Friday, December 9, 2016

Things I've Learned in 2016

We're moving quickly toward the end of 2016.  Like you, I always look forward to the challenges and opportunities that a new year brings, but I also like to reflect on some of the lessons learned during the peaks and valleys of the present year.  So here we go with a short list of 5 things I've learned this year.

1.  Satan is an imposter.   Have you ever looked closely at what the apostle Peter says about Satan in his first letter.  I Peter 5:8 says, "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour."  Notice that little word "like."  That indicates that this is a simile.  A simile compares two things (often dissimilar things) using the words "as" or "like."  For instance, you might look at a weightlifter as he bench presses 300+ pounds and say, "He's as strong as a bull."  That doesn't mean he is a bull.  

In this verse, Satan is compared to a roaring lion who, in his quest for prey, will lurk in the tall grass until he can find a victim who is isolated, feeble, injured, or sick.  BUT, he is NOT a lion.  He's an imposter who uses his ability to disguise himself even as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)  Rarely will you see him as he really is.  He can approach in a way that appeals to your senses or he can sneak up on you during a moment of weakness or lack of judgment.  So in 2017, STAY ALERT!!! Satan will be seeking ways to distract you, disturb you, and destroy your witness.  

2.  Satan will use fear & intimidation to paralyze!   In I Samuel 17, Satan used a giant named Goliath to paralyze the nation of Israel.  Though they served the omnipotent God of the universe, they allowed this threat, this intimidator to render them helpless before him . . . that is until a young teenaged boy named David showed up.  

No matter how large or oppressive a problem might appear, the God we serve is ALWAYS larger and stronger.  When we, like young David, trust and obey, God becomes our warrior God. He goes before us and fights in our behalf.   In 2017, TRUST AND OBEY!  And hear the words of the angels, the words of Jesus, the words of Father Himself saying "FEAR NOT!"

3.  The Church is supposed to be on Offense!   Jesus told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build MY Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it."  Matthew 16:18   Gates are for Defense. They are in place to prevent, to keep, to protect.  According to Jesus, His Church should be on the move, on offense, attacking the very gates of hell to take back everything and everyone that Satan has stolen.  But far too often, we limit our faith activity to what goes on within the walls of our church buildings.  We avoid the gates of hell where we can find those who are far from God.  When Jesus told us to GO, He didn't mean go to meetings, go to fellowships, or even go to Bible studies.  Yet that is how far too many people define their faithfulness.  Jesus told us to GO into the world and proclaim the good news.  Mark 16:15.  So WHY are we still not on the move, marching into the gates of hell to give Good News to those who are far from God? In 2017, remember that church attendance is important for corporate worship, corporate prayer, encouragement and learning.  But ALL of that is pointless if we forsake Jesus' last public command to GO and make disciples.  

4)  We can be on offense without being offensive!   When we go on the offense, we will be confronted by those who do not share our values or beliefs.  But they are people for whom the Lord Jesus died.  They are people whom God the Father loves.  So they deserve our respect and honor even if they are not honorable biblically.  Lost people do the things that lost people do.  So love them as Jesus did.  AND, when we determine to go on the offense, expect spiritual resistance.  Paul reminds that our warfare is not with people, but with demonic powers.  He also reminds us that the weapons of our warfare are spiritual.
Ephesians 6   In 2017, put on the whole armor of God daily and get out of your comfort zone and into a lost world that needs to hear about the Lord Jesus.  Show Him to them by the way you live and speak to them about what HE is doing in your life. Leave the results to the Holy Spirit.  

5)  We need to stop talking to God about the size of our problems and start telling our problems about the size of our God!   Does that sound like a cliche?  Yeah, it does, but it's true! At times, we become so overwhelmed by our problems and issues that we allow them to cloud our vision of God.  But God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  The God we serve is the same God Who spoke the world into creation.  He's the same God Who saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace.  He's the same God Who closed the mouths of lions as Daniel slept in their den.  He's the same God Who raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:11 that for those of us who trust and obey, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us.  Jesus encouraged His apostles to have a deeper, greater faith because when they did, nothing was beyond the realm of possibility.  Matthew 17:20   In 2017, when problems and issues loom over your life, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Trust Him and obey Him even in the midst of your trials and He will give you peace and victory.