Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sword Time! Scriptures to Tear Down #5!

If we are to counter the whisperings that God doesn't care, or that fear is our permanent status, then we must unsheath our sword.  In other words, let's open the Word when fear, insecurity and questioning God's trustworthiness hits our hearts.  Remember: The S/Word is our weapon of warfare as we engage in battle.

I should have brought forth the word in the earlier blog, but it is so easy to become wrapped up in our won stories, and lose sight of the Rock upon which we stand. 

Here we go:

S/Word Swing: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (Ps. 56:3) ("be bold confident, secure, sure"--Strong's)

S/Word Swing: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) ("brought to its end, finished"--Strong's)

S/Word Swing: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Ps. 46:1) ("assistance"--Strong's)

S/Word Swing: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." (2 Timothy 1:6-7) ("an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control"--Strong's)

S/Word Swing: "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, [tested, testing] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13) ("an egress, way out, exit"--Strong's) 

So, I must  engage in a wee bit of commentary.  If we trust, we have confidence in what we do, correct?  If I trust my car is in working order, I climb in, turn the ignition and away I go.  If I have a lemon, then I am never sure of its reliability.  

God is reliable because He is utterly trustworthy, for He has shown His mercy and grace time and time again.  Read His Word and follow His grace-filled story of warning, punishment and then  restoration.  Satan harps on the punishment part, because it makes God look capricious.  But Satan ignores (and so do we) the "bookends" of God's mercy:  He warns His people, follows through if  they ignore Him and then later will restore them with lovingkindness.  

Final word:  Many people quote an axiom that goes something like this: "God will not give you more than you can handle."  So, if your daughter is sick and then dies, you can bear this, because God gave this to you, knowing you can handle it.  


We usually quote this as if to comfort the person with some kind of biblical-sounding wisdom.  GO TO THE WORD, PLEASE.   Look carefully at 1 Corinthians 10:13, which I believe is the mother to this illegitimate child of a saying.  

God doesn't hand you two tons of burden, asking you to carry it, because He knows you can handle it.  He then leaves the situation, takes a seat in the cosmic bleachers and watches you, to see how you are doing. HUH?

The Word says that tempting (Satan capitalizing on our own desires--James 1:13-15) or testing (our character and how much we trust God--James 1:2-4)) will come.  Jesus faced Satan all the time, whether in the desert, through the scornful attacks by the Pharisees or the betrayal by a friend, and He wasn't told, "Handle it, Son."  

God is "ever-present" in our trials and temptations.  God does not leave us in our greatest moment of pain and suffering.  We are not laboratory mice where God sees how much humanity can take.

We are His sons and daughters.  If you look at the final words of the verse, He will provide a "way out" or "exit" in the Greek.  

Think of it this way.  You are in a burning building.  Maybe you fell asleep with a cigarette in your hand, or forgot to turn off the stove.  Maybe your old toaster sparked and caught fire.  Maybe some neighborhood malcontent threw a lighted match into a pile of leaves and your house caught fire.  Does it matter?  Yes, maybe later for reflection and seeking what God would have you learn and grow in the knowledge of...but for now, you want out.

The firefighter shows up.  He knows the way in and the safest way out--that is part of his training.  He comes over and takes your hand, leading you out the front door, where the flames haven't yet engulfed.  

Now, according to the axiom, you yell, "Hey!  I can handle this!" (Not!)

According to His Word, God, says, "Come this way, child.  Follow Me out."

The net result of the axiom is you feeling sorry for yourself ("Thanks a bunch, God. I ain't handling this!") and having others feel sorry for you ("She is a victim of such terrible circumstances!")

Stuck in the muck. 

The net result of His Word is you have pain and suffering yes, just as Jesus did, and He will show you "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:7)

Locked on the Rock. 

You will grow in your trust of Him. You will be a light to His faithfulness in the battle.

I know which one I'd choose.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Stronghold Starter #5: Insecurity, Fear, Lack of Trust: God is Not Reliable. I Take Care of Me.

Whew.  This one is HUGE.

I trust God...How dare you say I don't?

I am a Christian.  Of course, I trust God.

I have faith.  I decree it.  I claim it in Jesus' name.  God does it.  What more do you want?

Yes, I have fear.  But I love God.  Trust?  Wow.  I just don't know...

OK.  This can be a sensitive subject, because it sounds like a formula:

I accepted Jesus in faith + I am a new creation = God wants the best for me 

Let's look at the disciples. They walked every day for three years as followers of Jesus. They saw Him eat, sleep, walk on water, feed thousands, raise the dead, heal, confront, turn over tables in the Temple and a whole lot more. John comments that "Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-1)

Yet they still, in spite of all this, needed forgiveness. Grace. More faith. More trust. So, this is not an accusation, but an acknowledgement of our proclivity to rely on ourselves when the going gets tough.  
We all know the story of the man who believed in Jesus, yet wanted more belief: 

"Jesus said to him, 'If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.'

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'"(Mark 9:23-4)

The father had some faith, or he would not have approached Jesus.  But he realized very quickly that his faith was not up to the enormous task--perhaps for the first time in a long time he could not rely on himself to figure it out.  He was afraid.  He may have thought that God was unreliable, for if sickness or demon possession is punishment from God, how could his son from birth be guilty?  The son's torment did not fit into a neat category, and cast doubt about the goodness of God.  

This is at the heart of this Stronghold Starter: Pride whispers in our ear that we are foolish to rely on God because how could He allow something so horrible to happen in the first place?  We are afraid that our whole belief system and our faith are lies.  We feel insecure, because if God is not reliable, then who can you trust?  

We turn to ourselves.  We try to control the situation with our _______________.  We get limited results, but they are results, darn it!  We didn't have to wait and wait and wait!  We did something now.  

Now, what if that blank is filled in with the word, "faith"?  Uh-oh.  Now we are stepping on the toes of those who believe this way:  My faith is a gateway to God's blessing.  More faith, more blessings.  My faith unlocks the treasure chest of all that God wants me to have--money, health, prosperity, my best life--and with my faith operational, the chest flies open and I am flooded with His goodness towards me. 

But what about the one who says, Am I?  But my child is still sick.  I did not get the promotion.  I didn't get that car I wanted, for the loan was turned down.  The results from my examination came back positive and so I must return to my doctor for more treatments.  

Solution?  More faith, of course.  I haven't released enough.  I have negatively confessed my worries, concerns, fears, and insecurity, and so no wonder:  my faith is stifled by my words.  I must get more faith.  God wants all the good that heaven holds for me, so if it's not raining down and making my desert bloom, it's me.  Help me in my, wait!  Help me to speak only faith-filled words.  

Where is God in all of this?  I, I, I...starts every sentence.  

God is my Servant, released to do His best for me by my faith.  

But is God reliable?  Will He released those things He has for me even if my faith is weak?  Did Jesus withhold healing of the demon-possessed boy because the father's faith was weak?  No.  Jesus healed the boy because God is good.  

So, why is the Prosperity Gospel so popular in the US?  In the Third World?  It packaged skillfully but at its root is the same idea:  Get Faith, Get the Goodies of God.  Lack Faith, Lack Getting the Goodies of God.

Harsh?  No, because I have spent time with this gospel and those who follow it.  I find it disturbing, because it appeals to the "I" that we all have. But more to the point, it appeals to a fundamental belief that God is not good in and of Himself, but needs us to release His goodness by our faith.  

We won't call Him "unreliable" until our son dies, our job is taken away, or our health breaks down.  We might not say it at first, but after many years of mustering faith and our lives still have struggles, failures and pain, we grow weary.  

The formula doesn't work and God's character is called into question.

BOOM!  That is exactly what Satan wants.  He is always trying to assassinate God's character.  What better way than to twist the Gospel and the idea of faith, have a large number of people join up watching wealthy preachers who seem to have unlocked God's blessings, and then one day, no matter how great the faith, the answer doesn't come.  

We don't see those folks at altar.  We don't see those folks at the church.  They are gone, because God's "failure" (really, it's the faulty teaching) has shown Him to be "unreliable."

They have come to a place where they trust only themselves.  Satan is smiling.  

Finally, how do people get attracted to such a gospel?  Unspoken but compelling reasons exist deep in the hearts of people I have seen with these beliefs:

God didn't protect me when I was abused, so He owes me.  My daddy/brutish male figure ain't controlling me, I am controlling Daddy.  

Had an absentee dad, so now my heavenly Father will fulfill my longing for material goods.  

I have power now.  I have felt so powerless over the years, but in this church, I am excited again!  I can decree it and God will answer me!

My life is a sad accumulation of poor choices, but when I speak in faith, I am no longer affected by those choices.  For awhile, at least.  

I am more spiritually attuned than those other churches that teach of Christ's suffering and having to wait on God.  No way.  God wants it for me now, so my faith releases it now!

My heart hurts for those who stand broken on this road, with Satan whispering in their hearts about how more faith is needed, how God is holding out, how He is unreliable.

Jesus, Who never had a beautiful home, lots of money, prestige, fame and followers is for the rest of us, who cry out, "Lord, help me in my unbelief."

Monday, July 9, 2018

Stronghold Starter #4: Greed/Envy: I Deserve More. Others? Less.

In the pursuit of wealth and the good life: 

When it's me, I am being ambitious; providing for my family; investing in the future; enjoying life; grabbing some gusto; trying to make sure my kids lack nothing.  

When it's you, you are being greedy.  

Do you notice the duplicity?  I have rationalized my greediness into something respectable.  My motives are noble and yours are not.  

But greed by any other name would still stink.  Why?  Greed is love misplaced.  Greed says:

I deserve it. (God is taking too long or just doesn't understand the needs I have.)
I deserve more. (God will meet my needs, yes, but my wants?  I have to provide.)
I need more.  (God just doesn't understand the emptiness I feel; money and stuff help fill the void.)
I can give more to the Kingdom. (But I skim off my portion first; God gets the leftovers.)

My love for God is being poisoned, for deep inside I really don't trust Him.  My love gets poured into what I can do and what I can control.  Look what Jesus says in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Service comes from loyalty, love and trust.  I can serve me or I can trust God's love for me, and serve Him. 

OK.  We expect the world to be greedy.  They don't have the Lord.  But I have seen greed in church.  I have seen it in me in church.  I have seen my greed become envy and it is disgusting:  

Hey!  I am a talented singer.  Why is she on the worship team and not me?
Hey!  I wanted to be the women's ministry leader: I am the most mature.  Why wasn't I picked? 
Hey!  I have the most knowledge of the Bible than any of those folks.  I should be upfront teaching.  
Hey!  The men in our church are so passive.  Why can't women be pastors?  Why does the Word limit us? 

So, greed and its mini-me, envy, become a mindset.  "I, I, I..." is the key of the song of pride I sing.  I assume God has a limited number of pie slices of service, so if you get one slice, you've taken one from me.  So, I have to push, scheme and pray that I get it.  If I don't get it, I have the right to resent you.  

Even if the Lord has closed the door to me, I still look over my shoulder at you.  But I am like Lot's wife--I am encased in the salt of pride and greed.  I deserve this!  You?  Not so much.

Look at the advice that Paul gives to a young pastor in 1 Timothy 6:10:  "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Hear that church?  How many pastors have built a foundation of "You give to me to get from God but I keep the money for myself" for a ministry?  How many people see a big church, a big building, big programs and a big budget and say, "Wow!  That church is blessed?"  Is it?  

Then Jesus was a failure according to the modern definition of church success: "Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matt. 8:20)

If we follow Him, we follow Him!  Look how Jesus lived:  He trusted in God's provision every day of His life. 

We don't rationalize our greedy grabbing because somehow God is limited in His resources. We look at money as a blessing to pass on to others, and not see it as an end in itself. Yes, God is delighted when we are delighted, but He is aggrieved when we focus on the gift, and not the Gift-Giver.

Greed is a stronghold starter because it keeps the focus on us and not on God.  It causes us to trust ourselves; to look at God with reservations and not with total love and gratitude; and it causes strife in the church:  "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:16)  

How many churches and ministries are ineffectual because behind the scenes, disorder and evil practices reign?  

There is no "I" in Jesus.  There is "us."  You and me.  Jesus and us.  We are His body.  He loves us and nothing on this earth can ever replace that: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)

Paul learned this:  "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:10-13)

Here is where we stand when Satan casts aspersions on God's goodness and provision: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19)


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