Intimidation

Whenever I take my kids out snorkeling, there is one peculiar fish I’m always on the lookout for. The pufferfish is one of the strangest little guys out there. When threatened, the pufferfish inflates to up to 3 times it’s normal size. However, other than this odd ability, he doesn’t have any real defenses. It’s just a facade of size and strength. His only weapon is intimidation.

The devil plays the same game against the church. He doesn’t have a lot of defenses against a blood-bought, Spirit-filled believer commissioned by God to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” But he plays a great game of intimidation.
He makes certain areas look too dangerous, or certain people seem too intellectual. He’ll tell you they wouldn’t be interested or that they will attack you. He’ll make you feel inferior or not well enough equipped. He will question your authority and your ability. Whatever the situation, he will use fear and intimidation to make the task seem impossible. He’s been using the same tactics for thousands of years to suppress the spread of the good news, and we are not ignorant of his devices.

How do we overcome? Simple! Like a pin-prick deflates a balloon full of air, we use the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) to expose those fears for what they really are, and expose the devil for what he really is, a defeated foe.
Jesus gave his authority to us when he commissioned us to take the message of the gospel into the world. After telling them that he was sending them out as lambs among wolves, and giving them authority, he sent out his disciples to preach. This is what happened next: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Jesus gave that same authority to you and me when he gave the Great Commission. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Have you been shrinking back from God’s call to reach people in your life because of intimidation? Don’t be fooled by those scare tactics! You have all the power of the Holy Spirit within you.
Here are some more scriptures to know and believe, that will release you from fear and embolden you to GO!

He will give us utterance (Matt 10:19-20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12)
He will go ahead and convict the world (John 16:8)
He gives illumination that men might know the Lord (Matt 22:43;Mark 12:36, John 16:8)
He gives us power to do the works of the Lord (John 14:12)
Makes us clean through the Word and set apart for service (John 15:3; 17:17; Eph 5:26)
He will guide us into all truth (John 16:13)
He will show us things to come (John 16:13)
He will teach us what we need to know (John 14:26)
He helps us pray (John 14:12,13; 16:23,24)
He glorifies the Son by taking the things of Christ and making them real to us (John 16:14,15)
He will be with us forever (John 14:17)

True Obedience

I was counseling a friend once who had just become a Christian. This guy had no Christian background whatsoever, so everything was completely new to him. He wanted to know what God has to say about his sexual relationships. “What am I allowed to do?” was his question. Basically, he was asking how far he was allowed to go with his girlfriend before he crossed the line of sin.
You should have seen the look of shock on his face when I told him it was “hands off”. We went through a bunch of scripture together, which helped him understand what God desires from him. 

You know what? This guy was absolutely genuine. Once he knew that behavior was sinful and destructive, and that it displeased God, he cut it off. He broke up with his girlfriend to remove the temptation. I have to admit I was impressed with his decision.
His actions demonstrated that his motives were pure in asking the question. Some people ask such questions with the wrong attitude. The question isn’t , “What pleases God?” The real question they’re asking is, “What can I get away with?” How far can I go before God is angry? Kind of like how my kids figure out just how much sass they can give their parents before they cross the line and face punishment.

Are we the kind of people who are genuine in seeking to walk in holiness, or looking to find out how much we can get away with before we get into trouble? The sincere person is one who has made up his mind ahead of time that whatever God says, they will do.

“Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”
(Psalm 119:33,34)
The psalmist was prepared in advance to commit to obedience to God. He wanted knowledge and understanding of the Lord’s decrees so that he could honor Him. He was prepared to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word.

If you examine your own heart, are there areas in your life where you are more concerned with pushing the boundaries of what you can get away with than you are with genuinely walking in holiness?
When you seek the Lord in prayer or the Word, have you made up your mind ahead of time that you are willing to align your life with whatever He says?

Evangelistic Motivation

Holidays are coming up in a couple of months. I think that all of us (at least most of us) look forward to the holiday season because we get to see family. When I think of thanksgiving, I don’t think of the food, I think of reuniting with family I haven’t seen for a while. Same goes for Christmas. In my mind I literally envision handshakes and hugs with those I love.

When I think of heaven, I seriously think the same things. I’m not thinking of wearing white clothes, eating heavenly food, or of having lots of goodies. I envision seeing the Lord face to face, and reuniting with loved ones that have gone on before. I also think of those that will come after me. I literally imagine this great heavenly reunion with people that I’ve known. Because of that, it is my aim in life to win as many people as possible to the family of God. This is the driving force that keeps me passionate about sharing Jesus with the world, whether that’s on the streets, in church, or even on Facebook. I want to see everyone there! 

There are some who don’t want to hear. There are some who sneer and mock. I endure a little criticism here and there. There were some sacrifices that were made to enter the mission field full time. Jesus taught that there are costs to be counted to follow him. But I say with Paul in Acts 20:24, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

I’m not just killing time on earth. I’m not just getting by as a believer. I’m not just going through the motions with no end goal in mind. Tragically, too many people are doing just that.
I know the main purpose of my life.
What’s yours?

Rearranged Dirt

My kids and I were talking recently about how everything we see around us has all come from dirt. Throw in different amounts of oxygen or hydrogen and you get everything from water to flesh to wood, to steel, and everything in between. As we drove through the city, we talked about how everything, from the buildings we saw to the road we drove on, to the car we were driving, were nothing more thanrearranged dirt! Man has made some pretty incredible things, but we are only using the resources that are already here, and all of those resources have their origin in the soil.
Even the trees take all of their nutrients and minerals from the soil, so they too are just rearranged dirt. Every human and animal on the face of the earth, and all of the things we eat, ultimately come from the ground.
Did you know that the 59 elements that make up the human body are all found on the earth’s crust? So we can believe Genesis 2:7, which tells us that, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

Then we talked about how everything we see deteriorates over time and becomes dust once again, including us! This is also what God said from the beginning in Genesis 3:1, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Solomon says again in Ecclesiastes 12:7 “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”
At some point, every one of us will face the death of this mortal body we live in, and the real us, the person who lives inside this fleshy tent, will return to the God who gave us life.
In light of this knowledge, what sort of lives ought we to be living?
I have a friend named Chuck. He lives in heaven now, but before he went home, he used to have a great response to the question, “How are you?” He would smile and say, “Not bad, for dirt!” He had the right perspective on life.
Don’t try too keep too tight a grip on your beauty, your health, your possessions. They’re just dirt. Invest your life, your talents, your resources in the kingdom of God. Store up treasures that will never rust or corrupt. Live for Christ!

The Sleeping Church

Can you sleep with the lights on? Do you sleep during the day? Whenever my brother-in-law used to visit, he would ask for the thickest blankets we had, not because he was cold, but to cover up the windows in the bedroom. He can’t sleep unless it’s pitch black. He’s also a go-getting, type-A personality. I think that his brain starts firing as soon as the lights come on.
Some people wake up with the sunrise, while others wear out the snooze button.
There’s an old saying, “The early bird catches the worm.” I know from long experience that the people who get up early are generally the same people who have a habit of getting things done. People with ambition, drive, and purpose are motivated to get to it and are catalysts for making things happen.

The apostle Paul had a word for those Christians who had “fallen asleep”, so-to-speak. Even in his day, it seems that there were those who were content to lazily kill time while waiting for the Lord to return.
Know any Christians like that?
Here’s what he had to say. “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”(Romans 13:11-12 NIV)
Wake up guys! You are closer today than you were last year! Every beat of your heart, and every minute that passes, is one minute closer to the day of the Lord.
It’s time to get rid of sin, in whatever form it may be in your life, and get close to Jesus. Put on the armor of light, and go do what God has called you to do!
Right now, your friends and neighbors who don’t know the Lord NEED YOU MORE THAN EVER to be the witness for Christ in their lives.
Wake up, cast of the silly sins you’re playing around with, and BE the church. BE the light of the world. BE the salt of the earth. BE an ambassador for Christ.

We don’t do it by protesting. We don’t do it with violence or by force. We don’t do it with finger-pointing, by hurling insults, or with ridicule.
We certainly don’t do it by isolating ourselves, or withdrawing from the world into our protective Christian bubble.
Love doesn’t sit passively by and let the world go to hell.
Love is the source of ambition, drive, and purpose in ministry. All ministry is sacrificed life. It’s intentional. You get to choose, in every situation, if you are going to love and reach people as Jesus did.
Jesus said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” (Luke19:10) He said this right after he went to the most notorious sinner in town, had a meal in his house, and led him to repentance.

How are you influencing your world for Christ? If you were to evaluate yourself today, which category would you fall under? Asleep and totally unengaged? In that slumber where you hear the alarm from time to time, but you just hit the snooze button rather than get up? Or are you wide awake?
These are not days when the church should be sleeping. In these turbulent times, the world needs you to shine the light of Christ.
Will you?

Procrastination

I had a guy tell me that he knew he had to become a Christian and get right with God, but he wanted to have fun first, so he was going to put it off until just before the end of the world.
“You could die tomorrow,” I told him, “that would be the end of the world for you!”
His smile fell as it dawned on him what a bad plan that was. Then we talked about the urgency of doing something about it today rather than tomorrow or someday in the future when he finished sowing his wild oats.

Hebrews 9:27 “It is appointed to man once to die, and after that to face judgment.”
Are you talking to your friends and family about eternity? Are you making sure they aren’t putting it off for too long?

Heros

Many Christians look at their lives or their gifts and wonder how they can be used by God. Lots of us dont even know what our gifts are. It’s not a good feeling to think that you are being ineffective or useless as a child of God. People often think that in order to be used by God, there must be lots of flair or some sort of visible results. But that is just not the case. We are not involved in a physical, outward battle. Our battle is in spiritual realms.

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, agaisnt spiritual wickedness in high places. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds.

We look at people like Billy Graham or Greg Laurie and think that men like that are wielding huge spiritual swords. Or think of anyone else who is a ‘big name’ in contemporary Christianity. The landscape of Christian history is decorated with the names of men and women who have dared to do great things for God, and we dont take anything away from their courage to step out in faith and attempt mighty things to publish the name of Jesus to the world. But most of those people could never have done those great things without the power of prayer behind them.

The people out front in these efforts receive a lot of respect or admiration. We look up to them and aspire to be like them, and rightly so. They are giants in our eyes for their obedience to God’s call on their lives. But there are other giants behind the scenes who cry out to God in fervent prayer for the hearts of the lost and the empowerment of those who reach them. The honor roll of heroes of the faith in Christian history will look a lot different once we look back from eternity and see who was standing behind great men and women of God in intercessory prayer. Names we have never heard of will be synonymous with the names of Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, Billy Graham, and others like them.

Think of Queen Esther. What did she really do? She went humbly before the king and petitioned him on behalf of her people. We look at her story and honor her for her bravery. Her uncle told her that God, in His sovereignty, would save the Jews no matter what, but that perhaps she had been born for such a time as this, in order to be used by God for a mighty deliverance. She heroically obeyed, and is forever recorded in the pages of God’s word.

Jesus has a similar task for you and I. Didn’t he tell us, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus wants us to pray for laborers. The laborers are indeed few. Will you take up the noble cause of interceding on behalf of those who will carry the message of the gospel to this lost and dying world?

Will you, like Esther, go before the King and petition Him to send out laborers? You may not know what kind of gifts you possess for building up the body of Christ, but you nave the incredible power of prayer in every breath you take. You may not realize it, but you, as a child of God, are so powerful and so mighty in spiritual realms. You were born for such a time as this!

When you think of prayer, do you think, “Ugh, what a drag,” or do you think, “Wow, this is the amazing privilege that every saint of God has to boldly go before the throne of Almighty God, ask what he will, and govern the destiny of nations.” Ok, maybe you are somewhere in the middle. It was the great missionary, Hudson Taylor, who said, “The prayer power has never been tried to its full capacity. If we want to see Divine power wrought in the place of weakness, failure, and disappointment, let us answer God’s standing challenge, ‘Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things of which thou knowest not of.'”

Maybe you feel ineffective or useless as a Christian. Let me encourage you today. Be empowered and emboldened. Let the knowledge of God’s listening ear release you to boldly open your mouth and join the noble cause of fighting spiritual battles for the souls of men.

Do you want to be involved in world evangelism? Then please, dont neglect the immeasurable power of intercessory prayer that you can unleash at any time you choose. Pray for the salvation of the lost. Pray for more laborers, and for those of us already in the fields. We need you!

God bless you today

Team Spirit

I have a friend who is the most avid sports fan that I know. He fearlessly represents his team even in an unfriendly environment. He’s so bold, when he went to watch his hockey team in Canada, he took a 6′ American flag, and every time his team scored a goal, he vigorously waved it around while menacingly blowing his horn in the direction of the crowd.
I think a part of his reckless enthusiasm is due to the fact that he knows he has the right to do it and that it is illegal for anyone to hit him. All he has to do us call for security or the police to protect him.
One time in the States we had to be escorted from the arena because there was a mob of infuriated fans waiting to beat us up.
Another time, at the same arena, an angry fan literally tried to run us over in the parking lot, then threatened to get out of his car and fight. My friend pulled out his phone and dialed 911 and began shouting the guy’s license plate # to the operator. That made him disappear.
On one occasion, after his team scored to go-ahead goal, he began his typical horn blowing and bell ringing routine, smugly rubbing it in to an increasingly irritated crowd. Finally one guy couldn’t handle it anymore and unloaded a string of cuss words and physical threats. Immediately security was called over to diffuse the situation.
I would sit in amazement and laugh at the nerve this guy had.

I wish Christians would share the same enthusiasm and dedication when it comes to representing Jesus in the midst of this present world.
The Bible says we should be “in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
The trouble is, most of us are so concerned with getting along, not offending anyone, being seeker friendly, or just fitting in, that we don’t say or do much at all. We are paralyzed by our fear of how the world will react to our devotion to Jesus Christ.
Does that mean that it’s okay to be intentionally antagonistic or abrasive? Of course not! We don’t want to push away the very people we intend to reach.
But let us not be so over zealous in trying not to offend anyone that we swing the pendulum completely in the other direction and don’t do anything at all.

The enemy is throwing all sorts of messages at the world, trying to keep them from pursuing God. Won’t you take up the cause of Christ and try to influence them towards godliness? God has got your back, and believe me, He’s infinitely more to be trusted in than security or policemen.
Jesus said we are to be his witnesses. He said we are the salt of the earth. He also said we are the light of the world.
Get on your knees and ask for boldness, then go out and do it in the power of God!

Termites

A few months ago, I came across some termites while doing some work. Termites are sneaky little buggers. When they begin to infest a piece of wood, they leave the outside of it intact while they ravage their way through the inside. You would never even know that they were there. Everything appears to be fine, until eventually they consume so much of the wood that it is ruined. It either collapses or falls apart.

Just like some people’s lives. I meet and talk to so many people who look like they have it all together on the outside, but on the inside they are being destroyed.
That’s how sin works. It’s the great destroyer. You may think that giving into some temptation is just a one-time thing or that it only involves a single offense. But just like termites, sin never comes alone. Termites always bring friends to a feast, and sin has a way of multiplying when we give in to it. One sin carries with it another, perhaps to cover up the first, and little by little, you are eaten up from the inside. It’s not too long before your life begins to collapse and fall apart. 

Jesus saw through the cover-ups of the religious leaders of his day, and he sees through you and me too. He would look at them and say things like, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Again he addressed their hypocrisy with this illustration, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matt 23)

The answer to our problem of sin is not to continue covering it up. Proverbs clearly says that he who covers his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
If people will come clean with God, stop making excuses for their actions, and stop blaming other people for their mistakes, and simply confess their faults, this is God’s promise; “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:9)
God can forgive, heal, and restore all the damage that sin has done in one’s life. But it takes an act of the will to call on the name of the Lord in faith and trust in the blood of Jesus to cleanse away sin.

When talking to people about the choice between life and death, ask them which they would prefer to choose? Encourage them to respond to God’s offer of life. Say something like this, “Don’t let the life God has for you be eaten up by sin. Come to Jesus today.” 12540809_10153906459294600_1913732742814981884_n

A Horrible Death

Recently my children and I witnessed something incredible. We saw a black wasp dragging a cane spider across the ground. Cane spiders are about as big as your hand. Very fast and very scary. What kind of wasp could challenge one of those guys and win? But here he was dragging his victim along. We thought it was dead, until one of us got too close and scared the wasp away, and the spider was moving really slowly, like it was semi-paralyzed. Then the wasp came back and kept dragging it, in a straight line, across the parking lot, and into some bushes.
Turns out, it’s called a Spider Wasp. It stings its prey, paralyzing but not killing it. Then it drags it back to its nest, where it implants its eggs into the paralyzed spider. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the victim, eating it from the inside out. What a horrible death! 

That’s a picture of what sin does to us. The difference is, when we choose to sin, we are the ones who sting ourselves! Sin separates us from the life of God, paralyzes us from walking in freedom and victory, and keeps us from enjoying fellowship with God and living out the perfect life He planned for us.
James 1:15 says “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” And it’s a rotten death too! Who wants the guilt and shame to fester and eat them from the inside out?
All of humanity has fallen prey to the desire and the action of sin, and all of us are under the sentence of death because of it. We may feel like we are being helplessly dragged along to an eventual death by temptations too strong for us to overcome, but thank God, He has provided a Savior!
2 Tim 1:10 says that Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Through his death and resurrection, we can have our sins forgiven, and the fellowship with God restored. We can be set free from the power of sin, reconnected to the life of God, and become his very own children, with the promise of eternal life!
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1Cor 15:55-57

As you look around at the unsaved world that you live in, be aware that sin is eating those people from the inside out, leading to their eventual death. Don’t sneer at people who are in bondage and paralyzed by the merciless sting of sin. Motivated by pure love, let compassion swallow your fears, step out in faith and lead them to Jesus today.