Category Archives: Jesus & The Gospel

Walking With God

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There is a man in the book of Genesis, who I find very interesting. Though his life is summed up in just a few short sentences, I find in him a source of encouragement as to the walk with God we mere human beings can actually have if we’ll go for it.

I have written before about the famous quote that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. However, no matter how many of us use that quote over and over, most of us fail to cultivate a deep friendship with God that carries for more than a few days or weeks before we lose it again. Something about a lasting relationship with Him seems to be unattainable in our mountains and valley journeys of spiritual life and if we’re honest, also too mystical to actually hold real value in our daily activities. Being too heavenly minded to be of earthly good, or something like that.

The man in Genesis seems to be exactly that kind of guy, though. His name is Enoch and all that the Old Testament has to say about him is this:

When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch…When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:18-24)

It is that last sentence that I find so amazing. I mean, can you even imagine having a friendship so deep with God that one day He decides He wants you to be with Him completely, so He just pulls you out of your life and takes you away? Enoch didn’t die. He just ceased to be, at least in terms of a corporeal existence within time and space.

Enoch Got What He Wanted Most

On one hand, this story is actually kind of unnerving. In our minds there is something “not right” about the fact that God would just take you away, forsaking everything you’ve spent your life building – family, relationships, work, etc.

On the other hand, though, I love this story. See, to have the walk with God that Enoch had, it takes a lot of time and effort and passion. I honestly believe this takes more of yourself than pursuing any human relationship ever can. And yet Enoch pulled it off. He pursued a life with God above all else and he absolutely got the reward He was seeking – life with God.

With this “reward” in mind, it is interesting to read the New Testament account of Enoch’s life.

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. (Hebrews 11:5)

Now I do notice that this does not say he “walked with God.” Instead it says that he pleased God. But with a little word study what we learn is that the New Testament writer would have been reading the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament, the translator of which could not distinguish the idea of “walking with God” from “pleasing God” in the original Hebrew. They meant the same thing.

Why is that worth mentioning? Because after reading Enoch’s story and recounting it in verse 5, the lesson the author of Hebrews passes along is this:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

What I find very interesting is after seeing that the reward for Enoch’s pursuit of God was the he got God without limit, the writer now tells us that “whoever would draw near to God (like Enoch) must believe… that (God) rewards those who seek Him.

like a twinkie in zombieland

Let me use one of my favorite movies as an analogy for this. In the movie Zombieland, the character known as Tallahassee, played by Woody Harrelson, has lost everything that meant anything to him in life in the zombie apocalypse and now has one driving pursuit that keeps him motivated every day. He wants a Twinkie.

Early on in the movie there is a wrecked Hostess truck on the side of the road. Hoping to find a Twinkie, Tallahassee risks a zombie attack to check it out, but when they open the truck up, a pile of Snoballs falls out all over the ground. Tallahassee was not happy about this, and goes to stomping on all of them. Why? Because if all you want is a Twinkie, a Snoball is not going to cut it.

The Reward of Your Pursuit Must Match Your Desire

Now let’s look back at our verse. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that…He rewards those who seek Him…” There is a desire. There is a pursuit. And there is the promise of a reward. If your desire is to draw near to God and you pursue Him, what reward other than getting God Himself is going to fulfill this passion? Nothing.

When God is your ultimate desire, He will give you exactly what you are after.

Jesus Himself said this same thing.

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:10-13)

So the ask, seek, and knock verse is not an open promise that we will receive whatever we go after in prayer. It is instead within the context of asking, seeking, and knocking to receive more of the Holy Spirit in a desire to reach a new depth in your relationship with God. And the reward is that He gives you more of Himself.

This is the same promise God made to exiled Israel in the prophecy of Jeremiah:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Just like Enoch, I absolutely believe that when the deepest desire of our hearts and the pursuit of our lives are in seeking more of God and to have a deeper friendship with Him than we do right now, He will reward us by giving us exactly what we seek.

The question is, do you really want it?

South Sudan Mission Recap

The team all met up from different parts of the country at the Washington D.C. airport and made our way to Nairobi, Kenya via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We spent one night in Nairobi, then headed for the small airport which would fly us to the northern town of Lokichoggio, from which we would drive into South Sudan. This morning we were met by our Ugandan team members, Saphan and Isaac, we made it to the Loki airport without issue, then waited for a few hours on our vehicles to pick us up there.

The rain had hit throughout the night, so the roads were bad. It took us about three hours of driving to make it to the South Sudan border about 45km away. We had a few issues getting stuck in the mud, but the major issue came when we reached the border and discovered the riverbed to be full of flowing rainwater. We sent our facilitator across the river to see if the immigration office would remain open for us a bit, and believing they would, we abandoned our vehicles and the team waded across the river. Our bags came behind us in the hands of some very helpful young guys, for a price of course.

Once across it was discovered that the immigration office was not going to be as helpful as we thought, and Heart of God Africa Director, Denise Matthews had a fight on her hands to get us accepted into the country that night. After our luggage was across and Denise had won her battle, we hired new cars to take us the last hour drive to Narus, South Sudan; our home for the week.

Throughout this first night and the next morning much of the team was very discouraged, as things did not seem to be coming together according to plans and expectations. But through an intimate and powerful time of prayer, everyone’s spirit was rejuvenated and ready to reach the Taposa people with the Gospel of Christ.

Believing that the book of Joshua was setting the theme for the trip as we travelled into the unknown, and having very little idea what we were getting ourselves into – pioneer missions at it’s finest – we decided the first day we should send only a small group of people out of the compound to ‘spy out the land’.

When those of us who went to spy returned, it was only with strong confirmation that God was at work. The team greeted many of the Taposa who we had been told do not greet visitors well, and especially do not like their photos taken, yet we were greeted with smiles and waves, allowed to take many photos of and with the warriors, and one lady even threw down her pile of firewood to invite us for a drink of water. As we entered a small hut, we instead told her about the living water and she, along with a couple of other women, gave their lives to Christ.

The next day, the whole team ventured out into the village with the same results. We were greeted very warmly, as we went around telling anyone we met about the love of Christ and praying for blessings on them.

The third day we decided it would be good for us to visit the homes of the 15 members of the church, pastored by Joseph, our trip facilitator. Joseph is a Ugandan missionary to South Sudan, trained by Youth Ablaze, and has been in the country now for around a year, I believe.

As we walked past the tree under which the church meets, there was a blind man sitting in the shade. The team prayed for the man who said he could only see shadows passing him, but nothing more, and as we prayed he began to be able to see distinct shapes and colors, identifying skin color of team members and saying he could see the color of the dirt and leaves of the trees. Though there was not a complete healing in our time with him, the report came later from one of Joseph’s assistant pastors that the man was up and walking by himself around the village. The team also prayed for blessings on the homes of most of the church members, and prayed particularly for many women to be able to bear children. We are believing that next year we will see many toddlers around, confirming that God heard our prayers.

On Saturday we drove a little over an hour to another, much smaller village, called Korjip. The village elders had heard that our team was in Narus and that God was moving among us, and inviting us to come, had already determined amongst themselves to donate land for us to build a church on, as well as any other project the Lord leads us into.

We sat in a circle under a shade tree and exchanged formalities with about 40-45 people there, then I was given the opportunity to preach the Gospel. I began by asking the people, “when I say the name Jesus Christ, how many of you have heard of Him and know what I am talking about?” Out of the whole crowd, only one person raised their hand. Relating the message as best as I could in a way they would understand, there were obviously a few who walked away not wanting to hear what I was saying, but by the end of the message, between 30-35 of them accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I also told them that God was not just a God of words, but also of power, and told them how we had already seen God improve the sight of a blind man and prayed for barren women, and that we would like to pray for them as well.

The men moved to one side to pray for men and the women stayed under the tree, as it is offensive in their culture for women to touch or pray for the men. The very first man who had greeted us in the village, an elderly warrior who had walked in with use of a walking stick, was the first to come up for prayer. He told us that his knees were bad and that he wanted us to ask His new Savior to heal him. I and another team member, Paul, placed our hands on the old man’s knees and prayed. When we had finished praying I asked him, hoping-ly, to test it out. He said there was no improvement. As little discouraged at what I had got us into, I told him we should pray again (see Mark 8:22-26 where Jesus prayed twice for a healing). We put our hands back on his knees and began to pray, begging God to prove Himself with power, that these people would know we weren’t just coming with some new teaching. After a few minutes, I asked the man to try walking again. He took two steps, took of running, the leaped high in the air; completely free of knee pain. I may have been even more excited than this man was, and now we were rolling.

The next man came up with the same exact problem, and he was healed the same exact way. Prayed once, and nothing; prayed again, running and jumping.

There were so many that we all split up and I ended up praying mostly with just an interpreter  at my side. We prayed for a third man with excruciating pain in his side and lower back. Once we had prayed he was able to bend and move pain-free. Another old warrior with bad knees was in line behind this man. I prayed for him once and asked him to test it. Out of excitement at seeing his friends leaping around, he followed suit, and took of running and jumping. The problem was that he hadn’t been healed. He came limping back toward us barely able to walk, causing Denise, upon seeing his limp, to tell another lady that if this man walked out healed, she’d kiss the tree. Well…

While we were still praying for people, the village Chief arrived from a meeting he had been attending, and so we regrouped under the tree. He made a formal presentation giving us the land and asking us for help with water. As you know, we have been fundraising to drill a water well in relation to this trip, and Denise told him yes, and that we would be sending someone to test the water before we drill.

The team returned home overjoyed with what God was doing in us.

On Sunday we attended Joseph’s church under the tree. There were many new faces in attendance, and a small handful of them received Christ as their Savior in this service, after hearing the Gospel of Hope and the testimony of our team.

Then in the evening we met the church members in the central marketplace for an open-air outreach meeting. We sang and danced. Most of the team members shared their personal testimonies with all who gathered to listen, then I was again given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to them. Although we could not get a formal count, in looking around I saw a group of around 30 people praying to receive Christ. It was an awesome day for the Kingdom of God.

On Monday the team again divided, some staying at the compound to pray, while others went to visit the two small hospitals in Narus. We were shown the conditions people are treated in and told of the needs they have, and had the opportunity to pray for all the patients there that day: 4-6 suspected cases of measles, one epileptic boy, one girl with malaria, and a man badly damaged in a motorcycle accident. We also prayed with the hospital staff for God’s provision and blessing on their work.

On Tuesday, our last full day in Narus, we went into the local prison – something, as we were told, that no other missionary group has ever done for them. We were met by every police officer and security guard on the force, in full uniform, and the 14 prisoners currently residing there. There were cases of theft, adultery, and one murder in the crowd. Saphan, the Heart of God Africa Prison Ministry Director from Uganda, preached the Gospel to these 13 men and 1 woman, and all of them accepted Jesus as Savior. I then had the opportunity to share my testimony of how God changed my life, and Isaac shared a word of encouragement to them on the power of God now at work in them.

The prison director confessed to us the difficulty of his job in being honest and kind while trying to rehabilitate the prisoners, and the temptation to beat or even kill some of them. I laid my hand on his shoulder (apparently something you should not do when praying for someone in uniform, but love covers a multitude of sins) and I prayed for him and all the police standing around us. As we left, many of them took a group picture with our team, though I do not have a copy at this time.

Sadly, the next day our time in South Sudan was over. We prayed one last time as a team, then loaded the cars. After a short stop in the local Commissioner’s office to tell them goodbye and pray for them, we made our way back to the Kenyan border, and on to Lokichoggio where we would spend some time in a nice little hotel to debrief as a team before the long flight home.

I can honestly say that I am overjoyed by the fruit born on this trip and am hopeful for the future there through Joseph and his church. I cannot wait to return and see how things have progressed, and how all the people saved – roughly 100 for the week – have held to the new truth they have been shown and carried it forward.

This was only our first push into the 10-40 Window, but as God continues to open doors to the unreached, we will be there to step through them. If you would like to support my evangelistic works through Heart of God, like this one and others, you can click the ‘Donate’ tab, or you can learn more about Heart of God and how you can get involved through any of our various ministries at http:www.heartofgodinternational.org.

Contentment and Hope

This morning begins with me leaving early for the airport, leaving Haiti for the next 4 weeks. As I usually do my writing on Tuesdays, but seldom am able to get any thoughtful writing done sitting in airports, I thought that this week, I would just share what has been on my heart lately with the orphanage and our work here in Haiti. This post is one I originally wrote on Saturday over at the Heart of God Haiti blog. Please pray for our work with these kids, as we still have much work to do.

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More and more with every visit, I fall in love the kids in our orphanage here. As I am now preparing to head out for about 4 weeks for a pastor’s conference and a trip to South Sudan with Heart of God Africa, it is hitting me how attached I have become. Not only is it an honor to get to spend time with these kids every day, but God is also using them to teach me so much about the simplicity of life.

One of the most popular verses in the Bible for many Americans is Philippians 4:13:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

But what many Americans don’t realize is that this verse is in the context of talking about contentment. Specifically about contentment in situations like our children here face daily:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

This is one of the lessons that seeing these kids teaches me. Contentment in all things.

For the last month and a half we have had to learn a new normal for life at the center. With Hurricane Isaac taking the roof off the center, the kids have had no space of their own in which to live. Mattresses are daily carried outside of the church so that the building can be used during the day, then carried back in every night and set up to sleep on. Clothes that were soaked with rain were lost to mildew and have had to be tossed out. They now eat cramped into a small room on the side of the church because even the porch on which they spend their days eating, coloring, or doing homework has been useless as the reconstruction took over that space.

Yet despite a situation that most of us Americans would find absolutely unnacceptable, these kids (and our awesome staff) have pressed on, making the best of the situation. They have learned contentment. I am the one who has struggled.

The kids have seemingly not even noticed much of a change. They are happy every day. They have been helpful in cleaning clothes, washing dishes, and looking out for one another. They have taught me so many new ways to build toys out of the trash they find on the streets, whether toy cars made of oil jugs and milk bottle caps, or doing construction of their own with rocks and spare cardboard. They are content.

I on the other hand have remained so stressed through this whole ordeal, longing for the day we can “just fix everything” for these kids. The roof has been a struggle. Getting the kids enrolled in school was a struggle. Paying for uniforms and school books is still a struggle. Not because this stuff costs too much to do from and American perspective, but because these kids live in a world where they are easily forgotten. I know that everyone in America knows there are children living in Haiti in desperate and hopeless situations. But do most of us take the time to do something about it?

Hopefully today the roof will be finished, and the kids can return to their home. I am so thankful for the blessings of God through donors and prayers who have allowed this work to be accomplished. Yet I still look at these kids and see so much potential for a better life that could never actually reach them.

As you can see just in these pictures, we have aspiring mechanics, mothers, construction workers, and electrical engineers. But in order for those opportunities to reach reality, we need your partnership over the long-haul. We need people willing to do more than give money for a one time project. We need people who will make the commitment to sponsor a kid financially on a monthly basis to provide their food, healthcare, education, and daily needs like clothing and hygiene products. We need people and church groups who will donate a week or two of their time to come to Haiti and hold these kids, loving on them in person and sharing the Word of God. We need people who will pray for us and spread the word about the work being done here, even though it is so far from daily view.

Every day I get the opportunity to sit with these kids and dream about giving them a better future. I can’t fathom that the only thing keeping them from seeing these opportunities for themselves is the fact that the resources are not there for them. Will you partner with us to help give these kids the opportunity they will not otherwise have? Our kids have learned contentment. Will you offer these kids hope?

The Time for War

You know that point when temptation rises in your heart, and there is that uncontrollable fleshly pull – a longing, a gleeful sin-filled desire – to act on the opportunity in front of you. In that moment you know it’s wrong. You know you shouldn’t. You know the Holy Spirit is crying “No! Don’t!” Yet the old nature in you fights so strongly for that moment of fleshly fulfillment.

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, though for every person reading this post, the temptation is something different. It may be that draw of sexual temptation or pornography. It could be that moment standing in the gossip circle with something juicy to add. It may be the desire to throw a punch, or pour another drink. The opportunity to sin is an ever-present reality for all of us, though we all struggle with different things. In fact, look around. Right now you may be in what you consider a completely benign situation, yet someone around you in the same situation is in the middle of a temptation you can’t even imagine.

The question is, why, in that moment of temptation, is it so easy for us to give into the flesh and go for it? Why, all-too-often, do we so easily give up our firm stance to the enemy, and fall?

One story in the Bible that I think speaks so much to this spiritual reality is the story of King David and Bathsheba.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her…” (2 Samuel 11:1-4)

This temptation and sin of David, as we know, led to further sin on his part; even the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in an attempt to cover what he had done.

Now in reading this story, for any honest guy, we can understand David’s problem. Lust creeps up so easily on us. I want to believe David was on the roof of his house doing his Kingly duties; thinking about some strategy for his next military conquest, or even in prayer for God’s guidance through the day. But then out of nowhere he is blindsided by a beautiful, naked woman nearby, and he looks. That’s all it takes for those moments of temptation to hit us. A glance. A situation out of our hands. A thought. A small taste of the forbidden fruit. And way more than most of us would care to admit, in the same way as David, we too fall.

Changing the Scenario

Now, while I fully understand the situation David found himself in, I don’t think the scenario had to play out that way. I see two glaring problems in this story that add up the David’s fall into sin. And I think these two issues are the same issue too many of us find ourselves facing when temptations come our way as well.

The first issue is David’s recklessness with his God-given identity. God had anointed David and called him as King. David also heard the voice of God and was known as a prophet. He was called to be the Man of God at the head of God’s people. And he knew this. He knew what the anointing carried, because many times in the book of 1 Samuel we see David refuse to kill King Saul because of that anointing on him. Yet in a brief lapse in his judgement, David threw away all notion of the life and responsibility of being the Lord’s anointed for a few moments of sinful pleasure. David fell because he forgot who he was in God.

The second issue is that David wasn’t where he should have been. Verse 1 above says, in “the time when kings go out to battle… David remained in Jerusalem.” When as the head of God’s people, David should have been leading God’s people into battle, David did not go to war. Notice, he didn’t excuse anyone else from going to war. He sent them all to the battle. He knew the battle was necessary, but he did not think it necessary for himself to be engaged in. It is in his not going to battle, that David finds himself in the situation where the temptation could even arise. David fell because he neglected to go to war.

What about us?

I said I think these two issues apply to us, but how? I mean none of us have been anointed as King or the head of God’s people. None of us have been called to a physical war with the enemies of God. Our situation is quite different from David’s, right?

Well not so fast.

First off, though it is true that you are not the King of God’s people, it doesn’t change the fact that as God’s child, you are royalty. We are children of the King and heirs to the Kingdom of God. As such, we have an anointing on our lives that carries expectations and responsibilities that those outside the Kingdom do not have.

Secondly, we are called to battle. We are to be both warring against the desires of the flesh and the works of the devil. As the church collectively we are to be engaging and plundering the gates of hell. The people of God and His Kingdom have an enemy, and now is the time for war.

I would contend then that when the moment of temptation comes so strongly on our hearts and we fall it is because we, like David, have neglected these two things. We don’t stand firm in our identity as royalty in God’s Kingdom, and therefore do not see the dangers in giving in to momentary pleasure. And for too many, we have never even entered the spiritual battlefield. We think that all that “spiritual warfare” stuff is only for the spiritual elites – the pastors or missionaries overseas. We don’t deny the fact that spiritual warfare is a real thing. But most of us just don’t think we are called to that battle too much of the time.

If I were to put into the scriptural phrasing what I think happens to us too often, it would be this:

In the time of temptation, the time when children of the King go out to battle… we don’t go to the fight.

We fall because we don’t grasp who we are, or the fact that the battle is ours.

It’s time for War.

If you have given your life to Christ and believe you are saved by His grace, it is time for you to go deeper into this thing than having just having said a prayer in sunday school as a kid.

You are royalty. You are seated in heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6) and have access to all the resources of Heaven. And you are called to the battlefield.

Stop playing the victim to sin. Stop acting like you can’t do anything about it. Get up from your non-engaging life, accept who you are in Christ, and take up arms. It’s time for God’s Children to go to war. Welcome to the fight.

Boasting in God’s Amazing Grace

As I have been thinking on the subject of grace and the forgiveness of God for our sins through the cross of Christ, I am becoming more and more aware that all-too-often, we as believers forget just how amazing it really is.

Now, I know that you know that we are completely forgiven of all sins – past, present, and future. And you know what it took to get that forgiveness – the brutal murder of the sinless Son of God. None of us purposely downplay those things, because as followers of Christ, we stake our life and eternity on these things.

What I mean to say is that if you are like me, you probably tend to look at grace as a daily occurrence of forgiveness whenever you fall to sin, rather than as an unending flow that covers you all the time. For instance, right now, think of that one sin that always knocks you down, brings so much self-condemnation, and seems to cut off your relationship with God until you repent and get back on your feet. Usually, we are not even aware of grace at the point of sin or during the self-loathing. We usually don’t realize that grace is for us until we come to the point of repentance.

But what if that isn’t the extent of grace? I mean, what if the bible teaches that grace covers more than just your big sins, or sins you’re aware of? What if all of those little hateful thoughts you never spoke, or that little piece of gossip you delighted in at work actually offends God as much as the big sins you feel knock you down? What if God’s free grace covers that as well, whether you realize it or not? I believe it does.

Let’s go a little further. What if it isn’t even the things we call sin, that grieve the heart of God? What if sometimes, even the good things we accomplish and pride ourselves in can offend God? What if our self-glorification in obedience and well-doing are the same in the eyes of God as those sins we loathe in ourselves?

That sounds ridiculous, right? Well… The bible may not think so.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25)

This word for “right” in the Hebrew translates as righteous or upright. It means there is a way that seems honorable, but is not.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. (Isaiah 64:6)

The Hebrew here for “polluted garment” is speaking of a woman’s menstrual cloth. To God, even the good deeds we do outside of walking in the Spirit and being led by Him is  that disgusting.

And for good measure here is one more, in which Paul is discussing all of his righteous acts prior to meeting Christ. He did everything the law requires, but of those things he says this.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish (Hebrew word for feces), in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Philippians 3:8-9, parenthesis mine)

Now, I don’t say any of this to bring condemnation on you or to make you feel down. This is the condition of all humanity. Theologically we call it “total depravity.” It carries the idea that, contrary to the world’s opinion of itself, people are inherently sinful.

What this does for the believer, though, is that we get to join with the Apostle Paul, as we glorify God and boast of only in His grace.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31)

This week my challenge to you is that you look at your life, count everything as loss for the sake of knowing Christ, and let the boasting of His grace begin.

A Wonderful Parallel

I love the story of Jesus getting baptized as the Holy Spirit descends of Him and God speaks from Heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Imagine what it would be like for you if, right now, God spoke such encouraging words over you.

It isn’t long however that while spending some alone time with His Father, fasting and praying in the wilderness, Jesus finds himself tempted by the devil. Probably not surprisingly, it is the last thing God spoke over Jesus that is the first thing the enemy tries to rob from Him. “If you are the Son of God..,” the temptation begins.

This isn’t just a temptation to sin. This is a challenge to His identity. If this challenge succeeds, then the plan for our salvation would fail. But Jesus resists the enemy, and because of this victory, where the Bible says he walked into the wilderness “led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1), he now returns “in the power of the Spirit” (4:14).

Identity enables purpose

From here, after He has stood firmly in who He is, the next thing we read in the story is that Jesus walks into the Synagogue in Nazareth, stands up to read from the book of Isaiah, and finds these words.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

After reading these words, Jesus rolls up the scroll, sits down, and essentially says “I know who I Am. You want to know who I Am? I Am the fulfillment of this prophecy. Messiah is here.” The personal realization of His identity as the Son of God, enabled Him to publicly accept His role in life.

At first the crowd is confused and amazed at his teachings, but the amazement fades as they realize the identity He is claiming is different from the one they know. To them, Jesus is only the carpenter’s son. They grow angry and eventually try to kill Him over this issue.

I can’t help but wonder, if Jesus had not been confident in the Word of His Father, would He have ever had the courage to stand before men and accept His destiny? Had the enemy not challenged Him privately, would Jesus have claimed His anointing publicly? I can’t answer those questions, because there is too much behind the scenes that we don’t know. But what I can say is that I find here a wonderful parallel between the story of Jesus and the life of every believer today.

YOU ARE MY SON!

God spoke the word over Jesus, “You are My Son.” Now while most of us haven’t heard the voice of God over us in the same way, as believers we do hang our faith on the scriptures as the Word of God. And in the scriptures we read this:

“But to all who did receive (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

The Bible says that by our faith in Jesus Christ, His death on the cross and resurrection three days later, we have been adopted by the Father, and now, just as Jesus was the Son of God, now we too are the sons and daughters of God. This is the identity we are given when we receive salvation in faith.

ARE YOU REALLY GOD’S SON?

The hard part is that just like Jesus was tempted to doubt His identity by the enemy, we too will face the same challenge. All of us will go through an identity crisis as we have to “put off the old self which belongs to the former manner of life” (Ephesians 4:22) and “present ourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (Romans 6:13).

The temptations will always come, and it is at these times that our spiritual reality will be challenged to overcome the weakness of the flesh (Matthew 26:41). This will be a battle fought on many fronts as Jesus also said we will not be accepted by the world because we no longer belong to the world system (Matthew 10:16-25).

By faith we have to take hold of our identity as the children of God and not let the enemy, the flesh, or the world rob us of it. And the reward for standing firm is that it enables us to fulfill our destiny in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).

ANOINTED TO PROCLAIM GOOD NEWS

Jesus stood in the synagogue and declared from scripture the role God has called Him to. It was laid out plainly in the book of the prophet Isaiah. Once we understand our new identity in Him, we too can find that our mission and anointing is clearly spelled out in the scriptures as well:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

So do you know who you are? Are you sure enough of that to stand firm in the face of trial and temptation? Then what are you going to do with this revelation?

What About It, Pat Robertson?

Now Tropical Storm Isaac has passed Haiti, I think it’s fair to say that God demonstrated how great His mercy is to this nation. After all, it was predicted that the storm would reach hurricane force wind before hitting our coast. The trajectory of the storm for days before had predicted that the eye of the hurricane would come straight across Port-au-Prince. And the devastating expectations were set very, very high.

What happened, though, was that many people, including many of you reading this right now, showered this nation with prayers asking for God to act. And He did.

If I were to be really honest about my feelings going into the storm, I had a lot of anxiety about the potential damage to our orphanage (which could have been way worse than losing a tin roof), worry for the people living in the tent cities, and fear for the unknown. At the same time, however, there was also a little bit of excitement in me because, as a west Texas boy, it’s fair to assume I’ve never been in a hurricane before. There is always a sense of adventure that comes with the possibility of danger.

However, as the time drew close for the storm to hit, one thought kept coming through my mind… “This must be the most boring ‘hurricane’ ever.” In the end, the storm never picked up enough speed to become a hurricane, and the course had shifted away from coming right over us. In fact, the storm was so ‘boring’ that after it had stalled in the ocean to the south of us for almost 8 hours, I went to bed and slept right through it. The next morning I learned that the core of the storm finally shot across the southern peninsula of Haiti in just under 3 hours. How crazy is that?

As far as the devastation goes, the last count I heard was that Isaac has left 24 dead, 42 injured, 335 homes destroyed, and 2,346 homes damaged (the numbers include regular homes as well as shanties built after the 2010 earthquake). All in all, what could have been a major catastrophe was pretty much diverted.

Is God to blame for this?

When a natural disaster strikes and there is major loss of life and major destruction left in it’s wake, God always catches the blame. So now I think it is vital to point out the fact that this storm was restrained from doing that much damage, must also be considered the hand of God. I absolutely believe that God held back this storm.

So I must ask the question: What about it, Pat Robertson?

If only two years ago, God was ready to destroy this nation because of it’s history of sin and voodou, then why didn’t He finish the job now, before reconstruction can really have much affect?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Because even though God will put an end to all sin and even though the whole earth is saved up for destruction in God’s wrath, we are living in an age where God is withholding this judgement in order that grace can be extended to the nations and all peoples will have the opportunity to repent and be saved. But don’t take my word for it. Check out what God said Himself in His word:

“…the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…” (2 Peter 3:5-9)

So while the curse is still on much of humanity from sin, and the creation is still fighting against us making life difficult (see Genesis 3:17-18), we cannot attribute this to God’s decisive judgement. The new testament teaches that those things have and will always come our way (see passages like Matthew 24:6-8). Instead of destroying humanity, after having won the victory on the cross, God is currently in the business of putting salvation into full effect by reaching those who should be saved. This generation is seeing grace upon grace despite the fact that our sin deserves God’s destruction.

So in the case of Tropical Storm Isaac, I absolutely believe that God heard the prayers of His people for Haiti and has spared her. I further believe that God is at work in Haiti, as the gospel continues to go out and souls are being brought into His Kingdom. I will even go farther and say it is my personal conviction that revival is ready to break out in Haiti as the people of God here are beginning to rise up and seeking His face on behalf of this place.

All of that to say this. I am very thankful to our merciful Savior for a boring storm, and all the grace that this lack-of-destruction demonstrates. And now, as this storm approaches New Orleans (another of Pat Robertson’s ‘condemned’ cities), I pray that God graces those people with a boring storm as well. Will you pray the same as well?

“Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.”