Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Safest Place You Can Be...

With all the turmoil that's been going on in our life recently, and with some huge, life-impacting decisions facing us in the coming days, I told my wife over coffee this morning, "Our life is a chaotic mess right now..."
But ladies and gentlemen, I distinctly heard the voice of the Lord speak to me this morning, and what He spoke to me, I feel led to share with someone else who may be facing a similar 'chaotic mess'.
"The safest place you can be is where you are right now."
That "place" may change tomorrow, next week, six months from now; we don't know, but what I do know is that where we are right now is right in the middle of the will of God, and there is no safer place for us to be. 
It doesn't matter how big the storm, it doesn't matter how chaotic the turmoil, it doesn't matter how "upside down" your world may seem at this moment; if you are where God wants you to be, honey, you're in the safest place in the world. Nothing can touch you, nothing can stop you, nothing can harm you.
The devil is a master of deception; he is a master at distorting things; he is a liar. He cannot pluck you out of the Hand of God, and he cannot destroy you when you're in the Will of God.
The apostle Peter was a fisherman by trade; I have little doubt that he'd been in a storm before. He knew how to handle a boat in a storm. Yet he left the security that he knew, in order to step into a dimension that humanity had never stepped into: People don't walk on water. But in his answer to the invitation from Jesus, Peter found himself in an even more precarious situation than he'd faced on the boat; suddenly, there was no sure footing under his feet. A slick, wave-washed deck wasn't the surest of footing, no, but at least it was something solid under his feet.

It was something he was accustomed to.

Now he's out here in a place where man doesn't belong, trying to do something that man's not supposed to do, and the magnitude of the storm is even more enormous than before. I don't think the storm changed in intensity, but Peter's position did, and that changed his perception of the storm.
Yet in the magnitude of the storm, with the waves pulling at him, and doubt screaming in his ear, "You foolish man! You can't do this!", Peter felt the Hand of Christ reach out and catch him.
Peter was in the safest place he could have been because the moment he started sinking, the Hand of God was there to lift him out of the chaos, and lead him back to the security of the ship.
And the storm didn't stop UNTIL they came back to the boat.
Peter walked - with Jesus - back through the same storm, back to the security of the boat that he'd stepped out of, and THEN the wind ceased, and the sea became calm.
If you're in the Will of God, you are in the safest place you can possibly be. Don't fear the storm; don't be dismayed by the chaos around you; don't be deceived into thinking "I never should have left the security of where I was and what I knew..."
It doesn't matter how turbulent your situation is; you're in the safest place you can be, and the Hand of God will be there to catch you.
Hear me: God will not let you fall.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

White Noise

Due to the nature of the organization I'm employed by (technology security), we have a "white noise generator" in our building; it's purpose is to drown out conversations - face-to-face meetings as well as telephone conversations - so that those sitting nearby can't accidentally be privy to secure information.

It generates this white noise on every floor, and is constantly running. It works beautifully, as I am surrounded by other employees in low-walled cubicles, but I would have to focus intently to make out any words that are being said. In the course of a normal workday, however, with enough other stuff on my plate, I may hear voices on the other side of the cubicle wall, but never hear what's actually being said.

This noise generator works so well, and has become such an ordinary part of our workday that we no longer notice it.

Let it get turned off, and that's a completely different story.The silence is deafening, and the moment someone happens to kill the background noise, everyone notices: the questions are immediate; "Who turned off the noise? What's going on?"

Ladies and gentlemen, this world is FILLED with "white noise generators" that will drown out the sounds of the Spirit trying to speak to your heart. I confess that my family and I are in a situation now where I desperately need to hear the voice of the Lord speak clearly and distinctly (your prayers are much appreciated) and I have tried to hear Him speak. I've prayed, I've studied, I've lain awake at night praying in my spirit, asking Him not only to speak to me, but to help me HEAR when He speaks. (And He will speak, I have no doubt of that. God doesn't want His children wandering around aimlessly anymore than we want to!) Yet I've heard nothing.

This morning on the way to work, I was praying (again) and asking God, "Am I missing something? Is there something I need to lay aside? Is there something else I need to do? What am I missing?" Immediately I was reminded of this white noise generator. It has become such a part of my everyday life that I no longer notice it, hence, I no longer notice that it so successfully drowns out the voices of my colleagues. When we become so accustomed to the white noise of the world around us, we no longer notice the noise, but perhaps more importantly, we no longer realize that same white noise is drowning out the clarity of the One Voice we need desperately to hear.

Turn off the noise generators in your life. Set aside the entertainments and amusements that, although they may be harmless enough in themselves, are keeping you from hearing that Voice that wants to speak to you, that wants to give you direction. Pick up a Book - not just any book, but the Book - and immerse yourself in it. Take time to KNEEL and pray. "Fast food prayers" are about as healthy as "fast food".

Slow down. Listen. One of the most powerful statements in all the Scripture, and one that has changed my approach to Christ, is found in Luke 10:39: "...Mary...sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word."

Sometime back, the Lord spoke a simple truth into my heart (and it's one of those where I knew it was Him, because I'm not smart enough to come up with stuff like this on my own): "If Satan cannot silence the voice of God in your life, he'll do all he can to distort it."

Don't let the noise generators of this world drown out the single most important Voice you can hear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spiritual Seduction Begins With Questions

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"

Job 1:9-10a  Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?

Luke 4:3 And the devil said to [Christ], "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."

Do you see a pattern here, ladies and gentlemen?

Your adversary, the devil, does not always come against you with a "full frontal assault". Many times, and in many ways, he will seduce you with questions; it's a tactic that successfully began in the Garden of Eden, when there were no other temptations or enticements to undermine Adam and Eve's relationship with God.

He questioned Job's loyalty to God, insinuating that the only reason Job was faithful was because of God's protective hedge.

He questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ Himself, during the 40 days of temptation, boldly stating "IF You really are the Son of God..."

The erosion of your relationship with God will almost always begin with questions: "Why should I...?" or "What's wrong with...?" or even "Where does it say so in the Bible...?"

If you catch yourself questioning the authority of God, the authority of Scripture, or even the authority of the man of God in your life, it's time to pray. Your adversary may never, ever get you to turn away from God with an all-out attack on your mind, body, or spirit - many of us can recognize a brazen tactic such as that - but if he can get you to start questioning God, your spiritual demise is soon to follow.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Still "The Lord's Anointed"

One of the most fascinating things (to me, anyway) concerning the story of Saul and David is that, in spite of Saul's repeated attempts to kill him, David continually referred to Saul as "the Lord's anointed", recognizing that God had initially separated and set up Saul to reign over His people.

During this time, however, God had spoken clearly to Saul - through the old prophet Samuel - and had unequivocally informed Saul that he was no longer God's elect (due to Saul's disobedience and presumptuous activities), and that God would soon take the kingdom from Saul's household, and would give it to David. Scripture also points out that "the Spirit of the Lord was with [David] and was departed from Saul." (1 Sam. 18:12) Saul recognized this in his own life, and feared David.

Also during this time, the old prophet Samuel had paid a visit to the house of Jesse and had publicly anointed David in the sight of his own household and brethren, pronouncing that David would succeed Saul, and would rule over God's people, Israel.

Yet David continued to refer to Saul as "the Lord's anointed". David also refused to lift his hand against Saul, and the one time David did take matters into his own hands - cutting off the skirt of Saul's robe as he slept in a cave - David's own conscience smote him, and he repented of the action he had taken against a man who had become his enemy.

It is frightening today that people are so casual, even confrontational, about the role of the priesthood, even to the point of becoming belligerent toward the man of God. I am convinced that we - the Church - need a revival of respect and reverence for the office of the ministry. Your pastor - whether you feel he's right or wrong, and even if he IS wrong about something - should always be viewed as "the Lord's anointed".

Pardon me while I lapse into my East Texas vernacular, but if there's a problem with the man of God in my life, honey, it ain't my place to attack him, publicly or privately, on Facebook, Twitter (or whatever the leading social network may be at the moment), or even behind the closed doors of my own home.

In a church I once pastored (for a very short time, believe me!) I actually had someone look me in the eye one Sunday night after service and demand, "Who are you to tell me how I should live? I'm just as holy as you are." (No, this was not a visitor or an outsider; they were actually one of the "saints" who attended almost faithfully.) While I understand that neither myself, nor any other minister is "more holy" than anyone else (we are all saved and kept that way by the Grace of God), the attitude and demeanor this person displayed towards the office of the ministry was appalling. Sadly, it's becoming more and more common among church congregants who refuse to recognize "the Lord's anointed" as being such. And unlike David, they have absolutely no problem taking matters into their own hands when they believe the man of God has crossed their philosophy or challenged them in some way or another.

Saul had been rejected by God.

David had been anointed to be king over Israel.

Saul attempted, on numerous times, to murder David in order to preserve his own kingdom.

Yet in all this, David continued to recognize Saul as God's anointed and refused to take matters concerning Saul's authority into his own hands.

Should we behave any differently today?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Worship With A Pure Heart?

Chilling passage of scripture I was reading this morning:

1 Sam. 19:20-24 tells us that, in his attempt to take David's life, Saul sent three different groups of men - and then went himself - to capture David in order to kill him. In the course of their action, all three groups of men, as well as Saul, came to a "company of prophets prophesying", at which time "the Spirit of God was upon them and they also prophesied".

While the word here prophesied is widely used - with varying definitions - throughout the Scripture, the passage here indicates that, rather than a group of literal prophets who were foretelling unseen events, or declaring "Thus saith the Lord", this was a group of students of Samuel, the prophet, who were caught up in exuberant worship of God. Their worship was so infectious, and the Spirit and Presence of God so strong, that Saul's messengers, and even Saul himself, became caught up in the passion of the moment, offering up their own worship to God.

Yet Saul's heart was not changed, even during his moment of worship. He still had every intention to take David's life.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can stand in the very real, very powerful Presence of God and get so emotionally caught up in the passion of the moment, and the flow of the Spirit, that you, too, can worship like those around you. However, from what we see in this passage in 1 Samuel, it is very possible to worship God - even to "prophesy" and utter His Word - yet still have murder and hatred in your heart.

Jer. 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; and who can know it?"

Search your heart; just because you lift your hands and feel a tingle when the church is popping doesn't necessarily mean everything is right with God. We need to ensure we are worshiping God with clean hands, and a pure heart.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Obedience Is Better...

Reading 1 Samuel ch. 10-15 and found myself sitting there and actually weeping at such a tragic conclusion of Saul. What promise, what potential, what a powerful leader of God's people he could have been! Separated and set apart by God Himself, Saul had all the earmarks of an anointed leader, yet he allowed his position to eclipse his potential.

Man of God, let it never be said of you that "God hath rejected him" because God anointed you at one time to lead His people, and you elevated yourself to a place never intended for you. Saul started off with the right spirit - humility, meekness, and submission to the spiritual authority in his own life (Samuel, the prophet of God) - but he soon elevated himself to that oh-so-treacherous place where he no longer felt he needed to answer to spiritual leadership.

I've been a pastor before, and may be again someday should God elect, but I pray I will always keep myself submitted to those above me, firstly to God, and then to those spiritual authorities, leaders, and elders whom God sets over my life and ministry. The recurring theme that I find here in the life of Saul is "Obedience is better.." Saul's position as king over Israel never gave him the liberty to step into a role that God had not appointed him to, yet he took it upon himself to perform those duties that were set apart for Samuel, the prophet of God.

Ladies and gentlemen, it matters not how much God may anoint, appoint, or use you in a specific office, be it Pastor, Bishop, or Janitor; we are all subject to the ordinances of God and MUST be submitted to the spiritual authority over us. This spirit of insubordination will absolutely destroy an individual, a family, or an entire congregation. God has set things in order, and it is never our place to supplant or avoid the path of spiritual leadership that God has ordained.

God loves an obedient heart, and He will bless the obedient life.

Just thinking out loud on a Thursday morning...

Monday, April 28, 2014

The More You Sweat In Training...

"The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle." - Sign outside the US Navy Seals training camp.

My wife and I were discussing spiritual warfare recently, as our home, our health, our family, and the church we are currently attending seem to be the focal point of a spiritual attack. We have determined that, instead of asking God "Why us?" or "Deliver us" we have started praying - as the church in the book of Acts, chapter 4 prayed - for boldness, and for spiritual authority.

It so happened that yesterday evening, on the heels of our discussion about spiritual warfare, I heard the above quote: "The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle." (A Google search gives all sorts of origins of the quotation, so I'm not sure where it actually originated.) When I heard that statement, I immediately related it to spiritual warfare, and the devastation that is being reeked among Christian churches today.

Ladies and gentlemen, you cannot wait until you're in the middle of combat to suddenly decide you need to attend Basic Training. You can't wait until you're going head-to-head with the enemy and discover your sword has grown dull, or that your shield is brittle and cracked, or (using more modern technology) that your M16 needs cleaning and, oh, by the way, all your magazines are empty, so good luck out there.

I didn't learn to play golf on a driving range, because I'm impatient, and just hitting a ball with seemingly no goal in mind was boring; I went straight to a course and started hitting the ball. (Granted, I had a lot of questions along the way, but my golfing buddy was very patient with me, and allowed me to "learn" as I went.) No such thing with combat. When I joined the Army, I spent the first 8 weeks in "Basic Training", learning to fire a weapon, learning hand-to-hand combat, learning how to wield a knife, how to disable an enemy, how to maneuver through combat situations in varying terrain, how to read a map. We even took a few trips through the gas chamber (literally), being instructed to remove our masks while inside the chamber so we could acquaint ourselves with the effects of the gas, and better learn to re-acquire our senses while still feeling the effects. (Fun times, believe me!)

My point is simply this: Far too many people of God are finding themselves locked into an attack by the powers of Hell, and find themselves woefully unprepared, untrained, and unfit for battle. The state of the church seems to be one of sickly, anemic, lethargic Christians who have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that everything was under control, that the church was doing great, that we're all happy and heaven-bound and the preacher's watching out for us. You can almost sense the bewilderment on some folks as to why folks are disappearing from church as fast (or faster!) than new ones are coming in; yet the answer is simple, ladies and gentlemen: the Church - as always - is under attack, and we are engaged in spiritual conflict.

Keep in mind that, in his letter to the Ephesians (ch. 6, vs. 12) the apostle Paul said, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but..."  We DO wrestle! In another place, he stated, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God..." (2 Cor. 10:4)  As I mentioned to my wife, "If you have weapons of warfare, that's because you're going to war." 

Jesus Himself taught the disciples "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." (Matt. 11:12) Salvation is free, friends and neighbors, but getting to Heaven will cost you. The "New Birth" experience is exactly that: a birth. It's the starting point, not the finish line. From the moment you make that decision to give your life to God, Hell determines to do everything it can to prevent you. And the Devil will use whatever means necessary to stop you.

Don't wait until you're in the middle of a spiritual assault to suddenly decide you need to pray more, read your Bible more, fast a meal now and then, go to church faithfully, etc etc. The more you pray now, the more you strengthen yourself with the Word of God, the more you set aside your own desires, and start looking to the things of the Spirit, the better equipped you'll be when Hell throws down the gauntlet. And it will throw down the gauntlet, sooner or later.

The more we sweat in training, the less we bleed in battle.

Sharpen your sword while you can.