Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bamboo in the Garden

Have you ever seen a stand of Bamboo?  It grows out from one stalk in different directions in the ground.  So, the area covered by the bamboo grove is constantly being enlarged.  If you want to reforest an area it’s very effective because it grows and spreads rapidly. 

The difficulty is in trying to contain it.  What happens is that shoots called rhizomes spread underground and the plants sprout out of the ground along the rhizome.  Now, these are not like roots. They’re stalks of the plant that grow horizontally under the ground.  They’re very tough and difficult to remove.  You don’t see them growing, they’re hidden under the soul.  The only way you know they are there is that a plant sprouts out of the ground and shows itself.  All of the Bamboo in a garden are connected by rhizomes.

If you plant them in an area and don’t want them to spread beyond that area, you must be diligently searching for and tearing out the rhizomes, because when one is removed another immediately begins to generate.  Some types of Bamboo can grow up to twenty-four inches in a day.

2 Samuel 11:1-17 (NKJV)
11:1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child." 6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?" 11 And Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." 12 Then David said to Uriah, "Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 14 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die." 16 So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

Rhizomes in Our Lives

David is God’s man to lead Israel but sin has overcome him, just like Bamboo overtaking a garden.  The first step is a step away from responsibility.  David stepped away from the battle.  He’s no longer contending against the enemies of Israel.  He hasn’t really done anything wrong yet, but he’s resting in what God has already done in him and through him.  He’s let his guard down.

This is how sin works in us.  We’re delivered.  It’s not necessary to pray for that deliverance any longer.  It’s not necessary to be contending.  “I don’t need to pray for that anymore, I won’t fall into that again.”

I had a friend that began to look at pornography.  His wife caught him at it, and he confessed and was delivered from it.  The problem was that he thought he’d overcome it.  So he decided to check himself and ended up right back in the same problem again.  He’d let his guard down…He’d stopped contending for that deliverance.

In the garden, you need to continue to hunt down the rhizomes.  The only way that you can control the growth is through constant attention.  If you stop searching for and removing the rhizomes, the Bamboo will get out of control again.

We need to constantly be digging for rhizomes of sin in our hearts or that sin will spread and appear again. 

David has neglected his heart and stalk of lust has grown up.

2 Samuel 11:2-3 (NKJV)
11:2 Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof, he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

From this stalk of lust, rhizomes have spread out to other areas of his life.  Lust led to adultery, lies, cover-ups, manipulation, and murder.  That sin of just looking at a naked woman and lusting sexually for her finally led to the murder of an innocent man.

The events that led to the resignation of President Nixon started in a simple enough way.  There was a break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington DC.  The break-in was illegal, but what cost President Nixon his job wasn’t the original crime.  What cost him his job was the cover up of those things; the lies, the manipulations and all that resulted from that.  The original break-in led to the crimes that destroyed Nixon.

In the Bamboo plants, there is one stalk.  That stalk puts out rhizomes and other plants manifest themselves in different places.  As a result of the way the plants reproduce, all of them in a particular area are connected.  All of the sin in our lives is connected like the Bamboo.

Sin defiles and deceives the human conscience, and thereby hardens the human heart.  A sin-hardened heart grows ever more susceptible to temptation, pride, and every kind of evil.  Unconfessed sin, therefore, becomes a cycle that desensitizes and corrupts the conscience and drags people deeper and deeper into bondage. – J F MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience

Sin is aggressive – like an organism; like a virus.

Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
The man-eaters of Tsabo is a true story of man-eating lions that were killing and devouring native workers on a British railroad project in Africa.  In the end, the lions were destroyed as the British leader set up a stand in the trees and waited for days until the lions attacked again.  He maintained a vigil in order to protect the people.

No less of a commitment is needed in our lives.  If David had pressed into the things of God; if he had continued to do what was necessary to protect Israel from the enemies of God, he would have been removed from the temptation.

When we take ourselves away from the things of God; the battle for souls and things that strengthen faith, we create distance from God.  When we stop reading our bible or praying we’re drifting away from God.  The closer you are to God the less likely you are to sin.  When we’re close to God it is difficult to get something between us and God.  It’s much easier when there’s a distance between us and God.

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the enemy [God].  It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that they’re cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the light…Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.  Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Closeness to God eliminates opportunity for Satan to draw us into decisions that lead to sin.  Satan doesn’t force us to do anything; we make a decision to sin.

David stumbled on to Bathsheba.  It wasn’t something he was looking for, but when he asked who she was, and sent for her, he made a decision to sin.  That decision was the result of his traveling on a path that led to a separation from the will of God.

The Result of Sin

Bamboo is what biologists call an “extremely opportunistic” plant.  It wants to exploit all of the sunlight, water and nutrients for its own reproduction.  This plant isn’t concerned about the others in the garden and if left alone will destroy every other plant in the garden by robbing them of nutrients.

David has turned away from the Will of God.  He’s backslidden at heart.  We often think of backsliding as when we are already engaged in sin, but backsliding begins when we slide back away from God and pursue our own desires.  David was already backslidden when he sinned with Bathsheba.  He backslid when he tarried in Jerusalem, because he’d already begun the process of pulling away from the will of God.  All of the other things that took place were the result of that original sin of pulling away from God.

David and Uriah knew each other.  Uriah was a mighty man; one of David’s elite hand picked.  They were friends.  There was a camaraderie between them, but sin is selfish.  David’s not thinking of Bathsheba; He’s not thinking of Uriah.  He’s thinking only of David.  David’s not even thinking of his children, because sin always computes out in our children’s lives.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives in a way he didn’t expect.

Deuteronomy 5:9 (NKJV)
5:9 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,

Sin in our lives follows us into the next generations.  In David’s case his son Amnon rapes his half sister Tamar – selfishness and lust.  David is angry but he can’t judge the sin in Amnon.  He can’t judge the sin that he himself had fallen into, but Absalom, Tamar’s brother did judge it and killed Amnon.  Absalom went into exile after that, and when given the right to return, he tried to usurp the government of his father.  Look at his reasoning:

2 Samuel 15:4 (NKJV)
15:4 Moreover Absalom would say, "Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice."

He believed that his sister never received justice, so he overthrew the kingdom.  David’s sin played out in his children’s lives.  Their lives came under the influence of sin and it destroyed them.

Bamboo can infect not only the garden in which it’s planted but it can spread and affect another garden that’s next door.  The rhizomes being underground can easily pass under a fence and into the garden of a neighbor.  Our neighbors in Riverside planted Bamboo next to their fence in order to give them privacy.  My wife had to be constantly digging and cutting rhizomes that passed under the fence in an effort to keep them out of our yard.

Amos 1:9 (NKJV)
1:9 Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

Tyre and Israel had a relationship of brotherhood at one point.  It’s a picture of relationship between people in the congregation; regard, concern – I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.  But Tyre sold out the relationship when they broke the covenant of brotherhood.  They joined with the enemy of Israel and instead of living peacefully they sold out – Every man for himself.

In the garden the assault is underground and it isn’t until the stalk manifests itself that the assault can be recognized.  By then it can be too late and only a pitched battle will save the garden.

The church can’t be protected from what is hidden.  Discord in relationships, loss of dominion causes the church to stall.  Sin in the church affects us all.  The effort turns to keeping people from scattering and forward momentum stops.

Eradicating the Bamboo

Bamboo can be beaten, but in order for that to happen the rhizomes must be found and removed along with the original stalk.  It must all be removed.  Any stalk that’s left will begin to put out rhizomes.  Any rhizome left will put up other stalks.  In order to defeat it it must all be destroyed.

2 Samuel 12:13-18 (NKJV)
12:13 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die." 15 Then Nathan departed to his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, "Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!"

David recognizes his sin and repents.  This is more than just crying out he’s actively contending for God to move.  The relationship must be restored.  The connection to God will must be strengthened.  The consequences of the sin played out in the death of the child, but God restored David – never removing him as king.  God blessed him later as he allowed his son to rule after him.

1 Kings 15:4-5 (NKJV)
15:4 Nevertheless for David's sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, by setting up his son after him and by establishing Jerusalem; 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

It took David contending to live for God after that.  We have to have a resolve to live for Jesus. 

Have you ever taken a piece of paper and folded it over, then torn the paer along that line?  When it’s been folded it’s easy to tear it along the fold, because that fold becomes a weakness in the paper.  Sin, when we have fallen once, will attack us at that same place; that fold in our lives seeking once again to gain entry into that weak place.

We must contend in order to overcome.  Where is victory found?

1.        Remember that what is hidden from people God sees.  When we know that wickedness lies in our heart yet we fear God we can have victory.

Matthew 10:28 (NKJV)
10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

2.        The second thing that brings victory is a right relationship with your pastor.

Hebrews 13:7 (NKJV)
13:7 Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us to submit as well.  Your pastor will hold you accountable for your sin.  That’s why I call my pastor, Pastor and not by his name.  I have submitted my life and I’m accountable to him.

3.        Don’t neglect your relationship with Christ.

Hebrews 2:3 (NKJV)
2:3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

This Scripture speaks directly to our relationship with Jesus. 

If you want victory do the things you’re supposed to do:  Pray, read your Bible, go to church, and be in fellowship with your pastor.  Stay vigilant, looking for and judging sin.  Root every bit of sin out of your life, so that it can’t spread into other sin.  Finally, contend for victory.  Fight to remain in the will of God, and free from sin.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Waiting on God

How many reading this have prayed and waited for God to answer?  How many have read the promises of God and waited?  How many have been waiting a long time and still haven’t seen God move in their circumstances.

Do you know what I think takes the very most faith?  It’s not believing that God exists.  It’s not believing that Jesus rose from the dead.  I can grasp those things, but what takes the most faith is believing that God will move, and that God will deliver on His promise for you.

Isaiah 40:27-31 (NKJV)
40:27 Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the Lord, And my just claim is passed over by my God"? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

God’s Promises

Isaiah is trying to encourage Israel here, because they seem to have lost faith in God’s promises.  They’ve begun to complain about God not answering prayers. 

“My way is hidden from the Lord.”  God doesn’t see my circumstances.

“My just claim is passed over by God.”  God isn’t responding to my cries.

They’re not looking forward with hope.  They’re complaining that God’s hearing but not responding.  They’re impatient – They want to see God move, now!  They’ve forgotten about the things that God has done; the things that they’ve experienced.    They’ve forgotten what God’s character is like.  They’ve forgotten the things they’ve heard from their fathers about how God has moved in the past. 

Have you not seen through your own experience, or heard from teachers and the scriptures, about the attributes of God?  God doesn’t grow weary – God isn’t tired.  He’s not too exhausted to meet the needs of His people.  Instead of complaining, you ought to be inspired by how God moves and the things He does.  This is what Isaiah is reminding them.  He’s telling them whom God is, and what He is capable of doing.

I think that this is the number one way that people lose faith.  They have things that they need – things that they want and so they pray, but they don’t see God move.  They begin to lose faith that God will move on their behalf, so they stop praying, stop hearing the word and stop believing.

Where are you today?  Are you inspired by God’s promises?  Are you seeing God move in your life?  That’s really a very interesting question, because you may answer that you don’t see God moving – That God isn’t doing anything with any purpose in your life – That God isn’t meeting your needs in life, but God is moving in your life.  God is helping you.  God is actively involved in your life, but you think He’s not, because you’re not seeing Him give you that one thing that you desperately want from Him.

He’s moving in every aspect of your life.  He’s providing; He’s working in you; He’s meeting every need that you have but that one thing that you want the most.

Part of the problem is that you see things differently than God.  You always think that what you want is the best thing for you.  You always think that you’re ready for that thing you’re asking.  You always think that what you want is good for you, but God knows what’s best.

God knows if it’s the best thing for you.
God knows if you’re really ready.
God knows if it’s good for you.

You THINK – but God KNOWS!

These are some of the reasons God doesn’t move, but I think that there’s even more to it than that. 

I was thinking about Abraham – At seventy-five years old, God made him a promise.  He took him to a place and showed him a land that one day would belong to his descendants.  The problem was that at seventy-five years of age Abraham was childless – He had no heirs; no descendants.  He must have thought it was odd that God would make this promise.  He was an old man.  His wife was barren.  There it was, though, the promise of descendants.

Genesis 15:2-4 (NKJV)
15:2 But Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir."

Abraham believes God but he needs clarity.  He needs God to clarify this:  “I go childless – Are you saying the child of my slave is my heir?”  God tells him that a child will come from his own body – another promise.  Then – NOTHING happens…for twenty-five years, there is no child!

God says I have a promise for you.  I’m going to do something in you and through you.  I’m going to give something over into your hand, but you’re going to have to wait for it!

Can you believe for the child?  Can you believe for the promise?  Even though you see no evidence of it?  That’s the Biblical definition of faith, isn’t it?  Hebrew 11:1 – The substance of things hoped for – It’s faith that makes those hoped for things real.  It’s what brings substance to dreams, hopes, and promises.  Even that definition implies that it’s going to take time:  Things hoped for – Things not seen.  You give up, though, when you’re not seeing it.  “God I’m desperate for your promise”; God says wait! 

God made a promise to Joseph – They’ll bow down to you.  Then Joseph had to wait.  He endured slavery.  He endured false accusation and prison.  Joseph spent thirteen years as a slave and prisoner before the promise came.  Joseph had to wait!

God made a promise to David – David was anointed king when he was fifteen years old.  “You’re anointed the King over Israel – a man after my own heart!”  David became king at age thirty.  David had to wait.

Moses felt a calling to be the deliverer of Israel when he was forty years old.  He rose up, right then, in his own strength to deliver Israel from Egypt and failed.  God called him again at eighty years of age – “You’re going to deliver Israel.”  Moses had to wait!

All of these men had God’s promises on their lives, but they all had to wait.  There’s a promise in your life, as well.  Can you wait for it?

The Affect of Waiting

Why would God make us wait to see His calling and promise?  I felt the calling to full-time ministry after only a few months of salvation.  I had been saved only six months when I knew I wanted to be like my pastor.  I waited nine more years to go.  It was a time of preparation; a time of testing.  The promise was there, but I had to wait.

Abraham endured a period of waiting; twenty-five years.  It was a time of testing, a time of proving faith.  God was looking for a man that would trust Him.  He endured more than just waiting, too.  He endured famines; he endured fear down in Egypt.  This was the biggest pitfall for him.

Waiting isn’t easy.  There’s a desperation for the promise, “God I’m crying out for this – It’s important to me, God!  Why aren’t you responding?”  Abraham waited for the child but none came:

Genesis 16:1-4a (NKJV)
16:1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 3 Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. 4a So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived…"

God had promised that the child would come from his own body.  God had said that it would be him and Sarah that would produce a child – and yet Abraham loses faith in the process of time.  He’s had to wait, so he thinks that he has to help God to produce the child.  He takes the work of God upon himself.  Instead of waiting in faith, he reacts in the flesh and Ishmael is the child of that union.

Genesis 16:12 (NKJV)
16:12 He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren."

This is not the child of the promise; this is the child of the flesh.  They couldn’t see the possibility of God’s promise.  She was barren.  He was as good as dead.  They couldn’t see how God’s promise could happen. 

His impatience has corrupted the promise of God.  His lack of faith has caused this to go wrong.  Instead of producing a child through whom the world would be blessed, he has brought forth a man that would be against all men.

Can you wait for the possibility of God’s promise?  Are you in too much of a hurry?  Do you feel like you have to push the promise through?  Waiting is a time of testing.  God wants your trust.

I’ve seen so many people destroy what God is trying to do by taking God’s work and God’s promises into their own hands and corrupting the promise of God through the desires of the flesh.  Are you producing an Ishmael in your own life, because you’re looking at the promises of God through the filter of your own circumstances? 

“I don’t see any possibility for an almighty God to move, so I need to step in and help!”

In the end for the promise of God to flourish, Ishmael had to be cast out into the wilderness.  The flesh had to be thrown down so the promise could arise.

In our text it says:

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

This is talking about those who cannot wait on God:  The ones who will try to bring it about in their own strength.  They will faint and grow weary – the boundless energy of youth will fail them because the work of God will overwhelm them!  The creation of the heavens is the work of God’s fingers.  What God does with His fingers is impossible for any man in all of his strength.  We don’t have the strength for God’s work.  We don’t have the power to make His promise come true.

Those Who Wait

If you’re trying to bring about God’s promises in your own strength, you will grow weary.  The young men will utterly fall.  These are the men who are appointed; they are called to a purpose, but they will be utterly destroyed in trying to do it on their own – But those who wait…

Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
40:31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Those that wait will have new strength – their strength will be renewed; made new.  They will mount up with wings like Eagles.  What does that mean?

As an Eagle ages, there is damage to his feathers.  Many of them have fallen out; the power of the wings has diminished.  The eagle flies to a high rock and pulls the remaining feathers out of his wings.  He needs to stop and rest; take the time to allow the feathers to grow in.  He’s unable to hunt. He has to endure that time of waiting.  He can do nothing as he waits for the feathers to grow in.  He is utterly vulnerable.

As the feathers grow in and fill in the spaces where they were missing, his power to fly is renewed, but first, he has to survive that time of waiting.

God’s promises will strengthen us, but we also have to endure and survive the time of waiting.  This is the time when we are vulnerable to the devil’s strategy.  Can you allow your wings to “mount up”?  Can you endure the time it takes to see the promise?  What if you only see the beginning of the promise like Abraham did? 

Hebrews 11:13 (NKJV)
11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

These all died in faith:  The scripture is talking about Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah.  Abraham didn’t see his descendants numbered like sand on the seashore.  He never saw them possess the Promised Land.  It took six hundred eighty-five years from the time of the promise until they stepped across the Jordan and into that promise.

Abraham didn’t live to see that, but he saw Isaac, the child of promise.  He saw Jacob, his grandson.  He saw the promise of God begin to take shape and grow. 

Waiting on God isn’t just waiting:  God’s testing; God’s teaching; God’s loving and He’s giving us the opportunity to see His faithfulness.  He’s building faith and trust into us.  So that we can mount up as on Eagle’s wings; So that we can walk with him and not grow weary; So that we can run and not faint.  Are you one of those who can wait on God?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

God's Plan through Prison

We all go through things in life.  We all face difficulties.  Things are not always easy:  There’s persecution, hardships, things happen that are undeserved.  So, where’s God’s purpose in our lives?  Shouldn’t it be easy?  After all, we believe God.  We have faith, so why do bad things happen to us?  We’re good people, right?

God does have a plan for our lives.  So, if God has a plan then why are bad things happening?  In this post, I want to examine that, from this portion of scripture:

Genesis 39:19-20 (NKJV)
39:19 So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, "Your servant did to me after this manner," that his anger was aroused. 20 Then Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.

God’s Plan for Joseph

We know the story of Joseph.  He spent time as a slave.  He spent time in prison.  After that he became the Prime minister of Egypt.  God had a plan for Joseph.  God spoke to him and showed him his destiny.

Genesis 37:5-7 (NKJV)
37:5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf."

God is speaking to Joseph, here.  God is revealing something to him.  God is showing him there is a plan and a destiny for his life.  Eventually, it did happen.  He rose to a position of preeminence.  His brothers did bow to him.  It did come out according to God’s plan, but it wasn’t an easy road to destiny. 

Often there are what look like pitfalls on the road to God’s plan.  Sometimes it even looks as if the opposite of God’s plan is happening.  We can’t see how God’s plan could possibly work out.  Have you ever felt that?  You look at your circumstances and you can’t see any possibility.  We need to remember that it’s God’s plan; that God is in charge.

I’ll tell you a story.  In Riverside, we had a neighbor who was a good Christian.  In fact, she was a Christian counselor.  She helped people through their problems, using Biblical tools to bring counsel.  On the day that Barak Obama was elected president of the United States, she told me she couldn’t go to work.  She was too upset; she couldn’t see any possibility for America.  I had to ask her the question, “Is God still on the throne?”

We’re like that lady – We know that God has a plan.  We know that God is in charge of the universe, but in our limited vision, we can’t see how God’s plan could possibly happen.  So what happens?  We get depressed.  We even get angry at God, sometimes we even leave God.

Joseph had a clear vision of God’s plan for his life.  In fact, God showed him more than once.  He had two dreams:  God was going to elevate Joseph above the others in his family.  Joseph was destined to be a leader.

I wonder if God has spoken to you.  Has God begun to reveal his plan for your life?  Are you seeing God’s purposes for your life?  Can you look at your life right now, and see how God’s plan can happen for you, or are you bogged down by your circumstances.

I want you to know that Joseph went through a number of things before he saw God’s promise.  It must have looked impossible for him.  He may have thought that God’s plans might not happen.  In all that, though Joseph had faith – He believed God.

We’re all going to face adversity in life, even though we have God’s promise of destiny.  Look at what Job said to his wife:

Job 2:9-10 (NKJV)
2:9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job and his wife had just lost all of their children, all of their flocks, all of their wealth and Job’s health.  Job knows that adversity also comes in God’s plan.

The Unfolding of God’s Plan

God has spoken to Joseph and laid out the end result of His plan for Joseph’s life, but He didn’t tell Joseph what to expect.  Joseph shares the plan with his brothers.  His brothers are upset – They’re jealous because God has told Joseph that he would be above them.  So, look at what they did:

Genesis 37:25-28 (NKJV)
37:25 And they sat down to eat a meal. Then they lifted their eyes and looked, and there was a company of Ishmaelites, coming from Gilead with their camels, bearing spices, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry them down to Egypt. 26 So Judah said to his brothers, "What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh." And his brothers listened. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

The brothers wanted to kill him.  They plotted against him.  They made a decision to sell him into slavery, but wait a minute, where is God’s plan in this?  This isn’t a blessing, is it?  He’s going to be a slave – This isn’t what God had told him his destiny was.  Is the plan of God derailed in his life? 

God has a plan for us, too, but sometimes it doesn’t seem as if it’s working out.  In fact, it seems as if the exact opposite is happening.  “God has a good plan for me, doesn’t he?  So where’s the blessing?  How come I’m being sold into slavery?  Is this really God’s plan for me?” 

God told Joseph everyone would bow down to him, but right now it doesn’t look as if the brothers are going to be doing that.  It seems like they have the upper hand.

The devil does that to us, too.  Sometimes it seems like the devil is winning.  Sometimes it seems as if the devil has the upper hand – and sometimes it seems like it gets even worse. 

Joseph is serving in Potiphar’s house.  Potiphar’s wife decides that she wants him.  Joseph is serving God, though.  He refuses her and the woman lies.  Potiphar has him put in jail thinking that he raped his wife – and Joseph languishes in prison.  Can you imagine what Joseph is thinking?  How distant the destiny of the dreams must seem to him.  He’s separated from family.  He’s in another country in prison.

Think about this.  How often are prisoners elevated in society?  They’re usually considered to be cast-offs from society.  They hardly ever have people bowing down to them.  They’re hardly ever thought of as leaders of society.

In all of this God’s plan is still working, though.  While he’s a slave the Bible says:

Genesis 39:2 (NKJV)
39:2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
 Genesis 39:23 (NKJV)
39:23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.

I wonder if the Joseph felt like the Lord was with him, or did he feel more like Job’s wife.

There were some things that happened in prison that seem unrelated.  He meets a butler and a baker that are also in prison.  They’ve somehow made Pharaoh angry, so he’s sent them to prison.  While in prison, each of them had a dream.  Look at what Joseph says to them:

Genesis 40:7-8 (NKJV)
40:7 So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, "Why do you look so sad today?" 8 And they said to him, "We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." So Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please."

We get a little insight into Joseph’s thinking here, “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell them to me.”  Joseph is still having faith.  Even in the middle of all of these things, he still believes God.  He’s still praying.  He’s still got a relationship with God.

A lot of times when things go wrong our relationship with God suffers for it.  We feel distant from God.  We back off in our prayer life.  We allow distance to come between us and God; am I right?  It’s almost like we allow ourselves to think that God betrayed us.

This often the way it is with people who profess not to believe in God.  Often, they’re just angry at God for something that’s happened in their lives.  It’s not so much a disbelief in god as it is a feeling of betrayal, followed by a hatred of God; bitterness.

I don’t get that from Joseph, though.  He correctly interprets their dreams and asks the butler to remember him to Pharaoh.  The butler for his part promptly forgets about Joseph and he spends two more years in prison…until Pharaoh has a dream.

Pharaoh is disturbed by the dream and finally, the butler remembers how Joseph correctly interpreted his dream.  He tells Pharaoh and Pharaoh has Joseph brought to him.  Joseph then correctly interprets Pharaoh’s dream.

Destiny is Realized

This is where Joseph begins to see the plan unfolding.  Pharaoh’s dream had to do with prosperity and drought.  There would be seven years of prosperity and then seven years of drought.  Joseph gave a plan to Pharaoh to use the seven prosperous years to provide for the seven drought years, so Pharaoh lifts Joseph up from prison and makes him Prime Minister over all of Egypt.  They destiny of God is playing out in his life.  Now look at this:

Genesis 50:18 (NKJV)
50:18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, "Behold, we are your servants."

His brothers have bowed down before him.  God’s entire plan has played out in his life.  What you should see here, though is that all of the things that took place in Joseph’s life had to take place, for God’s plan to work.

At Potiphar’s house Joseph learned how to manage the house.  He had to be a slave there or he wouldn’t have gone to prison.  In prison he interpreted the dreams – the thing that was needed by Pharaoh.  That had to happen for him to be recommended to Pharaoh to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  God put all of those things into place.  Joseph tells us something that we need to know:

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)
50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

All along it was the plan of God.  It was meant by the brothers for evil, but God had a plan for good. I know that some people are going through things.  I know that some people can’t understand why things are happening the way they are.  I know that some f you can’t see the promise of God in your circumstances, but there is a plan and what you’re going through now might be necessary to make God’s plan play out in your life.  Don’t lose hope – Don’t break faith.

You don’t always know what God is doing.  You can’t always see His strategy, but God knows what He’s doing.  He has a destiny and a plan for you.

Monday, April 10, 2017

It Matters How You Finish

There’s a book on Amazon.com called, The (Incomplete) Book of Failures:  The Official Handbook of the Not-So-Terribly-Good Club of Great Britain.  The book itself should be mentioned within, though, because when they printed it they left out the first two pages and had to add them in later.  Even the book itself was a failure!

Everyone has a failure at some point in their live.  We all fail; we fail at school; we fail at work; we fail in our walk with Jesus.  The problem with failure is that people often fail and then think, “That’s it – it’s over!” but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true.  Today, I want to post on coming back from failure.

Proverbs 24:16 (NKJV)
24:16 For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.

Failure Happens

A righteous man may fall seven times – So our failure doesn’t mean that we’ve been bad.  Failure isn’t a judgment by God.  It can happen to a righteous man, but the righteous man can rise from the failure.

Peter is a perfect example.  Peter was Jesus’ chosen leader, but Peter wasn’t perfect.  Not by any measure of perfection.  Peter was impulsive.  He did things without thinking.

Jesus is walking on the water – Peter gets out of the boat. On the mount of Transfiguration – Peter blurts out that he wants to build tabernacles for Moses and Elijah.  Jesus says He’s going to suffer – Peter rebukes Him.  In the Garden of Gethsemane – Peter cuts of Malthus’ ear.  Jesus sees them on the Sea of Galilee – Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to shore.

That’s just who Peter is – He’s all enthusiasm, but no foresight.  He means well, he just doesn’t always think about the consequences. God can use people like that. 

It speaks of boldness.  He’s not afraid.  It speaks of zeal.  He’ wants to do something for God.  It speaks of action.  He’s not one to sit around and think, think, think.  He does! He’s the original NIKE® man, “Just Do It!”

This is a good thing in some ways.  It makes things happen.  He’s a leader.  He’s not sitting around waiting to be led.  A church can use a guy like that, but when you’re a man of action, there’s always the potential for failure.

Taiwan is an interesting place.  People live under enormous pressure to succeed.  Bosses have unrealistic expectations, sometimes.  There’s no room for failure.  I’m not saying that failure is good. I’m just saying that if you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried to do anything difficult. 

People are going to fail.  Edison didn’t invent the light bulb on the first try.  Lincoln lost a lot more elections than he won.  I know men who’ve tried to pioneer a church, and are back in their home churches because they couldn’t make it work. 

In businesses they have methods for doing things.  Do you know why?  It’s because there were failures along the way that taught them that this is the way to make it all work.  If you want to be successful, there’s going to be failures along the way.

I’ve learned things, because I’ve made mistakes.  I’ve changed because I learned that some things I’ve done and said weren’t helpful in church building.  It’s been a sixteen year process to get where I am today – and I’m still not perfect.  I still make mistakes.  I want to clarify something, though.  If the failure is because you’re lazy, or you’re not putting a hundred percent into it, it’s not a mistake.  It’s not a learning moment.  It’s a decision – You’re looking for failure!  Leadership is hard – you have to be willing to work at it.

Peter wasn’t lazy.  He was always willing to do things.  He was a successful businessman.  He ran a business.  Peter has to learn how to be a disciple.  He’s learning how by making mistakes.

Matthew 16:21-22 (NKJV)
16:21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"

This is a perfect example – Jesus is telling them about all the things that have to happen to Him, in order for him to fulfill the will of God for him and for us.  Peter say, “Oh no, that’s not happening!”  He’s actually rebuking Jesus.  This is a failure; this is a mistake.  These things have to happen.  This is God’s will that Jesus be crucified.  Look at what happens:

Matthew 16:23 (NKJV)
16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."

Ouch – Jesus called Him Satan!  “You’re not mindful of the things of God.  You’re thinking about the things of men.”

You can see where Peter is coming from – He loves Jesus.  He doesn’t want Him to have to suffer and die.  He’s talking without thinking again, and Jesus has to tell him, “It’s not about you, Peter.”

Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)
16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

If you want to be my follower you have to deny yourself.  It’s not about what Peter wants – It’s about what God is trying to do for everyone.  Peter’s being selfish, “I don’t want that to happen!”  Jesus said that Satan using you, Peter.  It’s sin – Sin is failure.

Peter’s Biggest Failure

I want to show you the biggest failure in Peter’s life.  This is where things really come apart for Peter.  It takes place on the night of the Last Supper.  Jesus has already sent Judas out to arrange His betrayal.  He’s washed their feet to teach them about leadership, and they are on their way to Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane.  Of course, the disciples don’t know that, yet.  They think they’re just going to watch Jesus pray.

Matthew 26:31-32 (NKJV)
26:31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' 32 But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."

Jesus begins to warn them that there will be failure for them.  “All of you will be made to ‘stumble’ because of me.”  That word stumble comes from the same word that we get our word scandal from – it means to ensnare – to trip up – to cause to sin – There will be failure, because of what happens to Jesus this night.  Look at what Peter says:

Matthew 26:33 (NKJV)
26:33 Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble."

“Oh no; no, no, no; Not me, that’s not happening!  They may stumble but not me!  I’m not stumbling.”

Matthew 26:34-35 (NKJV)
26:34 Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." 35 Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples.

We all know what happened, though, don’t we?  Take a look:

Matthew 26:69-74 (NKJV)
26:69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, "You also were with Jesus of Galilee." 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are saying." 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 But again he denied with an oath, "I do not know the Man!" 73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." 74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.

What happened to “I will follow you even unto death!”?  The Book of Luke says that Jesus looked at Peter and Peter heard the rooster and saw Jesus look at him.

Matthew 26:75 (NKJV)
26:75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So he went out and wept bitterly.

This is a great failure on Peter’s part.  Where was all the boldness?  Where was all the bravado?  He’d used his sword in the garden, but the boldness went out of him.  His failure was in his fear!  He’d bragged that he would follow Jesus even to death, but at the moment of crisis – He lost his nerve and saw through himself.  He saw the weakness and failure and he wept bitterly.

This could have been the end for him.  This could have been the failure that destroyed him.  We’ve all been knocked down by failure.  We don’t read about Peter at the crucifixion.  When Jesus rises from the dead and they tell him:

Luke 24:11 (NKJV)
24:11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.

He didn’t believe it – even though Jesus clearly spoke that it would happen.  He’s broken and discouraged – He’s failed – and it could be all over.  For many of us it would be.

It Matters How You Finish

It’s not failure in life that matters – I’ve told you failure happens.  It happens to everyone who tries to do difficult things.  Living for Jesus isn’t always easy.  People fail at living for Jesus, but failure doesn’t have to define us.  It doesn’t mean that it’s over.  It doesn’t matter how you do in life – It matters how you finish.  Peter finished well.

We all know the story Jesus appeared to them on the sea.  Peter finally recognizes Him and jumps into the water and swims to Jesus.  Jesus tells him, “Feed my sheep.”  Three times – because Peter denied him three times.  He restores Peter to usefulness.  Failure wasn’t his end. 

We can read about things Peter did in the Book of Acts.  He stood on Pentecost and led the early church into revival.  He healed the man at the Gate Beautiful.  His shadow healed the lame and sick on the streets.  He preached to Cornelius and saw his family saved and foiled with the Holy Spirit.  He set the church on a trajectory to reach the world.  You can’t look at the early church and remember only Peter’s failure.

I want to tell you one more thing:  Peter’s failure was his denial of Jesus at His trial.  He’d said he would follow Jesus even to death and yet, out of fear, he denied Jesus and wept bitterly.  In the end, though, Peter was crucified for preaching the Gospel in Rome.  He was crucified upside down, because he made a stand for Jesus.  He did end up following Jesus even to death!  It doesn’t matter what you do in life – It matters how you finish.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Satanic Strategies

When we go through troubles we think God is mad at us.  “God’s punishing me,” or “Why is God doing this to me.”  But only good things come from God, so when we have bad things happen to us, we assume it’s the devil, and it is…in a way.  I want to look at some things in a different light.  I want to look at struggle and turmoil through Job’s experience, and apply it to our lives.

Job 1:6-12 (NKJV)
1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" 12 And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

God Allows Satan’s Attack

God called a meeting of the sons of God – wait what?  I thought God had only one Son.  Jesus the Son of God:  Jesus is the only begotten Son of God:  Begotten, means born.  The phrase “sons of God” in this usage refers to direct creation.  They have no mom.  Adam is a son of God.  Satan is a son of God, that’s why he’s at that meeting

The second thing we need to know about Satan is that he’s running to and fro on the earth.  He’s here; he’s there.  He isn’t omnipresent.  He can’t be in more than one place.  He’s not like God.  He’s not everywhere.  He’s running to and fro on the earth.  He’s here on earth.

Do you ever feel like you’re under spiritual attack, but then things get better for a while and then the attacks return?  It’s because he’s gone away and then comes back.  When he tempted Jesus in the desert in Luke 4 Jesus resisted.  Look at what it says:

Luke 4:13 (NKJV)
4:13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

He does have helpers, though, so there are always attacks.

We have this idea that if we’re saved, love God, and live righteously then we won’t be attacked by the devil, because we’re under God’s protection, but look at our text.  Here’s Job, blameless and upright, he’s doing all the right things.  God even brags about him, but the devil says, “Yeah, because you give him everything, and you’ve built a hedge around him, (you protect him), so of course he loves you…but take it all away and he’ll curse you in this.”  So, the devil wants to attack Job, because he IS righteous.  The devil doesn’t go after you if you’re a Christian in name only.  If you’re not living the will of God, he doesn’t have to go after you.  He already owns you.  He doesn’t have to lead you into some gross sin.  He just needs to turn you away from God.  This is what he’s trying to do with Job.  “He’s blameless and upright?  I can make him curse you.” 

So here’s the hard part to understand – God says “Oh yeah, try it!  Do whatever you want, just don’t kill him.”  God allows us to be attacked.  Satan has to have permission to go after us.  This isn’t God testing us, it’s the devil:

Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)
22:31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you; that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Satan asks to test Peter, and Jesus permits it.  He even knows that Peter will fail:  “And when you have returned to me…”  In other words, “After you stop backsliding…” 

There is a level of protection there.  God does protect us, but when we allow Satan to turn us away from God we lose that protection, because we no longer belong to God.  If you don’t belong to God, to whom do you belong?  John 8:44 says, “You are of your father the devil…”  Even the Pharisees started out trying to do the right thing.  Their laws were created with the idea that those laws would keep them on the right side of God.  They wanted to be blameless and upright, but the devil slipped in and corrupted.  This is why it’s so important that our trust be in God and not in ourselves.  They tried to be righteous on their own and left a door open for the devil to corrupt them.  They trusted their laws and not God.  God wants us to trust Him.  Trusting God is what we call faith.

If you read the entire book of Job, faith is what keeps him.  Throughout the book, it says, “Job did not sin with his lips.”  He didn’t accuse God.  He didn’t blame God.  He recognized that blessing comes with testing.  He’s right; blessing comes in on the back of adversity.  If you don’t know suffering you can’t know blessing.

So, why does God allow the devil to attack?  He does that so you can see your need to trust God.  He does it so that you can experience blessing.  He does it all for His own glory.  Here He is, He’s bragging to Satan, “You can’t turn Job – He’s locked in – He’s going to worship me, no matter what!”

The devil is an opportunist.  He’s looking for ways to destroy.  He’s opposed to God.  He’s opposed to what God is doing in your life, and he’s looking for a way to take you out.  His goal is to separate you from God.

The Devil Has a Plan for You

The other thing that we can see in our text is that the devil’s a planner.  He has a plan for your life.  He devises a plan to take you away from God and puts it into play at an opportune time.  Remember, that in Luke four, he left Jesus until an opportune time.  He was looking for a time when Jesus would be vulnerable.  The devil looks for vulnerability.  He watches for us to open a door to sin. 

Genesis 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."

There is an aggression there – Its desire is for you.  He’s watching for signs of potential temptation and sin.  He listens to the words you speak, looking for weaknesses in faith. 

Job 2:10b (NKJV)
2:10b  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

I’ve posted on the power of words a number of times.  The words we speak can provide the devil with an opportunity to attack us.  Complaining is a vulnerability.  Gossip and slander are vulnerabilities.  Speaking in unbelief is a vulnerability.  The devil is looking for those things that he can use against you.  His plan is to leave you discouraged and filled with unbelief.  Here’s an example:

Luke 22:33-34 (NKJV)
22:33 But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." 34 Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."

Peter’s bragging that he will go to death with Jesus.  Throughout the New Testament we see Peter – He’s impulsive with words – He’s outspoken – He’s brash.  He speaks what his heart wants, but he doesn’t always have the resolve to see it through.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  He’s vulnerable and the devil uses it:

Luke 22:55-60 (NKJV)
22:55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, "This man was also with Him." 57 But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." 58 And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" 59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." 60 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

Peter told Jesus that night that he would follow Jesus to death, but within hours he’s accused and he falls apart.  The devil saw his opportunity.  He saw Peter’s vulnerability and he took Peter out.  Peter went out weeping bitterly.  In a matter of days Peter was so discouraged and broken that he said, “I’m going fishing.”  He went back to his old life.  He’s backslidden.  He’s not trusting God; he’s lost.

That’s exactly what the devil planned for him.  “Simon, Simon the devil has asked to sift you like wheat.”  He knew where Peter was vulnerable.  He knows where your vulnerabilities are, too.  He’s listened to you.  He’s watched you.  He has a plan for you, and it’s the opposite of God’s plan for you.  God has destiny for you – The devil has discouragement.  He wants you so discouraged that you can’t serve God, either.  He wants you filled with unbelief, too.  He wants you to turn back to your old sin-filled life because then he wins.  That was his plan for Job.  That was his plan for Peter and that’s his plan for you.

The Devil’s a Strategist

In order to defeat an enemy you need three things:

1.        You need to understand your enemy’s vulnerabilities.
2.        You need to have a plan to defeat the enemy.
3.        You need a strategy to implement the plan.

The devil is a strategist.  Once he has determined your vulnerabilities and figured out what needs to be done to defeat you, he begins to build the steps to move you into that plan.  It’s like a game of chess.  One has to be able to think a number of moves ahead of your opponent.  The devil needs a strategy to move you out of God’s will.  He’ll come up with a series of steps to destroy you.

In Luke four, the devil had a three-part strategy to take Jesus out.  His plan was to keep Jesus from fulfilling His destiny on earth.  He wanted to keep Him from being the salvation of mankind.  So, he ran the first step in his plan:

Luke 4:1-4 (NKJV)
4:1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread."

He’s trying to get Jesus to be more human than He is God.  He’s trying to appeal to His flesh.  Hunger is the vulnerability.  “Give in to the flesh.  You don’t have to be hungry.  The stones will become bread for you.”  The flesh will take you out if you let it.  That didn’t work so the devil moved on:

Luke 4:5-7 (NKJV)
4:5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours."

He’s trying to appeal to His carnal appetites – Lust.  Power and wealth are the vulnerabilities.  “You can be like a king here without having to suffer.”  Ruling the Kingdom of God is His destiny.  The devil says, “I’ll just hand it all over.”  It’s a shortcut to that destiny.  Trying to shortcut God’s will, will take you out.  That didn’t work, either, so the devil moved to the final step in the plan.

Luke 4:9-11 (NKJV)
4:9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,' 11 "and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' "

He wants Jesus to demonstrate that He’s the Son of God.  Pride is the vulnerability that the devil wants to exploit, here.  In this case, it’s the pride of presumption.  “You’re the Son of God; you know that He will catch you.  You can manipulate God.  If they see God catch you they’ll accept you.  That’s a better plan than God’s.”  That’s presumption and pride:  Those things will take you out.

Satan is doing the same thing in your life.  He’s listening and looking for your vulnerabilities.  He’s developing a plan to destroy you, and he’s working out the strategy to get you there.  You need to get a handle on your heart.  You need to examine your words and your actions to find out where you’re vulnerable.  If you close the door on sin, protect your mind and heart, you can protect yourself from demonic attack.  People serve God successfully for fifty or sixty years.  They endure until the end.

Job did it.  He resisted the plan of Satan.  He guarded his heart and his lips.  Paul did it.  He said, “His grace is sufficient for me.”  I close with this:

James 4:7 (NKJV)
4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

He will flee from you…until a more opportune time.  Just don’t give him one.  He’ll attack you throughout your whole life, but you don’t have to let him win.