Friday, May 25, 2018

Stronghold Starter #1: Apathy/Judgement..."Why Should I Care?"

Let's go to the gates that have secured Garden of Eden.  Paradise is barred.  Angels with a flaming sword see to that.

Go a little further and you will see a family.  A father is tilling the soil, sweat dripping from his forehead.  A mother is preparing vegetables, soon to be placed in a pot that steams over a fire.  Two sons are in the distance.  We don't hear what they are saying, for they are moving further away.  Soon one son returns from back over the horizon.  He has a sort of sneer on his face.  Are those blood splatters on his tunic? 

Now, for the encounter:"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?'
'I don’t know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother’s keeper?'" (Gen. 4:9)

Let's unpack this horrible moment and its origin.  Pride is at the core of this as it is with all stronghold starters.  Cain had pride in his offering, despite it not following the Lord's instructions for offerings:

"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast."

Obviously, the Lord has instructed that the offering be from a firstborn creature, not from a fruit or a vegetable.  The Lord was training humanity to see that a life substituted for a life pleases Him and makes restitution, even this far back in our history.  Of course, this foreshadows the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world; these people did not know that, of course.  But the Lord asks not for our understanding (though He will reveal His plans as time goes on) but our obedience to His Word.  

Abel was obedient and Cain was not.

Let's listen in the dark satanic whisperings in Cain ear: 

Forget he’s your brother!
He doesn’t deserve to live for making you look bad with his sacrifice!
What’s wrong with your fruits and vegetables? They’re good enough!
Who does Abel think he is, bringing that lamb? Why should he be favored over you?
Is he special because he’s being obedient? Get real. He’s just kissing up.
It doesn’t matter what you bring…just bring something.
He’s always making you look bad!

Are you just gonna sit around and let him get away with it? Again?

Pride.  Pure and simple.  That's the beginning of the end.  For despite pride at the core of Cain's heart, you see a somewhat going-through-the-motions kind of guy on the outside.  

Until the dirty deed is done.  
The Lord then confronts Cain, and we get an unbridled response of apathy and judgement from Cain.  In essence, he is saying,   

Why should I care?  
He's not my problem.
He's his own problem.
He should be taking care of himself.
No one is looking after me.
If he's not around, that's his issue, not mine.  

Pride says, I don't have to care, because you are not my problem.
Pride says, If you have inconvenienced me in any way, I can ignore you.
Pride says, It is about me ultimately.  So, what do you have to do with me?  

Ugly.  God wanted this family to live in community together.  So, when Abel prepared the offering, Cain could have helped.  It wasn't Abel's offering per se; it was the family's offering.  So, the fact that Abel did it on his own, with Cain skulking around elsewhere, says that Cain had already isolated himself from his brother early on.  Cain has a "me versus you," kind of thinking, which quickly degrades into "I am better than you."   

Now, for the solution to a prideful apathy:

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (Gal. 6:9-10)

How can we do this?  

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col. 3:15-17)

Who do we follow?  

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!" (Phil. 2:2-8)

Cain needed to see his brother as a companion not a competitor.  We need to see each other like that as well.  We are the Body of Christ, with His love as the animating substance in all the members.  

There are people who suffer from auto-immune disorders, when the body attacks itself. Pride, manifesting itself in apathy and judgement, is when His Body attacks Itself.  

Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate pride in your heart, then lay it on the altar.  


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Stronghold Starters

I am back.  My winter was rough--I suffer from depression and have for many years.  Sometimes it gets the better of me, so I went on hiatus.  Spring has come to the mountains with wild flowers a-plenty and so I thought, Hey, it's time to blog again!  So away we go...

I have posted a lot about spiritual warfare.  I am no means an expert, but my studies have led me to ponder what allows Satan to gain a stronghold in our lives.

The word "stronghold" in Greek means "castle."  Let us consider a castle for a moment.  How do you start to build a castle?

Select a strategic area in the landscape.  Sticking a castle 20 miles way up in the hills would be useless.  You put it where you can control the surrounding area for miles around, with good views and a seemingly invincible structure to wow your enemies and comfort your people.

Excavate the land and prepare it.  Bring in local materials.  Build a strong foundation.  A castle that is wobbly or easily knocked over wouldn't be considered worth the effort.  Having the castle fall down after one or two onslaughts would be a waste of materials, time and labor, and would be laughable in terms of protection.

Build slow and sure.  Rome wasn't built in a day nor should a strong castle be.

Make it look intimidating.  No frou-frou.  Strong walls, tall ramparts, strong gate and lots of strategically located vantage points and attack points from which to engage and vanquish (that's the whole point, isn't it?  You don't build castles when all is peaceful) your foes.  Once vanquished, you keep them subdued with your mere presence in your castle.

You are safe inside this castle.  Your enemies do not just stroll in and you are able to survive their attacks.

Think about the Trojan War.  The Greeks attacked this city on a hill for ten years to no avail.  Then, hidden inside a peace offering of a large wooden horse to the Trojans, the Greeks finally got inside the city walls by stealth alone.  Then, once the Trojans had partied themselves into a stupor, the Greeks emerged (having waited quite a while cramped inside that horse) and BOOM! they attacked and vanquished the Trojans.

Many times we think about ourselves in Christ as dwelling in a strong citadel of His love, protection and forgiveness.  True.  But, Satan, even with us strong believers, still manages to sneak into our lives and wreak havoc.   Newer believers, despite wanting to follow Jesus, get broadsided so often that sometimes they doubt their salvation.

What is the "Trojan Horse" then?  How does Satan get into our castle and starts to erect his own?  Here are the stronghold starters and the attitudes that is contained within them (which no one sees but God and maybe you, if you are being listening to the Holy Spirit's voice):

1. Apathy/Judgement: Why should I care?

2. Knowledge: I am the smartest/most spiritual person in this place.

3. Not Forgiving: Show mercy? I don't get any.

4. Greed/Envy: I deserve more. Others? Less.

5. Insecurity/Fear/Lack of Trust: God is not reliable.  I take care of me.

6.  Lust:  I deserve to have my needs met, no matter the cost.  

7.  Doubt/Confusion:  "Did God really say..."  (Gen. 3:1)

8.  Past wounds, Physical & Mental health Challenges:  I am who they say I am.

9.  Offense/Anger/Hatred:  I only give people what they deserve.

10.  Hypocrisy/Denial:  Only my truth counts.

Now wait a minute, you might be saying, The world acts this way, but believers?  We are new creations in Christ.  He has cast such ugliness away.  

Yes, but the old nature wants to creep in, take over and the enemy of your soul is all too happy to help.  If we think we are immune to such attitudes, Satan has already established a stronghold.  What does His Word say?

"This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts." (1 John 1: 5-10)

Our pride is the way in for Satan into our lives.  Pride is the Greek soldiers hiding inside what looks to be, on the outside, respectable and Christ-like.  We appear to be a gift to others, when we are really hiding something deeper, more sinister inside.  That inner pride will someday disrupt whatever we are doing for the Lord, which is Satan's endgame.  Satan wants to render you useless to the Kingdom of God and all the while you are denying that you have any issues.

I am going to explore each of these stronghold starters.  Pride feeds each of the attitudes and then each of the attitudes feeds pride.  It's a deadly to the soul kind of exchange, and it starts very subtly.  Sometimes we are so deceived as to our own self-righteousness, (we would never call it "pride--that's what unbelievers have!) we don't notice we are compromised until we are losing our ministry, our family, maybe even the will to live.

Join me.  It's good to be back. 

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