Category Archives: Guidance

How To Build A Life-Ruining Stronghold In 4 Easy Steps

When you come into the church, there’s often a whole new language to learn. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘Christianese’ – words like redeemed, sanctified, fellowship and altar call can be commonly used, which never get a hearing outside the church community.

To help with the culture-shock, Tim Stewart has gone to the trouble of setting up a whole website called The Dictionary Of Christianese – so now you can know the difference between a testimony and a bragimony, and where the 10/40 window actually is! There’s a few beauties on this site that really made me laugh.

But despite what some people say, it’s not wrong for us to use spiritual language in the church – in fact the apostle Paul said that we are ‘explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words’ – 1 Corinthians 2:13.

But what IS important is that we understand what the words we’re saying actually mean. Otherwise we end up saying them or singing them and they’ve lost all power for us.

The Location

I came across one of those words while I was reading the Bible this morning… the word STRONGHOLD! The church spent much time in the 80’s and 90’s ‘breaking strongholds’, and it became a common theme of many of the songs written during these years. For me, when I was praying for someone and asking God that ‘strongholds would be broken’ I would see in my mind a person being set free from a spiritual prison, or having spiritual chains removed from their lives.

But these days I’ve come to the realisation that although the sentiment and picture wasn’t wrong – maybe the LOCATION of the stronghold was something that I missed. Maybe it wasn’t so much around their body, as much as around their MIND.

The Progression

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretention [lofty thought] that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

This is an upside-down passage. What I mean by that that instead of starting with something small and zooming out to something big… it starts with the big thing, and zooms in to the root cause. When you look you see four things:

1) Strongholds ….which come from
2) Arguments ….which come from
3) Lofty thoughts against God’s knowledge …. which come from
4) Our thoughts

So we can see that strongholds are literally ‘strong holds’ on our life which have their origin in unchecked thoughts which don’t line up with what God is saying about Himself, the universe and our lives.

How To Make Your Own Stronghold At Home!

Let me show you how to make your very own stronghold at home, in four easy moves!

1) Have a thought
This part is pretty easy. In life, a few people ‘think’ but pretty much everyone has ‘thoughts’. But in order to make a really good stronghold, ensure that your thought is about something important – like what you are on earth for, who you are as a person, what your future is going to hold, or what God is like.

2) Have a really good thought
The next step to building your own stronghold is to have an epiphany – a ‘Eureka’ moment. It’s a really good thought – a ‘lofty idea’ that stands out amongst the rest of your thoughts. The kind of thought you share with others when you’re sitting around the barbecue or hanging out with mates.

What is CRITICAL at this point though, in order to make a really good stronghold, is that you DO NOT check that thought against the Bible! Otherwise you’ll realise that it’s a lie, take it captive, and your stronghold will crumble.

3) Build an argument
Having now created the basis of your stronghold with a great idea, you now need to strengthen it with an argument. The Greek word used here is ‘logismos’ – you want to use logic and reasoning here to demonstrate why your idea stands up.

To get a solid stronghold, you also need to think about actions that go along with your arguments. If you’ve constructed the first part well, then the actions will come pretty naturally.

4) Complete the stronghold
Another word used in the Bible for stronghold is ‘fortress’. Having started with your great idea, and built your arguments and reasoning around it, you now need to protect the idea like a fortress against anyone who may see things differently. The Greek word used for ‘fortress’ is pretty close to the word used for ‘lots of people’, so you’ll want to find others who agree with you. Together you can stand strong and mock those who disagree with you.

Congratulations… your stronghold is now complete!

The Scary Reality

Maybe you’ve noticed something as you’ve been reading. Perhaps you can see actions that you’ve done yourself in the list above. The truth is that every single human has strongholds built around what they believe. This is why it’s a struggle sometimes for people to come to Christ… in order to receive Him they have to dismantle a lot of what they formerly built.

But what I hope will be a little more of an awakening is just how important it is that we do what Scripture says and ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’. If we allow stray thoughts that are at odds with what God says about Himself, the universe and our lives to start to take root and grow in our mind… the eventual destination is a stronghold.

The Good News

But the good news is this – we’ve been given divine power for the demolishing of strongholds! We can, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God together, set people free from strongholds of the mind that are ruining and wrecking their lives.

One of the most powerful ways we can experience life transformation is to be ‘transformed by the renewing of [our minds]’, – which means that as we start to think differently, we live differently.

So let the combined power of God’s Word and His Spirit into your thought process – and you’ll find that instead of ending up with strongholds in your life against God,you’ll be like the person who built their house on the rock. The storms will come and you won’t be shaken – standing firm in the promise and the knowledge of God!

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Assumptions

Today, I want to look at ‘assumptions’.

An assumption is defined as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.

Doing the Math

An assumption is almost the same as faith – being certain of something that you can’t see.  But as humans, we tend to like assumptions because they generally mean less work for us.  If I can just take x for granted, then it means I can get on and focus on y.  Rather than having to go to the effort of walking something out or doing effort in real life,  we do the math in our heads and decide ahead of time if we’ll win or lose.

Sometimes assumptions are really good and helpful, especially in situations where you just need to make a quick decision.  But other times – wrong assumptions can bring all kinds of evil into our world.  Not only that – but acting on wrong assumptions can lead us to do things that are not worthy of us, and put us in positions that we would never have wanted to find ourselves in.

This is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:

Genesis 20
1  Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,
2  and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3  But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”
4  Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?
5  Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6  Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.
7  Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
8  Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.
9  Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done.”
10  And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11  Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Is God Here?

Abraham made an assumption.  He looked at the situation and said:

‘God is not in this place… it’s clear to me’.

Interesting isn’t it – because his Abraham’s son, Isaac, was later to come to a certain place at night, when all was dark and he had a powerful encounter with the Lord – and then He said:

‘God is in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’

Both of them came to a place not expecting to find God, and yet in both situations they discovered that God was already at work.  How often do we make the ASSUMPTION that God is not there.  That there is NO FEAR OF GOD in this place?

For Abraham – that assumption had some dramatic consequences.

  • It caused him to act weird.
  • It caused him to end up lying.
  • He lost his credibility with Abimelech
  • He almost lost his wife

All because he walked into a situation and made an assumption that wasn’t true.

Assumptions Can Hold Us Captive

Sometimes the only thing that is holding us back from walking into all that God has promised us is the jailhouse of our mind.  God calls us to do something – and we say ‘I’ve done the math Lord… it won’t work’.  Sometimes your assumptions based on your experience is what’s holding you back.

This is what happened for the Israelites.  In the well known chapter of Numbers 13 – Moses sends spies out to look at the promised land.  They come back – and they say ‘yeah it’s all good.  all like God promised but the only problem is… walled cities, and giants!’.  Then they say ‘and we looked like grasshoppers in their eyes’.  How did they know that?  Did they have a conversation with the giants?  Did they ask them to fill out this quick 4 question survey?

They made an assumption.  They had no idea what was going on, on the other side of the fence.

But the Bible tells us.  The stories of what was happening to the nation of Israel in the desert:

  • what had happened in Egypt as they left
  • the parting of the red sea
  • water flowing out of rocks
  • divine provision in the desert
  • their clothes not wearing out
  • powerful encounters with a living God

All these accounts were all getting reported to the kings who were living in the land Israel was about to possess.  They were freaking out.  One of the kings Balak, hires a guy called Balaam to try to use witchcraft and cursing against the Israelites.  But everytime Balaam tries to curse Israel – only blessing came out!  You can be assured that story made it around the kings fraternal meeting.

We read in Joshua 5:
1  Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the sons of Israel.

The Israelites had wandered around in the desert for 40 years and part of the reason for that is that they were held captive by a wrong assumption.  They thought the giants were waiting for them to cross so that they could beat them to a pulp.  They had no idea that the giants spent those 40 years packing themselves about the day that Israel would finally wake up to the power they had!

The story is told of the master escape artist Harry Houdini.  On one of his European tours, he had himself handcuffed and shut in a Scottish town jail.  Once alone, Houdini quickly got out of the shackles, and started to work on the lock on the cell door.  He tried everything he knew but he couldn’t get the lock to turn.  Finally, completely, exhausted… he leaned against the door… and it swung open so unexpectedly he nearly fell headlong into the corridor.  The jailer hadn’t locked it.  Houdini made an assumption!

Like A Little Child

Jesus said – if you want to get into the kingdom of heaven, you’ve got to become like a little child.  Little kids trust implicitly.  They don’t do the math, because they don’t have the experience.  They TRY THINGS.

There’s sick people in our world that God wants to heal, but they’re surrounded by Christians doing the maths, rather than taking the action.

There’s doors of breakthrough that God has placed in your life today – but we too often don’t walk through them because you’re we’re the maths rather than taking the action.

There’s people who are waiting to get saved, but the Christians are doing the maths, instead of taking the action.

Abraham says ‘God is NOT in this place… it’s clear to me’.  But yet God was.  Isaac says ‘God was in this place – and I wasn’t even aware of it’.

Which one is it for you?

Is God not in this place because of what you’ve seen and experienced?  Or is God in this place – and you weren’t even aware of it?

Is God not in your workplace because of what you’ve seen and experienced thus far?  They don’t fear God, they don’t care about Him.  Or is God already at work in your workplace… and you haven’t even been aware of it?

Is God not in your family… because they rail against your faith and mock you for what you believe?  Or is God already at work in your family – and you weren’t even aware of it?

The Others

The Facebook ‘Others’ Folder… how I hate thee…

Because of what I do, I get a lot of emails / texts / FB messages etc each day.  I don’t always get to them straight away, but I always make a concerted attempt to reply to all the messages that come in.  Especially if people are in need.

But for some reason I always forget about the FB Messenger ‘Others’ folder.  The one time every few years that I remember it’s there, I end up scrolling back through the lists of people who tried to contact me, and now probably think I hate them because I never replied.  All because Facebook in it’s infinite wisdom decided what was ‘important’ and what wasn’t.  Thanks Facebook….

Now, I’m a preacher, so nearly everything that happens to me can be turned into a preaching story in some way.  This is no exception.  So here is the sermon illustration…

I’m convinced that God is speaking to all of us regularly.  There are ways that we expect Him to speak to us – perhaps because that’s how He’s spoken in the past – so we’re ‘Friends’ with those ways, and any post shows up on the regular ‘newsfeed’ of our heart and mind.

However, God also speaks to us through ways that we’re not used to.  Ways that we’re not ‘friends’ with yet.  Maybe we’re looking for a word from a prophet, but God is giving us a dream at night, or a gentle encouragement from a family member.  Sometimes there’s important and powerful messages He wants to get through to us – but they end up in our heart’s version of the ‘Others’ folder.

By all means, keep checking your newsfeed, but don’t forget to check the ‘Others’ folder too.  God will use many ways to communicate to you – and you want to be open to all of them!

[Sermon End] 🙂

The Key To Becoming Prophetic

“Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”  – Genesis 18:17

 

There was nothing seemingly special about Abraham.  His claim to fame was that he simply believed God.  When God spoke, Abraham listened and obeyed.

This simple obedience proved to be the key for Abraham increasing in his ability to know what God was going to do next.  A person with faith is a God-magnet, and so supernatural activities began to occur around Abraham’s life.

But the key is a very simple one – have faith in, and obey what God has already shown you.  Many people want to grow in prophetic power to know what God is saying about the future, or to have supernatural experiences with Him.  But God won’t necessarily bring greater words to those who haven’t listened or responded to his smaller words.

Training in the prophetic starts with obeying the small promptings of the Holy Spirit.  To believe God for something impossible, to turn away from a particular sin, to share a seemingly insignificant word with someone.  Abraham had become so good at believing God, so reliable at walking out what God wanted… that God said to Himself… “can I really hide from Abraham what I’m going to do next?”.

As we learn to be faithful with the little things… this same question will grow in God’s heart towards us too.

Moving Into The Next Season

Then God said to Noah,   “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.  Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” – Genesis 8:15-17

 

If it weren’t for the ark then Noah, his family, and all of the animals would have perished in the flood.  Noah’s faith in God led him to make preparations for and to move into something that would protect him and transition him into the next season.

But when the waters receded and the ground was ready, it was time for Noah and the others to move out of the ark, and into the earth.  God had multiplication, growth and prosperity on His mind – and the ark, as important as it was for the season they’d been in, couldn’t hold them for what God was calling them into.

In the same way, we go through seasons and there’s times when we’re ‘battened down’ and ‘hiding’ in the grace of God while storms blow through our lives.  In these moments it’s easy to develop a ‘seige mentality’ – wondering where the next attack or disaster will come from.  But at it’s best a seige mentality is a maintenance mentaility – it’s not a growth mentality.  There has to be a change in our outlook, in our vision, in our faith – to move us out of our own ‘arks’ and into the promises of God.

It’s a new season for Noah, and perhaps to encourage him to take the step – God gives him a promise… that He will never destroy the whole earth by flooding it again.  He gives Noah His word that the season has absolutely changed and it won’t go back to how it was.

Noah believed God the first time, and built an ark.  How important it was that Noah believed God the second time!  Otherwise he could have found himself living out of the ark… just in case.  How many people in our world have been through a traumatic experience, and cannot transition into a new season because they’re holding on to their old ark… just in case?  That which once protected them becomes their prison.  That which once saved their life now serves to limit them.

God gives us His great and precious promises to coax us out of where we have been, so that He can bring us into a fruitful and blessed place.  That’s His intention and goal.

Thoughts On Job 28 – Mining Gold!

Job 28:1 – Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold which they refine.

Job 28:2 – Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted out of the ore.

Job 28:3 – Man sets an end to darkness, and searches out, to the furthest bound, the stones of obscurity and of thick darkness.

Job 28:4 – He breaks open a shaft away from where people live. They are forgotten by the foot. They hang far from men, they swing back and forth.

Job 28:5 – As for the earth, out of it comes bread; Underneath it is turned up as it were by fire.

Job 28:6 – Sapphires come from its rocks. It has dust of gold.

Job 28:7 – That path no bird of prey knows, neither has the falcon’s eye seen it.

Job 28:8 – The proud animals have not trodden it, nor has the fierce lion passed by there.

Job 28:9 – He puts forth his hand on the flinty rock, and he overturns the mountains by the roots.

Job 28:10 – He cuts out channels among the rocks. His eye sees every precious thing.

Job 28:11 – He binds the streams that they don’t trickle. The thing that is hidden he brings forth to light.

Job 28:12 – But where shall wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?

Job 28:13 – Man doesn’t know its price; Neither is it found in the land of the living.

Job 28:14 – The deep says, ‘It isn’t in me.’ The sea says, ‘It isn’t with me.’

Job 28:15 – It can’t be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for its price.

Job 28:16 – It can’t be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire{or, lapis lazuli}.

Job 28:17 – Gold and glass can’t equal it, neither shall it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.

Job 28:18 – No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal. Yes, the price of wisdom is above rubies.

Job 28:19 – The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, Neither shall it be valued with pure gold.

Job 28:20 – Whence then comes wisdom? Where is the place of understanding?

Job 28:21 – Seeing it is hidden from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the birds of the sky.

Job 28:22 – Destruction and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’

Job 28:23 – God understands its way, and he knows its place.

1)     There is a place where gold and silver are found

It’s not found everywhere.  True treasure is hidden, and it has to be searched for.  But it is SOMEWHERE!

There is treasure in our ministries… but we have to look for it.  It’s often not found just lying around in the easy places.  But it IS there!

2)    Iron is taken out of the ground and copper is smelted

That which is of great value doesn’t start off as great value.  There’s work to be done to turn it into great value.  You don’t just pick up iron & copper – it has to be worked with and processed.

There IS WORK in our ministries to be done.  We co-labour, co-ergo with God.  Just because God’s in the equation it doesn’t mean everything comes easy!

3)    Man sets an end to darkness, and searches out the furtherest bounds

There comes a point in our lives and ministries where we say ‘there must be more’.  I’m not happy with what I’m seeing, with where things are.  I’m going to go exploring.  I’m going to try some things.

Our quest for gold begins with our dissatisfaction at what we currently have.  Settlers never find gold, only explorers do!

4)    Gold is far away from people, and you have to hang there a while

The place where gold is found is away from the crowds.  There’s no signs pointing to it!  Not only that but you have to be prepared to ‘hang’ for a while, swinging back and forth.  Can feel like a pointless endeavour – is anything ever going to happen?

But that’s the process to find gold.  And it’s the same with our ministries.  The most valuable thing we can be doing is exploring.  Our settlements process the gold.  But our mines and explorations discover it.  If the gold starts to dry up, so do our settlements!

5)    No bird of prey / falcon has found it

Those who are looking for a quick feed and an easy path won’t strike gold.  Gold isn’t found by the birds of prey – the scavengers.

6)    He puts his hand on the flinty rock

There is something very tactile, time-consuming, and involved about looking for gold.  It takes time.  YOU have to do it.  You can’t just delegate it to someone else.  Your hand has to touch the flinty rock.  You have to cut the channels.  You have to stop the water flowing (a difficult thing) so that you can find what’s hidden beneath it.

It’s like that with people’s lives.  We have to touch them.  We have to be prepared to bury deep with them, and to stop up the distractions that are flowing over the top so that we can get to the gold.

7)     The thing that is hidden is brought forth to the light

Finally, after all of the process – the gold is found, and brought from the darkness into the light.

THEN HE SAYS… now, what about wisdom?!  Where do you find it?  The answer… God knows the way.  He’s the only one who can direct us in the things that we’re facing today.