Distractions: weapons against you

“We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Or are we?

When you’re distracted, your attention changes. Your focus  shifts. Suddenly you’re side tracked, off target.

This doesn’t just mean an annoyance; if you’re a soldier in a for-real war, a distraction can be fatal. Wounded or dead, distractions prevent your objectives from being accomplished.

Enemies use distractions like slick magicians, but the result isn’t just a laugh or two, the result is death. Think suicide bombers dressed like pregnant women. Think Trojan War. Distraction is a well-known, well-used warfare strategy. (See below.) How is it that the church at large isn’t recognizing that fact?

If he can’t kill you outright, the devil will try to nullify your faith, thus your effectiveness. An attractive con man, Satan can be an enemy spy in the camp (i.e. the church, or in the mind of an individual). He’s pretty good at it.

Too many Christians seem to have forgotten we’re in a real shooting war. There’s a real enemy who has thousands of years of experience in destroying humans. (But our commander-in-chief has way more experience in combating the enemy!)

Right now the enemy is using distractions across the body of Christ as effective weapons. Some distractions that I see across the globe right now include:

  • Offense. Feelings hurt. Self-pity. Rights violated. Poor me. Bad you!
  • Pride. Self-righteousness. I’m right, he’s wrong. I have to tell him that he’s wrong. Gossip. Social media!
  • Deceptions. Fake news. Half-truths. Exaggerations. Believing a lie. Not believing the truth.
  • “Discussions” of politics and religion. Smart alecky comments degenerate into bad manners. Rudeness. Spite.
  • Busyness. Laziness. Ignorance. Schedules packed too full of non-essentials.
  • Disagreements leading to arguments. Strife. Church splits. Denomination splits. Family splits.
  • Worry. Anxiety. Depression. Lay-offs. Poverty. Hunger. Homelessness.
  • Disease. Pain. Cancer. Stroke. Heart attack. Accidents.
  • Troubles in family and friends.
  • Fear. Paranoia. Crime. Terrorists. Human trafficking. Children stolen.
  • Technology. Hacking. Stolen identity. Smart phones. Reckless driving.
  • Too much stress. Alcohol. Drugs. Pornography. Spending. Movies, magazines, television, sports. Anything to take my mind off my troubles.
  • Apathy. Spiritual fatigue. Doubt. Unbelief. Nothing does any good, why try.

What happens when all these distractions are going on? Rather, what is NOT going on? Our personal assignment is not getting done. Our personal mission is not being accomplished.

What to do? Open your eyes! Pray for gifts of discerning of spirits, so you can see what’s really happening – this is a spiritual battle, this is a real war, and these are real dangers.

———————————————–

Distraction in warfare

  • Fake targets:
    • In open field with mass military strategy, sometimes a contingent of troops distracts the enemy army to expose their flank, or to draw them away from a key point or fortification.
    • Flares can divert enemy soldiers’ gaze.

Distraction was a key battle strategy in tales from the Trojan War. According to the legend, the Greeks seemed to have retreated by pretending to sail away. In their stead, they left a large wooden horse, which the Trojans then chose to bring back within their walls in order to celebrate their supposed victory. The Greeks used the Trojans’ pride as a distraction, as they actually hid men within the Trojan Horse in order to let the rest of the army in during the cover of night. The Greeks then entered and destroyed the city of Troy, effectively ending the 10-year standoff that was the Trojan War.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distraction#In_warfare

 

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Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind

“If God is using these storms to bring people to himself, maybe we shouldn’t pray against them?”

A friend asked me that last week. After all, so many hurting people seem to be turning to the Lord in the aftermath of all these hurricanes / tornadoes / earthquakes / floods / fires – and even a horrendous shooting attack by a madman.

But there is a huge flaw in that idea: these disasters are killing many people and sending some of them to hell. That’s not the way God draws people to himself.

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (KJV)

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9

Questions and more questions need to be answered, in considering that first one:

  1. Who is the prince of the power of the air? The one trying to murder people?
  2. What are the wages of sin?
  3. Who are the workers for those wages?
  4. When did the law of sowing and reaping go into effect?
  5. What is judgment, anyway?
  6. Can anything stop it?
  7. How can it be stopped?

Answers:

1. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:” Eph. 2:2

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” John 8:44

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Eph. 6:12

“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…” I Pet. 5:8-9

2. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:23

3. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Rom. 6:16.

4. “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Gen. 8:22

5. Judgment is God allowing the eternal law of sowing and reaping to take effect, unless someone / something stops it.

“Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.” Job 4:8

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…” Hosea 8:7

6. Intercession, pleading for God’s mercy, based on the knowledge of His character and will, can stop the law of sowing and reaping. And that is God’s will! Mercy, not judgment.

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18:25 (Abraham’s intercession)

“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” II Chron. 7:14

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“Who (God our Savior) will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” I Tim. 2:4

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezek. 22:30

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.” Isa. 59:16

7. (a) Intercession, i.e. asking God for mercy, asking him to send Holy Spirit conviction that results in repentance; and

(b) The body of Christ taking proper authority over the enemy who is seeking to kill as many people as possible.

“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. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” Mark 11:23-24

“He replied, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” Luke 17:6

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

Who are you, Lord?

TimesAreChangingHolySpiritFireMarch 26, 2016

“The times, they are a-changing.” Odd day, today. Odd atmosphere. Odd time frame. Out of sync somehow. Out of order.

For several nights in a row I’ve had dreams to remember again, dreams with actual story lines and spiritual components. There I am, sharing a testimony with someone I don’t know, helping someone in need, or traveling somewhere I don’t recognize. Suddenly I’m in an unfamiliar scene, speaking to people, helping somehow.

There’s an urgency in these dreams, as if events are too quickly unfolding and time is growing short, too short!

It’s Saturday, according to the calendar. According to the television news and the daily morning newspaper, today is Saturday. But it doesn’t feel like Saturday. Just like yesterday didn’t feel like Friday, or any particular day. It just feels odd. Like waiting for the other shoe to fall, odd.

My conversations with the Lord lately have been mostly about Him. Who are you, Lord? I asked him a week or so ago. Others have asked that question through the ages, of course. I can understand their curiosity; I’ve always been curious myself. I’ve written down my own feelings and beliefs about Father God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit on many pages.

But this time I wasn’t studying for an article to write or a class to teach. I just wanted to know for me, myself, my own spirit and soul and mind. Who are you, Lord? Who ARE you? Tell me about You, yourself. How do you describe yourself?

Well, he’s never been hesitant to answer my questions before and he wasn’t this time. He has told me a lot over the days since then. Sometimes it’s hours long, these conversations, as patiently he pours out words, mental images, descriptions and explanations.

  • Protector. We went back to before I was born and from that time until today, he revealed to me things I never knew. Dangers avoided. Tragedy averted. Angels in many guises, many sizes, guarding and guiding. That extra nurse in the newborn nursery. That man you passed in the street while walking downtown… not a man really, he just looked like one.

That pretty lady in the dime store, that young boy on the bicycle, those ordinary looking people driving by in their family car. Angels, looking out for Father’s beloved children. Who knows who all those people are in the grocery store, the gas station, the mall? Some of them just aren’t people at all, and we never suspect.

  • Provider. Provider of material and spiritual things, blankets, hamburgers, books to read, shoes and socks and jeans and tee shirts, cars and gasoline. Roof. Sidewalk. Grass. Brainpower. Intellect. Fascination with new things. Emotional connections. Friends. Relatives. Jobs. Interests. Hobbies.

It’s not just employment and paychecks, it’s everything and anything, needs and desires, comprehension, realization and enlightening – mental acuity, talents, abilities, spiritual hungers and satisfactions. The list is so very long! People, places and things. Place to be born, place to grow up, place to work and play. Every stick of everything in every place, every room of every house I’ve ever lived in, and there have been a lot of those, from birth to now.

  • Teacher. Who was your first teacher? He asked me. I didn’t have to think too hard – mama of course, and daddy, grandmother Mimi, grandfather Da, even younger brother Harold. Many aunts and uncles, nursery workers at church, Sunday School teachers, kindergarten teachers, grammar school… their faces began to roll slowly through my mind, although some of them I hadn’t thought of in years.

This week, he asked, have there been teachers this week? Oh yes, but mostly online nowadays, I thought. Well, no, not the most important one: Holy Spirit is always teaching! Wonderful teacher, bringing to mind the Word, the scriptures. New insights, new understanding of his unchanging Word. Ever present, ever available.

  • Lover. I could feel the soft baby blanket wrapped around my infant self, feel the rocking chair gently moving. I could feel the hugs and hear my squeals of delight as daddy tossed my toddler self up into the air a little, feel the rush of air as someone patiently pushed the yard swing a bit higher. I could hear our competitive laughter as we played scrabble and Chinese checkers in the evenings, brother and me trying our best to out-do the experts – i.e. the grownups in the room.

I saw, really saw the behind-the-scenes sacrificial love of my parents, their authentic affection for each other and for us. I also saw the many mistakes I’d made, looking for love in all the wrong places… but then he showed me the more recent years, my wonderment of being cherished, understood and appreciated by his hand-picked marriage partner.

There was a day or so of “other stuff” kinds of prayers and answers, time to digest and meditate before I asked again.

Who are you, Lord? The atmosphere in my room seemed to sharpen as swift moving images of the past became images of the present and the future – near future perhaps.

  • Warrior.

Involved. Complex. Complicated. Detailed. Power. Weaponry. Tactics. Strategy. Stealth. Flexibility. Overt. Covert. Strength. Martial arts. Intelligence. Individuals and teams. Network. Deception. Commandos. Rangers. Seals. Ground troops. Air forces. Submarines. Navy. Marines. Listening. Undercover. Civilian and military. Paramilitary.

Inside every believer in every field of work, Holy Spirit is there. From news reporters and editors to theologians, entertainers to computer coders, hand-to-hand fighters to stealth pilots; from legislators to secretaries, school boys to “little old ladies,” from insurance agents to secret agents, manufacturers to assembly plant workers, industrial spies to MI5.

Members of national and international commissions, committees, think tanks, NATO, UN, EU, governments and militias, rebels and patriots, and everything else you can imagine on every continent, in every nation.

Anywhere there is a Christian, there is the Holy Spirit observing and working from the inside. Linking. Networking. Educating and training, instructing and directing. Filling in the gaps. There is no such thing as a closed nation to Holy Spirit. Whisperer; fire starter; warrior.

I may wait a bit before asking that question again.

What’s it all about?

Catchy tune, poignant words. “What’s it all about, Alfie” is a 1966 Burt Barach song, written for the movie Alfie. It was a sad movie. I saw it when it first came out and was sorry I did.

But those words ring around in my head these days as I read so many prophecies, so many news stories, so many opinions from political pundits and religious experts.

Here’s another catchy tune, from 1971. It has better words, straight out of the Bible:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”

In the last few weeks, I have watched the Holy Spirit demonstrate the kingdom of God in a variety of ways. Here’s a few instances:

A young college student was tormented by fear after his dad died in his sleep several months ago, terrified that his mother would also die suddenly and leave him an orphan. Unable to shake this dread, he was calling her at work multiple times a day just to be sure she was okay. They both knew he needed help. He needed deliverance. His mom came to me for help.

Several friends of his family gathered around him after church a couple of weeks ago. We commanded the tormenting spirit to leave and spoke God’s peace and joy to him, as the evil spirit of fear completely left him. Then we prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he was. It has been marvelous to see what the Lord has been doing in his life since that morning. Freedom!

This past Sunday our pastor didn’t preach a usual sermon or teach a usual Bible lesson – he read long passages of scripture from Isaiah and Matthew, the prophecy and fulfillment of Jesus’ crucifixion.

“It was for you,” he said. “All of it was for you.” Then as he waited the Holy Spirit moved across the congregation, bringing several people forward for prayer. One young woman had decided to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and to say, “Yes, it was for me!” It was wonderful to join in praising God for her new life in Christ.

Not all the work of the kingdom I’ve been observing recently was in church altars or aisles. Last week in a local retail business, I had the privilege of laying hands on a 50 year old man for healing, and then for him to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer and was facing weeks, perhaps months, of radiation and other therapies.

The power of God fell in that room. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so palpable, those observing were in tears – including me. We knew God was beginning something remarkable in him, even as he complies with his doctor’s plans for treatment. He was already an intercessor for his family and friends; now he will be interceding for his physicians, hospital staff, other patients and their families, all the new needy people he will encounter in this new chapter of his life.

The 54 year old son of friends had what should have been routine hernia surgery some weeks ago, but complications led to the build-up of fluid in his chest and then to non-healing of his surgical incision. Soon he was critically ill – an infection had developed in his blood.

He fell into a coma-like state and his family sent out an urgent request for intercession. His doctors weren’t optimistic for his recovery, but his family refused to be pessimistic as we spoke life, healing, wholeness, total and complete normal function to his body. Now only a short time later he is awake, talking and very hungry! After weeks of IV’s he is eating regular food – such a dramatic improvement that only the Lord can get the credit. And the glory!

In this last month there have been so many other opportunities, other occasions for the Lord to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right toward him. He’s waiting for his people to take him where he wants to go and let him do what he wants to do. What he’s always done – demonstrate His kingdom.

If instead of looking at what’s wrong around us (in church, in government, in business, in family) let’s look at how we can manifest the kingdom of God in our part of the world. Letting Jesus use our eyes to look through is truly “eye-opening.” So many hurting people surround us every day, people who need help. God’s help. Our help.

When we see them that way, we’ll intervene. We’ll intercede. We’ll open our mouth and let the Holy Spirit fill it, extend our hand to convey God’s peace in the midst of turmoil. We’ll lay hands on the sick and see them recover. Speak the command and see demons flee.

That’s what it’s all about.

 

Watch your mouth

WatchYourMouth“Na-na na-na Na-Na!” one of us siblings sing-songed to the other, laughing, skipping, sticking out his tongue.

Get the message? I won and you didn’t! Or, I got it and you didn’t! Or, I’m better than you are!

If my mama heard that, “Watch your mouth!” would be coming next. She didn’t put up with that kind of rude, disrespectful noise out of our mouths.

“Now say you’re sorry,” she would insist.

“Sorry” would be mumbled, head down, eyes looking up. Really sorry? No, not really, just sorry we got caught.

What difference did it make, we’d be thinking, if what we said was rude or ugly? Hurt his feelings? Made him feel bad? So what, he’d get over it. Wouldn’t he?

“We were just having fun,” we’d excuse ourselves. “Didn’t mean anything.”

“I don’t care,” Mama would emphasize, “don’t let me hear that kind of stuff come out of your mouth again.” And we wouldn’t – let her hear it, that is.

As my brother and I grew up, we started minding our manners a bit better. We were more careful how we expressed our selfish, holier-than-thou attitudes.

Then, we were both born again. Our attitudes began to change from the inside out; we began to learn that words really can help or hurt, create or destroy. But we also found that it takes work. It takes practice.

Nowadays I read multiple blogs and news stories on a regular basis. Like many of my friends, I use social media to keep in touch. I attend events like church services and prayer meetings. And I’ve noticed a troubling truth:

We Christians need to watch our mouth.

Just like the world, believers are apt to say “My back is killing me.” Or hearing a joke, to say, “That just kills me.” A young dad might tell one of his own kids, “You can’t do anything right.” Or commiserate to a friend, “I just can’t seem to get ahead.”

Describing the same problem over and over, they would beg God to fix it, then say in frustration “I don’t think my prayers are getting through.”

It’s disturbing to see so many believers criticize and find fault with their own church leadership, even the body of Christ at large. How is that helpful? Creative? I am more determined than ever to speak life, speak God’s word, offer real-time solutions, and not keep rehashing the problems.

Even more disturbing is hearing a Christian friend pray in doubt wishing, not knowing for sure what he’s asking is God’s will. Not knowing how to actually find God’s will in the first place. Not knowing the power in everyday words, not knowing what words really are:

  • Information. Facts, truth, ideas, solutions, answers – all conveyed by words, thought, spoken, or written. As time goes by, knowledge about everything under the sun is increasing. Wisdom in how to use that information needs to increase, too.
  • Weapons. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” James 3 tells us that the tongue can be a bridle, a rudder, or a spark, and is humanly untameable. (The Holy Spirit can tame it, and he will if we let him.)
  • Containers of life. Jesus said in John 6:63, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” Jesus raised the dead to life again with his word.
  • Conveyors of authority.

Mark 1:22 – The religious leaders recognized that Jesus’s words contained God’s authority and were astonished.

Mark 1:25-27 – The unclean spirit (demon) recognized it also, obeyed him and came out of the man.

Matt. 12:13 – The sick man recognized it, obeyed Jesus and his paralyzed hand was healed.

Matt. 8:5-13 – The Centurion recognized it, acknowledged that Jesus only needed to speak the word of authority – Jesus spoke and the servant was healed.

Acts 3:1-8 – Peter spoke words of authority, the crippled man obeyed and was healed.

Acts 27 – Paul spoke words of authority to those onboard the troubled ship, they obeyed and their lives were saved.

Here’s the thing – We have been given the same authority Jesus has, as his co-workers filled with the Holy Spirit and assigned to be his mouthpiece. See Matthew 28:18-20.

Ephesians 4:29-30 admonishes us, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Edifying? Building up, like constructing a house. Corrupt communication? Words that wreck faith, health, confidence – including your own. When you talk, the first person to hear what you say is you, yourself.

Matthew 12:34 says that what comes out of your mouth is what was in your heart. We all need to be sure that what is in our heart is life, not death. Filled with faith, not fear or doubt or confusion. It’s critically important how we talk (and what we write).

Life and faith don’t get into our hearts automatically, just because we become a Christian. We have to do something about that. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” (Romans 12:2)

“Faith comes by hearing…” (Romans 10:17) Hearing what? Hearing God’s word. Read it to yourself, read it out loud, write it down, re-read it often. Get it into your spiritual memory banks, your mind, your heart.

II Peter 1:2-10 would be a good passage to learn by heart! So would Philippians 4:8-9.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

“… receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:21-22)

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

My prayer is that our words – our hearts, our prayers, our ordinary conversations – will be used by the Holy Spirit to help solve problems, not create more.

“Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be” — God’s will?

(From the Archives.)

Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

A couple of years ago, the Sunday School class I attended was studying the Bible account of Jesus and the disciples, the boat and the storm.

Jesus and the disciples were in a boat headed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a bad storm came up. Jesus was taking a nap and the panic-stricken disciples woke him up, saying “Lord, save us, we perish.” (Matthew 8:25) Mark puts it like this: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)

Jesus got up, rebuked the storm stopping it in its tracks, and then rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. (They could have stopped the storm themselves, without waking him up.)

One of the class members said, “God was trying to kill Jesus with the storm. That’s why the storm arose in the first place, and then Jesus cancelled out God’s will by rebuking the storm.”

I asked her, “You don’t believe Jesus was God?” “Well, yes,” she said, “but everything that happens is God’s will, isn’t it?” She looked a little puzzled at my reaction when I strongly disagreed. The notion that everything bad and evil happening in the world is God’s will, his design, his doing — is calling evil, good, and good, evil.

God created man to have a will of his own, gave him authority to use it, and has never taken that authority back. God did not force Adam and Eve to disobey a direct command. He doesn’t force me, or you, or Hitler, or Jeffrey Dahmer, or a child rapist, or a terrorist, to commit evil.

It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9) Yet some people do perish.

We are instructed to pray for leaders and government authorities, because it’s God’s will for “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 2:4) But not all people will be saved.

People have a free will of their own — some use it to make the wrong choice. The devil didn’t make them do it, and God didn’t make them do it.

If everything that happened was God’s will, why bother to pray? Just let whatever will be, be. But then certain other scriptures would have to be torn out of the Bible…

Like Ephesians 6:2, “Honor thy father and mother which is the first commandment with promise, that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” That’s number Five of the Ten Commandments, quoted from Exodus 20:12 and Deuteronomy 5:16.

Well, maybe the Ten Commandments don’t apply any more. Or maybe they don’t apply to everybody, or they don’t apply in any real sense. Just in a wishy-washy sense that only applies to some group dynamic — not to individuals at all, just the whole of mankind which will survive while individuals are slaughtered at God’s whim. Hogwash.

Many “if” statements are found throughout the Bible. If you do this, that will happen. It’s the eternal law of sowing and reaping. Long life is one of those “ifs.” Deuteronomy 6:2, “… that thy days may be prolonged.” Deuteronomy 11:9, “And that ye may prolong your days in the land…” If they obeyed God’s Word, that is. But they didn’t, and their days weren’t prolonged.

What about bad things happening to good people? If God isn’t behind everything, then is he powerless? NOT omnipotent after all? Couldn’t he do something to stop it, if it wasn’t his will? Yes, if God wanted to change himself, become an Indian-giver and a liar, he could. But he gave control of some things over to people.

We have an enemy, Satan, who hates God and us. He’s real; a real liar and a real murderer. He will kill us if he can, steal from us whatever he can take and destroy anything he can’t take. (John 10:10.) He is the accuser and the leader-astray, but he can’t make us do anything against our will. He can certainly suggest sin, demonstrate how to do it and promise to reward it, but in the end he will be destroyed. Those who side with him will be destroyed, too.

God told us to do certain specific things. He made promises and provisions to those who are in Christ. The global, spiritual warfare is real, the devastation is real, the pain is real, but God’s power is even more real. He loves to demonstrate that power through the lives of his people. If they will let him…

If prayer was useless and “que sera, sera” was true, why would we be told to pray so many times? If faith was powerless, why did Jesus urge the disciples to have God’s faith? If death and disaster was God’s will, why did God send the Holy Spirit and gifts of healing and miracles?

The choice to believe is ours, and I choose to believe God is good, his mercy endures forever, and his Word is true. Mark 11:23-24 is true. Mark 9:23 is true. Matthew 17:20 is true.

The problem isn’t in God or in his Word. The problem is in those who fall for “que sera, sera” and won’t pay the price to believe. Faith is ours for the taking, but it comes with a responsibility and a job description.

When somebody gets sick and dies, it’s easier to say it must have been God’s will and excuse unbelief, than to take responsibility for failure. The disciples failed, after all — they tried to cast out a demon from a sick child and failed. (Mark 9:14-29) Jesus came along, took care of the problem, then explained to the disciples what they needed to do differently. Prayer with fasting. Do you suppose they ignored Jesus after that and simply quit praying for the sick? I don’t think so.

Jerry Savelle came to Florence years ago for a series of meetings about healing. He recalled an incident when a man complained to him, “Brother Jerry, you prayed for brother so and so, and he died!” Jerry answered, “Everybody I pray for dies sooner or later.” That didn’t excuse him from praying for the next fellow, and it doesn’t excuse us either.