When the Devil Speaks…

do we listen? Of course not – or do we?

Believe it or not, I’ve always loved the NYC subway system, grateful to ride on the world’s largest system, traveling great distance for a small fare. However, flagrant lawlessness and random violence compels me now to only ride city buses. Of course, any trip is twice as long but it’s safer, right?

Half way home on a recent bus ride a woman boarded and immediately broke the peace of all therein. Although she was well dressed, there was a rage in her countenance and with it she verbally dominated the bus. An African American, she spewed out racial and personal slurs with bellowing volume, never pausing. She paced through the bus and targeted nearly everyone. I pretended to read as I gauged the scene – everyone was cowering, grown men were gripped to their seats. If this woman physically lashed out to any vulnerable person, would anyone assist? Could I bum rush her?

Her cutting and humiliating taunts were personal as she pointed to total strangers jeering and ridiculing their unseen weakness and vulnerability. When she got to me, she announced, “I SEE YOU!!” and spewed out a very personal thing that would embarrass and humiliate me.

No doubt she was demonic and a bum rush would be utterly futile against such spiritual power! Her devilish assignment completed, she finally exited – the whole bus exhaled in relief.

While I let those biting words deflate my heart, assuredly that is not the devil’s worst maneuver or assault. While the “whole world is a prisoner of sin”, Satan’s sole target are those freed from this prison through the blood of Christ. His powers are deployed personally, secretly and cunningly, fashioned and honed with capacities beyond our human purview.

One appalling evidence of apostasy found in entire churches, pulpits, ministries and thereby hearts of believers themselves is the blindness and disregard of the powers of darkness. Derailed from godly commission, retired from the fight, most churches no longer contend for the honor of God nor for the true salvation of man, they are so entrenched in worldliness, the devil need not attack them at all!

To dismiss and diminish the ‘powers that rule this world’ brings success to the devil’s wiles. They are world powers and they are personal powers. As the people of God, as the Body of Christ, we often fail to acknowledge the kingdom in which we now live. We are the outsiders and, to walk close to our Lord, we must maintain that separation.

To a great extent, most believers are comfortable in this Kingdom and work to maintain that comfort and fit. While they become ‘spiritual’ during crisis or illness, most ‘Christians’ are content with worldly wisdom, motivational sermons, and overused spiritual clichés, powerless mantras. The ‘powers of darkness’ are nearly obsolete to many professed believers.

We can’t expect Satan to announce himself on a bus – if only he would be so obvious and exposed! We must walk in the Spirit to discern the diverse ways he speaks into our lives to bring chaos, discord, discouragement, and depression – to rob us of our peace. If possible, he will frame every circumstance that comes upon us with an understanding that is separate and apart from God and His unchanging word. (I wholeheartedly recommend Martyn Lloyd Jones’, The Christian Warfare where expounds upon these life giving truths of God)

Contending in Satan’s kingdom, to make this world a ‘better place’, is an alluring substitute for God’s unchanging purpose and fight: to deploy us into the spiritual battle to free men from the clutches of this world, reconciling them unto God for His coming Kingdom.

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Patient and stealth, Satan intervenes in a plethora of schemes and allurements to derail us from God’s plan for our lives. Once off track, we are left with artificial fruit. Whatever short time remains for us, I pray to be diligent and discerning. May we recognize the craftiness and deceit of the enemy who speaks through many venues. May we stay in the battle and fulfill every call and purpose of God for His glory!

Who Wants to Read About Humility?

I had Andrew Murray’s book, ‘Humility’, on my shelf for sometime. I probably looked through it once but never prayerfully, seeking what the Lord may have for me through this godly brother. There are less than 100 pages to this book but beware, every sentence holds godly truth. Murray begins his weighty discourse describing humility as most essential yet most neglected to our salvation:

…(our) whole relation to God and man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this, there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit…Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others: it is the root of all…”

He asserts that he himself, along with many Christians, “had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, as they were of the Master.”

Such “distinguishing feature” is hardly evident in the church today…is it at all evident in me?

While written in 1896, Murray aptly describes the Body of Christ today, striving for and rejoicing in “manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice” while the “deeper graces” taught by Jesus, “most distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self – poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness – are scarecly thought of or valued”.

God may give boldness to the weak and timid while they live out His call but boldness alone is not esteemed by God. He does not “exalt” the bold but the humble. In fact, God declared, “This is the one esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

If it is at all possible to make humility exciting, Andrew Murray does it. Humility – the way of victory, of entering God’s presence, the way God exalts us – the way of the cross!

Like all aspects of the Christian life, humility is not merely something to agree with but is essential in our walk and surrender to our Savior. “The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility” and I think I’m just in Humility 101.

“Take every opportunity of humbling yourself before God and man…Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace to remind you of your need of humbling and to help you to it.”

Yesterday, the morning after I finished this book, my husband Bob did something thoughtless, (ok, unintentional) that irks me very much, as though it could totally discombobulate my day. The fact that he’s done it several times before raises the temp. Murray’s exhortations of humility, verbatim, rose up in my heart but I resisted them, lecturing and blaming Bob, following his steps out as he left for work. I left for the laundry room.

As I stuffed the clothes in the machines, my heart was gripped and convicted. I repented before the Lord and called Bob right away and apologized, truly from my heart. He was very sorry too – just a mutual binding together of sorry hearts that ended up uplifting the morning!

“Accept every humiliation; look upon fellow man who tries or vexes you as a means of grace to humble you.”

Just today, as I was writing this, a situation arose through a phone call with someone who “tries and vexes me”. I actually prayed, “Lord, convict her heart in this situation.” But within an hour, the Lord showed me, clearly, that I was wrong in the scenario. I had to point that out to her and apologize. And, I had to thank God for these opportunities, exposing my uprisen flesh and the lack of this godly virtue.

Murray points to Paul who earnestly asked the Lord to remove the ‘thorn’ that humbled him. Like the Apostle Paul, virtually all Christians want to pursue humility but in truth want to avoid all that humbles. But, Murray concludes, “Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing.”

My husband and I are earnestly praying to know God’s call and to serve Him in these, our senior years. In response to that prayer, the Lord is revealing what is really lacking – and what is truly needed. Of course, writing all this is somewhat humiliating – don’t expect follow-up posts!

“God exalts the humble”. In the meantime, I hope to stay teachable, even if it is Humility 101. I know that the Teacher has a great interest in my passing and, as I keep returning to class, He will never fail me.

Who wants to read about humility? Who wants, really wants, to be humble? I hope it’s me!

Humility

Failing the Meek Test

In my hope, if not zeal, to move forward in the Lord and better prepare to serve, I picked a challenging book from my shelf, ‘Studies in the Sermon on the Mount’ by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It is a lengthy volume, nearly 700 pages, each chapter full of godly wisdom, inspiration, and scriptural insights.

At the same time, I happen to send books out to an elderly Hispanic couple, Pastor Alfred and Edna Fernandez*, relatives of my husband. These are also godly books, written by another beloved Bible teacher, Zac Poonen. Edna’s books I sent from my home however Pastor Alfred’s were ordered through a church as they were Spanish translations.

Ten days later, Edna’s books are lost in the mail and oddly, the PayPal payment for Pastor Alfred’s books remains “pending”, unable to process. It was a $10 purchase, from Fellowship Church, with a memo to payee, “for books ordered for Alfred Fernandez”. PayPal sent me an email indicating that, due to security measures, they cannot forward payment as requested. They required documentation, such as the DOB of Alfred Fernandez.

W H A T ? This must be some computer glitch in their system. I was sure this would be cleared up when PayPal office opened Monday morning.

Meanwhile, I read and reviewed the first chapters of Lloyd-Jones book, “…The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself. He does not take all his rights as claims. He does not make demands for his position, his privileges, his possessions, his status in life…He is not always on the defensive….” We’re not only to avoid anger, but control our lips and speech. Of course, the chapter was chock full of more and woven into the ‘Poor in Spirit’ and ‘Those Who Mourn’ chapters. Altogether humbling and worthy of much meditation and self examination.

Monday morning, after reviewing my chapters, I called PayPal, and inquired about pending payment and their “required documentation”. “Why does this remain ‘pending’?” The rep replied, “this is a security matter”. A security matter? “I am paying a church ten dollars for books going to an elderly pastor, what’s the security issue here?” When the matter became futile, I asked for a supervisor. Surely this would be cleared up when further reviewed.

“I see from the notes here that you’re calling about a pending payment. It is under investigation for security reasons.”

“This is so bizarre! I am sending ten dollars to a church to pay for books sent to an elderly pastor. I only mentioned it in the payee memo for clarity. How can this be a security issue? And why did PayPal email me, requiring personal information for the name on the memo? How could that be relevant to my purchase?”

“I cannot tell you more, it is a government stipulation.”

A government stipulation? What’s the government stipulation?’

“I’m not at liberty to share that information. If you want further information, you’ll need to contact our legal department with a subpoena.”

“What, I need a lawyer? I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Can you just cancel the payment?”

“No, it can’t be canceled.”

“W A I T one minute here. My payment cannot be cancelled, cannot be processed; it is being investigated for “security reasons” based on a “government stipulation” and I’m not allowed to know what this government stipulation is? I’m required to give personal information on a name noted on the payee memo – what if I wrote ‘books ordered for Joe Biden?'”

If I had any meekness, it surely quickly drained….I went on…

“Let me ask YOU,” I feel the hammer in my voice, “What do you think? Do you personally agree that this is normal and right that…

  • I ordered books from a church for an elderly pastor.  I indicated for payee what the payment was for. 
  • PayPal requires me to send documents with the book recipient’s personal information. 
  • Sending ten dollars to a church started an investigation, based on a “government stipulation” to which I must comply but I am not allowed to know what it is.
  • And, if I want to know what this ‘government stipulation is’ I must get a lawyer and file an subpoena.   
  • I cannot cancel the payment, nor can it be processed.

“Now let me ask you, do you yourself think this is reasonable?  Do you yourself agree with this?”

“Yes,” she replied, “I do”.

“You do? You really agree with this?  Agh, fine!  Keep the pending payment on my account forever, for the rest of my life.  I can easily send a check to this church and pay for these books!”

Even as I was pounding these points, my heart was pressed with these points:  Firstly, just mentioning words like ‘church’, and ‘pastor’ brings a connotation of ‘Christian’.  Am I sounding like a representative of Christ?  Secondly, while this is appears totally unreasonable and unjust, this is nothing at all compared to the ‘government stipulations’ that will come with an antichrist government, especially against the church, pastors, and brethren. 

Dr. Lloyd-Jones also writes, “Meekness is compatible with great strength.  Meekness is compatible with great authority and power…defenders of the truth.  The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak…”

Perhaps my position was right, but my delivery was not meek.  Having failed the meekness test, I suppose I need stay in that class until I pass the next test! 

Oh Lord, help me to prepare for days to come and for Your return!