Monday, June 29, 2015

How dare you judge me!

When Jesus talks about good and bad fruit, He’s saying that belonging to God is something visible—obvious. Jesus never says that we’ll be perfect and sinless, but there has to be a distinct difference between a true child of God and one who isn’t. He provides a list in Galatians 5 of what the fruit of the Spirit is, and expands on that list in 2 Peter 1. That’s great news, because we’ve not been left in the dark, to wonder if we’re really born of His Spirit or not. We have criteria now, and a wonderful expectation of what we can look forward to while we’re seeking the new birth. We won’t just be slightly cleaned up versions of our old selves, we’ll be totally different trees!

It’s great news for whoever wants to really be born of God—not so great news for the ones who like pretending. Why anyone would want to pretend they’re born of God when they could have the real thing is illogical, but that’s our sinful nature for you. We’re driven by pride, emotion, embarrassment, love of comfort… but not logic. On top of that, popular teachings encourage a false sense of security that all Christians are just fine. One prevalent teaching is that God doesn’t really have anything against sexual immorality if we just keep repenting. Another one is that God isn’t too bothered by people’s addictions if they really love Jesus and accept Him as their savior in their hearts. We’re all sinners anyway, right? How dare you judge me! And so it goes…

But Jesus does ask us to make judgments. He says, look at your fruit! Do you have any at all? Is it withered, sour and moldy? Are you trying to decorate yourself with plastic fruit from the Dollar Store? Is your fruit just like your neighbor’s who doesn’t even believe in God? Does it line up with His description of what to expect once His Spirit has taken control? We have checklists to determine if a plane is ready for takeoff, checklists for job requirements, for passing grades in school, for recipes… but when it comes to eternal life, popular Christianity wants no checklist other than a prayer to accept Jesus.   

God’s good news is that salvation comes with power! It is difficult to let go of an immoral relationship, or for an addict to get free, just as it’s tough to break out of any sin, big or small. But that’s what the new birth is for! Die to sin, live for Jesus, and you are given authority to destroy the works of the devil by a power that is not your own. As long as someone sincerely hates his old life and is ready to die to it, God is ready to teach him how to cast out the demons of whatever sin has bound him, and that phase of his life will be over. He’ll have his daily fight of denying himself and carrying his cross, like all of us do. But the power of the Holy Spirit will make it a joyful and victorious fight.  

Imagine, no more merry-go-round of sinning and repenting for the same old stuff. No more defeat, and no more pretending that you’re just fine when God seems so far away. The supernatural fruit will be obvious, and you’ll be full of life with His Spirit living and moving in you. Then you’ll be able to judge for yourself and know without a doubt, that you are an abundantly different tree.

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.  (Matthew 7:18-20 HCSB)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The devil’s biggest scam

We have a lot of myths in our heads. One of them is that the power of God and the power of evil are equal and opposite forces. The battle is so vicious that though God will win in the end, it’ll just be by a hair. This is a downright lie. Yes they are opposite, but there is nothing equal about them.

Another myth is that things of the devil are so evil and so scary that we should never speak of them for fear of invoking some sort of demonic curse. If someone has a pentagram on the bumper of their car, don’t even walk by their house. Watch a video on the paranormal, and then stay up all night afraid of every noise or shadow. Sure God is big and good and all that, but the devil… that’s serious stuff.

Without realizing it, professing Christians give respect to the devil, and yet have so little regard for the name of Jesus. Our Lord Jesus, whose name every knee has to bow before and every tongue confess.  

Ask yourself honestly how you’d react if you blundered into a satanic ritual and a curse was pronounced over you—would you be shaken by it? Would you run to church to pray extra hard to get rid of it? Or feel paranoid at every small sign that something weird might be happening to you? Would that horrible sight haunt you? But what were your reactions the last time you walked into the house of God and witnessed a meeting dedicated to God’s honor—were you shaken by it? When the pastor pronounced a blessing on you, did you feel a sense of awe and wonder that a supernatural thing had just happened? Did that blessing “haunt” you throughout your day? Did you wake up in the middle of the night remembering that the God of the universe had blessed you and that the most powerful name above all names had been invoked on your behalf? Were you expectantly looking for signs that God was really working according to what was said?

I know the answers most Christians would give if they were honest, and I’m not proud to say that I used to be just like them. This is a great scam of the devil, making himself out to be awesome and impressive, and God boring and ordinary. Just look at what’s popular on TV and movies—whatever is dark, twisted and perverse is always cooler and funnier. It’s become the subconscious default mindset of Christians in general. We know that the Bible teaches the opposite, but our reactions (or lack thereof) prove what we really believe.

So… what if we changed our default settings? What if we treated any curse or evil sent against us, from the distant past until now, as small and eradicated by our faith in Jesus? What if we act as if those hurtful words we grew up hearing were worthless lies? And then, what if we regarded every word of faith given to us as a priceless treasure? What if we consistently put into practice what we are taught from God’s word—even if we don’t understand it perfectly—with the eager expectation of a supernatural happening? What if we decide that we’re done with honoring and fearing the devil and dedicate more time to honoring and fearing God?  

What would happen is that we’d see God’s greatness begin to manifest more and more in our personal lives. We would find shortcuts through our problems because Satan’s scary smoke-and-mirrors games wouldn’t impress us any more. We’d be more joyful and be exercising our muscles of faith in the unseen, which in turn would please God more than we’d ever know. We can never forget that our God is huge, and our enemy is defeated and powerless against those who truly live by faith. It’s the truly living by faith part that we need to put into high gear.

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the Lord will do for his servants – I will vindicate them,” says the Lord.  (Isaiah 54:17 HCSB)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This is not supposed to be happening

When a good, law-abiding man is sent to jail for a crime he never committed, that punishment is unbearably cruel. When a faithful worker who has developed his skills is placed under an egotistical, inexperienced boss with outrageous demands, he loses all motivation for his job. When a mother who has dedicated her life to nurturing a happy family discovers that her child will die of a painful disease, it’s as if her heart has been ripped out of her body. Some things are just not supposed to happen… 

When a nation is promised absolute protection from harm, a life of abundance, and inner peace and joy, and then finds itself broken, humiliated and forced into exile as slaves, that’s just not supposed to happen. Either the giver of the promise has broken His word, or the nation has broken its agreement.  

That happened to God’s people. They’d been the most stunning example of God’s power on earth. Kings and queens of other nations would send tribute to the kings of Israel and were in awe of the amazing God who led them with love and wisdom, who dwelt among them in His temple, and blessed them with mercy and kindness.  But Israel didn't value what they had. They took God’s blessings for granted and decided to cut corners with His commandments. Prophet after prophet tried to warn them. Losses, famines and signs from God were ignored until total destruction had to come upon them. Not because God hated them, but because it was the only way to humble them and turn their hearts back to Him.

That process is happening to us, to Christians around the world today. We have the promises of God, we've been given His armor, given the authority of His name and access to the counsel of His Spirit who will dwell in us as He once did in His temple—but who is actually using all of these heavenly gifts? Who values them or even seeks out the knowledge they need to use them? And even if they do have head-knowledge, who has the practical knowledge to use God’s gifts, the knowledge that comes from daily battle with the devil? Most churchgoers don't even bother thinking about such things. They're too busy with their church traditions and functions They assume that these are the concerns of select super-Christians, not themselves. Their ignorance of the things of God is of their own choosing, and the suffering that the devil will bring upon them is also of their own choosing.

It’s wrong for a child of God to be enslaved by the devil and dragged into a life of misery. And yet, how many pastors and youth leaders have confessed to pornography or drug addiction? How many Christians have hidden sins but are too ashamed to come clean and change? And even worse, how many Christians have no concept of spiritual warfare to battle against the demonic forces that are tearing down the integrity and faith of entire churches? Satan is doing his best to drag the Body of Christ into another exile, and it will be of our own choosing unless we change. Daily battle against sin, negative thoughts, and demonic attacks on family and loved ones are all a part of God’s requirement to serve Him. The battle is a joyful one because He always gives us victory when we use His weapons, but it requires the sacrifice of our flesh. The knowledge in His word is only understood when we practice it. If things that are not supposed to be happening, are happening in your life—if circumstances are enslaving you—perhaps it’s time to realign yourself with God and get back into the fight before it’s too late.

Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge her dignitaries are starving, and her masses are parched with thirst.  (Isaiah 5:13 HCSB)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Corny but true

There’s a chorus I remember singing in youth group meetings, about casting your burdens on Jesus. The chorus repeated, “Higher, higher, higher,” “Lower, lower,” “Wider, wider,” or “Super, super.” It was about how we should raise Jesus higher, put Satan lower, that His love is wider, and that He has super power. It was a fun song with hand motions and a Caribbean beat, but it didn't do much for my faith at all. The happy-go-lucky message basically said: “The Christian life is effortless, just throw away your cares and His “super, super” goodness will make everything okay.” Since I didn't see that working out for anyone I knew, I dismissed this song as meaningless fluff. I also dismissed the powerful verse that it refers to as well. It took me years to realize how much I needed to live that verse out every single day.

Casting your cares on the Lord is not being happy-go-lucky. It’s a form of warfare against the lies of the devil. It’s focused, determined and a little scary. Happiness does factor in once we obey this command, a happiness straight from the throne of God. But the obedience part requires courage because it’s a direct attack on the logic of the spirit of this world. 

I have infuriated plenty of people when I determine against all hope that God will answer when we pray. They feel angry that I'm toying with their emotions and giving them false hope, but that’s because they didn't understand the immediate effect of binding up demonic forces and commanding them to leave. Trusting in God and casting your burdens on Him works when you are trusting in the authority that Jesus gives His disciples (that’s us) over the kingdom of the devil.  

One woman’s marriage was falling apart, and her husband had decided that divorce was their only option. She came to us desperate and ready to repent, change, and be taught how to undo the damage of her past. She let us pray for her and we commanded the demonic thoughts working in both of them to be cast out, the curses on their marriage and the pain that the devil was planning to inflict on them that week to be destroyed. To her great surprise, her husband walked in the door within the hour with a totally different attitude. He had no idea about our prayer, but God had impressed on him a sudden desire to forgive and work at changing himself as well. If we had counseled her with the traditional religious lingo we used to hear all our lives, patting her on the back, handing her Kleenexes as she cried, encouraging her to “cast her burdens on the Lord,” without showing her how to do it, she may very well be divorced today. 

Attempting to trust God without battling the lies of the devil is a passive kind of faith that sets you up for disappointment. It’s no longer faith at work, but just wishful thinking that He'll effortlessly remove your problems. The devil loves passivity, because he can swoop in, blow your problems up in your face, then point at God and say, “See? He doesn't care! He’s a liar!” But when you use your authority over evil, you can quiet your soul and rest because God is dealing with those burdens and you will see the results. 

If you've been living a passive and uncertain faith, you may be teetering on the brink of losing your faith completely. Learn how to build an unshakeable certainty of God’s promises. There’s nothing in the word of God that should be dismissed… even if a corny song is attached to it.    

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.  (Psalm 55:22 HCSB) 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

All out aggression

When we started learning about spiritual warfare, the hardest thing for Evelyn and I to grasp was this mindset of being aggressive in faith. It seemed so contrary to all we’d been taught about being good Christians. Our upbringing was to be kind and considerate, and to avoid conflict. And when it came to spiritual things, it was even harder to break out of our habit of having that feigned holy, reverent attitude. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but there’s a churchy manner that comes as second nature to most Christians. It’s normal to walk into any church to find grinning greeters with kind voices to welcome you and ask how you are with homey chuckles and God bless yous. But just start to share the misery and suffering you’re going through, and these nice Christians begin to squirm.   
It doesn’t mean that they don’t care, they just don’t know what to do, or what to say. They’re not equipped for spiritual warfare, and most don’t even want to know what that is. We were like that too, but at least we were searching for more.   

It took more than teaching to break out of our churchy mindset. We had to watch others and witness the anger that pleases God, the audacity that could be interpreted as pride, but is in fact true humility and faith in God’s word. We had to observe our mentors speaking boldly to God and insisting that His promises come true (and then wait for a lighting bolt to strike them), and in amazement see God answer that prayer instantly. We began to wonder, could it be that God actually likes it when we pray so boldly? It sure seemed like God was rewarding these men and women of faith with miraculous changes when they spoke in anger against their problems. As we dug into the Bible, it was right there in front of us. Bold confrontation against evil was just as pleasing to God as humble servanthood. They went hand in hand. Our enemy doesn’t take the form of Philistines now, but demonic forces that have to be commanded out of our lives manifest in many ways. 

The devil is brutal. Diseases are cruel, the heartache of broken marriages, bitter children, abject poverty, addictions and on and on—these are all the result of relentless demonic attacks. Sure, people bring these things on themselves, and to receive healing they’ll have to fix what is wrong, but even so, the real culprit is an evil force that took a hold of their foolish choices and inflicted the damage. The devil is an opportunist. Show him a chink in your armor and he’ll destroy as much as he can. Blaming the person for the consequences won’t restore anything. Teaching them how to fight their true enemy will. And if the devil is brutal, God expects us to be brutal in our fight as well.  

In Psalm 139 David asks God, “Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You, and detest those who rebel against You? I hate them with extreme hatred; I consider them my enemies.” When we learned to let a holy anger burn inside of us knowing that hating God’s enemies was a way of honoring Him, we were transformed. Not only did we start to see miraculous answers to our own prayers, but our confidence in faith jumped to another level. Our character became grounded and strengthened, and our spiritual eyes became opened and God’s greatness became more real. Our fight demands that we continue to love the unlovable, to serve, forgive, and turn the other cheek, but towards the devil and his demons, we have no other choice but all out aggression. Sound strange to you?  It did to us, but we could never live any other way once we learned it!

When they had brought the kings to him, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the military commanders who had accompanied him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So the commanders came forward and put their feet on their necks. Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and courageous, for the Lord will do this to all the enemies you fight.”  (Joshua 10:24-25 HCSB)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Holy Stubbornness

If I were to ask a random selection of Christians why Jesus was sent to the earth, I’d probably be told: to save souls, to forgive our sins, to be an example of love, to show us God, to teach us about faith, to establish the church. Of course He did all of that and more, but was that His main purpose? 

There’s a verb in Greek used all over the New Testament in different situations. It’s used when talking about untying sandal straps. It’s also used to describe breaking the laws of the Sabbath, or of destroying a building such as the temple. It was the verb Jesus used when He ordered Lazarus’ funeral cloths to be unbound. The word means to undo, dismantle, destroy, abolish. And that’s the key verb the Bible uses to explain why Jesus was sent to us. To undo all the evil that had gushed into this world like a broken sewer line, contaminating everything from the moment that Adam and Eve chose selfishness over obedience in the Garden of Eden.  

We’re so used to the idea of things being too late or of lost causes, it doesn’t occur to us that damage of the past can be undone. We may try to fix it or adapt to it, but undoing it is considered impossible. “Be healed of that trauma?” asked a woman recently, “I can’t turn back time, you know,” was her response. We’ll only understand how God can be outside of time and space once we reach heaven, but we have to stand on what the Bible teaches. I’ve seen prayers answered as if God had gone back in time and erased the effects of those painful experiences. He doesn’t even have to go “back” anywhere, since He is over time. He can undo or destroy whatever He wants, and He sent Jesus for that express purpose.

So what if you made the worst choices when you were younger? God doesn’t promise to delete chunks of time like a Hollywood movie, but He can undo the damage that evil inflicted on you. That trauma doesn’t have to be painful anymore, in fact it can be used as a powerful force for good, to teach and help others going through similar things. Diseases can be healed, broken relationships can be renewed, lost time can be recouped, and a perfect relationship with Him is always available if we choose to do what it takes. The demonic attacks on your mind can be destroyed so that you can live and function as if you had always been happy. The insecurities of past failures can be eradicated so that you have a bold faith to go forward like never before. God has chosen to send His Son to do battle with evil so that the possibilities for our blessings will be endless.  

As I always teach – Jesus paid the highest price, but miracles aren’t automatic. We have to align ourselves with Him in humility and submission, and then we have to align our faith with Him in boldness and determination to see His word come true. Repenting is the first step to undoing the effects of evil, but beyond that, He wants us to have a holy stubbornness to stand our ground so that He can undo more and more. Confront the devil to his face and determine that whatever evil has been done, is being eradicated based on His promise. Next step, live joyfully as if it has already been done even before you see any change, because His radical sacrifice deserves our radical faith.

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:8 HCSB)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Your hundred year plan

(I'm standing on the left. My brother Tim on the right.)

When I was two, my family moved to Malawi, a small African country that was extremely poor, and even today is not well known. My dad was determined to be as effective as possible in spreading the gospel and establishing churches there, and he learned the language fluently. He wanted to reach the hearts and souls of the people for Jesus, even if it meant spending a day or two sleeping in mud huts in the villages, eating and drinking whatever was offered to him by the humble and open people there—fried ants, homemade fermented corn brew, stewed goat and sima, the starchy cornmeal mash that all the Africans ate. He would preach in open-air churches with benches made of rough logs, and all four of us kids grew to love that country as our own.  

But as much as we loved our home in Africa, one thing was very evident. We belonged to another country, another world. We weren’t Malawians, even though Malawi was the world we knew best. We knew that someday we’d leave and go back to where we really came from. Back to the US to finish our educations, back to the land of our birth. In our tiny remote town in Africa, Mom would serve up good Southern cooking, we’d sing old American hymns, and we’d read books that my grandparents had sent us from Indiana or Florida. (TV didn’t exist yet in Malawi, so we were avid readers.) There was a comfort in that knowledge that we were citizens of another place. If ever a war or rebellion were to break out, we could rely on the US consulate to evacuate us. Our home country had an obligation to protect us, while unfortunately the Malawians would have to endure whatever tragedies or hardships came their way.  

This is a small-scale picture of what life should be for us. If we belong to heaven, this place is not our home. Someday the house that you invested so much blood, sweat and tears in, the one with all the family memories—is going to disappear and you’ll have to let it go. Your marriage will no longer exist, nor will being a dad or a mom or a grandparent because the quality of relationships we’ll have when we reach our real home will be much deeper, richer and far more beautiful than the superficial ties we have now. We’ll love each other more, in a purer way.

So if nothing that we have now is going to last, aside from our faith in and love for God, why are so many Christians fearful of letting them go? If God challenges you to make some type of sacrifice or offering now, it’s to remind you of the world where you really belong. Giving up your control and greed relaxes your grip on this world and cancels out the power of the devil and demons in your life. Satan knows that when you cling to it, you in effect renounce your citizenship in heaven and choose a world headed for destruction instead. He knows that the more you feel at home in this world, the more blind you are to the things of God, and the more power he has over you. The citizens of this earth have little protection when the “terrible day of the Lord” comes (Joel 2:31), but for the citizens of heaven, that day will be the most exhilarating and joyful day they’ve ever known when they get to see His face. Don’t forget that you are an eternal being. Don’t obsess so much about your plans for the next ten years. Instead think about your plans for the next hundred or thousand or ten thousand years.

As side note, I am so thankful for the many men and women of faith who now fill our churches in Malawi—they are citizens of the same home that I am, and need no consulate to save them from disaster because they have the authority and protection of our King!

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 3:20 HCSB)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Our eyes as a weapon of warfare

In our church, we have the habit of saying, “that’s tied up” or, “I don’t accept that” when we hear of something that the devil is doing. But it can easily become routine—a saying as common as “God bless you,” when somebody sneezes. One thing I loved the most about our church, and continue to love, is the attitude of fearless confrontation of the devil just as Jesus taught His disciples, and commands us to do. But when Christians allow this fighting faith to become routine, it turns into a religious faith on the same level as any other.  

The devil is a great strategist. He can see how a blessing or a desired goal is almost in our grasp, and he knows how to blindside us into doubting God and falling into some fleshly behavior to mess up our chances of being blessed. Of course the devil would love nothing more than for us to lose our salvation outright, but if he can't do that, he'll do his best to at least make our existence on earth as miserable and defeated as possible and then become the worst possible example of a child of God to everyone else. I've counseled plenty of Christians who are barely hanging onto faith by the skin of their teeth. They never knew how to fight, and neither had I, not too long ago. Some have humbled themselves to learn and change, and are now powerhouses of faith.

There are so many ways to fight the devil. Any real Christian knows that fleeing from sin is foundational. Others know about strong prayers of rebuke, but just shouting at the devil in a deliverance service won't do any good, if your day-to-day living isn’t in communion with God. You can’t have communion with God if you don't even know what is from Him and what isn’t. You end up tolerating demonic attacks as if they were God’s will, and then resist God’s leading, thinking that it can't be from Him. His word gives us a vision of who He is and what He wants to do through us, as well as the spiritual vision to resist the devil’s attacks. It’s in this vision where battles are either won or lost.   

Jesus says that our eyes illumine our entire body. The eyes are our perspective, our view, our mindset. A person who eats and drinks the Word of God with the Spirit of God alive inside of him, knows how to assert that the promises of God will come true no matter how dark a situation is. His flesh sees the darkness, but he chooses to see the light of God, even when it takes a very long time before an answer comes. Rejected from the school he hoped to get into? No problem, he’s certain that God has something better and wastes no time moping. A loved one is given a scary diagnosis? No fear, she gets busy in prayer and sees God as a healer and a savior and that He will be glorified through this. A long awaited blessing still seems distant and unreachable? Our eyes have to be filled with the light of expectation that God is faithful. Instead of pitying ourselves, we resist and rebuke the demonic attacks to doubt God’s faithfulness, and then we celebrate the unseen answer that is yet to come, which keeps us full of life and faith. We see joy when no one else does. It’s pretty hardcore, but it works. And of course, God does come through in a big way.

1 Timothy 6 says that God dwells in unapproachable light. When our bodies are filled with light because of what we choose to “see” we also become unapproachable to the devil. We blind him and frustrate his plans. Our choice of what we dwell on, what we determine is true and what we act on protects us like a shield, while filling us with life at the same time.  But if we don't, our bodies and minds are filled with a deep darkness, where there is no protection and no strength.            

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.  (Matthew 6:22-23 HCSB)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Fat hearts and fat ears

If we think about it, God’s guidance usually comes across in two different modes: mundane and unappealing, or crazily undoable. The mundane stuff is what all Christians know and usually do out of obligation, and unfortunately few do out of love. It’s in things like being faithful to our commitments, being honest and moral, controlling our whims, working hard and doing our best even when no one acknowledges it. It doesn't feel very powerful or spiritual, but when we slip and fail in these things, very powerful demonic forces are given entry to our lives. It doesn't take long before great harm is done in our relationship to God, and in our lives in general when we disobey Him in the ordinary things.  

But doing the crazily undoable is when you face a giant of a problem and determine that God will provide you with the faith of young David to slay that giant, and then you pull out the rickety little faith you have and act on it, even before you have any idea of how it'll turn out. That's when amazing miracles happen. The voice of God is right there in the Bible saying, “I am with you mighty warrior!” speaking to each of us. But our human nature shuts that down as fast as it pops into our head. We reason, based on worldly experience and our cowardly aversion to risk, that acting so radically is fanaticism. If we revved ourselves up to have so much confidence in a miracle, we’d fall flat on our face and disgrace God’s name. Who are we to compare ourselves to a hero in the Bible? That’s just plain pride, we conclude. It’s a sin to even think such thoughts. Just wait quietly for God. Be humble and seek His will. Then we impress ourselves with how pious we are.

The thing is, God has already revealed His will. He wants us to use weapons of spiritual warfare and destroy whatever evil attacks us, and to rescue and save lost souls from the evil of this world and of the next. Jesus’ own words said, “The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (Matthew 12:14) That’s pretty straightforward, and in human terms, crazily undoable. So if this is Jesus’ description of the one who believes in Him, who among us is actually trying to make that happen?

The Bible says that many people’s hearts have become dull and their ears hard of hearing. The Greek word used means “fat.” Imagine big blobs of bacon grease smeared over your heart, pumping through your veins. Most people, even Christians, are walking around with fat hearts and fat ears. It’s not that God isn't speaking, they just don't like what He says, and imagine that He’s not really speaking at all. They may submit to obeying God in the mundane, but are terrified of the undoable. In their cowardice, they see no power and few answers to prayer, which easily saps them of their strength to remain faithful in even the simple things. Their healing, their understanding, and even their salvation is blocked from them. God has given us all that we need to overcome. Let’s joyfully listen and obey, in the ordinary things and in the crazy challenges so that He will delight in us and heal us.

For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.  (Matthew 13:15 NET)

Friday, June 5, 2015

Break out of the bubble

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 HCSB)

Imagine an unborn fetus deciding that because he can't see his mother she can't possibly exist. His twin, though, insists that she is all around them, sustaining their lives. He debates him, sure that his twin is deluded. But it’s the cynical baby who’s the delusional one, unaware that he wouldn't even exist if it weren't for his mother. That someday they would breathe the air, see the sky and sun, grow to walk, eat and talk, could seem totally unbelievable because all they know is what they see and feel. A baby refusing to believe in his mother is a funny concept, but isn't that the reasoning of atheists when it comes to the existence of God? Of unbelievers? Or of Christians who rarely use their faith?  

We are all in the confines of our tiny bubble of a world. Not just the planet earth, but our personal worlds of experiences, traumas, unfulfilled desires, distorted memories, self-esteem issues and selfish ambitions. We emphatically decide that that is life, and that’s all there is to it—even while believing in God and striving to obey His Word. None of us escapes the limitations of our very small and pitiful human point of view. 

Of course God knows all about it, He sent His Son to live on this earth in flesh and blood for thirty-three years. He knows we are imperfect and have a very hard time believing in what we can’t see. But even so, He just wants us to trust that He really does love us, He really does want to bless us, and that He is so real, so close and so crucial to our very existence. We can't afford not to stretch our small minds to believe in the impossible, because the impossible is what is real. That’s what faith is about, and without faith we can't please God.  

So His challenge is: imagine the best possible scenario for your life. Not just the superficial things, but the deep meaningful things too. Everything. Then believe that He is able and willing to do more! We're all good daydreamers but the goodness that we can conjure up in our thoughts is nothing compared to the goodness that He creates, and that He wants to create. The connection that’s missing between why we don't see it happen yet, is the exercise of our faith. Faith is in for the long haul, through thick and thin, believing and determining and living and acting in the expectancy that these impossible things will come to pass, just as He has promised. It can even feel foolish, but foolishness for the sake of faith is a good thing.

If you believe and don't see your immediate answer, no problem. The process of believing and believing against any sign of change is the exercise of faith that honors Him so greatly.  Just because you don't see it doesn't mean that His promises are false. We are false so many times—He is not.  

(If you're interested, this inspiring analogy of the babies was written by a Hungarian writer and can be found here on Bishop Renato Cardoso’s blog.)