Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 31 – Live in this expectation

You are from God, little children, and have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  (1 John 4:4 NET)

You are a giant if you are from God.  There is no spirit, no trauma, no amount of witchcraft or generational curse that is stronger than you.  Period.  

We often create mountains out of molehills, and our culture of psychoanalysis and self-diagnosis really contributes to this.  When we know that abuse or rejection or some kind of traumatic experience has marred our past, our emotions often get carried away to imagine that we are now damaged goods and need years and years of therapy.  Some people have even become offended when I encourage them to believe they can be healed quickly, as if I am robbing them of their rights to wallow in self-pity a little longer.  

God’s healing and freedom are of a much greater quality than the paltry therapy sessions the world has to offer.  But they come at the simple price of an undiluted faith.  Sadly, many prefer the world’s solutions because they have become addicted to their doubts and fears.

The words of God are so clear and uncomplicated, if we only understand what that meant for us.  If we claim to believe in His Word, then we would live as if it were true.  We would live in a constant state of encouragement and assurance that we have overcome, even when we don’t see it happening at that moment.  We would see miracles and answers to prayer on a regular basis.  We would laugh at the thought of being abandoned or unloved, because we’d have the Spirit of the one who created us inside of us.  We would have the ability to do whatever God asks, because we would be empowered by that Spirit, and we would listen carefully to His urgings and guidance every day.  We wouldn’t miss a single opportunity to be a blessing to Him and to others.  

For those who think that being baptized in the Holy Spirit “isn’t for them,” then, they will never experience this kind of life.  If the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world, but you see that the world is overcoming you – ask yourself what spirit is actually inside of you right now.  The world’s or God’s?  If it’s the world’s, you are in grave danger because you are far from God, and the world can destroy you.  Get rid of that spirit immediately and let His Spirit dwell in you, and then live in the knowledge and expectation that you have already conquered.

By the way, today is Halloween, the highest day for witchcraft, and a big money making venture for retailers.  If you want to conquer the world and have the Spirit of God in you, have nothing to do with it and keep your kids away from those celebrations.  Have a fun costume party for them some other time.  Dedicate this day to honoring God above all else, fight the devil, and live in this radical faith of 1 John 4:4.

October 30 – Love, quirks, and hang-ups

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.  (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13  NKJV)

God connects our love for each other with being blameless and holy.  Love sounds like such an easy and comfortable thing to do, and we usually like to imagine that we are all loving and good people.  But loving each other in our churches, with all our differences and insecurities and quirks and hang-ups is not an easy or comfortable thing to do.  In fact, it can be a downright sacrifice.  But this is so that God can establish our hearts as blameless in holiness.

CS Lewis wrote a funny, but very true scenario in Screwtape Letters, describing how a demon ought to encourage a person to view his fellow Christians when he gets to church.  “When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neightbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces on the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbors sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.”

The devil counts on us to be “fools,” who can’t see beyond each other’s quirks and never learn to love selflessly.  I know for a fact that churches are full of people who truly need good friends of the same faith to encourage and lift them up, but somehow when they have the chance to do so, the devil finds ways to create rifts and suspicions.  That is why the command given by God in the book of Exodus, and then repeated by Jesus in the Gospels to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is so powerful.  When the people of God are united in one faith and in one goal to fight evil and honor God, they are unstoppable.  When they are divided by petty differences, they remain weak.

Make the sacrifice to love each other, pray for each other, overlook each other’s flaws.  The Bible says that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).  It may feel awkward, rub you the wrong way at times and perhaps even wound your ego, but it’s good for us all.  It’s a process that God has chosen to purify each one of us as we grow closer to Him and prepare for His coming.  We all want to be loved despite our own flaws, so who are we to withhold love from others who are just as flawed as we are? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29 – What makes you different?

“A time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will punish all those who are circumcised in body but not in spirit — the Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, the people who live in the desert in remote places, and yes, even the people of Judah. And like all these pagan nations, the people of Israel also have uncircumcised hearts.”  (Jeremiah 9:25,26   NLT)

The prophet Jeremiah lived in a time of turmoil and frustration.  The northern kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) had already been defeated by the Assyrians and taken away as captives, and now, a little over one hundred years later the same thing was about to happen to the southern kingdom of Judah (2 tribes) by the Babylonians.  Mind-boggling isn’t it?  People who had been delivered from slavery in Egypt through a series of never-before-seen miracles, had eaten manna and quail in the desert and drank water from the rock, had seen the walls of Jericho collapse as well as all the other nations of Canaan, had taken possession of the Promised Land, had experienced the leadership of Moses, Joshua, Gideon and David, and the wisdom and prosperity of Solomon, and had visited the Temple of Solomon on Mount Moriah, decided in the end to turn away from the One, True God who had proved Himself over and over again, and turn to the gods of the nations they had defeated!

In the end, all but the poorest of the poor were carted off to Babylon and treated as colonists there, as long as they were loyal to Babylon. But an amazing thing happened there, the people of God were more faithful to God in Babylon than they had been in Jerusalem!  Though Jerusalem and the Temple had been razed to the ground and all the sacred articles of gold taken by the Babylonians, including the Ark of the Covenant, the people of God drew closer to Him and learned to circumcise their hearts and minds.  God had not abandoned them, He had allowed them to be disciplined in order to wake them up and bring them back to Him.

The fact that we go to church, read the Bible and call ourselves Christians is not enough.  If we are not careful God sees no difference between us and atheists, agnostics and people that bow down to idols and false gods.  God may not even see a difference between us, and people involved in Satanism and the occult!  What God is looking for is people with circumcised hearts, people who are willing to cut off a piece of themselves in order to please Him and live according to His will.  This is not an option.  Either we do this or we will no longer be considered Jesus’ disciples.  Either we do this, or God will allow us to become captives and experience the suffering that comes from being separated from Him.

Take a look at your life and make sure you are circumcising your heart.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28 – Boasting…

Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!  (Jeremiah 9:23,24  NLT)

Evelyn and I just finished translating the third part of Bishop Macedo’s autobiography into English, and (spoiler alert) this is how the book ends.  He ends with the verse above, one of his favorites in Bible, which for me reveals a great deal about the man.

We live in a world where people like to boast about what they have and what they’ve accomplished.  Hollywood has a great deal of influence on American society, and the world, and yet how many of us would want to live the lives of the producers and actors of the movies we love?  Sure they have money, fame and looks, but the large majority can’t stay married or beat their addictions, and an even greater majority don’t care to know about God or what He has to say about their lives.  They won’t be able to take their Ferraris, mansions, fancy clothes, plastic surgery or fame with them when they die.  If all they have to boast about is their talent, power, wealth, and looks, in truth they are living a lie and all they trust in will soon be taken away.

There is only one thing that we should boast about: that we truly know and understand God… that our lives are in His hands and that when our time comes to leave this world, we will go to be with Him.  God is delighted when we truly know Him.  Imagine that, we as insignificant human beings can cause Almighty God to feel delight!

We truly know God only when we understand that His love is unfailing, and that He loves justice and righteousness.  If we live in constant doubt about His love and forgiveness, constantly wonder if we will ever see His justice, or if we are constantly trying to get away with unrighteous behavior that we know is displeasing to Him, we have clearly drifted away from Him and do not truly know Him.  We can’t boast about a God that we are unsure will come through for us, or about a God that we are not dedicated to.  If we do, we don’t TRULY know Him.  No one would cheer for a team they care nothing about; fans cheer for teams they love and are dedicated to.  If we boast about God, then He has to be our greatest treasure, and we have to be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to be considered righteous in His eyes.

Let’s all reconsider what we boast about.

Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27 – Much more than we deserve

Instead of shame, you will get a double portion; instead of humiliation, they will rejoice over the land they receive.  Yes, they will possess a double portion in their land and experience lasting joy. (Isaiah 61:7 HCSB)

There are six times in the Bible that a double portion is mentioned.  The firstborn sons, the heirs of a father’s estate, were to receive double of what their brothers would get because their responsibility to carry on the family farms and properties was greater and more serious.  Job also received double of all that he had lost, after passing that very difficult test of Satan robbing him of all that he had and loved.  God saw that he had proven worthy of double, and gladly gave it to him, protecting him and his family from harm for the rest of his life.  Double was never given or promised in the Bible randomly, for no reason.  Those who received double were those who had proven themselves to care for their portion wisely, and had demonstrated a humble devotion to God.

In the book of Isaiah, God sees the future shame that His people will soon go through because they have been rejecting Him and turning to other gods.  After Isaiah the prophet is killed, the people of God would be taken as slaves to Babylon and their beautiful temple destroyed – all because their foolish refusal to obey God, gave room for the devil to plunder and oppress them.  This suffering was not God’s choice, but their own.  Yet even though God knew the painful direction they had chosen for themselves, His love never ceased.  In this verse, He is looking beyond their shame, to a time when they humble themselves and return to Him.  He looks forward to the day when He will not only give them back their land, but give them double of all that had been stolen.

There are times when we all stray from the kind of faith we ought to have, either in small ways, or as with some people, even in serious lapses of faith where much repentance and restoring is needed.  All of us can look at areas of our lives where we have seen Satan rob us while we looked on feeling helpless, either because we didn’t yet know about God’s power, or we had rejected Him in our pride.  Either way, God’s love never ceases.  As in the days of Isaiah, God was already promising to give His people a double portion, with all the confidence that they would turn back in humility to Him so that He could remove their shame and pain.  

If you feel that Satan has robbed you, your chances for a future, your marriage, your health or any other aspect of your life, know that God is eager to give you a double portion of all that was stolen.  Even if you know your own foolishness gave room to the devil to harm you, God is ready to remove your shame.  As in all other examples in the Bible, God needs a humble heart that turns to Him, submits to His Lordship and proves to be trustworthy and faithful.  Be faithful in all you do for Him, and in all that you desire.  Learn from your experience of hardheartedness, and receive more than you deserve, just because our God is an awesome and loving God.  

God promises that you will rejoice over the “land” you receive, and experience a lasting joy. 

October 26 – Much needed refreshment

Do not be wise in your own estimation; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  This will bring healing to your body, and refreshment to your inner self.  (Proverbs 3:7-8 NET)

God asks us to be wise, but in this verse, being wise in our own estimation, is when we think we can diverge from God’s word, and invent our own version of right at wrong.  He has to tell those of us who think we know better, to turn away from evil.  Whenever we think more highly of our own opinions than those of God, we are always in the devil’s camp.

Shannon was a young lady who came to us years ago, and insisted that she loved God with all her heart. But she couldn’t accept a God who taught that a couple who lived together outside of marriage, were living in an immoral and sinful condition.  God was love, after all, she said.  While we didn’t condemn her, and let her know that she was always welcome for prayer and counsel, she felt angry just knowing that the Bible taught against the life she wanted to lead.  A battle raged inside of her because she loved the help we offered yet she resisted submitting her life to the wisdom of God’s word.  Eventually Shannon revealed that her live-in boyfriend was abusive, but she couldn’t let go of him because she felt worthless without a man in her life.  There were a lot of inner wounds that needed healing.  She realized that she was trying to create her own version of the truth in fear that she could never be healed.

The reason that only a few in this world are truly converted, is because God’s wisdom requires change and sacrifice.  But those who risk giving up their own version of wisdom and submit to God’s truths, are the ones who can finally find healing to their bodies, and refreshment to their inner selves.

Who among us needs to be healed?  Perhaps this is the missing piece of the puzzle.  Are there truths in God’s word that you have been resisting or avoiding?  Have you concocted your own recipe for wisdom and hold it in higher regard than God’s?  

We all need refreshment and healing, and if this is one way we can receive it, let’s determine to healthy fear of God right now, and to live by His words above all else.  We could be totally renewed in a short period of time.

October 25 – Being where He is

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.  (John 12:26 HCSB)

We assume that because God is everywhere, we can go wherever we want, and He’ll be right there with us.  But Jesus is teaching His followers that we can choose to go places in our lives and in our minds, where He isn’t.  There are many times that God urges us to get out of our comfort zone and do what we don’t feel like doing, but we choose to hold back and ignore that urging.  We may feel like we’re doing important things, but we are in fact, doing the worst thing of all – choosing to be where Jesus is not.  It could be vice versa as well – God calls you to stay with your family and care for them, yet you’d rather be trying to impress others with busy work.  Whoever serves God, sticks close to His side, wherever He leads.

His promise is to honor us.  There are times when God asks you to go places where you would least like to be.  You find yourself in awkward situations, with people you don’t necessarily enjoy, when it’s too late, or too early, or too uncomfortable, but God asks you to be there, so you do it.  In the spiritual world, many doors of blessing are being opened to you, just because you are choosing to be where your Master is, and do His bidding.  We like to imagine that we are heroic Christians who would fight to the death for our faith, but are we willing to sit in a dingy waiting room in a hospital to pray for someone who doesn’t even appreciate us?   

Once we overcome the initial hurdle to die to our old lives and live for Jesus as our Lord, being with Him is so pleasant and enjoyable, for the most part.  Choosing a wholesome movie at home with our family over a bar is a no-brainer.  Choosing church on a Sunday morning over sleeping in may be a bit of an effort when you’re tired from the night before, but we remember the joy of being in God’s house still outweighs our morning grogginess.  But there are always times that God asks us to go further, give more (sometimes a lot more), and just trust that where He is, we need to be.  If we claim to follow Jesus, that needs to be a non-negotiable commitment.

When you opt for being where your Master leads, you are opting for a life of honor.  You may not feel very honored or recognized in the middle of the process, but this promise of Jesus does not fail.  None of His promises do.  Make Moses’ prayer as he was about to lead the people of God to the promised land, your prayer as well, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15)  Determine not to take a step away from where His presence leads you.  If you are unsure, pray, reread these promises of God, and He will show you clearly.  Be where Jesus is, and He’ll gladly honor you as His child.