March 2011

Limitless, beyond the movie

I recently saw the movie “Limitless.” Although I would not endorse the morals of the lead character nor the gratuitous violence, I found the story intriguing. “Limitless” is about a man who is enabled to access 100% of his brain’s capabilities by taking an experimental drug called MDT. This pill allows him instant mental access to everything he has ever heard, seen or read with computer-like precision. It thereby imbues him with superhuman abilities and provides him the wherewithal to be a success at anything he seeks to do.

This sci-fi thriller is based on the premise that we human beings use only 20% or less of our brain’s power. Thus it is fascinating to think about the possibilities if we were actually able to miraculously use all its available reservoir of power. Nothing would be impossible.

The movie stirred my thinking about a parallel limitless possibility. What would the Christian life be like if we could access 100% of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and power? Imagine having full access to everything the Holy Spirit knows, sees and is doing in any given moment. And better yet, imagine having the ability to release His unlimited power to meet the need and challenge of that moment.

Unfortunately our batting average at connecting fully with the Holy Spirit is about the same or less than our utilization of our brain. It leaves us living life at a level far below the Great Designer’s intention.

Jesus of course is our model of a full-access Spirit-filled life. John the Baptist’s description of Him in the verse quoted at the outset of this article encapsulates the secret to Son of Man’s amazing abilities and power. He was given by His Father unlimited access to the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately our tendency is to dismiss the possibility of living and moving in the Holy Spirit the way Jesus did. We do so because we reason that in addition to being the Son of Man, He was the Son of God. But Jesus consistently made it clear to His followers that a life empowered by full access to the Holy Spirit is a birthright granted to every spiritual son and daughter. (Ephesians 1:14)

And not only that, Jesus also promised that “”anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLT) And it was Jesus’ ascension to His Heavenly Father that set the stage for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and empowered the church for a “greater works” ministry.

So why then don’t we see these greater works, especially in our own lives? Why is it that most of the time, we only access a small percentage of the full power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us? There are no easy answers.

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Insight into the devil’s schemes

In my last blog post I raised the question “Where have all the demons gone?” It was generated by the noticeable contrast between the pervasive demands for deliverance in Jesus’ ministry versus the diminishment of such ministry in the church today, particularly in the West. Albeit it is a perception, but demons are not as in-your-face today as they were two thousand years ago.

First let me say, I don’t believe demons have not gone anywhere. The devil and his horde of demons are alive on planet earth and as wicked as ever. Since Jesus’ plan of redemption for human kind has not changed, neither has the devil’s plan for our captivity and utter destruction. Jesus told us that the devil comes “only to steal and kill and destroy,” but to counter that He came so that we “might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV)

While on earth, Jesus gave us critical insight into the devil’s strategy: “He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NLT)

The devil’s modus operendi therefore is deception. Again and again in the Bible we are warned that we must not be ignorant of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11) We are told plainly in the book of Revelation that when “that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan” was cast down to earth his goal was to “lead the whole world astray.” (Revelation 12:9) If that is not the epitome of deceptive intent what is?

Based on these facts about the devil’s strategies provides understanding as to why his tactics are different today than they were in Jesus’ day. Warfare has changed significantly over the centuries to where now it is often difficult, if not impossible, to identify the enemy. Spiritual warfare today is the same way. Battling demonic powers is not unlike trying to defend against suicide bombers and double agents. It is guerrilla warfare at best and subterfuge is the order of the day.

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Where have all the demons gone?

“Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” Luke 13:32 NIV

This week as I have been reading through the gospel of Luke I have been struck by how much of the focus of Jesus’ ministry was in casting out demons. His message for Herod quoted above, who was seeking to kill him, put driving out demons right at the top of His priority list. Depending on how you read the Gospels, Jesus spent up to 30% of his time in deliverance ministry dealing with demons. In fact Jesus touted it as the imprimatur of the authenticity of His ministry. “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28 NIV)

It has caused me to wonder why there is such a stark contrast between the ministry of the church today, particularly in the west, and the ministry of Jesus and His followers two thousand years ago. Where have all the demons gone? Why aren’t we casting out demons with the frequency and ferocity of the early church?

Dealing with the devil and his minions was at the heart of what Christ came to do. The Apostle John who accompanied Jesus throughout his earthly ministry writes “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 ESV)
Now the “works of the devil” include first and foremost sin and death which Jesus overcame at the cross. But in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles we also find the devil and his demons causing diseases and infirmities, deafness and dumbness, depression and oppression and all manner of obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Jesus not only dealt with these works of the devil but also commissioned His followers to do the same. When He sent out the twelve on their short term training missions He specifically directed them and gave them authority to drive out demons in addition to curing diseases. It was an integral part of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom to set the captives free. (Luke 9:1-2) Jesus basically did the same thing when He sent out the seventy-two and they came back rejoicing saying “Lord even the demons submit to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17)

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Living a holy life begins in your closet

The secret to living a holy life is in your closet. That’s right, if you want to know how to live a life that demonstrates the holiness of God you need to look in your closet.

In an earlier blog post I established the fact that from a Christian perspective, holiness is a gift from God and not a product of self effort. Holiness like salvation, comes through faith in Jesus Christ. When we open the door of our heart to Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in to take up residence in our lives and declares us holy by virtue of His holy presence within us.

He does not stop in the entry way or just in the living room, but makes His way into every room of our spiritual house. And surprisingly, the first place He makes a bee line for is our closet. Why? Because He has a whole new wardrobe He wants to hang there to insure that we begin to look like the child of royalty that we have now become. And as He begins this thorough house cleaning of our lives He has a Salvation Army truck waiting at the curb to dispose of all our old, tattered and filthy garments of sin and self-righteousness. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) At any rate good riddance to the old, bring on the new!

And what an amazing ensemble of clothes He provides. First there is “the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” which we are encouraged to put on when we put off the old self. (Ephesians 4:22-24) There are also the “garments of salvation” and “robes of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) And as holy people whom God loves He provides us with the clothes of “tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) But that’s not all. For our spiritual battles He also stocks our closet with the six piece full armor of God. (Ephesians 6:11-17)

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A Tribute to Jim Maher

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15 NIV)

Late last Friday, March 11, 2011, we got word that Jim Maher, an amazing man of God and friend of our Bridgewood church family was killed in a motorcycle accident. As a leader from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Jim was a member of our church advisory board and frequent minister in our midst. The news of Jim’s death hit those of us who knew him very hard. We grieve and pray for his wife Elizabeth, their children, grandchildren and extended family.

The verse above from Psalm 116 offers us a viewpoint of death that is both unusual and insightful. We are told by the psalmist that the death of a godly man or woman is something God regards as precious. In fact, the Hebrew word from which precious comes is also translated splendid or weighty. However, an untimely death like Jim’s is not something we would consider precious. To the contrary, at least from our vantage point, such a death seems to be the very opposite, a senseless waste. And it can engender an almost endless string of unanswered questions spinning uncontrollably from the central question “Why?”

So there you have it – two perspectives, one from heaven’s eyes and one from human eyes. Seeking to see things from God’s perspective lifts us into to realm of eternity and frees us from the limitations of human perception and rationale.

So how could Jim’s home going be precious to God and thereby also precious to us?

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