Tuesday, September 29, 2009

BREAK AND ENTER AT THE TYRANT'S HOUSE



Luke 11:

21 "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.

23" He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.


So here it is – the Messiah has come and broken into the tyrant’s house. Satan is not safe and has lost his armor. All the ways that the Devil has conquered the earth is being undone. Jesus is clearly demonstrating that the power of God is greater than the power of the Devil.


Those who oppose Jesus are against God. If anyone does not join in Jesus’ gathering work, they are actually doing the opposite. While Jesus gathers good things into his Father’s Kingdom, his opponents scatter and divide. They are the terrorists against God’s House.


Think back to the man who had been mute. The demon had come into his life and silenced him. He had no voice. He was disconnected from the community. Jesus came to give him a voice. He restored the man in a way that brought glory to God. Every time the man would speak, people would remember that it was a miracle sign of Emmanuel – God is with us!


The Kingdom of God has been restored its voice. The muted Kingdom can now be heard in all the earth.


The message of God’s Kingdom must be voiced to all people in every generation. The good news needs to spread that the Devil’s tyranny is being overthrown and cannot stand.


But like the house in Abraham Lincoln’s time, it is possible to have a house divided against itself. In our lives we must become decisive in surrendering our lives and influence entirely to the just cause. We cannot proclaim the freedom of Christ and at the same time make allowances for the slavery of the Devil’s kingdom. The apostle Paul gave ways to avoid letting the Devil get a foothold in your life.


Ephesians 4:

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.


We cannot stay half-slave and half-free. To follow Jesus will take us out of the dark kingdom into His light. The Devil lives to accuse God’s children and to promote destruction. The acid test of discipleship is found in learning to control our communication and turn our lives into truly benefitting others.


Footholds are vulnerabilities. How have you left yourself vulnerable to devilish influence? If the enemy can get a foot up, he will hop on and ride you into the ground.


Footholds are areas that we have not surrendered to God. As we pray ‘deliver us from evil’ let us be mindful of whom we are praying to. We are praying to the Father who is setting up His Kingdom in us.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

NON-SENSICAL THOUGHTS OF THE 'WORST CASE SCENARIO' CROWD




Luke 11:

17Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub.19Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.


Jesus responds primarily to the ‘worst case scenario’ crowd. They accused him of driving out demons by Satan’s power.


Essentially, Jesus tells them their opinion makes no sense. Why would the Devil go against himself? How could Satan be a lord over a kingdom if he went around undoing his work?


On the same line of defense, Jesus asks them to explain where other exorcists got their power. The people attacking Jesus were very aware that others were also casting out devils, a sure sign that God was at work. Were the others of God and Jesus of the Devil? What difference was there?


If in fact Jesus’ power were from God, his miracles established that God’s Kingdom had come. The prophecies of the coming Messiah proclaimed that the government would be on his shoulders and that he would set captives free. The new government was coming in and releasing people from the grips of tyranny.


Friday, September 25, 2009

THE BUZZ ABOUT BEELZEBUB



Luke 11:

14Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.15But some of them said, "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." 16Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.


The loyal opposition was in the crowd the day that Jesus set a man free from the slavery of muteness. The man without words began to speak. This event articulated the mounting tension between the powers of the current world encountering the coming powers of a new world.


The opponents of Jesus made the accusation that Jesus received his power from Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Who was Beelzebub? They were clearly thinking of Satan.


The name Beelzebub in its English form comes from the Latin; it appears to refer to the Philistine god Ekron (2 Kings 1:2-3, 6, 16). In all probability the name means "Lord of the flies". The name was a derisive characterization of Satan.[i]


There were others in the crowd who were not ready to make up their mind. They did not know if Jesus got his power from God or not. They asked that he do some other miracle.


These two reactions characterized the non-believers. One group is quick to assume the worst while the other group wants endless research before they make up their mind.


For certain, everyone in the crowd knew that something supernatural had happened. They had no reason to doubt what they saw with their own eyes. They just needed to figure out what was behind it. If this happened today, there would be a third group who do not believe that anything miraculous or supernatural can or ever will happen. They would look for a medical or psychological explanation completely denying that the spiritual realm exists.


Monday, September 21, 2009

OUR COMING FREEDOM


On June 16th, 1858 more than one thousand Republican delegates elected Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the United States Senate. Following his election he gave a speech which became known as the ‘house divided speech’.


He spoke to the issue of slavery still being defended by politicians. Here are a few introductory words from that infamous speech.


We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only - not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.[i]


As Abraham Lincoln assessed the conflict, he recognized the government’s stability depended on them coming into agreement and unity. They could not be half slave and half free.


Could we not also use Lincoln’s phrase to clarify the establishing of God’s Kingdom? The Kingdom of God cannot endure half slave and half free. The slavery to sin and the freedom in Christ cannot co-exist indefinitely. Eventually, the Kingdom of God will permanently establish freedom for all its citizens.


Abraham Lincoln borrowed another phrase that was universally known at the time of his speech – a house divided against itself cannot stand. These were Jesus’ words and spoke to the spiritual conflict he encountered as he proclaimed and demonstrated the end of sin’s slavery.



[i] Abraham Lincoln ‘House Divided Speech’, Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858, http://www.historyplace.com/lincoln/divided.htm

Sunday, September 20, 2009

GOD SAID SHUT UP


Jesus did not have to say much to set things right. He looked at the man whose life was being controlled and destroyed by demons.


"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!"


Be quiet because the announcement of Jesus’ Lordship would be revealed by God’s Holy Spirit and not some rebellious fallen angel. This was not the time for the world to know the full magnitude of who Jesus was.


Be quiet because demons will not shut up. They keep their victims harassed and helpless against the lies they speak.


Be quiet so the troubled man can hear the peaceful voice of God. Quietness and peace are not desirable qualities for the hordes of hell.


Jesus spoke sternly and evicted the imp. Being true to its rebellious and proud nature, the impudent demon made a dramatic exit. It shrieked and shook the man violently knocking him to the ground.


So what is the main thing we need to learn from this story? It is the same lesson that the worshippers in the synagogue learned.


Jesus has authority. His words are powerful and rule over darkness. He is no ordinary man.

Friday, September 18, 2009

WHAT THE DEVIL IS GOING ON?




Luke 4:

33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34 "Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

35 "Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" 37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.


I’m sure that someone there looked at their neighbour and said, “What the devil is going on?”


In this miracle there is a man with a demon spirit who is set free. In the gospel of Luke, demons are mentioned twenty-three times while Jesus ministered in Galilee. That is a fairly regular occurrence in the short duration of Jesus’ ministry.


When the demon controlling the man spoke out, it knew who Jesus really was. The demon or demons were worried. ‘Have you come to destroy us?’


Who but God could ultimately destroy demons?


The Scriptures teach that when the angel Lucifer rose up with pride and rebelled against God’s authority, he was cast down from Heaven. One-third of the angels followed in his rebellion. The fallen angels are called demons.


To read the scripture passages that explain the origin of Satan and the demons makes us aware that there is a realm we know very little about. There are aspects of God’s justice and angels that our beyond our scope, and yet the scriptures also say that there is a future time when we will rule angels. Though mostly hidden from our view, there exists a realm of created spiritual beings which do their Lord’s work in the world of humans. Occasionally, their presence is revealed.


The angels of God are called servants and messengers and provide ‘hands on’ ministry to people. They have been known to appear with messages and provide protection. They have been used to guide people away from destruction and ward off human threats.


The angels of Lucifer are servants and messengers who also provide ‘hands on’ destruction in the lives of people. They can appear with messages to people and inspire people with false teachings about God. They can cause psychic disturbances and frighten people. They can motivate all kinds of destructive behaviours.


1 Timothy 4:

1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.


Demons are attributed to teaching people ideas that lead them away from the true faith. They find people with weakened consciences who have developed a lifestyle of hypocrisy and lies. The deception appeals to human pride. Those who follow false teachings feel a false sense of empowerment and authority.


The apostle Paul said that false religions are the worship of demons.


1 Corinthians 10:

19Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.


It is not surprising then that several of the gospel encounters between Jesus and demons occurred in synagogues, places dedicated to teaching religion. Demons love religion and use it to lead people in destructive paths.


Jesus did not have to say much to set things right. He looked at the man whose life was being controlled and destroyed by demons.

"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HIDDEN LISTENERS


In Jesus’ time, there were many teachers of the Law. In the synagogues and other places of teaching, they talked long and hard about their understanding of God’s Word and its applications. But like your average modern parishioner on Monday morning, they quickly forgot the sermon they had just heard.


Jesus was different. He used the same text book but his words penetrated and were memorable. People learned something new. What was the difference? People detected some quality that was missing in many of their teachers. They said he spoke with ‘authority’.


Luke 4:

31Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. 32They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority.

33In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 34"Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"

35"Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.

36All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" 37And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.


Even before the crowd saw the miracle power of God expressed through Jesus, they heard a message that sounded as if it were true and reliable. Even though the other teachers taught some of the same things, Jesus’ words had an edge. It was a sharp edge that cut right into their mind. He came as one with the authority to wield a sword that would smite their hearts.


When authority is present and issues a proclamation, there is an expectation of obedience. The flashing red lights of authority cause you to obey and pull over or to run in fear and disobedience.


When the flashing red lights of Jesus’ teaching shone in that synagogue, there was a man who faced a power conflict. The evil presence of a spirit inside him could not help but react to the greater presence of Jesus.


Luke 4:34Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"


When Jesus speaks, there are hidden listeners. The jig is up and they have to come out of hiding. God help us all submit to the authority of Jesus' words.


Monday, September 14, 2009

THE FLASHING RED LIGHTS OF AUTHORITY


I’m not sure how I let it happen, but I ended up at traffic court a few years ago. I ended up paying a lawyer $500 to appear on my behalf, going in to work his magic.


It started when I forgot to renew the sticker on the license plate of my 1991 White Lumina van. Somehow I had misplaced the notice that came in the mail and when my birthday passed I missed the deadline to renew my plates. I was responsible for doing it and I completely blanked out.


A few months later, a police officer pulled me over on Drouillard Road and it was then that I discovered my mistake. I received a ticket with a summons. Needless to say, I immediately went to the license bureau and got my stickers.


I am a man under authority and know that the law says I should have a sticker on my plate, a valid driver’s license, ownership and insurance. All of these things I do.


I am a man under authority and I know that the officer pulling me over has the right to do so and the authority to issue tickets and many other things for that matter.


I am a man under authority and I know that the lawyer that I paid has the right to appear before the judge on my behalf and probably save me from a greater penalty if I appeared alone on my behalf.


I am a man under authority and I know that the judge has the right to declare the penalty of law over me if I have broken the law.


A stranger on the street could have noticed the missing sticker and told me about it and I would have respected their observation and thanked them. But the stranger on the street has no authority to issue a fine or issue a summons to court. He needs someone with authority to do that.


Have you ever had a nervous passenger who keeps telling you to slow down? It’s easy to excuse it to their nervousness and keep speeding with the thought that they are just too nervous and you are actually a good driver with a great record. So when the flashing lights appear and pull you over, the authority to change your driving habits comes to the window and you are changed. (At least for a day).


Saturday, September 12, 2009

SEEKING APPROVAL



Anthony de Mello was a Jesuit priest and psychotherapist who was widely known for his books on spirituality.

In his book 'The Way To Love' he wrote this about seeking approval:

Look at your life and see how you have filled its emptiness with people. As a result, they have a stranglehold on you. See how they control your behavior by their approval and disapproval. They hold the power to ease your loneliness with their company, to send your spirits soaring with their praise, to bring you down to the depths with their criticism and rejection. Take a look at yourself spending almost every waking moment of your day placating and pleasing people, whether they are living or dead.

_______________________

Anthony DeMello, The Way To Love (New York: Doubleday, 1991), p.64



Thursday, September 10, 2009

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?




Luke 4:
28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.



If we are to follow Jesus, we need to know which hill we are called to die on. Early on, he could have made the mistake of believing that the world ended at the edge of his Nazareth. He could have died prematurely trying to prove something in his hometown.


Matthew and Mark add that he could not do many miracles in his home region because of their lack of faith. There were a few sick people that he laid hands and they were healed, but his power was withheld for people that could receive the Kingdom of God. Jews and non-Jews experienced God’s power and help as they reached out to Jesus.


There are times when we need to leave town and times when we need to stay. There are times when you need to distance yourself from family and times when you need to stay. Jesus found many ways to get people to leave town.


“You cannot love a family member more than you do me. That’s the cost of following.”

“Let the dead bury the dead.”

“Sell all that you possess and give it to the poor. Then, come follow me.”

“Take up your cross and follow me.”


What was he saying about who we are? We are not ultimately defined by our relationships, our self-importance or the ways that others define us. We are defined by God as we follow His Son.


Jesus calls us to face down our hometown. What are the values and false beliefs that hold you back from following Jesus? What are the teachings you have learned that meant well but were dead wrong? The anti-Gentilism of Jesus’ culture was ungodly.


The scriptures showed that Israel’s God had plans for the whole earth. Blessing was to come through the Jews, but it was to be blessing. How did their cursing of Gentiles factor into God’s agenda? It did not!


Each of us needs to look at our hometown values and leave town when they contradict the message Jesus preached.


Let me ask about your view of ‘the others’. (Who are the others? Sinners, Muslims, Successful rich people, Wiccans, Satanists, Homosexuals, Indians, Fundamentalists, Americans, Catholics, Charismatics, Street people?


When we label people as ‘them’ or ‘others,’ we fail to see ourselves in their humanity. It is a failure to look for an opportunity to love God through the one who becomes your enemy.


It is a myth that good Christian people do not have enemies. Followers of Jesus will end up with a few enemies. The question is how do we get them? Jesus’ enemies were not largely from foreign soil. His greatest enemies were from his own tribe.


He came to his own and his own did not receive him.


What is a Christian to do with their enemies? Jesus made it simple and humanly impossible without His help. Love your enemies and pray for those who abuse you.


Jesus died at Golgotha. Calvary’s hill was the time and place to bring salvation to the whole earth. Had he died on Nazareth’s cliff, there would be no salvation. When we die for Christ, let’s die by loving our enemies. Let’s not die on the hill of preserving our reputation or proving our self-righteousness.



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

PROPHET WITHOUT HONOUR



Whether it’s your old school, the old neighborhood, the family you were raised in or excess baggage given to you by your culture-- we need to grow up and leave town for awhile.


Jesus announced his identity as Messiah at the hometown synagogue. His family was there. His cousins, neighbors and co-workers were there.


He read the first sentences from Isaiah 61 and announced that this prophecy was being fulfilled in their town right now… by him.


Luke 4:

22All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.

23Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "

24"I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian."

28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. 30But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.


Additional details are given in Matthew and Mark’s gospels[i]. People name his family members as they try to reduce the Messiah to just another local boy. Nazareth was a village of less than 500 people. It wasn’t hard to figure out who’s who.


Matthew uses the phrase ‘prophet without honor’. Jesus was a prophet without honor in his hometown.


To be part of a community means that you accept the language and values that the majority of townsfolk hold. To think or act otherwise will cause people to talk about you, publicly sneer or cross the street to avoid you-- or worse. It doesn’t matter what community you belong to, there are rules for belonging.


What was it about Jesus’ words that caused the whole church to want to throw him over a cliff?


Jesus reminds them about two prominent ‘God’s message-speakers’ from their history. The preacher Elijah and his successor Elisha were two Jewish prophets God used to confront sin, perform miracles and call Israel to repentance.


Centuries had passed and they had super-hero status among the Jews. But what if the super-heroes were helping the enemy? Jesus points this fact out to his hometown.


When Israel was being punished with a drought, Super-hero Elijah went to Zarephath and lived with a widow and her son. Any ‘God-fearing first century Jew’ knew that Sidon was Gentile country. Jesus points out that one of Israel’s finest didn’t have a home among them. Miracles happened at the widow’s house. Why not in a good Jewish home?


Elisha lived in Israel and would have regularly seen lepers suffering in their disease. So when he decides to heal a leper, it’s Naaman from Syria—another Gentile!


Jesus is qualifying that the message of the Messiah and the power of God are leaving town. This good news is for the whole world, not just Israel. Jesus is lumping himself in with Elijah and Elisha and announcing a pro-Gentile mission.


And there he broke the rules! First century Judaism wanted a Messiah that would save them and bring revenge to their enemies. Jesus announced God’s favor on Gentiles—the unrighteous and oft criticized enemies of the holy state.


It was offensive enough to provoke a religious fervor demanding immediate justice. They rushed Jesus out to the edge of the cliff and planned to throw him over.


So Jesus performs a miracle. The mob had encircled Jesus and was shoving hard towards the cliff edge. Jesus walks through the crowd and gets away. They had successfully removed him from the synagogue and travelled to the edge of town. However long that took, they appeared to be succeeding. But then at the moment of final action, Jesus walks through.


Was it some kind of Hiro Yakamura[ii] time freeze? Was it a last moment crowd realization that Jesus might be right? Both supernatural intervention and spiritual conviction are miraculous events. Jesus walked out of the immediate danger because this was not the hill he would die on.



[i] Matthew 13:53-57; Mark 6:1-6

[ii] Masi Oka’s character from the TV show ‘Heroes’.

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