“I Declare War,” by Levi Lusko, Book Review

“You can’t live right if you don’t think right.” Levi Lusko, “I Declare War.”

We have no control over the thoughts that enter our minds daily, but we can filter them. Not every thought leads us in the right direction. Not all we hear or think about every day is true. Deciphering lies and distortion between our ears is an important life skill. It can launch us into our purpose or it can severely trip us up along way. This book meets us in that practical struggle, and provides applicable lessons to harness our thoughts.

From beginning to end, Lusko weaves personal stories into four basic lessons that are easily relatable and entertaining. The Biblical roots of the “4 Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself,” give Lusko’s message strong legs to stand on. After reading it, I felt a little better equipped to walk boldly into my daily life than I did before. It created a renewed sense of purpose and better understanding of how hard work and Holy Spirit power work in tandem. 

The detail of the stories, especially in reference to middle school life and amazon prime, are hilarious and relatable. The book is broken up into four major sections with great take-aways, making it easy to read through quickly. Lusko’s passion for helping others tap into the power of Christ in their lives is evident, and the Scriptural teachings along the way make the inspirational tones credible and applicable. This book goes just deep enough to intrigue and inspire change, but not so much that it reads like a Bible Study or research heavy material.

I recommend this book for anyone struggling with self-confidence, doubt, anxiety, discontent, or for those simply seeking a little extra motivation to dig deep and accomplish everything God has laid out for them to do. 

“Time doesn’t change you, it just makes you more of who you are.” Levi Lusko

Click here to purchase “I Declare War,” by Levi Lusko.

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What is Love? -Meaning and Biblical Understanding of the Word.

“Live a life of love.” – Ephesians 5:2

“I’m not afraid anymore,” Kevin declared as he bounded triumphantly into the frostbit air with his newfound courage in the movie “Home Alone.” “Did you hear me? …I’m not afraid anymore!” In an instant, he found himself face-to-face with an entirely different fear than the one he had prepared to face, and took off screaming into his house.

How are we supposed to live out the words Paul penned to the Ephesians when there is a new fear, anxiety, pain, or problem lurking around every corner of our lives?

“There is no fear in love.” – 1 John 4:18 NIV

“God is love.” (1 John 4:16) Through Christ, we have access to His wisdom through the living Word of Scripture, providing us wisdom to live out a life of love over fear. Love is always bigger.

“Since we are His children, we must walk in His unconditional love. Love is more than just words; it requires action. God’s unconditional love should characterize our lives. As people who have His love living within us, we need to represent Christ’s authentic kindness and forgiveness to others.” -Dr. Charles Stanley, Life Prinicples BibleNotes

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A Prayer for the Strength to be Joyful

“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (GLT)

The Bible commands us to “be joyful always,”(1Thessalonians 5:16) but it takes strength to hold onto joy when life threatens to snatch it from our hands. How do we recognize a threat to our joy, employ a strategy to refute it, and come out stronger on the other side of it …still gripping our God-given joy?

The misconception of Biblical joy is that it feels like happiness. Even though “always”encompasses happy times and feelings of bliss, true Christian joy can endure through extreme hardship and pain. Happy feelings aren’t a requirement to be “cheerful no matter what,” as the Message paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:16reads.

“Be full of joy all of the time,” the New Life Version translates. “Always be joyful,”reads the New Living Translation. “Celebrate always,” the VOICE paraphrases, and“Rejoice always,” the New International Version states. Joy is an emotion of great delight. Praise expresses approval. Worship regards something as sacred. Celebration makes something known! (dictionary.com) Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the middle of trials, frustrations, and heartbreak …sickness, death, and despair …loneliness, fatigue, and unfairness? The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise.”

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A Prayer for the Winter Blues

You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter. – Psalm 74:17

Winter pops up in the Bible as early as Genesis 8:1. The literal Hebrew translation of the word means,“harvest time” or“autumn,” but the when I dug a little deeper into the word origin I found that winter has been associated with feelings of disdain dating back to ancient times! “Charaph,” the root word, also carries a definition relating back to harvest time, but also this one: “to reproach, taunt, blaspheme, defy, jeopardize, rail, upbraid.” Our modern-day definition of winter links the season to cold temperatures, but there’s no denying the depressive state of the Winter blues that can set in months of under gray skies and dead trees.

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The Strength to Be Joyful

The voice outside the door was pretty routine. I had tried to steal a moment away to go to the bathroom, and fooled myself into thinking that shutting the door would signal the little people in the house to allow me a moment of privacy. (Bah. Ha. Ha.) God’s sense of humor never ceases to amaze me, and the state in which He met me for this moment was right on cue.

The uncharacteristic hesitation in my daughter’s voice led me to ask if she was OK.  It hadn’t been the easiest year, and my heart broke right along with hers.  I had been covering her in prayer and God’s Truth. That day, my eyes glazed over as she peeked through a crack in that bathroom door to tell me what was weighing on her heart.

” I want to have Jesus in my heart,” my daughter whimpered, “it’s just too hard without Him.” 

“I need Jesus, Mommy.”  I excused myself to “wash my hands” and then witnessed my daughter handing her life over to Christ as we prayed together. It was a marking moment of pure joy, that sent my prayer life into overdrive on a completely new level. A heart surrendered to Jesus will most certainly face trials and challenges, and strength is what I pray for my girl as she faces the start of the next decade in-step with her Savior.

The Strength to Be Joyful.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy many be complete.” John 15:11 (NIV)

His strength enables my feet to keep trekking on. “Be joyful always,” ( 1 Thesalonians 5:16), is a lot easier to live out when things are sunny-side up. But when life becomes painful, hard, and unfair …lonely and badgered with doubt …it takes His strength to keep hiking through the snowy woods.

The Greek word for “joy” in  John 15:11 is chara,” which means “joy, gladness.” But underneath a part of the definition that says, “the cause or occasion of joy,” it’s defined a little further as, “of person’s who are one’s joy.”

When Jesus is our joy, it is complete. His joy becomes ours. He becomes our joy. The root word of chara is chairo, a primary Greek word that expands the meaning unto “to be well, thrive.” The strength to find Joy comes from Him.

The Strength to Surrender.

 The source of our strength isn’t something that we can grip, it’s a surrender to a source that flows through us.

Surrender means to yield the possession of power, to give oneself up, relinquish, abandon, or “to give oneself up to some influence, course, or emotion.” Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

“The branch must remain open to the flow of the vine’s life. If the branch were simply wound around the vine tightly, it would still die without producing any fruit.” Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 216.

On whose accord to we lay down our lives for our friends if  we have not surrendered our own into His hands? Surrendering our self-centered disposition for a Christ-centered perspective takes Holy Spirit strength. A daily, soul-surrendering strengthening, from the vine.

The Strength to Obey

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” John 15:10

Why is that so hard for humanity to accept that uninterrupted obedience is unattainable this side of heaven? Even before the constant clamor of criticism that bombards us through social streams, internal doubt has always threatened to disqualify us from the full and vibrant life Christ died to give us.

The same little voice that peeked into the bathroom weeks earlier, recently discovered that discipline remained a part of a Christ-committed life. Frustrated by her own disobedience, that sweet child asked me if He was even in there.

“Of course He is,” I reassured her, pointing to her heart,“He will never leave you.”

Christianity is a slow change, an individual walk. Yet, we compare our obedience to those around us and entertain benchmarks that may not be realistic for the current way-point of our hearts. Each day that we choose to walk with Jesus, we get a little stronger. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit provides us with the strength to obediently follow Him.

The Strength to be Imperfect

Lucky for me I grew up in the 90’s, or my struggle with perfectionism would have been glaringly obvious. Don’t mistake my life for a suffered one …I’m the same high energy crack-up that I’ve always been. I just don’t own a scale, talk about weight, or lose sleep over my reflection.  God convicted me of that negative thought cycle long ago, and I choose to obediently stop it. We will never lack strength to accomplish His will in our lives.

How easily our hearts can be led down a road full of absolute crap.

“It’s a lesson, not your life-story,” I assure my daughters when they make mistakes. “Everyone struggles with difficult choices.” 

How can we let our soul’s find their worth in a grade, paycheck, weight, good review, re-tweet, or accolade ? The strength to be imperfect comes from Christ. If we hold onto anything else but His validation, then we set ourselves up for a good crushing when the external feedback we receive inevitably fails us.

“There is no fear in love,” 1 John 4:18a says. Guilt and shame over the mistakes we have made in our lives does not come from God. Romans 3:10 states, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Jesus died so that we could live life to the full (John 10:10b).  He never said we had to be perfect.

The Strength to Construct Healthy Boundaries

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hiding all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 (NIV)

Paul was writing to the Colossians in combat of heresy (any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with establishedbeliefs, customs, etc.). The NIV Study Bible lists examples of ceremonialism, asceticism, worship of (or with) angels, devaluing the person and work of Christ, secret knowledge, and reliance on human wisdom and tradition. This was a no-brainer for Paul. He had witnessed Christ. There were no gray areas for him. He confidently exposed these false practices. 

How often do we take a look around our lives and gently rebuke and remove incorrect theology and religious practices? How often do we speak up and speak out about Christ when a worldly world-ism wafts across our eardrums? Paul was confident! He was strong enough to put up healthy boundaries as to what he was willing to absorb and entertain. We would be smart to focus on Christ the way Paul did.

It takes strength to walk away, kindly disagree, pray for an enemy, forgive and unfairness, process criticism with humility, or forgive ourselves for failure. “If you want to change, surround yourself with people that get it,” my pastor preached this past Sunday.

What if God asks us to obediently embrace a season of isolation as we tune into His voice above all others? The Book of 1 Kings tells how God prepared the prophet Elijah. Through my daily journey with First5, I learned that he obediently hid for three years, relying on ravens to bring Him meals twice a day. “But God wasn’t setting Elijah aside — He was setting Elijah apart.” Krista Williams, First5

Strong.

 “ Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV)

God has laid this lesson of strength upon my heart this year, and He continues to teach me how His strength lies behind our  joy, surrendering, obedience, imperfection, and construction of healthy boundaries. Listen, stay alert, stand tall in the faith, be courageous, and be strong.  Let love prevail in your life, words, and actions.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (VOICE) For Love to prevail in our lives, our connection to the Vine must be strong. We can accomplish this by training daily in study of His Word, and obediently following His lead for our lives. 

Happy Strength-training,

Megs