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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Hanson’

Living_Letters_titleYou yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)

When someone seeks employment, generally there are letters written communicating why a business should hire an applicant. If you need a letter of recommendation, you don’t go to an antagonist and ask for one. You want someone you know of stature and experience, ideally in your field of industry, to write something positive.

For Paul, the whole church at Corinth was a living letter of recommendation for his ministry. The two verses above point out that his labor was a story of living transformation, enough weight to show the success of his work.

Again, Paul writes in verse 3: “…you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” Essentially he’s saying you’re the living letter of our ministry written by the ink of the Holy Spirit.

The Ink of the Holy Spirit

Later in his writings, Paul points out that the experience of transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3, verse 6 reads that it’s God:

“…who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The competence to minister occurs at the efforts of God; it’s the Spirit that gives life! There are gifted ways to say things, there are great methods to apply things, there are even glorious purposes for attracting commitment, but ultimately the only process that accomplishes an enduring transformation of soul is the work of the Holy Spirit!

Transformation isn’t something left up to men—this task is so important that God, the Holy Spirit, takes personal responsibility to get the job completed. He begins the project when He takes up residence within the very life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Paul pointed this out to the Corinthians in an earlier letter; 1 Corinthians 6, verse 19 reads from the English Standard Version:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

The ‘specifics’ of how the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the body is a mystery. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit lives inside the believer and the opportunity for lasting change is made available to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. When it comes to transformation, no one is beyond hope. The thought that someone can’t be changed is not in God’s vocabulary. He is the God of change making every soul He touches a living letter through the ink of the Holy Spirit. Practically, there is only one thing capable of hindering that work.

The Restricting of the Holy Spirit

As rain delays can hinder homebuilders, the process of God’s true transformation can be held up and restricted. Paul warns the Thessalonians that this problem exists when he writes to them in 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 19 the simple words:

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

The thought behind the word “quench” is that of extinguishing a fire. The metaphor is meant to illustrate the stifling and suppression of the divine influence—the Holy Spirit! The fastest way to break the process of transformation is to behave in ways that quench the fire burning in you—so to speak, throwing cold water on the Holy Spirit. Sure, God’s promise to us is that He’ll never leave nor forsake us! But, we can surely hinder, restrict and rain-delay His work in our lives through careless behavior.

What does that restricting behavior look like from a practical sense? Paul gives a hint of example when he writes in Ephesians 4, verses 30 and 31:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Paul lists six-destroying emotions that can grieve the Holy Spirit and bring a work-delay to the transformation effort. But, the whole renewal processes can immediately start again through the simple act of putting away the six-destroying emotions. How can we do that? By acknowledging and confessing that we’ve slipped into any of these six-destroying detriments! Immediately following the work of the Holy Spirit is rekindled, the fire is relit and the ink of the Holy Spirit begins writing a living letter on our tablets of human heart again. We are The Living Letters written by God’s hand.

J. Robert Hanson

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Conspiracy3And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Ephesians 6:10-13, The Message Bible

In the final episode of The Taciturn Conspiracy, it’s most important to remember the battle is the Lord’s! I understand the tendency to struggle back when knocked down. No one likes the sense of humiliation. But, as The Message Bible paraphrases verse 13, this conspiracy is “far more than you can handle on your own.” In this case, it’s crucial, lastly:

c) Don’t forget who The Victor is

Jesus Christ is the victor! We stand only in the power of His might. Verse 10 reads:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

There is no one like our God! The battle is the Lord’s, not ours. He has won the victory, not us. We are weak and helpless in the face of any and all great satanic conspiracies. Even the famous Job, righteous and mighty as he was, could not withstand the whiles of the devil when he was tried. Let me explain.

Though we discover in reading the book of Job that the man did not sin in speech through all his afflictions,¹ Job does seem to lose perspective in light of his sufferings. In Job 31, beginning with verse 3, we find Job’s words about his crisis were:

Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he [God] see my ways and number all my steps?

In short, Job’s problem was he thought he deserved to be saved because he was so righteous. Job understood the truth that his crisis was not a result of sin—he makes that case clear to his three friends throughout the book. But, his error was in thinking he was strong and mighty because he was righteousness—in short, he deserved salvation. In this Job justified himself rather than God. He fell directly into the devil’s schemes by concluding his circumstances were of flesh and blood—people were his problem—and not powers of spiritual darkness in high places.

As long as we believe we’re battling with flesh and blood we’re not able to see our need for help, a Savior, or that Jesus is victor. That’s why it’s imperative to see who the ultimate conspirator is. For this we put on the whole armor of God day-by-day! Plus, don’t ever forget who the victor is! This conspiracy is far more than we can handle. To think we can “go it alone” is exactly what the devil wants us to believe. Satan wants us taken up with the world’s surveillance cameras surrounding us. He wants us believing we fight against flesh and blood. He wants us to consider victory as up to us—just inches away from grasping. It’s not so! In his hubris, Job found that out and was rebuked by his young friend, Elihu. In Job 32, verse 2 were read:

“Then Elihu…burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.”

And then in Job 33, verses 26 through 28, we find Elihu cuts lose in correcting Job. Beginning with verse 26 we read Elihu tells Job:

“…then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’

Job learns his suffering were more than he could handle. He finds he was only deserving of judgment and then his plea matches the state of his weakness with the words: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me!”

When we forget that our true adversary is the devil, we become like Job thinking we deserve help because we are so righteous in our cause. But, salvation is all about what we can’t handle and then finding Jesus as the victor. This discovery is what the devil truly fears most. All his taciturn conspiracies are in coordination to keep us from this truth—Jesus is victor.

That’s the whole deflection of the devil—to get us thinking we are mighty and we can fight against flesh and blood, when in fact, we are nothing and in desperate need of God’s help! So, please remember we have powerful adversary in the devil. But God has given us an armor to put on to discover the strength we have in Jesus!

Ephesians 6, verse 10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

J Robert Hanson

¹ Job 2:10, ESV: “…Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

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Conspiracy2“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:13-18, ESV

To stand against Satan’s stratagems—what I called The Taciturn Conspiracy—this little passage reminds us to “Take up the whole armor of God”! Keeping us from falling prey to the schemes of the devil, there are several things Paul mentions in chapter 6—I’d like to mention three of them. First:

a) Don’t confuse who your adversary is

That is a primary strategy of the devil. He wants to get you thinking your issues are a result of your fellow human being. He can manipulate people to do terrible things, but those of flesh and blood are not the main cause of any of your problems. The devil wants you wrestling with flesh and blood. He wants you yelling at people. He wants you believing your predicament in life is because of an incompetent bumbling government. If the devil can get you mad at another human being, he’s done a great job of deflection and distraction—his taciturn conspiracy is working!

There’s nothing worse than fighting against an enemy you don’t know. To be mad at the wrong person and mix up opponents is the ultimate in victory. In this condition the devil can get you mad, discourage you, overwhelm you, and devastate you by making your fight seem like it’s against flesh and blood.

Your fight is not against any system of humanity; it’s against an organization of demonic enterprise. Paul says that ultimately any fight with City Hall is one in which you’re wrestling with rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And, the Apostle should know. Remember, the man wrote this epistle while locked up in a Roman jail cell! Paul realized his arguments with the empire were ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Don’t become confused and fall into the trap of thinking your adversary is ultimately human—Paul reminds us that’s not the case. Secondly:

b) Don’t overlook what your adversary is

Never forget that Satan is much stronger than you! You are not a superhero with a cape! You absolutely need the strength of the Lord’s might because you can’t go it alone! You need God and the support of other believers standing with you. That’s why Paul says in verse 18:

“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

Even the great Apostle Paul realized the ancient foe is a formidable adversary. And as such we’ve got to each other’s prayers for help. Yes, the devil is very strong—but we have a mighty God that has given us armor to wear to withstand the evil day. Beginning with verse 13 we read:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

If you need a superhero costume, this is it—no cape attached! In fact, this is the only superhero costume to believe in. It’s the spiritual SWAT team’s uniform—don’t leave home without it. Your only opportunity to defeat the schemes of the devil is to learn to put on the superhero costume of faith everyday!

Next episode finishes with the final aspect of this armor.

J Robert Hanson

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ConspiracyFinally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12, ESV

I love a good conspiracy. Area 51, UFOs, grassy knolls, it doesn’t matter—the intrigue of figuring out plots and connivers sparks my curiosity. To be clear, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,¹ a conspiracy is a secret plan made by two or more to do something that is harmful or illegal. For creating a conspiracy, it takes two-to-tango.

Ephesians 6, verses 10 through 12 is about a dark taciturn conspiracy between the devil and other spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Paul writes these thoughts because it’s so easy to forget our struggles are not against individuals—flesh and blood—but the silent schemes of an insidious devil and his legions. The one known as “the prince of the power of the air”² is an exceptional watcher and soundless strategist against humanity. He is able to control situations and make them look like others are responsible. His favorite patsy is humanity. When enduring suffering we can be fooled into thinking we’re fighting men. But, while gazing at marionettes—tools of the puppet master—the real power pulling the strings is Satan.

We think Big Brother is our government, a Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwellian nightmare come alive. But Big Brother isn’t the video camera on the street corner. It’s the demonic powers lurking in the quite darkness of spiritual highlands! The devil and his legions are watching and observing what we do. Our true loss of anonymity isn’t from modern technical advances. The Bible notes privacy was lost centuries before. You don’t think so? Just read Job 1, verses 6 and 7:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

Satan walks the earth observing what’s going on. In fact, God asks Satan if he’d scrutinized His servant, Job; verse 8:

“…the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

And Satan replies to The Almighty with a complaint—verses 9 and 10:

“Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

Satan’s grievance: he can’t seem to assault Job as the man is too protected! The devil was well aware of Job’s life and activities—he’d been monitoring the righteous man for quite awhile! And, the frustration was that nothing could touch him as the Lord’s protection prevented any overt or covert attacks. “It’s not fair” was the devilish argument!

Satan has been eavesdropping on humanity since the dawn of time beginning way back in the Garden of Eden. He knew exactly what God had said to Adam in light of the prohibition of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil understood how to twist that conversation just enough to fool Adam’s spouse. Do not underestimate the devil’s surveillance program!

The good news is the devil has limitations. Though he does tirelessly walk throughout the whole earth, he can’t be everywhere at the same time—only God is capable of omnipresence. The bad news is that Satan has legions of fallen angels—demons—capable of covering every inch of this planet and reporting activities through a well-established demonic hierarchy—hence, the taciturn conspiracy. This is the true Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwellian nightmare come to life!

Paul’s goal in Ephesians 6 is to unmask the adversary and reveal to humanity that a satanic strategy is at work! The evil tactic is networked in such a way that it can cause huge disruptions in your life and fool you into believing others are liable. Paul calls this conspiracy the schemes of the devil—the one conspiracy that humanity needs to be aware of so that it doesn’t fall prey to massive deception. As humankind, the worse we can do is misjudge the devil and be duped into believing we’re wrestling with flesh and blood—other people!

There are several things that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 that will keep us from falling prey to the schemes of the devil. Satan has fatally underestimated the effect of the whole armor of God, the same armor we’re called to put on everyday.

In the next episode I’d like to mention three aspects of this armor.

J. Robert Hanson

¹ http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/conspiracy

² Ephesians 2: 2 ESV; in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—.

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I_Quit“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:1 (ESV)

God gave the Apostle Paul an amazing ministry! It was a special specific calling that literally transformed a world. Historically few men have been as effective in furthering the life of Jesus Christ as this apostle born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:8 KJV). His writings dominate the New Testament. Narratives of how God used this man overshadow the second half of the Book of Acts. Of all men and women who’ve ever been ministers of the Gospel, no doubt Paul’s ministry runs at the forefront as both succeeding and fruitful.

However, as I perused 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 1 from the English Standard Bible, something new dawned upon me at the words, “…having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” The missive seems to imply that even the Apostle Paul found the possibility of losing heart over pressures of the ministry—whether internal or external.

Though we look at the body of Paul’s work as a huge success, apparently, personally he didn’t always view it that way. It’s interesting to me that the thought of “losing heart” even comes up—I mean, this is THE APOSTLE PAUL we’re talking about here! Yet, in this verse he’s pointing out his need for mercy in the midst of this great commission. In fact, the Message Bible has an interesting way of saying these thoughts:

“Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.”

Do the words “I quit” mean anything to you? Apparently they did to the Apostle Paul. But, walking off the job was not an option of consideration as the mercy of God was ever prevalent for the ministry given to him. God’s grace was available to help Paul through all the hard times! In fact, by God’s enabling power he found the courage to move forward—we read that Kenneth Wuest translates this verse as:

“Because of this, having this ministry [of the new testament] even as we were made the objects of mercy [in its bestowal], we do not lose courage,”

So, when difficulties arise, whether internal or external, the opportunity for finding the grace of God elevates above the level of giving up and quitting. If we’ve reached the point of frustration—throwing up our hands and walking off the job—remember the mercy of God is greater. Before saying, “I quit” to the ministry generously given, discover God’s grace can give help in time of need!

J. Robert Hanson

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