DOES SATAN REALLY TORMENT BELIEVERS?

Does he.

Like a hail storm upon your head

Like a hail storm upon your head

That is his secondary mission – and he only has two!
There are times in our spiritual walk where the mixture of elements – mental, emotional and spiritual – intertwine with traumatic events and tribulations, tap into our own weaknesses and fears to create a spiritual stronghold. Like a perfect storm, none of the elements alone are capable of utter destruction however, infused with supernatural influence, our mind becomes a battle field for every exaggerated lie and distortion, for every magnified and imagined fear and failure. Unexplainable depths of confusion, fear, anxiety, and guilt spearhead the torment in spiritual battle.

When you’re there, you will know it.

In Matthew 8:23-26, the disciples were following Jesus into a boat. They had done nothing wrong. Yet, “Without warning, a furious storm came up” evoking great fear, convincing these seasoned fishermen of sure death. Jesus was sleeping as the storm raged around them.

A spiritual storm may last days, weeks – rising up without warning, to rob us of peace, crush us underweight, and draw us toward ungodly relief. A spiritual battle is a furious storm, whose instigator is full of hatred, fury and supernatural power – power second only to Almighty God.

Rational thinking and fleshly logic are powerless, like fighting a fire breathing dragon with a toothpick. Clichés and platitudes – even self-application of scripture – are merely oars futilely striking raging waves and wind. Others can advise but none can enter the battle, save the Holy Spirit, the ‘Wonderful Counselor’, through prayer. Our course of action remains unchanged: to actively and expectantly wait upon the Lord. He may seem to be sleeping during your utter distress and attack but He has, in fact, gauged and measured the spiritual battle for His purpose.

The principles and purposes of battles remain constant over the ages. In Judges chapter 3, following miraculous deliverance, God led the Israelites victoriously into the Promised Land – a foreshadow of us in Christ. However, God Himself left enemy kings in this promised land to test His people and train them for war. The Lord called His people to completely depend and rely upon Him, their battles are His. It is a call to stand, to remain obedient when under fire with the expectation of God’s deliverance. How much more, in these last days, are we to “…be strong in the Lord, and in His mighty power…take your stand against the devil’s schemes…not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world…” (Ephesians 6:10-18 recommended).

The devil can torment the minds of believers, launching a battle on emotional, mental and spiritual fronts churning together the elements into a raging perfect storm. Our ‘sleeping’ Lord is a waiting Lord, ever-present to take the helm as we, in mustering faith, cry out to Him. Our weakest prayer, offered in faith, can open a door of light to expose the powers of darkness and bring understanding.  In the midst of turmoil, the willfulness to praise and worship God releases His presence. As the Lord speaks through His Word our heart gains strength – His strength – and “divine power to demolish strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3-5)

Deliverance may not be forthwith, neither are we immune to suffering and wounds in the battle as the Lord trains us to fight but in that fight, He will reveal spiritual truths not otherwise learned.

Tormenting the saints is secondary; Satan’s primary mission is to maintain man’s separation from God through pride, rebellion, disbelief and the deceitfulness of sin. If the “wages of sin is death”, those who live in unrepentant sin, separated from God, will reap fruits of guilt, confusion, and anxiety with a real expectation of judgment. Spiritual battle for the believer is not wasted, needless turmoil and suffering but rather an appointed interface with powers of darkness. We are promised victory before the battle and great reward therein – a deeper revelation of our Deliverer. With strengthened faith and resolve, and humbled dependence on the Lord, may we better refresh and minister to brethren, and beckon the lost to His salvation and deliverance.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” (Psalm 118:5)

RESENTMENT: “I Have a Right!”

Can you believe what they did to me?

Can you believe what they did to me?

Long before man invented the video, Satan himself perfected the art of rewind and replay. It seems reserved to replay acts done against us – betrayals and personal offenses – moral crimes that have somehow robbed us. Each time offenses are ‘replayed’ in our mind the details become sharper and more significant. Motives and intents emerge. The scenario worsens as offenders seem to go on with their lives, unscathed and unaffected, even prospering! Somehow, when our head hits the pillow, these acts of personal harm and indignation against us gain momentum and greater depth as accusations seem to find a megaphone.

A strong sense of self empowers resentment. In fact, it is the necessary fuel to feed the fire, “He did this to me??” It has been said, “Resentment is unfulfilled revenge”.
It is our perceived and asserted right to be offended which opens the flow of resentment and bitterness and, like a toxic river, will contaminate nearly every aspect of life. Without question, the human heart longs for relief, a salve or resolution for this harassment. Imaginary plots of revenge, even strong hopefulness of gross misfortune upon the offender, can create a semblance of relief. However, enacted ‘plots of revenge’ inevitably villainize us and wishing ‘gross misfortune’ never satisfies. Every heart challenge leads us to a fork, a place of choices, each with great consequence. Most will flow with the ways of the world, the sensibilities of self and remedies of self help galore.

There is a path rarely chosen, hardly even seen – at times only found in the dark. Narrow and difficult, unnatural to us, the one first trod upon by the Prince of Peace. This way alone holds deep healing and relief. No amount of resolve or energy can take us on this path – we embark through surrender – each step forward led and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Our world culture ‘self asserts’, ‘self defends and demands’ but the way of the cross declares….

 

“You have no rights”

By no means is this a rip off. It is an immeasurable trade up. We give up our rights, living for ourselves in this world, to follow Christ – and receive the indwelling of His life and His power. Our ordinary lives- mere earthen vessels – gain the potential of supernatural possibilities as the purposes of God live through us. “…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that his all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (II Corin 4:7)

Every path, even in our thinking, has a final destination. Our sin nature – groomed and embellished by the world’s culture – will always lead us away from Christ, and like a thief, ‘will rob, kill and destroy’. The way of the cross, a supernatural path of self denial – is where we partake in Christ’s life, sharing in His riches and eternal Kingdom.

Resentment, and its inevitable seeds of bitterness and strife, threatens the fruits of Christ’s life within us. Bitterness and resentment are natural – our hearts are fertile and ready for planting – little work is needed to grow resentment! But the Word of God holds forth abundant life, life worth living, life that matters…life gained only through surrender. Repeated through the Gospels, Jesus beckons His followers, “Anyone who intends to come to me has to let me lead….Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self help is no help at all. Self sacrifice is the way, my way to saving yourself…” (Mark 8:35, The Message)

Jesus gave up His rights, His right as King and Judge, for ‘the joy set before Him’ – reconciling man to God. He washed the feet of His betrayer and all those who would forsake Him. Afterward, “The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed, took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat – this is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me…” (I Corin 11:23/24) Betrayed, yet He gave thanks.

Have you, have I, been betrayed? Rejected, wronged, used by others? Satan will rehearse and enlarge every offense in your mind and heart, sowing seeds of bitterness that grow deep and broad. Each seed will validate your right to resent, to hate, and avenge – every seed a weighty entanglement. But at every juncture stands the Savior, offering His indwelling power to forgive and be free. Forgiveness does not preclude justice or accountability. Forgiveness releases the debt, the offense, the indignation into the hand of a sovereign and Righteous Judge. It is He whom we must fear. And it is from Him we receive the power to forgive and the inner healing to restore peace.

Every path has a final destination…

The one led by Jesus Christ leads to eternal victory. While too narrow to carry baggage of bitterness, it is a path of freedom and release. “I surrender!” is the powerful prayer that starts the journey.

Useless Fire at The End of The Day

Preoccupation with self is blinding....

Preoccupation with self is blinding….

God warns of an unacceptable, contemptible ‘useless fire’ in the temple (Malachi 1:10).  It is a fire which burns an offering unfit for a King, a sacrifice that fails to honor, glorify and worship.      It is a blemished gift, leftover and superficial – without the cost of devotion.    

Burning fire, incense, sacrifices to the Lord were daily devotions in the temple.  These were acts of worship, repentance, and atonement.  In Leviticus 6:8-13, God sets forth this mandate for the priests, thrice commanding:  “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.  How is this relevant to us?  Speed forward to Christ. His atoning sacrifice on the cross tore the curtain of the temple from top to bottom (Mark 15:38), the old covenant now replaced with the new covenant, sealed with the blood of Christ, avails His salvation and indwelling Holy Spirit to all who would receive.  The Levitical priesthood abolished, true believers are now called “…a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (I Peter 2:9) Profound to consider, believers in Christ are now the temple of the living God, noted in I Corinthians 3:16 and elsewhere throughout the New Testament.  As God’s priest and temple, the mandate for us remains,

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out”.

The perpetual fire is the Holy Spirit – the offering is our self to God, our lives on the altar of God – “here am I Lord, live in me, live through me, I give you my life.”

Is the Holy Spirit bringing about the glory of God through our ordinary lives or is He a dwindling ember within us?  Our life given to God through daily sacrifice, the sacrifice of our will and our ways, holds the promise of God’s presence as we walk through this world.  

It is a sacrifice because it is difficult and unnatural.

What’s ‘natural’?   Separation from God.  It is natural to live for ourselves – to go where we choose, buy what we want, make our own plans.  Our natural place – at the center, at the helm, to reach and be reached at all times because what we have to say and know is very important.  A wide endless river, the culture of this world, flows to pump up the power of you.   Therein your fire is useless.   Wading in this river, ‘friendship with the world’, is hatred toward God (James 4:4).

Can we ‘unfriend’ the world?

We unfriend the world every time we kneel to pray and every time we open the Bible and our heart to God’s truths.  Through His temple, through our lives, God seeks to display His presence and greatness to the world – there is no higher calling.

The world calls and grooms us with a façade of power, tapping into our deepest instinct – to be our own god.  There are countless venues to converse, express, transmit, display and otherwise magnify ourselves.   At the end of the day though, we are empty – consumed by a useless fire.  The world cries “Have more! Do more! Improve yourself!” but the Lord admonishes, “No, put yourself on the altar – die to yourself – let Me live through you!”

God avails to us life that transcends the world’s empty clamor and façade. Sadly, many are content with powerless and useless fire – decidedly giving nothing of true value to God.   When we put our self on that altar- giving our lives and each day to God – we see the truth:  our temporary life, ebbing away each day, is no comparison to the eternal supernatural life He promises.  Every day is a new day to come to Him, exchange our life for His life, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit shine through our heart.  At the end of all days, a life lived for Jesus Christ will count for all eternity.

Thou Shalt Not Grow Old

(the new criminals)

Alas, they missed the memo…

“Where there is hope there can be faith, where there is faith miracles can occur”.  This is not a scriptural quote but words of encouragement offered by Hope in a Jar, an anti-aging skin cream.   Cosmetic proverbs and youth adages are more memorable now than scriptural quotes.   Modern day testimonies do not boast of the supernatural but rather strides in fighting the natural, “…women told us their skin looked 730 days younger!”, “anti-aging transformation –  younger looking skin from 1st contact!”.   Youthfulness is the new godliness with its own set of sought after miraculous outcomes.  It is a shame to go gray, worse to go bald – to sag and wrinkle denotes failure.  In all that our culture exalts ,the preservation of youth and the ‘religion’ of self importance is the intrinsic command, Thou Shalt Not Grow Old.   Assuredly our prevailing and persuasive culture rises up in defiance  to God’s wisdom and Living Word.

“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old”  (Proverbs 20:29)

God is not anti-age, He is pro-eternal.  While His good creation holds wonderful things that bring health and healing, extending youth is not a priority.  In fact, the aged are esteemed before the Lord, they are to be honored,

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”  (Leviticus 19:32)

There is no miracle in the Bible where wrinkles disappear.  That would be so far beneath the awesome power and character of God.   The miraculous intervention of God for the aged is this:  God has indwelled elderly men and moved through them – making their frail bodies powerful vessels for His honor and glory in the world.  The Lord has confounded the world and its superficial glories with His Spirit in the lives of those surrendered to Him.    At age 80, an old shepherd of flocks, Moses was called by God,

“I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

The Lord did not call Moses in the strength of his youth as he resided in the palace of Pharaoh, the epicenter of world power.  God waited until Moses was emptied of all youthful strength and bravado, all worldly resources and influences – indeed, void of inner ability that would rob God of all victorious glory.  “When I am weak, then I am strong” declared the apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:10).  When I am weak, and dependent on the Lord for His indwelling strength and power, then I am strong – stronger than any man who depends on the power of flesh.  

The world culture continually exalts our temporal and physical life through sexuality, materialism and youthfulness –   while squelching our spiritual life into dormancy.   Jesus proclaimed the opposite as truth for life,

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”  (John 6:63)

Looking young is not wrong, but the quest for youth will yield what counts for nothing.  In striving against old age we may miss the greatest renewal of life available to mankind, not in anti-aging,  but found only in being born again.  When we come to Christ, in repentance and surrender, His Spirit gives our spirit life, springing forth a miraculous newness.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (II Corinthians 5:17)

Through sensual displays and celebrity ideals, this  world calls us to strive and hope for the temporal –  that which counts for nothing.  A glittering facade can blind us from the Light of the World, from Whom we receive the gift of eternal life.

Thou Shalt Grow Old, and our flesh turned back to dust.  Let us not settle for “looking 760 days younger” but turn to Jesus Christ, through whom our weakness becomes strength and our death – victory.  

Does God Laugh?

brush over several cans

What we can find through any Bible concordance is this –  God laughs at His enemies. This, of course, is not funny but rather enlarges the truth that any nation or people that rise up against an almighty God are so foolhardy in doing so that it is truly laughable.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One…The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”  (Psalm 2:2-4)

The Word of God declares here, and elsewhere, that man’s efforts to thwart God’s plans, escape His laws and judgments, are futile and vain.  Meditating on this truth will draw us further into a reverent fear and awe of God.

Not explicit in the Bible however is this: Does God have a sense of humor?  Is there ever a chuckle in a holy and awesome God?  I myself have sensed the laughter of the Lord on few occasions, most recently last week in my kitchen, as I stirred a gallon paint with chopsticks….

After 30 years, our tiny old kitchen, 12’x 8’, finally got the rehab it cried for.  I had no idea that beautiful granite, custom cabinets, and new fixtures could give me such pleasure!  Backsplash, ceramic tiles and accents all enhanced a wonderful color scheme.  However at the last touch the creative flow truly ran amuck…

“…the kitchen came out great!”  I shared, “the only task left is choosing a color for the walls.”

My co-worker shared her design secret, “Look at the granite and choose a color from it that will ‘pop out’ on the walls!”

‘Pop out’ sounded good.  Looking closely at the granite counter I could see sparse dots of blue.  “That’s it! Blue it is!”  With that contrast of color, I imagined my kitchen could impress as a sky with a rising or setting sun…

“Are you sure that’s the color you want?” asked the contractor when ordering the paint.

“Yes, it is” I confirmed.  Obviously, I thought,  contractors know little about ‘popping colors’.

When I arrived home to view my ‘sun rising kitchen’ I saw, in less than a second, that it was the worst color combination known to mankind.  All the pleasure of the kitchen was lost – I could hardly cook.  Immediate change was needed – pale yellow and fast.

Pale yellow worked well until a leak caused some damage to the ceiling and wall.  After repair, repainting was required.  Well, I figured, if pale yellow worked so well, let’s go bolder!

Paint job #3, ‘bolder yellow’, proved a mistake.  It overpowered the whole room.  I will repaint the kitchen myself, I concluded, to make this right.  ‘Tangerine Mist’ was recommended by a reliable source and I believed it –   until I painted it. At the first strokes my heart sank but I went into denial, “…this will look good once the whole kitchen is painted”.  Ha-ha.   No more sun-setting color popping bold kitchen – back to palest yellow as soon as possible.

I opened the can, color #5 and stirred with chopsticks…. “Hmm.  Actually,” I thought, “this doesn’t look like pale yellow.  Why does this look florescent?  No, it can’t be,” I decided, back in denial, “it will look good once it gets on the walls….”  While brushing and rolling I convinced myself it would look better once it dries.   After one wall I stood and stared at a yellow color that seemed to shout, “Stop! Go no further!”   Now bewildered, “How can this be?  How could one room be painted five times?”   It was not at all funny until later that night – it was hilarious.

Was God amused?  What does He – who created humor –  laugh at?  While stirring and gazing into that paint can, claiming ‘no, this is not possible’, I sensed the chuckle of God.  It might have been a hearty laugh when I stood back, with brush in hand, lamenting, “Oh no.  This even makes Tangerine Mist look good.”

Indeed the Lord holds a serious singular focus – declared from Genesis to Revelation – to reconcile and restore man unto Himself for eternity.  He opens His heart to the one surrendered, sharing from the depths of His passions – His grief, His anger, His love and mercy.  He speaks to our heart and speaks through His Word, renewing our mind and refreshing our soul.   Could laughter be one of His healing balms?  In those unexpected moments when we are surprised by humor, it may well be God laughing and inviting us in – to lift our heart, to change our view and move us forward.

Crossing Over From Death to Life

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (Jesus Christ, John 5:24).  Death began in the Garden of Eden. God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed His word, they would “surely die” Genesis 2:17.  Unbelief and rebellion brought spiritual death and separation from God.  “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men…” (Romans 5:12). The Bible clearly describes the ‘dead’ state of man’s soul due to his sinful nature:

“For every living soul belongs to me…The soul who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world….”  (Ephesians 2:1-2)
“When you were dead in your sins…God made you alive with Christ”. (Colossians 2:13)

Common responses to this dead spiritual state are denial, compensation, and acknowledgement.  Lofty pride leads many to deny that they are spiritually dead and in need of God.  While ‘sin is sin’, pride is called the mother of all sin. The Bible states more than once that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6) and “detests the proud” (Proverbs 16:6). “Pride goes before a fall”,  “Pride goes before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18) – this is the sin that aptly describes the fall of Satan from heaven to earth – and God’s proclaimed judgment upon him for hell.

As this judgment has yet to be enforced, Satan has a dominant influence over this world. He is known as the “The god of this age” who “has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4) This world is on a course, one which opposes the Word of God and ever increases man’s focus on himself, this temporal life and the ways of this world. God however, admonishes: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:15-17
Even so, heart and soul yearn for wealth, achievements, fame, status, and talent. Politics and nationalism are  a  captivating but hollow vein of influence and power.  Two kingdoms vie for man’s allegiance with no middle ground.

“…friendship with the world is hatred toward God…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

Compensating for their lack of spiritual life, many turn to sensual pleasures.  Drugs, sexual encounters, alcohol, and entertainment are often sought, albeit futilely, to bring life to the soul. Sensual life replaces spiritual life.   Others, acknowledging their dead spiritual state, seek religious and spiritual practices. Some gain validation through religious sacraments, choosing to believe that ceremony and rites can impart spiritual life.  Religious practice may appease conscience and even improve lifestyle but in itself cannot bring about right relationship with God.

God Himself reached out to mankind through prophets, teachers, and anointed leaders. Through prophecies and divine providence, God prepared the world for His son, man’s Savior and Deliverer, to reconcile man to Himself. Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of the coming Messiah, giving His life as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is  faithful and just and will forgive our sins…If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives…we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins….”  (I John 1:9-2:2)

Only one faith puts forth God as a Father, as One seeking those who are lost, reconciling man to Himself – establishing a personal and eternal relationship.   God’s love unveiled to us gives us new life.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Without Christ, we are powerless to release our guilt or redeem our failures. Repentance and surrender opens to us the life and lordship of Christ in us.   This life brings death – death to ‘self’, death to the ways which oppose the ways of God, death to the ways of this world and the spirit of this age. In fact, we are called to ‘die’ as Christ did:

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
 

At this juncture many would-be followers turn from the Lord.

The apostle Paul said, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) in order to live for Christ, in order to fulfill the call of God upon his life.  “How can two walk together unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) It is not God who will agree to our standards and will, but we who must submit to His standards and His will for our lives. Only then can we, in agreement with Him, walk with Him.   At this critical crossroad we must ask, ‘Will I live for myself in this world or will I live for the Lord?’

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him…Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”. (1 John 1:5-6)
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:21) Jesus will “love and show Himself” to the one who obeys!

This is the Christian life, a life of salvation and deliverance, a life that glorifies God in this world. It is the one in whom Christ lives – through obedience and surrender. The Life of Christ in us thrives through the study of His Word, communion with Him in prayer and fellowship with believers. We walk with a view of eternity as we cross over from death to life in Christ.