Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The shocking attitudes of Jesus, part one

The sign of a good Christian is that he is always patient, loving and kind. At least, that’s what I was taught as I grew up, and for the most part, that’s the way of life I was surrounded with. Since my father was a pastor and a missionary in Africa for all of my childhood, I lived in the world of church members and pastors and their families, and most of them fit this description of what a Christian should be. 

Only as I grew older did I discover that there had been a lot of jealousy and backbiting under the surface and hidden sins that were not owned up to. It seemed that this idea of a patient, loving and kind Christian was only a mask that people wore.

Years later I learned that this concept of Christianity was greatly lacking. Sure, we need to be patient, loving and kind. But if we want to truly follow in the footsteps of Jesus, there will be times that we will need to behave in a manner that most people do not normally associate with Christianity, but which in fact reveals true faith and reflects the mindset that Jesus demonstrated while He was here on earth.

We are told to love others, but Jesus also taught us to hate the devil and sin, and that if we truly want to follow Him we have to hate this world. When He said that unless we hate our mothers and fathers we are not worthy to be called His disciples, He seems to be teaching us to be insensitive to our parents. When He was asked a question by the Pharisees, He was evasive, refusing to answer their question, because they weren’t looking for the truth but simply for a way to trap Him. He was violent and angry when He cleansed the Temple of the money-changers, and in Jericho, when the blind beggar Bartimaeus was brought to Him, He seemed unreasonable to ask what he wanted, when it was obvious that the poor man needed to be healed. Jesus was socially inappropriate when He went to eat at the house of a well-known thief, Zacchaeus. Instead of keeping His distance from criminals and prostitutes, He went to their houses to eat and allowed them to wash His feet. He was scandalous when He had a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well who had had five husbands and was at that moment living with a man she was not married to.

Hatred, evasiveness, violence, anger, being unreasonable, socially inappropriate and scandalous are normally seen as ungodly attitudes, when in the right situation they reflect true Godly character. It’s na├»ve of us to think that living by faith only involves being peaceful, loving and kind. Though we can deal with problems, people and the devil in a variety of ways depending on the circumstances, true faith demands that we always respond in power and authority. That doesn’t mean that we dominate people, but by our faith we take dominion over evil attitudes or spiritual forces that are trying to influence us. There are times that submission or serving others can appear weak to the world, but when used with faith and authority over evil, those attitudes can tear down demonic forces. Jesus was never cowardly, weak or passive, and yet most Christians in this world mistake passivity for humility. They’ve been tricked into believing in a form of Christianity that isn’t even remotely close to the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. But those of us who want to live out a first-century Christianity today must insist on practicing radical faith, and truly following in the footsteps of Jesus.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20)

P.S. Tomorrow we’ll speak about eight more shocking attitudes of Jesus.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy are you!

It would be so nice for everyone to get along, for thieves, terrorists and corrupt world leaders to hang their heads in shame, and cry tears of repentance. If people would just understand and love and hold hands and live in peaceful harmony. 

Sounds like a commercial for a soft drink… The Bible says that’s definitely not going to happen—not as long as Satan remains the prince of this world. Jesus tells us that evil is here to stay until He returns to cast the devil and his demons into eternal punishment. That means corruption, sickness, greed, emotional and spiritual attacks will be life as usual until then, and even more, He promises things will get worse before they get better.

But don't get depressed! He promises protection over all who are saved. Even in the midst of corruption and evil, He guarantees our safety. We have the joy of knowing that a mighty shield and sword fights for us. For God’s true children, love, peace, joy and all those lovely things we dream of are real fruit that we can bear by the power of His Spirit and share among each other. In this world, peace can only be possible through battle. Battling against the temptations of our flesh and also against the external attacks of the devil in our personal lives.  

When Moses returned to Egypt to rescue God’s people, devastating plagues were sent to break the hardened heart of Pharaoh. Blood, frogs, gnats, boils—it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have survived such catastrophes. But though the Hebrew slaves lived in Egypt too, none of them were harmed. The slaves had been forced to live in the land of Goshen, which amazingly was the only area in Egypt that didn’t suffer the impact of the plagues. The final plague of the death of the firstborn required specific obedience to God’s command, and of course by then the Hebrews had developed a healthy fear of God and they obeyed. The remainder of Egypt was finally broken, and so terrified of the God of Israel that at last the slaves were sent off with Egypt’s riches and possessions. They obeyed, and God fought.

We are surrounded by an evil world, but still dwell in the land of Goshen today as long as we live in obedience and communion with Him. We can't just acknowledge that we believe in Him, we have to actively live out that faith. Too many Christians are just acknowledgers instead of doers of faith. They try to handle their problems by their own strength, stepping outside God’s boundaries of protection—then they moan and complain that God has abandoned them when the devil attacks. When fear of failure or loss threatens you, stand firm and rebuke those demonic forces that want to steal from you. His sword will fight for you and His shield will protect you, but you have to confront your Pharaoh, your spiritual enemies on all sides. And just as God’s protection guaranteed the victory for the Israelites, God’s protection is just as solid and sure as in the past. 

How happy you are, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield that protects you, the sword you boast in. Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread on their backs.  (Deuteronomy 33:29 HCSB)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Stubborn argumentativeness

Like all the pastors of our church, I've prayed against a lot of demons in these many years. In some situation, demons easily submit and leave with a command, while in other situations they resist, argue and try to intimidate. Though it seems like the easier ones would be more preferable, it’s always been the toughest ones that built up my faith like nothing else.  

“I don't have to listen to you, who are you anyway preacher man?” they'd laugh tauntingly while manifesting in the body of their victims. “You think you're so strong? I'm stronger than you! I’m going to kill you and your whole family tonight!” To anyone who had doubts that these were real demons, just the sound of pure hatred growling in their voices was proof enough. The people I prayed for had come humbly seeking help—they had no hatred towards me or towards God, but the spirits that had been tormenting them for years did. To anyone who didn't know the power and authority of the Lord Jesus, these taunts were terrifying. They’d make your skin crawl. But praise God I learned from many great men of faith about the reality of God’s word. Demons are experts at intimidation, but they have no authority whatsoever over those who are truly God’s children and who stand on His promises.

My wife has always said that God gave me the gift of arguing so I could cast out demons. The more they’d try to intimidate me and the church members witnessing a manifestation, the more I’d shoot them down with the word of God. They had to submit, they had to obey, and they had to leave their victims’ lives based on the truth. And in the end, God always won, never the devil.

Experiences in spiritual warfare have been some of the greatest blessings of our lives because we see that there is absolutely nothing that can overcome the goodness and greatness of our Lord Jesus—nothing! Anger against the devil and stubborn argumentativeness against his lies has been the cornerstone of our faith, because every single day, the devil attacks. In our thoughts, our emotions, in real or perceived problems, in our mood, in everything. It may be a slow and subtle process, creeping into our thoughts and overwhelming us with his dark and deathly picture of the world, but if we don’t resist, he will win.

Each victory that I see is a visual testimony that I can use in my arsenal to fight the devil’s lies. I can never forget how often God has come through for me in big and small things. This testimony is my weapon. Jesus defeated Satan on the cross through the sacrifice of His blood, but we each have to defeat his attacks daily by the word of our own testimony, standing on the truths of God’s promises. If you've ever been accused of being stubborn and inflexible—great! Use it to stand for what is right, to defend God’s honor. Never back down from whatever the devil throws at you. Throw God’s truth back at him!      

They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.  (Revelation 12:11 HCSB)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Handing over our security blankets

Moses had a trusty staff that he’d used since his days as a shepherd in the land of Midian, the staff that God used to perform miracles before Pharaoh, the staff that had split open the Red Sea, and the staff that struck the rock so that a river of water could gush out to provide for the Israelites in the desert. 

But there was a time when Israel, the wandering former slaves, were attacked by an army of trained men of war, the Amalekites. Moses had the wisdom to see that only God could give them victory. He also had the wisdom to know that he couldn’t rely on his staff as a magic charm, or on his expertise as a great leader. It was God or nothing. The one thing he had depended on was going to be lifted up before God all day to symbolize that his trust was in nothing else but God alone. So he asked for the help of Aaron and Hur to support his arms as he stretched out that staff to heaven for hours and hours as the battle raged on. As long as the staff remained raised before God, Israel gained ground. Whenever the staff was lowered, the Amalekites began to win. Moses was untiring, and finally as the sun went down the people of God won the battle and God promised to wipe out the evil Amalekites from the face of the earth.  

Moses’ action surrendered up to God that one thing that had been his security until then. He had held it up as a sign that he could do nothing on his own, only God could fight for them. Moses could easily see himself as an important leader with God’s stamp of approval, and that if he waved his staff around God would have to do some sort of miraculous rescue since so many miracles had already happened so far. But Moses, as the Bible says, was the most humble man on the face of the earth. He didn’t rest on his past success, because he was smart enough to know that nothing was “his success.” It was all God, and if he allowed pride and complacency to creep in, not only he, but the entire nation of Israel could be destroyed. Rather than taking credit for anything that had happened through him up until then, Moses gave God all the glory and honor, determining that His loving protection would continue on.

God still asks us to offer Him the little we have so He can transform it into something huge.  There are things that we use and depend on regularly, and without realizing it, we can look to them as our guarantee to a good life. It could be a job, talents, a computer or home, it could be your skills as a parent or your appearance of respectability in front of others. We all have our security blankets, but God wants us to hand them over to Him and recognize that there is nothing we have, or can ever have, that isn’t a gift from Him. When we know that nothing we can do is enough to bring about the freedom from an oppressive enemy, we need to remember Moses’ example and lift up to God whatever it is we’ve depended on. Our victory has nothing to do with our smarts, our skills or our possessions, even though God may use them. He alone is our banner who waves over us, who covers us with protection, who defies our enemies. He alone provides.

And Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord Is My Banner.”  (Exodus 17:15 HCSB)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Believe it and run with it

“C'mon champ, you can do it!”  Dads love to cheer their kids on in sports, in school or whatever challenge they're facing. We do it just as much for them as for ourselves. There’s that sense of satisfaction that comes from watching our children develop the bravery and gutsiness they need to go for their goals in life. 

Even if our kids are small, scrawny and uncoordinated, it’s instinctual for parents to believe the best of them, to praise their efforts, and instill a belief in them that they can do anything. And if that bond of love and trust is strong between a parent and child, that scrawny little kid will believe it with all his heart and run with it. Those words of his dad can turn into a prophecy that impacts his future for years and even generations to come.

God is immeasurably greater and better as a father than anyone we have ever known, and He prophesies a victorious future for us too. What He proclaims sounds like an exaggeration—that we are stronger, wiser, and more deserving of His love than we feel. We may think we know better when we analyze all our weaknesses and failures, and may even laugh at the thought that God is cheering us on to do great things. But unlike us earthly parents who try to bolster our kids confidence with words and excitement, God can supernaturally intervene for victories to occur against all odds. And this is why we should never disregard Him when He prods us to do more than we think we are able.

Gideon was the weakest guy of the weakest family of the weakest clan of the smallest tribe of a defeated Israel. He heard God’s voice and led an army of 300 in a suicide mission, and wiped out the enemy. He was the scrawny little kid who took his Father’s words of encouragement to heart and ran with it. Your Father is telling you the same words today.  Be like a child, fight your enemies, take His word and run with it!

“...The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” (Judges 6:12 MEV)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"No" to tyranny

We've all heard stories of people who were kidnapped and held in confinement for years. Over time, captivity became their reality, and though they hated it they could no longer imagine what normal life was like. Sadly, many have coped by just accepting their slavery as normal.  

This is a pretty good description of what happens to many of us in the spiritual realm. God’s power and promises are far greater, more beautiful and more real than anything in our ordinary lives, but our circumstances and past cloud our judgment and make us passively accept things the way they are. We say we believe in His power and promises, but some have been under the tyranny of the devil for so long that it’s virtually impossible for them to conceive of a life of faith that conquers and sees the promises of God coming true. They have adapted to their captivity.

Jesus didn't come to earth to die, resurrect and return to heaven in a matter of days. He went through the entire human experience, lived for over 30 years on earth, in order to be an example of how we—weak little humans that we are—can defeat the tyranny of the devil. Like a parent taking his child by the hand and leading him step by step, Jesus did, and wants to do just that. He personally discipled the twelve as He walked the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee, and now through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit He wants to disciple us, teaching us to triumph over doubt, fear and temptation, over seemingly impossible circumstances.

The word “sacrifice” makes people squirm, but only when we follow Jesus’ example of radical faith by sacrificing our own worldly mindset and emotions, can the power of the Holy Spirit work in us. The common reaction to this is: “Well that was Jesus, He could do those things,” or, “That was then, things were different in the days of the Bible.” But when Jesus healed the sick and freed the oppressed He was not dangling a precious gem in front of our eyes only to snatch it away because we were not lucky enough to live in the first century. His faith and miracles are a blueprint for us to follow. His Word explains what we can do right now to eradicate the tyranny of the devil, as long as we walk in His ways, and have His eyes and heart and authority. 

But we need to constantly refocus our eyes on what is real. The devil has taken the world we live in captive, like Romans 8:22 says “…the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.” Nature itself knows that this is not the way the world is supposed to be. How can we be so complacent to tolerate a life of defeat and oppression as if it were all we have? Why embrace this world that even the birds outside your window know is not real, when Jesus has shown us how to take hold of heaven? Let’s walk in His footsteps and determine to break out of Satan’s tyranny starting today. 

You know the events that took place throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.  (Acts 10:37-38 HCSB)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Arrogance or faith?

A young single mother came to us in tears. Her finances, love life and children were a complete mess. She was eager to listen and receive whatever we could teach her. As God blessed her—and answers to prayer came one after the other—she was grateful to see God rebuild what the devil was trying to destroy. But when her family turned against her and made fun of her faith, she got confused.

They ridiculed her for the way she prayed and for believing in the impossible. They’d provoke her to lose her temper so they could ridicule her even more for being a bad Christian. She was hurt by them but was also afraid of losing her relationship with them, and in the end chose them over God. The fear of being all alone in her faith was unbearable, even though she had a church that loved and supported her. She didn’t trust, so she gave up the fight.

Young David had to face ridicule and rejection too. When he saw the whole army of Israel, including his brothers, running to hide from the Philistine giant, he considered it plain wrong. According to what he knew, God’s people don’t tolerate intimidation, they fight back, and God comes through for them. Always. It was clear cut and simple for David, and the urgency of the situation made him decide to stand up and volunteer to face Goliath in a fight to the death. 

God’s honor was at stake, but his brothers couldn’t see that. They called him a brat, a show-off, arrogant and evil hearted—his own brothers who should have been rallying around him, even choosing to do the fighting themselves. Their little brother was ready to put his life in danger for the entire nation of Israel, and all they could do was attack him. The Bible says nothing about how their insults made him feel, all it says is that he went straight to the king with determination. Not even King Saul believed in him, but was willing to let a little shepherd boy die at the hands of a giant, since no one else had the courage. David was completely alone, on the spot, and had nothing but his own convictions to motivate him. And he was just fine. He had placed his faith in the God he knew.

Have you ever been called proud because you had faith for something that no one else believed in? We can’t be thrown by this and allow the fire in our spirit to die out when we aren’t met with encouragement. God allows us to go through these hard times for our own sake. That’s when our convictions and determination solidify and we become unshakeable. If we depended on our friends rallying behind us, we wouldn’t be operating in real faith, but in the excitement of the moment. If something is worth fighting for, it’s worth fighting for alone and against the tide. It doesn’t sound very pleasant from this side of the battle, but that’s because we don’t see the army of mighty angels amassing to fight on our behalf. If we only had spiritual eyes to see what’s really going on, we’d run into the thick of battle much more often!

David reasoned that just as God had given him the skill to kill lions and bears in defending his father’s flocks, God would do the same as he faced Goliath. We need to reason in faith as the heroes in the past have, from Abraham to Paul. Are you certain that a problem or obstacle in your life should be destroyed? Would it bring honor to God if it was? Have others given up on this dream, while your conviction keeps burning? Then don’t be afraid to face the battle alone. If you know who God really is, then know that armies of angels are going to be fighting for you and through you. You’re never alone. In fact, you’ll be the majority.   

David’s oldest brother Eliab listened as he spoke to the men, and became angry with him. “Why did you come down here?” he asked. “Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and your evil heart — you came down to see the battle.  (1 Samuel 17:28 HCSB)

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Poisoned by bitterness

“A clear and innocent conscience fears nothing.”  Queen Elizabeth I

When people balk at praying with boldness, I usually find out that it’s because something inside of them is holding them back. Being bold with God feels wrong when you know that you aren’t right with Him. I’m always so proud of the people who finally come clean and deal with those inner barriers, and who learn to use their faith in power. I suspect this is why a lot of Christians would rather timidly pray their “wish list” and hope for the best when it comes to answers. Praying with determination and conviction feels awkward with a nagging conscience.  

In order for a person to “exercise” bold faith with a guilty conscience he has to deny the presence of his sin. But living in denial is piling sin upon sin, and it doesn’t take long before that hidden evil catches up with him. This is why pastors and leaders who are caught in adultery or addictions or fraud create such damage to the Church. They pretend to be spiritual leaders, stand in the pulpit and preach the word of God when they know their lives are defiled, exert great effort to hourly and daily deceive their churches and families, and in the end sin exponentially more just for the sake of appearances. They are men with no fear of God, and devoid of the Holy Spirit.

But other inner sins that most people struggle with are even easier to hide. Grudges and bitterness are just as paralyzing to faith as robbing a bank. The problem is that they are so much easier to justify, ignore, or explain away. And the same piling of sin upon sin happens when we refuse to deal with them. Sometimes our bitterness even extends to God. We can be resentful that He didn’t answer a prayer that we had hoped for, that He removed someone from our lives that we loved, or that He just seems so far away. We want Him close, but are angry with Him at the same time, putting us in a no-win state of mind. The devil snares us like a fly on a spiderweb—the harder we pull, the more entangled we get. It reminds me of Paul urging us, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1).

Think of how you feel before God: when you pray, when it’s time for church, or during your daily grind. Do you feel entangled, stuck or unmotivated? Do you feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling and falling back down at your feet? It could be something small that’s keeping you from being totally free: bitterness, unforgiveness, a grudge, resentment, a negative attitude towards God. Any and all of these can be washed away if you are honest and earnestly seek His inner healing. Then you can run the race set before you in boldness, strength and victory. You can finally experience peace, and be able to face battles from any direction because your conscience is clean and nothing can condemn you any more. You can have the assurance that your prayers are effective, that the spiritual world is changing and moving because of your faith, and that answers to prayer will materialize in front of you.  It’s a win-win situation, what God has always wanted for you. 

For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.  (Acts 8:23 HCSB)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lie to me

Ever heard the story in 2 Kings 13 about a man of God who had bravely prophesied to King Jeroboam using miraculous signs? God commanded him not to go back the way he came, and not to eat or drink anything until he had arrived home. He obediently set off on the road, and all who had seen and heard what God had done through him were talking. 

A local prophet heard news of what had happened, and was intent on finding him. He tracked him down and offered to bring him home for some food and drink. The man of God refused, saying that God had given him orders to eat and drink nothing along the journey. But this “prophet” was very convincing. “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” The Bible says that it was a lie. But instead of doing what he knew was God’s command, the man of God caved in to doubts and most likely the hunger and thirst he was feeling. He went home with the guy, ate, and continued on his way. Then a lion killed him and threw his body on the road but wouldn’t eat him or even harm his donkey, because the protection of God was no longer on this man. 

At first glance this seems unfair. How was he supposed to know that God hadn’t changed His mind and given him new orders through this other prophet? How was he supposed to know that the prophet was lying? Obviously he was supposed to know. It’s easy to sense the presence of false spirits when you’ve just been in God’s presence, but it seems like he turned off that sense in favor of a hot meal. He was in a situation that many of us find ourselves, of wanting to believe that God is telling us to take the easy road. It’s as if the man of God wanted to be lied to. He tossed aside God’s command in exchange for a more pleasant choice. If he had just stopped to ask God, wouldn’t He have made it clear? God had just finished performing signs and wonders and speaking through his mouth, of course He would have answered him. But the man of God didn’t take the time to ask, because the prophet gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse.  

How many Christians want to be lied to? How many automatically respond to God’s word by looking for loopholes? We think we can pull the wool over God’s eyes with lame excuses of “but that prophet told me so,” when we clearly know that the word of God tells us something totally different. There are plenty of prophets and teachers around who twist and bend and distort the word of God to make it more palatable, to fill their churches, to make their congregations happier, to get themselves off the hook from having to really live a life of sacrifice like Jesus commands… And there are plenty of church people who lap it all up and want more. But just as that man of God lost his protection, so do all of those who choose lies over truth.  

We want prayers answered and miracles to happen. We want God’s power to rescue us when evil attacks us and our families. But our only hope is to be in line with the word of God, in close obedience to whatever He calls us to do. We can’t afford to tamper with His commands and principles and expect victory too. We can’t be lured into smooth-talking “prophets” who present salvation with no sacrifice and no denial of our flesh, because that just doesn’t exist. The only way we can discern the truth from the lies is to always be immersed in His word, reading, meditating and proving it’s truth through the way we live. The closer you are to His presence, the more desirable His truth is and the more obvious the lies are as well.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.  But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.  (2 Timothy 4:3-5 NASB)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Thick skinned + flint faced

Young William Wilberforce became a member of Parliament and enjoyed the wining and dining life of a politician in the 1880’s. But in 1886, he had a profound encounter with God and wanted more than anything to please and serve Him in his position in government. His conversion and goal to abolish slavery in Britain made him the butt of jokes and angered many of his fellow parliamentarians. The opposition ganged up on him and found ways to block all twelve of his resolutions and rejected another eight bills as well. 

He was a laughingstock and was forced to confront enemies on all sides. But his faith pushed him to do what was right before God above his own reputation. It was a battle of fourteen years before he saw any victory, but that victory changed history and triggered the eventual collapse of the slave trade in France, the US, and many countries, all because of his stubborn faith.  

Following God means having a thick skin, a stubborn will, and a humble heart to just obey in the middle of ridicule and attack. When we're fighting for an answered prayer or a specific cause, we have no idea that the process of our daily fight may be undermining huge demonic principalities that impact much more than our individual lives. Our fight could affect the blessings and freedom of many others.  

Most of the time what blocks us from asserting our faith or taking a stand, is our fear of humiliation and failure. We don't want to even try if we don't have a guarantee that we'll come out unscathed. Well, God never promises smooth sailing when it comes to receiving answered prayer—answers that He wants to give us! He wants us to go through the barrage of attacks and learn that though the intention of the devil is to humiliate us and intimidate us, we will not be humiliated and we will overcome as long as we stand fast in faith. Wilberforce is one of the only names remembered from that period of the English Parliament. He is still being honored today, and is now in heaven reaping the rewards of his faith. 

Jesus is our greatest example of unjust attack and humiliation at the hands of the devil through the Roman soldiers and the Jewish religious court of that time. Just the fact that God the Son had to diminish Himself to be born as a human on this earth was humiliation enough, but He willingly took on the cross because He loved us so much. To all eyes witnessing those horrible last hours of His life, it looked as if He was going through the worst humiliation. But through that searing pain and profound loneliness of being abandoned by His Father, Jesus stubbornly held on to what He knew was the truth. During those hours He showed us who we are to be for Him at all times. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would “set His face like flint,”  He was unshakeable. What He did impacted more than a few countries, it changed all the world, past present and future, and still impacts us today.  

The Lord God will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.  (Isaiah 50:7 HCSB)

Side note: Watch the movie, “Amazing Grace,” all about William Wilberforce’s fight and faith for more inspiration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Calmly riding out the storm

Have you noticed in these last few years that it’s really easy to offend people? Just hint at something politically incorrect and you get slammed with accusations. When public figures are constantly being forced to apologize so their careers don’t go down the toilet, it’s refreshing to hear someone stand up and speak out about an important issue and tell the honest truth, even if it offends—especially about the things of God. 

Jesus was love, compassion and understanding, and never went out of His way to stir up trouble. But because His love was so real and so practical, trouble was stirred up anyway. Real love offends, because real love wants you to see what your physical eyes can’t. Real love has real enemies, and that’s where the trouble comes in.

Jesus was on a boat that was being whipped by wind and high waves in the middle of a dangerous squall on the Sea of Galilee. His disciples were panicking for their lives, and He was asleep through it all. When they woke Him in desperation, He asked them why they were so afraid. Honestly, doesn’t that question seem absurd? Uncalled for? Fortunately the disciples were humble enough to embrace that rebuke and learn from it. Jesus had been opening a window into heaven every day that He walked with them. He wanted them to see what their physical eyes couldn’t, so every miracle and every revelation was geared towards training them to live by the Spirit. His question wasn’t meant to offend, it was meant to make them remember all they had learned.

Jesus is still asking us today why we are so fearful. And before we start complaining about God’s insensitivity, remember that He challenges us as a means of forcing our fears to submit to His word, because He loves us. He. Will. Save.

This is our fight. To see that there is a spiritual world more real than the physical one we see and touch. He is Lord over both worlds, and the decisions we make based on what we know is true in the spiritual world, will have a direct and immediate effect on the physical. That effect may not be seen immediately, as with the fig tree that Jesus cursed, but it’s still happening. Jesus actually expected His disciples to calmly ride out the storm in the knowledge that it could never harm them because He was in their boat.  

God is actually expecting you to calmly trust in Him, even to the point of praising Him for answers to prayer that you haven’t even seen a hint of yet. He wants you to visualize your life and your loved ones’ lives as safe in His hands and untouchable to the devil, and then stand on that truth as if you could see it right in front of you. This is not wishful thinking, but a battle against the spirit of fear. If it seems absurd, it’s because you aren’t in the practice of doing this. None of us are as good at it as we should be, but it’s worth embracing the challenge.

Why are you fearful, you of little faith? (Matthew 8:26 HCSB)