Monday, May 30, 2016

Be Sober

Photo from Listening to God Forum
I've never been a devil chaser.  I've always been uncomfortable with those types of Christians.

In fact, just this week I was talking with an employee about her grievous misdeeds that I witnessed from our camera footage at work. I had her look at what I'd seen on camera, and then let her explain her actions from her viewpoint.  She talked at length.  When, at the end of her monologue, she started to get into talking about Satan getting the best of her, I finally cut her off.


I try, by God's grace and power, to take the Word at what it says.

I can't get around this passage here in Ephesians 2:1-3, especially the second verse:

 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,(NKJV)

John McArthur points out that the word "world" used in this verse is Kosmos and that it:

"does not represent simply the physical creation but the world order, the world's system of values and way of doing things-the world's course And as Paul makes it clear, the world follows the leadership and design of Satan"

John Piper has a truly worthwhile sermon on these very same first 3 verses in Ephesians; it's entitled Why we need a Savior: captive to an alien power, by nature children of wrath.I appreciate how in this sermon Piper explains the analogy of Satan being the prince of the air as well as the corroborating scriptures he brings in to verify that Paul is indeed speaking about Satan in this verse.

Piper explains the analogy of prince of the air this way:

"Air is everywhere.

Air is where we live. Between heaven above and earth beneath is the realm of air, and that is the habitation of man. Sometimes we say things like, "there's excitement in the air". What we mean is that excitement seems to be gripping everybody. Its influence is so widespread that it simply must be in the air.

That's Paul's point, the influence of the power spoken of in verse 2 is so pervasive, that it can be called the power of the air."

Scriptures which corroborate that the prince of the power of the air is Satan are:

Ephesians 6:12: 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.(NIV)

Matthew 12:24, note the second part of the verse where the Pharisees are talking about Satan and refer to him as "the prince of demons"(NIV).

2 Corinthians 4:4 where Paul is referring to Satan as the "god of this age" (NIV, NKJV).

John 12:31, John 14:30, & John 16:11 where Jesus refers to Satan as the "ruler of this world" (NIV, NKJV)

Luke 4:6 when Satan is bragging to Jesus he proclaims that he has authority over this world.   

It's apparent that Satan has some power in this world.  1 Corinthians 2:14 indicates that the natural man is greatly influenced by this power because he can't understand the things of God.  As a Christian, between the pervasive influence of Satan on my culture, and the pull of my own flesh, I can be influenced too. I'm reminded of 1 John 2:15-17 that talks about the sources of temptation, one of which is simply my own flesh. 

What does all of this mean to me, today, in my life? 

Do I need to become a "devil-sighter"?  Must I always be on the look out, trying to see where Satan is working?  I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:8-9 which could be interpreted to indicate that I'm to be on the look out for Satan.  However, I'm intrigued by the Amplified Bible translation of these 2 verses in 1 Peter:

 Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone.]

This translation speaks to me about an approach to life, more than about looking for the devil under every rock.  I need to seek, by His Spirit within me:
  • to live a well balanced and self-disciplined life
  • to live in the realization that there are spiritual forces around me
  • to be firm in my faith 
Repeatedly in my life it comes back this. Staying in the word from which my hope and faith is derived.  I'm reminded of Romans 12:1-2 where I'm told to constantly stay in the Word so His Spirit can change the way I think.  God is constantly reminding me to speak His truth and not the lies in the culture around me. Oh Father, You know me. You know that I can't do this on my own. I'm so much like water; I just want to run along the easiest path of least resistance.  Change me. Empower me.  Help me stay close to You.  Because I so desperately need You.  Thank You for loving me.  Thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit.  I can never thank You enough.
As I've been doing this study today a song by an old music group named Petra has been coming to my mind: Not of this World. You can click this title to find the lyrics and listen.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Can't do it on my own

Photo taken from The Vigilant Christian
If I had any question about getting good on my own, Ephesians 2:1-10 answers those questions once and for all.  Right there, in the first verse, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit Paul writes:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins"

Dr. Wayne Barber explains that:

"The word dead in the Greek language is the word Nekros. It comes from the work nekus which means corpse".

The staff over at verse by verse ministries made a point that stirred my heart:

"Just as a corpse cannot revive itself to life, neither can an unbeliever revive his own spirit into new life." 

I could not bring salvation to myself.  Only God by His grace could bring life to my dead spirit that was separated from Him by my sinful condition. Then, I think about Colossians 1:6 that tells me:

"as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him"

This brings me to what is stirring in my heart today.  The idea that, just as I could not bring my dead spirit to life in Christ, in daily life I continue to be unable to bring about God's goodness on my own.  I need Him.  It is only by His power that I can change.

What does this mean to me, specifically and practically, in my daily life?

I keep struggling to speak words of God's truth and faith over my work situation instead of the words of overwhelm, exhaustion, and don't-want-to-be-there that keep coming to me. Perhaps the whole struggle is because I'm trying to do this instead of asking God to teach me how to rely on His Holy Spirit within me.  I'm reminded of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-30, I'm especially fond of the way Peterson has paraphrased them:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Oh Heavenly Father, teach me how to walk with You and work with You.  Empower me to make time throughout my day to come to You. Teach me Your unforced rhythms of grace.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Called to Hope

Graphic from Jeremie Claey
Ephesians 1:17-18 (NEV):

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

Paul is praying that the Ephesians would increase in their understanding and wisdom of the hope of their calling. Scripture repeatedly shows me this theme of hoping in God:                  

Psalm 42:5 (NASB):
Why are you in despair, o my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.                                                                

Proverbs 3:5-7 (MSG):
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;  don't try to figure everything out on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil!     
Jeremiah 17:7 (TLB):
But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence.

I appreciate these thoughts of John Piper's on hope: "Hoping in God does not come naturally for sinners like us. We must preach it to ourselves, and preach diligently and forcefully, or we will give way to a downcast and disquieted spirit." 

This is so true.  Left to my own, I'll become ungrateful and discontented.  I'll get discouraged by circumstances.  I need God's Hope.  I'm not a baby Christian any more. Babies need to be fed, but adults feed themselves.  I need to feed, or as Piper puts it, preach, hope to myself.
I'm sitting here thinking about areas of my life where I'm hope-challenged:
  •  Being able to really make things better at work
  • Things ever being right for my mentally ill sister
  • Having the kind of romantic life I'd like to with my husband
  • Being able to lose weight and be more healthy  
 I'm trying to think of practical ways I can preach hope to myself in daily life. The things that come to my mind are replacing lies with truth, engaging in an attitude of gratitude, and listening to hope filled messages.

I need to pray that I would become aware of the hope-destroying  lies in my head.  I need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit within me and let Him act like a lie detector for me.  When I recognize the lie, I need to replace it with the truth.  As I'm reading the word,  I need to write down those verses that are truths for areas where I struggle.  Oh Father, help me receive Your Rhema word.  Thank You that You, the God of the universe, are willing to speak to me.  May I take the time to come before You so I can listen and learn.

I need to live my life with an attitude of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells me that this is how God wants His people to live:
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.  
In Philippians 4:8-9 direction is given on what to think about:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Oh Father, help me focus on all that is good in my life and constantly be thanking You.  Help me not have such a negative radar where I'm always discontent because things didn't go my way.  Please empower me to have an appreciative heart for all that is good in my life.

I'm blessed with so many resources.  I drive an easy 40-minute drive to work and it provides me with an opportunity is my car to listen to Christian music and messages.  Having those messages on in the car puts my mind in the right place.

I'm actually feeling really grateful right now.  What a thing to be called to - Hope.  I'm not primarily called to financial genius, fame, beauty, or war; I'm called to Hope.