Victory

I heard God speak to me this morning.  Well, I didn’t hear an audible voice, though I’m not opposed to the idea.  I just heard Him speak to my heart.

Galatians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine…”

I have often prayed for victory, victory over addiction, victory over depression, victory over anger.

Today, God spoke to me about how low my sites have been set.

See, He said He could do better than I can even imagine.  And not a little better!  He said He could do A LOT better than I can ever ask for.

I think He would like to have me ask big, dream big, live big in victory.  Then He could do more than I ask, more than I dream.  He could make my life more than what I’ve ever hoped for.

For me I think that looks like not praying to lose weight but praying that God uses me to breathe life into those who are insecure, who see themselves as something less than how God sees them.  It looks like not praying for victory over lust but praying for the freedom of all those in bondage, praying that my life and witness would be used to break the chains of any addiction.  It looks like not praying that my family would be safe and loving but that my family would burn with such a passion for Jesus that the gates of Hell would tremble when we walk into the darkness.

I can say that I’m afraid of what prayers like that would bring.

I’m going to pray anyway.

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Demons

According  to Josephus (Jewish historian), Jews were able to cast out demons in the name of Solomon.  I didn’t know that.

So when Jesus asked, “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭12:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬), they could have said by Solomon.

OK, before I lose all of you, let me explain.

Today, I was reading Matthew 12 and became intrigued by two questions.  Could, and can people cast out demons without Jesus?  And, is Jesus referring to demons cast out by other means or demons cast out by any means when he talks about them returning to the person and making him worse?

Yeah, that’s how I spend my free time…

Sounds intellectual (or just weird) but there is a burning question that is at the bottom of it all.

Can I be free?

Demons can refer to literal spiritual entities or addictions, habits or mental predispositions that govern our behavior.  And I want to know if we can ever be really free.

If there is another way to freedom than the name of Jesus and, by association, His cross, then it might be good to pursue it.  Jesus wants all of me and the cross is just painful.  And if, even through Jesus, those demons might return to us, what is our hope?

I have only read bits of Josephus.  I am no intellectual giant or prophet or philosopher.  But I hear Peter when he faced the Jews.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” ‭‭Acts‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Nothing else can save us. What are we being saved from?  Saved from death.  Saved from fear.  Saved from slavery.

Saved sounds like free to me.  The only freedom I’ve ever known is through Him.

The same answer applies to all these questions.

Only through Jesus can anyone be set free and only by remaining in Him, and being filled up by Him, can we remain free.  Psychology, religion, drugs, meditation, positive self talk can all be useful tools, but the demons will return.

But not to a life surrendered to Him.

Not to a heart and mind and soul that is surrendered to Him!

Infection

I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom and addiction.  I mean, once someone is free why would they ever return to their addiction.  Why do so many addiction programs fail to set people free in the first place?

Here’s my theory…

The heart that is not pursuing God can not be set free.

So only Christians can be free from addiction?

Yep.

So why do so many Christians struggle with addiction?

Because they stopped pursuing God, or never really started.

Going to church is not pursuing God, though it is a part.  Just like reading the bible, praying, worshiping, studying, memorizing.  They all have the potential to draw us closer to God but none can make us pursue God.

And maybe you’re like me.

I love God and want to pursue Him but fear hinders me.  I would love to blame others, my mom and dad, my wife, my job, my church to name a few.  But, I really can only blame myself.

Water is refreshing, life giving.  Food provides nutrients and tastes yummy.  I love milk.  I love chocolate.  But not after any of it has been sitting out for thirty days.

A wound will heal due to natural bodily processes if the infected tissue can be removed, drained, replaced.  But if it can’t, it will become gangrenous, poisonous.

That is what our lives are like.  We were designed to pour into others.  We were not designed to bury guilt and shame.  We were created for community, not isolation.  We came into the heart and mind of God with a specific purpose that can only be recognized as we are connected to Him.

God has invested so much in us through His word, the leaders He has given, the very life of Jesus given to us, the presence of His Holy Spirit inside of us.  We can live with what many would consider reckless abandon.

Or we can be an infection.

I Can’t Wait

I was praying for our youth group the other night and had this word from the Lord.  I don’t say that lightly, but don’t freak out on me either.  Youth group got cancelled so I thought I would share it with you.

I heard this:  “They’re waiting.”

Then I heard the following  (different voices), “I can’t wait till I graduate.  I can’t wait till I leave this house.  I can’t wait till I leave him.  I can’t wait till they can’t hurt me anymore.”

Then I heard, “I don’t want them waiting anymore.”

We are waiting.  We hold back from life because our circumstances, our environment is not what we want.  We won’t speak out about the wrong that we see.  We won’t speak out about the wrong that is being done to us.  We won’t pursue God, pursue His calling, pursue life with Him, because we’re waiting for life to change first.

It reminds me of a training exercise I was in when I was in the army.  We were attacking a fortified position and came under fire.  I hunkered down and looked back at my platoon sergeant.  He was frantically telling me to move and I refused.  I could hear the beeps from near misses on my training harness.  I turned back around and, “beep” I was hit.  The funny part was that I was mad at him for telling me to move.  It didn’t occur to me until later that he was trying to help me.

Well guess what, this is your call to move.  This is my call to move.  Don’t wait another second.  Speak out, speak up, get in there, get involved, press in, pursue God, pursue His love and calling on you.  Don’t wait.  You are not too old, or too young.  You are not too broken, too sinful, too ruined.  You are not DEAD.

The addiction that has its claws in you is not “fun” enough to hold you back from being what you were always meant to be.  So cast it off, be free.  Fear can not hold you anymore, rise above it and grab on to the Bible, His promises and truth.  Lies can’t deceive you anymore.  Live the way you were meant to live!

I can’t wait!

 

You Are Chosen

In follow up to my last blog, I want to share something with you.

The world may call you worthless and say that you aren’t enough.  Your credentials may be weak, your heart may quaver, you may be downright homely, you may be caught in addiction, ashamed, forsaken, alone.

God is choosing you!

The God that created the universe, put planets in orbit, developed each strand of DNA and breathes life into every creature invaded earth and died, rising again to destroy the work of sin and hopelessness.

He then looked forward into time to make sure that you were on the other end of this post and reading words of hope, maybe for the first time.  Some of you already know this and believe in Jesus.  Some of you are not so sure.  Jesus is too far out there, to far removed by history and religion.

But He isn’t.  He’s right here, right now speaking to you.

You are chosen.  No one else may believe in you or give you and opportunity to live.  Not just be alive, but LIVE!

He wants your life, your dreams, your heart, everything.  He calls you to be a living sacrifice, to give your strength and love to others in serving, in giving.  But not to destroy you, to steal what little you have left.

He takes our broken to make it whole.  He takes are ruined to make it new.  He takes our falling, our failure to make us stand.  He takes what is dead and buried to make it rise again!

He has chosen you.

Will you choose Him?

I would love the opportunity to come and speak to your small group, church or organization about what God has done in my life and what He can do in yours.  As I seek to raise the remainder of the support for the mission trip to Nicaragua, please consider having me come and meet with you.  We’ll sing and share and pray together.

Don’t Quit

As my head emerged from the water, I knew I was in trouble.

Stupidity, meanness had brought me to this place of cold and death.  Pride and humiliation had combined to make me step off the bank into the icey depths.  But, I don’t think I thought about dying until I resurfaced and saw them standing on the bank.

It dawned on me then that my brother had maybe been in the same situation all those years before.  He had stepped into a November river, been shocked by the cold, and then died.  Maybe he saw us figuratively standing on the bank.  He certainly died alone.  Maybe he saw nothing but his pain.

For me, the sight of my children there, watching me die, was enough to bring me back, to not submit to numbing lethargy, to not give up.  I swam back to the bank and pulled my soaking wet, frozen body out of the water.

I know God gave me strength.  I know I had a choice.

I think maybe there is someone out there who needed to hear this story today.  Someone addicted, someone struggling with pride and fear, with stupidity and anger, that just needs to hear, “Don’t quit!”

Pride and fear, being stupid and mean toward others are forms of quitting.  So is giving in to addiction.  Love, courage, understanding, humility, kindness, they take work,strength that is beyond our human frame.

God will give you strength.  You will have to choose.

I know I need Him every second of every day.  I know I have a choice, every second of every day.  So I say to you, and to myself.

Don’t quit.

Cling to Me

We’ve heard the story on Easter Sundays how Mary went looking for Jesus body in the tomb.  What she was the empty chamber, two Angels and a person she thought was a gardener.  In one of the sweetest moments in scripture, we see her fear and despair turn to wonder and joy as she recognizes the voice of her Lord.

Her response was completely natural.  She hugged Him.

But He has to push her away.  I always wondered about that.

“Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’””

‭‭John‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭MSG‬‬

I’ll admit, I don’t understand this.  The only thing I would want to do, the only thing I still want to do is hold onto Him.

Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with Christmas.

I have friends who struggle with depression and addiction.  These are good people who are hurting deeply with seemingly no way to freedom, at least no lasting way.  There are friends who have lost brothers, children, parents, who face every holiday knowing they will never be able to see their loved one again on this earth.  There are women and children, and yes, men too, who face this season as slaves of human trafficking.

I have no easy answers, no quick fixes for these overwhelming problems.  

But I can tell you where to start.

You see, Jesus has “ascended”.  Jesus rose from the dead, conquered sin and death, and is now “seated with God”.  It is perfectly acceptable for us to cling to Him now. 

We can go to Him in worship, not just seeking an emotional high.  We can tell Him our problems.  We can open our hearts.  We can fall on our knees.

When we hurt, we close off, push people away, protect ourselves.  Jesus ascended so that we could and would cling to Him.

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.””

‭‭John‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I know that when I get to heaven I want to spend the first million years like a kid wrapped around His daddy’s leg.  I think He is inviting me, this Christmas, to start living that way now.