Backwards Living

Matthew 20:16

16 So those who are last will be first and the first will be last.

backwards

Question: Do your fruits match the God you say you love and follow? Trust me, your fruits will identify a “god” but do they point to the One and Only?

Recently, God reminded me of a very valuable lesson on what it means to be a true Christ follower – backwards living. The question then becomes…backwards from what standard? Yes, this is where comprehension and spirituality collide. The world is very clear and even persuasive in reinforcing walking in the flesh. This worldly forward progressive approach to life is not only wrong but deadly.

Living in the flesh only increases your spiritual void. Decay chips away at your mind, body, and soul causing you to make decisions based on fleshly impulse. These worldly vices tarnish everything it touches. Pride, greed, lust, envy, anger are only a few examples of rotten fruits that Satan has masqueraded as not only beautiful but valuable in this earthly kingdom.

So what does it really means to walk with Christ daily? For me, this means making a conscious decision each and every day to walk against the worldly grain. This means intentionally turning around from what the world says is correct and follow Jesus staying close in His shadow. As you begin to weave your way through the crowd, you are giving the Holy Spirit full permission to prune these worldly fruits and to fertilize your spirit in order to produce all things worthy of being a Christ follower. Humility, selflessness, love, peace, patience begin to sprout in places that once produced idols.

I encourage you to take a hard look at where you are walking. What fruits are you leaving behind wherever you go and whatever you say? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and wisdom to quickly identify worldly vices and turn away with confidence that can only come from God Almighty as He alone gives strength.

As you pray today, mediate on these verses that show us how “backwards living” is actually the correct path to living in freedom.

1 Corinthians 7:22

22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.

Matthew 20:16

16 So those who are last will be first and the first will be last.

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Matthew 16:25

25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Stand Still

Exodus 14:14

14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

praying by the lake

[Narrative]

The finish line draws near; however, peace is not my prize. As I pick up speed, I notice the ribbon sagging from the weight of this world. It drips with sorrow, lies, hypocrisy, disunity, and pride. The ribbon holders laugh at my stride and posture which once represented faith, hope, and love. A quick look over my shoulder reinforces my deepest fears…I’m on the wrong road.

My foot strikes the ground with discernible force through the activation of every fiber in my body causing me to abruptly stop. Both force and motion propel me to the ground; yet, I refuse to brace the fall. Through slow-motion action, my past replays through my mind just before slamming face-first into the ground…stillness.

Multiple wounds appear but the origin is suspicious. After careful inspection, my flesh is unharmed but my soul is damaged. Each movement in an attempt to get back on my feet deepens the fragile soul. A prayer is heard and a still small voice whispers from above.

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I am lifted into the Father’s arms where the shadow of the Almighty soothes my soul. I am taken to a mighty oak tree. The Holy Spirit imparts wisdom and truth while resting under the branches. The shifting shadows and flickering lights force a weary mind to be still and know that He is God for only God could make light dance through the trees. I am whisked away high upon a mountaintop where the snow sings a gospel chorus. I see the Father’s hand effortlessly conducting this melodious symphony bringing praise back into His arms. I am then carried to the seashore where the sand welcomes the tide as if begging to be refreshed. My eyes are unveiled as I observe the Father placing the waves exactly where He pleases. The boulders accept His announcement by clapping the waters together resulting in an eruption of praise.

A gentle stare is interrupted with the warmest of touches. The Father’s hands rest on my shoulders causing me to fall backwards. This fall was most certainly different than the one before. I expected an embrace this time! My soul fell upon His gentle embrace and my faith was restored. As I attempted to look into His face, the blinding light shouts a promise, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

I then awaken on my new road…one with purpose and paved with His will. My eyes remain on the cross as a great cloud of witnesses cheer me on. The fiery darts do not stop; however, they are extinguished by the blood covering of the spotless Lamb. Each step brings new meaning and strengthens my desire to do more for the Kingdom, and praises abound from a heart overjoyed with knowing that I am truly free!

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Revive

2 Chronicles 7:14

14 if My people who are called by My name put away their pride and pray, and look for My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

revive

Venom drips from the mouths of the deceitful – REVIVE US OH LORD!

Worldly fruits are ripe for the picking in the garden of pride – REVIVE US OH LORD!

Apathy slithers across the aisle and blots out flickering lights – REVIVE US OH LORD!

The dragon’s forked tongue paralyzes the weak – REVIVE US OH LORD!

Strongholds multiple in the assembly of discontent – REVIVE US OH LORD!

Melodious worship is drowned out by traditionalism – REVIVE US OH LORD!

Giants will fall with one stone and Holy Spirit guidance – YOU ARE WORTHY!

The dragon is defeated by the sword of truth – YOU ARE WORTHY!

Venom soaked cloth is washed away by the blood of the Lamb – YOU ARE WORTHY!

Strongholds flee at the faintest breath of the Almighty God – YOU ARE WORTHY!

Dry bones awaken with a renewed spiritual nourishment – YOU ARE WORTHY!

Mountains will fall into the sea from the sound of the faithful – YOU ARE WORTHY!

Dear friends,

I am encouraged because my God is victorious. I encourage you to remain in the shadow of the cross. Remember, our Savior, Jesus Christ, is ALIVE! Keep your eyes firmly planted on Him.

When surrounded by crashing waves, keep singing because the waves will hush in the spiritual lullaby.

When surrounded by the spirit of negativity, keep praising because peace is a strong spiritual weapon.

When surrounded by apathy and discontent, keep praying because evil cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty God.

When surrounded by crushing mountains, keep believing because faith as small as a mustard seed is strong enough to move mountains.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Traps

1 Peter 5:8-9

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

traps

[Narrative]

Satan’s timing is incredible. The landmine of criticism incinerates the atmosphere of joy. Fiery darts invade your home; however, your unveiled eyes only see emotional triggers. Dirty clothes scattered throughout the hallways and open school books singe your last effort to cope. The spirit of anger penetrates deep within, and the enemy laughs at your attempt to hold it all together. Your physical attempt to resist melts under the weight of stress and trial…explosion.

The raindrops cannot drown out the downpour of exhaustion. Fear, fatigue, illness, abuse, and addiction surface. Immediately, you are contemplating the end. Hours now replace seconds. Empty promises produce a false sense of comfort where the Holy Spirit once stood. Finally, the fiery darts have nailed you to your strongholds.

In a moment of surrender, a prayer is heard. The Holy Spirit flashes the light of forgiveness that cleanses within. The fragments of this world are flushed out as the Spirit overflows the soul. Gifts are strengthened, and clarity revives spiritual will. Fiery darts are extinguished and joy is renewed. Hearts are mended. Strongholds are broken, and families are restored.

Challenge: Be mindful of Satan’s traps in your life. Pray over your families every day.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Name Tag

John 10:14

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—

My name is

Hello, my name is…well…that all depends. Satan wants you to believe that you are forgotten, a mistake, and a loser. However, God turns the forgotten into the forgiven. He transforms a mistake into a masterpiece, and the Almighty changes the loser into life everlasting.

Names are truly important. They can even shape your character and future. We know all too well that children live up to the names they are called. Insulting names (e.g., dumb, loser, disappointment, etc.) create long-lasting negative implications. Reinforcing names (e.g., blessing, loved, valued, etc.) unlock a world of possibilities. Research already confirms these truths. Therefore, why do we listen to Satan’s lies as adults?

~Hello my name is mistake…God doesn’t want me. I’m too much of a screwup to be loved by Him or anyone else.

~Hello my name is forgotten…No one notices me. I’m living in this world alone. The silence is deafening. I’m a ghost to those around me. It’s not worth it.

~Hello my name is regret…I can’t be forgiven for the things I’ve done. I’m too evil, and I’ve done too many bad things.

~Hello my name is loser…I can’t catch a break. I lose everything that’s important to me. I’m being punished daily.

~Hello my name is tortured…my demons won’t go away. I don’t have the strength to fight anymore.

Do any of these names sound familiar? Some of you might be wearing one or more of these name tags right now. However, Romans 8:17 tells a different story, “Now if we are children, we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with the Messiah—if, in fact, we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

~Hello my name is saved…I was once lost but I found grace and chose salvation.

~Hello my name is blessed…My worth is not found in worldly treasures but in God’s freedom.

~Hello my name is forgiven…nothing in this world can separate me from the love of God.

Question: What name tag are you wearing right now? How can you replace your negative name tag with God’s name tag designed for you?

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

What If

Psalm 71:15

My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—though I know not how to relate them all.

testimony

[Narrative]

~I will tell of your righteous deeds and your saving acts! Dear friends, you have a story to tell of God’s saving grace…so tell it – your testimony will save others! You ALL have a story!

~You tried to steal my joy and pin me against the wall with an angry fist. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~The demon of destruction tried to kill my innocence as my cries absorbed into the wall. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Selfishness and pride consume my thoughts. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Worldly absorption is my pillow when I rest. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Fulfilling every spark of the flesh is your goal. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Substance abuse masquerades as a safety net. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Perpetual lies create a false sense of security. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Personal accomplishments identify themselves as idols. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Failure repeatedly laughs at you as a way to strengthen your chains. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Habitual sin scoffs at your attempt to sacrifice it at the altar. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

~Spiritual apathy resembles a puppeteer. Yet, your testimony releases Satan’s control.

___________________________________________________

My dear friends, you all have a story to tell. Your testimony sheds light in the darkness places. Do not be afraid to speak God’s truth because your message will change lives.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Sweet and Sour

Romans 12:1

A Living Sacrifice

12 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.

 

suit and tie

vs.

worshiping at the altar

The altar of forgiveness and strength announces Christ’s longing heart.

~But my suit and tie stand at attention.

The groanings from the Holy Spirit pave the way through bended knee.

~But my suit and tie whisper lies to reinforce my pride.

Humility encircles the chosen one through obedient surrender.

~But my suit and tie prevent an outstretched arm.

Worship fills the atmosphere leading the spiritual charge against the enemy.

~But my suit and tie grip my praise.

The Holy Spirit breathes life into the broken through spirit and truth.

~But my suit and tie blind my discernment.

Prayer warriors prepare the table for the King.

~But my suit and tie exude criticism impaling the spirit of the meek.

The Almighty welcomes the sacrificial offerings of praise and prayer.

~But my suit and tie cause spiritual warfare between my head and heart.

Childlike faith is shown through a believer’s embrace.

~But my suit and tie produce dispassionate vibrations.

Testimonies produced under God’s wing create revival.

~But my suit and tie stifle His calling.

Shouts of praise from the elect bathe the passage into the Holy of Holies.

~But my suit and tie block the entrance.

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Challenge: My prayer is that God completely overwhelms you with His all encompassing presence. May you surrender control, pride, rituals, and legalistic ideology and bask in His love for you.

Question: What prevents you from surrendering at God’s altar?

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Unshackled Faith

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

unshackled

The weapons of this world strengthen the links that bind them. What started with one cuff now stretches to the length of your despair. Mental fatigue breaks down the spiritual force within you. Where does your help come from? Psalm 121 flickers within your mind but the weight of the world snuffs out your freedom.

The chains build strength and taunt your insecurities. Strongholds, once suppressed with the fragile strands of human power, now announce their false reign over you. Fear, helplessness, and loneliness now replace faith, hope, and love. The fiery darts of the enemy have increased in accuracy and you are losing strength. Isolation fuels spiritual bondage.

The Holy Spirit reminds you that you are a child of God and fight on this side of victory because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. Suddenly, you hear the prayers of mighty warriors in a concert meant for the King. As you begin to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ, light flashes around you and truth is revealed.

The demon of altered perception is commanded to remove his hands from your ears. Instantly, you hear God’s voice – “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:26]

The demon of altered reality if commanded to remove his hands from your mind. Instantly, mental clarity replaces fear and anxiety – “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]

As you submit fully to God, you humbly cry out for His help. Promises from above begin to assemble protective armor for the warfare. The command to resist the devil and he will flee charges the atmosphere. Demons scatter aimlessly. The wind created from angelic wings above prevent further demonic damage. Prayers are now uninhibited and the smell of victory fills the altar of grace.

Challenge: Where does your help come from?

mountains

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

See-Through

Lamentations 3:40 – “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord.”

Proverbs 15:3 – “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

See through

[Narrative]

~The crisp button down shirt hides the pain within the heart; yet if I let you see-through would you run away?

~The half smile and dim eyes are the definition of uncertainly; yet if I let you see-through would you question me?

~The recoiled posture marinates into the pot of despair; yet if I let you see-through would you comfort me?

~The questionable behavior alarms the elect; yet if I let you see-through would you gossip instead of protect?

~The heart’s denial battles the soul’s awareness; yet if I let you see-through would you correct me?

~The habits strangle purposeful intent; yet if I let you see-through would you carry me?

~The tongue speaks of what you want to hear only to mask the truth deep within; yet if I let you see-through would you pray for me?

~The talented hands move in unconscious memory as if going through the motions; yet if I let you see-through would you forget about me?

~The reputation fights for balance within the bitter sea of pride and humility; yet if I let you see-through would you call me narcissistic?

~The demons attempt to speak through the pores; yet if I let you see-through would you embrace me?

~The walls write another chapter of strongholds, devastation, and worldly battles; yet if I let you see-through would you call me your friend?

~The eyes tunnel into the spirit of truth which cascades volumes of personal despair but also victory; yet if I let you see through would you hold me accountable?

Dear friends, I speak a great deal on unveiling the truth within our lives. We spend an enormous amount of time packing fear, hurt, and strongholds behind our eyes. John 8:31-32 says truth will set us free. I will always encourage you to actively seek out strong Christian brothers and sisters to share life together. You do not have to live in darkness or face battles alone. To that I say, Satan is a liar!

Challenge: Reach out to a close friend and become actively involved in sharing life together.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta

Stronghold Isolation

2 Corinthians 10:3-4

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

lonliness

The pew briefly collects the weight of your thoughts while you ponder your sinfulness. Thoughts of divinity overwhelm your senses to where your reflexes engage to mask the hurt welling up inside. Your painful expression makes one last effort to smile during the congregational welcome.

As the choir releases a powerful anthem of praise, your flesh sounds the alarm. You hear, “I’m not worthy.” Spiritual cement appears to paralyze your core. The battle between the forces of good and evil ignite and you feel as though you have already lost. The weapons formed against you continue to tear down your mental defenses as you ponder your past and the physical destruction of your present. The whispers continues, “If they only knew who you really are!” You turn sharply afraid your neighbor can overhear your thoughts.

The discerning hearts surrounding you release prayers of strength and peace. Even though the enemy has convinced you that your sin is greater than your neighbors, warrior angels have already commenced and the battle is the Lords. The enemy continues his attacks as you fight back the tears of disgrace. In a moment of surrender, the veil is lifted and you are surrounded by outstretched arms.

Stronghold isolation is a lie and you now realize that you’re not alone. Chains begin to fall. The congregation through the spirit of acceptance and humility ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse the temple body. As the strongholds release, they are extinguished by the blood of the Lamb. The Lord continues His protection, and the spirit of fear is cut off from your body and you take your first step into true worship and faith.

You awaken prostrate at the altar of forgiveness surrounded by fellow sinners with the same realization – God is sovereign and we are not alone!

Dear brothers and sisters, my greatest challenge is that you build strong accountability groups and share life together. Please know that isolation is Satan’s best weapon.

~Your struggle is not unique…God is all-knowing.

~Your battle is not new…God is all-powerful.

~Your sin is not greater than your neighbors…God is forgiving.

~Your struggle is not against flesh and blood..God is victorious!

Challenge: Release the strongholds that entrap you and know that you’re not alone! Share your story to entrusted Christian brothers and sisters and find freedom in the similarities of life.

Thankful,

Christian Armetta