Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yes. It's a Battle. You're Gonna Win.

Dear Friends,

Does hearing about the Devil and demons make you feel uncomfortable? If so, join the club. We want to read and hear light-hearted, feel-good stories that bring happiness and peace to our lives. That's why many churches today do not preach about spiritual struggles and the reality of evil. As a result, 60% of Christians believe that Satan is not real but just a symbol of evil. 5% are not sure. But God's Word mentions the very real existence of Satan or the Devil eighty-one times and the existence of demons or unclean spirits seventy-seven times. By my count, Jesus refers to the spirit-being called Satan seven  times. That’s proof enough for me.

It’s important for Christians to really understand what the Bible says about Satan and the demonic realm, because the most effective tool the Enemy has in ruling the world is deception. The Bible says that Satan is the father of all lies and he is a master at illusion. The Devil's ability to work without resistance in today's culture is because people just don't know that he's there. That's why the Destroyer has been able to so rapidly increase persecution against Christians in our country. Evil operates most effectively when it is operating covertly.  

If al-Qaeda terrorists had to wear a sign that said "DANGER – SUICIDE BOMBER – STAY BACK 90 FEET", they wouldn't be very effective. Terrorists are only effective when they look, sound and act normal. Evil only works when it blends in, becomes “invisible” and people are unaware of its existence. 

So when 60% of Christians don't believe that Satan exists, that's a huge victory for him. Satan's greatest deception is to create disbelief in himself.  Derek Prince has said that, "..demons exercise a continuous and powerful influence on our lives, but our humanistic prejudice has blinded us to the evidence. In fact, it's our refusal to acknowledge the evidence that makes it easy for demons to operate undetected."

The reality is that, “..we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) The Bible tells us that we are in a continuous struggle against the Prince of Darkness and his demons and that struggle affects our everyday physical realm.

While we must be careful to take responsibility for our own actions and decisions, we constantly find ourselves wrestling with temptations, illness and misfortunes. When we resist temptation, we are resisting the Tempter. When we refuse to live deceptive lives, we refuse the Deceiver’s lies. When we pray against accidents illness, injuries, disease, calamity and destruction, we are praying against the Devil. When we pray for protection against harm and danger for ourselves, friends and loved ones we authoritatively take a stand against the Devil’s works.

We are currently in a season of very strategic and intense times in the church. There is a battle against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness. This is nothing new. Paul tells Timothy,“But you, O man of God, flee (evil) things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith..” (1 Timothy 6:11-12) 

The Greek word translated as “fight” means to contend with as in battle. We don’t give in to the powers of darkness; we fight, wrestle, battle and contend against the Enemy in prayer. This is Spiritual Warfare! We claim our authority through Christ and when we pray against Satan’s works in the name of Jesus, we have confidence that the Holy Spirit will give us victories against the Enemy. 

Until the Devil and his forces are forever bound in Hell, we will continue to struggle against them. And we confidently do so knowing the One who already has the victory. “For this purpose the Son of Man was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8)  That’s the good news!  Amen?

To read our Halloween Guide for Christian Parents,
click on Halloween Guide

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Devil's Having a Party and You're Invited!

Dear Friends,

I’m amazed at how some Christians readily believe God’s Word when it describes good spirit beings called angels and yet disbelieve all the scriptures which describe the fallen, evil spirit beings: Satan and his army of demons.

Back in the old days of journalism, when I was a news director at a radio station in Riverside, news stories were researched, factual and hard-hitting reports. You started with the who, what, when, where and why. Let’s do that now.

WHO: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!”
WHAT: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
WHEN: “..for the devil has sinned from the beginning.”
WHERE: “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.’”
WHY: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Evil is sometimes difficult to spot. It was easy back in the days of black and white TV and movies. The good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black. But Satan is a deceiver ➏ and transforms himself into an angel of light ➐. That means that the devil can easily fool us by putting on a white hat. And that’s why on Halloween, too many Christian parents unknowingly send out their children to dance with the devil.  Really?

From a Wiccian website: “The wall between earth and the underworld is thin at this time of year. On Halloween night, the wall opens and the Lord of Darkness rises up from the underworld. It is an evil and wicked night, a perfect night for a witch to celebrate New Years.”

And you may be thinking: Okay but I’m not a Witch or a Satanist!  I’m a Christian! So how does this affect me? Here’s the bottom-line. The Apostle Paul tells us, “I don’t want you to be participants with demons.” The NKJ says “I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” ➑  That should give us something to think about. God’s Word says don’t hang out with the devil but instead “resist the devil so that he will flee from you”

Do we really want to provoke God by dressing up like zombies and partying with the demons on the night that both Wiccians and Satanists dedicate their souls to Lucifer?

The greatest danger our young people are in today is not physical but spiritual. (Read again the WHAT). Anything that lowers resistance in a child’s or teen’s mind (alcohol and drugs) and anything that normalizes sin and evil (most TV shows and video games) gives the devil a foothold in their life. Anything that makes the demonic darkness of the world seem fun and attractive, (occult practices, Halloween, or a fascination with the current zombie and vampire craze) gives the devil a foothold. Satan’s purpose is to blind every generation, devour them and establish his stronghold in their lives.  We are in a continuous struggle against the devil whose only purpose is to rob, kill and destroy. ➓

Today in our Nation we are seeing a veil of darkness descend over this next generation and there is a battle in the powers and principalities over their souls. We need to contend for the younger generation and for all generations in prayer. The young generation is seeking. Let us pray: Lord, lead them to Your Truth! 

And please let me encourage you to use discernment about your own participation in Halloween. You can’t be walking with God while you’re holding hands with the devil. Amen?

➊ Isaiah 14:12  ➋ Ephesians 6:12  ➌ 1 John 3:8  ➍ Job 1:7  ➎ 1 Peter 5:8
➏ John 8:44  ➐ 2 Corinthians 11:14  ➑ 1 Corinthians 10:20-22  ➒ James 4:7
➓ John 10:10

To read our Halloween Guide for Christian Parents,
click on Halloween Guide

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Seasons of Life

Dear Friends,

A cool breeze last evening and a chilly 48 degrees this morning. A change of color in the trees across the street. A freshness in the air that portends the passage of a season and prepares us for the next. Autumn is a time of beauty and peace for contemplatives, photographers, writers and artists. The brilliant tapestry of autumn colors feeds one’s soul and heart with such a dazzling display of God’s handiwork that we just need to go out and play in it. It’s time to go to Oak Glen.

My family started going there in 1963 and my mom is still good friends with 95 year old Theresa Law who is one of the town’s original founders. Oak Glen is known for its abundant apple orchards and its rolling hills covered with vivid autumn reds, oranges, and yellows. It’s as close as you can get to a spectacular New England autumn without getting on a plane.

Seasonal transitions of “nature” in God’s Creation remind us of seasons in our church and in our life. Autumn also signals the arrival of Advent – that season of anticipation as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child. Advent leads us to the Christmas celebration which includes Epiphany– the manifestation of the Savior Jesus to the Gentiles. Soon the chill of winter gives way to the warmth of spring and a season of spiritual growth. Lent is a time of reflection and recommitment to a renewed relationship with God. We approach Good Friday with our unspeakable gratitude for the ultimate gift of God’s grace and salvation mixed along with a sense of sorrow for the suffering that Jesus endured. Easter– Resurrection Sunday– is truly a glorious day and the most important of all Christian Holy Days (“holidays”). Fifty days later comes Pentecost, marking the day that God’s presence became actively working in believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to enable us to become a witness of His glory and grace to the world. After Pentecost we enter a season of what the church calls “Ordinary Time.” But the time quickly passes and before long, we sense a freshness in the air and soon the autumn colors are bringing us once again to the season of Advent...

The journey through our church seasons reveals the mystery of God’s plan as it unfolds for us in the life of the church, and we are reminded that with each transition, there is something new again. 

In God’s Creation, there is a rhythmic cycle with the organic flow of our four seasons. Every three months, a transition to the next. Depressed by the gray, gloominess of winter? The warmth of spring is right around the corner. Tired of spring showers? The long, hot days of summer are ahead. Worn down by the heat and smog? The cooler glorious world of autumn awaits you. Bored and weary with autumn? Grab the winter coat, gather the firewood and prepare for those long, frosty winter nights. We are reminded that with each transition, there is something new again.

So it is with the seasons of life. You may be in a springtime season of new birth and growth. You may be feeling as if caught in the dry, tiring days of what seems like an endless summer. This may be a contemplative, peaceful autumn time of thanksgiving for you. Or you may find yourself in the cold, dark, loneliness of a long winter season.

Seasons of life. Each with its own set of experiences and the passing of each season leaving behind memories of what was. Some seasons of life are filled with pain and discomfort and leave behind uncertainties, fears and doubts. And God says: “But forget all that-- it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19 New Living Translation)  Praise God! I love how He puts that. All these worries and struggles you're going through? Forget about all that! God says, just you wait until you see what this next season will bring! He reminds us that with each life transition, there is something new again.

Remember that no matter what season of life we’re in, there are three guarantees we can count on: 1) This present season will come to an end. 2) God has already begun to do something new for you in the next season. And, 3) The one unchanging constant that we can trust in and count on is this: God is standing with us in this season and He is waiting for us in the next.  Amen?

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Beware of Christian Kryptonite

Dear Friends,

It’s a bird..It’s a Plane..It’s Superman! I loved that old black and white tv show as a kid and more than anything else, I wanted to be like Superman when I grew up. While Sunday School flannel boards were teaching me the biblical stories, Superman was teaching me Christian behavior and values. Using his superpowers to help others, Superman fought for “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” I practiced my flying at an early age. Jumping off the back of the couch with a little blue blanket around my neck like a cape, I could fly the entire three feet until I hit the floor. 

Superman had been given incredible powers: superhuman strength, superhearing and of course the very cool “x-ray” vision. And his powers were never used for his own selfish needs. They were only to be used to help others. Strong Judeo-Christian elements are woven through the Superman story. His birth name was Kay-El, Hebrew for “Voice of God.” His back story is the story of Moses and Superman is an analogy of the Messiah - Jesus Christ - sent to earth as a Savior of humanity.

But alas, unlike Jesus, Superman had a nemesis. Something that could strip away his superpowers and leave the Man of Steel weak and helpless. That one thing that could destroy Superman was the green, glowing crystal called Kryptonite.

As a child, more than anything, I wanted to have superpowers so that I could help others, and it was many years later that God answered those prayers. I never received superhuman powers but did receive supernatural powers. I still can’t fly but I can use my supernatural powers for the good of others. (May God forgive me when I don’t)  And, I’ve learned that I need to watch out for the Kryptonite.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we receive the whole Triune package: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. When we subsequently receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we receive one or more of the spiritual gifts that Paul lists in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Perhaps we are given words of Wisdom or Knowledge. A gift of Faith or Healings. The working of Miracles or Prophecy or the gift of Discernment of Spirits. Maybe even Tongues or the ability to Interpret Tongues of others. But none are given for our own use. The New Living Translation probably says it best: “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (Verse 7)

When the Holy Spirit activates these gifts - our “superpowers” - God desires that they flow strongly within us and are always used for His purposes: for the good of others. That’s why we need to watch out for the Kryptonite

The early church called them the “SEVEN DEADLY SINS” and they will indeed deaden your ministry to others, rob you of your supernatural gifts and weaken you to the point of depression, discouragement, despondency and despair.

Our Christian Kryptonite is one or more of those seven sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. Wrath is our uncontrolled anger that leads to self-destructive bitterness and unforgiveness of others. Greed is the pursuit of material things. We laugh and call it “shopping therapy;” God calls it “sin.” Sloth is more than just physical laziness, it’s spiritual laziness. And Sloth is anytime we fail to do what God wants us to do. When we don’t use our gifts of the Holy Spirit for others, we are practicing the sin of Sloth. Pride is the deadliest of the seven. Pride caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven and become Satan. Our Pride delivers us into his hands. Lust is an intense, ungodly desire for anything that is spiritually unhealthy for us to have. Envy is biblically defined as the feeling of discontent towards that which is possessed by others. Be thankful to God for the blessings He has given you. Envy is coveting what He has given to others. Gluttony is a selfish and unhealthy overindulgence. Whether food or drink, we thoughtlessly consume and ignore the needs of others in our world who are starving and thirsty. 

Identify the gifts that the Holy Spirit has activated within you. Then use those spiritual “superpowers” wisely for the good of others. And if you ever start feeling flattened by life and spiritually weak, look deep within and check yourself for the deadly presence of Kryptonite. Amen?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Jesus Christ, Rebel with a Cause

Dear Friends,

I’m a little embarrassed to have to tell you that God has been pressing in and dealing with me about my offensiveness to others. To be faced with this stumble in my Christian walk is discomforting to say the least. I don’t say this to justify my unChristlike behavior, but I suppose I am no more or no less offensive than the majority of Christian believers. We move carefully through our days trying to say and do the right things as we seek the approval of others so that they will like us. We may even work hard at times to bite our tongue so that we don’t offend people with our faith. In our increasingly secular culture, we’re not even sure if it’s still okay to say “God bless you” when someone sneezes. We try hard to not be offensive to others and in my own eyes, I’m doing a good job with that. And that’s the problem. Because when I look at the world through the eyes of Jesus, I realize that I’m not being nearly offensive enough.

Today’s church has sanitized our Savior to the degree that He has become an inoffensive and mild-mannered Rabbi and not the maverick Rebel that He was. But if He was only the gentle Jesus telling stories with the children sitting on His lap, He would have never been crucified. Jesus was killed because He continually offended the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders. He condemned their legalistic beliefs and told them that their pedantic religious practices had excluded God’s people from living their lives in the presence of their Holy Father. (Matt 23:13)

Jesus offended money changers in the temple by telling them, “My house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matt 21:12-13) Today, He would be in mega-churches and kicking over tables selling the guest speaker’s books, DVD’s, “anointed” prayer cloths and cheesy gift items imprinted with their ministry logo.

Jesus offended the universalists in His day and those of other religions by telling them, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Today, Jesus would not be permitted to preach His exclusionary theology in most mainline churches for fear of offending those who have diluted the Gospel with the teachings of Oprah and believe that all spiritual pathways and beliefs lead to God and eternal life.

Jesus offended sinners by telling them, “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” (Mark 10:6-8) Can we really get any more politically incorrect than that these days? By offending the transgender political lobby and same sex marriage advocates, Jesus would be banned today from our Nation’s schools, military organizations, many churches and of course, the White House.

Jesus did not come to conform Himself to the religious culture of the day. He came to confront and transform that culture – to reform and redeem it. Jesus did not play it safe. He was a dangerous threat to their status quo. He was both politically and religiously incorrect. Always righteous. Always loving. Always offensive.

We slide down a slippery slope when we try hard to conform ourselves to the prevailing culture and contort our Christian beliefs to be non-offensive to others. It’s been said that if you try to become what everybody wants you to be, you’ll become somebody you don’t want to be. Remain on that slope and eventually you'll find yourself at the bottom. Looking deep within your own soul and unable to even recognize the person you've become.

Maybe one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a sojourner in this world is who you will offend. It’s guaranteed you’ll be offending someone. The only question is, who? Speaking God’s Word will offend atheists and liberal Christians alike. Not speaking God’s Word will offend Jesus. 
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:36-38)