Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Know your Enemy

I am currently working through Priscilla Shirer's Bible study, The Armor of God. She gives a lot good things to chew on. Her first chapter is called "Sizing up the Enemy." I love this as we tend to either totally discount the Enemy's presence and activity in our lives or we tend to ascribe to him way more power and control than he actually has. We also fail to remember in the midst of the messy that "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) This verse indicates that everything occurring in our lives is directly connected to a spiritual battle being fought in the heavenly realm. The misunderstandings we have had with our spouses this week, the rebellious attitudes and choices our teenagers are making, the bullies attacking our children on the playground, the pornography and perversion of God's plan for sex infiltrating our homes through the internet, the bosses wielding power in ungodly and harmful ways, those ugly conflicts at church that never seem to end, the political wars currently being waged--the Enemy is behind them all. To live victoriously, we need to take the time to understand the Enemy, not so that we will obsessively focus on him, but so that we will recognize him when he comes against us. 

First, we must understand what the Enemy is not. He is not God's equal. That means he is not infinite, he is a created being who had a beginning and whose end is foretold in Scripture. He is not all knowing, his knowledge of us is limited to what he observes in us. He is not all powerful, the only power he has is getting us to believe his lies and half truths. He is not immutable, he changed from being an angel passionately serving God to being an enemy passionately coming against God and His people. He is not omnipresent, he can only be in one place at a time and depends on other fallen angels to do his dirty work. He does not have the perfect, unchanging wisdom God has, as by the fact that his rebellion results in his demise, not life. He is not faithful, he betrayed God and he tempts us to sin, then condemning us while he fails to fulfill his promises of satisfaction and happiness. He is not good as his thoughts and actions are driven by pride and hatred. He is not full of mercy or grace, distorting God's image and His redemptive plan. He is not self-sufficient, he is alive only because God is allowing him to live for a season. He is not loving, holy, or righteous in character, words, or deeds, every intention of his heart is evil. (

Second. when the Scriptures were written, names had significant meanings. They were carefully ascribed to people either to described the person or with the hope of influencing what people would became. Sometimes people's names were changed. Naomi asked to be called Mara, reflecting the bitterness she was experiencing over the loss of her husband and sons. Two of Jesus disciples were brothers known as the Sons of Thunder because of their quick tempers. Sometimes people's names were changed after they encountered God and discovered His purposes for their lives Abram and Sarai's names were changed to Abraham and Sarah and Simon's name was changed to Peter. People also ascribed many different names to God to help us understand His character. He was called the God who sees, the God who hears, the God who provides, the God who redeems, the God who heals, the Comforter, the God who provides, Holy God, God Almighty, God most high, Savior, Redeemer, Lion of Judah, King of kings. I could go on and on. In the same way, Satan also has many names ascribed to him that help us understand just who he is. Lets look at a few:
  • Satan means "adversary." This name tells us Satan comes against God in every way possible. He maligns God's character and tries to thwart His plans and disrupt His purposes in our lives. The temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden and the Christmas story in which the deaths of baby boys who might be the Messiah demonstrate this.  
  • Devil means "slanderous." The Devil whispers lies into our minds, hoping to destroy God's reputation and our trust in Him. Lies I have personally heard in my head are: "God isn't really good." "God doesn't really care." "God can't forgive me this time." "God is depriving me." "God doesn't see me." "God is choosing not to hear me." "God won't help me." If I am not careful these lies can stir mistrust towards God and His direction for my life. The Enemy also whispers lies in my head about others. I have worked myself into a fit of anger as I hear the enemy telling me a person's intentions towards me are evil. I have worked my self into a blue funk as I let him convince me that a person doesn't care about me. I've experienced despair as I let him convince me a relationship is irreparable. Anytime I reach a point I doubt God or can only see the bad in another person, I know the Enemy has influenced my thinking. The truth is God is always good  and people are seldom completely bad. Every person, like me, is a blend of both strengths and weakness.  
  • Lucifer means "shining one." He approaches us in ways that are charming and attractive. Just think of how sexual predators operate. They come looking like nice, kind people who offer their victims something they need or long for. Their deeds turn ugly and cause great pain as they then cast blame on those they have violated. That is how Satan operates. People are daily being influenced into sinful life styles, with empty promises of love, satisfaction, and fulfillment while the Enemy also neglects to tell them about the consequences of sin--sin that leads to addiction, STD's, broken relationships, painful guilt that comes from breaking God's laws, and toxic shame that results from the fear of being found out--shame that sinks it talons deep into the heart.    
  • Tempter means "one who tempts to entice us to sin." The enemy is in the business of trying to get people to fulfill their God-given passions in sinful ways because sin drives a wedge between us and our Creator, disrupting our role in God's plans. The Enemy watches us and personalizes temptations in a way that insures we will be lured and hooked. He does this by using our vulnerabilities, our exhaustion, our business, our loneliness, our longings, or our physical or emotional pain. We know we have taken the bait when we justify sin to ease the pain of guilt. 
  • Ruler of the World tells us the Enemy works in different cultures and countries and tries to derail entire nations and people groups. He carefully spreads false philosophies, doctrines, and moral perspectives to drive people away from their Creator. Religions that are driven by fear are the very religions the Enemy has created. 
  • Prince (of Power, of Darkness) indicates that the Enemy is not alone. He is the head of a dark army who helps him carry out his evil plans. 
  • Accuser means "one who condemns." The enemy draws us into his ugly plans and then he turns around and accuses us. I know in my own life, he is the one who entices me to sin and then turns around and condemns me for it. This condemnation is way different than the loving conviction of the Holy Spirit calling me out of sin as I read His Word or listen to a sermon. Accuser uses harsh words and ugly names designed to shame--words like stupid, ugly, defective, failure. idiot, loser, trashy, beyond redemption, you don't love Jesus. The Accuser also suggests God is not all that He says He is. When I have gone through tough things and hear a sermon about God's goodness, love, faithfulness, or care, I can hear skeptical thoughts running through my head--thoughts like, "Yeah, right. Maybe for everyone else, but not for me." "Maybe God doesn't love me in the same way He loves others." "Why pray when God won't answer me anyway." I know those thoughts are from the enemy because God has never shown Himself to be anything but good, faithful, loving, and caring.  
  • Father of Lies means just what it says. Every word the Enemy speaks and every action he takes is an attempt to deceive us into believing our God is not who He says He is, that we aren't who He says we are, that we are being deprived of something good that we deserve, that we don't need a Savior, or that we are so bad that we aren't redeemable anyway. By observing us, he is able to misconstrue the truth of our circumstances, the reality we live, and the truth of God's word to influence us to sin, rebel, or withdraw in hopelessness.  I don't know how many times he has used people in my life who didn't know me to attack me in ways that hurt the most tender parts of my heart in an effort to direct my path away from God and to thwart God's most loving work of redemption. (Priscilla Shirer)
So, how do we defeat the enemy? First, we recognize we can't expect him to be a gentleman. He comes after us when we are worn out, sick, tired, lonely, stressed. and feeling down. Second, we recognize that fear, anxiety, seething anger, unforgiveness, self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, and confusing conversations that make resolving conflict impossible are all indicators that the Enemy is trying to destroy us. Third we want to remember the Enemy will increase his attacks when we are fulfilling the ministry to which God has called us. I work with a group of women who walk along side of others in need of emotional healing and we see God do great things. Yet, this year every one of us have experienced things we believe to be attacks from the Enemy. He is doing all that he can to discourage, discredit, and disable our leaders. There are also times that conflicts happen in our groups and we can see the enemy distorting things in the minds of the ladies in an attempt to interrupt the healing work God is doing in their lives--healing that will set them free to love well and to worship Him wholeheartedly. Over the next few weeks I hope to share what I learn from the Shirer's Bible study on the armor of God. For now I want to close with Paul's prayer to the Ephesians who, like us, were engaged in spiritual battles. This prayer will be key to being victorious.   

Father, let the eyes of our hearts be enlightened so we can know the hope to which He has called us, that we can know the riches of our inheritance in Christ Jesus, and that we can understand the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him in heavenly places far above all rule, authority, power, and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. Lord, strengthen us with your power so that Christ dwells in our hearts through faith--that we would be rooted and grounded in love, would be strengthened to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we could be filled with all the fullness of God. Amen. (Ephesians 1-18 and 3:14-19.)  

Monday, June 4, 2018

There is Grace in Defining Moments

Life defining moments come in many forms. They come in the form of temptations--the temptation to use porn, addictive substances, binging and purging, entering unhealthy relationships, holding on to bitterness, or using harsh words that cut to the core. They come in the form of choices--do we take this job or that job, attend a neighborhood church or one across town, go on the mission field or stay on the home field, work or become a stay at home mom, home school or put our children in public school? Defining moments come in events beyond our control--events like natural disasters, accidents, illnesses, deaths, infidelity, or acts of abuse perpetrated against us. 

Sometimes defining moments alter our lives in ways that they present ongoing defining moments. A couple of years ago my husband and I went out to eat and saw a couple in the restaurant. He was sitting beside her and feeding her. She wasn’t cognizant of her surroundings, but he was very attentive. When they left, he helped her up and took both her hands in his and walked backwards so she could walk forward face to face with him. They took small shuffling steps as he looked directly into her eyes, smiling the whole time. They went five or six steps and then he took her gently into his arms and embraced her sweetly. After a moment or two they resumed the shuffle. They did this repeatedly until they got to their car. While, I am sure her illness was a huge defining moment for them as individuals and as a couple, her illness causes him to face ongoing defining moments daily. He can choose to love with acceptance, patience, kindness, and endurance or become angry, bitter, and cold. While watching him treat her tenderly, I had the feeling I was on sacred ground, seeing him live out his true identity as a man, as a husband, and as a follower of Jesus. I had the feeling I was seeing Jesus Himself love and encourage her through her spouse. "Come on, Sweetie, just take one more step, your almost home.” 

While defining moments are hard to experience and difficult to navigate, they are one of the vessels God uses to extend His grace to us. There are several ways we experience His grace. First, defining moments force us to come face to face with what we believe about our identity. If we are really honest, we have to admit we wrestle with our identity daily. Whether defining moments involve our sin, another's sin, or rob us of heart longings, we can fail to remember we are beloved, redeemed, set apart, empowered, and gifted and let our mistakes, our sin, another’s sin or what the enemy whispers define us and accept the lies as the truth. Those ugly lies paralyze and shame us—lies like stupid, ugly, invisible, barren, unloved, unlovable, too much, and not enough. Even after embracing our true identity, we face events, people, or circumstances that surface those old lies, forcing us to choose again and again to believe what Jesus has said about us. We sometimes even act out of who we were before He saved us or before He began a healing work in us. If we grasp the concept of our true identity, it helps us navigate those defining moments by guiding our decisions, changing the words we use, and governing our actions, especially when our flesh is raging battle with our spirits. And giving us the opportunity to live out our true identity is grace. 

Defining moments also force us to look at what we really believe about our God. Parents who bury children have to come to terms with what they really believe about God in the face of deep grief. Is there really an afterlife? Is God really good? Does He really care about their pain? Can He really work the horrible devastation they feel to their good? Those who experienced natural disasters must wrestle with their beliefs about God who allowed widespread destruction as they pick through the remains of a home the earth shook to rubble. They wrestle with God as they remember children snatched from their arms by floodwaters. A woman who has begun to have flashbacks of sexual abuse will wrestle long and hard with who God is as she is plagued with the memories of praying for safety only to be victimized again and again. She will have to decide at some point if she believes her God is good and trustworthy in the face of seemingly unanswered prayers that left her feeling invisible, unheard, unprotected, and less loved. And giving us the opportunity to bring our doubt to the light and deal with it is grace. 

Defining moments also expose our misplaced affections and puts us in a place that we must choose to act our of our faith. We can get so easily distracted by the things of this world, by the life we think we are supposed to have, and by the many different directions our hearts get pulled in a given day. But when we face difficult defining moments, our love get refined in ways that we can't even imagine before hand. People who have lost beautiful homes in fires and floods last year repeatedly said those things paled in comparison to having their families safe and still being able to hold their children in their arms. I am sure that even as they continue the hard work of rebuilding homes and lives, they will have a love focus so different than those of us who haven't face the loss of homes and the near loss of families and there is grace in that refining of our love. 

Several years ago, our youngest son was wheeled into surgery after his spleen had ruptured. I faced the fear of losing him and even with the crowd of family surrounding me, I felt alone. I was terrified because there was nothing I could do to insure I would get the outcome I desperately wanted because the God I was asking to heal my son was the same God who had every right to choose to heal him or not. There were several complications that kept him in the hospital for 16 days, ten of which were in ICU. There were times I was overwhelmed, wondering if he could continue to fight his way back to health. As I slowly began to remember my identity in Christ, I understood that as alone as I felt, I wasn’t alone! I wrestled honestly with what I believed about God, knowing in my head He is good, though I struggled to fully trust it in my heart. I was forced to decide if I really believed in His goodness no matter what the outcome might be. I never doubted that God could heal him, but had to learn to trust His goodness with His sovereign plans as I watched our son deal with unimaginable pain and tubes that drained the fluid from around his heart. The decision to remind myself of who I was in Christ and to choose to trust God was who He says He is helped me to be able to stay engaged with my son those long days and nights. Choosing to pray to the God who held his life in balance gave me hope and strengthened me when I had nothing left to give. During that time God showed me grace by allowing me to see my son through new eyes as it gave us sixteen days in close quarters to get to know each other. Those days with a son in ICU who handled the situation with grace and dignity definitely changed my heart and mind about what is really important in life and that change has impacted my decisions and actions since. 

Some defining moments are small, but have the potential to impact life in big ways because we have a big God! We face those kinds of "small" moments in marriage after kids come, life is busy, jobs are demanding, energy is low, patterns of neglect set in, and distance between spouses grows and loneliness cuts to the core where seeds of hurt and bitterness grow. It’s when each long to be seen and heard, when hope is low, and the desire to retreat strong that defining moments present themselves the loudest. That moment is when God tugs at a heart to be the first to reach out, the first to take a hand, the first to serve the other, the first to speak words of affirmation, or to be the first to apologize for the neglect of the relationship. It is in that moment when everything in us waits for the other to move first that our pride can either grow or it can melt. The humility that can cause us to act first moves a couple one degree closer and that degree has the potential to radically change a marriage. That hesitant touch, that thirst offering, that kindness spoken, or that apology whispered without excuse can stir the last ember of dying love, allowing it to burn bright again. That little changes can evoke big changes is grace.   

Our defining moments give us the opportunity to remember who God is, allowing us to see His redemption stories that prove He is capable of redeeming what we deemed too broken, too dirty, or too lost. A small act of obedience gives us a chance to move knowledge of God from head to heart, giving us the will and the power to act in new exciting, living-giving ways. It is in the exact moment we act that we are snatching the victory from the enemy’s hands, proving God redeems our pain. It is in life defining moments God takes a grain of faith and builds it into a powerful faith that knows no bounds and that is grace. 

Our God is a God of grace. Even His sovereignty that allows life defining moments is ruled by that attribute. We can look back and see how things that wounded us have impacted our lives and brought us face to face with our true identity in Christ. We can see how those moments brought us face to face with what we believe about God. We can see how they brought us to the place that what we truly love was refined and how those moments brought us to the place we had to decide what we would do with what we believe and afford us the opportunity to live out loud what we believe. How differently our stories feel when we grasp this concept of life defining. It in fact strengthens our relationship with God so that it can satisfy the deepest parts of our hearts where our God cravings reside. Could it be that the life defining moments we once thought were bad, are really graces designed by His own love scarred hands?


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!