Nothing But An Opportunist

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13

After having made three tries and failed, the devil departed from Jesus. A defeat didn’t end his attempts. The retreat only meant he went to the shadows to regroup. Luke says that he departed from Jesus until another opportune time. When would be an opportune time?

  • When his mother and brothers thought he was under demonic influence.
  • When he was called the illegitimate son of Mary.
  • When Judas betrayed Him in the garden.

King David reinforced the truth of this experience with different wording. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. Psalm 18:18  

Nothing has changed. Today, the devil still looks for fainthearted saints. He waits to see ‘blood in the water’; knowing that a weakened enemy is more easily taken down. Don’t expect your worst battle on a good day. It’s on an awful day, when you don’t feel like fighting, that you need to put on your armor.

Jesus had an advantage we don’t have. He knew Lucifer in heaven. He knew his passion for power and revenge. He knew that three defeats in some wilderness wasn’t going to send him away for good.  He was out to take God’s people down to the very end of the age, if possible. God has allowed him to have limited power until that final victory but it’s always under the umbrella of God’s promises of redemption and glory.

What’s the bottom line? We have to know how to fight when we’re weak. 1.) Clothe yourself in the Word. 2.) Pray, pray, pray! 3. ) Live holy. 4.) Rest in God’s love and favor. Remove one of these and there’s a chink in our armor. Without the word, we’ve abdicated our sword. Without prayer, our communication lines to power and authority are crippled. Without holiness, we’ve opened doors to the kingdom of darkness. Without resting in love and favor, we’ll experience a loss of resolve to do the first three. I mean, why bother!

No matter how tough it got for Jesus, no matter how hot the temptation, no matter how bloody the path, our Savior never forsook the Word, prayer, holiness, and an assurance that He was indeed God’s beloved Son ~ destined for glory.

If ever it were time for me to walk in Your footsteps, Jesus, it’s in this. Amen

 

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The Battle Of Unbelief

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

It’s hard to trust something or someone that you can’t see.  Jesus knew that and and said that those of us who place all our confidence in Him will be blessed.  Faith can erode quickly when we see no evidence of an invisible God.  I knew what it’s like to arrive at a place where I had no confidence in Him anymore.  I ceased to see the vastness of God but the issue was not about a God who had grown anemic; it was about how the enemy had deceived me through my adversity. He lied and I bought it.  I had fallen into the black hole of unbelief.  I found myself on a dead end street until faith was restored.

Now that I’m older, here’s what I’ve learned.  At the point where belief and unbelief meet at the fork in the road, self-preservation is born.  When I believe God to be impotent, I rise to the occasion to take care of myself.  In arrogance and in fear, I conceive ways to cope in order to survive.  This is all a reaction to the lie that God is powerless.  I do not realize that my plans, oaths, and new alliances will be wasted.

What is the battle plan?  1. Confess my unbelief and my fears.  2. Ask God to comfort me and give me faith.  3. Force-feed the Word into my heart.   4. Go back to the specific place where belief ended and unbelief was conceived; ask the Holy Spirit to speak to me about that tenuous place so that I can understand and learn from it.

Jesus is tender with my wounds.  He is the gentle healer.  His heart is for me but I must be tough on my sin of unbelief.  Healing comes when I find the corresponding truths from God’s Word that confront my specific lies.  I begin to live differently when I recite God’s Words out loud.  (“I once believed _________ but God said ______________.”)  This takes time.  There must be a daily resolve to keep embracing what God says by asking Him to write His Word on my heart.  What follows if I am diligent?  Spiritual prosperity.  An enlarged view of God.  The glorious freedom that comes from living in truth.

You meant it!  “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”  I believe.   Amen

Our Children In A Wicked and Perverse Generation

For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; They will spring up among the grass like a willows by the watercourses. Isaiah 44:3

Children grew up faster in the first century. Jesus knew, prior to school age, what living under the boot of the Roman Empire meant for his neighbors and the people of Nazareth. Evidence of oppression was everywhere. During the time of His childhood, Caesar Augustus, just for the pure pleasure of flexing his power, sent a mounted army into the temple to slaughter 3,000 Jews at the time of the Passover. (An event recorded by historians.) The Jewish people also had to pass crucifixion scenes lining the road in and out of Jerusalem. Parents taught their children early about God and eternal life. Evil was prevalent so faith was necessary.

In my generation, it was possible to raise children in an overly protective bubble. Many children never went to a funeral; they never encountered a deceased relative. Small communities were usually church going communities. People rarely locked their homes as civility ruled and trust in mankind was possible. While this was wonderful on the one hand, it also produced a generation of people who lived for ‘the now’. There was no urgency to provide spiritual instruction. Need for God was numbed out by peace and contentment.

But “Leave It To Beaver” has long passed. Our world has deteriorated into chaos and evil. Children can’t be protected from the news. Attempting to keep them in a protective bubble is impossible once they approach Kindergarten. While we grieve for their loss of innocence, we are also presented with an opportunity to show them what hope in Jesus looks like. We can model how to live in the promises of God. When scripture is life-saving for adults, children will embrace it as life-saving. Prayer will no longer be perfunctory at mealtimes. It will be a way of life as families look to the heavens together for the grace to live and the hope to endure.

I remember that Josiah, a righteous King, was raised in violent times. His father was the wicked King Amnon. Horrific scenes of child sacrifice were commonplace and Baal worship prevailed. Amnon made Josiah and his other sons pass through fire, practice magic, learn divination skills, and thought nothing of shedding innocent blood in great quantity in front of his children. In spite of this, when Josiah inherited the throne, he turned to the God of his fathers and walked righteously. He was not scarred for life. He did not embrace wickedness though it was modeled exclusively for him as a young boy.

God has chosen these times in which to raise our children and grandchildren. He who calls a people unto Himself makes a way for them to hear His voice. He cups His hands around their spirits and preserves their ability to understand and treasure righteousness instead of evil. Hope is alive and God can be trusted with our little ones.

Though your children walk through the fire, we will not be consumed. Amen

God Shining Through Me. Why Wouldn’t I Want That?

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:10

 If each of us is a container for the Spirit of God to live His life, why is He not on full display through the people of His church?

I’m convinced that life is one long series of choices where I choose whether or not to quench the Spirit. He speaks; but then I turn my ear toward more enticing voices. He suggests; but I ignore His suggestions and adopt something that promises instant gratification. He begs obedience; but I procrastinate and then live in perpetual guilt. He woos me to behold Him in all His glory; but my desire for him is dulled by the lights and glitter of Babylon.

The only time I am more than willing to drown out everything that competes with the Spirit is when I suffer. My need of Him is stronger than my need for things that offer little consolation. Stripped of everything that used to matter, Jesus is in full view. His voice is clear and merciful. “I’m here!” His invitation is gracious though I don’t deserve the welcome He extends for this prodigal’s homecoming. As I sink into waves of mercy, He proceeds to say what He has said across the ages to repentant sinners. “Go and sin no more.” Of course. How could I think of doing less after such a lifesaving encounter!  And yet I do.

Are you in great need today?  Need is a gift because it focuses our eyes on the One we need but rarely depend on.  Like you, my greatest God-moments were experienced in fiery trials.  And like you, my dullest spiritual experiences were lived in the ‘valley of no need.’  The truth is ~ I am always in great need but shy away from asking God to show me exactly where.  My pride tempts me to pretend that I’m stronger than I really am.  Then, self-sufficiency quenches the Spirit.  I lose.  My world loses.

Show me my need, even when Your conviction burns.  In Jesus name, Amen

Healing From Destructive Words

As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.  Psalm 18:30

Truth and love are always paired in the context of the Gospel. God speaks that way and as His child, I am asked to communicate with others like this too. Truth can be brutal but when wrapped in love and kindness, it does not injure. It instructs. But how many have claimed to be truth tellers in the name of Christ only to do long-term damage to a child or young disciple. Even the most seasoned Christian can be brought low in an instant by reckless words spoken without grace.

The only cure for the deep pain of others’ words is to allow God to speak the truth in the context of love and tenderness.  I must be willing to disown hurtful words and no longer have them define me in any way. These injurious comments should be dealt with severely at the cross, in prayer.What do I do with the hurtful attitude of the one who originally spoke it?  I ask God to remove the injury of their intent.  If their comment came with anger or revenge, Jesus will deal with the spirit that came with the words and cleanse me from all their effects.

For each of us who has sustained damage from the words of another, I must isolate the words, reflect on them, examine the damage and then talk to Jesus about it all. I must own any sinful reactions I had to their sin against me. Anger, revenge, sharp retorts, etc.. How do I heal? Here is a prayer.

“Lord, nullify the effects of these comments under the power of Your shed blood. Take these words from my mind and my heart.  Remove the arrows that wounded my soul so deeply.   Make it as though the words had never been spoken.  I forgive the person who spoke them and give up my right to take revenge.  I put this person in Your hands for You to rule righteously.  Arise on my behalf.  Hear my prayer.  Hold me, breathe over me, kiss my heart with Your living Word and may I live in abundant life.  Lord, I stand today on Your promise.  “The Sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings.”  Malachi 4:2   Because of Jesus, I pray…Amen

 

 

To Whom Am I Grafted?

I am the true vine.  John 15:1

For a vine to produce fruit, it must first be planted in the earth.  God knew that and placed his Son here.  Jesus lived, laughed, wept, made friends, and was betrayed here.  Through it all he became our friend.  If we cultivate a relationship with him, we will enjoy spiritual riches.

Because he was planted as the Vine, he made it possible for us to be grafted to him.  When we are, we flourish and begin to bear the spiritual fruit for which we were born.  This brings a profound sense of well-being not found anywhere else.

If we are grafted to any other vine, the fruit may look good but will eventually be revealed as counterfeit.  Time spent attached to the wrong vine will result in a river of tears when its fruit is finally exposed.  We will grieve over wasted years and suffer disillusionment.

The vine of other relationships will leave us wanting, for other people cannot give all that our souls need.  The vine of prestige will be satisfying momentarily, but the fickle public will replace us with someone new and better in their eyes.  The vine of materialism will offer us trappings that look good, but they will become obsolete or wear out over time.

Only the true Vine can nourish us with everlasting life.  “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.  I will betroth you in faithfulness.”  Hosea 2:19-20  Such connection to Christ will bear fruit identical to his.  WE will be righteous, just loving, compassionate, and faithful.  If we lack anything of Jesus, we may be grafted to a wrong vine.  Time to do some gardening.

Jesus, I want to be completely grafted to You.  Amen

When I Can’t See

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.  John 20:14

Nothing short of seeing Jesus would make Mary stop crying.  Two angels appeared earlier, and though she experienced a conversation with heavenly beings, her weeping continued.  She had a one-track mind, and it was focused on Jesus’ absence.  She grieved that he was not where she expected him to be.  Yet he was there.  She simply didn’t recognize him.

Mary had a crisis of faith, as I do when I’m tossed by the storms of life. The roaring sound of the waves drowns out Jesus’ whispers.  The fog and the mist obscure my sight of him.  I think he’s missing yet he stands near.  I weep for his absence though he has his arms securely around me.  I accuse him of abandoning me but he has already moved heaven and earth to give me intimate access to him.

King David reassured me of this.  “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted.”  Psalm 34:18  I may rest in this certainty.  If I seek Jesus, he is near.  My relationship with him is driven by faith, not by sight.

Mary would have been comforted if she had recovered the dead body of Jesus but Jesus gave her more than what she asked for.  He appeared alive, not dead.  We who seek heaven’s treasures always find riches beyond our wildest imagination.  God gives us more than we could have dreamed of.  He is generous, extravagant, and delights in giving lavish gifts.  If we weep at our tomb of loss today, let’s hang on.  Jesus is with us and our sorrow will turn to indescribable joy.

Lord, I trust that you’re here.  You will reveal yourself in your time, by your mercy and by your loving-kindness.  Amen