Archive for January, 2012

Know Your Enemy–He Knows You!

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Spiritual Discipline: Know the Word of God

(Please watch the Charlie Brown clip before reading further.)

“Chuck” was a name given to me many years ago by some good friends. They believed that because my life so closely resembled Charlie Brown, “Chuck” just seemed to fit. There was a time, not so long ago, that I used the illustration of Lucy pulling away the football from Charlie Brown to describe my relationship with God. I thought of God as Lucy, and me as Charlie Brown. Every time I’d believe some breakthrough in life’s ever predictable loop would occur, God would, at the last minute, remove the ball as I catapulted end over end falling flat on my back. Ouch! Not a very Christ-like outlook, right?

Take a moment to read Genesis 3. Does it strike you that Satan and serpent closely resemble each other? Sort of like Lucy and Lucifer. Resemblances can cause us to misinterpret truth. Especially when the resemblance so closely matches what it is we are evaluating or considering. The Bible describes the serpent as “crafty,” meaning devious, sneaky, or deceitful. When the serpent tempts Eve to eat a piece of fruit from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Eve informs him that the Lord God had commanded Adam to not eat from it and that if they do, they will die. The serpent responds, “You will not surely die” (v. 4). Remove the one simple word, “not” and the whole meaning changes. Crafty.

In Luke 4:1-18, we read again of how crafty, how biblically well-versed Satan is when he tempts Jesus to sin:

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

How does it feel to know that Satan knows the Bible, and knows it very well? He quoted Psalm 91:11-12—in context, to Jesus Christ, the Son of God! In essence, time and time again, Satan gives us the biblical document, promising us some nugget of goodness, some slight misrepresentation of a biblical truth, all to get us believe that what we are about to do will be for our benefit. When, in reality, it’s sin and we fall flat on our back—reeling in pain and shame. The truth as Satan gives it to us has not been notarized by God Almighty. When Satan tempted Eve with a slight misrepresentation of the truth, she tried to counteract his lie with truth, but was easily deceived. When Jesus was confronted with a slight misrepresentation, because he was “full of the Holy Spirit” he knew his true dwelling, his true identity—he knew truth. As a result, he overcame the temptation to sin.

When Satan quoted Psalm 91, he did as we oftentimes do, he quoted a short passage and applied it to his intentions: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” What Satan left out, that Jesus quickly added because Jesus knew the Word, was v. 9: “If you make the Most High your dwelling.” Because Jesus was full of Holy Spirit, because he had made the Most High his dwelling, he knew the only One worthy of worship, he knew there was no need to put God to the test, and to do so would mean he was not dwelling in the existence of the Most High.

Fellow Disciple—Is it possible that Satan, our adversary, knows the Bible better than we do? Stop for a moment and ponder this.

We know politics. We know sports. We know and can quote Friends, Seinfeld, The Office, and a variety of other TV shows or movies that our culture embraces. We know the latest technology. We know the weather. There are a host of things we know—better than the Bible. But Satan, he knows people, he knows Christians, he knows the Bible. He is obsessed with our destruction. He is committed and wholeheartedly devoted to making us stumble and turning our attention away from God—and he will spur on our justifications for sin by twisting, ever so slightly, the Bible and convincing us that cheap grace will cover any transgression—so go ahead and sin, for surely you will not die. There’s an old saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Satan is close, very close, to Christians. And we’ve become so distracted with other things that we are allowing him to defeat us and our culture, our families, our morals, our very souls. This is not over-dramatic melodrama—this is reality, and it’s the reality of war.

Yes, Satan is well-versed in Scripture, even better than we are. However, the Holy Spirit wrote Scriptures and as you can see from the Luke passage, Jesus combats his enemy with Absolute Truth, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. There are critical areas where we must adhere to in order to defeat Satan:

  1. Get right with God! The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are our greatest weapons, and the Word says that when we confess our sins and acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He will grant you discernment to know the Truth from the lies.
  2. Know the Word of God! Spending a few minutes each day reading the Bible is simply not enough. This is not a legalistic demand, it’s a soul-saving necessity. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit. Knowing the Word means knowing Christ, knowing God. And there is simply nothing better to know than him and who he is.
  3. Be actively involved in a community of disciples who engages, studies, and applies the Word of God. One of Satan’s greatest weapons is the illusion that you can do it alone, or that you are simply too busy to be in a group that talks about God and the Bible. This is a lie meant to get you alone so that he can speak his lies to you, just as he did to Eve. And, without this community to encourage and pray for you, it’s so easy to believe the ever so slight twisting of the Bible.
  4. Spend time contemplating God’s Word. Ask others to pray that you would receive truth. Seek accountability in this as well. We are not designed to battle the enemy alone. Make God your number one priority in life. Any other priorities that take precedence over him (including work, relationships, money, TV, sports, or a host of other distractions) is prime usage for the enemy of our souls to take us out of the kingdom of God.

Sin is as alluring to us as kicking the football is to Charlie Brown. Accountability is so beneficial because just as we may want to warn an unsuspecting Charlie Brown that Lucy is deceiving him, so godly friends can warn us when the enemy is prowling about, tempting us with sin. Don’t lose heart. We are equipped, as Ephesians 6:10-20 demonstrates, to have victory over the enemy.

Challenge: Spend more time than you normally would in the Word of God. Don’t just read it to check it off your list—seek to know it. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to Truth. Also, read Ephesians 6:10-20. In fact, take it a step further: write or type out these 10 verses and memorize them. Make it your daily prayer.

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Pause: Waiting While in the Loop

Posted: January 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Spiritual Discipline: Waiting.

I started watching episodes on Netflix of the TV series, Jericho. The story takes place in a small Kansas town called Jericho. When residents spot a mushroom cloud upon the horizon, chaos, uncertainty, and fear replace the contentment, routine, and certainty they had had just a few moments prior. Residents are left in the dark about what happened, what is coming for them, what the future holds, and where they will find future provisions. For the moment, they are stuck in survival mode. At a local bar, the people are finally able to receive a television signal. What they see is a bomb going off in a major city and people in turmoil. It’s a 10 second loop that keeps repeating itself over and over again. But the residents of Jericho keep watching, hoping for some new information, hoping another signal will appear that will confirm that they are not alone and that others are alive outside of their small town. They are stuck in a loop of uncertainty, hoping that all is not lost and that the future is not as bleak as it appears.

How many of us enjoy waiting? Especially waiting in the midst of uncertainty. Do you panic when driving up on a yellow light? Psalm 27:14 (NIV) says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” In Isaiah 40:31 (NASB), the prophet says, “Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” What are you waiting for? And are you tired of waiting for it, especially when it seems like your situation continues to repeat itself with the same bleak outcome?

When I sit down to eat a meal (especially when I eat alone), I say a quick thank you to God and then dive in. If I’m snacking on something, I don’t even thank God, I just indulge. I was convicted a week or two ago that I should pause for 10 seconds before I eat (anything), and with a grateful heart, listen to what God may be saying. Pause.

In our fast food culture, waiting is one of the hardest things we could be asked to do by God, especially when we are so passionate about what it is we are waiting for. It can feel as if we are stuck in a loop of the same scene day after day, yearning for something new to reveal itself that will prove to be a tangible sign of God’s goodness and miraculous provision (see Psalm 86:17). There are a variety of reasons why God allows us to experience seasons of waiting, or where he places us in situations where we must wait—patiently.

  1. Perhaps, what we are waiting for is outside of God’s will for our life, or he has placed us in a time of waiting because our heart just isn’t right, and there are areas of our life that are not completely surrendered to him, or are sinful. When our fleshly wants and desires take over, God may place us into waiting until we come to a point of true, biblical repentance (where there is deep sorrow for sin, it is confessed and removed, and a change occurs). Until that point, we may wait, and wait, and wait, stuck in a loop of images that are repeated over and over and over again, when all that is needed is to reposition our satellite to God’s holiness. (See 2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 Peter 1:13-16; Psalm 38:18.)
  2. Another reason for seasons of waiting is to develop a complete and total dependence upon God. When we are told to expect the unexpected from God, we still have our expectations of what God should do—and when he doesn’t do what we expect him to do on our timetable, we get discouraged, want to quit, and assume it just wasn’t God’s will. And yet, God has given no indication that he wants us to give up—in fact, the opposite is true. Every ounce of our spirit and soul, and what God is saying through his Word is telling us to not give up, to keep persevering, keep praying, keep expecting God in big ways! Why do we sometimes not expect God to do something miraculous when it is biblical, and it is in his power and for his glory to do so? Why do we at times assume he’s not as big as he is, so we pray small, puny prayers—prayers that we could answer for ourselves? Pray persistently and wait for God to be as big as he is and expect miraculous breakthroughs!
  3. I’m just not ready. God must prepare us for the work we are to do for him, for our calling, for our ministry, and for a slew of other paths he takes us down. In order to do big things for God, we need to be willing, we need to have a strong relationship with him (being mastered by nothing else but him—see Psalm 19:13), and we must be ready—spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, and relationally. And oftentimes, we are not ready in one or more of these areas. There is more God needs to teach us. Of course, we are always learning, but the lesson we learn today will be different from the one we will learn a year from now.

So, how do we discern the reason for our waiting? Whether it is because of sin, or for the lack of complete surrender to God, or for our readiness? The closer one is to God, the higher he is exalted in one’s life, the more his call and purpose will become clear. I do not suggest that we do nothing while we wait for whatever it is we are waiting for. However, I would suggest the following during seasons of waiting: Practice waiting in other areas of your life, this way as you wait for your breakthrough, it may seem more natural to wait. Seek contentment in waiting. Worship God while waiting. Seek God for the reason you are waiting. Develop a thankful spirit and make the best of waiting. Trust God in the midst of waiting, believing he has the best purpose in mind. Seek a mentor or accountability partner to help uncover and confess any unrepentant sin(s)—healing and transformation is available.

As the loop continued to repeat, the residents of Jericho sought answers. They ventured outside the city limits to see if there was life. Sometimes, we must venture away from the ordinary and into God’s extraordinary—do something risky for God. Be willing to do whatever God is calling you to do, and be ready to move when the waiting time has concluded. Until then, ask God questions, seek answers from him, listen to him by incorporating quiet time into your daily schedule.

What are you waiting for? What is God saying to you in your waiting?

Challenge: Before you eat anything, pause for 10 seconds. Say nothing, just reflect upon God’s provision and goodness. Also, take 10 minutes a day, get alone with God, and pause. Ask God to speak to you and to grant you a listening spirit to hear him. After that simple request, say nothing, just reflect upon God’s goodness and provision—and listen.