I know, I know . . . you have visions of a devil in a red suit with a pitch fork, right? Now I know Halloween is just around the corner, but that’s not why I decided to write a post with this title. Actually, the title comes from a devotion I just read by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Satanic Rip-Off” and I will get to it in a few minutes. But first I want to tell you something . . . .
Okay, are you listening?
A few days ago I wrote a blog post titled, “That Dreaded ‘D’ Word,” and used a couple of phrases that I had to chew on and swallow myself tonight. The blog post was on the topic of discipline (you can read it by clicking on this link) and included a description of how cows were quietly led onto a ramp at a slaughterhouse and treated with care all the way until the end when the cow didn’t even know what hit it right between the eyes and it was instantly transformed from livestock to meat. I used two phrases in that post that became a reality for me tonight: (1) that we need to “wake up and smell the coffee,” and (2) to not end up like the cows (in other words, no “mooing” allowed).
So, without further ado, let’s start off with the devotion from Dr. Charles Swindoll:
A basketball fan at the Portland airport awaited the arrival of the Trailblazers following a victory over the Lakers and attempted to scalp a couple of tickets to the nest game. As the shyster wormed through the crowd, he located a well-dressed man who listened to his offer.
“How much?” asked the gentleman.
“One hundred fifty bucks,” the scalper replied under his breath.
“Do you realize you’re talking to a plainclothes officer of the law?” the man asked. “I’m going to turn you in, fella.”
Suddenly the seller began to backpedal. He talked about how large a family he had . . . how much they needed him . . . how he’d never do it again.
“Just hand over the tickets and we’ll call it even,” said the well-dressed man. “And I’d better never catch you here again!”
But the worst was yet to come. The man was no officer at all. Just a quick-thinking guy who used a little ingenuity to rip off two choice seats to the next playoff game (as he anonymously admitted in the local newspaper several days later).
Satan’s strategy is just as ingenious and effective. For example, he hears what we hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning, and in the process he plans his approach. He baits the rip-off trap, then sets it up with just the right hair trigger:
~An argument in the car after church over where to go for dinner.
~Preoccupation with some worrisome problem during the message.
~A personality conflict with another church member.
Silently Satan prowls around, camouflaged in the garb of our physical habits and our mental laziness, seeking to devour. Then, at the precise moment when it will have it’s greatest impact, he snatches away the very truth we need the most.
Remember that next Sunday morning. Prepare your heart and mind before the service, girding yourself with the armor of God.
Don’t let Satan rip you off.
In case you question the effectiveness of Satan’s strategy,
think back just two or three weeks. Maybe even one will do.
Do you remember the sermon title? How about the outline?
Do you recall a couple of applicable principles?
You see, his plan is working brilliantly.
You don’t even have to wait until next Sunday to prepare yourself for Satan’s onslaught. He’s prowling every single moment of every single day . . . .
At this point, before I tell you my story, I want to quote a paragraph from Dr. Russell Moore’s book titled, “Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ,” (Crossway, 2011), at the end of a chapter titled, “Desert Reign,” which fits right in with this discussion:
“The satanic powers are watching you. They’re peering into your life to see what catches your attention, what puffs up your ego. They’re evaluating what kind of Babylon you want to build for yourself, and they’ll make sure you get it. Satan is as ambitious for your goals as you are, maybe more so. He’ll give you the power you want, the glory you crave, as long as you will fall down and obtain it his way. The powers don’t care if we are respected or influential or moral or conservative, as long as we’d rather be magnified then crucified. Satan doesn’t mind if our values are right side up, so long as our crosses are upside-down” (p. 161).
Now that paragraph should give us all pause for thought. As long as what we want and having things go our way is more important than finding out what Jesus wants for us and living His way, we are traveling the same path as those cows.
Okay, it’s “true confessions” time right now. (Don’t you just hate that–having to admit when you’ve really screwed up?) Well, I screwed up . . . big time!!! And I didn’t even realize it until tonight (and it’s midnight as I am writing this blog post). I discovered it when my crying turned into “mooing” earlier tonight.
I’m totally frustrated, folks. If you’ve been reading my blog posts you know I’ve been unemployed for three and a half years now with no end in sight. And, you know that at the end of August I took a little trip back to Houston–the city where I lost my job three and a half years ago. AND . . . you know that in a totally unexpected circumstance I met a man I’ve named “Red” (because I don’t know his real name and he has auburn hair). AND . . . I wrote several blog posts about him (which should have sent off alarm bells much earlier then it did considering my conversation with him maybe lasted all of ten minutes). Now, when I was talking with him I didn’t give it a lot of thought as I talk with a lot of folks, women and men, that I meet when I’m out and about and this was really no different. However, two days later when I was in Galveston I woke up and he was jammed in my thoughts (I didn’t expect that at all) and I started building a scenario out of it . . . you know . . . “What if?” (Well, I did write a little blog post about that just five days ago–see “Expect the Unexpected”—now didn’t I???) Do you see where this is going?
Now I know I’m enormously frustrated from being unemployed for so long, and the financial ramifications from being unemployed this long are enormous to say the least, so–to put it mildly–I was primed and ready to escape into some “fantasy” to make the ugly reality go away for a while. And “Red” did that for me (well, he has no idea he did that for me but I do).
Now, it’s not that he wasn’t a nice guy (he was) with the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen on a man (they were) and he did pull at my heartstrings like no man has in years and years, but folks, the conversation maybe lasted all of ten minutes!!! And I live in Florida and he lives in Louisiana!!! And we don’t even know each other’s name or any contact info!!! HELLO!!! Earth to Sara . . . .
And the reality of it all hit me tonight. I got caught up in a fantasy because I am, well, so incredibly sick of reality. I’ve had a huge dose of “Reality 101” for four years now (ever since I landed in Houston the first time which has left me unemployed for the past three and a half years with all of the ensuing ramifications that come from being unemployed long term). And just as that quote from Dr. Moore’s book stated, “The satanic powers are watching you. They’re peering into your life to see what catches your attention . . . .” And “Red” definitely caught my attention.
Now I have no idea why God has allowed this period of unemployment to last so incredibly long with still no end in sight (guess I’m still learning some hard lessons), and He heard from me about it at great length this evening (and that’s when I discovered the crying was turning into “mooing”). I wanted out of my current “situation” NOW even if I had to escape into a fantasy for a while. And escape I did . . . but it didn’t change my reality. It just made me very unhappy because it was all so incredibly futile.
So I’ve repented in sackcloth and ashes . . . . (and the “mooing” has stopped).
Because I believe God is sovereign and that He can do anything, even the miraculous (which He does all the time, we just don’t notice it half the time), if He wants me to meet “Red” again at some future point in time, that’s His business. But right now He wants me to get my head out of the clouds and keep my eyes focused on Him and leave the future in His hands.
So I’m taking my hands off and giving my heart back to Him . . . .
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
YouTube Video: “What A Fool Believes” (1979) by the Doobie Brothers:
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