Monday, December 17, 2012

Immeasurable Grace

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (II Corinthians 12:9)

The Apostle Paul had to learn a valuable lesson. Most people read this verse and believe that Jesus was saying “no” to Paul, when he had asked Him to remove the “thorn” (the demonic spirit that was harassing him). Of course God was not going to come along and simply “remove” the devil in Paul’s life, any more than He would do that for any mature believer today. Every believer must resist the devil for themselves. God’s not going to exempt anyone from having to do this (the devil has a legal right to be in the earth for the time being). God has deputized us, armed us, and left us here to “occupy” until he comes (Luke 19:13). We have the privilege and responsibility of resisting the devil and casting him out. Jesus demonstrated this and taught us how to do it, and was simply telling Paul to do what he was supposed to be doing anyway. There was sufficient grace available for Paul to overcome, and to do all that God had called him to do, and that very same grace is available to you and me today.

When I was in college, having to work full time and also tend to needs of the family, write ministry letters, pray, preach and study the Word, things could get quite “hectic.” It was difficult to even comprehend how I was going to get that ten-page report done for class within the seven-day time frame that I was given. I would sit down and attempt to write and nothing inspiring would come forth. It was horrible at times, but through it all the Holy Spirit was teaching me how to access the grace of God and bring it into my life in a greater measure.

God wants to orchestrate our lives perfectly, so that everything “works” according to His pre-determined, divine order (Ephesians 2:10). When things are done according to God’s order, our lives can be arranged in such a way that can be fulfilling, joyous, and bear lasting fruit; the only stipulation is that it must be done by the Spirit, through faith, and not by the arm of the flesh (II Chronicles 32:8, Jeremiah 17:5).

Sometimes God tells us to do something, and we get under pressure concerning what He has told us to do. The devil will whisper, “You’d better do something now, or nothing’s going to get done!” but God doesn’t expect us to “do” the works through our own natural efforts (Hebrews 4:10). Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30, Ephesians 6:10). The reason why we struggle much of the time is because we have not taken His yoke upon ourselves, but rather we carry our own yoke, and the devil comes along and adds more baggage to it.

When I was in school and had an important paper to do, I would sit down to study and write, and then get frustrated. I would say, “Lord, I have to do this!” “It’s due Monday, and I have ten pages to write!” But then He would tell me that it was Friday night, and that I should relax and watch a movie, and spend time with the family, or do something else (God wants to be involved in even the simplest aspects of our lives). This was hard for me to do, but I learned to enter into His rest and enjoy the season that I was in.

We can learn to enjoy whatever season that we are in, even if it’s something that we don’t particularly like at the time. I would “cast the care” of the school project over on the Lord, and sit down and watch the movie; usually God would speak to me throughout the movie, and I would enjoy it, and then sometime over the weekend there would come strength and inspiration from the Holy Spirit for the project that I needed to do. I knew when it was the right time to sit down and write, and when I did, I would accomplish in two or three hours what would normally have taken a week. I had accessed the grace of God, and when I put my hand diligently to the project at the proper time, it all just came together (Romans 5:2).

Jesus commanded us to go into all of the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). His command is for every believer, but most of the time we visit extremes. We either don’t do anything at all, or we come up with all kinds of “ideas” and programs that bear no lasting fruit. God isn’t looking for us to do wonderful works for Him, but rather He is looking for our willingness and availability. If we are willing, and we make ourselves available to Him, then He will open the doors and strengthen us; He will give us wisdom and boldness to do it. He doesn’t expect us to do what he asks us to do in our own strength (Acts 1:8).

Jesus walked by the Spirit throughout His entire earthly ministry, and submitted Himself to the will of the Father. When Jesus had heard that Lazarus was sick, instead of rushing to his side, He stayed right where He was for two more days (John 11:6). He was not afraid of what men thought, nor did He yield to their pressure. What was He doing? He was listening to the Holy Spirit. He told His disciples, “Walk while it is yet day, while you have the light” (John 11:9-10, 12:35). He was telling them that it was important to walk while the light is present, at the proper time, and not according to natural reasoning, circumstances or pressure.

The devil will attempt to use all types of pressure in order to disrupt this process and get us out of God’s order, timing and will (Mark 4:14-20). King Saul, who had been fighting with the Philistines, had been instructed to wait for Samuel, but instead, the pressure of the battle and of the people got to Him, and he forced himself to offer the sacrifice himself, before it was time. This action, among other acts of disobedience, cost him the kingdom (I Samuel 13:8-14).

In the wilderness, God had told the children of Israel to gather the amount of manna that they needed for each particular day; if they gathered more, it would rot. God gives sufficient grace in order to deal with the challenges at hand today; He’s not going to join us in worrying about tomorrow, because there will be sufficient grace for tomorrow when tomorrow comes. We get into trouble when we try to solve tomorrow’s problems today (Matthew 6:34).

God has an order by which He wants our lives to function, and entering into His rest (even though it’s a place of perfect peace, contentment, and assured victory) seems to be the area of greatest struggle for many of us. The reason for this is that we, by nature, like to be in control. But in order to enter into God’s rest, we must relinquish control. The Holy Spirit once told me, “Many of my people are out there working for me, but few of them are working with me.” We must allow God to work through us, by getting His plan, and then obeying His promptings and leadings.

The degree in which we’re able to surrender will determine to what degree that we experience true and lasting victory, peace and joy, and will also determine the degree in which we are effective for the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Spiritual Weapons and Authority

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…” (Ephesians 6:11)

Satan hates spiritual authority, and next to speaking in other tongues, it is one of the most persecuted doctrines in the Bible. In fact, when Jesus stood up and read the scriptures in the synagogue from a posture of authority, it so infuriated the Pharisees that they immediately set out to kill him (Luke 4:15-30, Mark 1:22). Satan attacks the revelation of God’s power with false doctrine, excesses and extremes.

Many years ago, a woman asked me to pray for her children who were afflicted in their bodies with sickness. When she brought me to them I perceived that they were being afflicted and oppressed by the devil; I took authority over the spirits and commanded them to leave (Mark 16:17). The woman, however, went into a rage, began to scream, and came close to attacking me physically. She was offended because of the way that I prayed; in her eyes, I had suggested that her children were somehow “possessed” by the devil. I was able to calm her down to some degree, but it was quite an experience. This same woman was also adamantly opposed to speaking in tongues (as her denomination didn’t believe in it), but a couple of months later she got filled with the Holy Spirit herself, and when she did, she prayed in tongues all that night, glory to God!

More recently, I visited a church in Missouri where they seemed to love the Lord. There was a man there who had just gotten out of prison, and had apparently known the people at the church before he had gotten into trouble. He had rededicated his life to the Lord in prison, but had been troubled and apprehensive because the devil was already launching some serious attacks against him, and so he had asked for prayer. Several church leaders prayed for him, and then several members of the congregation prayed also, and when they were finished they asked if anyone else wanted to pray. I felt impressed to pray for him, and so I did. I prayed the prayer of faith, declared the Word of God over his situation, and then bound the devil’s influence and activities. The people had been extremely friendly to me, but all of that changed after I prayed. The preacher said to the congregation, “Only God has power!” (A veiled reference to my prayer) They also said several other things in order to discredit and refute what had just taken place. Nobody spoke to me after the service.

Another example (and perhaps one of my favorites, because it has a happy ending), was many years ago. I was attending a church in Iowa (it was my home church at the time), and the pastor was so excited about what God was doing in my life. I had recently been born-again, and Jesus had set me free from a riotous, rebellious and destructive lifestyle; He had also set me free from a serious drug and alcohol habit. The pastor wanted me to lead the morning Bible study for the next two weeks; to share the Word of God and give my testimony (as he would be going out of town). I happily agreed, of course!

The first Sunday the people loved me; they were so thrilled, and I was happy to share with them. But later that day I went with a friend to another church and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. It was life-changing, and I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends back at the church. “They will be so excited for me!” I had thought to myself (I was brand new in the Lord, and doctrinal and denominational sects and divisions were unknown to me at the time).

So the next Sunday I went back and shared in the Bible study… “Guess what God did in my life this week…!” Well, needless to say, it didn’t turn out the way that I had envisioned. The people began arguing with one another, and the atmosphere turned increasingly hostile. One woman picked up the table and slammed it down screaming at me, “It’s of the devil!” It was a fairly large church, and when the pastor returned, he came home to a colossal mess. They had to have a special service the following Sunday in order to “deal with the controversy.”

The power of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are a threat to the devil, and in this instance, he was certainly not going to allow it to go any further (if he had any say-so in the matter). Unfortunately, Satan usually has much to say about what goes on in denominational churches, and many of our “Spirit-filled” churches also (he just uses different tactics).

Though it seemed like a fiasco, the Lord was at work in the midst of it all. Approximately seven years later I again encountered the woman that had picked up the table, but this time her demeanor was much different. We were at another local church, a Spirit-filled church in town, and she approached me and asked, “Do you remember me?” I didn’t because she was a heavy woman at the time, and had lost a lot of weight. I replied that I didn’t remember. She said, “I am the woman that picked up the table and yelled at you…” She told me that what I had shared that morning had made her so angry that she searched the scriptures (apparently to discredit the teaching), and discovered that what I was telling her was the truth. She and her husband had gone to this other church and had gotten filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues, and had been going strong for quite some time! Their lives were changed, and they were so full of excitement for the Lord.

Testimonies such as these abound; you probably have some stories of your own. The reason that Satan is so threatened by spiritual authority is that it takes away his ability to control. A powerless and ignorant Christian is easy to control and manipulate, and of course the devil doesn’t want anyone to receive Jesus Christ and become born-again, but it doesn’t disturb him too much if a new Christian receives salvation, but remains basically ignorant of the power of God and the spiritual weapons and armor that is available to him or her. The real “game-changer,” in the eyes of the devil, happens when that same person receives “power from on high,” the “turbo charging” that comes from heaven (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8).

Many believers say in their hearts, “Well, I don’t need all that gifts of the Spirit stuff!” “I’m doing just fine without it!” “After all, if God wants something done, He’ll just do it!”

This is a common misconception, but nothing could be farther from the truth. God has given us spiritual armor and weapons for a purpose (Ephesians 6:10-18), not just so we can sing songs about them and then go out the door of the church and get beat up by the devil. “Well, God understands that I’m busy, and I’m tired…” Sure, God understands, but so does the devil, and we’re in a war; we’re soldiers on a battlefield (II Timothy 2:3-4).

Can you picture a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan? “Well the government understands that I’m hungry and tired, so I’m going to just sit down right here and…” So he puts down his armor, his weapons, and sits down to eat, and then goes to sleep. This person, no matter how sincere, will probably become a casualty of war.

Jesus shared certain things with us (such as the parable of the sower) (Mark 4:1-20) in order to teach us that we have a responsibility to keep our hearts free from entanglements that would choke and steal the Word of God; He warned us of the consequences of unfruitfulness that would follow. Satan will whisper, “Don’t worry, God understands; you don’t have to work so hard at this,” “God will cover you anyway by His grace!” “His promises will still come to pass in your life!” But that’s not what God’s Word says.

The devil attends church too, and usually he’s lounging around in the corner, either yawning or laughing his fanny off because there’s so little faith and authority being exercised. Instead, people are running around waving flags, blowing shofars, pretending to “punch” the devil with their fists, or simply praying “humbly” to God, asking Him to do something that is purely our responsibility (like binding and loosing, casting out the devil, or making decrees and commands according to God’s Word (Job 22:28, Matthew 19:18, Mark 11:23). We are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, and carry the right, privilege, responsibility and authority to conduct business on behalf of our King, King Jesus (II Corinthians 5:20).

Jesus walked and spoke with authority because He knew the heart and will of the Father, and stood as His ambassador in the earth, in His stead. As the Father has sent Jesus, so has Jesus now sent you and I (John 20:21). We hear His voice, keep His commands, and stand as an ambassador in His stead. The secret to walking in spiritual authority is not in have some “great anointing” with lots of goose bumps (and many times an equivalent amount of weirdness), but rather it lies in our submission to the one who sent us (Jesus). The more we humble ourselves under His mighty hand and submit to His Lordship, the greater degree of authority we carry (Luke 7:8), and when we decree a thing, God will back our decree as it was His own (because it is).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Times and Seasons

“Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 8:5)

God has times and seasons for every purpose, and as we learn how to cooperate with Him in these areas, we experience greater victory and peace in our lives.

When the Jews went into captivity in Babylon, God was very specific that there would be a season of time before He released them from their captivity. He instructed them to “settle in” and get comfortable because it would be seventy years before it was all over (Jeremiah 29:4-6, 10). He was explicit in what He wanted them to do in that season and those who obeyed experienced His blessing and favor, even while they were in a state of captivity.

Jesus spoke about times and seasons while He walked the earth, exhorting us to be sensitive to them (Matthew 16:2-3). After His resurrection, His disciples were eager for their land to be freed from Gentile occupation, and asked Him when this would take place, but Jesus redirected their attention to the season that they were in (Acts 1:6-8). Many of us are missing our present season by attempting to walk in a season that doesn’t pertain to us. What season does God have you in today? What has He asked you to do right now?

King David had a dream in his heart to build a house for the Lord. His heart was in the right place, but he didn’t have all the information, and even though David’s heart burned with passion to do this thing for the Lord, it wasn’t the proper time. David’s job was to prepare, and Solomon his son would build the house in the proper season (I Chronicles 17:3, 11-12).

In the book of Haggai, the Jews misread the season that they were in. They judged the season through their circumstances because the enemies of God had forbidden them from completing the work that had been started by God’s order (Ezra 1:1-4). For this reason they assumed that it wasn’t time to build (Haggai 1:2). God, however, sent a very different message through the prophet Haggai, telling them that it was indeed time to build, and that it had been since the days of Cyrus (Haggai 1:5-11). The season doesn’t change because circumstances change; in fact, the Jews suffered the consequences for being out of the will of God even though they had been unable to do what God had required (Haggai 1:6). When they got serious, God opened a door (Ezra 5:2, 6:7). Many times, all we have to do is get passionate enough to fight for what God has given us, and then He will help us (Matthew 11:12, James 2:20).

God is looking for a people that will follow and obey Him and not yield to the fear of men, nor seek their approval. He is looking for a people that will not be moved by circumstances, but will cooperate with His timing and judgment. When we live by the Spirit, others may consider us “weird” because God doesn’t
always move according to man’s parameters. We must let go of our “reputation” if we are going to walk with God and please Him (I Corinthians 7:23, Galatians 1:10, Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus walked in obedience to the Father at all times, regardless of the opinions of men, or the religious pressure of His day. When He was told that Lazarus was sick, He stayed right where He was until He heard the Father say, “Go...” He didn’t rush to Lazarus’ side to lay hands on him and heal him (John 11:6), even though He was urged to do so by Lazarus’ sisters. Can you picture this today? “I asked the preacher to come and pray, but he refused!” In fact, by the time Jesus got to Lazarus, Lazarus had died. God had a greater purpose, and Jesus told his disciples (who were too afraid to go anyway) “Are there not twelve hours in the day?” “…If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not…” (John 11:9-10). He was telling them to cooperate with the timing of God, and walk in the light of that season.

When God moves, we must move, when He stands still, we must stand still. In the wilderness, the children of Israel were led by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day; when the pillar moved, the whole camp moved, and when the pillar stood still, the camp stood still (Nehemiah 9:12).

King David had been King over Israel for a long time; he had fought many battles, and had earned the respect of his men and of the nation. He no doubt, at that point, felt entitled to stay behind and rest while all of his men went out to battle. However, he stood still in a season when he should have moved, and the devil was waiting for him there (II Samuel 11:1-2). Satan’s objective is to get us out of God’s timing and will through lies, deception, manipulation and pressure.

Several years ago, the Lord spoke to me, “Everything that I have for you is on the path that I have called you to walk.” In other words, if we abide on the path that God has laid before us, and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will find everything that we need and desire along the way (John 15:4-5).

The way God moved and dealt with us in the past may be different from where He wants to take us now, and in the future. There are seasons of intense prayer and warfare, and then there are seasons of work, and seasons of rest. There are seasons of fellowship and there are seasons where we are hidden away with God. It’s important to stay on the cutting-edge of what God is doing right now. Being “on fire” for God means that we are content and faithful in whatever season that we are in. It’s not all about the “shout,” but rather in our faithfulness and obedience.

When God is finished with a particular thing, it’s over. Moses was used by God in a powerful and miraculous way, but there came a time when God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). The time in the wilderness was over, and the people were to follow Joshua into the promise, though many of them never let go of Moses. There are many today that have never let go of past leaders and moves of God. They want to swing from the chandeliers, roll around on the floor and run around the sanctuary when God wants them to sit down and listen, to learn of Him and “be still and know that He is God” (Psalms 46:10).

Martin Luther was used powerfully by God to restore revelation to the church that the just shall “live by faith.” However, the people, instead of receiving what God wanted to show them and then move forward into greater levels of maturity, they built a “shrine” unto it and called it the Lutheran Church, a thing that God explicitly condemned in scripture (I Corinthians 1:11-13, 3:3-5).

Now I’m not picking on Lutherans, you’ve got Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Pentecostal Holiness, “Word of Faith,” Methodists, Presbyterians, and the list goes on. We label and categorize ourselves, splintering the body of Christ. This is not what God intended for His church, and is also the very reason that He hid the body of Moses from the children of Israel after Moses had died (Deuteronomy 34:5-6, Jude 1:9).

There are times of “doing” and times of “waiting,” and waiting can be just as important as “doing.” When we move when God says “move,” there is a reward, and when we wait when God says “wait,” there is an equal reward for obedience (I Samuel 15:22). The prophet Samuel told King Saul to wait and do nothing until He returned (I Samuel 13:8), but Saul grew impatient and forced himself to move before the proper time (Vs. 11-12). This act, coupled with several other incidences, cost him the Kingdom.

Satan will use any tactic that he can in order to pull God’s people out of the proper timing. We must continue to believe and do what God has told us to do regardless of the influence that comes from other people, our own reasoning and logic, emotional pressure, circumstances, or anything else that would come to abort God’s plan. It takes a strong man or woman of God to stand steadfast and not waiver, but strength is available from the Lord (Ephesians 6:10). God spoke to Joshua and commanded him to be strong and fear not; nor could he turn from the right hand or to the left, but he must abide in the proper timing and judgment of the Lord (Joshua 1:6-7).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Preparing for the Coming Storm

Friday, May 25, 2012

Corrupt Communication

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“Corrupt communication...” What comes to mind when we hear this statement? Most of us conjure up a variety of “four letter words…” A barrage of profanity that only an “unregenerate heathen” would “dare utter.” While it is true that such language can be considered corrupt, is it possible that God has a slightly different perspective on the meaning of “corrupt” and “profane?”

“Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barne-a to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. Nevertheless, my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people to melt; but I wholly followed the Lord my God.” (Joshua 14:7-8)

Caleb spoke these words as the children of Israel were taking possession of what God had given them. The original story begins in Numbers chapter 13, where Moses had sent the children of Israel to spy out the land that God had given them to inherit. However, instead of returning full of excitement, eager to lay hold upon what God had promised them, they brought back an evil report (Numbers 13:32).

Their unbelieving hearts and corrupt speech destroyed the courage of the nation, and brought the wrath of God upon them. In fact, God was so infuriated with this that none of them entered into the promised land except for Joshua and Caleb, and all of the hardhearted, stubborn, rebellious and unbelieving complainers died in the wilderness (Numbers 14:26-38, Hebrews 3:17). Even after all of this, God still wasn’t finished with them, for He put them in the New Testament as examples to us, admonishing us, “Don’t be like this, or you’ll get what they got!” (I Corinthians 10:1-11)

No man or woman of faith wants to be around a person of corrupt thinking or speech. There have been times in my life that I would rather be around the unbelievers at work than around some of God’s people. Several years ago, I worked a construction job in Florida. My job consisted of delivering cement mix to our crew as they built swimming pools throughout the Central Florida region. The guys that I worked with were of mixed ethnic backgrounds, but most of them were Mexican immigrants. They were a “rough” bunch to say the least, and they would drink, smoke marijuana, use profanity, and do just about everything else on the job that an accomplished, seasoned heathen could do. But I enjoyed being around them, and they enjoyed being around me, and they listened to the things that I had to say about the Lord. There were salvations, and a Ku Klux Klan associate was healed of terminal cancer while he grabbed a hold of the Word of God.

But what was it that I enjoyed most about being around them? One of the main things was their uncanny ability to find a solution to any problem. If something broke down, they would fix it with piano wire (which they used in the process of building pools) (I found out that anything could be fixed with piano wire). They could do just about anything with very little, and were quite resourceful with whatever it was that they had in their hand at the moment. One day, one of the trucks got stuck in mud, and it looked as if a tow truck would be the only solution; I told the crew chief who was working on digging it out, “Don’t even bother, we’ll call a tow truck…” He looked at me and said, “Don’t tell me it can’t be done!” He spent the next hour working on it, but he got it out!” It’s little wonder that we’re having a difficult time winning the war on drugs at the border.

If any of these guys ever become preachers, they’ll really give the devil a hard time. If they don’t have a computer to write and spread the gospel, they’ll find a stick and write the message in the sand! This was the heart of Joshua and Caleb… “Let us go up at once, for we are well able…” (Numbers 13:30)

Like the children of Israel, men and women of corrupt speech will always find someone else to blame but themselves. Most of them blame God by misinterpreting certain scriptures to support their cause (II Peter 3:16). One example is the book of Job; these believers are more like Job then they think, but not in the way that they think. Job was a worrier; he walked around wringing his hands, anxious about what his sons and daughters might have done; his speech was corrupt… “It may be that my sons and have sinned…” (Job 1:5) He offered corrupt sacrifices that were filled with fear and unbelief, and it attracted the devil like blood attracts sharks (Job 3:25).

The children of Israel never entered into their promise because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19). They found every excuse as to why the job couldn’t be done, and they blamed their leaders. In fact, they were ready to stone Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:10). Why? Because Joshua and Caleb were of a different spirit; they believed the Word of God, and they believed that God would act on their behalf.

Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed for a child many years before, but as the years progressed, they forgot about their prayers, and their faith. When the angel Gabriel came to them with the good news that God had heard their prayers and that they would have a son, the speech of Zacharias turned corrupt (Luke 1:18). God had to silence him until John was born in order to keep the devil from using his words to abort the plan (Luke 1:20).

Moses provoked the Lord to anger when He told Him that he couldn’t do what God had just told him to do. Instead of being full of faith, he told God to send Aaron (Exodus 4:13-14). Our words are powerful, and they determine our future. What we believe, we will speak; if you want to know what you truly believe, and not what you think you believe, listen to yourself speak; listen to the words that come out of your mouth.

Over a year ago, the Lord blessed our family with a dog, Riley, a Daschund, and I was very “concerned” (worried) that the dog would poop all over the house. I made my “concern” known to my wife and children, and so do you know what happened? He did exactly what I said! And he did it profusely, day after day; no matter what we did in order to train him it simply got worse. I knew that God had brought the dog into our lives, and so I was really disturbed about it. In fact, it was becoming evident that we would have no other choice but to get rid of Riley if things didn’t change, and so I sought the wisdom of God.

The Holy Spirit used my wife and daughter to tell me, “You keep declaring that he’s going to poop and he keeps doing it!” “You need to stop doing this and come into agreement with us!” I realized what I had been doing. I had gotten into fear and my words had become corrupt; I was releasing a curse into the situation that was creating the problem. I quickly repented and took authority over the words that I had been speaking, and within twenty-four hours the whole situation reversed itself. The dog suddenly quit using the house as a bathroom and began going outside, and we have had no problems since. This is kind of a humorous scenario, but many times the results of corrupt communication are not so humorous, for death and life are in the power of the tongue. It’s no wonder that every idle word that we speak will be brought into account in the Day of Judgment (Matthew 12:36).

The Word was first in God’s process of creation (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16-17). The earth was “without form and void” (the original language renders this akin to “a chaotic mess”), and the Holy Spirit hovered over the chaos (Genesis 1:2-3), but He did absolutely nothing unto God said, “Let there be light…” (Genesis 1:2-3) Today, the Holy Spirit hovers over the messes and mountains of our lives, but will do nothing until we say (Mark 11:22-24). The angels of God hearken unto the voice of the Word of God uttered out of our mouths (Psalms 103:20), and they go to work on our behalf when we speak and declare the promises of God with authority, faith and confidence. We can choose to speak God’s words, or we can speak the devil’s words. When the evil report comes, what are you going to say about it? Which camp are you going to give license to act on your behalf? All of heaven and hell is waiting for what we are going to say. “Well, you’re just trying to push God around!” No, we’re simply agreeing with Him, and God likes it when we agree with Him; He likes it a whole lot, and He calls it faith, and without it it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

“Well, when God says something, it happens right away!” Not always. In the days of Noah, men lived to be over nine-hundred years old. But before Noah built the ark, God told him that this would no longer be the case, as man had too much time to multiply and cause trouble. God decreed, “Man’s days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). But Noah still lived to be over nine hundred years old, and it wasn’t until the time of Moses that the fulfillment of God’s decree was realized (Deuteronomy 34:7). The lifespan began a gradual and consistent decline after God spoke, but took many years to reach the boundary that He had declared.

Jesus told Peter the great things that he would have to suffer for His name, and when Peter saw John, he asked, “What’s this guy going to have to do?” Peter no doubt wanted to make sure that Jesus was going to be “fair, all the way across the board!” Jesus told Peter to mind his own business, but Peter, being Peter, jumped to a conclusion, and told all of the other disciples that John was not going to have to die a martyr’s death, though that’s not what Jesus had said (John 21:18-23). The disciples went out and spread the rumor abroad, declaring it with adamant conviction, and amazingly, John ended up being the only disciple to die a natural death.

The power of life and death reside in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), and we can either use it to release faith and bring hope and edification to those around us, or we can use it to tear down and destroy. Words are the revealers of the heart, and by them we will be justified or condemned (Mathew 12:37).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Overcoming Christian

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

I recently went to church at a truck stop chapel service in Eastern Nebraska. The people seemed nice; an older couple, who had been in the ministry for most of their lives, was ministering, and there was about seven of us in the “sanctuary.” It started off relatively well, with a few songs, and then we introduced ourselves. But what happened next was disturbing, to say the least. What was even more disturbing, however, was that the same scenario is repeating itself in many churches all over the world.

The minister began telling us that God has a “purpose” for everything, and that whatever happens in this world, He perpetrates, allows, and ordains for “His glory.” “God is in control of everything!” The preacher emphatically stated, and then continued in this vein even more passionately as the service progressed. Now I normally wouldn’t do this, but the Holy Spirit pressed me until I could take it no longer; I interrupted him and said, “Excuse me, but what you are saying is that our heavenly Father ordains and allows young children to be raped, molested and killed?” “Is this all for the glory of God?”
I then asked him if he understood what a “thief” was, and if he understood what Jesus meant when He stated that the thief comes to steal, and to kill and to destroy, but that He (Jesus) came to give life, and abundant life at that (John 10:10). I asked him if he knew who the thief actually was, if he knew who the “god of this world” was (II Corinthians 4:4), and if he knew who was actually “controlling” most of the activity in the earth.

Religion has rendered Christians ignorant and powerless, leaving them unarmed and defenseless in the face of a ruthless enemy that seeks to destroy our lives on this earth, and our eternal souls (Hosea 4:6, Mark 7:13). Religion has taught that “God has everything under control,” but this is a grievous lie. If it were true, then God is either wholly incompetent, or He is a brutal and sadistic thief, robber and murderer; it cannot be any other way, unless, of course, someone else is actually “in control.”

The truth is, because of the fall of Adam, Satan became the “god of this world” and is currently exercising authority, dominion and control throughout this world system which was given to him by Adam (Luke 4:6). He has a legal right to do so, as all of these things, and the people under his dominion all “belong to him.” Also, since he is an outlaw spirit, he will force his dominion even on those whom he has no legal right; those that have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, if He can get away with it.

He will exercise this dominion unless he is stopped, by force. This force is the faith of the believer, standing on the authority of God’s Word, and using the weapons of the Kingdom (II Corinthians 10:3-4, Ephesians 6:12-18). Ultimately, it is the responsibility of every man to reign in life by Christ Jesus, and to overcome (Romans 5:17, Revelation 3:21); to keep the devil off of his territory, and to establish the will and purpose of God in his own sphere of influence and authority (Matthew 6:10, 16:19, Luke 10:19, 19:13).

Most people in the civilized countries have heard the message of the gospel, and know that Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again. Even if they don’t believe the message, they have still heard it. What most people don’t know, however, is what actually took place at the cross; in other words, what was accomplished. The totality of the knowledge of most believers is “Jesus died for our sins so that we could go to heaven and not hell when we die.” While this is true, it is so much more.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8); He destroyed Satan’s legal claim to our lives in every facet. He gave us His armor, His weapons, and His name. He gave us power of attorney and made us ambassadors of His Kingdom so that we could bind Satan’s activities and establish the purposes of the Kingdom of God in the earth (Matthew 18:18). The purposes of the Kingdom are healing, restoration and wholeness in every area of our lives, and then we are to take this message to the whole world, proclaiming the power of the Kingdom through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-18).

Many people will say of some tragic event, “Well, God has allowed this because He has brought good out of it!” “I never would have learned what I’ve learned if…” Yes, He may have taught you something out of it, but there is a better way to learn (Psalms 119:9, 11, Proverbs 4:1, 4-6). For example, if your child burned his hand on the stove, you would certainly take the opportunity to teach him something out of it too (Stoves are HOT; don’t touch them), but it doesn’t mean you caused it (If you did, you’re going to jail). How could your child have learned the lesson a better way? “Son, stoves are HOT!!” “DON’T TOUCH THEM!” “Ok, Mom, I won’t!” Lesson learned. This is reminiscent of another story long ago… “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree…” (Genesis 2:16-17)

God also speaks to His people on their level of knowledge. Speaking to a two-year old child who asks how an internal combustion engine (Automobile engine) operates, my answer would be, “It works; just trust me!” To a twenty-year old, I would explain fuel combustion, ignition, air mixture, etc. Just because you may not understand something, don’t reject it outright, and simply because you’ve heard God’s voice teaching you something out of your calamity, telling you “Trust me; I have a plan,” don’t resist going to a new level with Him. It could be the very person that walked into your church that day (and challenged your long-held theology), that God sent to give you the understanding that you need in order to fix the thing you’ve been praying about!

In the Old Testament, God mentioned very little about the devil because the people were not born-again, and therefore their ability to understand spiritual things was extremely limited (John 3:3). Because of this, God “took the blame” for many things that He was not ultimately responsible for; He still does this today. However, He expects us to mature in our understanding, and not remain infants (Hebrews 6:1-3).

An example of this principle in the Old Testament can be found in I Samuel 16:14. It is stated that an “evil spirit from the Lord” was sent to torment King Saul (I Samuel 16:14). But this is impossible, as Jesus stated that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that a house divided against a house would fall (Mark 3:22-26). God has no “evil” spirits, for one, and secondly, God sent David to play an instrument so that the evil spirit would flee (I Samuel 16:16, 23). Of course, scripturally speaking, God cannot “cast Himself out,” nor can David “cast out God.” The praises of God will still the enemy and the avenger (Psalms 8:2), not something that comes from God. This was an evil spirit that had gone forth from the presence of the Lord, after it had brought accusation against Saul (Similar to the lying spirit that went forth to deceive Ahab) (II Chronicles 18:18-22). Bible scripture becomes truth when rightly divided by the Spirit, not interpreted through natural reasoning and intellect (II Timothy 2:15, II Peter 1:20-21, 3:16). The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and the devil took up residence, filling the void; this is a spiritual principle (Matthew 12:43-45).

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Who has sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus replied, “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest” (John 9:1-3). What we’ve heard is, “God created this man blind so He could heal Him and get glory!” But this would be no different than you breaking your child’s arm so that you can show him love and compassion by helping to fix it! “But He’s God; He has a right to do whatever He wants!” Alright, so God has a right to beat people up, kill, rape, maim, destroy families, cause calamities, tragedies and disasters, but at the same time inspire righteous governments to pass laws against these things, condemning them. So, in other words, God is a hypocrite (Romans 13:1-4).

No, God is just; He’s not a hypocrite. The people that do these things are criminals, and are arrested and placed in mental hospitals and prisons. Jesus wasn’t saying that neither the man nor his parents had ever sinned (for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God) (Romans 3:23). Instead, He was redirecting their focus, from the curse that came as a result of Adam’s fall, back to Him where it belonged. In essence He was saying, “Listen, the curse is here because Adam sinned and brought it into the earth, but I am here to do the works of God!” What are the works of God? Healing, wholeness, and restoration (Galatians 3:13).

Our growth in the things of God can be compared to a child that grows up and learns how to operate an automobile. As he matures, he gains power, authority, responsibility and freedom; he can do more and accomplish more with a car then he could with a bicycle. However, if he refuses to learn, Mom and Dad will still love him, but he stays on the bicycle! Why? Because he’ll hurt himself or others with the car; likewise, the person that grows in the understanding of spiritual things gains power, authority and responsibility. What is the power of the gospel? (Romans 1:16)What is the victory that overcomes the world? It is our faith! (I John 5:4)

When Jesus’ disciples could not cast the devil out of a boy, they went to Him about the matter; what did Jesus say? “Well, that’s not your fault, my precious child; I allowed that devil to have more power than you so I could teach you something; it’s all for my glory and your good, you know!” NO!!! He rebuked them for their unbelief (Matthew 17:19-21), and then He cast the devil out Himself. Religious people cringe when you tell them that God couldn’t do anything about a situation, or couldn’t prevent something bad from happening in someone’s life, but why should this be a surprise? Jesus could do no mighty work in His own home town, because of their unbelief, and the hardness of their hearts. It doesn’t say that He wouldn’t; it says that He couldn’t (Mark 6:5).

When Israel was defeated in battle at Ai (Joshua 7:1-5), Joshua didn’t say, “Well, maybe it isn’t God’s will that we win every battle!” No, he knew that Israel wasn’t supposed to be smitten before its enemies. He fell on his face before God, and God told him to stop complaining and to get up off the ground, “Israel has sinned!” There was a reason for the curse, and it was something that Israel had done that opened the door for it; once it was fixed, Israel was victorious again (Joshua 7:6-26).

In the days of King David, there was a famine in the land (II Samuel 21:1), but David didn’t accept it as “God’s will.” He knew the land should be blessed according to the promise of God (Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and so he sought the Lord. God told him that the curse was a result of an atrocity committed by his predecessor, King Saul, and He told David what needed to be done to fix it. David did what God said, and the famine abated. God never brought evil on any his people to “teach them something,” Evil and curses always came as a result of sin and disobedience. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle James, admonished us in this matter, “Do not err…” (James 1:16)

Job got into fear; he operated and spoke this fear continually, and then added works to his fear by offering continual “sacrifices” to stave off something that “might” happen (Job 1:5). It opened a door for the devil to bring exactly what he had been believing and declaring (Job 3:25), and God was unable to do anything to stop it (Job 2:3). Throughout the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, God reveals His attitude towards fear and unbelief, and gives a final condemnation of these things in Revelation 21:8. He commands His people to be strong, fear not, and believe! Why? Because faith pleases God and enables Him to show Himself strong on our behalf, and to work in our lives (II Chronicles 16:9). Fear empowers the devil and allows him to steal, kill, and destroy.

Satan sifted Peter because Peter was filled with self-confidence and pride. He had something that belonged to the devil, and there was legal ground for him to challenge Peter’s pompous declaration, “Though all men forsake you, I will never…” (Matthew 26:33, Luke 22:31-34) Jesus didn’t “allow” it; in fact, He prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail! Can you see that? Jesus prayed for Him! This also took place under Old Testament “rules,” as Jesus had not yet gone to the cross. Satan had a greater degree of authority before Jesus went to the cross (Colossians 2:15, I John 3:8). Don’t write these things off simply because your religious denomination doesn’t “believe this way;” have a humble heart before the Lord and search these things out to see if they are so (Acts 17:11). Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of your understanding (Ephesians 1:17-23).

Jesus told us that it is the truth that we know that will make us free, not the truth that we don’t know (John 8:32). Jesus spoke certain things that challenged the “theology” of many of His disciples, and many of them departed and walked no longer with Him (John 6:53-69). But those that truly hungered after the truth continued; let us be of those that press on to maturity, not of them who draw back into religious tradition and spiritual blindness (Hebrews 6:1-3, 10:39).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Binding and Loosing

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18)

Many of us have not been under attack, but rather living under the attack of the devil, and for some it hasn’t been days, weeks or months, but years. In fact, in some instances it has been going on for so long that it is no longer recognized as an attack, but instead it has become a way of life that has been accepted as “normal.” It has become a stronghold. Some people have been trying everything they know to break the cycle of oppression and bondage in their lives only to get more frustrated as time goes on. The good news is that it may not be as difficult as you have thought.

A stronghold is something that has developed over a period of time, through some form of demonic, deceptive influence. They can exist in families and generational lines, cities, regions or nations; principalities and other ruling spirits can effectively stop a move of God and blind the minds of whole territories of people, if we don’t pray properly and exercise our God-given authority. That may not sound “religiously correct,” but it is true nonetheless (II Corinthians 4:4, Daniel 10:12-13). A stronghold is an area where the devil has gained a lasting influence, and he will guard it judiciously. However, Jesus has given us the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and there is a key that will unlock whatever has been locked in our lives (Matthew 16:19). Binding and loosing is one of those keys.

Binding and loosing accomplishes exactly what Jesus said it would do; it binds things that are out of order with the will of God, and looses things that should be in operation. God has entrusted this authority and responsibility to all of His people, not leaving us defenseless in a spiritual battle. The devil is a spirit, and he employs spiritual pressure and influence over our lives; it is therefore important that we understand our spiritual authority through binding and loosing.

While it is true that not every problem in our lives is directly caused by the devil, it is also true that whatever the solution is, he will do his best to keep us in the dark about it through deception. Binding and loosing, many times, will break the deceptive influence in the situation, allowing us to see what is truly going on, and will release the grace of God into the situation (Romans 5:2). This enables us to walk in the freedom that Jesus paid for.

Many Christians have no idea that this type of authority even exists, and since many pastors and leaders don’t understand it themselves, they are unable or unwilling to teach it to their congregations. Others believe that this type of authority is for a select “few” preachers, ministers, “priests” or apostles, so of course that excludes them. Did you know that the devil will always tell you that you are part of the excluded majority that will not receive whatever it is that you desire from God? “Sure, God heals, but it’s not His will to heal YOU!” “Speaking in tongues are not for everyone!” (And of course you are the one that it’s “not for!”) But Jesus has freely given us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

Some are afraid of spiritual things because they have encountered spiritual “flakes,” and have associated anything spiritual with people like that. It seems that many of our Spirit-filled churches are spawning grounds for such weirdos, but God doesn’t want us to be weird. He wants us to be firmly planted and rooted in the Word of God, which is the most practical and solid thing that exists in our universe (or any other for that matter). Binding and loosing is accomplished through faith, by issuing decrees (Job 22:28, Mark 11:23). There are times when we initiate this through simple faith in God’s written promises (His Word), and there are other times when we are moved by the Holy Spirit through the gift of faith, a supernatural impartation of the Spirit, and given the ability to believe what we would not normally be able to believe.

God has an established order for every system that He has created, whether it is a family, church, region or nation, and that order has been predetermined and set before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). It is our responsibility to hear from God and receive a “blueprint” of His plan, and begin to “call those things that be not as though they were” (Mark 11:24, Romans 4:17). In other words, what we see through the eyes of faith, we declare it as so until it is. This is what God did throughout all the Old Testament; through the mouth of all His prophets, He kept calling those things that were not as though they were (Speaking of the promised Messiah) (Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21). We declare by the words of our mouths, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9-10) We pray after this manner. We build the spiritual foundation this way (John 8:56, Matthew 16:28, Job 22:28, Romans 4:17), and we wield a weapon at the same time that we build, in order to keep the devil off the project (Genesis 15:11, Nehemiah 4:17).

I was at a truck stop last year near Seattle, Washington, and the parking lot was so full that I had to “create” a parking spot, blocking several trucks from getting out. I had arrived about five o’clock in the evening, and figured that if someone needed to leave sometime during the night, they would wake me up and I would move (a practice done periodically when truck stops are full). However, several hours later, a rather loud, demanding, and aggressive man got out of one of the trucks and knocked on my door. He told me that he was leaving at six o’clock in the morning, and that I needed to move my truck so he could get out. I informed him that since I was leaving at four o’clock, there would be no problem, and I would be out of his way before he had to leave. However, he adamantly insisted that I move immediately, but I calmly refused, and explained again to him that I would be gone first, and if for any reason he had to leave earlier, he could wake me up in the morning and I would move. The man became more agitated and stormed away from my truck.

This was only the beginning however, as he began to knock on the doors of other trucks, and one by one, the other drivers would get out of their trucks and comply with his demands. He was ordering them to move their trucks all over the lot (He was trying to rearrange the whole parking lot, I think), and it became mass confusion. I was amazed that so many were listening to him, however not all, and you could feel the atmosphere getting very tense among the drivers involved. It became apparent after about forty five minutes that a fight was becoming inevitable, and the situation was about to turn very ugly. Then suddenly, faith rose up in my heart, and I spoke to the spirit; “I bind you Satan!” “I bind the spirit of strife and contention in Jesus’ name!” Within five minutes, the atmosphere changed, and fifteen minutes later, everyone was back in their trucks. It was quiet and peaceful for the rest of the night, and what could have been a bad situation, was resolved in a moment of time (With no police, and no one going to jail).

These types of things touch every area of our lives; Satan uses deception in order to establish strongholds, and therefore when we bind his activities, not only are the evil spirits bound, but truth is released into the hearts of people to counter the deception that has been planted. God will open the eyes of our understanding in order for us to know what to do if there is further action required on our part. This is also true as we speak to mountains in our lives (Mark 11:22-24). As a result of our faith, the disorder in our lives will be revealed to us, and the grace of God will be released into the situation. Our faith will always go to the root of the issue (Mark 11:20).

Although these things are simple in concept, their application is not always easy, because many times it demands change on our part. With wisdom comes responsibility and accountability, and some things are so “rooted,” that the foundation must be completely destroyed and re-laid. This takes humility, effort, focus, diligence and patience on our part, and most importantly, faith. The mind must be renewed in order to think and believe the way that God thinks (Mark 4:14-20).

Binding and Loosing is one of the many weapons that we have at our disposal. Whatever it is that the God has told us to do, we can be sure that the devil will come down upon it and attempt to thwart the work, but God has given us all the tools that we need to be overcomers and more than conquerors in everything that we do for the Kingdom of God.