The God of Abraham, Isaac, and You!


 

Many of you remember the biblical account of Isaac’s two sons, Esau and Jacob. The two boys were born into a lineage of powerful promise. God had promised that Abraham’s descendants would inherit the land, and that from his line would come the Savior of the world.

When you looked at the two boys, you didn’t see much to inspire you.  Esau didn’t look the part of promise. He probably needed an image consultant. He was a large, hairy man. A man of appetites. He was a hunter and held the right of the firstborn.

Jacob, his younger brother looked even less likely to be the candidate of promise. He was not a warrior, but a man of the tents, more like an accountant or a similar profession. From birth, he was called a “trickster”. His character lacked the fiber to be used by God.

Yet, one of these two boys would be included in the line of people that would be identified with God. Their name would be breathed for centuries with His: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and……”

Both of the two boys would enter the crucible of testing. The one who successfully endured the test of character would be the inheritor of the promise of God.

Just like these two boys, God wants to take you from where you are to the place of joy and authority. In between, is the greatest test of your life. Thank God, you will not be the first traveler on this path.

In fact, this is the normal pathway of God’s leading. You, at your current existence – yonder – the reality of authority and joy, and in between, shame and death to self.

But, as you approach this pathway, let me give you a word of encouragement. That’s right, encouragement. This pathway is the pathway of His children. This pathway is the pathway to discipleship. That which is illegitimate and weak in faith will not make it all the way through.

And, you must remember that this pathway, although challenging, is the pathway of love. God’s love prepared the pathway. Once you have walked this way, you will come to understand that love is its theme.

As you walk this road, remember these things:

  1. Treat hardship you encounter as discipline.

You have no choice as to whether you will face hardships in life, but you do have a choice as to how they will mold you. Your hardships can make you bitter at God or they can make you more like God. Bitter or better, it’s your choice. A sword is made sharper by filing it down to a cutting edge. Without discipline, you cannot be a disciple.

Luke 14:26 – “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

  1. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Sprints are over quickly. You give it all you’ve got for a short time and then you can stop. Well, life is not over quickly. That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Sprints require speed, marathons require stamina. You must make up your mind that you are going to finish your course and outlast the enemy of your soul. Satan will try to wear you down. Be in good spiritual shape. Pray and read. There is no other way.

  1. Consider the outcome of your faith.

A runner always sees himself finishing the race in his mind before he ever gets to the finish line. You must do the same. You must see the joy you will experience when you finish. You must see yourself being given the victor’s crown. You must see yourself becoming more like Christ. The runner in this race will have every motive for running tested. Those running for love will have their name associated with God: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and You!

The book of Hebrews says that we are watched in this race by witnesses. These witnesses have three things in common:

They watch from a:

Historical perspective – they are spectators at our race.

Legal perspective – they are there to attest to the outcome.

Ethical perspective – they have proven themselves.

They watch to see if we will become an Esau or a Jacob. Will we sell our promise for a single bowl of stew or will we wrestle with God until He changes our walk and our name?

 

 

The Characteristics of Demonic Presence


As the people of God live in this world, they encounter many interesting things. I have often been asked by believers if a specific situation or individual is controlled or inspired by demonic power. I see many things myself that I wonder about.

As I watch certain situations or individuals, I often wonder: What is the origin of the plan? How did it get into the position it currently holds? Why is there such a strong deception surrounding it?

I’m not by any means an expert on the origin of things. I often wonder, just like you do about things. I also know that things do not have to be demonically originated to be offensive to God. Man, operating in his flesh can and will do things that are offensive to the Spirit of God. Flesh is rebellious and self centered by nature. Man is creative just like the One who made him. In his flesh, man can come up with some innovative ways to do evil.

If Satan boldly came forward; revealing himself even to fleshly man as the devil and announcing his plan, many would run for their lives. Satan comes under cover and often as an angel of light – tempting man through his own fleshly weaknesses to do his will.

As Jesus spoke to a group of people in John, chapter 8, He made no distinction between those living in the flesh and those possessed by the devil. In verse 44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

A lack of faith in God and great pressure can make people do things that are unimaginable; fulfilling the very works of Satan.

When man exalts himself above God, he is fulfilling the desire of his father, Satan.

Let’s go through a few things that, according to scripture reveal the likely presence of demonic activity. This will probably not be an exhaustive list. There are some things I could miss or that we just aren’t sure of. This list is to be used as a guide not a diagnosis. There could be some things that closely mimic things on this list that are emotion or physical in origin.

  1. The use of magic, spells, incantations or idolatry to control events.

Simon who practiced sorcery in Acts 8, the slave girl who predicted the future in Acts 16 and the Jewish sorcerer and false prophet, Bar-Jesus in Acts 13 are examples of those using demonic power in the NT. Satan worship would be included here.

As far as idols: 1 Corinthians 10:19 – “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.”

  1. The voice of “God” telling someone to do unbiblical activities.

There are many examples of people saying they heard “God’s” voice telling them to kill or do harm to others. Some say they have heard “God” tell them to do blatantly unbiblical things that exalt man or sin.

Satan has a desire to be God. He will disguise himself as God or an angel of light to confuse people. Voices that direct to do things against the Bible are not from God.

  1. A fascination with or a preoccupation with death.

Jesus came to give life. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The demon possessed man in Mark lived in the tombs.

I’ve seen influences in philosophy and in music preoccupied with death. I’m not saying all involved are demon possessed but the influence behind this preoccupation is leading toward the downfall and destruction of man.

Mark 9:22 tells the story of the boy who had a demon  and how it had often tried to kill him by throwing him into fire or water. Satan tried to misuse Scripture to convince Jesus to commit suicide by jumping from the Temple roof.

  1. A tormented, perverted focus.

There are many people who are emotionally wounded. This is not what I’m talking about. The man in Mark kept everyone awake night after night crying out in pain and torment. The demons had such a hold on him that they were able to speak through him. These influences often see God as the enemy – rejecting him as the cause of their pain and the pain of the world.

  1. Mutilation of self or others.

The man in Mark would cut himself with stones. Many are so filled with delusion, self-hatred, or hatred for others that they begin to mutilate themselves or other people.

We must be careful here but as our society walks further away from God, these type of activities seem to be growing in frequency. Self hatred and self destruction are not from God.

  1. The presence of supernatural strength.

No one could bind the man in Mark 5. He was too strong. There are instances of great physical strength and even miraculous powers being done by those influenced by demons. You might notice much strength to do wrong or evil in a small place or maybe you have a situation that won’t respond to natural solutions. This COULD be an indication of demonic influence.

Acts 19:16 and Luke 8:26 are examples.

I’m going to stop right here for now. There are other things that can be associated with the presence of demonic activity that we see in some of these occurrences that could be an indication of the influence of demons directly or indirectly like nakedness and isolation, but as stated earlier, you have to be careful not to overstate a situation.

It is good to know our enemy so that we can spot his influence. We are not afraid of him, remember: Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!

 

 

Staving off Infection


Compromise is a killer for the saints of God. Someone once told me that Satan has two goals for your life. One, is to prevent you from being born again. If he cannot accomplish that goal, then he wants to prevent you from being effective in the kingdom of God. Compromise is his primary weapon to accomplish the second goal.

How does compromise infect the child of God?

I want to use the life of Samson as an example. You’ll find his story in Judges, chapters 13-16.

  • The enemy’s goal in compromise is to overpower you and subdue you.

 

If Satan were to come at you head on, you would recognize it quickly and respond with war. Compromise is sneaky. It usually comes at you through the pathway of need or neglect. Compromise usually comes in a lovely form, just like Delilah. Samson fell “in love” with his agent of compromise, because he saw it meeting a need, or perhaps soothing a pain. Delilah was used to lure Samson into the place where the secret of his life was devalued and violated. Without Samson’s capitulation, he was stronger than the enemy. Subdued Christians are not any good to the kingdom of God.

 

  • Involvement in compromise dulls discernment.

 

It would have only taken one time of Delilah tying me up and shouting “The Philistines are upon you” to let me know something bad was happening. But, Samson had compromised to the point that he ignored normal warning signs. One of the things that I fear the most is falling into sin and still seeing the power of God work in my life. Getting away with a little will cause us to downplay consequences. It also causes us to overestimate our strength or to believe that we are exempt from God’s normal dealings due to our advanced ministry gifts.

 

  • Our separation to God is the only thing that sets us apart from every other man.

 

If we have any strength at all, it comes from God. We are not loved or valued any higher on the scale than anyone else. In that light, we cannot expect to be able to have a special deal cut with God so that we can sin without impunity. Without Jesus, we can do and are nothing.

 

  • Compromise will eventually cause the Lord’s hand to lift off of us.

 

In verse twenty, Samson thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. Continued compromise is a sign of rebellion. James 4:4, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

 

  • Compromise will cause the vision of your life to be destroyed.

 

When the Philistines captured Samson, they put out his eyes. This caused his effectiveness as a warrior to be greatly diminished. Some things are lost forever through compromise. Ministries, virginity, etc. Remember, Satan is after your vision and purpose. Don’t let him have it.

 

  • Only true repentance can bring us to the place of being used by God again.

 

Samson repented in the later half of chapter 16 and God used him to deal a massive blow to the enemy. To be used again, Samson had to come to the place where he was willing to lay down his life for his God. He blamed no one for his demise. He simply asked God to allow him to get revenge for the loss of his vision. God heard his cry and he was used in one moment in greater measure than his previous life of battle.

Don’t allow compromise to “infect” your life and steal your vision!

Out of Africa


I’ve spent the last two weeks in Africa. I had breakfast with the hippos (really!). I saw the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo). I spent mornings by the fire while my friends in Texas spent the morning trying to stay cool! I landed on dirt airstrips, traveled down dirt roads in the Mara and drank sugar cane juice with lime and ginger.

I walked through raw sewage, stumbled through trash piles and breathed the dirty air drifting from the industrial district. I saw orphans in Langata, girls rescued from genital mutilation in Olorropil, and farms worked by boys rescued from poverty in Nakuru.

I taught married couples, local pastors, and congregations. I danced before the Lord in worship along with the Kikuyu tribe. I spoke to a Bible school in Masai territory. I washed cups in a feeding station in a slum of Nairobi.

And to think: before I was born again, I used to think that serving the Lord would be boring. What would I do if I left the bright lights of the entertainment district behind? What would life be like without the influence of alcohol and drugs? What would I live for if I no longer indulged myself? Why would I work if not to provide for my comforts and wants?

The musings of a fool. Little did I know of the life that lay beyond the veil of my selfishness and fear.

I sat on a bench in Langata last week with a girl orphaned by AIDS. She herself was infected with the virus and struggling to have enough energy to stay in school. She told me about her plans to attend tailoring school and prepare for her future outside the orphanage. There was a lull in the conversation for a bit. There we sat – both products of this world but products of two different worlds. We both sat and looked at the sun going down and I thought:

What is she thinking about? What goes through her mind coming from her point of origin and headed to her supposed destination?

Next thing I know, this 14 year old moves closer to me in the cool of a Kenyan winter and we smile at one another. I begin to think of all the places I could be at that moment in time. I think of all the places I would have been if I would have continued on the pathway I was on earlier in life. And then I think:

There is no place else I would rather be right now.

Thank you, Jesus. Because if it were not for You, I would not have experienced the things that I have been so blessed to be a part of in this world. Before You – my pathway was too narrow to lead me to such a large place.

The Wind


Gentle and soft you chase

Easily you kiss the face

The leaves announce you’re here

Clapping as they cheer

A voice that can’t be heard

Speaks loudly without a word

Spirit and wind they say

Are brothers in their way

Reach out embrace the wind

Refreshes like a friend

Other times you come

Like a freight train on the run

Roaring with your voice

How can wind make a choice

To release such a mighty force

Stirs up our remorse

We forget your mighty power

Spirit wind makes us cower

Reach out ignore the wind

You’ll never do so again

 

 

 

 

Giddings


Last week, I went to camp with some of the teens of the church. On the way there, we passed through a town named Giddings, Texas. Now, I’m sure Giddings is a wonderful town, full of wonderful people. My reason for mentioning Giddings is that many years ago, God sent me there on a mission. The interesting thing about that mission is that it was one I didn’t want to go on.

Have you ever been asked by God to do something you didn’t want to do?

When you don’t want to do what God is directing you to do, how do you decide what action you are going to take?

Some might say, “Well, that’s easy. You do what God says because He is God and if you don’t, He will get mad at you!”

Well, in my experience – refusing to do what God tells you to do rarely causes an instant backlash against you. Now, don’t get me wrong – some choices have immediate, visible consequences. But, others don’t…….Many don’t. Many people realize this and therefore decide to do what they want to do if it clashes with God’s direction.

Many people simply don’t trust God enough to obey Him when His direction is contrary to what they want. There could be many reasons for this lack of trust but our disobedience still boils down to this fact:

If we don’t obey God, it is because we don’t know Him.

Getting to know someone is a relational priority. It requires the actions of two people. God must have the desire to know us and we must have the desire to know Him. When the desire is there, it is usually followed by action that facilitates relationship building.

Ok, a little rabbit trail……Now back to what God wants versus what we want!

Police have what they call “victimless crimes”. These are crimes committed in which nothing is taken from someone else or in which no one is hurt. But, in life, there is no such thing as a “victimless crime”.

When you choose to directly disobey God, you always sin against yourself. You do damage to your character. The more you disobey God, the “easier” it gets for you to ignore His commands. Soon, you have created a lifestyle of “doing your own thing”. In such a life, Jesus is neither Lord nor Savior.

Another thing that happens when you choose to disobey God is that you refuse the relational growth that trust in God can bring. The outcome of failing to trust God is seen in a thousand different character flaws:

Cynicism, criticism, gossip, slander, ridicule, joking at other’s expense, a lack of empathy, failure to assist others, etc.

God will dig out relational pain others have caused you and heal it through your relationship with Him. If you refuse to trust Him, your “relational well” is clogged with garbage from painful relationships and is polluted by self serving character flaws.

I know that it is hard to trust God when you have not been able to trust others. But, you must start somewhere and God’s love is pure and unselfish and has the ability to heal you and release you from the character flaws accumulated through a lack of faith.

I’m so glad that I went to Giddings years ago when I didn’t want to. Once there, I did what God wanted me to do. Doing so worked toward clearing the relational garbage from my life and created within me a trust that began to purify my heart.

“Going to Giddings” may not represent your choice to obey God or not to obey God. Whatever the circumstances, don’t sin against your own character. The consequences may not include God “squashing you like a bug” but will include the accumulation of a set of character flaws that will effect you negatively in a thousand different ways and lead to a future where prospects for joy and peace are “slim and none”.

Love yourself today by loving God and putting His will first.

 

What Does God Want From Me?


What is the great commandment in the law?

Law carries with it the idea of “legalism” or salvation by works, which is contrary to grace.

But, Jesus didn’t rebuke the man who asked this question regarding law because the law does have a purpose. You can see the conversation in Matthew 22:35-40. Law doesn’t bring righteousness to the observer but does reveal sin.

Isn’t this a good purpose?

After all, didn’t Jesus say that the true worshipers of God must worship Him in Spirit and truth? (John 4:24) Can we convict the Law of being untruthful? Truth is necessary to worship God adequately – it is just not complete by itself.

Now, back to the question:
What is the great commandment in the law?

the great: mega – primary, most important, foundational

Jesus answers by saying that the first in priority, the primary, most important, and foundational commandment is:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

What is Jesus saying?

The Law states that the “mega” commandment is relational.

So, the most important direction found in the Law is to have a relationship with Jesus. It is not to “do something” or “not to do something” but to love – to be relational.

Therefore, can you successfully keep the Law or avoid sin if you neglect the primary, most important, foundational commandment?

The rich young ruler found this out. His story is found in Luke 18:18-23.

Being right with God has nothing to do with being “good” because no one is. It has to do with loving God and prioritizing Him.

Jesus gave the rich ruler a directive. If he loved the Lord, he would gladly follow it. His refusal revealed that even though he had kept the commandments, he had neglected the primary, most important, and foundational direction of the Law – therefore, revealing himself to be negligent in his love for God.

The Law teaches us that loving God is primary; the most important thing we can do. That it is foundational to everything godly.

Jesus also said that there is another direction – another relational command that proves our love for God is real because it is totally dependent upon our love for God – you might say it is a byproduct of the great commandment or evidence of its existence.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Can you truly love God without loving your neighbor?

If someone say, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:20-21

God loves people. So, evidence of our love for God (being in relationship with Him) is to receive love for others.

Jesus said:

On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

The power received by keeping these two commandments causes the individual to be able to keep all the other commandments. All others are in place as a result of these two. They are kept by keeping these two.

You can keep all the commandments by keeping the two in the Great Commandment and both are relational – products of love.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15
Your behavior will follow your passion so if your passion is Jesus, your behavior will follow that passion.

Focus your energy and attention on loving Jesus not your behavior. If you do, your behavior will line up with your passion and it will be a product of love.