Archive for April, 2016

Tools for Triumph in Time of Temptation

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

James 1:12 AMP

QUESTION: Do YOU feel “blessed, spiritually prosperous, favored by God” when you have to endure temptation? Not so much? And yet, Scripture tells us that there are some special blessings that only come as we persevere faithfully through the fires of temptation. Even the sinless Son of God faced temptations, and so will His followers:

“God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without temptation.”

~ Charles H. Spurgeon

SO: Since temptation will touch every child of God, let’s equip ourselves with some “power tools” to strengthen us for the week ahead:

  1. Remember: Temptation advertises “FUN!” but only delivers “MISERY”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:4-5 NKJV

Ever since the Garden of Eden, satan has been lying to people about what yielding to temptation will bring. EVERYTHING that tempts us is based on a false promise – the father of lies promises fulfillment, but indulging sin only brings disillusionment… he promises you excitement, but instead you find dissatisfaction… he sells people the lie that pursuing sin brings freedom and control, when in reality it always leads to slavery and bondage.

They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity — for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him.

2 Peter 2:19 NIV

Let’s face it: Yielding to temptation will NEVER deliver what you think.

In fact, it leads to addiction – and I’ve never met a contented, fulfilled, joyful addict (whether the addiction is drugs, fear, pornography, food, alcohol, anger – you name it, addiction = slavery).

So the next time temptation promises “FUN!” – call it what it is: “MISERY!”  

  1. Learn to Live at the Throne of Grace

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16 NKJV

What’s your first reaction to temptation? For most Christians it’s usually something like: “Flex my spiritual muscles and try not to give in,” or perhaps, “Feel really yikky that I’m being tempted again,” or maybe even, “Text my accountability partner AGAIN and ask for prayer!” But Hebrews 4 shows us a different response: RUN – right now, right in the middle of your need – RUN to the Throne of God, KNOWING you will find all the strength and help you need!

But times of temptation are typically the LAST time that we feel like drawing near to a holy God, right? And yet God’s Word tells us: DRAW NEAR in time of need!

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22 NKJV

Jesus’ Blood has made the way open for us, and our Father has invited us in… So let’s learn to make our first response to temptation: “Father, I’m back! I’m under attack, and I need Your help – please FILL ME NOW with Your love, holiness, and POWER by Your Spirit!” Then simply begin to worship, praise, and thank the Lord… and watch the tide of the battle shift as His power is made perfect in your weakness!

  1. For Lasting Victory over stubborn temptations:

Dismantle the Stronghold, and Temptation loses its Dominion

Yielding repeatedly to an area of temptation forms a stronghold ~ a false pattern of thinking wherein we believe a lie, thus giving it authority in our life. These strongholds cause us to agree with the enemy’s reports such as, “I always give in sooner or later… I’ll never have real victory… I always get beat by depression (or fear, or lust, or anger, or alcohol, etc)… I’ve always been this way, and I’ll never change…” and many others.

To Dismantle a Stronghold:

IDENTIFY, ARREST, REPLACE

For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds… and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)…

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 AMP

GOOD NEWS: the path to triumph over temptation does NOT depend on your effort, strength, willpower, or goodness – in fact, lasting victory never comes until we’re convinced that our own efforts/goodness/etc. are useless. Desperation is a painful but critical step to real victory – so long as we’re still willing to labor in our own strength, it keeps the power of the Holy Spirit from moving on our behalf. But abandon your own efforts and come before the Throne of Grace with an honest, broken heart – and watch how the power of God begins to move on your behalf!

MORE GOOD NEWS: genuine, real, consistent victory is a Biblical promise for every follower of Jesus. Even if you’ve been defeated by a sin for 50 years, God’s Word still PROMISES you victory if you will abandon your own efforts, believe His Word, and do whatever He leads you to do. It’s not the heavy burden of “much trying, little victory” that we have all experienced (and under which some of us are living daily). GOD does the hard part – our part is to seek Him!

SO: I encourage you to set aside a focused time for prayer today, and bring your biggest area of temptation to the Lord, asking His Holy Spirit to help you:

  1. IDENTIFY the lie at the heart of the temptation. “Lord, what lie did I believe that opened the door for this stronghold to form in my life? Please show me, Holy Spirit.” He will be faithful to guide you and reveal the root cause of the stronghold. It may be instantaneous, or He may show it to you in the days ahead – but He will surely do it.

Many times the lie at the core of a stronghold is as simple as what satan told Eve in the Garden – “Oh no, sin isn’t BAD – it’s GOOD to sin!” Many strongholds form by simply having believed that the result of disobeying God and compromising with temptation would be good instead of absolutely bad. So destroying the stronghold requires BREAKING agreement with those lies, which leads us to step 2:

  1. ARREST the lie and strip its authority from your life ~ here’s an example: “As a child of God bought by the Blood of Jesus Christ, I stand in His authority and declare that the power of this stronghold is BROKEN from my life – I arrest these lying thoughts, every suggestion of the enemy, and every influence on my mind – and I BREAK agreement with them. I confess the TRUTH – that there is NOTHING good in temptation, in sin, or in any other of satan’s lies – instead, there is only death, disillusionment, and bondage. I DESTROY their power, influence and authority from my life, and I choose to BELIEVE the truth of God’s Word. I give FULL AUTHORITY over my mind, heart, and entire life to Jesus Christ – amen!”

This sort of “breaking agreement” with the enemy’s lies is spiritual dynamite… Sometimes one stick of dynamite is enough to blow up a small stronghold. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and some strongholds require a daily dose of dynamite for a period of time while the enemy’s lies are replaced with the influence of God’s Word. While leads us to step 3:

  1. REPLACE the lie with the truth and promises of God’s Word. Ask God to give you specific promises that apply to your area of need, then stand on those promises (speaking them aloud) daily, especially in times of temptation. Here’s what I mean:
  • Lust/impure thoughts: “The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has SET ME FREE from the law of sin and death… I am not overcome by evil, but I OVERCOME EVIL with good… I am in Christ a NEW CREATION – ALL things are made new! He made Jesus (who knew no sin) to be sin for me, so I have become the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Christ Jesus! God has given me ALL THINGS I need for a godly life!       GOD is for me – so who can be against me – and I am MORE than a conqueror in EVERY spiritual battle through Jesus who loves me! To live in slavery to the flesh is death, but BY THE SPIRIT’S POWER I put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, and I live!” (See Romans 8:1-2, 14, 37-38; 12:21; 2 Cor. 5:17, 21; 2 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Fear: ”I fear NOT because God is WITH ME – right now – and He’s promised to NEVER leave me nor forsake me! I’m not dismayed and I won’t be ashamed, because GOD is strengthening, helping, and upholding me with His own hand! In fact, His power is PERFECTLY demonstrated and shown in the midst of my weakness! And He has NOT given me a spirit of fear, but a Spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and of a SOUND MIND!” (See Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5-6; 2 Cor. 12:8-9; 2 Tim. 1:7)
  • Depression: “I am BLESSED with EVERY spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ, so I cast off the spirit of heaviness, and I put on garments of PRAISE to my God! I rejoice in Him always – right now – and I REMEMBER the mighty things He has done for me! My Father has GOOD plans for me – for a future, a hope, prosperity, and blessing – and those plans stretch into ETERNITY with Him! I am a king and priest in Jesus, chosen and beloved, and I am more precious to Him than I even realize. Therefore I will REJOICE in Him!” (See Eph. 1:3; Isaiah 61:3; Phil. 4:4; Ps. 105:1-5; Jer. 29:11; Rev. 1:6)

Those are three of the most common foes God’s people face today, but the principle works for any other stronghold you need to demolish: identify the lie which gives the temptation its sting, arrest that lie in Jesus’ authority, then replace the lie with the truth and promises of God’s Word (spoken aloud). Then lastly, PRAISE God for His goodness and love! Pure worship and praise is a mighty weapon that glorifies the Lord, brings His power to your area of need, and makes the demonic powers cringe and flee.

God has VICTORY for your life – guaranteed. The steps I listed are not a formula, but a Biblical pathway for real, lasting fruit. If you would like help identifying Scriptures that apply to your area of need, feel free to email (springs.of.life.ministries@gmail.com) and we will be in touch.

May the Lord bless you with fresh hope and faith as you receive His love and power this week,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2016

Blessed to Bless… Reversing the Curse

Monday, April 4th, 2016

“I will bless those who bless you,

And I will curse him who curses you;

And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:3 NKJV

It is fascinating – and perhaps a bit sobering – to study how literally God has kept this promise throughout history, right up to our very generation. He blesses those who bless Abraham’s descendants, and He curses those who curse them, in like fashionOne reaps what one sows with regards to the Jewish people. Let’s look at a classic example of one who blessed:

The First Gentile Believer

Question: When it was time to send the Gospel to the Gentiles, who did God choose to receive it first?

Answer: A Roman military officer named Cornelius, a man who (although a Gentile) “feared God… and gave many alms to the Jewish people” (Acts 10:2 NASB), and dealt kindly with them in spite of the fact that he was a Roman centurion. Hostilities were typically very high between Jewish leadership and the Roman government, yet Cornelius was “well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22 NASB).

SO: Cornelius used his riches and his position as a Roman Centurion to bless the Jews (which was not a common or popular stance for a Roman officer), and God blessed Cornelius with the incomparable riches of eternal life, and the position of being recorded in Scripture as the very first Gentile to come to faith in Jesus.

But on the other hand…

The “curse those who curse you” thing works also… Let’s consider a few examples, from ancient times up to the 20th century:

It was an Egyptian Pharaoh who gave orders for all Jewish male babies to be executed – specifically, death by drowning (see Exodus chapter 1). Imagine: innocent little baby boys, slaughtered simply for being Jews…

Pharaoh picked his poison. Fast forward 80 years or so, and you see the 10th and final plague falling on Egypt: the death of every first-born male of every Egyptian household, including Pharaoh’s (see Exodus 12)… Egypt sowed a bitter seed of murdering Jewish male babies, and they reaped the same in their own nation, in like fashion. But there’s more:

“In case of a water landing, your chariot seat cushion

will NOT double as a flotation device.”

Exodus chapter 14 shows Pharaoh and all the armies of Egypt, furiously riding their chariots in hot pursuit of the Jews whom they had enslaved for over 400 years. You know the story: the Jews were no match for Egypt, but Egypt was no match for the God of Israel. And how did Pharaoh & phriends die? The people who drowned Jewish babies were drowned in the Red Sea. God cursed those who cursed Abraham’s seed, in like fashion.

Why Nobody Names Their Kid “Haman”

It was a Medo-Persian noble named Haman who built an epic gallows (75 feet high!) on which to murder a righteous Jew named Mordecai, and who instigated a plot to wipe out every Jew in the Persian Empire. Easier said than done, nu? In fact it proved to be:

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

Reality: you can’t wipe out the Jews without first taking out the sun, moon, stars, and oceans – and let’s face it, that’s just really hard to do. 🙂

And I’m not exaggerating about the “sun/moon/stars/sea” part – in fact, God said so very plainly through the prophet Jeremiah:

Thus says the Lord who gives the sun for a light by day,

The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,

Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar

(the Lord of hosts is His name):

“If those ordinances depart from before Me,” says the Lord,

“Then the seed of Israel shall also cease

From being a nation before Me forever.”

Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured,

And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,

I will also cast off all the seed of Israel

For all that they have done, says the Lord.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 NKJV

Haman did NOT live happily ever after… While Haman gave it his best shot to wipe out ALL the Jews, in the end, he couldn’t even kill one. And how did Haman die? On the very same gallows he built for Mordecai – God cursed him who cursed Abraham’s children, in like fashion.

And it was a german named hitler…

History holds countless more examples of God’s promise in Genesis 12:3 at work, but let’s look at just one more. Hitler and his Nazi henchmen took Jewish men, women, and children from their homes and towns across Europe, and forced them into confined spaces enclosed with rough walls and barbed wire… First the Jewish “ghettos” (where as many as 500,000 Jews were crammed into spaces of less than 2 square miles), and then ultimately the concentration camps where millions of Jews were slaughtered.

It was Hitler’s plan, but he never could have executed it without the compliance of the German people – a nation that was affluent, well-cultured, well-educated, and at the forefront of 1930’s Europe. And Berlin was their cosmopolitan capital city.

We know how things ended for Hitler and the Nazis, but consider this consequence of WWII for the nation as a whole: those complicit in allowing Hitler to crowd innocent Jews into cramped, walled spaces soon found their prized capital city of Berlin enduring the same… Partitioned off by the ugly “Berlin Wall,” crowned with barbed wire, separating German from German and splitting families apart. It is tragic and sad, but it is yet another example of what God promised: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you…” In like fashion.

Good news: We are BLESSED to be a BLESSING

The Apostle Paul showed us a New Testament example of Gentile Christians who understood God’s heart for the Jewish people. These Believers recognized that they had been “grafted in” to the “olive tree” of faith that began with Abraham (see Romans 11), and they expressed their appreciation in tangible ways:

For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

Romans 15:26-27 NIV

According to the Apostle Paul, Gentile Believers (like most of us reading this) have a Scriptural responsibility to be a blessing to the Jews in tangible ways. MOREVER, Romans 11:15-36 shows that Gentile Believers have a special calling and privilege to be instruments of blessing toward Jews who don’t yet believe in Jesus, as we walk in humility and share God’s love with them.

Let’s Live on the Right Side of Genesis 12:3

I want to encourage you: God’s promise to Abraham is still in effect. He still blesses those who bless, and curses those who curse, the descendants of Abraham.

I hear some thinking: “But didn’t Jesus do away with all that Old Testament stuff when He came? Didn’t He fulfill the Law?” Glad you asked!

YES, Jesus said that He fulfilled (brought to its fullest revelation and application) the Mosaic Law by applying the moral commands to our hearts and minds, and not merely to our actions (see Matthew 5:17-28). And YES, He fulfilled the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Law by becoming “our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7), the Lamb of God who takes away our sins (thus, no more need for blood sacrifices, which is why God could allow the Temple to be destroyed in 70 AD).

But NO, Jesus never claimed to replace or destroy God’s covenants with Abraham (which predate the Mosaic Covenant), any more than Jesus removed or altered God’s covenant with Noah. Think about it: you still see rainbows in the sky, and they still testify that never again will God flood the whole earth. It’s as much a covenant in effect AFTER Jesus’ death and resurrection as it was BEFORE. And it’s the same with the promises God made Abraham in Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17, 22, and others.

Investing in a Blessing

So what does “blessing Abraham” look like today? There could be many answers to that question – praying for the Jews in your city or nation, praying for Israel, sharing Jesus’ love with your Jewish friends and neighbors, and others. All are good!

Additionally, I encourage each of us to follow the example Paul described in Romans 15 and pray about sowing a financial seed to bless the Jews by supporting those who are reaching Israelis with the Good News of Jesus.

DISCLAIMER: There are many groups, ministries, and organizations which solicit Christians’ money for work in Israel – some are great, some are mediocre, and some are completely illegitimate.  🙁  So I encourage you to do some research before you give to the next ministry you see on Christian TV that says they are blessing Israel.

Having done much research myself, I would be delighted to suggest several of my favorite Israeli-based ministries. Just reply via email and let me know you’re interested, and I will gladly pass along their names and contact information (these are ministries with proven track record of faithful and fruitful ministry, whom I support personally – and thus can recommend to you heartily).  

The God who keeps His promises to Abraham is JUST AS FAITHFUL to keep His every promise to you, too… He is our covenant keeping, unfailing Father. May His love surround you, and His Spirit guide you, in the week ahead.

Blessings,

Pastor Matthew Casey

© Springs of Life Ministries, 2016

 “…blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Genesis 22:17-18 NKJV