The Power To Choose

When God created Adam and Eve He created them to live eternally. In Genesis 1:28 God says to mankind, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it..." God's intention in creating mankind was that he would live forever in a perfect environment (the Garden of Eden), while multiplying and extending the Garden's realm to cover the whole earth. God breathed into man, gave him a spirit, and designed him to live on. What a deal!

God gave them only one rule or boundary. "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Gen. 2:16-17) Man could freely eat from any tree of the Garden of Eden except one; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To eat the fruit of this tree would mean sure death. We know from the choice they made death meant the entrance of sin, eventual physical death, sickness, disease, pain, expulsion from the Garden, a fallen nature for all of mankind, and more. We also know that when they partook by the serpent's deception, they immediately had the knowledge of good and evil.

God created Adam and Eve to know Him, not good and evil. Get this...Adam and Eve had no conscience whatsoever. They didn't need one. Why? Because they knew only God, not good and evil. Your conscience is designed to discern between good and evil; and warn you when you approach evil or it approaches you. This is why today we must rely totally on the Holy Spirit. Jesus said He will lead and guide us into all the truth! Since Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good and evil, God gave them just one boundary. He explained the results of crossing this boundary...sure death.

God also gave Adam and Eve the power to choose. How infinitely wise! Adam and Eve never had a problem being tempted to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil until the serpent showed up deceiving. When you don't know good and evil, and when you know only God, you cannot be tempted by evil. You can be deceived however! The serpent twisted the very words God spoke to deceive Adam and Eve. Temptation to do evil is not the enemy's most powerful weapon against true believers. It is deception! The serpent used deception to convince Adam and Eve to make the wrong choice, thus choosing death. It wasn't until after the choice was made, and they were disobedient to God that they felt the guilt and shame. Why? Because now they knew good and evil! They now had a conscience...and it was hard to handle. Now they hid themselves from God because they knew they had crossed the only boundary He had set for them.

Adam and Eve's power to choose was a foreshadowing of God's infinite grace which we now have access to. God sent Jesus 2000 years ago to pay the penalty for our sins that resulted from a wrong choice. And even today we have the power to choose eternal life through Jesus, or to remain in the death which came through Adam and Eve. God is a loving God who will never force anyone to love Him or to choose Him. Yet He will never turn away a heart that truly cries out for Him. He will never reject the person that chooses Him!

I have but one way to close this post. Choose Jesus! Live forever!!

How Short-term Mission Has Changed My LIfe (India Part 6)

Two of the greatest experiences for me in all my travels to India came in 1998. It was only my second trip to India. I was in India for about 2 weeks. We conducted what is referred to as conventions in Jadcherla and Hyderabad, and we attended the annual gathering of India's largest Pentecostal denomination, The Indian Pentecostal Church (IPC).
I ministered 4 days in Jacherla, 4 days in Hyderabad, and we attended the IPC convention for about 3 days. I ministered about 12 times in Jadcherla and Hyderabad combined. We rested for a day and then headed out to Vijayawada which was about a 9 hour drive. I was extremely exhausted!
The first experience took place at the IPC convention in Vijayawada. The convention was amazing. I got to hear some speakers/preachers who spoke in English! In all attendance was around 20,000. I was scheduled to speak on a Friday afternoon about 1 pm. It was blazing hot under the conglomeration of open air tents. I was not a keynote speaker. This explains my 1 pm speaking time! The crowd was somewhat smaller; somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. I lunged at this opportunity to speak to the hungry Christ-followers of India! I remember I preached about Jehoshaphat, and how he and all of Judah turned their attention to seek the Lord for deliverance from imminent destruction, at the hands of an alliance of enemies. The focus was not on circumstances...but on the miraculous power of prayer.
At the end of my message, as I usually do, I gave an invitation to prayer. And as usual I was quickly mobbed by hundreds of folks whose faith demanded the anointing God had placed upon me for this event. As the people were filing by for prayer, an little elderly man hobbled up to me and grabbed my hand. He quickly placed my hand on his leg. I must admit, at first I wondered what his ailment was (since I was now touching it). But by the level of God's power I sensed, I was sure everything would be alright...for me. The people came. I prayed on. It was exhausting...but extremely glorious.
After awhile, they had to close the prayer line. I was escorted back to Pastor G.R. Purushotham's little car where I waited for them to drive us back to the hotel. While I was sitting in the back seat of the little car, soaking wet, slurping down a 2 liter bottle of water, the little man came running (not hobbling) up to the car shouting. As he shouted, he also jumped up and down, pointing to his leg. He was ecstatic! Obviously the Lord had touched his leg. He was healed and delivered! I didn't need to understand the Telegu dialect at the time. His face and his actions completely told the story! Oh the goodness of the universal God we serve! One day every single knee will bow before Him and every single tongue will declare that He truly is Lord!
The second experience took place on my very last day in India. We left the IPC convention in Vijayawada on Sunday afternoon and headed back to Jacherla. We made it as far as Hyderabad and at 1 am we bedded down in a local church. The next morning (the day I was to fly out) we left for Jadcherla. Jadcherla was the home of Pastor G.R. Purushotham, a great man of God who for more than 65 years has made a difference in India by the preaching of the Gospel. Pastor Purushotham has raised up and commissioned literally hundreds of pastors who are serving in the state of Andhra Pradesh. He is the founder of the Bethel Bible School in Jadcherla. He also is my contact and the Pastor I have worked with in India.

We arrived in Jadcherla just in time for the dedication service for the construction of the new Bible School facility on the newly purchased land. What I didn't know was that they were about to ask me to lay the very first corner stone, and pray over it. When they did ask, I was overwhelmed and amazed at the opportunity. Hundreds of Pastors have passed through this school and are now serving in multiple churches in India! What an honor! I was truly grateful to be a part of it! I will never forget this experience.

The trip back to the States is always grueling. It is very long with numerous hours spent in layovers. At this point during any trip to India I am completely exhausted. You seem to run on something deeper than what you have. It God's grace and His Spirit! We had to travel another 3 hours to get to the airport in Hyderabad. I left India that time glad to be returning home. But unlike my first trip, I was already planning my return trip!