Division

Spiritual Stronghold: Division

The satan opposes unity and stokes the fires of division by convincing us that our pursuit of Jesus is THE right way. That is brilliantly evil! Our enemy doesn’t waste time directly confronting our understanding of the Bible or God. Instead, the enemy sows disunity, causing us to question the validity of whose version of the truth is right. Church history is rife with examples of congregational splits, denominational fights, and outright violence toward one another. “Ecumenical” is a word that formerly referred to the promotion of unity among the world’s Christian Churches. Today, it is a sign of weakness…and we remain firmly committed to our preferred flavor of the Gospel message. This is a stronghold! God’s provision of unity does not water down the truth, but it does call us to maturity and a gentle commitment to provide evidence of God’s love and truth to the world around us. That must begin in our own church community! 


God’s provision is Peace and Unity. 

John 17:20-23 MSG “I’m praying not only for them but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, So they’ll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you’ve sent me and loved them in the same way you’ve loved me.”

Ephesians 4:1-6 NIV “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”


Unforgiveness

Spiritual Stronghold: Unforgiveness

Of the spiritual strongholds we are addressing this week, perhaps none is as fraught with resistance and justification as unforgiveness. We feel entitled to it…especially when the wrong doer is pridefully unrepentant. “How can I forgive when the wrong doer won’t even acknowledge the hurt they caused?” Instead, we nurture the hurt, hang on to the grudge, and subtly plan our revenge. The stronghold is firmly entrenched. Then, Romans 5:8 penetrates our unforgiving hearts and we are reminded afresh that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Forgiving isn’t about condoning what happened, it’s about breaking free from the hurt and anger caused by the person who wronged us. I wonder…who must you forgive to experience freedom from this stronghold?


God’s provision is Forgiveness

Colossians 3:12-13 NIV “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”


Despair and Futility

Spiritual Stronghold: Despair and Futility  

What leads you to places of futility or hopelessness? Chronic illness? Unemployment or financial hardship? Politics? Racial Injustice? Loss? Betrayal? Disappointments? It’s striking to discover that despair tends to bond itself to life situations that are temporal and circumstantial. The spiritual stronghold of despair deceives us into believing that God provides no anchor points for justice, security and well-being. Is His Kingdom so fragile that it can be dismantled by human effort or human circumstances? If so, hardship, pain, and struggle become the accepted norm and futility takes hold. If not, then we grasp ahold of Hope and cooperate with the Spirit by standing firm in love, reminding each other of our essential role in bringing dignity to those without it, and encouraging one another to endure!


God’s provision is Hope

1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 10:19-25 NIV “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”


Confusion

Spiritual Stronghold: Confusion

“How do I know if this is God’s will?” Spiritual confusion can wrap us up so tightly that we become paralyzed into inaction and indecisiveness, or perhaps self-sufficiency. “What if I make the wrong choice?” Belonging to Jesus doesn’t shield any of us from the ache of being human or the general brutality of life on our planet. The stronghold of confusion can shake our trust in the reality of God as loving and good.

Oswald Chambers provides a meaningful but difficult reminder. He writes, “Jesus said that there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father— as if He were callous and indifferent— but remember, He is not. “Everyone who asks receives…” (Luke 11:10).

If all you see is a shadow on the face of the Father right now, hang on to the fact that He will ultimately give you clear understanding and will fully justify Himself in everything that He has allowed into your life.” God’s provision is discernment and clarity.


God’s provision is Discernment and Clarity

1 John 4:2-6 NIV “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”

Romans 12:1-2 ESV “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.”


Lies

Spiritual Stronghold: Lies  

In the Gospel of John (8:42-44) Jesus specifically names the devil as “a liar and the father of lies.” Despite being armed with this awareness, we often find ourselves subject to the enemy’s attacks. Sadly, we actually believe the lies. You’ve heard them in the back of your mind… criticizing, devaluing, and destroying. “I must be perfect today.” “I will never be worthy of love.” “I must be strong at all times.” Are these statements true? Many of us might quickly expose them as lies in the lives of our friends and loved ones and yet make subtle agreements in our own lives. The outcome is destructive. God’s antidote is Truth… and God’s Truth sets us free!

God’s provision is Truth

John 16:13 NIV “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

Fear

Spiritual Stronghold: Fear

Fear is pervasive. Fear slowly demands all of our attention to keep it at bay. “Perhaps if I avoid this person, this situation, or this triggering event, I can manage to escape the overwhelming anxiety that fear creates and self-perpetuates.” But it doesn’t work… fear begets fear and creates its own alternate reality. 

“Those people” and “that political group” and “these ideas” are identified as the real culprit and fear makes it seem reasonable to hate, control, and avoid. In the upside down economy of God’s Kingdom, Jesus doesn’t hate, control, or avoid… He loves.


God’s provision is Love

1 John 4:7-8, 18-21 NIV “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

2 Timothy 1:7 NIV “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”


Feb 8-13: Week of Prayer

We’re excited about our upcoming week of prayer next week. We think it’s a great way to take our “Unseen Reality” sermon series we’re currently in, and shift into our season of Lent.

We want you to stay aware and updated on everything happening within our Overcoming Strongholds: A Week of Prayer emphasis, so we’ll be sending daily emails with specific strongholds, scripture, and encouragement for how to overcome those strongholds. Joel Wharton, care pastor at Heritage has pulled these together and we hope you learn more about yourself, more about Jesus, and allow him to shape you into kingdom warriors as your spend time praying and fasting during our in-person prayer gatherings or zoom meetups each evening at 6:30pm.

If you have any problem at all, finding or accessing any of our Overcoming Strongholds content, let us know at help@heritagecc.org.

Hebrews 13

Read: 
Hebrews 13:16

Some years ago, Heritage partnered with an inner city ministry that provided a hot meal to those in need in the Short North area on Friday nights. Once a month, Heritage would provide a full-on, home-cooked meal that several women graciously prepared and transported to the site. Many times, it was Heritage life groups who would sign up to volunteer to lead the time of worship, including music and a short, but powerful message, then serve the hot, homemade meal to those less fortunate and in many cases, homeless. 

My life group had volunteered to serve and with prior approval, I took my 2 sons along, who were probably 12 and 14 at the time. To my knowledge, this was the first interaction my boys had to the real-life desolate and devastating plight of others. All of a sudden, they realized how many people were forced to live on the streets in the city they call home.  

I noticed that my older son was seated with one of the “guests” for quite some time, having a conversation. When I approached the two of them, I was unable to understand any of the words from the man as he had no teeth and had difficulty speaking. On the way home, I asked my son what the two of them had been talking about, and my son answered “I have no idea what he was saying Mom…I couldn’t understand him! But I just kept listening, nodding my head, and asking him questions!” What a life-long lesson we all learned that evening!  

God calls us to “do good and share with others” in today’s passage….and sometimes God just puts us in the right place at the right time to do just that! Our call to be Jesus to others is so often right in front of us, even when we don’t understand all the details. When our heart is right, God uses us in seemingly impossible ways.

Question:
How can you be open to fulfilling God’s desire for you to be Jesus to someone today?   

Miriam Angerer
Finance Director

Exodus 3

Read:
Exodus 3:11-12

It’s been said that “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.”

I have heard missional messages about this and I know it to be true in my own life. Growing up, I didn’t make all the right choices, but I made a lot of them. I had no real testimony of what God called me out of. In my teenage years, I pondered, “how could God use me?”

Nevertheless, the summer after college graduation, as a counselor at a church camp, I felt called to the city. I felt surer and more confident of that than anything else to that point. I had never been to LA, but I flew there with 2 bags and no idea where I was living, how I would pay for school, or earn a paycheck. 

Years later, I can reflect on how God used my availability, blessed me in spite of my naivety, and walked beside me through dangerous surroundings. 

We see several examples of God using the unequipped in scripture; household names like Noah, Jonah, Peter, and Paul. In today’s scripture, we learn that Moses was non-committal. A man who had roots in several camps and fled. He didn’t feel ready without God and his brother beside him, he probably wouldn’t have stepped up. Yet, in Exodus, God told Moses what he would do and after Moses stepped in obedience, God worked through Moses to bring his people out of Egypt.

Questions:
What have you fled from in your past? What opportunities to be “On Mission” are right in front of you that you could be available for? What step can you take today to begin to serve others?

Ben Eash
director, Communications

1 John 4

Read:
1 John 4:17 (NKJV)

You have probably experienced, while reading, when a word or phrase is lifted off the page and you stop. You reread it. Then pondering sets in. That’s what happened one day when I read 1st John 4:17(b) in NKJV ” . . . As he is, so are we in this world.” In the context of the chapter of 1 John 4 it is telling us that we can be bold in the day of judgment. And about love being perfected in us.  But for me, that day, my mind went in another direction. When John added “in this world” it placed in my heart what would Jesus be doing (as he is) and thus, what would I do as his follower (so are we).  

Well, I guess we all know the list of what Jesus would be doing – loving and serving the poor, healing the sick, bringing the kingdom, etc., etc. What does that look like for us? Are we loving the poor or do we judge them? Do we pray for the sick or do we not have the time or boldness. How about sharing the love of God and bringing the message of salvation? Sometimes, before we get hooked on all the “shoulds,” we need to look at our own families and maybe, just maybe, that is our mission field.

Or can we do more? We all long to finish the race well and hear “well done thy good and faithful servant.” How can we start? Let’s listen attentively to God and see where he plants us to do work or an assignment for him. Is it in the grocery store or while we are waiting for our car to be repaired? Could be! I am constantly amazed how well he orchestrates things!  

I’m reminded of Phil. 4:6-7: Don’t be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving (important to note), present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (meant to bring us comfort).

Question:
Do you feel you know what you are called to be doing “in this world?” 

Laura Werner
Former staff, prayer team member