Archive for June, 2010

Be Aware of “That Kiss”…

          In Luke 22:51 Jesus healed the temple servant after Peter had cut off His ear. You would think such a miracle would have been reason enough for everyone present to submit to the authority of Jesus, but it wasn’t. Judas had betrayed Jesus with a kiss, a sign of close and personal affection, but rather meant for evil. In verse 53 Jesus declares the hour of evil and the power of darkness that belonged to His captors. There can be no doubt that Satan was controlling the actions of those who came to seize Him and that they were powerless to do anything else.

          How often is Jesus betrayed by those disguised as His servants? Even a kiss can be rooted in deception. When we fail to guard our hearts, the opportunity always arises for us to betray Him through our self-interest and motivation. If we fail to consider all our actions through the lens of His word then we are vulnerable to the power of darkness and the hour of evil. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “…the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword…able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This is the sword that He has given us to answer all evil intent. The sword of steel can only cause physical harm but the sword of the word strikes at the very existence and presence of evil itself. When Peter struck the servant, it only added to the atmosphere of hostility. It would have presented the opportunity for justification by those who came to seize Jesus but our Lord would not allow them to have such cause. In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (v.6:12) we are told “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

          Our first concern in warfare must be enemy identification. James 1:19 councils us “to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Herein lies the process for discovery of the enemy. Being “quick to hear” grants us the time to evaluate what is really happening. If we are listening then we are not reacting. This presents us the opportunity to apply God’s word from our hearts and correctly evaluate our course of action. If we fail to follow these steps we are all too likely to shoot the wrong target. We may inflict wounds to those who confront us but fail to strike the crucial blow needed to defeat our spiritual enemy. We must accept the existence of cosmic powers of darkness at work. There are demonic creatures who aid Satan in His desire to defeat God’s work by striking out against believers. All too often we focus on the other person, examining their conduct while failing to look beyond what we see in the physical sense. Cutting the ear off the servant only tends to give credence to his cause. Blindly we aid the enemy in his efforts without being aware of what we have done.

          Further study of Ephesians 6:13-18 would benefit all of us in preparation for spiritual warfare. Not only will we find the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v.17) but also other pieces of armor necessary for battle. It’s time to suit up and be prepared to do a little hunting of our own. He has given us all we need to search out and destroy the enemy. We no longer need to be subject to his schemes. It’s time to resist. It’s time to send him on the run. It’s time to walk in victory; all we need is to be prepared.

Right Way, Wrong Way?

         “There’s a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way to death.” (Prov. 14:12) There can only be one conclusion, that we cannot always trust our own instincts and if that is so then there must be something else by which we can guide our decisions. If what seems right is wrong then what is the great test that clarifies our actions?

          Does a little white lie corrupt the soul? Does criticizing others when they can’t hear us really hurt anything? If gossip gets a laugh at someone else’s expense wasn’t it really just for the fun of the moment? Why shouldn’t I cheat on my taxes, after all the government is blowing billions? A stock broker gets a bit of inside information, why not exploit it, everyone’s doing it? A wife has an affair because she isn’t happy at home; doesn’t she deserve more? A student has someone else take an exam, what difference does it really make? There are no limits on the variations of this theme, no end to the number of ways to damage the soul, sell off a chunk of integrity or to feed the prevailing climate of sin that so infiltrates humanity. It all started with one basic lie, one deception.

          The propensity of sin to permeate mankind and destroy the soul is far more powerful than anyone of us can fully appreciate. A man wakes up one morning to the realization that he is an alcoholic and his life is spiraling out of control. He scarce can remember taking the first step down the slippery slope and discovers that he lies at the bottom of life and there now seems to be no hope. Ironically what seemed right at the start with no harm in sight arrives at a place where nothing seems right and all hope gone. The deception has performed its work and reached its destination of despair with only one final step to go, death. It is a death that leads to the eternal separation from all that is good and righteous, never again to have the opportunity of reconciliation and it all starts with one small compromise of spiritual integrity.

          The great test in this life comes down to our own goals. Are we living this life from a self-centered point of orientation or for the higher cause of Christ? Our only shot at reconciliation is through His cross. None other can make the choices faced in this life clear. On our own, we are not strong enough to stand against the temptations that come our way or even be totally aware of their presence. The things that seem right may be loaded with pitfalls that we are not equipped to evaluate. When we shine the light of His word on life’s decisions and submit to trusting Him for guidance we gain the insight needed to escape the tragedies of bad decisions. Just as all harm starts with one bad decision, all which is good begins with one and only one decision available to each and every one of us, the decision to accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord of our life. His answers are infallible and His reasoning is from an eternal perspective.

Call 911 – The Church Needs CPR!

            Many years ago when I heard God calling me back to the church I remember thinking that there just seemed like there was something wrong with the church. I thought, “Who am I to have such a thought? After all the church has been around for hundreds of years, they must know what they are doing”. At the time, my wife, two children and I belonged to a very small mainline denominational church. We had been attending for a few years but other interests seem to pull us away. Even after we returned, the years clicked by and nothing seemed to happen. No one ever came to the saving grace of God; it was certainly devoid of the miraculous, in fact no one ever seemed to change. The Sunday message was some sort of flowery, biblical sounding digression that was almost absent of any meaningful content. I did not know it at the time but we were attending a church that was in dire need of resuscitation, CPR to be exact, “Christ, Prayer and Repentance”.

          Unfortunately this is a scene that is repeated over and over again in some fashion, or another all across our nation. People wander into churches on Sunday throughout our land, showing up with all their baggage; hurts, hang-ups and addictions. Then after an hour or so they tote all their problems back home and nothing has changed. Christianity has been reduced to doing a duty, namely, showing up at church. It is far from the abundant life promised by Jesus, far from being a lifestyle. So what’s wrong with the church?

          Perhaps the first course correction needed is for God’s people to wake up and realize that they “ARE” the church. The church isn’t the building; it’s a people for God’s own possession, a people who have surrendered their all to Jesus. We are to be led by His spirit, seeking Him in prayer and repenting of all the things that keep us apart from Him, Christ, Prayer and Repentance, CPR for the church. No one but God can breathe life back into the church and we desperately need to seek Him with all our hearts.

          Secondly, God’s people need read the Bible. I have found that many if not most Christians do not regularly (daily) read or study God’s word. How can we possibly have a personal relationship with our Savior if we don’t even study God’s scripture? How can we know of His loving promises if we do not read them for ourselves? When we come to Him in prayer we need to be grounded on His word and we need to be assured of His nature which can only happen through the study of His inspired word. Biblical illiteracy plagues our country and many are suffering because of it.

          If you have ever been apart of a church like the one I described, you cannot help but wonder what damage has been done? Not only in the lives of the congregation but also in the lives of those who came in contact with the church and saw nothing different than the world around them and found no power for life changing transformation. The dead churches of our culture have poisoned so many against the cause of Christ because many have failed to see the abundant life promised by Jesus alive in the members of the church. Real Christianity is caught not taught. The time is right for church to catch a fresh breath of life and to gain a contagious spirit.

Are You Prepared to Climb the Mountain?

          “The record is one thing, but standing on top of the world is just the best feeling you could ever imagine.” This was the recent quote from Jordan Romero, age 13, who recently became the youngest climber to ever scale Mt. Everest. The feeling of being unique, accomplishing the unbelievable and the realization of a dream come true must be an experience that he will never forget.

          I have heard many times the description from Christian teachers and preachers of mountaintop experiences associated with spiritual moments. Mountaintops in our spiritual walk tend to be places we can visit but not reside. Much like Jordan Romero’s description, spiritual mountaintops provide for us “the best feeling you could ever imagine.” These are times of close proximity with our Creator. At these moments all of our doubts and fears seem to fade away and we know that God is God, and at last we find peace. Have you had such an experience? Are they fairly rare in your Christian walk? If so, you may need to ask yourself if you are prepared.

          If you look at the laundry list of items required to scale to the summit of Mt. Everest you will find that a considerable amount of equipment is required. The list pertaining to just footwear alone is quite extensive. The needed equipment is designed to provide protection, comfort, necessities of life, tools to accomplish the climb, shelter and the items necessary to travel with and move all of this gear. These are just the material items needed. In addition the climber must be physically and mentally equipped to withstand the harsh conditions of the climb. So it is with the life of a Christian.

          As a follower of Christ we must be equipped for the journey God has designed for us. He offers all that we need for protection, security, comfort, the necessities of life and the tools needed to accomplish our goal. His great plan includes other believers around us who have also been equipped by Him to help us in our walk. The real challenge lies in the effort we make to appropriate what we need. This effort includes time alone with God, reading and studying His word. Then we must pray, submitting our requests to Him, asking for His guidance and petitioning that He will instruct us regarding areas in our life needing surrender. We cannot ascend a spiritual mountain with our own strength, it cannot be done. Each challenge encountered on the way up the mountain must be met in reliance upon His power otherwise we will not succeed. Israel wandered in the desert for forty years and an entire generation perished because they did not accept God’s view. Paradise awaited them on the other side of the river but they could not move past their fear. What a tragedy that so many Christians today really are not living in total reliance upon Him. Anyone that has received the gift of salvation but fails to persevere through spiritual preparation misses the best that God has for them. It’s comparable to wandering in the desert and perishing from this life never knowing the abundant life promised by our Savior. You just plain miss “the best feeling you could ever imagine,” the “peace that passes all understanding.”