What’s Next?

Joel 2:25 (NKJV) 25  “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you.

We made it!  Christmas is over for another year.  What comes next?  Every year the week between Christmas and New Years brings a shift.  There is still a little celebrating to do, but the holiday season is almost over.  The week leading up to January 1 involves taking stock of the year just past and looking to the potential for the year ahead.

It is my belief that time was God’s idea.  God lives in the eternal now.  When he created man, he set in motion things that would define time for him.  God put the sun the moon and stars in the heavens for a purpose.  The earth revolves once a day.  The moon became a marker of months and the earth’s orbit around the sun the marker of years.  Genesis 1:14 tells us that this was all according to God’s plan.  God put us in a place where the passing of time matters.

I believe this also means that God has a purpose for each year.  Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God has a plan and its boundaries are measured in time.  There was a beginning of time in Genesis and there will be an end of time when we reach what he calls the “fullness of time.”  Each year that comes before the fullness of time has a purpose in God’s inevitably moving plan.  What is the purpose for 2020?

This is also true in the portion of time that makes us our lives.  I believe God has something for you in 2020.  What he has for us individually usually fits with what he is doing corporately, but for each person, God has something he wants to accomplish in and through us this year.  There will be difficulties we must face because we have an adversary.  However, I choose to believe that God is going to accomplish something wonderful in my life and in my ministry this year.  How about you?

There is something interesting about this year.  We are not just changing years we are changing decades.  If you look at the passing of decades from a historical perspective, each decade has a place in God’s plan.  We can look at the last century and see that every decade was defined by something.  The first decade of the twentieth century was very much a transition time.  The car began to replace the horse.  Monarchies began to be replaced by democracies or some form of dictatorship as the dominant form of human government.  Social changes were taking place such as the suffrage movement for women’s right to vote.  It was a decade where things that had been accepted truths for as long as people could remember were challenged.

The teens were dominated by World War 1.  The 20’s by the relief the survival brought.  They were the “roaring 20’s” because it was a decade of celebration.  At least until 1929 and the stock market crash that led to the great depression.  The 30’s were defined by that economic tragedy.  In the latter part of the 30’s some were beginning to see an economic turn around while others were experiencing the rise of the some of the most evil regimes of all time.

The 1940’s were dominated by World War 2.  The first half by the destruction of this cataclysmic conflict and the second half by the recovery and the restructuring of the world because of it.  The 1950’s were a decade of relief and prosperity for many but a time of coming under the servitude of totalitarian regimes for others.  The 1960’s were a time of questioning everything that was established.  It was a time where there was a search for reality.

The 70’s ad 80’s were dominated by a rise of nationalism and a self-focus in many places.  The “me” generation was born as well as a rise in corporate prosperity and a money focus.  There was also an increase in great suffering in other parts of the world.  The 90’s were a time when people began to look at the state of things and once again question how things should be.  That led us to the year 2000.  In the first decade of the 21st century terrorism exploded.  Economic recession came to many and misery to many more. 

During all of this God was also moving.  In 1906 the Pentecostal revival at Azusa Street in Las Angeles California began.  In the 20’s and 30’s some of the greatest preachers since Paul came to prominence.  In the 40’s and 50’s there were moves of God that involved healings, miracles and the restoration of many things that had fallen away from the church.  In the 60’s and 70’s there was the charismatic renewal and the Jesus Movement.  In the 80’s God restored the idea of a strong aggressive faith in his Word that could change things in our lives in this world.  In the 90’s there was a refreshing that came and with it manifestations that some loved and others hated.  Still God had his way. 

I believe that the 21st century has not been a great time in the church.  Influence has diminished as political correctness and social pressures have caused the truths of God’s Word to be questioned by many in the seats of power.  The church, in my view, has gotten more soulish and less spiritual.  It looks to me more like the process that occurred in the 1950’s when Christianity became more religion than relationship.  It became more social than spiritual and as a result lost most of its power, reality and relevance.  (Some say I am just getting old but that is the way I see it.) 

So, what about the 2020’s?  I was praying and I believe the Lord led me to this scripture and the idea expressed within it.  I believe God is getting ready to restore!  The word restore carries a number of meanings.  It means to put back into the original condition.  We restore houses, furniture and cars.  I love to watch shows that take something that appears old and useless and watch as they are restored to better than new condition.

It also means to return to the rightful owner something that has been lost or stolen.  This may be lands, money, relationships or anything else that can be taken from us.  Finally, it can mean the return of a hereditary monarch to a throne, a head of state to government, or a regime to power.  To me this definition can mean the restoration of governmental things to their proper order. 

I believe the Lord is saying to me that he wants to do all those things for the church.  I also believe he wants to do them for you and for me.  God wants to return to you what you may have lost through sin or what may have been stolen by our adversary the devil.  The Bible is full of “great and precious promises” that the Father purchased with the blood of Jesus.  If you have lost some of what God wants for you life, God wants to get it back to you.  If the devil has stolen from you, God wants to return it to you. 

If you are not yet a Christian, someone who has received Jesus as your personal savior and Lord, you can be restored to relationship with God.  The idea is not like repairing something.  The new birth makes you something that never existed before.  You become completely new in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-21.) 

Finally, I believe that God wants to bring some things back into order in the governing of human affairs.  I am not really talking about natural things.  I am talking about the place where the real power lies, the spirit.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to me both in heaven and in earth.”  Then he told us to go and preach to the world.  I believe God is going to begin reestablishing this divine order in the earth.  Will any of this happen in your life?  It will if you believe God for it and choose to walk in it.  God is going to restore in the 2020’s.  I choose that he will restore in my life!

In the weeks to come I want to look at the process of restoration and what God wants to bring back to us.  Join me.  I think it is going to be an exciting journey

We Can be Ordinary and Still Carry the Extraordinary

Luke 1:30-33 (NKJV) 30  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32  He 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. 33  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

I want to look at the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Her willingness to be used of God opened the door to salvation for all of us.  I do not believe that Mary was anything more than a normal human woman.  I do not believe that she should be venerated in the way some others do.  However, I believe we should be grateful for her obedience.

I think it is interesting to note that what Mary brought to the equation required only that she be human and that she be willing.  It was the fullness of time as the Father defined it.  It was time to put the final phase of the plan to redeem man in motion.  The only way that could be possible was for the Father himself to take the form of human flesh.  God must become man.

The Father supplied the “God” part of the equation.  John 1:1 tells us that the Word of God and God himself are one.  Verse 14 tells us that the Word “became flesh.”  1 Peter 1:23 says that we have been born again of an incorruptible seed, the Word of God.  If we put these verses together, we understand how Mary became pregnant with the Son of God.

The angel tells Mary that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her.  The Word of God became a physical seed that fertilized the egg in Mary’s womb.  The child conceived was therefore divine.  The Word became flesh.  However, to be flesh he must also be human.  The human component came from Mary. 

Her obedience changed the world.  What did she have to do to change the world?  She had to do what multiplied millions of other human women had done.  She had to carry a baby, give birth to that child and be a mother to him.  She did not have to lead an army, participate in a revolution or be a political leader.  She just had to be a normal woman willing to obey God!

This gives me great hope that I can change my world.  I do not have to be something more than what I am.  I just have to be a normal person willing to obey God.  I do not have to be exceptionally gifted or talented.  I do not have to travel the world.  I do not have to have any special education.  Though God may use any or all these things, I only need to be willing to allow God to live through my humanity. 

To an observer it did not look like anything supernatural or extraordinary was happening to Mary.  For 9 months, she was a pregnant woman just like every pregnant woman before her.  I believe she probably got morning sickness.  I think she was just as uncomfortable at 8 ½ months as my wife was with our six children.  Everything on the outside looked completely ordinary.  However, the extraordinary was growing in her.

As we approach a new year, I believe we need to realize that the same Word that was in Mary is in us.  She carried the Word as a physical mother.  We carry the Word as a vessel for the supernatural God to change our world.  Our “pregnancy” does not result in a physical baby.  Our “pregnancy” can bring forth the power of God in our everyday situations.

Many Christians think they must be something more than what they are to be used of God.  The lesson we should learn from Mary is that God needs what we are.  We are human beings.  We live in the human world.  God wants access to that world.  His chosen method of gaining that access is through human vessels.  In Mary’s case, he needed someone who would carry his human form and bring it to birth so that he could redeem man.  Our job is different.

Redemption has already been accomplished.  Jesus carried his blood to the heavenly holy of holies and sat down at the right hand of God.  He does not need to be born into the world again.  We received the same seed that produced Jesus and were born again in our spirit.  He needs those who will take the seed of his Word to those who do not know him so that they can be born again as well. 

He needs a people who will carry the word of reconciliation to the world. 

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NKJV) 17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19  that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Mary had to be a normal human being to fulfill her calling.  She had to be willing to allow the Spirit of God to move upon her and she had to be willing to receive the seed of God’s word inside of her.  She did this at great risk.  She could have been stoned for fornication.  She could have been forced to live as an outcast.  There were all kinds of bad things that could have happened to her because of her obedience.  She chose to obey anyway, and the world was never the same. 

God always has leaders.  God gives gifts to all people.  Each one of us carries a touch from the supernatural hand of God.  We are capable of being a channel for his power to the earth.  However, I think it is important that we understand that God needs us to be real human beings.  He needs us to be factory workers and teachers.  He needs us to work in stores and even in government.  He needs us to raise families and live normal lives.  He needs us to do these things because it is normal people we must reach. 

At the same time, we must remember that although we are normal on the outside the supernatural is growing within us.  We are flesh and blood just like our neighbors, but we are also vitally joined to the supernatural God.  While Mary’s job was to produce a baby, ours is to produce disciples.  He gave Mary what she needed to do her job and he gives us what we need to do ours.

Mark 16:15-18 (NKJV) 15  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18  they 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.”

Mary was called to produce one birth.  We are called to produce many births.  She just had to be a mother willing to obey God.  We just need to be normal people willing to obey God.  He took care of the supernatural part in Mary’s pregnancy.  He will take care of the supernatural part in ours as well, if we cooperate with him as she did. 

Get ready for a wonderful and productive 2020!

Christmas Love

1 John 4:10 (NKJV) 10  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We have been looking at three things the world tries to incorporate into the “Holiday Celebration” while minimizing the celebration of the birth of Christ.  The first is joy.  While gifts and parties give both pleasure and happiness, joy is something far deeper.  The joy spoken of by the angels in their announcement to the shepherds has nothing to do with worldly happiness.  It is the inward, abiding sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing relationship with the heavenly Father.  The joy of Christmas is the joy of knowing that the birth of this baby was the beginning of the process that made that relationship possible.

The second is peace.  The world concentrates on the holidays as a time when we practice peace between different groups of people.  However, the peace of Christmas is the peace God made available to man through the birth and eventual resurrection of Jesus.  There was a gulf between God and man because of sin.  The birth of Jesus is the entry of the God of the universe into our world to put an end to the war between God and man making it possible for peace between them.

The final element that we hear about during the holidays is love.  We know that love of family is an important factor in our celebrations.  This is a season where the expression of the love we have for our friends is foremost in our thinking.  Love is the motivation for the giving of gifts.  All these things are worthy parts of the Christmas season.  However, they are only reflections of the real love of Christmas.

It is almost cliché to say that the gift of the babe in the manger is one of the ultimate expressions of the love of God, yet it must be said.  God created man as his family.  Man rebelled against God resulting in a spiritual union between God’s children and the God of this world, Satan. 

Man was the one who rebelled.  God had given clear instructions about what was acceptable and what was not acceptable.  God had given mankind all they could ever need.  Man lived in a paradise provided by his Father.  Nevertheless, Adam chose to follow the woman into sin.  The bible says the woman was deceived but Adam was not.  (1 Timothy 2:14)  He sinned by willful choice.  God had no obligation to save him.  He had effectively become an enemy to God.

Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV) 8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Christmas love is not about love of family.  It is not about brotherly love or romantic love.  It is the love of God that chose to reach into our sinful condition that he might buy back his children. 

It is hard to imagine the price paid by Almighty God when he was born in that manger.  Philippians 2 tells us that God laid aside his limitlessness to take on the form of man.  The creator of the universe became a baby.  He was just as helpless and physically vulnerable as any baby ever born. 

By design, he was born into the humblest of circumstances.  He was not raised in privilege but experienced every temptation and hardship that man can face.  (Hebrews 4:15)  What must it have been like for the holy God to live in the midst of the sin and depravation into which humanity had fallen? 

I love today’s scripture.  Many times we teach on the need to love God.  I believe that is true.  We do need to cultivate and express our love for God.  Yet this verse tells us the key to that love.  It is not in our repentance.  It is not in our works.  It is not in anything we can work up in our emotions.  Our love for God does not originate with us.  Our love for God is a response to his love for us.

In this verse, there are two ways in which that love is expressed.  The second is the one we usually focus upon.  God sent Jesus to be the payment for our sins.  He died for us.  In truth, this is the love of Jesus for us.  I believe he made a choice to die for us in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He asked the Father to let that bitter cup pass from him.  He did not want to do it.  In the midst of his torment he uttered those powerful words, “Not my will but your will be done!”  He chose to die for us.  There is no greater expression of love than that.  (John 15:13)

The first statement in this verse is often overlooked.  God the Father sent his son.  That was the expression of the Father’s love for you and me.  I have six children.  I would far rather experience hardship than have them experience hardship.  I would sacrifice myself for my children with little thought.  That is what it means to be a father.

A much more difficult choice is to sacrifice one child for many children.  Jesus was the only begotten of the Father.  He was the only son who walked in true love and fellowship with the him.  Even those with the greatest revelation of who God is did not understand him.  They saw him as the hard and harsh giver of the Law of Moses who would gladly punish the smallest transgression.  That is not the nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Jesus knew the Father for who he really was.  Jesus spent three and one half years trying to show him to the world, yet they did not see him.  Jesus was the only one who walked as a true son of God in the way God wanted for Adam.  He was the last Adam. (1 Cor. 15:45)

The love of Christmas is the love of the Father God for all his children.  It is the love which would sacrifice his only true son so that he might win many sons.  He had no guarantee that anyone would accept what he was offering.  He gave Jesus to the world anyway.

As we approach the day when we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born in the world, remember the love of the Father for you.  Let that love wash over you and respond to that love.  No one has given more for you.  If you are a parent, think about sacrificing your child for others who do not deserve the sacrifice.  That is the love of Christmas.

In this is love.  God the Father gave his son for us.  Can I do anything less than give him my life?

Peace on Earth Good Will Toward Men

Luke 2:14 (NKJV)
14  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

As we approach the Christmas holiday, we are looking at the attempt of the world to co-opt certain elements of Christmas while trying to eliminate or minimize others.  All over the United States for the last decade or so repeated challenges have been made against nativity scenes in public places.  The term “Happy Holidays” has been promoted over “Merry Christmas” as the greeting of the season.

An attempt has been made to replace the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ with an economic holiday which tries to include all religions while effectively excluding all.  The gods these people celebrate at Christmas are the gods of mammon and political correctness.  Those of us who understand that the birth of Christ is the most important event in history will continue to fight against this kind of thinking.

What I find interesting is the attempt to keep key elements of the celebration of Christ’s birth in the current celebration.  The announcement made by the angels to the shepherds includes two things that remain in the secularized celebration of Christmas.  Yesterday we looked at Joy.  In the current holiday, we mistake happiness and pleasure for joy.

We give and receive gifts and we are told by advertising that the greater the gift the more joy we will have.  We enjoy holiday parties where we engage in behavior that would not be acceptable at other times of the year with the excuse that “it’s Christmas!”  We enjoy the company of family and friends, which is a good thing but not the joy that Christmas really represents.

The joy the bible connects to the celebration of the birth of Christ is the deeper inner sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing that the Father loves us.  It is a force that flows from our spirit man because of the reality of salvation in Christ.  This joy is felt at Christmas because without the birth of Christ there could be no salvation.

Today I want to talk a little about the second thing that the secular “Holiday Season” has tried to incorporate with little success.  That is the power of peace.  I hear today’s scripture quoted during this time of year perhaps more than any other verse.  The idea of peace on earth is desirable to any rational human being.  War is terrible even when it may be necessary.  No one wants war.  We all desire to live in peace with those around us so that we may carry on life.

Using the “Holiday Season” to speak about peace on earth is noble.  Using this time as an opportunity to practice peace with our neighbor is something to be emulated and admired.  However, that is not the peace the angels speak of in Luke 2:4.

We think that the problems that lead to war and conflict can be solved if we simply decide to treat one another better.  If I am nice to the warlike person, surely, he will be nice to me.  That depends on his reason for aggression.  The truth is that the reason for conflict between people is that there is conflict between God and man.  In the Garden of Eden, a conflict began that changed man’s nature. 

According to Ephesians 2:3, humanity became by nature a child of wrath or the devil.  Man was not created to be a child of wrath but a child of the love of God.  This nature change caused a gulf between God and man.  Humanity’s new nature inevitably led them into conflict.  We see this continuing until this very day.

I have heard the term “brotherhood of man” used to describe how we should act towards one another.  The problem is that we are all brothers by the same Father.  When we reject the Father, we reject the brothers as well.  We will come together with those who have the same goals as we do.  We will come together with those who think and act as we do or who have the same beliefs and culture.  Man is at war with his Father.  That is the real problem in the earth. 

When the angels made their wonderful announcement to the shepherds, they were not talking about governments or even better relations between people.  The announcement was about an end to the war between God and man.  The angels did not speak of good will among men.  They spoke of good will toward men. 

Good will among men is how we tend to interpret their words.  That is why we think that a celebration every December 25 can somehow make a difference in how people relate to each other.  I do not say we should not treat people nicely during the Christmas holiday, but if that is all we do, we are missing the power of the angel’s announcement.

Good will toward men is something else entirely.  Who has good will toward men?  God does.  The angels are declaring that something has happened that will enable God to have relationship with his children the way he always intended to.  God was never at war with man.  It has always been man at war with God.  God has always been at war with the devil and the fall of man aligned him with the devil. 

God never stopped loving man, but he needed a way to separate man from the devil.  The birth of Christ was the beginning of a process that would accomplish this for any person who desired it.  Peace could be achieved on earth because God’s “good will toward” men could finally be realized. 

There is only one hope of ultimate peace and the manifestation of the brotherhood of man.  That hope is the birth of Christ in a simple manger in the town of Bethlehem of Judea.  That birth opened a door that the devil cannot close.  Peace among men will come because of the goodwill offered toward man in Christ. 

As with our discussion of joy, peace must also be considered in the context of salvation.  The birth of Christ was the beginning.  The resurrection of Christ is the fulfillment of what began in the manger.  The salvation the Father offered to his children did not mean a change in religion or philosophy.  That would not produce peace.  The salvation the birth of Christ initiated was far more than that.  It was the change of his nature from a “child of wrath” to a child of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 (NKJV) 17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

The real message of Christmas is that we can be new creatures in Christ.  The old nature passes away when we receive the sacrifice of Christ as the payment for our personal sin nature.  When we receive him as the Lord of our lives, we become fully reconciled to God.  With this reconciliation, we have the power to be at peace in our own hearts.  Inward peace can enable us to be at peace with those around us. 

The other message of the angel’s announcement is echoed in verse 18 above.  We have been given the same message the angels gave to those simple shepherds.  We now carry the message of peace on earth due to goodwill toward men.  Paul calls this message the message of reconciliation.  It is the message that tells the world, “There is no more need for war amongst you!  God has made a way for you to have true peace.  Peace with him!” 

Tell someone what the birth of this baby in a manger really made available.  Tell them the war is over!

Joy To The World!

Luke 2:10 (NKJV) 10  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

The Christmas season is the most important time of the year for many in the world today.  It is not important because of the religious significance of the holiday.  If anything, the religion of Christmas gets in the way of the real impact of the season for many.  Christmas is important because stores and other businesses may lose money all year but if they do well at Christmas, they will prosper.  Christmas has become an economic holiday.

For those of us who understand what the focus of the Christmas celebration is supposed to be, this is something of a tragedy.  In my last post, I spoke of the significance of the gift given at Christmas.  In my family, it was the one time that I got whatever I wanted.  I continued that tradition when I was the parent and tried to give the best gift possible to my children.  My son preached in our church this week and told our church that he did the same with his children.

I was blessed to hear him say that this practice contributed to the fact that, even through some difficult times, the one thing he knew was that he was always loved.  Giving the best possible gift at Christmas was not the only thing we did to prove this to him.  It was one thing we did.  I believe the gift given by our Heavenly Father at Christmas is one thing that we can look to as proof of the Father’s love for his children. 

It is important to understand what these gifts represent.  What is the gift the Father gave to his children in the event celebrated at Christmas?  It was first and foremost a gift of himself.  He came to the earth on that day.  He became what we are.  He entered our reality in a way that is hard to imagine.  Look at this verse in Philippians.

Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT) 6  Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7  Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,

We focus on the baby in the manger at Christmas.  Indeed, he was born as a baby.  This is important so that we understand that he made himself human in every way.  Every way that is but one.  This baby was born without the sin nature that came upon all people because of the fall of man.  It was not just a babe that was given at Christmas.  The gift was the Father himself in human form who would grow up to be the savior of humanity. 

I want to point to three other aspects of this gift that the world has tried to co-opt with little success.  In their attempt to keep some of the significance of why we celebrate December 25, the world has emphasized joy, peace and love.  We sing songs of joy.  Some even include the joy surrounding the birth of the baby in Bethlehem.  Somehow, I believe that many still miss the point.

The “holiday” season is a time when people speak of peace on earth.  Yet there is no peace.  In truth, the holidays are one of the most stress-filled times of the year.  Of course, the love of friends and family has become one of the focuses of the season.  Yet even in this, we often feel pressed by the obligations of this “love” and unable to enjoy the love itself. 

I believe that if we want to partake of these wonderful holiday gifts, we must understand them in the context of the true gift.  We have joy, peace and love because of what God gave at Christmas.  Natural joy, peace and love are severely limited.  The joy, peace and love of Christmas are not natural at all.  They are part of the Father’s nature that he made available to us by the gift of himself.  Only in receiving that gift can we understand the other three. 

Let us begin with joy.  The angels told the shepherds that the news they brought was news of great joy.  It is interesting that Christmas has become a time when we focus on pleasure and happiness instead of joy.  We get pleasure from both giving and receiving gifts.  The gifts and the process can make us happy.  We have parties that have nothing to do with the Father’s gift and everything to do with pleasure.  It seems that the “Christmas party” often becomes an excuse for behavior we would not engage in at any other time of year.  None of this has anything to do with the joy of which the angels spoke.

Happiness and pleasure are desirable things in a person’s life.  Everyone wants to be happy and pleasure is the channel that brings happiness to us.  However, pleasure and happiness are fragile things.  They are dependent upon outward things.  We are happy when we have good things.  Pleasure comes when we are doing things we like to do.  When we do not have good things in life and when we must do things we do not like, happiness and pleasure flee like birds.  The joy spoken of in the bible is different.  The joy of Christmas is the joy of the bible.

Bible joy is not an emotion alone.  Bible joy is an inward sense of wellbeing based in the knowledge that God loves us.  According to Holman’s Bible Dictionary, joy is the fruit of a right relation with God.  It is not something people can create by their own efforts. 

The joy we can feel at Christmas has nothing to do with what we give or receive.  It is not dependent upon the getting together of friends and family.  It is not even dependent on our physical circumstances.  Christmas joy can only be understood and released in our lives if we understand the true gift of Christmas.  I have joy because God reached down and came to me when I needed him most. 

When I do not have all that I want in life, I remember that God loved me so much that he came to earth to rescue me.  When I receive the gift of salvation, I receive a joy that is deeper than anything life can give or take away.  My joy is centered in the fact that I have relationship with God the Father.  The joy of Christmas comes from remembering that this relationship was made possible by the birth of a baby who would become a man, who would become my savior.

As you go about your holiday business, enjoy the season.  Derive pleasure from the giving and receiving of Gifts.  Enjoy the time spent with friends and family.  However, remember that you have access to something much deeper than these temporary pleasures.  Christmas made salvation possible.  Salvation makes true bible joy available to us. 

As you celebrate Christmas, remember to rejoice in the Lord.  Rejoice at the real gift of Christmas.  As a Christian, this is one of the greatest gifts you have in your life.  The joy of the Lord is your strength.  This joy is also the greatest gift you have to give. 

There are those around you who do not know joy.  They may have momentary happiness, but joy is far from them.  You can make it available to them by telling them that the baby born at Christmas became the savior of the world.  Find someone you can give that gift to before the season is over. 

If you are the one who has never received the salvation joy made available by Christmas, you can receive forgiveness and a new life by accepting Jesus as your personal savior and Lord.  Just say, “Jesus, I don’t understand all of this, but I choose to receive you as my savior.  Make this Christmas different.  I accept that you died for me.  I give you my life.  Help me live for you.”  I pray you find someone who can explain this to you in a more personal way.  Have a joyful Christmas!

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Luke 2:10-11 (NKJV) 10  Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

We find ourselves once again in the last month of another year.  I confess that the Christmas season tends to be a little difficult for me.  I am the youngest of seven children.  The brother who was closest to me was 15 years old when I was born.  The rest went up from there.  When my father heard that my mother was pregnant at 41 his first comment was, “Oh boy!  Now we can have Christmas again.”

My parents did not have much money, but Christmas was the one time of year where they would do anything in their power to get me whatever I really wanted.  Once I had children, I wanted to do for them what my Dad had done for me. 

For the first few years, that was really no problem.  We went into the ministry when my two oldest were 3 and 4 years old.  We did not have a great deal of money, but I managed to make sure we got our kids what they wanted for Christmas.  As the years went by, they got older and we kept adding to the number.  By the time I was 36 years old we had six and some of them were teenagers.  The number and cost of the gifts had increased significantly.  We were doing better but we still were not rich, and the pressure began to mount.

Now I know what some of you are going to say.  I should not have given into the commercial aspects of the season.  It is not the size of the gift but the thought that counts.  We should teach our children responsibility and not that they can have whatever they want.  I agree with that sentiment 364 days of the year but not on Christmas!  That is my curse. 

As the years went by, I began to dread Christmas earlier and earlier.  Now I have 6 children 5 spouses and 16 and 1/2 grandchildren.  These days I just leave the shopping to my wife.  Please pray that the Lord helps me with my “Scrooge” spirit but let me also make something of a defense.  It is not really commercialism that is at the heart of my problem.  You see my father was a very good man but also a disappointed man.  He was very talented in many ways.  In some ways, I believe he was a genius. 

He was a musician who as a young man formed a band that played at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.  He was a natural engineer who created a prototype of an automatic transmission just before one was introduced.  (Timing is everything.)  He was gifted with all things mechanical.  He functioned as a carpenter, electrician and machinist.  He was a master auto mechanic.  The one thing he did not have was an education.

My father and mother married when he was 17 and she was 16.  My oldest brother was born in 1929.  The last child before me was born in 1939.  They raised six children through the heart of the depression and through World War II.  They were forced to move to follow jobs because his education did not afford him a career.  He did everything he could to provide for them. 

My mother did not work.  It just was not done in those days at least not in my family.  She kept the family fed and together.  She made the house a home, but it was a very hard life with no time for further education.  Through all the difficulties, they provided Christmas.

When I came along, they were still not rich, but there was only one of me.  As I said, Christmas was the time that my Mom and especially my dad did all the things they could not do the rest of the year.  Sometimes I am sure they did things they could not afford but they gave the best gift they possibly could.  I remember many of those precious gifts to this day.  It made Christmas magical and special.

I know they should have been concentrating on Jesus.  They were Catholics and there was no doubt that the holiday was about the birth of Christ but giving those special gifts to their last-born son was at the heart of it for them.

And finally, that became Christmas to me.  It was not really about quantity, although we always had lots of presents under our tree.  It was about getting each one the special gift, the one thing that I knew they wanted.  I would go to every store in the area to find that gift at the best price.  I would do everything in my power to get the guitar, car or latest electronics.  There were GI Joe planes and forts.  There were Barbie cars and houses.  There were a few “Easy Bake Ovens” over the years and more than one “Lite Brite.” 

My youngest, a daughter, always wanted the latest doll.  She got the one that did somersaults, the one that burped, and many more.  The thing is she hardly ever played with dolls!  Still, they were the one gift she wanted so I got them for her.  (Logic should have no place in such things!)

I will confess that sometimes I went into debt.  I do not endorse that practice.  I also confess that I have let the pressure of it get to me.  More than the pressure of the expense, I have allowed my inability to continue giving them that one thing they want ruined Christmas for me a bit.  Just because the oldest is 4 does not change the fact that, for me Christmas is about giving the best gift, the one gift that your child really wants.  I know!  That is unrealistic and not necessary.  Even my children tell me so. 

Although I freely admit to getting out of balance, I am not sure I am all wrong.  What is Christmas really about after all?  Is it not that our great Father God, in a fit of excess, gave the one gift to his children that they really needed; that they really wanted?  Most of them do not know that to be true, but it is. 

Christmas is about the babe in the manger of course.  Christmas is about the God of the universe becoming man so that he could set us free from sin and death.  Christmas is about many things that have nothing to do with malls and Santa Clause and all the cultural things that we enjoy.  Christmas is about the gift!

Today’s scripture reminds me of how excited my mom and dad would get because of the gifts they were giving to me.  It reminds me of how excited I would get when the kids would open that last package which was always “the big gift.”  To me it is as if the Father just cannot hold it in.  He sends angels to shepherds in the field and declares, “I just have to tell somebody.  I have given my family the most wonderful gift ever.” 

I am just going to say it.  I hate gift cards.  I think that after reading this, maybe you can understand why.  As you go through the Christmas season, do not allow yourself to give into the pressure that I did.  Do not be caught up in the commercialism and overspending.  On the other hand, you might remember that Christmas is about the best gift the Father could possibly give.  Maybe you could find something, one thing that takes a little more thought than a gift card.

Do not misunderstand me.  I use them too sometimes.  (Well my wife does.)  That seems to be what the grandchildren want.  Maybe, just for me, you could take the time to find one special thing.  It does not have to be expensive it just has to be from the heart. 

With that in mind, be as extravagant as you can be.  Let that extravagance remind you what Christmas is all about.  It is about the most extravagant gift ever given.

David’s Keys to Victory: Confidence in God

1 Samuel 17:44-46 (NKJV) 44  And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

I want to look at one more thing in David’s life that assured his victory over Goliath.  David spoke of killing the lion and the bear, but he never said he killed them by his great prowess as a hunter.  He did not say he killed them because he had great strength.  He tells Saul that the Lord delivered him out of the paw of the lion and the bear.  His strength flowed from God and his covenant with God.  Therefore, the giant was no different than the lion or the bear.

No matter who we are, we will eventually face something in life that we cannot handle.  We will not have the skill or the money or the wherewithal to solve the problem or face the trial.  If all we can trust in is what we have, we will fail.  The only way we can win every battle and overcome every trial and challenge in life is to have complete confidence in God.  There is a truth from the word that tells us experience trusting him in the past can and will help us in the future.

Romans 5:3-5 (NKJV) 3  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4  and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5  Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

There is a pattern here that will work for us.  Paul says that we (he) can glory in tribulations because we know something.  We know that tribulations put to work patience or perseverance.  This is a spiritual force that flows from the inside which results in consistency.  When we face trials trusting God, we know that we can persevere to the end.  We saw that in Hebrews 12:1-4 concerning Jesus’ trial of the cross.  Another word we could use to describe patience is consistency.  We remain the same throughout the trial.  We continue to trust God. 

This produces character.  In this context character means the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.  Our character is that which will predict our future performance or response to a given situation.  When we allow patience or consistency to see us through a trial, things are produced in us that predict how we will respond the next time we face difficulty.  In David’s case, killing the lion and the bear by trusting in God produced qualities that led to how he responded to the threat of Goliath.  

The next quality produced is hope.  The description of hope I like is possibility.  We go through the trial allowing patience to work which in turn produces character traits.  The implication here is that we successfully deal with the trial.  When that happens, we are left with hope that should there be another trial, God will deliver us again. 

We see all of this in David’s life when he spoke to Saul.  The thing we must understand is that this whole process begins and ends with confidence in God.  Not just in God’s power.  The word “God” implies power.  What we really must trust in is God’s love and the integrity of his word.  God told Israel through the Abrahamic covenant that he was their God and they were his people.  They understood covenant.  As God’s covenant people, David knew that God would be with them in battle.  He loved Israel and he said he would be with them.  He had proven this to be true with the lion and the bear.  He had absolute confidence that God would be with him in his fight with Goliath. 

That is what we see in today’s quote.  Goliath, looking at the natural, is insulted that Israel would send a boy before him carrying nothing but a shepherd’s staff.  He threatens David by saying he will feed him to the birds and the beasts of the field.  In the natural that is exactly what must happen.  However, David knows that he is not fighting in the natural.  I love the words of David’s confidence as he faces Goliath.

To paraphrase he says, “You have a really big weapon there.  The thing is that’s all you have.  I am not coming to you with a staff or even this sling.  I am coming after you with the knowledge of my covenant with God.  The weapons are irrelevant.  So, Mr. Giant, I am going to feed you to the birds and the beasts (David knew something about lions and bears.)  Before I do, I am going to kill you and remove your head!”

That would be absolute arrogance if David had not finished with this important statement.  “I am going to do it all to let the world know that there is a God in Israel.  It was not by David’s might or skill that Goliath was going to fall.  He could not possibly win a normal fight against this man.  He was going to win it by God’s power and for God’s glory.  This is the real strength David drew on to win his battle.  He was more concerned about the glory of God than his own victory over Goliath.

Where can we get such confidence in God?  We must get it the same way David did.  I doubt David had written copies of the Word of God to read while he was caring for his father’s sheep, but we know by what he said in the period leading up to the battle with Goliath that he knew about the covenant.  He was educated enough in the covenant that he understood the significance of circumcision.  He knew that his covenant with God would give him victory.

If we are going to have the confidence in God that David displayed, we need to know our covenant in Christ Jesus.  We need to know what it says.  We need to know what God promises as part of it.  We need to understand how to fight in line with the covenant and with the weapons of the covenant.  Thank almighty God that we have copies of it to read and study in every kind of media available.  There is no excuse for a Christian today not knowing at least something about the Word.  The more we know about God’s covenant Word the more confident we become that he is with us in all our battles, not just to get us through them but to win them. 

We have already discussed how David spent time with God while out in the fields.  We have the evidence of David’s relationship with God in the book of Psalms.  He spent time with God in worship, prayer and fellowship.  I believe in the power of the Word of God.  Nevertheless, the Word of God is not designed to work outside of relationship with God.  The Word interacting with the Spirit of God within us is where the real power lies.  Like David, to have confidence that God will give victory in every battle, we must spend time with God in worship and prayer.  Without that, we will not be confident when the day of trouble comes.

I believe that David’s confidence in God is what killed Goliath, not a stone shot from a sling. This is my opinion, but I cannot believe David was so good with his sling that he could hit the only spot on the Giants head that was exposed while he was running toward the target.  I think that when David let go of that stone an angel took it and guided it right to the opening in Goliath’s helmet.  Down went Goliath. 

David won this battle by faith and confidence in God.  You can win whatever battle you may face in the same way.  Know the Word.  Put the word into action in your life.  Do not wait for a battle.  Use it in the small things.  Practice faith by obeying the Word which will produce confidence as well.  When David won the whole army went on to victory.  Your victory will encourage your family, your community and your church to trust God and win their battles.  In the end every victory won lets the world know that there is a God in the church who loves them and will give them the same victory he has given us.

David’s Keys to Victory: We Must Be Who We Are

1 Samuel 17:38-40 (NKJV) 38  So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. 39  David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” So David took them off. 40  Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine.

I want to look at another characteristic that enabled David to defeat Goliath.  In today’s verse we see that King Saul “clothed David” in his own armor.  David was between 17 and 19 years old.  Saul was a mature man.  He was said to be head and shoulders taller than any other man in Israel and that would include David.  He was not just tall.  He was bigger than everyone else as well. 

Not only was David too small to wear Saul’s armor but he was not a soldier.  He did not know how to use this kind of weaponry.  There would come a time in David’s life when he would be a great warrior and armor like Saul’s would be common to him.  He was not yet at that point in his life.

As I travel around the world working with Ministers and leaders in the body of Christ, one of the things I see all the time is the tendency to try and be like someone else.  There may be a preacher that has been a blessing in their life.  They will try and preach like they preach.  They walk like the person walks.  They imitate the style of preaching as well as what the other person has to say.  The problem is that they are not the other person. 

I went through this myself.  I listened to some people from Texas a great deal when I first started.  They blessed me greatly.  For some time when I f preached I would speak with a Texas accent.  I have never lived farther south or west than the southern tier of central NY.  It was ok for a while to imitate these people, but my ministry never really developed until I found my own voice, my own style and my own revelation from God.  I had to recognize who I was and not try to be someone else.

I use these things as an example.  I am not just talking about preachers.  I am talking about Christians who want to live victorious lives.  We must understand who we are and where we are in our development.  Some weapons that other people use will not work for us.  Some things will work for us that will not work for others.  I believe the principles of the Word of God work for everyone all the time.  How we apply those principles may be completely different from someone else.

Airplanes fly because people learned how to apply the principles of lift and thrust over a particularly shaped wing.  Those principles have not changed since the day the Wright brothers first flew at Kitty Hawk North Carolina on December 3, 1903.  How those principles are applied has changed.  We no longer use biplanes powered by small gasoline engines.  We use powerful turbo prop or jet engines.  The wings look very different but the wind flowing over them at a given speed coming from some method of thrust still produces lift that causes the plane to fly. 

The principles of God that produce victory in our lives are always the same.  They were the same when David fought Goliath and they are the same today.  In David’s day, the most common way to fight on the battlefield was with a sword, shield and armor.  However, that is not who David was at that time.  He was too small for armor and too unskilled to make it work.  He did know how to use a shepherd’s staff a sling shot, and small round stones.

I am sure that many looked at him and said, “That’s not how you fight a giant!”  Some might have ridiculed him.  Most probably thought he was a dead man walking.  Nevertheless, David knew his weaknesses as well as his strengths.  He knew he was at that point in his life.  He was not depending on his weapons.  He was depending on his covenant and his God.  The weapons did not really matter.

Who are you and what are your strengths and weaknesses?  It is important that we understand this before we try and fight a battle.  If we do not, the enemy will take advantage of your weakness.  Imagine if David had tried to fight Goliath with Saul’s armor.  First, he would have been too slow.  Second, he would have been completely unskilled in using a sword.  Goliath would have easily defeated him because David would have been leading with his weaknesses.  Instead David lead with his strength, the Lord anointed that strength and Goliath had no defense against it.

What are your strengths.  I cannot tell you that.  Some you already know, and others God can reveal.  I will say this.  Your greatest strength as you see it will often be your greatest weakness.  Submit your strength to God and let him adjust it as necessary.  We must also be willing to recognize our weaknesses.  We do not like to admit we have them but if we want to win, we must.  Most of the time pride keeps us from admitting we have weaknesses.  That is a trap of the devil. 

It does not mean you are weak if you admit to having weaknesses.  It is actually just the opposite.  Over my more than forty years in ministry I have had to understand this truth.  When I started my last church, I had come to the place of knowing what I could and could not do.  I did not try to do everything.  I found people who were stronger than me and released them to function where I was weak.  This meant that I had to carry the financial burden of paying them, but one of my strengths was believing for provision.  As we all worked together each of us covered the other’s weaknesses and our team was far stronger than I could ever be alone.

Another aspect of this is understanding that each of us is continually growing in God and in natural life.  David was not yet old or trained enough to fight like other soldiers fought.  He had to work within the limitations of his age and experience.  I have seen so many people who try to be more mature both in spirit and the natural than they really are.  You cannot win that way.  You need to recognize that you are still developing in God.  Where are you now?

This is particularly difficult for people who are born again later in life.  We should not discount their life experience but that does not mean they have the same level of spiritual experience.  Whatever age a person is when they are born again, all start out as babes in Christ.  They need to grow in the knowledge of the word.  They need to grow in their relationship with the Lord.  Everyone grows at their own rate.  It is not a weakness to be where you are in Christ.

Some people may be able to stand on the promises of God in ways that you find difficult.  There is no problem with that.  We are part of a body.  Those who are more mature help those who are less mature.  It is no shame to need help.  Do not think you have to do things the way others do.  You be who you are where you are, and God will make the difference.

David could not fight Goliath with a sword and shield.  You may not have the knowledge of the sword of the spirit, the Word of God that some others do.  That does not mean you cannot win.  A sling was not a common weapon of war, but with God’s power behind it, it worked just fine.  Seek out council from those who may know more than you.  Find your own strengths and develop them.  Take your weaknesses before the Lord.  Yours will be different from mine.  In the end it is God’s power that matters.  Whatever you have and wherever you are at this point in life will be enough.

David’s Keys to Victory: Altars

1 Samuel 17:34-37 (NKJV) 34  But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35  I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36  Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37  Moreover David said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

In our study of David’s battle with Goliath, we have seen that David had many things at work in his character that caused him to win this great victory.  If we allow God to develop these same traits in our lives, we will be able to defeat the Goliaths that we face as well.  Today I want us to take notice of the fact that these traits did not spring forth fully formed on the morning David came to the Israelite camp.  They were in him because of a pattern of behavior he cultivated throughout his life. 

When Saul questions David’s qualifications to face Goliath, David gives us an important insight into why he had the confidence to face a giant when everyone else in the camp, including the king himself, did not.  He reveals to Saul how God had been with him in the past.  He tells him that when he was watching the sheep for his father, both a lion and a bear had attacked the sheep.

When I looked it up these animals, I found that the bear was the same type of huge predator we might find in the US today.  I also found that lions like those in Africa could be found in the region of Israel as late as the 1400’s.  David did not face some less threatening animal.  He faced a lion and a bear.  The wording as David speaks to the king implies that he did this many times not once, so he killed lions and bears.

He was between 17 and 19 at the telling of the story in this chapter.  He would have been that age or younger when he faced these animals in defense of his father’s sheep.  David had no gun.  In his telling of the encounters he did not even use his sling.  David says he took the lamb out of the mouth of the attacker.  Then when the lion or bear turned on him, he says, “I grabbed it by the beard and struck it and killed it.”  That is quite a feat for a young man!  There was something about David that made the king believe him.

Let us take a closer look at what David says.  If he stopped after telling what he had done, it could be assumed that David was just bragging.  However, David says something else that shows us the real power behind what he said.  He tells the king, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”  David was not bragging.  He was not talking about himself at all.  He was talking about the power of God.

We cannot win all our battles in life with just our own strength or ability.  We may win some, but eventually we will face something that we cannot handle.  How are we going to stay in the fight when that happens?  We must do what David did and remember how God has been with us in the past.  God told Joshua to erect an altar on the west side of Jordan so that when you go by this place with your children you can remind them of what God has done. 

There are a number of types of altars in the Bible.  There are altars of repentance and altars of sacrifice.  The type in Joshua is an altar of remembrance.  It is for the purpose of reminding the people what God has done in the past so that we will remember what he can do today.  David was visiting some of his altars of remembrance when he told the king what he had done to the lion and the bear.  It was not David who would make the difference.  It was the Lord.  If God could empower David to kill the lion and the bear, he could empower David to kill a Giant.  Saul saw an invincible man of war when he saw Goliath.  David saw the power of God. 

We need to visit our own altars of remembrance.  If you have been saved any length of time, God has done something in your life.  If you face sickness, remember times when God has healed you in the past.  If you face financial difficulties, remember how God met your needs before.  Whatever the trial, there has been a time when God moved on your behalf. 

You may not have an altar that covers the same situation you face now, but God has done something in your life.  When we are faced with challenges, the tendency is to get so focused on the current problem that we forget what God has done in the past.  Many times, when faced with a financial setback my first reaction is to worry.  I must take hold of my thoughts and emotions and remember that God has cared for us for more than 40 years when it was often impossible.  He has met need after need.  He will not leave me now.  100 dollars is no different than 1,000,000 dollars to God.  By the same token the headache is no different to God than the cancer.  He can find a way in any situation, whether physical, emotional, familial or spiritual.  He has done it before, and he will do it again.

When I read what David said to Saul, it seems so matter of fact to him.  He is not trying to work up his faith.  He is speaking in faith that is already there.  We need to understand that we will not be successful if we just go back to our altars when we face the challenge.  We should certainly do that, but what made David’s faith so strong when he faced this battle was what he did in his lifestyle not what he did at that moment.

Who was David?  What did he do before he came to the battlefield?  We know that he was a shepherd who took care of his father’s sheep.  However, we know much more about David.  We know that he wrote most of the Psalms.  Some of those psalms were written when he was in the field with the sheep.  He spent a great deal of time with nothing to do but watch the sheep.  While he was watching them, he was singing songs to the Lord. 

Some of his songs we can read today, but many more we have never heard.  I am sure he sang of the encounters with the lion and the bear.  He sang of the goodness of God.  He sang of God’s faithfulness.  In his time with the sheep, he cultivated his relationship with God on an intimate level.  When the time to face Goliath came, he had spent many hours around his altars of remembrance.  He did not have to “work up” his faith for the battle.  His faith was already worked up in his private time with his God. 

I have heard a preacher use this illustration.  If you are not in good physical condition it will not help to go get your barbells when a thief breaks into the house.  It is too late at that point.  That is how we often approach faith in God.  A trial comes our way and we start looking for a promise.  At that point it may be too late.  We cannot see any way God can help us.  We forget what he has already done and sometimes collapse under the weight of current situation.

Whatever you are facing, take some time to visit your altars.  He saved you.  He filled you with the Holy Ghost.  He has healed you, touched a family member or provided for some need.  He has delivered you from danger or encouraged you in a time of despair.  You have altars.  Do not wait to visit them until you face the problem.  Visit them often.  Tell your children about them.  Remind yourself how good and faithful God is.  Go to God’s word and read about what God has done for others.  Find the promises in the Bible that you can stand on.  Then when trouble comes, like David, you will have stories of God’s faithfulness ready and your faith will flow naturally to give you victory.

David’s Keys to Victory: Take up the Challenge for there is a Cause

1 Samuel 17:32-37 (NKJV) 32  Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:29 (NKJV) 29  And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?”

Today we are going to look at another characteristic in David’s life that put him in position for victory.  When Eliab criticizes David for his willingness to take on the giant, he asks a very important question.  “Is there not a cause?”  In today’s world I am afraid we have lost this idea, at least in the church.  Remember what David was about to do.  He was going to go against an enemy many times his size and many times his strength.  We will look at David’s source of confidence later, but that does not change the fact that he was human.  Viewed strictly in terms of the natural possibilities, David could not win.  The consequence for losing was not a mark in the loss column of life.  If he went against Goliath and lost, he would die!  There was no other possible outcome.  Yet he was willing to do it.  Why?  There was a cause!

In David’s time the cause was the preservation of Israel as a nation.  The long-term ramifications involved the birth of the Messiah that would save the world.  In David’s eyes, the reward of victory, both personal and historical, was worth the risk.  Is there such a cause to fight for today?  I believe there is. 

Our cause is the same and yet very different.  In David’s battle against Goliath, the opposition was right in front of him visible to all.  The objective was clear.  Defeat Goliath and give Israel victory over the invading Philistines.  When that is the case, it is easier to take up the cause and make the necessary sacrifices.  Today, at least in the western world, this is not the case.  The cause is not at all vague in the spirit nor in the Word.  However, it is not so clear in the natural.  We do not generally feel threatened personally.  We know that God wants to bring more of his children into his family.  We know that there are eternal consequences for those who do not receive Jesus as Lord and we know that we have been commissioned to take the gospel to them.  That said, there is no perceived threat to our own lives. 

David believed in the cause of God.  It is really the same cause for which we fight today.  In his case he was fighting for the manifestation of the cross.  He was working to bring the messiah into the world, though he had no idea that was the case.  We look back at the cross.  Jesus, the Messiah, has come.  He has died and been raised from the dead.  We have received him as our Lord and savior and because of this our future and our destiny is no longer under the control of the kingdom of darkness.  We will live forever in the presence of our glorious God and Savior.  There are countless billions of people in the world who have not received the salvation that those who are born again enjoy. 

What is our cause?  Jesus gave us the great commission.  It begins there.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV) 18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

According to John 17, Jesus sent us into the world just as the Father sent him into the world.  Our cause is to make disciples out of every nation on earth.  It is to save people from being dominated by the kingdom of darkness in their current life and more importantly to rescue them from eternal separation from God.  This is very real and those who are truly saved by the blood of Jesus know it, but it is hard to see when life is just happening all around us and the concerns of our daily life seem so much more pressing.  That is why Jesus says what he does in Matthew Chapter 6.

Matthew 6:31-33 (NKJV) 31  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

There are those who seem to think actively believing God’s many promises that he will take care of us is somehow wrong or selfish.  On the contrary, it is necessary for us to believe his promises of provision. We need to know we will be taken care of when we seek first the Kingdom and its cause.

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) 18  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

This tells us the purpose of our cause and an important insight into how we are to fight for it.  Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to build his church on the rock of what Peter received by revelation.  That rock is not Peter himself.  It is the knowledge revealed by God that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Jesus makes a promise to his church.  He tells us the gates of hell cannot prevail against us.  To some this means we can live in protection against those gates.  That goes against the nature of what Gates do. 

In many parts of the world people are forced to live behind walls and gates.  This is often because of crime and lawlessness.  When we are at our base in Kenya, there is a gate on the driveway to the compound.  There is a gate on the front porch.  There is a door to the house.  There is even a gate that separates the upstairs from the downstairs.  They are all locked and each must be opened and relocked every time we come or go.  What is the purpose of all these gates?  It is to keep people out.

The gates of hell are not offensive weapons.  The gates of hell are defensive weapons.  They are meant to keep the church of Jesus Christ out.  Out of where?  Out of the domains controlled by the kingdom of darkness.  This kingdom still controls the world and the people who have not been set free by the blood of Jesus.  People are behind those gates.  Your unsaved family members are behind those gates.  The people of your community are behind those gates.  Our cause is to storm those gates with prayer, worship, faith and our testimony so we can rescue as many as possible before our individual lives end and before Jesus comes again. 

There is a cause set before us.  There is a reason for your life and mine beyond simply living a good life.  There are risks to taking up the challenge, but the rewards are far greater than the risks.  If we know how to operate in our covenant by faith, the risks are negligent.  However, the risk of not taking up the challenge is that we will be eternally responsible for many people never coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 

In the book of Acts, that was the most important thing in life.  In many parts of the world people are dying for taking up this challenge.  I thank God that we in the west are generally not facing physical death for preaching the gospel.  That does not make the cause any less real nor less important to our God and savior.  Ask God, “Am I taking up the challenge.  Do I really understand the cause?”  If the answer is no, do not give in to condemnation.  God will help you, but we need to make a decision today to be like David and take up the cause.  When he did many people followed him.  The same will happen when we take up the cause of Christ.