PRAYER FOR COURAGE

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
 
The enemy of God and of His kingdom attempts to set up strongholds, unholy barriers against God’s people, His church, and anything advancing the knowledge of God in this world. The devil does not want people to know the Lord Jesus! He does not mind if they know something about God in general, but not about the Lord Jesus Christ! These strongholds must be brought down with the spiritual weapons of the Word, Prayer and the Authority of the believer.
 
As a child of God you must do warfare from a position of rest and victory found in Christ alone. You must be sure in your mind that your Commander, the Lord Jesus Christ, has totally defeated the ‘strong man’ satan, on the Cross. Any doubt in the absolute Lordship of Christ weakens your faith and you will not be able to conquer new territories for The Kingdom of God. The battle is first of all internal before you can make progress in the natural realm. You must identify the enemy within, attack and defeat the demons of fear and doubt in particular. For that, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. You need to repent of any known sin, for the Holy Spirit does not fill ‘dirty’ vessels. Filled with God’s Spirit inside, taking the whole armor of God outside, you are now ready for battle and the victory is sure. I testify to this!
 
Question: how long since you have personally experienced a new triumph, since you have obtained a fresh testimony of successful spiritual warfare and a clear victory in any area of your life? A spiritual passive attitude is a sign of bondage! Now it it the time to stand for Christ! Dear child of God, this morning I pray for courage for you! Trust and obey God! Prove that the Word of God is living and true! Arise and shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!
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I AM BORN AGAIN!

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:7, 8)
This is my testimony: I was born in Romania, a Communist country at that time. We were told that God does not exist. We were told that ‘religion is the opium of the masses’. This is the communist ‘gospel’. I believed it! I preached it! I did not see a Bible with my eyes before I came to Nigeria with my husband and two children in 1980. I told everybody that I am an unbeliever. I took pride in being an atheist. I did not deceive my husband saying that I am religious. He knew that I did not believe in God. He used to attend a church in Nigeria before coming to Romania to study medicine. But now, none of us attended any church. In Nigeria, some of his old Christian friends mocked him for marrying ‘a Moabite’. I was learning English, so I did not understand every word they spoke. But one day I asked him: ‘what is a Moabite’? He said that I should not mind his friends; that they do not understand.
 
My husband and I became very successful as medical doctors here in Nigeria. We made money and fame. Some of my patients ‘prophesied’ to me that I look like a born again. Others said that I look like a pastor. I told them that this is an insult and I rebuked them openly. Oh… Thank God for grace!
 
I became saved thru a crisis conversion in March 1986. It was after this miraculous event that I read the Bible for the first time in my life. Before then, I did not know what is called ‘sin’. I did not believe in a holy God that could be offended by my sins. I thought that even if God exists He is too far and too detached from me. I thought that my sins (even if I had them, but I was not sure of that…) are my own business and not His. I had my own idea of what is good and what is bad and I judged myself and others based on my principles. I was my own ‘god’ and I invented my own righteousness. Looking back I can now see my foolishness!
 
I remember the first time I read the Bible. It was Genesis 1:1. ‘In the beginning, God…’ I could not finish the sentence… My encounter with the Word was terrifying. To me, the Bible was like fire! I did not see any good thing in it! The Bible took it for granted that God exists! God? Who is God? I just came face to face with God, the creator and the judge of mankind. I just discovered that this holy God hates sin. The Holy Spirit started His peculiar work in me. For the first time in my life I saw myself as a sinner in need of salvation. I tried to ignore the Word of God. I fought it! I argued with it! Losing ground, I tried to change myself and become ‘religious, like the Nigerians’, so that maybe God will be pleased. For the first time in my life I agreed to go to church. These fake ‘cosmetic’ changes impressed some Christians but did not bring peace to my soul. I could not impress God! I could not deceive God! That was terrifying! I discovered that my greatest burden, my nightmare, the heaviest weight on my soul is sin! The Holy Spirit convicted me of sin! The fear of God descended on my soul. I was scared to death! I hated to live and I hated to die! I was arrested by this Holy God and I saw no way of escape! I was frustrated and angry. ‘For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of God’ (Rom 8:20). In the past I was what you call an optimistic person. But now, a cloud of darkness, a form of depression descended on my soul. Every day I thought that I will die and go to hell. All my ‘communist’ arguments, all my good deeds and all that I stood for, suddenly became useless to me. I needed something else, a new hope to cling to, but I saw nothing near me… Like a dying man in the ocean of God’s judgment, I saw no help in me or in anyone. I came to the end of myself. I know what Jesus meant when He said on the Cross: ‘It is finished!” I, Lia Leigh was finished!
 
Suddenly, the light of God shone in my heart…I saw Christ Crucified praying for me, forgiving me… I believed that His Blood was shed for me, even for me…Is this story too good to be true? It may be so, but the grace to believe the impossible came on me…The Holy Spirit flooded my dying soul, His resurrection power fell on me… and… and… I became saved!!! I became a child of God! God did not reveal to me the hope in Christ until the Holy Spirit finished His work of conviction. Weeping comes before joy! To arrive at eternal life I had to pass thru this terrifying path called the valley of the shadow of death. I did not know how to pray. But God helped me to believe! Glory!
 
Dear reader, Jesus died to save your soul! Salvation is a miracle. Going to church, reading the Bible, paying your tithes, praying or worshipping God is not enough. You must be born again by the Holy Spirit! A miracle must happen! Money cannot buy it and man cannot give it to you. The devil will fight to keep you blind and foolish. But God is greater than all! Oh, the wisdom and the power of God to lead on, from frustration to hope, from death to life, from grave to glory! Praise the Lord! Jesus Christ is Lord!
 
PS: In the picture, me at about 17, in my parents house. I was an unbeliever then but looking ahead.. Who could have known? Please encourage me and others testifying how you became saved!
SLL 23

A MARRIAGE FREE FROM BITTERNESS

 

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Col 3:18, 19)

 

The Bible has clear marriage guidelines. These commands apply only to the believers. An unbeliever may read them and try to apply Biblical precepts to make his marriage better, but he cannot really obey the Word of God. For us, the children of God, the Bible is our Life Manual. The Word of God is written to us, sinners who are saved by grace. In the marriage set up, there are two basic rules: The wives submit to their own husbands (as Christ submitted to God the Father). Secondly, the husbands must love their wives, not their own way, but ‘as Christ loves the church’ (Eph 5:25). The husband and wife are equal before God. Their salvation experience is the same. But in the area of marriage these simple rules must be obeyed: wives submit and husbands love! Both these actions are first of all spiritual and they must glorify Christ, our Lord! The submission and the love are inspired by Jesus Christ and must give Him alone the glory! The Holy Spirit gives both the husband and wife the power to obey.

 

In the scripture above there is another element. It says that the husbands should love their wives and ‘do not become bitter towards them’. This is a special warning giving to the married men. Please pray for understanding! It means that the husband must recognize the tendency to become bitter against their loving wives. They must fight the strange temptation to become bitter as husbands at home. This is warning. What does this bitterness mean?

 

Bitterness is a terrible thing. It is an emotion very difficult to bear. A root of bitterness ‘defiles many’ and fights against the grace of God in marriage (Heb 12:15). Marital bitterness poisons the home and makes everybody miserable. A bitter person makes others sad or angry. When you see a man or a woman afraid to marry, it is because they have experienced this bitter taste in a previous relationship. To them, marriage is like drinking poison every day, like having with an incurable disease, with no hope of being happy ever again. That is why they prefer staying single. Bitterness causes piercing, sharp emotional pain, like the sting of a wasp.  The wounds of bitter words are long lasting and difficult to forgive or forget. In particular, a bitter husband is harsh, hot tempered, holds grudges, is mean, greedy, hard hearted, stubborn and difficult to teach. In Nigeria people say that ‘love has become sour’. As a pastor I counsel many women who suffer terribly in a marriage with a bitter man who discourages them to be happy. Only God can help!

 

This tendency to bitterness is more common to husbands but it can be found in all careless relationships. What is the cause of this bitterness found in some husbands? The main cause I see is disappointment with their wives. At the beginning they love their wives. No bitter man wants to marry. To marry you need to be happy. Love comes before bitterness. But this is the danger: It is possible for a man to truly love his wife at the beginning of the marriage, but later, he becomes bitter towards (or against) her. It is like a good fruit that becomes rotten with time. Why? What causes this change from good to bad?

 

Thru prayers and the study of the Word I discovered that husbands become bitter towards their wives, when the wives fail to meet up with their husbands ever growing spiritual and physical needs. This problem may be hidden when they are young and they are still busy ‘making money and rising children’. But after some time, the husband may desire to become more spiritual, to draw closer to God. He may desire that they should improve their standard of living. If the wife is ignorant of the source of this ‘midlife crisis’, as she may call it, the husband will become disappointed in her. He will resent her words. He will complain against her choices. This bitterness may manifest itself in one particular, small area. For example, he says: ‘My wife is a good woman. She works hard. She is a good mother to our children. I love her very much. But… she does not respect me… she talks to much… she spends too much money on nonsense…’ These excuses are not big enough to make a husband so bitter but if the wife does not change to make him happy, to better understand him, he will begrudge her silently in his heart. That is the seed of marital bitterness. In a way, both of them are guilty. The bitter husband has tried, but failed, to help the wife grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. She is left behind, like the statue of a bride, smiling on her wedding day, but the dress is now thorn and faded, the artificial lashes are gummed on her wrinkled cheek. They are still living together but the sweet wine of early romantic love has gone, leaving behind the bitter taste of native medicines and imported bleach in the dry old mouth.

 

MY TESTIMONY

I am a woman. I am a wife. I had to study this subject because I need to fight the demons that will attack my husband. He does his own fight. But I am his helper. I should not be ignorant of this temptation. I must help him fight bitterness and not foolishly add to it. As a wife, I have tried to keep close to my husband, spiritually in particular. It pains me when he quotes a Bible verse or teaches me something new, and I am totally ignorant of that subject. I challenge myself to study the Word of God so that when my husband needs somebody to talk to about the Bible, I am ‘current’ with it. I have learned many things about subjects that I do not like in particular. I know much about politics and current affairs in Nigeria. I am not a politician, but I need to know these things, if they are good or bad. Ignorance has never helped anybody. I need to know my husband’s plans, dreams and God’s purpose for his life. I need to pray for those. I need to grow as he grows. We are not competing one against each other. But we must complement each other. To complement my husband I need to grow too. As the vision for our lives and ministry increases with time, so we must grow with it. To be left behind spiritually, to be a passive wife, it is sin. If I am lazy or careless with our relationship, and I just walk too slowly behind him with nothing new to add to our marriage, that sin is almost like spiritual adultery. My husband will be tempted to be worried, angry, disappointed and bitter against me, his wife, helper and friend. As a wife, I should not be found to be too fast and lead my husband. I should also not be found to be too slow and leave him alone. Marriage is two people learning to be one. Each one of us must grow in grace towards God and towards one another. I should not take his love for granted. I should be watchful for any virus of disappointment towards me that I sense in my husband. I must be filled with the Holy Spirit so that I will help him be the man God wants him to be. We both work hard at making our marriage a success. But the hard work is bringing a greater than expected harvest of peace, joy and ministry to those who call us parents in Christ. I boldly declare that in Christ alone, our marriage is free from the virus of bitterness! Love has won the battle! May these words challenge you! God loves you! God loves your marriages! Glory to God!

RSL and SLL 3

I WAIT FOR GOD

Thus says the Lord: “At the time I have decided, My words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting–it will surely happen! For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Hab 2:3)
 
“It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christian soldier learns NOT without years of training…There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord knows not what part to take. Then what is it we are to do? Vex (ourselves) by despair. Fly back in cowardice, turn to the right hand in fear, or rush forward in presumption? No! Simply wait.
 
Wait in prayer. Call upon God, and spread the case before Him; tell Him your difficulty and plead His promise of aid. In dilemmas between one duty and another, it is sweet to be humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord. Wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in God…Believe that if He keeps you tarrying even till midnight, yet He will come at the right time, the vision shall come and shall not tarry.
 
Pray: “Now, Lord, not my will, but Thine be done. I know not what to do; I am brought to extremities, but I will wait until Thou shall clear the floods or drive back my foes, I will wait, if Thou keep me many a day, for my heart is fixed upon Thee alone! Oh, God, my spirit waits for Thee in the full conviction that Thou will yet be my joy and my salvation, my refuge and my strong tower!”
(C. H. Spurgeon)
 
“Dear Heavenly Father, I wait for You! I trust in You! I know that You will not put me to shame! I know that You will glorify Your name in my life! I know that You are jealous over my testimony! I vow to give You alone all the glory! In Jesus name, amen!”
God works

BE A CHAMPION!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up the race” (Heb 12:1-3)
As a child in Romania, I used to skate on ice and I loved it. Up till today, I like watching ice skating competitions. Two days ago, something strange happened during the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France were dancing on ice. They are the present champions in Europe. Each dancing program is about three minutes. They were doing very well, focusing to win a medal. But two minutes into the program, an accident happened. As they were dancing on ice, the clasp holding the neck piece of Gabriella’s dress got broken. The right breast got exposed. If such an accident happens at home, it is bad. But in the view of thousands seated on the stadium and more than six millions people watching on TV, that thing is terrible. Like many people watching, I felt so bad for her. But guess what? They continued to dance to the end like nothing bad happened. At last, they won the silver medal! After the program she wept saying that she was so embarrassed. But she also said that she had a choice to make in a spilt of second. The natural and easiest choice was to stop the dance, weep in embarrassment and run away from the ice ring. That will mean total failure for both of them. All their dreams about being Olympic champions could have died there. The other choice was to ignore the shame and finish the race. Though partially naked and embarrassed they finished their program. The thought of being the champions in the future was stronger than the present shame. What a lesson! These are true champions in sport!
Children of God, there are great lessons here for all of us. Can we fight shame? Can we continue the good thing we have been doing even in the presence of a second of failure? Is your reputation among men a stronghold in you? How much do you desire to finish the Christian race well? How much are you ready to pay for the reward God has promised you in the future? How much are you ready to suffer for Christ’ sake? To become a champion is not a matter of seconds. There is much preparation of body, soul and spirit before you become a hero! There are few leaders but many followers. There are few heroes but many admirers. ‘There are many teachers but few fathers’- said Paul! To be a role model, to be a hero, to be an inspiration to many, a father or a mother in Christ, there is a great price to pay! Are you willing to pay for it? Jesus was rejected by men and He was crucified naked! He endured shame on our behalf! He died for us! Jesus scorned that shame for the joy ahead! We share now in His joy! Jesus is our Lord! Jesus is our Champion! Be like Jesus! Do like Jesus! Let nothing stop you from worshipping the Lord! Let nothing stop you from serving God! Your present pain cannot compare with the future glory God has promised to give to you. Stop being jealous on others! Pay the price for the shine, then rise and shine! Glory to God!
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling… For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2Tim 1:8-12)
(In the picture Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron the moment the dress ‘accident’ happened and later on the podium with their medals)
Gabriella
Medal Ceremony - Winter Olympics Day 11

GOD’S TIME IS PERFECT

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecc 3:11)
 
God’s time is always perfect. Like children, we often pray: “Lord, how long do I have to wait? Give me my request NOW!” We hate applying patience. But waiting on God is never a waste. It is an activity blessed by Him. Timing is very important in sports, in finances, in medicine and other things. The right thing done at the wrong time becomes a failure. The good word spoken too early, fails to move the listener.
 
God’s name is not mentioned in the Book of Esther. In the first five chapters, the wicked Haman is promoted and things go well for him. He, his wife and friends are very happy! But in another world, Mordecai is suffering and he is in danger to die. In chapter 6 there is a change coming. This is a new dawn, a new beginning. Great things can happen in the night, when men sleep but God moves. For God never sleeps! We are told that the king could not sleep that night. He asked for the chronicles of the Kingdom. That is a boring thing to listen to. Maybe he thought that will make him sleepy. But no! He was reminded of how, five years previously, Mordecai, the Jew, saved his life. He quickly asks: What has been done for this man? Nothing- was the answer. There was no reward given. The king was afraid that he is found to be an ungrateful man. Even the pagan gods require reward to be given to the man who saved the king. He quickly planned to greatly reward Mordecai.
That same night Haman slept well with a false sense of security and enjoying his wicked success. In no night was Mordecai in such a danger. Up until this moment Mordecai was persecuted, not appreciated and not rewarded. But this morning, the gallows Haman built were hungry for the neck of Mordecai! But that same early morning the tables were changed. Haman was disappointed to discover that his enemy was promoted. If God was few hours too late, Mordecai could have been dead. The next day, Haman was hung on his own ‘designer’ gallows. What a story! See God’s perfect timing!
Isaiah 60
 
Child of God, Remember this: even if all men forget you, God knows you. Patiently enduring persecution for Christ’ sake is highly appreciated by God! God does not sleep! God does not forget your labor of love! In His time, He will reward and bless you. I have experienced His promise! I testify to it! Give God the glory in advance!