I was not trained at seminary to deal with conflict and I avoided it as much as possible. Wrong. When I learned to walk toward tension rather than away from it, I discovered that it almost always gave us closer relationships. Leaders who do not deal with conflict have unfinished business wherever they look. Paul addressed conflict head-on.


The Pharisees lived and talked a lie. Legalism breeds pretense. Fake it–because you’ll never make it. Vulnerability releases grace and creates a safe place. When pastors and leaders are appropriately transparent, it levels the playing field. It closes the distance between the high and mighty and Mr. Normal. Jesus knew how to get close to people. So do good leaders.


Generosity is a big clue to joy, a major fruit of spiritual health. Defensive people hold onto what they have while they grab for more. Healthy people hold their life and their possessions lightly and they give themselves and what they own away freely. They believe what Jesus said about his Father, “Give and it shall be given unto you…” In healthy churches leaders don’t beg for money; people ask to give. At Lydia House we emptied out our reserve because of the horrendous water shortage in Uganda. They needed it more than we did.


The sermon is a great place for humor. It’s important for us to laugh at ourselves. People who take themselves too seriously don’t take the Bible seriously enough. John was the sober one and they thought he was demonized. Jesus was the happy one, and they figured he was a drunk. I want to be like Jesus. If people think you’re high on something, they may be right!


Chuck Swindoll said, “Preach topics that people go to bed worrying about.” In other words, make it real. If sermons fill the mind but don’t change the behavior, they are missing the mark.


As God healed me from an elder brother complex, I found myself feeling lighter and laughing more. This found its way into healthier staff relationships and down-to-earth sermons. We learned how to walk in the light together and share our struggles freely, which increased fellowship, like I John 1:7 promises.


I was once the guest preacher of an average-size church. The pastor invited me to the back after the benediction, where I shook hands with people–on their way out the door. Really bad idea!. Church was over, and people were ready to leave. It emptied out in seven minutes. In healthy churches the closing prayer means time for fellowship–lots of it. Healthy, happy people love being together. Food makes them stay even longer.


What we do on Sunday impacts how we live the rest of the week. If it doesn’t, why go? We are not playing church. We are in a war, not on a picnic. We are representing the King, who will be returning soon. We have given up our life to follow His mandates. On Monday we carry out the instructions we hear on Sunday.



…a lamb or a beast. Just before the return of Christ, a man will arise, inspired not by God but by Satan (anti-god). He will be endowed with supernatural powers from the underworld to deceive those not belonging to Christ. He will become a world leader when a fatal wound is miraculously cured: “The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon [Satan] because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’” He will bring substantial and temporary peace in the world, fueled by Satan and demons.

Paul writes, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come [the day of the Lord] until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing”(2 Thess. 2:3,4,9,10).

The world, blinded by sin, will be deceived into thinking that this demon-possessed man is the answer to the world’s racial and social problems. When he proclaims himself god, humanity will believe his miracles and worship him with songs of praise.

The antichrist will exercise unilateral authority for three and a half years (Rev. 13:5). “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (13:7,8). During this time of persecution, called the Great Tribulation, Christians are challenged to be “faithful unto death,” in order to win “the crown of life.”

This beast (the opposite of the Lamb, in the prophecy of Daniel) was “waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom…He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws…But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever” (Daniel 7:21,22,25,26).

The only one able to handle the antichrist is Christ, and He will return with a militia of warring angels, any one of which who could dismantle the entire U.S. Marines. Jesus came the first time to die. He returns now to take over the earth and rule: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thess. 3:8).

The end-time answer to the problems in the world will not be a large-scale turning to Christ, though we still believe for a major revival (Malachi 4:5,6), or the church gaining in power and influence. It will be the return of the glorious one on the white horse with fire in His eyes. Period! Come, Lord Jesus!




What we have done wrong. “When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned” (Lev. 5:5). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). When my kids managed to moan, “I’m sorry,” I would always ask, “For what? Name it!”


God’s conviction and discipline will get stronger. David wrote “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1,2). The opposite is true for the person who does not forsake his sin. He is living under judgment and His sin is inviting God’s disfavor.  “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).


First, those who are guilty. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matthew 3:6). Because they confessed their sins, they were forgiven. The Pharisees came to criticize, not to confess. They defended their innocence by virtue of their heritage, and John spoke a strong warning to them of the judgment of God. Second, those who identify with the guilty. “They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2).


That the Lord does not count our sins against us. He treats us as if we have never sinned. We receive what we don’t deserve, and we don’t receive what we do deserve.


The character of God and the work of the cross. David wrote, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). When we sin against another person, we are also sinning against the Lord, the lawgiver and the standard of righteousness.


Powerful! “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you…praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their fathers” (I Kings 8:33-34).


Conviction. David wrote “When I kept silent [about sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’—and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5). David also said, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). Guilt is a thermometer. It doesn’t deal with our sin, but it tells us that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with. Conviction leads to confession, bringing forgiveness and blessing!






Siin is an offense against God. Although David sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, he wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” (Psalm 51:4). Sin means breaking the law and holy will of God, so we are accountable ultimately to Him.


The prodigal said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you” (Luke 15:21). We can forgive people whether they confess wrongs to us or not, but Scripture does tell us to acknowledge our faults to those against whom we sin (Matthew 18:15). And that means saying more than, “I’m sorry.” We name the sin. It is so important to confess that not to do so eventually brings church discipline. It is in this context that Jesus says, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (20). The presence of Christ is strengthened by walking in the light and denied by disunity.

Jesus regards this lifestyle of openness and brokenness with such importance that He places it as a priority for worship:  “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). Worship is impaired when relationships are out of order. I remember Graham Cooke saying, “If you want to upgrade your worship, upgrade your relationships.” How true!


Walking in the light (I John 1:7) does not mean walking without sin, because it yields forgiveness. It means walking without defensiveness and claiming we don’t have sin (verses 6, 8, and 10). It means exposing the darkness of our hearts in appropriate ways with people to whom we are accountable. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), showing that confession and forgiveness have both a vertical and horizontal direction. When Paul’s preaching brought a revival in Ephesus, “many of those who believed came and openly confessed their evil deeds” (Acts 19:18). Luke adds that “in this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (20). Revivals often begin when conviction of sin is followed by public confession.Let’s do it, Church!

James wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15,16). Sin blocks the unity of the Spirit. Sin could have a part to play in the sickness, or it could keep the “two or three” from agreeing. So James urges the confession of sin to one another for effectual prayer. I wonder what would happen if we started our prayer meetings with this exhortation: “Confess your sins to each other.” Vulnerability releases grace. The more willing we are to be weak the more we will experience the presence of Christ in our fellowship and see the power of Christ demonstrated in our ministry! Amen!


Part 1 tells us how to recognize the devil. Our second assignment is to…

Resist.   We refuse to accept his devilish ideas.  Peter wasn’t doing much resisting in the garden or later by the fire.  Those who recognize resist.  Paul suggests that our resistance takes the form of wrestling.  Spiritual and emotional energy is expended.  We resist, firm in our faith.  In the midst of Christ’s conflict, He “trusted in God that He would deliver Him.”  We do the same.    

Satan loves to see us in skirmishes with one another, because he can render us inoperative without lifting a finger.  We battle Satan, not saints. Our main problem is not the pastor, the president, the parent, the relative.  It is Satan who may use people like these, but is far more sinister and destructive.  Not to recognize him is to be duped by him.  Jesus said to a self-confident Simon, “Get behind me, Satan.”  Congratulations, Peter. You ended up on the wrong side.

Derek Prince, a gifted Bible teacher, once wrote, “I discovered that evil is not something, but someone.”  Evil is a person, and he IS out to get us.  People who think we are on a picnic rather than in a war will get eaten for lunch.

Resistance is effective where we have already submitted ourselves to God, so we are not tempted to think we are doing hand-to-hand combat with the devil.  We contend with his methods, not his muscles.  The battleground is the mind field (see 2 Cor. 10:5).  We need to carry every thought captive.  That is why James precedes the call to resist with the words, “Submit to God.”  Notice how Peter likewise exhorts us to humility before actively resisting the devil  (I Peter 5:5,6).  Submission is essential for spiritual power because authority does not come from shouting louder than our opponent.  

Three applications:  I once heard of a lady who got sicker every time she was prayed over for healing.  Sounds like she was subject to attack from the enemy because of a weakness in her armor.  Put on the armor, piece by piece, faith by faith.

I was attending two different prayer meetings where people were taking authority over Satan by saying “I bind you, devil.”  A formula like “I bind you, devil” with no authority behind the words will make Satan laugh.

Occasionally I hear of Christians who are being overrun by disasters.  We are expected to suffer, but we should not let Satan harass us. People who figure that life is being played out and that what is going to happen will happen are likely to be attacked.  Pray this way: “Father, I yield every area to You.  Show me any outlook where I am not following.  If Satan is the cause of these misfortunes, I resist Him.  I put on the armor so I can overcome the devil’s deception.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

There’s no demilitarized zone in this war; we’re either for or against.  Fence-sitters fall off.  But those who stand in the authority they have as blood-bought saints filled with God’s Spirit will shrink the devil, as Jesus did.



Satan is not convinced with words but with authority.  When Jesus came on the scene, He declared war on the devil and plundered his goods.  How?  First, He cast out demons.  Second, He lived a sinless life, giving Satan no room to attack Him.  Third, He died on the cross, devastating the powers of darkness.  

We bind him the same way.  First, we cast out demons. Second, we put on the righteousness of Christ. Deficiency in armor make us subject to an attack.  If we believe lies about ourselves or about God, we become vulnerable to Satan’s onslaught.  His weapons are deception, intimidation, accusation,condemnation, and temptation.  We are told: “Resist him, firm in your faith” (I Peter 5:9).   

Our most effective strategy is dying to self.  Satan was defeated at the cross (Colossians 2:15), and he is again disarmed as we die.  Jesus assaulted Satan most by doing what He came to do–die. We do the same.

To extremes when speaking of the devil.  Some never feel we talk about him enough and trace every problem to a demon.  On the other hand are those who don’t think we need to talk at all about him, some because all authority is in Christ, and others because you can’t get too serious about a sinister demon in pajamas. Peter presents a balance. In his naïve days, he was told that Satan was going after him.  He shrugged it off with an unrehearsed vow of allegiance.  Within four hours Satan worked him over.  Had not the Master counterattacked the devil’s onslaught with prayer, Peter would never have come through.  

Seasoned by service, he later gave the saints valuable information on the enemy’s tactics: “Be sober, be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world” (I Peter 5:8,9). His two-point strategy is…

Recognize.  Sobriety enables us to see things as they are.  Watchfulness means our eyes stay open.  Peter gives us three enemy names. First: adversary.  We may think that our enemy is the person who gossips about us at church—or those secular humanists.  Paul reminds us that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”  One reason for weakness in the Church is that we wrestle more often with flesh and blood than with Satan.

The second designation is devil, meaning “slanderer.”  How freely he mocked the Almighty when talking with Eve:  “Has God really said?”  When God spoke favorably about Job, Satan responded,  “Does Job fear God for nothing?”  Satan likewise slings missiles of accusation at God’s children.

The third term is lion.  Peter says that the devil does not sit in a cave; he stalks about.  When God addressed Satan on Job’s behalf, He asked him where he had been.  The devil answered, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7).  As he roams, he roars.  God usually speaks in a still, small voice.  Satan tries to intimidate with his noisy growl.  Fearful saints cower before his onslaught, while intelligence forces realize that his growl gives him away.  Recognizing him prepares us to…get ready for part 2 in three days.


How are you at honoring age? When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He attached a promise to just one of them because of its importance: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex. 20:12). Children who learn to honor their fathers and mothers are granted a long life and a good life (Eph. 6:2,3). Honoring starts in the home and extends to the church. If we can learn it at home, we permeate society with it. If it breaks down in the home, watch the life expectancy rate go down.

God promised Abram before he had any child, “You…will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age” (Gen. 15:15). He put “good” and “old” in the same sentence. God spoke this to Moses to be written in the Law for Israel: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32). One way to reverence God was to respect the elderly. God was shamed when old people were not given due honor. It is on God’s heart that the elderly be given their proper place, as was given to Job: “The young men saw me and stepped aside” (Job 29:8). Hey, God is the Ancient of Days, isn’t He?

In our western culture, older people are often embarrassed to admit their age. (Not true in Japan.) They want to pretend they are younger than they really are. What’s that about? The Biblical culture enjoyed the reverse. Job’s friends told him, “You shall come to your grave in ripe old age” (Job 5:26). The last verse of this book says, “And so he died, old and full of years” (42:17). The same was said of Isaac (Gen. 36:29). “Full of years” was an expression for “very old” with a positive ring to it.  

Age was considered an advantage. It brought superior wisdom, which meant that they were asked for their counsel: “Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom” (Job 32:7). The Hebrew word “elder” comes from root meaning “old age.” Most cultures, especially in the past, have given authority to people of age by virtue of wisdom that comes with experience (the Greek word “presbus,” in the Roman culture, “senatus,” Arabic “sheikh” all mean “old man”).

Leaders were called elders–because they were. People of experience were needed, not novices. When Rehoboam picked the advice of the younger ones, he went astray. God gave assurance to the elderly that they would be given special provision to match their special needs:   “Even to old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).

Old age was considered an attainment, a fulfillment, not a curse or a trial. We sometimes go out of our way to honor youth and tolerate age. Uffda! We need a vision for growing old. Old age can be a fruitful time of life, not a time of decline. Let us help the elderly maintain a strong vision of life. They shine with the youth in the Christmas story. Let them shine in your family and your church. Do I hear an “amen”?



TV often captures the drama of the courtroom. Destinies are weighed in the balance. The verdict can send people into a lifetime of imprisonment or to freedom. Picture the drama in the high court of heaven, when every person who has ever lived appears before the Most High God for the ultimate verdict. You will be there, your family, your doctor, your neighbor. Scripture talks more about this day than any other, including the birth, death and resurrection of Christ. Hebrews calls it a foundational doctrine (6:2). Must be important. Open to Revelation 20:11-15 for one of the most awesome pictures in all of Scripture.


“Earth and sky fled from his presence,”  vanishing before the incredible majesty. The person is a Man: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son…” (John 5:22,23). Luke writes that “he is the one ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).


John continues: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne…” (20:12). “It is appointed for men to die once, and after comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). All will be there: Caesar and Solomon, St. Paul and Socrates. Greatness is relative, and brilliance is dwarfed before eternal majesty.  Two groups are represented: all humanity and fallen angels, including Satan. Demons encountered by Jesus knew His authority and pleaded not to destroy them “before the time.” Now the time has come–and they shudder with fear.


We know “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). The child of God “does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). But scripture also says that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The lives of Christians will come under review, not for eternal judgment, but to test works and issue rewards. How were gifts used (Matthew 25:1-30) and words chosen (Matthew 12:36)?  Paul says that “every man will receive his commendation from God” (I Cor. 4:5). Salvation is not an issue–faithfulness is.


Sheep and goats are separated by good works. Paul says that the judge “will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:6). Works give evidence to faith.”Each person was judged according to what he had done” (20”13).


Court proceedings often drag on for years. Deliberations in heaven’s court last one day. The judged are not standing trial; they are hearing the verdict. No cross-examination, no postponing the court date. Trials are sometimes declared invalid due to a technicality. He who judges “the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:11) speaks flawlessly.


Judgment day means destruction for the ungodly (2 Peter 3:7). Jesus will make a clear separation between the destiny of the righteous and the condemned.


Some will be thankful they barely made it (I Cor. 3:15). Paul expected a crown and couldn’t wait. Time for the awards banquet. If we have been abiding in Christ, we will have confidence and not shrink back in shame (I John 2:28). Even so, come Lord Jesus!



On December 16, 2013 at 9:40 am, Andrew, our first-born of six, wrote this email to his siblings: “I want to head into this New Year with no regrets…One of my biggest regrets is how I have not been gracious toward you. As an elder brother, I feel like I have somehow expressed verbally or nonverbally certain unrealistic expectations, among other offenses…I know many times I have been harsh and I am sorry. I wish I had specific things to point out…I am sad and sorry and ask you to forgive me.   With love, Andrew”

On December 29, at 9:27 pm, Gabriel, number two son, wrote, “Thank you for sharing, Andrew. I also would like to ask forgiveness to all of you. I love you all dearly and would take a bullet for each of you without hesitation. I know it doesn’t always come across that way and I’m sorry. I have been too critical of you all and I know my pride has gotten in the way in many an argument. I’m sorry for not listening enough and being too quick to give advice. I’m sorry for at times not taking things seriously and doing too much joking. Thank you for your patience. I am a work in progress. Grateful brother. Gabriel”


Paul discovered that God met him in his weakness. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Paul didn’t like it at first. His background taught him to be competitive, argumentative, and on top rather than on the bottom. In Christ, he found the bottom to be the place of strength. He learned to gradually accept weaknesses, insults, and hardships, saying, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (10). Would you say that Andrew and Gabriel were showing appropriate weakness? What do you think it released into the atmosphere?


We are less likely to pick a fight or start an argument with someone who goes low and shows weakness. We have too often filled the air with complaining, competing, comparing. When someone takes courage and goes low, the fight is over and grace is released. This is what John meant when he said, “When we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Vulnerability creates connections, camaraderie, koinonia. The opposite is also true.


Floyd Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all time, known especially for his defensive fighting. It is hard to hurt him. Andrew and Gabriel, by contrast, put them in the position of weakness. “Vulnus” is a Latin word meaning “wound.” Vulnerability means “the willingness to be wounded.” The cross is the clearest example of vulnerability. Andrew and Gabriel were going the way of the cross, the way of weakness. Mayweather is defensive, because his assignment is to knock his opponent out if he can. Andrew’s assignment was to draw close to his siblings, so he chose the opposite tactic, being weak rather than strong, being vulnerable rather than argumentative. Try it–in your marriage, on the job, in your family, at your church. Go ahead–change the atmosphere. It works.