Archive for December, 2012

Fuel for the Fire, #52: Closing the Year in Christ

Monday, December 31st, 2012

 A new year is nearly upon usAnd here are a few simple but powerful steps to help us close 2012 in God’s grace, and begin 2013 in the Lord’s confidence, strength, and favor. 

1. FORGIVENESS: Letting go of hurts, leaving the past behind. 

Year’s end is a wise time to take inventory of your heart: are you carrying any grief or bitterness from past hurts?  Does your mind repeatedly wander to past situations in which you were wronged?  Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, then take time to release forgiveness to anyone the Lord indicates.  Speak out forgiveness, and ask the Lord to bless and work in their lives.  This honors Jesus!  And it lets the past be the past, and helps you move on into the future with Jesus.

2. Saying “THANK YOU:” Making a list (and checking it twice). 

Make a list of the blessings, answered prayers, deliverances, and miracles (big and small) you’ve seen in 2012.  Once again, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and bring to mind examples of the Lord’s faithfulness that you may have forgotten.  Doing so is important because it:

A. Honors Jesus.

B. Helps us realize God’s goodness toward us in the year past.

C. Builds our faith for the year ahead

 

3. WAVING the WHITE FLAG: Surrendering all to Jesus again. 

“But I already surrendered everything to Jesus – years ago!” you may be saying.  Yes, and so did I – but the truth is, we take some of it back sometimesSelf-life can be pretty sneaky – unbeknownst to us, it sneaks up to the altar and reclaims ownership of areas of our lives that we truly intended to be surrendered to Jesus. 

Year’s end is a great time to “re-surrender – to submit in prayer one’s life, time, health, family, strength, goals, desires, plans, finances, work, ministry, and all else (past, present, and future) to Jesus.  Lay it all upon the altar again, and rededicate your heart anew to love and serve Jesus (and only Jesus). 

4. TIME to RETURN: Refocusing on our “first love” for Jesus

Life gets busy, and the devil doesn’t take a day off… Sometimes it’s easy for the fire of our “first love” (see Revelation 2:4-5) to dim, and for our devotion to Jesus to become lukewarm.  Then we wind up placing undue meaning and priority on things of little or no lasting value, while neglecting the most important friendship in the world.

This pattern is especially easy to fall into during times of exhaustion, overwork, discouragement, and following especially stressful or hurtful seasons – which are exactly the times when we should be putting the most priority on time with Jesus! 

Regardless of the “why” we may have slipped, the start of a new year is a prime opportunity to refocus our hearts, reprioritize our schedule, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us refresh our love for Jesus.  Let’s make our time with Jesus our first prioritychoose to set aside the busyness and trivial pursuits of this life, and to fill those times with God’s Word, prayer, worship, and listening for His Spirit’s leading. 

Look!  Here I stand at the door and knock. 

If you hear Me calling and open the door,

I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. 

Revelation 3:20 NLT

 

You will show me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 16:11 NKJV

 

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;

and My Father will love him,

and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

John 14:23  NKJV

 

May your new year be filled with the love, hope, comfort, confidence, favor, and Presence of the Lord. 

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012

In Times of Trouble

Monday, December 17th, 2012

The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in times of trouble.

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;

For you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:9-10

One week, two tragedies… One (here in Oregon) that could have been much, much worse than it was… And another in Connecticut that simply could not have been any worse, any more tragic, or any more shaking for our nation.

From my perspective, this week’s shooting in Connecticut may have had the greatest emotional impact on Americans of any event since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. People are deeply shaken, and rightly so: we’ve seen shootings before, but never where the main targets were little children.

My friends, it is with all sobriety of spirit that I make the following statements:

* Our nation is unraveling morally, and a plague is afflicting our land. We have “plowed wickedness and reaped evil”(Hosea 13:10) – and this week’s events are simply the latest tragic expressions of that evil.

* I believe the only hope for the tide of this battle to be turned back is for God’s people – like you and me– to come before the Throne of God and fulfill our priestly role. This means:

1. Repenting, both for our own sins and on behalf of our nation. Many times in Scripture God heard prayers and honored intercession when a righteous person repented on behalf of the nation – Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Nehemiah and others set this example (e.g., Daniel 9, Nehemiah 1:6-8, Isaiah 64).

2. Begging the Lord for mercy (because our nation deserves judgment). This means crying out with Habakkuk, “In Your anger, remember Your mercy” (Hab. 3:2 NLT), and reminding Him of His Word that “Mercy triumphs over judgment”(James 2:13b NKJV). Let us beseech Him for mercy, for protection of the little ones, for cleansing and revival in His Church, and for awakening among the lost.

What we witnessed this past week is not God’s fault –He’s not the author of evil, and He tempts no one (see James 1:13-14). This is the handiwork of satan, carried out by young men whose consciences have been seared and who have been taught that human life is without value, that truth is relative, that right and wrong are purely subjective, and that there is no God (and therefore no accountability).

What the Problem is NOT:

Many politicians and pundits will be trying to find a solution for these tragedies – like gun control or creating more jobs for young men, for instance. I’ll share a few thoughts in a “PS” (below) for those to whom it is of interest.

Regardless, all the politicians in the world won’t solve the problem before our nation ~ because it’s not a political problem, not an economic problem, not a “gun control” problem… Our problem is spiritual, and it must be addressed by those with spiritual authority. America has kicked God out of our schools, removed Christ from our culture, and shed the blood of millions of unborn babies (at times even denying babies medical care following a “botched” abortion*). We have called “evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20); and we have enacted a curse on our land.

WHO CAN HELP?

We don’t need more politicians or pundits… We need priests:

“…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…”

1 Peter 2:9

In ancient Israel, the priests were called to intercede before God on behalf of the nation. You and I are now part of that “royal priesthood” of which Peter wrote –we must fulfill our calling and cry out for mercy on our hurting and sin-stained land.

In Ezekiel’s day, God said the following:

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.

Ezekiel 22:30 NLT

May those words not be spoken of us. God will hear our prayers – and I believe we will answer on that Day if we fail to pray for our nation in this desperate hour.

May God guide, burden, and anoint you in prayer this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012  

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* As a state senator in Illinois, our president voted 3 separate times against legislation that would have required medical care for babies who are victims of a “botched abortion” (one in which the baby is born alive). Instead, Mr. Obama voted that the babies be left alone to die – a process taking sometimes up to 8 hours. I do not write this to offend those readers who voted for Mr. Obama; I’m simply stating the facts. It is important that we recognize the agendas for which our leaders stand, regardless of his or her political affiliation.

My PS:

Many pundits and politicians (some well-intentioned) are saying the problem is simply guns, and the solution is to further ban guns in America. I believe that logic is faulty, and here are a few examples why:

  • Since criminals don’t obey the existing laws regarding guns (such as not taking guns onto school grounds or into movie theatres), they aren’t likely to obey other forms of gun control either.
  • Laws requiring citizens to relinquish guns will only be obeyed by law-abiding citizens, while criminals will keep their guns. The result: law-abiding citizens become an easier target for criminals.
  • Law enforcement officers will tell you that illegal guns are easily obtained if you know where to look (as are illegal drugs, illegal sex, and other vices). Someone determined to commit a crime will not be deterred by gun control laws – the illegal weapons will still be available (we currently have an estimated 250-350 million guns in America).
  • Some cite the success that a nation like Japan has had with their gun control laws as a model for America. However, these other nations are not America – our culture is very different (much more individualistic, much less respect for authority, and far less obedience of the law), and a culture of crime is far more pervasive here than in a place like Japan. Telling everyone to “turn in your guns” won’t work here ~ in fact, it’s been tried in American cities in the form of “gun buyback” programs (no questions asked – just turn in a gun, and get paid). Research shows that these programs do little or nothing to prevent crime, and very few of the weapons turned in are actually being taken out of the hands of criminals. The gun is worth far more to a criminal than the $100 Walmart gift card they’d get in return.
  • Guns are not the only form of weapon that have been used in brutal murders and attacks – in recent years, teenage boys have gone on murderous binges where their only weapons were knives and baseball bats. Removing guns from American citizens won’t stop these attacks, but will provide for a weaker defense for citizens trying to defend their families and lives.
  • Furthermore, in Israel, where terrorists have not had easy access to guns, they have learned instead to make bombs, and have caused much more devastation than they could have with a handgun or rifle (simultaneously blowing up a whole bus full of people, for instance). We simply cannot legislate the danger away, because the problem is not a particular type of weapon – it is the heart.
  • If politicians want to ban something, I suggest they pass legislation banning the hideous, violent video games and movies that teach boys to fantasize about mass killings and to become desensitized to blood, gore, and sexual sin. America has alwayshad guns, and we’ve often had hard economic times, but we’ve not always had young men perpetrating mass killings on total strangers. That phenomenon has largely followed the violence displayed in “entertainment.”

Fuel for the Fire: AUTHORITY

Monday, December 10th, 2012

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

Luke 10:19 NKJ

You and I are in a war – the Apostle Paul made that clear as he wrote to the Believers in Ephesus:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Ephesians 6:12 NKJ

The enemy’s goal?  To wear down our faith, steal our joy, and whisper lying thoughts that eventually become strongholds in our lives – those patterns of thinking which influence our attitudes, words, and actions (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). 

He lost the battle for your soul when you gave your life to Jesus, but he’s determined to make you miserable, depressed, afraid, worried, discontented, tormented, and anything else that will hinder your effectiveness for Jesus. 

COUNTERATTACK

Here’s some good news: You don’t have to put up with the enemy’s lies, fears, threats, and false reports any longer.  You can experience the victory Jesus purchased for us:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations…”

Matthew 28:18-19 NLT

Do you see what Jesus is saying? 

1. I’ve been given ALL authority

2. “THERFORE” (since I’ve got the authority) “GO!”   

Jesus is promising us all the authority we need to live a victorious life as we follow Him. 

Does that mean we’ll have no trouble, no trials, or no attacks?  Quite the contrary!  No one wins a war without a fight – and Jesus promised us that we would have a fight on our hands sometimes: 

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 NKJ 

The Apostle Paul echoes the same:

And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12 NASB

Walking in Jesus’ authority doesn’t mean that you’re free from a fight ~ it means that you WIN the fight!  It means that you are victorious in your battle as you implement the victory Jesus purchased on the Cross to your life’s situations:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ…

2 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39 NASB

AMEN!  Jesus’ victory is final, and His authority is absolute (and He’s shared it with us).  Now… it’s time for us to believe His Word and walk in His authority

Here’s a simple but powerful pattern that will help you experience that victory:

  1. Be quick to repent when you sin, and quick to forgive others who have sinned against you (this helps keep our hearts open and clean before Him – see Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15; 1 John 1:9). 
  2.  Invest daily time in thanksgiving and praise (this exalts God, invites His Spirit’s help, and confounds your foes – see 2 Chronicles 20:21-23; Isaiah 30:32; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
  3. Speak out the promises of God’s Word that apply to the area(s) in which you’re struggling.

Why speaking out God’s Word?  Because Paul instructs us to do so in Ephesians 6:17.  Our sword (according to Paul) is God’s Word spoken, uttered over our lives:

“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word” (Greek: rhema = spoken word, utterance) “of God.”

Ephesians 6:17

First, identify the lies with which the enemy is attacking you – whether lies of fear, or depression, or temptation, etc. – and then dig into God’s Word for the truth of God’s report about that area.  As you swing your sword, the tide of the battle against you will turn, and you’ll begin to experience the freedom and “abundant life” that Christ purchased for us on the Cross. 

For the glory of our Messiah,

Pastor Matthew Casey 

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2012