Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Spiritual Warfare - III

There is pain and sorrow in life. The world is fallen. These will not disappear until God's Kingdom is established. But Satan still plans to add to our misery.

Too often our experience of pain and sorrow become more real and more consuming than our experience of God's presence. So, Satan does not just seek to inflict pain. He seeks to divert our attention to it. His purpose is fulfilled if God's children are more taken up with how bad something is, than how good God is, and how great his resources are. He gets his way if God's children spend more time complaining about something bad happening, than seeking him and listening for how he speaks into it and how we should respond.

Ultimately, spiritual warfare is encountering "something", and then seeking God for his response to this "something" and obeying God in that response. We keep our hearts engaged with God's heart. Satan's purpose is to separate us from God's presence.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spiritual Warfare - II

Our response to sin can drag us from close connection with God. This may one reason why guilt may be a Christian's greatest sin. The person's focus moves away from God, God's attributes, their relationship and onto themselves. If a person rehearses in his mind the goodness of God, God receives glory. Such an activity is called "praise." What is it called when a person rehearses his failures in his mind? I think it could be called "anxiety."

There is considerable space in Scripture covering God's treatment of our moral and spiritual failures. We are not condemned. Jesus stands as our defense lawyer before the throne of God.

The enemy wants to steal God's glory. If we fail to obey God's standard.and then become obsessed with how guilty and rotten we are, the enemy has succeeded. Our hearts are not focused on the goodness of God. Our hearts are not focused on the wonder of God's transforming work.

I do not recommend totally ignoring sin. We were designed for intimate fellowship with God. We were given the purpose of being God's partner in world transformation. Sin interferes with both. Sin short-circuits both. We will be more healthy, more whole, more joyful, more resilient and more complete if we reside in the grace and love of God, and in our God-given purposes for life.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spiritual Warfare

Scripture tells us that one of the greatest - if not the greatest - angels rebelled against God, because he wanted to be like God. He and a third of all the angels declared war on God. But he and his angels were defeated. They abandoned or were ejected from God's Kingdom. Now, he and his minions live to steal glory from God. He achieves this in two basic ways.

(1) In a world of humans that also rebelled from God, God is working to reclaim them and the world for himself. So, if the enemy can undermine those efforts, he can keep humans from God, who reaches out to them. He throws every lie, threat, innuendo, and subterfuge possible at the humans God invites to be with him. And many do choose to go away from God.

(2) But many do choose to follow God. And God chooses those to live in relationship with him, to demonstrate and proclaim that life with God is great, blessed and the way man was designed to live. God intends them to live as a community if transformation and superior living, walking in intimacy with God. If the enemy can subvert the relationship or conduct of this redeemed people, he steals glory from the image God wants projected. He divides this holy community from the source of its strength and power. And he hides the light that enables all people to see God. People who might move toward simple do not. Attacking God's people is the enemy's most strategic action. He hinders the display of God's greatness. He hinders a move by other people toward God. He accomplishes both objectives with one move. 

There are a number of ways the enemy can attack God's people. Whole books have been written on this subject. I want to mention a few.

Because of man's rebellion at the beginning of time, man is born addicted to sin. It is fashionable today to identify specific areas man is addicted to. In reality there is only one  addiction: sin. The enemy ensnares the hearts and minds of man with sin. If he can trip them up a particular sin, he can trap them in a maze of glory stealing activity.  

The sin itself robs God of glory by placing a human activity above him. It calls him a liar, saying any activity - even a God-given activity - is above God. 

But not only the sin, people seeking righteousness many go through a cycle of regret, confession, repentance, strategic planning, pontification and struggle to resist being drawn into sin again. Such a cycle would seem to honor God, but it can steal people's attention from their relationship with God, and from God's purpose to draw people to him. Their attention is on themselves. 

The sin moves people to plans, strategies and 12-step programs rather than the Giver of life. I am not saying that these programs are not worthwhile. But a person's focus and trust can reside in them, instead of its proper -- the Lord of all.

These things, plus others, can move man's focus from God and man's relationship with God. It will cut him off from God's power and wisdom. It is best to see the enticement as an attack of the enemy to create distraction, and discouragement. Man should consider it as a spiritual attack.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Judging God's Favor by Circumstances

People have a basic tendency to look at the condition of life as an indication of their significance and place in the world. If life is good, circumstances favorable, then God approves of them, their conduct, decisions and approach to relationships, finances or work.

Once again, God’s perspective goes against what seem natural to people.

People see only evil in trials. God sees opportunity and transformation. If we respond according to God’s economy, grace will work endurance into our lives. And endurance will have its part in completing a person’s life. And if we do not have wisdom to see the correct response, God will give wisdom quite willingly. Do not doubt God’s desire to provide and to transform.

The poor do not look at their lives positively. The rich consider themselves more fortunate, more loved and more blessed. Neither of them look at the temporary nature of wealth. Most of what we spend for our pleasure does not last. Wealth tempts us to go further and engage in destructive practices. So, the wealthy live in a slippery place. They could quickly fall away from God.

Everything good comes from God. Every person was brought into the world to demonstrate God’s goodness and love, no matter what his circumstances are. So, our journey and how we live it do matter. We cannot achieve God’s purposes man’s way. Receive his word; obey his world. It is the working out of what he says that proves its worth. It is not what we say only. It is our moral and relational decisions that count.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Who is Jesus? - II

Who is Jesus? He is our peace.

When God created the church, he brought all the groups who make up the peoples of the world into one group. Anyone who has experienced the grace of God has become part of this new people.

We are all reconciled to God. We are all given unrestricted access to the Lord of all. We are all members of God’s family. We are all part of a holy temple.

How do we look at other churches? How do we look at other ethnic groups?

The fact that we are in the same family, with the same Spirit of God in our hearts, following the same Jesus, should affect the way we view, interact and treat one another. We are each in Christ, and we should see Jesus in each other.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? (Thanks to Neil Cole for asking the question at a time I was listening a little more attentively than usual.)

Is Jesus Savior, Redeemer, Lord of Lords and Creator?

The world was created perfect by the Creator. He put his mark on the world. He designed it to fulfill all the needs of its inhabitants. We don’t know how long they lived in the garden, in harmony, in beauty and in balance.

But someone made a decision, and evil entered the world. The world was corrupted. Harmony, beauty and balance were destroyed.

The creator had two responses. (1) To punish those who brought evil into the world. (2) To execute a plan to save them and to restore harmony, beauty and balance.

Jesus entered the world and executed God’s plan. Both of God’s responses were perfectly fulfilled.

Now Jesus does not exist in the world any longer physically. But he is immanent with those who choose to follow him. He is in the world, through those followers, continuing to execute God’s plan of rescue, healing and redemption.

If you follow Jesus, you believe that in some way, shape or form, he is the answer for the problems of the world. Some people chart the tendencies of the world and they do not like the slope of the graph. They are afraid of the world, its polluting powers, its ability to bring pain and death, and the realization time after time that people do not have the power to live in integrity. So, they hide inside the fortress of worship meetings, Sunday schools and committees. And the world lays siege to our fortresses, slowly strangling the life from them.

Does this sound like followers of the Lord of All? Does this sound like those of whom Jesus said had power to assail the kingdom of Satan, and bring his gates crashing down?

We are truly in a war. And we are not fighting well. We are not fighting well because we are not using a weapons skillfully. What are these weapons? They are: love, mercy, kindness, prayer, listening and asking questions, giving answers in creative ways and transformed community.

There are some people who believe that worship meetings, mid-week prayer times and small groups are community. I am sorry to say they are not. They are parts of community. Important parts. But the community is more.

There are some people who believe that if we practice our weapons within the community, we will learn them skillfully and we will win the war. We do need to practice our weapons within the community. And some of them are effective from long range. But we will not defeat the enemy unless we all see the whites of their eyes, and all engage them in battle. (And if our chief weapon is love, the battle will be very different from anything we currently imagine.)

If you believe Jesus is the solution to the world’s problems, if you believe he is Lord of All, then you are already in his army, you are already in a war, and you need to engage the enemy with the powerful weapons he has given you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

God's Intention for Man Not Much Different

God initiated the process to ransom us from sin, because he was generous and merciful. Jesus’ death provided everything we needed as we took hold of this provision by faith. We did not earn it by our acts of kindness, charity or religiosity. God created man as his master work. God intended man to live a life of kindness and generosity. He intended man to live this way naturally, as an expression of his created nature. And now he intends mankind to live this way as a result of his faith, his relationship to God and people, and his newly created nature.

Monday, June 13, 2011


There is story about the Jews as they left Egypt and were traveling back to Canaan. They reached a place where they had no water. Water is very important thing in a desert; and water is very difficult to get in large quantities in a desert. (There are estimates that Israel numbered around two million people at this time.) And when they did find water, it was tainted. Somehow the fact that the water was bad was Moses’ fault. To say the people whined was a gross understatement.

To put this whining into perspective, Scripture specifically states that this story occurred three days after the Egyptian army had the Jews tapped with their backs to the Red Sea. God rescued them by parting the Red Sea, and Israel walked through the sea on dry ground.

Israel continually witnessed one tremendous act after another, which should have demonstrated God’s intention to claim Israel as his people, to rescue them out of their troubles and to proclaim himself through them. But in three days, they had forgotten what God just did for them.

Isn’t it amazing how short and selective people’s memories are? How short are ours for whom Jesus died?

Friday, June 10, 2011

God's Prioriy

“Hyperpneumonia” is a made-up Greek word meaning “too much Spirit.” Some Christians and churches get caught up in pneumonological phenomena. They seek signs and wonders regularly, consistently and exclusively. The primary criteria of spiritual favor is the presence of extraordinary spiritual events. If they are not happening in your church, then God has removed his hand and his favor.

What does God proclaim as the priority, as first importance, in his kingdom? The first and second commands are love. Tongues, prophecy and miracles are all going to cease. Faith, hope and love will continue. And the love is the greatest. Moreover, tongues, prophecy and miracles will only have worth if they are expressed with love. Cooking, cleaning and babysitting motivated by love are more important to God than a miracle motivated by something else.

And let’s face. Many Christians pursue pneumonological phenomena to be part of the latest craze, part of the spiritual in-crowd. It’s not very glitzy to in love pursue diaper changing. It not very ego building to in love choose obscurity and dishes washing. God honors any act done in love more than any act done without love.