Friday, September 6, 2013

The Real Godfather

"For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." (Deuteronomy 14:2)
If you are a believer in Jesus, then God has chosen you out of all people of the earth to be set apart for Himself, special and highly favored. A royal priesthood, a peculiar people (II Peter 2:9). 

The children of Israel were far from perfect, yet in God's eyes they were the very object of His affection. He would destroy anyone who would threaten or harm them, even if they were "in the wrong," and bless those who would give them even so much as a cup of cold water (Genesis 12:3, Matthew 10:42).

God's system of fairness operates differently than ours. We judge based on circumstances and a natural perspective on equity and justice. However, God's judgment is based on covenant. I recently watched a documentary about a notorious Mafia family. The father was a feared and ruthless enforcer for one of the five Italian crime families, and his daughter was picked up every morning by a driver who took her to school (the driver was not associated with the mob at all, and knew nothing about the family). It was discovered that the driver had attempted to coerce the young, middle-school aged girl into performing a sexual act with him, and the next morning, several men met him by the car, pulled him out, took him to a secluded place and shot him dead. End of story. No trial, no opportunity for explanation. Why? Because he had touched something precious that belonged to them. The apple of their eye (Zechariah 2:8). 

Now, I understand that these were wicked men, and that their actions outside of the law are inexcusable, however, they take care of their own. In a similar manner, our Heavenly Father is jealous over those who belong to Him. Of course God's justice is according to truth against those who would trouble us, but nevertheless, His judgments are fearful, holy, righteous, and true. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Matthew 18:6-7, Hebrews 10:31).

"Well that's not love, brother... How can you compare God with the Mafia?" 

But it is love, a very special, jealous kind of love. God is jealous over His people, but we must seek the protection of our Father in order to partake of it rather than attempting to avenge ourselves. King Saul relentlessly sought after David's life, but David deferred judgment to the Lord, even when he had opportunity to take matters into his own hands (I Samuel 24:3-7, 26:7-11). 

David understood covenant relationship, and He knew that God would honor His promises. He knew that he was better off committing his cause to the Lord rather than attempting to take care of matters himself (I Peter 2:23). God commands us to forgive, "turn the other cheek," love our enemies, and do good to those who persecute us, and for this reason it is commonly assumed that we are required to be "doormats," and to be trampled upon at the whim of every wicked man and device. But nothing could be further from the truth. When we forgive, and return blessing for evil, we defer our cause to our Heavenly Father. We give place unto wrath, if wrath is justified (Romans 12:19-20). 

Of course, this requires faith on our part, trust, and suffering in the flesh (denying the fleshly impulse to handle situations ourselves), and holding grudges. We are to trust our Heavenly Father unequivocally, seeking His glory in all things. Much of the time mercy prevails, and God brings victory in unusual, wonderful, and glorious ways. However, our victory is always assured when we walk in God's ways and obey His commands.

We must understand that God is a God of love, but He is also a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). He is the defender of Israel, and protector of all who put their trust in Him (Isaiah 54:17). 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Change Can Be Good

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Many of us are used to God operating in our lives in a specific way, and when we don’t feel Him moving in a way that we’re used to, we can become anxious, confused, or even defiant. Of course, there can be different reasons why we may not be experiencing God’s presence, but one of the reasons is that God is constantly moving. He never remains stagnant, and though God Himself never changes, times, seasons, and administrations of the Spirit do (I Corinthians 12:5).

Many years ago, Martin Luther (a Roman Catholic at the time) got the revelation that the “just shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38) at a time when the church was deeply involved in religious tradition and control. Though this was by no means a new revelation, it had been lost to the church and obscured through the traditions of men. God used Martin Luther to help bring the church back to this foundational truth. It was a “movement” that had a season, and once a foundation had been laid, the “movement” ended and the church was expected to build upon this foundation and move forward (Hebrews 6:1-2). Many indeed did move forward, and the Protestant Reformation was birthed. However, others camped there, and relished in the glory of “bygone days,” and instead of moving forward and building upon the foundation of what God had revealed, they established the Lutheran Church as an icon, a relic, and a divisive symbol instead of continuing on a path that was intended to bring freedom and unity. They did the very same thing that they had accused the Catholics of doing, and it brought many back into bondage (I Corinthians 1:11-13). The devil has used this tactic for thousands of years. In fact, this is precisely why God hid the body of Moses after he died, and why Satan so diligently contended for it (Jude 1:9).

When Moses died, God intended the people to move forward (Joshua 1:2). Joshua was to lead the people across Jordan and into their promise, but they couldn’t adequately follow him while holding onto Moses. Moses needed to remain dead, and not be resurrected by the people. This is how our lives work, we must know when something is dead, and be able to recognize the next phase of what God wants us to step into. We must be willing to adapt to change. A religious spirit will always resist change.

When Jesus appeared on the scene, He did and said nothing that was unscriptural according to the Old Testament or the Law of Moses. But because the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t have an understanding of what God was doing, they missed the time of their visitation. God had been speaking to them for centuries through prophets and kings, but they couldn’t hear because it was not what they were accustomed to.

The people of God understand the wisdom of God, because they are attuned to the Spirit of God. When Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den, the lions became peaceful, but when Samson ran across a lion, he tore it to pieces (Judges 14:6, Daniel 6:22). Daniel could have said, “I know how this is supposed to be done!” “I remember Samson!” “I must tear the lions to pieces!” But if Daniel had attempted to do this, the book of Daniel would most likely have been cut short. Daniel knew his God, and he was able to discern the correct administration of the Spirit for the season that he was in. For example, today many Christians are persecuting the “prosperity message” of the gospel, not realizing that they are opposing a genuine move of God, a move of God that is as blatant in scripture concerning the end-time church as were the prophetic announcements regarding the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus (Isaiah 60:1-5, Haggai 2:7-9). Sure, there have been abuses, but there are abuses with every move of God. Religious tradition and pride blinds people from seeing God’s call for the hour.

Different seasons bring different mandates, and just because God moved in a certain way once, does not mean that He will do it that way again. Jesus addressed this with the Pharisees who were puffed up and gloating in the fact that if they were alive in the days of their fathers, they would not have killed the prophets, which of course was a bunch of… “Hogwash!” They were full of pride, and could not discern what God was doing presently in their midst (Matthew 23-29-33). Many believers relish in the days of Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, John Calvin, and others, but they persecute the apostles and prophets that God sends them today (if they even believe that there are modern day apostles and prophets). Of course no one is perfect, and all of these early reformers had their problems, and some of them were serious. But religion loves dead preachers and hates and persecutes those who are alive. Why? Because dead preachers are of little threat, as they bring no present day anointing or revelation.

God’s working in our lives as individuals also changes. There may have been times in our lives when we did nothing but pray, but then things change. If we are not careful, we will think that we have missed God, and that He is not talking to us, when in fact, He is. If we attempt to pray in a season when we should be working, we will grow weary, frustrated and discouraged. There will be no grace on our lives to do what we are attempting to do, because we’re not supposed to be doing it! A wise man discerns both time and judgment (Ecclesiastes 8:5). He knows the season, and he knows what he is supposed to be doing in that season. “Well, I long for the good ‘ole days!” No, forget about the good ‘ole days! The Apostle Paul declared by the Holy Spirit, “Forget the things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before you…” God has something else for you to do. The devil will try to hold us in the past, whether by reminiscing about pleasant memories, or rehearsing past failures, offences and hurts. Jesus told us that after putting our hand to the plow, looking back, we become unfit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Religion always looks back, but God always moves forward.

Understanding time and judgment will cause longevity in our walk with the Lord, for Jesus said “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).There is a rest that God wants us to enter into; a place of rest where we cease from our own works, and take His strength upon us. It is a place of peace, a place of power, and a place of lasting victory. This place of rest can only be found as we adjust and align ourselves to the way that God is directing us in the proper time.

As a child matures, the way that a parent relates to that child changes; there may have been a time
when you felt the presence of the Lord all the time, but now God wants you to step into a new level of maturity and live by faith. God hasn’t left you, but He has declared to every believer, “The just shall live by faith…” The Holy Spirit admonished us to labor to enter into His rest (Hebrews 4:9-10). This seems like a paradox in terms, but it is not. We must labor to keep our mind renewed, and labor to resist the temptation to organize and orchestrate our own lives, independent of God. Much of the time (though we don’t say it consciously) we say, “Well, you just sit right back there Jesus!” “I’m your man!” “I’ve got this thing covered!” “You’re going to be so proud of me!” And then we fall flat on our face. God wants to live His victorious life through us; He doesn’t want us expending fleshly energy attempting to “please” Him (I Corinthians 1:29).

God wants to be involved in every facet of our lives, and He desires that we have perfect peace and victory one hundred percent of the time (Isaiah 26:3, II Corinthians 2:14). He desires to orchestrate our lives in perfect precision through the working of His grace in our lives. He wants us to abide there and to never come out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"God Gave Me a Promise!"

“Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…” (Hebrews 11:33)

When we receive a promise from God, we get excited about it… “I received a promise from God! God’s going to…” We hear this so often, and then several years later, the person is frustrated (and sometimes even backslidden), believing that God’s Word and their faith doesn’t work. But did God fail to perform what He had promised?

First of all, I’m not implying that just because a promise doesn’t come to pass in the time and manner that we think it should, that there has been a failure on our part or on Gods. Sometimes things can take many years. No, I’m talking about that thing which you know is gone; the opportunity that was missed, or you’ve found yourself wondering, “How did I get here?”

One of the craftiest deceptions of the devil normally occurs right after we receive a promise from God, either given to us by the Holy Spirit for our lives, or a promise in His written Word. Satan will whisper in our ear, “That’s right, God gave you a promise! He’s going to bring it to pass; someday it’s going to happen!” This sounds “religiously correct,” and the devil will deceive us into thinking that God’s going to just “do it,” and that there’s no need to fight (I Timothy 6:12-14, Jude 1:3), stand unwaveringly on God’s Word, resist the devil, walk in obedience, and diligently apply the principles of faith on a consistent basis.

Many have found themselves asking, “What happened? “Things were going so well and then all of a sudden…” It’s because you failed to fight, and contend earnestly for whatever it was that God had promised you! Jesus told us that the things of the Kingdom are obtained by those possessing a “violent” and aggressive posture of faith, laying hold of God’s Word and promises, declaring and confessing them, and refusing to let go, doubt or waiver (Matthew 11:12, James 1:6-8).

Well God understands how tough it’s been on me, and…”

God does indeed understand, and that’s why He’s warned us of the dangers of allowing the cares and burdens of this world to shipwreck our faith (Mark 4:14-20, I Timothy 1:19, Luke 21:34). Most people have the idea that God can just “do whatever He wants too,” and that He’ll make it all work out alright in the end, simply because He “loves us.” But that is a lie. God does love you, but there are laws by which the Kingdom of God operates, just as there are natural laws, and these laws are unchangeable (Psalms 119:89, Hebrews 6:18).

Many people think that if something happens in their lives, then it must have been “God’s will,” or that God “allowed it.” But nothing could be farther from the truth. If God could simply just “fix” anything that He wanted to, then He wouldn’t have had to send Jesus to the cross. He would have simply made an “executive order” and fixed the sin problem. Jesus wouldn’t have cried out in the Garden of Gethsemane, “If it is possible, let this cup pass...,” (Matthew 26:39) because there would have been an easier way. But there was no other way.

A price had to be paid for our redemption, and it had to be done lawfully (II Timothy 2:5). In the same manner, if God had to align Himself with the integrity of His own Word in sending Jesus, then we must also align ourselves with God’s Word and His commands. We must strive lawfully according to the principles of the Kingdom in order to obtain a promise and walk in victory over the works of the enemy. Where there is ignorance, the devil will take full advantage to steal, kill and destroy (Hosea 4:6, John 10:10).

When I was a young boy, I liked to play Monopoly, but I wouldn’t play unless I could be the banker. If I began to lose, I would change the rules of the game (and of course the “new rules” would always benefit me). My opponent was ignorant of my tactics, and I would always win. We have a word for this, of course, we call this “cheating!” But God doesn’t cheat. His laws are right, and they are just, and they never change (Hebrews 6:18).

The devil is the one who changes the rules in order to benefit him (Daniel 7:25). Actually, he doesn’t really “change” the rules, but rather deceives people into violating God’s already established laws, perverting them and causing them to work against us rather than for us, as God intended. The first example of this was in the Garden of Eden where Satan provoked Eve to violate God’s commandment, bringing sin and death into the human race (Genesis 3:4-5).

Living and operating according to the course of this world, and the curse associated with it is easy. All we have to do is whatever “feels good” at the moment, take the path of “least resistance,” and float effortlessly downstream. However, the end of this path of “ease” is destruction, misery and death.

When God gives a promise, the opposite is true. We must lay down the ways of this world, discipline our flesh, renew our minds to think as God thinks, walk in His ways, and take up the armor and weapons of God. It becomes a battle, and we must fight the good fight of faith (I Timothy 6:12). The moment that you receive your promise, you become a target for the devil and his demonic forces. He will attempt every tactic to see to it that your promise never comes to pass. The sad reality is that most of the time, he is successful (but he doesn’t have to be).

The working of our faith is like steering a ship. The Apostle Paul, who had much experience on the sea and had endured shipwreck on more than one occasion, used this illustration to describe the end result of a person who refuses to stand and fight, gets distracted, or grows weary and gives up (I Timothy 1:19). Failure to fight and contend for our promise can result in shipwreck.

If we understand anything about shipwrecks, we should understand that there are different kinds of shipwrecks. In other words, shipwrecks of varying degrees. Not all shipwrecks are fatal to the ship, and a ship can run aground and still be salvaged. Sometimes they may need a little work (Luke 13:8), but after this, they are seaworthy again. Shipwrecks can occur when our faith is either neglected or misapplied.

There are different things that can cause faith to be neglected. For example, unbelief or distractions of various kinds; offense, lusts of other things, or an incorrect focus on money (rather than God as our source of all good things).

Faith can be misapplied by having a wrong “focal point.” In other words, we are fixated on the “anthill” that has become a problem in our backyard, rather than speaking to mountains. We must apply our faith to what God has said, not to what seems comfortable. God knows what we are capable of, and has a plan to bring us to victory if we will obey Him. We may think that we cannot do what God has asked of us to do, but that’s not true. We usually think this way because we are relying on our own strength and resources, rather than God’s. Sometimes we allow other people to put us in a box. We listen to what they say about us and about our future rather than what God has said, or we seek their approval rather than God’s approval (Joshua 14:8). This can be disastrous, and shipwreck our lives for good if we don’t recognize it and repent.

God desires that we receive every good thing that He has for us and that every purpose and promise that He has ordered for our lives is realized and fulfilled (Jeremiah 29:11). But we must fight, and we must do it by faith. The things of the Kingdom of God are not possessed by the faint-hearted, or by cowards (Revelation 21:8). It takes a strong man or woman to fight and win the battles of this age, and to overcome, but our strength is of the Lord (Ephesians 6:10).