The Death In The Valley

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The word of God teaches you how to fight. When you face trials and tribulation, you will either succumb to the attack or put on your God appointed armor and do battle! Caveat emptor: It requires discipline! Just face it now, if you’re born again and you choose the call of The Great Commission, you will face a life-long spiritual battle with the devil! The life of Christianity is not passive. It is not desperately sitting back waiting for the battle to be over, but contrarily picking up your spiritual weapons and fighting back until you have penetrated the enemy’s ground! So many Saints struggle in this area of their Christian walk. They endure a life of harassment, mental torment and persecution from the devil. Often settling for their health, joy and peace to be taken away from them. If you have a dogged determination and stand firmly on God’s promise, you can take back ground stolen from you, your family members and loved ones; precious lives the enemy has destroyed.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Beloved, one must be spiritually prepared, and not blindly walk into encampments set up by the enemy to destroy you! What are those encampments? Your household, your job, your friendships, your business dealings, your finances, your health! Sometimes the attack is so vicious it may feel like you are stepping on land mines all around you! Satan works through people, including yourself! More, some battles you will lose! Others you may have to keep fighting a lifetime with the enemy not budging!

There was a beloved pastor’s wife whom I knew of. This beautiful, humble soul was stricken with cancer at an early age. It was reported that she had suffered 21 or so grueling surgeries! One can barley tolerate the thought of one let alone 21! Sadly to report, after many decades of prayer, the church interceding, and fighting the devil, the First Lady eventually lost her battle to cancer. Some things we will just have to endure that only God will know the answer to. But, we must not lose hope! It will take persistence, consistence, and diligence to keep fighting the good fight of faith! When severe pressure is upon us, hard as it may be, we must not cave in and quit or give up. Even when you feel like you can’t pray, God knows your thoughts before you even think them–keep your mind on Him! When you feel like you can’t read your Bible, turn on worship music and let the words minister to you! Remembering:

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5 KJV) You cannot give up!

The “night” matures us spiritually, it makes us more Christ like. When you first gave your life to Christ, there may have been overwhelming joy and great anticipation of your new christian walk: you joined a church, attended new believer’s classes, and supplied Christian books to read. There was a general feeling of euphoria that you were finally on the right path in life. You felt God’s touch on your life and some, God may have delivered out of deep bondage. But along the way, you began to face situations that challenged your faith, situations that tested your will, situations that you couldn’t find the answers to in a self-help book! My friend, you may have experienced devastating, life altering situations that resigned you to that of a fetal position, on the floor weeping like a baby, the pain hurt so badly! Beloved, this may have been your night, BUT! The Bible says that if you will just trust in Him with ALL your heart and ALL your mind (Proverbs 3:5), your joy will come in the morning! Amen!

I find that there are different stages of our christian walk. After conversion, you first learn how to pray, how to maneuver the Bible, and what it means to live a God called life. Secondly, God then begins to show you what your calling is in Him. Along with that calling, rest assured, will come an assigned fleet of demons whose job it is to do everything in their power to disprove the anointing on your life! The next phase will be a phase of the testing of your will and your faith. Indeed, the hardest stage for the called in Christ! In this stage you will experience extreme torment from the devil, even though you may be doing all the spiritual work! For those that may be saying this is not my testimony, this message is not for you!–but those on the front line of spiritual warfare, those that are experiencing extreme harassment from the devil because of your anointed call in Christ! The devil vehemently hates it when another pastor is birthed, another church is planted, and when another sinner gives his soul to Christ!

You will go through periods when God’s voice will seem reticent, or you may question: ‘God where are you?’ It will seem as if all hell has broken loose in every area of your life! You will be persecuted on every side, and may feel as Paul did on his Christian journey:

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. (2 Corinthians 7:5)

It may seem as if you are screaming out to God with all your might and yet your voice is inaudible. You may even become angry at God in His silence. It’s a time of testing, tearing down, building up, and strengthening you. It will cause you to go deeper in the work of Christ; deeper in study, deeper in spiritual preparation, deeper in prayer, deeper in fasting. His silence is teaching you how to adamantly trust the word of God and not your feelings! No matter how dark the valley is, He’s teaching you to fear not the evil one, He’s teaching you that, although you cannot see Him, or feel His presence, He’s fighting right beside you! It’s like the parable of the footsteps in the sand. Some things you will look back on and wonder in amazement, how you made it through! Amen! It’s because God carried you! We were wounded and ready to be slaughtered, yet a loving Savior picked us up where our strength failed, and carried us the rest of the way! Selah!

The longer it takes us to completely trust and have faith in God, I believe the longer our spiritual growth will be stunted in our Christian walk. Christianity requires proactively growing in Christ. There will be trial and error in our growth yes, but to grow in Him with a purpose and a plan, that requires diligent study, prayer, and a concerted effort to make time with God daily. Beloved there is something to be said about spending time in God’s presence! The anointing comes down! There is a sweet peace. God will give you wisdom, knowledge, and signs and wonders. He will give you secrets, direction, and ideas your mind could never possibly conceive on its own.

And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. (Acts 5:12 KJV)

In the latter part of the Christian walk, you may enter into a place of supernatural discernment. You will have Godly wisdom and a deeper understanding of spirituality! Those called began to teach, edify, encourage, prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:4-12). There will still be testing, but it will not destroy you like it used to! You’ll know the exact spiritual tools to apply against your enemy and come out a victor! Amen! You will have a concrete belief in God; no trick, lie, or scheme from the devil will be able to dissuade you. You know it’s a war between good and evil, and you will distinctively know your place in the battle. You know that silence does not mean neglect. You know that you and God are in this together!

Lastly, the valley experience changes your attitude! You may have walked with Christ for years but still have a defeated attitude! Instead of thinking you are a victor, and knowing that you are already equipped to win the fight raged against you ( Luke 10:19), you are numb because of persecution, and are thinking defeated thoughts.

To live a victorious life in Christ, there has to be a turning over of mental thinking to the side of victory. Your spiritual language has to change. You have to learn to always speak positive words over your life and circumstances no matter what your physical eyes may be telling you. You have to learn how to see with our spiritual eyes–the eyes of faith!

Additionally, your mind set has to change. A lot of people may quote the verse, say the Christian slogans but deep down inside, perhaps because of continuous oppression, have not come to a place where they believe what they are even saying! If you have a certain call on your life the opposition can be so intense, that you have given up on the inside! You’re spiritually dead! You have been sowing, but sadly feel like you are not reaping. It’s a testing beyond your imagination! With all your might and knowledge about God, you’ve got to take God at His word, getting in your spirit man the living word!

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 KJV)

People often talk about the character of God. That is a culmination of His teachings, His anointing on the lives of the Biblical prophets, and His grace. The devil tries to undermine God and His work in your life. Fight hard with all that is within you to not believe him! There is an evil, vile, more diabolical level of spiritual warfare in this day and time. Satan’s kingdom has become more perverted, more wicked. Its mission is not the ungodly–he already has them under his control–but specifically to attack the saints of God! The death in the valley is so gruesome beloved, let us not forget the saints that are literally fighting a physical battle with the devil; having been permanently scarred, maimed, and tormented. Those who have lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel! As we continue to carry the weight of our cross–with blood, sweat and tears–let us remember: the battle is not between us and the devil, but between God and satan!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

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God Has Not Forgotten You: The Death Of Trayvon Martin 

When one becomes a Christian, God commands that you pick up your cross and follow Him! That requires letting go of all worldly plans, goals and desires. He sets us on a new course in Him. Oftentimes it may not be finite, sometimes He just reroutes our course. Like the children of Israel, sometimes God has to bring us through the desert before we can get to the promised land. But how long it takes to get there is most times up to you. I will be the first to tell you, if you go in obedience your plight will be much easier and may be faster. Many times we stall God’s plans for us by walking in disobedience and rebellion, or having a negative, complaining and bad attitude. But Beloved, still there are no guarantees.

It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7).

Many other times God may be tearing down the walls we have built around ourselves and rebuilding us up in Him. Jeremiah 31:4-18. He takes us through hunger, distress and dry patches in the desert; often testing our faith, like our Father Abraham whom He tested with His beloved son Issac. He is teaching us patience, endurance, building up the character traits needed in us to be soldiers in this Christian army. Beloved, we come to God as weaklings. We think we are strong because we have been surviving off of the world system; flattery, social status, economic position. We have gotten our identity from the world’s modicum of success. God has to come in, clean house and teach us that our identity is solely in him, not of the things of this world! Beloved God is a GAME CHANGER! When in the world, we are looking through the dim eyes of success. When we give our lives to God, He can elevate us beyond what we can ever conceive of in our limited mind. He works in the supernatural! He can do exceedingly, abundantly whatever we think or ask (Ephesians 3:20). God has not forgotten you!

Joel 2:25 says:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25 NKJV)

Moreover, Christ had to literally carry His own cross while beaten, battered, bloody and bruised. Here on this earth, those that are called to Christ must do the same. We must carry our cross; which is heavy on our backs as sickness, dis-ease, burdens and human loss; all while being beaten and bruised by the wicked spirits that work in the darkness of this world — often through the hands of man.

This brings to date the current Trayvon Martin situation. Some are deeming it profiling, racism, or a hate crime. Beloved, can I tell you that it’s neither! It is a spiritual battle! The eyes are the windows to the soul. When you look into George Zimmerman’s eyes, they emanate coldness, darkness, and lifelessness. Let us not forget our father Jesus Christ was the sacrificial lamb that was slain so you and I could be free! Satan and his kingdom worked through the insecurities, classism and hatred of man to slay Christ. The death of Trayvon Martin is an ever present reminder that souls, minds, and the heart of man still needs to be free from the grips of sin and fallen humanity. The war still rages between good and evil. If we look at this situation in the physical it is a tragedy indeed, but looking from the eyes of spirituality, God sent one of his children down to earth for an appointed time to do His will, and God has called Him back home! He is in a much better place than us, for he is sitting at the Father’s feet, while we are yet here to fight the good fight. Of course, it is of great pain and loss when we lose a loved one, but let us not forget we are only here on borrowed time. Beloved, God has not forgotten us! He knows His plans for us before we are even born. Some of us will have to suffer the wrath of the devil; persecution, hatred, and even death! And let us not discount Mr. Zimmerman, also a life that was lost in the wilderness that only God can bring back home!

The Grey-Must Read Christian Movie Review!

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Starring: Liam Neeson as Ottway
Dermot Mulroney
Frank Grillo as John Diaz
James Badge as Dale
Joe Anderson
Nonso Anozie
Dallas Roberts
Ben Bray as Hernandez
James Bitonti as Ottway’s Father
Jonathan Bitonti as Young Ottway
Director: Joe Carnahan
Producer:1984 Private Defense Contractors: Liddell Entertainment, Scott Free Productions
Distributor: Open Road Films

As a person that loves to watch movies, over the years I find that as a Christian there aren’t many movies I can watch without displaying the use of profanity, vulgarity, or illicit sex–to name a few. Really, I have been delegated to watch mostly children’s movies because of the out right immorality.

So finding myself in movie mode on a young Monday night, I decide to take in a movie. I know better by now to watch a movie without reading its synopsis right? So I go to a certain website and read the review of the movie The Grey . It touts it as an “action packed” movie that deals with “spirituality and morality.” “A must see movie,” that delves into “human nature” and “human survival.” Even though it had an “R” rating (thinking it was more for cadavers and wolves), “sounds like my kinda of movie,” I tell myself. BY NO MEANS am I a movie critic, but this movie had such strong sentiments that as a Christian, I would be remiss not to write about it.

In a very concise review, The Grey tells the story of seven surviving oil riggers who, while flying out for another gig, succumb to a plane crash in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. The riggers not only have to battle the elements of torrent weather and snow storms, but also fend for their lives against vicious wolves that see the men as a threat to their territory.

The director does a great job with cinematography and creating a realistic dark, grey atmosphere–hence the title–that implants the viewer directly into the Alaskan wilds, right alongside the cast. However, in a few scenes the camera was very shaky and you could not accurately see what was going on.

The film is unapologetic in its tone. It takes you on a thrill ride with on-the-edge-of your seat action and has your heart racing at the turn of every scene. It is not an easy movie to watch.

Trying to critique this movie from a Christian standpoint and a non-believer’s stand point, I cannot help but come back to the same conclusions.

The Grey is laden with epithets throughout the whole movie. If one were to remove all the “cuss” words there would simply be little dialogue. On top of that there was blatant use of sacrilege, constant reference to sexual immorality and fornication.

I do understand the director may have been trying to showcase “real” human nature and the good of man, but I felt it was done on an imbalanced scale, weighing on the side of Atheism. For instance, there was a scene where the protagonist of the movie–Neeson, who’s character was named Ottway, reprimands one of the oilers from looting the deceased and later tells the men to gather the deads’ wallets so they can be identified by their loved ones. Carnahan hints there may be some type of existence of a God in a scene where one of the men wants to say a prayer for the dead, and thanks God for keeping them alive. And, in a later scene in the movie when character John Diaz chooses to die by a beautiful flowing river and says he doesn’t have anything better to look forward to than that view. That was the most tear-jerking scene in the film.

The oilers eventually get killed off one by one, with Ottway being the last survivor left. In an earlier scene, Ottway self-righteously alludes there is no God, now fast-forward to the final scene where he sits on an embankment and violently, blatantly curses God and demands God to help him. In the next minute he retorts, “fine, I’ll do it myself then!”

By all means, one can understand the hurt and anger people may feel when they deem God has forsaken them. The way Ottway’s character was written does not give the audience enough history to fully understand why he chooses the spiritual beliefs he does. Here’s a man who has neglected God his whole life and at the very end, instead of finally making peace with life, he disturbingly launches a tirade against God. Giving God a few seconds to deliver him out of this situation–albeit nightmarish. Furthermore, I cannot even understand how actor, Liam Neeson, could recite this hateful monologue against God, even if it was written in the script. Actors can challenge the writing.

It reminds me of the verse:

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

For a movie?

This film showcases the pride and arrogance of fallen man, giving God ultimatums and when it isn’t deemed (in their minds) God is just, they curse God and continue to make themselves the God’s of their own lives.

The film, in my opinion, did not have any kind of moral to the story, no plot, or explanation, it just was. I get that every story isn’t going to have a happy ending, and the director was trying to portray realism. If anything, this film tells the unfortunate story of a group of men, all but maybe two, who throughout the course of their lives did not acknowledge God and died in their sin with no hope.

Moreover, if God’s own prophets such as The Apostle Paul, John the Babtist, Stephen, Peter, why…even God’s own beloved son Jesus, died horrendous deaths; and they were servants of God, why does the writer choose to depict a story where arrogant, unrepentant man expects to be spared death?

My spirit was troubled very much watching this movie, so much so I had to ask God’s forgiveness because of its out right use of God’s name in vain. It made me question the religious motives of the writer and director as the movie seems to be another case of Christian bashing and hatred towards God. I will do more thorough research from now on on any movie I watch.

God is the Resolution

As a new year is beckoning us one can’t help but ponder the challenges, obstacles, twisting and winding roads that have met us. Some are still paralyzed perhaps, by this past year’s events. Maybe you have experienced a personal loss; whether it was the loss of a loved one, career, home or quite simply…hope. You may be tempted to carry into the new year the burdens of yesterday; a quite heavy load that oft times seem impossible to carry. Sometimes even wondering where was God through those sleepless nights and unbearable days.

According to Matthew 28:20 God says “…Lo I am with you always.” He was right there by your side! So I ask you, my brothers and sisters to perhaps think about your situations from a different perspective. Was there a common theme related to the pain, struggle, and hardship you endured this past year? Perhaps there was an area in your life God needed to bring to your attention. Maybe God allowed it to prune, refine, and complete you.

The theme that was a constant challenge in my life this past year was in the area of relationships. It seemed like I was being attacked on every side and in every aspect of my relationships; whether personal, family, or professional. After tirelessly, and frustratingly trying to work things out in my own strength I was humbled to my knees in prayer. God began to show me things about myself that I had not submitted to His will. In each relationship God used the other person to show me a mirror reflection of myself! The traits that I often had problems with in others were some of the same traits God was trying to perfect in me. Wow! And, on the other hand, I also struggled with character traits in others that were the extreme opposite of mine! Nonetheless, I could see how God allowed those situations to make me aware of my own behavior. When I realized the things that I was doing out of habit, stubbornness, or selfishness it was truly a wake up call! It wasn’t comfortable going through that season but I’m glad that I did! I learned a lot from those experiences and am very thankful God showed me what was in my own heart!

So I now ask you to revisit your trials and tests from the previous year. Now that you are looking at them through spiritual glasses, were there trying areas in your life where maybe God was building your character or maturing you spiritually? Spiritual growth often comes in the form of pain. It’s in those tough times that you learn how to depend on God. You strengthen your faith muscle when God delivers you out of trial after trial! Hallelujah! That’s how you get your spiritual wings and begin to fly! The more trials overcome, the closer you are to being free. Let’s go into the new year soaring!

~HaPpy NeW YeAr!