Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘satan’

Robin Williams with maskIn searching among the many photos of Robin Williams, I’m surprised by my emotion.  I’m in awe of this creature of countless expressions and I believe that God mourns his apparent suicide.  The Potter of William’s life took such care to shape a vessel for esteemed use.  Surely, Williams brought laughter, posed questions and made us think.  But what did he think of himself?  Could he no longer laugh or find joy because his identity was so precariously unsure?

Williams was somebody.  And while we can no longer help him recognize his true identity, we can help ourselves and our children.

Our identity is not actor or senator or founder and CEO of Microsoft.  Our identity is not Victoria’s Secret model or teacher of the year or Supreme Court justice.  All of these are types of vocations or things we chose to do that affect the world around us.  Our identity is not heterosexual or homosexual.  These are behaviors and ways to grow–or not grow–the family tree.  Our identity is what God says we are.  To the baptized Christian, He says,  “You are my adopted child in Jesus Christ.  You are my heir.”  Nothing–no, not one thing save our own rejection of this identity–can change who we are in God’s eyes.

Our value comes not from anything we do, but from what Jesus Christ did for us.  The Savior of our lives has covered us with His Robe of Righteousness.  Now, when God looks at us–even when we’re suffering sin and depression–He sees the treasures for whom Jesus gave all He had.  Did anyone tell this to Williams?  Are we sharing this truth with family members, neighbors and friends?  Or are we reluctant to speak this truth because we, too, are deceived about who we really are?

In her post “Murderous Mendacity of Depression,” Elizabeth Scalia wrote,

Depression is a hissing false witness. It lies and tells someone there is no hope; it lies and declares, “you’re a fraud”; it lies when it warns you to hide your feelings, because people won’t love you if they know how terrified and alone and desperate you feel; it lies and sneers that you’re weak — that you can just snap out of it, anytime, if you really want to; it croons the lie that love is not real, and hope is for suckers; it whispers the most insidious of lies: that your pain will never ebb, cannot be transcended, and has no value at all.

After a while, the pain begins to feel like all you are and all there is: a worthless, pointless void. And when your life becomes just pain-without-end, suffering-without-meaning, tomorrow seems like less a promise than a prison.

When depression wins, it is such a damned tragedy, no matter whether it has carried off a big rich somebody, or an ordinary nobody, because it is the victory of an incessant liar.*

Jesus knows the liar.

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV).

We all hear the hiss of satan.  The evil one tempts: “Did God really say . . . ?”  The question stirs doubt.  In doubt, we put ourselves in God’s place and assume control.  After we do what we want and suffer the consequences, the tempter becomes our accuser: “Did God really say He can forgive you?”

Both questions are intended to separate us from the one who knows us better than we know ourselves.  The one who calls us by name.  The one who promises a future of hope.

It is right to mourn the loss of people who, in darkness or desperation, take their own lives.  Then we must ask: In light of my true identity, how shall I live?

Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or  nakedness, or danger, or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-38 ESV).

 * I am appreciative to Sheila Liaugminas
who quoted Scalia in her Mercatornet article of 8-13-14

Read Full Post »

satan tempting JesusIn today’s world, we are all at risk of having our identity stolen.  We call this crime “identity theft”.

But do we realize that identity theft begins at birth?  Alfred Kinsey and other humanists attempted to steal away our true identity when they theorized that “children are sexual from birth”.  But children are not sexual from birth, not in the way that Kinsey meant.  It is not normal or beneficial for a child to engage in sexual activity.  While it is true that a boy or girl will, with maturity, develop sexual desires and have sexual inclinations, it is hardly true that a boy or girl should be defined by those desires or inclinations.  We are not, first and foremost, “sexual beings”.  We are male or female persons called by God’s name and created for His purpose.  We are not primarily “sexual beings” but spiritual beings with body, mind and soul.  Our identity and how we live based on that identity has eternal ramifications.

We humans are not the first to have our identity challenged.

Not long after His Baptism, the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  Satan literally challenged Jesus’ identity as the Son of God.

How did Jesus respond?  “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 4:7).

When Satan persisted in challenging Jesus’ identity, the Son of God replied, “Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve'” (v.10).

In today’s world, there is the very real risk of “identity theft”.  It happens when our credit card or personal information is stolen.  It is a crime.

But the subtle and far more dangerous identity theft that is practiced by the culture and in sex education classrooms should be recognized and resisted by every believer in Jesus Christ.  When children are sexualized, we can respond, “Be gone, Satan!”

Let us not put the Lord God our Creator and Redeemer to the test.  He has made male and female for His glory and purpose, not our own.

He has called us by name.  We are His.

Please visit Our Identity Matters.

 

Read Full Post »

prison cellIs it possible to change our thinking and behavior?  Leave bad habits behind?  Resist evil and despair?

Yes.

Evidence of change is all around me.  For some, change has come with maturity or wisdom gained from experience.  Some literally kicked and screamed all the way to a new place in their life where change took them by surprise.  Some are being changed through pain and suffering.  Others are changing, but only after falling into the darkness of bitter despair.

Travis is one of them.  Travis had fallen so deeply into the pit that he could never pull himself out.  I believe that Jesus literally reached down into that pit to lift Travis upward.  The circumstances in which Travis finds himself are grave.  He is serving 20 years in a federal penitentiary without parole.  Travis is in a place of shame but, face to face with his Savior, true freedom and dignity are being restored.

What follows is a letter from Travis:

Often, people ask, “Why did you throw everything away to pursue a life on drugs?  You threw away your relationships with good friends.  You threw away your good reputation.  You threw away the respect of your family.  You threw away everything that you ever worked hard for.  Why?”

I have never been able to come up with a rational answer to these questions.  Sin, I’ve figured out, is always irrational.  Sin doesn’t consider the consequences.  It just leads us to say, “I want more.”  In my case, becoming addicted to meth was that sin that gave Satan a strong foothold in my life.

I’ve come to see things a little more clearly today.  In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy.”  Satan wants to steal my joy.  He wants to steal my freedom.  He wants to kill and destroy everything that makes my life worth living: my relationships, my peace, my sanity.  He will use any means: deception, lying, and false promises to keep me from enjoy God’s plan for my life.

When I was enslaved to my sin of addiction it was evident that something was wrong with me.  Not everyone noticed, however, because I put on a good mask.  But, my life was full of filthiness.  My thoughts, speech, conduct, and even my house was filthy.  I would find a lewd or filthy element in any situation.

Satan was working to steal my morals, relationships, will, and dignity.  In the end, Satan wanted my life.

Once I started doing meth, I experienced dreams and visions.  While driving on a particular curve into town, I imagined taking my own life.  Perhaps, I thought, it would relieve the pain I was experiencing.

I didn’t like the person I had become.  A couple of girlfriends tried to help get me sober.  One helped me escape to her family’s cabin.  She would help me detox and get sober.  I would sleep, eat, and begin to act normal… only to return to my habit five days later when I got home.  Another girl begged me to get sober.  She wanted my family to help.  I said, “No!”  How could I face the people that had raised me so well?  The last thing I wanted to do was admit I was a failure.  I thought I could do it on my own.”

Travis is suffering the terrible consequences of his addiction and sinful ways.  He is separated from his family and shamed by incarceration.  Although his faith has grown, he is taunted by unbelievers.  He has explained to me that despair comes often to visit, yet the mercies of God really are new every morning.

Those mercies recently came through a fellow prisoner.  Travis was feeling especially low at Christmastime when, unexpectedly, he crossed paths with a man he had met early in his imprisonment.  Travis had befriended that man and encouraged him with words of hope.  The man apparently never forgot Travis and, in a moment of darkness, the man reappeared as a ray of light with reciprocal words of encouragement.  “You made a difference,” the man told him.  “You helped me get through a tough time.”  Travis was reminded that Jesus knows just what we need when we need it most.

Travis is painfully aware that Satan, in partnership with his own sinful nature, is a powerful force.  Alone, Travis cannot defeat the liar and thief.  But, another force is working in Travis’ life.  It is the force of love.  Forgiveness.  Hope and new life.  Satan wants to steal Travis’ soul, but Jesus Christ died for that soul.  He has already won for Travis the victory over sin and death.  Victory is hard to see through the veil of depression and discouragement; even so, I believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work in Travis adjusting his perspective and restoring the dignity of his personhood.

Perhaps prison is the Potter’s wheel where Travis is being carefully shaped as a vessel for noble service.  I really do believe that Travis sees himself a different man than when he stood haughtily before the federal judge.  As a different man, he will find himself at odds with the world.

In that world, Satan will continue to press on Travis.  Satan doesn’t want change.  He wants Travis captive to his sinful nature.  He wants him haughty.  Dependent on self, yet burdened by failure.  But, in Christ, Travis is no longer bound to old sins and failures.  In Christ, Satan holds no lasting power over Travis.

Travis told me,

Addiction never filled me up.  I was never satisfied.  The thief really does come to steal, kill and destroy, but read the rest of the passage!  Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Is change possible?  God says it is.

“Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  Put away falsehood, speak the truth with your neighbor . . . give no opportunity to the devil . . . Let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you . . .” (Ephesians 4:22-32).

Because change is possible, Travis can live as the beloved son of God in Christ that he is.   He can leave the filthiness and foolish talk and crude joking behind.  He was in darkness, but now he is in the light of the Lord.  He can try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Expose deception.  Be filled with the Spirit.  Give thanks. (Ephesians 5:1-21).

Yes, echoes Travis,

Thanks be to God!”

Read Full Post »

We are baptized, not in the water of sexuality, but in the water of pure Word and Holy Spirit.  We are called, not to ways of weak flesh, but to holy and noble purpose.  We are encouraged, not to glorify self, but to glorify Jesus Christ who makes us children of God.

Baptism “is an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).  Baptism cleanses and raises us to new life.   Our Baptism sets us apart from the world and our own fickle desires.

So here is why I’m so deeply disappointed following the election.  Far too many of my fellow Christian sisters let their sensuality have its way.  They voted in favor of “my body, my choice” rather than in remembrance of their baptism.  They feared they might be denied something, something that should rightfully be theirs.

Back to the Garden we go.  God appealed to Eve’s whole being, her true identity as His wondrous creation.  But, Satan appealed to her pride and desires, taunting with the apple of “my rights” and “my control.”  Today – right here and right now, God appeals to the whole being and true identity of His daughters in Christ.  But, Satan (until he’s banished to hell) lingers around, tantalizing our desires.  Whispering sweet nothings in our ears.

Admittedly, I can’t say how many baptized women were influenced by the childish ad of the Obama campaign.  You know the one I’m talking about.   Actress Lena Dunham appears on a video making an appeal to young women to imagine their first time voting for Obama as being akin to losing their virginity.  References in the ad were explicit and low standard.

The sexual innuendo of the ad was unmistakable: “Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody.  You want to do it with a great guy,” says actress Dunham.  “It should be with a guy . . . who really cares about and understands women.”  Then, on behalf of the sitting president of the United States, Dunham makes her political appeal.  She says, you want to do it with “a guy who cares whether you get birth control.  The consequences are huge.  You want to do it with the guy who brought the troops out of Iraq . . ..”

Actress Dunham quickly references “gay marriage,” then says, “It’s also super-uncool to be out and about and someone says, ‘did you vote?’ and [you] reply, ‘No, I didn’t feel – I wasn’t ready.’”  The ad wraps up when Dunham describes her first time voting as “amazing.”  It was like crossing that “line in the sand” to vote for Barack Obama.  “Before I was a girl; now I was a woman.”

This campaign ad was endorsed by the President of the United States.  The father of two daughters.  The man who, true to his vocation, should protect and defend the virtue of every American woman.

But, how many baptized American women – more or less youthful – voted for the man who appealed to their pride?  Sexual rights?  Desire for control?  Did any of us think about the irony of it all?  Modern feminists abhor Biblical patriarchy, yet here are women asking “Big Daddy” – a patriarchal government – to provide their birth control pills, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization procedures at no cost.  Why?

Is it because they are deceived by a wrong identity?  Or because they have forgotten their baptism in the Word of holiness and purity?  Or because they are captive to pride and sensuality?  Or, because they live in fear?

Trusting our baptism, we need not fear the known or the unknown.  Baptism in the waters of new life encourages us to virtue.  Self-restraint.  Trust in our Creator and Redeemer instead of our own weak flesh.

Baptism gives us new identity in Christ.  We are not sensual beings, but holy beings.  We are not captive to sin, but redeemed from sin.  We are not left in the despair of wrong choices, but set free to start new.  To see our life from God’s perspective.  All this… because we have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Do we believe it?

Amen.  God said it.  It is so.

Read Full Post »

For centuries, the rule of the sea was “women and children first.”  Survivors of the sinking ship, Titanic, remember men who gave their lives so that women and children might live.  Whether Christian or not, these men were influenced by a teaching that had shaped their thinking and behavior.  Their sacrifice modeled that of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:25).

In 1996, another ship sank off the coast of Indonesia.  Men on board this ship saved themselves first.  Women and children died that men might live.  This is the inevitable consequence of forgetting or rejecting Jesus Christ.

Jesus did more than speak about humility and service.  He demonstrated it (John 13:12-17).  With His example, He established a pattern for men and women to follow.  A hero of titanic proportions is a man who practices self-control for the sake of a woman.  A husband who covers his wife with his name.  A father who rescues his child from death.

Ninety-three percent of the abortions performed in the U.S. are for convenience.  Studies show the top three reasons for abortion are:

  • “A baby at this time would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities.”
  • “I cannot afford a baby.”
  • “I do not want to be a single parent,” or “I’m having problems” with husband or partner.  (Source: The Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1/97, A. Torres and J.D. Forrest, “Why Do Women Have Abortions?,” Family Planning Perspectives, 1988)

When it appears the ship is sinking — and life hangs in the balance, God desires that men step forward.  Engage deceit with Truth.  Do battle for the honor of women and lives of children.  Adam, the first man, failed.  He was silent.  Unwilling to engage.  Lead away from death.  His passivity left woman vulnerable.  His rib exposed.  A target.  At risk.  When he joined with her in sin, he forever changed the course of history.  Children would pay the highest price.

Indeed, they do.

But, must they continue to pay with their lives?

No.  God brought hope to Adam and Eve with a promise.  The promise was kept when Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the cross.  Became the Savior of the world.  Proclaimed victory over Satan.  Gave men and women authority over lies and deceit.  Jesus Christ  removed all reasons for any parent to sacrifice the life of their child.

Today, men bring order out of chaos every time they remember and use God’s Word.  Choose life over death.  Involve themselves with the teaching and disciplining of children.  Deny themselves for the mother of their child.  Lead away from danger with a servant’s heart.  Deposit sin baggage at the Cross of Christ.  Forgive as they have been forgiven.  Re-build.

This is titanic love.

Read Full Post »

Satan is my adversary.  He not only tempts me with the question, “Did God really say . . .?”  He also accuses me.  The Greek for “devil” comes from the verb meaning “to bring charges with hostile intent.”

Every day, it is more of the same.  My adversary tempts me to doubt God’s Word and, when I do, he brings charges against me.  It seems to me that the hissing sound is particularly chilling at night.  “Now look at what you’ve done.  You are a failure.”

Every day, people of every age and in every circumstance are tempted.  “Don’t you want to be loved?”  “Doesn’t God want you to be happy?”  “Are you strong enough?”  “Can you really make a difference?”  “Aren’t you too old?”  “Who do you think you are?”  “Haven’t you given enough?”  Our own sinful nature betrays us and, when we doubt God and do our own thing,  the hissing begins.  “Can God ever forgive you?”

But, wait!  The accuser has been thrown down (Revelation 12:7-11).  Jesus has secured our acquittal through His death and resurrection (Colossians 2:14).  Satan is no longer allowed to bring charges against us.

When satan accuses and tries to steal away all hope, we can say:

You are troubling me with the memory of past sins.  You are telling me that I’ve failed to do good.  But, I don’t need to listen to you.  You have no hold on me.  No matter if you tempt me to trust in my goodness or accuse me of my sins, I don’t care.  I depend only on Jesus Christ who has beaten you and set me free. (Paraphrase of Martin Luther, Luther’s Works American Edition 27:11)

 

Read Full Post »

The Christian proclaims that Jesus Christ has won the victory.

Victory?  Doesn’t that imply involvement in some sort of competition, skirmish, or battle?

The Christian proclaims that Jesus Christ won the victory over sin, death, and the grip of satan.  Yet, because I am still earthbound, I struggle against the enemy of my life who prowls about seeking to deceive and devour me.

Both God and satan want me, but what they will do after they have me is as different as heaven and hell.

So here I am, in the midst of battle.  Daily warfare.  Satan, the world and my own flesh are fighting against me.  There is no truce, no compromise.  Some attacks are bold, others sly and subtle.   The goal for my enemy remains the same: stir up doubt.  Then remove all hope.

The tempter of my soul has but one question: “Did God really say . . . ?”  And, in my moment of doubt, my own feelings betray me.  My focus is distracted from God’s Word and Promise.  I detour into dangerous territory: the land of Me.  Attitude, choices, and behavior are affected.  So are the people in relationship with me.

In the battle, I need all the help I can get.  I need Sunday mornings where God divinely serves me.  Where I’m reminded of what He’s done and is doing for me more than what I can do for Him.   Admittedly, I’m not fond of old German tunes.  “Did God really say . . . you must sing such awkward melodies with notes too high?”  But, I must confess.  Once the Spirit adjusts my attitude, I am emptied out to be filled with the power of God’s Word captured in the lyrics.  Once my attitude is adjusted, I can better visualize soldiers all around me.  The company of saints. Warriors victorious before me.  Now in glory.

If I knew that tomorrow the men of my family were going to war, I would be left weepy, weak and vulnerable singing a contemporary praise song led by an entertaining band.   I need holiness — whether my men are going to war against an enemy we can see or I am engaged in battle against an enemy I can’t see.  I don’t need a flurry of sight and sound that will momentarily lift my mood.  I need Christ the Cornerstone.  I don’t need distractions of stage and screen.  I need Divine Order.  Divine Holiness.  Divine Service.  I need to get out of myself and be unstrapped from my feelings to trust the Commander-in-Chief.

Victory?  Jesus won the victory that gives me eternal life.  But, while I’m earthbound, I’m engaged in a war between ideas.  Between good and evil.  Between Truth and deception.  Between God and self.  In this present darkness, my enemy schemes against me.

So, God help me stand firm.  Do not let me slip into the attire of frivolity but strap on the armor of battle.  Whether I am at home, in the community, or in worship, bind me with the belt of truth.  Cover me with the breastplate of righteousness and shield of faith so no flaming darts will pierce my soul.   In my hand, secure the Sword of the Spirit.

Keep me alert.  Help me persevere — to victory.

(Ephesians 6:10-18)

Read Full Post »