be lost in God. –Jeanne Guyon

All we have—ourselves–to Him, and if that be all, that is enough. –Watchman Nee


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He Was at Home


“A few days later, when Jesus came back to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home.” 

Mark 2:1

You can’t hide the presence of Jesus.  There is a ‘built-in’ need for Him in the hearts of men and women.  You can’t keep it quiet, it is an open secret.  Believing people let it out in many ways.  You can see it in their faces, and hear it in their voices.  They become gentle and caring, where once was selfishness and anger.  Peace is present, and a wonderful new thing called joy.  They can’t help but share about their new guest, when they speak it spontaneously spills out.

Spring flowers can’t help their beautiful fragrance.  There is a fragrance that announces that He is present.  You might say that He takes over, just as a bright light takes over the darkness.  When Jesus is present, His brightness pushes through the cracks and shines out every window.  He cannot be contained or hidden.  Love itself is invisible.  But it has an effect on all who take it in.  The very presence of Jesus transforms us.

My heart is now His home.

People travel and gather great works of art.  They collect these things of beauty and culture.  They will go out of their way to search for paintings and statues of grace and elegance, and finding them they will spend a great deal of money to obtain them.  But no one or nothing can compare to having Christ as the honored guest. The poorest farmer can be the wealthiest man. No matter how quietly Jesus enters, His presence will soon make itself known.  Where Christ truly abides, nothing but good will be observed.

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Ephesians 3:17, NLT

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The Gentile Woman, Matthew 15:21-28

This is a chapter from my book, “They Met Jesus: Stories from the Gospels.” Hope you like it!

Chapter 6

The Gentile Woman, Matthew 15:21-28

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”

23 But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

24 Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

26 Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

27 She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”

28 “Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.

I grew up watching the sea, it always brought me peace. I loved its serene beauty. My girl loved flowers. As a little child, I remember her making daisy chains, and the way she laughed. When the darkness came she was never was the same. I stood by and helplessly watched Satan consume my daughter.

She was sick. Sick with something evil and dark. Somebody said it was demons, but she was possessed by something I didn’t fully understand, and I had immense hatred for it. I was angry for what it had done to my precious little girl. I hated the darkness that stole her heart.

That’s when a neighbor told me about the Jewish healer that might help us. That gave me hope. We already wearing out our welcome at the local temples. We had recently returned from nearby Eshmun, a pagan temple specializing in healing. The priests knew us by name. But my daughter’s condition seemed to worsen.

I made the decision to see Jesus. As a Canaanite woman I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We were not Jews and we were accustomed to being treated poorly. I knew there would be conflict. But I would do whatever it took to see him. I believed he would help us.

We came to see Jesus at the house he and his disciples were staying at. Standing outside the door I began to plead for my daughter, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is possessed by a demon.” I spoke as plainly as I knew how. I spoke from my heart.

Jesus seemed to ignore my pleas. So I kept asking. I suppose I made his disciples uncomfortable, but you have to understand, I had no place to go. He had to heal her. I couldn’t go home without seeing him.

The disciple were advising Jesus to send me away. They knew I was a Gentile woman and they could take no time with me. I felt the silent rage of racial prejudice. Still I stayed, and I continued to beg.

Then Jesus finally turned to me and said, I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.” My heart almost broke. But I knew if he would only listen to my need he still might help me.

I came and worshiped him and then I continued to plead. I must make him see, he was my only hope at that moment. “O Jesus, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

I cringed inside. The Jews call the Gentiles dogs. I felt the rebuke and I struggled to respond.“That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.” I firmly believed that was the proper thing to say.

Dear woman,” Jesus said to me, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And my daughter was instantly healed. In that moment she completely recovered. I saw the darkness lift and light returned to her eyes.

Yesterday my daughter and I went to the seashore together. I went to see the ocean and she picked flowers. She is completely recovered. My heart is full of praise to the Living God who hears a desperate woman’s cries. I know that he is full of mercy.

Jesus, many of the people I meet are sick inside, let me be a light for them to see by. Evil is all around, but you rule over it, Help me to see your power and grace. Amen.


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You Are Just a Prayer Away [Witness]



An ‘open letter’ to my friend:

As believers in Him who passionately loves the world, we are on our knees asking that the Father would bring you salvation.  We lift you up in our prayers, so that you will have an immediate and definite contact with the Holy Spirit.  We have consecrated you to Him.  You are now marked and set apart, as we await further instructions from our Father. 

There is no happiness, no real satisfaction apart from Him.  Just stop trying, you are getting nowhere.  The pain and guilt are real, aren’t they?  There is in you a deep sadness–a grief.  But the Lord sees it, and absorbs it for you.  He sets you free, not for you to duplicate the sin, but to set you free from it.  His action on your life is meant to liberate you.

Dear one, you struggle so intensely and have so many issues.  We know this, but we have prayed, and we gathered you up to Him.  (You are now a real target, thanks to us.)  All of the issues you face from now on, have been initiated by God, and us who pray. I hope they won’t be too many. That you’ll respond to them, and turn to Him.

You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

So enter into the grim arena.  Already we have stepped into its ugly locales.  You can meet us there.  We know that there is no one who can keep us from His Spirit.  You will find us standing against gladiator, and lion and sin.  You are welcome to join us, we are indeed waiting just for you.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6

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