Friday, September 20, 2013
Over the last several days my friend from Congo has been around. He is a wonderful man of God who has been laboring in that field for ten years. I have immense respect for him. To labor in that place for ten years and remain virtually unscathed by all of the enemy’s darts is obviously a work of the Holy Spirit. So, I am wanting to learn how this is possible from my friend, Fiston.
As we talked one night he related an African proverb; “once a man has been bitten by a snake he will then fear the rope.” I take from this that the bite of a snake is severe enough that you never really forget it. In fact, it is so severe that anything that even looks like a snake at first glance will cause, by way of association, fear to rise up. I once heard an acronym for the word fear: False Evidence Appearing Real.
Many of us have been bitten by one snake or another and are now afraid of a rope. There may even be times when we are so afraid of the counterfeit that we reject the real because it does indeed at first glance look like the counterfeit. I think the snake that has so often bitten is the snake of offense. There seems to be so many hurts and offenses in today’s culture. Perhaps you know of some who has experienced hurt at the hands of other believers or by way of the church. It is possible that this has been your experience.
This should really be of no surprise to us. Jesus talked of a time when this would be the case. As he spoke of the signs of His coming He said in Matthew 24:10 that many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. He goes on to say that because of the increase of lawlessness the love of most will grow cold. Not the love of many but the love of most. Offenses will increase. And they will increase on many levels. When we hold these offenses our love will grow cold. The scriptures implores us to forgive one another so that the enemy does not gain a foothold into our life.
Those of us in the evangelical world think and talk about famine, earthquakes and pestilence in the context of His return. We don’t pay a lot of attention to the offenses that will come and the ramifications of that. Perhaps an argument can be made that as far as damage to the soul and spirit of a believer the offenses that have come and will come can be as damaging as earthquakes, famine and pestilence. Offenses tend to lead us into criticism, bitterness and unforgiveness. This in turn leads to isolation and loneliness. And then the enemy has us trapped, keeping us from the very thing God prescribed for us, fellowship, community and the family of God. We are encouraged to not forsake the assembly especially as the day approaches.
It is then of no surprise that offenses come. I suppose the larger issue is what we do with them once they come. Our natural response is fight or flight. Some allow the offenses to sit unchallenged in their spirit causing bitterness. Others take the flight response living life in paralyzing fear particularly where relationships are involved. The Holy Spirit allows for and frees us up to live in glorious freedom, in spite of offenses.
From Africa, a land where great offense has occurred comes wisdom. Yes, the snake has bitten but we need not fear the rope. I would add, or be tied up by it. Ultimately it is love that frees us and the vehicle by which that occurs is forgiveness.
Posted by Administrator at 3:07 PM
Monday, April 8, 2013
I started the new year off by taking a team of 6 to Northeast China. While there we decided to visit the nearby border of North Korea; a land of much mystery and the unknown. As we came to the border we stood on the banks of a frozen river that separated this land from China. It was cold, twenty five degrees below zero. As we looked into North Korea beyond the guard towers that stood at every 100 meters, there was a coldness that transcended the physical experience of the moment.
Our guide began to tell us stories of the inner workings of North Korea. One story she told boggled my mind. She explained how the people of North Korea were filled with government propaganda from a very early age. The children are taught that people from the west, and especially pastors, may be nice to you initially, but actually they have ulterior motives. Though they may be nice, in time if given the opportunity they will rape your wives and eat your children!
As I hear this I laughed inside because of the ridiculous nature of it all. It was then explained this teaching over the last 60 years had become so common place that it was now received and accepted without any question. I pondered the obvious question, “How could a lie of this grand proportion be so readily accepted?”
My friend of many years sent me a verse this morning. Jesus is talking to a large group of people and He warns them, “Watch out for false prophets...they come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
The placement of this verse is curious. It follows a discussion where we are warned not to judge. I suppose simply said that we are called not to judge but to walk through life undiscerning is quite foolish. The intention of those false prophets is not stated but the condition of their hearts is exposed. Inwardly, they are ferocious wolves.
Wolves are exceptionally good hunters. They have been known to track their prey for up to 100 miles a day and to successfully bring down prey up to ten times larger than themselves. Wolves make careful preparations before the hunt, even practicing and reforming their techniques. They can smell potential prey at a distance of two miles in the right wind conditions. As they move toward their prey they can reach speeds of up to 40 miles per hour and sustain that speed for long periods of time. They are stealth, sometimes picking up snow in their mouths so that their breath will remain invisible. When hunting large prey they will keep them on the run in order to deny them access to food and water. As the weary animal slows the wolves will then gradually weaken the animal by snapping at it’s flanks from time to time. In the end, the victim simply gives in due to exhaustion and injury.
It is somewhat disconcerting to me that false prophets are compared to wolves. Why didn’t Jesus just say, “Watch out for false prophets they do harm?” Or, “Watch out for false prophets they will trick you?” Why did He compare them to such a ferocious animal? A false prophet indicates that there are true prophets. I imagine that the false prophet will sound very similar to, or very much like the true prophet. These wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing so it appears that they will be religious people, or at the very least appear in religious circles.
When you think about a wolf and his stealth ability to “catch” his prey we must then consider and compare how false prophets of our day will catch their prey. False prophets are gifted and talented, able to run circles around their prey; smell their prey from far off; they are stealth and hardly detectible.
I know a few in the body of Christ who have been weakened by life and injured to the extent they finally give themselves over to them.
Jesus warns us of such and even tells us that while we are not to judge, we can discern them. Later in this same passage He tells us we can know them by their fruit. He reminds us that “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
I once heard a guy blasting homosexuals in his sermon. He said, “I am no man’s judge, but I can be a fruit inspector if I want to.” I think there is something wrong with that exegesis. The more notches on our revolver loaded with Jesus bullets isn’t the better fruit. I have also heard on a couple of occasions that you can tell a man’s fruit by how many he has won to Christ. That is almost as crazy. Fruit in some settings is defined by the occurrence of the miraculous. And by the way, miraculous as they define and desire it. This I believe is also potentially and dangerously deceptive. Maybe, like me, you have seen demon filled shamans in India do incredible miracles.
Still, Jesus says, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them....Every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”
These wolves in sheep’s clothing will not display the fruit of the Spirit but rather the fruit of the flesh. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Come to think of it, I don’t believe I have ever seen a wolf who exhibited these things over the long haul. Jesus is so amazingly practical and so profoundly simple. It might also be true that He is increasingly relevant.
As I drove away from the North Korean border that day the Lord turned my question back on me. “What ridiculous lies have I believed that are now so common place that they seem normal?” Lies that have come from false conclusions that I have drawn from life’s experiences. Lies from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Lies that are easy to adopt in my weakened conditions. Ultimately these lies serve to keep me from the freedom Jesus has provided. Their intent is to destroy. Their exposure is paramount and of critical importance. For these lies to find shelter and remain undetected in my mind and heart will cause a bondage greater than the North Korean citizens are experiencing. I too can have guard towers that serve to destroy any incoming influences that would bring freedom.
“For the Word of God is alive and active; sharper than any double edged sword. It penetrates even to divining soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The Word of God provides a no spin zone. The Word of God reveals and convinces of truth cutting off all lies. The Word of God, both written (Bible) and living (The Holy Spirit). Both are true. Never contradictory. And provided in order that we might be led into all truth. After all, it is the Truth that sets us free.
Posted by Administrator at 9:29 AM
Sunday, February 3, 2013
One of our first days there we headed over to the school. It is a special school that is run by Christian Reaching Ministries along with some help from kind friends in the United States. Some of the students were orphaned in the war and some are impoverished to the point that their parents can no longer care for them. About 35 percent of them are children who were enslaved in the north and have now been released back into their homeland but have no one to watch over them and no huts to live in.
I thought we would be there to join the Lord as works of healing began in their lives from all the atrocities that have seen and experienced. This indeed was to be the case but not in the way I expected. I envisioned times of healing prayer and deliverance. Of course, during these times I would be God’s instrument of a great and powerful move.
So we told the children the story of Daniel in the lions den. The idea was to communicate the truth that God is with us always. He is with us even in very difficult situations that we don’t understand. In my mind the idea was to put truth on the lies that so often surround trauma. It was decided that we would create time for the children to share of their experience.
A young man’s brother had been imprisoned by the Islamic regime. In the night as he prayed the doors of his cell were opened and he escaped in the rain which allowed his trackers not to follow him. With a big smile this young man told us, referring to his brother, “Now, he lives just there” as he pointed across the river. I realized as the children told their stories they were not stories of pain and defeat, but rather of victory and deliverance. It’s not exactly what I expected.
We went on to another class. Again time came for the stories of the children to be heard. There was quiet in the room. It wasn’t an awkward quiet but no one spoke. Then came some interchange among the students and even some giggling. Finally, the word from the translator came. “They are happy because they have forgotten their stories.” In that moment I was struck with the awesome simplicity of God. They had no memories. Healing comes in different forms. I am not suggesting that everything has been healed but in that moment I understood that God had done something special in the hearts of those children. Sometimes healing is about timing. Sometimes healing is a process. Sometimes healing is instant. I am reminded of a verse an old friend used to quote, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belonged to us....”
We headed onto another classroom as I was processing the multifaceted nature of God’s goodness. In this class we gave the children time to color. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in this place it was huge. So big in fact that when recess came not one of the children moved. They were happy just to stay in the classroom and miss lunch in order that they might continue to color and draw. I walked through the class looking at the pictures they drew on a heart that had been cut out for them from construction paper. I am no art therapist, but as I looked at the images they drew, I found hearts with messages of I love you; trees, sunshine and bright cheery design. Still to this day I don’t understand this. Where were the dark images that were hidden in the recesses of their hearts? I am convinced they were not there because they did not exist.
Who can understand the majesty of God and the incredible love He expresses as He heals His helpless ones. He is a great physician and a very precise surgeon. I am privileged to have been able to travel the world, see His miracles and love on His children and witness His goodness. I am happy for the children of South Sudan. I am thankful for the deliverance from evil rulers of the north. I am ecstatic they have begun to find the freedom that only Jesus can bring.
Posted by Administrator at 1:14 PM