The Attacks Of The Devil

The Israelites never saw it coming!  By the time they realized what happened 24,000 souls were dead, Numbers 25:1-2.  Things seemed to be going well for Israel, but all of that would change.  How did this happen?  The devil attacked them.  He used Balaam and Balak to help God’s people to fall, Numbers 31:16.  The devil wants to defeat us, 1 Peter 5:8.  Sexual immorality is just one way that the devil will attempt to beat us.

Let me give you four other tactics that the devil has used against the church in the first century that he will use against us.  Let’s also consider how God’s people overcame those attacks.

    1. FEAR FACTOR:  Satan wanted to silence God’s people from speaking about Jesus, Acts 4:1-4; 5:17-23, 33, 40-42; 7:54-58.
    2. FAKE FACTOR:  Sadly, the devil achieved his mission with two Christians, Ananias, and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-5.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  They were fakers.  While the devil won a battle, he had not won the war.  The people of God continued in their pursuit of spreading the good news, Acts 5:12-14.  They continued and so did the devil with his attacks.
    3. FUSS FACTOR:  The devil’s opportunity came in Acts 6:1-3.  Some complaints arose.  Certainly, the brethren would devour one another.  However, the devil’s plan didn’t work, Acts 6:7.
    4. FALSE FACTOR:  A controversy in the church occurred regarding salvation, Acts 15:1-11.  Some Jews believed the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved.  The truth prevailed.  God’s people prevailed.  But how did they do it?  Here’s how.

They kept their focus on Jesus.

    1. This is how they overcame the fear factor.  They prayed for boldness to stand firm during persecution, Acts 4:29; 5:40-41.
    2. This is how they overcame the fake factor.  The punishment that Ananias and Sapphira received was death.  Discipline was given.  It had an impact among the brethren, Acts 5:11.  Discipline is necessary today.  Being honest is still necessary today.
    3. This is how they overcame the fuss factor, Acts 6:1-6.  The apostles were concerned about God’s work.  They devised a plan to preserve unity.  It worked!
    4. This is how they overcame the false factor.  They stood on the apostles’ doctrine, Acts2:42. This must be our attitude.  The devil never stops his attack toward God’s people, Luke 4:13.  Therefore, we must always be on the defense.

King David: A Real Man

I love King David.  He did so much in his life.  David can teach us many valuable lessons.  He’s also a great reminder about what it means to be a man.  There’s much confusion in our society about the role of men.  What can we learn from David?

    1. David loved the Lord.  That’s what real men will do.  Real men will submit to the true and living God.  David certainly did.  He had faith in God.  He had a relationship with the creator of all things.
    2. David wasn’t afraid to show his emotions.  People today think that a man is a wimp if he shows emotions.  I say that’s silly.  Jesus wept.  David wept.  Read the book of Genesis and see how many times Joseph cried.  Real men have no problem showing their emotions.  David poured his heart out to God, Psalm 32, Psalm 9.
    3. David was a leader.  He solved problems (like defeating Goliath).  He took action when it was needed.  It takes courage to take action.  That’s what we must do.
    4. David was skilled at many things.  He was a musician, a king, a warrior, and tended to the animals.  As men, we need to have a variety of skills.  We need to be knowledgeable when it comes to how things work.
    5. David was not perfect.  However, he was able to own up to his mistakes.  Many (including myself) think about his adultery, his poor decision of numbering the people, and a list of other sins we could mention.  Yet we often miss the fact that David repented of his sinful behavior, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.  That takes courage.
    6. David was a great friend to Jonathan.  Their relationship would make men today uncomfortable.  They loved one another, 1 Samuel 18:1.  Shame on people who try to change their close friendship and make it some sexual type of relationship.  As men, we need to learn how to be close to one another.
    7. David was a student of God’s word.  He had to make a copy of the Law for himself, Deuteronomy 17:18-20.  He spent time regularly in God’s word.

David was a MAN.  Both young and vintage men need to be reminded of him and learn from him.  Let’s be MEN.

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

At our congregation we are studying through Revelation and right now we are in the seven churches section of chapters 2 through 3. Last night we had a discussion about some of the contrasts that existed among the churches.

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

  • Ephesus could not tolerate the “deeds of the Nicolaitans,” while Pergamum was tolerating those who held this doctrine (Revelation 2:6,15).
  • Smyrna was poor, yet rich, and Laodicea was rich, yet poor (Revelation 2:9; 3:17).
  • Smyrna faced the tribulation from men because of doing what was right, and Thyatira would face the tribulation from Jesus because of doing what was wrong (Revelation 2:9-10,22).
  • Thyatira was patiently enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had love as well, even though they were tolerating false doctrine and immoral behavior. Ephesus was patiently, enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had left their first love. In Ephesus they did not tolerate false teachers and tested every teacher to see if what was spoken was the truth (Revelation ).

With those contrasts came a few observations about Jesus and the seven churches:

  • There are not several standards for different churches, there is one standard for all churches, and that comes from Jesus Christ.
  • Each congregation had issues, problems, and sometimes even sin to correct, but Jesus was lovingly giving them time to repent.
  • What makes a “sound church” is much more than standing on the right side of a few issues.
  • All was not lost for a church that was dead, or tolerating false doctrines. Jesus was standing at the door, knocking and waiting for them to open and come to repentance.
  • There were faithful brethren standing strong and pure in the midst of those congregations with all those problems. These faithful few were told to influence, hold fast and strengthen the church, not flee and go to another group.
  • Jesus, not you or me, decides when a church loses fellowship with Him.
  • Our hearts must be like the Lord’s heart. He is not as quick as humans to write people off.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”
(Revelation 3:19-22)

Are We Like Shem and Japheth?

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
(Genesis 9:20-28)

I listened to a sermon recently where the preacher was talking about covering one another in grace and love. The speaker referred to the above passage from Genesis when Shem and Japheth “covered” their father. Look at the lengths to which those two sons went to cover their father. They took a blanket, walked backward into the tent, and covered their father so that they would not see his nakedness. The other son, Ham, exposed his father’s shame, but the other sons tried to cover it.

How eager are we to “cover” one another in grace, love, mercy and forgiveness? Or on the flip side, are we like Ham in the tent mocking and spreading the word about another’s shame?

Here are some other passages for our meditation today. May we have the spirit of Shem and Japheth.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
(Proverbs 10:12)

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9)

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20)

Grow in the Grace

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).

I heard a lesson last week that referred to this passage about growing in grace. The preacher talked about how we do not grow in condemnation and guilt, but we grow in grace. Grace is the fertile soil in which our souls will flourish and grow.

This is just as true for our kids, our spouses, our friends, etc. If we seek the growth of others, we have to remember that people grow in an environment of grace. Many of us, if not all of us, have experienced a relationship based upon guilt, shame and condemnation. Whether that came from a parent, from the pulpit or from people in authority at work or school, that kind of condemnation crippled us and stunted our growth.

If you are walking around afraid to mess up because of how those around you treat you when you fail, then you understand what condemnation and guilt will do for you. The apostle Paul understood the agony of seeking perfection in law-keeping and the guilt and condemnation it brought with it. He cried out, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). That’s how a lot of us walk around, and sadly that’s how a lot of us treat others. Shame. Guilt. Condemnation. Follow the rules…perfectly. Don’t mess up.

Read the next verse, where Paul again cries out, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord!” (Romans 7:25). Also read what Paul wrote just a few verses later, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Does God expect you to grow in fear that if you mess up, He is going to zap you? No, He holds you in His embrace as you grow, as you stumble, as you fall and as you get back up. His assurances and promises are there with you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38-39). He has begun a good work in you, and He will see it to completion (Philippians 1:6). That is not a shame and guilt-based relationship, that is love, mercy and grace-based relationship.

It would be helpful if we took out a “legal” pad, and write down as many verses as we can find in the Bible about Gods’ love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and longsuffering. Remind yourself that you are in a relationship of grace, security and mercy. You are safe in the arms of Jesus because of His blood. If we are safe in Jesus, then others around us will be treated the same way (Romans 15:7).

No one had the strength to subdue him

“He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Mark 5:3-5

No one could bind him…No one had the strength to subdue him. This man wasn’t fit to live among people. Only Jesus could heal what was wrong with this demon-possessed man. People of the village were trying to use their own strength to harness, control and stop this man, but it was the spirit inside that was giving the man this strength and destructive power.

The man didn’t need chains and shackles, they were useless. He needed Jesus. Look in Mark 5:1-20 to see how Jesus got inside of this man and changed him from the inside out. Once the man’s insides changed, then the outside reflected that spiritual transformation. This formerly demon-possessed man became a powerful evangelist for Jesus! But that didn’t happen until the demons within were cast out.

Again, it is Jesus that makes you and me fit to live among people. We may try to harness, manage or control the behavior and words of others, but it is Jesus that really has the power to release the “demon” within. Those “demons” can be things like guilt, past abuse, shame, addictions, etc. If we find ourselves breaking chains and shackles, going around in a rage, and cutting ourselves with stones, then the real problem is what is going on deep down inside of us. Until we truly get at peace with ourselves and with Jesus, then we will be like this man living in a cave howling at the moon.

In our relationships, we must focus more on root causes and not symptoms.

God’s Voice and the Storm

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:38-41)

Here is a song to listen to today, called Oceans. Very encouraging.

God’s Voice and the Storm

It is no wonder that these Jewish men were wondering “who” Jesus was! God’s power over the waters, winds and storms is evident throughout Scripture (Genesis 6:17; Exodus 14; Joshua 3; Psalm 29:3,10; 65:7; 89:9; 93:3-4; 104:6-9; 107:29; 148:8; Proverbs 8:29; Job 38:8-11,25; Jeremiah 5:22; Nahum 1:4). When Jesus woke up and “rebuked” the wind and told the sea to be calm, it immediately obeyed His voice. Only God has that power.

Read Psalm 29 about the voice of God. Think about Jesus as you read this, but also think about the “storms, winds and floods” in your life. Where is our faith? We are in the boat with the God of the Storm.

Psalm 29:1-11

A Psalm of David. Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. (2) Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness. (3) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. (4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty. (5) The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon. (6) He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. (7) The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire. (8) The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. (9) The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, “Glory!” (10) The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever. (11) May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Jesus rebuked the wind (Mark 4:39). He also rebuked the fever in Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39), he rebuked unclean spirits (Mark 9:25). Peter tried to rebuke Jesus and Jesus turned around and rebuked Peter (Mark 8:32-33). After His resurrection, Jesus rebuked his disciples for their unbelief (Mark 16:14). When James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the Samaritans, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 9:55). There is authority and great power in the rebuke of Jesus. Let’s let Him rebuke our storms and winds.

Let No One Cause Me Trouble

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
(Galatians 6:14-18)

“From now on let no one cause me trouble…”

Let’s think about what Paul just said to the Galatian Christians and why it was so significant.

I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. What had Paul gone through? I’m not sure when Galatians was written, but I do know that Paul is addressing the new Galatian Christians. We see their conversions in Acts 13-14. And then we see the conflict about circumcision and keeping the Law that arose in Acts 15. This is the foundation for Paul’s letter.

The point in bringing this up is…Paul had to deal with these new Christians who were fighting among themselves. He had to bring them back to the one Gospel. Apparently some were taking some very nasty shots at Paul, and had now become his enemy because he was telling them the truth. So, Paul lovingly deals with them and leads them through all of this, which really would have been unnecessary if they all just focused on the Gospel.

But after all of that, Paul tells them, “From now on let no one cause me trouble,” but why? He said that his body couldn’t handle much more of what they were throwing at him. I want you to take time to look at what Paul went through just in Acts 13 and 14. Please don’t just read the facts, listen and think about what Paul went through physically, spiritually and emotionally. He had been argued with every step of the way. In fact, the heat of persecution must have been pretty intense, because John Mark bailed in chapter 13. Wherever Paul went, envious hypocrites were following him from city to city to oppose him and stir up trouble. People went from worshiping him to trying to murder him. He was stoned almost to the point of death, dragged out of the city and left for dead. Many times Paul didn’t know if he was going to be received well or be beaten and killed. Tons of uncertainty on a daily basis for Paul.

But Paul doesn’t quit, does he? No, he got up, went back into the city after just having been stoned. He continues to preach Jesus. He’s going back through those same cities and encouraging the Christians to keep going. Elders are appointed in each church. I believe when Paul leaves the Galatian region with stable churches with elders that he thinks they are in a good state. We learn from Galatians 1 that Paul was surprised and marveled that they so soon had left from their focus on the one Gospel. After everything that Paul had done for them and went through for them, now he has to deal with all of this fighting and falseness among the Galatians.

Please consider this just as a human being. What had he been through? Was it traumatic what Paul endured in Galatia? Absolutely! He had suffered trauma at every level. When Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” that was no exaggeration. His body was literally broken. I’m sure he was filled with scars all over his body. But those were not the only scars. Friends, we have to understand that what Paul went through did not just affect his body. It was no small thing that he went through. Someone cannot go through what Paul did and it not drastically injure his emotions and brain. Physically, Paul was a broken man. The man needed a break and some rest.

So, how could these brethren help Paul? Leave him alone. Give him a break. Get along. The best thing those Christians could do is to focus on the Gospel and get busy in the kingdom saving souls.

More to come later, Lord willing.

Are You Hungry?

One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
(Proverbs 27:7)

In this proverb, like a lot of the Proverbs, there is a contrast. There is someone who is full. They have stuffed their bodies so full, that even the taste of the sweetest substance on earth is not appealing to them. Then there is the other person who is famished. He is starved. This guy will take anything you give him and he’ll love it. Raw brussel sprouts with lemon peels? Yum, I’ll take it! Do you remember the woman who described herself as a dog who was happy to eat the crumbs from Jesus’ table (Matthew 15:27,28)? That’s the image of a truly hungry person.

So here are two quick observations for today:

  1. The “hungry” people have a different perspective on life. When we are so full in our minds by being consumed with the things of this world, we really have a hard time being grateful. Even the sweetest things in life just don’t bring us pleasure. We can be so full of stress, worry and busy-ness in this world that even a sweet baby playing can be annoying. But then spend time around someone who has faced serious disabilities from birth. I find a lot of those men and women see even the bitter things as sweet. They are so grateful, joyful and have a wonderful perspective on life. It might be good for you and me to spend more time with folks like that. We can learn to develop a “hungry” attitude that appreciates life and any blessing.
  2. The “hungry” people have a different perspective on the Word of God. They will listen to sermons, read the Bible, dive into the difficult stuff. Even the “bitter” things of the word are sweet because they are so hungry for drawing closer to God. The full person can’t even stomach the sweetest things of God. There is just no room in the tank for it. It might be that you have to put aside some of your regular entertainment, and shut off the devices more often. Start “tasting” the word, and with the Holy Spirit’s living power in that word you will develop a hunger (Hebrews 6:4-5; 1 Peter 2:1-3).

“And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!'”
(Luke 15:16-17)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
(Matthew 5:6)

I myself am going

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD and to seek the LORD of hosts; I myself am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'”
(Zechariah 8:20-23)

We all need someone to follow. God says we are sheep. Really, whether or not we like it and accept it, we are following someone. The passage above from Zechariah shows us that when someone is walking confidently and humbly toward God, that there will be others who will grab on to your robe and want to go with you. People will follow someone, sadly even if that leader is going in the absolute wrong direction (Matthew 15:14). Are you and I leading others to the house of God in Jerusalem, meaning are we leading others to Christ, to truth, and to His family?

God wants us, as His men, to walk purposefully, confidently, passionately and humbly toward Him and toward His house. When we do that, others will follow. Not everyone will follow, in fact, Jesus tells us that most won’t. But we need to have a Joshua-like attitude that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We are going to God. We are going to God’s house. Do you want to come with us? That’s the mindset God’s men must have.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)