Tag Archives: teaching

Satan’s Counterfeit Flood

blueberriesThe flood is coming. It is intended to wipe away truth. It will overwhelm those who are not prepared. It must not succeed in overwhelming us.

Last November, the Lord began to direct our attention to this flood. He did it by telling Dawn and I that it was important to watch the season of the blueberry festivals. We did not quite understand his purpose, but when the Lord speaks, we listen. We checked when Florida’s blueberry festivals were held, and learned that April was an important month for blueberries in Florida. While we didn’t commit a lot of time to our investigation, April came and went without any real insight.

However, last week we had the opportunity to connect with a friend of ours at the annual conference for our ministry stream, the MorningStar Fellowship of Ministries. Our friend is a blueberry grower, so we knew he would provide insight into why the Lord may have spoken this to us. When we asked him about the blueberry festivals, he pointed out that the festivals are marketing events timed around the harvest. He then pointed out something about this year that helped us understand why the Lord had directed our attention to this year’s harvest.

This year, the blueberry crop in Florida was incredibly good. The crop was abundant, had a pleasing appearance, and was tasty. It looked to be a good year for Florida’s blueberry farmers. But then, just before Florida’s blueberry growers sent their fruit to market, the country of Chile flooded the United States’ market with lower quality blueberries. In a move that damaged U.S. growers, Chilean exporters held their blueberries in special storage—a move that greatly decreases the fruit’s flavor—waiting for just the right moment to gain market share in the United States. This Chilean intervention in the U.S. market harmed Florida’s growers, even though Chile’s blueberries were inferior to those produced by Florida’s growers.

While I listened to my friend’s explanation of this year’s harvest, the Lord showed me why he had drawn our attention to the plight of Florida’s blueberry growers. It parallels a battle that will be fought in the Kingdom.

Things are looking up in the Body of Christ. There is abundant evidence that it has been maturing. The Holy Spirit has been working diligently to prepare us. The yeast of the Kingdom of God has begun to permeate the Church in earnest. The Kingdom mustard seed is even growing to provide shade for the inhabitants of the world (see Matthew 13:31-33). We are approaching a time when the Lord’s Kingdom agents are going to release amazing fruit. It will be abundant, have a pleasing appearance, and be very appealing. We are looking to the harvest season with expectation.

But Satan has a plan to gain market share in spite of what God has planned. He plans to flood the market at harvest time with his inferior counterfeits in order to harm as many people as possible. Fortunately, the Lord is revealing Satan’s plans to us in advance so that we can sound the warning. When we are adequately prepared, Satan’s false fruit is easily distinguished from the good fruit. The writer to the Hebrews stated that those who have been ingesting solid food “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (see Hebrews 5:14 ESV). Satan’s counterfeits may look good to the unpracticed, but they will always be apparent to those who have grown in righteousness.

The only people in danger of being taken in by Satan’s plans are those who have not been ingesting the solid food of the Word. This means that this is a time to hunger for the Word as never before. It is our protection from Satan’s deceptions. The apostle Paul wrote of Satan’s end times plan in 2 Thessalonians 2.

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10)

When we ingest God’s Word, we are demonstrating a love for the truth that will see us through the flood of deception that is about to be released. The only ones who will be fully and completely deceived are those who refuse to love the truth.

I learned something else as we spoke with my friend. He shared how he was responding to Chile’s attempts to seize advantage in the Florida market. He has been crossbreeding different varieties of blueberry bushes in order to produce larger blueberries that are sweet and flavorful.

The spiritual parallels to his plans are clear. In order to counter Satan’s plan, we must press into the Lord for even better fruit than we are producing now. We must be willing to cross our denominational streams (crossbreeding) to combine key truths in ways that produce even more fruit. When the true fruit of the Kingdom is then produced at an even higher level, the counterfeits become obvious.

I walked away from my discussion with my blueberry-growing friend with a two-pronged strategy. The first is to encourage all of God’s people to dive into the Word even more persistently. It is time for us to leave behind the sin and distractions that so easily entangle us, and to demonstrate a love for the truth. That will protect us from the deceptions of our spiritual enemy.

The second part of the strategy involves pressing in to the Lord for even more obvious and attractive displays of fruitfulness. It involves learning from each other as we each share what the Lord has taught us so that we might together produce even greater fruit.

We are approaching days in which Satan’s false works will flood the spiritual market. But we can withstand this flood. When we consistently step into the character and power of God, the imitations will appear faded and pale by comparison. More than that, we can expose this flood for what it is, a last desperate attempt by the forces of darkness to counter the growing spiritual fruit being produced by the Kingdom of God. This attempt will most certainly fail.

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Aging is Indeed a Disease

timelineAs I have chewed on the concept of time, I have considered how something that was intended to bless us has become a harbinger of disease and death. In Eden, before the Fall, time would have passed without negative impact on Adam or Eve. Ten thousand years might have passed, and Adam and Eve would have looked and felt as they had on day one. Time, as it was created, did no harm to human beings. While the passage of time would have brought the young to maturity and robust adult life, the maturation process would have stopped there.

Of course, that is not the case since Adam and Eve fell. The passage of time now can wreak havoc on the human body. Although the elderly only made up 13% of the population of the United States in 2010, their medical care was 34% of the overall health care expenditures that year. As people age, it is normal in this fallen world that their health fails.

If you look up the word disease in the dictionary, you will find a definition like this one from Merriam-Webster online: a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally. If normal is the state of being that we attain at full maturity, it is obvious that aging is most certainly a disease. As we age, our bodies no longer do the same things that they were capable of doing at the age of twenty-five when, for the most part, our bodies worked normally. The aging process often prevents the body or mind from working normally.

We must understand and embrace this concept if we ever want to overcome it. We have little power over the things we accept as normal in our lives. If we believe increasing limitation is normal for a Christian, we will never strive to overcome it. We will counsel the elderly to accept their lot, taking Solomon’s description of the aging process as normative, quoting the words of wisdom from Ecclesiastes about how to adjust to our “under the sun” existence (see Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).

And while we may think it is wise to accept our condition, we live in a far different covenant than Solomon did. We live in the Kingdom, and it advances as forceful people take hold of it. Jesus once called his disciples and “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Matthew 10:1 NASB). Jesus’ disciples were given authority to heal every kind of disease and sickness. Old age is a disease. Many of the maladies that the disciples healed, without any doubt, were maladies brought on by old age. In the same way that Jesus freed a woman who had been bound by a demonically imposed arthritic disease for eighteen years (see Luke 13:10-14), they also would have freed the elderly from the diseases that bound them.

Since our King doesn’t change, and since we carry his authority (see Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18f.), he stills sends his disciples to take on this scourge. When he stated that signs would follow those who believed, he included sickness and disease. That means that he has given us authority over old age.

But here is the important point: We will not pray against aging unless we recognize it as the disease that it truly is.

Aging is a manifestation of death in our lives. It is our enemy. The Lord had warned Adam that in the day he rebelled, there would be consequences. “For in the day you eat, dying you will die” (Genesis 2:17b My Translation). Most translations render the infinitive absolute as, “you will surely die.” That is certainly an appropriate way to translate an infinite absolute. However, it is also legitimate to translate it as I have. The Hebrew literally states, “Dying, you will die.” The Lord was warning Adam of death in all of its implications, including the aging process. When Adam disobeyed, death began to reign, and humanity began to age. However, the second Adam has defeated death. We are now in the process of overcoming it. Every healing, every resurrection, every prayer for good health is applying Christ’s victory against our enemy, death.

The apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 NIV). While Christ has defeated death already, we are in the process of applying his victory to our world. We, as his Body, are putting all his enemies under his feet. We will have reached maturity, and Christ will return, after we have placed death under his feet. It is the last enemy to be overcome.

If Moses, who lived under a covenant of death (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-11), overcame aging, how much more should we, who live under the covenant of life, strive to overcome it? The mandate to overcome death in all its forms is not a part of the covenant Moses initiated. But that mandate is most certainly is in our covenant.

How can we overcome it, if we aren’t even trying?

If Dylan Thomas had been a theologian, and understood that the Kingdom advances as forceful people push forward, he might have phrased his famous verse this way:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and flame at close of day;
Pray, pray against the dying of the light.

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Don’t Forget to Wave

timelineI have been spending a bit of time grappling with time. The Lord has been showing me things about time, and about how time was created for us; we were not created for time. I hope that last sentence reverberates around your soul for a little while. It is a paraphrase of what Jesus said about the Sabbath. The Sabbath was created for man, not man for the Sabbath.

You see, in Jesus’ day, the Sabbath had become the master of the people. God intended to bless his people through the Sabbath, breaking the daily work cycle every seven days. The Lord knows us so well that he commanded that no work be done on the Sabbath. He understands our compulsion to work, to accomplish, and to achieve so well that he placed an absolute prohibition against work that could only be broken for emergencies. However, the legalists had taken over the sabbath principle, and turned the day from a day of rest to a day of meticulous rule keeping and mendaciously applied strictures on every day life. The sabbath law, which had been created to liberate man from bondage to work, had been turned into something that tied them more firmly in bondage. The Sabbath had been created to serve man, but the legalists made man serve the Sabbath.

In the same way, time was created to serve man, but after the fall it became man’s master. When death entered into the world, the clock started ticking. Suddenly, mankind had a finite amount of time to accomplish all the goals and pursuits that could have filled an eternity. Time, which had been created to bless mankind by marking days and seasons and years, instantly became man’s master.

However, when Jesus defeated Satan, he brought life and immortality to light (see 2 Timothy 1:10). One of the results is that time is no longer supposed to be our master, it is supposed to be our servant. The implications of that statement are well outside the scope of this article, and for now, mostly outside the scope of my understanding. But the Lord is trying to knock my blinders off so that I understand more.

To that end, he dropped a seed of knowledge into my soul today that left me dumbfounded for a minute. That tidbit is about the great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are mentioned in Hebrews 12:1, just after the writer to the Hebrews has listed the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. Having drawn attention to these heroes who have gone before, the writer to the Hebrews says that “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witness” (see Hebrews 12:1).

One accepted truth about time is that God exists outside of time. He created time for us. When I think of God existing out of time, I like to think of time as a foot long ruler. I imagine that one end of the ruler is the beginning of time, and the other end of the ruler is the end of time. In this view, God’s consciousness is larger than the ruler; it is larger than time. In reality, as he views time, he is viewing and interacting with every second of time simultaneously. That means that God is interacting with Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Luther, and us all at once. We are the creatures of time, he is not.

I know, for many of you, I am messing with your heads right now. Actually, I am messing with your blinders. Until you begin to see time in this fashion, you will be limited to the human perspective. When God put eternity in our heart (see Ecclesiastes 3:11), he made it possible for us to conceive of time from his eternal perspective, rather than our limited time-saturated experience.

While this has implications for whole areas of theology—again, outside the scope of this article—as I stated earlier, the Lord showed me one thing today that stopped me in my tracks. He had recently given us a prophetic picture of a dear mentor who has passed into eternity. He actually showed us a picture of him sitting on a very comfortable chair, with a ringside seat, watching events that he helped set in motion begin to play out. He is truly part of the great cloud of witnesses. It was a very encouraging picture.

I was contemplating that picture today, and realized that since my friend was now outside of time, he could begin to see time from God’s perspective, though in a much more limited way. Although I believe our intellectual capacities will be incredibly expanded once we are free from the results of the fall, we are not God. We do not have his capacities. So I was considering how my friend might be moving his chair around different slices of time to take in the events of history. I realized, that since he can now see from God’s viewpoint, that it is possible to move his chair around the different slices of time and watch them as they occur. Do you feel your blinders shifting yet?

As I considered this, I realized that my friend could be watching slices of time in which he played a role. Then it suddenly occurred to me. That means, that while he was on this earth, my friend was already a part of the great cloud of witnesses watching the events of his life, and the lives of those around him, unfold with all the intricacy of a tapestry being woven together. Then the moment of revelation came. I realized that the great cloud of witnesses already includes every believer who will ever name the name of Christ.

What do I mean? When we, each of us, enters into that eternal state, we step out of time and take our seat in the great cloud of witnesses. We all then have the ability to peer through the sea of glass from God’s perspective outside of time. In a sense, we will be able to move our chairs to whatever place in living history we desire. We will see God’s glory played out in history as witnesses of his glory, from the beginning of time to its end.

That is why the great cloud of God’s people are known as the great cloud of witnesses. They witness God’s glorious works on the earth from the beginning of time to its very end. When we, each of us, step into that great cloud, we will be able to see from God’s perspective, like my mentor and friend. We will also be able to move from one slice of time to the next, examining God’s glory on display in the individual lives of every person who ever lived on this planet, in the individual lives of every animal and every insect that ever lived on this planet, in the birth and death of stars and galaxies throughout the universe. The staggering complexity of this universe means that we will be busy for quite some time giving glory to God for everything he has done from the very beginning of time to its very end. In the process, we will learn about new facets of our Creator and King, and be able to give him glory with even more understanding.

Now, to the reason for the title to this article. Since at some point in our future we will step out of time, and since we will then no longer be subject to time, but will be able to see time from God’s eternal perspective, this means that you and I are already a part of that great cloud of witnesses. We are witnessing the events of time as they happen, and as members of that great cloud, we are also observing the events of this slice of time, watching events unfold around the world and around the universe, but most certainly also seeing how the Lord worked in our own lives during this slice of time. That means—and this is the part that might startle—that means that we are already watching ourselves. So how about giving yourself a wave?

Paul, of course, described this by saying that we are already seated in the heavenly places with Christ:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV)

So go ahead and wave.

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The Miracle of Peace

DebateSome might prefer juggling with sharp objects over doing what we did Tuesday evening. A group of pastors, just slightly under a dozen to be more precise, decided to discuss the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. This topic has polarized our culture as people from different ethnic backgrounds have interpreted the trial, and the events preceding the trial, in wildly different ways. Our decision to discuss this trial presented risk because, while the the group consisted of Bible-believing Christian clergy members, we were from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds. As a result, the discussion was sometimes loud—even a little heated, but even as we respectfully disagreed on points of view, we forged ahead for about two hours attempting to see things from each other’s perspective. At the end, I, for one, realized that it’s a miracle that people from different backgrounds get along at all.

The problem is that we all have different life experiences. Those life experiences color how we interpret everything around us. We cannot assume we know how other people are interpreting the events we are witnessing. We haven’t lived in their shoes. We haven’t seen life from their perspective. We are seeing events through the grid of our experiences, and others are seeing those same events through the grid of their experiences. When our life experience differs greatly, our interpretive grids also vary greatly.

This came out in our meeting on Tuesday. As we hashed through things we knew about the two young men whose lives intersected in tragedy, we came to understand that both young men were angry, and both had just reasons for their anger. One young man was angry that the homes in his neighborhood were being burglarized on a regular basis. He felt justifiable anger over this violation. He saw another young man walking through the neighborhood whom he did not recognize. He did not know that the young man was visiting someone in the neighborhood. He saw that other young man as part of the problem, and directed his anger at him.

For his part, the other young man was also angry. One of the pastors at our meeting, a man of African-American heritage, helped us understand why he was angry, even justifiably so. He told us that black young men get tired of being treated like bad guys in their own neighborhoods. They get tired of being asked what they are doing and why they are there, especially when they are doing nothing wrong and have every right to be where they are. They get angry because many people do profile them. From witness testimony at the Sanford trial, it is obvious that the younger man felt violated by the man who was following him. No doubt he resented being viewed as a threat when he was simply walking back from the store to the house of a family friend. His anger, understandably, was directed at his pursuer.

Both young men had justifiable reasons for their anger. Unfortunately, there were no peacemakers to step between them that evening. There were no peacemakers to help them explain their anger to each other, and to resolve it in a peaceful manner. There was no one there who was able to pour oil on turbulent waters. As a result, as often happens, anger lead to confrontation. The confrontation escalated beyond words, and an awful tragedy occurred.

We couldn’t be in Sanford to help that evening. But we can help now. We can be peacemakers. If we will attempt to see events through the interpretive grid of both young men, rather than just the one we most identify with, we can become peacemakers. We can pour the oil of peace on the troubled waters of our time. That is our opportunity, that is our job description. If we take up that challenge, we will see a miracle. That miracle is the unbelievable grace of people from different backgrounds getting along.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 ESV).

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Unless You Also Repent

15794713_s“Unless you repent.” Jesus repeated these three words twice while speaking to a crowd of his followers. He spoke them the first time while referring to the actions of a homicidal maniac who had murdered tourists who had come to a special event. He spoke them the second time while referring to people who were victims of an industrial accident at a work site. Since we have been traumatized by similar events this week, we should probably pay attention to what Jesus said about them.

We can find what Jesus said in the book of Luke, chapter 13.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

While Jesus was meeting with a group of people, someone decided to let him know the latest headlines. The Roman governor of Judea once again demonstrated his brutal nature by viciously attacking pilgrims in Jerusalem. It was a shocking and unexpected attack that would have grieved the nation. Rather than raging against the perpetrators of the massacre and calling for justice, Jesus directed his listeners toward the fragile nature of life.

To consolidate his point, he told about the tragedy in Siloam. We have no other description of this event, but some believe this was a construction accident, and that the majority of those who died were workers who were building the tower. Again, this was a shocking event that would have grieved the nation because of the orphaned children and widows left behind by this tragedy. Rather than attempting to assign blame for the accident, Jesus again directed his listeners toward the fragile nature of life.

Why did Jesus do this? We live in a world where bad things happen. Homicidal maniacs, industrial accidents, and myriads of other threats and diseases are always threatening to strike down friends and family. These things happen to good people, people we enjoy as friends, family, and neighbors. They can also happen to us, unless we take the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our families. That necessary step is repentance.

Repentance is an oft misunderstood word. People don’t like it all that much because it conjures up images of froth-mouthed preachers slamming pulpits and condemning sinners. Images such as that do not have a whole lot to do with repentance. The Greek word that is translated “repentance,” literally speaks to a change of mind. When Jesus uses it in Luke 13, he is calling on his listeners to turn their minds away from their self-reliance, to repent of their lack of God-focus, and to agree with God that they desperately need him for life and protection. That is the repentance of which Jesus spoke. The wondrous thing about this repentance, this agreement with God, is that it can protect us while we live in a world where bad things happen. It can stop us from perishing in events caused by homicidal maniacs, negligent building owners, or the myriad of other threats we face in this world.

I was once walking down the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia with a friend of mine during a Spring thaw. I wasn’t very comfortable walking down the street we were on, because workers were clearing ice from the roofs of the five and six story buildings on that street. When I asked about it, my friend, who lived there, told me that it was common for large chunks of ice to fall unexpectedly from the buildings during a thaw. He explained that many people had been killed in this way. The workers were making certain that this street was safe.

We walked back on that same street a bit later that day. Since the workers had already finished the street, I didn’t feel uneasy about the ice. As my friend and I were walking down the street, he was telling me a story about some ministry he had done in India. The story included a particular van that they had used in India. Just as he was telling me this story, one of those exact vans passed by us in the street. This so surprised him that he stopped short, thrust out his arm, and pointed at the van in amazement. He stopped so quickly that I almost ran into him, and had to stop abruptly to avoid him. Just as I was turning my head to look where he was pointing, a massive chunk of ice slammed onto the sidewalk right where we would have been if he had not stopped so abruptly. The chunk was easily large enough to have killed us both. If that van had not gone by right then, we would have become two more victims of a senseless tragedy.

Why did we receive such obvious protection where others had not? I cannot speak to their stories, and would do them a disservice if I tried. I only know our stories. Both of us were walking in repentance. We understood our vital need for God’s protection in our lives. This is not about religion, sincerity, or merit. It is about humility agreeing that we cannot do it on our own. Because we had repented in this way, we did not perish.

Obviously, I do not know the people who have been killed and injured in our most current tragedies. I do not know their stories, nor do I pretend to know their stories. I am grieved and horrified by their senseless loss. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones, and for those who have to experience a long healing process. If I think about it too closely, it is overwhelming to me and my heart becomes heavy with sorrow. I recognize that some are heroes who put their lives in harms way in order to save others. I am not thinking about them as I write these words, nor would it be appropriate to do so.

Instead, like Jesus, I am pointing in another direction. I am pointing at you. The losses we have experienced this week remind us of how fragile our hold on life can be. Jesus’ prescription for certainty still rings through the centuries, “Unless you repent, you too cannot be certain that life’s uncertainties will take you out. However, if you agree that you desperately need God’s help and protection, he will give it.” That is a lesson we can take to heart.
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My sympathies and my condolences to those who are mourning this week. The Lord can lift heavy burdens. The same Lord who would not let his listeners speculate about the moral or spiritual qualities of the victims of tragedy, also reached out to those who grieved. His invitation still stands, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
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