Category Archives: Proven Path Ministries

A Crown And A Cross

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But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Mark 8:33

The phrase “setting your mind” in Mark 8:33 is the Greek word phroneó and it means I think, judge, observe. The HELPS Word-studies adds:

phronéō (from Strong’s 5424 /phrḗn, “the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart,” J. Thayer) – properly, regulate (moderate) from within, as inner-perspective (insight) shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. 5426 (phronéō) essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action(see J. Thayer). This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.

Visceral thinking is related to our deep inward feelings and cognitive thinking is related to or involving conscious mental activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering). This Greek word combines both of these as one. That’s a pretty intense word when you really think about it. Thus the reason that it would be more than a thought, but would always show itself through actions.

Let’s place ourselves in the skin of Peter in this moment. He thinks he is coming to bat for his friend and teacher and in return he is rebuked. Can you imagine the halt of his mouth and shock on his face as Jesus identified him as Satan himself? Jesus related Peter to Satan because of the words that came out of his mouth and it was these words that led to this rebuke.

The rebuke that Jesus gave to Peter was the exact rebuke that He gave to Satan when in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry. In Mark 8:32 we read, “And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.” When you look at the Greek tense of the word rebuke in this verse we learn that this was not a rash emotional statement that came flying out of Peter’s mouth in response to Jesus teaching of His arrest and death. This word tells us that Peter kept on rebuking. Peter basically was telling Jesus that He didn’t know what He was talking about and that He needed to stop saying crazy stuff like that because it would not happen. Therefore, Jesus called him Satan because Peter was demanding the very same thing that Satan had offered… a crown without a cross.

After Jesus rebuked Peter He called the crowds and the disciples to Him and said:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38

There would be no crown without a cross, not for Jesus, not for Peter, and not for us. A crown without a cross is a lie and lies come from Satan, because he is the father of lies (John 8:44).  Yet, how we desire a crown without a cross! We don’t want the cross. We despise the cross. We want to point to Jesus’ cross and say that’s enough. Why should I have to have a cross?

When we bow our knee and lift our prayers up for our nation, how many of us pray out of our fear of the cross? How many of us pray with the voice of Satan, requesting a crown without a cross? How many of us pray that God would never put us (or our children) in a situation that we would have to choose the cross or deny Christ? Do we lift up prayers that really are focused on our own interests rather than God’s?

Oh, let us brave!

Let us be strong and courageous!

Let us take up our own cross and throw down the world’s crowns!

Let us set our minds on the things above not on the things of this earth (Colossians 3:2). Let us not seek after our own interest but seek first the kingdom of our God! Let us not bow to the temptation of Satan and his offer of a crown that comes without a cross. Let us follow Christ… even to the death… even to death on a cross.

This can only be done in and through Christ. We can not will ourselves to carry a cross. Our hearts and our minds have to be transformed and renewed and only God and His Word can accomplish this miracle. Human wisdom and might will never give us the ability to walk this out. Fear of death will win every time.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself [Jesus] likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Hebrews 2:14-15

Jesus took up His cross so that we might have the power to take up ours. Jesus took up a cross that bore the wrath of God so that we would be able to have the power to take up a cross that bares the wrath of the world. Jesus came and endured His cross so that we could endure ours, not avoid it. There is no crown without a cross. Satan simply offers the crown first and then leaves you with the cross. Jesus offers you the cross and then leaves you with the crown.

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Revelation 2:10

It’s Time To Get Real

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I have just heard of a new bill that is being presented to Russian leader, President Putin, for signing on July 20th. Mission Network News shared that,

The bill, coining the name, Yarovaya Law, is actually a response to last October when a Russian plane, carrying passengers over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, was bombed and killed all passengers, a total of 224 people. ISIS had claimed the attack as its own.

But, if this anti-terrorism bill is not amended before being signed into law, the already mention parts of this bill could be very damaging for churches. Slavic Gospel Association’s President, Bob Provost explains why.

“The difference in this wording is that all religious activity is restricted to a building that’s registered as a church. Ninety-percent of all evangelical churches in Russia, dating back to the communist days, when a church wasn’t allowed to own property, and so all the church buildings were registered in the name of one of the member families,” Provost says. “And that hasn’t been changed much. And so 90-percent of the evangelical church buildings in Russia today are not registered in the name of a church.”

(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association)

(Photo courtesy Slavic Gospel Association)

In other words, if the bill is signed into law as-is, 90-percent of these evangelical churches won’t even be able to hold a service without being in contempt of the law. The same would go for ministries, such as SGA, and all others working to further the Great Commission. But, there’s hope.

President Putin has the final authority to amend this bill and save what so many have worked so long and hard for: religious freedom. He could easily become the Russian churches’ hero by sparing them this blow. For this reason, SGA is asking for prayer.

“From our standpoint, we want to ask God’s people, from all over the globe, please start praying right now,” Provost asks. “That God will intervene, that God will move in the heart of Mr. Putin and cause him to not sign this law, so that the Gospel can continue to go forth all across Russia.”

And even if Putin signs this bill into law to protect the Russian people in the only way he may know how, pray for the Gospel to continue to be heard, for lives to continue to be changed, and for Putin to see that the word of God is anything but terrorism. It is a redeeming love story written for all person, including Putin himself.

Just this past week I was talking with my daughter and my mother about the tribulation. My youngest daughter asked how we would know what the “mark of the beast” was that we are told about in Revelation 13:16-17. With all the new technology that our world is facing she questioned whether or not these new implanted chips would be that mark. She was afraid that she might one day take the mark mistakenly.

My mother and I assured her that she would not. God is not out to deceive His people. His people will not have to question “the mark.” It will be clear. I shared with my daughter that “the mark” whatever it might be, will be in direct opposition to the Word of God. It will in some way represent and proclaim a denouncement of Jesus Christ.

Our great grandparents feared that the introduction of the Social Security Card was the mark and today we fear that an identification chip implanted under the skin will be that mark. Personally I don’t believe it matters whether it’s a card, a tattoo, or a chip. It’s not the mark, but what the mark represents.

As we read our modern day headlines anyone with any Biblical knowledge at all has wondered, are we drawing nigh the end? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question, except to know that today we are one day closer than we were yesterday. Knowing this should be enough to cause God’s people to get real. I don’t mean get real and fight politics. I mean get real and fight for hearts.

Never before in history has the entire world experienced terror as in our day. One centralized united group with the goal of destroying the freedom of others to believe differently than they do. Their actions are causing nations around the world to rethink their government in order to protect their land. ISIS is after territory. They are not out to simply terrorize.

Due to the reality of their intent on our world, leaders are making hard calls. Hard calls that not only affect the terrorist but affect everyone. In the meantime, here we are today in America, still free. In Russia, at least until July 20th, they remain still free. Yet, in a moment that could change, both in Russian and here in America.

So what do we do today?

We must get real. We must get ready. We must be responsible with the hope that is ours in Christ. There are things in this world that are too great for me and no matter how loud I shout I have no voice. I have learned that those are not my battles to fight.

However, when I look to my left and to my right and I place one foot in front of the other and I take the time to open my eyes and my heart… I see that within my reach there are battles raging against souls. Souls that the Lord has called me to suit up in my armor and to stand firm and fight for in the name of His Son and for the glory of His Kingdom. Yet I am not to fight with terror, hate, arguments, or force. I am instead to fight with truth, hope, peace, love, and prayer.

From faith, by faith, and for faith I am to live for the kingdom that I belong and to the One who reigns over it. I am to live for this kingdom in the way that I treat others, as human beings created in the image of the God I claim to worship and belong to. I am to live it in the way that I keep my word and honor the authority figures that the Lord has allowed over me. I am to live it by demonstrating the love of my God for me by demonstrating His love to others, especially to my spouse, my children, other believers, my coworkers, and anyone else I see on a regular basis.

It’s time get real and be serious about our Father’s business. There was never a time not to be, but if there ever was a time that we needed to be… it is now.

So, let us pray for Russia.

Let us pray for our America.

Let us pray for the Kingdom of God and our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

Let us pray for His Kingdom to come and for His will to be done.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him, all the earth;
    yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
 1 Chronicles 16:23-31 (ESV)

The Scapegoat of Mental Illness

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This past Sunday our topic in our small group class was anger. We were asked by our teacher if we lived in an angry city, nation, etc. I responded emphatically with a yes. My husband felt that we were not as angry of a nation as the media wanted to portray us to be and I agree with that as well. The media tends to stir the pot and usually does not share the whole story until they have already introduced both fear and anger. There where others in the class that felt that some things were more of a result of mental illness rather than anger issues, and I agree that mental illness is indeed a reality that needs addressed, but mental illness is not an excuse for actions of anger. Therefore, I still answer that question with an emphatic yes.

Last night we watched “No Man Left Behind”, the story of the men in the Battle of Mogadishu (or as we better know it as “Blackhawk Down”) on the National Geographic Channel. Mike Durant, the pilot of one of the Blackhawks that went down, was taken captive by the Somali rebels. In this special he shared how it felt to have this angry out of control mob descend upon him and how he witnessed human beings doing things he had never seen them do. Were they all mentally ill? Or were they just plainly and simply filler with anger?You might say “this is war”, well let’s bring it a little closer to home.

Let’s just bring it to the little league ball field when the umpire makes a call that the parents feel was the wrong call. Let’s bring it to the parking lot and the shopping malls during the Black Friday sales. Let’s bring it to the highways when someone has been cut off. Let’s bring it to a political rally. Let’s bring it to the streets outside an abortion clinic. Let’s bring it to the office when a practical joke goes south. Let’s bring it to the church business meeting when one group wants the pastor to resign and the other is ready to defend him to their death. Let’s bring it inside the doors of our home when things don’t go the way we think they should have gone.

In these situations is everyone mentally ill? Or are all these instances accepted anger that is shrugged off as normal and not worth laying at the foot of the cross?

Or are we just as the Word of God has said…

You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.

Matthew 12:34-35

***

But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 

Matthew 15:18-19

***

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

***

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21

Personally, I think its unfair to hand out the mentally ill card so easily. Schools use it as their reasoning as to why kids, who are being required to attend school at way too young of an age, can’t sit still or pay attention in class. Our President hands it out for every mass shooting and uses it as his reasoning for pushing for more gun laws. Hitler used it as his reasoning to begin to put into effect his mass extermination Euthanasia Program.

I know many people who struggle with true mental illnesses and I am not one bit concerned that they will grab a gun and run into a building or school and begin slaughtering innocent people at random. That’s anger and hate induced, it’s not mental illness. It’s the result of unchecked sin, uncrucified flesh, unrenewed minds, and unregenerated hearts and I think it is time that we start calling evil what it is… especially we in the church.

In the book of Revelation in chapter 18 we read of the destruction of Babylon. Babylon represents the kingdom of this world that is antagonistic to the Kingdom of God. In Revelation 18:23 we read, for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. The word sorcery here in Revelation 18:23 and in Galatians 5:20 above is the Greek word pharmakeia and it means the use or the administering of drugs, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it. 

We live in a day when we want to call evil a mental illness and administer a drug for it. We want to diagnose sin as something that is treatable and fixable by our own human hands and measures. We just need more science, more studies, more laws, and we will fix the world without God. We will do it without His Law, testimonies, and precepts, and without His Spirit to guide and teach us, and without His Son to die for us and save us.

We have forgotten that we battle not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness.  We have forgotten that those who know Christ not, walk out the will of the devil and are wide open to his manipulations and deceptions. That’s not mental illness… that’s the nature of man apart from Christ.

When I was in Poland walking through Lodz and then standing outside a cattle car with the claw marks of trapped men, women, and children lining the inside of it, our Israeli guide told us that some want to say that “monsters” engineered and carried out these atrocious acts. He went on to say, but we must NEVER say that because it wasn’t monsters, it was human beings. It was their neighbors, their teachers, their business partners, everyday men and women that they once passed daily on the streets. It was men who were trusted by the vote of an entire nation and were backed by other highly educated men and once considered upstanding citizens. It was husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. It was wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.

Were they all simply mentally ill?

No, they were depraved as we all are apart from the grace of God. They were walking in the darkness and they carried out what was in their hearts. Evil is among us and evil is within us and it can only be cast out by God Himself.

It’s unfair to those who truly struggle with mental illnesses to lump those who are filled with unchecked anger and rage into the same group. It’s unfair and it’s dangerous and I refuse to do it. There are those who truly succumb to mental illness and take their own lives. There are those who are in such a dark and hopeless place, weighed down with burdens that no one has bent down to help them carry, maybe because they are afraid of being honest and real with those around them, or maybe because no one really cared enough to try and step into their mess with the hope of the Word of God and the hands and feet and heart of Christ, and they may take the lives of their children and then take their own. Yet, they are not those who kill in anger or with premeditated plans.

There is a difference between mental illness and hearts filled with hate, anger, bitterness, and rage. Mental illness is not a choice, it’s the result of a fallen world just like cancer and any other ailment that comes upon us as result of this dying and decaying world. God never commands us to put mental illness away from us. Yet hate, anger, bitterness, and rage He does… which means mental illness is not an excuse for these things.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:30-32

So please, let’s just stop using mental illness as a scapegoat.

 

What Is It To Be Relentless

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In less than fifty days the Women of Proven Path Ministries will be offering our very first women’s conference. Saturday, August 20th we are praying that many ladies will join us as we dig into the word of God together and seek His face. If you are a woman reading this, I implore you to attend. You won’t regret it!

The name of our conference this August is

RELENTLESS

As we prayed over this conference and sought what our focus should be and what the Lord wanted to use us to share with the women who would be attending we were pressed to focus on faith. Not just any faith, but unwavering faith, as the Holy Spirit confirmed when He brought Hebrews 10:23 to my heart and had Bridgette and I in agreement.

Then we needed a one word title for the conference. As we pondered unwavering faith and how and why we can in a nutshell have it, the word Relentless is what came to mind. This word began to play in my heart through the lyrics of a song… “Your love is relentless.” So I did what we do in our modern day, I googled it.

Relentless:
adjective * re·lent·less * \-ləs\
 
Definition of relentless:
showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace
 
Synonyms for relentless:
determined, implacable, unyielding, unappeasable, unflinching, unrelenting

 

Yes! This was it. Relentless. This world, this life, wants us to be the very opposite of this word. What are the near antonyms of relentless? They are: slackening, softening, yielding; impotent, invertebrate, slack, spineless, weak; complaisant, obliging…

Our God has not called us to be slack, or impotent, or spineless, or weak. Nor has He called us to be complaisant. No He has commanded us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). It doesn’t matter the situation or the circumstance we are not to oblige fear.

This morning the Lord brought Psalm 112:7-8 to my heart…

He will not fear evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is upheld, he will not fear,
Until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries.

Neither shall she who has become a woman of unwavering faith. She will not fear evil words, fearful news, discouraging information, or despairing communication. Her heart will remain steadfast, RELENTLESS, trusting in her Lord. She will know that her God will uphold her heart and she will not fear, but with her face set like flint she will press on determined, unyielding, and unflinching knowing that her victory is the Lord’s!

The question beloved is how? How shall she become this woman of such unwavering faith? Relentless. How shall we attain to this woman that we know God has called us to be?

We have to know Him. We have to know Him in and through the way He commanded us to know Him… and that is through His Word and THE Word. Os Guinness writes in his book The Call,

With the brief, merciful, and marvelous exception of His Word in human form, God speaks to us in words, and our responsibility, as His creatures is to listen, to trust, and to obey those words… Words are the deepest, fullest expression in which God now discloses Himself to us. So it is in listening to Him, trusting Him, and obeying Him when He calls that we ‘let God be God’ in all of His awe and majesty.

God’s primary call, His address to us, always has two dimensions: summons and invitation, law and grace, demand and offer. Unquestionably the former comes first, yet that side is missing among many followers of Christ today. The result is a casualness in faith and a slackness in behavior that show no sign of having listened to any call from either Sinai or Galilee, let alone Calvary.

If we are to be relentless we have to “let God be God”. We have to know His word and we have to trust Him. We have to respond to His summons to court and plead guilty as charged and accept His invitation for pardon through Christ as we cry out to Him for mercy. We have to acknowledge His law and our inability to keep it as it so plainly and simply points out our depravity and we must receive His grace through faith in the promises of His Word that in Jesus we will be forgiven our transgressions against our God. We have to bow before His demand for righteousness, justice, kindness, humility, and love and accept His offer to provide those things for us if we will just come to Him through the rent flesh of His Son.

Oh precious one, do you want to be relentless? I do. Oh, how I do. I want to be that woman of unwavering faith. I want my face to be set like flint as Christ’s was as He walked the road to Calvary carrying the cross that would bear my sin on His shoulders. I do not want to be shaken by the things of this world. I do not want to be tossed and driven by the wind (James 1:6). I want to be strong in the Lord as I trust in His relentless love for me, knowing that no weapon formed against me can prosper when I am walking in obedience to Him and His Word, knowing that even in death I remain victorious because Jesus overcame the grave, knowing that I am His and because of the cross nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from Him ever again.

 

Praying For Orlando

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As I sat the other morning before the word of the Lord and let my heart ponder the recent shooting in Orlando I prayed, seeking guidance from my God. When things like this happen I try not to respond immediately because if I do, usually it will be in the flesh, and it will be a reaction not a response. So I pray and I wait for the Lord to direct my heart.

This morning in my daily Bible reading the Lord had this verse waiting on me.

He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker;
He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 17:5

As a Christian how am I to respond to this appearing Islamic terrorist who went into an openly homosexual club and murdered many?

I think Proverbs 17:5 tells us how…

If I am a true believer, if I truly believe that Jesus Christ is the One and Only Way and that those who truly love Him obey Him, then what I just learned from Orlando is that in one moment 50 souls that were created in the image of God Himself, 50 souls that Jesus died on the cross to save, just possibly perished into a Christ-less eternity.

This should break my heart.

This should cause me to look to my own community, my own neighbors, my own family and see if I have loved enough. Have I shone His light in the darkness of the world around me in my city? Have I been about His business or have I chosen to snarl my nose and be repulsed or just flat out afraid of those that don’t fit in my box of approval?

The state of our nation need not cause me to grow hard and angry, but instead ever more soft and pliable in the refining fire of the Lord. This should be, so that I might become even more useful in His hands, to reach this lost and dying world for His glory. I don’t want to be this cold, unfeeling, bitter soul that finds the “I told you so” more satisfying than the grace and mercy of God.

If Jesus could be on the cross and cry out “Father forgive them, they know not what they do…” then who are we to mock or hate anyone. If Paul could be stoned and whipped time after time and still keep coming back for more, then by all means so shouldn’t we who today believe? If they loved people this much because God so loved people this much… shouldn’t we?

Those that perished in Orlando have names. They have families. They have stories. They had hopes, dreams, and plans for their future…

I can’t help but be saddened at what happened in Orlando. I can’t help but be angry… but when I bring my anger to the Lord He reminds me of who I truly should direct it toward. I am not to be angry with man. I am to be angry at the one who put it in the heart of man to do such an evil thing. I am to be angry that so many are so easily blinded and swayed to do his bidding.

During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him…

John 13:2

Who is this one, this devil, that has the ability to put thoughts and intentions in our hearts? He is that very same serpent of old… 

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44

I am angry at this evil one who has someone managed to fill our nation with such frustration and weakness and fear. I am angry because we, as a whole, are so distraught and distracted that we don’t understand that the reason why we are frustrated, weak, and afraid is because we have forgotten our God. We have forgotten our Maker. We have forgotten His word.

By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.

Daniel 11:32

*******

I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:14

Knowing our God is what gives us strength. Knowing our God is what gives us courage. Having His word abiding in us is what keeps us sure and steadfast and able to respond in and with love. Jesus said the world would know that we are His by our love. Love is sure. Love is strong. Love is courageous. Oh, and beloved let us never forget that love is kind. Love is all these things because love knows and walks according to God’s commands.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.

2 John 1:6

Let us who profess to know Christ never forget who we are really fighting and why we fight. Let us not forget who we ALL are apart from Christ. Let us never forget that we have been called to Christ to call others to Him. Let us never forget that we are the one’s who have the access to the throne of God and are the chosen. We are to be His priests and to declare His excellencies and intercede on the behalf of those who know Him, and those who know Him not, yet desperately need to. 

Let Orlando drive us to our knees. When anger rises up in our throat let it not cause us to sin, but let it cause us to cry out to our Holy God.

But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.

Thus in Judah it was said,

“The strength of the burden bearers is failing,
Yet there is much rubbish;
And we ourselves are unable
To rebuild the wall.”

Our enemies said, “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” When the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times, “They will come up against us from every place where you may turn,” then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows. When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”

When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work.

Nehemiah 4:9-15

The enemy of our souls wants to put fear in us so that we stop our work… don’t let him. The fields are white for harvest but the workers are indeed few.

The Most Honest Answer

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Yesterday concluded our VBS week at Central. The past couple of years our church has added an event for 7th and 8th graders that coincided with our VBS. This year I helped with this older group. We had over fifty 7th and 8th graders attend a week long event of three Bible studies a day… and they loved it!

Not one time did I see apathy in the eyes of those attending. Not one time did I see boredom. Not one time did I see, “what? another Bible lesson?” Instead those who sat before me were kids with eyes wide open and hungry for truth.

On Thursday we gave those attending an opportunity to make a decision based on what they had experienced during the week. It was the classic decision card asking about more church information, prayer request, baptism, rededication, salvation, etc. Each child filled out a card so that every child could be uninhibited in their answers. I am so glad that we chose this route because on one of these cards I saw one of the most honest answers I have ever read.

One of the kids checked all the boxes and at the prayer request line they wrote, “I want to believe, but I still feel like I don’t” My heart stuck in my throat as I read the words and my mind went straight to the Word of God…

And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

Mark 9:21-24

I told my friend how this was one of the most honest answers I have ever read on a decision card and I have read hundreds. As we both stood there in awe of what God had done this week, her reply was that this one was probably more saved than any of us. (Disclaimer: “more saved” was just an expression to capture the joy of our hearts at this young person’s response to the gospel.)

How many of us hear and read the Word of God and our hearts cry out this very same plea.

I want to believe, but I still feel like I don’t.

I do believe; help my unbelief. 

Precious one, if this is the cry of your heart, God is not afraid of it. You are coming to Him just the way He asks you to… honestly.

When Jesus came and taught the disciples they did not understand it all. They really couldn’t process all that He was saying at the time. Jesus was completely aware of this… He taught them anyway.

These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him.

John 12:16

The name of our 7th and 8th grade event was “Accelerate”. On our last day I shared with the kids that acceleration, in physics, is the rate of change of velocity of an object. An object’s acceleration is the net result of any and all forces acting on the object.

God’s word and His Holy Spirit are the forces that act upon us, the object. God’s Word never returns empty It always accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it (Isaiah 55:11). It’s living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore when we hear it, we will indeed accelerate. The question is in which direction will we go? Towards God… or away from Him? 

I want to believe, but I still feel like I don’t.

I do believe; help my unbelief. 

These are both heart cries that are accelerating toward God and that gives me reason to rejoice. We don’t have to understand it all to take a step in faith toward and into belief… even if that step is simply acknowledging that we want to believe, but need help to believe.

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But That Isn’t What Jesus Said At All

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Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them here. And we know that his account of these things is accurate.
(John 21:20-24, NLT)

I read this passage in my daily reading this past Thursday and it hit me in two different ways.

The first was the rumors…

Rumors have been floating around in the church since its conception. Words taken out of context. Assumptions made through pieces of overheard conversation. Misconstrued perceptions because of wrong perspectives. Conclusions set in clouds that move off with the wind. Rumors are like a grain of sand made into a mountain that stands on imagination alone.

How do we help to build these mountains on foundations of imagination? Let’s say we have a question, do we go to the source or do we ask someone else that we think might know and simply trust their account and then spread the rumor on? Are we in the habit of talking about others rather than to them? Look how quickly this momentary conversation between between Peter and Jesus spread a misunderstanding and a misinterpretation of Jesus’ words throughout the community of believers.

Think about it. I wonder if John heard this conversation himself or if he heard about it through the rumor of the other disciples? If he heard it through rumor, I imagine that he went straight to Jesus to ask Him if He indeed made this statement. Either which way, in his writings, knowing that he could not chase down the rumor, because rumors are spread  with the wind, he made sure to add the correct information concerning the birth of this rumor.

It’s human fallen nature really to misunderstand words and to make something out of nothing. I don’t believe that every person starts purposefully intended rumors, some do yes, but I don’t believe every person does. For example, just yesterday I posted that 900 kids were pre-registered for our VBS. I posted in full faith that I had understood the information correctly. However, I was off a bit. The number actually included both kids AND workers registered. Our pastor commented on my post and I was able to edit it at that point and correct my mistake.

What would look different about the church if we were willing to let people know when they have misunderstood? What if we were willing to simply be bold enough to NOT believe something the moment someone tells it to us especially if it is in any way second hand information?

This is something my husband and I try to teach our girls. They will come to us with information and the first thing we will ask is, were you there? Then we will begin offering up what if’s and alternative scenarios to the situation. We do so to show them that before they take a side, they might need to get a little more information.

Are there things that we hear going on in the lives of the people we know, that we go to church with, that we work with, that we love that are in our family? Have we pulled them aside alone to ask face to face or are we satisfied with the rumor version? What if we talked to the people we have been talking about? What if we dared to ask the hard questions? What if we were willing to feel awkward so that we could live outward?

The second way this passage hit me was the “but that’s not what Jesus said…”

There is a trend in christendom to open up the Word of God and claim there is some secret hidden message behind all the words of Scripture. There are movies made on the seven deadly sins and the number of the beast. There are traveling television teachers that claim they have some hidden insight that has been revealed to them and if you will follow them they will share it with you. We try to dissect blood moons and mayan calendars and Chinese proverbs with the Davinci Code. We let the latest TBN hyped up preacher give us a “word” that ain’t no where in the Scriptures because he told us we just didn’t get it because we haven’t been anointed in the spirit that he has..

What if we just picked up the words of Jesus and took them for what they are? What if we stopped listening to people who say, “I know the Bible says this, but what I believe it means is…”

Beloved before you can know what a passage of Scripture means you have to first just simply believe what it says. What if we just picked up the Bible and read it as a letter from our Father and Brother and Friend and King and took it for simply what it says? What if we just let God speak and didn’t affix an agenda or a mystery to it so that we could act like we have learned some secret that no one else knows? Or worse, so that we could twist it to make it conform to us instead of us being conformed to the Word.

In 2 Corinthians 4:1-4 we read,

Therefore, since we have this mystery, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Our first step in understanding is simply believing. Just take God at His Word. Don’t add to it. Don’t take away from it. Just let it be and believe it.

Start there beloved. Plain and simple. Just start there.

Who Am I

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Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I know of myself, restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
hungry for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsty for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
caught up in expectation of great events,
powerlessly grieving for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to lay farewell to it all?
Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today, and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The last line got me. “Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.” This last line sums it all up. Bonhoeffer penned these words just a month before he was executed in one of Hitler’s death camps. A man who stood so strong in his faith that he, being safe in the United States, chose to instead return to Germany, had these questions and this struggle within himself.

Bonhoeffer wrote, “I have had time to think and to pray about my situation, and that of my nation, and to have God’s will for me clarified. I have come to the conclusion I have made a mistake in coming to America. I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of the Christian life in Germany after the war if I did not share in the trials of this time with my people. Christians in Germany face the terrible alternative of willing the defeat of their nation in order that civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose. But I cannot make that choice in security.”

He returned to Germany, and not only did he continue to preach truth, but he worked with others to smuggle Jews to safety. For this he was arrested, imprisoned, and executed. While in prison he wrote “Who Am I”

I read these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffner this past Friday. Having asked these very same questions of God, and of myself, as I pondering the future, the state of our nation and the American church, my purpose in it, and seeking His will. Then having him, Bonhoeffner, come to the very same conclusion as I… that all I know for sure is that I am His and no matter what I cannot help but be His. Be still my heart. This indeed was a touch from my Jesus to encourage me to press on. 

Then come Saturday morning as I reviewed my lesson for Sunday School the Lord encouraged my heart with this word from Esther…

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14

The Creator God formed me in my mothers womb (Psalm 139:13) and He specifically chose me, and you beloved, for this appointed time and this appointed place (Act 17:26). He called me to Himself for Himself at the very time that He desired me to come, and come to Him I did (Revelation 22:17). I fought against Him and His call and struggled between He and the world for more years than I wish I had, yet when He said to my heart, I AM, I could not struggle anymore. I could only surrender, and surrender I did, and I have not turned from Him ever again.

I am currently reading a book by Os Guinness entitled, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. I picked this book up to read, being drawn to it, because of where I am in my life. Having had the rug snatched from underneath my feet so many times in the past few years, doubts of identity and purpose surely come. Knowing the call that you were so very sure that the Lord placed in your heart, yet being unable to step into it when you think you see the open door… is disappointing to say the least. 

As I struggled in my heart with these holy delays our Pastor shared the testimony of Dr. Billie Franks this past Sunday. He shared how Dr.  Franks had written a discipleship curriculum that he knew was from the Lord, yet year after year the doors were closed to him. Now forty years later, the Lord has opened wide the door. He also shared of a missionary couple who left the mission field having seen no fruit of their labor. They died thinking they had failed. When in fact not long after their death, their work for the Lord exploded and is still bearing fruit to this day. I took a deep breath of relief as I felt the Holy Spirit whisper in my heart, “See.”

Then the very next morning as I picked up the word of God to read in John 18 – 19. It was here that I read these words from Christ Himself…

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth.

John 18:37

I heard the Spirit whisper to my heart again, “A slave is not greater than his master is he? If this was His purpose, then do you not know that it is also yours?

Perhaps you are in the same place as I am. Perhaps you too are wondering if you are walking in your purpose. Beloved, I pray that the Word of God will minister to you today. I pray that we together, would remember that God determined that we would be here today, in this moment of time, to bear witness to the truth.

We bear witness to the truth through our obedience to the truth. We bear witness to the truth through our steadfast loyalty to our God while still unconditionally loving people, all people, no matter the consequence to our own lives. We are to bear witness to  the truth in our own hearts and minds, in our homes, in our jobs and schools, in our church, our community and wherever else we might go. God determined that your soul would live in this day at this time for His glory and His Kingdom. Whether you are kissing a skinned knee, forgiving a spouse, preaching a sermon, or delivering an inaugural speech.

God determined you for this day. He determined you for this day of political upheaval, racial divide, gender confusion, priority misplacing, family destruction, entitlement seeking, and false teaching believing. God did not appoint you for the “good ole days” He appointed you for today. Today beloved, today. He determined and appointed you to bear witness to His truth for this day and these people.

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

Esther 4:14

One Step At A Time

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This week in my community it has been graduation season. My social media news feed has been filled with milestones. There have been preschool graduations, kindergarten graduations, elementary school completions, intermediate school completions, jr high completions, and high school graduations. I love seeing the posts of excited moms and dads boasting in the accomplishments of their children.

When I was growing up I don’t remember all these graduations. I think we just celebrated high school. Today it seems that social media has opened the door for us to celebrate every momentous parental accomplish we feel we have seen. All these graduations and completions I believe can be used to help us set up our children stepping stones to get them through life. Which personally I think is pretty great.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

Psalm 37:23

Perhaps it is better that we train our children to focus on reaching just that next step instead of just pointing out to this imagined beyond that may or may not be there for them. After all didn’t Jesus teach us to pray, “Give me this day my daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). I think focusing on the current step and not looking too far past the next step helps us to be present in the moment. Too often we have our minds set on the fulfilled accomplishment of the future plan and we miss the preciousness of the current moment which very well could cause us to miss the very next step and the plan all together. The moments matter.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps

Proverbs 16:9

This week I took my middle child to college to take a compass test for dual enrollment and my youngest will be in 7th grade next year. As parents, we have been standing on the steps still with our children. We have gone with them each and every step.

Beach steps 1

My husband and I have prayed with them and talked with them and studied them and sought the guidance of the Lord for each and every step. We have five more steps until we send them out to steps of their own. Five more steps to make sure they are fully prepared.

The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps. 

Proverbs 14:15

As their parents our job has been to train them to consider their own steps as diligently as we have considered them as we lead them from one to the other. For many years we never even asked their thoughts on the next step. It was our step to make. It was our job to seek the Lord and be careful to obey Him as He pointed the way. It was our job to teach them by example as we taught them through our own obedience to the directed steps of God.

Beach steps 1.5

I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself,
Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.

Jeremiah 10:23

Then at some point and time we began to kneel down to them and point out the different paths and ask, which step does the Lord say we should we take? We had trained them. We had walked with them. They were no longer naive. Yet, they still needed us by their side to walk with them on the way to make sure they did not stray.

Beach steps 2

They needed to learn for themselves how the Lord makes clear the next step if we are willing to be still and wait and listen to obey. Yet they still needed to know that we were there to say, yes I agree, I believe that’s the next step! When it’s the Lord next step for you it is sure and stable even if it has you standing in the midst of a storm.

Beach steps 3

You enlarge my steps under me, and my feet have not slipped.

Psalm 18:36

The Lord’s next step will never cause you to stray from the path of His commands. Never.

Our heart has not turned back, and our steps have not deviated from Your way…

Psalm 44:8

That doesn’t mean that the next step will be easy or problem free. It just means that you will have peace. Peace is something that you cannot have unless you are good with God. You can be at odds with man and the whole world, but if you know that you are standing on the step that God provided for you, then you can indeed stand with the gospel of peace on your feet. If we have prepared our children and pointed them in the right direction then we do not send them out to step alone…

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…

1 Peter 2:21

Beach steps 4

If we have been following in His steps, then we have been teaching them to follow in them as well. We have five more steps and then we send them off to follow Him… trusting God and trusting them.

Indeed, He loves the people;
All Your holy ones are in Your hand,
And they followed in Your steps;
Everyone receives of Your words.

Deuteronomy 33:3

For now we still we walk with them closely, but soon they will begin to take steps that we cannot go on with them. For they are His steps for them alone.

We have already watched one step out on her own. We held our breathe as we saw her stray from His path… but we trusted the God who loved her even more than we could imagine, that He would only allow her to stray so far.  He proved faithful. The Word of God poured into her heart in her youth did not return void. 

When we stand there on that last step and let go to let them step on their own. We don’t send them out alone. The steps are theirs alone, but God never leaves them to step alone. The great joy and promise that we have as we wave them off and cheer them on is that the steps, though different, if they are following Him, all lead us back to the same place. They lead us all home to Him!

Beach 5

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Life’s Battle Plan

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I first wrote this post, Life’s Battle Plan, in May of 2008 in my Facebook notes before I had a website. This post showed up in my Timehop app memories. I found it interesting that it did, because I had just been to hear, Keni Thomas, one of the soldiers that was involved in the Battle of Mogadisho (or more known as  “Black Hawk Down”) speak only a few short days before. Keni came to share some things he had learned from training for this battle, things he learned in this battle, and things he learned after this battle. His focus for the group he was speaking to was to train to be prepared for when you were handed the baton of leadership, that really was in your hand all along, because we are all leading someone.

I was trying to take notes in my phone as he spoke. One of the first notes I wrote was “train as you fight, because you will fight as you train”. When I skimmed my post from 2008, I saw that I had written those exact words as I studied from the Word of God in 2 Chronicles as I learned from Jehosaphat. Another note I had taken from Keni’s sharing was the three steps for battle: Plan, Train, Lead. Once again I noticed that back in 2008 from 2 Chronicles 20, the Lord had taught me that very same strategy. I called it, “Life’s Battle Plan” . The word of God remains eternally relevant.

My now edited 2008 post begins below:

David stood before Goliath, his enemy. David stood against the man standing before him in representation of everything that stood against the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David stood before Goliath in no authority or power of his own, but instead he stood in representation of his God. He stood before Goliath in complete faith and confidence in the ability of the One True Living God. David stood in faith and God delivered as promised.

We all face Goliath. Satan hasn’t given up yet. Our flesh has not been glorified yet. We all face our giants and enemies. If we try to defeat them in our own strength we will be crushed. However, if we stand in faith and in full confidence in the ability of the One True Living God, we will see deliverance. 

One of the first truths the Lord led me to as I studied David facing Goliath, was the need to first recognize the enemy. So many times we are in a spiritual battle and we don’t know it. We blame other people. We blame our circumstances. We camp out on bitterness and grudges and pity parties. We hate people, including ourselves and we feel caught in a downward out of control spiral.

We feel the whole world is against us and no one understands. So we go into isolation mode and put on a fake smile and struggle through another day. Never accomplishing the amazing things God had planned for us, because we are to busy fighting the wrong enemy.

John 8:44 tells us that the devil is a murderer from the beginning and a liar. He is the father of lies. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we battle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. 1 Peter 5:8 tell us that the devil is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

If you have ever watched Animal Planet or the Discovery channel you know that a lion lays in wait stalking out the herd looking for the weakest, the youngest, the hurt, the easy prey. Satan is the same way. The next time you are in your worship service imagine Satan and his demons in a corner of the church/synagogue slouched down scoping the crowd looking for his kill.

Would you be an easy target?

Are you trained for battle?

This is next or really first. Training for battle. You have to learn how to use you weapons. Read Psalm 18:30, John 8:32, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Corinthians 2:16, 1 Peter 1:13-16. You fight only as hard as you train.

The Word of God is your ultimate weapon. Mark 4:24 says “by your standard of measure it will be measured to you.” In other words, you’re only going to get out of the Word what you put into the Word. You can’t fight with weapons you don’t know you have or know how to use. You can’t recognize a lie when you have never read the truth.

When it comes time for battle the first thing you do is pray. Seek His face. Seek His help. God took me to 2 Chronicles 20. I believe it is an amazing example of the truths in this battle plan.

In 2 Chronicles  20 we read of how a great multitude came against Israel. It was actually three nations against one. “Jehosaphat [the king of Israel] was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD“(2 Chronicles 20:3). The first thing Jehosaphat did to prepare was pray. Prayer is our direct line to the throne of God. Read 2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Psalm 27:7-10, Acts 16:25, and Ephesians 6:17-18. Prayer is one of your weapons of warfare, use it.

In 2 Chronicles 20 the next thing we see is Jehosaphat and all the people of Israel bowed down and worshiping the LORD. They had not went to battle yet. They had not yet received a victory or deliverance, but they worshiped. We must worship our God because He is God.

Worship is a weapon of warfare. Our God will not allow His worship to be given to another. He is always worthy of our worship, whether He delivers us or not. Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember Job as he cried out in Job 13:15, though He slay me, yet will I praise Him.

Read 2 Chronicles 20:18, Psalm 29:2, Hebrews 12:2, 28-29, and Revelation 5:6-14. Our enemy hates it when we continue to worship the One True Living God. Can you just see Satan losing his mind, kind of like the Grinch, when the Who’s sang the song even though he’d taken everything they had?

After the worship we see Israel praise. The Levites stood up and praised God with a loud voice! Oh Praise Him! Praise His Holy Name. God still had not delivered them yet. The battle was still ahead. The enemy was still coming, but they praised the LORD their GOD! Read 2 Chronicles 20:21-22, Psalm 34:1, and Acts 16:25.

After Israel prayed, worshiped, and praised, they stepped out in faith and headed out to face the multitude that had came out against them. God had promised that He would deliver them (2 Chronicles 20:15-17), so they took Him at His word and went to battle. We have to take God at His word and trust Him. He is faithful. We must have faith in Him and in His ability and in His word. Read 2 Chronicles 20:24, Psalm 31:23-24, 1 Corinthians 16:13, and Hebrews 11:6.

Do you know what the awesome thing is? God said that He would fight for them. He said that He would go before them. He said that He was with them. And while Israel was worshiping and praising their faithful God, He turned their enemies against each other. When Israel showed up to fight there was nothing but corpses on the ground. While they were on their face before their Holy God, He was fighting for them!

This One True Living God, the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob wants to be your God. He made the way for “whosoever will ” through the new covenant of Jesus Christ. Jew, Gentile, slave, free, male, female, He wants to fight for you! Read Psalm 27:1-6 and Psalm 111.

YES! READ! READ! READ!

Read of the amazing things He has done. The awesome promises He has given you. Learn who you are in Him and in His mighty power. Learn who He is. He is a mighty and awesome God and holy is His Name. He is Jehovah-jirah, the LORD our Provider and Jehovah-nissi, the LORD our Banner. He is El Shaddai, the God Almighty!

So here is our life’s battle plan:

  • Recognize the enemy
  • Train for battle
  • Pray
  • Worship
  • Praise
  • Go in faith

Keni Thomas had broken down the battle plan into three steps:

  • Plan
  • Train
  • Lead

Those three steps say it all.

There was another profound point that Keni made as he shared. He made the statement, “the enemy always gets a vote.” Think about that one for a bit. When we plan and when we train, we have to remember that the enemy gets a vote. If we expect all to go according to our plan, we are already deceived and defeated. We have to train for the unexpected. We have to train for different scenarios. We have to NEVER stop training.