Don’t open the gate

Posted: August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

Pumped

The heart is a vital organ, pumping blood throughout the body; keeping our other organs alive. Humans can actually live without a brain. According to women, men have been doing it for centuries, but without a heart, we are doomed.

Okay bad joke, but on a more serious note, our physical heart health is vital to our existence. And just as equally important is our spiritual heart health, as we discussed this week. Our spiritual heart pumps the blood of Christ through our bodies and enables us to live according to the Will of God.

Our heart determines what we do for others. It enables us to hear from the Holy Spirit. It opens our minds to accept God’s rebuke. It allows us to hear the voice of God and obey. Every action and reaction flows from our heart. These can either be good or bad experiences and the outcome is dependent upon the condition of our heart.

Satan is the enemy of our heart. He is in a constant state of destruction. He throws everything in his arsenal at us to trip us up.

If you were going to be in battle against a real army, you would build a fortress to protect yourself. Look at the medieval knights. They built monstrous walls around their castles and stationed armed guards around the top of the walls .They constructed lookout towers with alarm bells to warn of impending danger. Their castles were for the most part, impenetrable.

A little subterfuge

We can learn a lesson from the mythological story of the Trojan Horse.

The Greeks had spent a fruitless 10 years trying to conquer the city of Troy. The city was well fortified and any attempts to break in had proven futile, so they devised a plan to have the people of Troy simply invite them in. Sounds crazy but it worked.

The Greeks constructed a huge hollow wooden horse and hid their soldiers inside of it. They then pretended to sail away, giving the people of Troy a false sense of security. The people opened their gates pulled the horse inside, claiming victory.

That night, the Greek soldiers crept out of the horse and opened the gate for the rest of the army, which had returned after dark. The Greeks walked right in and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the war. The people of Troy brought about their own destruction.

Hacked

Modern day hackers use hidden malicious code, (viruses), using the Trojan horse concept, to wreak havoc on millions of unsuspecting computer owners. These modern day Trojans come in the form of useful, or interesting articles, victims install on their computers. I’m sure you’ve been victimized at least once or twice in this manner. A tweet comes in, informing me the sender just saw a compromising video of me online. Just click this link… Ah, no thanks.

The frustrating thing about being hacked, is realizing we invited it in. All our passwords and firewalls don’t do a bit of good when we download the virus ourselves. We feel invincible with our Norton anti-virus program and our 16 digit password made up of upper and lowercase letters and numbers but in reality, are we safe from ourselves?

Satan’s Trojan Horse

You pray. You go to church. You don’t murder or rob people. You feel strong against the devil. But he is not going to attack you where you expect it. Like hackers that post an interesting article wrapped around a virus, Satan uses people to create shows and movies that you find interesting and entertaining. Satan doesn’t break down your walls, you invite him in. We go to the store and see the 60 inch flat screen Trojan horse, bring it home and watch movies filled with all the things God detests. Fun, action packed entertainment. It does not feel like sin. We install the virus right into our hearts and minds, and the enemy destroys us from the inside.

Like the soldiers that opened the gates for the rest of their army, Satan uses Hollywood to open the gate for other sins to manifest in our lives. Watching sexual scenes in movies can open the door to porn or watching profanity laced movies can lead to cursing.

                                                                                    Spoiler Alert:

The horse is a trap

Don’t open the gate.

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Out of Sight, Out of Heart

Posted: August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

The best argument I can make for staying plugged in to Jesus and God’s word on a daily basis is one man…Peter.

When Peter was with Jesus everyday he was willing to die for Jesus if it came to that.

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

(Matthew 26:35)

Fast forward a few hours later…

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard and a servant girl came to him.

“You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

(Matthew 26:69)

Peter stood up and pounded his chest and said valiantly, “Yes I was. Take me to him so that I may suffer the same fate he must suffer.”….Ah No! His will to die with Christ vanished when he was not with Jesus.

But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

(Matthew 26:70)

Strike One

    Ok so he made a mistake, I mean seriously, he was under pressure. The little girl caught him off guard. He just needed a moment to clear his mind and remember his vow to Jesus. He just needed to take a little walk.

Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

(Matthew 26:71)

Peter sheepishly raised his hand, “Yep that’s me. Guilty as charged. Bring on the pain.”

WRONG

He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know this man!”

(Matthew 26:72)

Strike Two

Well that escalated quickly. First he said he was not with Jesus, now he claimed he didn’t even know Jesus. He was not just distancing himself from Jesus, he was completely cutting him out of his life.

There is no way I’m going to die for this man. Jesus made his choice, let him suffer the consequences…alone. I didn’t sign up for any of this stuff. The healing and feeding people was cool, but this? This is crazy. Peter out.( Maybe that’s where the phrase “Don’t Peter out on me” came from.)

Peter could not get away fast enough and the accusations from the girls began to draw a crowd. They began to recognize Peter from when he was passing out some loaves and fishes on the hillside.

After a while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, your accent gives you away.”

(Matthew 26:73)

Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

(Matthew 26:74)

Strike Three

   

Peter did not even hesitate this time. He was not going down with this…this Jesus. This was his fault. All of this. He made Peter put down the sword. He could have fought their way out of the garden, but no. What did Jesus expect was going to happen? And now Jesus expected him to die too? Forget that!

Satan smiled

Peter is separated from Jesus for maybe an hour or two and he starts denying him. What happened to “I’ll follow you anywhere,” “I will die with you,” and “You are the Christ, where else would I go?”

That’s what Satan does. He looks for a tiny crack in your armor and he picks at it until he exposes enough to get inside. He will stop at nothing to drive a wedge between you and the very one who gave his life in exchange for yours.

This warning should be heeded;

And do not give the devil a foothold.

(Ephesians 4:27)

Webster defines “foothold” as this:

A secure position from which further progress may be made.

That, my friends, is exactly how Satan snares you. But remember, he must first gain a foothold, that secure position, before he can progress further.

Stay close

    When I was little and wanted to feel protected, especially if I thought something was going to get me, I would cling to my parents. I remember going through the Haunted Mansion ride in Disney World and being so scared that I hung onto my Father’s pant leg. I followed so closely to him. I became part of his leg. Nothing was going to get between him and me. Nothing was going to pry me from him.

That’s how close you need to stick with Jesus. So close that you two become one. So close that nothing will come between you and pry you away.

Lurking about

    The enemy of your soul is lurking about looking for that foothold. He waits until you skip a day of scripture reading, then he pounces. He will send distractions so one day becomes two. Then he really turns up the heat to make it a week, then he has you…

Stay close

Don’t Peter Out

Expect the worst

Posted: August 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

If you were walking alone in a seedy back alley at midnight, your ‘spidey’ senses would be heightened. In fact, you’d expect danger.

If you could visually see the spiritual realm, 2 o’ clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon would hold just as much danger as that dark alley.

Satan’s minions, masters in the art of deception and destruction, are lurking, setting traps, waiting to snare you. It’s their 24/7 job. Your best chance at avoiding these snares they have set for you is knowledge.

If you recognize the trap, you stand a better chance of avoiding it.

If It Looks Too Good…

it probably is. No matter how good a situation looks, you need to question everything. Does this situation lead me closer to God or will it take me further away. Will this situation, though good, keep me from experiencing great. This is important because good is the enemy of great.

Good is the method Satan employs the most. When you settle for good, you never realize all you have compromised.

For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible even the elect.

(Matthew 24:24)

The Art Of War

Knowing your enemy is the key to victory.

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” (Sun Tzu, The Art Of War)

Game Advantage

I love the Call of Duty game franchise and I stand in line with my boys at every midnight release. The first time I play the game on campaign mode, I make it a few minutes and get killed by unexpected hidden enemies or sudden ambushes. I get to try this level again, but this time I know what to expect, and I make it a little further. I repeat this until I beat the game.

The second time I play the game I know where the enemy is and I expect the attacks, so I am prepared. I know what to avoid and when to fight. I beat the game quickly and almost effortlessly.

Now when one of my sons plays the game, I can coach them and tell them where the danger is. They don’t make the same mistakes I made and they don’t suffer as many casualties. This is why sales of Game strategy guides exist and sell so well.

Strategy Guide to Life

Your life experiences and the Bible are your strategy guide to successfully help you navigate the enemies territory and beat him at his own game.

Cheat Codes:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

(Isaiah 30:21)

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (spiritually)

(Joshua 1:8)

All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Download your cheat codes into your memory today.

Defeat the enemy and win the game.

Dim your light

Posted: August 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

Dim your light? You are probably asking yourself how that lines up with what Jesus commanded:

In the same way, let your light shine before others,

that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:16)

Sounds contradictory right? But hang with me for a minute and the fog will lift and all will seem right in the world again…okay maybe not, but at least you will understand what I mean when I tell you to dim your light.

I am fascinated with astronomy and I love it when we are expecting a meteor shower. I always stay up late, throw a blanket out on the lawn, and wait for the show. The problem that always plagued my view of these spectacular events was light pollution.

You see, I lived in the city most of my life and all the lights from the city made it difficult to see the stars, let alone meteors.

It was frustrating but there was nothing I could do about it…or was there?

Darker the sky, brighter the stars

Sometimes I would drive out into the country away from all the city lights and the sky would look darker. The stars radiated like diamonds. I would see many meteors, sometimes 60 an hour.

Once I went on a mission trip to Belize. We traveled deep into the jungle to teach children at a missionary camp about Jesus. The first night, I was absolutely amazed at the brilliance of the stars against the ink black sky. I could even see the Milky Way. I saw meteor after meteor streaking across the sky. They were so bright that they left tracers.

I asked the locals if this was a scheduled meteor shower and they told me it was not. They informed me this happens every night, even where I lived in the States. They said we just can’t see it because of the light pollution from our cities.

When a jeweller wants his diamonds to sparkle he spreads them out over a black fabric. The darker the fabric, the brighter the diamonds.

Dim your Light

    The more we try to promote ourselves and our abilities, we ultimately drown out the Light of Christ. The brighter we shine the harder it is for others to see the Star of our light, Jesus. It’s not about us. It’s about Jesus.

Don’t allow light pollution from your life to impair other people’s view of Christ. His light needs to shine above all others.

You don’t have to pretend to have it all together. You don’t have to wear a happy mask to hide your pain. You don’t have to hide behind the facade of a perfect, trouble-free life.

It’s okay to let others know you struggle, we all do. Let them know that Christ is your strength in those times of weakness. The darker the situation in your life, the brighter Christ will shine. Remember: the darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

Let the light be a reflection of Christ

“In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.”

(Psalm 143:12)

This was King David’s prayer request. ‘Kill my enemies.Make them pay for what they’ve done to me.’

Can I get an amen? How many of you feel like this on a daily basis? How many times have you wanted to cry out to God, “Kill my enemies, but slowly, so they suffer.”?

I wrestled with this all day yesterday and spent the night in the emergency room until 3:30 this morning with irregular heart palpitations caused by anxiety.

Flashback 24 hours ago

I purchased an SUV yesterday to replace my truck that had been totalled when someone ran a stop sign last month.

The young guy I bought it from is in the military and said he shared the same faith in God I did. We were both in the same fire department although at different times and his uncle has been my friend for 14 years.

He told me the motor and transmission had been rebuilt 8000 miles ago at a ford dealership. He told me lots of other great things about the SUV. I asked him if there was anything at all wrong with the car that he knew of. I said if there is please tell me and let me move on. He and his father looked me in the eye and said assured me nothing was wrong. I decided to buy it. I paid him and we went to the tag place to complete the title transfer. We laughed and joked together. We talked about my ministry and his little girl.

Twilight Zone

I returned to his house to put my new license plate on and drive home. The SUV travelled less than 2 miles from his house and the back wheel fell off. I immediately called him. No answer. To make a long stressful story that ended in a hospital visit, I will just tell you this, the engine needs to be replaced. The transmission is shot. There were no pads left on the brakes. The wheel bearing had disintegrated resulting in the wheel falling off. There is more to this horror story but I think you get the picture.

He knew all of this. He knew I would not make it home safely. He deceived me. His father deceived me. They used God to instill trust. And I wanted that same God to kill them both. I’m sorry but I need to be transparent. ‘Make them suffer God, slowly.’

Then I thought maybe God might take too long in dishing out some cold hard justice, so I spent the afternoon stuck on the side of the road devising a plethora of ways to get even. I got this one, God. I know you are busy running the whole world so let me handle this one for you.

I wondered how this one slipped by God. Wasn’t He looking in my direction while they were setting me up to lose my money? I reasoned with God. Hey I know you dropped the ball here so you can make it up to me by letting me get revenge. Just a little fire bomb to destroy the 5 cars parked in their driveway. You know something small. Just give me that God. You missed the opportunity to protect me so let me settle the score. You owe me that much at the very least.

Father forgive them

So as I mentioned earlier David prayed for God to kill his enemies. I like his style. Whack them God. Send some plagues or an Angel of Death or something cool like that.

But as the day wore on I started thinking about Jesus. I envisioned him being beaten and spit on. His beard being ripped out. Hanging on a rough wooden cross, not the smooth shiny kind we wear around our next. Abandoned by his closest friends.

His prayer…not like David’s. In fact, completely opposite. “Father forgive them.” Forgive them? Really? Are you kidding me? Don’t you see what they are doing to you? They deserve swift and severe retribution. You can’t let them get away with that!

“Father forgive them.” Jesus’ prayer was so different from David’s prayer. I want to pray David’s prayer so bad but who am I called to imitate? David or Jesus? Am I a follower of David. Am I considered a Davidian or am I a follower of Christ? A Christian?

Surrendered my rights

Rationally I believe I deserve justice. I want them to pay for what they did to me. I’m human, it’s how we are wired since the Fall in the Garden. But you see, 20 years ago I was rewired. I gave up my rights to hate and revenge. I am renewed in my thinking and how I respond to people who wrong me.

God softened my heart.

God was not looking the other way. He wanted me to practice what I preach. To truly love and forgive my enemies. He was pruning me. Shaping me into what he wants me to be. A creature in His image.

I learned that all this stuff I say I believe is just theory until I put it into practice. I need to walk rough roads so I can grow and lead others down the path of righteousness.

I read somewhere that hatred is a poison we drink hoping others will die. My anger and hatred landed me in the hospital. But the doctors can’t fix a heart problem that only God can. I repented and woke up lighter today. I am thankful for the lesson and do not take it lightly.

I hope and pray you can pray, “Father forgive them.”

Forgiveness sets a prisoner free

That prisoner is you

Drop the stones

Posted: July 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

Would you have condemned me to hell?

Seems like an odd question but one that must be asked.

You see, I was a terrible person, a sinner. I did bad things all the time. I stole things. Lots of things. From good people. I had a vocabulary that mainly consisted of foul language.  I sold drugs. I lied. I cheated. I hurt people. I served one god, myself.

If you knew me in my “pre Jesus” state, what would you have done? Would you have befriended me? Would you have loved me? Would you have prayed for me? Would you have invited me into your home? Would you have visited mine? Would you have invited me to your church? Would you have told me about this Jesus that could save me from my self- destructive ways? Would you have snatched me from eternal separation from God?

Most of you that are reading this want to tell yourself yes, of course I would but I respectfully disagree. I can disagree with confidence because of my experiences.

You see I lived in a small town, only 1.9 square miles. This small town had 33 churches in that 1.9 square miles. Thousands of people attended these churches. “Good” Christian people. People that would answer yes, of course to all my above questions.

Here’s the stark reality, no one did. In fact they did the opposite. They avoided me. They told their children to stay away from me. No one told me about Jesus or that he loved me. They said things about me and crossed to the other side of the street when they saw me. They went out of their way to avoid eye contact. They could not wait until I got what I “deserved” They would have the last laugh when I was “burning in hell”. Then I’d be sorry.

Nothing New

Their behavior was nothing new. Jesus dealt with these types over 2000 years ago.

Remember a guy named Zacchaeus? The terrible tax collector? The cheat? The filthy sinner? Let’s look at Luke 19:1-9:

Zacchaeus the Tax Collector

19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

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

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

You can see in verse 7 what the “Good” Christian folks and religious leaders not only thought but voiced out loud. They had no plans on sharing any good news with Zacchaeus. They were even upset that this Jesus dude was going to his house for some wine and wings.

We claim to to be “Christians” which is to be “Christ-like” and yet we are not Christ-like. We don’t treat unbelievers the way Jesus did and still does.

It happened again in Luke 18:9-14:

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

This could have been ripped from any number of Facebook statuses today. I have seen many people who claim Christ, put down and judge unbelievers. They bash lifestyles and I’ve even read some that said they could not wait until these people burn in hell.

The same thing happened in John 8:1-11

8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Once again the religious people were there to condemn and Jesus offered forgiveness. He said, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. That’s what I want you to take away from this.

Paul said it best in Ephesians 2:1-8:

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Drop the stones

That’s what we seem to have forgotten. We were and still are sinners saved by grace and mercy. We all deserve hell but God sent his Son Jesus, who willingly came and died a brutal death so that the person you can’t wait to see, “Get what he deserves”, wouldn’t.

Don’t be the hand that holds someone down

Be the hand the raises someone up

Vengeance Is Mine

Posted: June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

There is so much evil in the world but this is nothing new. From the moment Eve’s teeth pierced the skin of the fruit, evil prevailed. It has resided among us for centuries but the invention of the Internet has given it a broader stage.

We are instantly aware of evil the moment it occurs. Social media allows people to broadcast their opinions to the masses. Opinions once kept to themselves, now free to blast from the safety of their keyboard.

Immorality is the rampant topic of the day. Right is wrong and wrong is right. We are fooling ourselves if we think this will ever right itself. This world is ruled by the enemy of our soul. The enemy of our God and Savior.  We cannot expect anything less than pure unadulterated evil.

We must face this simple truth,  if we claim Christ we paint a target on our chest. We are the enemy. We are what’s wrong with the world because the world is evil and we are lights exposing it. We do not belong here. This is not our home. We are foreigners, aliens among  the citizens of this broken world.

We will never fit in and that’s okay because we were not meant to. We don’t go with the flow. We do not take the wide road with the many, but the narrow path with the few. We will suffer and we will rejoice because our Savior suffered for us. He died so that after we have suffered in this life we will rejoice for eternity in his presence.

Do not shrink in the face of persecution but boldly face it, but in love not retaliation. When they hurled insults at Jesus he did not open his mouth in defense but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. God is your defense attorney and the judge of those against you. But if God is for us who can be against us for greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world.

Put on your helmet of salvation and strap on your belt of truth. Clothe yourself with the breastplate of righteousness and protect yourself from the enemy with the shield of faith. Take up the sword of the Spirit and slay the enemy with the truth, in love.

You are in God’s army. You will be attacked. Don’t be surprised.  There will be casualties but you will awake in the arms of Jesus. So boldly take up your cross and follow the example Christ gave us. Die to self so you live as Christ. Fight the good fight while the light remains for darkness is upon us and is ever present. Stay alert for your enemy the devil is a roaring lion seeking to devour you. Stand firm great is your reward.

2 Thessalonians 1:5-12New International Version (NIV)

 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might  on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.