FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Where Are You Empty?

In Unmasking Satan: Understanding Satan’s Battle Plan and Biblical Strategies for Fighting Back, author Richard Mayhue wrote, “When General George Patton counterattacked Field Marshal Rommel in World Ward II, Patton is reported to have shouted in the thick of the battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!”  Patton had, we understand, studied Rommel’s Infantry Attacks and knew the German leader’s strategy; Patton planned his moves accordingly.

If we read God’s book, we know two things – the schemes and strategies of our enemy, the Devil and the love and power of our Father, God.

We know that Satan is a powerful adversary and, to be effective in our battle, we do well to take stock of him. We know that he lies (John 8:44); deceived (2 Corinthians 11:14-15); frightens (2 Timothy 1:7); schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11); tempts (Matthew 4:3); controls (Ephesians 4:26-27); steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10); prowls and devours (1 Peter 5:8).

As Max Lucado reminds, we also know that “Satan will attack weak spots first.” Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. As the Son of Man, He was very hungry. The devil came to Jesus to tempt Him, knowing His weak spot and saying, “If You are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.” Matthew 4:2–3. Max writes, “Forty days of fasting left Jesus famished, so Satan began with the topic of bread. Jesus’ stomach was empty, so to the stomach Satan turned.”

It’s no different for us. Satan will attack our empty places first – the holes in our souls that crave intimacy, love, attention, success, wealth…even food.

Remember though, our battle plan book, the Bible, not only tells us Satan’s strategies, it also tells us how to equip for the fight – and how to win! It tells us how to fill those holes!  We must read and plan our moves accordingly!

Where are you empty?

Look to God to fill those holes. Bring your weaknesses to Him before Satan brings them to you!

Resources

Lucado, Max. (2015). God is with you every day. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Mayhue, R. (2001). Unmasking satan: Understanding satan’s battle plan and biblical strategies for fighting back. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.


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Catching and Spreading

I guess this is the season when germs, cold and flu are on our minds. That Satan and the evil spirits he commands, much like germs, are EVERYWHERE, is an analogy that has remained on my mind this week.

A “thought question” from my weekly Bible study asked what it meant to resist the devil. That seemingly simple question plunged me into thought and reflection. Scripture tells us to resist Satan (1 Peter 5:9) and he will flee from us. We have to look a little more deeply at the Scriptures and think a bit more deeply about ourselves and how we live our lives to understand exactly what resisting looks and sounds like.

My thoughts turned back to my earlier germ analogy. Most of us want to resist a cold or the flu. Sure, if we get sick, we can scurry to our local drugstore and have our pick of over-the-counter meds designed to soothe our ails – coughing, sneezing, body aches… If our symptoms seem to exceed the relief that the OTCs offer us, our personal care physicians stand ready to prescribe pills, drops, ointments and syrups.

All that sounds well and good, but going to the doctor takes time, buying meds cost money and while meds solve one problem, they sometimes cause others. (Ever listen to those drug commercials – “may cause cramping, nausea, hair loss, severe diarrhea…” Seriously?) You get the idea. So, the best course of action is not to catch a cold or the flu in the first place!

I wrote earlier about washing your hands to avoid the spread of germs. But the truth of the matter is that all the hand washing in the world is no guarantee that you will not get sick. We can do our best to minimize the number of surfaces we touch, saturate ourselves with hand sanitizer and scrub with soap and warm water until our hands are literally raw. Germs are still out there! Scientists tell us that what you can’t see can hurt you.

Using high-speed imagery, MIT researchers analyzed the trajectory of the “fallout” from a sneeze. The force of a sneeze can send 100,000 germs across a distance of 5 to 32 feet. While most of the larger, heavier drops fall quickly to the floor or other surfaces under the influence of gravity, the smaller and lighter particles are less affected by gravity and can stay airborne almost indefinitely as they are caught up in and dispersed by the room’s airflow. Droplets that remain airborne can continue to travel through ventilation systems, ending up even farther away. Two points: If you are around sick people, be mindful of what you might catch. If you are the sick person, be mindful of what you might spread!

The sin analogy raises two additional points for us. If you are around sin, be mindful of what you might catch. If you engage in sinful behavior, be mindful of what you might spread!

Just as we can “catch” the flu bug, we can “catch” bad habits. An off color joke here, a trashy movie there, a swear word later, a “little white lie,” etc. While there’s some controversy about whether Frank Outlaw, Lao Tzu or Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny,” whichever wise man spoke these words, he must have been thinking of Proverbs 4:23 which teaches us to guard our hearts. All that we say, all that we do, all that we are flows from it. What we watch, what we do, we become. Watch what you are catching.

As Christians we must also be mindful of what we are spreading. Matthew 5:16 says we are to let our lights shine before others so they may give glory to the Father. Ephesians 5:8 teaches that we are to walk as children of light while verses 1 and 2 of this same text remind us to be imitators of God. 1 Peter 2:21 says we were called to follow Christ’s example – to live lives that reflect Him. Our lives are to be a testimony for Jesus – that He is alive, that He has changed us, that He changes lives. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited for saying, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words.” In short, we are to preach Jesus through our lives – what we do, what we say, how we behave, where we go, how we deal with struggles… Why? The world is watching, and our lives are the most powerful testimony of the Christ that we say lives within us. What are you spreading?


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Evil Germs

Germs are everywhere. Really. In fact, 80% of infections are spread the same way. Someone touches a germ-ridden surface and passes a bug along.

Dr. Elaine Jong of the Washington Travel Clinic (Seattle) says it doesn’t matter “whether germs are viral, bacterial or fungal, some can remain active on most surfaces for several days – stainless steel, wood, plastic or even the paper in a magazine.” There are a gazillion germs living on the umpteen surfaces you touch throughout the day.

When you touch germy surfaces, those germs are transmitted to your hands. When you touch your face – eyes, nose, lips, including eating – Bam! You have infected yourself. When you touch others, you pass the germs on to them. They, in turn, touch their faces and… Yes, Bam! They, too, now have the infection, and so the cycle continues.

So, can you just not touch any surfaces? Probably not. Door knobs, elevator buttons, counter tops, cell phones, faucets, magazines…all germy! What are we to do? Wash our hands. Faithfully. Vigorously. Repeatedly.

Guess what? Satan and his evil spirits are like germs – everywhere! Satan leads and controls an army of evil spirits that will do whatever they can not only to keep the lost from coming to Jesus, but to try to “take down” those who walk in fellowship with Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. He is the enemy, he prowls and he seeks to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is a thief seeking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). His primary work is to defeat those who serve the Lord and to halt the building and advancement of God’s kingdom.

Just as we are not defenseless against germs – there are a multitude of medicines and a plethora of sanitizers, wipes and sprays all intended to build our defenses and protect us from the ravages of germs, prayer builds our internal strength and is our primary strategy to fight our enemy, the Devil. Just as we are faithful, fervent and persistent in washing our hands, we must be faithful, fervent and persistent in prayer – specifically in praying the truths of the Scriptures.

Kay Johns writes in Scriptures for Victory: Armed with the Sword of the Spirit, “We’re naïve if we think we’re not in the battle.” Understanding we are in a battle, we must also understand the imperative of being always ready for battle. We must cover ourselves with the blood of Christ – blood that redeems (Ephesians 1:7), sanctifies (Hebrews 13:12), cleanses and purifies (1 John 1:7), reconciles us to the Father (Colossians 1:20), binds us to His covenant of love (1 Corinthians 11:25) and protects us from Satan (Revelation 12:11).

We are prepared to fight germs when our immune systems are strong from a healthy life-style: eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, controlling blood pressure and taking steps to avoid infection such as washing our hands and cooking our meats, etc.

We are prepared to fight Satan and his evil spirits when we walk in personal relationship with Christ, pray as He taught and study His words so that we may declare His truths!

 

RESOURCE

Scriptures for Victory: Armed with the Sword of the Spirit

www.learntopray.org


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Set Free From…Me!

Writing for AlterNet, Amanda Marcotte suggests, “Anyone who has worked in the restaurant business will be happy to tell you that waiters always fight each other to avoid working Sunday lunch shift. Not because they want to sleep in, but because it’s a widespread belief that the post-church crowd is loud, demanding and unwilling to tip appropriately. In the food service industry, “Christian” is synonymous with “selfish.”

What?????

Followers of Christ – the example of love, sacrifice, selflessness? Jesus – the Good Shepherd (John 10:11); Meek and Lowly (Matthew 11:29); Obedient (Philippians 2:8); Peace (Ephesians 2:14); an Offering and Sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2) and Servant (Philippians 2:7, Matthew 12:18, Isaiah 53:11)?

Yes!

We are selfish. Sometimes, we are the most selfish.

At least I am.

Newsflash. You are, too.

In fact, the Scriptures tell us that all humans are born in corruption. We are born with a sinful nature that permeates our being – was passed to us through the first man on earth, Adam.

Romans 5:12 teaches “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (NKJV). The Bible describes our human nature as evil, and hopeless to be restored to order, apart from the divine intervention of God through Jesus Christ.

It is our nature to make gods of ourselves. Our view is egocentric; it is all about “I.” Read the writing of very young students. You will likely find the majority of sentences beginning with the personal pronoun, “I.” As we age, it doesn’t get a lot better.

Calvary Chapel South Bay blogs, “The most popular phone is called I-phone. Nowadays, the most popular thing in the social media is to take a selfie (a picture of yourself). Among the most popular magazines are names like “People,” “Us”, “All You,” and “Self.” This goes on and on in our modern narcissistic society. Everything around us is targeting to build up “self,” to feed the flesh and to make us cling to the things on earth. The modern message of the world is, ‘You are your own god. You rule over yourself. There is no sovereign God.’”

That may seem a bit harsh, but it is truth. Scripture teaches that we must deny self (Luke 9:23, Matthew 16:24) and take up the cross of Christ to follow Him. To “deny” self means to say “No” to self, and to take up the cross of Christ is to say “Yes” to God – His will, His plan, His way. He sent His Son, Jesus, to set us free (John 8:36), including from ourselves!

So, you can’t have an “I-Phone,” snap a selfie or read “Us” magazine? NO!!!! God does not call us to asceticism – abandoning all earthly possessions, wearing sackcloth and ashes, not eating certain foods and never wearing make-up. He does call us to humble submission, to give Him first place in our lives – and not first among other things or other gods. He is first because He is the only God and His way is the only way! (1 Corinthians 8:6)


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Consider God

Jumping right in I will tell you that I believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. What the Bible says is wholly useful and completely true and trustworthy. It is a guide not only to salvation but to all life. God’s word has purpose and will not return to Him void. It will accomplish what He said it would and prosper in the thing to which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Every single word is true and important as all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man (and woman) of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So, there is not one text, one Scripture, one story, one word that we can dismiss as untrue or unimportant – even those that, in our “humanness,” we struggle to understand, to wrap our brains around, to make sense of.

Case in point – Abraham and Sarah.

Both wanted a child. Both were old. Really old. Yet, God promised Abraham that He would bless Sarah and give Abraham a son by her (Genesis 17:16). Abraham laughed, and “said in his heart, ‘Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear (17:17)?

Like Abraham, we might be inclined to laugh, too, when we read their story. A ninety-year old mom? Seriously? Seriously!!! Because God has many lessons in Abraham and Sarah’s story – lessons for them then and for us now. Lessons even in Abraham’s laughter. While our laughter in a situation such as this might be a “you’ve got to be kidding” laughter, Abraham’s was a laughter of delight, not of distrust. Laughter of joy, not jest.

Likely, delight and joy might not be our first emotions – even after years of wanting a baby. You and I (at least I) would more likely be inclined to start considering ALL the reasons that this just could not happen. Surely I would consider my age – 99! I would consider, if not the impossibility, certainly the difficulty of birth at that age. I would consider the limited functioning of my body at that age. I would consider my limited strength, patience, health, coordination, mental faculties… I would consider the lack of family support (my mom would be 130 and not exactly up for babysitting). I would consider the chances that my baby would suffer deformities. I would consider my finances (a baby on retirement income?). I would consider the impact on my time and how my day-to-day functioning would need to change.

Abraham never considered his body or Sarah’s. His life or hers. Rather, he considered God – His strength, His power, His promises, His provision and His faithfulness.

Whatever we face, our first consideration should be our God. Romans 4:20 (ESV) tells us that Abraham never doubted that God would do what He promised; he never stopped believing. Rather, he grew stronger in his faith and just praised God, laughing in delight.

What do you need? Consider our God, then laugh in delight knowing He can do exceedingly and abundantly more than you could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)!


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Inside Out

We like buying stuff, at least we think we do, and merchants are counting on us to think that. Almost from the crib it’s bred into us. Television commercials, billboards, pop-ups on our cell phones… Our 21st century lives are fast-paced, consumer-oriented experiences inundated with the constant message of BUY, BUY, BUY your way to happiness. The bigger house, the faster car, the trendier clothing, the coolest toys…these are the keys to happiness!

Were this true, then the thrill would not fade. But it always does, and we soon find ourselves back in the same place seeking the next “buy,” one necessary to keep us on a “happiness high.”

Many, thinking they’ve managed to turn a deaf ear to stuff, turn to experiences. Indeed, research backs up this thinking. Researchers from San Francisco State University report that people who spend money on experiences rather than stuff are happier and experience greater feelings of satisfaction thinking their money is better spent. These researchers suggest that the thrill of purchasing things fades but the joy and memories of experiences last a lifetime.

Well, you needn’t look far to find research that rebuffs San Francisco State. You guessed it – eventually the thrill of an experience fades, too, which is why people are constantly seeking the next experience – a higher mountain, a louder party, a better view…

Whether “stuff” or “experience,” the problem is that both find their roots in the external. Not only are merchants counting on us to look externally for a happiness fix, so is Satan.

Satan works from the outside in.

A common scheme of his is to get us caught up in external trappings, feeling that we need that car, have to have that dress, can’t live without that house, are nobodies if we don’t take that trip… He knows that we can only continue on this route so long. Eventually something runs out – our money, our health, our flexibility, our time – whatever will keep us from being able to secure that next happiness fix. We quickly cycle from simple disappointment to devastating ad debilitating depression, no longer able to keep up with the Joneses, no longer “on top,” no longer the pacesetter – the one that everyone else wants to be like. And much like the substance abuser who will do virtually anything to get that next high, we search frantically for our next happiness high, and such begins a downward spiral.

The real problem – seeking happiness instead of joy.

Happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events. While happiness and joy are both wonderful feelings, joy is more consistent and is cultivated internally. Happiness tends to be more of what I call a “head thing;” the seat of joy is your heart because unlike Satan who works from the outside in, God begins His work inside and works outward. When you accept Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life, there is a change in your heart – there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11)!

As happiness tends to be tied to the external and wanes when the external changes, your joy is only as stable as the source. Fortunately, the source of true joy is Jesus (John 15:11) and, His joy is stable and lasting; it is our glory (1 Thessalonians 2:20), it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and it is continual (Proverbs 15:15).

Happy New Year; I wish for you unspeakable joy (1 Peter 1:8)!