The Customers From Hell

Our casual dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area was recently disrupted by the belligerence and ceaseless complaining coming from the table behind us. I was suddenly a really, really big fan of social distancing and had some creative ideas for the use of my face mask.

The problem was that the lady’s grilled fish arrived blackened and a little over-cooked. They declined the server’s repeated offer to make it right and continued griping after she turned to help another table. When she returned to check on them, they demanded to speak to the person in charge. Learning no one was available and in her earshot, they sneered, “I can’t believe no one is in charge. The lunatics are running the asylum.”

Over and over again they bellyached, alternating between taking shots at the food and service until the young lady was bawling behind her mask. I wanted to verbally thrash them myself. I probably would have if I hadn’t been wearing my Tribe of Judah – Jesus is Lord shirt. We did our best to appreciate our server, encourage her, and bless her despite the hostility coming from these people. Kelli told her she was doing a great job, tipped her well, told her God wanted her to know that He loved her, and hugged her as she cried in her arms.

The cancel culture thriving in our land today refuses apologies and promises to make things right are never enough. The mystery is that so many that live in glass houses are the first ones to pick up the rocks just like this family that looked like they could have stepped right out of the movie, Deliverance. I kept waiting for the banjo to start playing. Their child was a holy terror and Dad and Grandma’s language would make a rapper blush. Like so many in the world today, they didn’t realize they’re disqualified from removing the speck from the eyes of others because of the logs in their own eyes (Matthew 7:5).

The story of the prodigal son reveals the contrast between the heart of the Father and the cancel culture. The son in the pigpen wasn’t the only prodigal in the story. Unlike the Father who looked for the return of his son, ran to him, and moved quickly to restore him, the brother, unable to see his own fallen condition, was actually upset that his father did not cancel him. That’s the difference. The Father is in the restoration business, not the cancellation business.

The Apostle Paul tells us “to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). With all the craziness and challenges facing our communities and nation right now, we sure could use more compassion and less harshness – more restoration and less cancellation. Let’s choose not to be the customer from hell, the student from hell, the employee from hell, or the church attender from hell. Let’s do good, and when we see it, overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Let’s all make the quality decision to join the Father in the family business!

Oh the Humanity

gracePerhaps the greatest paradox in Christianity is the realization that the Lord sovereignly chose to use imperfect people to preach a perfect gospel and lead people to a saving knowledge of the one true perfect God.  Besides the one flawless example of Jesus, every man and woman charged with speaking or acting on behalf of God throughout history has been flawed.  Abraham was a chronic liar.  David couldn’t keep his zipper up.  Moses needed anger management.  Jeremiah could use some Prozac.  An arrogant Peter sounded a lot like Donald Trump.   Paul was quick to write people off at times.  Despite the flaws and failures, the Lord did amazing things through them and so many others because the anointing is God on flesh doing what flesh can’t do.

Though a preacher of righteousness and recipient of the revelation to build a vessel to rescue God’s creation and his own family before the flood, Noah was found in a compromising position after partaking of wine from the grapes he grew after the great flood waters receded.  The behavior of his sons upon the discovery of their naked and drunk father reflects two contrasting attitudes found readily in the Church today.

In Genesis 9, Ham discovered his father’s nakedness and couldn’t wait to tell his brothers.  When Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth were told they placed a blanket between them and walked backwards into the tent to cover their father’s shame making sure they did not so much as turn their head in the direction of Noah.  Notice the different reaction when the humanity of the preacher was discovered and observed.  Ham saw Noah’s humanity and broadcasted that humanity to others.  Shem and Japheth saw the same humanity and chose instead to cover the humanity because “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

So that I am not misunderstood here, Christians and particularly Christian leaders must have accountability in their lives.  But there is a difference between accountability to specific brothers and sisters who, in keeping with Paul’s command, restore the fallen and flawed with gentleness (Galatians 6:1) and others who observe the humanity and work to expose or broadcast the error with no heart for the restoration of the fallen.  Why is it we all want cover for ourselves and exposure for others?

There seems to be an unwritten rule some cynical believers follow that says if they witness the humanity of a Christian leader they do not have to respond in mercy, respect, or discretion, and they no longer have to receive from that leader. That “Ham” spirit, as in the days of Noah who was personally responsible for saving representatives of all of God’s created life on earth, forgets and diminishes the contribution that leader has had in his or her life and the lives of others choosing to focus instead on the imperfection of the leader.

Of course when Noah found out from Shem and Japheth what Ham had done (and understand emphatically here that just like Shem and Japheth, a godly believer does not hold confidences against the leader, but good or bad, keeps the leader informed) he was of course disappointed and prophesied a very different future for Ham in comparison to his brothers.  A simple reading of this story in Genesis reveals a powerful truth that all Christians can and should learn from.  The Hams in the body of Christ witness leadership humanity, broadcast that humanity to others, and end up cursed or empowered to fail.  In contrast, the Shems and Japheths in the Church are not blind to leadership imperfections, but in observing the humanity, choose to cover it with a garment of love and mercy and end up receiving the blessing or the empowerment to succeed.

If we spend any time around Christians and Christian leaders, we will observe imperfections, flaws, and their humanity (and they will observe our humanity).  Make a quality decision to be a blessed Shem or Japheth in the Church who sees, covers, and works to restore the humanity of others rather than a cursed Ham who sees, exposes, and cares little about restoration.  Remember that without love and mercy for others when they fail, we become more susceptible to temptation and failure ourselves (Galatians 6:1).  Without grace for others, we set ourselves up to reap the same when our humanity is observed (and sooner or later our humanity too will come out).

The Best of Years

Ministry and prophetic voices all over the land are declaring that 2011 will be both the best and worst of years. Malachi 3:18 explains that there will be a distinction between the righteous and the wicked: “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those that serve God and those who do not.” What’s exciting for those that have ears to hear and eyes to see is that this is not the promise of a distinction or a manifestation to come some day in the sweet by and by, but the promise that the distinction will be clear, evident, and obvious this year. The good news is that this is an individual choice and decision. We determine whether 2011 will be the best of years of the worst of years for ourselves and for our families.

The word “distinction” means that there will be something plain and evident in the lives of faithful believers that will distinguish, separate, mark off as different, or identity them as distinct from those that choose to move away from the things of God in this season. Part of that distinction will manifest as God’s provision, empowerment, and assistance in every aspect of the believer’s life so that literally every thing is made “all right.” In the midst of all the fear, torment, and uncertainly right now, its’ exciting, encouraging, and faith-building to hear the prophetic voice echoing the Word of God that boldly promises, “…I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).

The unique aspect about this prophecy for 2011 is that it indicates that the year will be extreme on both the best and worst ends of the continuum. 2011 will be extraordinary and extremely good for those that honor God and just the opposite for those that choose to dishonor Him. This means either an extremely fruitful, successful, and blessed year or an extremely barren, unsuccessful, and cursed year. Biblically, this concept is nothing new. By the Lord’s direction, Moses told the people of God in Deuteronomy 30:19, “This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

I want to encourage you to focus on three powerful principles in 2011 or three ways that you will be choosing to have the best of years. The key is to absolutely INSIST on keeping these principles because the believers that insist on doing so (not might or if I get around to it), but insist on doing so will have the best possible year. Those that INSIST on ignoring these concepts or principles will find that 2011 will be the worst possible year.

First, no matter what you see, hear, or feel, INSIST on staying in faith this year. The key to staying in faith is keeping the Word of God going in your eyes, ears, and heart, and keeping that same Word coming out of your mouth in abundance. Remember that we cannot keep the contents of our hearts from coming out for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). We will all see and hear things this year that will try to pull us off of the Word of God and into distraction, doubt, fear, or unbelief. Make up your mind that you are going to stay focused on the Word of God regardless of what you see and hear going on all around you.

Second, INSIST on keeping the commandment to love no matter how you feel or how you perceive you are being treated. One of the devil’s choice weapons is to get God’s people, mad, upset, and offended with something or someone. The moment we come out of love this year we will disqualify ourselves from the best of years and slip into the worst of years. This means that the devil is going to work extra hard to get you put out, bitter, and offended. Make up your mind to stay in love and to forgive quickly and completely from the heart. I don’t care what has happened. I don’t care what has been said to you or about you. Nothing is worth you losing the blessing this year. Nothing is worth you losing the distinction that is promised to the covenant child of God this year! If you’ve been going down the road of bitterness, hard feelings, and offense, come to your senses now, stop, and turn around while the year is still young.

Finally, no matter what happens, INSIST on keeping and honoring the Word of God in every situation of life. To “honor” means to “give the greatest weight to” in life. It means that there is no voice more influential in your life than the Lord and His Word and this influence is proven by quick and lasting obedience to the principles of the Word of God. If there is a command to keep, a behavior to stop, or a correction to make you do so with bells on. 2011 is especially not the year to be ignorant of the Word, to hesitate when He tells you to act, or to continue obstinately down a direction or path when He has clearly redirected you. This is a year to know the Word and do the Word faithfully and consistently.

Refuse to Settle

Some people have the mistaken idea that faith is simply a life of pretend or pretense, but as Jerry Savelle used to say, “Faith does not pretend…faith attacks.” Faith is not tapping your slippers, closing your eyes, and pretending you are not facing a major challenge, setback, or disappointment. Faith does not deny the existence of financial failure, a physical sickness, or a troubled marriage. Faith acknowledges the existence of the issue but then proceeds to attack it with the Word of God and deny that obstinate situation permission to remain. The problem is that the enemy is very good at convincing us to accept limits, boundaries, and fences as unchangeable reality. Everything inside of us as believers should cry out, “don’t fence me in!”

We need to understand that the enemy would love for all of us to live far below God’s best, but I want to encourage you to not settle for less than what God’s Word says you have can have spiritually, relationally, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. Matthew 11:12 teaches us that the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Many assume this refers to an assault by the world or Satan on the kingdom of God. In reality it refers to the aggressive faith-filled stance of the believer to press in to the kingdom of God and everything it offers the believer.

One of the primary reasons Christians fail to live an extraordinary life in God – one that is beyond the usual, extraordinary, noteworthy, remarkable, uncommon, rare, phenomenal, and special – is that they are all too willing to settle. Any voice that compels you to settle for less is of the devil. In today’s blog I want to leave you with some keys that will empower you to resist the devil and and embolden you to refuse to settle for less than God’s best in your life:

First, James 4:7 teaches us what to do with the devil and his suggestions: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” One of the devil’s most effective tricks on the body of Christ is to get us in a position of what I call “non-resistance” to his wiles, schemes, lies, and agenda. If we resist rather than yield, he will have no choice but to flee from us every time.

Second, remember that your past does not equal your future. Let go of past mistakes so that you can reach for what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). It’s hard to press forward for your future when you eyes are glued on the road behind you.

Third, open your heart and life for others to correct you when necessary because open rebuke is better than secret love. A word from a friend that really cares about us in due season can often mean the difference between success and failure. It takes a bold believer to speak into our lives and it takes a humble but sharp believer to listen to and receive that counsel.

Fourth, whatever you do, stay out of the pity party because when you are in pity you are not in faith. When you step in to pity, you step into a pit – a demonic trap of the enemy to hold you back. If we TRULY believe that God’s blessing is on our lives and operating to empower us to succeed and prosper, we would never fall into the trap of the pity party.

Fifth, find out what God’s Word says about your situation. Memorize it, study it, and confess that Word often. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Revelation of God and His Word, on the other hand, bring us to a place of victory and success.

Sixth, accept the call, like Abraham, to be a blessing to others every day. It’s great to confess that the blessing is on you, but we all need to take the revelation of the blessing to the next level and make up our minds to not just possess the blessing, but to be a blessing – to be the kind of believer that empowers others to prosper and succeed.

Seventh, dream the biggest dream of your life. God’s Word says, “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams” (Ephesians 3:20, MES). The lack of dreams and small dreaming is what ultimately holds the believer back (not the will or the willingness of our Lord). If you can grasp the dream, comprehend the dream, conceive the dream in your heart, you can see that dream come to pass. Dreams by their very nature take us beyond where we have been before – they are natural boundary breakers and fence crashers.

Finally, trust in the favor of God – that the favor of God is on your life in abundance. The favor of God is kind regard, friendly disposition, support, defense, vindication, promotion, justification, benevolence, acts of grace and good will, advantage, partiality, preferential treatment, and convenience afforded for our success. Favor is when people say, “no,” and circumstances say, “no,” but God says, “yes” (Jerry Savelle). Any believer can tap into the favor of God through faith (Romans 5:2). Favor is vital in hard times because it takes the boundaries and limitations off of our lives and enables us to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

The Spirit of Cursing

Many people today in the body of Christ have come to the realization through revelation of the Word of God that the Lord cares about every area of our lives. Consistent with John’s desire that we prosper and be in health even as our soul prospers (3 John 2), faith has begun to rise up in the hearts of believers to take the limits off of God and what He can do in our lives. Truly He desires to empower his people spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically, relationally, and financially. The key, according to John, is that we first prosper spiritually.

The message of the abundant life in Christ is exciting and hope building, but as in every benefit that God desires to give to His people, there are conditions that must be honored. The prosperous soul requires that we yield to the Lord body, soul, and spirit. It also requires that rogue parts of our lives come under His dominion and Lordship. One of the most significant limiting factors in the life of the believer is the failure to submit the mouth over to the Lord.

It’s so easy to curse or just let words fly from our mouths without realizing that we are called to be a blessing. To curse means to say something bad about. To bless means to say something good about. The Psalmist noted the habitual destructive misuse of the mouth is actually an indication that the individual is walking in a “spirit of cursing” declaring that “He loved to pronounce a curse – may it come on him; he found not pleasure in blessing – may it be far from him. He wore cursing like a garment” (Psalm 109:17-18). The spirit of cursing, rather than the spirit of faith, joy, and love, begins to be the dominate spirit or deportment about this individual. The problem of course is the one predisposed to cursing others finds that the same curse seeps into his or her own life – “it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil.” We truly do reap what we sow and if we don’t want to reap the curse in any manifestation we must careful to use our tongues to bless others rather than curse them. If we curse we will be cursed. If we bless we will be blessed.

The enemy’s goal is that our hearts become wounded as a result of being cursed. The psalmist said, “my heart is wounded within me” (Psalm 109:22). There are many ways to curse someone (not cuss at them) such as negativity, criticism, lies, slander, deception, or gossip, but the purpose is the same – to worm its way into the consciousness and the heart of the believer to compromise their spiritual health.  If you find yourself on the receiving end of evil communication, don’t allow that to get into your spirit. Take seriously the counsel of the Psalmist when you are under attack and focus immediately on two spiritual disciplines to counter and prevent the curse from taking root in your heart. First, take the situation immediately to the Lord in prayer: “In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer” (Psalm 109:4). In prayer the Holy Spirit will work to keep your heart tender and forgiving. Second, return immediately to the Word of God so that you can maintain an inner image of what the Word says about you rather than one produced by the destructive communication. Psalm 119:69 declares, “Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep you precepts with all my heart.” You can’t help what people do or say but you can determine your own reaction and that reaction should include a speedy return to the Word of God.

The good news is that no one can curse you when God has blessed you unless you allow that to enter into your heart. Get into the habit of casting destructive words down to the ground and commanding them to die and bear no fruit in your life. Take authority of words meant for your hurt, wounding, and destruction. Meditate on the powerful words of promise and hope from Psalm 109:28 that remind us all that the blessing of Abraham has been restored to us and cannot be compromised just because of a negative, critical, or biting comment: “They may curse, but you will bless…”

Mouse in the House

The Word teaches that the Lord has an expected future and hope for all of His people. It is common for some believers to hold onto a religious mindset when it comes to the plans of God for his children thinking that such a destiny is only for a few select believers. But without a doubt the Lord has prepared a path for all of us. Ephesians 2:10 (AMP) states, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those things which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” All believers have a specific plan and path for their lives and on that path we find our call, our vocation, our marriage partners, our blessing. God has already strategically placed everything we need to accomplish His will on that path and if we just keep going we will run right into His power, supply, and goodness.

Of course if we choose not to take God’s path we can never live the “good life” that the Lord has planned for us. He will never force us to take the path prepared for us in advance. Even if we take that path there are weights, hindrances, and things that can slow us down from walking in God’s best and fulfilling our destiny. The Bible says, “… let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, AMP). It’s clear that weights as well as sins will keep us from our destiny. We know that sin is anything that contradicts God’s standard revealed in His Word for our lives. Most of us know if we are tolerating some sin or compromise in our lives. We need to understand that the sin we tolerate will overtake us and ultimately compromise God’s best for our lives. Weights are not necessarily sins but they are behaviors, attitudes, and practices that are non-profitable. They are slowing us down, keeping us back, and in fact can cause us to slip behind or even take a wrong turn. Weights, just like sins. have the ability to stop us from reaching our full potential in God.

Many individuals in the Bible compromised their future because they refused to make the needed course corrections or adjustments. Adam and Eve gave up paradise for a piece of fruit. Cain gave up the life of his brother and his own wellbeing and peace over an offering. Ham lost the blessing of his father because he could not keep his mouth shut. Esau gave up his birthright for a bowl of soup. Saul gave up his Kingdom over a few choice sheep. Samson gave up his future for sex. Gehazi gave up the prophetic anointing for some clothes and money. Judas traded his eternity for a few pieces of silver. Nothing was so great and valuable that it was worth the loss of God’s best in the lives of these individuals.

I taught a class in our Bible college not too long ago helping students to put together practical Bible messages. One student in her message told the humorous story of a mouse in her house. Her words perfectly illustrate the tension between what we need to do and our reluctance to do it:

“On two separate occasions I made a half hearted attempt to kill a mouse in my house. I was hoping he would just go away. I had to remind myself that they are destructive, filthy rodents that multiply quickly and carry diseases. I couldn’t continue to ignore it. The mouse appeared again another day wounded from my previous blow. We first prayed for God to heal it then debated whether to throw it in the fire or the field. Weeks later the Lord spoke to me about this incident. He said we make half hearted attempts to rid ourselves of things that are displeasing to Him. He said sin, like a rodent, is filthy and destructive and if left unchecked, multiplies and carries diseases such as apathy, and hardness of heart.” – Colin Royal

Take an inventory of your life today. Are you tolerating sinful or hindering words, thoughts, or practices in your life? If so, you have become your own worst enemy. The Lord desires to use and promote every believer but we are not promotable when we are clanging and hobbling slowly down the path of God trying to carry all sorts of baggage. It will be very difficult for us to arrive at our destination with all that extra weight. What are you willing to give up God’s best and destiny for in your life? What is more important to you than God’s blessing, favor, and perfect will? I encourage you to cut off every sin and every weight, get on your path, and complete your course. In the end, it will not be the devil, the Church, the pastor, the teacher, our parents, our spouses, our kids, our employers, religion, or the world that will keep us from tapping into God’s best for our lives – it will be our refusal to cut off the things that are hindering us. There’s absolutely nothing in your life that you are holding on to right now that’s worth losing the blessing in your life. So find the mouse and get it out of your house.

Spiritual Justice

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Luke 18:7-8, NIV).

Micah 6:8 plainly expresses the will of God for His people. We are all called to further the cause of justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God. Humility is not debasing oneself in the name of religion but to fully submit to the dictates, principles, commands, and yes, even the promises of God. To reject the Word is pride. To submit to the Word is true humility. The person who loves mercy is a person who longs to see the distress in the lives of people alleviated rather than rejoicing for the obvious consequences of the choices they have made. Mercy, the Bible says, triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). But what about this concept of justice? Is the Lord talking about criminal justice, economic justice, or social justice? Actually the Lord is talking about a justice that supersedes all other concepts of justice – spiritual justice.

You see, Jesus went to the cross for our redemption and paid the price for our sin and rebellion. Justice was served through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is unjust for a person to stay bound in sin when they have embraced Jesus Christ. It is unjust for us to stay sick, depressed, oppressed, condemned, broke, in bondage, or filled with shame because blood has been shed. In other words, it is a violation of God’s sense of spiritual justice to put up with anything that Jesus died to redeem us from as God’s people. To do justly, as Micah expressed it, is to do everything we can to inform and help people tap into the marvelous consequences of God’s justice wrought through the blood of Jesus. We all should be righteously indignant when the enemy tries to rob us or the people of God from that justice.

We see a wonderful example of this in the life of King David (2 Samuel 9) when he reached out to be a blessing to Mephibosheth, the son of his covenant friend Jonathan. David quizzed his servant Ziba to find out if there was someone from the household of Saul still around so that he could show covenant kindness to them (intentional and overt assistance and favor bestowed because of covenant). Ziba found Mephibosheth who had been dropped and crippled early in life and was now living in the land of Lo Debar, a dry, barren, lifeless, dismal desolate place of shame, despair, and no pasture (contrast that with Psalm 23 where the shepherd provides green pastures). Lo Debar is a place of broken dreams, lives, and bodies where many people figuratively live to this day. It’s interesting to see how David enforced the blessing for this man that everyone seemed to forget about (but not God).

First, Ziba was instructed to fetch or violently remove this man from Lo Debar in the name of covenant and bring him to David. He was to literally retrieve Mephibosheth from physical devastation and bondage. In David’s mind no covenant child of God should be living in Lo Debar. He should be living in God’s Kingdom. This principle speaks of the practical, physical restoration that comes from God’s blessing. It’s amazing how the Lord can literally pluck an individual out of a corrupt and destructive environment and set them back on the path of life.

Second, Ziba was instructed to restore everything that had been lost by his family. All of Saul’s possessions, his lands, goods, and properties, were to be restored to Mephibosheth, and his lands were to be farmed as well to produce crops and sustenance for the son of his friend Jonathan. The blessing also works in our lives in this way to bring material restoration. The devil, the world, and religion do not like it much but the Lord truly empowers His people materially because of covenant. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “…for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant.”

Finally, Ziba was told to bring this Mephibosheth to David’s table so that he would always dine with the King. This speaks of God’s spiritual restoration in our lives. This man who had lost everything in life including his father, grandfather, lands, wealth, possessions, respect, and health, had been rescued from Lo Debar and now brought to the table reserved for royalty. He now looked like royalty, smelled like royalty, spoke like royalty and sat at the table of the King himself who treated him as a son. That’s our God. No one transforms lives like our God.

Maybe you can relate to Mephibosheth today. When David received him, Mephibosheth, filled with shame, asked David, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me? (2 Samuel 9:8). Ironically, his name meant, “he scatters shame,” or “destroying shame,” or “exterminator of shame.” In thinking about what the Lord had done for him, despite the setbacks and hardship, it’s obvious that he lived up to his name in the end. All shame was stripped from his life through the justice and mercy of God. It was spiritually just for David to show kindness to Mephibosheth, enforce the blessing in his life, and remove his shame. By the same token it is just for you to be shown covenant kindness as well. Blood has been shed so that you too could have all shame exterminated from your life.

Some Kind of a Law Man

Several years ago my then seven year old son Tim and I went out to Arizona for fall break to visit my parents. The highlight of the trip was a train ride from Williams, Arizona to the Grand Canyon. Before boarding one of the last steam engine trains in operation in the country, the production company put on a short western skit depicting an outlaw threat to the train and its passengers. During the show, one of the “outlaws” caught a glimpse of Tim’s prominently displayed marshall’s badge, gun, holster, and cowboy hat. As we boarded the train we were warned that there might be an attempt to “rob” the train and law men were the first to “get it.”

Sure, enough, about midway to the Canyon horses and riders approached and the train came abruptly to a halt. The outlaws boarded the train and made their way back to where we were sitting. One of them made his way down the aisle pulling his coat back to expose his side arm. Tim, eyes as big as saucers, slowly pulled off his badge, gun, and holster, and placed them in his hat and said, “Here Dad, you hold on to these for me.” Trying hard to not laugh, the outlaw approached Tim and said, “You some kind of a law man?”

Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus Christ went to the cross to fulfill our Heavenly Father’s requirement for justice. Blood was shed for our redemption and now we have forgiveness and right standing with God through Jesus. Because the price was paid, we are redeemed from the curse of the law and the blessing originally mandated by God for His people has been restored. This means that the law of the Kingdom of God is that God’s people be forgiven, restored, healed, delivered, and provided for. It is a violation of God’s law and justice for a believer to continue to live below the standards of the blessing. Therefore, it is unjust for God’s people to continue to put up with the antics, lies, and destruction of that outlaw known as Satan.

As believers, we have been deputized to enforce the blessing in our lives, in our families, in our churches, and in the world in general. Just like Tim’s encounter with the train robber, the enemy moves to intimidate and suppress anyone armed and anyone with authority to stop his killing, stealing, and destroying. In the heat of the moment sometimes we can forget who we are and what we have been empowered to do. Our job is to stand in that authority and release the blessing through the anointing of the Holy Spirit as the disciples did before us (Matthew 10; Luke 10). Just like the train robber, the enemy is more bark than bite. In fact he is a defeated foe that likes to play dress up to scare God’s people into submission and defeat.

Let me encourage you to stand in the authority the Lord has given to you as a believer. Get in the habit of blessing others everywhere you go because you can be sure that what they usually get daily is cursed. When the enemy comes up to you and wants to know if you are some kind of law man, don’t hide your badge and gun but stand up boldly and make an arrest in Jesus’ name. The Scripture tells us that whatever we bind (forbid) on earth will be bound (forbid) in heaven (Matthew 18). We have veto power over the work of the enemy so let him know it’s time to pack up his saddle and go back where he belongs.

The Enforcer

Genesis 1:28 reveals the original heart and mind of God towards his people. His will is and always has been that His people would be blessed. In fact, the very first words ever spoken to a human being were words of blessing. “To bless” means to say something good about or to empower someone to succeed. “To curse” means to say something bad about or empower to fail.

Because of sin, the blessing was replaced by the curse. But through the work of Jesus on the cross, the blessing was restored: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus…” (Galatians 3:13-14). Despite the reality of the restoration, there are three limiting factors preventing us from walking in the fullness of the blessings: First, some people do not know that God desires to bless them and as Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Second, some folks do not believe that God wants to personally bless their lives and so they receive according to their faith. Third, many that know about the blessing and believe that God wants to bless them think that all they have to do is sing Kum bay ja and everything is just going to happen automatically in their lives. They forget that they have an enemy who is still very much active and uses his devices (as previously discussed: distraction, discouragement, deception, disowning, destruction, and discrediting) to squash the dream and stop the blessing.

The truth is as believers we must enforce with our faith and spiritual authority the blessing that Jesus died to restore. To enforce means to keep in force or compel obedience by force or compulsion. For example, even though Jesus forgives and gives us the gift of righteousness, the enemy works overtime to convince us that we are nothing more than black-hearted sinners and weak worms of the dust instead of the righteousness of God. We have to stand in the truth, believe, and confess that we are the righteousness of Christ until the sin consciousness is replaced by a righteousness mentality. If we are not willing to stand up and fight the fight of faith regarding the promises and benefits of God (including the blessing which is the root from which the fruit of manifestations come from), we simply will live far below the level God intended for us to live.

Consider some powerful covenant men of God in the Old Testament who learned that although they were blessed of God, they had to enforce the blessing when the enemy tried to steal from them. Abraham went after the marauding enemy that took Lot and his possessions and recovered everything and then some. He didn’t sit down in the dust and say, “well that’s the way the ball bounces.” Isaac, with the full force of the blessing, just dug new wells when the enemy kept confiscating (and stupidly filling the wells during a famine) the wells of his fathers. Because of the blessing Isaac could discover a bountiful flow of water in the middle of a dry season but he had to stand up to tap into the manifestation of the blessing. David too refused to take what the enemy was dishing out and after asking God what to do, pursued the Amalekites after they sacked Ziklag and ran off with his people and goods. He could have sat down in depression and resigned himself to his lot. After all, the men were so mad that they talked of stoning him. But David encouragement himself in the Lord and enforced the blessing in his life.

I want to give you some principles today for enforcing the blessing in your life. You are just as blessed as Abraham, Isaac, and David.

First, enforce the blessing with boldness. The Lord tells us to enter that new and living way when we are in need. We are told to come boldly to that throne of grace to receive mercy (alleviation of distress) in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Without that boldness we will just shrink in intimidation over what the enemy is doing and fail to address our case through prayer and intercession

Second, enforce the blessing with faith. The victory that overcome the world is our faith (1 John 5:4). We need to maintain the spirit of faith and believe that we are receiving the promises and recovering what is stolen from us as well. We must stand in faith and believe that we will see the manifestation of the blessing in every area of our lives because faith is the key to receiving anything from God.

Third, enforce the blessing with power. The Bible says that the kingdom of God suffers violence and that the violent take it by force. This means that the those that tap into the kingdom are vigorously pressing forward or that the kingdom is violently advancing and no obstacle to its advancement will be tolerated or successful (Matthew 11:12).

Fourth, enforce the blessing with action because we know that faith without works is dead. Like our fathers in the faith, we too must rise up and act if we want to walk in the fullness of the blessing (James 1:26). The real evidence that we believe God is that we are moved to action in the direction of our faith. Many believers fail to receive God’s best because they fail to act.

Fifth, enforce the blessing with words. We know that the seat of our authority is the mouth (Proverbs 18:21). Jesus taught us plainly (Matthew 18) that we have the ability of binding and loosing and that whatever we bind on earth (forbid) would be bound (forbid) in heaven and whatever we permitted or allowed on earth would be permitted or allowed in heaven. What amazing authority God has given the believer! How do we operate in this binding and loosing power? We do this with the words of our mouth. From now on when you see the enemy trying to suppress the blessing in your life rise up and deny or veto that operation and at the same time begin to declare that you allow and permit by faith the blessing to fully manifest in your life.

Think of it this way. Our government at every level empowers peace officers to enforce the laws of the land. If an officer observes a crime in progress but chooses not to restrain the activity or the criminal we cannot lay blame to the mayor, the governor, or the President. We need to make sure our police enforce the laws or get men and women who will. It’s the same way in the kingdom of God. The Lord has deputized his body with authority over the enemy (Matthew 10; Luke 10) and we need to stand up in that authority to restrain what is unscriptural and permit and encourage what lines up with the Word of God. Remember you are not only blessed – you are empowered (anointed) to enforce that blessing.

Religious Cons

“He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered” (Psalm 105:37, NIV). “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it” (Proverbs 10:22, NIV).

After twenty years as a senior pastor I think I’ve seen just about everything under the sun when it comes to the behavior of people (Christian and otherwise). Not much surprises me these days – not the loose living, the life-changing decisions that are made without so much as even consulting God or spiritual leadership, not the trashing of sacred covenant in Christian marriage, not even the elaborate length individuals will go through to con the Lord or His Church to get some kind of support or help “in their time of need.”

Don’t get me wrong. As a ministry we have compassionately provided assistance for many genuine needs through the years. It’s a blessing to make a real difference in the lives of hurting people and the sacred and holy giving of the people of God makes that possible. We will always do whatever we can to encourage others and support them in practical ways. Through the years we have kept food on the table for families, helped them get to an out-of-town hospital to be with loved ones, kept power on when electric bills were past due, prevented young families from being evicted, helped the ill purchase medication, filled propane tanks in the middle of a harsh winter. We even helped a little to reduce the final funeral costs for a widow in need. I love sowing and I love seeing how God’s people collectively can make such a difference in so many lives. Praise God.

But as a pastor it is also my responsibility to make sure that the resources of the ministry stay out of the hands of the “religious cons” of the world (although whatever we do in Jesus’ name is a blessing regardless of their motives). I have witnessed every kind of lame excuse and con game but three styles of cons are most memorable (and disturbing). Consider the outcome when Simon the Sorcerer tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit (see Acts chapter eight) or when Ananias and Sapphira, wanting the accolades given to Barnabas, conspired to appear to make a substantial offering but in reality kept back a portion of the funds (Acts five). It seems from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is seriously down on religious con games.

The first con revolves around a manufactured problem con like “my spouse is dying and we need help” or some other fake crisis. We actually had a couple come to the church (any several other churches we understand – cons tend to be a mobile lot) requesting assistance declaring that the wife was so sick she was literally urinating parts of her bladder (that’s code for we are Meth addicts and get really creative when we are coming down from a high and need the next fix).

The second type of con is the spiritual con: “I want to submit to your leadership to be mentored by you.” This always begins with an apparent hunger for the things of God, faithfulness to the ministry, and attempts to get close to senior staff or pastors. Of course after you substantially help the family to the point of preventing utilities from being shut off or preventing eviction the enthusiasm for mentoring (and church attendance) just disappears along with the family.

The third type of con is the “speak for the church” con where the con tells a vendor, employer, landlord, or utility company that such and such church has promised to take care of this. Unbelievable you say? Actually, it happens quite often. Recently, unbeknownst to me or anyone else I can find, the church “promised” to pay back rent to a frustrated landlord on behalf of a needy tenant (it’s amazing what we promise when we are asleep). The landlord wasn’t buying the story and contacted us for confirmation. Of course we provided documentation for the landlord proving the religious con.

As I said, we are always going to be sowers – sowers into communities, churches, ministries, missionaries, church members (whose needs come first), and legitimately hurting families in the communities we serve. It’s a privilege to be “his hand extended.” The sad thing for the con is that if they would get into the Word (for real) and search out the fine print of their covenant with God they would discover that they have a God that longs to meet their needs and prosper them. Instead of taking or conning the Lord and His Church they should be tapping into his deep provision by learning to believe, give, and speak the blessing over their lives.

I want to encourage you that you don’t have to resort to games or cons to get your needs met. He promises to supply all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Spend your time coming to church to sit under the Word, reading the Word, confessing the promises, and listening for the wisdom of God. One word from God can change your life (and your financial life) forever. The problem is that one con can change your life forever as well – just ask Simon, Ananias, and Sapphira.

Goodbye Curse

“God blessed them and said to them. ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’ ” (Genesis 1:28, NIV). “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3, NIV).

From the beginning in Genesis it has always been God’s desire to bless his people profusely. In fact, the very first words the newly created man ever heard were the blessing (Genesis 1:26-28). The Lord could have said anything at this point to get across his will for man, but he plainly desired that his people would be blessed – that is they would be empowered to succeed, to excel, to increase, to be very fruitful, to have longevity, and walk in dominion on his behalf in the earth. If it was ever God’s will to bless his people, it’s God’s will today because he does not change. The implication is that this blessing would be used to spread the garden of Eden throughout the earth. But because of sin, the curse, not the blessing, would fill the earth prompting the Lord (Genesis 3:15) to unleash his prophetic word about the plan to restore the blessing that was compromised by sin and disobedience. Without the coming covenant with Abraham and the eventual disclosure of Jesus, his descendent who would go to the cross for our sin and bring back what sin had taken from us, we would be totally lost and without hope for all eternity.

We often think of the benefits of the cross to human beings like the fact that God’s justice was fulfilled by what Jesus did, or the reality that we are now forgiven of our sins and have access to the Father and to heaven. But the Scripture itself points to the foundational reason Jesus went to the cross: “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:14). Justice has been served and we have been forgiven but the cross points to the reality that because sin (that which compromised the blessing – sin is anything that blocks, hinders, or stops the blessing) has been obliterated for those that repent and express faith in Jesus, the curse (the empowerment to fail) has been removed and the blessing has been restored.

It’s time for the born again believers to say “goodbye” to the curse and embrace once again God’s original desire for us – the blessing. Let us be quick to resist any remnant of that curse that is trying to linger in our lives and press in by faith to see the fullness of the blessing manifest in every area of our lives. That empowerment is standard equipment for us to get the job done in these last days. This is why we can say with great confidence and boldness, “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). As we pause to reflect on the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, let’s remember that the far-reaching and destructive power of sin has been neutralized and celebrate that the eternity shaking power and influence of the blessing has been restored. Develop a new habit in your life – declaring the blessing: “I’m blessed, I can’t be cursed. I’ve been redeemed from the curse.”


Ambassadors of the Blessing

iStock_000004257931SmallThe Lord is literally pouring out revelation on The Blessing in our time. To understand the blessing we have to turn back to the pages of Genesis where we find the very first words ever heard by the human ear. Think of that – the very first words the Lord would ever say to the man and woman he just created. Whatever those words would be, they would be really, really important. And of course they were important. God pronounced his blessing upon his people and also declared their authority and dominion over his creation on his behalf. And if it was his will to bless his people then, it’s his will to bless them now.

The blessing is the empowerment to succeed, to prosper, to bear much fruit, and to have longevity. The curse, introduced as a result of sin in Genesis 3, was the power to fail. It is noteworthy that the Lord immediately alludes to the plan to restore the blessing to his people (Genesis 3:15). When Jesus went to the cross, he not only paid for our sins (that  compromised the blessing and introduced the curse), he restored the blessing to those that would believe on him as Galatians 3:14 declares, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ…”

Now we have the opportunity to walk in the blessing purchased for us through the blood of Jesus Christ and we also have the mandate to share the truth of the blessing with others. As Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, so we too have been blessed or empowered so that we can bless or empower others. In other words, we have been made ambassadors of Jesus Christ with a mandate to spread the truth about the redemption we have in Jesus and specific aspects of that redemption like the restoration of the blessing in our lives. We are, therefore, ambassadors of the blessing. Let us go forth reaching the unreached and telling the untold of the amazing provision we have been given through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There’s something on you…now go out and share it with others!