Public Enemy Number One

How is it that a husband and wife can turn into enemies? Why do churches get torn apart in relational wars? And why do we fight such fierce battles within our own hearts? Perhaps it’s that we have allowed the real enemy to cloak himself. Jesus said,

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

John 10:10 (NLT)

In other words, when there is stealing, killing, and destroying going on, it’s because the real enemy has snuck into the picture. In moments of conflict, my wife and I have often reminded each other of this truth. When we recognize the evil attempts of the enemy to divide us, we almost always calm down and turn toward each other for mutual support against his tactics.

Jesus’ purpose is never to destroy you. His plan is to give you both a new quantity and a new quality of life. Eternal, abundant, rich and satisfying life is what He grants to all who come to Him by faith. And when you meet Jesus, He grants to you the gift of eternal life to be enjoyed right away, not merely after you’re dead.

So rebuke the enemy, flee to Jesus, and start really living!

It’s Your Turn to “Rawr!”

RAWRMy three-year-old son, Sam, loves to play and has an active imagination. Lately, he’s been obsessed with bears and of course, wants me to be the bear. He invites me into this game, which usually ends in my demise by tackling, by saying, “It’s your turn to ‘RAWR!'” So… I “RAWR!”

The Bible describes our enemy, Satan, as one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). He’s loud and ferocious, but also sneaky and slinks his way up to a prime pouncing distance before ensnaring us. But Peter didn’t stop with this description of Satan. He went on in the following verse to say…

Resist him, standing firm in the faith…

– 1 Peter 5:9 (NIV)

In other words, in the confidence of your identity in Christ and your empowerment by God’s Holy Spirit, RAWR back! We’re never told to resist temptation, since the power of the human will is bound and broken. When we try, we wind up fixating on the very thing we’re trying to resist. But we are told to resist the tempter, Satan himself. And when we resist, he flees.

Practice it now… RAWR!

photo credit: ucumari

Demolishing Strongholds

Living Room FortI love having what I call “family fortnights,” nights when our family builds a fort. Sometimes we break our sectional sofa apart and turn pieces of it up on end, stretch blankets and bedsheets over it all and create a fort. In the imagination of my toddler, this creates a special fortress of protection from the elements and our enemies. In the mind of my wife, I’m making a mess of her living room, but she’s in the fort too.

Satan loves to build forts too. The Bible refers to them as strongholds, which are essentially miniature outposts he establishes as he scales the walls of our hearts in an attempt to completely harden and destroy us. If we are unaware of these strongholds, we can slowly surrender more of our spiritual territory over to him without even realizing it. For example…

  • We fail to forgive our ex-spouse for abandoning us, so we refuse to get close to people in the future.
  • We suffered a moment of abuse in our youth, so we buy the lie that we weren’t worth protecting.
  • We were exposed to pornography in adolescence, wiring our brains to seek pleasure in illicit imagery and creating a lifelong battle with lust.
  • We were offended or hurt by someone within the church, so we turn against the very idea of church.
  • We can’t explain some of the Bible’s difficulties, so like dominoes, our beliefs turn into skepticism about God.

And the list goes on. The point is, Satan will use the smallest of experiences to create pockets of festering infection in our lives that can ultimately spell the ruin of our relationships with God and other people.

Or…

We can fight with the weapons God hands to us. We can demolish the strongholds and lies that bind us using God’s truth. We can invade the territory the enemy has taken by praying, calling on God to act and watching Him respond. Paul said it this way,

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

– 2 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV)

He’s willing to fight for you and to equip you for battle. And here’s the best part… the war itself is already won. Jesus died for your sin and rose again in victory over Satan, sin, death, and the grave. We just have a few more skirmishes to fight with the floundering armies of darkness.

Remember Where You Live

A10 WarthogI’ll admit it. I’m a fan of the Military Channel and the History Channel. It’s partly for my love of history, but it’s also because the study of history is a study of war and weaponry. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t like war and I hate the destruction that weapons cause in the wrong hands, but there’s something that fascinates a man’s soul about the destructive potential of high-powered sniper rifles and the attack agility of an A-10 Warthog (that’s a fighter jet, not an animal).

As a Christian, I’m involved in warfare daily, and one of Satan’s most clever tactics is to get me to fight the wrong enemy with the wrong weapons. Paul put it this way to the carnal Corinthian Christians…

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.

2 Corinthians 10:3 (NIV)

I’ve grown up in a somewhat church-saturated culture (though not what I consider a “Christian nation”) in which we fight hard to preserve our way of life. We get angry when people believe and live differently. We fight. We shout. We condemn and demand that people submit to a God they don’t yet know or trust. And fighting like this hasn’t gotten us any closer to our goal. It’s just created a lot of casualties of war.

I’ve joined the wrong battle myself at times. I’ve even been guilty of turning in criticism toward my fellow spiritual family members over secondary issues while taking my eyes off the real enemy who is roaming about, seeking whom he may devour. And I’ve even engaged the right enemy with the wrong weapons, assuming that my willpower and my natural mind are enough for the victory.

But at the end of the day, you and I need to remember where we live. Earth, for now, is a battleground. But people aren’t our enemies. Don’t declare war on the Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. Don’t aim your weapons at the liberals, conservatives, or moderates. It’s certainly okay to stand for truth and engage in meaningful conversation about the issues of our times, but if you ever start to believe that another human being is the real enemy, Satan has won.

Remember where you live (earth). And remember where you now belong if you’ve trusted in Jesus (heaven). And remember that the divide between the two is great.  We are citizens of a different Kingdom on a temporary mission trip to a foreign land. So let’s fight the good fight of faith so we can take others with us.

photo credit: CHUCKage

Put On the Whole Armor

ArmorEvery notice how a snowflake can find that tiny little spot on your neck between your hat and your coat so it chills your skin on contact? That’s how attacks often come from Satan – like flaming arrows into our one blind spot, our one week area. So Paul encouraged us to…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

– Ephesians 6:11 (NIV)

There are six aspects of the armor of God, which we’ll look at one at a time each day this week, but before we do, it’s important to note that our preparedness for spiritual battle needs to be well-rounded and multi-faceted. It’s not enough to decide that since I enjoy studying the Bible or there’s a particular cause I support that I’m prepared since I’m strong in one area. Satan’s strategy is to focus on my weak areas. If I’m pure, he’ll hit my faith. If I’m bold, he’ll steal my peace, etc.

Here are the six pieces of armor we’ll be looking at in detail:

  • Integrity (the belt of truth)
  • Purity (the breastplate of righteousness)
  • Serenity (the shoes of the gospel of peace)
  • Certainty (the shield of faith)
  • Security (the helmet of salvation)
  • Maturity (the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God)

Are there ways you need to commit to growing in multiple aspects of the Christian life to stay balanced?

photo credit: Dunechaser

The Certainty of Mysteries

I was deeply moved by today’s reading from J. Sidlow Baxter’s devotional, Awake My Heart. He speaks of the mysteries of life, what W. A. Criswell used to call “the imponderables of God.” Baxter mentioned birth, life, personality, human experience, Satan, eternity, etc. All of these are unexplainable. We can begin, but we can never conclude any definition of them.

Baxter goes on, however, to quote an unnamed old Puritan as saying, “Never let what you don’t know disturb your faith in what you do know.” Further, Baxter proclaims that “breaking into all this mystery comes a glorious, transfiguring fact which not all of these problems can discount: it is THE FACT OF CHRIST. He is a certified historical fact; a supremely significant fact; an experientially realized fact….”

We live in a highly skeptical age. To deny this is to prove that one has his proverbial head in the sand. We live in the age of the offensive atheist, exemplified by authors such as Richard Dawkins, who espouses a near hatred of conservative Christianity and writes it off as idiotic nonsense that should be put to an end. In the mix, Christians find themselves wavering and doubting.

So, what do we do with our big questions? I don’t know about you, but I believe God can handle our biggest questions. He has answers. Whether He will provide them or not is within the divine prerogative of God. But in the midst of all of the mysterious, imponderable concepts of spiritual, eternal things lie the rock solid, unbreakable truths of Christianity. In the words of Paul, And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

The Rush of Summer

Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.

In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!

I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!