Things are Not What They Seem

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence.”

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

Psalm 91:3-4, NKJV

I believe that there is great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His modus operandi parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. We see his power and influence all around us.

I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackeys’ to carry out his wishes. They will use deception, lies, and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. As a result, many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this comes from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this, we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware of before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have a personal savior in Jesus, we find we also have an antagonist and a sworn enemy. We didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the world’s evil around us has a source and we dare not minimize it.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

CS Lewis

 

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. Spiritual warfare has an ebb and a flow to it, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we can do nothing at all apart from the blood of Christ. We must defend ourselves, by calling out to God, or else we will become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read the truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. This pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert!”

“Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

A Savior of “Crazy People”

“For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.”

1 Thess. 5:5

This is my personal testimony of the grace of God.

A year before I received Christ as my Savior, I was hospitalized in a U.S. Army psychiatric ward.  My uniform was replaced with the distinctive attire of a mental patient.  Ironically, I’d been attached to the same hospital working on the pediatric floor.  And to make things only slightly more surreal was that a medic there on the psych ward was someone I bought drugs from!

Previous to this hospitalization, I had dropped two hits of LSD and found myself in an awful mess.  It was night out and I was hallucinating badly.  I had lost control of my thoughts.  I had pretty much flipped out and it entered my drug-saturated brain that the darkness would kill me, that very night!

Utterly convinced I was going to die, my mind seized upon the street lights outside. 

If I could stay in that illuminated circle I would escape dying. Somehow I knew that the light would save me. So I remained under that street light for several hours.  As I stood I could see very clearly the boundary between the light and the dark.  I knew I was safe as long as I didn’t wander, I knew I would stay safe.

But inspite that very traumatic experience, the drugs and my mental instability continued to slide. 

I was now shooting up cocaine, crossing my “no needle rule.”  I also became quite the heavy drinker, with whiskey for breakfast.  I had one basic rule though.  As a medic who worked in maternal/child health, I had one of the best assignments in the Army.  Many people coveted it, and I was not going to endanger it with drugs or alcohol. 

I never went on duty loaded.  That was my rule. I would be the best medic the Army ever had.

Shortly after my psych ward discharge, I was reassigned to Labor & Delivery on the night shift.  One slow time I was pulled from my duty there to go on an ambulance run as the medic in charge.  We were called to the officer’s housing where an older man had died in bed. This got me thinking.  Back at the hospital, I returned to L&D.  But on the way back I took a shortcut through a ward on another floor.  That’s when I found it!

On a waiting room table was a small book called, “More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell.  I picked it up, reading it right on duty because there was no one in the delivery room.  By the end of my shift, I was well on my way to becoming a Christian.  It was a book solidly speaking of the light, and of the dark.  And I knew beyond a doubt that I couldn’t remain in the dark anymore.

I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in June of 1982. 

I became a born-again believer shortly after that.  I went to Bible College that October.  Life has become radically different, and over time, I became a missionary, pastor, and Bible college instructor. 

I married my sweetheart and I now have a wonderful family. I attend a great and wonderful church faithfully.

I want to tell you that Jesus is real, He is alive and the Bible is true.  I have been lifted from the dark and I am not afraid anymore.  Jesus is my light.

“The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light.
And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow,
    a light has shined.”

Matthew 4:16

 

Some Very Good Links:

“How to be Saved,” gotquestions.com

The Sheer Hopelessness of Mental Illness,” brokenbelievers.com

Alaska Bible Institute, my Bible College, (a great school)

“More Than a Carpenter”, by Josh McDowell, (check it out on Amazon) 

 

Are You Stuck in a Particular Sin?

See Your Sin, Break the Cycle

There are certain people who are just stuck in this seemingly endless cycle of sin. Oh, I feel conviction. Oh, I confess and repent and I receive forgiveness. And then the next day it happens all over again, and they are in this seemingly endless cycle. There are two truths that we have to embrace here. They are not mutually exclusive; they are perfectly compatible.

It is a good thing for you to see your sin.

You need to feel the conviction of the Spirit on the one hand, but God doesn’t want you to stay in that mindset. He says “When I awaken your heart to the reality of how you’ve fallen short, come quickly to the throne of grace and look at the many ways in which I have dealt with that sin. I have put it behind my back. I’ve buried it in the depths of the sea. I’ve blotted it out. I’ve trampled it underfoot. I turned my face away from it. I won’t gaze upon it.”

And it’s the power of that truth that will enable us to break out of this cycle in which so many people find themselves. It’s a cycle in which they just live in constant fear and trepidation. Oh, maybe I’ve done it one too many times, and God’s just so fed up with me that I’m going to be cast aside forever.

Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally.

Sam Storms

I’ve actually heard people say, I envisioned myself coming to the Lord once again and him saying, ‘Oh no, not you again. The umpteenth time and are you just expecting me to forgive you over and over and over again?’ And they live in fear that God’s just going to run dry and not have mercy, that he’s going to run out of grace.

And God has said, “Look, it’s good that you recognize the ways you have failed. I don’t want you to live oblivious to the fact that you have disobeyed in an unrepentant and high-handed way. But know this: I have dealt with that sin. The punishment that deserves has been exhausted in Jesus. Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally, and let that be the power to break the cycle of the constant repetitive falling back into these old ways and these old patterns of the past.”

Live in the fullness of your freedom in Jesus.”

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at SamStorms.org.

Sam Storms is the author of A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do).

‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

painting of a person swimming underwater

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism.”

“But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not the impulsiveness that scares me.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted kind of weird honor when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost. 

Now, this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic and very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost. 

The songwriter formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.”)

There is a sick arrogance here that needs to be understood.

To escape this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway, God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest that has ever existed.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, and our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’. 

When we decide to live this kind of living death, we’re pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.

But honestly, is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6

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