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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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After The Rain

rainbow and boatA few days ago I wrote a blog post titled, Before The Rain,” using the story of Noah and the Ark (Genesis 5:32-10:1). The story of Noah details the destruction of the entire earth by a flood back in Noah’s day; however, the real story behind the flood has to do with obedience (as in Noah’s obedience to God to build the ark–see Genesis 6:22), and the lack thereof (as in obedience to God in general) in the rest of the human race (see Genesis 6:5; 6:11-12; 8:21). Obedience to God has never been popular among humans starting with the first humans (Adam and Eve) in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 2-3) and continuing right on through to today. And God stated in Genesis 8:21 that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” so that comes as no surprise. However, in Genesis 6:8, it is stated that “. . . Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

In the Genesis account, the rain and flooding lasted for 40 days (Genesis 7:17-23), but the whole earth was actually covered by the flood waters for 150 days (Genesis 7:24; 8:1-4). And once the earth was completely dry (Genesis 8:14), God told Noah and his family to come out of the ark (Genesis 8:15-19) along with all of the creatures that had been on the ark with them, and Noah built an altar to God and sacrificed burnt offerings on it (Genesis 8:20). And it was at this point that God said in His heart (Genesis 8:21-22):

Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”

And God made a covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1-11) and stated at the end of the covenant, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11).

And then God placed a sign in the sky which still shows up after the rain to this very day (Genesis 9:12-17):

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

And every time we see a rainbow in the sky it is a reminder to us of that original “everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

Besides the issue of obedience to God regarding the account of Noah, there is a second issue at hand in the story, and that issue is one of preparedness (as in being prepared for the “as yet” unforeseen). Jesus Christ talked about it in Matthew 24 when his disciples asked him what would be the sign of his coming (as in his second coming back to earth again after his crucifixion and resurrection which was very soon to take place at that time) and also the end of the age. The “end of the age” is not about another “destruction of the earth.” Rather, it has to do with when Jesus would be coming back again to reign on the earth during the Millennial period when he sets up his kingdom here on earth (see Revelation 20). And that kingdom culminates with the creation of “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” ~Revelation 21:1 (see full description in Revelation 21 & 22).

In Matthew 24, Jesus gives a number of warnings to his followers (and that includes those of us who believe in Him throughout the ages since that time). He warns us to “watch out that no one deceives you” and he stated many will come in his name and deceive many (verses 4 & 5) and that there would be “wars and rumors of wars” but that we should not be alarmed by this as “the end is still to come” (verse 6). He said “nations would rise against nations” and that “there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” and that “these are the beginning of birth pains” (verses 7-8).

Jesus further states in his answer to his disciples (again, this includes those of us who believe in Him throughout the ages since that time) that “you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me” (verse 9), and “that many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and that many false prophets will appear to deceive many people” (verses 10 & 11). And, “because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verses 12 & 13). And the most telling sign for our own generation to take heed of is this one found in verse 14:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The further a society drifts from the truth quoteNever in the history of the world has there been a time like now, when the gospel of the kingdom is literally being preached throughout the entire world as a testimony to all nations about Jesus Christ through the use of technology and the internet.

Jesus went on to state a number of signs that will occur during the period of time known as The Tribulation (the seven-year period of time which includes the last 3 1/2 years known as the Great Tribulation period) culminating in his second coming back to the earth which are found in Matthew 24:15-31. You can read about those signs at this link but I don’t want to get off the topic of this blog post by going into the details of that portion of Matthew 24.

To sum up all of the things that Jesus said would be the signs of the end times in Matthew 24:1-31, he stated the following in Matthew 24:32-44:

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Since these things obviously did not happen during the lifetime of the disciples who were with Jesus at that time he explained these things to them, the reference to this generation that Jesus makes in Matthew 24:34 when he stated: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” is, obviously, the generation that is living on the earth at the time all of these things in Matthew 24 do actually take place (see answer to the question, What did Jesus mean when he said, “This generation will not pass”?” at GotQuestions.org at this link).

Jesus clearly stated that “no one knows about the day or the hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36) of his return; he did clearly state in the very next few verses, Matthew 24:37-40:

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of Son of Man [which is Jesus Christ]. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark: and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. This is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. . . .”  

Going back to the actual days of Noah, the two main issues at hand back then, as they still are today, are (1) obedience to God, and (2) being prepared. There is much in our own society today that takes the focus off of both issues (as we tend to live in the “here and now” and mostly for what we want in this life) and also from what God has stated from the beginning, in Genesis 8:21 that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” We get so easily sidetracked at every turn. For example, just look at how easily sidetracked we get with smartphones and technology. They have literally transformed us (and our communication skills, which hasn’t always been a good thing) and taken hold of our attention spans very rapidly and in a few short years (especially with smartphones and iPods, etc.), and they keep us almost constantly distracted from the reality of what is really going on all around us.

However, back to the issue at hand. God has already stated that the inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And we don’t have to look very far to see just how true this statement is and has always been. Also, we have an very powerful adversary in this world who is at work in and around us, too, so it’s a “double whammy” against us. Regarding this adversary, Ephesians 6:10-18 states:

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Also, many folks have a caricature in mind of our adversary or mock that he and those powers even exist although with the presence of evil being so pervasive in our world today one would have to go to great lengths to believe that evil–beyond what is already a part of us–doesn’t exist. The source of our evil is two-fold–internal (within us) and external (as in spiritual forces as stated in the above verses–Ephesians 6:10-18). For more information on spiritual warfare, see this link at GotQuestions?org.

“As it was in the days of Noah,” so it still is today. . . . Some things never change, like human nature. However, there is a cure for it. God hasn’t left us helpless if we truly desire and want/seek help from Him. And it’s a free gift, too, but it’s not easy, and there is a cost associated with it, too (there is no “coasting along for the ride”). And that cure is found in Jesus Christ and stated clearly in John 3:16-18:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

followme_jesusWhen Jesus said, Follow me,” he meant it. If we truly want to follow Him (and only God knows our real heart attitude and motives), He empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do His will and not our own. Too often today we’ve been sold a bill of goods in some Christian circles that we can have anything we want if we just learn to say the right words and rarely is there ever talk about a transformedlife (see Romans 12, for example, to see what that life involves). Well, Jesus did say that one of the signs of the end times would be many false teachers who would come in his name (claiming to know Him–see Matthew 24:10-13) with a lot of deceptive teachings (see 2 Peter 2, Jude) to make Jesus Christ seem to be more palpable to our senses and much more appealing to our human flesh and desires. However, the cross of Jesus Christ is about dying to self; it’s not about appeasing self or giving into it.

One of the signs of the end of times that is increasingly more apparent in our day is found in Matthew 24:12-13 when Jesus stated, Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” A sure sign of a follower of Jesus Christ is his or her genuine love for others. And that’s much more then just acting nice around others. I Corinthians 13 gives us a picture of what that love looks like, and without it, nothing else will even make a difference. So I’ll end this post with a reminder of what real love looks like from that passage (specifically verses 4-8):

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails . . .

So let’s just do it . . . .

YouTube Video: “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Always Pray and Don’t Give Up

scale-of-justice1

I wrote the following blog post on November 3, 2013, and after reading it again a few moments ago, I decided now was a good time to reblog it as I’ve just passed the 6th Anniversary date (two days ago) of when I lost my job in Houston that has left me unemployed for all this time. Yesterday was the first day of my 7th year of unemployment, and now I have a significant housing issue to add to it that started in late September 2014 and is still ongoing. I’m reblogging this particular blog post written a year and a half ago in case you are in the midst of a major trial that never seems to end (and I totally sympathize with you), I think you will find the information to be a great encouragement as I did when I just reread it. The words are straight from Jesus in a parable that he told in Luke 18:1-8. So without further ado, here it is:

The Woman, the Judge, Justice, and God

Jesus Christ often taught in parables (short stories that illustrate truth) and there is an interesting parable found in Luke 18:1-8 that Jesus told His disciples regarding a woman (in this case a widow), and a judge who–after much time and persistence on the woman’s part–finally gave her the justice she needed from her adversary. Let’s read this short parable:

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

A study note in the MacArthur Study Bible regarding the judge’s response to the woman’s plea and then Jesus’ response (vv.5-8) states the following:

“What the judge would not do out of compassion for the widow or reverence for God, he would [and did] do out of sheer frustration with her incessant pleading.” [And Jesus responds by telling us to listen to what the unjust judge said] “(e.g., listen to the point of the story), namely, that God, who always does right and is filled with compassion for believers who suffer, will certainly respond to His beloved ones who cry for His help. He [God] may delay long, but He does so for good reasons (2 Peter 3:8-9) and when He acts, His vengeance is swift.”

The lesson this parable illustrates is found in the very first sentence—Always pray and don’t give up!!! We are not told how long the woman kept coming to the judge with her request for justice from her adversary nor what her adversary was doing to her that was causing her so much pain and injustice; however, she persisted and persisted and persisted—she never gave up. And while it appears to have taken a fair amount of time for the judge to finally grant her request for justice from her adversary (and the judge was not a God-fearing man nor did he care about what other people think), it was because of her continual persistence that he finally gave her the justice she so desperately needed from her adversary.

Are you going through a hard time that you don’t think will ever end? If so, remember this parable when you feel like giving up, and remember, too, that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God’s ever present help (coming to us in ways we cannot imagine if we will yield to him and not try to depend on ourselves for the answer) and bringing to mind the lesson in this parable when times have been really tough have kept me going through over four and a half years of still ongoing unemployment, [UPDATE April 23, 2015: I have now entered my 7th year of unemployment and a significant housing issue has now been added to the mix that has been and still is ongoing for the past seven months] and I’m not giving up! Don’t you give up, either . . .

Seek God’s face and always pray . . .

And never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Help” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Photo credit here

Not Negotiable

Not negotiableWe live in a world of “anything goes” and we hold back nothing if it brings us any amount of personal pleasure and/or we can afford it. “Go for the Gusto!” is our motto. “If It Feels Good, Do It!” we yell as we keep on “rockin’ down the highway” of life. Fifty Shades of Grey sure beats “all or nothing/black and white” thinking with all of its confining and self imposed restraints. Even modern psychology tells us that. And rules? They are meant to be broken, right? 

Right?

The truth is that some things are not negotiable. Death and taxes, for example.

Once again in a blast from the past–the dead speaking to the livingA.W. Tozer (1897-1963) speaks volumes to us as we continue to tolerate absolutely anything but the truth nowadays. The following is taken from Tozer’s book, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” specifically Chapter 38 titled, Some Things Are Not Negotiable.”

Some Things Are Not Negotiable

by A.W. Tozer

WILL ROGERS ONCE OPINED that a sure way to prevent war would be to abolish peace conferences.

Of course Will, as usual, had his tongue in his cheek; he meant only to poke fun at the weak habit of substituting talk for action. Still there is more than a little uncomfortable truth in his remark.

This above all others is the age of much talk. Hardly a day passes that the newspapers do not carry one or another of the headlines “Talks to Begin” or “Talks to Continue” or “Talks to Resume.” The notion back of this endless official chatter is that all differences between men result from their failure to understand each other; if each can discover exactly what the other thinks they will find to their delight that they are really in full agreement after all. Then they have only to smile, shake hands, go home and live happily ever after.

At the bottom of all this is the gluttenous, one-world, all-men-are-brothers philosophy that has taken such hold on the minds of many of our educators and politicians. (The hardheaded realists of the Communist camp know better; maybe that is why they are making such alarming advances throughout the world while the all-men-are-brothers devotees are running around in confusion, trying to keep smiling if it kills them.)

Tolerance, charity, understanding, good will, patience and other such words and ideas are lifted from the Bible, misunderstood and applied indiscriminately to every situation. The kidnapper will not steal your baby if you only try to understand him; the burglar caught sneaking into your house with a gun is not really bad; he is just hungry for fellowship and togetherness; the gang killer taking his victim for a one-way ride can be dissuaded from committing murder if someone will only have faith in his basic goodness and have a talk with him. And this is supposed to be the teaching of Jesus, which it most certainly is not.

The big thing now is to “keep in touch.” Never let the dialogue die and never accept any decision as final; everything can be negotiated. Where there is life there is talk and where there is talk there is hope. “As long as they are talking they are not shooting at each other,” say the advocates of the long palaver, and in so saying they forget Pearl Harbor.

This yen to confer has hit the church also, which is not strange since almost everything the church is doing these days has been suggested to her by the world. I observe with pained amusement how many water boys of the pulpit in their effort to be prophets are standing up straight and tall and speaking out boldly in favor of ideas that have been previously fed into their minds by the psychiatrists, the sociologists, the novelists, the scientists and the secular educators. The ability to appraise correctly the direction public opinion is moving is a gift not to be despised; by means of it we preachers can talk loudly and still stay out of trouble.

A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads “Thou shalt not disagree”; and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins “Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.” It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief. The purpose of these talks is not to confront truth, but to discover how the followers of other religions think and thus benefit from their views as we hope they will from ours.

It is a truism that people agree to disagree only about matters they consider unimportant. No man is tolerant when it concerns his life or the life of his child, and no one will agree to negotiate over any religious matter he considers vital to his eternal welfare. Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences; or Athanasius trying to rise above his differences with Arius in order to achieve union on a higher level; or Luther crawling into the presence of the pope in the name of a broader Christian fellowship.

The desire to be liked even if not respected is a great weakness in any man’s character, and in that of a minister of Jesus Christ it is a weakness wholly inexcusable. The popular image of the man of God as a smiling, congenial, asexual religious mascot whose handshake is always soft and whose head is always bobbing in the perpetual Yes of universal acquiescence is not the image found in the Scriptures of truth.

The blessing of God is promised to the peacemaker, but the religious negotiator had better watch his step. The ability to settle quarrels between members of God’s household is a heavenly gift and one that should be assiduously cultivated. The discerning soul who can reconcile separated friends by prayer and appeal to the Scriptures is worth his weight in diamonds.

That is one thing, but the effort to achieve unity at the expense of truth and righteousness is another. To seek to be friends with those who will not be the friends of Christ is to be a traitor to our Lord. Darkness and light can never be brought together by talk. Some things are not negotiable.

(Article taken from Man: The Dwelling Place of God, Chapter 38)

Tozer’s advice cuts to the quick. I sometimes wonder if Tozer were still alive today how popular he would be in today’s church with his often searing advice. We certainly don’t like anyone making us uncomfortable in the way we live our lives, whether inside the church or outside of it. We might even be tempted to throw rocks in his direction and discredit him as being some sort of old fashioned religious fanatic or just plain crazy at times. We like our “anything goes” philosophy and easy believism that doesn’t require much–if anything–from us, and we abhor anything or anyone who speaks against it. After all, we like to say that grace covers every sin that there is even though our hearts are totally unrepentant and we like things just the way that they are. We really don’t want to give up anything but we do want all the benefits that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

A relationship . . . ah, there’s the rub . . . .

smokescreenWe have so many distractions coming at us from all sides that there is just no time (so we say) to develop an actual relationship with Jesus. But we do want him to be there for us to help us get that new job or new car or (fill in the blank) we’ve been wanting for so long now. And what about the cross? We don’t want to go there personally but we are thankful that Jesus did take our place when he died on the cross. Too often in our modern day thinking (although this type of thinking has always been around) we consider it to be his cross and not one we have to personally bear just because we claim to follow him. However, there is a cost to us if we claim to follow after Jesus Christ (see article on counting the cost at this link).

I ran across an interesting definition this morning that fits in with this discussion. The word I looked up was smoke screen and here is the definition given for it from TheFreeDictionary.com:

~A mass of dense artificial smoke used to conceal military areas or operations from an enemy.
~An action or statement used to conceal actual plans or intentions.

We have an adversary in this world (see 1 Peter 5:8) who closely watches our every move, taking note of our weaknesses and making sure that those things we crave take up a lot of space in our lives. And he places smoke screens everywhere in our daily walk so that we can’t see the reality of what is really going on all around us at every moment. He uses things like money, materialism, gluttony, sex, greed, self, envy, jealousy, gossip, hate (and the list is endless) to keep us off track and lowering our guard until he has captured and destroyed us with the very excesses we cling to and refuse to give over to God. Our enemy uses our every weakness, and one of our biggest weaknesses is our ego and pride. And the enemy knows us all too well . . . . Here is what 1 Peter 5:8-11 states regarding this battle we face every moment of every day:

Be self-controlled and vigilant always, for your enemy the devil is always about, prowling like a lion roaring for its prey. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and remember that the strain is the same for all your fellow-Christians in other parts of the world. And after you have borne these sufferings a very little while, God himself (from whom we receive all grace and who has called you to share his eternal splendor through Christ) will make you whole and secure and strong. All power is his forever and ever, amen! (J.B. Phillips translation)

We rarely hear much about spiritual warfare today and we certainly don’t give it much thought on a daily basis, yet we are in a battle with our adversary every single day of our lives. Ephesians 6:10-18 speaks clearly about this battle we are neck deep in:

In conclusion be strong—not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armour so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armour of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Our adversary’s arsenal contains weapons we rarely ever recognize and they are usually wrapped up in distractions, temptations, and our own ego and pride (see 1 John 2:16) and in others, too. People can trip us up just as easily as possessions, money, food, sex, status, etc. Some of the greatest infighting occurs between folks who consider themselves to be Christian. So can knowledge if it leads us away from the truth or incorporates itself (like yeast) within the truth. Our enemy lurks everywhere.

We must see this world for what it is as described in 1 John 2:15-17:

Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die. (J.B. Phillips translation)

Unfortunately, we often see spiritual warfare as something archaic and irrelevant to our lives once we become a Christian when in reality the war has just heated up 100%. And some things in life are absolutely not negotiable, not if we call ourselves Christian. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, and don’t believe anyone who says you can have it both ways. While we may laugh at the image of a devil in a red suit holding a pitchfork, he’s much more stealth than that . . . .

And the truth of the matter is this . . . 

The reality of spiritual warfare . . .

Is no laughing matter . . . .

YouTube Video: “Overcomer” by Mandisa:

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The Woman, the Judge, Justice, and God

scale of justiceJesus Christ often taught in parables (short stories that illustrate truth) and there is an interesting parable found in Luke 18:1-8 that Jesus told His disciples regarding a woman (in this case a widow), and a judge who–after much time and persistence on the woman’s part–finally gave her the justice she needed from her adversary. Let’s read this short parable:

Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

A study note in the MacArthur Study Bible regarding the judge’s response to the woman’s plea and then Jesus’ response (vv.5-8) states the following:

“What the judge would not do out of compassion for the widow or reverence for God, he would [and did] do out of sheer frustration with her incessant pleading.” [And Jesus responds by telling us to listen to what the unjust judge said] “(e.g., listen to the point of the story), namely, that God, who always does right and is filled with compassion for believers who suffer, will certainly respond to His beloved ones who cry for His help. He [God] may delay long, but He does so for good reasons (2 Peter 3:8-9) and when He acts, His vengeance is swift.”

The lesson this parable illustrates is found in the very first sentence—Always pray and don’t ever give up!!! We are not told how long the woman kept coming to the judge with her request for justice from her adversary nor what her adversary was doing to her that was causing her so much pain and injustice; however, she persisted and persisted and persisted—she never gave up. And while it appears to have taken a fair amount of time for the judge to finally grant her request for justice from her adversary (and the judge was not a God-fearing man nor did he care about what other people think), it was because of her continual persistence that he finally gave her the justice she so desperately needed from her adversary.

Are you going through a hard time that you don’t think will ever end? If so, remember this parable when you feel like giving up and remember, too, that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). God’s unfathomable and ever present help and bringing to mind the lesson in this parable when times have been really tough have kept me going through over four and a half years of still ongoing unemployment, and I’m not giving up! Don’t you give up, either!!!

So seek God’s face and always pray . . .

And don’t ever give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Help” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

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Satanic Rip-Off

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:

Satanic Rip-Off

I Peter 5:8-9

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.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 115
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

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 Moores 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 Unexpectednow 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.
~Prov. 3:5-8

YouTube Video: “What A Fool Believes” (1979) by the Doobie Brothers:

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