Sunday, November 30, 2014
O how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for I am always aware of them. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your rules. I am more discerning than those older than I, for I observe your precepts. (Psalm 119:97-100 NET)
This comes from the longest chapter in the Bible This psalm of 176 verses dwells on the theme of God’s laws, principles and commandments. We don’t like the thought of laws constraining us. We’ve been jaded by man-made rules and regulations oppressing us, especially when it’s all just senseless bureaucracy. But God’s laws are completely different. They bring freedom, wisdom and so much insight that we gain an advantage over our enemies, and an ability to teach even our own teachers. And this wisdom comes from loving God’s laws as intensely as the author of this psalm did.
When Jesus was twelve years old, His mother and father found Him discussing the law of God with the Jewish leaders in the temple, and those wise scholars were in awe of what He said. When He grew into a man and began His ministry, the Bible says that people marveled at His authority because He didn’t speak in the old predictable ways of the Pharisees. He knew God intimately and could prove it with the miracles that He did. Later as all the disciples became baptized in the Holy Spirit, the same awe came over multitudes of people as they heard these simple fishermen and tradesmen preach boldly and perform miracles. It was obvious that they had been with Jesus, and had His Spirit in them.
When you love the things of God, you love obeying His commands and principles. Everything you do is based on what He has taught in His Word, not just in the empty traditions of a church institution or the opinions of others. If you love His Word, you are hungry to read it, hear it, learn from it and meditate on it. The moment you have the chance to practice some aspect of it, you do, because it is the strongest thing that sustains you. This makes you wise and able to outwit the devil and all of his attacks. He is immeasurably crafty and subtle and is a master of disguise. But your love of God’s laws will give you that edge to see through all of Satan’s deceptions.
The spirit of the Pharisees is everywhere today, so don’t be surprised when the wisdom God gives you angers them. God will lead you just as He did His disciples. First get rid of the old ideas that God’s ways slow you down or that they interfere with your success. God’s laws are sweeter than honey, and the more you eat of them, think of them and practice them, the stronger you will become, and the sweeter your life can be.
Just imagine what your life would have been like if you had lived in that kind of communion with God from the time you were a teenager until now. Obeying God’s laws and enjoying His presence would have kept you far from a lot of grief and foolish mistakes. Make a fresh start now, because God’s wisdom can even make up for lost time.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
The Lord’s loyal kindness never ceases; his compassions never end. They are fresh every morning; your faithfulness is abundant! (Lamentations 3:22-23 NET)
The entire book of Lamentations is an intensely painful outcry about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. You can see examples here of how people attributed all that happened to the hand of God, and not to the devil. Later in the New Testament, Jesus teaches about the devil’s role in our lives, but when this book was written in 586 BC, Israel saw their defeat and humiliation as part of God’s plan to bring His people back to a pure faith. And though the devil was very much a part of it all, it was still under the control of God to be used ultimately for Israel’s good and for His glory.
Yet even though they knew God had allowed all of this to happen, they didn’t become bitter or hardened towards Him. Instead the best thing happened. They repented of their unfaithfulness, their sinfulness and their love of immorality and idolatry. They learned to believe and hold onto God more than ever before. In the middle of their pain, they remembered that God is loyal, kind and compassionate. He makes all things new every morning, and His faithfulness is abundant.
It is so frustrating when someone who has already seen God’s goodness in their lives becomes spiteful and angry when problems appear. Somehow they think they can “get back at God” for not rescuing them, by throwing a fit and threatening to stop believing in Him. They don’t stop to see that the problem is there for a very good reason, that it will not destroy them if they react well, and if so, it will bless them more than anything. The reaction we all should have when facing attacks of the devil, or even the consequences of our own sinful mistakes, is to remember that every morning God’s love and compassion is made new, if we’ll just accept it. Blaming God for our problems is basically biting the hand that feeds us. It’s not smart, it wastes time, and it keeps us stuck in bitterness.
Whenever you have an opportunity to repent of selfish or ungodly thoughts that you’ve harbored or acted on, do it. And after you repent, remember that His love is fresh and new every morning. You don’t need to live in guilt or shame, because He doesn’t hold grudges and He doesn’t give the silent treatment to those who sincerely turn back to Him. And for those who are serving God the best they can, be a reflection of this love and compassion to the people around you. The more you allow His ways to flow through you, the more you will experience His presence inside of you.
Make this your prayer every morning. Thank Him that because of His compassion, you have a new chance to be blessed and overcome every single day.
Friday, November 28, 2014
When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you. (Isaiah 43:2 NET)
If most of us had our way, we’d change this promise to say, “Don’t worry folks, I’ll never make you pass through streams or walk through fire.”
Interesting that God’s promises imply that rushing streams and fiery tests will definitely come, but that they will be no match for the protection of our God. We will never be in danger as long as we live in faith. Though the paths God leads us down might look extremely dangerous, God wants us to have the faith that what they look like is not what they truly are. Reality for us needs to be what God promises. The sensation of fear when we feel threatened is not reality at all.
When Evelyn was 8, her family took a trip to Disneyland in LA. Having lived in the poor developing country of Korea until then, she was enthralled by the huge shiny theme park and its top of the line entertainment. She especially remembers the haunted house, riding along a track in the small “doom-buggies” with her cousins as they passed through room after room of unending scary sights and sounds. She was terrified and screamed more than ever in her life – and loved it too! Ten years later at 18, she visited her relatives again and had the chance to take that same ride. But this time she could see all the wires and projectors and mechanisms and could appreciate the work that it took to create this well designed attraction. She was disappointed that it had become merely amusing instead of scary.
This is how God wants us to view the threats of the devil all around us. They are just Hollywood effects, and cannot harm us, IF we walk by faith, serving God as our only Lord. It doesn’t mean that we won’t feel fear from time to time, it means that we take control of fear and choose to see our situation with the eyes of God. Faith allows us to see the smoke and mirrors, the fake background music and the plastic mannequins. We are to go right through those streams that threaten to overwhelm us, and right through the fake fire that can’t consume us.
The problem that most Christians have is that they are surrounded by people of doubt - both in and out of church. There are few examples of true believers who have walked unscathed through fire and flood before our eyes. But just because faith is weak in others, doesn’t mean that it has to be weak in us. Our trust in God has to be based on His promises, not on the poor examples of others. We will not be overwhelmed or burned, and if we say we believe, we have to put that belief into action. We need to be the examples that lead the way for others.
Don’t try to squirm out of a trial of fire or flood that is ahead of you. Trust Him today, and take that ride, and you’ll come out stronger. It’s not as scary as you think.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. But examine all things; hold fast to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this. (1 Thessalonians 3:16-24 NET)
Your Thanksgiving promise today, is that the Lord Jesus will in fact make you completely holy and entirely blameless until we meet Him face to face. There will be no reason to fear His rejection, we can have a confidence of peace and joy in the knowledge that He is making us holy, even when we are so full of faults and don’t deserve such great love and attention. For those of you who live in the shadow of guilt and blame for things you’ve done wrong, or for those who have never felt completely accepted in this world, God is telling you that He Himself makes you perfect because when He sees you, He sees the perfection of Jesus. (Galatians 3:27)
What a relief to know that we don’t have to pay for all our mistakes. Like a loving father wipes away the tears of his child and hugs him with reassurance, our Father wants us to know that because we are His, everything can be made new and right again. But for us to receive that, we need to treat God as a Father who we respect, and behave as children who follow His every word.
Are you in a certain situation that you wish could be made new and right again? God is trustworthy, so begin to obey these commands that come before the promise: always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. These are not just nice sayings, these are keys to powerful change in your immediate circumstances, and more than that, in creating a close bond with God.
Always rejoice, even when things look terrible? Yes. You manifest raw and undiluted faith when you praise God in the midst of problems, not because you are delusional, but because you know that God’s promises are trustworthy, He is coming through for you and there’s nothing that the devil can do about it. Rejoicing against your flesh is taking a stand against fears, and is a knife in the back of the devil. Do it even when you don’t feel happy. Just rejoice by faith, and the Holy Spirit’s supernatural joy will come over you. It’s an amazing experience.
Constantly pray? People tell me all the time how much they pray. When I ask them how they reacted when a crisis arose, they’ll tell me everything else that they did, except pray. Don’t assume that throwing up a few wishes into the air with God’s name attached is real prayer. Jacob wrestled with God and demanded a blessing. Abraham and Gideon complained with God, and all these men were answered beyond their wildest dreams. Jesus talks about prayers of persistence and faith in what you don’t yet see. Just like rejoicing against your flesh, praying and believing against your flesh is powerful. Do it constantly. On the drive to work, washing dishes, filling your gas tank, on your lunch break, brushing your teeth, and especially in your quiet times set aside just to read His Word and talk to Him.
And in everything give thanks. Thank Him for the fact that the answer to your prayer hasn’t happened yet. Thank Him for the struggle your son or daughter is going through at the moment. Thank Him for the new job that hasn’t materialized yet, or for the difficult coworker that you have to tolerate and love as God wants you to, despite her irritating personality. Just like in rejoicing, thanksgiving to God in EVERYTHING, forces you to rein in your emotions, and take a stand on what you believe: that God is trustworthy and is working all things out for good. Like bug repellant, thankfulness causes the barrage of negative emotions and thoughts to drop like flies. Your faith is purer and God can work faster because the obstacles of doubt and anxiety are removed from your heart.
Do these three simple things beginning on this Thanksgiving Day, and you will be made blameless and holy to God. Be careful not to dismiss what God is telling you here, because one command in this promise is not to treat prophecies with contempt. Make this way of life your new normal. Begin a wonderful life of rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
If you love Me, you will keep My commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. (John 14:15-16 HCSB)
I posted a video on Facebook recently about excuses Christians make when it comes to giving into sin or fleshly urges, and got an interesting comment. “It’s not easy being a perfect Christian!” Of course it’s not - but what’s implied by this comment? First, that God is legalistic and only accepts perfection, second living a life that is acceptable to God is too difficult, and thirdly, we should take it easy on ourselves when it comes to sin. We’re only human, after all…
I’ve heard many people tell me that they love God, and say so with great emotion. But what many people love is their own invention of God, not the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible and came to earth to live among us. Loving God with great surges of elation or tears or desires to rescue the poor can all happen when a love for God exists, but none of that factors into Jesus’ description of what loving God really means. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments, He says. If you love me, you’ll obey me. Later on in the chapter, Jesus repeats these words, but in a different order. “The one who has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me.” You cannot say you love God, and treat His commands as optional or trivial.
Of course we will fail at executing every command perfectly, all the time, every day for the rest of our lives. We will always need His forgiveness, but those who keep His commands, are those who strive to the best of their abilities to obey no matter the personal cost, every day for the rest of their lives. Those are the standards that they hold themselves to.
And because they desire to obey so eagerly and are willing to sacrifice their pride and selfishness and control over their own lives, they place themselves in the unique position of being able to receive the most amazing gift – the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls Him the Counselor. Instead of stumbling through life, trying to avoid sin and obey God by the strength of our weak flesh, God provides His Spirit to enable and empower us to do far more than we ever could on our own. He counsels us when we are all alone and don’t know what to do or who to turn to. He shows us hidden treasures that fleshly eyes would never be able to see. He gives us His authority to confront the devil, and living a life far from sin becomes so much easier and joyful. Instead of a burden, it is a daily refreshment.
This gift of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not for those who don’t first keep His commands. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re trying to persuade you to believe in an invention of God. And that is a sad and difficult life of shadowy faith that disappoints. You are promised a Counselor forever, just trust and obey.
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. (Hebrews 1:1-2 HCSB)
God is speaking to us now through the words of the Lord Jesus, His teachings, examples and life. He continues speaking to us through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to everyone who is willing to quiet their fleshly thoughts and hear Him. Everything that the Spirit says is what Jesus says to us, and all that Jesus says is according to the will of the Father. (John 5, 8 and 12 all talk about this.)
People ask why God no longer gives dreams or sends angels to audibly speak to us as He did in the past, and these verses explain that. Now that Jesus has already come to dwell on the earth and returned to heaven, we have His written word, His Holy Spirit and His authority to have understanding, wisdom and power to overcome. Abraham, Moses and Joshua among many others, had no Bible to read for guidance. God had to speak directly to them, or send angels to communicate His will. Often they had to go for years with no word at all from God, just trusting in the few revelations that they heard, and the stories of how God had blessed others before them. We, on the other hand, are far more blessed to have God’s word written in almost every language on the globe, to have Bible apps on our phones and as many copies of as many versions and translations as we can afford on our bookshelves.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, do we value those words as deeply as the men and women of God in the past, who only had rare encounters with God? They didn’t know who Jesus was or about the power He would bring to this world, but whatever God said, they treated as gold.
Psalm 19:10 says that God’s words are more desirable than fine gold. The promise in this passage, is that Jesus is speaking to us right now, Jesus who made the universe together with God the Father and the God the Holy Spirit. The one who laid the foundations of the earth, who commanded the fish of the sea and the birds of the air to come into existence, who knows everything to the tiniest detail of our life on this small planet, is talking to us now in our mundane ordinary lives. He knows, He cares and He has all the power to set us free and lead us on the right path.
If you read the Bible but doubt its words for your own life, or keep trying to find a spiritual guru to foretell your future, you are treating fine gold as trash. The words of God are to be revered and lived by, no matter how difficult it may seem to believe in them. Acting on them with the confidence that they are true, is what faith is and is the only way to please God. Throw away your horoscopes and pop-psychology books and start to value the oldest, wisest and most powerful words that have always been there for you.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1 Peter 2:9 HCSB)
You, little old you with all your faults, with the sad background, with the unremarkable life and an unremarkable job, are seen in a totally different light in God’s eyes. You are chosen by Him. You are royalty, and part of His holy nation. And if you are chosen, then you can expect that unremarkable life to become extraordinarily used by Him.
If you remember the story of the Hebrew slaves who were finally released from the oppression of Egypt and taken to the promised land, you have a picture of how God sees you who are truly devoted to Him. They had rejected God as a people, for around 400 years. They had grown in numbers and turned from favored immigrants in Egypt, to slaves. But out of God’s mercy, when they cried out to Him and remembered that He was their God and not the idols of Egypt, He sent Moses to set them free by His power. He took them to Mt. Sinai and made a covenant with them. They were to be His special, loved and highly esteemed chosen people, a holy nation set apart for Him. All they needed to do was to obey the simple commands that He gave them. They had turned from filthy rejects and into the most honored and powerful people on the earth.
The problem was that many of them had a hard time shaking off their slave mentality. They were royalty and greatly valued, but they whined and complained and quickly doubted God whenever problems arose. Yet He lovingly forgave them and graciously provided for them throughout their journey through the wilderness. There was manna and quail to eat, water that gushed out of rocks, a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day to guide them. He gave them every reason to trust in Him, and yet at the border of the promised land, they complained again and refused to take possession of their promise.
If you feel like this promise is an exaggeration, too good to be true and a little prideful for you to really take seriously, you are sadly still in a slave mentality. God has given each of us so much to prove His love, and yet we laugh at the thought that we could ever be so honored to be an example to the world, a chosen race. It is not prideful to believe in God’s Word, it’s humility. Have the audacity to know your authority over problems and to know how eager God is to come to your rescue when you are in need. When your life is a role model for others, you will fulfill God’s will in your life. Why does He want you to be a chosen race and a royal priesthood? To proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness and into His glorious light. If you won’t, who will?
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment—this honor have all His saints. (Psalm 149:6-9 NKJV)
What a strange image this conjures up, people of faith singing loudly… in bed? Praising God and then swinging a two-edged sword to execute vengeance on nations and punish people? What an odd combination of ideas, and yet when you really know God, it makes perfect sense. God’s promise is that we who are saved and belong to Him (His saints) are given this honor. We have authority to bring vengeance and punishment, not against fleshly nations and peoples, but against the demonic powers and kingdoms that unjustly rule in this world.
Jesus says that the devil is the prince of this world, and has set up a rogue kingdom to impose his dominion over any who live in sin. But Jesus’ death on the cross, destroyed that power. We can now live in freedom if we do three things. Become born of God (saints), be joyful and praise Him always (even in our beds), and be warriors who fight with the double-edged sword of the Word of God (read Hebrews 4:12 to find out more). We have the honor to be joyful and full of praise, and at the same time to be instruments in God’s hands to destroy the dominion the devil has in our own lives and in the lives of others.
There are demonic principalities that try their best to rule over you, even though you have given your life to God. They know that if they can fool you into believing that they are stronger than you, they’ll be unhindered. In Ephesians 6, God commands us to put on His armor and go into battle. That’s our job. We fight, but the victory is always His. You have power to rebuke, to stand firm, to cast out demons and to determine miracles based on His promises. All the while, we are to have joy and songs of praise on our lips.
Praising God in the middle of problems is as powerful as rebuking the devil. In fact, the two of them combined is an unbeatable force. It goes against our nature to be joyful during struggles, and it’s a weapon that few actually use. Begin praising God in advance before the miracles happen. Praise God for the waiting period because you know He’s perfecting your faith. Praise Him for the people who irritate you because He wants to use you to impact their lives in a positive way. Praise Him the first thing you do when you wake up, and lying in your bed before you fall asleep. Praise Him for the authority He has given you over all evil and that your victory is sure. Fight, praise, and enjoy this honor that He has given us all.
Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6 NET)
Anyone familiar with the teachings of the Bible know that the love of money is an evil thing. 1 Timothy 6 says that money is the root of all kinds of evil, and Jesus said in both Matthew and Luke, that we cannot serve both God and money, because we will love one and hate the other. Personal possessions and the security and prestige of wealth hold a great deal of power, and only godly people have the ability to deal with them all wisely without jeopardizing their relationship with God.
One myth that many Christians preach and practice, is that since Paul tells the church to “be content with what you have,” that it’s a sin to strive to prosper in your business or job. But that is not what he’s saying. The Holy Spirit, who inspired Paul to write this, is talking here about the state of our hearts and where our trust lies. A person can be poor and on welfare, and yet desire money to such a degree that he becomes greedy and hardened towards God. His absence of money doesn’t make him more spiritual. Another person can be working hard to grow his company, staying up late and sacrificing free time to see his dream of a bigger business become a reality, yet all the while have his heart firmly set on God. He’s not anxious or greedy, and is truly content with the knowledge that with God as his Lord and provider, all will work together for his good because God is first in all his plans.
Don’t confuse contentment with passivity. God’s people have always been great examples to the world when they were bold and courageous, to fight wars as in David’s time, or to face down violent kings as in Esther’s day, or to preach the gospel in a hostile empire, as the disciples of the Early Church did so fervently. Complacency and laziness aren’t listed among the fruit of the Spirit. Contentment is about active determination and confidence, and a refusal to be afraid. Fears may try to creep in, but faith commands those fears to leave because God has promised that He is our helper.
If being content were a passive thing, then God wouldn’t tell us to say confidently, “What can people do to me?” When you give tithes, offerings and sacrifices to God, use that opportunity to learn this beautiful character quality of being content. Defy the spirit of fear and prove your trust in God. Walk away from the altar with contentment and peace, knowing that as your helper, He will provide abundantly more than what you ask or think.
From there I will give back her vineyards to her, and turn the “Valley of Trouble” into an “Opportunity for Hope.” There she will sing as she did when she was young, when she came up from the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:15 NET)
The “her” that God is speaking of is about His people who He will restore back to Himself. They will find joy again like they did when they were first set free as slaves.
Maybe you are going through what feels like a valley of trouble, a time of testing, attack or persecution. Today God wants you to know that your valley of trouble will be turned into an opportunity for hope. This valley is temporary, and the sooner you begin to trust Him without allowing fear and panic to contaminate your faith, the sooner you will see that valley turn into hope, and all the darkness you are going through now will be forgotten.
There are people who have gone through terrible trauma and felt they could never be normal or recover from their past. But God is in the business of transformation. Many of them now live very happy, fulfilled lives because they had the audacity to believe that God would wipe their slate clean completely. I work with many of them daily, and laugh with them as they tell their stories of past addictions and curses as if they were speaking about different people and not themselves – and in fact, that’s exactly the way it is. When God transforms you and you become born of His Spirit, the qualities of that old person with the urges and fears and emotional baggage, fade away. Of course as you mature in the Spirit, even more of you changes and improves day by day.
This is what you have to look forward to! You don’t have to go through therapy the rest of your life, you don’t have to carry that guilt either. You don’t even have to feel like that old person any more, because being born of God is becoming a new creature. You keep the same great qualities of humor, personal taste, and intelligence, and they become even better and more enjoyable with God. But all the junk is thrown away.
Your valley of trouble may be because you are not yet born of God, so you need to seek it with a passion and make any sacrifice necessary to find it. Maybe you’re already born of God, and your valley is just a testing period where God is waiting for your reaction of faith and trust while your emotions are being attacked. Either way, you have an opportunity of hope that will arise from that same valley, as long as you rest in that knowledge and obey His Word.
Begin to live in a spirit of thankfulness and expectation of your opportunity of hope that is on its way. Begin singing praises to God even now, before seeing answers to your prayers. It may feel awkward and even a little crazy, but don’t worry. Real faith is always a little crazy to this world anyway
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
“Shouldnʼt this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be released from this imprisonment?” (Luke 13:10-16 NET)
There are seven specific examples in the Bible of people who were set free from demons by Jesus — seven example where we either know the name of the person, or some details about their life and problems. Jesus cast out many more, but we have no specifics about their lives. This example in Luke 13 is one of the seven, and an interesting one, because it is one of two that occurred in a synagogue on the Sabbath. What does that mean for us today? It would be the modern day equivalent of casting out a demon from someone in the Sunday morning church service — an unthinkable thing for the large majority of Christians. And yet it happened with Jesus, and it happens today too. If we refuse to consider this we are turning our backs on Jesus’ example, and on a class of people in the Church that are in dire need of God’s help and power.
Jesus called this woman a daughter of Abraham, which may have been a reference to her Jewish ancestry, but it is more likely that He used this term in the correct manner, and was referring to her faith and sincerity. Though she believed in God, something in her life had allowed the devil to enter and stay, and make her suffer for 18 long years. Instead of criticizing and condemning her, Jesus as always had compassion on her and set her free.
It is not biblical to say, “I gave my life to Jesus, so the devil can’t touch me anymore.” Throughout the Bible, war is a big part of any believer’s life. In the Old Testament war included physical battles between armies as well as the inner battle of each person, whereas the New concentrates on our inner, spiritual battles. We are encouraged to be good soldiers, told to put on the armor of God, encouraged to fight the good fight of faith, to resist Satan firm in our faith, told to be on the alert because our adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, and told about the weapons of our warfare… No one, beginner or veteran in the faith, can relax when it comes to doing battle with Satan and demons. If Jesus was tempted and attacked by the devil and demons throughout His life, how can we expect to escape the same treatment?
When Christians forget the Spirit’s command to fight the good fight of faith, and relax in faith thinking that Jesus’ defeat of Satan is enough, they turn into Christians on the edge — on the edge of God’s blessings, barely holding on to their faith, frustrated and doubtful. Instead of being “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” they become Christians that are not even free. Though Jesus died and rose again, defeating the devil and demons for all time, they either neglect to take a hold of God’s authority because they are uninformed, or they ignore it because it doesn’t agree with their doctrinal beliefs. Their way turns them into easy targets of the devil.
Don’t remain on the edge of God’s blessings, make sure you’re at the center.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 NET)
Have you ever tried to picture what it would be like to have been raised in a life of slavery? Our minds don’t even want to entertain such a thought because we’ve heard of the horrors that have been inflicted on slaves in our own country and around the world. But God says that when we don’t belong fully to Him, we live under the oppression of a spirit of slavery. Many well-to-do, highly respected people in our communities are slaves, because they won’t allow Him to rescue them and adopt them as His own.
A slave owns nothing, not even his wife and children. His master has the right to beat him, abuse him and work him to death if he pleases, and a slave has no recourse to turn to for justice. Those who have chosen to live by their own strength and according to their own pride, are slaves to the spirits of this world. The devil, like a crafty slave master, will grant some degree of reward for serving him. Money, getting away with immoral behavior, friends to encourage and even support addictions, false believers to create a sense of superiority and elevated church positions… the list could go on. The devil won’t reveal the ugliness of his slavery right upfront, because one thing he knows is that slavery is a life we choose, and we’ll choose whatever looks shinier, easier, and more exciting. But once that slave is well ensconced in that life, the slave master demands everything of him that is of any value, while the slave remains enthralled with the trinkets and supposed security of that abusive life.
But the Spirit of adoption is the Spirit of freedom. We are not slaves, but adopted into the most loving of families, and not as a forgotten distant relative, but as direct heirs. Jesus referred to His father as Abba. It’s definitely an intimate name, but different from the childish “daddy” that we are familiar with. It shows a close loving bond, but is a name for an adult heir to call his father with deep love and respect. It is only reserved for that type of relationship. When the Pharisees heard Jesus speak about God this way, they were deeply offended, because Jesus was putting himself on the same level as God the Father – which of course, He is!
This was so radical an idea that the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus for the crime of blasphemy. And here, the Holy Spirit is teaching us that we are to see ourselves as children who can boldly refer to God as Abba. Of course we are not and never will be on par with God, but He so graciously invites us to have this intimate relationship. Former slaves who are adopted and placed in a position of highest honor and love, this is what salvation does for us!
But first look into your own heart, examine your own life. Have you left your slavery to the world behind? The spirit of slavery leads to fear, so have you thrown that off? The choice should be easy to make, and the changes of your life will be like night and day.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8 HCSB)
Micah was a prophet at the time that the land of Judah was about to be overtaken and destroyed by Babylon. He and all the other prophets of his time were forced to speak harshly, because Israel and Judah had become perverse and disrespectful of the God who had so lovingly provided for them for generations. They were about to be judged and humiliated by an evil kingdom that would turn them into slaves and captives for seventy years. It was unthinkable, but the apple of God’s eye was going to be plundered and pillaged because of their own selfishness.
They already knew what God required of them. They had all the teachings of God through Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon. They had the many prophets God had sent, yet their hearts had become so dull that they were asking foolish questions. In the verse before, they even ask if God would remove their punishment if they’d offer their firstborn sons as burn sacrifices. The demonic gods of Baal and Molech would demand such horrible things, and the Israelites had become so perverse they actually obeyed them – it was as if they had totally lost sight of who the true God was.
God is reminding them of the very simple and pure things that He asks of His people, something that all of us can do, if we choose to. Be just and fair. Be honest and true to ourselves, to others in our daily lives and to God. To love faithfulness, meaning to keep our commitments to each other, and to God. To value the purity of a faithful marriage, faithful friendships and faithfully obeying God unswervingly. And then, to walk humbly before God. He is our Lord and Master, and we are His servants. Nothing is to be done out of our own whims or fleshly desires, but in submission to His will. This is what He asks of us, and this is what will keep us safe and under the shadow of His wings.
The freedom that the world loves to dangle in front of us, is not freedom at all. When we don’t live by these three points, we are living in submission to the gods of this world. Like Baal who demanded the blood of innocent children, the devil will take all that is pure and innocent from us just because we don’t submit to God above all. God does require total surrender, but His demands are easy and light, and bring about safety and salvation. See if you are living by these requirements, and if so, you can claim the freedom and protection that God has always wanted to provide for His children from the beginning of time.
And they return at evening, snarling like dogs and prowling around the city. They scavenge for food; they growl if they are not satisfied. But I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning. For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble. (Psalm 59:14-16 HCSB)
The contrast between the first two sentences and the last two is pretty extreme, and a perfect picture of what faith is supposed to look like. David is talking about his enemies, not just enemy nations, but demons who are seeking to destroy him and God’s people. They are vicious and fearsome. Their threat is constant, being driven back and then returning relentlessly, snarling and ready to tear him to shreds.
It’s almost funny how he switches from a scene straight from a horror movie, to happiness, morning sunshine and singing! David has the eyes to see beyond the scary threats of his enemies. He sees his God, a mighty refuge and stronghold, lovingly protecting him as always. That doesn’t mean that the threat is gone, or that the enemy has stopped his bloodthirsty intentions. It means that the threat is nothing because God, in all His purity and faithful love, is a sure and safe refuge.
When the problems around you threaten to tear you apart, do exactly what David does in this psalm. Take ahold of your fearful emotions, and remind yourself that it’s time to rejoice, to celebrate the fact that you are in the mighty arms of the King of kings. Look around you and see the beautiful sky, and remember that your Lord is the one who made it and all the millions of galaxies beyond it that your human eye can’t see. Praise Him for the intricacy of His creation, even in the tiny blades of grass underfoot as you leave for work in the morning and know that the one who is in and over every detail, is the one who will protect you from the attacks of these snarling demons. You are safe in Him, so trust Him enough to praise Him before you see your prayers answered.
This is a sacrifice of your flesh, to refuse to wallow in self-pity and fear. This sacrifice is more powerful than you realize, and proof of that is just how hard it is to sing simple praises to God when your emotions are in high gear. Just do it, don’t wait to feel it. Faith is a mindful decision, and not a feeling of peace or assurance. Peace comes later, but first you have to act, and keep on acting in obedience to God’s Word. Do you have a tough problem to face today? Great! Then sing! Write back and share your experiences with the rest of us.
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18 HCSB)
This verse has recently caused a degree of confusion among Christians, who claim to be sinless because they also claim to be born again. But that’s not what God says through the apostle John. Just a few chapters before this, John writes, “If we say, ‘We don’t have any sin,’ we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10) So do we have sin, or do we not?
As with a lot of verses in the Bible, the truth can be found out in the original language. In Greek, the phrase “does not sin,” is better translated, “does not live in a constant state of practicing sin.” That means that once a person is born of God, they have come to the point of killing their flesh, and hating sin to the point that they no longer live in it any more. They are still sinners, but they also live in a constant state of repentance and purity, a dependence on God for their salvation. The moment they realize they have sinned, they feel disgust for that sin and repent immediately. They learn from that experience and do all they can to avoid ever falling into that sin again. Their radar is constantly running, and they assess their relationship with God everyday, to assure that there is nothing blocking them from communing with Him. They sin, but they don’t live in sin.
This is not what is being preached in many popular churches around the country and around the world. The safety net that Christians like to fall back on, is the thought that grace is sufficient, that there is no longer a need to be vigilant to resist sin because Christ’s sacrifice has done it all for us. Grace is free, therefore grace must be cheap.
But this passage is a warning. We are to look for the signs that we are truly born of God. Those who are, have stopped practicing sin. The yo-yo effect of grieving God, asking for forgiveness and lazily grieving Him again without a brokenness of spirit or an earnest attempt to kill that old temptation, is a great disrespect to our Lord who died for every sin we commit and will commit. Self-labeled Christians who still enjoy getting drunk, pornography, gossip, rebellious attitudes towards the authority of God’s Word, cursing and sexual promiscuity, are not even close to being born of God. They practice sin, and cannot be one with God. There are far more false Christians than real ones today, just because of this misconception.
We are guaranteed to be kept by Jesus, the One (with a capitol O) who is born of God. He is the example we should follow. If we are born of Him, we live like Him. And if we live like Him and for Him, we will be kept by Him, and be untouchable to the devil. That’s the safest state to be in, and worth every sacrifice of our flesh. But false believers have no such protection.
And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner.” He said, “Indeed, my hand is lifted up toward the Lord’s throne. The Lord will be at war with Amalek from generation to generation. (Exodus 15:16-17 HCSB)
On of the most famous pictures of Neil Armstrong shows him in the reflection of Buzz Aldrin’s space helmet, standing by the American flag that they had just planted on the moon. Sir Edmund Hillary snapped a picture of his Sherpa guide holding an ice ax strung with the flags of Britain, Nepal, India and the UN on top of Mt. Everest in 1953. Banners and flags have been symbols of victory and conquest for centuries. Armies from Europe to the Far East have marched into battle festooned with banners, and their sight would strike fear into the hearts of their enemies. Their banners proclaimed who their might came from, and in this passage here, Moses declares that his banner is God Himself.
Moses led the people of God to victory, not by charging out into the battle as a military leader would, but by obeying God’s commands to stretch out his hands to heaven and hold up the staff that had been used so many times to perform God’s miracles. As long as the staff was outstretched, the Israelites would win, but when Moses’ arms grew tired and he put them down, the enemies would begin to win. With the help of his brother Aaron, and another faithful warrior Hur, he was able to keep his arms up until nightfall so that the enemy was completely routed.
There was no doubt that day who had won the victory. It wasn’t just the Israelite army’s skill in battle, it wasn’t Moses’ leadership skills, it was God. Yet even so, God wanted to use all of their abilities joined with His power. God expects His people and His leaders to trust in Him and to carry out His instructions, to fight and even be willing to give their lives for Him. God is our banner, but we need to be His army.
Though that particular battle was finished Moses still says, “my hand is lifted up towards the Lord’s throne.” He knew that this is the answer to every victory, turning to God, raising his hopes to the One who has the power to overcome any enemy. God told Moses to write down the story of that battle on a scroll and read it aloud to Joshua, so that he too could learn this lesson, as he would take over the leadership of Israel in the years to come.
We need to remember our victories, and how we used our faith to overcome. Write down what God has done, and repeat that same faith and even stronger faith with each successive battle. Amelek was a nation that symbolizes the devil and his attacks. We are at war every day, whether we acknowledge it or not. Learning from our experiences is what will make us stronger, and learning from the experiences of the heroes of faith that we know around us, and the heroes of the Bible, will keep us safe. We will always have to fight, but if our banner is God, then our victory is sure.
Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God. (Philippians 1:27-28 HCSB)
The Apostle Paul was in prison at the time that he wrote this amazing book to the church in Philippi. He was joyful, strong and full of faith, reminding the church to rejoice in God all the time. He had learned that standing firm, being united in faith and refusing to be frightened, was a powerful weapon to destroy the devil’s plans. The last sentence says, “This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance.”
Refusing fear is of great importance for the life of a true Christian. All through the Old and New Testaments, God sends angels or speaks to His people with the same words, “do not be afraid,” or, “be strong and courageous.” God knows that one of the tactics the devil loves is instilling fear. The devil is the best special effects master there is, creating illusions of horror and defeat to send the people of God running, if they aren’t wise. Only those who truly have surrendered their lives to God, who are new creatures in Christ, know how to stand up to fear and face it with faith in God’s promises.
For a person who has died to himself, who has the attitude that life is worthless if it isn’t lived for the Lord Jesus, there really is nothing to fear. They know that they are safe in God’s hands, and even if they are killed for their faith, they have an eternity of joy with God to look forward to. The devil can’t rob them of their greatest treasure, so facing any situation on earth is worth doing well for the Lord that they love. Obviously this is completely undoable for people who just call themselves Christian, but are still holding onto control of their own lives.
In times of persecution or struggle, we need each other to be joined in faith to face the attacks of the devil fearlessly and standing firm. It’s easy to be united in happy times, getting together for coffee and chit-chatting about simple things. But unity in times of turmoil is when the devil is destroyed, and when your deliverance becomes sure.
Paul wanted to hear good news from his church, that they were living a life worthy of the sacrifice Jesus had made for them. He was absent from them because he lived a life of surrender and obedience. He was being imprisoned and tortured for the sake of the gospel, but full of joy and strength. He knew that what he was going through was advancing the Kingdom of God even more outside of his prison cell.
Bright eyes cheer the heart; good news strengthens the bones. (Proverbs 15:30 HCSB)
Bright eyes, and good news - the requirements to receive the two promises of a cheered heart, and strengthened bones. How many people suffer from debilitating depression that not only effects them emotionally, but saps their physical strength? All of us have gone through times of grief or sadness when we’ve felt that the most basic daily tasks were heavy burdens. This small verse is God’s antidote for that.
Matthew 6:22 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!”
God is obviously not talking about having good vision, but having spiritual eyes that know how to interpret what is going on around us. They are eyes that can see God at work, even when our physical eyes see nothing. When evil is threatening us, our spiritual eyes can be bright and full of light, because we know that we have authority in the name of Jesus to defeat that evil. Our eyes are able to see that we are the giants and the problems are mere ants – even when everyone else is panicking.
Eyes that can see God in the midst of a storm or an endless desert, are bright and are able to give us joy. Joy draws us closer to God, and destroys demons’ attempts to rob us of our faith.
Good news is also spiritual in nature, not the 5 o’clock eyewitness reports on TV. The word “gospel,” simply means good news. It’s the news that Jesus brought the world that we have access directly to God, we have authority over all evil in His name and that we can become children of God to live forever in His Kingdom if we die to ourselves and accept a life of servanthood to Jesus as our Lord.
Having bright eyes is a choice, and good news has already been given to us, but it’s up to us to act on it. I remember many times irritating people with my choice to be happy about uncertain situations, proclaiming how they will work out fine in the end. If people really do want joy and strength, why does it bother them when we live that way? Because spiritual power is behind it. The devil works overtime to convince those who he oppresses, that this kind of joy is false and insulting, and that there is no such thing as good news. Some have told me that it’s easy for me because I’m a pastor, and that I’m cruel to expect them to be so sure of their future. The only cruel one is the devil, who wants to steal away your joy and nullify your attempts at having faith.
This little verse is packed with power. If you are wise you will start to live out these principles and see the results right away. Who wouldn’t want a cheerful heart?
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 HCSB)
Well, tomorrow it’s Super Tuesday in the US. Mid-term elections are upon us, and plenty of people are frustrated and angry with the state of their cities, states and country. A lot of you will probably not even vote because a prevailing attitude is, “What’s the point? They’re all corrupt anyway.” But there is much we can do through prayers and interceding. We have authority over the principalities and powers of the spiritual world that manipulate and control the corruption and evil that is done in this world. If no one is praying, then they will never be weakened or defeated. Your votes do count, but prayers offered in faith always have a great impact.
Paul wrote this during a time of great persecution of the church, when Christians were being hunted down, tortured and killed. But instead of allowing bitterness and hatred to grow in the hearts of the Church, Paul urged them to pray for their corrupt and evil leaders. He specifically told them to pray and intercede because he knew the power of prayer could change those in high positions.
We just witnessed elections for governor here a few weeks ago in Brazil in the state of Rio. The incumbent had a record of corruption and connections to crime bosses, while the opposing candidate has a clean record and is a faithful Christian. Prayers were offered up by the church around the country, but on the day of the elections, our main church in Rio was surrounded by the police and padlocked, and accused of illegally campaigning for the Christian candidate when a stack of campaign flyers suddenly and mysteriously appeared in one of our storage rooms. When all the votes were in, the incumbent governor won, after a vast number of witnesses had reported fraud at the polls and rigged ballot machines. Over a million votes were annulled with no chance of a recount. Legal action is underway to combat this rampant corruption here, but it may take some time. Does that mean that God didn’t hear our prayers, and that evil will always win? Not at all. Our prayers did much more than we realize, and God will be faithful to His promises. Just the fact that the devil felt he had to fight this so hard proves that God is at work.
Don’t grow jaded or give up hope just because immediate prayers are not answered to your satisfaction. We are fighting a spiritual battle that pleases God. The bottom line in this promise, is that God wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Our prayers to bless our leaders and to fight the evil in places of authority, paves the way for souls to be saved, and for us to live a tranquil life in godliness and dignity. So go out and vote, but more than anything – pray!
The one who lives with integrity lives securely, but whoever perverts his ways will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9 HCSB)
It’s much harder to do things the right way, taking care of every detail, than it is to cut corners and get things done quickly. We can even do good things, but with selfish motives, turning them into worthless deeds just to impress others. God sees right through them and will not reward us, because we’re taking something that should be holy and perverting it into something for our own glory.
But there are many corners in life that cannot be cut. No matter how hard we try to take the easy road, we’ll eventually have to pay the price for poor character and a lack of integrity. It’s frustrating to see politicians and big moneymakers appear to get away with murder, but nothing is hidden from God’s eyes. We may hate their behavior, but that spirit of selfishness can contaminate us and even destroy our walk with God. Before we know it, we are trying to get away with cheating at work, gossiping to bring someone down, doing a slipshod job on our projects, and trying to pass it all off as being “just human.” We may even get away with it for some time, but God’s promise is that we will be found out and will have to suffer the consequences.
Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright and out of his blessing of the firstborn. Jacob had to run for his life in fear of being killed, but then had to suffer under more than 14 years of oppression by a lying and cheating father-in-law, who gave him a good dose of his own medicine. Jacob thought he was getting away with stolen blessings, but God found him out and made sure that he paid for his lack of integrity. But the good news is, that Jacob learned from his mistakes and allowed God to turn him into a man of integrity and true faith. God renamed Jacob as Israel and he fathered the 12 tribes of Israel. His blessing has continued for centuries until today.
If you are cutting corners in your daily life, if you are cutting corners in your relationship with God – only showing up to church when you’re in the mood, or trying to get the attention of others so you can have a position, or hiding a secret sin while pretending to be spiritual – God sees it all, no matter what it is. You are fooling no one but yourself. Take time to get your heart, your motives and your actions in line with God. His promise is that you will live securely. Learn a lesson from Jacob. It’s much easier to make the effort to live in integrity, than to cut corners and have to pay for it for years and years.
Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:42-44 NET)
Stay alert, is God’s warning. The day that Jesus returns and separates the true believers from the unbelievers is going to take everyone by surprise, like a thief in the night, and as Jesus says earlier in this chapter, like lightning that strikes from east to west. For those who are truly His, who live a life of daily sacrifice to Him, who aren’t lukewarm or halfhearted but on fire for God, this day will be amazing and wonderful. But for those who are just partial believers, who enjoy their sins and do very little to get free from them, those people will experience a day of terror.
This is a promise that He will return. In the rest of chapter 24, Jesus talks about more signs of His coming and the terrible time of tribulation that will also afflict the world before the world as we know it comes to an end. As we watch current events in the news and observe the rapid degradation of morality and the growing cynicism towards faith, we can see some very clear signs that Bible prophecies are coming true in our day and age. But Jesus doesn’t just say, “stay alert,” to keep an eye out for signs of the end times. We are to be alert about the state of our own souls right now, every day.
Too many self-professing Christians are deceived into thinking that they are just fine because God is love, and He gives them grace. Yes, grace and love is for those who repent and turn away from evil, fight evil and hate evil. But churches across the US are filled with many who enjoy their sins, ask for forgiveness, and go right back to them over and over again. There is no grace for the unrepentant. If you are in this situation, you are in danger. Read God’s list of just some of the fruit of the flesh that will prevent people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven:
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. “ (Galatians 5:19-20)
Be alert, be ready. Jesus could return like a flash of lighting, or your life on earth could end at any moment. God lists selfishness, right alongside drunkenness and sexual sin. You may think you're just fine because you have “small sins” while pointing your finger at others with what you consider to be more shameful sins. In God’s eyes, sin is sin, and all of these can disqualify us from entering into His Kingdom. Fight for your salvation today, work it out with fear and trembling as the Bible says. You are the only one who can ensure that the Second Coming of Jesus will be a day of great joy for you. Let’s make sure we’re in a state of constant readiness.