Spiritual Warfare

2 Corinthians 4:4: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 2:11: But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Colossians 1:13: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

1 Peter 5:8: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

We just don’t talk much about Satan in the church today, it makes us very uncomfortable. After all, he is the prince of darkness and what good does it do to spend valuable Sunday school or sermon time talking about Satan.

The Bible however has a great deal to say about Satan. Jesus in John 14:30 refers to Satan as “the prince of this world.” In this passage Christ plainly states that Satan has no hold on him because Christ was without sin. Because Christ died for our sins, Satan has been defeated and we as followers of Christ must understand that, through the power of Christ’s blood that was shed on the cross, we can call upon the name of Jesus in our battle against the evil one’s attacks.

Paul in Ephesians 2:2 calls Satan, “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Satan is not simply bound to this earth but is a spirit who moves throughout the heavenly and earthly realms to entice people to focus less on God and more of the things of this world.

Satan is exceptionally good at delaying believers from carrying out God’s kingdom work. I started to write this post over two months ago and every time I tried to finish it, I would get distracted and lose my focus or concentration.  I am convinced that the evil one has been doing everything in his power to keep me from posting this blog on overcoming spiritual warfare.

I have been reading an interesting book called The Invisible War, by Chip Ingram that has been helping me to better understand what is happening with the unseen world. Ingram wants believers to know and believe that there is an unseen spiritual world and that there is a constant battle raging for the very souls of everyone on earth.

The following is from Ingram’s book, The Invisible War, in which he writes on the scripture from 1 Peter 5: 8: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

The lion is a powerful image. Lions prowl around for one reason; they are looking for something easy to kill. We usually don’t fall victim to our enemy when we’re strong. He is watching for us at the right time in the right way: when we’re alone, tired, or traveling, or when it’s late at night after everyone has gone to bed. Whenever we may be vulnerable, that’s when something pops up on our computer screen and catches us off guard, or something comes on the TV that we would never watch with someone else in the room. Our initial reaction is shock and dismay, only we don’t change the channel right away, and all of a sudden we’re hooked. Or maybe we’re hurting inside and some false belief system comes our way promising a deeper and more fulfilling experience – outside of Christ. There are too many opportunities for the lion to find us vulnerable, and he knows how to spot them in our relationships, in our work, in our faith, in our spiritual disciplines – everywhere.

Not only does he try to devour us on the front end, he comes along afterward to smother us in guilt and condemnation. “You call yourself a Christian? Real Christians don’t do what you just did. You’re a terrible person, a hypocrite, not even close to the real deal.” The initial temptation is powerful, but sometimes the shame of giving in to it is even worse. He plays us off of ourselves to put us into a downward cycle of failure and guilt.

 Christians who take Satan lightly are ignoring biblical instructions. He is a formidable foe. We need to have a healthy respect for him. Jude 9 says that Michael the archangel, in a dispute with the devil, did not pronounce a railing judgment against him but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” We are not more formidable than Satan, but God is. Our proper attitude is to understand the capabilities of this angelic being and to depend on God’s strength for victory. [i]

I am convinced that we must constantly be aware and alert to the many obstacles that Satan places in our path. We must understand that God is more powerful than anything that the evil one can send our way. We must put on the “armor of God” in order to defeat the relentless attacks of the evil one.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-13: 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.



[i] The Invisible War, by Chip Ingram, Baker Books, Grand Rapids Michigan, 2006, pages 44-45.

 

 

Hope, Not Fear

Luke 2: 8-15 (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

 In a dark field, in what was a dark world, the shepherds were keeping watch over their flock at night.  I imagine that the shepherds didn’t encounter too many unexpected surprises in their line of work.  They had to deal with the occasional thieves or predators, but for the most part the job didn’t offer much excitement. And suddenly, the angel of the Lord appeared to these shepherds. The light of God’s kingdom came bursting through the darkness. The light was coming to bring hope to those who were weary, tired, and afraid – to those who had lost hope.

The first reaction that we see from the shepherds is that of fear. They were terrified of this supernatural encounter that was appearing before their very eyes. Seeing this great company of angels along with the “glory of God” was an encounter that you might not live to talk about.  So the shepherds certainly had reason to be afraid. But we know that God had a purpose in choosing these lowly men, whom society didn’t basically recognize, to witness the announcement of their long awaited redeemer.  Fear was about to give way to hope.

Many of the people in that society were afraid. They were afraid as many people are today. King Herod certainly stirred fear among the people of the Holy Land. He was cruel and he made his wrath felt upon anyone who dared to oppose him in any way. He had given the authority to put to death many who opposed him including several members of his own family. The Romans also inspired fear as they constantly reminded the Jewish people of their presence and authority. Many wars were fought in the Holy Land and the economy was in bad shape. There were legitimate reasons for fear during that time in history. And there are many things that we fear in the society that we live in today.

We are fearful for our children’s safety at school or at the mall. Some of us live in fear of the many diseases that can attack our body. There are those who live in fear of someone or some thing, like the many wars that have broken out across the globe in recent years. Fear can by paralyzing, it can cause us to be afraid to stand up for ourselves or for others. But as believers, we serve a God who brings a word of hope to us in the midst of our fear and in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us.

And the first word of the angel to those shepherds in the field was “Fear not. Do not be afraid.” Those words spoken by the angel are important words for us today. The great and wonderful news that was announced to the shepherds is the same message that God wants us to hear today. It came to them, as the angel said, because a Savior was born in Bethlehem. Because of the presence of a Savior, they need not be afraid of anything. And today, we as followers of Christ, need not to be afraid of anything. We have the hope and the promise of eternal life because of our belief in Christ Jesus as our savior.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing What is Right

Romans 12: 17-21:  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Is there someone that you know, that is so filled with hate and anger that you find it difficult to be around them? You may have attempted to talk with them but that only makes the situation worse. You try to reason with them but all they want to do is call you names, get in your face, raise their voice and act completely out of control. As a follower of Christ, how do you respond to someone like that?

As usual, the Bible gives us specific instructions on how to deal with these types of people. It is encouraging to me that we only have to look to the Bible for help in dealing with the daily challenges of life. It is important that we know scripture so that we can use it to live out our faith in the manner that God desires. Knowing the Word is only part of our responsibility. As followers of Christ, we must live out what scripture teaches us. God will ultimately judge us on how well we followed His revealed Word. We can say to the world that we are believers but our actions and the manner in which we respond to others will reveal our true nature. Will others see us as a follower of Christ? More importantly, will God see us as a faithful follower of Christ?

In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome on this very subject. Paul is teaching that we are not to “repay anyone evil for evil.” He writes that, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The key phrase for me is, “as far as it depends on you.” We only have control over our actions and our response. As followers of Christ, we must forgive, not seek revenge, and let go of any anger and bitterness.

What are we as Christians to do when faced with attacks from others?

1)      Pray for them.  I believe that the most important weapon that we have available to us is prayer. We are to pray for forgiveness for ourselves and for those that are “attacking” us. We are not to judge because God will ultimately judge and repay accordingly.

2)      Do not seek revenge.  As followers of Christ, we are to forgive and hand over to God any feelings of revenge or animosity that may linger within us.

3)      Do not be overcome with evil.  As we turn those feelings of anger and hostility over to God, we are releasing the temptation to respond with evil. We are following God’s Word by responding in a Christ-like manner. It is often very tempting to respond to evil with evil. That is not what God’s Word teaches us and if we are a follower of Christ we must not react in this manner.

4)      Overcome evil with good. By overcoming evil with good, God can use our response to actually bring about repentance in those who attack us. Evil does not know how to respond to kindness. So by overcoming evil with good, we may possibly bring healing and penitence to those that are filled with anger and hate.

Several years ago I remember hearing someone say, “Don’t ever stop doing what is right. No matter how you are treated or talked about, don’t ever stop doing what is right.” I have often reflected on that statement when faced with how to respond to evil and anger filled people. As believers we must continue to do what is right. We must resist the temptation to answer with the hateful responses that the evil one whispers in our ear. Satan tempts us to answer evil with evil, to respond in a hateful manner, to exact revenge on those who want to do harm to us. As followers of Christ, our response to that evil will define who we are in Christ.

If you are faced with a situation like this, I encourage you to continue to do the right thing. Respond in a Christlike manner to those who are filled with anger and animosity. Take heart in the fact that you will be rewarded for repaying evil with good. God’s Word gives us hope this day about what our reward will be for the many insults and trials that we must bear. That word of hope comes from 1 Peter 4: 13-14 (ESV): But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home in Heaven – Missing Mom

2 Corinthians 5:1-8 (ESV)

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

This week will be a challenging week for me in a very personal way. My mom passed away December 6th, 2011, and as I arrive at the one year anniversary of her death, I am painfully aware of how much I miss her and her loving smile. As I looked at some old photos of her a few days ago, I noticed her smile. That smile could make the darkest day turn suddenly bright. In the midst of my own struggles and worry, just seeing my mom and that smile could inspire me to persevere.

A year ago my mom was tired. She was tired of not being able to get up out of bed and she was tired of having to be waited on. She had lived a good and fulfilling life and she was longing to put on her “heavenly dwelling”.  She knew that her earthly body was giving out and she was anxiously anticipating her new “heavenly dwelling”.  A few weeks before she died she told me that she was tired and if she could not get better, she was ready to go home to heaven. As Paul writes in his letter to the church at Corinth, she was ready to be at home with the Lord.

That is the goal for all of us who believe in Christ, we look forward to the day when we will be at home with the Lord. We look forward to the day when that which is mortal will be swallowed up by life eternal. We look forward to the day when this old body, full of disease and sickness and death, will give way to a new and glorious body, one that will never die but will have eternal life. We look forward to the day when we can experience the glory and character of our creator God. Like Paul, we long to be away from the body and at home with the Lord

I miss my mom. I miss seeing her, talking to her, listening to her and I miss her smile. I miss that voice of encouragement and her kind and loving nature. I miss her but I know that one day I will see her again. I take great hope in the promise that one day I will be reunited with her, my earthly father, my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins that have gone on before me. And I especially take courage and have hope in the fact that I will be in the presence of the Lord and at home with the Lord for an eternity.

Several weeks ago as I was about to preach a sermon on Ruth, I began to think of my mom, and of others in my family that have gone on to heaven. As I sat there I wondered if my mother was able to watch me and listen to my sermon. While I don’t know this for sure, I believe that she was watching over me and listening to me. That is one of God’s mysteries that will not be answered until we cross over and get to heaven. I experienced a comforting and encouraging feeling that gave me an incredible sense of peace as I preached my sermon. I believe that it was the presence of a loving Father God and a proud and smiling mom. I miss you Mom but I rejoice that you are in the presence of God.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). For now our knowledge is restricted to the revelation that God has made known to us. But in that day, when all is revealed and we are able to see “face to face”, what a blessed and glorious day that will be. Face to face with all of our loved ones who have gone on before us. And “face to face” with God, who loves us and gave us life through his Son, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing the Way

John the Baptist Prepares the Way – Luke 3: 1-6:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord,

make straight paths for him.

5 Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[1]

Luke’s Gospel is my favorite to read during this season of Advent. I always find myself returning to the King James Version as I read the familiar stories of the birth of Christ. The term Advent simply refers to the waiting and the preparation for the coming of the Christ child. During this time of Advent, we are reminded of the coming of Christ in ancient times and we also expectantly await the Second Coming of Christ, sometime in the future.

This story reminds me of how God uses the weak, overlooked, less powerful, most unlikely people to reveal His plan and will to the world. Luke begins this story of John the Baptist by mentioning seven powerful men who were very prominent during this time in history. It seems that Luke wants us to understand just how powerful and impressive these men are that John the Baptist is up against. How in the world will a man like John, dressed in clothes made of camel’s hair, and eating a diet that consists of locusts and wild honey, ever be able to stand against these influential and mighty men?

Just when we think that all hope is lost and that John doesn’t stand a chance against these prevailing and commanding men, we realize that God is in John’s corner. The Word of God is what John is going to stand upon and preach upon. John alone, doesn’t stand a chance against the power that he is up against. And the truth is that these seven powerful men don’t stand a chance of preventing God from carrying out his plan of salvation and redemption. God is in charge and in control – He is carrying out His will from heaven – and he is using John, the insignificant son of Zechariah.

Many of you that will read this story may also feel powerless, insignificant, weak and without hope. The world that we live in, wants us to believe that you must be rich and influential and have lots of connections if you want to be successful and important. We tend to value how much income someone makes or how many degrees they hold or what kind of job they have. As followers of Christ, we need to be often reminded that we live in this world – but we are not of this world.

These seven men that Luke names are indeed impressive, by the standards of this world. Luke reminds us however, that we serve a God who simply laughs at such pretend power. Luke reminds us that God uses those of us that are weak, and powerless, and insignificant to go and spread the Gospel. God uses bi-vocational preachers, janitors, carpenters, corporate executives, nurses, sanitation workers, and stay-at-home parents to proclaim the Word of God. God did it over 2,000 years ago and God is still doing it today. Praise God! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 



[1] http://www.biblegateway.com