The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: August 2012

Suiting Up

 

Several weeks ago I was having a conversation with a young man that I’d met this summer while attending a small group for men at our church. This young man, recently "born again," is on fire for the Lord, and has visions of a ministry that God has put on his heart. This young man (Charlie) is also an active member of our country’s military.

Charlie had reached out to me because he felt…make that, he knew that he was under spiritual attack on all fronts, and needed someone to talk to. In his words, "I don’t know what happened. Everything was going fine, and then all hell seemed to break loose; at work, at home, and wherever I happen to be. What do I do?"

We talked for a while, and of course, we prayed. Nothing breaks spiritual attacks like prayer and proclaiming in Jesus’ name that Satan must flee! The secret lies in believing in what you’re praying for and the power of proclaiming Jesus’ name.

I warned Charlie that unlike an enemy of war, who once shot and killed will live to fight no more, Satan will never cease in his attacks. You vanquish him today, and you can rest assured that he’ll be back tomorrow. He is relentless. He’s always on the prowl. Always looking to steal, kill, and destroy.

I suggested that Charlie recite Ephesians 6:10-18 each and every day, putting on the armor that God has given us to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks. I cautioned that when it comes to the enemy, there are no days off, no furloughs, and no time off for good behavior. "Charlie, you have to suit up every day for this battle. Every day."

 

Minnesota

Early the next morning my wife Jackie and I caught an early flight to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We were going there to attend the wedding of a young ministry student who had spent the better part of the last two years living with us here in Birmingham. Brooke had become like a member of our family, and we were eagerly anticipating not only her wedding, but also meeting members of her family that we’d heard so much about but had never actually met!

The next several days were what I can only describe as a "whirlwind tour of blessings."

The outdoors wedding that evening was held at an orchard an hour or so north of Minneapolis. The setting was beautiful. Rows of chairs were neatly arranged facing the area where Brooke and her fiancé Cam would exchange their promises

to one another, in what Brooke dubbed as a "church with no walls." Two glass windows were hanging from the limbs of a huge oak tree and gently swaying in the breeze, and a few partition screens served as a backdrop. So simple, and yet so perfect. God’s presence was everywhere, and we were grateful to have been among those in attendance.

Saturday included spending the day with another set of friends, and dinner that evening with Brooke and Cam’s families at the home of one of Brooke’s aunts and uncles, Jodie and Darnell. Again, God’s presence was so strong that it was almost palpable.I remember thanking God for the day time and time again as it unfolded, and when I lay my head on the pillow that night, thinking, "This was really a great day. Thank You!"

Early Sunday morning found us following Brooke’s mom and several members of her family to Winona, a city of 27,000 located two hours southeast of Minneapolis. After attending church, we went to the home of yet another of Brooke’s aunt and uncles, Becky and Sonny, where we had lunch and spent the balance of the day talking about God, life, and "callings." Brooke’s parents, Dan and Mary were there, along with her brother and sister, and Becky and Sonny’s children. What a great afternoon and evening! Again, God’s presence, and more specifically, that of the Holy Spirit, abounded everywhere and were so palpable that I could feel it.

The plans were for us to spend the night at Becky and Sonny’s, and as I lay my head on my pillow that night I reflected on the previous three days, and how perfectly anointed each of them had been, and how fortunate and blessed Jackie and I were to have been surrounded by an amazing family and friends. The weekend had already surpassed any expectations that we may have had for a "weekend getaway" and was proving to be an unexpected windfall of grace and blessings.

Monday was our day to return to Birmingham, and the plan was for all of us to go out on Sonny and Becky’s boat for a short day on the Mississippi river, before Jackie and I had to drive back to the airport in Minnesota in our rental car. That day marked a "first" for me: it was the first time in my fifty-nine years that I’d swam in the Mississippi, and while it was a ton of fun, I can tell you that the water in Minnesota is cold, even in July!

At any rate, we had a blast on the water, and at the appointed time, Jackie and I said our goodbyes and hopped in the car to make our way back to Minneapolis. Jackie slept for much of the way, and I listened to worship music and reflected on our amazing weekend. God had blessed us with an unbelievable weekend surrounded by one incredible family!

BAM!

We were 10 minutes away from the airport when "it" hit. Jackie was asking me a question and I was fighting five o’clock traffic and looking for my exit which I couldn’t afford to miss because we were gonna be cutting it close on time anyway, and I was just aggravated in general because I just don’t do well in traffic in an area that I’m not familiar with.

So she asks me a question, and in what I’m sure was anything but a civil tone of voice I responded, "I don’t have time to be looking around or answering your questions! I’m trying to get us to the airport!" Which led to her making a remark, which led to me making a remark, which led to a barrage of verbal bantering, which led to stone cold silence. By then I had apologized, but the damage was done.

The flight home was marked by that same silence, as well as during the drive from the airport to our home. We went to bed that night without saying goodnight, and the next day, a day that we had taken off from work, was just about as uncomfortable as you can imagine. We spoke to each other only when we had to, and dinner was punctuated by an eerie and most uncomfortable silence. Again, we went to bed without saying goodnight.

I hate the silence of "cold war." Hate it. I went to sleep that night wondering what had happened? How did it start, and when would it end?

Wednesday

The next day, day three of the cold war, began just like the previous one. We had coffee at the kitchen table, marked by the maddening silence. You could feel the iciness between the two of us. I wasn’t budging, and neither was Jackie.

We went to work and I had decided that we were gonna put an end to this when we took our lunch break. Something had to give. I even had two of my good friends praying for a resolution to our differences.

I was wrong. My initial question of "Can we try to figure out what happened and get past this?" quickly escalated to verbal shots worse than all of the others. We were both mad as hell and out of control and returned to our business without even having eaten, much less having resolved our issue.

Jackie went to the back of our hair salon, and I went to have a seat in my prayer room. Yes, we have a prayer room in a hair salon.

In prayer, I said, "Lord, please help us to resolve this. Give me clarity to see what went wrong, or better yet, how to fix it. Please help us to get past this. Please tell me what to do."

In an instant,

 

I knew what had gone wrong, and I knew what I needed to do about it. I found Jackie sitting at her styling station, grabbed her by the hand, and drug her into the prayer room. Once there, I closed the door, held Jackie close and began to pray, not for me, or for her, but for us! I prayed for God to stand in the middle of our circle, and I prayed, in Jesus’ name that the spirit of divisiveness and pride and anger that had engulfed us for three days be broken!

And you know what? "It" ended, right then and there. It was done. Peace was restored. I’d love to tell you that the hurt totally went away at that moment, but it took a couple of days for us to get back to where we usually are. Still, the healing process had begun.

So what happened?

The answer is quite simple. You see, I didn’t follow the advice that I’d given my friend Charlie before we left on our trip. We had gotten busy, and we were around amazing people, and our days were filled with fellowship, and fun, and food, and good times, and prayer. And I hadn’t taken the few minutes that I take every day to "suit up," to put on the armor of God to guard against the attacks of the enemy. I had gotten comfortable and complacent. And I had left the door open for the enemy to sneak in.

I’m not saying that reciting this passage from scripture is a magic shield of protection. I do believe that by reciting it each day, I remind myself that God has indeed given us weapons for spiritual warfare. And I believe that it’s the awareness that I need to cover myself each day that helps to protect me indeed.

You could call it "coincidence" that Jackie and I just happened to get into a huge argument when I wasn’t covering us in God’s armor. For the record, I don’t believe in coincidences.

A Fight to The Finish

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the

help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message

Suit up.

Every day. Without fail. You can’t afford not to.

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/30/2012 at 2:15 PM | Categories: Life - Faith -

You vs. The World

Have there been days when you felt as if the world and everyone in it was against you? Days when you believed that one individual was singlehandedly attempting to tarnish your reputation, or even wreck your life? Days when seemingly everything that you said and done was wrong? Days when a situation seemed hopeless?

 

Come on, you’ve had at least one of those days, haven’t you? I’ve had more of them that I can recall, and to be honest with you, I don’t know that I want to. I mean, who wants to spend time reflecting on the bad times when it’s a whole lot more fun thinking about the good ones?

 

Consider David.

 

Yeah, I’m well aware of the fact that I’ve written about David before, but that’s because David has such a remarkable story…

 

David was a young boy who was in God’s favor; God loved him. David had been anointed with oil by Samuel, and was filled with the power of the Spirit. David was chosen to live and serve as an armor bearer in the house of Saul, the king of Israel. Yes, this was the same David who would slay Goliath, the Philistines mightiest warrior, with a slingshot and a rock! David would become one of Saul’s greatest commanders, and would lead Saul’s armies to many victories. He would, in fact, eventually become Saul’s son-in-law. David was indeed in God’s favor.

 

It was just after David’s slaying of Goliath that Saul became extremely jealous of David’s favor with God, of his power, and of his ever-growing popularity among the people. After several failed attempts to place David in a place where he would surely die in battle, Saul decided to murder David with his own hands.

 

It was during his flight from Saul that David was captured by the Philistines in Gath. Weary from fleeing Saul, and fearful for his life, David cried out to God in Psalm 56, for His mercy and protection.

 

1 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press on their attack.

5 All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. 6They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life.

9 Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.

11 in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

 

Still believe that David was in God’s favor? He was, to be sure. God rescued him from the Philistines and protected him from Saul’s obsession to kill him, and used David to serve Him and His people for many years.

 

So how does David’s plight apply to you today? You probably haven’t slain a goliath recently, it’s doubtful that a jealous king wants to kill you, and odds are that you haven’t been imprisoned for being an Israelite. So what’s the connection?

 

We face people every day who are jealous of what we have, or of the favor that we may have with God and with other people. These people will slander us, threaten us, and seemingly go to any extremes to ruin our lives. More often than not, their actions aren’t the result of what we do have, but of what they don’t have.

 

I believe that jealousy is often born of the fear of not have enough of something, like money, material possessions, good looks, and notoriety. In the case of David, and as is frequently the case with hungry-for-God Christians, this jealousy wasn’t only about the favor of God, but God’s love.

 

“Mom loves YOU more!”

 

I wonder how many times this statement has been spoken by one sibling to another throughout the annals of history. I’ll unashamedly admit that it was my favorite “war-cry” when I was a child. I was convinced that my Mom loved my younger brother Ronny more than she loved me, and because of that I just knew that he was her favorite! And because of that, I was always ready to take it out on him.

 

You see, Saul fell into the trap of thinking that God loved David more, thereby making David his favorite. And because of that, Saul wanted to kill David.

 

So what did David do? He cried out to God. He prayed harder. He pressed-in even closer, knowing that his cover, and indeed his very life, was in God’s hands.

 

You vs. the world…

 

When it feels as if it’s you against the world and the enemy is closing in, always seek refuge in the Lord. You already know that you don’t have to have a jealous king trying to take your life to feel like it’s in peril, don’t you? Some days it just feels as if there’s no hope, that God has forgotten all about you and has left you to the wolves.

 

Pray harder. Press in closer. Take shelter under His wing. He’s our protector, our strength, and our conqueror. Our love for Him, and more importantly, His love for us, will protect us from our accusers, our pursuers, and anything else that comes against us.

 

Anything.

 

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/15/2012 at 10:19 AM | Categories: Life - Faith -

The measure of a man...

Our society tends to take the measure of a man by what he’s accomplished, the titles that he holds, the size of his paycheck, and the material possessions that he’s accumulated. While there is certainly nothing wrong with any of these things, we have to question if they are, independently or collectively the true measure of a man. Do they really define who he is, what he is, or what he’s done in life?

 

Another way of measuring a man is the smile on his face and the manner in which he greets people. Genuine smiles, warms hellos, and signs of affection (hugs and handshakes) are more often than not the trademarks of a man who is happy with himself. Still, even this method leaves room for error. Many people wear smiles, offer warm hellos, and greet others with signs of affection as a means of acquiring the things listed in the first category. Then too, many who wear smiles are masking their true feelings, which are anything but happy. I remember this one far too well.

 

The most accurate yardstick is the one used to see what is in a man’s heart. For obvious reasons, it’s also the most difficult to apply. You see, only the proprietor of a heart and God knows what’s truly in it.

 

Psalm 49 is very clear in cautioning us about those things which we hold in highest esteem.

 

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies….16-17 NIV A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish. 29 NIV

 

THE MESSAGE version of Psalm 49:29 is even blunter in referring to our fate:

 

We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long. Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die. 

 

We die, and we don’t take anything with us when we go. Not the titles. Not the money. Not the material possessions. Not a thing. The adage “You can’t take it with you” is based on fact.

 

So what are we saying here? That it’s a bad thing to have the finer things in life, like money, a nice house, or a fancy car? Of course not! What’s of most importance is having God, first and foremost, in your heart. And even more than that, it’s having His wisdom and understanding in your mind.

 

Where do we find this understanding?

 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord—Isaiah 11:2

 

True understanding is given to us when we receive the Holy Spirit. We cannot fully understand or comprehend the depth of God’s love for us until we’re filled by the Holy Spirit. We cannot know the love of Jesus and feel the pain of his sacrifice for us until we walk with the Holy Spirit. We can never protect ourselves from the relentless attacks of Satan without the armor of God that is given to us by the Holy Spirit.

 

We can never fully be what God intended us to be, or discover and live out our true purpose for being here, or “walk the walk” that God intended for us unless we walk with His Spirit in our minds and in our hearts. Only then will we know the true measure of ourselves. 

 

How will people take a measure of you today? Do you think it would be based on what you have, or the smile on your face, or what’s in your heart?

 

How do you measure yourself?

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 08/07/2012 at 10:11 AM | Categories: Life - Faith -

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