Word Warfare

The events of the past 24 hours have brought a childhood struggle back to the front of my mind. Some (if not most) of you who read this message have experienced the pain of insults, bullying, and unkind words. When I was young one thing I was taught to try to help deal with the pain of insults was: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Although well intentioned, the statement is incredibly flawed and really an outright lie.

This message is perhaps the first of a few that will focus on the power of words. The Scripture teaches us: The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). The Scripture does such a great job talking about the power of words, why then have we failed so miserably in the church to understand the true power of words? As suicide rates among children has skyrocketed, bullying has become a constant topic among educators and parents alike. So often the most cruel bullying has nothing to do with physical harm but with the power of words.

As I’ve struggled with my own children and the bullying they experience in the world, the echoes of the pain from my own childhood call out to me. Words can do more to change our own perception about who we are than almost anything else. As my child sat and cried begging me not to go back to school, I could feel his pain and heartache. To be honest, the emotions I feel even thinking about his hurt scream into the depths of my heart. He is screaming out like I once did, like maybe you or someone you love right now are: help.

Last night as I tried to comfort my son, I realized how distracted I have been lately. It seemed as if his pain and hurt finally broke him inside and once the walls of his emotions cracked, everything came flooding down. How did I miss this? What have I been doing? How is it that such deep desperation in his eyes has fell on my deaf ears? I relentlessly pray for my children, how has he found himself here? How did I fail to protect him?

From his mouth a mixture of deep hurts, emotions, and chemical responses he doesn’t full understand came bursting forth. For a moment I was transported back decades and I was him. The pain and loneliness of childhood had driven me to despair. As the Lord helped me patiently listen to my son, I realized what each of you should right now: only God can truly protect those we love the most. Yet, and this is a big but, each of us should make time for those we love most to hear them.

Last night as my son confessed his hurt he also shared the thought that I didn’t care. Of course, that lie is straight from the pit of hell. I could not care more about the pains and hurts he faces. Paul tells us that as followers of Jesus we should: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV) The “burdens” Paul is talking about here isn’t the struggles of every day life. These burdens are the spiritual mountains that would crush us otherwise. Is it really possible to bare those burdens (even for those we love most) if we aren’t aware of them? 

Today if you’ve made it this far, my hope for each one of us is two fold. First, if you are hurting and have been struggling in a place where you’ve been destroyed by word warfare, please get don’t give up. Please seek out professional assistance to help you with the grief or pain your struggling in. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please call or text the Samaritan’s Purse helpline at (877) 870-4673. You can also visit their website at https://samaritanshope.org/our-services/247-crisis-services/

Second, don’t assume those you love the most aren’t suffering the same fight my child is. Take the time to sit down and talk to them about what they are facing. Give them a safe place to confide in you. Don’t judge the hurt, dismiss it, or explain it away. Face the fire with them. The Law of Christ that Paul speaks about in Galatians 6:2 is the command by Jesus for every one of His followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)

The God of Impossible

I can’t. I’ve tried a million times and I just can’t. I’ll never get it right. I’ve prayed, I’ve struggled, I’ve done everything I know how to do and here I am again. No matter what, I’ll just always be this way. I guess this is just me… 

As I begin writing this, it’s interesting that all those “I can’t” statements that flood my mind are from a deeper, darker, more sinister source than I really want to admit. Every “I can’t” is born from the lies of the one Scripture says only comes to “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10). Although most of the time every doubt and fear seems to develop naturally with-in me, the truth is most of these lies have been spoken and repeated throughout my life by the forces of darkness, these thoughts are not from God.

Imagine for a moment if I could see through the powerful delusion that tells me these lies are truth. If I could see the enemy saying: “you can’t”. “You’ve tried a million times, you just can’t”. “You’ll never get this right”. “You’ve prayed, you’ve struggled, you’ve done everything you can and you still failed”. “No matter what, you’ll always be this way”. “This is who you are now…”

The Word of God is clear about the “impossible” moments in our lives. In fact, Jesus is the God of impossible. Time after time Jesus does the unthinkable and we are left in awe of the power of the God of the universe. What mountains are you facing in your life? What addictions have you tried to lay down but you just can’t seem to break free from? What strongholds of pain and despair are firmly planted in the middle of your life that seem like you can’t tear down? Even now, my prayer is the Holy Spirit is revealing that place in your heart.

In the Scripture we see a historical recounting of a conversation between Jesus and a desperate dad. This dad had a son whom he loved but who was mercilessly being tormented by a demon. This dad watched over and over as this spiritual darkness tried to destroy his son. He had tried everything he could, he even asked the disciples of Jesus to drive this demon out of his son. Everything and everyone had failed. Here in his deepest desperation after everything and everyone has failed him, this broken dad comes before Jesus and pleads for His help.

In a moment the dad begs Jesus: “if you can do anything… please help my son”. The reply of Jesus should be burned forever on our hearts: “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Mark 9:23 NLT). When it comes to the God of the impossible, there is no “if” He can. It isn’t “if” you can be free from the endless cycle of abuse, despair, and destruction, in Christ every promise of God is yes and amen! You can be free, truly free (John 8:36). Alone we fail to keep every promise to do better, in our own power the impossible remains impossible. Through faith in Christ, nothing is impossible.

So here is the question… what do we do with the impossible moments of our life? Just as the dad did for his son, we “come”. Jesus is calling out to you today to come to Him. In order to truly be free you must face the truth: you aren’t free. You are a slave to your sin and shame and without Jesus, we have no hope. Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven, free, restored, and redeemed. Today the God of impossibility is calling to you: “come everyone one of you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). 

To those who are looking to learn more about Jesus or how to “come”, please visit myemanuel.com/i-am-ready/. To those who have surrendered to Christ but are looking to start over, please visit myemanuel.com/recommit/

When a Million Thoughts Collide

Today as I was speaking to a friend, we both agreed that the current climate in the world makes it difficult to stay focused. As questions come flooding in about the future, about COVID-19, about the impacts to the world, the economy, and life in general, it can be a bit overwhelming. How will I pay the mortgage? Can I afford groceries this week? What happens if I get sick? The thoughts seem endless.

One thing I think we often forget as followers of Jesus is that the events in our world don’t catch God off guard. When the Coronavirus exploded around the world, God was not caught unaware playing golf somewhere in the cosmos. If we are truly being honest, COVID-19 is really just the latest in a series of seemingly endless tragedy and destruction in the world.

It is in moments like these that even the most devoted follower of Jesus can become weary and overwhelmed with burden. I’m thankful that God I serve is not angry or dismissive in the midst of my struggles. As a follower of Jesus I have the promises, hope, and faithful truth of God’s Word to inspire me to keep moving.

I wanted to share some of these promises with you as a reminder: God is not unaware or apathetic about your struggle. Why is the world so full of evil and corruption? Sin. In spite of that sin, God has faithfully promised us so many wonderful things as we trust in Him.

  • Come to Jesus, He will give you rest: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
  • In the time of our greatest need, we can come to God for help: So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)
  • When we are worried and afraid, we can cast those cares on Jesus: Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7 NLT)
  • Even in our deepest weakness, the grace of Jesus is sufficient for us: Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT)
  • God is able to do more than all we could ever ask or imagine: Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20 NLT)

If I could offer you one word of encouragement and a prayer for your life it would be this: DO NOT GIVE UP. I know the struggles of this life can be more than overwhelming but God is faithful to us. If you are struggling with hopelessness, despair, frustration, impatience, disappointment, or feelings of betrayal, honestly and humbly seek God’s face. He is bigger than your questions or your doubt. Through faith in Christ He can and will sustain us.

Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT).