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Posts from October 2012

Prostitute Christians

There are some passages in Scripture that are confounding, and likely would be received with cringes if read aloud on a Sunday morning during worship.

There are numerous passages that sound, at first, a little racy and tend to go into subject matter that would make grandma blush. One such passage is in Ezekiel 16. God is speaking to Jerusalem (and to believers throughout the ages.)

When I  passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.  Ezekiel 16:8(ESV)

Not exactly "G" rated, huh?

God is speaking of his intimate relationship with Israel and I believe alluding to the church as well. This is a poetic foreshadowing of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church. . .us. The spreading of the corner of his garment is symbolic of betrothal and protection. This is seen in the book of Ruth as well.

God continues by telling of his faithfulness and fidelity to Israel, and to us.

Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck.  And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.  Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty.  And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God.  Ezekiel 16:9-14(ESV)

The simple story here is that when we enter into a personal relationship with God, through Christ, He covers us with His grace and fills us with His beauty. His love for us is evident throughout this passage.

Then, we did this:

But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his.  You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be. You also took your beautiful jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself images of men, and with them played the whore.  And you took your embroidered garments to cover them, and set my oil and my incense before them. Ezekiel 16:15-18(ESV)

Wow!

We read this and immediately think "Those people were terrible! How could they not love God. Look at what He did for them."

Then we realize. . .we are those people.

You may be saying, "What? A whore? Really?!? I haven't cheated. A prostitute? Seriously?" and you feel offended.

We get offended easily don't we?

I was talking about a mutual friend today with another guy. He told me that he can tell when this friend is struggling spiritually. He says that when he asks spiritual questions such as "What are you reading lately? How's your prayer life? etc." this friend gets offended. He's never offended when he is reading the Word, praying and seeking to be filled with the Spirit.

So, like our friend. . .we often get offended when our sin is uncovered.

Here's the reality. We (Christ-followers) are all guilty of having things in our lives we pursue more than God. We don't call it sin initially because, well, it's just not, right? In some cases, the thing that is pursued is a "bad" thing like drugs or alcohol or pornography or infidelity. However, in most cases, these thnigs are items that are morally permissable and neutral when we think of spiritual things and temptation, until. . .

Until that thing becomes an idol.

Do you know what you worship? Louie Giglio explains in his book "The Air I Breathe" the discovery process of knowing what we follow. He suggests we have to follow the trails of our lives. Follow the trail of your. . .

  • Time. How do you spend your time? How is most of your time covered (work, school, home, church, hobbies, TV, sleeping, playing on the web, updating Facebook and Twitter, etc.)?
  • Affections. What do you care most about? What relationships are you nurturing?
  • Energy. What do you work and play hardest at?
  • Money. Where do you spend your (well, God's) money? It's been said that to determine a person's heart, check their calendar and bank statement. Where you spend your time and money tells what really matters.
  • Allegiance. Where do your deep loyalties lie? Your church? Political party? Family? Sports teams? Yourself.

Just-follow-the-trailFollow the trail of these things. At the end of the trail you'll find a throne; and whatever - or whomever - is on that throne is what's of highest value to you. It's your ultimate. . .your ideol. . . your adulterous lover.

To chase after idols is to prostitute the grace we have been given.

Here's God's response.

And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare.  They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.  And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more.  So will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. Ezekiel 16:39-42(ESV)

Again. . .not "G" rated, but rooted in love. The love of a God who is jealous and cannot watch his children continually prostitute themselves with worthless idols. He is simply saying, "If it is these other lovers (idols) you really desire, then I'll allow you to chase after them. I'll hand you over to them, but you need to know they will hurt and damage you."

And yet, it doesn't have to be this way.

Our God is a loving God. He is a grace giving God. He is a God who desires intimacy with His followers at a deep level. The Enemy says "You cannot trust Him." We often believe this lie and consequently, fall away (not losing salvation, but in rebellion, losing intimacy.)

Let's follow the trails in our lives and repent when we discover that we have allowed "things" to steal that which we owe only to God.

____________________________

Information in this posting taken from Louie Giglio's book The Air I Breathe: Worship As a Way of Life and Pete Wilson's book Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would.


The Greatest of All Lies

102812_1045_Spiritual Warfare Part 2

Last week we set the table for this series by explaining the tactic of the Enemy, God’s adversary, Satan. This tactic is to cause confusion, present lies and say this to humanity – “You cannot trust God. He’s holding out on you.”

Foundational to our study is the biblical truth that Satan is not the evil equivalent of God. He is not the mythical “dark side of the Force” from Star Wars or an all-powerful evil one who is in all places at all time.  

He is a created being. He is limited. His knowledge, power and presence are limited. He enters the human story in the Garden of Eden as a Serpent. Yet, he existed before the beginning of the human story.

He is a spiritual being and was an angelic one at first. He was a guardian cherub according to Ezekiel 28:14.

You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.  Ezekiel 28:14(ESV)

He was created by God with a purpose. His role was to glorify and serve God.

However, the ultimate cancer of sin entered into him and overtook his nature.  The sin of pride
and self-love became his downfall. His pride grew to such an extent he desired worship and exaltation. That which was reserved for God alone was desired by this angelic being.

He declared war on the Creator and his influence was strong. He convinced one-third of the angels to join him in his opposition. He led a coup with an angel army, fully believing he could win.

He was soundly defeated and judged by God for his sin. This enemy, the Serpent was cast down to earth. 

He was the Adversary (Satan) and continues to rebel. His army was cast out with him and this angelic group became evil demons under his lead. 

As we spoke last week, he first enters the human story in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve and led them to sin against God. He was judged for this by God and cursed for this sin. He was told that Jesus would ultimately come and completely defeat him. However, even though defeat was certain, Jesus would suffer physical harm in the battle.

This was the story of the cross.

The suffering on the cross, the payment for the sins of the world appeared to be a defeat of God by the Enemy. However, as we know, this was all in God’s plan. Jesus rose from the dead three days later, defeating the Enemy, defeating death and giving humanity a chance at life and knowing God.

Paul shared with the Galatian church about the shift from creator to child. While at first it may not seem to tie in with this theme of spiritual warfare, I will connect the dots here to the larger Story.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles£ of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? Galatians 4:1-9(ESV)

This passage gives us insight into typical ways that demons and the Enemy works in today’s contemporary religions and this includes today’s Christian church.

The Enemy is real. Demons are real and the tactics are time-proven and subtle.

The sad reality is that not many in our culture believe the enemy and his demons are real. These evil spirits who oppose God, confuse the mind of unbelievers, and deceive many. . . and at times even Christ-followers.

In our enlightened, tolerant, high tech world we find it difficult to believe in demons. We hear stories. . .but they are rare or spoken of in hushed tones.

If we are to reject the reality of our enemy and demons, we are then admitting our rejection of the counsel and teaching of Jesus and all the apostles.

But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Luke 11:20(ESV)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12(ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  1 Peter 5:8(ESV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7(ESV)

And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.  1 John 4:3(ESV)

In this first century time period, the battle was being waged. Paul lays out to the Galatian Christians the tactics of our enemy.

The main theme to believers is to not turn back to slavery. Don’t turn away from Christ and back to the slavery of the demons. Verse 8 details this as it says “Formerly, when you did not know
God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.”

There is one true God. Paul is speaking of the mythological gods the Galatian believers used to worship. In our view from this century we look back and know those to be references to the mythology of the Greeks and Romans. However, we must note that Paul, though not giving them props does not deny their existence.

The gods of the ancient world, whether the Baals  and Ashtoreths of the Old Testament or Zeus,
Jupiter and all the others in Greek and Roman mythology were nothing but demonic manifestations.

Throughout Paul’s writings to the first century church, he addresses this struggle. Many of these new believers had been entrenched in the false worship of the day. He uses many arguments to affirm the existence of the One True God.

Therefore, in this Galatian passage, Paul is saying the believers were formerly enslaved to demons, who exercised their power through religious practices.

The danger they were now facing as new believers is that they might turn back and once again become enslaved even after taking the joy and freedom of Christ. Verse 9 addresses this temptation.

Goats sheep wolvesAs pastor, one of my responsibilities is to fight for you, the flock, to help you understand the tactics of the enemy so that you may be alert and ready for the battle.  The battle is not optional for the Christ-follower.

The pastor is called to lead and given the role of shepherd for the church. The pastor – the under-shepherd, working under the ultimate Shepherd Jesus Christ is given great responsibility. Within each congregation are three groups – sheep, goats, and wolves.

  • Sheep – Christ-followers
  • Goats – Those who do not know Christ, but think they do.
  • Wolves – Those in the church but do not love the Lord and seek to bring division and destruction.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.  2 Corinthians 11:13-15(ESV)

And thus the Enemy attacks. And we wonder what’s happened to the Western church?

Satan’s tactics are always centered on a lie. The lie is “You cannot trust God. He’s holding out on you.” 

  • You cannot trust him to be there.
  • You cannot trust him to answer you.
  • You cannot trust him to help.
  • You cannot trust him to love you.
  • You cannot trust him to even exist.

And so the lies continue. And the agreements occur.

The most common question about Satan and demons, after the understanding of his reality and existence is this “Can Christians be possessed by demons?”

We know demon possession to be real. Jesus confronted it numerous times. The apostles confronted it. Stories from around the world today affirm it as well.

However, the answer to this question is often answered too quickly. The problem has to do with our understanding of the definition of “possess.”

According to the dictionary, it can mean three things:

  1. To own something
  2. To influence
  3. To dominate or control

So to answer these three assertions of possession:

  1. Satan can never own a Christian. We have been purchased already, by the blood of Christ. We were bought with a price. We are already owned by God. We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of God.
  2. Christians can be influenced by the Enemy and demons. We are in constant warfare. The battle is affirmed throughout Scripture. This enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Even Christ was attacked by the Enemy in this way during his temptation. 
  3. This causes the most confusion and debate among believers. Can demons dominate or control Christians? Some teach that through personal sin, generational sin or curses, demons have this authority of domination. However, Scripture is clear that Christians are NEVER UNDER THE RULING AUTHORY OF DARKNESS. Satan can never take authority over a Christian.

Christians will be attacked. Christians will be oppressed, though not possessed. Jesus fought these battles. Why wouldn’t we?

Christians can be deceived, accused, and tempted. The lies come at full force.

When believers make agreements and believe these lies, demonic oppression and influence is present. The battle is real. We are not to fear or worry, but to be prepared. When your guard is down, it’s hard to hear the still, small voice. . .but it’s easy to hear the accuser.

As Christ-followers and children of God, with the Spirit residing within us, we are responsible to and empowered by God to resist Satan.  

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7(ESV)

There is a battle.

Satan is real.

Demons are real.

But. . .God is “realer” (I know that's not a word, but you know what I mean.)

He is sovereign. He is power. 

There is nothing to fear for those who are children of God.

Are you a Christ-follower? Are you a child of God?

Believe me, if you just leave here and say “Hmmm. I just need to say Jesus’ name and all is good,” you’d better hear this. . .

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke
the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.  But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was
extolled.  Acts 19:11-17(ESV)

Jesus I know. Paul I know. Who are you?

I am a child of the king. I am a Christ-follower.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4(ESV)


REAL Manhood: The Story of Booker T. Washington

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7(ESV) 

A young man born into slavery in 1856 would impact the world for good. He was a slave. His mother was a slave. The political storm that erupted upon Abraham Lincoln’s election as President led to a time in United States’ history forever known by a war that pitted brother against brother and American against American. At age nine, this young slave would experience freedom for the first time in his life.

This young former slave had been working in the salt mines, but grasped an opportunity to upgrade to the coal mines. It was during this time, he sought out a former soldier who would teach him to read. Education and work became things he held as vital for success in life.

Throughout the age of Reconstruction, this young man continued his studies and continued to work hard. He refused to allow his circumstances to define him and at a much deeper level, refused to become a victim of the society he knew.

Booker T WashingtonHe finally made his way to the Hampton Institute where he was given the job of working as a janitor. His job provided the funds needed for school and food. He eventually graduated and was offered the opportunity to move to Alabama to be the founder, developer and first headmaster of a new school.

He was a man of integrity who stressed hard work and practical knowledge. He preached the value of providing for one’s family. He emphasized the importance of avoiding even the appearance of evil.

This young man, Booker T. Washington became one of the greatest educators in the history of the United States. His Tuskegee Institute emphasized practical as well as classical education.

Washington led his fellow ex-slaves not just out of slavery as a mindset, but up to economical self-reliance. He was a humble man who refused to play the victim. He was not passive and his life has become an inspiration for many.

While all men carry wounds, those wounds do not have to define a man. The passive man allows himself to fall into “victim” mode and blames his circumstances and past for present actions. The real man rejects passivity.


We Have No Excuse for Missing the Mission

Many times people will hear of our mission trips here at First Baptist Church that take us to cities and regions throughout the world. We are blessed to have a number of people committed to make these regular trips in order to minister to our missionaries and church planters in the regions as well provide feet on the ground for projects and events as needed.

However, there are always some who say "I just cannot go on a trip like that." In many cases, there are legitimate reasons, such as health, finances, travel restrictions due to work, etc.

Christ-child-logo2With our partnership with Samaritan's Purse and the Operation Christmas Child ministry, those excuses are no longer valid. Everyone can participate in international missions through providing a shoebox gift for children in other parts of the world.

It's more than a box full of toys. It's a tangible gift to a child in a region of the world where much is not available. This gift shows grace. It shows love. Most of all, due to the way the gifts are distributed and the gospel booklet provided, it shows a way to receive the greatest gift of all - life through Jesus Christ.

We are collecting shoebox gifts at our church through November 18. Our goal is to provide over 600 shoebox gifts from our fellowship. Together, we can do this. We may never know this side of heaven what happens with the gifts provided, but rest assured God will use them. Perhaps a child and maybe even more in his or her family will come to know Christ through the message of the Gospel provided.

 

 


Blessing Church Planters & Missionaries

Once again God has blessed First Baptist Church of Orange Park with a "surplus" of giving. There are expenses that have come up, but even after unbudgeted expenses and funding needed things, we are able to bless three church planters/missionaries with gifts this month. So, after meeting with our Finance & Stewardship Committee, we are proud to share the following.

When opportunities come to help increase the Kingdom, we must step into that story. These three men and their families have sacrificed much to ensure more people hear the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

Pray for them please.

Pray regularly.

Here is who we have blessed this month:

Allan Covington
Pastor Allan Covington and RiverEdge Church in Baldwinsville, New York (near Syracuse) with a gift of $1,500. Allan is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. RiverEdge is a Southern Baptist Church using the NorthPoint Church model that Andy Stanley has developed in Alpharetta, Georgia. There are no strategically evangelical churches in the area where RiverEdge is being planted. The SBC shows that only five to six percent of the population considers themselves evangelical Christian. RiverEdge is focused on the other 94-95 percent.

 

Jessups
Missionary and church planter Bill Jessup is serving as missionary in Reykjavik, Iceland through the Iceland Project. Bill is pastoring a small gathering now with intent of helping them plant numerous churches throughout the city and nation. Bill is also working to help them become self-sufficient with prayers that an Icelandic pastor would rise up and be called to lead the congregation. We were able to gift them with $1,200.

 

Tim Larson
Pastor Tim Larson of WaterMark Church here in Clay County. They meet weekly at Tynes Elementary School. We offer Tim an office here at First Baptist and the WMC staff meets here weekly. The financial gift of $1,200 will give them some flexibility financially as they continue to connect with people who have no church home and most likely will not connect with a traditional church.


Spiritual Warfare - Part 1

102112_0915_Spiritual Warfare

As many who were here Wednesday and have been following me on Twitter or Facebook know, this week has been one of severe spiritual battle for me. 

I have asked for prayer for my family and myself. I have seen some things this week that have shaken me to my core. Things that others would probably pass off as superficial or just part of life. Things I would have passed off that way a few weeks ago as well, I’m sure.

However, as I have prayed over the past few days and weeks God has revealed to me an area of spiritual battle that I have taught and believed in for years.

Consequently, I have asked for prayers and I have prayed as never before. 

Spiritual_warfareThere is risk when talking about spiritual warfare at times. As Baptists we fear discussion of the supernatural at times. We do well when speaking of discipleship classes and evangelism programs and events and other safe things, but when we speak of the spiritual battles and the warfare we face
as believers. . .we often shy away from that discussion. 

While some believers see demons in everything and behind every bush (which I think is extreme and not biblically supported,) to discount their existence or the power and existence of Satan is to ignore the major adversary to God and his kingdom.

As I have talked to friends in the pastoral ministry over the past few days, it is evident that spiritual warfare is real. It’s intense and strategic.

So, this detour in the midst of our journey through 1 Corinthians is necessary. To ignore the events in my life this past week and just go “business as usual” to present the next scheduled message in a series is first, a disservice to you, because God is leading us to make this detour and second, a sin for me. If I am not hearing the voice of God and obeying the voice of God, I am not a disciple of God and therefore, not fit to serve.

C.S. Lewis said this well in his book The Screwtape Letters. . . “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other
is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

One of the problems when we speak of spiritual warfare is that we often focus too much on the enemy and not enough on the victor. This is not meant to be a shock messageor a scary one. However, I will be nothing but honest with you and we are going to speak of the battle in clear, real terms. 

This is why.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12(ESV)

As Jerry Rankin, our former President of the International Mission Board has stated upon his assignment as a missionary in Indonesia, “It wasn’t long until we began to learn that where the gospel has not been proclaimed and Jesus is not known, Satan has considerable dominion and power.” What I have discovered is that even where the Gospel is proclaimed the enemy
has great power. 

While I fully acknowledge the existence of Satan and demons and the powers they have, I agree with Rankin’s statement here – “Spiritual warfare is not so much about demon possession, territorial spirits, or generational bondage as it is overcoming Satan’s lies and deceits in our own
live.”

We often wear the name Christian, yet ignore the full story of Christ. In each of the three Synoptic Gospels, we see Satan appearing as the tempter of Christ. 

From the first story in Genesis to the last story of Revelation, a very real being known as Satan plays a role in the story. He is an enemy of God and therefore and enemy of God’s people.

We have this book with stories of the past, all pointing to the future. We, however, tend to look at these stories at times as interesting historical anecdotes or “life lesson” stories designed solely for daily devotionals.

A deeper look reveals the stories to be part of The Story, complete with a Hero, an enemy and a battle.

Why is it we are drawn to stories, even those written by pagans who are far from God that echo the Gospel?

The heart of man desires battle, adventure and beauty. Why would God wire us this way?

Because He knew this story had an enemy. He knew there would be battle. Men – he has prepared you for this.

Most men believe that the battle is to just “not sin.” Really? That’s it. God, in his sovereignty and greatness has created us for his glory and ultimately desires that we just learn to “behave.”

The battle is not gender specific, however. Men and women are both created in the image of the Father, one with a masculine heart, the other with a feminine heart. Both divinely created. Both under attack.

So the battle rages.

Let’s think about Story.

Who are the great storytellers of our day? Stephen Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, James Patterson, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer?

You may not like their stories, their styles or their subjects, but they capture the hearts of people with their narratives in print or on film.

We are wired for story.

Even those far from God write from a heart seeking truth. That’s why the Gospel can be found imprinted on stories from different cultures, belief systems, musicians, and even atheistic writers. They cannot help it because the story is elemental. It is foundational.

God’s story has a hero. He is the hero. 

God’s story has an enemy. He is a created being, not all powerful, not all knowing. Yet, he is real.

He is our enemy as well.

He has many names in Scripture, yet he is one being.

  • Abaddon and Apollyon – destroyer (Revelation 9:11)
  • God of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • Accuser (Revelation 12:10)
  • Great Dragon (Revelation 12:9)
  • Adversary – this word is used many places. The name “Satan”
    is an English transliteration of the Hebrew word for Adversary.
  • Lawless one
  • Liar
  • Beelzebub
  • Morning Star
  • Belial
  • Murderer
  • Deceiver
  • Prince of the power of the air
  • Devil
  • Ruler of this world
  • Enemy
  • Satan
  • Evil One
  • Serpent
  • Father of Lies
  • Tempter
  • Little horn
  • Lucifer
  • Man of sin
  • Power of darkness
  • Prince that shall come
  • Son of perdition
  • The wicked one
  • Author of confusion

This is God’s enemy – Satan. He is all these names and more, but Satan, the adversary, sums it up. He is God’s adversary and since we are made in the image of God, he is ours as well.

People bristle at the discussion of Satan. There’s so much confusion out there. So much  misinformation.

First of all – we must affirm that Satan is not the evil equivalent of God. He is a created being. He is not the “dark side of the force” while God is the “good side.” 

He is a limited being.

Why is this essential to know the basics of who Satan is and what he does?

Without an understanding of our enemy, and I’m speaking to believers here, we will…

  • Think too highly of him – give him more power and credit than he has.
  • Think too lightly about him – believing he has no power.
  • Not recognize his attacks.
  • Be caught unaware.

So, while, as Lewis said, we must not think too much of him, we must not think too little either.

We will take some time next week dissecting the person of Satan, whom, I believe is real, not just an idea, not just a dimension of thought where God is absent. We’ll strip away the caricatures of Medieval thought and red horns and stick figures, to look clearly as the biblical descriptions.

We see him in the human story first appearing as a serpent tempting Adam and Eve. Twisting words, causing confusion, lying to the created about the Creator.

Does this sound familiar? It’s the very same tactics used today.

Here we are in the 21st century. We live in an age of tolerance and technology. As Christ followers and believers in truth we hold to what is inspired and written in an ancient book. In this book, we see the revelation of a strategy – a strategy of an enemy. One that cannot take out the Creator God, but attempts to hurt the Creator by taking out the created.  

Let me ask you parents, moms and dads. How painful would it be to watch your children suffer? For those with children who have faced or are facing great illness, how many would willingly swap places with your child in order to keep them healthy and not have them go through what they’re going through.

Maybe it’s not medical. Maybe it’s something else, but it’s painful. It’s a situation where no medication can fix it, but you, as a parent are watching and it’s killing you to watch your children go through what they are.

God, our Father, the Creator, love by definition is watching the Enemy attack his children, Adam and Eve, and though as Creator, he could step in (I know some are asking) he created human beings with the ability to love and follow Him or not.

Genesis 3:1-7(ESV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her
husband who was with her, and he ate.Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Did Adam and Eve fall out of love with God in that story? Did they no longer consider themselves children of God? No.

But, they had lost focus and when the time was right, the Enemy struck. And he did so at the place where they were most vulnerable.  

They fell to the attack and humanity was cursed.

We inherit that curse, but just as with Adam and Eve, there was restoration of relationship with God, so too is there for us through Christ.

Why is there spiritual warfare? What’s the point?

As with all of Satan’s work – the Garden of Eden, the wilderness with Christ, the cross and all the evil of the Old Testament, New Testament and today, there is one motivation. It is the enemy’s pride and self-glory.

Pride and self-glory are opposite to the humility and God-glory that is truth.

Consequently, one of the enemy’s most powerful allies in opposing and oppressing God’s people is our own pride. In this war, Satan has allowed his pride to grow so intensely that he believes God can be defeated. He has an army of fallen angels at his command.

Now, not to fall into the camp that sees a demon in every person and behind every bush, understand that their existence is real. In addition to this army, the enemy Satan also has allies in people who are demon possessed, demonically influenced and oppressed or simply living by their
sinful, selfish nature and flesh.

Who are these folks?

  • False prophets who speak untruth (that sounds like truth)
  • False apostles who begin false ministries
  • False Christians who divide the churches
  • False teachers who teach doctrine that is heresy to God.

At the personal level. . .

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11(ESV)

I fear that far too many of us are ignorant of his designs.

Knowing his tactics help us anticipate his work and live in victory rather than as victims.

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16(ESV)

So where does this lead us today?

It’s an introduction. Not meant to scare, but to set the table for the teaching to come.

We must know the players in the game. We must know that we have a real enemy. Yet, more than that. Much more than that we must understand that as Christ-followers, we have the Victor.

Are you being attacked? Are you buying the lies? Are you making agreements?

Notice what the Bible says about what God has given us as born-again children of His. Notice too how Satan has twisted these promises. He is yelling from the rooftops, from the text messages, the friends, the inner office memos, the movies, songs, television shows, politicians, pundits, talk
show hosts, and unfortunately sometimes folks who claim to wear the name of Christ.

PEACE

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:27(ESV)

JOY

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:11(ESV)

POWER and STRENGTH

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8(ESV)

VICTORY

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:19(ESV)

HOLINESS and BLESSING

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19(ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to£ his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3(ESV)

 

 

 

 

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In Search of Wisdom

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Do you remember the old Tootsie Pop commercial? I think they sill run it. It’s actually the longest running commercial on television. It first hit the airwaves in 1970. It’s been shortened, but it’s still out there.

TootsieowlThe little animated boy is carrying a Tootsie Pop around and for some reason asking animals how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of the Tootsie Pop.

In the original ad, he asks a cow, then a fox, then a turtle and the turtle says “Ask Mr. Owl.”

Why ask Mr. Owl? Because Mr. Owl is wise. You can tell because he’s wearing a mortar board and looks really smart. He says “Let’s find out. A-one, a-a- two, a-three. . .CRUNCH. . .a three.”

The world may never know.

Wisdom is something sought by all men. However, wisdom and knowledge are not the same thing.

This message looks to Paul's description of spiritual preaching, inspired by God, solidly founded on the Word which brings wisdom. Wisdom is "secret and hidden" to the wise of the world, but available to those with a child-like faith.

May we be saturated in the Word of God and his Truth, recognizing that true wisdom comes only from Him.

 

BTW - After some intense research I discovered the owl did not say "A-one, a-two, a-three. . ." He actually said "Wa-unn, Two-hoo, Tha-ree. . ." Thought I'd better clear that up.


Why Church Planting Is Key To Winning the Future

I began reading Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray this morning. I've really only read the Prologue. OK, I've read a portion of the Prologue - that's about three pages.

However, after reading this portion, even though Murray is not writing about Christianity or the state of the American church, I found myself wondering if his description of 1963 America and the vast changes that have taken place in the last fifty years may give insight as to why the church in America is systematically dying.

Kennedy carNovember 22, 1963, became the symbolic first day of what would be known as the Sixties and of the cultural transformation that wound its course through the subsequent decades.

Walter Cronkite was in the anchor chair for The CBS Evening News. Just a year and a half into his job, Cronkite was not yet the nation's Uncle Walter. He wasn't even the nation's leading anchorman.

CBS might have been number two in evening news, but it was number one in prime-time programming. The Neilsen ratings that week placed eight CBS programs in the top ten, let by The Beverly Hillbillies with a rating of 34.9, meaning that 34.9 percent of all American homes with a television set were watching it. Since 93 percent of American homes had a television set by 1963, the upshot was that the same program was being watched in almost a third of all the homes in the United States. Those same staggering numbers went deep into the lineup. All of the top thirty-one shows had ratings of at least 20. By way of comparison, the number one show in the 2009-2010 season, American Idol, considered to be a gigantic hit, had a rating of 9.1.

The explanationfor the ratings of 1963 is simple: There wasn't much choice. Most major cities had only four channels (CBS, NBC, ABC and a nonprofit station of some sort) at most. People in some markets had access to just one channel - the monopoly in Austin, Texas, where the lone station was owned by Lady Bird Johnson, was the most notorious example.

Popular music consisted of a single Top 40 list, with rock, country, folk, and a fair number of Fifties-style ballads lumped together. No separate stations specializing in different genres, except for country music stations in a few parts of the nation. Except in university towns and the very largest cities, bookstores were small and scarce, usually carrying only a few hundred titles. No Amazon. If you didn't see a movie during the week or two it was showing in your town, you would probably never see it. No DVDs. With television, you either saw a show the night it played or waited until it was repeated once during the summer. No TiVo.

The typical American city of 1963 had appallingly little choice in things to eat. In a large city, you would be able to find a few restaurants serving Americanized Chinese food, a few Italian restaurants serving spaghetti and pizza, and a few restaurants with a French name, which probably meant that they had French onion soup on the menu.1

To say our culture has changed in the last fifty years is an understatement. Yet, many churches in America today who are plateaued or dying are organized and functioning as if The Beverly Hillbillies are still the number one show in the nation and that 35 percent of the nation is watching it.

America has prided itself on being a melting pot for generations. However, that melting pot of cultures most often, especially in the early twentieth century, was comprised of mostly European immigrants who may have spoken a different language, but culturally integrated well.

80 percentAs America has grown more diverse racially and culturally, the American church has declined. Many people actually believe, especially here in the Bible Belt of the deep South, that there are more than enough churches for the people. The opposite is actually the case. Not only are there not enough churches to reach and respond to the field that is our community, churches that do exist, by and large, are in decline.2

New methods are needed to reach the people God has placed in our communities. These people may be more ethnically diverse than in the past. Economically, they are all over the board. While we (the North American church) is perfectly structured to reach the people of the 1950s and early 1960s, the people who live near us now are being overlooked.

Consequently, churches are dying, surviving on the tithes from Social Security checks and gathering to sing hymns and hear Bible stories that make the faithful few feel like they have been to church.

There exists a flawed understanding that the United States an Canada are already evangelized. While there is abundant access to Christian information, many unchurched persons in North America are amazingly untouched by the evangelical subculture because the Christian subculture is largely incapable of providing a culturally relevant witness. - Ed Stetzer3

New-churches-20110127-174337
On a per capita basis, new churches are able to win mor people for Christ than older, established churches.This in no way alleviates the legacy church's responsibility to evangelize and disciple. It's just a fact. This is about recognizing that many churches get comfortable and slide into a framework that removes priority from reaching the lost to maintaining the organization.

One American denomination found that 80 percent of new believers came to Christ in churches less than two years old.5

This is why we must be leading with church planting. This is why legacy churches must shift. The "church-based" framework was designed (and yet, still flawed) to reach the people of American in the 1950s and 1960s. The Kingdom-based framework is God's design to reach people in all cultures, all times, all nations, with timeless Truth.

For more details on this, check out the original posting of this article by Imagine Church on their blog here.

_________________________________

  1. Murray, Charles. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. New York: Crown Forum, 2012. Print. Pages 2-3.
  2. Lyle Schaller, 44 Questions for Church Planters (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1991), page 43.
  3. Ed Stetzer, Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2003), page 9.
  4. Stetzer, Planting, page 6.
  5. Ralph Moore, Starting New Churches (Ventura, CA: Regal Book, 2002), page 3.

This Is On the Test

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Do you remember sitting in class, listening to your teacher lecture about something that was important, but uninteresting? Normally, one of your classmates would ask the question on everyone's mind, "Is this on the test?"

TestThe good teacher would always say, "It's all very important."

Then, at some point in the lecture, the teacher would say, "Now this part is very important." That was code for "This is on the test."

Upon hearing that phrase, you and your classmates would perk up and begin taking notes with a little more fervor.

That's what 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 is. It's "very important." These five verses are so very key to the health of the Corinthian church and to all local churches since the first century. In other words, "This is on the test."

1 Corinthians 2:1-5(ESV)
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We dare not push this message to the back burner. The message is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Whether teaching or preaching on "issues" of the day, such as marriage, politics, parenting, finances, discipleship, etc. the centrality of the message must be Jesus and the cross. Apart from this, the information shared is just empty advice.


Never Too Late to Say "Thank You" to a Veteran

Tonight my wife and I had dinner together at the local Cracker Barrel. Our table was near a window. I noticed a car pulling in with a unique license plate on the front. It had an outline of the famous flag raising at Mt. Suribachi and the words "Iwo Jima Survivor." As the couple exited their car, I said to my wife, "There's a man who deserves our thanks. I want to shake his hand before we leave."

We finished our meal and headed to the cash register (I had forgotten about the man in the car, so I wasn't looking for him.) We didn't make it to the register, because I wanted to look around the "Country Store." Cracker Barrel is designed like the rides at Universal Studios and Disney - the gift shop catches you before you leave. Nevertheless, we stayed in the store for a little while. I was trying to find a bottle of "Frostie Root Beer" that wasn't in the $15.99 multi-pack of retro root beers. We ended up getting a bottle of Cheerwine and a Yankee Candle air freshener for the car.

Iwo jimaBy the time we made it to the register, the gentleman with the "Iwo Jima" car tag was in line behind me. I had placed my items on the counter and as the employee was ringing up my sale, I looked to the gentleman and asked "Sir, you are a survivor of Iwo Jima?"

He said, "Yes" and looked confused, obviously having no idea that I had seen him pull up in the car with the specialty tag. Then, he said, "I was just glad to get off that rock."

His receipt for dinner was in hanging out of this shirt pocket, so I grabbed it and put it on the counter. He also had the largest Hershey Bar I'd ever seen in his hand, so I laid it on the counter as well. I said "Thank you for your service," and paid for his meal (and the huge candy bar.)

He was shocked.

His wife came up and he told her that I had bought their dinner. She said, "Why?" I looked to her and said, "Because it's Saturday.

Her husband cleared it up and told her why. I thanked them both.

I'm not writing this to say, "Hey, look at me, I bought a man's meal." In fact, I wasn't going to say anything, but his response to this simple gift surprised me.

He said, "No one has ever done anything like this before."

I couldn't believe it.

You mean, this man who survived one of the bloodiest battles of World War II came home from the war and no one ever said "Thank you" and bought him a meal or something to drink?

Maybe they did, initially, but it must have been years.

So, here's why I write this.

According to the Veteran's Administration, our World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 740 per day.  These men and women deserve our recognition and thanks, as do all our military veterans. You don't have to buy dinner for them, but a simple "thank you" goes a long way.

To all our veterans - THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!