THE CHRISTIAN AND GOVERNMENT

How should Christians interface with the government?

1  WE PRAY FOR THE GOVERNMENT.

A converted Saul, now Paul, wrote powerfully, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (I Timothy 2:1-3). As people who carry two passports, one way we show our allegiance to our earthly state is through prayer.  Before Paul instructed Timothy on matters of worship, leadership, eldership, widows, and finances, he exhorted him concerning the priority of prayer for government leaders. Must be important. God help us. We pray for civil leaders so the gospel can go forth. Paul saw a great advantage with peace–free movement in the Roman Empire. He used his citizenship when he needed protection from religious leaders (Acts 22:28). The time from Caesar Augusta (27 BC) to the death of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (180 AD) has been called the “Pax Romana,” the peace of Rome, a period in which Jesus came and the Gospel went forth powerfully under stable government! “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…” (Luke 2:1).

Paul puts prayer at the top of the list on how we connect with civil government. When are we to pray? When we gather for public worship. If Christians do their part (prayer), government is better able to do its part (protect). The best way to impact government is not through lobbies or rallies or debates or criticism or even political parties–it is through prayer. If we feel a responsibility to vote, we should feel a stronger responsibility to pray, because that is commanded and voting is not. God likes peace and order, so He directs His children to pray for it. It must make God sad and mad to see so few churches and individuals praying for the government in public and private worship. 

2  WE SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT WITH TAXES.

When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17), he was addressing Pharisees who didn’t like the Romans but didn’t want to cause trouble with them either. It wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear. Peter didn’t think that way either until Jesus got a hold of him, and certainly not Simon the Zealot, whom Jesus called as a disciple. Government to zealots was the enemy, not the servant of God. Jesus legitimized the authority of the godless government of Caesar to require taxes to do their work. We pay taxes so the government can govern. It takes people and it takes pesos. To be subject includes paying “taxes to whom taxes are due…honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). Paul didn’t believe that when he was Saul. I know a few people who think it is wrong to pay taxes to a pagan government. Jesus made it too clear to even suggest that. 

3  WE SUBMIT TO THE GOVERNMENT.

In Paul’s longest doctrinal letter, he addressed the issue of the state. His opening line: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1). How do we function as citizens? By submitting, a word Paul used often when talking about relationships–elders to congregation, husband to wife, parents to children, employer to employee. God exercises His authority in the earth through human authority, and that includes government. Paul saw himself in a place of submission to the government that was serving the purpose of God. This is strong language for one who was mistreated by the government. But he was also protected by it. He used his citizenship to his advantage. To resist legitimate government is to resist God. Out-of-control protesters don’t get this.

God is concerned for the proper ordering of society, not just the church. The functions of the government and the church are radically different. The government is commissioned by God to provide safety for its citizens. They bear the sword and execute God’s wrath on wrongdoers (Romans 13:4). Don’t expect the government to support the church, but neither should it attack the church. It should do what it is called to do (keep the peace and punish the rowdies), so that the church can do what it is called to do. We need to pray for good government and submit appropriately to its authority.

Government is not a Christian institution; it is a human institution. It operates under the law, not under grace. It exists to praise and to punish. Paul says that “it does not bear the sword in vain” (Romans 13:4). It should be a terror to bad behavior. When I watched the Watts riots back in 1962, I wondered where the police were, the national guard, the military, the U.S. Marines. We are called to love our enemies, not punish them. The state has a different mandate. It does the punishing. Paul boldly calls the government a “servant of God.” Government assumes human irresponsibility. That is, some will come against the law. They need to discover that the law does not budge.

We are seeing in these days what happens when the law is not enforced: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11). When protest gets violent and the government does not step in to stop the offenders, crime erupts and escalates. Good government allows us to live “a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Timothy 2:2). Bad government or government that does not protect its people invites crime, because the unconverted heart of humankind is evil and self-centered.

4  WE MAKE THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY.

Peter calls us “sojourners and exiles” (I Peter 2:11). And Paul writes that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippianns 3:20). We are camping out in the present.  Our time on earth is short. So that informs our ultimate outlook. Jesus told Pilate, an earthly ruler, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That reality determined where he put his energy. He didn’t come to beat up on the Romans. He came to beat up on the devil. Huge difference. We take our queue from the King. We are not giving our life to make this government a little better. But we don’t take this to the extreme and become anti-government. Human government is God’s idea. We see it in the family, in marriage, in the workplace, in the community. Government is ordained by God, and we will see it functioning in the new earth. Plan to really enjoy the government of God in the new earth, and maybe you will be participating as a ruler. He promises that “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). 

Our submission now to human authority is conditional; our obedience to the King is absolute. When the government chooses tyranny over peace, flaunting its leadership, then citizens should disobey, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in Germany.  Lutherans and Catholics were keeping their mouths shut. Their silence supported an illegitimate government. They should have formed anti-government coalitions. Thank God for those who defied the government and provided asylum for Jews, like Corrie ten Boom and her Dutch family. In the last days, the antichrist will call himself god and demand worship, and he will get it from people who vote for self-rule, which leads to anarchy, which leads to dictatorship. This will be a time of great suffering for the church.

A HEART OF COURAGE

The English word “courage” comes from the Latin word “cor,” which means “heart.” Do you have the heart to obey? If you do, you have courage. Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, courage is doing the will of God even when you’re trembling. Your desire to obey is stronger than internal emotions. Some people are willing to disobey God because of fear rising within. Their hearts are divided. But the heart of the obedient isn’t; it is set on obeying God.

I once had a friend who said to me, “I’ve come to the place where if I know it is God’s will, I will do it, regardless.” Are you courageous in that sense? Will you fold under intimidation? Or have you determined that you will obey your Commander in Chief no matter what? When Ezra rebuked the Israelites for intermarriage and told them to separate from foreign wives, the leaders said, “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it” (Ezra 10:4). It took great courage for Ezra to do what he had to do, but they put courage into him with their exhortation. Courage meant to “do it.” When Asa heard the encouraging words of the prophet Azariah, “he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land…” (2 Chr. 15:8). Joshua was exhorted to courage, first by Moses (Deut. 31:6), then by the Lord (Joshua 1:6,9), and then by the people (1:18). It was in the context of obedience, of being careful to obey all the law.

David was speaking to his son Solomon as he passed the baton: “Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged” (I Chr. 22:13). He also told him, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work” (28:20). Courage is related to obedience, to doing what we are supposed to do. It is more than guts. Some brave people are disobedient, like David’s captain Joab. Courage in the Scripture is connected with the will of God.

I want to encourage your hearts with this word. In other words, I want to put courage into you. Discouragement is dangerous, because it takes courage from us, the will to obey. The ten spies discouraged the people with their report, and they never made it into the land. It is especially important for leaders to have courage; in fact, it is impossible to lead without it. When Hezekiah was being attacked by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, he built his defense and strengthened his people. He “encouraged them with these words: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him’” (2 Chr. 32:6,7). True leaders put courage in the hearts of those who follow them. Winston Churchill put courage in the heart of England during World War II, and it was his and their finest moment. If you as a leader are discouraged, it will be hard for you to lead and still more difficult to obey, because discouragement literally means “without courage.” Discouraging words can rob us of courage. If we are dis-couraged, we cannot en-courage. The chronically discouraged may then say, “Well, I guess I can’t lead.” But those with a heart to obey will say, “Encourage me, God, so I can lead as I am called to.”

Courage is often a missing ingredient in pastoral leadership. A kind heart is not necessarily a courageous one. To be able to comfort but not to challenge shows lack of courage. To comfort when you need to challenge is not leadership. A coach who cannot correct is not a coach. Conflict proves the leader. God gives shepherds both a rod and a staff.

Why is it so essential for leaders to walk in courage? Because…
.Jesus made it an essential ingredient for leadership (Matt. 20:22,23).
.Without courage leaders are facilitators, not leaders.
.Some issues are non-negotiable, and the failure to lead turns black and white into shades of gray, and we ultimately lose our prophetic voice.
.Compromise removes the blessing of God from our lives.
.Our lives speak louder than our lips. Our strongest sermon is our example. People won’t hear our fine messages if we lack integrity of heart. And courage is not an issue of personality—it is one of obedience. Temperament is no excuse for the lack of boldness. .We must raise the bar when society is lowering it. Tolerance has become a virtue.

A pastor friend who held a policy of not marrying people who were living together did not face opposition until it was tested by long-standing members in his congregation. He was surprised how many people caved in under the pressure of the moment, but he didn’t. It took courage—and he had it!

We had a strong couple in our congregation who were moving toward marriage. When I asked them about physical relationships, they confessed to me that they had gone over the line. We prayed together, and I urged abstinence based on the Word of God. When they confessed at the next appointment that they were still struggling, I gave them some motivation. I said that I would not marry them if it happened again, even if the invitations were in the mail. My sadness as a pastor was that many couples were willing to violate the Scripture for personal preference. And pastors are too often willing to “forgive.” Forgiveness is not the same as excusing wrong. It is releasing from guilt in order to bring power over sin, not freedom to sin. Courage is also needed to pastor prophetic types, and renewal-based pastors often back off from the spiritually intense ones, like prophetic people and intercessors.

Why do leaders sometimes fail to walk in courage?
.They confuse peace at any price with truth at any cost. Truth is a higher priority than peace. We are to have peace insofar as it depends upon us, but sometimes the sword is required. If a split is inevitable, courageous leaders do not avoid it.
.Expediency often wins over integrity. Principles are violated under the pressure of the moment.
.They fear people more than God.
.They make a god out of peripheral issues, like financial security.
.They have unfinished business with their past.
.They are living in sin, and it robs them of boldness.

.They muddle grace and truth. Grace is the power God gives us to be what we are called to be and to do what we are called to do. Grace does not let us off the hook, but that is what some people think it is. Grace not only forgives—it empowers.
.It was not modeled for them, nor was it emphasized in their training.

The ultimate threat is to our life. Paul determined that he could not be threatened by death. He considered his life worth nothing to himself, “if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me” (Acts 20:24). In other words, service overrides survival. You can’t buy off a leader like that. Actually, the threat to our spiritual lives ranks higher than a threat to our physical lives. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The fear of God must override every other fear. (Longer than normal. Hope it’s worth it.)

Courage has a relational component. That is why we have the power to encourage or discourage. Joshua and Caleb encouraged each other in their bold testimony of the land, although they were disregarded. Joseph of Arimathea must have been encouraged by the willingness of Nicodemus to help him care for Christ’s body. He literally put courage into Joseph’s heart. Jonathan’s armor-bearer put courage into him by saying, “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul” (I Sa. 14:7). And Jonathan put courage into David, anointed by Samuel but fleeing from a mad king. Barnabas put courage into young Saul after he had returned to Tarsus, perhaps defeated.

Courage in the New Testament is often related to speech. St. Paul asked for prayer “that I may open my mouth boldly” (Eph. 6:19). When the religious leaders saw “the courage of Peter and John,” it was what was heard that demonstrated their courage (Acts 4:13). Later, the disciples had a prayer meeting. They said, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29). So courage starts in the heart, but it impacts the way we live and speak.

Daniel was a man of integrity, and he was hated by the satraps because of it. They conspired against him by tricking Darius to issue an edict against praying to anyone except to him. Listen to the response of Daniel: “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10). What changed after the edict? Nothing. Call it courage. He couldn’t be discouraged from doing the will of God. Intimidation didn’t work for him. Does it work for us? Can we be bought off or scared off? He could have said with good reason, “I will continue to pray, but I’m going to close the window,” or “I’ll pray quietly. No sense in ruffling their feathers unnecessarily.” But he didn’t want to bend for a moment to their fear tactics. He knew that if he changed his strategy, he was giving in to them. Being bold is not being brash, but it is being obedient and not having a divided heart. Pilate would not take the risk to do right. He folded under the pressure of an angry crowd, and he goes down in history as a morally weak man, unwilling to buck the crowd to free Jesus. He feared the consequences of doing right more than

the consequences of doing wrong. The opposite of courage is not simply cowardice—it is disobedience. Courageous people obey regardless, while cowards do what is expedient.

We are told twice in Genesis 5 that “Enoch walked with God.” The second time it says that he “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (5:27). Hebrews adds that “by faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God” (11:5). Few people have bypassed death, but Enoch did. (So did Elijah). If Enoch walked with God, he must have talked with Him. He made decisions based on the ever-present God, not based on crowd-pleasing or playing it safe. It so moved God that He had enabled him to go from life to eternal life. Must have taken courage to never make a decision based strictly on the opinion of people. He was one of a kind in his day. The Bible says, “It is appointed unto men once to die…” (Hebrews 9:27), but not Enoch. He is an exception–because he was exceptional! He made decisions as if God were across the table! He was! Where God walked, he walked. No shortcuts to sin, no diversions for a moment of selfish pleasure.

What kind of courage did it take for Noah to build a 450-foot boat on dry ground. It had never rained before. He was mocked daily for a hundred years. That wears on you after a while. How many times did he consider giving up? His kids probably tried to talk him out of it: “Are you sure, Dad? What’s rain?” They were sure thankful he persisted, because they made it in with him. The people who reviled him incessantly were banging on the door after twenty days of downfall. Noah listened to the One voice that mattered. “It doesn’t make sense, Dad!” It did to God!

Biblical courage is not being foolhardy: it is being obedient; it is taking a stand. When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the bold Russian social critic and novelist, delivered his powerful message to the graduating class at Harvard in the late 70’s, he spoke about the loss of courage in the 20th century. He wasn’t speaking of daredevils but of morally responsible people, those willing to go against the current. We need courage to:

.stand our ground when the culture is eroding morally around us. .love our children with the truth when we are tempted to cave in. .serve even at the expense of our position or reputation.
.pay the price when we feel like backing off.

Courage leads us to do the will of God regardless. We are not responsible for the outcome of our responses, but we are responsible for our responses. Rahab took a risk and saved the spies as well as her family. Jonathan took a risk in battle and turned the campaign against the Philistines. Elijah took a risk and turned the tide of a nation. Esther did not know the outcome of her courageous act. She said, “If I perish, I perish,” and she delivered the Jews from genocide. Daniel’s three friends took a risk, not knowing the outcome of their obedience, and Jesus joined them in the furnace. John the Baptist took a risk—and he lost his head, but he won the admiration of Jesus. When the cowardly are weighing the consequences and turning back, the courageous are taking risks and bringing victory. If we ever needed courage, we need it now! May God encourage our hearts, and may the Church rise up for the challenges of our day!

FLYING WITH BOTH WINGS

I made the long trip over the big pond, a seven-hour journey. It’s too obvious to say, but it would not have happened with only one wing. The same applies to our life in the Spirit. We need two wings to get there, the fruit of the Spirit, the supernatural character of Jesus, and the gifts of the Spirit, the supernatural ministry of Jesus.

The Corinthians were attempting to fly with one wing, and they kept crashing. Paul wrote to them, “You do not lack any spiritual gift…”(I Cor. 1:7). This gave them great potential for ministry. But they proved less than effective because the fruit didn’t balance the gifts. They were divided into quarreling factions. One could see the wreckage of broken relationships and the carnage of unholy alliances. We often think of the word “worldliness” as referring to some kind of sexual compromise. Paul called the Corinthian saints worldly because they didn’t know how to get along: “For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” (3:3). 

I once invited a young man to teach at our church on deliverance. He did a good job, but an elder who was more discerning than I was said afterwards, “He’s going to mess up if he doesn’t learn about submission.” In fact, Bud saw it clearly. Mark ended up divorcing his wife, leaving town, and creating a trail of problems in the wake. He had not given sufficient time for his character to catch up with his charisma. He was flying with only one wing—and it didn’t work!

Paul made clear in the famous love chapter that tongues without love only produced noise, that prophecy unlocking mysteries or mountain-moving faith amounted to zip without compassion, that sacrifice to the point of martyrdom would prove fruitless if not grounded in love. He concluded that powerful functions disconnected from healthy relationships discredited the action.

Then should we say as some do, “What we really want is the fruit?” Great, but the plane will still not take off. Love alone does not move the mountain of demonic oppression or skin cancer or gnawing depression. We don’t want to simply create noise with the gifts minus the fruit. But neither should we settle for the right motivation without any manifestation. So Paul wrote, “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7).  The Spirit is made evident when the fruit is developed; otherwise it would not be called the fruit of the Spirit. But the power of the Spirit, the sovereign Lord, is likewise made visible when a simple prophecy is shared with pinpoint accuracy or a knotty problem is resolved with divine wisdom.

God-honoring, Bible-believing Christians who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit but tolerate at best or ignore the gifts of the Spirit may think that they are better off than carnal charismatics at Corinth who haven’t learned how to get along. Tolerance is not the same as zeal.  Paul makes sufficiently clear that an airlift requires two wings. He even put them together in one verse: “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (14:1). It sure doesn’t sound like Paul is choosing the fruit over the gifts. In fact, he takes three full chapters to deal with the question of spiritual gifts that they had addressed to him in a letter. Paul answered abuse not with disuse but with proper use. And that meant exercising the gifts out of a humble heart, one that cared for others and that overlooked offenses.

The Epistles focus much more on the fruit than on the gifts, the explanation rather than the experience. One exception is the letter just referenced. The church was not lacking in gifts, but they did not know how to fly with both wings, and they continually crashed. The communion services morphed into drunken feasts, arguments ended up in civil courts, and sexual boundaries were crossed in ways that embarrassed unbelievers. 

The gifts predominate in the Gospels (healing, miracles, raising the dead, casting out of demons, discernment, prophecy) and in the book of Acts. Because the Protestant Church has camped on the Epistles as over against the Gospels and Acts, it has missed the emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. Scholars have said that theology is shaped more from explanation than from experience, so Protestants have generally favored the letters. No wonder, then, that the gifts, and especially the charismatic gifts, are given less attention than the fruit.

Toleration of the gifts does not obey the command to desire them earnestly. But neither do we major in the gifts to the exclusion of love. When the King was in town, the gifts were seen on a regular basis and were motivated by love that produced joy. And when all the King’s men extended the kingdom, the same phenomenon prevailed. Power evangelism grew the church.

The gift of tongues drew the crowd on Pentecost. When Peter preached, 3000 were in the net that he pulled in (Acts 2). A crippled man is healed in the next chapter, followed by more bold preaching, and 2000 more came in. After the sobering death of Ananias and Sapphira, made known through the gifts of knowledge and discernment,  “the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” (Acts 5:12). Two verses later, “More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.  As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed” (5:15,16)  A chapter later we read that “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (6:8). He also exhibited the fruit of the Spirit, especially wisdom and love. The gifts of the Spirit highlighted the love of the Father and produced an unstoppable movement.

If we want to upgrade the gifts, we upgrade our love. “You shall know them by their fruit,” so you do not need to advertise the gifts, just manifest them. The greater the fruit, the greater the gifting. Think Heidi Baker. If you want to see more healing, demonstrate more love. We need the fruit to build relationships. We need the gifts to do the ministry of Jesus. The fruit serves as the foundation for the gifts.

What if you fly with only the fruit wing?  A portion of the New Testament is ignored.

The power demonstrated in the book of Acts remains unavailable to you. You desire to help people, but you lack the power. And you give people a distorted view of the Christian life.

What if you fly with only the gifts wing? Heaven records your works as a zero. Relationships are short-circuited in favor of getting the job done. You remain an immature child. You are voting for what will pass away. And you register a preference for the resurrection over the cross.

What fruit is growing on your tree? What fruit is lacking that needs to be developed? If God wants to grow faith for finances on your tree, He will bring tests in which you will be challenged to trust Him for money. If you need peace growing on your tree, He will bring storms to show you that you lack peace, so you cry out to Him.

What gifts have you especially desired? Your answer might give you a clue as to God’s sovereign designation. Desire them with all your heart; pray often for them. Show good stewardship for the gift(s) He gives you, and at the same time move out of the motive of love. Don’t attempt to fly with one wing.

FRUIT GIFTS

eternal temporal

takes time to develop given in a moment

motivation manifestation

demonstrates the Spirit demonstrates the Spirit

The fruit will outlast the gifts. We won’t need prophecy in heaven, but we will still demonstrate the eternal nature of love. We won’t pray for healing on the other side, but we will worship with overflowing joy. Yet in the meantime we need the gifts. Paul told his friends in Corinth, “You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (I Cor. 1:7). We need the supernatural ministry of the King until the King shows up again. We are doing His business. and we need His power, not simply His love. We need both wings to fly!

10 POWERFUL TRUTHS ABOUT DANIEL!

                                                      

1  His life-long discipline started when he was young

He “resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8). That is when he was described as a “youth” (used 3x).  Daniel made wise personal decisions that kept him on track throughout his highly influential life.

2  He was taken into Nebuchadnezzar’s royal court as a teenager.

Daniel was from a royal family (Daniel 1:3). He was a thoroughbred. So walking among world leaders was not altogether new to him. His childhood prepared him for what was coming. He often found himself in the king’s court, because he was open to the King over all kings and lived a life of obedient surrender!

3  He got all A’s at college in Babylon (3 years of study), unlike the local boys.

He and his friends were “ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters…” (1:20).  “Light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in  him..because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in Daniel” (5:11,12). So said the queen.  

4  He was encouraged by godly friends.

They went into the fiery furnace, not Daniel. They sought God together with him for     supernatural revelation. They hung together in a foreign land, empowering each other.

Friends have the power to tear us down or build us up. Daniel chose wisely as a teen the kind of food he would eat and the kind of friends he would associate with. Worked well.

5  He had a strong prayer life and often heard God’s voice through dreams and visions.

In his 80’s he is still praying three times a day, kneeling toward Jerusalem (Daniel 6:10). The threat of the lion’s den did not change his prayer discipline. He and his friends could not be bought out or threatened out of a walk of faith and discipline. And God revealed things to him he has never revealed to anyone else. He had a pipeline to heaven and had a reputation for dream interpretation even as a teen (Daniel 1:17). Ezekiel included him among the greatest people who ever lived (Ezekiel 14:14).

6  He influenced four world rulers,

Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar (Babylon) and Cyrus and Darius (Persia). This sometimes meant bringing bold correction. Very few people, if any, have had the kind of world influence that Daniel enjoyed with rulers of empires. Yet he maintained a humble and confident outlook. It started when he was in his teens and continued when he was an old man. His wisdom was legendary, both to prophets as well as kings under whom he served. A contemporary prophet, mocking a foreign king, writes in satire, “You are indeed wiser than Daniel” (Ezekiel 28:3), showing with tongue and cheek what another prophet thought of him.

7  He was thrown into the lion’s den as an old man.

He was in his 80’s. This happened under King Darius of Persia who loved him and was tricked by people who were jealous of Daniel. Deja vu! Then they got thrown into the den, and it didn’t go well for them. He was a threat to them because of the way he chose to live. They wanted influence and lost it. He wanted the vote of heaven–and got it!

8  Nothing negative is said in the Scriptures about Daniel.  

Is that uncommon?  Abraham messed up with Hagar, Noah got drunk, Job complained to God, David had an illicit affair with Bathsheba after killing a man. Famous and godly people with major sin. Not Daniel–or Joseph, two world leaders who started young and served long. Three other facts about Daniel: he was smart, he never married (maybe he was a eunuch) and he was good-looking (see Daniel 1:3,4). Call him Belteshazzar for “short”. That is what the chief eunuch, Ashpenaz, named him. 

9  He walked in humility throughout his long life.

“God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble,” and grace was poured down on Daniel from teen years on. His responses to proud emperors were always humble and yet confident. He urged Nebuchadnezzar to break off his sins and show mercy to the oppressed. He didn’t listen, walked in pride, and God took him out for seven years. He told Belshazzar from the handwriting that he was about to lose his kingdom and yet he was exalted–for a day (Daniel 5:29-31).

10 Daniel introduces us to two chief angels–Gabriel and Michael.  

Wow! He lived in the world of the unseen. He walked in ways that few people have ever entered. Pagan kings could see his connection to the spiritual world. In the visions he sees, he is told three times by a messenger from heaven, “You are greatly loved.” Gabriel showed up and gave him understanding of the visions he was being given. And Michael is a part of the visions he sees, a fighter on behalf of God and his people. If you are open, God will give you eyes for unseen realities of the spiritual world! Daniel and John the Beloved, who wrote the book of Revelation, are probably having great conversations in heaven.

TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE

I had taken daily trips to the garbage. Filled the container to the brim–and then some. Two hours later the truck pulled up. A feeling of joy came over me as I watched it being emptied.  Someone tell me I’m not weird!  

May we experience a similar relief with garbage that accumulates in our souls. We can forget it is there until our soul smells putrid. I take garbage out during my morning prayer. I do the acrostic “PRAY.” After time praise, I turn to repentance. I have a list of sins of the heart–a critical spirit, jealousy, a victim mentality, and more. I look over the list to see what God highlights. I take out the garbage so it doesn’t stagnate. Some truths about that:

Sin is garbage. Don’t make it sound nice. When I am carrying the trash out and a sack breaks, cleaning it up can be gross. Satan makes sin look beautiful.  Movies highlight affairs. Ugly and gross just became attractive. Sin is deadly. Garbage hides behind a victim mentality. Someone sinned against us, and we hold that person accountable, so we keep our garbage rather than eliminating it. Bad idea–it festers and torments us–literally. Read Matt. 18:34,35. We may share it with a friend. Another bad idea. We dump garbage on them, and they commiserate with us. Interesting word. They share our misery. Do we call that fellowship? It’s walking in darkness. 

Confession is taking out the garbage. As Cornelius Planting wrote, “Recalling and confessing our sin is like taking out the garbage; once is not enough.” Ours turned into maggots while we enjoyed our vacation. We came home to garbage that had multiplied. If we ignore sins, we start smelling. The longer we wait, the more putrid. We smell up the atmosphere with the toxic poison of bitterness and resentment. That is why James  wrote, “”Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…” (James 1:19-21). Garbage that goes in the truck on Wednesday is not recycled; it is used for landfill. Dump yours–don’t hold onto it!

We don’t focus on garbage. We focus on Jesus.  Garbage is not beautiful. As a high school student I thought it must be holy to look at my sins and say how bad I was. Wrong!  We become what we behold (2 Corinthians 3:18). What likeness do you want to be changed into? Looking at Jesus brings power to overcome sin. Unconfessed sin is gross, like the spaghetti in the back of the fridge that we forgot a month ago! Confessing sin and focusing on it are two different matters. Don’t call yourself a sinner. You are a saint who sins. Identity drives behavior. My dad used to say to me often, “Remember who you are,” long before Mufasa ever spoke it to Simba. He was establishing my identity so I could walk into my destiny. A skewed identity produces distorted behavior and an inferior destiny. We behave our beliefs, as my friend Kevin McClure says. We are what we think we are. The cross deals with the penalty, the power, and the presence of sin, but not all at once. We know Jesus dealt with the penalty of sin on the cross–suffering and death. But he also dealt with its power, so Paul was able to write, “Sin shall have no power over you, because you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Romans 5-8 says nothing about forgiveness but a whole lot about freedom from sin. Believe it. 

We have two big bins at our house, one for recycling, the other for garbage. We recycle things like cardboard and empty bottles. Some people are recycling sin, dumping it on friends. Don’t treat them this way–unless you are confessing your sin.

Unattended garbage is not pretty. I helped my son Israel clean out a duplex he owned. The people had left quickly without cleaning. Food was left out. You could smell the chemistry when you walked in. Not even fun to clean up. You may think that you want to take your time to forgive someone, like you don’t have to do it right away. Be careful: you will start smelling like that abandoned duplex. 

The Gospel is the best way to handle garbage. We deal with two systems–mercy or merit, law or gospel, old covenant or new covenant. If you are saying, “I can’t just forgive them; that is letting them off the hook,” you are operating under the law, not the gospel. Fairness is “an eye for an eye.” The gospel is Jesus from the cross saying, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus brought in a new culture. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Radical, a totally different way of dealing with sin than the system that most people in the world operate with, but not Christians, at least not those who want to live in the freedom of the gospel. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Amen!!

Forgiveness is power! Use it to keep your insides clean and to transform others. The words of Jesus on the cross did a number on one of the thieves. He had not operated with that system. They were getting what they deserved for their lives of crime, and the Lord of the universe just forgave him for everything he ever did. Wow! Forgiveness is powerful!! It opened his heart to the revelation of God’s mercy. Operating with the merit system keeps us tied to justice rather than mercy. James wrote powerfully, “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:12,13). Was it easy for Joseph to forgive his brothers? I don’t know, but he had already practiced it long before they met him as prime minister. He had been sinned against by Potiphar, who sent him into the dungeon. He had been sinned against by Potiphar’s wife, who wrongfully accused him. He had also forgiven the butler, who forgot to mention him to Pharaoh–for two full years, 730 stinkin’ days! He dealt well with his garbage!

Regret, by the way, is not repentance. It does not take garbage to the dump. It stays inside, keeping us in the past. Repentance moves us to the future. Regret is wishing something were different. Repentance removes the trash from our soul to the dumpster. Holding an offense sounds like a privilege. It is a prison. Joseph’s brothers didn’t expect him to forgive them, because they didn’t operate with the mercy system. He did. Through more than a decade of pain, Joseph managed to take life as it came to him without growing resentful.  When they lied to him about what their father had not said, he was broken rather than bitter. He had the power to send them to prison or to death. Instead he said, “I will take care of you and your little ones.” Powerful! They lived under his care the rest of their lives. Had he not really forgiven them, he would have boiled over sooner or later. He forgave immediately and completely. Call it the mercy system. He knew how to take out the garbage. He would not allow trash like resentment, bitterness, revenge, or unforgiveness to hide in his soul and keep him from walking into his God-appointed destiny. And he became the second most powerful man on the planet! Way to go, Joe! How about you?

10 TRUTHS ABOUT PROPHECY & TONGUES

1  New Covenant prophecy is given for “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (I Cor. 14:3). Sounds like a really important gift to develop and exercise. Speaking in tongues builds up the speaker, which is wonderful, but prophecy “builds up the church” (14:4). Wow! 

2  Paul wrote, “You can all prophesy” (I Corinthians 14:31). The indwelling Holy Spirit, the giver of gifts, makes that possible. So if the Spirit is in you, so is the potential to prophesy! Exciting.

3  The apostle encourages us to do just that. He writes, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (14:1). So sister, brother–go for it!

4  When should it happen? Paul says, “When you come together…” (v. 26). Are you mentoring someone? Prophesy over him or her. In a small group? Great place for prophecy. In church? By all means. Counseling appointment? Yep. Let’s build one another up with this incredible gift.

5  To learn how to prophesy, first learn how to hear the voice of God. Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). 

6  Anything we should be aware of when prophesying? Yes. “If I have prophetic powers…but have not love, I am nothing!” (13:2). For prophecy to flow well, it comes from a heart of love. We are not looking for something wrong to shame somebody; we are looking for something right to encourage & affirm. The love chapter comes between the two longest chapters on spiritual gifts.

7  Many have the gift of prophecy. Fewer have the calling as a prophet. That takes the gift to a new level. “He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11,12). Prophets teach the church how to hear God’s voice, how to develop the gifts, how to function together with all the gifts.

8  Tongues and prophecy work well together. Speaking in a tongue builds up the one doing it–prophecy builds up those who are hearing the prophetic word. The more I speak in tongues, the more prepared I am to speak anointed words to others, whether in a small group setting or in a church. If Paul were among us, he would be wondering why prophecy is not more in use.

9  Paul, the greatest of all apostles, strongly urged the exercise of spiritual gifts and especially prophecy. He wrote, “Now I want you all to speak in tongues” (which suggests that it is available to all), but even more to prophesy” (14:5). Prophecy should be a common part of church life.

10  Prophecy can even be used powerfully with unbelievers because of its revelatory nature. “If all prophesy (in church), and an unbeliever or outside enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (14:24,25). Cool! Powerful! May we heed the Spirit who is beckoning us to take this gift off the table and use it often!

 10 TRUTHS ABOUT TONGUES

         …from I Corinthians 14                

  1. We are speaking to God (2). Call it prayer. We are making sounds we don’t understand, and Scripture says that our words are aimed directly toward heaven. I am blessed, offering a perfect prayer without my mind involved. Powerful. Prophecy is to people, tongues are to God. When we pray in tongues, we have an audience of One. He is listening and responding, though we usually don’t know what we are saying or praying. Good to sometimes interpret the tongue.
  2. What to some is foolish babbling is speaking mysteries, a strong New Testament word about revelations hidden for ages but now made known to the people of God. Glorious that He allows us to utter great mysteries.
  3. Paul says that they are mysteries “in the Spirit,” a wonderful place to be. One way to live and walk in the Spirit is to speak often in tongues.
  4. The one who speaks in a tongue “builds himself up” (4). I don’t know anyone overdosing on encouragement; most I know could use some. Speaking in tongues can lift you out of discouragement, give you spiritual muscles, prepare you to enter into other gifts, and open you to further revelation. Astounding.
  5. Paul says, “I want you all to speak in tongues” (5). He had found great value in it and hoped for many to experience it. We have yet to mine the depths of its riches. Keep exercising it, and God will show you more.
  6. Speaking in tongues is a language (Acts 2). Those filled with the Spirit at Pentecost were speaking, and Jews from around the world who came for the festival days understood. Miraculous. After I taught at a seminar in Bergen, Norway, I spoke in tongues while the pastors met in small groups. A young man from Serbia came to the mic and said, “Paul is speaking my language and is telling us to be courageous,” which was the theme of my teaching. How long does it take to speak a new language? About three years–unless you are filled with the Spirit. Then it may happen instantly. Incredible!!
  7. Two different kinds of prayer: with the mind and with the spirit (15). We do not use our mind when speaking in tongues. That means that when we need our mind for other activities (driving, reading the Bible, making breakfast), we can still speak in tongues and not be distracted. What a versatile gift!
  8. The greatest apostle of all time said, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than you all” (18). He found great blessing in it and wanted to encourage others to use it. He knew that some had shelved it, not knowing its value. It helps bring revelation of truth, release people from oppression, and do spiritual warfare, to name just a few benefits.
  9. Tongues can be a sign for unbelievers (22). It happened at Pentecost. The disciples were doing the impossible in speaking known languages, and it got the attention of thousands. 
  10. I Corinthians 13 teaches that tongues without love is useless. We fly with two wings–the gifts and the fruit.

AIR FORCE!

“I only know the names of two angels–Hark and Harold.” Gregory, 5   “Angels talk all the way while they’re flying you up to heaven. The basic message is where you went wrong before you got dead.” Daniel, 7  “Everybody’s got it all wrong. Angels don’t wear halos anymore. I forget why but scientists are working on it. Olive, 7

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive.” Superman? No, angels!

Our first encounter–the annual Sunday School Christmas pageant. Our vocabulary is sprinkled with angel talk: angel food cake, angel’s hair, angel’s dust, angel fish, the City of the Angels, the California Angels. 275 Bible references suggest their importance. Let’s brush up on angelology!

These superhuman beings, glorious and terrible, share God’s joy when sinners repent and wipe out a third of the earth’s population near the end of time. They join with the archangel Michael in warring with the dragon and his angels, some of whom are in chains (Jude 6) but most on the loose. Not bound by time or space as earthbound creatures, one moment before the throne, the next moment announcing the birth of God’s Son, they travel faster than the speed of light. Are they omnipresent? No, but they can get there a lot quicker than we can. Are they all-knowing? No, but they know many things we don’t. They are the army of God. Scripture says that when the announcement to the shepherds was finished, “a great company of the heavenly host appeared” in a chorus of praise (Luke 2:13). The word “host” means “army.” The “Lord of hosts” is the General of the heavenly army. 

If heaven includes an innumerable company, any one of which could clean up on the US Marines in seconds, you begin to appreciate the awesome power of these amazing creatures—hardly the Christmas pageant variety. One can also understand that when an angel appeared to Zechariah, “he was startled and was gripped with fear” (Luke 1:12), a common response to a visit from an angel. We have emasculated these glorious creatures, genderless but not powerless.  These immortal beings serve God and help in the administration of His universe.They figure prominently in the Old Testament, often as instruments of judgment. They destroyed Sodom and rescued Lot. An angel led Israel through the wilderness and gave them the law. One angel demolished the Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers. An angel saved Daniel from the lions. God allowed Elisha to see an invisible host of fighters. Angels paid visits to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Zechariah, Joseph, Mary and Peter. 

Angels appeared to Jesus at important points. He spoke often about them, indicating that little children have guardian angels (maybe adults, too), that angels cannot die, that they will separate the righteous from the wicked on the final day. They dictated the last book of the Bible to John, and they play a prominent role in it. They are used in answering the prayers of the saints. An angel will bind Satan near the end of history. These servants of God will return with Jesus in flaming fire. Hell will be populated to a large extent by the devil and his fallen angels, as heaven is inhabited by an innumerable host of angels. 

They do not originate any plans; they carry out God’s. They do not marry or procreate. The Apostle Paul says, “In him (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities…” (Col. 1:16). God’s creation includes a realm on earth where visible beings exist and a heavenly sphere invisible to us. Angels appear to have ranks, just as armies do. The book of Daniel tells us that the archangel Michael serves as the prince of Israel, overseeing its affairs and standing in defiance of powers arrayed against it. 

Satan, formerly Lucifer, apparently chief-of-staff in Yahweh’s army, imitated God’s pattern of government when he was thrown out of heaven. There exists a great ongoing cosmic conflict, not star wars, but angel wars, not World War III but a titanic struggle of far greater magnitude and with much more at stake—the armies of God and Satan in constant battle over the lives of people on earth, the planet visited by a Babe. St. Paul tells us mortals that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Destinies of nations are in the heavens, not ultimately in legislative assemblies or on thrones or in an oval office.

Heaven was never more excited than with the birth of God’s Son. Now they wait for the next big day, the return and the marriage of that Son, the desire of the ages. They are not given the full picture. They love probing the depths of the Gospel to find further clues of God’s outrageous love for humans (I Pe. 1:12). They will never call God Father as the redeemed are privileged to. Jesus did not become an angel. He was born into the race of humans to rescue us from the clutches of an angel once close to God. The Child came, according to John, “to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8). 

Gabriel (“God is my strength”) appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce how God was going to use her to activate this plan. The visit proved more pleasant than the one five months before in Judea with a doubting priest. An unnamed angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to give him the go-ahead with his betrothed. The star that led the wise men to the Child could very well have been an angel ((Jude 13, Rev 1:16, Rev. 9:1, 12:4). When they left, “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream” to save Jesus from the slaughter of infants by Herod. When he died, an angel guided the family back to Israel. And yet another dream (and perhaps an angel) warned Joseph not to live in Judea. How remarkable are these servants of God, who figure often in stories surrounding births, and especially in the birth of the ages. How reverently they carry out the will of the Most High God.  9-1-1 prayers are often answered by angels.

The mysterious invisible realm is no less real than the visible realm. Ceaseless activity of good and evil surrounds us and is only apprehended through faith. We focus on what they focus on, the God of glory and the Lamb! May we join them in giving praise to the Savior of the world, and may we, like these ministering spirits, serve as dutifully and as accurately as they. And maybe you, like the servant of Elisha, will at some time have your eyes opened to see one or more of them!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, KAREN!

May 8, 2022

So why should I write you a letter?  You are not my mother. Because you are the mother of six precious and wonderful children that we are fortunate to stay connected to. I am blessing you on this special day for the following reasons:

1  YOU BROUGHT SEVEN CHILDREN INTO THE WORLD.

Sadly, we could not get to know Karsten. We have to wait for eternity to meet him. But we carry the memory in our hearts. We held him briefly–and we will meet him at the renewal of all things. Then he can get to know his whole family.

2  YOU WERE BRAVE TO HAVE THREE MORE CHILDREN AFTER LOSING KARSTEN.

Call it courage. You could have thought, “I could not bear for that to happen again. I cannot take any chances.” Instead you trusted God after we had Andrew, Naomi, and Gabriel. And along came Erikka, Israel, and Karis, all big babies and more pain–and exponentially more joy. How did you do that? God must have so healed you that you could embrace hope in place of despair–and your family thanks you for being confident in God.

3  YOU CONTINUE TO BE A MOTHER–AS A GRAND MOTHER.

We all know how gifted you are, especially with the really young ones.  You love being of help. You will drop anything to support your children and grandchildren. You don’t tire of caring for the little ones. And you do it so well! Your reputation stays with you!

4  YOU CARE FOR YOUR MOTHER.

Your willingness to keep Margaret with us enables her to see her children in or around this special day, plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What a gift you are presenting to her. We all know that it is not easy. She is fading just a bit. And yet day after day you do what you need to do to keep her happy and somewhat healthy. She thanks you now, but she will probably thank you more in eternity–after she meets up with Phil. Your care enables her to live a somewhat active life, going to church and to the homes of our children. What a gift. I think it is one of the reasons she is continuing to live. She certainly has something to live for!

5  YOU BLESS OTHER MOTHERS.

When I see you leading the Sunday morning prayer time with eight or so women, I am proud of you for the way you conduct that time. It is clear to all of them that you care about them and their families and care about the Scriptures. You are a wonderful example to them in the way that you honor the Word of God and in the way you pray for them and their needs!

6  YOU LOVE THE WORD OF GOD AND READ IT DAILY.

I am often blessed by the Scriptures you share with me. It is not yesterday’s food. It is always current and fresh. You are and have always been an example to your children of someone who loves God and stands under His Word. It is your daily diet!

Your happy and proud husband.  Thankful for you!  Paul

I BELIEVE IN DEMONS!

Jesus majored in deliverance:  “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8b).  He never sent out the twelve or the seventy without commissioning them to deal with demons. Then why is there little deliverance ministry today? 

1.  There are fewer demons around today? The presence of Christianity to some degree suppresses the activity of demons. But the growth of occult practices and astrology in western countries suggest that we are infested with demons. We see the advertisements, “A zodiac mug with a tank of gasoline.”  Eastern mysticism has been popular on campuses for decades.  Progress has not dealt with principalities and powers of darkness, as if they are not as effective because we are a high-tech society.  We are less armed because we can detect viruses but not demons.

2.  There are as many demons, but they are less active? Not likely. Paul said that “in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…” (I Timothy 4:1).  Demons know their time is short, so  their activity is likely increasing.  It is a misconception that only bad people are demonized.  Jesus delivered people from demons more in synagogues than slums. 

3.  We are cautious about a ministry we know so little about?   We have heard stories about demons manifesting in weird ways.  Like one pastor said, “It’s no fun to be God’s garbage collector.”  Maybe we have shied away from this ministry because we don’t want it.  Our passive response manifests lack of love toward the oppressed.  

Perhaps

1.  people we have prayed for or counseled were not healed because they needed deliverance.

2.  “the devil made me do it” theology has more truth to it than we have acknowledged.  Sin is both choice and bondage.  People in bondage need help to escape.  

3.  we have been more like the scribes than like Jesus, finding it easier to talk and teach than to do.  What set Jesus off from the religious leaders of the day was his authority over sickness and dark spirits.

Consider these truths::

1.  We are at war, and it is not with flesh and blood.  Paul writes that “we are not ignorant of his (Satan’s) designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).  Ignorance would allow him to gain an advantage over us.   If we pose little threat to Satan because we are unaware of his sinister activity, demons are all the more free to carry out the orders from headquarters to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10a). If we are only responding to the physical world, we are missing the mark and losing the war.  One really sad aspect of war is the casualties among those not even engaged in the war.  We know that Christians can be oppressed by the forces of darkness, and casualties abound.  We are told to resist the devil, but if we don’t know how demons operate, we won’t be able to defeat them.  Sin is not just a decision; it is a personality (Ro 6:16).  

2.  Jesus’ worldview included a world devastated by the enemy.  Jesus believed in the reality of the demonic world, and it affected how he ministered to people.  He came on the scene to take back what had been ravaged by Satan. He declared war on the kingdom of darkness, and everything he said and did was a direct hit on the enemy forces. Our culture has domesticated the demonic, and it has impacted how the church interacts with demons.  We have mascots on sports teams called the Red Devils.  We have kids dress up as underworld creatures for Halloween.  We play games that include the powers of darkness in ways that make them playful.  We hear people say in a cute fashion to a child, “You little devil.”  If demons are responsible for much of the sickness, torment, misery, and mental disorders in the world today, then it behooves us to grow in our understanding of how they attack, so that we can defend ourselves and deliver those who are casualties.  Demons are anything but harmless cartoon characters.  They have absolutely no sense of decency, fairness, or cleanliness.  They are foul, obscene, perverted, and grotesque, totally outside any boundaries of human kindness. The worst criminal we have ever heard about does not begin to compare with these fiends of the underworld.  The only rule they operate with is to destroy humans by any means in their power. 

COUNSEL FOR CHRISTIANS & CHURCH LEADERS

1.  Speak about the devil and demons.  Let people know that they are out to get us, and that is not paranoia.  Train people for deliverance ministry. 

2.  Bring deliverance to the demonized. Jesus’ presence caused demons to manifest themselves, and when they did, Jesus brought deliverance.  He did not try to shield the demonized from the public Because we don’t yet move in the same authority, we may need to find quiet places for ministry.

3.  Become more aggressive in the fight against the kingdom of darkness.  Alert Christians to their authority in Christ. Be ready to deal with demons.  Divine action elicits demonic reaction. Jesus was known by demons as a destroyer. Demons were a threat to people, but Jesus was a threat to demons.  

4.  Let people know how demons enter.  They come either by inactivity (non-resistance) or by choice.  Some say yes to the enemy in order to gain power. Judas said yes to gain money.  Prolonged sin can bring people into bondage.  Paul tells us that we become slaves to whomever we obey (Romans 6:16).  Traumatic experiences, like sexual or physical abuse, can open the way for the demonic.  Chronic problems can wear down our defenses and leave room for invasion, such as living with an alcoholic or an abuser.  Unforgiveness in an ongoing way can cause us to be turned over to tormentors (Matthew 18:34).  Ancestral sin can bring inherited weakness and vulnerability to Satan and demons.

5.  Remind people that Satan has a one-way ticket to hell.  He knows his destiny.  As a friend of mine says, “When he reminds us of our past, we need to remind him of his future.”  When God is done using him for divine purposes, He will consign Satan to the pit.  Satan is neither omniscient nor omnipresent.  He is not smart enough to deceive the Christian walking in the Spirit. 

6.  Teach people that to resist the light is to vote for the darkness.  Satan knows those who are voting for him, and he will not leave them alone.  It is a foolish thing to walk in the world of spirits unarmed, and yet ignorant Christians do it.  They are inviting the forces of the enemy to invade them and their homes.  Sadly, innocent children can become prey of the devil because of the folly of parents.

7.  Help people detect the possible assault of the enemy.  Involuntary action or compulsive behavior (longstanding lust, perversion, lying, suicide attempts) or overwhelming emotions (depression, hatred, or unforgiveness), might indicate demonic activity.  Cultic or occult activity, a disturbed family history, or chronic family sickness may also be traced back to demonic roots, as well as extremes–like extreme legalism or license.  Garbage attracts rats (demons).  The unwillingness or the inability to deal with garbage (unforgiveness, resentment, hostility, anger)` is an invitation for the rats to hang around.  8.  The cross of Jesus spelled the ultimate defeat of the devil.  Jesus said on his way to Calvary, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31).

WILL I SEE MY DOG IN HEAVEN?

            

I have a problem. I am too much in this world and not enough in the next. It concerns me because Paul said that “all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) will receive a special crown. I’m competitive. I enjoy competing when I know there’s something to go for. So did Paul. He spoke of pressing “on toward the goal to win the prize” (Philippians 3:14).  And this baffles me. The incentives that are held out in the whole package of heaven have not grabbed my attention as much as they should.

They did for my grandmother. She had her bags packed. And when we were two days from a special vacation, Karis, then six, said, “I’m so excited.” I asked her, “Is this the most fun thing you will ever do, go on a plane, then a boat.” She answered, “No.” “Then what is?”  Without a pause, “Going to heaven.” We had talked about heaven with our kids after losing our third child at birth, and it caught her imagination. Notice the age. Young children dream about heaven and old people think about it, because they are going there soon. Not enough of the rest of us. Like one teenager said, “Heaven’s a nice place, but nobody is in a rush to get there.” We’ve heard people say: “I’d like to raise a family first,” or “I hope Jesus doesn’t return before I take my trip to Scandinavia,” as if to say, “Heaven’s all right, but so is this life.”

We operate between two worlds, as different as spam and steak. In Christ I am free—sort of. I’m a conqueror, in fact, more than a conqueror, but often my experience tells me that I’m anything but. We find ourselves on the way, not there. I am seated in the heavenlies, but I’m also seated in a folding chair. The truth is: we’re not home yet. And home can have a surreal outlook to it. Some need to be convinced. Tell a teenager that heaven is like a wonderful worship service, only extended for centuries, and he might say, “Great, and do I get to play a harp? Can you show me to my cloud?” Culture’s caricature has overtaken us. Nothing to do but sing and take walks on golden streets. Boring! We need to discover what the new earth will really be. 

Jesus told His disciples, “At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones…” (Matthew 19:28). The word “renewal” literally means rebirth or new birth. The earth was born once in the beginning, and it will be born again. Far from escaping out of the earth, we are occupying the earth as our eternal home. At the end of the story  we are back to the beginning, because God is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 21:6). The end interprets the beginning, but the beginning also interprets the end. You can look to the last chapter to see how the story ends, but you have a clue to the end by reading the beginning. We start with a good earth—and we end there. Instead of us going to heaven out there, heaven is coming down! 

We have had some wrong ideas about the hereafter. We have over-spiritualized it, making heaven remote and less appealing. It is the work of demons to portray the physical realm as unspiritual (I Tim. 4:3,4). We are biblical Christians, not eastern mystics. We say in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the resurrection of the body,” and in the new earth we will have physical bodies. We are not spirits floating around in space. As Randy Alcorn, author of the excellent book Heaven says, “The earth matters, our bodies matter, animals and trees matter, matter matters” (p. 85). Make heaven other-worldly and it loses its fascination. I remember reading with disappointment about streets of gold and pearly gates. It didn’t grab me. 

After Jesus returns, the earth will experience an eternal makeover. In fact, we won’t go to heaven—heaven will come to us (Revelation 21:2,3). It will be more physical than we have thought. Two examples.  Our daughter, Karis, enjoying a delicious meal on our deck one summer evening, said, “I sure hope there’s food in heaven.” If we think that we are spiritual beings, we won’t expect food. But it sure sounds like we’ll be eating. Jesus said at his Last Supper, “I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:16). He had “The Last Breakfast” with His disciples after his resurrection in a body that could walk through walls but could be touched. We are promised a wedding supper to kick things off, and I can’t imagine a celebration meal without food. Isaiah tells us that the best cook is God: “On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines…He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:6,8).

So you can count on food, Karis, but not jello with carrots in it. It was never intended that jello should have carrots in it, and I received this prophetic word, “Yea verily, thou who hast contended with green jello and shredded carrots, thou shalt contend no longer. For lo, it shall not be found in the new earth, neither shall anyone make it henceforth.” I am not sure about coffee, but we will “drink from the spring of the water of life” (Rev. 21:6).

What about animals? God sure put a lot of them on the earth. When He affirmed that creation was “very good,” that included the animals. And listen to this word about the future: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).  Sounds like the new earth includes animals. Picture Jesus showing you around the mansion he has prepared for you. Then that special pet you loved and had a funeral for when she died runs up and gives you a friendly lick. It would be just like an extravagantly loving God to let us once again care for the pets we enjoyed in this life. My good friend Pastor Drex Morton told me that his father had three visions just before he died, one of which was of his long since dead cat Beauregard! Sounds like God to me (even though most cats have a tougher time repenting than dogs!).