Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Legalistic Abuse

Acts 18:5-11, 13
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.  But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads!"  I am clear of  my responsibility.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles."

Then Paul left the Synagogue and went next door to the house of Titius Justus, a worshiper of God.   Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city."  So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

The Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him into court.  "This man," they charged, "is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law."

Religious legalism is one of the most difficult strongholds to overcome.  When God reveals something contrary to the "the way it's always been taught", you can be sure the legalists will start to attack.

The law of God is perfect, reviving the soul. (Ps.19:7)  The Jews of Paul's day rejected his message because it was prophetic in nature.  It did not contradict scripture, it brought it to life.  Paul's message appeared new to them, but in reality it was written in the scriptures long before.  God is even now revealing what has been hidden in scriptures up to this point.

Over 100 years ago, Dr. C.I. Scofield said in his notes on Revelation in the Scofield Reference Bible, "Doubtless, much which is designedly obscure to us will be clear to those for whom it is written as the time approaches."  

The closer we get to the end of the age, the more God will reveal "new mysteries" that have been there all along.  I like to refer to these mysteries as things hidden in plain sight.  Since Noah's day, God has chosen to reveal truths through His prophets. Even today, God is using those with the gift of prophecy to bring the mysteries of scripture to life.

Be fore-warned if you think you have the gift of prophecy!  Down through history, God's prophets were hated, stoned, beheaded and crucified for their message.  On a less severe note, the prophets were laughed at, scoffed and told to stop preaching their message as is was considered false and heretical.  A prophet's message always has been and always will be, "repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand".

Believe you me, that message is not well-received - especially by those who believe they are already religious, those who are "law-keepers",  by that I mean those who by all outward appearances are righteous and well-versed in the scriptures...just like the legalistic Jews!

Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Everybody Needs a Nehemiah

Looking back I now realize that everyone needs a Nehemiah – someone who will pray, mourn, fast and weep until your strongholds are demolished and the beautiful walls of the City of God are rebuilt in you.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,3
There is a time for everything… a time to tear down and a time to build.

I sat in a heap; utterly broken with everything I knew crumbling down around me.  “How much longer, Lord?  How much further must I fall?  My life is in ruins, yet it continues to crumble!”

“Until it’s all down”, He replied.  “It must all come down.  All your false beliefs and expectations about your marriage, your home and financial security even the expectations you have for your children.  All the things you hold higher than Me must come down.  Everything that has exalted itself up against the knowledge of God (II Cor 10:5) must come down.”

I was an absolute disgrace as I sat in the rubble of my life and cried.  For seven long years the enemy had out-witted me and I was totally unaware of his tactics.  Did I know I was to keep watch so I would not be caught unaware? Did I know I had armor and weapons at my disposal to defend and protect myself from the enemy’s merciless onslaught?  No.  And so my unpreparedness led to my swift and sure defeat and I was carried off into exile, so to speak– captive to my own bitterness and failure to forgive.

I began to questions God’s goodness.  I questioned His ability to deliver me.  Was God’s arm too short to save?  My soul hung in the balance between belief and unbelief.
Then word came to Nehemiah, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Neh. 1:3)  When Nehemiah heard these things, he wept, and mourned and fasted.  And he prayed to the God of heaven and asked the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in your sight, let him send me to Jerusalem so that I can rebuild it.” 

So, Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and found a few good men and he said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire.  Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and we will no longer be in disgrace.”

I don’t know who my Nehemiah was, but somebody stood in the gap for me.  Somebody who had more faith and more strength to pray stood at my portion of the wall, spiritually, and held me up until I was able to stand on my own.

At first, I didn’t even realize the wall was mine to rebuild.  I didn’t see any design or purpose in my suffering.  I couldn’t see that this was part of God’s plan, but God had made it clear to me that my old wall had to come down first.  It was weak and crumbly; yet, I held onto all the crumbling pieces hoping that somehow I could put them back together again.  But the more I held onto the pieces, the more they just disintegrated and slipped through my fingers. 

My wall was built on pride, rebellion, stubbornness, self-reliance, performance, control and the list goes on.  I thank God for sending a messenger into my life who helped me identify these strongholds of the enemy and for teaching me these words from scripture:
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  (II Cor 10:4-5)

The strongholds came down with one final nudge, but the enemy plotted to stir up trouble and fight against the good work that was being done.  The enemy, Satan, became aware that I had plans to rebuild my portion of the wall and he was very disturbed.  He hurled insults at me, “Can you bring stones back to life from those heaps of rubble?  Look what you are building, if even a fox climbed upon it, he would break down those walls of stone!” (Neh 4:2-3)

From that day on, I did my work with one hand and held a weapon with the other. (Neh 4:17).  And so the wall was rebuilt as I bound myself to the truth of the Word.  Immeasurably more than just my marriage was saved.  God’s faithfulness and goodness toward me was never-failing.

Thank you, Lord, for my Nehemiah, whoever it was.  Remember with favor my Nehemiah, O God, for all he has done for me.  Send a Nehemiah to the next person on the wall.  Station him at the lowest points where there are exposed places and families. You, O Lord, are the God of all mankind and nothing is too difficult for you! (Jer. 32:17)