Sunday, June 29, 2008

Stop Shooting the Wounded!

This weekend at church I heard the most profound statement:

"The Church is the only army where we shoot the wounded when they have fallen."

Ouch! That one short sentence pierced my heart. Sadly, in many cases, it is true. Not always, of course; there are countless Christians filled with the Spirit and overflowing with His love and grace. However, let's get honest, shall we?

Ever heard a friend confess a secret sin and thought -- Wow I'd NEVER do that! We remain encouraging on the outside, yet, internally, we are judging, condemning, and comparing.

Worse yet, what about the wounded soldier who asks for help with his/her woundedness following a fall? -- They have admitted their sin yet we continue to point the finger even adding pain to the injury.

Sometimes in our zeal to wipe out sin, we brutally "kill" the sinner. That person ends up leaving the church and we become the hypocrites the world so readily calls us. Yet, are they really so far from the truth?

Picture a fallen soldier in Iraq. He made a mistake and entered a place he wasn't supposed to and ended up gunned down by a stealth enemy. His comrades find him laying in a pool of blood.

"Go on. Shoot him! He didn't follow directions. He deserves to die," the commander orders.

"But, Sir? -- " A confused soldier questions. "He's one of us, one of our own."

"Not anymore, Soldier. Look at him. Laying there in the mess of his mistake. Stop stalling. Shoot him!"

Sound ridiculous? It should. God commands us to love our enemies, to love our brothers and sisters before even attempting to worship Him. Why in the world would we continue to harm the hurting?

Oh, but, Carol, what about The Truth? We don't want to be soft on sin, do we?

Let me just say that when I first came to church and accepted Jesus Christ, I was a mess. I'd been living in satan's grasp, under his control for years. Those first few years in the church, I stumbled and fell ... a lot. This was a new way of life. It took time. Thankfully, the people around me made clear the consequences of sin, yet loved me in the process. I never felt attacked. Slowly, with much love and grace, I began to see tangible evidence of my Savior's love for me. Sinning became harder as my love increased. Eventually, God moved this fallen soldier to the front line as one of His Princess Warriors.

Friends, we all sin. We all fall short. Can you imagine the impact we'd have on the world if we loved and encouraged more? We are not only an army, but a spiritual hospital. Just like the army offers medical care for fallen soldiers, so should we. What a waste when we harm our own. We tarnish the treasured positions Christ has placed us in. We start to look just like the world. Friends, we should not look like vultures waiting for our wounded to die so we can devour them, we should be loving them back to health.

You know something ... every time I judge someone, it seems that at some point I face that same situation I was so quick to judge. That very temptation comes knocking at my own door, and quite frankly, I, too, have failed tests. Thank goodness, thank God, I have a safe place to regain my dignity and hope, a place to refuel so I can get back in the battle -- on the right side.

I wonder how many fellow warriors have defected over enemy lines simply because of the harsh treatment dished out by their supposed comrades --by us -- the Body of Christ.

Maybe if we spent a little more time looking in the mirror of our own lives we would be less inclined to spend so much time examining everyone elses, like the the princess in the above picture kneeling to peer into her own heart.

Instead of raising our weapons on our own, let us instead bandage them with love and forgiveness, leading them in truth, not beating them with it. Let's model our Leader, Jesus Christ.

That's right ... drop the rocks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Keep your eyes on the prize

Have you ever noticed just how easy it is to get distracted from what is good and from God? Seriously, it can happen in a blink of the eye.

Just today, I was channel surfing. I landed on MTV, a place where I normally do not linger. I was shocked to see two women kissing to the obvious pleasure of the roaring and hooting crowd of attractive men and women. Wondering what in the world this insanity of a show was, I watched -- big mistake. Apparently, this is a dating show. Men and women vying for the "love" of one woman. After a few minutes of crazy dialogue with more bleeps than words, I turned the channel.

These are images that our children, if we're not careful, can stumble upon. This is the first time we've had cable in a very, very long time. Now I remember some of the many benefits to not having it.

My main point in this is that as Princess Warriors, daughters of the King of Kings, we must shield our eyes from what the world touts as normal. The beginning of sin begins with a thought. A gaze that lingers a second too long, just a taste of that scrumptious treat, only a brief hesitation and we can let our guard down. The devil is well aware of those times when we are not defending our minds, when we allow our thoughts to run rampant, when we forget to take our thoughts captive as our King commands.

King David was a prime example of this spiral downward. First he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Rather than turning from the sight, he stayed and watched. Temptation grew, and although he was a renowned fighter he failed to use the spiritural weapons at his disposal. As most of you know, the story ends in disaster. Adultry. Lies. Betrayal. Murder. Death of a child -- his child.

Ladies, we can't afford to let our guards down. Our enemy is waiting for us to forget just how serious sin is. Then he can sink his claws in and tear us to shreds if we let him.

The good news is that we can flee from sin. We can keep our armor well-polished and in working order. Will it take effort? You bet it will! But the victory is well worth the spiritual sweat.

Maybe there's something specific in your life that you need to flee from. A certain TV show, a specific book genre, hanging out with the wrong friends, buying things you don't need to fill your heart hunger, the list could go on for miles. Who knows? -- maybe you dwell on negative or sensuous thoughts. We have to take those thoughts captive and stop them from escallating into a full blown sin-attack.

Let's remember as we go about God's business to keep our eyes on the prize. When resisiting seems hard, and it will, remember the reward at the end of road -- a permanent place in Heaven with Jesus Christ.

Royal Reminder: Staying focussed on the "right things" and will make it easier to stay on the right path. Amen!

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers (sisters), I do no consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 to 14

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Feed the Right Dog! Defeating Temptation

Royal Reminder for Princess Warriors

An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them. "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight." "Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks. The chief answered "The one you feed."

So what will you be "eating" today? God's Word -- The Bread of Life, or one of the fast food meals (fake promises and all) that the world offers?

If we were preparing for a sporting event, we'd train hard, practice, prepare, and condition our bodies by eating properly and taking care of ourselves. Shouldn't we do the same for our spiritual events?

Everyday there is some sort of spiritual "event" or battle to face. Ultimately, if we are filling up on God's good stuff, we have an increased chance for victory.

We can win! Let's keep feeding the good dogs, shall we?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Refiner's Fire

The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.

The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities. The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined.

The man answered yes, that not only did he have to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on it the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "But how do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that’s easy - when I see my image in it."

So, we must remember that although it can be uncomfortable, even painful, when God works on us, it's ultimately for His glory.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Palace Protocol

Blessings, Princess Warriors!

I hope you had a fantastic weekend. Sunday evening, I had the honor of sharing with a wonderful group of women at Freedom Foursquare Church in Portland, OR. I was the speaker for their annual Fancy Feast. Great event title! The topic ... Reigning Real as a Princess Warrior.

We had only a short amount of time to dive into this rather deep subject. I wanted to share a tiny piece of this teaching with you.

The theme of change flows through the Bible like a fast-flowing river, branching out and touching many lives. We read story after story of men and women, who following an encounter with the King of Kings, change, for the better. They put off the old and put on the new. As the Bible explains, we, as new believers, become new creations in Christ. Thank goodness! The old me was none to pretty or princess-like. I might have been considered a warrior, but I was fighting on the wrong side for the wrong things before my own personal encounter with Christ.

Let's break down the word "real" and discover some simple (but not always easy)steps for reigning real:

R emove false faces and mistaken masks
mpty your bag of burdens. (emotional junk)
dmit your mistakes (keep on confessing) "Tell on yourself"
et go of false beliefs about God and yourself

After ridding ourselves of the old by removing, emptying, admitting, and letting go of, we can now ...

R adiate His glory
njoy life, even while enduring
dmire God
avishly love

Let's do life God's Way today -- the real way.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Why Xena Isn't Our Gal

Xena, Xena, she’s not our gal
Carol Van Atta/excerpt from A Woman's Place is on a Throne ... with a Sword.

In order to better understand our Princess Warrior identity, we’ve got to talk about you know who — Xena “warrior princess.” Gorgeous brunette, curvy figure, leather attire, and an array of skin-slicing weapons with an unforgettable battle cry, yep, that’s the one. Please, don’t try the battle cry; it hurts.

I know; I shouldn’t have brought it up. So, if you’re curious (I can practically hear you begging me for more information about that notorious screech) go to handy dandy YouTube and do a Xena search. Just type in “Xena war cry.” After you’ve screamed like a banshee once or twice, hurry back to this page. Don’t tarry!

Now that you’ve returned, erase her image from your mind, most of it anyway. Certainly, we can find some parallels to our royal cause, but, quite frankly, a majority of the time, this captivating heroine stayed stuck in the warrior mode, and like so many others, she was worshipping the wrong entity — herself.

For those of you who don’t know, Xena Warrior Princess was an American television series airing from 1995 to 2001. The show continues to have a cult-like following and anxious fans eagerly await Xena’s reappearance on the Big Screen someday. Like Star Trek’s infamous “to boldly go where no man has gone before” opening, the Xena voiceover proudly proclaimed its own unique message: “In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings...A land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle. The power...the passion...the danger...Her courage will change the world.”

Ah … can you sense the excitement, the danger, the adventure? Surely there were some defining moments as Xena fought to overcome her hateful and dark past. I’m certain many of you can somehow relate to that process. However, Xena went about it all wrong. Her mission, to save so-called “innocents” from harm and redeem herself sounds noble, but it’s a lost cause.

She bravely fought a long list of villains during the show’s 134 episode run (not to mention her appearances on Hercules) in an attempt to find the redemption she so desperately desired — redemption she could never earn.

Royal Reminder: A sexy, leather-clad Xena may be worthy of a theme song, but it doesn’t make her deserving of a Throne. Real royalty is lifted from the ashes of sin and born again by the grace and glory of God.

Ladies, we cannot liberate ourselves. No one, not even Warrior Princess – Xena can perform enough harrowing rescues or good deeds to obtain salvation. No matter how many toilets we scrub, noses we wipe, business meetings we attend, church committees we’re on, no matter what we “do,” we will never measure up … without God’s grace.

Living as a Princess Warrior for Christ is not about powering through life in thigh-high boots, with a baby on one hip and a sword strapped to the other. Although, that makes an interesting picture, it doesn’t make sense, nor is it God’s desire.

Rather, as we continue to explore this topic, we will discover what a godly, princess warrior does from her throne and the protocol that allows her live faithfully as her King’s daughter. I think you’ll be surprised to discover she spends a great deal of time helping others find their thrones, while eliminating those things that try to topple her from her own.

Girls, you can rest assured, if you have dedicated your life to Christ the King, you, too, have a throne divinely designed just for you. So, go on, reign real! God's got your back.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sharing the Wealth ... our Treasure in Christ

Friendship, a key ingredient for us gals dedicated to serving our Lord and King as His Princess Warriors.

So often, women see one another as competitors fighting for position, power, prestige, and for men. Yes, men! Sadly, our media thrives on creating storylines featuring major rifts between women battling their so-called buddies for career advancments and relationships. And, as you know, in the secular world nothing is off limits. The your-husband-could-be-mine-if-I-try-hard-enough-to-seduce-him-motto is considered the "norm" in some circles.

Ladies, as Christian women, we should know better. Your job is your job and your husband is your husband. Friends don't take away from each other, they give. It is up to us to set a godly example of what a true friend is and "looks like." Consider the following comment:

A newspaper held a competition to find out how people would describe friendship. The winning answer was, “A friend is someone who’s walking in when everyone else is walking out.” You and I have a friend that will do that, a friend who will stick closer than a brother. Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20) And when he said it he was only living up to his name, “Immanuel”--which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:23)

Indeed, Jesus is the best friend of all. The Bible is overflowing with examples of healthy, Spirit-driven friendships. The stories of David and Jonathon, Ruth and Naomi, and Esther and Mordecai are great places to start.

As Princess Warriors for Christ, we were not created to be isolated and alone. Throughout Scripture, it is clear that we serve a God of relationship. He talks about where two or more are gathered, in His name, He is there. Yet, in another example, the Bible explains that a cord of two is not easily broken and a three-fold cord is even better. (Very loose translations) In other words, together is a good thing ... a God thing.

Certainly, we need "alone time" with God to pray, meditate, and study His Word, but we were not created to streak into battle alone. Encouraging, supporting, and loving our sisters in Christ is crucial to our well-being, and something that God desires for us.

I'll agree that many of us (me included) have been deeply hurt and betrayed by women who were supposedly our friends. However, the Bible is clear about forgiveness and love. Jesus more than suggests that we love others; He commands it. So, for me that implies I better make an effort to reach out and love others.

I'd like to challenge you to start finding new, unique ways to encourage others. Lately, when time allows, I've been perusing the amazing Christian blogs on this site, composed by my brothers and sisters in Christ. I take time to read an entry or two, pray for them, and then send a comment/note to let them know I'm thinking of them. I love receiving uplifting comments. In fact, every week, I get a text message on my cell phone wishing me a "blessed week." I'm not sure who is sending it, but I love it. I've come to even expect the weekly message.

Obviously, deep, intimate friendships take more time and effort, but reaching out in simple ways is a great way to start bringing hope to others while living in a busy world. So, go on ... send a card, comment, email, or make a phone call, drop by a meal by to someone hurting. Do something! This world can be a difficult place to live and we can do wonders by supporting and loving others. Don't wait for someone else to give; just do it!

Some Friendship Quotes:

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis

"The only way to have a friend is to be one." Ralph Waldo Emmerson

"One measure of friendship consists not in the number of things friends can discuss, but in the number of things they need no longer mention." Clifton Fadiman

"A wise man remembers his friends at all times; a fool, only when he has need of them." Turkish Proverb

"True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable." David Tyson Gentry

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Battle Ready Beauty

Because of Christ's supernatural power and the support, encouragement, and love that we receive from one another, we are indeed stronger and more equiped to fight the good fight of faith. And believe me it is a fight. Somedays are more challenging than others.

It is critical that we know what we are up against in this daily battle for freedom. I'd like to share an article I wrote that has been featured on Campus Crusade for Christ's many online magazines for quite some time now. I hope it will inspire and guide you as you prepare to live life as a Princess Warrior for Christ.

Under His Care

Carol Van Atta

Have you ever wondered why one day you experience a miraculous breakthrough in your spiritual growth, and the next day it seems like every thing from a flat tire to a heart wrenching tragedy occurs? Is it simply “bad luck”? Possibly - but doubtful. There is an enemy of our souls who seeks to kill and destroy us. Granted, this fiend is a defeated foe, but he can and will continue to give us distress from now until the day God permanently puts him out of commission. As believers in Christ, we can rest assured that this day will come.

When? Only God the Father knows for certain. Until then, we are to fight the good fight of faith and trust in our Lord, Savior, and Protector. In any battle it is crucial to know your enemy. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? The following list, from Willmington’s Book of Bible Lists, gives us the following scriptural insights into the nature and abilities of our advisory, Satan:

He was named Lucifer before his fall (Isaiah 14:12)
He was in Eden (Ezekiel 28:13)
He was the anointed cherub of God (Ezekiel 28:14)
He was adorned with precious stones (Ezekiel 28:13)
He was the perfection of wisdom and beauty (Ezekiel 28:12)
He fell through pride (Ezekiel 28:17)
He attempted to steal God’s throne (Isaiah 14:13)
He wanted to be like God (Isaiah 14:14)
He possesses intelligence (2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:3)
He possesses memory (Matthew 4:6)
He possesses a will (2 Timothy 2:26)
He possesses a desire (Luke 22:31)
He possesses pride (1 Timothy 3:6)
He possesses wrath (Revelation 12:12)
He possesses great organizational ability (1 Timothy 4:1, Revelation 2:9,24)

To sum it up, we are dealing with an intelligent, manipulating force bent on our destruction, and world domination. But this creature is just that - a creature! He was created. He is not the Creator! We serve the Creator of all things. A creative Heavenly Father, who can take what Satan intends for evil, and instead use it to glorify His Heavenly Kingdom.

Taking a Stand Against Evil
God provides us with an incredible arsenal of weapons, described in the book of Ephesians. But before we venture to put on our armor, I’d like to state a very important truth. Although, we are to take an offensive, as well as a defensive posture against evil, we are never to focus on the kingdom of darkness.

Quite the contrary, the closer we are to our Heavenly Father, the safer we are. It is when we venture out of His protective covering, and blatantly live in our own will, that we put ourselves in the direct line of fire. Maintaining an attitude and lifestyle of thankfulness, worship, obedience, confession, service, and love, will be our best defense against the wiles of the devil.

In the book of James, verses 4:6-10, James tells us in his “no-nonsense” manner that God will give us the strength we need to resist evil. We are to live humble lives, for God opposes the proud. We are to repent for our sinfulness, accept its seriousness, and bow before the Lord, acknowledging that we are dependent on Him and Him alone.

When we live in this manner, with confidence, we can resist the devil and he will flee from us! The reason I believe the following scripture is so important, is because it reminds us that we can’t just shout, “I resist you devil—now flee!” No, there is a lifestyle that must be in effect for our words to have meaning and for our enemy to take us seriously.

The destroyer knows when we are out of fellowship with our Creator, not because he is omnipresent, but because his hordes of fallen angels (demons) observe us, and wait for us to falter in our faith. But again, we need not fear. As we continue to fall in love with the Father, He will cover us, and as this scripture in the New Living Translation so beautifully states, God will honor us.

He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say,“God sets himself against the proud,but he shows favor to the humble.”
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you hypocrites. Let there be tears for the wrong things you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.
Thankfully, we are under God’s care. We belong to Him. We, dear friend, are his chosen ones, his daughters, and heiresses to his Heavenly Kingdom. The devil, like the big bad wolf, in Little Red Riding Hood, will attempt to deceive us into thinking he is the loving grandmother, tucked cozily under the fluffy, plaid quilt, on an oversized, cushy bed. But thankfully, our Lord, like the powerful Woodsman, will rescue us when we call out to him. Sometimes, “Help!” will be the best words to pass through our lips. God will hear our cry, and He will rescue us because it’s His nature, to love and protect us - His children.

Putting On the Armor of God
He also provides extremely effective weaponry for our personal protection. Armed with His truth, we are mighty warriors. In the days, months, and years ahead, let’s remember to put on our armor, The Armor of God, found in the book of Ephesians 6:10-18.

Though we are to take a stand, nowhere in God’s Word does it say that we are to pursue the devil and his evil forces. In fact, in the Lord’s Prayer, we are told to pray this way: “Lord, keep us from evil.” The best thing we can do is to avoid evil at all costs. It is plain foolishness to start looking for a demon under every bed, or behind every bush. It is inevitable that at some point we will face the devil, but that should never be our focus. Instead, our focus should always be on the only One deserving of our attention, Jesus Christ.

May God keep you, fellow Christian, as you fight the good fight of faith, one step and a prayer at a time. Why not use the following prayer as a way to visualize your commitment of putting on the Armor of God each day:

Dear Heavenly Father, I commit this day to You. I submit my will to Yours and recognize that You are my Commander and Chief. As Your warrior, I want to serve You with all my body, mind, and spirit. I put on the entire armor now. First, I place the belt of truth around my waist, Your truth God, which sets me free.
Then I secure the breastplate of righteousness across my chest, covering my heart and emotions. I place my feet in shoes shod with the gospel of peace. May I bring your peace into many situations today. I now take up the shield of faith. May this shield protect me from the fiery darts of my enemy.
I cover my head securely with the helmet of salvation. May my thoughts be on You, Lord, and may I think good, pure, and godly thoughts throughout my day.Finally, I pick up the sword of the Spirit, which is Your powerful Word, God. I use this sword to pierce through the enemy’s plans. For your Word tells us that all we must do is submit ourselves to you and tell the enemy to flee and he most go. So go Satan, in the name of Jesus!
Thank you in advance, Lord, for a day of victory!
In Jesus’ name. Amen.