Monday, June 27, 2016

When praying for healing

When we come to God to pray for healing or anything else, it is important that we remember that we do not come out of any righteousness of our own because we have none. God’s Word says in Philippians 3:9 that we are right with God not because we followed the Law, but because of His faithfulness and the faith we have in Him. It can be very tempting to focus more on the problem than God, who is the only One with all power to solve the problem, but we have to remember that our hope comes not from anything we have, but rather His promises and His power. Quoting Jeremiah 17:14: When the LORD heals us, we will be truly healed. When the LORD rescues us, we are truly rescued, for He is the one we praise. God promises later in Jeremiah 30:17 that He will bring back our health and heal our injuries.

Jesus gave His first disciples the power to heal physical ailments and cast out anything that interferes with the proper functioning of the body. In Matthew 10:1, Jesus called His 12 disciples together and gave them authority to force out evil, defiling, unclean spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. It is that power from the Lord that we call on and depend on when we need it.

It may feel like healing is not deserved because of being an unfaithful servant or feeling in some way like we just don’t measure up or are not important enough.. The truth is that we deserve nothing good from God because of our sinfulness. Every good gift we get from Him is a gift totally based on His mercy and grace, and nothing within ourselves except for the Holy Spirit that lives inside of us if we have trusted in Christ for salvation. You are God’s creation, but you are not God’s child until you receive Christ for yourself. John 1:12 promises that all who believe in and receive Christ have the power and authority to become children of God. God is holy and perfect. None of us except Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has lived a perfect, sinless life from beginning to end. So if you feel like you are undeserving based solely on your own merit, you’re right. It is not based on what you deserve, it is based on His faithfulness and His goodness.

If you need anything from the Lord, ask in faith for His power to invade your life in such a mighty way and deal with whatever problem you are having so that there is no question where the answer comes from when it comes. Call on that same power that Jesus gave His first disciples to force out any evil, defiling, unclean spirits that may be causing your ailment or other problem. Those spirits have no right or authority in the life of a Christ follower. If anything ungodly in your life could have opened a door for that spirit to take hold, renounce it and any ungodly works that may have been done that could have allowed an opening for you to come in and harm you. Again, those spirits have no authority, power, or place in the life of a true child of God that follows Christ.

So then what do we do if we have done all of that and complete wholeness still hasn’t manifested. The Apostle Paul could have faced this exact difficulty. He speaks about in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul says he begged and pleaded with the Lord three times to take a particular problem brought by a messenger of Satan and make it leave, but God told Paul that His grace was enough for Paul, that His grace was sufficient for all that was needed. Paul goes on to write that when we are weak, God’s power is made perfect in us. He not only accepted God’s answer, but he said he was very happy to brag about his weaknesses so Christ’s power could live in him because when he was weak, then he was truly strong. The follower of Christ who can keep that attitude of faith and thankfulness no matter what may come can never be defeated.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Hating sin and loving God

"If you will fear the Lord, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then both you and the king that reigns over you will continue following the Lord your God. But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then will the hand of the Lord be against you" (1 Samuel 12:14-15). How many of us really understand the grievous nature of sin? It so saturates our culture and our lives that we have lost the true grasp of how serious it is to our loving, but righteous, just, and holy God.

Adam and Eve were banished from paradise for one disobedient act of eating fruit from a tree they were commanded not to eat from. "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God said, You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?' And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden. God has said, You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die.’  Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasing to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:1-6).

The sin of eating one piece of fruit they were told not to eat may seem insignificant and harmless on the surface, but sin is not insignificant to God. Satan might have convinced Adam and Eve that it was no big deal and nothing to be concerned about, but it ended up being the biggest event throughout the entire history of the human race until Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection as a perfect sacrifice for the sin of humanity.

"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid! But I did not know sin, except through the law. I would not have known coveting if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.' But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of coveting. For apart from the law sin is dead. I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was intended for life, proved to be death in me. For sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and killed me through it. So then, the law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore has that which is good become death unto me? God forbid! Rather, sin, that it might be shown to be sin, was working death in me through that which is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful." (Romans 7:7-13). God's Law is perfectly good, but when we disobey it, it shows us our wrongdoing. God's Law does not make sin to be sin. To say it another way, God's Law does not make bad things wrong. God's law shows us what is good and convicts us when we violate that good so we will run toward the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ. When we accept His pardon by turning from our sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness, we can be made right with God and given a new nature. That new nature enables us to please God with our thoughts, words, and actions because it is infused with the power of the Holy Spirit. Sin is not trivial just because it is widespread. Each of us will give account for our lives. Trust in Jesus and live for Him. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tithes and offerings

The word “tithe” means tenth. To tithe means to give a tenth of your earnings to God. This is the minimum amount of giving required by God from believers. The Bible has much to say on the subject of tithing. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. Then he will fill your barns with grain and your vats will overflow with good wine.”

When the Israelites were stealing from God, He called them on it. Malachi 3:8-12 says, “‘Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!’ But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ ‘You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. ‘Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

One of the longest passages on tithing is in Hebrews 7:1-10 in the New Testament, but it refers back to the Old Testament roots of tithing for its example. “This Melchizedek was king of the city of Salem and also a priest of God Most High. When Abraham was returning home after winning a great battle against the kings, Melchizedek met him and blessed him.  Then Abraham took a tenth of all he had captured in battle and gave it to Melchizedek. The name Melchizedek means ‘king of justice,’ and king of Salem means ‘king of peace.’ There is no record of his father or mother or any of his ancestors—no beginning or end to his life. He remains a priest forever, resembling the Son of God. Consider then how great this Melchizedek was. Even Abraham, the great patriarch of Israel, recognized this by giving him a tenth of what he had taken in battle. Now the law of Moses required that the priests, who are descendants of Levi, must collect a tithe from the rest of the people of Israel, who are also descendants of Abraham. But Melchizedek, who was not a descendant of Levi, collected a tenth from Abraham. And Melchizedek placed a blessing upon Abraham, the one who had already received the promises of God. And without question, the person who has the power to give a blessing is greater than the one who is blessed. The priests who collect tithes are men who die, so Melchizedek is greater than they are, because we are told that he lives on. In addition, we might even say that these Levites—the ones who collect the tithe—paid a tithe to Melchizedek when their ancestor Abraham paid a tithe to him. For although Levi wasn’t born yet, the seed from which he came was in Abraham’s body when Melchizedek collected the tithe from him.”

The Bible even tells us when we should give all of this. The Apostle Paul was writing to the believers at Corinth when he had this to say about their giving in 1 Corinthians 16:2. “On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” The first day of the week is Sunday, the day Christians gathered together for worship and teaching to commemorate the day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead.

Offerings differ from tithes in that offerings are generous gifts given in addition to tithes. They are anything given above the 10% required in tithing. For those who might think God is expecting too much, I would point you to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:1. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” If we are commanded to give our bodies, our very physical lives, in sacrifice to God, surely portions of our income are not too much to ask by comparison and would even be included in the command.

God doesn’t just take however. He generously gives back proportionately to how we give to Him and others. We have this promise from Jesus in Luke 6:38. “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 shares the same principle as Luke 6:38. In this passage, Paul compares the giver to the farmer who plants seed and later harvests according to what he plants. “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

There are a couple of important things to remember here. First is that having more is not bad or sinful. If it were, God would not promise to give us more when we give to Him and His work. Second, the primary reason for giving is not to be blessed (even though He promises we will be) but so that we can be a blessing to others. Then when we give to bless others, we are blessed even more in return. So it is a cycle that continues if we are faithful and faith-filled. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 says, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”

We are not rolling the dice when we give to God. We are making an investment in His work that will matter in all eternity. Thus, we are storing up for ourselves treasures in Heaven that will last forever. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

We are also commanded to give to the poor in many places throughout Scripture. Perhaps the best passage for this command can be found from the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:1-4. “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”

When we keep a giving spirit and allow that to rule our attitude, we are opening ourselves up for the life God wants us to have. He does not want us to live selfish, greedy lives, but He wants us to be reservoirs of blessing to bless those around us. When we allow God to use us in that way, He promises to take care of us. So we don’t need to worry about ourselves because He has us covered when we live His way. The Apostle Paul--who wrote half of the New Testament--said in Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

God's authority and wisdom

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 American Standard Version). God’s creating of the universe speaks to His authority over His creation. Here in America in particular we are fond of the message of freedom. It is the cornerstone of why we separated from Great Britain and the chorus of the song of our society. Indeed, God Himself gave every human being on Earth free will whether human governments recognize it or not. We are free to accept His rule or to reject it, but it does not change the fact that He does indeed rule and will judge every individual that has lived or will live by His perfect wisdom and unchanging standard. Our lives are a lot better when we recognize our finite limitations and bow the knee to His glorious standard. When we don’t, we set ourselves up for failure and trouble.

The same wisdom God offers to govern our lives is the same wisdom God possessed at the creation. “The Lord formed and brought me [Wisdom] forth at the beginning of His way, before His acts of old. I [Wisdom] was inaugurated and ordained from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth existed. When there were no deeps, I was brought forth, when there were no fountains laden with water” (Proverbs 8:22-24 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition). God’s Wisdom can be seen even in our fallen universe just by the fine tuned functionality of the universe and everything in it from the complexity of the solar systems of outer space to that of one tiny cell. God is truly all-wise and all-powerful.

Sometimes God’s Wisdom does not make sense to us, but that makes Him no less wise. A question I have not struggled with personally, but that a lot of people have is why God allows evil to exist in the world. I don’t really struggle with the question because, while I can’t see the big picture, I understand the concept of the big picture well enough to know that God can see the reason for everything He allows people’s free will choices to create. We might not always like the reasons and a lot of times they might make no sense at all, especially while they are happening. Yet we are assured that “The Lord has a reason for everything he does and he lets evil people live only to be punished” (Proverbs 16:4 Contemporary English Version). Unfortunately, we have not seen the worst of how bad things can get on the earth. The Bible prophesies that the world will get worse before it gets better. Speaking of the final seven years before the Glorious Appearing of Christ to set up His Kingdom on Earth Jesus said in Mark 13:19 CEV, “This will be the worst time of suffering since God created the world.” He did offer a glimmer of hope though when He finished that sentence by saying, “Nothing this terrible will ever happen again.”

For the genuine born again follower of Christ, we know the toughest days ever are ahead, but we can also take comfort in the fact that they will be followed by the best days since the days of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. So let us not be fearful or sad, but joyful and hopeful, for we know who wins in the end. Our Lord has existed since before the beginning. “‘Before anything else existed, there was Christ,’ with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make” (John 1:1-3 The Living Bible).

Jesus  is eternal and has an eternal perspective. We can trust His unfailing words about what seems to us to be an uncertain future because He is eternal. “And again to the Son, ‘You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations, then crafted the stars in the sky” (Hebrews 1:10 The Message). The apostles and over 500 people saw Jesus alive after His resurrection at different times before He ascended into Heaven. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have touched, concerning the Word of life…” (1 John 1:1 Modern English Version). For believers, let us not get wrapped up in the temporary worries and concerns of this age, but let us look forward to the day when we can say the same thing...that we have heard Him, seen Him, looked upon Him, and touched Him with our hands. He is real and He is alive!

Friday, June 10, 2016

My thoughts on the passing of Jan Crouch

Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) co-founder Jan Crouch went to be with the Lord on May 31 after suffering an unexpected stroke earlier that week. Her biography on www.janicewendellcrouch.com/bio says that she was born on March 14, 1938 in New Brockton, Alabama and grew up in Columbus, Georgia. After graduating high school, Jan went to Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri. She met her future husband Paul Crouch during that time while he was attending Central Bible Institute. They were united in marriage in 1957.

Jan Crouch was TBN’s Vice President and Director of Network Programming. One of the projects she is most known for and which Paul frequently gave her a lot of the credit for are the Smile of a Child network (TBN’s 24/7 kids channel) and a humanitarian relief foundation for children under the same Smile of a Child name. The Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Florida was also something that she personally oversaw after they purchased the park and revamped it. I have been there a couple of times and was blessed to go with my wife several years ago while the beautiful Church of All Nations auditorium was still being constructed there at the time. We would like to go back and see it all again whenever the chance comes along.

I have been meaning to do a blog post about the passing of Jan Crouch for a while even though I am just now getting to it a week later. I remember how it felt when I first heard about Paul’s passing a few years ago. It was like losing someone you know. Then again, Paul and Jan lived a good portion of their earthly lives for the whole world to see. As a result, they gave us a chance to get to know them and to share in the global vision God gave them to fulfill the Great Commission through television and eventually internet. “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 things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). If any two people took those words to heart and lived them out through actions, it was Paul and Jan Crouch. I am sure many of the TBN viewers are still feeling that same loss now even though we rejoice that they are together again in the presence of God.

I have told some of you my testimony before about how I did not have any kind of spiritual knowledge or foundation as a child. I eventually came to know the truth about Jesus through the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which is also where I get my love for studying prophecy. 28% of the Bible was prophetic at the time it was written so to ignore prophecy is to ignore almost one-third of God’s Word. The influence of those books on me cannot be stated strongly enough but because of that, what I sometimes forget to mention is that I didn’t actually pray a prayer of salvation immediately after reading the first book. I did that shortly after finishing the first book at the conclusion of an episode of Hal Lindsey’s program on TBN. It used to be called  the “International Intelligence Briefing.” Now it is just called the “Hal Lindsey Report.” So it would be right to say that TBN, and thus Paul and Jan themselves, played a part in my coming to Christ. Countless others could say the same over the past 43 years since the network’s birth on May 28, 1973. The value of their ministry and the impact it has had on me personally is tremendous even though I never got the pleasure of meeting them this side of Heaven.

All glory goes to God for what He has been able to do through Paul and Jan Crouch. I am thankful for their faith and obedience throughout their lives and will never forget what their obedience to start TBN and faithfulness to keep it going has done in my life and so many others. I can only imagine how happy both of them are right now and I can't wait to meet them personally one day when all of the brothers and sisters of the body of Christ are united with Him forever.

(You can see a short video tribute to Jan done by TBN here and the first interview with Paul and Jan’s son Matthew and their daughter-in-law Laurie with the 700 Club’s Gordon Robertson here)