When God Shuts the Door

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Preparing the Heart:

“What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.” Revelation 3:7b New International Version

Every doctor’s door I opened—feeling hopeful—closed without remedy.

For five months, I suffered with sever sinus inflammation, head pressure, ear -popping, and migraines. No one could locate what caused my debilitating health problems which left me feeling hopeless, and I feared I’d die from it.

During this time, I led a group of over 100 women through a Bible study called, “Me, Myself, and Lies” by Jennifer Rothschild. Some in my study noticed that I struggled with anxiety and the inability to focus, and they prayed for my healing. One day after another doctor’s doors closed, I cried out to God. I begged Him for peace and understanding as to why He shut every door giving me no remedy for my ailments. Once home, I opened my Bible to a passage in Matthew 7:7 (NIV) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

“I’m asking for revelation God;” I prayed. “nobody knows what is going on with my head, except for You. I need Your revelation. Please show me what to do.”

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The Bible study workbook

That particular day in Bible study, Jennifer referenced Daniel chapter 10. During the Hebrew exile, Daniel received a troubling vision. He sought revelation and understanding from God. He mourned and fasted for three weeks. Afterwards, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and brought a divine answer.

Immediately, I sensed God calling me to fast like Daniel. The truth is I had never fasted for spiritual reasons before, and I didn’t know how or what to fast from; yet I was desperate for a discovery from God. Daniel became my fasting model. In Daniel 10:3 (NIV) “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”

For the next 21 days, I ate only fruits and vegetables, and drank only water. I. gave up coffee! Coffee had been my go-to all day, comfort drink. Serious business. In addition to abstaining from certain foods and beverages. I felt led to fast from dousing myself with perfume and bath sprays. Like coffee, smelling good ranked high on my daily regime. The final area I denied myself was watching tv. Yes, I gave up my favorite shows. In studying Daniel, I learned the spiritual warfare weapon of fasting and prayer.

For the first time in my life I understood that fasting was not so much about abstaining but rather, indulging. We as Christians get hung up on the foods we deny ourselves, rather than focusing on the joy of intimacy with God.

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For three weeks I poured my heart out to God in prayer daily. First, I praised Him for Who He was, focusing on His attributes and His goodness. “Dear God, You are Jehovah-Rapha, and I praise You because You are the God Who Heals me.” Next, I confessed my fears and inadequacies and asked him to forgive my sin. “Lord, You. Know I’m scared that this illness is going to be the death of me’ please help me to trust You. Forgive me for worrying.” Then I petitioned Him on the behalf of others in my life to do what only He could do. “God, my son Christian is struggling with nightmares. I ask that you give him peace, so he can be at rest.” Lastly, I thanked Him for being so faithful and for answering my prayers ahead of time. “Thank you Lord that you have heard my cry, and I know you are working even now to do what’s best in my life.”

In the mornings when I craved a cup of coffee, instead, I found my comfort in the pages of His Word. As the day wore on and the hunger for something other than broccoli or bananas hit hard, I learned to feast on the Bread of Life, by digging into my Bible study. It was there that I found both physical and spiritual nourishment for my soul. By day 10 the cravings for coffee lessened and my desire for God increased. It wasn’t long before God’s peace filled me, and I knew no matter what He chose to do about my health I would be alright.

Isaiah 58:8-9 “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’” (NIV)

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By God’s providence—not coincidence—my primary care doctor had ordered a Cat scan and a full panel of blood work during my fast. Around day 17, I received a personal phone call from him.

“Liz,” he said, “we received the results of both tests’ I know what’s wrong with you. You have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. Can you come into the office so I can discuss treatment with you?” We finally had an answer! I felt perplexed by this newfangled terminology. I had no idea what it meant, or if it was life-threatening. Before he ended the call, he assured me it was a thyroid disease which was treatable and not to worry. As I hung up the phone, praise erupted from my lips, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you God; You are so good.”

 

In my doctor’s office, I learned that when my endodontist pulled one of my upper molars, it perforated my sinus cavity, which caused severe infection. Due to the fact that I had undiagnosed Hashimoto’s, the damage to my sinuses wouldn’t heal like a healthy person’s would.

“Your body is not producing the thyroid hormone and therefore cannot heal itself properly.” My doctor explained. “It’s no wonder you’ve been in so much pain. Your thyroid is your second brain. Before the discovery and treatment of this disease, most people died from it. Your blood work revealed off the chart records for Hashimoto’s.  Let’s get you treated.”

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Often I wondered why God didn’t reveal this sooner. Why did He continue to shut so many doors that could have helped me? Eventually, I discovered God closed the doors to redirect me into His perfect will and timing. Knowing God’s love and learning to trust His timing is paramount. Without the extreme discomfort of being left untreated, I wouldn’t have initiated the discipline of prayer and fasting. God also shut the doors so that He could provide something greater, more beautiful, and more powerful than anything I could have planned or imagined for myself. When it seemed God said, “No,” it caused me to seek Him more earnestly through fasting and prayer. He taught me a powerful spiritual discipline that would bless and benefit me the rest of my life. A greater “Yes” came when I realized God was more than enough, even when He shuts the door.

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“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may. Have power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory…” Ephesians 3:17b-20 NIV

 

Blog post by Elizabeth Hammond a team member of The Hallelujah House. Elizabeth can be contacted at Elizabethhammond8@gmail.com. To see Elizabeth’s full bio click on the “Team” link above.

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How to Fight Spiritual Warfare part 2

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How to Fight Spiritual Warfare part 2:

Preparing the Heart and Harvest of your life.

 

If you haven’t read How to Fight Spiritual Warfare part 1 you need to start there. You can access that blog post by clicking here:

Note: Most of the material for this article is taken from Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God Bible study. I highly recommend the seven-week study, and it can be purchased at www.lifeway.com or a local mom and pop Christian bookstore in your area.

 

We are going to jump right back at the point we left off by examining the remaining armors Paul mentions in Ephesians 6: 10-15.

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  1. The Shield of Faith:

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.” Ephesians 6:16 English Standard Version. The shield of faith provides protection from anything the enemy uses against you. It helps guard you as you step into what God has called you to do. The shield of faith is your reliance on God.

A dear friend of mine named Vanessa died in August of 2018 from brain cancer. God had led this girl to me years before, and I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. Soon after she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior. On her death bed, she admitted she wished her family and friends knew her testimony. She wanted them to know the reason she had peace about dying, but she never got to tell them. Being a witness to it, I knew God wanted me to tell her story. Many of her family and friends were Muslim and Hindu, it wasn’t like speaking at the funeral in front of Christian mourners. The night before I laid on the sofa because of the knots in my stomach. I prayed God would take the anxiety away from me. It wasn’t until the next day when I stood up and took the podium did the fiery darts of anxiety and fear stop. God met me when I stepped out in faith, and a peace came over me. Several times, I stated the God of the Bible was the one true God. A friend of ours sat in the back of the room and claimed every time I called God the one true God, the Muslim men moaned. What’s amazing is, I didn’t hear them, my shield of faith protected me.  I couldn’t have done that without placing my reliance on God.

If you believe Jesus Christ died on the cross, rose again, and saved you, how are you living your faith? A life of true faith in an all mighty God is evident in the way we live. Our good works don’t save us, but we live how we believe. Do you fear going to a Bible study? Many women I’ve talked to fear they don’t know enough Bible to go to a Bible study. Isn’t that what Bible study is for? Those are fiery darts! Don’t let the enemy steal your opportunity for growth. Grab your shield and sign up.

In another example, let’s return to giving up wine and how to apply that to taking up the shield of faith. I admit, I’ve experienced temptations and you probably will too when God asks you to give something up; but here’s the kicker, God always provides a way out of the enemy’s enticements. If I were to disappear in my bedroom when the wine is poured at a family birthday dinner, I’m not holding up my shield, that’s retreating. Instead, I prayed for God’s strength in the face of it. God will never ask something of you He’s not ready to be a part of. God is faithful and will meet you at your temptation.

I’ve already pointed out the fiery darts of the enemy could be fear, anxiety, and temptation. Another common dart he loves to send is distractions. He loves it when we become so distracted we never accomplish what God wants us to. When Paul wrote the book of Ephesians a popular war tactic was to send fiery darts towards the enemy’s line. This would start fires the enemy had to extinguish. This distraction left wide open holes in their line of defense allowing the archers to break through and attack.

Pick up your Shield of Faith and don’t allow the enemy to tempt, fill you with fear and anxiety, or distract you from God’s calling.

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  1. The Helmet of Salvation:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Satan is after your mind. Priscilla points out during the time Paul wrote about the spiritual armor the Roman soldier’s helmet had been redesigned around 10 years prior. The new design no longer only covered the crown, but the metal came down the sides of the soldier’s face and the back of the neck as well. If we apply this new design to the spiritual armor, the helmet covered the ears, the mind, and the neck.

The enemy will try to affect your way of thinking. He is not God and therefore can’t read your mind, but he can influence your thoughts if you allow him to. When you put on the helmet of salvation you are liberating your mind from lies, negative thought patterns, and darkness.

Have you heard the expression Satan’s whispering in your ear? There’s a helmet for that.

The covering on the neck signifies freedom from strongholds or slavery. The message of the gospel is freedom. Guilt, addictions, sin, and pain places you in the yolk of slavery. Do not free your minds to be filled by the enemy but keep them focused on what is good and acceptable to God.

Did you know negative thoughts actually change your brain physically? Check out this article on Huff Post https://www.huffpost.com/entry/how-your-thoughts-change-your-brain-cells-and-genes_b_9516176.

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  1. The Sword of the Spirit:

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 ESV

The Sword is your only offensive piece of armor. It is the Word of God- the Bible. Paul describes it in Hebrews as doubled edged, very sharp sword. The Roman soldier’s sword of that day, was short and needle-sharp, made to attack the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

The Bible is God-breathed and living. A sentence or paragraph leaps off the page and it seems to have been written for only you. It can stab into the heart of your situation. Truth from the Word of God is your biggest offense against the deceiver.

Recently over lunch, a girlfriend stated, yes Satan is the father of lies, but he’s also a deceiver. We believe deceivers. Lies we recognize as untruths, but deception is his ability to make us believe his lies because he knows our frailties and weak spots. Hence, why the sword is important.

Stay in the truth.

Fight.

Offend the enemy.

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Now that we know the spiritual armors and their jobs, there is one thing that will infuse them with power and that’s prayer. The constant conversation with our Heavenly Father keeps us alert to the spiritual world. Paul instructs us to “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)

On our next blog, Elizabeth Hammond will share how prayer and fasting led to her physical healing. See you then.

 

Picture Credits: Thanks to Pexels, Stocksnap, and Rudy and Peter Skitterons at Pixabys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fight Spiritual Warfare

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Preparing the Heart and Harvest:

“Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breast plate of righteousness, and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. All the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with al prayer and supplication.”  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish” Ephesians 6:10-15 English Standard Version

 

I’ve got a red juicy confession to make, recently, I’ve had to give up red wine. I can see you teetotalers out there nodding, but to be clear, I don’t believe drinking in and of itself is a sin. It can be when you drink without self-control or in front of someone who has a problem with alcohol. In my case, it became a sin when God told me not to and I did.

I’ve spent the holidays clinging to my rights and arguing with God over the issue. You know when it’s not fair God pries something out of your hands but not others. That my friend is called personal relationship. Then, there’s that smell of Italian food wafting from the kitchen. Have you noticed when God tells you to give something up you want it more than you did before? That’s called temptation. Then, you pour a glass and think after the holidays I’ll give it up, but that’s called disobedience.

Delayed obedience is only disobedience.

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So, I’ve had to confess my disobedience and surrender my wine glass to the Father. Some have asked how long I will abstain, but I don’t know the answer to that question, except to say, as long as He says no.

Throughout my wavering, I tried to hit temptation head on. I purchased Kombucha drinks, trying to put something healthy in the fridge that I could drink with dinner, but it didn’t work. I’d justify using pizza night as my excuse or I’d pour a smaller glass and think to myself I’m not hurting anyone. But that’s a lie too. I hurt my Father and our relationship. It felt as if He was pulling away, but instead, I’d built a crystal wall of rebellion between us.

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My rebellion is the perfect example I could find to illustrate the armors of God, so I’ll throw myself under a bus for the sake of truth. I’ve found if we’re not willing to admit our own failures how can we help anyone else conquer theirs?

This month, I’ve been leading a women’s Bible study on Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God. Right up front, I’m going to tell you this is where much of my information in this article will come from, but you’re only getting a taste, so I recommend you take the study at your church or on your own to get the full buffet. (I will post the link for the study below)

It is believed Paul was imprisoned when he wrote the book of Ephesians. He wrote the book in a dark, moldy, cell while Roman soldiers stood guard. I imagine when he looked up through the manhole in the ceiling of his cell and saw those Roman soldiers fully clad in their physical armor, it clicked. God spoke about putting on the armor in the book of Isaiah (chapter 59) and as Paul wrote that letter to the church in Ephesus he reminded them that they are in a spiritual battle, just as we are today. Every difficulty we face as an abiding follower of Christ has spiritual implications.

So, let’s find out what each piece of armor is supposed to do for us, and how we can apply it to our lives.

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Belt of Truth

 

Paul starts with the Belt of Truth. Being the first piece of armor the soldier put on, the belt held the other pieces in place and gave support to the soldiers core. This belt kept him from falling over under the weight of all the other armor he wore.

Spiritually, the belt of truth keeps a believer from falling for any lies of the enemy that can make a believer stumble. The belt of truth keeps you grounded in recognizing what is true and what is not. It is a tool of discernment that keeps you standing firm in your spiritual battles.

When God started impressing on me to give up dinner wine, immediately and repetitiously, I had the thought, “Did God really say I had to give up red wine completely?” If you begin thinking this thought, “Did God really say to …” Then, the answer more than likely is yes, He did. Truth tells us Satan used those exact words in the Garden of Eden when Eve looked upon the fruit God told her not to eat. Truth also states the enemy deceives and sets out to destroy us with deception. He tries to muddy the waters, so we start to question the voice of the Father. One litmus test I use, I ask myself do I feel peace continuing to do whatever I felt God had asked me not to. If you feel a wrestling in your spirit pouring that glass of wine, spending that money, eating that chocolate cake, or whatever it is God commanded you to give up, then you’ve fallen into enemy territory. You’ve taken a detour from following the path God illuminated for you that leads to the purpose He’s already prepared ahead of time for you in your life

But there is hope in the detour.

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“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust Him and He will act.” Psalms 37:5 ESV.

If you confess your disobedience and commit your will and way to God, it is up to Him to straighten your path. He will lead you out of darkness and back into the light.

 

Satan knows I hate legalism. I truly think legalism is a death spiral for the freeing gospel. It points out you must do these actions and stay away from these things in order to be saved. This is a lie. For many who subscribed to this false doctrine, they may have checked off you must not drink wine in order to be saved.

For me, I wanted to cling to my hatred of legalism as a reason to not give up wine. But, I’m free in Christ. I thought. You see the pendulum can swing too far the other way. Our freedom should never bring disobedience to what God is telling us individually to do. When I tuck my arguments into my belt of truth, this is what I find. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46 (ESV)

Gulp!

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 The Breast Plate of Righteousness

 

            The Breast Plate of Righteousness hooks into the belt of truth. The soldier’s arms would give out if he had to hold the full weight of this breast plate. It is a plate meant to protect the soldier’s most vulnerable spot—his heart.

When we are in disobedience to something God is telling us to do, we have relinquished wearing our breast plate of righteousness, and through that one disobedience have opened ourselves up to a full-on attack from Satan. He will aim straight at the heart, which pumps into every other part of you. In my experience, I felt guilt, sudden insecurities, and defeat. There is no peace in disobedience because you’ve willingly entered into a war with the enemy allowing him to have the upper hand.

If you try to hold the weight of your righteousness without hooking it into the belt of truth you will surrender under the weight of trying to be good. God’s truth states, “None is righteous, no, not one;” Romans 3:10a. (ESV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8 (ESV)

When your breast plate of righteousness remains hooked into the belt of truth, you will have freedom of movement. Let’s apply this to my story. When I tried to give up wine in my own way…I couldn’t. In fact, it backfired. I wanted it more. It wasn’t until I prayed and asked God to take the desire away from me, that I could walk into the kitchen, smell that good Italian food cooking and not want a glass of red wine. It’s as simple as releasing your grip and allowing the Father to take it.

Hooking your breast plate of righteousness into your belt of truth, means you are relying on God’s power through the Holy Spirit in your life to help you overcome sin and live out God’s will. It is His righteousness that will work through you, not your own.

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The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace:

A Roman soldier’s sandals contained cleats across the soles. The cleats helped them stand their ground when an enemy attacked in battle, because the cleats dug into the soil. It also prevented them from slipping on wet terrain which gave them stability.

Spiritually speaking, the shoes of the gospel of peace keep a Christian from slipping when life becomes stormy. It helps us remain calm in the midst of difficulties, because we have God’s peace firmly locking us in place, so we will not waiver. Within the will of the Father we will find peace through Jesus Christ. When you wander outside of God’s will through disobedience, we lose our peace and slip on the enemy’s slope.

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Shoes are an important piece of armor because they are what move you forward. They put distance between you and that “thing,” but also move you towards living out your faith. Having faith cannot be just a head knowledge. True faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord is a faith in action which grows fruit as a result. What fruit has you life produced? Strap on those sandals and move soldier!

In part two we will look at the three remaining pieces of armor and what makes them all work properly.  The Shield of Faith, The Sword of the Spirit, The Helmet of Salvation, and Prayer.

See you then…

To purchase The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer go to http://www.lifeway.com or your nearest mom and pop Bible bookstore.