Christianity 201

March 6, 2019

The Power Against Us vs. The Power Within Us

Today again we’re back with the writing of Don Merritt at The Life Project. He’s currently in the middle of a study of 1 John.

A Warning and a Helper

Text: 1 John 2:18-27

So far in this letter, John has given us a reminder of the supremacy of Jesus Christ; who He is, what He is and His nature. John gave us a comparison and contrast of what the “Light” is, and who is and who is not “in the light.” Then John reminded us of who we are in Christ and how amazing that is.  In the previous section, John warns us not to love this world, and now John is taking us to the front lines on a battlefield, where it becomes plain why he has taken us on this journey to show us just who we are, and just who “they” are.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

1 John 2:18-19

This is the first mention of the term “antichrist” in the Bible. It means someone who is against or in place of the Messiah.  In these verses, John mentions twice that we are in the “last hour,” which is interesting when you consider that many will suggest today that there are more hours to come.  Whoever these antichrists were, or are, they appear to have been hanging around us, and then to have gone rogue. If nothing else, in these two verses, we can be sure that these rogues were hanging around, but they were never “in the light.”  Recall the descriptions of “in the light” and “in the darkness” in vv. 1:5-2:11… These characters were the ones in darkness.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 2:20-23

Now we have a little more information: The rogues John is talking about deny that Jesus is the Messiah.  That is a bald-faced lie, and those who are in the truth would never make such an assertion, so these guys were not in the light. No person who denies that Jesus is the Messiah is in the Son, and if a person is not in the Son, they are also not in the Father:  They are antichrist, and there are many of those in the world.

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

1 John 2:24-25

These two verses are the warming: Make sure that you hang on to what you know about Jesus Christ.  If you do, you will remain in Him and inherit eternal life. Do not listen to the rogues. By the way, this is why I said above that John has taken us to the front lines on a battlefield.  It is a spiritual battlefield in a spiritual war, where the antichrists in our midst will attempt to pry you away from the Truth.  Resist, and do not listen to their lies:

 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1 John 2:26-27

John invokes the anointing of the indwelling Holy Spirit in urging us to remain in Christ in these verses.  Consider this: Here is a warning that there are those who try to lead us astray, to turn our backs on our Lord.  They are fighting against us in a spiritual war, and this can sound really scary.  Oh it’s great in the movies, when their innocent victims are lured into evil by magical powers, having no way to resist.  Take heart! John is pointing out to you and me that we have within us, at our disposal greater firepower by tenfold!  He is the very Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Godhead; if we are focused on our relationship with our Lord, and we take these “battles” to Him, there isn’t even a contest, for “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.”

One final thought and that’ll be it for now… You know all those stories and books and movies about evil forces that lead the righteous astray?  “The Exorcist” “The Omen” etc., etc…? They really freak people out, which is why they make so much money, right?  People become afraid, and being afraid becomes a distraction for some.  At the same time, you have in these verses a very simple way to discern who the liars and antichrists are; a third grader can understand it.  You also have a solution to defeat the lie that a third grader can understand: stand on the truth of the Word of God, and reject outright the lie.

As simple as this is, many will become so uncomfortable because of the stories and the idea of spiritual warfare, that it almost makes me wonder if these stories of myth, legend and popular fiction are actually part of the lie itself, so that we won’t fight back, and our superior firepower will never be brought to bear on our foe.  Hmmm… do you think we need to have a healthy relationship with the Lord?

I do!

 

February 25, 2018

Sunday Worship

You are holy; you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.
– Psalm 22:3 NET

Today we feature the writing of singer, composer, recording artist and worship leader Tommy Walker. Today’s writing is part testimony, part teaching.

Understanding the Breakthrough Power of Worship

I can’t remember how many times I have felt like God was a million miles away and then, in an instant, I recognized that He was closer than the air I breathe.

The Bible says in Psalm 22:3 that He actually lives and dwells in our praises. This is the mystery and the miracle of the breakthrough power and presence of God when we worship! When we worship, we affirm the truth of God’s Word, and it is being rooted deep in our hearts.

When I was 11 years old, the Jesus Movement was taking hold in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. The church I attended began to be filled with long-haired, barefoot hippies. We sang acapella songs like “Hallelujah” over and over again. It really was an authentic, powerful move of God, but I was very young, so most of the time I was bored and distracted. However, I do remember watching the Holy Spirit move on people’s lives in a special way. I remember seeing high school kids worshiping and weeping at the mention of God’s love. There was such an amazing sense of grace and unity among everyone.

One Friday night as a Christian band was playing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” it happened – for the first time, while observing everyone worshiping God, I began to sense God’s presence. I’ve heard it said that worship is a picture of the Gospel in motion, and it certainly was for me that night. I saw people displaying a kind of personal, intimate relationship with God that I wanted and needed. A relationship that I knew was made possible only by the blood of Jesus.

One of my earliest memories is of my parents gathering us around my mom’s baby grand piano and having us sing the old hymns of the church for what felt like hours. At 5, I would end up lying under the piano and eventually falling asleep. I didn’t think much about Jesus and the Gospel then, but on that Friday night as the Christian band performed, the God we had sung about became my own personal God. I sensed Him saying to me for the first time “Tommy, I love you and I have called you to do great things for Me.” I wept at the thought that the God of heaven wanted to save and use a young boy like me. I surrendered my life to Jesus that night. One of my life verses has been Psalm 40:3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (NIV).

Every person is created to be a worshiper. God dwells and, I believe, manifests Himself in the praises of His people. It has always been my prayer when I write songs and lead worship that the breakthrough power of God would bring the lost to Him–just like it happened for me.

After graduating from high school, I went to Bible college, and one of the areas I learned about was spiritual warfare. At first I resisted the training because I met people who spent so much time rebuking the devil. I thought they were giving the devil too much attention. To this day, I don’t agree with everything I saw there, but over time I have recognized that we are in a battle and there truly is an enemy that is out to destroy us.

Several years ago when I was doing a worship event in a poor neighborhood in Zambia, I sensed a darkness all around us–poverty, violence, abuse, hopelessness, hunger. We worshiped the Lord every night for more than an hour before we felt we could even begin to present the Gospel. Only then did we sense a real breakthrough in the spirit, and we saw hundreds come to Christ.

Through that event and others like it, I came to realize that worship is how we allow God to fight our battles for us. You may be familiar with the story of Jehoshaphat. Second Chronicles 20:22 says, “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (NIV). What a strange battle plan–but the result was that the Lord won the battle for them! There is something inherent in the act of worship that enables us to encounter the power of God like nothing else. It is not effective to simply tell someone to stop worrying; stop being proud; stop being self-consumed, distracted, insecure, bound and materialistic. But it is effective to tell them to start worshiping. When we make that decision to fix our eyes on Jesus, we quickly realize that God has already begun to release the grip these tendencies can have on our lives.

Worship is a declaration of our weakness and God’s strength. I challenge you in your next point of need to make that hard choice to be a worshiper and let the breakthrough God fight your battle for you.

When we worship, the invisible God is at work doing invisible and powerful things. We get realigned, refreshed and refueled; we find unspeakable joy and indescribable peace. We discover the breakthrough strength of God, which enables us to walk in the truth, live in His presence and see Him fight our battles for us. It is how we can put the beauty of the Gospel on display, receive His many blessings and at the same time be a blessing to the world.


If you’re not familiar with Tommy Walker’s music, here is one of his best-known songs, He Knows My Name

 

March 17, 2013

Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.


I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

 

January 9, 2013

Nothing Formed Against Me Shall Stand

Isaiah 54: 17

Weapons made to attack you
    won’t be successful;
words spoken against you
    won’t hurt at all.

My servants, Jerusalem is yours!
I, the Lord, promise
    to bless you with victory. (CEV)


“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper;
And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. (NASB)


 No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
    and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”  (ESV)

God's Got My Back

Time and time again, scripture records instances where forces came against God’s people bent on their destruction, and the odds against them seemed incredible, but God’s people triumphed.  One blogger has created a scripture medley of such instances here. (I was going to leave it to you to link, but many don’t and I really wanted to record these here; the text is King James.)

David and Goliath

I Samuel 17: 48-51: “And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.”

Samson Slays a Thousand Philistines

Judges 15: 14-17: “And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men. And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-lehi.”

King Hezekiah and 185,000 Assyrians

II Kings 19: 35-37: “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esar- haddon his son reigned in his stead.”

Mordecai and Haman

Esther 7: 9-10: “And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon. So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.”

Elijah

II Kings 1: 9-10: “Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.”

Ahitophel

II Samuel 17: 21-23: “And it came to pass, after they were departed, that they came up out of the well, and went and told king David, and said unto David, Arise, and pass quickly over the water: for thus hath Ahithophel counselled against you. Then David arose, and all the people that were with him, and they passed over Jordan: by the morning light there lacked not one of them that was not gone over Jordan. And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father.”

Paul on the Island of Melita

Acts 28: 3-6: “And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

King Saul

I Samuel 31: 1-6: “Now the Philistines fought against Israel: and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell down slain in mount Gilboa. And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Melchi-shua, Saul’s sons. And the battle went sore against Saul, and the archers hit him; and he was sore wounded of the archers. Then said Saul unto his armour bearer, Draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armour bearer would not; for he was sore afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. And when his armour bearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him. So Saul died, and his three sons, and his armour bearer, and all his men, that same day together.”

Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Daniel 6: 22-24: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.”

The Cross at Calvary

Luke 24: 6-7: “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

Be Strong in the Lord

All of this today is serving as introduction to a new song from Chris Tomlin’s new album, Burning Lights; the song is called Whom Shall I Fear but is also known as God of Angel Armies.   (Static images alternative video here.)  This is a faith-building song that is really easy to learn.  We are not promised protection from every hard thing a fallen world can bring, but when forces arise to destroy us we have the promise that greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4)

December 28, 2012

Continue to Come as a Child

Oswald ChambersIn our generation the most enduring devotional resource has been My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Many years ago a bookseller named James Reiman undertook to rewrite the entire book in more modern language, so that the type of sentence construction employed all those years ago wouldn’t be a barrier to people getting to the depth and riches of the material.

A year ago we ran a few Oswald Chambers Quotations, and  you can read a short biography of him here,  and also at Wikipedia.  It’s worth noting that Chambers never “wrote” My Utmost, rather, after his death his wife, who was a stenographer, transcribed notes from his talks.

The sample devotionals below are from the website utmost.org  and are the  readings for yesterday and today. Click the calendar page on the site for the permanent links to each.

Where the Battle is Won and Lost

’If you will return, O Israel,’ says the Lord . . . —Jeremiah 4:1

Our battles are first won or lost in the secret places of our will in God’s presence, never in full view of the world. The Spirit of God seizes me and I am compelled to get alone with God and fight the battle before Him. Until I do this, I will lose every time. The battle may take one minute or one year, but that will depend on me, not God. However long it takes, I must wrestle with it alone before God, and I must resolve to go through the hell of renunciation or rejection before Him. Nothing has any power over someone who has fought the battle before God and won there.

I should never say, “I will wait until I get into difficult circumstances and then I’ll put God to the test.” Trying to do that will not work. I must first get the issue settled between God and myself in the secret places of my soul, where no one else can interfere. Then I can go ahead, knowing with certainty that the battle is won. Lose it there, and calamity, disaster, and defeat before the world are as sure as the laws of God. The reason the battle is lost is that I fight it first in the external world. Get alone with God, do battle before Him, and settle the matter once and for all.

In dealing with other people, our stance should always be to drive them toward making a decision of their will. That is how surrendering to God begins. Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point— a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest— our best for His glory.


Continuous Conversion

. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven —Matthew 18:3

These words of our Lord refer to our initial conversion, but we should continue to turn to God as children, being continuously converted every day of our lives. If we trust in our own abilities, instead of God’s, we produce consequences for which God will hold us responsible. When God through His sovereignty brings us into new situations, we should immediately make sure that our natural life submits to the spiritual, obeying the orders of the Spirit of God. Just because we have responded properly in the past is no guarantee that we will do so again. The response of the natural to the spiritual should be continuous conversion, but this is where we so often refuse to be obedient. No matter what our situation is, the Spirit of God remains unchanged and His salvation unaltered. But we must “put on the new man . . .” (Ephesians 4:24). God holds us accountable every time we refuse to convert ourselves, and He sees our refusal as willful disobedience. Our natural life must not rule— God must rule in us.

To refuse to be continuously converted puts a stumbling block in the growth of our spiritual life. There are areas of self-will in our lives where our pride pours contempt on the throne of God and says, “I won’t submit.” We deify our independence and self-will and call them by the wrong name. What God sees as stubborn weakness, we call strength. There are whole areas of our lives that have not yet been brought into submission, and this can only be done by this continuous conversion. Slowly but surely we can claim the whole territory for the Spirit of God.

October 22, 2012

Unseen Warfare Going on Constantly

I spent less than 24 hours in Las Vegas nearly 30 years ago. The guy I was with wanted to visit the casinos. I heard the constant whirring of the machines, the bells announcing winners, the balls sliding around the roulette wheels.

And then we left. The drive home was several days, and I was back several weeks, when it occurred to me that back in Vegas, the machines were still humming, the coins were still dropping, the wheels were still clicking. The show plays out day after day even when you’re not there to see it.

Maybe you or someone you know has had a time in their life when they experienced online addiction to adult sites. I know I have. Every once in awhile it occurs to me that all those websites are still active, people are still clicking the images to see more, perhaps parting with their credit card number for the privilege. That world still exists even though I don’t return to visit.

In Ephesians 6 we read familiar words:

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. (KJV)

The battle described earns the subtitle “A Fight to the Finish” in Eugene Peterson’s version:

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (Message)

I’ve just finished reading a new Christian fiction title, Soul’s Gate by James Rubart that I won’t take time to review here except to say that it’s very similar to a landmark Christian novel of 25 years ago, This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. This particular genre may not appeal to everyone, but it is a reminder — perhaps even a wake up call — to things taking place around us in the unseen realm of spiritual warfare.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I wrote about the dynamics of spiritual warfare in this post. I think it’s well written and it’s filled with scripture references, but it fails somewhat in that it looks at the collective warfare that we wage as aliens and strangers fighting on enemy territory, but is light on describing the individual warfare taking place more subtly for the souls of you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, your fellow students, your neighbors.

For that, you need to dig into the dynamics or spiritual warfare on a personal level, such as you find outlined in this article.  If you believe that there is an enemy fighting your soul, you may be looking out for attack, but missing the ways in which that attack can come.  It may involve something as innocuous-looking as discouragement as we saw in this study.

Furthermore, there are people reading this who believe in the “us versus them” aspect to spiritual battle, but would want to stop short of suggesting that there are actual demons involved.  However, to neglect that possibility is to ignore a significant amount of Biblical evidence, as we saw in this piece.

…In his earthly ministry, Jesus often taught in parables; and I believe a fiction story can be helpful in personifying the enemies (plural intentional) that are waiting to do battle with our souls. Seeing them and somewhat visualizing them through a novel helps us to be open to the possibility of recognizing them when they appear in real life.

Sadly, some have been conditioned through their denominational background or their personal preferences to cast aside notions of the demonic realm. But I found that reading Soul’s Gate really begs each reader to ask themselves, “How much of this are you going to consider fictional, and how much of this do you feel is real?” 

Because the warfare is still playing out even if you’re not presently experiencing it.

October 7, 2012

Surprised By Spiritual Defeat

Today’s teaching is from Created to Give God Glory, the blog of Prentis McGoldrick, where it appeared under the title, How Does Satan Defeat Us?

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)   Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Satan is sly. He roams the earth. (Job 1:7) He gets permission to work against God’s servants. (Luke 22: 31). He is a murderer and liar (John 8:44) He is the the ruler of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11) He brings calamity on property, health and family (Look at the Book of Job). He tempts (Matthew 4:3). He deceives (Genesis 3:13) He accuses (Revelation 12:10). He wishes to devour us.

He uses all his evil tools to get us to doubt. He seeks to have us curse God. He wants us to deny our faith. He wants us to run from him in fear. What hope do we have against him?

Peter knows who Satan is. Peter has been sifted like wheat because Satan got permission. Peter ran, hid and denied his Lord. He knows how it happened. He knows what he said the night before he abandoned his faith. Peter was neither self-controlled nor alert.

Peter was sure that he would never deny Jesus. He was sure of it because he knew who Jesus is. He was sure because he had never backed down from a fight. He was sure because he was Peter. He was full of himself. He lacked self-control. Self-control has nothing to do with your conduct when everything is fine. Self-control takes place when you can still think through each thing which happens when your world is upset. It is remaining steadfast when emotions are running high. It is being prepared for the storm.

Peter never expected to come to a moment when he was so outmanned. He intended to fight his way our of any and every situation. He didn’t know what to do when Jesus told him to put up his sword. He ran.

Peter watched from a distance to see what would happen to Jesus. His fear was greater than his convictions. He moved farther away each time he was accused of having been with Jesus. Finally, he severed his connection with Jesus with a curse. His denial was so demonstrative that Jesus heard it. He went out and wept. He was sifted through and through.

Self-control must always be accompanied by being alert. Peter was not alert at the time of Jesus arrest. He didn’t even stay away and pray when Jesus needed him. He had been warned but complacency left him unguarded.

Satan did not have much of a challenge with him. He loves to roan and devour Christians who are neither self-controlled nor alert. He scatters them like fox scatters chickens. Some are eaten but most just run and hide.

We will never be much of a challenge for Satan if we do not prepare ourselves for the battle. We must put on the full armor of God. We must have our time of prayer. We must have our time with God each day. We must look at how Satan is trying to defeat us.

Is he after you? Is he bringing people into your life who are causing you to doubt your faith? Is he bringing calamity in property, family and health to get you to deny God? Is he telling you lies to get you to believe something is not true? Is he turning you against someone or having someone turn against you?

If he isn’t now; he will.

Today is a day to renew our resolve against him. We must stand firm. We must recite and renew our faith in Jesus.

If we don’t, he’ll eat us up.

1 Peter 5:9 (NIV)   Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

~Prentis McGoldrick


Choosing a post from this blogger’s writing wasn’t easy. Here’s another fine article about spiritual wisdom.

August 11, 2012

Distancing Ourselves from God

(NIV) Gen 3:8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”


CEB I Peter 5:8 Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Today we feature the writing of a longtime friend, Jeff Snow. Jeff is now in his 12th year with Youth For Christ in Canada, and prior to that worked as a youth pastor with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.

This week, I decided to re-read for the third time The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis’ 150-page masterpiece of fictional correspondence between a senior and junior devil concerning their efforts to tempt one young man and secure his place with them in hell.

 The book is fascinating in that it explores issues of good and evil, faith, sin and temptation, from the point of view of the devil.  God is referred to as the Enemy.  The point of the book is that by better understanding the devil’s schemes in trying to destroy humanity, we can be more aware and less apt to fall for them. 

 In letter #12, Lewis points out one of the most effective strategies the devil has to ruin a life.  It has nothing to do with a great moral failure.  It’s not about that one dreadful choice that ruins a life, though that is tragic.  The devil’s most effective strategy against most of us is to get us caught up living from one day to the next without thinking about God or realizing how far away from God we’ve drifted, how far away we’ve gone from who we were created to be.

 The senior devil writes, “The only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.  It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing.  Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.  Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” (pgs. 64-65)

 Here’s the question.  How many of us have just settled into a rut in life so deep that we figure that this is all there is, that there is no deeper meaning or purpose?  A rut so deep that we don’t think about the big picture anymore, don’t think about God like we once did.  We’re not terrible people.  We obey the laws and don’t hurt anyone.  It just feels like we’ve slipped away from the Light and into “the Nothing.” 

 Lewis’ perceptive quote placed upon the devil’s lips tells us that this is a dangerous place to be.  It’s not where God created us to be.  We are not meant to be separated from God.  We are meant to be His.  And, as one of Lewis’ devils says in a moment of clarity, “when they (humans) are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”

 There is more to life than this.  Step off the gradual, gentle slope for a minute, and ask God to show you who you were really created you to be.  Who you really are!  And as you do, if you sense some unhappy, panicked voices in the background, just ignore them, and let them keep busy writing their letters to each other, while you step away from Nothing and towards the Light.

May 30, 2012

The Mechanics of Spiritual Attacks

This appeared today at Ray Ortlund’s blog under the title You Have Authority in Christ.

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace proposes that one of the “primary elements of continuous renewal” in a church is “authority in spiritual conflict,” pages 133-144.  We are not on the defensive.  We have authority from Christ himself.  The blows we do receive from Satan “come from a retreating enemy,” as Lovelace says, because of the decisive victory of Jesus on our behalf.

Lovelace draws from Scripture five fall-back strategies of Satan:

1.  Temptation

“The enemy strategy here is either to disfigure a Christian’s witness through public scandal, to gain some evidence through which his or her conscience can be accused and discouraged, or to weaken faith in the possibility of sanctification in some contested area.”

2.  Deception

“Negatively, demonic agents induce a strong conscious aversion to biblical truth, an inability to comprehend it and a distaste for what little can be understood. . . . Positively, the forces of darkness inspire and empower anti-christian religious counterfeits . . . . The deceiving work of Satan can even be done in and through Christian believers, as Christ’s famous rebuke of Peter shows.”

3.  Accusation

“Demonic agents italicize the defects of Christians and the churches in the minds of unbelievers and cause true Christianity to be branded with the image of its own worst exemplars . . . . They are also particularly active in dividing Christians from one another into parties . . . . Finally, satanic forces attack Christians directly in their own minds with disturbingly accurate accounts of their faults, seeking to discourage those who are most eager and able to work for the kingdom.”

4.  Possession

“The Gospels plainly describe a condition in which human victims come almost helplessly under control of alien personalities.”

5.  Physical attack

“From data in the Gospels it appears that demonic agents can occasionally cause illness, at least psychological and neurological ailments like dumbness and epilepsy.”

More should be said about all this, and Lovelace does say more.  But he wisely affirms, “The battles we fight against [demonic powers] should not be occasions of anxiety.  They force us back to reliance on Christ’s redemptive work and enhance our dignity and authority as redeemed saints who have the power to judge angels.”

While searching for an image to accompany this article, I came across an article in the blog of Randolf Brown where he introduces a 6th tactic: Distraction.  He also had posted the following chart.

March 16, 2012

The Two Worlds Within

To be a Christian is to be following Christ in a world that is dominantly following other standards, other passions, other rules of engagement.  But there are actually several different aspects to this.

The first has to do with time. Have you ever gone ‘state straddling?’ That’s where you stand with one foot in one state and one in another. There are parts of the Canada/US border where you can actually do ‘country straddling,’ with one foot in the USA and one in its northern neighbor (or more correctly in this case, neighbour with a ‘u.’) As believers, we straddle a fence between two realms.

The first Venn diagram I ever saw that talked about the Christian living in two worlds depicted the intersection of ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come.’ We live in that intersection, as part of earthly kingdoms, and part of a kingdom yet to be realized. Fully grasping this is fundamental to understanding salvation in terms like, ‘We were saved, we are saved, we will be saved.’ Such is the complexity and fullness of all Christ accomplished at the cross.

But there is also the dynamic of place. In this world, we are to be called out and set apart to live in the middle of a world that follows different marching orders. There are two forces wrestling for control of each and every one of us, the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.

We’re called to be in this situation, but not of it. We’re called to live in a world where all type of influence may come into us, but where what comes out of us is what matters. We’re called to be affected by all kinds of external stimuli, but to respond uniquely and unexpectedly as strangers and aliens by going the extra mile, turning the other cheek, giving the coat off our back, etc.

But there is a third intersection which takes place entirely within. It has nothing about it that would register externally. There is no behavioral component where person ‘X’ is seen struggling with wanting to do right but finding himself/herself doing wrong. It is completely unseen.

It’s the stuff that today’s scripture quotation (in the graphic above) from Philippians 2 refers to. We were created with ego. That’s it. Pure and simple. We were created with a survivalist instinct that runs completely contrary to the idea of  preferring others. In the NIV, the verse reads,

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…  (vs. 3)

This type of behavior is not natural. It must be labored at, worked out with fear and trembling. But even then, it can only be fully attained if there is a model for us to follow, to imitate. If someone has gone before and shown us by example that it is possible to live in this time and this place under a law of love.

This third type of internal struggle is for many the most difficult at all. You may live in a mostly Christian culture — even if it’s nominal — where your Christian beliefs are widely held. You may live in a situation that is somewhat devoid of persecution compared to other parts of the world. But I guarantee you that you do not escape the conflict between your egotistical nature and the type of servanthood that the New Testament teaches.

The greatest battlefield we face as Christ-followers is often the battlefield within.


Today’s reading directly alludes to a number of Bible passages without listing references. For homework, see if you can identify the texts underlying what’s written in the paragraphs above. (You can use the comments section to post scriptures suggested in what you read today.)


Today’s graphic was found at the website of Liam Byrnes formerly in England, now serving in Southern Africa with All Nations helping people in poverty. I tried to figure out which translation was used in the graphic but never did. He and his wife also have a ministry blog.

I tried to find a graphic for the first type of Venn diagram online, but couldn’t, so I created one below:

 

September 1, 2011

Spiritual War: Rules of Engagement

Renown pastor and author Jack Hayford:

…The darkness is deepening — but the Word of God sounds a trumpet blast of faith inspiring promise: Where sin abounds grace much more abounds!  It is the grace that flows from the cross and the grace the graced that flowed to each of us who have met the savior there. And it is also the same grace filling and overflowing each of us who open to those overflowing “streams of living water” that is available to every believer who will receive that full endowment of the Holy Spirit, Jesus prophesied. It is the “river” that provides power to live for Christ to grow in the Word and prayer and power to follow the Kingdom’s King — Jesus — as He leads us to “stand therefore” becoming equipped for battle.

In His name, by the Word of His promise and the blood of His cross through which he triumphed over the authority of all dark powers, let us learn and apply His triumph. Those are the grounds and His power in the Spirit is the way. Applied in prayer in simple faith made bold through the truth it can — and will — pierce like a sword, cut through the bonds of darkness, and release the lost from shame, futility, enslaving addiction, sickness, and eternal loss.

~Jack Hayford, Penetrating the Darkness (p.13)