BE MERCIFUL…

When we hear about a 7.5 earthquake in Afghanistan, we don’t say with cold detachment, “Another fulfillment of prophecy.” These are real people that died, members of families—fathers, mothers, siblings, friends. It just changed the landscape of their life. God is not chalking it up on His countdown list. He is moved by misery. His heart breaks for the broken. The reason He has not sent His Son back yet is that He wants more children in the family (2 Peter 3:9)—from every tribe, tongue and nation, including Afghanistan. A heart of mercy, not of a statistician, reflects our Father in heaven, who is consistently “kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.” It was His Son who said in this context, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35,36). Merciful people suffer when others suffer.

Knowing there will be “wars and rumors of wars,” we still ache for the casualties, those fleeing without belongings and sometimes without families. What are children on the run to do whose parents were just killed? Mercy.

We don’t argue against the doctrine of those who throw their babies in the river to appease an angry and detached deity not worth loving. We try to measure their loss and pray for changed hearts. We allow ourselves to feel. He looks for people who will properly represent Him, because others have unknowingly embraced Him as a monster. He is not—He’s a Father who feels pain. Check out Judges 10:16.

Our first response to the LGBT community is to feel sorry that they have lost their identity and pray that it can be restored. We don’t judge them for their lifestyle. We don’t expect those outside of Christ to understand or to live like Christians, and we thank God that some are in Christ and have a greater potential for seeing their true identity restored. We don’t slide into legalism by giving people whose lifestyle disgusts us a rulebook and expect them to play by it. They have no power without Jesus on the inside. That is our mandate. Better to let our light shine than to expose their darkness and call for judgment.

If you are quick to rant and slow to love, you are not showing a needy world that you are an exile with a visitor’s visa. You are miscommunicating the gospel of God’s grace through Jesus Christ and you are living as if you are here to stay. You’re not!

As I write this blog, I find myself judging people who judge people. That will do fine for a sin. I have reacted with anger to the self-righteous elder brother type, (which I once was), intolerant toward his brother and father. Meanwhile, the dad said to the older son, “You are always with me [such a statement of belonging to someone who didn’t want to belong] and all that is mine is yours.” How generous can you get, and with a hypocrite. Don’t you want to echo that kind of double-edged mercy, first forgiving the pagan prodigal, then receiving the religious brother? “I need Thee, Oh I need thee. Every hour I need Thee.”

LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE…

…that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Some of us have too many words and not enough actions to back up the words. The world is not convinced with our words, because our lives are not compelling. Peter is consistent. It is not what we say as much as what they see. That is what makes the difference. Observe.

Peter wrote, “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles (read “pagans”), so that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:11,12). What will make unbelievers prepared to stand before God in the righteousness of Christ when He returns? Good works!

Some people are full of words regarding government, most of them negative. Peter, however, says, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (2:13,14). Words are not convincing; noble lives are! Words will not shut them up; lives that cannot be reconciled with the commonplace will.

People with unkind employers feel they have the right to speak out. Peter gives another option: suffer. “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly…If when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval” (2:18-20). Human Resources may come to our aid when a suit is in order. Will God?

Jesus led the way, not with words but with integrity: “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly” (2:21-23). The cross was a life laid down, not words spilled out. “But God showed his love to us…” rather than simply saying, “I love you.”

It is not what a submissive wife says but what she does that makes the difference, “so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior” (3:1,2).

When we are opposed and are called to suffer, “those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing right…than for doing wrong” (3:16,17).

The quality of your life does not equal the quality of your words but the quality of your actions. It is what Jesus did, not what He said, that earned Him the worship of saints and angels for all eternity: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

IS THE WORLD GETTING DARKER OR LIGHTER?

When the disciples pointed out the beautiful temple, Jesus used it to give a teaching on the immediate and distant future. He did not paint an optimistic picture. He spoke of large-scale apostasy: “…because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). “Most” includes lots of people. Revelation 12:9 says Satan “leads the whole world astray.”

Jesus said that the gate to destruction is wide and “many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13,14). This didn’t keep the disciples from turning their world on its head, nor should it keep us. A take-over mentality trumps an escapist outlook that says, “Let’s get out of here before the devil creams us.” But Jesus also closed a story about prayer with a question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

The lights in the universe will be turned out at the curtain call of history to signal the return of Christ. The earth will have been largely unrepentant with the colossal judgment poured out on humankind. The Rider on the white horse is coming to “strike down the nations” (Rev. 19:15). All the more reason to go to the nations now.

Our blessed hope is not a massive turning to Christ, but the return of Christ Himself. Paul speaks often about the day of the Lord and events preceding. Like Jesus, he says that the return catches most people off guard who are talking about “peace and safety.” The answer to the antichrist comes not from God’s people but from Christ Himself. We’ll see an upgrade of miracles near the end, but many will come from the wrong side. Paul warns Timothy that “there will be terrible times in the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1).

The book of Revelation begins with Jesus addressing seven churches, anything but an optimistic picture. The churches that have remained obedient are urged to “be faithful even to the point of death” (Rev. 2:10), suggesting persecution of the faithful and political dominance by Satan’s forces. Revelation shows God’s wrath being poured out upon the unrepentant. Plagues offer one last chance to yield to the Lordship of the King. Most resist and choose wrath.

There will be masses in heaven (Rev. 7:9) and masses sent into a Christ-less eternity. Why did God give us a book to end His book that includes sixteen chapters of judgment? God’s judgment is visited upon a stubborn earth refusing to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. It was written to warn and encourage Christians to endure to the end when things get worse before they get better, and to witness boldly, if necessary as martyrs. The call put out was for “patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (13:10; 14:12), who go victoriouly through suffering, not escaping through a rapture.

The gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth, but it doesn’t suggest that people are rushing in to receive it. When Jesus speaks of believers being “hated by all nations,” it doesn’t sound like they are winning popularity contests. Yet it is the time for God’s people to be on the move: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until full day” (Prov. 4:18).

Well, is revival coming? I believe so, and it will turn throngs to Jesus Christ. It will make the Jesus Movement look like a small gathering in the kitchen, impacting the family and influencing the world (Mal. 4:5,6). So regarding the question in the title, the answer is, “Yes!”

I use these principles in understanding end-time teaching:

  1. Progressive revelation: the New Testament interprets the Old, not vice versa.
  2. The book of Revelation is not a locked up book. It is given to be read and understood. We don’t know the time of Christ’s coming. We know the season by the signs. As we see the signs, we lift up our heads.
  3. Jesus made clear that He is returning “soon.” We live in constant readiness. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

REPENT!

You’d think at 71 I’d be better at it. I still struggle to repent. It doesn’t come easy. Am I more aware of the sins of others? Sometimes. Sad. I want the kingdom to come and I know it shows up through repentance. John the Baptist made that clear. His simple message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:3). When he was arrested, Jesus continued with the same message (4:17)! Must be important.

If what follows helps, go for it. If not, learn it some other way. But learn it, if you want to see the rule of the King in your life and beyond. Some of us are convinced that a great revival is coming—soon and very soon!

Obedience is inward and outward. A toddler can obey on the outside and be rebelling on the inside. So can I. Repentance is a heart issue. What is covert often needs changing more than what is overt. I struggle with defensiveness.

Omission ranks as high a commission. When we totem-pole sins, the ones we omit hardly get honorable mention, but they do in heaven. In three sober stories in Matthew 25, all hinge on the little word “not.” The foolish virgins did not get the oil. The passive servant did not invest the money. And the goats did it not to the least. It didn’t go well with the “nots.” Passivity is a killer for 21st century Christians.

Emotion comes in second to action. Go ahead and feel badly about something, but if you didn’t change, you didn’t repent. Repentance means to change the mind, which changes the behavior. Peter repented, Judas only regretted. Repentance is not the same as beating yourself up. Jesus took the beating we deserved. So we don’t get hard on ourselves as if to say, “Now you don’t have to be hard on me,” or we punish ourselves to pay for our sins. That is an insult to the cross. Good to feel badly. Better to repent fully—and walk away cleansed.

 

Repentance is a gift. The Holy Spirit can work it in us—but we do it. You can’t wait half asleep for it to come. “Bring forth the fruits of repentance,” and God will touch your hard heart.

Repentance in general brings forgiveness in general. Get specific. Telling God you’ve fallen short is hardly repenting. When my kids would drone, “I’m sorry,” I would ask, “What are you sorry for?” It took them great pain to say exactly what they did. Do the same with God. You need it—He doesn’t! If you didn’t tell the whole truth, confess lying. The brutal death of Jesus deserves brutal confession, not skimming and summarizing. That is best done by confessing to someone other than God. Look at the context of I John 1:9 and confess to a friend, mentor or pastor. Conviction is contagious. It has often been used to spark revivals.

 

Repentance prepares for the government of God. Take responsibility for doing it in a sober way. Read the Sermon on the Mount if you need fuel. Or ask your spouse or closest friend. Repentance calls for humility rather than a good self-image. Jesus said to the churches of Revelation, “I have this against you.” Good to find that out. Humbling yourself gets the attention of heaven. It invites grace, which we desperately need. We overestimate our time with people and underestimate our time with God. I once said to a pastor friend, “I want to learn more about repentance.” He said in response, “I want to repent.” If you do, expect the kingdom in greater measure.

CHRISTIANS AND THE GOVERNMENT

Much discouragement exists over the Supreme Court decision. We are experiencing a major shift in our cultural outlook. Our grandchildren will grow up in a different world, worse than ours. Without vigilance, we will lose them.

This will take the Church in two directions, the nominal church caving in to society and the remnant church standing off against the culture, enabling the world to see the church for who it really is. The sorrow that people feel, if not balanced with an aggressive faith, will not serve them. We looked to government in the hope that it would support us. It let us down, and this has led to discouragement and fear.

Some are called to influence government, like a Daniel. He did it without any expectation of return. He addressed Belshazzar boldly and was willing to suffer for it. He had influence with two world empires, unlike any man in history. We do not look to government to get our job done. We are thankful when it cooperates, not surprised when it does not.

I am grateful for those who connect with government. That is not a responsibility that I feel strongly, nor do I see Scripture directing me to it. I am called to submit, honor, and pray. Christians in government need to make sure they are doing this, or their influence will be skewed.

We don’t compare America to Old Testament Israel. They were a theocracy, America is not. Our founding does suggest that government may be our friend, but that is not our hope. Our confidence is in the government of God.

When the church down through the ages is counter-cultural, it is strong. When it is embraced by government, the church weakens. The government imposes itself, and separation of church and state is not respected. The early church was stronger than when it was melted into the Holy Roman Empire and lost its prophetic voice.

This will be the church’s great hour, more counter-cultural than at any time in our history. The world does not know our message, nor does it respect us. What we do in the next decades will cause it to take notice, such as happened in the early church.

Peter and Paul encouraged submission, honor, and prayer toward governing authorities, including payment of taxes. They did not attempt to influence government overtly or covertly. They were ultimately under another government and another king. Where the two clashed, King Jesus took priority. Otherwise, civil disobedience was not an option. The thought of petitioning a pagan government or writing the emperor was never considered. Nor was the idea that a godless emperor would show them preferential treatment. Paul and Peter bore witness to the kingdom of heaven, knowing that a pagan government would not encourage Christian values. They were not like our American government, with at least a form of godliness and including government servants who were Christians. They expected hostility rather than favor. Paul named the government that condemned him to death the servant of God.

Peter called Christians aliens and exiles, not surprised when suffering under unjust leaders, and they did not appeal to government. Paul took advantage of his Roman citizenship and expected the same kind of freedoms afforded other citizens of the state, but he did not have unrealistic hopes. He did not expect to be released from prison when he wrote to Timothy, and he did not call on friends to pray for his release.

Our great hope comes from Isaiah: “The government will be upon his shoulder… Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.”

HOLDING TRUTH IN TENSION

YOU’RE SPECIAL, BUT NOT THAT SPECIAL

You are unique, just like everyone else in the world. It won’t help you if you think you are hot stuff. God will ignore you for someone who walks in humility. Daniel did, and God chose to honor him. Feeling special could mean that you are receiving the love of God with a healthy heart. It could also mean that you are thinking too much about yourself. Humility ranks higher in heaven than confidence. Going low is better than going high.

You have been given a holy calling, and it is to die to yourself so you can count others as more important than you (Phil.2:3). It is not about you. You live for others. Bonhoeffer rightly wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” So when we suffer, we don’t complain, because it is simply not about us. We don’t deserve anything better, and we don’t expect not to.

However, when parents and schoolteachers play the “you’re special” card so much that no one is allowed to stand out, we are misunderstanding the “all men are created equal” line. That should not keep some from excelling and being recognized. God honors character and achievement—we should too!

THE KINGDOM IS NOW, BUT NOT YET

The word of faith movement brought the gift of faith to center stage, for which we thank them. Some went too far, and their faith became the end-all, as if faith could do anything at any time. It can’t—only God can. We put faith in God, not in faith. The very concept made some feel ashamed when they were not healed or when they had to keep silent about marriage struggles. If faith makes us run from vulnerability, it is skewed. We don’t sacrifice integrity for theology.

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we recognize that God’s kingdom is here, but only in part. When His kingdom comes in full measure, no one will miss it. Now His kingdom is hidden within us (Luke 17:21). The reality of nation warring against nation indicates that the King is not yet fully ruling. “He must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (I Cor. 15:25). Among those enemies are death, disease, and disobedience. Until then we live with tension. We pray for healing. When it happens, we rejoice. When it doesn’t, we wait. We don’t say that we are healed when we are not. Faith can overcome reality, but it doesn’t deny it either.

JUDGMENT AND MERCY

God is light and God is love. Light exposes; love embraces. God is a God of truth and grace. Some believe that because God poured out His judgment at the cross, there is none left until the end of the age. I differ. Sometimes “mercy triumphs over judgment,” and at other times judgment is visited upon an individual, as it was delivered to Herod for not giving God glory (Acts 12:23), or on cities, nations or people groups, to which the Bible testifies. Everything about God is good, even His judgments. They are “true and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:9). Holding truth in tension does not mean walking the tightrope between two extremes. It means that we submit to the Holy Spirit who wields a double-edged sword, emphasizing each aspect of the truth according to His sovereign will. What a wise and wonderful God!

WHEAT GROWERS OR WEED PULLERS

Here’s the story: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matt. 13:24-30).

Jesus is teaching us two important things: the presence of evil in a world that started good, and the destiny of good and evil. Satan is our enemy only because he is God’s. He has a grudge match with the Almighty, a contest of cosmic proportions. Bad things often look good, which is why kids often get fooled. Things are getting worse and better at the same time (“let both grow together…”).

Satan is not winning. One view from eternity tells the final score. The very presence of evil is one evidence of God’s control. At no point in the story does Jesus give us any reason to doubt the outcome.

One important truth we cannot escape: good does not stomp out evil—God does. One day He will pull out all wickedness by the roots, but that time is not now. Christians who engage in weed-pulling are hurting other Christians. They are causing the message to be misunderstood, and they are not concentrating on what they can do best—shining. Light on the defensive is a contradiction of physics.

We dare not turn Christianity into a crusade. Whenever the gospel becomes a cause, it is distorted. It becomes a message of moralism: “Try harder, do better,” words antithetical to the gospel. The cross makes people new before it makes them nice. It takes dead people and resurrects them.

To identify Christianity with the American way or the Republican way or the moral way for that matter is to take it from the THE WAY. Jesus said, “I am the way…” and there is no other way, no matter how good it looks or how noble its cause. “There is no other name…”

Jesus resisted the political and religious causes some His disciples identified with. I am not saying it is wrong to have a cause; just do not reduce the gospel to the level of your cause. It adulterates the message and poisons the name of Christianity. We are not followers of a cause; we are followers of Jesus Christ. Let your main passage be Jesus Christ and Him crucified!

Crusaders on a religious rampage against sin need to remember that the most effective place to deal with this deadly epidemic is at the cross. Moralism does not root out sin, and religious nationalism, popular among some conservative Christians, does not touch it, but the blood of Jesus Christ washes it away. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we must not suspect that it comes by damning the darkness or upgrading our standards. Were that ever cost-effective, Jesus would have sidestepped Calvary. Jesus came into the world “not to condemn it but to save it” (John 3:17).

Leave the work of separating the weeds from the wheat to the Lord of the harvest, and get on with growing like a weed—I mean wheat! Just make sure that when the harvest comes the angels can distinguish you from dandelions!

ARE YOU CONTROLLING?

God is the most uncontrolling person in the universe. Yet He maintains full control. Some parents and bosses are controlling because their lives are out of control. When Nebuchadnezzar realized he could not control three young Jewish men, he became uncontrollable. Control and controlling, close in the dictionary, are polar opposites.

Satan is the most controlling person in the universe. He controls by manipulation, intimidation, accusation, deception, and temptation. If he gains full control of people, he robs them of their identity and possesses them, expressing his own personality through the use of their body.

God, on the other hand, fills us without possessing us. We maintain our own personality, remain in substantial control, and are given freedom to make decisions. God makes truth available, guides with the quiet voice of the Spirit, and shows agape love to persuade us that His way is best. If we choose evil over good, He does not stop us.

When some would-be followers left Jesus because of His hard words, He asked His disciples if they would leave as well. They said, “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” They had been captured by truth, not by force. No one is more gentle than Jesus—and no one more powerful. The strength of love trumps the power of aggression. Some are attracted to force because they did not learn love. For them, weapons of warfare beat the fruit of the Spirit. But not for long. The kingdom of God [His rule and reign] is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Controlling parents are testifying to their insecurity and lack of control. They control with volume of voice and shameful words. They abuse by manipulation because they did not learn or trust a better way. Maybe they were students of controlling parents. So because they were not in control, they seek now to control the one way they know.

God exercises control because He is all-knowing and all-powerful, but He is also uncontrolling. Satan wanted control, so he tried force and lost control. The only control he has presently is what God temporarily gives him and what people vote for through his deception. Revelation 12:9 says that Satan “leads the whole world astray.” Rev. 13:3 says that “the whole world was astonished and followed the beast;” Rev. 13:8 says that “all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life.” The end of time gives him a level of sinister satisfaction, that he has a level of control—until Christ returns to take over.

Watch yourself when you are losing control. You will be tempted to borrow Satan’s methodology to regain it. It is not comfortable to be out of control. But knowing that God, not Satan, is in full control, that He is the Lord of the universe, exercising His control through unlimited power and love, we can trust His design and His decisions. When ill health, untimely problems, or opposition at work show us that we have little control, that is the time to upgrade our confidence in the sovereignty of God. We remind ourselves that we are not on the throne and certainly not Satan. He is! And He shall reign forever and ever!

THE FATHER LOVE OF GOD

 

Perception is reality. Three things tamper with your picture of God:

1) Bad decisions. Demas fell in love with the world and left the race. Really stupid.

2) Parents. If you had a punishing dad, you may think that God’s out to get you.

3) Satan. His mission statement reads, “Change their picture of God.” Worked with Adam and Eve. You’re next. Defeat him good!

Here’s an accurate picture of Father God painted by Jesus:

 

The Father is not controlling.

An illegitimate request from a rebellious son—to have his share at his time on his terms. The father could have said, “Nothing doing.” Not this father: “…the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living” (Luke 15:13)

Think of an overbearing boss, an insecure mother, a cult, an angel named Lucifer. That is not the Father of Jesus, the most powerful, loving, secure and least controlling Person in the universe. The kind of “control” God exercises is sacrificial love. He hounds us with love, and victimizes us with a conspiracy of goodness. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life…”

The Father is full of compassion.

The world was opposite of the prodigal’s expectations: it took without giving. He decided to return home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20). Really? Yes!

“Compassion” is a compound word meaning “with suffering.” “Love suffers long and is kind.” If you had a distant dad or a controlling mom, they did not represent the compassion of the Father.

 

The Father forgives effortlessly.

The son started his prepared apology. But “the father interrupted his son’s confession and said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe…’” (v. 23). He had heard enough. He was convinced of the son’s heart and forgave him—freely and fully. That’s the way God is—always!

The Father is extravagant in his generosity.

He didn’t withhold forgiveness, but we could expect him to hold back what might have been the rewards of obedience. Not even close. He said,“Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it” (v. 22,23).

 

The son is thinking, “I am receiving the very things I wanted in the world—a party and fancy clothes. I was an idiot.” This father images the Father of Jesus, who told His disciples, “Fear not, little flock. It is the father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

 

The Father loves to enjoy us.

Once the gifts were received, it was time for the party: “’Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate’” (v. 23b, 24). Heaven is the idea of a love-sick Father who deires to celebrate with His children—for eternity!

The Father wants sons, not servants.

The prodigal knew he didn’t deserve being treated like a son, because he had not acted like one: “The younger son said, ‘Make me like one of your hired men,’” but the father gave him the clothes of an honored child. The older brother didn’t understand the difference between a son and a servant. He said, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you…” but he was frustrating the grace of his father. Grace is received, not achieved. It is a gift, not a paycheck.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father…” not, “Our Boss.” Fathers operate according to mercy, bosses according to merit. I’ll take mercy!

DEALING WITH THE RATS

 

I put some garbage in the trash. Then we left on vacation. It was not emptied, and when we returned it had sprung to life—with maggots. The underworld is more putrid than the foulest pile of manure. Demons are called unclean spirits.The Greek word for “unclean” is “akathartos,” the opposite of “katharos”—clean, pure. A katharsis is a cleansing experience.

Sin is garbage. The more sin the more garbage. Isaiah wrote, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores” (Is. 1:4).

Garbage attracts rats. Some of us invite demons, who feed on garbage like rats, the garbage of unconfessed sin or negative emotions (fear, unforgiveness, anger, depression). We shouldn’t leave garbage around, because it attracts the varmints we want to stay clear from.

One of the names for the chief of demons at the time of Christ was Baalzebub, which means “lord of flies.” Interesting, since garbage attracts flies before the rats come. Jesus applied the name Beelzebub to Satan.

Sin is both choice and bondage. There comes a point where we cannot choose the right way. We become slaves of the one we obey (Rom. 6:16). Paul urged the Roman believers to “make no provision for the flesh,” with the assumption that to do so weakened their ability to overcome the enemy. Jesus’ strong response to Satan after Peter recommended an alternative to the cross showed how close the work of the flesh is to the activity of the devil.

Some have garbage that was dumped on them, victims of abuse. It is sad but true that the sins of parents are visited upon the children. Rats often work in gangs. Misery does love company. Once a door has been opened, entrance is possible by other intruders.

When we picture garbage, we may think of sins like adultery or fornication. More inward sins like resentment or unforgiveness invite demons too. When we realize that we have garbage, we want to remove it quickly. Paul wrote, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” and he followed it, “And do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26,27). Allowing garbage to remain issues an invitation to rats.

Anger, like manna, if left overnight turns rancid. Some of the Israelites disobeyed Moses. They “kept part of it [manna] until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell” (Ex. 16:20).

Gehenna (“ge”—valley; Hinnom), the Hinnom Valley to the immediate south of Jerusalem, served as the city garbage dump. Jesus saw it as a fitting picture of hell. When the NIV uses the word “hell” in the gospels, it is actually the word “Gehenna“ or garbage dump. Jesus, quoting from Isaiah, described Gehenna as a place where “their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48). The word “worm” here is the word for “maggot.” The fire is not quenched because fires were always smoldering in the dump. Hell is the ultimate garbage dump.

 

Jesus came to deal with garbage and with rats. John wrote that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (I Jn. 3:8). He accomplished this by dying on the cross. When we apply the blood, He will “purify us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn. 1:9).

Deliverance chases out the rats. Demons have permission to stay, either when they have been passively invited by non-resistance, when armor has been left off, or when involvement with gods or the occult gave them access. One purpose of deliverance is to take away what demons feed on through receiving and extending forgiveness. Those who need deliverance must take an active role, because deliverance means going on the offensive, which Jesus did when He came. Deliverance also means evicting the rats in the name of the One before whom rats tremble—Jesus!