Make no mistake about it. Satan is a liar (John 8:44). He is also a thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
He came last Tuesday.
But he did not steal, (kill or destroy) my joy. I gave it to him!
Yes, as soon as he showed his face, I threw up my hands and gave it to him. Without a fight.
Of course I didn’t recognize that right away. As a matter of fact, I spent several hours and engaged in several conversations discussing how he had robbed me. Interrupted an otherwise glorious morning and stole my joy! It was a beautiful, sunny day. I had a plan and a list, and I was working both. The skies were blue, my steps were light and peppy, I had checked two things off my list and was well on my way to number three.
Then, out of the blue, Satan showed up bringing with him several demons from the past.
I handed my joy right over to him. I let him take me back to a dark place. A sad place. An overwhelming place. For a few hours I settled into that place – rolled around in the muck and mire, had a pity party and resigned myself to the fact that “this” would never be over, would never go away, that there was just no end to “it.” I even texted my girlfriend that “this” was a gift that just kept on giving.
Thankfully, my Father reminded me of some things!
First, He reminded me of Who He is – all powerful, almighty and all knowing (Psalm 147:5, Isaiah 40:28, Luke 12:7)! He was not caught off-guard or by surprise. He knew just what was going to happen every minute and moment of Tuesday, and He already had a plan.
Secondly, He reminded me of who I am and where I am – that He is mindful of me (Psalm 8:3-4) and that He is with me, upholding me (Isaiah 41:10), protecting me (Psalm 20:1, 140:4), helping and delivering me (Psalm 46:1, 34:19).
Thirdly, He reminded me that while He fights for me (Exodus 14:14), I am to always be alert and am to resist the devil and stand firm in my faith (1 Peter 5:8-9). I am to be dressed in full armor at all times so that when (not if) Satan comes, I am ready and able to stand (Ephesians 6:11-17) not turn tail and run and not surrender! I am to remember that in all “these” things I am more than a conqueror through Him (Romans 8:37) and I can be strong and courageous not trembling and dismayed (Joshua 1:9)! My enemies have been subdued under me (Psalm 18:39).
I reclaimed my joy!
And I encourage you to do the same. When we belong to Christ, the enemy never has the final word over our lives. We are secure in God’s hands (2 Chronicles 20:15). He fights for us but we are to be ready at all times so that when Satan comes, we stand!
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)!
If you have followed my blog for any time or read any of the archived entries, you know that I have had a past love/hate (ok, mostly hate) relationship with the squirrels. Well, I made my peace with the squirrels and, as you might have read, extended them grace. Great grace, I would say, since I purchased and had erected a squirrel feeder. Yes, a feeder just for them. One of my friends commented, “You are actually, intentionally feeding the squirrels?!” And I said, “Yes!” They have a feeder and I fill it with corn, seeds and nuts!
Oh, but now it is the cats!
Specifically, it is my neighbor’s cats.
All nine of them.
They are ever in my yard and ever after my birds! (For those who don’t know, I also intentionally feed the birds.)
I enjoy watching the birds and hearing them sing. They remind me of the Scriptures and remind me to be calm, to slow down, to enjoy life, to trust my Lord (Matthew 6:25-34).
But those cats! I know that they have only recently killed at least six birds. I saw them torture, tease and torment one. By the time I’d rushed from my kitchen to chase them away, it was too late. I have found piles of feathers and down beneath the feeders, behind the barn and under my car.
I see the birds pecking and searching the grasses beneath the feeders, and I think, “What are you, dumb? Why do you insist on eating on the ground when the feeders are perched high – safe – on posts or hanging from the limbs of the trees? How dumb can you be?”
At the very least, they are slow learners. You would think that they would know by now that the cats are coming; that the cats are not their friends; that the cats are the enemy, prowling, looking to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
And with that thought, it hit me! Sometimes (hmm, too many times), I’m not very smart either; I’m a slow learner. Like the birds I have flirted with the enemy, knowingly placed myself in his path, blindly turned my attention to other matters thinking them more important while ignoring his threats. I’ve assumed myself smarter, faster even, than the enemy.
We need to understand that Satan is real. Satan is powerful. The battle is real. The battle is continuous. There is never a time when he is not on the prowl, watching, waiting, ready to pounce. Though Satan was created as the chief of all angels, God limited his boundaries and his powers (Job 1:9-12). Still, he is wise, cunning, deceiving and always at work – like those cats, stalking, watching for whom He may devour (2 Corinthians 11:4, 1 Peter 5:8). Might this be why Jesus said we must pray daily for deliverance from the evil one (Matthew 6:13)? Hmmm.
Satan is the enemy who disrupts our lives. But guess what; He doesn’t have a chance against Jesus.
It was almost a ritual. Sunday School followed by morning worship that lasted most of the day (so I never understood why they called it morning worship) then home to a dinner that my mom had actually prepared just after breakfast, a nap for dad and then a short drive into town just as the sun was setting to go window shopping!
Those of you under the age of 50 probably have never heard of window shopping – looking at the goods displayed in shop windows, especially without intending to buy anything. If you have heard of it, your probably can’t understand it. Well, think of it like shopping online. You put a lot of stuff into your cart, but you never check out! Researchers (yes, someone actually studied window shopping) say that there are great benefits from window shopping – exercise, relieved stress and raised aspirations are just a few, not to mention you save money!
For us, it was a great family time. It was almost a kind of “date night” for mom and dad as they walked along whispering to each other, gazing into the windows of the furniture store, reminiscing about old times and making plans for their future – and ours. For my sister and I, it was a time of dreaming. Our favorite window gave a gaze into the local 5 and dime. As we grew, our interests shifted to the clothing stores. Sometimes we would stop for ice cream and enjoy our cones and sandwiches as we walked, talked and “shopped,” our imaginations running wild.
That’s what window shopping is really about – letting your imagination run wild. You imagine all the things that you could have, the life you could live. Imagination can be a good thing. And not. Especially when it comes to living the Christian life. We were not meant to live a life of imagining what could be, what we might have. John 10:10 teaches us that Christ came that we might have an abundant life, here and in the hereafter.
When you window shop you never go into the store, you never try on the goods, you don’t even get to touch them. You simply watch from a distance, separated by that pane of glass and separated from the joy of touching, holding, knowing, having. When we window shop God’s word, we read of all that He has promised – rest, power, strength, peace, victory, life eternal! (Matthew 11:28-29; Isaiah 40:29-31, Proverbs 1:33; John 14:27, Romans 8:37-39), but we separate ourselves from possessing these gifts and knowing the full joy of them. Just as we cannot really imagine owning some of the possessions behind the glass of the store windows, we tell ourselves that we cannot really receive God’s blessings. For certain, we don’t deserve His love.
We look with our human eyes and think with our human thoughts, so it is difficult for us to comprehend. God does not love us because we are lovable or because we deserve His love. Our hearts are innately deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). We are evil and we do evil (Romans 3:10-12). But it is not just God’s nature to love; He is love, true love, not the sappy movies and Valentine’s Day kind of love but agape love, love that sacrifices, and He chooses to lavish His love on those who need it the most, those who least deserve it, those who rebel even against Him (1 John 4:10; John 6:44; Romans 5:8).
Unlike the cold panes of glass that separate us from the stores’ goods, God invites us to come – come drink, come eat, come live (Isaiah 55:1-2). Don’t let Satan trick you into thinking you are unworthy. He will have you forever on the outside looking in, nose pressed against the glass, desiring what you think is beyond you. Come. Come into God’s covenant. Come into His love (Isaiah 55:1-3).
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV)
This, perhaps more so than others, seems to be a simple parable. The Sower, Christ Jesus, scatters His seed generously. The seed falls upon different terrains – rocks, thorny soil, pathways and good soil. The seed falling among rocks, thorns and pathways, as one might imagine, does not grow and mature. Rather it is eaten by birds, choked by thorns or withered as the sun beats upon the rocks.
As simple as this parable seems, there are MANY deep, meaningful and relevant lessons. Let’s look at two – first the Sower and then the Seed Snatcher!
Most sermons that I’ve heard that were based on this parable seem to emphasize the soil – the bad, the thorny and the good. But this is not the Parable of the Soil. The parable focuses on the Sower, Jesus. It is Jesus who is sowing His seed, the Word of God. As He is sowing, the seed falls seemingly everywhere – where birds feed, on rocks, among thorns and, finally, on good soil. It seems that a quarter of the seed falls in a good place while three quarters falls in places where it will not thrive and grow.
I recently seeded my lawn for the second time! I purchased one of those hand-held sowers. You pour in the seed, turn the crank and the seed flies out the bottom. You can adjust a knob to determine how much seed is sown. The instructions say that the sower should walk in straight lines across the lawn and then walk a second path of straight lines that run perpendicular to the first. Well, this would all be well and good for the person who has a big (think football field) lawn to seed. But my lawn is tiny. And it has beds of shrubbery. It is also bordered by curbing and a street as well as a pea graveled driveway. I don’t want seed in the beds and in the driveway. I’d just have to pull that grass later or spray it with vinegar to kill it. I also don’t want to seed the curb and the street. So I determined that a better method for me would be to seed by hand. That way I could be very careful about where my expensive, cool-weather, nutrient-rich seed fell. It would fall exactly where I wanted it to – where I wanted grass to grow!
So why does Jesus, the Sower, scatter His seed so broadly and, seemingly, so mindlessly? Doesn’t He know that seed won’t grow on rocks and among thorns?
Well, here’s what Jesus knows. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick” (Luke 5:31 NIV). Jesus died upon the cross to save sinners. His purpose was to extend salvation to all. There are those who may dwell in thorny places and those who think their lives are “on the rocks;” they need to hear the Gospel, too. They need salvation. Romans 10:14 (ESV) poses three powerful questions – “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
We are to sow God’s seed, spread His truths, share His word and extend His hope to all.
Even though I’ve been careful sowing my seed by hand, there are still some bare spots in my yard. What happened? Lots of things – some of that seed didn’t get enough water, some fell on spots of thatch, my neighbor’s dog watered some for me as did my other neighbor’s cats and some of that seed – that good seed on good soil – was eaten by the birds. I know; I saw them! Even though I buy food for the birds and maintain two well-stocked bird feeders, some prefer to eat my grass seed. Patches of my yard were invaded by seed snatchers! They ate the seed before it could take root.
Satan waits and watches to snatch good seed, too.
Before the truths can take root in hearts, Satan snatches it.
Satan knows that seed has life in it. He knows that seed has power. He knows that seed is capable of producing more.
What, then, are the lessons?
First as children of God we are called to sow in faith His seed trusting that He will bring about a harvest. It is not our decision to determine who is worthy to hear the truth. Scripture teaches us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ESV). All need to hear. All need to be prayed for – that hearts will be softened to receive the good seed.
Secondly, we are also to sow, water, nourish and protect the seed in our own lives knowing that the Seed Snatcher is watching for an opportunity to “steal, kill and destroy” us and our seed (John 10:10 ESV).
THIS WEEK as Matthew 13:9 says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Examine your heart. Is it hardened? Thorny? Rocky? Or has the world worn a path bare – too much television, too much time spent with the wrong company, too many wrong substances imbibed…? Examine the soil of your heart. Take action to improve its condition, to ready it to receive seed.
If seed has been sown and is growing, continually examine it and cultivate it for a good harvest!
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:22-25 (NASB)
The Scripture says, “He…went…and killed a lion.”
So, the question I left you with was, “How?” “How do you kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day?” “How do you kill your lion?”
Sorry. I’m sure you thought I would be sharing a secret.
We know that Benaiah won because the Scriptures tell us. But they do not reveal the details. Sometimes I just hate it when the Scriptures seem to skip over some important detail, but then I stop and think. “God had a reason why.” Proverbs 25:2 tells us, “The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search it out.”
So, while we still do not know all the details, we can be sure that Benaiah fought. He fought his lion. He didn’t simply lie down in the pit, cross his fingers, close his eyes and hope for the best. As a matter of fact, look back at Verse 22 and you will “search out” a clue.
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. It seems that Benaiah wasn’t drug into the pit. He didn’t fall into the pit. Nobody pushed him into the pit. He went down. He went after his lion. He was determined to take it out! Easy? Absolutely not; it was a lion!
Turn the tables on your lion, the Devil, who prowls seeking to devour. He thinks he has you on the run. Like, Benaiah, flip the script and put him on the run. In an old joke, a Sunday School teacher asks her class what to do when Satan knocks at your door. A little girl responded, “I send Jesus to answer the door.” Ahh, out of the mouths of babes!
To defeat Satan we must turn to God (Matthew 6:13). To resist the Devil, we must submit to God (James 4:7). To stand against the Devil, we must put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11) and arm ourselves with the greatest weapon, the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).
Winston Churchill, rallying troops and indeed an entire nation, during World War II said, “You ask, “What is our policy?” I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and all the strength that God can give us…You ask, “What is our aim?” I can answer in one word: Victory…at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be… We shall go on to the end…we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in… Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
What enemy is greater than the Devil, our lion? None! We must, therefore, fight – in the fields, in the streets, in the pits on snowy days. Never give in. Never give in!
Life has been good. Real good! I retired – for the second time. I spent the summer resting. It was wonderful. I read. I cooked. I napped. I rediscovered trash TV. (Thankfully I am over that now!) But even better – I prayed. I journaled. I began this blog. Did I say I napped? Yes, it was all good!
Then my phone rang. It was a job offer. It seemed good, so I said, “Why not?”
Then an email came. The very next day. It was a job offer. It was something I thought I’d enjoy, so I said, “Sure.”
I’d forgotten that I had registered for three seminary classes, but still I wasn’t worried. I was confident that I could balance it all. And so, after about 60 days of sweet, blissful rest, I returned to the world of work and homework. My days (and nights) are busy, but they are enjoyable. The pace and culture are very different from my last season of work. I soon got caught up in setting my new calendars, meeting new people, rethinking my days and even shopping for a few new outfits because the hose and heels weren’t necessary every day. I got caught up in this new life which was such a change and such a relief from the past that I forgot.
I forgot the warnings of 1 Peter 5:8-9. I forgot to be self-controlled and alert because my enemy, the devil, prowls around seeking to devour.
But he didn’t forget, and this week he came. The prowling enemy. The devil. He sought to devour. He sought to steal my joy, to make me doubt, to make me second guess myself and my work, to thwart the success I was experiencing, to scatter obstacles in my path, to confuse my mind and to trouble my spirit.
He caught me off guard because I was having such a good time in life. He opened wide his jaws to devour me. And at the first snap of his teeth, I gave up. But thank God I quickly regained my senses and my footing. I realized that the devil may come, actually the devil will come to devour, BUT I don’t have to spread the ketchup on myself making me all the more tasty for him.
Isn’t that what we do sometimes? At the first nip we give up and give in. We surrender to him our thoughts, our sleep, our peace and our joy. Rather, we should fight against him. Take captive every thought (2 Corinthians 10:5), refuse to lose sleep understanding that our Lord never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4), hold fast to the peace that our Lord has given us (John 14:27) and guard our joy realizing that it is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Too often we have given the devil far more credit than he is due. He is NOT an all-powerful being who is the evil equivalent of God. He and God are NOT two equal forces in opposition to each other – one good and one evil, one light and one dark. Jesus Christ defeated Satan on the cross of Calvary. He us under the foot of Christ and, therefore, under out foot. As we submit to God and intentionally resist the devil, we can enforce the victory Jesus won thereby forcing Satan to flee from us.