Monday, January 7, 2019

Make No Room For Satan

There is an interesting Greek word for our English word "fill" in the New Testament.  It is used in Acts 15:13  and it is defined as "to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim. "  In this instance the word is used in verse 13 as "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."  This verse along with others exhorts us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Certainly we are filled with the Holy Spirit when we He enters our lives by our invitation including repentance, faith toward Him and our asking.  Then Ephesians 5:18 tells us to "avoid being drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." There is an ongoing day by day filling of the Holy Spirit that comes from relationship with the Giver of the Holy Spirit himself, Jesus.  When we look back at our  definition  of "fill" we see there is a place where we are daily filled to a level of not leaving room for Satan to infiltrate our lives and lead us astray.  Certainly temptation comes regardless of how full we are but as with Jesus in the wilderness we are equipped to resist the temptation.  The answer to remaining stable in our faith life is to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.  Galatians 5:16 says, "walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."  Ananias and Sapphira were a part of the early church and participated in the daily life of the Church.  In the midst of the greatest power and purity of the life of the Church something went terribly wrong!  They lied to Peter about an offering they were bringing and in essence lied to "the Holy Spirit."  The died on the spot!  We don't have time to go into the many obvious questions here about all the "whys and whats" but I simply want to address the words of Peter.  He asked Ananias, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?"  What a question!  There had been a temptation to appear greater than they were before man that resulted in sinning against God.  An evaporation had occurred and emptying of the Holy Spirit that allowed a filling with Satan.  May we today heed the warning of Peter and press in close to Jesus and remain FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Christmas Trouble

Matthew 2:1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[fn] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[fn]and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him..."

The revelation of Jesus always brings trouble before it can bring peace.  Herod and "all Jerusalem" were troubled by the coming of Jesus.  Jesus had been promised, prophesied and now delivered to them and rather than celebrating they were troubled. Saul of Tarsus had studied the Word of God all his life and when the fruition of all his studies, the Word in the flesh presented Himself to Saul he was in great trouble and distress.  On the day Pentecost, that promised day of empowering and the threshold of the Kingdom of God the Scripture says that the mood of those present was varied.  Some were "amazed, some perplexed and others were mocking."  When my wife Teresa, declared by three specialists to be barren became pregnant after she prayed a prayer of faith, I was greatly troubled.  Why? Because the appearance of the living God in my world was a frightening thing.  It demanded a response!

We are celebrating the birth of Jesus this month.  People of all denominations of the Christian faith are having parties and services to celebrate.  Songs of joy are being sung by many. But what if Jesus appears alive and active in the middle of those services and festivities? What if miracles were to occur?  What if conviction of sin were to be evident breaking hearts over personal sin and coldness toward the loving Christ? What if the joy turned to trouble?  That would be a good thing.  Trouble is faith of a sort.  The worst kind of unbelief is indifference.  Trouble says, "I am concerned about my condition." Trouble can lead to repentance and on to faith and joy.  It is my prayer for all of us that this Christmas would bring a troubling visitation of Jesus in the Power of the Holy Spirit.  May we respond in awe, repentance and a drawing near to Him.  May 2019 truly be a year of worship with the Church presenting our lives as our gifts to Him.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Discernment

Over 40 years ago, the late A. S. Worley told me, "I marvel at the lack of discernment in the Body of Christ." It was during a season of great revival.  You would think that revival would be a time of great revelation and discernment.  Revival is usually an emphasis on a particular theme.  There have been revivals of repentance, revivals that focused upon backsliders returning to the Lord, and revivals emphasizing the works of the Holy Spirit. These types of revivals are not necessarily balanced in Christian doctrine.  They are works of God that are magnified but not the complete work of God. They are not all we need to develop to our full potential in God.  When we are in the river of revival, we are flowing in a particular strengthening of an area that has lost its fervency.  Therefore, it is needed to be brought back to the fore.  The problem, especially for those who are converted during these special seasons, is that they assume they are enjoying all they need to live the overcoming life in Jesus.  That is all they have known.  They find themselves at a great disadvantage. They need their sails enlarged and their vision sharpened.  They need an exposure to a larger portion of Truth beyond the stream of which they are a part. It is not that what they are experiencing is wrong, it is just incomplete.  The result of this limited exposure to truth is a limited discernment.  They are like a child with a limited world view.
Romans 12: 1-2 tells us there is a renewing of our mind in Christ that leads to knowing and doing the will of God.  Verse 2 tells us that "by testing you may discern what is the will of God..." Then in Philippians 1:9 the Scripture says that "your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve what is excellent..."  Discernment is a process that comes through living in the wide exposure to the Scripture and not a limited emphasis of some group or stream. It actually is a dangerous thing to feast only upon the words of a single view of God and his word.  We must study for ourselves the entire Bible.  Read the Bible with prayer for the Holy Spirit to direct us.  Our minds will be renewed and discernment will be enriched.  Discernment here is not the same as the gift of discerning of spirits which is quicker in its operation than daily discernment. Daily discernment like faith comes and develops slowly and regularly as it is under the influences of the living Word of God and the active Holy Spirit within.  Let me encourage you to move beyond the stale emphases that were living in the past and seek the Lord for His current living Word for you today.  You aren't looking for a new emphasis but a broader expression of who He is in a fuller revelation of His truth.  Be courageous enough to let his full truth adjust your past partial truth.   By partial past truth, I mean the partial truth of some past experience or movement.  We must always approach the throne of grace with an adjustable heart toward God, His Word and the Holy Spirit. We must rid ourselves of spiritual preferences and be willing to be changed, strengthened and expanded, always growing into a larger understanding of God.  A greater discernment will be a part of your progress.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Legacy of Hope

The great depression took place primarily between the years of 1929 and 1939.  One fourth of the American workforce was unemployed.  Those numbers are still deceptive because many that had work had their pay reduced or their hours cut to part time.  During those meager years for the average citizen their motto became: 
“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”
My paternal grandfather was born in 1900. 1929 came as he was just starting to a see a better life ahead for his family. With the stock market crash came the loss of his income with a wife and family for which to care.  I can’t imagine the stress and pressure of such a time. I have searched vintage black and white photos of that era. What struck me most, once I got beyond the poverty, was the difference between atmospheres of differing families.  The looks in the faces seem to tell a story.  Some homes seemed blighted, filthy and hopeless. Others were spotless and there seemed to still be joy.  Certainly every family has its on story and some had it worse than others.  However, having been born just a decade after the great depression I vividly remember the stories of the difficulty and even the humor of the time.  One phrase seemed to be uttered over and over again by those who were children during that time.  “We didn’t know we were poor.”  That simple phrase speaks volumes to us.  I can’t count the number of times I have heard it nor the many different families that said it.  I noticed in the photos that when the parents of the family looked depressed, the children looked depressed as well. While most people that I have talked with about their great depression childhood have said, “we didn’t know we were poor”, many must have had their lives wrecked by the devastation that was upon their family life. Possibly the greatest damage done to these children was the absence of hope. One photo that struck me most was a poor family sitting around the kitchen table waiting for breakfast. The father was present, holding a small child on his lap and the rest sitting patiently as the mother rationed out the limited portions.  All were very clean, the house spotless and the father had a pleasant demeanor.  Heralding from that photo came the message to me “a legacy of hope!”  We often talk about the responsibilities of parents to their children. Certainly, food, clothing and shelter are the basics.  Providing safety, decency and identity are crucial as well.  May we not forget to instill in our children and grandchildren a legacy of hope.  A legacy that says, we will make it through difficulty.  We will weather the storm and we will arrive safely at a better place. It is that steadfast inner strength that has seen our Nation through many dark hours.  At the center of real hope is our faith in God.  It is much greater than wishful thinking. True hope is solidly sitting atop a truth of knowing personally the One who is committed to the hope for our future.  Interestingly enough statistics tell us that the great depression did not see a huge increase in faith and church attendance. You would think that it would. Evidently when the calamity came on the heels of the "roaring twenties",  many had no Rock upon which to stand and no hope in which to believe.  We must build in prosperity that which will stand during difficulty. Let us not forsake our children and grandchildren by not preparing them for difficult days.  Every generation will see them.  While giving them happiness, may we also teach them to hope.  

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, September 7, 2018

Degeneration

 I can think of nothing worse than violating our calling as shepherds, serving the Lord Jesus, and preying upon the weak in His Church.  As pastors we are often trusted in the Church because of our position before we are evaluated by our behavior.  I have seen it all too often as ministers are suddenly revealed as predators, wolves among the flock.  It appeared to be suddenly but it is never a sudden condition.  There were signs along the way but a lack of true accountability left the minister unguarded as a city without walls.  You cannot hear these stories without asking the hard question, "could I become that?"  Could I fall to such a low place in my relationship with God that I wouldn't realize it or not know how far I had fallen.   The Catholic Church has been uncovered in recent years and even recent months revealing hundreds of priests accused of sexual sins and many as predators of children and adults who were in vulnerable situations.  I'm not writing this to condemn the Catholic Church.  They are the largest denomination in the world so obviously by sheer percentages they will have more bad apples.  I'm sure the large majority of Priests are dedicated men of God following their vows and calling.  Every denomination has dark stories of ministers who have left the straight and narrow and wandered back into the world by their actions and sins. What is the process that leads to such debasement from the Holy Call of God?

In Romans chapter 1, Paul tells us of a process of degeneration that leads to corruption.  He tells us of a people who chose to look away from God, the Creator, and worship the creation.  They chose to follow the temptation of sin and to resist the corrections of God through the Scripture and the internal working of the Holy Spirit.  This is at the heart of the matter.  The voices in our minds.  The voice of God and the voice of Satan.  Righteousness or sin.  Three times in this chapter we read, "God gave them up to..."  He gave them up to "impurity, dishonorable passions and a debased mind."  There is a point when, if we continue to resist the correction of God,  he releases us to the worst of all of our enemies, ourselves, to our own lusts and temptations.  When that happens it results in a fast downward spiral.  Our faith connects us firmly to the righteous hand of God.  Our unbelief is a sin that is struggling to get a release from God's law.  In Romans, we see a principle that gives explanation to most if not all of the shocking headlines in our day.  A rejection of God and/or a resistance to his loving correction and adjustment always degenerates into moral decay.  Backsliding almost always ends in some form of sexual sin.
That principle is not only an answer for the crisis in the Catholic Church but in other groups as well.     There is a definition of degeneration in Pathology that is striking in this study.  "A process by which a tissue deteriorates, loses functional activity, and may become converted into or replaced by other kinds of tissue."  Degeneration is a process of deterioration that causes a loss of function and can even be converted into something else!  Even in true believers this degeneration can occur.  To avoid it we all must remain constant in the Scripture, prayer and fellowship in the church.  This was the pattern of Acts 2.  This surrounds us with the right guidelines of living, personal daily relationship with Jesus and the loving encouragement and accountability of living among true believers.  Ministers too often cool down in fervor and back away from these things that they preach for others to follow.  From the pulpit to the pew we must all take heed and hear the clarion call of heaven to practice what we preach.

Monday, August 6, 2018

In What Do We Rejoice?

The motivation of our heart seems to be the most important thing to God.  I have always felt this was true but the older I get the more I believe it and believe it even to a greater degree.  We know that man looks on the outside of a man but God looks upon the heart.  We have learned that the mouth speaks words that in time reveals the motives of the heart.  Even if a person is trying to cover the secret thoughts of the heart in order to get their way, if we listen closely long enough we will hear the true motivations in their lives.  We need to be careful with whom we align ourselves.  We need to make sure that we don't join the ranks of those in whom we sense or discern dishonest motivations.  It can be tempting to do so and especially if it could mean a promotion for us personally.  But the Lord will see to it that sinful ways will come to an end and all those supporting these activities will fall with the false leadership.  In 1 Kings Chapter 1 we read the story of one of King David's sons, Adonijah.  While David appeared to be on his death bed, Adonijah acted to take by political maneuvering and manipulation the throne of his father.  It has to be noted that he was a spoiled child. David the king seemed to be inclined to use his great wealth to spoil his children.  Spoiling our children is a form of child abuse in light of the life ahead of that child and the repercussions in store.  Adonijah invited a very special list of guests to his self directed coronation as King. He invited his closest allies and those who would benefit from his gaining the Crown.  He did not invite Solomon his brother who was the rightful heir or Nathan the prophet who had no problems confronting sin and exposing lies.
A great party convenes around Adonijah's self appointment.  The Scripture tells us that Adonijah was very handsome, he surrounded himself with chariots and horsemen and 50 men to run before him.  He set up outwardly everything possible to demand respect and to cause the "Wow" factor to come into play. It worked at first and many people gathered around him to feast and celebrate.  They rejoiced in the elevation of the new king.  He had done everything possible to gain the throne outwardly or in an earthly manner but it didn't make it happen.  Heaven still held the keys to the Kingdom!  Now there would be a reckoning.  Where would the reckoning come?  It would come to those who rebelled outwardly and inwardly against the will and plan of the Lord.

We live in a day of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  However, even in an hour of grace the plans of the Lord still come to pass.  There is a price to pay for hidden motivations of the heart that are wicked and steeped in rebellion.  Men follow men to ruin.  Wrong motivations are attracted to wrong motivations in order to fulfill aspirations that are not in God's choosing.  We must not be deceived by artificial anointing.  We must separate ourselves from a spirit of antichrist and accept God's destiny upon our own lives.  Be careful with whom you celebrate and rejoice and remember that God requires wholehearted devotion.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Artificial Anointing

I had the privilege of taking part in a Conference of Pastors numbering in the thousands from around the world.  It was held in the old Georgia Dome which since has been imploded to make room for a newer, more modern stadium.  During this conference a Communion Service was held.  I was amazed at how efficiently a stadium filled with pastors could be served communion in a matter of minutes.  Then, I vividly remember receiving the elements of the Lord's Supper.  There was such a powerful manifestation of the Lord's Presence that we all began to bow at first and then stretch out as best we could on the floor.  There was a uniform experience of humility and awe as we all sensed God's Holy Presence.  I believe it was God's favor on unity.  This meeting was not a single denominational gathering but rather churches represented from all the major groups.  We were not worshipping in any earthly liturgy but purely from an instinctual response to God's obvious Presence.  I glanced up at one point and really thought I saw smoke or a thin cloud above the congregation.  My reaction was to get back on the floor again!

The Book of Acts is filled with expressions of God's power and presence among his people following Pentecost.  The progression of these events is important to see.  There is usually a seeking of God by man.  There is some expression of looking to God for help or wanting God's direction in some life event.  Humility seems to prick heaven and the answer comes!  Man responds with humility, thankfulness and obedience.  Man has looked to God as his source, God has lovingly responded to man's approach to heaven and man moves in obedience to God's provision or direction.  A charlatan is defined as one who claims to have special powers or abilities.  He bypasses the Biblical pattern of the relationship between God and man.  He might orchestrate events or apparent experiences to make the people believe God is doing supernatural things among them.  These acts are very deliberate efforts at deceiving God's people for personal gain.  Then there can be another type of deceiving not intentional at all.  It can be something as simple as in an instant of human excitement declaring that God is about to heal a person.  Certainly God can give a word to someone that healing is about to happen and the healing flows.  Yet, what about when in human zeal healing is declared and no healing follows?  This is a kind of charlatanry that seems innocent enough but charlatanry none the less.  It is wanting to see God work without the relational aspect between God and His people.  There is no faith, no relationship and certainly no humility.  It is like Simon the magician who wanted the power Peter represented and offered to buy such power.  Peter made it clear that Satan was behind such a desire for artificial anointing.  I once told a minister that I didn't want to see "wild fire" in the church to which he said, "I'd rather have wild fire than no fire at all!"  Wild fire,  strange fire or artificial anointing confuses the people of God.  When the genuine anointing comes it won't be appreciated and possibly not even recognized.  In the church we need to be very careful in our zeal and efforts to fill the house with people, that we are preaching Jesus and not promoting hype.  That we are standing strictly upon the Word of God and not upon what we would like it to say.  Once we align ourselves as individuals and as the Church in humility and awe at His goodness and grace, the real anointing will come and it will break the powers of darkness.  The house will be filled with the true restoration Glory and with those seeking a relationship with Him.

Make No Room For Satan

There is an interesting Greek word for our English word "fill" in the New Testament.  It is used in Acts 15:13  and it is defined ...