Monday, June 19, 2017

Trade in Your Old Gear (Continued) --Spiritual Warfare XI

Let's continue to examine our gear versus what the Word says about us armoring up.

The Shield of Faith versus The Shield of Christian Culture
Faith in what? Is it in our faith? In Jesus? In our denomination? Our pastor? Our leaders? I know what you are thinking: “I have faith in Jesus Christ!” But, here’s the test: Where do you run when life and the enemy throw fiery darts at you? Do we raise Jesus’ Word in front of us, or do we raise something else?

The Shield of Faith means we believe those fiery darts will be quenched by the power of Jesus. We do not doubt that our faith will hold. Jesus used the parable of the man who built his house on the rock using His words as compared to the man who built on the sand, using what the world says. The rain and storms hit both houses. Only the one built on Jesus and His words stood the battering. (Matt. 7: 24-27) So, when we raise our Shield, we are showing that we trust in Christ alone. Not just in our faith, or a faith in faith, but faith in Christ, His love and His provision.

Such a soldier believes that Shield will extinguish the darts (the lies) of the enemy and it will hold up battle after battle. That’s why it’s raised. The very act of raising it shows the soldier’s confidence in its capacity. It is faith is action. A shield, sitting in a dusty shed somewhere, may look fine. But this Shield must be raised, wielded and never left behind. Why? The more it is used on the battlefield, the greater its value to the soldier. Every dart that is extinguished will increase the soldier’s confidence in the Shield.

Faith that is battle-tested is strong. We have learned that Jesus never leaves us, gives us strength and helps us fight the battle. So, as we face a new battle, we remember how He has been with us in the past: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, [your enemies] for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." (Deut. 3:16)

But, if we raise the Shield of Christian Culture, now we have a problem. Why? Our confidence will be short-lived, because this culture is short-lived. It changes all the time, following after the dictates of Christians who don’t want to offend anyone. These Christians appear to believe that because the world and Christianity have had a falling out, it’s up to them to fix the damage. They compromise the Word and apologize for its perceived “intolerance.” Many Christians are training with the compromised Shield of Christian Culture as opposed to the Shield of Faith grounded in God’s Word. Culture changes, trends and ideas come and go, but: "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." (Is. 40:8)

Many Christians today take their cue about what is right or wrong from the larger culture. It’s as if morality is determined by the 51%, not by God’s Word. If enough people in church think that the Biblical position on an issue is too outdated, uncompassionate or insensitive because the larger culture does (and being relevant is the goal, not the truth) then out comes the Christian Cultural Shield. It’s so much lighter and easier to handle. But, once out in the battlefield, we notice a curious thing. The darts do not go out. They grow stronger and stronger. This Shield becomes more and more battered. It doesn’t stand up well to the lies that the enemy is directing at us. So, we run to the next Shield, the next compromise, hoping it will be able to just dim or divert the darts and not offend the other side. But that doesn’t happen. We lose faith in this Shield.

Soon, Cultural Shields are scattered all over the battlefield. None of the compromises have worked. The world continues to grow hostile to Christianity. Why is that? "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4)

The enemy’s plan is to make us doubt faith in general; doubt that we are at war; doubt that our side is the victorious one and doubt that we should even fight. He whispers that perhaps we need to lower our Shield altogether and not be so hung up on God’s Word: Embrace the other side! Faith is far less satisfying than a group hug!

We are at war. Period. If we lay down our Shield of Faith in God’s Word and His Son, replacing it with the well-intentioned but totally misguided idea that we must accommodate the culture and its trends, the enemy’s darts will come, no matter what we are holding. Our compromised shield will not be able to stand under fire. And you? Perhaps the better question is: Regular recipe or extra crispy?

Why Our Gear Won’t Work
Faith is not something we try to psyche ourselves into or work hard to feel deep in our souls. This Shield is a gift from God Himself: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9 NIV) 

Jonathan gave David his garments and his weapons to show that they were in covenant with each other. (1 Sam. 18:3-4) We have been given God’s armor to show that we are in covenant with God.

If we set aside this Gift and walk out thinking it’s all good because we are now culturally relevant and tolerant, one day we will be on the sidelines, nursing a broken heart and wondering how it all went so wrong. The world will be one step closer to Hell and we helped.  The old saying that “If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions” then it is maintained by compromise.

The Helmet of Salvation versus The Helmet of Doubt
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) are life-altering. Spiritual TBI’s are equally as devastating: The blow of doubt can cause serious damage to our faith. Doubt can alter how we see God and how we are to live in Him.  We are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind: "He answered, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…'” (Luke 10:27 NIV)

We need a helmet to protect us and not just any ol’ helmet. It must be the Helmet stamped with the word “salvation” in big red (the blood of Jesus) letters. If doubt is one of Satan’s favorite weapons, then the Helmet of Salvation is essential to ward off his blows.

The Shield of Faith is good for warding off the long-range missiles Satan sends, the ones you see coming. Perhaps getting laid off, being gossiped about, being misunderstood, or getting rejected are some of the fiery darts flying your way. They come at you and up goes your Shield of Faith. They hit your Shield with a fiery thud. But the Helmet of Salvation implies the enemy has gotten close enough to whack you with a blow you did not see coming. These unexpected blows demand strong protection. Our salvation is just that: strong protection. Satan probably thought he had it made in the shade when Jesus was on the cross: "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Cor. 2:8 NIV)

But Jesus died to secure our rescue from sin and death by being our sacrifice for sin and overcoming death itself. Satan stopped laughing that Sunday morning when a gentle breeze swirled inside an empty tomb.

Consider this: We have been wearing our Helmet of Salvation for a while. But the cultural pressure on us to be more tolerant, more open-minded, can be overwhelming. Some time back, we accepted with a child-like faith the salvation Jesus offered; now, in our ever-progressive world, we feel an open mind might be a better way to go.

So, we trade in our strong, battle-tested Helmet of Salvation for the much lighter and no-brainer Helmet of the Open Mind. Satan sees our weakness and here he comes...

Whack! How can you insist that Jesus is the only way to God?

Whack! How you be sure that the Bible is accurate?

Our head starts to hurt. Then, seeing the dents, we get a new helmet: the Helmet of I Am Trying to Stay Open...

Whack! How can you claim that Jesus died for the world?

Whack! Are all other religions wrong?

Now, our head really hurts. Then we put on the Helmet of Doubt. It looks sturdy, doesn’t offend anyone and it tells everyone that we are not going to make any rash decisions that limit our intellectual horizons...

Whack! Jesus is fine for you, but we are all on the same path to God.

Whack! The Bible is just a collection of stories and is no more inspired than other stories in other religions.

Whack! You need to think for yourself.

Whack! You are so superior to all those sheep out there.

(But do you notice how that deep discontentment just won’t go away?)

Satan is never going to stop with the head blows. He wants us out of the battle altogether: we have either walked away from our faith or we are so demoralized in sin and shame we no longer fight for what is right.

We must keep our Helmet of Salvation on, seeking through God’s power to possess more and more the mind of Christ: "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16)

The Helmet given to us by God is the only one that can withstand Satan’s onslaught.

Why Our Gear Won’t Work
Our salvation was secured by Jesus on the cross. He seeks daily, through our experiences and our thoughts, to transform us into His image: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters." (Rom. 8:29 NIV)

God wants us to be more and more of what He intended for us all along, before we were derailed by sin: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18)

We can only be transformed by the renewing of our mind if we are secure in the knowledge that He died for us: "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Rom. 12:2 NIV)

We must equally be secure in the knowledge that He now wants to live in us: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20 NIV)

No other helmet will stave off the blows of the enemy.

The Sword of the Spirit versus The Pool Noodle of Excuses
The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. You can’t use it unless you know it. You can’t stand on the promises of God if you don’t know what they are. You can’t whack Satan back if he parries with half-truths and you don’t know the whole truth. Time in the Word is like sword practice. You only get better as you use it. But if you are not prepared in the Word, do you grab The Pool Noodle of Excuses? I am too busy to read the Word! I don’t understand it! I don’t think it’s culturally relevant! It’s a bit out of date! It’s not translated correctly!

OK. The next time Satan throws his darts your way or slams down on your helmet, you give him a shellacking with that Noodle. When he’s done laughing, watch out. We must be prepared to fight Satan by countering his accusations with the Word of God. We stand on the Word alone. We are not to stand on our knowledge, experience or how many years we have been a solider. If we stand on our strength alone, with pride as our driving force, we will have a false sense of security. We will then venture out into territory for which we are not prepared.

An unprepared soldier is a delightful target for the enemy. The enemy will use friends, family or life itself to give us a whack and send us reeling. The day will come when people, even those who sit in church, will prefer to have their ears tickled by the culture: "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." (2 Tim. 4:3 NIV)

The culture is not about truth. It is about feeling good. If your Sword is gathering dust, your Noodle of Excuses will be about as useful as a carwash in Seattle.

Why Our Gear Won’t Work
Satan’s attacks focus on slaying God’s character and thus His promises. If our knowledge is blunted (limited) or weak (pool noodle-like) we will not discern the lies when they arrive. The only good sword is one that is sharp: "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Heb. 4:12 NIV)

The Sword’s job is to divide the truth from what is false. Satan attacks us to injure and destroy us; the Sword of God is intended to cut away anything that stands between us and God. It’s painful to have those beliefs and behaviors cut away, but in the long run, we will be freer and deeper in Him. Why? Because anything that compromises or diminishes our walk in Him leaves us less and less in the light of His power and strength.

Satan injures us so we will stay in the dark. God heals us so we will stay in the light. It’s our choice.

Stay close to your Commander-in-Chief, soldier.  Dark days are ahead but we are children of the Light. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trade in Your Old Gear-- Spiritual Warfare X

You are a soldier of the Lord. We have established that. You face warfare every day. Sometimes Satan is subtle in his attacks; other times, he is bold and aggressive. Regardless of his tactics, the kind of gear you put on each day will make the difference between a victorious encounter and one that leaves you feeling beaten.

Have you examined your gear lately? Does it look a bit worn? Does it look like, well, you? That is why we put on the armor of God. Not the armor of church, religion, denomination, family, good intentions, or good deeds, but of God and Him alone.

In order to run a mission for the Kingdom of God, you must check your armor periodically and make sure you haven’t substituted one part of it with something of your own creation. It’s easy to do.

Let’s say that you haven’t been in the Word for awhile, so your sword has been sheathed for awhile. Instead, you have been reading good Christian books, talking online and enjoying your pastor’s messages. These things are reasonable to do but you need time in the Word. You need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. You see His faithfulness in action as you read through the Bible. History becomes His Story, and you see how He never leaves nor forsakes His children. You seek a deeper understanding through revelation as the Spirit teaches you what you need to know.

So, let’s examine two sets of gear: God’s and yours. Most Christians are going to have a mixture of both. Let’s evaluate what you are currently wearing. If it’s your gear, it must go and be replaced with God’s gear.

God’s Gear versus My Gear:  
The Belt of Truth vs. The Belt of Least Offense 

The Breastplate of Righteousness vs. The Breastplate of “I’m Not Hurting Anyone” 
Gospel Shoes vs. Gospel Slippers 
The Shield of Faith vs. The Shield of Christian Culture 
The Helmet of Salvation vs. The Helmet of Doubt 
The Sword of the Spirit vs. The Pool Noodle of Excuses 
Standing vs. Snoozing 
Prayer vs. Pride 
Diligence vs. Indolence 

Does God’s gear wear out? No. But we do. We sometimes assume that God’s gear might not be quite up to the task. Perhaps we think, deep down, that God’s gear is not quite as good as our gear. In other words, we know best. Then our adversary whispers that yes, we are right: God’s gear is inadequate and you ought to go out and get your own. After all, you know what’s best for you.
So, let’s examine our gear. Is it effective for spiritual warfare?

The Belt of Truth versus The Belt of Least Offense

I know, I know. Truth is fine when everyone agrees with you and THE Truth is fine in church where everyone agrees with you. It’s out in the trenches, or sadly, even in some churches, when it’s hard to stand on the truth, speak the truth and speak of the Truth—Jesus. But the Truth, our Jesus, holds everything together: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together."(Col. 1:17 NIV)

Jesus is the very embodiment of truth. He gives form and substance to our lives. If you are sleeping, you don’t need to hold your pants up. But on the move, out in the field, the truth holds you up, sustains you and pleases the Father-heart of God. Ask: Am I pleasing God or pleasing men? Be honest with yourself here: "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10 NIV)

The Truth is offensive to those living outside of it. The Truth, because it is based on the Word of God, is not just another version of “truth” that the world can accept. The Truth also reveals who is at the center of your universe: your self, with all of its wayward desires. His Truth shines a light into our darkness: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." (John 3:29-31 NIV)

Jesus as The Truth was not well received by His people; we are to expect no less: "God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way." (Matt. 5:11-12 NLT)

Think of a courtroom for a moment. If truth does not prevail, a murderer walks free, an innocent person goes to death row or a rape victim doesn’t see her assailant go to prison, taking him off the street and away from other potential victims. Justice is served by the truth. We serve a just God. We serve Him with the truth. He sent Truth to us, wrapped in flesh and named Jesus. So, if we serve Truth itself, how can we worry about telling the darkness that it’s dark? The emptiness that it’s empty? The lost that hell awaits? We must always speak the truth in love: "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Eph. 4:15-16 NIV)

Our love for the person, whether they are a non-believer or a wounded Christian, will preserve our words from becoming confrontational or hurtful. We must speak only when the Holy Spirit prompts us: "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (Eph. 16:13 NIV)

We must then trust Him for the results: "It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it." (Is. 55:11 NLT) When we run missions, we wait for orders from our Commander: Jesus, the Head of the Body of Christ. You are the messenger of His love and His words. Are you speaking Christ’s words? 

Another way to think about it: Would Christ speak your words?

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

If we are not fighting for the whole truth revealed in His Word, and only for some diluted version of it, why bother? Anything less than the Gospel in all its fullness (yes, even all those “intolerant” passages) is not the Gospel at all: "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8-9)
Jesus was all-in when He went to the cross: He didn’t die for some sin but for all sin; not for some people, but for all people; not for the current generation, but for all generations; so, why should we fight for anything less as we follow Him?

The Breastplate of Righteousness versus The Breastplate of “I’m Not Hurting Anyone”

Righteousness is given to us by Christ. He imparts it to us by His sacrifice: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:8-10 NIV)

We are clothed with His righteousness: "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness…" (Is. 61:10 NIV) We are covered and our heart is transformed by His blood. Remember how God killed an innocent creature to cover Adam and Eve after they sinned? God has not only covered us with His innocent Son’s blood, but He has taken away our sins: "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Heb. 10:11-14 NIV)

If we leave our breastplate at home, what are we covered with? Without His righteousness ever before us, reminding us of our weakness and keeping us humble, our heart with its sinful desires will take over. Our heart is deceitful: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) So, if our heart is allowed free rein, then we will follow what our heart wants us to do. The enemy only has to drop in a few tantalizing suggestions, and away we go. Jesus warned us of what a heart that is not under the Holy Spirit’s control is capable of: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matt. 15:19)

Christians can rationalize their behavior just like everyone else when the heart is at full throttle. They think, as long as I don’t hurt anyone, and I ask God later on for forgiveness (which He is happy to provide!) then I’m good.  Wrong. The hurt we cause is sometimes invisible for a while. But it will come out. Maybe not now, but someday...

The parents who think their children don’t notice _________________ (fill in the sin) because they are “too young.” (But someday they will figure it out.)

The spouse who thinks the other spouse doesn’t notice _________________ because the relationship still seems good. (But someday the spouse will find evidence and be devastated by it along with the deception.)

The friend who thinks no one notices ____________________ because everyone does it and everyone seems fine. (But someday that friend goes into the ER and doesn’t come out.

Think of it like this: Why do you think Jesus equated hate with murder, a longing glance with lust and name-calling with hellfire? (Matthew 5). It’s simple: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh." (Luke 6:45)

So, if we are speaking, thinking, and acting with His heart guiding us, righteousness prevails. If we are speaking, thinking and acting with our own heart, chaos prevails.

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

The heart without the covering provided by Christ is a playground for our flesh and the enemy. When we go out in the battlefield with God’s armor in full view, we are telling Satan we know he is out there and we are ready. But if we forget to put on the Breastplate of Righteousness on, Satan knows where to aim first: our heart with all of God’s promises stored there.

Gospel Shoes versus Gospel Slippers

Shoes are for walking: “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace” implies well-made shoes and a readiness to go. How often have we said, “Wait! I am coming! I just need to get my shoes on!”

Bad shoes mean disabled soldiers. Think about how painful even a short walk becomes with a nasty blister; how a hole in your shoe lets water in, making your feet cold; how shoes that are too small make your feet ache; how shoes that are broken down will injure your feet and you can’t walk or run for a long time until you recover. The Gospel isn’t just about sharing words. It is about walking alongside someone, understanding their pain and trying to do what is best in the situation. It’s being in the mud and the blood of the battlefield. Satan leaves quite a trail of destruction as he moves through this planet. That’s where we come in.

The Gospel goes out, because the lost don’t always come in: "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matt. 18:12 NIV)

You go where the need is. The need is out there, because that’s where the wounded are. The Gospel means shoveling a neighbor’s driveway; helping a friend of a friend move; watching a toddler while a young mom gets her hair done; going and picking up the person you invited to church. The Gospel means movement. Shoes that are well-made (well-grounded in the Word) and a willingness to go (Lord, send me!) are a far cry from Gospel slippers. Slippers are comfy and are meant to wear at home. If your Gospel is comfy and only found inside the walls of your church home, then how will people hear the Good News? "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom. 10:14 NIV)

Why Our Gear Won’t Work

Wearing footgear that is not intended for outdoor use is useless. Not being prepared to go out and share the Good News is useless to the Kingdom of God. If our feet get pierced (we fall pray to Satan’s deception) because of shoddy footwear, we are sidelined. Let our shoes take the hit: God’s Word is strong enough to take all that Satan and the world can throw at it.

Next time...more inventorying of our gear!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What is Satan's Endgame? Spiritual Warfare, Part IX

The Bible, in 2 Corinthians 2:11, translates the plotting and planning that Satan does into various words, depending on the translation:
·         “devices,” (KJV)
·         “designs,” (ESV)
·         “schemes,” (NIV)
·         “wiles” (ASV)
·         “methods” (PHILLIPS)  

I call it an “endgame.”  Satan’s endgame is to kill you.  He doesn’t care which poison or method you choose. His goal for you is to end up six feet lion chow…be six fathoms deep…in other words, to be completely destroyed.  It’s not what you do or how you get there.  Satan is interested only that you end up dead, having lived a life without Jesus and now heading for Hell. 
Because once we are dead, this game of life is over.  The time for deciding whether or not to live it for Jesus or ourselves is also over: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…"  (Heb. 9:27)

The Bible is utterly clear on Satan’s intentions, as we have seen: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

Jesus taught that "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)  

Paul reminds us, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor. 2:11)

Satan wants to capture you and ensnare you.  He doesn’t want to take you to a tea party.  He wants you to lose yourself in what you do, and soon what you do becomes who you are—this becomes your identity. Then you become very invested in your lifestyle and forget it started out as one encounter, one sip, one smoke: "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." (2 Tim. 2:26)  Paul equally warns Timothy and us: "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13)

So, if Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means "salvation," then someone might ask, "Saving from what?"  If we are following Jesus, we will respond, "From sin and death, of course!"  We then would boil Jesus' ministry down to: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 36:26)

If someone said, “Why would Jesus do that?” 

We would answer confidently: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Then we would quickly add that Jesus came to give us abundant life.  The two greatest obstacles we face from fully experiencing God in this life is sin and death.  Sin controls our lives and death causes us fear.  Jesus came to give us victory and life.  We have passed Theology 101.  Or have we?  Let me share a key point about Satan and his endgame that I had driven home to me recently.

My husband is an eminent scholar in the field of gun rights.  He was asked to speak to the Texas Bar Association in Austin, Texas.  The presenter who spoke before him had been involved in two gun-related criminal cases as an expert witness.  The stories broke my heart.

Both involved domestic violence.  Two different women had hooked up with two men who were involved in the biker subculture.  The first woman was a Christian.  When she met him, he was willing to go to church with her.  Over time, his drug abuse and ill treatment of her led her to kick him out.  

Her fatal "mistake" was saying disparaging things about his biker patches and biker club.  After screaming, "I’m going to kill you!" he jumped on top of her with a knife.  She was able to get the knife and she stabbed him to get him off of her.  He went to the hospital with fourteen stab wounds and later died.  She was convicted of 2nd degree murder.  Her case was overturned, however, and the judge agreed that she had indeed acted in self-defense.

The second woman, after twelve years of being involved with her biker partner, and having found him in their home with another woman, said disparaging things about his club and his patches.  He later menaced her with a knife and having threatened to kill her and her family, she drew a gun and fatally shot him.

The presenter discussed self-defense, juries, and women whose self-esteem is so low that they cannot see themselves with any other guy, thereby putting themselves at risk.  It was a sobering presentation, complete with ER and autopsy photos.  

My point?  We Christians tend to focus on the sins that people commit.  We look at the adultery, the homosexuality, the greed, the pride, the abuse, the whatever, and say, "You should not do that." 
We are horrified at what people do.  The presenter did not mince words about what losers these two men were; he repeatedly used the phrase, "***holes" in describing them.  Looking at their tats, their pictures sporting attitude, it was a label that fit.  In fact, the audience laughed every time he used that word in describing these two men.

I was horrified at what he presented.  I felt anger that these men had pushed these women to such a breaking point that one man was stabbed and the other shot.  I felt awful that these women had been so deceived by these men that they stayed with them.  These women then became criminals in the eyes of the law.

I had focused on what everyone had done.  It had started out so simple for these women.  They were probably excited when they first met these guys, unaware of their poisonous character.  But these women were deceived and paid dearly for it.  So did the men. 

The bottom line is deception.  You say, I am in control, and for awhile, you will beBut given enough time, you wade in deeper.  The deeper in you go, the more the poison works its evil in you. 
Deception is one of Satan’s most effective weapons.  He says to you, as you are wading deeper into sin:

You are the only one who understands this person.  You’ll be the one to help and change them. 
·         You’re fine.  You can stop this any time.
·         You’re not like those other people, who clearly have a problem.
·         The others are light weights.  You can handle this.
·         Your needs will be met with this. 
·         This won’t lead to anything else. 
·         You are in control. 
·         If no one gets hurt, then why not?

We’ve either thought those things, or know someone who has.  A life so lived will be sadly affected by Satan’s deception. We are warned to “give no opportunity to the devil.” (Eph.4:7)  A little lie is still a lie.  A little poison is still poison. Even a cracked door is still open. Let me bring up a quick analogy.  A person walks into a room filled with numerous bottles of poison. The person is trying to select which one to drink. We run in and focus on each bottle, listing the consequences of drinking that particular poison:
       That one’s cyanide!  It will steal your oxygen and turn you blue! 
·         That one’s anti-freeze!  Drink that and it will shred your kidneys!
·         Whoa!  That’s mercury and it causes insanity!
·         No way!  That’s dioxin and it causes cancer!
·         That one’s strychnine and it will shut down your nervous system!

While we are talking, the person turns around and gulps down a bottle of cyanide.  We quickly say, "How could you do that?"  We then repeat all the horrible things cyanide does to the body.  Only after much detailing of the poison’s effects, we yell, "It'll kill you!"  

We focus on what the person did and the consequences of drinking that particular poison.  Then we say, "It will kill you."

Now, let's go back to our presenter at the Texas Bar Association.  I listened to the horrible aspects of these people's lives and what they had done.  It was almost an afterthought that these people’s behaviors resulted in their destruction and death.

Then it hit me:  Satan does not care what you DO.  He could care less what bottle of poison you drink.  His endgame is your death:  six feet under and cold as dirt.  
Did any of those four people wake up that morning and say, "What we are doing will lead to our death.  We need to stop now!"  No.  The dead man laying on the coroner's table never thought he'd end his day like that.  We need to stop just focusing on what people DO now and focus on what will happen to them in the future if they continue. We need to lovingly and forcefully point out to people the consequences of sin, and not just dwell on the particular sin itself.   Let’s go into another room filled this time with “sin’s poison.”  We see a person reaching for a bottle and we quickly yell:

·         That’s adultery!  It could ruin your marriage!
·         That’s homosexuality!  It leads to many impersonal and empty relationships!
·         Whoa!  That’s alcohol!  It can lead to addiction, DUI’s and job loss!
·         No way!  That’s pride!  It offends others and leaves you empty and unhappy!
·         Yuck!  That’s unforgiveness and it leads to a bitter spirit!
·         Stop!  That porn you’re looking at is destructive to your spirit!

Then, almost as an afterthought, we tell the person that whatever sin they are engaged in is deadly. 
WHAT? How so? Damage, yes, but death? Let’s take the consequences further.  Let’s look into the future and after a long engagement with the sin, see where the sin will lead:

·         That’s adultery!  You will someday lose your marriage; contact with your kids;  lose the house; resort to drinking; carrying on in impersonal relationships;  depression; getting a DUI; dying in a crash while under the influence. 
·         Whoa!  That’s homosexuality!  It leads to an empty life; impersonal relationships;  depression; ending life with possibly AIDS, suicide or a drug overdose. 
·         No way!  That’s alcohol!  It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver; causing you to do things you would never do while sober; brain damage and dementia; suicide; early death from a debilitated body; family and friends leave; loneliness. 
·         That’s pride!  It will cause you to lie; steal; hide; lie some more; cover up; be ruined; lose self-respect; lose respect from others; suicide; a life lived isolated and alone.
·         Whoa! That’s unforgiveness! It leads to a bitter and lonely heart; ill health; depression; misery; dying estranged and alone from family and friends.
·         Stop!  That porn you are looking at degrades you and your partner.  Soon, your dissatisfaction with your partner will lead you to isolate more and more.  Your degraded spirit will find giving love harder and harder.  Your partner, alienated and hurt, will leave.  You will end up alone, your self-respect gone.

We are so focused on the horror of the sin, we lose sight of the most horrible outcome of all:  the death of the sinner.  Oh, come on, you say, how could my adultery lead to death?  Adultery is the poison in the bottle. Once you introduce it into your life, Satan now uses it to separate you further and further from God.  As the sin courses through your spiritual bloodstream, the more vulnerable you are to his attacks.  He isn't concerned what poison you drank; he just wants you to drink it and start the process.  He wants you dead.  How you get there is not his concern.  

Let me finish up what the presenter said.  At the end, all four lives were destroyed.  The two women served time.  One man was dead and the other severely injured.  Even though one of the women was exonerated, her life is forever changed.  Because she is a Christian, she has hope and assurance of God’s love. I pray for the other woman and the man who survived as well.  

Satan wants us to live a life with no hope in this world.  Then when we step off this planet, he wants to welcome us to an eternity with no hope.  The entrance to Hell should have a sign over it that says, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

A word here.  Frequently people are angered by the notion that God “sends” people to hell.  I put the word “sends” in quotes, because otherwise you picture God angrily pushing a reluctant person out of His presence, towards Hell’s entrance.  God doesn’t “send” anyone.  A person who chooses not to live in Christ in this life would not want to live in Christ in the next one either.  A person who did not love Christ in this life would not love Christ in the next one, nor would they want to be forced to do so.  A person who did not believe in God or doubted His existence and lived this life accordingly would not want to live in His presence for all eternity.  So, God does not send people to hell.  They choose to go.  They have spent their whole lives walking away from Him, despite His invitation to join Him: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

They chose to walk away from Him in this life and He honors their choice for eternity.  That is why a “death-bed” confession does not bother Him at all.  He wants to hear a cry, however weak and small, coming from a person before they leave this earth.  He wants us to join Him willingly, even if we don’t understand all the details and even if it’s at the last minute.  The two men who hung on either side of Jesus is the best illustration of this truth in Luke 23:39-43: 

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

God does not condemn us; our actions condemn us.  The standard of right behavior is not what I do versus what others do; the standard is our behavior is measured against a sinless God.  God is not willing that anyone should “perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Why?  Because of His love for us. But forced love is not love at all; it is coercion, a kind of rape of the soul.  God would never be involved with anything that is not love through and through.  Satan deceives; he coerces and lies to get us entangled in his schemes.  We are dead in our sins but faith in Jesus brings us to life:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  (Eph. 2:1-10)

Satan does not want us to come to life in this world by accepting Christ.  Satan will not let up until we leave this world. In other words, Satan wants us to live dead and die dead. That is why Jesus is so focused on us bringing life.  He is the Antidote to the poison of sin and its result, death.  Jesus says that Satan the thief is out to "steal kill, and destroy."  As followers of Jesus, let's focus on the endgame.  Satan wants your death, by whatever means necessary.  Jesus wants your life to be transformed into His life in you. He provided the means:  His death on the cross. He wants you under His protection, guidance and love. 

Let Psalm 91 flood your heart:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

So often we Christians use the phrase, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”  I would like to amend that.  Let us love the sinner and hate the death that awaits them if they don't find Jesus.  Let's be loving and diligent to show people where their sin will take them.  Let’s not let the sin itself steal our focus, however ugly it is.  Let’s share the beauty of Jesus and His offer to save us from sin and death.  He is Salvation. He alone is what we need to counter the wiles of Satan.   Jesus wants to bring us life now and for eternity.  That is the good news.  That is The Gospel.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Serving God versus Following God

I have been debating within myself for awhile the difference between serving God and following God.  I have surmised that they are not the same; yes, they can overlap, but far too often they are not one and the same.

Let us take a brief respite from spiritual warfare to discuss this.  It all started when my daughter mentioned the One Word idea at the beginning of the New Year (2017).  I loved the idea of having one word from the Lord be my northern star for the year ahead.  My former pastor and I were having difficulties and I was trying to extricate myself from the church as graciously as I could.  I love serving God and so that is the word I picked:  "serve."

Sitting at my new church one morning, the Lord gave me the word He wanted me to have: "follow." At first I thought, "There really is no difference between following and serving God."  I have come to discover most emphatically there is.

Let's start with Jesus. How often do people gloss over those verses where Jesus is saying that all He does is in direct response to His Father?

John 5:19: "Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'"

John 12:49: "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken."

John 8:28: "So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.'"

Now, we as believers would say that Jesus served His Father.  I would rephrase that and say He served His Father only by following Him.  He spoke what His Father commanded Him to speak.  He did only those things commanded by Father to do.  

Perhaps we see Jesus going from person to person, event to event, with His Father's name on His lips, with His heart in the right place.  I now see Him differently:  I see Jesus up in the mountains, praying and asking His Father what He would like Him to do and say on this day.  Of course, Jesus wanted to serve His Father, but only by following His Father's lead.  

I have spent many years serving the church.  Serving God.  Serving others.  Same thing, right?  No. Now, serving the church is not wrong.  But, serving the church when God has not asked you to do so is.  For example, a well-intentioned woman asks you to serve in the nursery.  It's not wrong she asked you--there is a need to be sure--and she knows you love children.  It's already decided.  Right?  No. Serving the church and serving God are not identical.  If we think they are, then we risk several spiritual mishaps:

1.  I burn out because I am not operating in what God has called me to do.
2.  I am stepping in and doing something that God wanted someone else to do.
3.  Church leaders see a need and want it filled.  Have they waited on the Lord for guidance?  Is the overall program under God's leading?  
4.  Good intentions are not God-intentions.  It is not wrong to help out but only if I am acting in accordance with His direction.

How do you prevent those four things from happening?  Church leaders want us to serve God by serving the church.  So we always say, "Yes, I will be happy to help!" when approached.  

What if we said instead, "I will pray about it." 

Are we afraid that we won't sound spiritual?  That we will disappoint the person asking us?  That we will be disappointing God?  

Again, look at Jesus.  He went into the mountains to pray all the time.  He prioritized a relationship with His Father over serving Him.  Serving someone is not spending time with them.  Jesus wanted to spend time with His Father and His service, words, actions and thought all flowed from those intimate encounters with His Father.

Why do we do it differently?  We want to serve Jesus.  Why not instead of running out and serving soup in a homeless shelter, why not pray and spend time with Jesus, asking Him what He wants you to do?  It may be that He does want you to go to the shelter or perhaps He wants you to pray about the shelter.  

In James, he argues that good works come out of faith: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."  (2:14-17).  

Faith is our response to God's grace.  God initiates reconciliation and we, by faith, appropriate it.  We then want to show our gratitude to God's grace by reaching out in His love to others.  That's the order I am talking about:  God's grace + our time spent in Him =  His will for us.

If we are always working on His behalf and do not spend enough time in fellowship with Him, what we do may be for Him but not of Him.

In closing, consider the prodigal son's brother.  He's out in field serving his father.  He's not in the house with his father.  He is furious with his brother, to be sure.  But his words to his father are even more disturbing.  Let's set the scene:   

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

'My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours...'
(Luke 15: 25-31)

The older son is so angry he won't even come in to see his father.  Yet, this brother was serving his father.  But because his relationship with his father has been replaced with serving, he was angry at his father's generosity to the other brother.  In fact, this brother sees his serving as "slaving."  Serving God without a relationship will lead to that sense of being enslaved to a church, and we serve not out of love, but out of obligation.  

The father gently reminds him that all the father has is his.  Did the son ever sit down with his father, and ask him for a party?  Did he ever spend time and see the grief in his father's face and have compassion for him?  Listening to his words, I think not.

Serving God?  Following God?  I choose to follow Him.  I will say to those who mean well when asked to serve in the church, "I will get back to you." I will pray, spend time with the Father and then do what He has asked me to do, and only that. 

Now, I bet some of you are saying, "What?  Ask God about everything little thing, or every time someone makes a request of me?"  That's exactly what I saying.  How did Jesus sustain His intense ministry for three years?  Read again the scriptures I gave at the beginning.  

If He orders it, He's in it with you.  

If you are just being nice, disappointment and burnout are around the corner.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

S.T.A.N.D. on Who Satan Is--Spiritual Warfare VIII

     We are seeking to be Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated, so we can S.T.A.N.D. on the promises of God.  As a good soldier, you need intel--accurate information as to who the enemy is and how he operates.  Let’s go down the list of Satan’s names.  In the Bible, a name equals  character.  So, it’s not just a label; a name is a profile, a character sketch of who someone is.  Satan’s names describe who he is and what he does. Satan also compared to things we can relate to; whether it’s a name or a comparison, we need truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth to understand who our foe truly is. Jesus is that Truth.  Satan is the utter opposite of that.

Satan:  The name means “adversary.”  Doesn’t that cover it all?  He is God’s, ours and the Kingdom of God’s.  In everyday terms, he doesn’t play nice.  Ever. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

Devil:  The name means “false accuser” or “slanderer.”  Look at how he slaughtered Job’s character by insinuating that he only loved God because of what God had blessed him with:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11 NIV)

The Tempter:  Satan baits us, unpure and simple.  He knows our weakness and goes after us in that area. "For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain." (1 Thess. 3:5 NIV)

The Evil One:  Satan loves to snatch the Word out of our hearts as quickly as he can, so we are left with our own understanding or listening to his dark whispers: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path." (Matt. 13:19 NIV)

Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15 NIV)  No goodness and no mercy exists in Satan.  He aims his arrows at our heart, knowing that is the very place God desires to inhabit with His love.  Satan shoots to kill: "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  (Eph. 6:16 NIV)

The Prince of This World:  When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost dominion over this planet.  The physical realm hates a vacuum, and so does the spiritual.  Satan happily took over the planet.  If the Garden was the headquarters for Adam’s dominion, then when Adam was exiled due to his disobedience and sin, his authority was exiled as well.  Satan grabbed that leadership and took on this title.  But, he is not King.  Only Jesus possesses that title.  The Word states Adam's task: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15 NIV)

But having bit into that fruit that allowed him to live his life with his own knowledge and thus no need of God, God removed Adam: "So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." (Gen. 3:23-24 NIV)

Adam was cast out and so was Satan.  We are prey and he is a predator.  But Jesus is our Protector:  
"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31)

The God of This World:  Satan wants our devotion and worship, counterfeiting God’s desire for devotion and worship from us.  God allows us to choose; Satan loves blind obedience. "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."(2 Cor. 4:4)

The Prince of the Power of the Air:  Satan travels back and forth from his spiritual realm to this earth.  He has one purpose in mind and that is to harass and deceive human beings: "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…" (Eph. 2:2)

An Angel of Light:  Satan pulls out his shiny angel costume and flaunts himself to those whose spiritual discernment is lacking.  Ugliness in unappealing; beauty with ugliness at the core is deadly to those who don’t recognize it: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Cor. 11:14 NIV)

Lucifer: (“Morning Star”) These verses in Isaiah describe a king whose arrogance causes his fall.  It is striking how pride, whether in human beings or in the heart of an angelic being, leads to the same fate:  a fall.

How you have fallen from heaven,
   morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
   you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
   “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
   above the stars of God… (Is. 14:12-13)

Pride is the center, the very core of evil:  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov. 16:18)

A Wolf:  Predators look for the weak.  Predators show no mercy.  Predators don’t rest.  Neither does Satan: "The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it." (John 10:12)

A Lion:  A lion hides in the grasses.  It waits and waits.  The lion may crouch so long that the herd forgets it is there.  The herd may even think it has moved on.  But at the right moment, when the herd has let down its guard, BAM! It strikes with lightning speed and takes down its lunch for the day.  Satan is no different and like a lion, he is on the prowl, 24/7: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

An Angry Bird:  Throw down seed, and watch out, here come those hungry birds.  Throw down the Word of God, and here Satan comes, beak wide open.  He wants to gobble up that Word planted in your heart before it can take root and make a difference in your life: "As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up... Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path."(Matt. 13:4 & 18-19 NIV)

Great Dragon, Serpent, Deceiver of the Whole World:  That covers it all.  Reptiles have cold eyes and a desire to hunt.  Whether it’s a giant dragon metaphorically destroying all in its path, or a stealthy snake, slithering through a tree to catch the attention of a young woman, the motivation is always the same.  He wants to deceive so as to destroy: "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent, called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." (Rev. 12:9 NIV)

Father of Lies and A Murderer:  Deception is crafted from truth laced with lies.  Satan is the master craftsman of the lie.  It worked in the Garden and still works today, with tragic results. Lies and deception are a potent brew, for they lead to death: "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  (John 8:44 NIV)

Ruler(s) of the Darkness:  Satan has his kingdom and his methods.  But we are not to be ignorant of his schemes: "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." (Eph. 6:12)

Thief:  Jesus’ definition is unsurpassed.  Satan will never change: "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)

Author of Confusion:  If you are running around, confused and angry, that is not of God, even when you are doing the work of God.  If you are exhausted, guess who is hounding you?  God’s work leaves us spiritually refreshed, although we may be physically tired.  Inside, we know that we have made God smile.  If we are bitter, resentful, angry or numb, the work is not of God. We need His wisdom to do what He has called us to do, no more and no less: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…" (1 Cor. 14:33)

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  (James 3: 13-16 NIV)

God’s words are simple, direct and quietly spoken to your heart.  Satan gives you lots of detail and keeps giving you more and more to ponder, for now he has your full attention.  God’s voice is still, small, yet powerfully to the point as the prophet Elijah found out: "And he [the Lord] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19: 11-12)

If you review this catalogue of names, what do you find? 
Don’t be ignorant.  We obey what Jesus calls us to do:  "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor. 2:11). 

Whatever you are facing, God’s Word charts your course: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:5-6)

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." (Ps. 37:23-24)

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." (Prov. 16:9)

"Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." (Psalm 119:104-106)

Any deviation from God’s Word and the principles He sets forth in it will lead straight into Satan’s gaping jaws: "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Prov. 16:25 NIV)

What is Satan’s endgame?  What is his ultimate goal for us?  We will cover that next. 

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