Category Archives: Battle Against Evil

The Battle to be Kingdom Minded

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The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”  They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”  Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.”  He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8:14-21

You know, I think I’m pretty spiritual, until I am in a different environment, away from my usual routines.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to California to help my dad and stepmother, Mom C, while she was in the hospital.

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I had good intentions of doing all kinds of great stuff while I was there.  I planned to text friends and encourage them in my free time.  I found myself reading a book instead.  I planned to get on the computer in the evenings and work on the church newsletter, but slid into the comfort of watching TV with my dad.  I wanted to have good conversations with people there, and sometimes said what they wanted to hear, instead of sticking to my convictions.

It was good for me to be reminded how hard it can be to stay kingdom minded.  Right now I can sympathize more with sisters who live with unbelieving husbands, people who work all day in a worldly atmosphere, and others in challenging circumstances.

I say all this because I think that being kingdom minded is what this passage in Mark is all about.  Jesus had one way of thinking.  His disciples had another.

The disciples cared about food.  Jesus cared about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod — the effect of false teachings and hypocritical lives.  He knew that Satan was always working, trying to get people away from a pure heart and faith.  Later in the chapter he rebuked Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Then he told his disciples, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Being kingdom minded means being more concerned about the soul than the body.  It’s realizing what is really important.

The second thing that impresses me about this passage is that Jesus was so confident that God was going to take care of him.  It wasn’t even on his radar to make sure and take along bread.  He wasn’t at all worried  that they only had one loaf.  He had great certainty that God would provide for their needs.

Being kingdom minded really is the conviction that if we seek the kingdom first, we don’t have to worry about our physical needs.  (Matt 6:33)

This was a great thing to be studying while I was in California.  I remembered it when I felt like I was getting a UTI, and instead of freaking out, I just kept on going and trusting in God.  I remembered it when Mom C was about to be sent to the rehab center and we didn’t know what that would be like.  I told her, “God’s taken care of you this far, and he’s going to keep on doing it,” and we went forward.

I remembered it when I got with my friend Ashley.  Now that was a serendipity!  I happened to text her before I came to California, and mentioned that I would be in San Diego.  She responded, “I am there too!” It turned out that she was doing one of her medical school rotations at the children’s hospital there.

ashley and I

So Ashley and I got together for dinner.   I shared with her about this verse, and how it can give us confidence that God will provide for our futures.  For her, that means that when she graduates, God will lead her to just the right residency and just the right church where she can have great spiritual relationships.  For me, it means that God will lead me to the best way to use my time in the future, something I’ve been praying about a lot.

And here is the best breakthrough I had about how God takes care of us.  My father and I had a very nice time visiting and talking.  One conversation we had was about how he provided child support for me after my parents divorced when I was eight.  He said that the agreement was that instead of paying just a flat monthly amount, he would pay a lower regular amount and then pay for everything I needed — clothes, my flute, my braces, etc.  As I thought about this, I realized that this is how my father has shown his love to me over the years.  He lived in one state and I lived in another, so I saw him twice a year and talked on the phone, but it didn’t feel like he was involved in my life as much.  But he was pouring out his love for me by providing for me.  Realizing that made me feel so warm inside because for all those years I had just taken for granted that my needs had been taken care of.  I hadn’t really seen the love behind it.

Daddy and me!

And my greatest insight was seeing that God is the same way.  He loves me like a father, by providing for my needs.  I am feeling more loved by God!

The third thing I see about the passage is that Jesus seriously expects his followers to be kingdom minded.  He totally got onto his disciples for not understanding what he was saying about the yeast of the Pharisees.

That always seemed harsh to me.  But then I remembered what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? .  .  .  pagans run after those things.”  (Matt 6:25, 31)  That’s a strong statement.  It means that when his disciples had tunnel vision about the bread, they were acting like pagans, like base unbelievers!

What about us?  Do we have tunnel vision too?  Where is it focused?  On our job, achievements, home, security, relationships, leisure pursuits or retirement?  On politics or issues?

This verse came to me last week:  “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  What a scary verse!  It implies that most believers aren’t going to make it to heaven.   For those of us with faith, the bad influences of the world are always working on us.  Satan is using all these things to leech away our faith and convictions.  He doesn’t have to come up with a fancy new weapon to use against us.  He can just rely on the influence of the stuff all around us!

We probably don’t even see it happening.  That’s what is so scary about the story of the disciples and the loaf of bread.  They were oblivious.  Surely that’s why Jesus was sharp with them.

Jesus knows that it is essential for us to continuously fight for our heart, mind and soul!

“There is a battle we have to face every single day.  There are weapons we have to pick up and be ready to defend ourselves with — every single day.  To live in this world and not allow ourselves to be bullied and enticed by a mindset that is not biblical, we have to be seriously engaged, and seriously on our guard.”  (Lisa Chan, “You and Me Together)

And that is what was a little clearer to me when I was in California.  It would have been so easy to give into the comfort and let God drift to the back burner.   I had to really push myself to be even a little kingdom minded.

Yet I am so glad I did, because doing so gave me the greatest rewards.  You know, like the disciples, we think we need the bread of the world.  But what we really need is to look to God, who provides the richest fare — things that are good, satisfying and meaningful.

Here are a few ways God fed my soul.  I woke at 4:30 AM, which was what my body was used to in my time zone, and the Spirit whispered encouraging truths to me as I lay in bed.  I had one of the best visits ever with my parents, with many good one-on-one conversations.  I got with Ashley.  I saw prayers being answered.  I took a walk and discovered God’s beauty.

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After I returned, Mom C wrote on a Facebook, “Kat,your visit with us has been wonderful! I so enjoyed the times that you and I had together, especially the spiritual moments. I think we have created yet another bond.”

Let’s take the leap, a hundred times a day, away from our needs and worries, into God’s arms. He WILL provide.  He will take care of us.  Only HE can be our sufficiency, our source, our answer.

It’s hard.  It’s a battle.  But it is worth it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matt. 5:6

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Vanquishing the Doom Gloom

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Last week someone close to me hurt my feelings, and it sent me into this crazy downward spiral of emotions.  I thought I dealt with that, but then I had other ups and downs, and realized that I still had some kind of strong uneasiness going on.

I finally put my finger on it.  The incident had triggered the Doom Gloom in me.  Doom Gloom is to be distinguished from Doom and Gloom, which is being characterized by a glum disposition. Doom Gloom is a strong foreboding that something got broken, and is not going to work, and life is going to stink!

As I studied out the passage for this week’s blog, it gave me some insight into my Doom Gloom, and led me to a powerful way to deal with it.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”  Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.  Mark 8:11-13

These verses talk about how the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to show them his creds.

This bummed Jesus out.  Why?  I mean, it seems reasonable to ask him to prove who he was.  Others in the Bible were given signs.  Gideon asked for and received a sign with the fleece.  God gave Moses a sign through his staff.

moses staff

To understand this, we have to understand how God views “testing.”  Look at the time when Jesus was tempted in the desert.  The devil took him to a high place and told him to throw himself off the edge, because the scriptures said the angels would catch him when he did.  Jesus replied by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

The scripture Jesus used refers to Exodus 17, when the Israelites were in the desert and came to a place where there wasn’t any water.   They freaked out and ganged up on Moses, telling him he had better come through with something to drink!  Moses told them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” (Ex 17:2)

So then we want to know how it was that they were putting God to the test in this situation.   The end of the story tells us, “they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (v. 7)

moses complaining

When the Israelites couldn’t see God, they couldn’t have faith.  The Lord had helped them in so many ways.  Yet when they lacked water, they started doubting that he was among them.  They had to have a sign, physical evidence.

The Pharisees were doing the same thing.  Really, as Jesus said, it wasn’t just the Pharisees.  It was the whole generation.  Everyone wanted to see immediate physical evidence, over and over again, that the Lord was with them in the person of Jesus.  Otherwise they couldn’t have faith.

And I want to make one more point here.  In the case of the Pharisees, asking for a sign was probably bogus.  They already had their minds made up that he wasn’t from God.  In Mark 3, Jesus had been doing miracles and the teachers of the law said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”  They saw signs, but to them the signs meant that Jesus was working with the power of the devil.  Somehow all of their religious knowledge made them so wise in their own eyes that they couldn’t see the truth.

pharisees

And all this made Jesus sigh deeply.  He was sad that a generation which had a history of God being among them still couldn’t have faith.  He was sad that the religious leaders had closed the eyes and doors to their hearts.

The lesson for us, of course, is not to fall into either category.  We need to have steadfast faith and open hearts.

First, just like the Israelites, we need to steadfastly believe that God is with us because we, too, have a history of him being among us.  Look at these verses:

  • Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:17
  • For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.  Romans 1:20
  • “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?  Job 12:8-10
  • Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. Isa 40:22

I know when I think over my life, I can see the mile markers of God taking care of me.  He orchestrated a way for me to know him and attend a wonderful church.  He provided a husband who would be my partner in faith, and made my marriage immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined.  Over the years he’s given me a hope and purpose, an amazing job, success in raising my children, stronger mental health, and a mission that is a dream come true.  He’s worked in so many ways.  I could go on and on.

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A recent outing with my family. I am so blessed!

Yet when something goes wrong, I’m still like the Israelites, doubting that God’s going to take care of me.  I get the Doom Gloom.  I have to fight this!

Second, we need to constantly work on humility so that we won’t be so wise in our own eyes that we miss the truth.

“No!” we think.  “We’re not missing the truth.  We know it and we’re living by it.”  We think we’ve figured out God.

But God works in so many ways that we don’t expect.  And we have blind spots.  We still need to learn and grow.  We’re not there yet.

I certainly have grown in my convictions over the years.  I’ve found out that I need to stay humble and open.  I need to keep going back to the scriptures to gain deeper insights.  I need to pray for wisdom and ask God to show me the truth.  I need to realize that although I’m pretty sure I’m right, I might be wrong.

Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them. Prov. 26:12

In the end, this passage about the Pharisees trying to test Jesus is changing my life.  I’m loving it! Why?  Because after I studied it out, I asked myself, “How would my day be different if I really believed that God is with me?”  I saw a lot of ways. It was convicting.

So I started remembering and believing that God is with me in the different things I do.  I found myself being less timid and more giving.   I believed God was with me when I checked out at the store, and I had a great chat with the clerk.  I believed God was with me when I got with someone who needed encouragement, and I found I had more to say. I believed God was with me when I was tired and emotional and wanted to hide, and I was able to push through.  I believed God is with me when I prayed, and I prayed for more impossible things.

me and yesenia

I am so thankful that God works in our times with friends!

Let me encourage you to do the same!  It is SO HARD when things go wrong and we get the Doom Gloom.  We so badly want to test God and have him show us that he is among us, instead of looking to ourselves to develop our faith muscle.

Let’s repeat over and over to ourselves, “God is with me.”

Satan wants us to freak out. Satan wants us to be blind in our own conceit.

But we can live with strength.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession. . . II Cor 2:14a

 

 

 

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Psalm 11 — When the World Goes Haywire

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It’s appropriate that the psalm I am discussing today in my series on Psalms is Psalm 11.  Today is the inauguration day for Donald Trump, and in my lifetime, I can’t remember such a crazy time.  People are either aghast at the behavior of Trump, or they are aghast at the behavior of those against him. It seems like the world has gone haywire!

David, who wrote Psalm 11, also felt like the world had gone haywire.  For him, the situation was that King Saul, the king he followed and fought for, the king who was his father in law, had suddenly turned against him and was trying to kill him. (I Samuel 19)  One moment David was just minding his own business,  playing the lyre, and the next moment he was dodging a spear thrown at him by the monarch!  He tried to go home,which should have been safe, but his wife convinced him to hightail it out of there.  Which was good, because he just missed Saul’s men, who came to his house to do him ill.

So what do you do when the things get wonky, when injustice reigns, and you fear for the future?

You look to imitate the heart of David, who started Psalm 11 by declaring, “In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain.”

David’s attitude was, “Why should I run away?  My confidence comes from God.  I trust in him to keep me safe, not in my own actions.”

Of course, David did flee.  But he did so with the belief that his life was in God’s hands, not Saul’s.

I like how the New Living Translation words verses 3 and 4:

The foundations of law and order have collapsed.

What can the righteous do?”

But the Lord is in his holy Temple;

the Lord still rules from heaven.

David’s message?  GOD IS IN CONTROL.  Nothing, not even the collapse of the world around him, would shake his faith in that.

And David also placed his confidence in his belief that God would execute justice.  Psalms 11 goes on to read,

[The Lord] watches everyone closely,

examining every person on earth.

The Lord examines both the righteous and the wicked.

He hates those who love violence.

He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked,

punishing them with scorching winds.

David knew that every wicked act would be punished.  And when we read the Bible, we see that God did bring down many evil nations.  The reference here seems to be to Sodom and Gomorrah, which God wiped out through fire.  God’s angels told Lot, who was living in Sodom, “We are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.

It sometimes doesn’t seem like it, but God sees evil, and will deal with it, either in this life, or in the one to come.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal 6:7

David ended the psalm with this statement:

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice;

the upright will see his face.

David couldn’t do anything about King Saul and his army except pray and put his faith in God’s righteousness.  And then the most important thing he could do was to keep doing right, himself.

I’m not saying David didn’t fight for justice.  He did. He stood up to Goliath! He ran off the Philistines who were harassing the Israelites of the town of Keilah, as I related in my last blog.  There are many other examples.

But David knew that the most important battle was the one he fought internally, the one he fought to maintain his integrity and trust in God.  He knew the reward for fighting this battle was the greatest one that could be achieved:  maintaining the favor of God.

He knew the sweetest thing was to have the blessing of Numbers 6:23-24  ‘“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

To David, seeing God’s face meant that God’s countenance would continue to shine on him.  It meant, as Matthew Henry explained in his commentary of Numbers 6, To be under the almighty protection of God our Saviour; to enjoy his favour as the smile of a loving Father, or as the cheering beams of the sun; while he mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our wants, consoles the heart, and prepares us by his grace for eternal glory; these things form the substance of this blessing, and the sum total of all blessings.”

So things were a mess.  It must have been hard for David not to get carried away with ranting about all the wrongs and injustices!  But David retooled his thinking to be focused on God.

What do you do when the things get wonky, when injustice reigns, and you fear for the future ?  I want to enjoin you to fight the wrongs, and stand up for justice.

But your primary focus should always be on fighting for your own integrity, so nothing gets in the way of experiencing the greatest treasure, the blessedness of a relationship with God.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matt 5:8

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Psalm 34 — Praising At All Times

What a harrowing time it was when David wrote Psalm 34!  He was fleeing for his life.  He tried to hide in some region called Gath, but people there were wise to him.  So David started acting like he was stark raving mad!  Here’s how the Message version describes it:

When David realized that he had been recognized, he panicked, fearing the worst from Achish, king of Gath. So right there, while they were looking at him, he pretended to go crazy, pounding his head on the city gate and foaming at the mouth, spit dripping from his beard.  I Sam 21:13

Can you imagine?  David really threw himself into his performance.  He was smashing his noggin on things and slobbering.  It would have been funny to watch, if it wasn’t so scary!

And in the midst of all of this, he wrote something astounding:  “I will praise the Lord at all times.” (Ps 34:1)  How could he write this while he was in fear for his life?  He could because he wasn’t fixated on his troubles, he was fixated on the awesomeness of God!

Several years ago I put the first part of Psalm 34 to music.  Here is the first stanza of my rendition:

I will praise the Lord at all times

His praise will always fill my voice

My soul will boast in the Lord

The righteous will hear and they’ll rejoice

Oh magnify the Lord with me and lift high his name in harmony.

Join with me to praise the Lord, exalting his name with one accord.

I love that David was determined to not only keep praising God, but to even boast in him, even magnify him.  That means that David kept on singing about how magnificent God was, and the more he did, the greater God became in his eyes.

Do I do that? Do I magnify God?

It has been a challenging week for me. I found out that my daughter and grandkids are moving to Chicago.  My beloved uncle in New Mexico passed away.  Another family member is going through some struggles.  My emotions are all over the place.

So what do I need to do?  I need to do what David did!  I’ve been working on being thankful, but I need to take that a step further and praise God more and more!  I need to start boasting that he is with me, and he’s going to take of me and my problems.  I need to get others to praise him with me for all the incredible things he has done and will do.

I sought the Lord and he replied, delivered me from all I dread

Those who look to him are radiant, and shame shall never bow their head.

Just as David could be radiant when he was in mortal danger, I can have a heart of joy when I focus on God, and not my problems.

And David was right to be radiant.  He knew God was the deliverer, and God did deliver him by allowing him to escape Gath unscathed.

“Achish said to his servants, ‘Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?’ David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam.”  (I Sam 21:14- 22:1a)

Will God deliver me as well?

The poor man cried, the Lord heard him, delivered him from all his woes.

The Lord’s angel encamps around the men who fear him, he rescues those.

Taste and see that the Lord is good and blessed is the man who takes refuge.

Lions grow weak and hungering, but those who seek God lack no good thing.

Isn’t it incredible to think of an angel protecting us on all sides, vigilant and ever ready?

Why then am I so insecure, so fearful?  Why do I navigate life like I’m walking through a minefield?  Why do I hunker down and protect myself?

God is the only protection that works!  Can I taste and see that he is good? Can I walk towards him instead of retreating and hiding?  Can I climb trustingly into his invisible arms?

And who among you desires life, and longs to age and see many good days?

Then keep your tongue from all evil words, and let no falsehood from your lips stray.

What a minute!  David is changing directions here.  The focus has moved from looking at the greatness of God, to looking at what a man’s behavior should be.  The song I wrote ends with the couplet above.  But the psalm David wrote goes on in this vein:

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth.

David had to have be thinking about his own life, thinking of the battles he fought to not give into the dark side, to not be hateful, to not be overwhelmed with anger and bitterness.

David must have seen how God took care of him as he held onto his integrity.  This motivated him to rally others to fight for their integrity as well.  “Good leads to good, and bad to bad!” he exhorted them.

Evil will slay the wicked;

the foes of the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord will rescue his servants;

no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

It sounds like a no brainer.  Of course we need to keep doing the right thing.  So why is it hard?  Why is there a spiritual principle of entropy?  We do we blink and find ourselves going the wrong way?

For me, I get tired and overwhelmed.  I start slacking on taking the positive steps.

So these words of Psalm 34 are a great reminder.  As Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”  If I let up the fight and give into the dark side, there will be repercussions.

As I close this blog, I want to talk about two lines of the psalm near the end that have been puzzling me.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The lines seem like they don’t fit in.  David’s done such a good job of praising God, and talking about how God takes care of the righteous.  I have the impression that David has it figured out and feels great in spite of his challenges.

Then he talks about the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit. Whoa.  This is gut level raw.  It’s like the hidden pain in David’s heart erupts.

And as I meditated on these words, in the end, they rang true.  David had to leave his wife and his best friend.  He left his home and his career.  His former friends and family were stalking him.  He was forced to run from place to place, and do things to survive like bang his head against walls.  His anguish went deep.

Trusting in God doesn’t instantly mend a broken heart.  It helps, but we still bleed inside.

I would have been different than David.  I would have told myself, “God is awesome.  So you’re supposed to have faith and be doing better.  Don’t let yourself give into despair.”

But David was the opposite.  He let it out and gave name to his pain.  He saw that his pain showed him how desperately he needed God.  He was confident that God wouldn’t be repelled by his mess of emotions, but would instead draw closer to him.  He knew God’s heart would be moved to help him.

That inspires me more than anything.  Yes, I want to magnify God.  Yes, I want to do the right thing.  But what I really want is to be gut level honest with God and say that I hurt.  I’m scared.  I feel lost and abandoned.

And when I do, I want to hear God saying, “It’s okay.”  I want to feel him drawing me into his embrace.  I want to know that he’s marshaling his heavenly armies to deliver me.

That is what truly inspires me to praise God without ceasing.

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Learning to Love the O.T. IIb — The Tempter and the Temptation

Last week I had what I’ll call an emotional uprising.  I was talking with a couple of friends and we were all sharing about our lives, when something in the conversation began to make me uncomfortable.  Big emotions started rearing up inside of me, things like insecurity and shame.  I tried to ignore them. I tried to talk myself out of them.  I tried to manipulate the conversation away from what was making me uncomfortable.  But the emotions just grew, like rebellious beasts.

The interaction ended and I went home feeling shell shocked, incapable of doing anything. I couldn’t talk about it.  I just cloistered myself in the house until I felt better.

The good news is that I am learning how to deal with my emotional triggers, reading a really super book called “Spiritual Discovery” by Virginia Lefler (and two other authors).  But my experience reminds me of how Adam and Eve hid in the Garden. Did they feel any of the things I was feeling?

Today my blog is about the nature of temptation, and the nature of Satan.  Looking at these themes in Genesis 2 and 3, and elsewhere, gives us much insight into the way Satan works, and how we can fight him.

The nature of temptation. Let’s uncover one of Satan’s biggest pages in his evil playbook.  He tries to get us to doubt the goodness of God, that God is sufficient.

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The grass is always greener on the other side.

The serpent conned Eve into believing that that God was holding out on her.  She had all this delectable fruit right at her fingertips. She could walk with God.  She could eat from the tree of life. But she became insecure and decided she needed something else.

So many other stories of the Bible have the same theme. The Israelites whine in the desert because they don’t believe God will provide.  They don’t conquer the Promise Land because they don’t think God’s assistance will be enough. David goes after Bathsheba, even though he could basically have any unmarried woman he wants.  He counts his men, in spite of knowing that it has been God who has always been his winning edge.

And then look at how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.  Satan tries to get him to think he needs more — he needs the stones to become bread.  I love how Jesus replies that the Word of God is what is really fulfilling!  I am so convinced that the way Jesus remained free of sin throughout his life was by believing strongly in the goodness of God.  Remembering this helps me to be the same way.

The nature of Satan.  He is “crafty.”

sneaky

That nasty tempter is soooo clever!  So sneaky and diabolical! As a serpent, he came up with this fine sensible sounding argument to convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  He didn’t make sin look obvious.  He made it look like a reasonable choice.

Thus, we are warned in the New Testament to guard ourselves against Satan’s treacherous plots. Jesus tells us to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11.  See also II Cor 2:11 and I Peter 5:8)

 He is a liar.  Satan lied to Eve in the Garden, and lies have been his modus operandi ever since. One of the most blatant examples of this is in I Kings 22 where God confers with the heavenly host on how to bring about the downfall of Ahab.  One of the host (almost certainly the Devil) steps forward and says, “I will go out and be a spirit that tells lies through the mouths of all of Ahab’s prophets.”  God approves of this plan and authorizes its execution.

Jesus said in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

He is an accuser.  Why were Adam and Eve so afraid that they hid from God? Why did they think they couldn’t come before God in their weakness?  I might be stretching it a bit, but I think they heard that whisper of censure, the voice of Satan, that says, “You scum!  God is so going to blast you.  He’s going to hate you now.”

Satan thinks the worst of us.  He told God about Job, “Now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 1:11.  He was even critical of Jesus, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” Zech 3:10

The good news of the New Testament is that Satan can no longer accuse those who are saved!  “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. . .” ( Col 1:22)

And the end of the story is that accuser is going down!  “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God.’”  (Rev 12:1)

Let’s pray —

Father, help me to see the schemes and the lies of Satan.  Help me not to let Satan accuse me. I am especially struggling with this temptation/situation: ___________________.   Help me not to hide, but to bring it into the light before you so you can give me wisdom and power.  Help me not to feel ashamed, but to talk to a friend about it, so they can pray for me and help me unravel the tangles of deception. 

Father, I am rejoicing, I am dancing in my heart, that I can be holy, without blemish and free from accusation.  I am utterly grateful before you.  Help me to carry this with me throughout my day.

God, I know you are GOOD!!!   You are the light, in you is no darkness at all. Help me to believe in your goodness especially in this area where I am so tempted to doubt: __________________.  Help me to know that you are ENOUGH!  I so often don’t feel like I am enough.  I want to come to you and KNOW that you are the source of all sufficiency.  

Father, thank you that you believe the best in us.  Help me believe in the best in you.

In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Restoring Our Souls

Yesterday I listened to a great podcast by John Eldridge on the soul.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Eldridge said that our soul is that unique part of ourselves that contains our abilities and characteristics.  It can also be called our “heart.”  It is our inmost being.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  We need to protect our souls.

Because, Eldridge pointed out, the Bible says we can lose our soul, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”  (Luke 6:26)  And he went on to say that losing our soul isn’t just a matter of going to hell.  We begin to lose our soul long before death.  The world steals it away until we are just a pale shadow of what we were.

Thinking about these things has been very good for me, because I realize that I’ve been too much focused on getting my self esteem from what I do, and not enough from who I am.  I keep thinking that I need to be productive to prove I am worthy.  Instead, I need to realize that I already have worth.  God created me to have a very special blend of positive attributes.

Several years ago I wrote down a summary of who I am:  I am someone who loves poetry, music, the majesty of God, truth, creativity, intellectual stimulation, celebrating life, and the infinite importance of each individual person. I am someone who dreams and believes that there is hope.

I wrote that because it’s so hard to remember who I am.  It really is true that the world steals our soul and we forget who we are.  I start focusing on being the way I think I should be, doing all kinds of good things, keeping a nice house, saying the right things.  And after awhile, I’m lost in the “shoulds.”

I get focused on my shortcomings.  I forget that with each gift of character God gives me, there is a propensity for weakness.  I tend to be a perfectionist.  That helps me to achieve, but it also can make me controlling.  I have deep emotions, but they can lead me into depression and anger.  The things I dislike about myself are actually a result of the GOOD way God made me.  It doesn’t mean I am flawed.

One of my new favorite songs is “She Used to be Mine” by Sara Bareilles.  Look at some of the lyrics and see how the character in the song feels like she is losing herself:

It’s not simple to say
That most days I don’t recognize me
That these shoes and this apron
That place and it’s patrons
Have taken more than I gave them
It’s not easy to know
I’m not anything like I used to be
Although it’s true
I was never attention’s sweet center
I still remember that girl

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

One thing I like about this song is that the woman in it loved herself, even though she saw she was broken.  And it helps me to appreciate myself and the mess I can be.  Yes, I want to keep growing in the good parts of my character and not give into the weaknesses.  But sometimes I am going to be a mess as I grow.  And that’s okay, because I still have the person who is me inside, my soul.  It’s better to be an imperfect mess, than try to be perfect and lose who I am.

So how do we restore our souls when the world has been like a vampire sucking them dry?  The podcast didn’t say, it was just Part I, and Part II wasn’t on the web site.  Bummer!!  Eldridge did a great job of pointing out that we go to all of the wrong things to restore our souls — we have an alcoholic drink, we zone out watching television.  But I didn’t get to hear what he thought were the right things.

However, we can get some ideas from the Bible.  If you have some thoughts, please share them with me!

Ps 23 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.”  I think that if we will SEE how God is meeting our needs, giving us green pastures and water to drink, it is restorative to our souls.

“He guides me along the right paths.”  There is such a sense of peace in trusting that God is leading us in the best way.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”  God gives us gifts in our days, signs of his abundance, that will refresh us.

Trust, gratitude — these things replenish us.

Another thing I would like to mention here is the benefit of just being out in nature.  I think we can feel so close to God and restored if we will spend some time in the beautiful outdoors.  Perhaps it is no mistake that David was inspired by verdant pastures and pristine waters.

My husband mentioned that he feels it is restorative to the soul to serve and give to others.  I have to agree!  Even though it takes my energy, I feel so much better when I do something meaningful.  I volunteer for hospise, and I confess, sometimes before I go to visit someone, my heart isn’t in it.  But then once I look into the patient’s eyes and interact with them, such a deep sense of value comes over me.  THIS is what is really important.  It’s funny, because Ken and I went to Japan and exhausted ourselves serving all day every day, but we came back so energized!

A couple of other ideas — any time I spend a longer span of time on my knees in prayer, I feel restored. Singing praises fills my heart. Fasting almost always leaves me feeling restored.

Okay, I am out of time.  But think about this and vow to appreciate more the soul God created within you.  Let’s guard our hearts and find good ways to be restored!

How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  Ps 36:7-9

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The Cycle of Hurt

Battle

As I was in an attitude of prayer yesterday, I saw a picture in my mind of the huge spiritual war that is going on around us.  I could see the chaos and explosions, with shrapnel flying around everywhere and casualties occurring.

And it’s real.  Satan is working destruction, taking carefully aimed shots, lobbing bombs, battering down defenses.   Everything we see that is negative is his work.  When people have bad attitudes, it’s his work. When they are insecure, it’s his work.

battle2

It’s important to remember that we have a part it this.  We make choices. Any time we allow our fear to shape what we do, we are working with Satan. The same is true when we give into resentment, or selfishness, or pride.

So often we act out of our emotional damage, out of the insecurities, the buried hurts, the secret gaping wounds. We behave like wounded children, retreating in mistrust, or unintentionally lashing out. We don’t see that we hurt each other, and are hurt in return, and then we feel more damaged, so we hurt again.

The only way to stop the cycle is to be like Jesus and not retaliate, to do good to others when they do bad to you, to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Because people really do NOT know what they do. They are acting out of deep hurts and insecurities.

The only way to BUILD instead of destroy is to strive for our actions to be motivated by love, faith and reverence for God.  Every time we practice these we create a better world.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  II Cor 10:3-4

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  I Peter 2:23

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Eph 6:4

 

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