The Color of Pee

I never met my Grandpa Heinz.  He died before I was born.  I have come to understand what he was like through stories told to me by my Father.  In the 1930’s, Grandpa Heinz impressed upon my Dad the importance of judging a man by his character and not his appearance, station in life, color, culture, or creed.  It is striking how much ahead of the times he was, both then and now.  I would have loved to have met him to discover more about this amazing coal miner from Illinois.

At a very young age, my Dad had the opportunity to live out the values he was taught while working for a Ford dealership. One day a black gentleman in overalls came into the dealership looking for a new car.  The snickering senior sales associates, no doubt judging his ability to purchase a vehicle by his skin color and appearance, decided to pass on this individual asking my Dad the rookie to assist him instead. 

Dad with the same respect and interest he would give anyone, showed him any car on the Ford lot and showroom.  Not satisfied with what he saw, Dad suggested he look at the Lincoln lot as well.  The brand new Lincoln in the showroom caught his eye and he requested a test drive.  The gentleman loved the car and decided to buy the vehicle.  Heading back to the office to prepare the necessary paperwork, Dad asked him how he would like to pay for the vehicle.  At that point the man pulled out a roll of hundred dollar bills, and said, “cash.”  The senior sales associates sat there stunned, not realizing it was their racist and classist attitudes that cost them a very significant sale, and something much costlier than that, a part of their soul.   

The origin of racism goes back to the rebellion of Satan in heaven.  The root of racism is actually the spirit of division that has resulted in enslavement, oppression, and ethnic cleansing.  People divide over skin color, culture, religion, geography, income, education, employment, and even church denomination.  A man who would bristle at the notion he was racist has little problem feeling superior because of where he goes to church.  A woman who would never think of using a racial slur, arrogantly walks the earth because of her birth place. All over the nation, and excused in the name of cultural preference, the most segregated hour of the week continues to be the church hour.

Haters come in all hues, but they are easier to spot when they reprehensively act out in violence.  It’s much harder to discern the latent spirit of division in the heart that would like to dominate us all.  Jesus said we cannot claim to love God while hating our brother.  Long before the enslavement of our African brothers and sisters, the ethnic cleansing of the Armenians by the Turks, the genocide of the Jews at the hands of Hitler’s monsters, the history of oppression and civil rights violations in our nation, or the inconceivable behavior of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA, people entertained thoughts and attitudes that when unchecked grew into persecution, discrimination, and violence.  It’s fine to post a meme of solidarity over the issue on Facebook, but what really matters is showing respect, born of transformed hearts and minds, to everyone in our daily lives.

Kevin Costner played NASA Space Task Group director Al Harrison in the acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, a story that highlights the role of African American women in the success of the U.S space program.  When Harrison learns his human computer, Katherine Johnson played by Taraji Henson, had been running a half-mile several times a day to the colored restroom, he tore down the signs differentiating restrooms and declared, “Here at NASA, we all pee the same color.”  Like racism, the only time when we don’t pee the same color is when we are sick. 

No Más!

unknownPanamanian professional boxer Roberto Duran is considered to be one of the greatest fighters in history earning championship belts in four different weight classes.  The boxing world called him respectfully “Hands of Stone” because of his punching power.  Ironically, he is best known for losing his punch and quitting right in the middle of his championship fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, exclaiming, “no más” or no more.  Instead of going out a champion, the way he lived most of his life, Duran ended his boxing career and hung up his gloves perceived by the boxing world as a quitter.

The pressure is on believers all over the world to do the same thing.  The enemy knows that we are more than conquerors through Jesus, that we are always led in triumph in Christ, and that we have the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.  He cannot defeat us so he focuses instead on trying to provoke us into quitting because he knows that he cannot win without our willful surrender.  He could never defeat you, affect your right standing with God, or ever get God not to love you, but he can and does do everything he can to get you to quit on your right believing and right living.  So, all over the body of Christ too many Christians and Christian leaders are hanging up their gloves and quitting their spouses, cutting off friends, leaving their churches, vacating their ministries, and bankrupting their destinies.  Why?  Because they became weary in doing good instead of holding on to the promise that they would reap in due season if they did not quit (Galatians 6:9).  They started to focus on the limited negative at the expense of all the positive.

Every assignment, every attack, every confrontation, every disappointment, every setback, every loss, every inspired criticism, every agenda, and every perceived slight is designed to get you to quit, because quitting gets you off the path of God, and that was the devil’s goal all along.  Quitting indicates a believer has become demonized and is under the influence of the enemy and captive to do his will.  Regardless of whether we do it in the thralls of discouragement, the depths of depression, a fit of anger or offense, or with an arrogant smile on our face, quitting in violation of God’s word and will is a clear indicator that the enemy has pushed our buttons long enough that our troubled minds and roller coaster emotions are now driving our decisions rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit.

In these challenging times, the Lord would have us keep punching, to never give in, and to never give up.  That’s why he commanded (not just encouraged) Joshua to not be discouraged (Joshua 1).  Discouragement is a loss of spiritual courage, and the loss of that courage always precedes quitting.  I know as a believer and Christian leader that there are times you just want to hang it up, but the Lord needs you in your place, your family needs you to be steady, the Church needs you to be stable, and the world desperately needs you to model the hope you profess.

When you feel like quitting (1) on purpose put off that decision to quit, (2) take the time to flood your heart with the word of God and prayer, (3) get around people who are uplifting, challenging, and encouraging, (4) refuse to make decisions based on negative feelings or thoughts, (5) and remember God NEVER forgets a seed sown.  No matter how things look, you WILL reap in due season IF you do not quit!

Stupid Devil Mind Tricks

jedi-mind-trickAll Star Wars fans are familiar with the Jedi mind trick used to target those of weak mind in the galaxy.  Obi-Wan Kenobi used the trick on the storm troopers who were looking for C-3PO and R2-D2.  All he had to do was wave his hand and say, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Instantly the trooper responds, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” 

The sad thing is I run in to a lot of people in the Christian universe who are just as susceptible to stupid mind tricks. Instead of a Jedi waving his hand around, the devil makes simple and repeated suggestions and believers, failing to reflect on the source and content of what they heard, buy in to and act on those suggestions to their destruction. This confusion is a device of the enemy to introduce deception through multiple or contradictory voices that distort God’s voice or drown it out.  What’s amazing is how open God’s people are today to the distortion of the enemy – even people who have been trained to know better.

Like the Jedi mind trick, all Satan has to do is suggest something and too many Christians will follow him like the pied piper.  Very quickly, those believers assimilate the thought and suggestion as if it were their own or coming from God.  The devil must sit back and laugh at how gullible God’s people are at his stupid mind trick.  I can almost hear the drone-like automatic responses of Christians to the devil’s suggestions:

“Nobody cares about you…Nobody cares about me…”

“You want to kill yourself…I want to kill myself…”

“You need to dump your spouse…I need to dump my spouse…”

“God just wants you to be happy…Yes, God just wants me to be happy…”

“You don’t have any friends at church…I don’t have any friends at church…”

“You want to quit your ministry…I want to quit my ministry…”

“You should leave your church…I should leave my church…”

“You should be offended by that…I should be offended by that…”

Gehazi, the protege of Elisha and prophet in training, accepted the thought of the evil one that he knew better than his master, and Naaman should have to pay for the supernatural healing he received from God.  Instead of rejecting the contradictory word, Gehazi was moved by the stupid devil mind trick, received clothes and money from the recently healed leper, was exposed by the prophet Elisha, and was consequently stricken by leprosy. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the servant of Elijah, stood to walk in an anointing even more powerful than Elisha or Elijah, but lost everything because he acted on a stupid devil mind trick.

The cost for believers is just as high today.  Acting on the stupid devil trick causes separation – separation from our faith community and family, separation from our destiny, separation from vital relationships, separation from our blessing, separation from our anointing, separation from our covering of protection and wisdom, and separation from our inheritance (spiritual and natural).  The simple suggestion of the enemy is responsible for countless believers failing to walk in and experience God’s best. Sadder still, the devil convinces believers they are perfectly justified and right to act on the stupid devil mind trick.  Imagine carrying out the agenda of the enemy convinced it’s Gods will (John 16:2).  God’s people are truly destroyed for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  Gehazi’s story reminds us the stupid trick works on seasoned leaders as well as babies in the faith.

The good news is the confusion of the enemy caused by stupid devil mind tricks can be overcome. First, you can defeat the deception by laying a foundation for clarity in your life by saturating your mind daily with the Word of God.  The best way to tell a counterfeit thought is to be immersed in the truth of the thoughts of God (Romans 12:1-2).  We can’t identify the will of God (what is true) until we offer up our bodies as living sacrifices and transform our thinking by the the Word of God.

Second, test or challenge everything you think you hear following the admonition of Paul to hold on to only that which is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  It’s comical how many people mindlessly repeat or repost things they found on Facebook or other social media.  Just because we saw it or heard it does not make it true.  We need to be especially sensitive to the suggestions of the enemy.

Third, close the door to confusion by ridding your life of envy and strife, “For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16, KJV).  We are predisposed to the deception of the enemy when we are envious of others or have entered in to strife.  These things always produce confusion and help to explain how good Christian people can become destructive forces in their families, churches, and places of work.

Fourth, become Spirit led instead of emotion driven (Romans 8:14).  Too often, when we hear something, including the lie from the stupid devil mind trick, we have an emotional reaction before we evaluate the thought biblically.  Emotion ruled living intoxicates the believer, and much like the drunk driver, impairs the believer’s judgement and responses.  We need to make decisions from a position of spiritual peace instead of emotional intoxication.  

Finally, submit what you think you heard to spiritual leadership early in the process for there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Proverbs 15:22). Godly leaders are anointed to sniff out the stupid devil mind trick and deception but the believer must submit the situation to leaders early and quickly instead of coming to them just to inform them of what they have already decided.  

The time is short and the stakes are very high.  Don’t be like the weak minded stormtrooper easily duped by the Jedi, but become strong in mind able to identity and reject the stupid devil mind tricks that come against your mind.  We simply can’t afford to lose any more Gehazis to the dark side.

 

Tomb Dwellers

imagesThere is no question that our culture today is fascinated – no obsessed with death and the symbols of death. Interest and viewership in death-based themed movies and television programs are at an all time high. Shows about witches, vampires, werewolves, and zombies fill the airwaves and theaters all over the nation. This death culture, unbeknownst to most who expose themselves to it, brings with it all kinds of demonic activity and strongholds. You cannot abide in the darkness without being assaulted by those that lurk there. It is striking that millions upon millions would rather hang around the tombs of the dead rather than enjoying the abundant life Jesus offers and promises in his word.

The Bible speaks of a demon possessed man Jesus encountered and then set free from his bondage. Notice the similarities between this man and so many in our culture today. First, he literally lived in the tombs among the dead. When you hang around death, death is going to manifest in your life. Second, he was known for violent fits and then at the same time had periods where he seemed to have it all together. What people today may write off as an explosive temper or life-controlling moodiness is often a manifestation of demonic activity in a person’s life. Third, like some in our society today, he was known to cut himself and mutilate his own flesh. The influence of death all around him egged him on (and the enemy does with so many young people today) towards self-destructive behavior. Fourth, even though he was able to snap chains holding him fast, he still walked around with the cuffs and leggings of a person in bondage. Jesus came to break every chain off of our lives but all you have to do is listen carefully and you will hear the sound of clanking iron all around in you world. Finally, this man moved more and more towards isolation. When you see people withdrawing from family and friends and avoiding human interaction and fellowship, you can know that the enemy is at work in their life trying to isolate them with that death spirit and influence.

Let me encourage you to identify the influences of the death culture in your life so that you can stop dwelling around the tombs and start living the abundant life Jesus desires you to live. First, identify the death communications in your life such as words and thoughts that are negative, destructive, and self-defeating. Your life will go in the direction of your most dominant thoughts and words and if your most dominant thoughts and words are saturated with death, negative and destructive things will manifest in your life. It’s amazing how many of our colloquial phrases are filled with death references. Life and death are literally in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Second, remove all death seductions from your life such as hidden or secret desires, behaviors, practices, or habits that are impure and unholy. The best thing you can do is to expose those in your life and judge them as inappropriate for the believer. You cannot indulge in such conduct without being seduced (gradually drawn away from godly behavior and devotion) by that death influence. Third, be aware of any death attractions in your life such as media, television, movies, books, music that glorify death, spiritism, fear, or the paranormal. You may view this as harmless entertainment but in reality these attractions are an open door for oppression and destruction in your life. Instead of allowing death inputs into your eyes and ears, choose to look and listen to those things that are of life and bring life. Finally, decide to withdraw from any death associations. These are people who are dead spiritually and tend to pull you down (even if you had the noble goal of bringing them up). While you should reach out to the lost, you cannot have close, intimate  friendships with people who are lukewarm or dead spiritually (and for sure should not marry such a person). Don’t assume because someone says they are a Christian or because they go to church that they are sufficiently alive spiritually to have great access in your life (as Corrie ten Boom often said, “just because there’s a mouse in the cookie jar doesn’t mean they are a cookie”).

Just like the demoniac in the Scriptures, the Lord delights in setting his people free from every bondage and every chain. If you have allowed death communications, death seductions, death attractions, or death associations in your life, repent now and ask the Lord for his deliverance, protection, and preservation. You do not have to be possessed to be demonized or oppressed by the enemy. You may have opened the door to oppression by “hanging around the tombs” but you do not have to stay there. Get up and get back into God’s Word and presence. Jesus came that you might have life and that life is found in His Word and in His Spirit.

The Spirit of Infirmity

crippled woman healed pic“Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise  herself up.  But when Jesus saw her, He called  her  to  Him  and said to her,  ‘Woman, you are loosed from your  infirmity.’ And He laid  His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had  healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and  not on the Sabbath day.’ The Lord then answered him and said, ‘Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead  it  away to water it? So ought not this woman,  being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?’ And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were  done by Him” (Luke 13:10-17, NKJV).

I love to read about the power, wisdom, and compassion of Jesus Christ when it comes up against religious tradition. In this simple story about a woman with a chronic back problem, Jesus forever takes the lid off to reveal who exactly is behind sickness and disease – Satan through the agency of a spirit of infirmity (demonic activity that produces chronic weakness, debilitation, or sickness mentally, emotionally, or physically). For many years, the enemy was able to lay the blame at God’s feet with even some of God’s servants and ministers beating the drum and bearing witness to a wrong conclusion about the nature and origin of sickness. But Jesus makes it plain: “…whom Satan has bound.” Acts 10:38 echoes this vital truth by revealing that God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and power and went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. The simple truth is that Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came that we might have life, to the full, until it overflows (John 10:10).

It’s laughable to think that the synagogue ruler would challenge the people to come on the normal six days of work to be healed instead of the Sabbath. It’s amusing (and sad) because all this time people ought to have received healing ministry during the rest of the week through the synagogue system (healing has always been the will of God and “the Lord that heals us” has always made provision for healing throughout both the Old and New Testaments). The truth is, however, that people started to get healed when Jesus came preaching the message of the blessing and restoration and then backed it up with supernatural power. This is precisely why the Scripture says that the Word of God is made void (robbed of its power) by the traditions of men (Matthew 15:6). This is a classic example of a religious leader twisting Scripture to serve his own agenda and protect his own insecurities. It is unthinkable that his position and prominence was more important than the spiritual welfare and restoration of the people he was charged to lead.

But Jesus takes the issue even further. He chides the rulers because hypocritically they would untie or unbind their animals to make sure they had life-sustaining water on the Sabbath but through their religious tradition impeded human beings – covenant children of God like Abraham who have healing as a benefit of that covenant – from partaking of God’s living water. That same spirit that we see now that demands the whales be saved while espousing the right to terminate unborn children has been in the world since the fall of man. Men, made in God’s image, are made inferior to animals and lands that were made by God for man both to enjoy and to steward.

A vital weapon the enemy uses to keep God’s people bound is ignorance – a lack of knowledge of the heart, nature, will, and power of God. Hosea 4:6 indicates that God’s people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. No more. Jesus has blown the devil’s cover (and religion’s cover). Be encouraged that healing is part of the covenant blessing we share by faith (Galatians 3:13-14) and that, according to Jesus, covenant men and women of God OUGHT to be free from their bonds. Rejoice in the knowledge that there is no chain, no bondage, and no affliction that can stand up to the anointing released through faith in the name of Jesus. For whom the Son sets free is truly, free indeed – as free as Jesus is free (John 8:36).