SHEDDING DECEIT AS VIRTUE

“Deceit as a virtue” was a foreign idea until I heard Ravi Zacharias use the phrase in explaining the difference between some religious cultures. Since it happened to be the first month of the year, it coincided with my reading of Genesis again in my One Year Bible. I was seeing the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and was struck again, as I am each time I read the patriarchal narratives, at the duplicity in their lives – passed down from generation to generation. And the phrase came to life — “deceit as a virtue”.

Abraham lied to Abimelech about Sarah being his sister, to save his own skin (Gen. 20). Isaac learns well from his father and lies about his wife Rebekah, and to the same king (Gen 26)! Rebekah, sister of a Syrian named Laban, meanwhile, is not a stranger to deception. She coaches her favorite son, Jacob, on how to deceive Isaac for Esau’s firstborn blessing (Gen 27). Jacob receives the blessing by deception but then has to run for his life from his brother. Where does he run? To his uncle Laban, who gives him a dose of his own medicine. Laban slips Jacob the ugly daughter on his own wedding night (how do you say “too much to drink”?), squeezes 20 years of labor out of him and changes his wages ten times — not 10 raises either (Gen 30-31). Jacob’s twelve sons are acorns that didn’t fall far from the tree. They sell Joseph into slavery and tell papa a wild animal devoured him. Judah, one of the sons, later gets caught in a prostitution sting; the prostitute is his own daughter-in-law, who has been cheated out of another wedding.

The Old Testament is loaded with story after story of deception by “the good guys”. And frankly, it is embarrassing as a Christian to see this strain of warped thinking in our patriarchs. But a few points are becoming clear about God in all this, which can only be touched on here:

1. God is willing to not only accept us as we are, but to speak to us in the language and mindset we can understand. God sends Abraham, the former Molech worshiping Chaldean, up the mountain to offer his own son in the fire. That was the language Abraham understood as a worshiper of Molech. But in the pivotal moment, God reveals Himself as not like the other gods, but as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who will provide His own sacrifice. A truth encounter.

2. God won’t leave us where we are, but takes us from deception to truth. The angel of the Lord wrestles with Jacob. Another truth encounter. Jacob thinks he has the angel pinned and resorts to his usual manipulative tactics and demands a blessing. The angel brings Jacob to the realization that he has lived his whole life with deceit as virtue by asking him his name – Jacob the deceiver, but then gives him a new name – “Israel, for you have prevailed with God”. But he had not prevailed as some think, by winning a wrestling match, but by seeing God in a new way; not as the god who holds deceit as virtue, but as the God who shines a light on the lies we’ve believed and brings us to the truth. And finally,

3. We now understand that deceit is not a virtue, because we have seen truth in the face of Jesus Christ. Deception wouldn’t bother us had we not seen truth in the life of Jesus. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no”. The beheadings, rapes and torture which are flaunted as virtues and rights by Islamists would not be so grotesque to us had we not seen love in Jesus Christ. No, the Old Testament is never the last word on God and those stories cannot be rightly understood except through the lens of Jesus Christ. God spoke to us in the ways we understood at the time, but in these last days He has spoken through His Son (Heb 1:1-3).

In much of our society, even in government, we see a return to deceit as virtue. Why? Because we refuse the life and revelation of Jesus Christ. But knowing the truth sets people free. Believers in Jesus have been given the Spirit of Truth to shed the notion of deceit as virtue and walk in the power of our true identity. Prevailing with God means seeing God for who He is, thus seeing the prince/princess that we are.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016 | Picture by Louise Feneley

 

SHEDDING DECEIT AS VIRTUE

WHICH CAME FIRST?

I’m not talking about the chicken or the egg, but the Spirit and the Word.

Reading Genesis, chapter 1 again, I am struck by the order of God’s work in creation, and what it prescribes for us where and how we live now.

Have you ever noticed the order of creation?

Genesis 1:2-3 “…The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said …”

The Spirit of God was hovering over the deep, then God spoke. It seems significant that God’s Spirit is moving before the Word is spoken. The Spirit of God is waiting (hovering) for the Word of God to give direction, authorization, focus. In short, in this instance and others, the Spirit precedes the Word.

This may seem insignificant unless we stop to think that our mental and religious defaults are set the other way around; we generally anticipate that God’s Word must be spoken, then the Spirit moves (and no doubt that happens at times). If we preach powerfully enough, teach boldly enough, sing enthusiastically enough, then God’s Spirit will “move”. But in the creation, the Spirit is brooding, working, hovering before God speaks.

We see it again in the work of the incarnation—the conception and birth of Jesus.

The angel speaks to Mary and she asks, “How can this be since I have never known a man? And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God,’” (Lk. 1:34, 35).

Notice the seed of the Word of God planted in Mary’s womb came after the Holy Spirit “overshadowed” (brooded, hovered) over Mary. The Spirit was working first, then the Word came. The Holy Spirit had to be in place to implant that seed in Mary, though it’s difficult for us to understand exactly how this happened.

In Acts 13, we see the leadership of the church at Antioch “ministering to the Lord and fasting” and then the Holy Spirit gave them direction – “separate unto Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I’ve called them to do,” (Acts 13:2). They welcomed the brooding presence of the Holy Spirit through worship and prayer, and then the Word of God came to them.

What could this mean for us? Is it significant?

I cannot count the number of times I have dutifully sat down and started reading my Bible, hoping God would speak to me, and going away without hearing. Mind you, I believe my spirit is receiving from God even when my mind is unfruitful. But I have also experienced what it means to welcome the Spirit through worship or praying in the Spirit, singing in the Spirit, and then the Lord drops something in my heart.

I’m not suggesting that there is a routine or rule about it. But I have come to believe that if we stir our own spirit, pray in the Spirit, sing in the Spirit — welcoming His presence — an atmosphere can be cultivated where God can freely speak to us. Perhaps there is a pattern in God – “Let the word of Christ

dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord,” (Col. 3:16, 17). He comes to dwell in the midst of our praise.

Have you had trouble hearing the Father’s voice? Cultivate His presence with song. Enter His gates with thanksgiving. Prime the pump with your own voice… and be ready to hear His. He loves to converse with His kids.

Let me know about your own experience. I would love to hear from you.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved

 

WHICH CAME FIRST?

STAYING HEALTHY IN 2016

Here’s a principle that could revolutionize your new year. Your body needs no help to heal you; it just needs no interference. This principle will help you steer personal habits toward partnership with God’s purposes for you.

Your body needs no help to heal you; just no interference. Statistics tell us that most of our illness are self-induced via poor eating and lifestyle habits. God designed the human body as an incredible self-healing machine. You are not defective or helpless. At your core, and given that healthy food is a pattern, you lack nothing to be healthy – not a pill, a shot, or anything else. If you nick yourself shaving today, what would happen in a couple of days? That broken skin would heal. Healing is in the package. It’s free, and there are no side effects (have you noticed the litany of side-effects to manmade cures?).

Every creature has the capability of regenerating itself at the cellular level, which is why creation has no spare parts hanging around. This applies to humans as well; by design, not by chance. The liver replaces 100 percent of its cells every three months. Some blood cells are reproduced every eight minutes. Our bodies are constantly reproducing cells to replace dying ones. Even under this temporary curse of death, the healing nature of the life of God is visible in the human creation. Here are three important steps for partnering with God for health and healing in 2016.

1. In order for our bodies to regenerate themselves, resources must be provided to the whole person – spirit, soul and body. Patients who fare best are those who have been able to store up resources. Those who stay full of God by His Word and Spirit (Col. 3:16, 17; Eph. 5:18, 19), will have a powerful immune system working against the negative forces in our broken world. And spending a little more for healthy food is cheaper in the long-run.

2. Guard your heart (spirit man, the hidden man of the heart) with all diligence, for out of it flow the forces of life (Pr 4:23). The greatest enemy to our health is spiritual: unforgiveness, bitterness, fear, greed, etc. Note how spirit, soul and body are impacted by fear.

Fear may be seen as an emotion, but it has a spiritual root. The emotional result of stress caused by fear is detrimental to the immune system. A person with a depressed immune system has a much harder time fighting off sickness. When a person can release the fear, the stress is reduced, and the immune system will function better to help the patient win any battle. Keeping our heart clear is your best medical strategy, and that is as easy as a conversation with God.

3. If you find the source of the interference to healing, you find the cause of your problem. If you remove the cause of the problem (spiritual, emotional and physical), your body can heal. Just give your body what it needs and you will be amazed at what it can do, no matter how bad you think things have become.

Healing belongs to you by the offering of Christ’s own body on the cross. It is also built into your human design. Begin to take steps to minimize the interference and watch your health flourish in 2016.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2016

 

STAYING HEALTHY IN 2016

Be a Catalyst for the New Year

What are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Will it be a proactive start for a powerful step forward in your life? Are you looking for a party or a powerful experience?

Two years ago, my wife and I had just attended our church’s New Year’s Eve service and had two or three invitations to attend parties with friends. But we both felt stirred simply to go home and spend time in prayer. No, we are not “over-saved” as some might think. We were in the midst of significant transition in our lives and felt the next year could hold significant developments or course changes.

We went home and sat down in the living room floor and had the idea of using the time to bless others. We decided to make a list of 10 couples that were leaders/influencers in our lives, pray over them, and bless them. As soon as we started praying it was as though a prophetic portal was opened up; we both began to write what the Lord was giving us about each couple. Chiqui was writing, I was writing, but we waited to the end to compare notes to see how what the Lord had given both of us corroborated with the other.

The next morning we combined the prophetic words into a cohesive statement and emailed them to each couple as a New Year word of blessing. Here‘s what I learned from that experience:

1. Responding to the promptings of the Spirit that night was more about blessing others than being blessed ourselves.

2. The fun and joy of partnering with the Holy Spirit far exceeded any fun we would have had at a party (as much as we love being with our friends).

3. The Lord is thinking about showing His goodness to others even when we are thinking about something else. I was amazed how the floodgates of the prophetic opened the instant we postured ourselves to pray for others.

4. The responses and affirmations that came back to us from those couples was an incredible reciprocity of blessing that we did not expect.

5. Sowing into others actually set us in an orbit for the new year that was loaded with one breakthrough after another.

6. If we yield to the pressure of the voice that says “don’t be so spiritual, just be normal,” we will always be stuck in the current orbit; but God is always issuing an invitation for us to partner with Him, and in doing so, to enter into a different realm of living.

I am not suggesting that one is unspiritual or carnal if New Year’s Eve is not spent in prayer; but I am suggesting that New Year’s is a great time to set good things in motion. What are you doing this New Year’s? It is possible that the Lord would want you to be a catalyst this New Year for someone else? In so doing, it could be the seed of breakthrough for you.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2015

 

Be a Catalyst for the New Year

WHY WE DON’T HEAR MUCH “WWJD?” ANYMORE

Part Two: The Active Ingredient

Do you remember the WWJD bracelets with the question we were supposed to constantly ask ourselves – “What would Jesus do?”

Why do we not hear the WWJD anymore? Why do we only hear parodies on WWJD?

Among other reasons, the WWJD phenomenon was based on a concept that we can be like Jesus if we just imitate His daily routines and decisions. This claim is a natural reaction to a warped view of Christianity that assumes that one can pray a sinner’s pray, accept Christ, then live any way he/she wishes and still go to heaven. So to separate the “real Christian” from those who just prayed a prayer, we erect systems of obedience asserting that we can become like Christ by simply doing what He did. One writer says, “If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in, by arranging our whole lives around the activities he himself practiced.” The writer continues by listing the practices (solitude and silence, prayer, simple and sacrificial living, intense study and meditation upon God’s Word and service to others).

Please don’t misunderstand; these are all good (and even necessary) behaviors. But this is really a subtle replay of the old rabbinical form of “do in order to be.” It sounds right and preaches good. We can stir guilt easily and get rousing “amens” by preaching about what we should be doing better and how we are not laying our lives down like we should. But there is fundamental flaw in the “do-what-I-do-and-you’ll-be-what-I-be” proposition.

Jesus did not do what He did simply because He had learned the perfect Christian ethic and knew which rule the Father was most concerned about. Jesus was filled with the Spirit, overflowing with the Spirit and did everything He did by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14,15, 18; Acts 10:38). He made the decisions He made and said what He said because He was listening to the Father through the Holy Spirit. He only did what He saw His Father do and only said what He heard Father say (Jn 8:28).

Perhaps it is not about an imitated behavior but an indwelling life that comes through a personal relationship with the Father by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps Holy Spirit is the active ingredient, not only for Jesus, but for His disciples!

Rather than “What Would Jesus Do?” perhaps we should be asking “What Is The Spirit Saying?” God is not looking for mimics that learn to behave in certain ways. Consistently righteous decisions cannot be made without the infusion of a righteous life in the interior of one’s being, manifested by the outworking of daily disciplines. When filled with the Spirit daily the actions consistently arise out of spiritually transformed “presets” that would make acting any other way to seem “unnatural.” Thus rather than attempting to act in an unnatural way (i.e. do the right thing), we are to be filled with the Spirit as our spiritual “magnetic North” in such a way that our life flows out of rightness. Who we “be” must precede we do. This is the “active ingredient” to living the Jesus life.

As I see it, one can focus on abstinence from “wrong behaviors” and at times feel powerful and in control – but it is deceptive. It is not by human might or strength, but by the Spirit of the Lord. To focus on fullness rather than abstinence is to constantly invite the Father to fill you again and again, to receive everything He has for you today. The joy of the Christian life is that anything the Father demands of you, He first gives to you… and He makes it available every day. Rather than ask, What Would Jesus Do, let’s start asking, “Holy Spirit, what are you saying?”


Dr. Kerry Wood  |  All Rights Reserved 2015

 

WHY WE DON’T HEAR MUCH “WWJD?” ANYMORE

THE “ACTIVE INGREDIENT” IN YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

Have you have ever read the tiny print on the label of an over-the-counter medication or prescription? Normally, among all the talc, chalks and fillers there is an “active ingredient”. This is the real medication – what makes the difference in the prescribed treatment. Similarly, there is a lot of filler and an active ingredient in our spiritual lives and it is sometimes difficult to discern the difference between the two.

For those who know and serve the Lord as Christians, admonitions to go to church, read the Bible, pray and share one’s faith (we call it spiritual disciplines), are often confused with the active ingredient. The results is that when we do all the right things and still feel some distance or emptiness, the burden or drudgery of our spiritual walk make us feel as if we have failed in some way or seem to be displeasing to the Lord. But spiritual disciplines are actually the chalk or talc which are only the conveyors of the active ingredient.

See if you can identify the “active ingredient” in the following verses:

“Oh that may ways were directed to keep Your statutes!” Ps. 119:5 (NIV)

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God who (all the while) works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Phil. 2:12b, 13 (NIV, clause from Amp.)

“May the God of peace… make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ…” Heb. 13:20, 21 (NIV)

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Rom. 8:13

OK, I made it easy for you. God has not left the burden on our shoulders to make this Christian life happen; that would still be life under the Law. No, He has moved in, by His Spirit, as the active ingredient in our spirit to “direct” our ways, work in us, to complete what He has begun – even to help us “put to death” (mortify) the works of the flesh by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the “easy yoke” Jesus speaks of when He calls us to “take my yoke of upon you and learn of Me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

The active ingredient, the power that is working in your spiritual life is not your will power. The purpose of the Law was to show us that personal will power is not enough to produce our salvation – else people with strong will wouldn’t need Jesus. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. This means that what we need most for a healthy spiritual life is not more rigid disciplines, but more intimacy and inter-dependence with Holy Spirit. Ask Him to fill you again today and keep a running conversation going with Him. You will find He is “all the while” at work in you, creating the will and the desire to do His good pleasure.

Looking Ahead: If the spiritual disciplines aren’t the active ingredient to our spiritual life, what purpose do they serve? A magnificent one! Watch for my next blog.


Dr. Kerry Wood | All Rights Reserved 2015

 

THE “ACTIVE INGREDIENT” IN YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

I JUST CAN’T WAKE UP

Have you ever had trouble waking up… suspended between dream-state and awake… a lingering twilight zone? I have, and it is usually associated with a feeling of powerlessness. But I woke up this morning, the morning after the Paris ISIS attacks, with a clear song running through my head. I woke up hearing Bob Dylan singing the haunting refrain “When You Gonna Wake Up?” (“Slow Train Coming” album, 1979. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZVIzeGdXrk). A bit of it goes like this:

“Do you ever wonder just what God requires?

Do you think He’s just an errand boy to satisfiy your wondering desires…

When you gonna wake, When you gonna wake up… strengthen the things that remain.”

I believe there’s an answer to the question, “when you gonna wake up?”:

I will wake up from my slumber when I realize how much I have lost… what I have lost… and when I feel the pain and shame of what I’ve lost. (I expect some will check out about now). This isn’t comfortable but needs to be heard.

I’ll wake up when I realize I’ve lost:

1. My way: the things I am doing bring relative comfort and peace, but I know we’re losing ground in the global mission to make disciples of Jesus (not just followers).

2. The ground our forefathers fought and worked so hard to gain; a freedom to worship and speak freely, to assemble without fear, to pursue peace and a prosperity that was to bless the world.

3. My sons and daughters: to different values and beliefs than my own,

4. My voice: Nobody wants to hear what we have to say cos what we’ve been saying has had little power or relevance.

5. A sense of identity and calling: as a nation under God and a Church empowered by God. No, I’m not confused between nationality and spirituality. The Church is not America, but I have dual citizenship.

6. Character and integrity: with $18 Trillion of indebtedness hanging over our heads and soon-to-be a crushing burden on our children and grandchildren’s backs, who believes our leaders anymore? Global partners are quickly realigning because they don’t feel they can trust us anymore. May the Church shine right here, right now.

7. The will to fight. Do you feel the paralysis? Isn’t it strange that we could endure 9/11 and then elect leaders that can’t fight? Won’t speak out? Act as if this is “the new normal”?

When we come to the stark realization of the gravity of what we’ve lost, perhaps we’ll wake up. Or perhaps we’ll just sleepwalk into captivity. In many ways, I think we’re already there.

The Scriptures speak of the Lord putting a spirit of slumber on His people – dull hearing due to dull hearts. Perhaps God would also awaken His people if we would humble ourselves and call out to Him. As someone wrote this morning, “Stop tweeting and start praying.” For with God nothing is impossible.

When you gonna wake up? I think when we realize what we’ve lost … to strengthen the things that remain.

It’s not an easy conversation, but I’d like to hear what you think.


Dr. Kerry Wood  |  All Rights Reserved 2015

I JUST CAN’T WAKE UP