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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Authority to Trample on Snakes and Scorpions



Authority to Trample on Snakes and Scorpions

 

We Christians are in a war – an all-out spiritual war with evil. The Bible tells us that we have been given all power and authority over our enemy, the devil, in this aggressive fight. A friend of mine says that God will fight all our battles for us.  Yes, the Lord does fight for us but we have our part in the fight. Jesus tells us that we are either for Him or against Him. (Luke 11:23 and Matthew 12:30) There is no middle ground.

 

 We get to choose between good and evil.  And often evil can appear so tempting that if we are not on guard, we can rationalize our reasons for choosing it. We must stand firm in the Lord if we are to fight the good fight and not end up fighting on the other side.

 

God has spiritual armor for us to use for this spiritual battle.  The Bible says: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (people), but against the rulers, and the authorities, and the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” (Ephesians 6:11-12)  We think our enemies are people who are against us.  And we get angry at these mean people but actually Scripture says that our real enemies are dark spiritual forces. 

 

Scripture describes our armor. We are given the belt of Truth and the breastplate of Righteousness and our feet are fitted with the gospel of Peace.  We are to take up the shield of Faith with which we can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And we are to put on the helmet of Salvation and carry the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  (Ephesians 6:14-18)

 

 We do our much of our fighting with the Word of God – the sword. And along with fighting with our armor on and using our sword,  we are instructed to pray in the Spirit and keep on praying for ourselves and for all of the other believers who are also in this spiritual war with us.  (Ephesians 6:18)

 

The battle can become treacherous, especially when our loved ones are being harmed by the powers of darkness.  How many parents have watched as their precious children have been destroyed by drugs or bad influences?  And how many families have been broken up by violence or adultery or abandonment.  The devil is out to steal and to kill.  He appears as a snake or serpent in the Garden of Eden and he is often referred to as a snake in today’s world as well as in Scripture.

 

 One of the ways we tread upon demonic forces by using the Word of God.  (the sword) Scripture says: “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy: nothing will harm you.”  (Luke 10:19)   God has given us power to tread over evil and win the battle.  We have the Holy Spirit in us to help us, and He is stronger than the evil forces. Scripture says:  “Greater is He (Jesus) that is in you, than he (Satan) that is in the world.”  (1 John 4:4)

 

We can fight and win using the weapons God has provided for us.  If we submit to God, He has guaranteed victory to us through the name of Jesus.  Often submitting to God causes us to see and do things differently.  A friend of mine used to work as a nurse in an abortion clinic and she strongly believed that every pregnant woman should have the right to abort their baby up until birth (9 months). She believed that society had no right to interfere.  But now that she has submitted herself and her will to the Lord, she sees things differently.  Now she is working to change hearts and minds against abortion and especially these terrible late term (9 month) abortions!

 

The name of Jesus is powerful. Scripture says: “I will do whatever you ask in My Name so that the Father will be glorified in the Son, Ask anything in My Name and I will do it.”  (John 14:13-14)  And the blood of Jesus saves the believer from sin (1 John 1:7) and also empowers the believer against evil. (Revelations 12:11)

 

We can fight against evil by praising God. The Israelites were sometimes instructed by God to march into battle praising God. They would watch God miraculously rout their enemies while they stood by and sang praises to Him. (2 Chronicles 20:21) There is power in praise and worship.  Praise leads us into worship, and worship brings us into the very throne room of God. And there is also power in prayer.  The prayers of the righteous are heard and responded to by God. And we can fight the battle by believing and counting on the Word of God.  Stand on God’s Word.  Feed your mind on the word of God. Put His Word to the test. There is power in the living Word of God.

 

Scripture says: “Submit yourselves then to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  (James 4:7)   Submitting to God means trying to live your life according to God’s Word.  Trusting God and obeying Him.  Staying away from bad influences. Living a morally clean life.  Helping the poor. Loving and forgiving others. Being humble and confessing our sins to God and asking His forgiveness.

There are snakes out there in our world hiding in holes in the ground or under dark bushes, coiled and ready to strike.  And their bite is deadly. And there are scorpions hanging around in sticky webs waiting to entrap their victims or hiding in dark corners ready to sting with their wicked stinging tails. And their sting is poisonous. But our heavenly Father tells us not to worry because He has given us the authority to stomp and trample over the snakes and scorpions and all the powers of evil.  And He promises that “Nothing will hurt us.”  (Luke 10:19b)  With promises like that, isn’t it awesome to be a child of God?       

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?


                                                Why Doesn't God Stop Suffering?
 

 

“How can you believe in an all-loving and all-powerful God with all of the suffering present in our world?   If there is a God, then why doesn’t He stop suffering? “Sue asked me.   Sue was a friend and she considered herself an agnostic and an intellectual.  And I think she felt that I was simple minded to believe in a mighty and holy God when all around bad things are happening to good people. 

 

Sue said she wanted to believe in God, but He did not meet her expectations.  Life is unfair, she insisted, and if God is there, He should come and make things right. Sue’s first child had died.  She had prayed that her baby would live, but God had not answered her prayer she said.  Wasn’t God supposed to take care of her since she had tried to be a good person?  Where was God when her baby died? 

 

I mentioned that the Bible told many stories of good people who had bad things happen to them.  There was Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers.  And David who hid for years in caves and dens to keep King Saul and his soldiers from killing him.  Paul who was arrested, beaten and abused and finally put to death by the Romans.  And of course Jesus who was nailed to a cross and died for our sins.  No, God’s followers aren’t promised a trouble or pain free life, I told her. 

 

Sue insisted that if God allowed bad things to happen to good people then He wasn’t an all-powerful God.  An all-powerful God could stop the bad things from happening since He runs the earth, she reasoned.  I answered that God has given us humans “dominion” over this earth.  Scripture says He placed humans in charge of the earth and made us responsible for managing it.  (Genesis 1:27-28)  God promises to be with us to help. He gives us a mind and soul and a conscience. He also gives us His Word, and the Holy Spirit to guide us and Jesus Christ to redeem us.  But one of God’s main ways of ruling the earth is through people.  We are to be co-workers with God.  But since God gave us humans’ dominion over our world to make it better, we also have the power to make it worse and screw it up.  I told Sue that we humans have the ability to choose good or evil and when we choose evil we can cause terrible pain and problems for others. 

 

Sue felt that if God were loving and merciful that He could have created us so that we could not ever choose evil.  She insisted that she couldn’t believe in a God that knew ahead of time that we would choose evil and still give us the freedom to do that.  I told Sue that for some reason God chose to allow us humans to be free.  He did not make us into robots.  He created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and He has freedom to choose and so do we. What would our lives be like if God made it impossible for us to ever do anything wrong? The ability to choose is an essential part of our human lives.  In the very beginning God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and commands them not to eat of the tree of good and evil. (Genesis 2:15-17)  That tree in the garden represents the freedom that God gives us to choose His way or another way. 

 

And you know the rest of the story. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and stray from God’s way.  And we all, like our first parents, have inherited their sin nature that seduces us away from God’s righteous way.  Adam and Eve listened to the serpent’s lies.  And they rationalized sin and ate the forbidden fruit of the tree and their paradise (the wonderful Garden of Eden) was lost.  And we, like our first parents, also hear the serpent calling and we also must decide whether we will follow God’s way or that other way.  And when we rationalize sin and choose that other way, some part of God’s paradise is lost in our lives too.  And then we blame it on God.  

 

And we blame all of the suffering caused by the bad things that humans do on God.  Scripture tells us that God gave our first parents the freedom to choose sin.  And when they did they fell from grace and needed a Savior (Jesus Christ) to rescue them.  Scripture also says that through our first parents, Adam and Eve, we inherit a sin nature. (Romans 5:12) And all of us humans sin. (Romans 3:23)  And sin causes sickness and suffering and death. And we need rescuing by our Savior too.  (John 3:16)

 

Because of sin the Bible never promises that we will not suffer, but it does promise that suffering will not have the last word.  And in due time Christ will completely conquer sin and death.  God promises that “the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed in us.”  (Romans 8:18) 

 

Scripture tells us that God is all-holy and all-merciful and all-good and all-loving.  And He is also all-powerful and all-knowing.  Some people judge God’s actions like they would judge another human’s actions.  But God is not a human and His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours that it is foolish to try to judge Him.  Job found that out when he wanted God to answer his arguments. (The book of Job)  

 

God calls us to trust Him and not lean on our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)  He urges us to give all our burdens to Him. (1 Peter 5:7)  God invites us to ask “anything” in His Name and He will give it to us. Anything! If we trust Him and if we ask in His will. (The salvation of a person is always in His will - 2 Peter 3:9) He tells us that our prayers in His Name are powerful. (James 5:16)  Even though we may not understand how God can answer our prayers, He is able to do all that He promises. He works in mysterious ways and His ways are past finding out. We serve a mighty, victorious God who will answer all our prayers even though some of our prayers may be answered on the other side.

 

On the other side, our hardships and sufferings and our sicknesses and sorrows will all be gone!  Because Jesus rose from the dead, good will triumph over evil and light will defeat the forces of darkness and life will conquer death!  When the Bible speaks about the return of Christ and the end of our lives it says:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory” “Where, O Death, is your victory?  Where, O Death is your sting?”  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  (1 Corinthians 15:54-58)

 

We have a short sighted view when we blame God for not stopping evil and suffering right this minute here on earth.  God promises through Jesus Christ that there will be no more sin or sickness or crying or sorrow on the other side.  God gives us a hope, a “living hope” (1 Peter 1:3) that He will make all things new and there will be no sin in this new world.  Everything will be good. And for those who love Him, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.  And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”  (Malachi 4:2)    

 

Pastor Adam Hamilton writes that every year he ends his Easter sermon at his church, the Church of the Resurrection, the same way.  He asks his congregation: “Do you really believe the story about resurrection?  Do you really believe that Easter means the worst thing is never the last thing?  Do you really believe that ultimately good will triumph over evil and God’s plans will ultimately prevail?”  And the Pastor Hamilton answers: “I not only believe it, I am counting on it.”   Let’s all of us count on it too. 

 

Many of the ideas in this blog were taken from Reverend Adam Hamilton’s booklet, Why?  Making Sense of God’s Will.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Psalm 91, The Believers' Promise of Protection



Psalm 91

 

The Believers’ Promise of Protection

 

The great truth laid down in Psalm 91 is that those who live a life of communion with God are constantly safe under His protection.  This Psalm is a glowing testimony to the security of those who trust in God.  And scholars believe that David was probably the author.  Let’s read the first few verses.

Psalm 91

“He who dwells in the shelter of the most High (Elyon)

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (Shaddai)

I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress,

My God, in whom I trust.’

Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare,

And from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with His feathers,

And under His wings you will find refuge:

His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

You will not fear the terror of night,

Nor the arrow that flies by day,

Nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

Nor the plague that destroys at midday.

A thousand may fall at your side,

And ten thousand at your right hand.

But it will not come near you.

You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:1-8)

Bible scholars tell us that in the very first verse of Psalm 91, God is called by two names: Elyon and Shaddai.  “He who dwells in the shelter of Elyon, will rest in the shadow of Shaddai” (Psalm 91:1) Elyon tells of the greatness of God, and Shaddai speaks of His providing care.  The word “shad” means “breast” which suggests mother-provision.  In the following verses of this Psalm God is called “Jehovah” and “Elohim”.  Each of these names for God picture different aspects of His power and promise.  There is no reason to question His sufficiency. How much revelation of God do we need before we are led to trust Him? 

This Psalm tells us that God Himself will be our Protector.  “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings will you find refuge.” (Verse 4)  This verse alludes to the hen gathering her chicks under her wings.  And it reminds us of a time when Jesus cried over Jerusalem telling the people there that He wanted so much to take them under His wings like a hen does her chicks, but they were not willing.  (Matthew 23:37)   God is offering us such an amazing Refuge, the shelter of Himself with His wings around us, but we have to be willing to come to Him!  His faithfulness will be our shield and rampart.  (Verse 4b)  God wants desperately to guard his people and he doesn’t mind being compared to a hen guarding her chicks, and a man of war in armor protecting his own.

For a long time I did not understand this Psalm.  I knew too many people who loved and trusted God and still suffered long illnesses or struggled with crushing disabilities and trials.  But this Psalm does not promise that God’s children will escape all troubles!  The promise here is that God will be with us in our troubles and in due time God will deliver us from them.  “I will deliver him,” (Verse 14) and His deliverance is a double deliverance, a living and dying deliverance in trouble and a final deliverance out of trouble! (Verse 15)  

When St. Paul was troubled by the thorn in his flesh he prayed and prayed to have it removed.  But God’s answer was that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength will be made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)  In some way God planned to bless Paul through his trouble – his thorn in the flesh.   And God will bless us through our troubles too.  And answer our prayers. We don’t understand why or how God can bless us even in our troubles, but we must accept this by faith.  Scripture says: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  (Romans 8:28) 

In Verse 7 it says: “A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand.”  To die without Christ is a fearful thing. When we see our loved ones and friends and neighbors around us die we know that we will also die someday.  If we have Christ we do not need to be afraid because we know that our heavenly Father will be with us in death.  Scripture says: “Oh death where is your sting, oh grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Corinthians 15:55-56)  Scripture tells us that we have the victory over death through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

 

Let’s read the rest of this Psalm.  (Psalm 91:9-16)

 

“If you make the Most High your dwelling

Even the Lord, who is my refuge

Then no harm will befall you,

No disaster will come near your dwelling.

For He will command his angels

Concerning you.

To guard you in all your ways:

They will lift you up in their hands,

So that you will not strike your foot

Against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the adder;

You will trample the great lion and the serpent.

‘Because He loves me, says the Lord,

I will rescue him: I will protect him

For he acknowledges My Name.

He will call upon Me

And I will answer him. 

I will be with him in trouble.

I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him.

And show him My salvation.’”  (Psalm 91:9-15) 

 

These promises are sure to all those who have “made the Most High their habitation.”  To those who choose Him and His ways.  Who make it their duty to be at home in God.  Whatever happens to them – whatever- nothing shall hurt them. (Verse 10)  We shall tread over the lion and the adder.  The devil is called a roaring lion and Scripture says: “The God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)  We are speaking about spiritual mysteries that we don’t understand and accept by faith. But we are living that mystery in Christ and that is exciting beyond words. 

 

Psalm 91 ends this way: “With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.”  (Verse 15)  Not everyone who loves God has a long life!  So what does this mean?  Perhaps it means that God’s people will live long enough in this world to accomplish the work that they were sent here to do.  And in the other world, they shall have eternal life.  This crowns the blessedness: “I will show him my salvation.”  We can only imagine what all of this will be!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Saturday, September 5, 2015




 Psalm 15

More thoughts

 

 

We blogged about Psalm15 a year or so ago.  But this Psalm deserves more thoughts. Psalm 15 is short and simple and yet profound.    In verse 1 David asks a question to God.  And in verses 2-5 God gives David the answers. 

 

David’s question is this: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  And who may dwell on your holy hill?  (Psalm 15:1)  In other words, David was asking what a person needed to do to be able to come close to God?  David lived a thousand years before Christ at a time when the priests had placed the Arc of the Covenant in the tabernacle on the “holy hill”.  The presence of God rested over the Arc of the Covenant so this was a very holy place. So when David asks God who can go in the tabernacle and walk on the holy hill, he was really asking who could stand before God. 

 

Only the high priest could come before God’s presence each year and he could only come if he was bringing a sacrifice.  When David asked God what a person needed to do to come before His holy Presence, he already knew that no sinful person could come before a holy God without sacrificing a domestic animal and sprinkling its blood.

 

 All of the Jewish people knew that their sin separated them from God and that the priest had to give a “sin offering” or “trespass offering” whenever they came to worship.  A domestic animal had to be sacrificed and the animal had to be healthy and “unblemished”.  The unblemished animals that were sacrificed were a picture or a fore shadow of what Jesus Christ who is unblemished by sin, would do when He would come later and be our sacrifice for sin. 

 

David lived during the Age of Law.  But Christ would usher in the Age of Grace.  Scripture says that animals cannot take away human sin.  (Hebrews 10:4)  But what these animals could not do, Christ would do.  (Ephesians 5:2, 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Cor. 5:17)  Scripture says: “For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast…”  (1 Corinthians 5:7)  And: “We have been made holy, through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for al.”  (Hebrews 10:10)

 

Verse 2 of this little Psalm is part of God’s answer to David’s question.  The question is: Who will be close to God?  What must they do? Let’s read Gods answer.  “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.”  (Psalm 15:2)   None of us walk uprightly or work righteousness all of the time.  I am afraid that none of us can ever be good enough in our own strength to meet God’s holy standards.  Scripture says: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”   (Romans 3:23)  “There is none who is righteous, no not one..”  (Romans 3:10 and Psalm 11)  We all need “the Lamb of God (Christ) who takes away the sin of the world.”  (John 1:29)

 

God continues to answer David in verse 3.  Let’s listen:  “He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor…”  (Psalm 15:3)  God’s message to David is clear.  The way we treat others means everything to God.  It matters to God whether we are loyal to our families and our community or not.  The Bible says that we cannot love God and hate our brother.  “If anyone says: ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  (1 John 4:20-21)

 

You may ask, ‘But what if my brother has done something that is very wrong?’  Bible scripture in Matthew 18:15 gives guidance as to how to settle disagreements and judge an offender and restore fellowship.  Is God calling us to be faithful friends and steadfast family members even when big problems arise?  Our faithful love for one another and our unity a Christians and as family is all important to the Lord.  Is He calling us to value and protect the ties that bind us?

 

Also God says that a person who draws near to Him is a person “who does not take up a reproach against a friend.” verse.3 We can be faithful and considerate of our friends even when we don’t agree with them.  Instead of slandering a friend or brother (the reproach) we can pray for him/her and encourage him/her.  Build her up instead of tearing her down.  Scripture says: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born to help out during trouble.”  (Proverbs 17:17)

 

God’s answer continues in verse 4.  Here God says that a person who draws near to Him is a person “in whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honors them that fear the Lord.”  (Ps.15:4a)  This verse seems to say that God doesn’t want us to say that a person who is sinning and disobeying God is “good.”  We are to honor those who fear the Lord.  But we are not to honor the persons who rebel against Gods will and do their own thing.   

 

  Folks who want to draw near to God may not always be popular.  They may have to go against the culture when they disapprove of a sin that their society has called “right” but the Bible has called “wrong.”  John the Baptist lost his head because he spoke out against adultery.  Hopefully we won’t have to lose our heads, but we should not honor a rebellious person and not go along with the crowd when it comes to calling “sin” a “good” thing.   

 

 My husband and I went to an “Evangelism” retreat last weekend.  The leaders at the retreat spoke of Christ’s great commission calling us all to go into the world and spread the good news of God’s love and make disciples.  There was an emphasis on bringing people to church and letting them know that God loves them.  And all of that is good.  But I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning repentance during the whole conference!  Don’t we need the whole gospel and not just part of it?

 

It’s easy to tell people about God’s great love for us. And that Jesus died for us.  But the gospel message also includes our part – repentance – being sorry for our sins.  We are called to confess our sins and turn from them.  I know of several successful pastors today who preach in mega churches about God’s love but these pastors never call their people to turn from sin!  

 

 A friend of ours says that he has been in the same church for fifteen years and only once the word “sin” was briefly mentioned.  He doesn’t even believe that a Christian needs to be sorry for his sins because his church has not taught him that part of God’s Word.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15)  God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice. 

 

God continues to tell David how He wants his children to live their lives.  He wants us all to keep our promises even when it hurts.  God wants us not to make an unfair financial profit off of the backs of the poor, or take advantage of them or use them. 

 

This little Psalm tells us that God expects big things from us!  He wants us to live out our lives caring and loving our neighbors and families.  He gives us his Holy Spirit to help us do these things.  And the Psalm ends with these word: And “those who do these things shall never be moved.”  (Psalm 15:5)