Tuesday, April 28, 2009

this means war

For the last few weeks, I have been preaching on spiritual warfare. And, waking the dragon sure makes things heat up. I know that I'm not the only one facing the assault of the devil, the flesh and the world. How important it is to "stand firm" and be courageous.

One question I raised on Sunday is "What is spiritual warfare?" We blame difficulties in life on spiritual warfare but sometimes have no idea what it actually "is." I suggested the following definition: Spiritual Warfare is any conflict or challenge that threatens my confidence in who God is and what God is doing and tempts me to think, feel or act in an ungodly way. When I encounter something in life that causes me to forget the truth of what I know about God and leads me into temptation, instead of holiness, I am being spiritually attacked.

My friend, Scott Raines, woke up Monday morning to find that someone had stolen all four tires and rims off his truck. Finding my car on blocks isn't the way I want to start my week. I imagine my irritation, my anger, my overwhelming temptation to take revenge [if I could only find the culprit]. These feelings could cause me to be short with my wife, cynical about our police force and increasingly prejudicial toward certain groups of people. Having forgotten the sovereignty of God and His guarantee of final justice, I miss who He is and what He is doing and go right to ungodly thoughts, feelings and actions. That's spiritual warfare.

Fortunately, Scott handled things much better than I might have. He wrote me: "They are just wheels & tires. The funny part is I needed tires. During my prayer time on Monday after this, I thanked God for this knowing something good will come from it. Genesis 50:20 'You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.'"

My buddy took up the full armor of God [Ephesians 6:14-18] and survived the spiritual attack...only to be ready for the next one that is sure to come his way.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

reading and writing

This morning, God brought an image to mind. It was the thought of famed author, J.K. Rowling, writing another one of her "Harry Potter" tomes. I don't know why...I've never read one of the over-sized stories. But, I imagine that, as soon as one of sequels is released, she begins working on the next volume. But, her fans consume her material faster than she can produce it. They read faster than she can write.

Not so with God.

God is ever creating, ever planning, ever arranging, ever scripting. He is always adding to the story of what He's doing. And, He's doing it faster than we can live it. In other words, I will never get close to the end of what God is doing. I will never have to wait for Him to catch up with me. He will never run out of plot for my life and His purposes. I cannot out-read what God is writing.

Praise be to the Author of Life!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

if you have no job

And, a guy got arrested for it. Slow day on the town square.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

words at war

In June 1940, German troops pressed across Europe heading toward Great Britain. Winston Churchill spoke his famous "Words at War" speech to rally English forces to war. His conclusion is powerful:

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'

Churchill is a great commander communicating a great charge. Similarly, in Ephesians 6:10-13, the Apostle Paul is a military general rallying spiritual soldiers to war:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 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, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

In this passage, Paul warns about the reality of our spiritual adversary. This enemy is:

1. ...spiritual, not physical. Our struggle isn't "against flesh and blood" but against forces in heavenly places.

2. ...multiple, not one. Our enemy is the Devil and his legion [see Mark 5:9] of demons. Our enemy is also our flesh and the world. These three converge in Ephesians 2:1-3.

3. ...purposeful, not passive. The devil's "scheme" is to turn to chaos what God has created. He undoes what God does. That's why, when God's people decide to pursue spiritual things, they can expect greater spiritual attack.

Knowing that our enemy is real and the danger is real, Paul's charge is for Christians to stand up and stand strong. Be alert and steadfast resting in and relying upon the power of the Lord. Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The last several months have been interesting for me. God has used a variety of seemingly unrelated experiences and events to sharpen my spiritual focus on the need for personal and corporate renewal and a return to the fundamentals of the faith. Here are a few key influences for me:

1. I finished Why We're Not Emergent [DeYoung and Kluck]--a very thoroughly researched and thoughtfully presented exploration of a movement sweeping throughout the United States that is supplanting historical Christianity with a pseudo-experiential knock off. I am reminded that, "in the last days," people will become peddlers of "new truth."

2. Tarrant Net's Pastor's Renewal Conference with Jim Cymbala, Tony Evans and Alec Rowlands was better than I ever anticipated. Rather than give a formula for revival, the speakers continued to call for a return to God's Word and His Spirit. These two [see Ezekiel 37] are non-negotiables for renewal.

3. I have started reading two books of revival: Revival Praying [by Leonard Ravenhill-a recent influencer of contemporary revival] and Rut, Rot or Revival [by A.W. Tozer]. I am not expecting new information, but additional layers of encouragement to pursue God's Word and His Spirit.

4. I am starting a sermon series on spiritual warfare this week. My understanding of this topic has been greatly enlarged by Ray Stedman's Spiritual Warfare and Clinton Arnold's 3 Crucial Questions About Spiritual Warfare. I am reminded that, while the devil, the flesh and the world continues to exert influence on me, they are, in no way, irresistible. God's power in me has set me free and God's power through me enables me to "stand firm" [see Ephesians 6:10-13].

5. I am challenged by events that are happening at Pantego Bible Church. We just experienced what one longtime minister said was "perhaps the greatest Easter weekend at our church in over 10 years." Indeed, there was a marvelous spirit of unity, joy, expectation and power. It seems like God has been readying us for certain challenges that every God-centered church will face. I am pleased that the response of our Elders is to pray.

6. I have enjoyed discipling 4 men on Wednesday mornings, walking through each of the Core Competencies of our church one-by-one. How refreshing it has been to see spiritual lights turn on and truth hit its mark in the hearts of eager learners. I remember how exciting it was, as a college pastor, to invest my life in the lives of others.

As all of these things are converging into something yet unknown. I'm not sure I can connect all the dots. I feel a little like a guy who has been given a string, a stick and a streamer only to learn later that he's supposed to build a kite. But, based on where I've been, I'm excited to see where all of this is going!

Monday, April 6, 2009

preaching to myself

Yesterday, I preached about humility and service, looking at the ultimate example of Jesus in John 13. As we reflected on the Last Supper scene and Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, I posed three principles to my congregation. To follow Jesus' example in serving [v. 15], we must:

1. Choose our bowl: Pilate dipped his hands in the bowl later and washed his hands of all responsibility [Matthew 27:24]. Jesus, on the other hand, dipped His hands into the servant's basin and blessed His disciples. It's a matter of basin theology. We were made for a mission; saved to serve. So, we must choose our bowl.

2. Follow our nose: The moment we decide to serve, serving opportunities will abound. All we have to do is open our eyes, follow our nose.

3. Reap the reward: There is a blessedness when we serve others [v. 17; also see Acts 20:35]. We enjoy uplifting grace [1 Peter 5:6] and God gets the glory [Philippians 2:11].

So, I decided to grab a burger for lunch today and decided to put my own principles to the test. I left the church parking lot deciding that I would serve. I prayed very specifically and asked God for a rendezvous with my friend Charlie. I drove to the typical spots where I sometimes see him on the street, but he was nowhere around. I pulled in to the MacDonald's parking lot [no comments necessary regarding my dietary choices] only to find the drive-thru backed up. So, I chose to run in and grab lunch to go. I ordered, paid and had my hand on the door to exit when a voice from the rear of the restaurant called out, "David!"

I turned to see Charlie smiling ear to ear. "Where have you been?" he asked.

"Me?" I shot back, "Where have you been?" He laughed and gave me a great hug. The fact that he gladly moved toward me, remembered my name and welcomed a lunch partner made my day.

Tonight, Charlie rests warmly in Pearson's bed. We enjoyed listening to his military stories at the dinner table over homemade soup. He shared stories about playing bass in a rock band and reminisced about his sweet aunt, the English teacher. We watched "24" together and talked about all the incredible people at Pantego Bible Church who have shared with him during the last few months.

I love my friend. I love giving to him and receiving from him. I also love seeing the truth of Scripture come to life. God is faithful to give us opportunities to be faithful to Him. So, I'll keep sniffing, seeking, and serving. And, I'll boast only in the cross of Jesus where I see true service most humbly displayed.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

who was Jesus?

I'm watching a Discovery Channel "documentary" on the person and ministry of Jesus. Usually, around this time of year, major magazines and television stations springboard off Easter to delve into Christianity and the person of Christ. Tonight's episode is titled "Who Was Jesus?"

In Mark 8:27, Jesus asked His own followers, "Who do men say that I am?" Jesus wanted to know how the headlines read regarding his controversial, yet growing ministry. His disciples answered that word on the street is that Jesus was John the Baptist back from the dead [John had been executed by Herod; see Mark 6:14-21] or Elijah or one of the prophets. But, the disciples affirmed that Jesus was "the Christ."

The question of Jesus' identity is still vigorously debated today. Some, in religious circles, claim that it doesn't matter. Yet, the unique divinity of Jesus is essential to His mission and credibility. The evidences help me to trust that Jesus was God:

First, Jesus claimed to be God. Some people doubt this assertion stating that Jesus never actually claimed equality with the Father. Yet, Jesus said, "I am the Father are one" [John 10:30]. Similarly, in John 14:7-9, Jesus spoke to Philip, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him . . . Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

In Mark 14:61, before the Jewish high priest, Jesus was challenged, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Living God?” He replied, “I am and you shall see the son of man sitting on the right hand of God with power." Most significant in this response was that the people accused him of blasphemy--equating Himself with God. So, the evidence is clear that Jesus claimed equality with God.

Second, Jesus believed that He was equal with God. In other words, He lived consistent with what He claimed. For example, in Mark 2, Jesus forgave sins, an authority only given to God. In Matthew 9:18, a ruler comes and kneels before Jesus [the Greek word used suggest paying homage] accepting worship--a privilege reserved for God. Jesus acted with anger in the temple, His "father's house" [Matthew 21], said that all judgement was in His hands [John 5:27] and claimed eternality with God [John 8:58]. Jesus lived what He believed.

Third, Jesus proved His divinity. Specifically, He healed the sick [Matthew 14:36, Mark 6:53-56], raised the dead [John 11] and taught with authority [Matthew 7:28-29]. Moreover, He lived a sinless life [Matthew 4, John 8:46, 2 Cor. 5:21, Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 2:22]. But, the most convincing proof of Jesus' divinity was His resurrection. Every other major religious leader in history died and remained in the grave. But, Jesus is set apart as God's Son through His defeat over the grave and His rising, never to die again.

Who was Jesus? Just who he said He was. Just who He believed He was. Just who he proved He was. And, those who believe in Jesus have life with Him forever.