Wednesday, September 24, 2014

ME FIRST! (Growth Series)


Isn't Christianity supposed to be is known for unselfishness and denial of self?
Normally, we advocate of putting ourselves above others but in one aspect of the Christian life -
I wholeheartedly endorse an extreme "me-first" attitude!

Has the universe become unhinged? Not at all - but there is one area in our walk with Christ where we are to put ourselves above others!

This might startle or shock our senses at first glance - but hear me out!

When an airplane is getting ready to takeoff, the steward or stewardess instructs the passenger about when to remain seated and what to do if the plane begins an unexpected downward descent. "A mask will drop from the compartment above you. Place the mask on your face like this."

Then they give what at first may sound like a peculiar instruction. "If you are with a child or someone who cannot place their own mask on their face - PUT YOUR MASK ON FIRST!" How selfish is that? A small child or elderly person is passing out right next to us and we should think of ourselves first!?

You get the principle! If you pass out while you are trying to help a child with their mask, you will potentially both pass out! If you put on your mask, you will be able to breathe well enough to help the child!

The same principle is in effect in the Christian life! If we try to help others in the world before we have FIRST taken care of our own spiritual life, we will lack the energy to help them effectively! If we put God first, we will be able to breathe in the Holy Spirit of God so that we have the divine power to help others!

It may seem counterintuitive to spend time seeking God first - above helping others! We may immediately want to rush out do good works that will help people. If we do, we have unknowingly chosen a path that will severely limit our ability to help the very people we want to help!

A lumberjack may be full of desire to cut down as many trees as he can in order to be a faithful employee. Yet if he does not take the time to first sharpen his axe, he will not have good results. Have you ever tried cutting something with a very dull tool or knife. As well intentioned as you might be - it just does not do the job!

Time spent seeking God is never wasted!

48 And you are witnesses of these things.
49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but TARRY [wait] in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
Luke 24:48-49

The desire to love and help others is commendable but it is not enough - we first need to wait before God until we are properly equipped to do the job!

We need to have the Word of God hidden in our hearts, have a strong powerful prayer life and be in a body of believers where spiritual excellence is embraced!

The world will not be changed or saved because we do some of the same works they do. It will be changed when, as a result of being full of God, we do those works in His strength and power, His way with His wisdom!

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the Lord of hosts.
Zechariah 4:6

If we operate in our way and in our own strength and wisdom, we will fail miserably! We may have a lot of outward success doing works for which the world will commend us. But if they are not done God's way - under His authority, power and wisdom - they are really just dead works!

When I pray, I have a tendency to start by bringing my perceived needs and the needs of others to God. But I have learned that God's FIRST priority is for ME to be lined up with Him, His Word and His ways!

Prayer then, is not so much us pressuring God to line up with what we want as it is allowing God to line us up with what He wants! We are successful in prayer when we have exchanged our own will agenda for His!

Put on your mask so that you will be able to breathe freely - then and only then - go out to help the world!

Monday, September 8, 2014

THE "OTHER" DEMONS! (Growth Series)


43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none.
44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 
45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
Matthew 12:43-45

When we come to God, we want to rid ourselves of "the bad stuff" - sins, bad habits, addictions, psychological problems and weaknesses - anything that we realize is holding us back in life. Cast out the demons and move on!

Thank God that He is in the business of doing these things! I am very grateful that God has delivered me from many things and forgiven me for many sins!

But it doesn't end there - it is vital that we do not leave ourselves empty once we come to Christ! God's plan is not for us to simply clean out the bad stuff and send us on our merry way. In fact, if we stop there much of the "bad stuff" may return, or as in this passage of Scripture, seven other demons more wicked than the first!

We may think of demons coming in as a state of lunacy where we are foaming at the mouth, cursing or running around naked in the cemetery. These kinds of manifestations may appear in some extreme cases but let me challenge you to also think in more subtle terms.

Jesus cast out a "legion" of demons from a man who broke chains, and lived naked among the tombs! A Roman legion in the time of Jesus is said to have been about 5,000-6,000 men. That's a lot of demons to cast out of one person!

But consider that the great majority of demonic influence is not in these types of outward manifestations but in the much more subtle influences and deceptions of Satan and his cohorts in our lives!

"Seven other spirits..." Notice that the first demon brings "other" spirits!

For example, a demon influences a person to become a drug addict. When the demon is cast out, the person becomes free from his drug habit. But if he is stops there, seven "other" demonic influences come into his life and "the last state of that man is worst than the first."

Does that mean that now his drug habit will return and become seven times as bad? I don't think it necessarily does! The demonic forces of Satan work together to "steal, kill and destroy" us! (See John 10:10)

The first demon brings "other" demons. Their combined purpose may not be to lead him back to a drug habit seven times as bad. They are "other" demons. Now their purpose may be very different!

What does this mean in practical terms?

After someone has been emptied from his demons, one who is not diligent to seek being filled with God  is now ripe and vulnerable to new and different demonic influences and deceptions. Jesus called this a "worse state!"

People may go to rehab to successfully become free of some addiction. They may "relapse" in the same addiction or become addicted to something else. However something far worse may happen!

Often, we see things only in terms of this temporal world. If a person goes to therapy or counseling, his goal is to feel better or live better. He or she may be given advice to "Have more fun"or "Don't take life so seriously." Some extreme therapists may even advise someone to have an affair! This advice does not have eternity in mind. The goal is merely to straighten out temporal feelings or life circumstances!

Temporal "happiness" (evolved from the greeting "good happenings") is all that seems to matter to many of us!
  • This is humanistic and short-sighted. In fact, happiness in this life is often the very thing that keeps us from the eternal joy which only God provides!


24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,
25 CHOOSING RATHER TO SUFFER AFFLICTION with the people of God than to enjoy THE PASSING PLEASURES of sin,
Hebrews 11:24-26
  • How might a therapist today advise Moses about His value system? Choosing affliction over pleasure - reproach over riches, purpose and position? 
  • Giving up all to follow God would not be very popular among most non-Christian Psychologists today - would it?
God desires for us to fully experience His joy! But if we focus on our own personal happiness as our goal,  we will find ourselves running everywhere to find it. As a result, we only experience the momentary, passing "highs" of earthy activities and miss the far greater joy of the presence of God!

Back to those demons...
These seven "other" demons may gladly trade an addiction for one or more humanistic philosophies, warped values or false beliefs! Many become free from addiction by discovering an unbiblical belief in God - that is an epiphany that I would never want to have!

A man or woman who previously had one addiction-causing demon now has eight, causing God-only-knows what kinds of sins, deceptions or life philosophies to come into his life! If that were not enough, consider that at any time these eight demons can still  play "the relapse card" any time they want!

We are not called merely to say a "sinners prayer" and stop there - afterward only coming to God when our own dreams hit bumps in the road or when we completely drive off into a ditch!
  • Christians are called to lay down their lives as living sacrifices and be filled with the things of God - His Word, His Spirit and His ways!
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2

This is not an accomplishment like running a marathon but a daily grind to keep ourselves in shape and full of God!

If we do not, we leave ourselves open to demonic influences and deceptions! We may not find ourselves foaming at the mouth or breaking chains but something far worse - believing something is true and not finding out until it is too late that we have been deceived!

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