Wolves at the Front Gate

Be very careful!
Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness that we will be dealing with.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.  Darkness has a brutal grasp on so many.

There should be an alertness for the inevitable. Sometimes, sheep will not really be sheep.  This is astonishing.  Our senses are not always adequate or capable to identify counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it is a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the dress of the believer.  He has a real, definite sinister agenda.  (Can you say, “lamp chops“?)

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place.  He wants us to discern.  He wants us to become adroit observers.  Every believer needs a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity.  But it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that regularly deceives.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of Alaska, or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengiti.’   A dangerous carnivore that is hidden by an outward covering.  It is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies. It patiently stalks and then ambushes its victims. There is only one focus, a single purpose, and that is to destroy. It is Satan’s ‘calling card.’

wolf-sheeps-clothingFor us who are accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are disturbed and perhaps almost pulled off balance by this disturbing revelation of evil in our midst.  Jesus tells us that we must possess a reality of deception, for that is the real world.  He gave us plenty of warning.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet He still sends them. That is interesting.

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A Spellbound Captive of the Night

 

“We are all infected and impure with sin.
      When we display our righteous deeds,
      they are nothing but filthy rags.
   Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
      and our sins sweep us away like the wind.”

Isaiah 64:6, NLT

There are bad things that happen to us— the ugly, awful and rigorous things, that only God himself can explain.  We read theology and we read our Bibles, we listen dutifully to preachers but we still approach the throne of Jesus more mystified than anything else.

We are seem to be playing ‘ping-pong’ with the most challenging  issues.  We come to Him, because there is no one left who can answer things that have perplexed everyone else.  Why do we suffer?  Why does evil exist?  Why do people who live in blatant sin, succeed?  Why am I sick all the time?

If God is really God, why doesn’t he just give us an explanation about these questions?  Our title talks about being “spellbound.”  Are we really that inured, or attached with a sinister evil?  To be spellbound means we are being confused, drugged or hypnotised by something quite awful.  A cobra rises up, and opens its “hood.”  Its victim is entranced by what it sees in front-of-it.  He soon becomes supper.

Being held captive is a ordinary occurance for human beings.  Captivity brings us imprisonment.  Usually in a dark, dirty and unpleasant place.  But yet, it intrigues us so much, and the “light” is such a boring and dull thing.  We feel great as we trade the truth for lies.  But what a deal we reason; “step right up, and exchange it for the lie!”

 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 2:1-3, ESV

From this new and fresh influence we come under the control and will of ‘the dark side’.  (And this is not merely “Star Wars‘ mythos.  It is very much real.)  We gradually give ourselves over, in a reasonably predictable pattern.  We think we are pretty much unique in this, but the truth is that we are pretty much ordinary. Sin never enhances us. Don’t believe the lie.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

John 3:19

There comes a point when there is enough momentum and weight, that it creates an avalanche. At this point things have gotten desperately grim.  From a human standpoint, there will be no way to avert the inevitable.  Sin will roll over you, blasting into your life, and worst of all into the hearts of your family.  In a stark way— things get very dark, very fast.

Sin will always enslave.  It will turn on you and rock your world. 

But we are so entranced by what it wants to give us.  It looks so good…one could call it “self-actualizing.”  (Maybe even “liberating!”)  But in one of the many purposes of the Old Testament, is to clarify what happens in people’s hearts when we step down and let the sin and confusion take over.  You could say, that there will be pleasure for a brief season, but  it will always have a very savagely grim and a black conclusion. ”For the wages of sin is death.”

“If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will then we may take that it is worth paying.”  

–C.S. Lewis

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Simply Golden

by Norman Rockwell, 1961

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Luke 6:31, ESV — The Golden Rule

 “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.” 

Luke 6:31-32, MSG

Sometimes it seems, I hit the switch, and shut it all down. Essentially, I get wrapped up with one of my favorite sins and soon I turn off my faith, unplugging myself from the wall.  I have a desire to escape from what I see as restrictions that I believe faith brings me.  I want to have fun–I don’t want to pray, or read the Bible.

Actually I can do this subtly.  I just raise the volume of my sinful desires, and try to drown out that still small voice.  I can maintain a holy life for my Christian friends, while I enjoy the pleasures of my favorite sins.  Sins or holiness, I want to go for both– but the reality is I just get one.

There is still a voice that is speaking profoundly. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”  Our particular concepts of Christianity so rarely include this–“the golden rule.”  In my own mind, I diminish this as a little bit antiquated.  I will rarely feel its pinch or pull.  It is never a topic of serious thought or meditation.  It seems that it has become what I call–“an optional truth.”  It is very much real, but it is not connected to me in my daily walk.

Treating others, the very way you want to be treated—do this!  Love other people outrageously and deeply; because you like it when they do this to you.  There is reciprocal action here, a sort of spiritual circle of kindness.  Our vernacular says, “What goes around, comes around.”  And it certainly has a ring of truth in it.

All too often we have a version of Christianity that has had its teeth pulled. We have tamed it, and brought the sharp teeth of the faith under our personal decision-making process.  The wildness of a true faith is domesticated and ‘house-broken.’  And we start the rush to unplug things.  The golden rule gets detached right away.

As I struggle as a mentally ill Christian, it is mandatory that the truth be lifted up in my life.  I can become quite disturbed and manipulated by life’s dealings.  My issues of paranoia and delusion cripple me, or they could become the step-stool for those wonderous things on the shelf of grace.

Dear ones, use your illness to reach for the best, live this and change your world.

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Sheepy Wolves

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“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.”

Matthew 7:15, NLT

The old King James Version says, “which come to you in sheep’s clothing.”  There is something to be said about both translations.

Being aware.  Jesus commands this awareness, this discernment that our world is a dangerous place and dark things come out of it.  Deception is always working, the true believer must keep learning.  We must identify sheep, who are not really sheep after all.  They look like sheep, unless you get close.  They smell like sheep.  They appear gentle and kind.

But inside they are malignant and treacherous.  Jesus chose the word, “dangerous.”  We pretty much avoid anything dangerous. If there is a sign on the beach, and if it says “Dangerous Undertow,”  most of us will comply and our time in the water is alert and quite aware.

There are people in the world who should have that sign, as they are treacherous and deceitful.  They say many things, and there is enough there to seem authentic.  As simple believers, we feel we should trust without questions. We avert our eyes to anything unseemly or aberrant.  Isn’t this what a loving Christian is supposed to do?

Jesus never told us to be tolerant, at least not like this.  He understands that wolves will tear apart sheep, ripping them into ribbons, if given half the chance.  He commands us to exercise caution.  But already there has been way too much “sheep dismemberment” in our generation.  The flock has been chased and separated, many have already been devoured.

Jesus is encouraging us to become discerning  and aware,  and teach it to our children and friends.  We shouldn’t be paranoid, or frightened by the world that swirls around us.  And there will always be people with mixed motives and confusing thoughts.  If we are honest, we ourselves have these same things, as we are His work in process.

Exteriors are always a big question mark.  The main issue is the delicate art of observation.  The more we get to know Jesus, the more we will identify what is a lie, a trick or a deception.  The Secret Service of our country, in learning to understand counterfeiters will study at length the real currency.  It’s interesting, they don’t study the false bills, but the real ones.

Be encouraged.  He is standing right in front, making intercession for you before the Father.  The Word is ours also, and there are pastors and teachers, who are shepherding the flock.  You are targeted, but never forsaken.  Our enemy is defeated.  Do not fear, never ever fear.  We have angels in high places who are our friends.

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When is Suicide the Solution?

The Contemplative Suicidal

There are times, difficult times when we are maneuvered into a place where we start to think that suicide is an answer.  There is a certain mechanism to it, almost an art, which has a limited “air-time.”.  But I have several suicide attempts to my credit.  Once in a psych ward (and being watched 24/7) I cut my wrists on the broken shards of the clock over my bed.  (Looking back, it was pretty innovative the way I did it.)

I’ve intentionally overdosed a couple of times.  My last effort was to duct tape heavy training weights to drown myself in Kachemak Bay, off a pier.  Numerous times I have slashed my wrists trying very hard to die.

I suppose that for these many attempts there was a distinct and desperate cry for help.  When I went into the cycle of wrist cutting, I did not have a full and an aware understanding of what I was trying to do.  But when I attempt to drown myself, I most definitely did.  Perhaps there is an understanding of the two different concepts of suicidal depression. (But I’ve chosen not to ‘research’ this out.)

Although there is room to be alarmed by the first kind.  There is reason to be mega-concerned with the second approach.  I guess there is kind of a morbid graduation from one phase to the next. (I may speak brazenly, but I know it is a dark thing we talk about.)

To commit suicide is perhaps the ultimate act of vengeance that we can do.

It is final and yet speaks to everyone we’ve ever met  It also is a hard statement to all we used to love.  Family, and friends;  I guess we often can’t inventory or enumerate those we touch.  So many people will be affected by my suicide. I can’t overstate this. There are literally thousands of people who will be rocked by what I have done. I will destroy many when I try to destroy myself.

The pain of the mind of the suicidal depressive is awful.  It saturates all that I think and everything I do.  The suicide person is in a difficult agony.  It’s like being soaked in gasoline and looking around for a match.  There is a fearfulness about it all.  If we were not so enamored by ‘self-murder’ it would shake us to our core.

So very many are on the edge.  It really wouldn’t take much to nudge us over. There must be an understanding that there is a spiritual element to all of this. The enemy of our souls would delight in our destruction.  He salivates over our confusion and lostness.  He is a dark cheerleader in support of our self-destruction.

We must work things out, even with our darkest issues.  We really need to “regrip” and refocus.  Often a good nights sleep and a good meal will incrementally move us through this moment.  This may be trite, but resisting suicidal thinking will often turn on small things like this.

To be honest, patience seems to be the main factor to recovery.  It seldom is a dramatic leap forward.  It seems that certain nuances will push themselves against dark thinking.  As you are led by the Holy Spirit, you will discover exactly how to drive against this strong momentum of the Flesh.  Know this though– the Lord is actively at work on behalf of your loved one.  This should give you a honest peace and assurance.  You will survive, and you will bring Him glory.

For immediate help, call 911. For guidance, call 1-888-NEEDHIM.

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Related articles

Praying Authentically

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Prayer often can be just a nice religious duty, that makes us feel warm and fuzzy. But such prayer the does not suit a disciple who is tired of religion, and is seeking authenticity. There are few models who can be our guides. That is why we need elders in our fellowships; they have been through so much, they can anchor us to all that is real.

We often will theologically play on the periphery, and cleverly deceive others and ourselves.  My own heart gets pretty creative as I display a self-righteousness. (I should win an Academy Award as ‘best actor.’) But Jesus insists on us becoming real. You might say that real is the prayer that touches his heart.  When you talk with Jesus, do you really talk to Him? Do you have a real awareness that you are really talking with Him?

Is it the real you that fellowships with the ‘real’ God?

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The following is an excerpt from A Diary of Private Prayer, by the Scottish theologian, John Baillie, 1886-1960:

Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of You, let my first impulse be to worship You, let my first speech be Your name, let my first action be to kneel before You in prayer.

For Your perfect wisdom and perfect goodness:

For the love with which You love mankind:

For the love with which You love me:

For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life:

For the indwelling of your Spirit in my heart:

For the sevenfold gifts of your Spirit:

I praise and worship You, O Lord.

Yet let me not, when this morning prayer is said, think my worship ended and spend the day in forgetfulness of You. Rather from these moments of quietness let light go forth, and joy, and power, that will remain with me through all the hours of the day;

Keeping me chaste in thought:

Keeping me temperate and truthful in speech:

Keeping me faithful and diligent in my work:

Keeping me humble in my estimation of myself:

Keeping me honorable and generous in my dealings with others:

Keeping me loyal to every hallowed memory of the past:

Keeping me mindful of my eternal destiny as a child of Yours.

Through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

(Taken from Richard Foster’s Devotional Classics, pp. 126-127.)

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Nothing But Leaves [Self-Deceit]

“Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.”

Mark 11:13, NASB

Perplexing isn’t it?  I personally have lived with a certain amount of ambiguity with this passage.  I have questions that I’ve swept under the rug.  Why did that poor tree get cursed?  It wasn’t the trees fault, after all.  And didn’t Jesus realize this?  So why go through the theatrics?

I don’t know if this is the case with anyone else.  I hesitate to ask around.  But recently have come to a better place about this entire event.  The traditional view is that it comes immediately after “the cleansing of the temple” and that explains a lot.  The fig tree is always emblematic of Israel.  (The Old Testament is well populated with these references.) Mark adroitly organized his account in order to connect both events.

Jesus has no issues or vendettas against trees.  But He does take an issue with things that claim fruit, but really have nothing.  There is nothing but leaves. I’ve been told that the figs do grow, almost as fast as leaves.  The lush greenness is the prime indicator of the succulent fruit. At least, it has the potential.

The beautiful leaves announces its fruitfulness.  This tree was loaded, but had nothing to show but leaves.  Within God’s plan for Israel was for fruit.  Enough to feed the nations that would stream to Jerusalem.  Instead, it was worthless.  There was nothing to be had.  Loads of leaves, and the promise of an incredible harvest, but zilch, zero, nothing.

Hypocrisy is a deadening experience, with a certain sterility in it.  Israel was finding this out, and Jesus is now declaring it to the nation.  A corrupt temple, and a fruitless tree; this were all indicators of hypocrisy and showiness.  The luxuriant leaves loaded the tree, but ‘where’s the fruit?!’

Sometimes we declare that we are fruitful, on the mere basis of our leaves. 

At times we can be a wonder, and make an exceptional statement.  But when He comes, and looks up at our limbs and out to our branches, will He find fruit, or just lots of green?  Leaves are pretty much all we can do.  And we do it quite well. But the fruit is from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22.)

Israel failed God.  They became religious and neglected mercy, and justice.  Humility and graciousness.  The widow and the orphan were not part of their personal equation.  They produced leaves by the wheelbarrow load, but were missing out on the authenticity to what was true, and what really mattered.

Pharisees will do this, and they turn into hypocrites who do not possess what they profess. A hypocrite values true godliness, but he personally falls short of all those things he admires. But he will never, ever admit it to anyone.  And even we who struggle so, must continually admit that we stumble and falter as we try to follow.

I may be a ‘screwy’ excuse of being a disciple, but I have decided I don’t want to deceive people.  God, help me.

“This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”  

C.S. Lewis

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