The Journey From Bondage to Destiny

Exodus 3:7-8(NKJV) 7And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.  8So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. 

For the last two years, the Lord has had me on a journey with the children of Israel. This journey has taken me from bondage in Egypt to possessing the Promised Land in Canaan. We have learned a great deal about the Israelites’ journey and how their journey relates to our Christian walk.

Just as Israel was delivered from Egypt for a purpose, we were delivered from bondage to sin for a greater destiny. It is certainly true that God sent Jesus to save the world because he loved the world. God sent Moses to Egypt because he loved Israel. There was more to their deliverance. God had chosen Israel to be the channel through which the Messiah who would save world should come. God delivered you and me from the bondage of sin because he loves us, but he also delivered us so we can carry the message of freedom to the world around us.

Many Christians receive salvation and are satisfied to live a good life that is comfortable, acceptable and relatively free of trouble. They thank God that in the end they will go to heaven and have an eternity with the Lord. There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking except that God has so much more for his children. God has a destiny for you. He wants you to be a co-laborer with him in winning the world. God wants more children and you are part of his plan to get them.

Israel’s journey required commitment to be successful. I believe ours does as well. If Israel had been able to find a comfortable place in the wilderness and stay there, they would not have needed such a high level of commitment. We know that in their case, there was no comfortable or safe place for them in the wilderness. They often complained to Moses that it would be better for them to return to Egypt. However, there was no safety or acceptance for them there either. Their only hope was to continue on to Canaan and God’s destiny for them.

I believe the devil has deceived many into thinking they can settle down in the wilderness of an ineffectiveness Christian walk and survive until the Lord comes. Worse still is the sense that so many Christians seem to have that there is no need to be extreme in their approach to their relationship with the Lord. It seems that a little sin and a little spirituality is OK. They think it is not necessary to “be sold out to the Lord.”

We are comfortable and safe in our world, so there does not seem to be any need to go farther in our Christian walk. If we live relatively good lives, go to church, read the Word and pray a little bit, that is OK. We can have the best of both worlds. We can partake of the world and keep just enough spirituality so that our conscience does not bother us too much. This is a dangerous way to think. It is also a far lower life than God wants for his children.

This kind of thinking reminds me of my struggles to learn language. I have had the privilege of traveling to many countries to preach the Gospel and train church leaders. There are some places I go to repeatedly and it would help to be conversant in the local language. I know I can learn language. When I say what I know, the local people understand me clearly. When I am traveling, I tell myself that I am going to go home and learn. I will come the next time knowing how to communicate in that language.

When I get home, I once again hear only English. I do not need to speak French, Spanish or German. The urgency is gone and soon it is time for another trip. I usually try to catch up a bit and refresh what I do know for whatever country to which I am headed. This never works.

I know what would cause me to learn French. If I were dropped in one of the countries I visit in French West Africa and left there for 6 months with no English speakers, I would learn French. I would have to because I would need to communicate to get by. Need would produce the urgency to do what I should do anyway.

I believe that is what is happening to us in the church as we begin 2013. We are on a journey. God has a destination and a purpose for our lives. However, we are comfortable in our wilderness. We have homes here. We seem to be safe here. All the while the “Egyptian Army” called the world is at our heals tempting us to compromise and drawing us farther away from the plan God has for the Church. We cannot allow this. God will not allow this.

In Israel’s history, they came to Egypt as favored members of Joseph’s family. It was a place of safety and prosperity for them. However, their destiny was not in Egypt. Their destiny was in Canaan. No matter how comfortable they were in Egypt, their promised land was Canaan. I do not know if things could have happened differently for them. Maybe if they had not become so at home in Egypt, the Lord could had led them out of Egypt to Canaan without bondage and slavery. However, they did not cry out to God until their bondage was so severe they could no longer stand it.

I believe God is speaking to his church today. We have a calling and an opportunity in our world to affect real change in the lives of those around us. We know that things are deteriorating and yet we still seem to think we are safe. We are not. The pressure is rising and I believe it will continue to rise until the church recognizes that we must go all the way to Canaan. We must go all the way to our destiny in God or we will find ourselves in bondage so severe we will cry out to God as Israel did.

I want to be part of generation that will hear God and go forward without needing to be jarred out of apathy. I want to be one who will lead the people of God to their destiny instead of someone that God has to drag there kicking and screaming. Worse yet I do not want to be someone who compromises to the point that I am useless in the Kingdom of God and have to be left behind in the wilderness.

We are entering a New Year and a new phase in our journey from bondage to destiny. Join me in leading the way by committing with your whole heart to follow God wherever he may lead us this year. If we have o face some wilderness times, so be it. If we face them in the power of God, they will be victory times for us. In the end, if we walk by faith we will be provided for in every way by our Heavenly Father and we will be able to lead many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is our Promised Land destiny. I pray we follow the cloud of God’s presence in this part of our journey.

The Handmaiden of the Lord

Luke 1:38(NKJV) 38Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

This week we have taken a different look at the Christmas story from the perspective of Mary. Here is a teenage girl confronted with a promise given by the Lord. The promise is not for healing or prosperity. It is not for success in her future life. Instead, she is given the opportunity to carry the Messiah of the whole world in her body. She must risk her future and her life to receive this promise.

The weight of the plan of God to save all of humanity rests upon her shoulders. If she says no, God will find another way to do what he plans to do. However, we see in Isaiah 7:14 that this is her destiny.

Isaiah 7:14(NKJV) 14Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Note in this verse that it does not say “a virgin shall conceive” but it says, “the virgin shall conceive.” It is as if the light of eternity is shining upon Mary as this moment. What will she say?

Of course, we know what she says because we can read it. However, try to think in terms of not knowing her answer. Imagine how she must have felt at this time. She did not understand all the ramifications of what the Lord was asking of her, but she did know that it would not be easy. She knew that the Messiah was coming soon. In addition, she knew that his coming was a pivotal event in the history of her nation. This is a tremendous burden for a simple girl.

In today’s scripture, we read her answer. “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it happen just as you say it should.” Mary says yes, to whatever God needs her to do. She says she will carry the promise of God into a world that, for the most part, did not want that promise. She will risk her reputation and her body to carry salvation for the world.

We know the price that Jesus paid. He allowed himself to be arrested, beaten and crucified so that all humanity could accept his sacrifice and be “born again.” Any who choose to can become a child of God free from sin and with heaven as their eternal home. It is impossible to minimize this sacrifice and it is impossible for any of us to pay it. That is why Jesus had to be born of a virgin and then die for us. However, what of Mary’s sacrifice.

Mary’s sacrifice was not to pay for salvation. Her sacrifice was to carry salvation to the world. If she had not been willing to do what the angel had asked, it would have been impossible for anyone to be born again. We can assume that God would have found another way, but we have no idea what that would have been. It was all upon Mary and her willingness to obey.

As I thought about this aspect of the Christmas story, I realized why the Lord led me to think about Mary. We cannot pay Jesus sacrifice but we can receive the promise the Lord gave to Mary. We cannot die for the sins of the world. We cannot even pay the price for our own sins. We can carry salvation to the world just as Mary carried it for the world.

Mary’s story begins with the angel telling her that she was highly favored by the Lord. She is called blessed more than all women and told that the Lord is with her in a special way. I believe the Lord is saying the same thing to us and our generation. We are favored by God and he is with us is a very special way.

We live in a world that is full of trouble. A great portion of this world has rejected God and religion in general. Many of those who embrace religion and the reality of the existence of God, serve a religious system that does not stand for the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They fight to remove Jesus’ influence from the world and enslave it in a system of religious legalism that threatens to return everyone to the dark ages.

We have been favored to live in this day. We have the answer to every problem the world faces. More important, we have access to the only name by which salvation can come to individuals in this troubled world.

Acts 4:12(NKJV) 12Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

We carry the promise of God for salvation to the world. The bible tells us that God is with us in a special way to enable us to carry out this mission.

Mark 16:15-20(NKJV) 15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  16He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;  18they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  20And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

These are the words of Jesus to each of us today. The scriptural record tells us that when the first disciples took up this challenge, the Lord did exactly what he said he would do. This is our promise that God is with us to do what he asks us to do.

God will not force you and me to obey any more than he would force Mary. Mary said, “Let it be to me as you say.” It was a choice. She risked everything from ridicule to death in order to carry out the assignment the Lord offered her. She did not have to do it but everything depended upon her obedience. I believe we are in the very same position.

If we choose to spread the gospel to those around us, we may be ridiculed. We may find that our reputations will suffer. There are places where those who preach the gospel lose their jobs, their families and even their lives. In the USA today, that is not the case. Our risk is far less than that; however, the responsibility is no less.

If Mary did not carry the promise of salvation, who would? If you and I do not carry the promise of salvation who will? If Mary had said no in her day of visitation, how would the God of the universe come to occupy the body of a human being? If we will not declare the message of salvation, how will anyone receive their own visitation and their salvation?

I think that we sometimes pray for a visitation of God and an outpouring of his power so that the world will know that we were right all along. This is not the reason to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit. The reason we should pray for God to move is the same reason Mary agreed to carry a supernatural baby into the world. We should pray for God to move because all of humanity needs to receive the promised salvation.

We are in the same position Mary was in on that fateful day. The same spotlight of eternity that was on her then is on us today. The question is will we have the same courage that she had. Will we respond to God’s invitation the way she did? I pray we do. The future of the world and its people depends upon our answer.

“Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

The Weight of Responsibility

Luke 1:30-34(NKJV) 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” 34Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

Yesterday we spent some time thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, as part of our Christmas celebration. We learned that Mary was an ordinary teenage girl who experienced and extraordinary supernatural visitation. God gave her a promise that she would bear a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. This child will be called the son of God and take the throne of his “father” David. The problem is that Mary is engaged but not yet married. Any pregnancy will ruin her marriage, her reputation, any hope at a normal life and endanger her physical life. This is not the kind of promise most of us would want.

Today I want to look at the burden the angel is asking her to carry for all of humanity. The virgin birth, along with the resurrection of Jesus Christ are often viewed as Christian mythology. They are nice stories that could not have actually happened. It is acceptable to live according to the philosophy of Christianity, but we must be realistic and reject such myths. The truth is very different. Without the virgin birth and the resurrection, Christianity as a religion is unworkable.

God created man for a purpose. That purpose was to be his family. God wanted beings that were like him with whom he could fellowship. To accomplish this he created a being that was spirit like him, but placed this being in a limited physical body and a limited physical environment. God is spirit and is unlimited. There could only be one God so man could not be unlimited. This compromise created a being that was made of the same spiritual substance as God, without being an unlimited being.

Because of man’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden, he was separated from God. Sin became a part of man’s nature and God’s pure holiness could not come in contact with that sin without destroying both the sin and the vessel carrying it. It is the same principle as light and darkness. Light always destroys darkness no matter how dim the light or dark the darkness may be.

This means that man cannot fulfill his purpose as the child of God. There cannot be intimate fellowship between them because man is now a child of wrath, or the devil, by nature. (Eph 2:3) Someone must defeat man’s overlord, Satan, and free him from the nature of sin. The problem is twofold. Only God is strong enough to defeat the devil. However, the crime is man’s crime so he must be the one to pay the price. God is absolutely just and will do nothing that is not within the boundaries of justice.

Man can pay the price for sin but the price is death. Once that price is paid, man is eternally separated from God. Since everything produces after its own kind, man will produce the same kind of being that he is. Man’s seed carries the death, so every human who is born of human seed will carry the sin nature that came upon Adam because of his sin in the Garden. (Romans 5) God cannot simply forgive it because of his own nature. Man cannot pay the price because of his nature.

God can simply destroy the creation and start again. However, God is absolute love as well as absolute justice. Justice will not allow him to overlook sin, but love will not allow him to abandon his family. God is left with an impossible situation. Of course, with God all things are possible.

What is the solution? God must become man, pay the price for sin and defeat the devil so man can be free. Then man can choose to receive this sacrifice and be “born again” as a new creature no longer bound by the “nature of wrath” that came upon Adam. The being that can accomplish this must be God but he must be a valid part of Adam’s race. God cannot simply create a new body from the dust of the earth because then the result would not be truly human. He cannot be conceived in the natural way because all creatures produce after their own kind and the result would carry the curse of sin. God could not inhabit such a body without destroying it.

There is only one answer. He must be born just as all other people are born. However, he cannot have a human father. If he is conceived in a real human female without the human seed, he will carry her humanity but not the curse of sin carried by man’s seed. The only kind of being that can do all that is required is one who is conceived in a virgin. The seed that creates him must be the Word of God. He will be human because of his mother. He will be divine because of his real father. He will be both God and man. (1 Peter 1:17-25)

This virgin born man will have the right to pay the price for humanity but the power to defeat the devil. He can choose to take upon himself the sin of man, but since he will have no sin to pay for, the payment will be for all who choose to take it as their own. This is the only way to meet the requirements of both love and justice.

Obviously, this is a short explanation of a long subject, but think about Mary for a moment. Not only is she being asked to do something that could ruin her own life, but she is now the focal point of thousands of years of God’s dealing with man. All God has done to this point, including creating the nation of Israel rests upon the decision of this young girl. The future of humanity rests upon here answer to the angel.

I do not believe God would have forced her to accept this role. God does not work that way. In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus praying to his father. His request is simple. “Father, I do not want to do this.” If he had no choice, he would not have prayed the second half of his prayer. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

I believe Mary has a choice. I believe she could say, “This is too much for a young girl to bear. I have my life to live. You will have to find someone else to carry this promise.” Her answer will determine the future of man. What will she say to this promise?

Think About Mary

Luke 1:26-33(NKJV) 26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary 28And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” 29But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Greetings again in the name of Jesus. I trust you all had a wonderful Christmas day with friends and family.

As I was praying about what to share with our church last Sunday, which was Christmas Sunday, I was finding it hard to settle on a message. Holiday messages tend to be difficult for me because what people expect is always the same. I have been a pastor for almost 35 years and I have preached every Christmas message I know many times over. As I was praying, I felt the Lord said, “Just think about Mary.”

We usually focus on the birth of Jesus during this season and rightly so. However, he was not the only character in the story. What of his mother? What was her story? In today’s scripture, we see the angelic visitation that announces to Mary the role she must play in this drama. Who was Mary anyway?

She was a young girl, probably between the ages of 13 and 16 years old. She was not from a wealthy or influential family. She was related to the family of King David. I have a distant relative who was a Duke in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France but I am hardly considered royalty. I suspect that Mary’s connection to David was something similar. She was an ordinary girl of her day.

Sometimes when we read the bible, we think the people must have lived from one visitation to another. We read of the angel coming to Mary and think this was probably a common occurrence but it was not. Mary had never seen an angel. She probably never met anyone who had seen and angel. She knew they existed because it was part of her religious tradition, but that does not mean she was not shocked by this supernatural visitation.

Therefore, the stage is set for this powerful drama to begin. There is a teenage girl just like all the other teenage girls of her day. She receives a visitation like no other she has ever heard of or seen. The greeting she receives from the angel is, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” That is quite a greeting for a 14-year-old girl. It must mean that something wonderful is going to happen to her. Perhaps she is going to become Queen just as her ancestor became King. A prophet visited him at a similar age. Maybe she will become rich or famous. Surely, it will be some wonderful promise that God will fulfill in her life. She is right, but not in the way we would probably think of a promise.

The angel tells her that she is going to have a baby. She is engaged, but she is not yet married. It is obvious from the description of the baby that this will be no ordinary child. He will be called the son of God and take the thrown of his father David. Her child is given two fathers; God and David. Neither seems to be a very likely candidate to Mary.

Mary understands that the angel is not talking about a child that will come as a result of her impending marriage to the carpenter Joseph. She is going to have a baby before she is married. All of this had to be quite a blow to a teenage girl.

On a personal level, this is a burden to bear. She must somehow inform her husband that she had not been unfaithful when it becomes obvious that she is pregnant. We know that the Lord will protect Mary and let Joseph in on the plan himself, but Mary does not know this now. Her marriage is in jeopardy.

In our world, it is no stigma to have a child out of wedlock. In her world, it was a matter of great shame to the whole family. Her reputation would have been ruined. This could have led to very severe consequences including death by stoning. At the very least, she would not have been able to expect a normal life and family after this shameful pregnancy.

Finally consider the fact that death in childbirth was a far more common occurrence in her day than today. Without the aid of friends and family because of the circumstances of her pregnancy and without a husband to care for her it was highly likely that she would not survive this “promised” experience from the Lord. How many of us would simply have told the angel to look elsewhere for someone to be so “favored of God.”

This is what she faces on a personal level. The responsibility she will carry if she accepts this promise is even greater. We will look at that tomorrow.

Merry Christmas

I want to everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.  I arrived home from Burkina Faso, West Africa last Wednesday.  It was a busy trip in which our team ministered prophetically to 240 pastors and their wives of the Assembly of God in Burkina.  I also ministered in 3 churches a bible school and a leadership seminar.  Needless to say it takes a little time to recover from such a trip, but it was a wonderful opportunity to touch a nation.

I will be back blogging on Wednesday December 26th so please join me then.  As you celebrate Christmas this Tuesday, take a moment and think about Mary.  Imagine what she was facing when the angel greeted her in Luke 1.  We will look at that Wednesday.

God bless and Merry Christmas,

Pastor Bill Kiefer

On The Road Again

I will be traveling to Burkina Faso in West Africa for ministry to 250 or so Pastors and leaders.  Please pray for us as this will be a grueling time of ministry.  I usually do not have the ability to continue to post during these trips, but keep checking and I may be able to put some things up.  If not I will be back in three weeks.  Have a blessed Christmas Season.