Weapons don’t wield themselves

GodsWeaponsMadeForYou“The worst thing the enemy can do to a believer in Jesus is to send him home to heaven early.”

Why doesn’t God stop him in his tracks?

It’s obvious that the enemy of our faith is at work in the world, sometimes very close to where we live. We wonder why he seems to be getting away with so many murderous acts, causing so much chaos, turmoil and tragedy.

Reminders of several basic facts:

  • War is being waged for control of this planet, control of the people who live on the planet, and eradication of the people inhabited by the Creator of the planet.
  • God gave control of this planet to human beings. Stopping the enemy is our job. We’re not doing a very good job of it, but it’s still our responsibility.
  • It’s not an even fight, the sides aren’t even close to equal – but you’d never know that from the way some folks act. Or don’t act.
  • We are the conquerors!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NIV, emphasis added.)

God’s goal:

  • “(God our Savior) who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4)
  • “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
  • God made a way for that to  happen: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The devil’s goal:

His goal is to destroy the things God loves above all – people, human beings created in His image. To do that, the enemy will try to:

  • Kill every human being he can, Christians or not
  • Prevent every human being he can from becoming Christians
  • Prevent every Christian he can from bringing other human beings to Christ

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

Well, the enemy himself is not flesh and blood. He just stirs up flesh and blood to perform as his willing servants, or as his unwitting instruments.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

Stopping particular people the enemy is using will not stop him from picking other people to use. We should indeed do whatever we can to stop (or prevent) attacks by those people. But that’s certainly not all – we should also:

Learn how to fight the real enemy:

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Changing the mind and heart of the person is the only answer to shutting out the enemy from using that person to do evil. Praying, sharing God’s Word, God’s kind of love and life (living the gospel), displaying a God-filled life, are steps toward that change.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26)

You can shout and yell at people, but that won’t make them listen. You can shout and yell at the devil, but that won’t make him listen either.

Only taking authentic authority over him will work to stop his activity. And first you have to know he’s real, and that he’s really the one behind the evil actions.

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’

“Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19:11-16)

Weapons of war:

Acknowledge that YOU have been given spiritual weapons. Know what they are and learn how they work. Recognize who is actually behind the evil activity you see. Ask God what to do about it and listen for his reply. The Holy Spirit will tell you what to do. Some weapons at our disposal include:

  • Spiritual armor. (Eph. 6:10-18) This includes defensive and offensive equipment. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Withstand and resist are the same Greek word.
  • Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12) We need supernatural information, wisdom on how to make use of it, faith, miracles, healing.
  • Discerning of spirits. (I Cor. 12) We especially need to know whether the wicked behavior is caused by human or evil spirits. Believers can exercise authority over evil ones, but human spirits require other approaches.
  • The Word of God. (Hebrews 4:12) Knowing it’s in the Bible isn’t going to help if you don’t know the scripture itself. Study. Learn. Get it in your memory banks.
  • Prayer and intercession. (I Tim. 2:1-2) Ask specific requests, based on knowledge of the scriptures and who you are in Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit as you ask.
  • Love and forgiveness are powerful weapons. “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Remember, the kindness of God leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
  • Your own testimony. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:11)
  • Spiritual authority. (Matt. 28:18-20) Jesus told the disciples to do what he had been doing, and to teach others to do the same things. That includes you and me. He gave us this authority because he knew we were going to need it.

Matthew 18:20 says, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20) Note: signs won’t confirm God’s word that isn’t preached, taught, or spoken.

  • Stand firm in the faith. Having done all to stand, stand. Stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)
  • Pray in faith, speak in faith. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17-18)

If you look up those events in I Kings 17 and 18, you see that Elijah didn’t actually pray about the rain stopping and starting – he just spoke about the rain. Whatever praying he did, he did beforehand, surely to ask the Lord for instructions on what to do next.

  • Don’t waver back and forth in doubt, hoping for the best. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
  • Confidently expect results. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:14-15)

Weapons don’t wield themselves:

The problem is, too many Christians think all this is automatic –  that they don’t have to be on their guard, don’t have to put on any armor, don’t have to exercise authority, don’t have to resist the devil, don’t have to pray for their enemies, don’t have to share the gospel, in other words, they don’t have to wield any weapons.

It’s as if they think, Let the preacher do it, let the missionaries do it, I don’t have to do it myself.  They may pay a high price for that mistaken belief.

Also see: https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/armored-front-and-back/

(Originally published in 2015 — still appropriate.)

Forgiveness, the most powerful weapon

Two scripture passages keep coming to mind today:

  • First, Jesus’ words on the cross, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34 KJV].
  • Secondly, Stephen’s words as he was dying, “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” [Acts 7:60 KJV]

Forgiveness is the most powerful weapon there is.  Multitudes soon received that forgiveness and were born again. A coincidence? I don’t really think so.

Did you ever wonder why those statements were both spoken ALOUD? And heard and recorded by those who heard them?

Jesus taught us how to deal with enemies. Love them. Pray for them. Do good to them. Ask God for mercy for them. (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-37)

It has bothered me greatly these last several years to read on social media Christians cursing (in words or attitudes) so many people they don’t like in politics (both parties). Jesus paid a tremendous price for the souls of those people!

Please read this article from Intercessors for America when you get a few minutes. I have been a supporter and subscriber to IFA for many years; this particular article seemed extremely timely when I read it this morning.

https://ifapray.org/blog/a-prophetic-word-for-the-unmasking-of-the-cover-up/

 

Finished… am I finished?

Ever felt like a cog in a wheel?

What exactly is a cog? It’s one of the tooth-like parts around the edge of a wheel in a machine that fits between those of a similar wheel, causing both wheels to move; cogwheel, a wheel with cogs around its edge, used to turn another wheel or part in a machine.

In human terms, it’s a member of a large organization whose job, although necessary, makes them feel as if they are not important. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/)

“A cog in a wheel is an important element; it keeps the machine running smoothly. If it’s cared for – cleaned, oiled, and polished regularly – it will serve the machine well for years. If it’s not cared for, it will break, bringing the machine to a halt. The breakage may even cause greater damage to other parts of the machine.” (https://www.drivingresultsthroughculture.com/2015/05/18/a-cog-in-a-wheel/)

“Is it time for me to quit?” I asked myself the other night. “Time to quit reading, quit studying, quit writing, quit praying – quit interceding? Is my time on planet earth over? Am I finished?”

I was feeling tired. Exhausted, actually, physically, mentally and emotionally. And a little bored, too. I was feeling like a very unimportant, worn-out old cog in a machine, no longer necessary and easily replaced if broken or removed.

I had been thinking of Jesus’ words in John 19:30, “It is finished.”

What was the IT, I wondered? The IT that was finished? His earth-life existence as a human being? His work as Savior? His sacrifice for sins? What exactly did he mean by that?

I’ve read some opinions on the meaning of that final statement. Here’s one I like:

“Jesus became the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sin. The word in this verse, “finished,” is actually from the Greek word, “tetelestai,” which is the same word that means “paid in full.” Often, it was used in an accounting term, which indicates a debt was paid. The uniqueness about the way it was written is that the tense of the word indicates both a point in time it was complete and that it would also continue to be complete or finished. And this is the essence of what Christ came to do. He came to “finish” God’s work of salvation in us. He came to “pay it in full,” the entire penalty, or debt, for our sins. He’s at work in our world still today in powerful ways.” (https://www.ibelieve.com/faith/the-power-of-jesus-last-words-the-meaning-behind-it-is-finished.html)

But think about this: Some things were not actually finished. Jesus would return as a human being in a few days, remaining on planet earth for a few more weeks. At the moment on the cross when Jesus said “Finished,” he had not yet presented his blood in heaven so his sacrifice for sins wasn’t finished; his work as Savior was not complete.

His ministry to human beings wasn’t done either. More was still to come on the day of Pentecost! And beyond that, his ministry as intercessor for believers is a never-ending assignment.

Of course, none of those things could have been realized had Jesus not actually died on the cross — died body, soul and spirit. In that regard IT was indeed finished. The debt we owed was truly PAID IN FULL.

As I meditated on all this, the Holy Spirit began to talk to me.

“Finished, hmmm? Just an old cog? Unimportant? Unnecessary?” He began to show me a few examples of old cogs, the way He sees them.

  • Abraham and Sarah — parents at 100 and 90 years of age; think they needed to be re-energized?
  • Moses — failed son of Pharoah’s daughter who became a shepherd in a foreign land; recalled to be deliverer of Israel at age 80.
  • David — many long years running for his life from King Saul, chased, persecuted; tired?
  • Zachariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s parents — elderly new parents whose son became a “wild man” living in the desert.

I’m sure they’d all prayed, waited and wondered; wondered if IT was finished, whatever IT was in their lives.

Things to think about.

In, it’s such a little word

What was the plan, exactly?

Let’s talk about words some more. Words are describers:

Short, tall. Long, short.
Strong, weak. Simple, complicated.
Ideas, plans… Plans?

Remember this for later: “No word of God is void of power.” (Luke 1:37)

I was meditating on that verse one evening. It’s the angel Gabriel’s answer to Mary that day. He had told her something amazing, something wonderful, something absolutely dumbfounding. And she had asked him, How?

I gave that a bit more thought, then asked – “NO word, Lord? No word of God is void of power?”

“Have you considered the word in?” He replied. “As in, In the beginning?”

“Hmmm. I know several verses begin that way. Genesis 1:1; John 1:1.” I could almost feel him nod his head and wait, as I continued to think.

I had to admit that I’d never really considered that little word, in. So I did. I looked it up in various secular and Bible dictionaries, Strong’s Concordance, etc. The definition is not complicated. In indicates a location, a relative position. Inside. On. Within. At. Among. With.

Those meanings are simple. How is that little word in powerful, I wondered? Various Bible phrases began coming to mind.

In Christ. In Him. In whom. Jesus claimed that He was in the Father, that the Father was in him, and one day, they would both be in us. What a thought – one day we would be inhabited by God himself.

Consider John 14:10, 20-21, 23:

  • 10 “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works… “
  • 20 “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”
  • 21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him…”
  • 23 “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

Also:

  • “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:” (Eph. 1:3-4)
  • “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Eph. 3:12)
  • “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:6)
  • “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:” (Col. 2:9-10)
  • “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;” (Acts 17:28)

So much wonderful truth is contained in that one little word, “in!”

After a day or two, I began wondering about something else…

What exactly happened “in the beginning?” (Or even before the beginning.)

The Word was there… In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Secret things were kept… That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 13:35)

A kingdom was prepared… Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matt. 25:34)

The blood of prophets was shed… That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; (Luke 11:50)

God loved Jesus… Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:24)

God chose us… According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: … 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; [even] in him: (Eph. 1:4, 10)

The works were finished… For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. (Heb. 4:3)

Jesus coming to earth in human form was preplanned; foreordained… Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, (I Pet. 1:20)

The Lamb (Jesus) was slain… And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev. 13:8)

Certain names were written in the book of life… The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev. 17:8)

I’ve begun to see a plan, haven’t you? The essential difference between Christianity and any religion: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) The Gospel. The good news. THE PLAN. The only plan, planned from the beginning.

Christians are inhabited by the same Spirit that created everything. (John 1:3, Col. 1:16)

Such a powerful word, in.

Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

A little learning is a dangerous thing!

What you don’t know will kill you.

    You know?
    What do you know?
    Who do you know?
    How do you know?

Everyday phrases like those seem to abound about knowing something. But what about NOT knowing something?

“If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” (I Cor. 8:2 NASB)

Knowledge is defined as facts, truth, information, data; skills acquired through experience. Are those things important? Sure. More important than intuition? More essential than gut feelings? Yes and no.

When authentic (God-defined), knowledge has to be the foundation of our faith, set firmly in place before intuition or gut feelings can be depended on. The Holy Spirit can and does inform, lead and guide by what we might call intuition or gut feelings, but his advice relies completely on God’s word.

If you were to look over text books from a few hundred years ago, you’d see that some “facts” aren’t always factual, scientific “truth” isn’t always correct, and certain “data” sets have changed over the years.

Hecataeus of Miletus believed the Earth was flat and surrounded by water. He ridiculed the belief that water encircled the world, yet most classicists agree he still believed the Earth was flat because of his descriptions of literal “ends” or “edges” of the Earth. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_Earth)

Even skills acquired through experience can be changed by further experience. Those funds of knowledge have been adjusted, adapted, even edited over the years.

But God’s word is unchanging. It’s actually alive, dependable, trustworthy and faithful. (I Peter 1:25; Hebrews 4:12)

God places a high value on a certain fund of knowledge: his word. Not just bits and pieces of his word, but the whole, the complete, taken in context, meditated on, digested, lived by. Everything we need to succeed as his children is contained in it. (II Peter 1:2-8)

There’s one problem; assumptions sometimes take the place of actual knowledge of the scriptures. Partial knowledge takes the place of whole understanding. Here’s one example:

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

That verse is often quoted. It sounds really deep, really holy, really true, doesn’t it?

However, verse 10 says, “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

Here’s another example:

John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That’s another frequently quoted verse, spoken by Christian and secular people alike. But it’s only the last half of a sentence.

The first half reads, “Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” Without the first half, the last half isn’t really true.

Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” And Isaiah 5:13 says, “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge…”

That helps explain why many believers live beneath God’s best for them. Something critically important is missing in their life.

Missing with many believers is the knowledge and understanding of who we are in Christ, and the authority we have been given through the indwelling Holy Spirit. If you don’t know you have it, you certainly won’t exercise it.

Then too, believing the wrong thing, trusting on faulty or false knowledge will also lead to not exercising the authority and power God has delegated to us. (That’s especially true in our speech.)

Some critical truths for believers to learn, to know, and to act on:

1. Greater things than Jesus did will we do.
2. As he is in the world, so are we.
3. Prayer is not begging God to do something he has told US to do, he has told us plainly to do certain things. Prayer is finding out what God wants prayed and praying that: his will.
4. Words are destructive or creative, therefore speak creatively. Speak life: command, declare, decree what God wants in the circumstances.
5. If you keep saying what you’ve got, you’ll keep getting what you’ve got.
6. You have an enemy stalking you, using stealth weapons. He disguises himself, of course.
7. Those include ignorance, doubt, unbelief, half-truths; believing lies about your identity, your ability, your assignment.

Scripture references:

1. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12 KJV)

2. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17)

3 (a). “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Eph. 5:17)

“For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;” (Col. 1:9)

3 (b). “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:20)

“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” (Mark 16:20)

Note: The Lord can’t confirm something that isn’t preached…

4. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Prov. 18:21)

“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10)

5. See Number 4!

6. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (II Cor. 2:11)

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” (II Cor. 11:14)

7. “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23)

Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

Who doesn’t like Christmas?

This is a re-post from November 2010… still appropriate for many people, I think.

That rhetorical question from a movie blurb has played over and over in the last week – Christmas movies have arrived on cable TV. But it’s not rhetorical for me. The answer is, “Me.”

Christmas used to be a happy time of year, before the 1968 one where my severely depressed mother took an overdose of pills and washed it down with vodka. I found her unconscious in her bed, after she didn’t show up for work one morning.

The family took turns Christmas day sitting with her at the hospital, then after she was stabilized, my husband and I drove her to MUSC. Still clad in a hospital gown and robe with thin foam slippers on her feet, she huddled up in a hospital “blanket” (folded bedspread) on what seemed to be the coldest day of the year. Transfer by ambulance was unavailable, and our driving her to be admitted was the only other solution.

Our car wasn’t up to the trip so we had borrowed an uncle’s VW beetle – and soon discovered the heater was broken. It’s a miracle we didn’t all have pneumonia by the time we got there.

There have been several other really bad Christmases since then, including the one 10 days after Tim died in 2006.

Yes, I know it’s the time to celebrate our Savior’s birth. I know it’s the time to sing Joy to the World. Knowing that and feeling that are two different things.

So some years I just don’t pull out the decorations, don’t watch the holiday movies, don’t send Christmas cards. It’s not that I don’t think that’s appropriate, because I do. Some years I actually do all of that.

But right now I’m thinking about other people who don’t consider it a rhetorical question, either. I pray for others like me, struggling against memories of a much less than joyful holiday season.

I pray that the reason for the season – the baby Jesus, crucified Savior and risen Christ – will flood all our hearts and minds, overcoming those bad memories this year.

Principles of Intercession: A new section added

Beginning in the Fall of 2016, I began teaching an adult Sunday School class, Principles of Intercessory Prayer (intercession).

I have begun uploading my notes from those classes to this blog.

If you decide to read or study using these notes, please take the time to read the many Bible passages that are mentioned. Topics covered in the study include:

  • Definitions of intercession and prayer; not the same thing
  • Why pray? Prayer is God’s idea, his command
  • Authority of the believer in prayer
  • Knowing and praying the will of God
  • God’s faith needed to pray in faith
  • Hindrances to answers: doubt, unbelief, sin
  • Power of your words, before, during and after prayer
  • Gifts and work of the Holy Spirit
  • Intercessors of the Bible
  • History of revival – Great Awakenings / Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Over the last 40 plus years I have collected, read and studied many books on prayer and intercession. At some point I may try to list those as an addendum. Many of the thoughts, ideas and principles contained in my notes have been prayerfully assimilated over the years from quite a few of those authors. Thus they may seem familiar to you.

One book that I purchased in bulk and gave away to class members and others is “Authority in Prayer, Praying with Power and Purpose” by Dutch Sheets (published 2006). I highly recommend it to anyone serious about participating in intercessory prayer.

 

Curious? Dissatisfied? Hungry? Desperate?

Who told Bartimaeus?

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

Bartimaeus shouted. Not an accepted member of the community, he was a blind beggar, thus considered unclean, unworthy, and not permitted to enter the Temple. People in the crowd rebuked him, trying to shut him up, but he kept on shouting — and he wasn’t just yelling, he was declaring something, something important: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Questions:

  • How did he know about Jesus?
  • How did he know who Jesus actually was?
  • Why did he want to get Jesus’s attention?

Well, he was persistent. He got Jesus’s attention. He didn’t ask him for money, he asked for healing so he could earn his own money, and he got it. (Then he became a follower of Jesus. Neat.)

Who told Zacchaeus?

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

“Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man…”  Remember that children’s song? He was a rich man, a powerful man with a powerful position, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him completely. He wanted to see this Jesus, to figure out who he was. Unfortunately, he was also an unpopular man, a Jewish man who worked for the Romans. Also unfortunately, he was a short man, and no-one would move out of the way and give him space to see. Undeterred, he did an undignified thing: he climbed up into a tree.

Questions:

  • How did he know it was Jesus coming his way?
  • How did he know Jesus was worth looking at?
  • Did he want something from Jesus?

He was persistent. Not dignified, but persistent. And so he did get to see Jesus, and Jesus also saw him! He didn’t ask Jesus for more power, a better position, or anything… instead he repented of the unjust way he’d been doing his job. He needed salvation, and he got it.

Who told the Syrophoenician Woman?

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24-30)

Although this woman’s name isn’t mentioned, her nationality is: Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia (part of Lebanon or Syria today). She was not a Jew. Jesus had come into her territory, however, and pretty soon word got out that he was there. She sought him out, determined to find help for her demon-oppressed daughter.

Questions:

  • How did she know Jesus even existed?
  • How did she know he could help her daughter?
  • When he seemed to refuse, why didn’t she just apologize for bothering him and go home?

She was stubbornly persistent. Not on her behalf, but on behalf of her daughter who desperately needed deliverance. And she got it.

Who told the Woman in the Pharisee’s House?

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

This woman’s name isn’t mentioned either, but her status in the community is: Sinner. The assumption is that she was probably a prostitute. From her boldness to enter Simon’s house while he had dinner guests, she was probably not just known to Simon, but familiar to him. Perhaps one of her clients? Who knows.

But she wasn’t just bold; she owned an alabaster box of perfume, an expensive item to be carrying around. Some scholars have proposed that it was her life savings, although Luke doesn’t make that clear.

In any case, she didn’t just walk in, she fell down at Jesus’s feet, cried over them, washing his feet with her tears. Then she dried them with her hair, finally anointing them with the perfume. Can you imagine what her hair looked like after that? Or what the room smelled like after that?

Strangely enough, Simon didn’t have her thrown out. He didn’t even rebuke her himself. No, he began to criticize Jesus in his mind, who of course knew exactly what he was thinking.

Questions:

  • How did the woman know who Jesus was?
  • Who told her that Jesus was in Simon’s house?
  • What gave her the courage to invite herself in?
  • What gave her the humility to attend to Jesus’s dirty feet in an act of loving worship, when no servant had bothered to wash them?

She was persistent, throughout this encounter. She was already forgiven, because she already loved the Lord — she wanted to give him the best she had, and she wanted to do it publicly, in the position of a servant. She had needed salvation, and she had got it.

As you can see, I have questions and some possible answers of my own, but to me the most important point is this:

Somebody had told each one of them about Jesus.  Who he was, where he was, what he could do for them.

Whether they were just curious, or dissatisfied and hungry for more in their life, or desperate for help, somebody had told them about Jesus. A  neighbor. A friend or a relative. Maybe even a stranger in the crowd – somebody told them about Jesus. After they heard, they sought Jesus out and they found him.

It’s not the job of the preacher, the teacher, the prophet or the evangelist, only. Telling is every believer’s job. Somebody told us, didn’t they?