ANOTHER COFFEE BREAK: THE PSALM 23 ADVENTURE, Part 28
February 10, 2017
Got your pot of coffee ready? OK, some of you would rather have tea, but you get the idea? Pour yourself a cup and let’s pick up where we left off last week.
Let’s consider the picture in Genesis 1:27-28: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
So following the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Lord God makes man in His own image -- and that's no small thing. We were created in God's likeness, His form, His character and His makeup, and then imbued with His creative power -- the ability to speak and make things so by the Word of our power.
If that sounds strange to put it that way, let's remember that it was the breath of God that was breathed into us in the first place: that same breath that uttered the articulate sounds of faith that set all of creation in motion. He breathed Himself into us. The breath we breathe came from Him. That same breath He breathed carried His power, His dominion, His faith, His authority.
Now, don't go off half-cocked and think I'm saying that God created us to be just like Him. I'm saying that God created us to be just like Him (grin): NOT to take His place or to supplant Him and His supreme authority. Yet we were created to be just like Him.
The very next thing that happens after God breathes the breath of life and His spirit into us so that we became living, speaking spirits, God blesses us. That's to say that He declared and spoke with the same creative power that spoke creation into existence the empowerment into us to succeed, to prosper in everything we said or did.
Blessing, you understand, is exactly that! Blessing is not some kind of "speaking nice" over us, or just wishing us well, or -- as some tragically erroneous translations of the Word put it -- to be "happy." "Happy" has nothing whatever to do with blessing. This is a supernatural creative force, authority and power that God speaks into our beings -- an enablement to accomplish that which He declares for us, to us, through us and with us.
Now are you beginning to understand David's statement in Psalm 115:16 where he says, the earth hath he given to the children of men.
God, therefore, gave the responsibility of the earth over to man. That responsibility was -- for all intents and purposes -- to grow the Garden of Eden until it filled the earth, to make the earth a duplicate of heaven.
Let me digress for just a second to say that when the Lord took me to Heaven, I saw trees, plant life, flowers, gorgeous skies, stupendous buildings and structures, modes of travel unknown on earth on roads, streets and pathways that defy description. The concept of "streets that are paved with gold" (see Exodus 24:10 and Revelation 21:18-21) virtually transparent is something hard for our mind's eye to see, and yet I saw what I would have described as the pattern for the Garden of Eden.
Jesse Duplantis, in his experience of going to Heaven, says he made the comment to the Lord that, in many respects, Heaven looks a whole lot like the earth. The Lord answered him that when He created the earth and the Garden of Eden, it was supposed to be a duplicate of Heaven -- hence, "Heaven on earth."
We know that Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and in so doing, yielded the dominion they had over the earth to Satan. Let's make something clear. Just because mankind yielded his place of dominion over the earth to Satan does not mean that ownership of the earth was ceded along with that dominion. God is still in possession, and remained at all times in possession of the earth.
Now, let's see if we can get back where this discussion began -- namely, the fact that our walking in the valley of the shadow of death was not purposed by the Lord, our Shepherd, to do us in or to do us harm. Let's see if we can answer once and for all the comments we often hear like this: "I just can't understand why the Lord didn't intervene in that situation. Why does God allow evil in the earth?"
Do you find anyplace in God's Word where He took back the dominion from mankind originally given in the Garden? Nope! No place. From His perspective and position, therefore, that dominion still belongs to man. The fact that man slops it away and yields dominion to Satan only means that the events that transpire in the earth -- the evil, the calamity, the destruction that takes place -- are still his responsibility.
Remember. Jesus seized from Satan his right to exercise any authority in the earth. Until Satan committed murder by putting Jesus to death on the Cross, he was within his legal right to torment the human race, and to make a mess out of the earth. Once he committed a crime, a crime for which He was judged guilty (and sentenced) in the Universal Court of the Most High, his legal rights over mankind were terminated.
The fact that evil still continues is a result of the ignorance of men (and women) who fail to realize that Satan's power has been broken. Believe me, Satan does not want people to know the truth. He does not want folks to know that his legal rights have been terminated. He wants to keep people in ignorance so he can continue his (fraudulent and deceptive) control and influence in their lives.
Everything that happens from the point of Jesus' redemption forward upon the earth happens because man allows it. Jesus provides redemption for all who come to Him and acknowledge His Lordship in their lives.
All of this may seem like an aside to the topic at hand -- specifically, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." It isn't, I assure you. The valley of the shadow of death represents those times when it seems like all hell has broken loose in our lives in one respect or another.
"All hell" has broken loose because Satan is out to defeat us. He wants us to believe that he is still in control -- that he is almost as powerful, if not as powerful, as God; and as such has the power to do anything in our lives he desires.
Wrong! He has no power except that power which we give him. And men and women constantly give Satan power and authority in their lives, either actively or passively.
They do it actively by sinning, by denying the power and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ in their lives, by rejecting Him, by arrogantly assuming that they have the right to make all of their decisions and choices in life irrespective of what God says (and has said in His Word) about those choices.
They do it passively by not exercising dominion through the means God has given us -- speaking, declaring, confessing, decreeing God's Word in every situation. They do it passively by not knowing (because they refuse to read the Word) and exercising that Word which they should know. They do it passively by not spending time with the Lord, knowing Him, knowing His desires and His expressed will for their lives and His command to bring back the Kingdom of God on earth.
The valley of the shadow of death, then, represents those periods of time in our lives when we are confronted with the attacks of the Enemy -- either in our spirits, or in our emotions, or in our relationships with others, or in our physical well-being, or in our finances (or whatever area of life). The question is: what are we going to do when confronted with these attacks?
And let's not forget that the Lord absolutely promises in His Word that He will not allow us to be tested (or tempted by the Enemy) above and beyond that which we are able to withstand. (See again I Corinthians 10:9)
Again, what are we going to do when that which appears to be death-dealing comes against us?
I may have shared this story before, or at least parts of it (and if I don't have time to finish it today, I'll do it on Friday), and if I have, bear with me while I share one of many, many events in my life where the valley of the shadow of death is quite apparent.
This event took place in 1980 and 1981. I was pastoring Inupiat Christian Center in Barrow, Alaska. At the same time, I was President of the Christian Broadcasting Network-Alaska, Inc., operating as an adjunct to CBN in Virginia Beach, Virginia. At the same time, I was running two "for-profit" businesses in Barrow -- Arctic Slope Audio and North Slope Communications -- in order to provide funding for the rapid expansion of CBN's ministry throughout the remote communities and villages in Alaska. Get the picture? My hands were full, and there was a lot of responsibility on my table.
I had applied to a native corporation -- the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation (try pronouncing that, will you!) or UIC, for short -- for a grant of land (under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [ANCSA] the UIC was the native title-granting authority for lands) to build a new church building on the edge of town, along with living quarters for my family, and other ministerial staff members. The UIC had granted a sizeable piece of land for that purpose.
The naval Commander who was in charge of the Naval Arctic Research Laboratories at Point Barrow (nine miles north of the main part of the city of Barrow) was in the process of surplussing a large quantity of building materials and supplies (that would otherwise be scrapped) from projects no longer funded by the Federal Government. He came by my office one day and asked me if we could use those materials in building our new church building and offered to transfer the entire supply of surplus building supplies for the extravagant sum of one dollar to Inupiat Christian Center. You're daft if you think I refused his offer.
The paperwork had not yet been completed for the grant of land, nor for the transfer of building supplies to Inupiat Christian Center, but I contacted a building contractor friend in Anchorage (a brother in the Lord whom I had known for a number of years) and hired him to come to Barrow to oversee the transport of the building materials and supplies to the new building site, and supervise the construction of the new facilities. He flew to Barrow and began the process of arranging for heavy construction equipment, and even shipped into Barrow (by Hercules air transport) some earth-moving equipment from Anchorage.
Meanwhile, the ministry to the community was growing. People who come from native cultures are frequently infected and afflicted by evil spirits which come out of past idolatrous practices. The Eskimos are no different than any other native culture, and while there are many generations of Eskimos who have known freedom in Christ because of the work and labor of early missionaries in the arctic, there are still many families who have never dealt with or renounced the witchcraft and shamanism of their past.
That said, deliverance from evil spirits was a major part of our ministry in the arctic, and fasting and praying continuously were a mandatory necessity.
A day came when a young man (somewhere between 28 and 33 years of age) came to me for deliverance from evil spirits and unfolded a story that astounded me. I'll refer to him simply as "Johnny."
Witchcraft and shamanism are still very much a part of life among Eskimos in parts of the arctic, scattered from northern Alaska to Greenland, and even the Siberian arctic. Johnny began to tell me how he had been "anointed" as a young boy to become the next shaman for Barrow and the surrounding villages. His official position and title would take effect upon the death of the existing shaman, or at such time as the reigning shaman chose to step down.
His training to become the shaman took effect immediately after he was "anointed." In the years that followed, Johnny began to experience such fear and recurrent nightmares that it drove him to extreme alcoholism and heroin addiction. He began to experience one disaster after another in his life. Family members began to die off suddenly without natural explanation. Some just keeled over, some were killed in "freak accidents" and some contracted "incurable" diseases. Everything was going wrong in his life.
He had heard from one of his cousins whom we had ministered to about deliverance from evil spirits, and decided to come for help. And it looks like this is where I have to leave this story today. We'll pick it up here next week.
I remind those of you in need of ministry that our Healing Prayer Call normally takes place on the first Monday of each month at 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific). Our call-in number is (712) 775-7035. The Access Code is: 323859#. For Canadians who have difficulty getting in to this number, you can call (559) 546-1400. If someone answers and asks what your original call-in number was, you can give them the 712 number and access code.
At the same time, in case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:45AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We hope to make these gatherings available by Skype or Talk Fusion before long. If you miss the live call, you can dial (605) 562-3149, enter the same access code and listen in later.
Blessings on you!
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