Friday, November 14, 2014

Going Home

A couple of folks at GBC have family members go home this week

You know the way Jesus said it in John 14 about going home?  

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.“  John 14:1-3 (NASB) 

People like going home.  It gives them a sense of belonging and a feeling of safety and a place where joy lives and relationships thrive.  Home.  

We are often of the thinking that we are living and moving toward dying.  Howard Hendricks said it well, “We are not in the land of the living headed for the land of the dying. We are in the land of the dying headed for the land of the living.”  That’s right Prof!

When we encounter death we have to have the eternal perspective.  Death is part of the life we are living.  It will be part of our lives as well unless the Lord return before our day.  And if He should bypass that step in our future we are still on our way to the land of the living and going home.  

In talking with His friend, Martha, Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”  John 11:25 (NLT)   This was something He thought was important to point out to her at the death of her brother Lazarus.  By way of illustration, Jesus raised Lazarus who believed in Him and Lazarus was indeed alive after dying.  The hold death had on people was beginning to slip.  And when Jesus died and rose to life again He broke the hold for good.  

For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.  But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:53-57 (NLT) 

An experience awaits us all.  An experience of leaving one place that is full of what we think is the biggest part of reality to enter into the place that is the biggest part of reality and there we will be, as those who have gone before us, truly home. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Demon Battles

Battles on Three Fronts

For God’s people there are three battle fronts; the world, the flesh and the devil.  

The world is the flow of culture with its fads, pressures and philosophy of life without God or in opposition to God and His ways.

  The flesh is more personal and instead of being a battle on the outside it is an internal fight.  Human physical make up with its desires and twists and urges wrestling for dominance over the sovereignty of God raises up and shouts demanding attention and control and more.  More attention.  More stuff.  More food.  More rewards.  More.  

And the third of these battle fronts is the enemy of our God and our souls the devil.  The dark influence of the devil appears in the world and in the flesh.  He works both outside and in.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  This enemy is clever.  He has been at his work since the very first human life appeared.  

Fighting on a single front is difficult enough, but you and I have three sometimes one after another and sometimes coming all at once.  Be prepared. Put on the full armor of God.

Schemes of the Devil

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Ephesians 6:11 (NASB)

The devil has ways to take God’s people down.  He delights in it.  He smiles because of it.  The prophet Jeremiah dealt with the tactics of the devil. The devil gathered false prophets and gave them lots to say.  The people listened.  Jeremiah, a true prophet of God, was rejected by most of the people as they also rejected God.  Jeremiah pointed out that the people had worshiped idols like Baal and that in worshiping false gods they had forgotten the one true God.  (Jeremiah 23:27)  Paul writing later in 1 Corinthians 10:20 says these idols were not gods at all, but demons. The point is this scheme of the devil caught the attention and hearts of the people and they forgot God.  

God loves His people so much He wants to protect them so He gave as an important word of warning to have no other god.  Stay on track.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  Other gods, idols of unusual size, priorities out of balance, desires that demand attention can all lead to getting off track.  Armor up.  Suit up for the battle. 

Confronting Demons

 Do you remember the ministry Jesus trained His guys in?  Check Luke 10 for some of this.  He sends them out to proclaim the Kingdom.  That is huge.  Another was to heal people. Really nice.  And this one was a rather big deal too: cast out demons.  Jesus tells the guys upon their triumphant return from doing ministry that He saw Satan falling from heaven.  Yep, the devil lost his footing.  Jesus also mentioned not making this power to deal with demons the main thing.  I mention that because of the tendency for us humans to go to extremes with some things.  So here is the deal demons are to be confronted.  

How are we to go about confronting demons?  Carefully, armored up, acting on orders from the Commander.  In 2 Peter 2 and Jude foolishness of some people in taking on the powerful powers of darkness without care gets them in trouble.  Just shouting at demons and announcing one’s great authority in Jesus is not always the way to go.  Demons will attack.  The devil is on the prowl like a lion.  Care must be taken because all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) which applies to doing what the Lord says in dealing with demons.  Don’t be afraid, but approach with caution.  

The believer going into battle must armor up.  Stay close to God.  Be conscious of the truth regarding spiritual realities.  Stand on the promises of God.  Embrace the protection from on high.  Recognize that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.  This battle is one of good over evil.  It is a breaking into the sphere of the prince of the power of the air and claiming victory.  It is the love of God applied for the good of others.  Be prepared and get your armor on.  

Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  He is the head of the church.  Listen to Him.  Look at how He directs His people in dealing with demons in the accounts recorded in the Gospels, the book of Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation.  It isn’t all cookie cutter sameness.  On training day the trainees cast out demons wherever they could find them.  Paul deals with demons, but not always immediately.  My assumption is Paul was waiting for orders from the Lord in what to do when.  I am of the opinion that we wait for orders as well.  The disciples dealing with the demonized boy in Mark 9 found they could not cast the demon out and they had gotten quite good at it.  Jesus told them this kind doesn’t come out that way.  This one required prayer.  We need to know what we are dealing with and also how the Lord wants to handle things. 

Puny Gods

Their gods are like helpless scarecrows in a cucumber field! They cannot speak, and they need to be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of such gods, for they can neither harm you nor do you any good.”  LORD, there is no one like you! For you are great, and your name is full of power. Jeremiah 10:5-6 (NLT) 

The handmade idols of people do nothing.  They are objects of decoration.  But God.  Wow.  He can indeed speak and move and He is great and has abundant power.  God the Father has made Himself known.  Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice.  The Holy Spirit is given to comfort, guide, and instruct us.  God, the Triune God, communicates.  God’s ability to speak, to communicate, is made to be of great importance.  When we take on the demons, the invisible dark forces, we need to hear from God.  And know this, He will do it.

Action Plan

Entering into battle be alert for the enemy and listen to the instructions of God.  With God’s go ahead be strong and courageous.  It is His power at work.  Trust Him.  

The battle field may be different, but for this plan prayer to deal with demons is in view.  If evidence of the dark one is apparent identify it to the Lord.  He is not unaware, but you are joining with Him in this work.  Pray.  Pray God’s power be present.  Ask God to open your eyes to see.  Pray praises and words of scripture.  

After examining other possibilities you come to realize a dark presence in your home, a neighbor’s home, a neighborhood or other location.  Pray for that place.  You can use a model like Joshua at Jericho and walk around it and pray.  Looking to God to do what only He can and break down walls so that people are free to enter the Promised Land.  Walk around seven times and pray.  Walk through the house if it is yours and pray for God’s peace to rest on your house and all creatures of the dark to go.  Ask God to fill the space with His love.  Repeat as necessary.  

Maybe there is a person who is experiencing the influence of demons.  This can show up in a variety of ways including cutting themselves, drug use, deep bitterness, activities that lead to forgetting God or turning against Him.  Pray for them.  Go to war for that person.  Pray for the demon to be exposed.  Pray for the healing of God to come.  Pray for the depression to lift and life to come.  Pray for their spiritual eyes to be opened.  Ask God to speak to them as they sleep.  Jesus loves you.  Do you know what He is doing in heaven for you now?  Praying.  Interceding on your behalf.  You can join Him in interceding for others.  

Ask God’s protection around you and your family as you enter into this battle.  The enemy will come.  It may be a frontal attack and evident or it may be difficult to see, but it will come.  Stand firm.  

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NLT)

  I hope this is helpful as you enter into demon battles. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Giant Moments

1      October 17, 1989

At 5:00 pm October 17, 1989 plans were being made by the pastors gathered for a retreat in Oxnard, California to set up a room for watching the World Series being played in San Francisco.  I am reminded of this because the Giants are playing in the World Series again.  Eric, my roommate and I, had just gotten back to our room to prepare for the evening when at 5:04 the room shook.  

An earthquake to our north had reached all the way south to shake the ground.  The cameras were already rolling preparing for game three of the Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics.  It was the first Bay Area World Series, the first time a major earthquake was broadcast life.  The Loma Prieta Earthquake as it was later called led to the collapse of the Nimitz Bridge. Buildings and other structures around the Bay Area were damaged as well.  According to reports there were 63 deaths and 3,757 injuries.  Some have considered the timing of the game as lifesaving.  Instead of being in rush hour traffic people were at the game or somewhere watching the game when the earthquake struck.  At our gathering in Oxnard there were prayers.  We didn’t know all that was going on, but we prayed. 

2      The Pitcher

The Giants had a pitcher who had a memorable moment before they reached the series that year.  It was in a game against Montreal. Giant’s pitcher Dave Dravecky, a left-hander who had returned after a bout with cancer and surgery on his arm, was on the mound.  Dravecky pitched three no-hit innings, but in the fifth inning, he felt a tingling sensation in his arm. In the sixth inning, he started off shaky. Then, on his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped; the sound of it breaking could be heard throughout the stadium. Dravecky collapsed on the mound. He'd suffered a clean break midway between his shoulder and elbow.  He would later have his arm and shoulder amputated as the cancer had returned and spread.  He told his story in the book Comeback.  It was his book and the number of people moved by it that led to my small part in this giant moment.  (For Dave’s story   

Dave Dravecky was a Christian baseball player, but not a pastor or counselor.  The popularity of his story and the number of people contacting him were overwhelming.  So, Insight for Living, the radio ministry of Charles Swindoll, has pastors on staff who are counselors as well and I was one of them.  We were asked to assist Dravecky.  He came by met us, shared some, and we got a feel for how to proceed.  He went on to be a motivational speaker, launch his own ministry and write other books.  As a pastoral counselor dealing with the concerns, questions, stories of people dealing with serious situations and health issues it was a blessing to be part of the team. I had the opportunity to wrestle with deep human needs, respond to theological questions, pray for people I didn’t know.   

3      The Problem Solver

The earthquake damage was extensive.  How to deal with the collapse of the double-decker Nimitz Freeway was a huge concern to California’s transportation system.  Cars were crushed in it, the Freeway was needed, it was a mess.  Initial attempts to remove the piles of heavy twisted metal and broken concrete slabs failed.  Roger Stull was contacted.  

He had a company that specialized in problem solving.  He came up with the solution and removed the damaged sections of freeway quicker than expected.  He was contacted first when the earthquake hit LA a few years later.  Roger served at the church in Fullerton we were part of at that time.  He had a heart for the things of the Lord and found ways to use his gifts to benefit God’s kingdom.  He was a good businessman, creative, innovative, determined, and reliant on the Lord.  At times around the table in conversations I was amazed at his humility and quiet strength. 

4      The Giant Moments

It seems only the stars shine.  You know the MVPs, the CEOs, the head of this or the top of that.  And it is only right to give credit to those who have worked hard and seen their efforts come to fruition.  But it may be that there are other giant moments as well.  

Remember Elijah?  He is one man doing something many people consider of little use.  He is one man in a country filled with others more powerful, more numerous, more influential.  He is one man who talked to God and God changed the weather.  That is a giant thing.  

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:17-18 (NLT)

Elijah is an example of someone who is involved in giant moments but not seen in his world as anything much.  He is to be a model for us however.  

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 (NLT)

Your prayer could be that important element that releases great power and produces wonderful results.  

October 17, 1989 a group of pastors prayed.  (I am sure others were praying as well, but I can account for these things.)  The earthquake changed and challenged the lives of millions in a moment.  God’s power was turned loose.  Angels were on site.  The unseen was producing wonderful results.  Dravecky wrote his story of coming back from cancer and being part of the Giants team that went to the Series and suffered in the earthquake it touched people who needed the message…who needed to know God.  Roger, a humble servant of God with a way to deal with the earthquake damaged freeway, was placed in the role to help.  

Scripture doesn’t credit the king or his counselors or big business or bankers or the entertainers of Elijah’s day with great power and wonderful results.  Have you been part of the giant moments of people’s lives by your prayers?  Have you joined with God in earnest prayer and watched God, the Living God, act in power and produce wonderful results in the giant arenas of our day?  If not, would you like to?

Pray.  Learn to pray better.  Look to God more as you pray.  Take time to pray.  Trust God as you pray.  

If you haven’t seen His great power and wonderful results, then ask Him to remove the scales from your eyes and allow you to see the work He is doing all around 
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Psalm 46:1-2 (NLT)
Randy Huddleston
Pastor, Grace Bible Church Pryor, Oklahoma