Tag Archives: devil

Stay Strong

stay strongI found this prayer in a booklet I wrote long ago and it was one of those times when it felt like my past self was talking to my present self and saying, “Listen up!”

Here is the prayer:

I am feeling weak. But you, O God, are strong. And you give strength to your people. As you gave strength to Abraham, so keep me strong in my faith. As you gave strength to Moses, so keep me strong over the long haul. And as you gave strength to David, so keep me strong in the face of giant obstacles.

This prayer helps me to remember that I am not alone whenever I feel weak. Our great patriarchs felt weak in their lives, and God gave them strength. Abraham in his old age (and Sarah in her old age) were promised a son but it didn’t happen right away. But God gave Abraham strength to have faith in the promise. And Isaac was born in God’s time. God even gave Abraham the strength to be willing to sacrifice that son until an angel stopped him from going through with it. That same strength from God keeps me strong in my faith in him no matter what the promise or test.

I think of Moses, too, who felt weak in leading the Israelites out of slavery, saying he didn’t speak well. But God gave him strength to lead his people out of Egypt and guide them on a 40-year journey through the wilderness to the doorstep of the Promised Land. That same strength from God keeps me patient and confident in the extensive journeys through my life and through any qualms I may have of not being capable of completing the plans he has for me.

Then there is David, who as a young shepherd boy, seemed to be no match to the giant Goliath. But God gave David strength to fling his slingshot with a stone and fell that foe. God gives me that same strength against the giant foe of the devil that I may defeat his slings and arrows with the Word of God in my arsenal. I may be small in the grand scheme of things, but I am mighty in the presence of the Lord. Let me never forget that.

 

 

Brain Hacking

brainA recent segment on 60 Minutes detailed the activities of “brain hacking” taking place among computer companies in the designs of their social media platforms and apps.

Programmers have developed algorithms that take advantage of the brain’s desires for pleasure, Responses to status updates from other users are often spaced out over a period of time to drive us to check our devices more. And “likes” are sometimes bunched up together so that our brains feel a greater sense of reward when they are revealed.

Beyond making me somewhat mad at Facebook and the like for playing with our minds like this, the story reminded me that there are many things that have a greater influence over our brains than we realize.

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Freedom

freedomAs we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, it is important for us to remember some of the key statements of Martin Luther. One of those statements is on the concept of freedom. Luther said in his most famous treatise On the Freedom of the Christian, in 1520: “The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian individual is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all.“

These two statements may seem to contradict one another, but, in fact, they encapsulate the complete picture of what we as Christians call freedom.

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Victim and Victor

victorSt. Augustine famously said of Jesus on the cross: “Victor quia victima!” which means “victor because victim.” On the cross, Jesus turns the ancient thinking of battle on its head. Usually in war, the defeated is the victim and the executioner is the victor. But as the victim on the cross, Jesus became the victor over the enemies of sin, death and the devil. St. Paul points out this amazing reversal:

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” —1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Then in Hebrews 2:14-15, St. Paul describes the divine combination of Christ’s being victim and victor this way:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

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The Advance Team

advance teamIn Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, Michael Kelley compares the Church to a military advance team called the Delta Force. “The Delta Force is an advance team of specially trained agents who act as the precursor for the army. They perform secret missions, do the hard prep work, and engage the enemy before the entire army arrives. They are the ones who announce that the full army is going to invade” (p. 104).

I like the picture that paints of the value and position of the church. We are doing necessary and important work. Our calling is to wake people up to the reality of what is yet to come: the holy invasion of Christ and all his angels to take believers back with him to heaven.

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Now and Not Yet

open tomb

Jesus celebrated on E-Day.

Living in this time between Christ’s resurrection and his return can be difficult for us as Christians. This period is often called the “now and not yet.” It is hard to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel when you are dealing with problems and trials in your present situation.

Ed Stetzer, in his book, Sent: Living the Missional Nature of the Church, helps us to visualize what is going on here. “Think of it like this,” he says. “At the end of World War II, there were two historical dates. The first date is remembered as D-Day—June 6, 1944. The Allied Powers stormed the beach at Normandy and secured the victory, and it was just a matter of time until the war was over. However, the official war continued on until May 7-8, 1945, when the Allied Powers accepted the unconditional and full surrender of Germany. Then the fighting stopped completely” (p. 36).

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De-Cling Sin

shampoo bottleDo you have the problem of trying to get the last vestiges of soap or shampoo that clings to the inside of a bottle so that you can recycle it? Well, you may be in luck! Researchers at Ohio State University have developed “a microscopically thin coating, that applied to the inside of bottles, lets soapy products slide right off” (“Getting the Last Drop,” World Magazine, August 6, 2016).

When I read this article, the following verse came to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. —Hebrews 12:1

We have a problem with sin clinging to the inside of ourselves and, like the soap and shampoo bottles, we need something that can “de-cling” the sin from our lives and let the last vestiges of it slide from us.

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Keeping the Sabbath

people in churchIt seems like it is getting hard and harder these days to “keep the Sabbath,” unfortunately. There are so many competing activities on any given Sunday morning with soccer games conflicting and sporting events starting at noon and homework and family obligations that have to be taken care of before the end of the weekend.

The wife of a friend of mine recently said, “The devil is really hard at work on Sunday morning.” It’s a fact, especially in households with teenagers, where it is more difficult than ever to get them to wake up and go to church with so many other things to do.

But that is exactly why we must keep the Sabbath, to keep all the competing events in perspective. If we don’t have time for God on Sunday morning, what does that say about having time for God during the other days of the week?

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Mouse Trap

I recently had to deal with an infestation of mice in my home. I would see the signs that they were there: Food eaten out of the trash, dish towels chewed through and the droppings.

I put out those simple wooden traps with the metal bar that snapped on intruders when they tried to eat the bit of peanut butter I had placed there.

mouse trapSeveral mornings in a row, I cheered with delight that another mouse had been caught, which I quickly put into the dumpster out back, trap and all.

Then it was time to scour the kitchen with soap and water and wash all the dishes and silverware and get rid of any food that I saw the mice had gotten into. An exhausting and irritating job.

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