Monday, October 22, 2018

The Sovereignty of God Pt 1

The word sovereign has been used throughout history to refer to a king or queen’s right to rule a country. There is no one higher than they so they have unquestionable authority and power to back up that right to rule. Their words and actions are law. Their will is absolute with consequences for those who resist.

In the same way, we recognize God as our Sovereign Who reigns with absolute authority and power.
Now, declaring Him Sovereign is easy. Explaining how He uses that sovereignty is the difficult part. Since we don’t see His hand at work, we often don’t know He is at work. Though we’re watching Him at work we usually don’t know it. That’s why we’re told to live by faith and not sight. 

Sovereignty grants Him any and all means available to carry out His plans. Faith does not demand evidence to believe that. Someone once wrote: When you cannot see God’s hand, trust His heart.

One day a farmer's only horse wandered away and was lost. The neighbors came to console him and they, “We are so sorry you lost your horse. It is so bad.” But the man said, “Good, bad who can tell?” The next day the horse came back home with 13 wild horses that followed him right into the corral. The neighbors came to congratulate the man for having his horse back and 13 new wild horses. They said, “That’s so good!” The man replied, “Good, bad who can tell?” The next day when his son was trying to break one of the wild horses he was bucked off and broke his leg. His neighbors came and said, “We’re so sorry. It is so bad.” The man said, “Good, bad who can tell?” The next day a recruiter came to take all the able-bodied young men for war but the man’s son could not go because of his leg. “Good, bad who can tell?”

When we look at circumstances, we often fail to see God’s sovereignty at work. We will call something good He calls bad or say something is bad He calls good. Faith says, let’s wait and see how God resolves this.

But for such a powerful and necessary doctrine of God’s sovereignty, the English word sovereign isn’t used in the OT and is found only once in the NT. 1Tim 6:15 God, who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords 

The word sovereignty is used seven times but only once in reference to God. Ps 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all. 

Fortunately, these two verses are enough to understand what it means for God to the only sovereign – There is no other God above Him. He is the highest authority who rules over all.

Now instead of sovereign, you will find the word translated kingdom or reign. In the NT the word Kingdom is used over 190 times.

The assumption is the Lord of a Kingdom has sovereign right to rule that kingdom. Now, he may be an iron-fisted dictator or one more benevolent who grants greater freedom, but it is his right to rule as he chooses.

In Scripture you will find God operating as both. When circumstances require it, God will take over and take charge – He will rain down fire on Sodom and Gomorah – while at other times He’ll work within the freedoms He has given man – He will let the rich young ruler simply walk away. 

Sovereignty allows Him either response. A God who accomplishes all that concerns us must be able to manipulate circumstances when necessary to complete His plans. But at the same time, a God who grants free will does not have to control every aspect of life to fulfill His purposes.

We know from Scripture nothing is too difficult for Him and nothing is impossible. That’s sovereignty. That’s the kind of God I want to belong to. I don’t want a God in whom only some things are possible. 

Job said: Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 

This is the definitive definition of sovereignty. Only a God who is without restriction can accomplish His intentions. But does that mean nothing happens that He doesn’t want to happen? Which can be turned around to say: does He cause everything that happens?

Some have pressed this so far as to say, as did one Rabbi: “No man bruises his finger here on earth unless it was so decreed against him from on high” 

One man, who believed so strongly that God micromanages every aspect of his life, tripped and fell down the stairs. He got up, brushed himself off and said, “Well, Lord, I’m glad we got that over with.”

You don’t find such micromanagement of incidental affairs of life in Scripture and yet God remains sovereign. What you find is a balance between what God directs and what God permits. I will never take the position that God plans everything that happens. I will say that in whatever does happen God has a plan.

I admit, I don’t understand all the implications and ramifications of sovereignty. I see free will and I also see a God who can accomplish what concerns us. So, maybe another word will give us better perspective. Providence.

From the dictionary: Providence is the protective care of God as a spiritual power, making timely preparation for future eventualities.

The word itself means: to foresee and attend to. It is an ability to sustain and guide the human journey by looking long-range and affecting circumstances to coincide with future plans.
The word used in the NT is predestination. It means God determining things in advance.
Providence establishes the fact that God created heaven and earth with a plan in mind. He can, therefore, govern all that occurs within His creation to fulfill that plan, by shaping circumstances and events.

Even George Washington saw God’s providence shaping the establishment of America: “The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine providence was so frequently manifested in our behalf.”

What about in Scripture? There are only two times the Greek word for providence is used in the NT. Neither mentions the Lord specifically. In Act 24:1-2 After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor [Felix], "Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation 

Felix was being appreciated for his foresight and action as providential care for the Jews.

The second time, the word is translated provision. In Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. 

Here the focus is to not provide our flesh the opportunity to sin. The word can cover both examples because by making provisions or not making provisions, circumstances can be influenced and an outcome expected.

As with sovereignty, providence is an aspect of the work of God we accept by faith. It means God’s involvement has long-range implications. Most of the time we aren’t aware of what the hand of God has providentially provided until it’s over and we look back. That’s why we should expect it, look for it and thank God whenever we see what He has done.

In 1945, a young man committed to ministry had just married his fiancée, Billie. Cliff and Billie had very little money but scraped up enough to take a honeymoon. When they arrived at the hotel, they were told it was now a rehabilitation center and not available to overnight guests. They hitchhiked to a grocery store several miles down the road. The owner felt sorry for them and let them stay in a room over the store. When he discovered they were Christians he sent them to a friend with a nicer place to spend the rest of their honeymoon. A youth rally was going on at a nearby conference center and their host invited them to go with him. When they got there they found the regular song leader called in sick, so Cliff was asked if he might take charge of the music service. He stepped in and led the music before a young evangelist named Billy stepped up to preach. Cliff Barrows met Billy Graham that night and formed a ministry team that preached the gospel throughout the world for over fifty years.

God had a plan and purpose for Cliff Barrows and Billy Graham. It didn’t just dawn on Him that night this might be a good idea. But He had planned that night long ago as how He would get them together. Only a sovereign God can work out such details.

It’s not hard to see providence throughout Scripture. We’re reading after the fact how God worked a plan and involved whoever He chose to be a part of that plan. Even using those who rejected Him as God. A sovereign God can do that.

What we’ll learn over the next few weeks is: No one can thwart God’s purposes. His plans will show up in places we’d never expect, through circumstances that seem totally contrary to a good God. Even when He allows evil to overtake his people, He is still able to keep them on the path He has planned.

How? He knows where everything is headed. He is fully aware. He knows when to connect dots and move things in the direction they need to go to coincide with other plans He has made. He is fully aware of now and later and how to bring the two together

How aware is He? Matt 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. 

God is not thumping each sparrow to make it fall. But when it falls He is fully aware. When it comes to our heads, He doesn’t pluck out each hair, but even as insignificant as when a hair falls out, He is fully aware. A God with that level of awareness is the kind of God who works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Nothing happens in your life without God knowing.

He must be able to control circumstances, move players and regulate timing, because those are the kinds of things a sovereign God does. Next time, we’ll see that in action.

  1. Sovereignty is God’s knowledge, wisdom, power and purpose coming together because He has the authority to accomplish His plans.
  2. Providence is His ability to work those plans into completion.
  3. Both sovereignty and providence are best seen after the fact, however, must be anticipated by faith.
  4. Sovereignty gives Him the right to do whatever He needs to do providentially to complete His purpose.
  5. Remember Job: I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Gospel

In 1830, George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, who concluded that Mr. Wilson would have to be executed. "A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged."

A pardon is the action of forgiving and being forgiven for an error or offense. It requires two parties: the pardoning agency and the convicted person. Pardon may be offered but unless the convicted receives the pardon, he remains convicted and subject to the sentence hanging over him.

The right to pardon is essential for the process of justice being served. If something changes within the evidence against the convicted person or new information is added, there may be reason to change the sentence.

When God created mankind, He did so in a context of divine justice. Which means God set up the expectations for how people could live in relationship with Him. He is a holy God and only holy people can come to Him. That presents a problem.

In Rom 3:10-12, Paul quotes Psalm 14: "there is none righteous, not even one;  there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside and have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." 

If, from God’s perspective, no one qualifies, how do we become this holy person that gets to live in relationship with Him?

Imagine God setting up a target as you would for an archer. The target is called pardon. If you hit the target you will be pardoned of all the unholiness that separates you from God. You, then, would be declared right with God and would be welcomed into the family of God. Miss the target and you remain guilty of unholiness and remain wrong before God – the penalty being separation from God in this life and forever.

But here’s the problem: as many times as you pull back the bow and let the arrow fly, the arrows keep falling short. You can’t hit the target though your life depends on it.

But what if someone else comes, takes the bow and shoots your arrow directly into the bullseye? And it counts! That would mean the conditions God had set were met. And because the target was hit in your behalf, you can be pardoned. God will declare you holy and you will receive the privilege of life with Him now and forever.

Well, guess what? Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He hit the target. The charges against us can now be dropped, canceled, taken out of the way, pardoned. It can be as though we’d never been unholy. God is now able to accept us as His children.

Paul had told us: Rom 6:23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Wages – what you expect from what you did. I worked 40 hours. I expect pay for 40 hours work. If the wages or expectations of sin is death, that means, because of sin – my life and actions of unholiness against God – I should expect to live a life separated from God now and forever. But I’m not a bad person. Bad isn’t the measuring stick.

Death is the sentence established by God as our Judge because we are guilty of sinning against Him. As a result, we are condemned, and we will die without Him unless we get pardoned.

The second part of that verse says: But the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. What’s the free gift? Grace – God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Remember: we couldn’t hit the target. Jesus hit it for us. And what Jesus did made the pardon available. It’s that pardon that sets us free from the condemnation of our guilt. Because of what Jesus did, the sentence over us can be changed.

Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 

Why did He die? Because death was the only payment for sin. In the Sacrificial system of Israel, Heb 9:22 Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness

Pardon means to forgive. Forgiveness wasn’t possible without blood. That was the requirement God set. That’s why Jesus died, so God could forgive us and offer us His pardon.

Now, remember, a pardon offered isn’t a pardon received. God’s pardon is an opportunity to be forgiven, to be granted life now and forever, but it must be accepted.

John 1:11-12 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 

There seems to be a response with two actions. The first part is to believe and the second part is to receive. As a kid who grew up in church, I never didn’t believe. But I didn’t receive until I started college.

What are we to believe? That Jesus, being the Son of God on earth as a man, died on the cross to pay what it cost for God to forgive our sin and pardon us from the sentence attached to it.
That’s the message of the Gospel. The word gospel means the good news.

Pilot came on the speaker and said: Folks I have good news and bad news. The bad news is we are totally lost. I have no idea where we are. The good news is we’re making excellent time.

So, the bad news is, without pardoning, we are separated from God now and forever. The good news is because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our pardon is available.

1Cor 15:1-4 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, [delivered, pardoned] since you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. [power to do what He promised.]

Jesus paid the price we couldn’t pay for the debt we owed because of our sin. And He has already shot the final arrow into our target that meets God’s requirements. Which brings us to the second part of the two-part response. To receive it.

So mechanically, how do I receive something so intangible? Here’s that familiar Bible word: FAITH. Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 

Faith is my confidence that God is telling me the truth, that the only way to His salvation is through Jesus. When I am convinced that’s true, I will, then, do what else He says, expecting the results He promises. But my church teaches something different than this. Here’s a good rule: Let’s go with what God says. He’ll be the final judge.

Rom 10:8-13 But what does it say? That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved [delivered, pardoned]; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 

Saved is the collective word that means we have accepted our pardon, have been forgiven of our sin that separated us from God and have been brought into a personal relationship with Him that lasts for all eternity.

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace [God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves] you have been saved through faith [our ability to believe what God says is true and act upon it]; and that not of yourselves [we couldn’t hit the target], it is the gift of God [Jesus did it for us]; not as a result of works [nothing we did made us worthy of the gift], so that no one may boast [our confidence in our salvation rests in God alone]

Jer 33:3 Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.' Jer 33:8 I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me.

It’s been His plan all along. It’s still His plan for each of us.

So as a reminder: We believe in who Jesus is and what He did. By faith we call out to God in prayer for Him to apply what Jesus did to cancel out our guilt. Then we receive the gift of his pardon. Having believed and received, we become Children of God.

Lord Kenneth Clark, internationally known for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. He admitted in his autobiography that while visiting a beautiful church he had what he believed to be an overwhelming religious experience. "My whole being," Clark wrote, "was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before." But that created a problem. If he allowed himself to be influenced by it, he knew he would have to change, his family might think he had lost his mind, and maybe that intense joy would prove to be an illusion. So, he concluded, "I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course."

As Maxwell Smart would say: He missed it by that much. I don’t want you to miss it.

  1. Though Jesus died for everyone, and has made salvation available for anyone, it remains a gift that must be received.
  2. It is time to receive it when we sense God is offering that gift to us.
  3. There is no formula of words to say, only the desire of our hearts to belong to God.
  4. In response to that desire we might thank God for what Jesus did for us, accept His death as payment for what it cost Him to forgive us, receive the pardon He offers in exchange for our guilt and thank Him for making us one of His children.
  5. We can then change the word: Jesus is the Savior to Jesus is my Savior.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Spiritual Conflict Pt 3 - The Assault

The dictionary defines accident as an unforeseen event or an incident without deliberate cause. We call these natural occurrences. Things that happen just because things like this happen.

·       We come in contact with a virus and it wreaks havoc on our body and life.
·       A car pulls out in front of us and with no time to react and we crash.
·       We catch our foot under the rug and take a tumble.
·       We have to have our knee replaced because the old one wore out.

Natural occurrences. Circumstances that come together and leave us with an unwanted but often predictable outcome.

But when it comes to Spiritual Conflict, we know there are no accidents. Satan is deliberate and intentional.

It’s like the cowboy who went to buy life insurance. The agent asked him if he had had any accidents in the past year. The cowboy said “No. But I was kicked by a horse, chased through a fence by a raging bull and bitten by a snake that laid me up for a while.” The agent said, “Those weren’t accidents?” The cowboy answered, “Naw, they all did it on purpose.” 

His mission is to: steal, kill and destroy. When he is involved, simple life issues become complex challenges to our faith. Suddenly we’re doubting whether God is enough when Satan works through those natural occurrences or simply dives in to assault us.

1Pet 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 

Adversary – an opponent whose aim is to defeat us. Peter says this adversary is prowling around with the intent to devour. And as with a real lion, the step right before devouring is attacking.
Now what we know about Satan is, he was an archangel in the beginning. In Isaiah, he called himself the Shining One. KJV translated the word: Lucifer. But that wasn’t his name. It was Shining One. That’s what he called himself. He also said he was the Morning Star. In reality we know the Morning Star was Venus but the people had no concept of planets. It’s that first and last light that rules throughout the darkness and stays into the early morning. But in the Revelation, Jesus is called the Morning Star, the bright and shining One. So here is Satan, dressing himself up as an angel of light to deceive while stealing Jesus’ name.

Now in context, Isaiah is writing against the nation of Babylon and, in particular, their king. He describes him as arrogant and rebellious against God. But because of something Jesus said, there also seems to be a tie-in to Satan. Jesus said: Luke 10:18 "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning

Here’s what Isaiah wrote: Isa 14:12-15 How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. 

For ages the church has believed these two stories go together. What Jesus saw was what Isaiah described. And what Isaiah described was the moment Satan the archangel became the Devil, our adversary, the deceiver and devourer.

From the attitude Isaiah captured, Satan wanted to overrule the plans and purposes of God. To throw a wrench into God’s intentions. To interfere with the minds and hearts of His People to get them to reject God as Almighty and make himself god instead.

This worked with Israel primarily through Idolatry. Getting the people to replace God with some object of greater interest made God no more important than a chunk of wood.

But from the New Covenant on to today, his strategy has been to get people not to respond in faith toward God. To encourage them to live by their own strength. His primary lie: God is not enough, you need something more.

Look at how he did this to David: 1Chron 21:1-3 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, "Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, and bring me word that I may know their number." Joab said, "May the LORD add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?" 

What was wrong with knowing how many people you have? It was a subtle temptation to make David think he was great or capable because of what he had accomplished. When a king, or pastor, or anyone for that matter wants to impress himself or others, he throws out the numbers. I have this much money, I have these possessions, I manage this many people.

What was the temptation? To think what he had made him who he was. It was a subtle assault to discount what God had accomplished in his life. A temptation is an opportunity for us to act against the character of who we are as children of God.

Not possession but obsession. It’s turning a subtle suggestion into a taunt. What’s the matter, you chicken? You can do what you want. He is breaking down our resistance.

Can a Christian be possessed? No. He can be obsessed, influenced, tempted, suggested to, driven but not possessed. All the attacks from Satan come from the outside in.

When Jimmy Swaggart defied the orders of the Assemblies of God to refrain from preaching for one year, he suddenly announced that he was free of moral defect, because Oral Roberts had cast out the demons from his body over the phone. Oral Roberts confirmed Swaggart's report, insisting he had demons and their claws were deeply embedded in Swaggart's flesh. Now that the demons were gone, both Jimmy and Oral declared, he could get back to preaching. 

No, unfortunately, Mr. Swaggart can’t blame Satan. He can only blame himself for giving into Satan’s bullying. We never get free from moral defect. It’s in our flesh. There is always something we can be accused of. Which is another tactic of assault.

Zech 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 

Satan accuses us to us. He points out things that agree with a dismal image of failures and weakness we haven’t reconciled under God’s grace. His goal is to condemn us so that we think we are beyond God’s love.

But he also accuses us before God: Rev 12:10-11 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony,

Why would he accuse us before God? To try and undermine God’s good intentions for His children. Can he succeed? Absolutely not. Those accusations fall flat. We stand before God as overcomers because we have been justified before God. We could probably agree with much of what Satan says. But our right to stand there is because of the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony that we have been cleansed of all unrighteousness through Him. There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

Rom 8:33-38 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Each pounding attack is trying to drive a wedge between us and our God.

1Pet 5:9-10 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 

Here’s the promise: whenever Satan attacks, we have the right and authority to resist him, to stand firm in our faith. And though we may suffer as he attempts to steal, kill and destroy, our final strength, our ultimate help is Jesus Himself. He will complete, confirm, strengthen and establish us.

James 4:7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Yes to God. No to Satan.

He may want to sift me like wheat as he did Peter, or fill my heart to lie to the Holy Spirit as he did Ananias and Saphira, or take advantage of me as Paul said he would, or try to deceive me by disguising himself as an angel of light, or hinder me as Paul said he did to them on their missionary journeys, but I will resist him.

In his book, How Great Generals Win, Bevin Alexander tells about the General who defeated Hannibal. You will remember Hannibal was known for his use of elephants in battle. No one could stop him until the Roman General Scipio Africanus decided to scare the elephants with trumpets. Men chasing elephants with trumpets sent the elephants running in fear and left the army to be defeated.

Like Hannibal, Satan uses intimidating tools to win spiritual battles against us. But we have the trumpet engraved with: submit ourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee.

In his book Fuzzy Memories, Jack Handey wrote: There used to be this bully who would demand my lunch money every day. Since I was smaller, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back. I started taking karate lessons. But then the karate lesson guy said I had to start paying him five dollars a lesson. So I just went back to paying the bully. He only wanted 50 cents. Too many people feel it is easier just to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him.

The price we pay for giving in to Satan’s attacks if far more than we can afford. So take your trumpet, standing in the power of our God and blast into Satan’s ears: No more Satan! I belong to God Almighty. You have no rights here. The Lord rebuke you!
·       Where Satan is trying to devour your family…
·       Where Satan is trying to devour your health…
·       Where Satan is trying to devour your faith…

  1. The difference between victim and victor is much wider than the similarity of the words’ sound.
  2. A victim is the unwilling recipient of an attack that has damaged them physically, emotionally or spiritually.
  3. A victor is the overcomer who stands against the attacks and assaults and resists the enemy’s intentions.
  4. In God’s perspective, we are always able to overcome.
  5.  In reality, the choice remains for us to decide: How will I live, as a victim or standing as a victor?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Spiritual Conflict Pt 2 - Preparation

Horatio Spafford was a successful lawyer and real estate businessman in Chicago. He also was a devout Christian and personal friend of Evangelist Dwight L. Moody. When the great Chicago Fire of 1871 swept through Lake Michigan’s shoreline it took with it much of his fortune.  He lost almost everything overnight. 

He spent the next couple of years trying to help rebuild the city. Wearied by the never-ending task, he decided to take his family for a rest in England, where he would join with Moody in helping with his evangelistic campaigns throughout Great Britain. He booked passage on a ship that would be leaving in November of 1873. But due to last-minute business developments, he had to send his wife and four daughters on ahead while he remained behind. He would follow in a few days.

Somewhere in the Atlantic, on November 22, their ship was struck by another ship. It sank within twelve minutes. Mrs. Spafford was rescued and taken to Cardiff, Wales. The girls were lost. She sent a two-word telegram to her husband: Saved. Alone. Spafford left on the next available ship to Great Britain to join his wife.

Somewhere past the mid-way point in the Atlantic, the captain sent for him. He told him, “This is probably the place the other ship went down.”

Spafford looked long into the empty ocean, straining to see to the bottom and the resting place of his girls. Then he looked up at the captain, thanked him and returned to his room. He took a pen and paper and wrote:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
or When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Some of the most powerful hymns and spiritual songs have come out of unbearable loss and heartache. Millions have sung this song and been encouraged.

Why do we need such profound statements of faith? Are we afraid of our grief and need to push our pain into the providence of God realm? Was his poem trying to convince himself it was okay that they lost their daughters? Stiff upper lip – God’s will be done. Or was he caught in that moment where a natural occurrence was becoming a Spiritual Conflict?

Remember our definition: Spiritual Conflict is any conflict in our life that challenges whether God is enough. His wife had messaged him: Saved. Alone.

In the natural mathematics of what happened, yes, she was rescued and by herself. But was there a subtle lie the enemy was trying to plant in his mind, suggesting that alone meant abandoned by God?

Could it be that his loss was pressing him beyond the foundation of his faith, challenging whether: nothing can separate us from the Love of God, that God will never leave us nor forsake us, that Jesus will be with us forever, even to the end of the age, that God will cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him.

Then the next verse: Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control, that Christ has regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.

Did he suddenly see what was going on? Did he feel Satan pressing against him. That perhaps Satan was trying to take advantage of his grief to interject lies about God? Of course he was. Godly men and women never reach the place where Satan doesn’t attack.

That’s what he does. He takes whatever happens and tries to make it worse. His intentions are to steal, kill and destroy. Steal away our hope. Kill our joy and destroy our faith. Either suddenly or gradually over time.

Elevators have always fascinated our family. First time we ever saw one my dad and I were standing there. An old and haggard lady got on. The doors closed. In a few minutes they opened and a beautiful young lady stepped out. My dad said: Son, go get your mom.

I remember my dad taking me as a kid to the Humble building in Houston to ride the elevator. Coming from Conroe, we were limited in what we got to do for excitement. I had never dropped so fast. The numbers on the dial were a blur. We kept riding it until the security guard made us leave. Then I’ve been in hospitals where there were only two floors and the elevator took half a day to get me from one floor to the other.

The transition between Natural Occurrence and Spiritual Conflict can take either path. I can be overwhelmed and fall like a rock, or I can be worn down in time. But the results will be the same. At some point I misplace the value of the God who was vital to me only moments before.

Job started his story in great shape: Job 1:20-22 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. 

His wife took the express elevator and immediately told Job to curse God and die. Job 2:10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 

But after the long ride of misery his tune changed. Eliphas heard him and said: Job 33:8 Surely you have spoken in my hearing, and I have heard the sound of your words: I am pure, without transgression; I am innocent and there is no guilt in me. Behold, God invents pretexts against me; He counts me as His enemy. He puts my feet in the stocks; He watches all my paths.Behold, let me tell you, you are not right in this, for God is greater than man. 

Job 34:10 Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to do wrong. 

What took his wife minutes, took Job much longer but in the end, both decided God wasn’t enough for what they faced. And Job began mischaracterizing God. Satan was gaining the upper hand. In a short time, Job would have begun to curse God.

Finally, God spoke: Job 40:1 Then the LORD said to Job, "Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it." 

And Job replied: Job 42:1-3 Then Job answered the LORD and said, I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me [beyond my view], which I did not know." 

It’s like the moment we recognize we’ve gone too far down the wrong road and discover we can’t get where we’re going from here.

Two monks stood along a roadway holding signs: The End is Near! “Maybe we should change our signs to Bridge Out.”

We have to go back to where we went wrong and get on the right road. The wrong road takes our thoughts in the wrong direction. And if we keep going the wrong way, we’ll never be right.

That’s when God taps us on the heart and says, “Remember me? Remember who I am? Remember what I’ve done? Remember what I can do?”

Our hurts, fears, frustrations, doubts, length of struggle are changing who we know God is. That’s our warning sign we’re on the wrong road. When we see the sign, we have to stop and remember who we belong to:

Rewrite: Psa 23:1-6 I, the LORD, am your shepherd, you will never be deserted nor desolateI will make you lie down in green pastures; I will lead you beside quiet waters. I will restore your soul; I will guide you in the paths of righteousness for the honor it brings to My name. Even though you will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you have no reason to be afraid because I am with you; I’ll use My rod and My staff, my tools of mercy and grace, to comfort youI will prepare a table so that you may feast in the very presence of your enemies to show My favor over you, that you are My child; I have already anointed your head with the oil of the Holy Spirit, marking you as Mine.  Just look at your cup. It overflows with blessingsSurely you realize that goodness and mercy will accompany you all the days of your life because you are Mine. And then, when this life is over, you will be with Me. I have a place prepared for you, and you will be with Me forever.

Where are the loopholes? Where are the exceptions? Did you hear any unlesses? Do you hear anyplace God changes who He is to accommodate our lack of faith?

2Ti 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 

Pro 25:28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit. 

The Great Wall of China was built to keep the Mongolians out of China. It worked well. The only weaknesses were gates placed in the wall to allow others in and out. As long as the gates remained shut the walls were secure. But when a weak guard with no control over his spirit allowed someone to bribe him to get through the gate, the walls were meaningless.

God has built a great hedge of protection around us. But if we allow an opening, give a single foothold to the devil and his lies, we will initiate our own defeat. By that crack in our faith of whether God is enough, we will let the enemy in. Once he’s in, out goes our joy, hope and faith.

Whether I’m overwhelmed and falling like an express elevator, I must take control over my spirit.
Or whether I’m wearing away in a long-lasting, dragged out struggle, I must take control over my spirit.

By taking control over my spirit I am renewing my focus on the God who is enough.

How do I get my spirit under control? By bulking up.

The males of the Alaskan bull moose battle for dominance during the fall breeding season. They fight by colliding with other moose, head-to-head with their antlers. If anything happens to the antlers, their defeat is assured. The heftiest moose, with the largest and strongest antlers, typically wins. That means the battle fought in the fall is really won during the summer, when the moose eat continually. The one that consumes the best diet for growing antlers and gaining weight will be the heavyweight in the fight. Those that eat poorly will lose. An unprepared moose is an easy target for defeat.

Eph 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 

Eph 6:16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 

Eph 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance

I can guarantee spiritual battles lie ahead. You may be in the middle of one right now. Satan is always ready to attack. Like a shark sniffing the water for blood, he is prowling about, looking for an easy target. Will we stand victorious, or will we fall? Much depends on what we do now—before that war begins. 

1.      The hardest part of the spiritual battle is recognizing it’s already begun.
2.     The transition from believing God is enough to doubting he’s even there is subtle, though it can come quickly or over time.
3.     The best weapon is preparation. If we are prepared, we will more readily recognize Satan’s lies and he will be less able to deceive us.
4.     As part of our daily routine, we need to acknowledge God is always enough for whatever we face that day.
5.     Because God is enough, our shield of faith can defend us when the darts begin to fly.