Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spiritual Warfare - III

Another weapon God gives to counteract the devil's schemes is the gospel of peace. Scripture says we live in emnity with God. It is the gospel which provides the basis for restoration and reconciliation. It provides a path for peace. We have peace with God through the gospel.

What Satan wants is for us to walk in fear and guilt. Fear of God's displeasure and condemnation, and guilt over our failures. If our focus is on God's wrath and our failures, we will never step out in love and faith. The peace of God gives us a firm foundation to stand and move from.

The basis of peace is a true knowledge of the gospel. Wth that, we can approach God with peace in our hearts. We can take risks. We can get our eyes off ourselves and onto people who need God's love.

We could take this a step further and take this true understanding of God's path to peace and restoration, and bring it to others. What Satan hates most is an increase of God's kingdom. Loving people demonstrates God's nature; proclaiming the gospel with a subsequent faith response by someone who was listening is an actual claiming of Satan's territory.


There is a story in the Bible about Abraham. God chose Abraham to be the founder of several different nations, including Israel. But his wife could not bear children. God promised him a son; and when Abraham was old, he fulfilled that promise.

Isaac was the apple of his parent's eye and evidently, owned too much of their hearts. So, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice as a test. And amazingly, Abraham acted in obedience. He took Isaac and was prepared to kill and burn him. At the moment when Abraham was ready to kill Isaac, God stopped him and provided a ram instead.

Many people consider this story a picture of what God intended to do through Jesus. While they were going to the place of sacrifice, Isaac asked about the fact that there was no lamb. Abraham said, "God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering."

And God does. God gives a substitute for Isaac, because Abraham was willing to trust God. And it is the same with each person. If we will trust God, he will send the Lamb of God (Jesus) to save us from death.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Spiritual Warfare - II

Satan attacked the first people with lies. What God commanded them was not true. God's word was not trustworthy. God is not trustworthy.

Of course, the first people acted on these lies, and the world's DNA was infected by what the Bible calls "sin." There is now in man a tendency to move away from God. The God-man relationship is broken. The man-man relationship is broken. Man's relationship with himself is broken. His tendency is to choose directions, actions and attitudes that damages himself.

The cure is to choose to go away from, counter to this tendecy. THe first step is to declare the truth, because the devil's first step was to lie.

Satan will lie to us, just as he lied to the first people.  It is the lie in our thoughts that will move us to make wrong decisions. Remembering and declaring truth will cancel the wrong thoughts.

Satan's lies will not always be obvious. It can be difficult to recognize the lie amid all the claims of "pleasure", "peace" and "profit." It can be difficult to recognize the lie among all the attempts to obscure it -- "old fashioned", "narrow-minded" and "judgmental." (Especially when the family of God underlines and highlights the lies with their own practices.) These are only a few of his lies to persudae us to follow his other lies. And if he succeeds in getting us to believe one of his lies, we will hear it again and again.

We need to live by the truth. To live by the truth, we need to know the truth. So, it is important to be engaged with God in the scriptures. It is important to obey God in making disciples. It is important to persist. Even if we succeed obeying God only once in a million times, God will take any step of obedience, of faith, and treat it like "bread and fish." (A reference to the story about Jesus feeding at least 5000 people with one person's lunch.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

THe Body of Christ - IV

SInce, we are all parts of the whole, we will all advance together, and we will all retreat together. When a church planting movement sweeps across a tribal groupin India, churches popping up in unprecedented rates, salvations  so fast it takes your breath away, we are all part of that. We can all rejoice. We can all pray for a continuing, a growing and a spreading.

But we do not seem to take this connectedness seriously, especially in the west, especially in America. In those places, the church has uncovered the opposite, but in some ways, an equally wonderful truth. Which is -- there is an unlimited potential in the individual. Especially if he walks in love and the Holy Spirit.

Metaphors break down eventually. It can be seen most clearly in the stories of individuals for whom the truth og God has become most real: Jesus, Paul, Hudson Taylor, Charles finney, Charles Wesley, to name a few. These men took two extra steps to obey God, and God's Spirit moved in a tidal wave across the landscape.

But such individuals are rare. So God put us into teams, with steps of obedience creating a synergy. Teams are almost more powerful than the afore mentioned spiritual giants. Egos need humility, which can result from mutual submission. Unity must be maintained. The simple mixing of people into a powerful team is a miracle in the current age of "me first", "you're worth it" and "do your own thing."

But to go one step further, the growth of the Body requires the health of the whole Body. People charge on to achieve personal growth. But we are losing something if we do not go together. To grow more completely in the things of God, we need to go together, in order to grow together. We probably cannot go with 50 people. But we do need a team that provides all the necessary things for life and growth.

We are designed by God for health, growth and reproduction. We have discussed the necessary ingredients for these things. Here is another -- one another.

Spiritual Warfare, Not Necessarily Nuclear War

Paul encourages us to use all the tools  at our disposal, because Satan has developed strategies against us. The purpose of Satan's strategies is to take glory from God and to make our lives miserable. People were designed to live in joy and peace; if Satan can get us to live without joy and without peace, he has succeeded. MIsery per se is not really necessary. He has moved us away from our design; he has stolen glory from God.

MAny people reguard Sata's plots as actual attempts by Satan to harm us, our family, our friends, or our property. I certainly do not mean to say that if Satan can do any of these things, he will not. What I am saying is that for far too many of us, he does not need to. All he needs to do is whisper about some problem, some worry, some concern, and our minds filter it through a non-God grid. And we roll it around in our brains. It is not prayed over. It is not considered in the light of what scripture says. It is certainly not regarded in a way the brings purification of our hearts and minds -- as scripture promises that any trial will.nor is it regarded in the light of God's mission.

Rarely are any of these things done. And when we fail to shine God's light on circumstances, Satan wins.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Body of Christ - III

Since, we are parts of a whole, all the parts need to work together. Hands and eyes need to be coordinated. Feet need to find a rhythm, or most certainly, the nose will complain loudly. Even the invisible kidney must do its part ... or the whole will come crashing down.

The health, growth and ability to reproduce of the body is based on the ability of each part to perform its function. It is the same with the Body of Christ. In most churches, a minority - which includes the leadership - does all the work of the church. And it specifically states in Scripture that the leadership's responsibility is to teach and empower the other members of the Body to serve God, to build the church and build God's kingdom.

Obviously, the leaders should obey in all areas too. But they should still teach the rest of the Body how to obey God in all areas too. They should proclaim the gospel, and they should teach the body how to effectively proclaim the gospel. They should physically serve, and they should teach the Body how to physically serve. They should love, and they should teach the Body how to love. They should pray, and they should teach the Body how to pray. They should teach the Body how to complete all areas of obedience, and they should teach the Body how to teach others how to complete all areas of obedience.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Body of Christ - II

Another thing the body metaphor should teach us is that we are parts of the whole. This had so many applications, it is mind-boggling.

The church is made up of many parts. Those parts are people. And those parts – young, old, male, female, every tribe, every language – are the body of Christ. There is no group, no sub-group, no individual person that can be written off, excluded or disregarded.

When I was younger, I sprained an ankle. More recently, I have suffered a bout of gout. Both caused quite a bit of pain in the affected limb. I couldn’t walk correctly. Opening and moving through doors was a problem. One part of my body was affected, and it had a ripple effect throughout my whole body.

I had kidney stones. A kidney is internal, and unseen. It goes about its job without fanfare, praise of even, awareness on the part of the rest of the body. But when the stone moves, the kidney becomes center stage. It calls the shots for the entire body.

If one part of the Body does not function fully, wholly, in joy, in love, in the Holy spirit, the body cannot work well.

If a person puts sugar in the gas tank of a car, if a person eats a McDonalds-only diet, if a person is surrounded by pain, ugliness and neglect, these engines – the car the human body and the human spirit – will not function, or will function very poorly.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A church is only as strong as its weakest part.

In the US, we tend to judge the strength of a church by its size, by the charismatic qualities of its leaders, and by its well-oiled ministry machinery. We ought to be looking for the least fruitful, least mature, least popular among the church members. We ought to look at their lives in the midst of the Body, and in the midst of society.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Body of Christ

Anyone who know anything about the Bible knows Paul's metaphor for the church. He calls it the body of Christ.

A metaphor is a way of comparing two unlike things with the intention that the comparison helps us understand something better. This metaphor should probably teach us several things.

One of the things is that the church is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world today. When Jesus lived in the world, wherever he went , he brought love, truth, healing, forgiveness, acceptance, conviction, change and newness. As his hands and feet, we need to go to the places he went. We need to do the things he did. We need to have the same effects he had.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Gospel

God's plan is to fix everything! When God created the world, it was perfect. The relationship between God and man was perfect. The relationship between people was perfect. Nature was perfect. The minds and bodies of people were perfect.

The first people made wrong decision, and the corrupting influence, which Christians call "sin," was released into the world. The relationship between God and man was corrupted. The relationship between people was corrupted. Nature was corrupted. Minds and bodies were corrupted.

When people think of the gospel today, they focus primarily on bringing man into right relationship with God. Part of this focus could be man's ego-centric nature. And this is true. People do filter all phenomena through the lens of self. The main question they ask themselves is, "How does this affect me?"

Part of this focus is equally the prominence God gives people in his story. The Bible says that God gave rule of the world to people. God gave people the pivotal decision of walking with him and bringing life into the world, or walking away from him and bringing death and corrpuption into the world. And now, if we choose to walk with God, God's spiritual DNA is injected into people, and God's people are injected into the world. And through God's people, God's DNA is injected into the world and counteracts the corruption of sin.

Man's relationship wi5h God may not be all the story, but it is a central part of the story. Man becomes the conveyor of God's restoration given to the world through Jesus.

It is  like man introduced a "sickness" into the world. This virus infected and damaged everything. So, God introduced an "anti-sickness" named Jesus to infect everything again, but to restore everything that was damaged by the first "sickness." And human beings are carriers of this "counter-sickness."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Live in Joy -XVII

I have completed looking up all the places where joy is mentioned in the Old Testament. And it continues as we have already observed: joy is generated by living in relationship with God and living in agreement with his design.

However, I found myself asking the question, "Why is joy important?" We saw when we began this exercise, that joy is part of the picture of man living in holiness. Joy is a natural result of man living in relationship with God and a natural result of a life of obedience. Joy was a daily component of Jesus' life, because he lived closest to God and was the most obedient person whoever lived.

We tentatively defined joy as an attitude of positive enthusiasm or passion toward life.

I recently finished a book called "Born to Run." The basic premise of the book is that human beings were designed for long distance running. (We are also designed to seek out greater efficiency. That's why people seek ways to avoid running.) The author presented information from science and anthropology to illustrate the theme. Interwoven with the rational "proofs" were stories from primitive tribes famous for running, and stories from the world of ultra-marathons, that is, races of 50 to 100 miles.

At one point, one of the characters realizes the spiritual aspect of running. Successful, excellent running is based on joyfully embracing it. Joy motivates its pursuit. Joy motivates continuing with or without outside reward.

Motivation is pivotal in any endeavor. Without improvement or any other reward, it is only an internal heart motivation that urges a person to continue a difficult course of action.

And pursuing holiness in a corrupt world can never achieve any real success. There can be improvement, even significant improvement, but never real mastery. Joy becomes an important motivation towards pursuing holiness, as well as an indicator of success - as it is a "natural" result of living in agreement with God. Joy can be part of creating an upward spiral by motivating greater obedience.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Living in Joy - XVI

I am still poking around different portions that mention joy. At the moment, I have not been seeing anything new.

There does seem to be two primary bases for joy. One is our relationship with God. Two is acting in agreement with our God-designed natures.

Relationship, as we tend to use the word and concept today, is defined rather simply. It involves talking and hanging out. Relationships go far beyond that. It involves actions  for and against, offense and forgiveness, judgment, restoration, comfort, presence,and yes communication of all sorts: teaching, explaining, joking, consoling, reproving, warning, etc.

One of the reasons God gives commands is so we know how to live. Obedience to these commands does not follow some arbitrary group of rules. The command follow a design. They either make life more efficient, effective and full, or they enhance our relationships with God and people. That's why the Bible speaks so much about obedience.

And mission is another part of design. It is also part of relationship. Working as a team to achieve an over-arching goal builds relationships. It builds a common mind-set. And in the case of people teaming up with God, it develops God's mind-set in people.