Friday, May 25, 2018

Stronghold Starter #1: Apathy/Judgement..."Why Should I Care?"

Let's go to the gates that have secured Garden of Eden.  Paradise is barred.  Angels with a flaming sword see to that.

Go a little further and you will see a family.  A father is tilling the soil, sweat dripping from his forehead.  A mother is preparing vegetables, soon to be placed in a pot that steams over a fire.  Two sons are in the distance.  We don't hear what they are saying, for they are moving further away.  Soon one son returns from back over the horizon.  He has a sort of sneer on his face.  Are those blood splatters on his tunic? 

Now, for the encounter:"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?'
'I don’t know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother’s keeper?'" (Gen. 4:9)

Let's unpack this horrible moment and its origin.  Pride is at the core of this as it is with all stronghold starters.  Cain had pride in his offering, despite it not following the Lord's instructions for offerings:

"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."

Obviously, the Lord has instructed that the offering be from a firstborn creature, not from a fruit or a vegetable.  The Lord was training humanity to see that a life substituted for a life pleases Him and makes restitution, even this far back in our history.  Of course, this foreshadows the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world; these people did not know that, of course.  But the Lord asks not for our understanding (though He will reveal His plans as time goes on) but our obedience to His Word.  

Abel was obedient and Cain was not.

Let's listen in the dark satanic whisperings in Cain ear: 

Forget he’s your brother!
He doesn’t deserve to live for making you look bad with his sacrifice!
What’s wrong with your fruits and vegetables? They’re good enough!
Who does Abel think he is, bringing that lamb? Why should he be favored over you?
Is he special because he’s being obedient? Get real. He’s just kissing up.
It doesn’t matter what you bring…just bring something.
He’s always making you look bad!

Are you just gonna sit around and let him get away with it? Again?

Pride.  Pure and simple.  That's the beginning of the end.  For despite pride at the core of Cain's heart, you see a somewhat going-through-the-motions kind of guy on the outside.  

Until the dirty deed is done.  
The Lord then confronts Cain, and we get an unbridled response of apathy and judgement from Cain.  In essence, he is saying,   

Why should I care?  
He's not my problem.
He's his own problem.
He should be taking care of himself.
No one is looking after me.
If he's not around, that's his issue, not mine.  

Pride says, I don't have to care, because you are not my problem.
Pride says, If you have inconvenienced me in any way, I can ignore you.
Pride says, It is about me ultimately.  So, what do you have to do with me?  

Ugly.  God wanted this family to live in community together.  So, when Abel prepared the offering, Cain could have helped.  It wasn't Abel's offering per se; it was the family's offering.  So, the fact that Abel did it on his own, with Cain skulking around elsewhere, says that Cain had already isolated himself from his brother early on.  Cain has a "me versus you," kind of thinking, which quickly degrades into "I am better than you."   

Now, for the solution to a prideful apathy:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Gal. 6:9-10)

How can we do this?  

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col. 3:15-17)

Who do we follow?  

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2:2-8)

Cain needed to see his brother as a companion not a competitor.  We need to see each other like that as well.  We are the Body of Christ, with His love as the animating substance in all the members.  

There are people who suffer from auto-immune disorders, when the body attacks itself. Pride, manifesting itself in apathy and judgement, is when His Body attacks Itself.  

Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate pride in your heart, then lay it on the altar.  


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Stronghold Starters

I am back.  My winter was rough--I suffer from depression and have for many years.  Sometimes it gets the better of me, so I went on hiatus.  Spring has come to the mountains with wild flowers a-plenty and so I thought, Hey, it's time to blog again!  So away we go...

I have posted a lot about spiritual warfare.  I am no means an expert, but my studies have led me to ponder what allows Satan to gain a stronghold in our lives.

The word "stronghold" in Greek means "castle."  Let us consider a castle for a moment.  How do you start to build a castle?

Select a strategic area in the landscape.  Sticking a castle 20 miles way up in the hills would be useless.  You put it where you can control the surrounding area for miles around, with good views and a seemingly invincible structure to wow your enemies and comfort your people.

Excavate the land and prepare it.  Bring in local materials.  Build a strong foundation.  A castle that is wobbly or easily knocked over wouldn't be considered worth the effort.  Having the castle fall down after one or two onslaughts would be a waste of materials, time and labor, and would be laughable in terms of protection.

Build slow and sure.  Rome wasn't built in a day nor should a strong castle be.

Make it look intimidating.  No frou-frou.  Strong walls, tall ramparts, strong gate and lots of strategically located vantage points and attack points from which to engage and vanquish (that's the whole point, isn't it?  You don't build castles when all is peaceful) your foes.  Once vanquished, you keep them subdued with your mere presence in your castle.

You are safe inside this castle.  Your enemies do not just stroll in and you are able to survive their attacks.

Think about the Trojan War.  The Greeks attacked this city on a hill for ten years to no avail.  Then, hidden inside a peace offering of a large wooden horse to the Trojans, the Greeks finally got inside the city walls by stealth alone.  Then, once the Trojans had partied themselves into a stupor, the Greeks emerged (having waited quite a while cramped inside that horse) and BOOM! they attacked and vanquished the Trojans.

Many times we think about ourselves in Christ as dwelling in a strong citadel of His love, protection and forgiveness.  True.  But, Satan, even with us strong believers, still manages to sneak into our lives and wreak havoc.   Newer believers, despite wanting to follow Jesus, get broadsided so often that sometimes they doubt their salvation.

What is the "Trojan Horse" then?  How does Satan get into our castle and starts to erect his own?  Here are the stronghold starters and the attitudes that is contained within them (which no one sees but God and maybe you, if you are being listening to the Holy Spirit's voice):

1. Apathy/Judgement: Why should I care?

2. Knowledge: I am the smartest/most spiritual person in this place.

3. Not Forgiving: Show mercy? I don't get any.

4. Greed/Envy: I deserve more. Others? Less.

5. Insecurity/Fear/Lack of Trust: God is not reliable.  I take care of me.

6.  Lust:  I deserve to have my needs met, no matter the cost.  

7.  Doubt/Confusion:  "Did God really say..."  (Gen. 3:1)

8.  Past wounds, Physical & Mental health Challenges:  I am who they say I am.

9.  Offense/Anger/Hatred:  I only give people what they deserve.

10.  Hypocrisy/Denial:  Only my truth counts.

Now wait a minute, you might be saying, The world acts this way, but believers?  We are new creations in Christ.  He has cast such ugliness away.  

Yes, but the old nature wants to creep in, take over and the enemy of your soul is all too happy to help.  If we think we are immune to such attitudes, Satan has already established a stronghold.  What does His Word say?

"This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts." (1 John 1: 5-10)

Our pride is the way in for Satan into our lives.  Pride is the Greek soldiers hiding inside what looks to be, on the outside, respectable and Christ-like.  We appear to be a gift to others, when we are really hiding something deeper, more sinister inside.  That inner pride will someday disrupt whatever we are doing for the Lord, which is Satan's endgame.  Satan wants to render you useless to the Kingdom of God and all the while you are denying that you have any issues.

I am going to explore each of these stronghold starters.  Pride feeds each of the attitudes and then each of the attitudes feeds pride.  It's a deadly to the soul kind of exchange, and it starts very subtly.  Sometimes we are so deceived as to our own self-righteousness, (we would never call it "pride--that's what unbelievers have!) we don't notice we are compromised until we are losing our ministry, our family, maybe even the will to live.

Join me.  It's good to be back. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018


We have all heard of the Seven Deadly Sins.  They are not listed in the Bible as such, but are list of sins that the Catholic Church created as requiring utter contrition and confession; otherwise, a person could be eternally damned. Serious stuff to be sure.  The list was created in the Middle Ages by a pope; it no doubt answered the question, "What sin will cause me to go to Hell?"  Because seven is a divine number, this list gave a cogent answer to the question, with seemingly divine authority behind it. I am not here to debate this list; I am going to use it to take another tact.  Here are the sins:

1.  envy
2.  gluttony
3.  greed/avarice
4.  lust
5.  pride
6.  sloth
7.  wrath

All of these sins are certainly listed in the Word; so Biblical precedent is here.  These sins are ugly in a person, and will lead to all sorts of misery when practiced. If you would like to characterize our nation right now, these sins are regularly practiced with no apologies.  Allow me to list where I see these sins most manifested:

1.  Envy:  The beauty industry is entirely built upon the idea that you are missing out if you don't dress/look/accessorize/behave like the women in the magazine.  The magazines stir up insecurity in women ("You look like WHAT?") and then offer a "solution":  Take our advice and do/buy ________.  This is also why we have a love/hate thing going on with celebrities:  We want to have what they have and look the way they do, but our resources won't allow it.  So we envy them and look for ways we can be like them, even if it's from a bottle of their signature perfume or their favorite make-up brand.  Envy comes from discontentment; discontentment is the lie that happiness is just "over there." 

2.  Gluttony:  Food channels, advertising, super-size, large portions, lots of portions, snacks (whole aisles in supermarkets are dedicated to them), fast food, all-you-can-eat:  all shout that food is important and lots of food is really important.  Emotional eating and comfort food provide merely a temporary fix to the real hunger within.   

3.  Greed/Avarice:  Wallstreet, CEO's, evangelists with jets and extravagant lifestyles, Trump and his ilk, the green god... We call it "the pursuit of wealth" (when we're doing it) and "you're just being downright greedy" (if our competitor is doing it.).  We are fascinated by the lifestyles of the rich and famous, yet we cringe at $1200 air-conditioned dog houses and $139.00 steaks for your portable pet.  Money is supposed to buy you everything the world has to offer and so the more of it you have, the more happiness is to be yours.  Hollywood should then be the happiest place on earth.  Not.

4.  Lust:  Sex-trafficking, porn, movies, book, animation (Japanese cartoons come to mind), video games, advertising (sex sells), a divorce rate that leaves shattered families in its wake and children growing up with no idea what healthy (yes, I mean Biblical) love and marriage look like.  Lust relieves anxiety, provides an escape and in the end, makes sex not a request but a demand.  I demand to be happy, and you are going to provide me that sexually, whether you want to or not. 

5.  Pride:  You deserve ______________ is the bottom line of advertising. You are special.  You are awesome.  You need not work hard, just show up and everyone gets a prize.  If families are shattering children, then schools must pick up the slack and make children feel good about themselves.  In some churches, prosperity, healing and God wants only the best for you (read, materially) is an appeal to the flesh, which thinks it deserves only the best.  It's all about you, you, you.  And why not?  Aren't you the center of the universe?  We may not say that, but we sure act like it. 

6.  Sloth:  The government must provide for its citizens.  Several generations later, it is still providing.  An easy A, lowered standards and making a challenge less so is leading to apathy and a sense of why bother.  "I love to work at nothing all day," says the song.  With addictions to help us check out, we do little because we care little. 

7.  Wrath:  "Mean People Suck" was a popular bumper sticker years ago, and those who thought it was a noble sentiment catered to the very meanness they were shunning.  Our culture is mean with its jokes, comments, tweets, and overall social media posturing about what everyone else should be doing.  Bullying, cyber-bullying, and presidential tweets create an atmosphere of anxiety and a need to strike first.  Being offended is the anger-du-jour, and who isn't being offended these days?  Fake news to upset us, real news to confound us and so we get angry and stay that way. 

But, wait a minute.  How about recasting these Seven Deadly Sins as the Seven Soul-Numbing Distractions?  The sin element is still there, but in a world of not-so-quiet desperation, people want an escape.  Whenever you tell your pride, "Hey!  You deserve this!" you will jump on the Distraction Bus and go for a ride.  Sadly, for too many people today, this bus goes nowhere. 

Wait!  Isn't that the point?  A sin separates us from God, so we try to avoid sin most of the time.  But a that doesn't sound so serious, does it?  A distraction is a less I'm-raising-my-fist-against-God and is more of a I-may-be going-nowhere-but-I-deserve-this-darnit kind of thing. 

Let's revisit the list, and look at these as distractions:

1.  Envy:  I am going to spend a lot of time on social media to poo-poo those folks who think they have it all.  I will not be overtly mean, but if I need to jab a bit, I will do so.  I will distract myself with other people's joys, sorrows, foul-ups and post all of my stuff, with the clock ticking away and my heart not thinking a whole lot about God.  It's not SINFUL, but...I am using my time to escape, not engage in His Word and spend time with Him.  I am distracting myself from the emptiness I feel inside.

2.  Gluttony:  The 1/2 gallon of ice cream is a distraction from my inner hunger, my inner emptiness.  Instead of feeding on the Bread of Life, I am distracting myself with a feel-good-for-awhile until the next bout of emptiness kicks in--and it will, for only Jesus truly satisfies.

3.  Greed:  Every moment shopping is a moment not thinking about my emptiness.  I think that a new _____ will make me happy but it cannot last.  So, I must shop/distract myself again and again.  God feels distant because my heart is distant. 

4.  Lust:  It is the one appetite that no matter how often you try to satiate it, it will continue to gnaw at you.  Why?  Because we were made for God's love and lust desperately tries to counterfeit this. 

5.  Pride:  If it's all about me, me, me, I can distract myself for quite a long time with getting my needs met...but after a while, I get sick of me.  I am trying to distract myself from myself.  It hits the spot, momentarily, but leaves us hungering for more. 

6.  Sloth:  Distraction, hour after hour, day after day...leaves me wanting to inhabit an alternate universe and there is no shortage of digital material promising a distraction from my hum-drum-accomplishing-nothing-of-meaning world.  I have a God-given purpose I am distracting myself from day in and day out, and patiently He waits.   

7.  Wrath:  If I enjoy the rush of pride and superiority that being angry all the time gives me, I am distracted from a fundamental truth:  the world with its values cannot be fixed.  Only human beings with a transformed heart by the touch of Jesus can change the world, because change is from the inside out.

So, if we allow ourselves to be persuaded that "Well, I am not really sinning..." when our distractions take us our of His presence and into a false Eden of our own creation, we lose the very reason we are here: to have deep fellowship with the One Who made us. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas: God's D-Day

I have been away for awhile.  Thank you for your patience, readers.  But I have felt led to take a slightly different approach from my spiritual warfare emphasis, but it all ties in.

Christmas is huge.  It is the economic engine that drives the next twelve months.  It is a time of gathering families, with all the joy and sadness that pervades all of our relationships.  It is a time of eating, drinking and being merry, even if the next day reminds a person that over-indulgence is not a good thing.  It is a time of gifts, thank-you's and acknowledging the hard work of the passing year; some walk away feeling appreciated, and others walk away with a sense that just another year has gone by.  It is a time of memories, with childhood's past being felt forcefully felt in the present; warmth and kindness mixed with loss makes such musings bitter-sweet.

Let's reconsider Christmas for a moment.  Let me take you on a short journey first. 

In his book, Bondi's Brother, Irving Roth recounts his horrific time at Buchenwald concentration camp as a young boy.  I was privileged to hear him speak about nine years ago at a community event, where he spoke with high school students, and I took a group of my students to hear him.  I later bought his book. 

He told us that he knew what the Messiah looked like:  He was black and He was white.  That was the color of the two American soldiers who opened up the door of his barracks, and while they stood in horror looking at the people so terribly contained within, Roth was elated.  He knew that liberation had come. 

I have never forgotten that.  He saw liberation in the two men standing there.  He knew that they alone had the power to release him and the others who were suffering under the camp's regime.  He didn't know their names, their rank nor their personalities.  All he knew, and all he really needed to know is that he was now free, because a greater power had descended into the camp and the evil there now had its days numbered.  The regime was going to be torn down:  gates would be opened, the crematoria would stop, the gassing would stop and life now had hope of going on.  Fear was no longer the dominant force in the lives of the inmates.   

Of course, the liberation of the camps was a long process of release and rehabilitation of the inmates there.  Germany had many camps to liberate as the American made their way across, having landed on the beaches of Normandy, with no guarantee of success, given how entrenched the Germans were.  10,000 men lost their lives on D-Day; with many more soldiers over the months to die as well. 

The Red Army found the eastern European camps; they also had to be liberated one by one.

But in the midst of liberation, a war equally had to be won.  The soldiers were fighting the enemy and freeing the captives.  It was an epic task.  Such evil doesn't just say, "Oh, well.  Here comes the Allies.  Let's just lay down arms and hope for the best."  The German army and the SS were going to fight to secure victory.  The Allies were going to fight to secure victory. 

The Allies also had to set people free as they went. 

In other words, the Allies had a two-front war, as it were:  victory to secure and liberation to provide.  They couldn't go up to the camps' occupants and say, "Hey, folks, we are fighting a war, and we will come back for you when we are done.  So, hang on, OK?"  The suffering was so overwhelming, the soldiers did the best they could to alleviate the suffering in the midst of a war that wasn't going to be over quickly. 

Now, let's reframe Christmas. Many people do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because His coming did not inaugurate the peace on earth that the Messiah's kingdom promises in the Bible.  In fact, the last 2,000 years has been anything but peaceful and the 20th century alone saw 100 million people killed by war and genocide.   

"Peace on earth, good will to men" seems almost a mockery.  Or is it?

Think of Christmas as D-Day.  Jesus lands on the shores of earth, as a Soldier.  He is fully on planet earth, arrayed in the uniform of our frail flesh.  He walks up from the beach and death and destruction surround Him:  The screaming of babies slaughtered in Bethlehem rings in the night.  The wailing of mothers echoes through the narrow streets of a village forever changed. 

He must escape the evil king Himself.  So to Egypt He flees with His parents; they wait to return. 
Even when they do, they go to another village, because the evil king's son now rules. 

Just because He arrived on the shores of an occupied earth, the prince of this world wasn't going to say, "Oh, well.  Here comes the Son.  Let's call this war off, and just lay down our malevolent influence and hope for the best."  Satan and his minions were going to fight to secure victory over this Man.  They knew what His presence meant:  the days of their regime were numbered.  A Power greater than themselves has arrived, fully prepared and fully committed to see their regime collapse. 

Meanwhile, as the Son was fighting to retake this planet--one soul at a time--He couldn't say to the sick, the demon-possessed, the lonely, the broken, "Hey!  Can you just hang on while I secure the planet?  I am going to be crucified in a few years, and then My power will be evident and available to all who put their trust in Me.  So, hang in there, OK?"

No, Jesus liberated those who were suffering under this evil regime.  He opened up the gates and touched people, seeking to stop the illness, the death, the pain, the loneliness and hopelessness that permeated this planet, all the while fighting to secure victory over sin and death.

World War II was not over the day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy.  Fierce fighting awaited the soldiers; many would die as they took Europe back from Hitler, one village, one country at a time.

But what did hit the beaches that day was HOPE.  It was HOPE that Roth saw standing in the doorway of his barracks that day. 

On that first Christmas, HOPE stood in the doorway of the barracks of  Concentration Camp Earth. 

HOPE said the evil regime's days were and are numbered.

HOPE said that good will prevail.  Peace on earth is possible.  Why?

The War for this World started that first Christmas.  While this war still rages all around us, we now have HOPE.  Why?  We now have JESUS. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Wrapping Up My Posts On Spiritual Warfare

We have explored principles we must stand on: what the Word says about God, us, and Satan will give us victory.  We saw what Jesus did while He was here on earth.  We discovered what we are to do in His name while we are here. We need principles to stand on because the warfare is real.  Satan’s lies are real.  But Jesus’ power is greater. 
The fortified cities of fear and addiction are real, but Jesus’ power is greater.  I can walk in fear and doubt by myself, looking up at walls that mock my puny self, or I can walk in faith and look up at Jesus.  He stands above all else and enables me, in Him, to do the same.

Blessings on you, fellow warrior. 

In His name, have no fear, but faith. 

In His name, be not a victim, but a victor. 

In His name, be not overwhelmed, but overcoming. 

In His name, S.T.A.N.D.: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Cor. 10:3-6)

Or, to put it another way: "We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient." (2 Cor. 10:3-6 NLT)

I will end with this quote from “Got”: "The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God.  If this sounds a lot like Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho, you’re right. What a great illustration of spiritual truth that story is (Joshua 6)!"

Be blessed.  Go out and serve God in the mighty power of Christ! 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Full Circle (Spiritual Warfare, Part XX)

The temptation of Christ took place in a wilderness, a desert.  In facing down the devil, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy.  Why?

The NIV Study Bible sets the scene:  "Deuteronomy locates Moses and the Israelites in the territory of Moab in the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (1:5).  As his final act at this important time of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses delivers his farewell addresses to prepare the people for their entrance into Canaan.  These addresses were actually a covenant renewal…In them, Moses emphasized the laws that were especially needed at such a time, and he presented them in a way appropriate to the situation. In contrast to the matter-of-fact narratives of Leviticus and Numbers, the book of Deuteronomy comes to us from Moses’ heart in a warm, personal, sermonic form of expression…The love relationship of the Lord to his people and that of the people to the Lord as their sovereign God pervade the whole book.  Deuteronomy’s spiritual emphasis and its call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience inspired references to its message throughout the rest of Scripture." (243)

The Israelites were facing a transition from Moses’ leadership to that of Joshua’s. They would be moving from wanderers to warriors. 

The Jews of Jesus’ day were facing a transition from the law of Moses to the revelation of Jesus Christ: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." (John 1:17-18 NIV)

Deuteronomy emphasizes the covenant the Lord made with His people.  The Jews of Jesus’ day were seeing a New Covenant, not written on stone tablets, but written with the blood of the Son of God.  Covenant, God’s sovereignty, His love for His people, and His call for total commitment to Him are the book’s major themes (NIV Study Bible 243).  It is no surprise that Jesus, Who was inaugurating a new era in God’s salvation plan, would use this book to rebuke the devil and emphasize those same themes by His own life and ministry. 

Jesus Himself entered into the narrative of the Forty Years in the Desert by adding His own chapter as He faced His Forty Days in the Desert.  Let’s see Jesus’ responses and the larger context from which they are drawn. 

To the first temptation, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. 

I have included the surrounding verses to show the larger context: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." (Deut. 8:2-5 NIV)

God led His Son to a place where He would have to keep His Father’s commands, depend on Him only, and only do His will.  Jesus says later in His ministry: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:19-20 & 30 NIV)

Jesus responds to the second temptation with, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:8 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said." (Deut. 6:13-19 NIV)

Jesus will not even consider serving anyone else other than His Father.  In fact, in Deuteronomy 6:4 is the beginning of the Shema, the prayer that is the essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

Jesus is reasserting the oneness and the holiness of God.  No other gods shall receive any honor other than the one true God—Jesus’ Father.  The absolute unity of God, His glorious oneness is preserved by Jesus, for He applies this verse to Himself.  The mystery of one God in three Persons is never up for debate by Jesus.  He asserts it as truth, for He is Truth. 

Thus, Jesus will serve only God as He walks on this planet.  That alone is the reason why He came.  Jesus loves His Father with every fiber of His being.  He will walk in obedience for He loves the Father with an all-consuming love.

Jesus responds to the third temptation with, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?' tell him: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us that will be our righteousness.'"(Deut. 6:16-25 NIV)

Jesus is the new Moses, about to deliver His people from the greatest enslavement of all: to sin and death. We are to be the new house wherein the God of the Universe personally dwells.  

That will only be possible, however, with the death and resurrection of Jesus: "He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." (Heb. 3:2-6 NIV)

I see many things emerging out of Jesus’ encounter with Satan that are very applicable to us.  God’s Word alone is our strength and shield.  Jesus stood on it no matter who He was talking to and what He was doing.  The Word alone was His foundation for how He saw His Father and for His ministry.  He knew the Word well enough to wield it powerfully at His supporters, His detractors and Satan. 
But most of all, it was His comfort.  He knew the promises were absolute, not subject to change or whim.  Those promises were woven into every part of Him.  We, in following our Lord, should do no less.

It is in the desert where we are tested THE MOST.  If you look at the desert in Israel, it is rocky, desolate and hot.  The landscape has a certain ominous aspect to it that says: If you are not careful, you will perish here.  

We are tested every day, but a desert period in our lives can reach into our very soul causing us to ask:  Does God care?  Will He continue to care?  Why should He even care?

Jesus went into a desert to show us how we should cope with ours.  He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He Himself has not done.  He truly knows what we are going through: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15)

He knows and hears the depths of our cries.  Out in that silent and desolate desert, His Father heard the cries of His Son’s heart.  He hears ours as well. 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Cages Are Open

If you parachuted into a place where children were lying dead, houses were bombed out and dogs roamed the land, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you saw guns blazing, people falling, hateful graffiti on walls and devastation all round you, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you saw tents, medical personnel running hither and yon, stretchers with the wounded and the dying being brought in, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you happened upon a large congregation of people, screaming and crying, with blood everywhere and many moaning in pain alongside the dying, you would say you were in a war zone.

America is that war zone. 

A war is in America and it has been raging for a long time now. 

It didn't start with 9/11.

It didn't start because people own guns.

It didn't start because of a Republican or Democratic presidency; a Congress filled with one party or another, or a judiciary with a social engineering bias. 

Evil is a lion, crouching in the shadows.  We used to catch it and keep it in the cage of Law.  Yes, the lions were still about, but the cages awaited when they emerged from the shadows. 

This all started when people went to the zoo and felt so sorry for how the lions were in cages.  They said, "Release them.  Be free!"  So, go ahead and...

Abort your inconvenience. 
Marry your partner.
Don't marry at all.
Have a child and raise this child without a mother/father. 
Have a child.  Have another.  Have another.  The State will take care of them.
Deadbeat dads, incarcerated dads, absentee dads, no dads, just a sperm donor.
Assert your rights, and blame every obstacle, every unhappiness, on the society. Take no personal responsibility.
Make movies more and more violent, sexual, and violently sexual.  No subject is off-limits.
Make video games more and more violent, sexual and violently sexual.  No subject is off-limits.
Bully until the person kills him or herself and celebrate it on Facebook.
Encourage your friends to kill themselves.  Repeatedly text them do they can't escape you.
Videotape someone being beaten up and post it on Facebook.  Don't try to stop it though.
Marry. Divorce.  Marry.  Divorce.  Step-parents, step-grandparents, step siblings...Families are flexible in the definition.  The nuclear family did just that:  it exploded in a big divorce rate and there is no end in sight. 

Rename the lion a lifestyle, a right, a progressive move.  But the bow of tolerance on it and watch it run off into your country, your schools, your media. 

Then our country, whose lions have been released (and more are released with every passing decade) turned into a place I no longer recognize:

Teenagers go into schools and shoot their fellow students.
People go into malls, schools, daycare centers, places of business, hotels, churches to kill the people there. 
Men marry men, women marry women, men marry multiple women. 
Young people kill themselves.

Some lions are still in the zoo, waiting in cages, though:
It's not legal to marry a child.
It's not legal to mutilate a girl's genitals.
It's not legal to murder your son or daughter for dishonoring you.

But the day will come, under the banner of multi-cultural tolerance.  After all, who made western values king?   Why should western values be the highest standard? 

Evil is in full swing because we let the lions out of their cages.  They wander and devour anyone they can find, innocent or guilty, young or old, proponent or opponent. 

The government has helped to unlock the doors or has stood idly by while the judiciary has, until now there are too many lions wandering about.  We simply can't catch them all. 

The churches have tried to make peace with the lions, calling them big kitties that need compassion and love.  Truth?  No.  Keep the Bible in the pew, please.  Take the cross down.  Don't offend.  Make the lions purr when they come into church.

The media likes the lions running around.  It makes people watch and read the media more.

In the end, it will be the Lion of Judah who takes down the lions we now face.  We will have to choose to serve either the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Darkness. 

Gray is going away. 

Being on the sidelines is going away. 

As Bob Dylan sang, "Ya gotta serve somebody.  It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody."

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