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Work Up a Sweat

1 Sep

Sometimes our experiences don’t really count in the military.

One soldier, shortly after joining the army, stood in line as the sergeant stepped forward with the day’s assignments.

After handing out several tasks, the sergeant asked, “Does anyone here have experience with radio communication?”

The young inductee—a longtime ham radio operator—quickly and proudly shouted, “I do, Sir!”

“Good,” the Sergeant said. “You can dig the hole for the new telephone pole.” *

LOL!

The military does provide excellent, tailor-made training to prepare recruits for the many facets of serving and the possibility of battle. At boot camp they push recruits to their limits, trying to build in the character and stamina heroes are made of.

We’re all familiar with the stories of soldiers and their tough drill instructors. They aren’t trying to destroy recruits; they’re trying to break them down so they can build them up in strength for a strong military response.

I’m reminded of the Navy Seal Maxim. According to SEAL Team 6 commander Richard Marcinko, ** Seals say,

“The more you sweat in training,

the less you bleed in combat.” 

[Some argue the quote came from General George Patton who actually said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” And Patton was supposedly quoting an old Chinese proverb.’

Regardless, the point is the same.

If we wait until the war starts to prepare for battle, we’re in trouble!

In a practical sense, once we enlist, we’re already IN the next war because we’re being trained to fight.

Let’s take a lesson from drill instructors. They have a purpose in mind.

So does the Lord. He wants to teach us how to be strong IN HIM.

Sometimes we may not like the “drills” God takes us through.

In a spiritual sense, Christians will face many battles over their lifetimes. They have a strong, deceitful and vicious enemy, out to destroy every child of God.

We can’t wait until we’re in the heat of battle—facing tough temptations or hurtful circumstances—to prepare for the fight.

Sadly, many Christians do not even realize there’s a spiritual war. God’s children have faced-off against the enemy of our souls since the book of Genesis and we see evidences of warfare throughout the Old Testament.

(Actually that war against God and His followers began before Adam and Eve when Satan fell from heaven.)

We see the continuing truth about spiritual warfare as Jesus was tempted by Satan and in His encounters with demons before the cross. And we see the battle in many of the early stories in the church.

Others who DO understand we’re in a war don’t understand the weapons needed to fight Satan’s schemes and win. 

The Apostle Paul wrote about spiritual warfare and the divine weapons we’re to wield in Ephesians 6:10-20. James encouraged us to resist the devil. Jesus and Peter warned about our adversary too.

But it’s one thing to know all this truth. It’s quite another to PRACTICE it. Practice as in “be trained.” To walk in wisdom and train in truth. To be ready. 

We cannot fight our battles alone. We need the strength of the Lord.

We also need teachers and mentors who will help us understand how to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1) and be good soldiers of Christ—determined to do whatever it takes to honor Him (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

And we must remember we’re not only fighting the devil. We’re also fighting the worldly culture and our sinful flesh—which Satan also uses to attack us (Ephesians 2:2-3a; James 1:13-15).

My point is. We need to be watchful, prayerful and ready. We need to work up a spiritual sweat now so we don’t “bleed” later.

 * Adapted from Military Jokes and Truth (clean humor).

 ** from Rogue Warrior by Richard Marcinko with John Weisman

Graphic adapted, courtesy of skeeze at Pixabay.

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That Old Schemer!

29 Jul

There all kinds of schemes in life: Pyramid schemes, financial marketing schemes, romantic schemes, parenting schemes, and so on.  A scheme that made me smile recently was this one: “I’m working hard not, so my future daughter does not have to sell protein powder on Instagram.”BatManParatrooper_1942_Listverse

I am probably a little strange, but I enjoy reading about military schemes and battle plans throughout history. One of the craziest schemes was the “Bat-men” paratroopers who joined the California State Guard in 1942!

Their plan was to use modified jumpsuits with “diving wings” to evade enemy fire by swooping through the air like bats! Oh yeah, that would work.

Did you know we all have an enemy who never gives up trying to attack us with diverse schemes? Have you encountered him lately?

The apostle Paul, addressing believers’ need for forgiveness, added these telling words: “to keep Satan from taking advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11, Amp).  [Other scripture versions say we must not be ignorant or oblivious to Satan’s evil “designs,” “devices” or “sly ways.”]

The word “Satan” means “an adversary” and that he is (1 Peter 5:8)—an adversary seeking for someone to “devour.” He showed his adversarial nature when he first rose up against the Lord in prideful rebellion in heaven, and now he prowls earth, looking for people to destroy.

He first laid in wait for the first humans (Genesis 3:1-5), and in this sinful, disordered world after The Fall we’ve been tempted by this schemer every day. He tried to destroy the Patriarch Job (Job 1:6-12) . Throughout the Old Testament he rose up against Israel, and, as an example, 2 Chronicles 21:1-2 says the evil one provoked David to sin. The king foolishly fueled his pride by taking a census (2 Samuel 24:1-10).

In the New Testament, the adversary also goes by other names, such as “the evil one” (Matthew 13:19) and “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:2). He is a liar (John 8:44) and the chief of the devils (Luke 11:15)—full of hate, revenge, envy and a host of other sinful attitudes.  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we learn Satan blinds unbelievers so they can’t see the glorious light of the gospel.

Satan also delights in sidetracking and sidelining believers through his sinful strategies. Luke 22:31 says Satan desired and demanded to “have” Simon and “sift” him—to separate Him from the Lord. And it was Satan who first put thoughts of betrayal into the heart of Judas (John 13:2).

Although Satan will never have power to overcome the Lord within us (1 John 4:4), he does have great (but limited) power and he cleverly uses it for evil purposes. And it is this cleverness that trips us up. The devil waits for opportunities to tempt us to sin; he uses tricks and deception to catch us off guard.

We are perhaps as much or more in danger from Satan’s subtle seductions as his outright power plays.

Satan uses a number of schemes to defeat believers. Let’s expose a few of them:

Scheme #1. He tempts us to doubt God when we suffer.

We’re all going to suffer at some point. Jesus told us we would (John 15:20). So did the disciples (Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12). We’re going to face trials and tough circumstances; no one is immune from the effects of The Fall.

Satan wants us to doubt God’s love and goodness. This is especially tough when our prayers seem unanswered and we do not feel God’s love, or when our spiritual life seems dry.

Our strategy to combat this is to consider Christ and His sufferings—how he continued to trust His Father in heaven in spite of His circumstances (Hebrews 12:3)—so we will “not grow weary and lose heart.”  We also need to understand how Satan desires to use circumstances to distract us, disappoint us and draw us away from the Lord. Our Father, on the other hand, uses circumstances to make us more like Jesus. He is with us in the midst of our struggles, working out His purposes for this world and His purposes for us.

Scheme #2. He troubles our thought life.

One of the ways Satan tries to get advantage over us is through our thoughts, and he uses impure thoughts, unbelieving thoughts and even rebellious thoughts. Sometimes it may feel like those thoughts are as frustrating and tormenting as a physical attack. The Bible talks about Satan’s “fiery darts”—those weapons he uses to attack us. Thoughts of doubt about God are attacks from within.

Satan also wants to confuse us and make us afraid. I remember a morning I woke up with absolute panic. My thoughts seemed totally out of control. A rush of wicked and impure thoughts made me cower in shame … until I realized it was an attack. Those thoughts were not part of me, although they likely used past thoughts for ammunition. I had to wrestle with Satan using the truth of Scripture.

Our strategy to combat this nasty attack is to recognize God can overcome all our evil, doubtful, wayward thoughts with the power of His Word. We must take action to prevent the devil from using abominable thoughts to make us faithless or fearing. We must conform out thoughts to the Word (Romans 12:2). We must persevere in doing right as we submit to the Holy Spirit, even while resisting the enemy’s suggestions (James 4:7).

Scheme #3.  He tempts us to live in spiritual pride.

This is a biggie. This temptation comes after we’ve had some spiritual victories, or when we begin to see how the Lord is transforming us by His grace. We must be careful not to allow pride to compromise our walk with God (1 Corinthians 10:12).

The temptation is to think we accomplished our change—that we in our own power or by following some self-improvement plan are now “better” than others (hence the sad description the world gives us, calling us “holier than thou”). We become puffed up with pride, arrogant, and perhaps judgmental of others.

Our strategy to combat this scheme is to keep humble hearts. We were chosen by the Lord for His purposes and we are nothing and have nothing apart from Him. God opposes us in our pride, but He gives abundant grace when we humble ourselves (James 4:6, 10). We must learn to emulate Jesus’ humility (Philippians 2:7-8) and consider others better than ourselves (Romans 12:3Philippians 2:3).

Scheme #4. He attempts to distract us with others’ ungodliness.

It’s not always Satan directly who attacks us; sometimes he uses others. It’s a tricky, artful scheme. Satan tries to use the wicked influence of carnal friends or family members to tempt us to live ungodly lives. Friends can become stumbling blocks, and family members can draw our hearts away from our First Love. Families can be divided over the Gospel (Matthew 10:35; Luke 12:51). Our best friends may mock us when we stand for holiness—and it is usually in their own area of struggle (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Our strategy to combat this is to be sure we get our advice from godly people, stand against the unwise suggestions (temptations) coming from carnal believers, and be sure any counsel we seek out and follow aligns with the truth of scripture.

Scheme #5. He lies in wait for the right moment and then springs for an attack.

Have you figured out yet that Satan is a sneaky devil? He might ignore us for a while, but then he comes from secret places to attack when we’re off guard—when we least expect it! He left Jesus “for a season” (Luke 4:13), but then doubled up on his efforts as Jesus set his face toward the cross. Why should the enemy’s attacks on us be any different. This is a dangerous strategy because we’re not always prepared. Don’t be fooled that just because you have a victory, he’s not waiting in the wings to advance against you at a more convenient time (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Our strategy to combat this is to “watch and pray.” Jesus cautioned his disciples to stay awake and be fervent in prayer so they wouldn’t “fall” into temptation. Guard your heart; wake up; be on the alert! (Proverbs 4:23; Ephesians 5:15-17). Look for God’s “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Use the full Armor of God to stand against him (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Scheme #6. He tries to make us forget or doubt God’s mercy.

One of his greatest lies to the Christ-follower is, “This is a sin too far.” I’ve dealt with this attack many times. My besetting sin can drive me to despair when I listen to and believe Satan’s steady chant: “You’ve blown it for the last time. There’s no more mercy.” I have to battle this scheme with strong truth!

The truth is, it’s not the overwhelming amount of struggles we may have with sin that should concern us, but only whether we have confessed (agreed with God about) them, repented of them and are positioning ourselves for victory—in Christ!

Are we really setting ourselves up to fight Satan’s strategies with strategies from the Word of God?

Our strategy to combat this is to rest in the truth of God’s loving mercy (Psalm 51:1-2; 103:8; Ephesians 2:4-5). Christ-followers are secure in the One who overcame Satan and died for every single sin. And our Lord still intercedes for us when we are floundering (John 17:15; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).

We don’t have to worry or despair; we only need to believe the truth: God’s mercy to us, in Christ, is complete.

Which of these schemes has Satan used in your life lately? Ask the Lord to help you become more aware of Satan’s tactics. Abide in Him and His Word so you will be properly prepared with biblical strategies!

 – Dawn

Incongruous

5 Jul

Back in the 70s, my boys watched Sesame Street, and we’d sing this song: “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong….” They learned early on to recognize incongruous things.SandSnowman_HoHoAloha

You’ve probably seen some incongruous things in life.

One of my favorite “incongruous” sightings is a sand snowman on the beach.  We certainly don’t expect to see a “snowman” there! Vacationers in beautiful Hawaii, Aruba and other tropical isles get creative building and decorating these sand snowmen in December.

[A side noteJenn, a dear woman who still grieves the loss of a little baby, Noah, built a happy little snowman on vacation some time later. She allowed me to adapt it for this photo.]

Some other incongruous things:

A pig wearing lipstick (made famous by Sarah Palin) … a baseball player pitching an avocado … a cake mix box in the middle of a row of cookbooks … a kitty in a lineup of Meerkats … a very loud belch at a formal dinner….

You get the idea.

Congruous means “what is suitable or proper.” It’s things that make sense together. When something is incongruous, we might say it is “not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings” or other aspects of something.

Incongruity is a key element in good humor, but it’s not such a good thing in life.

I was thinking of the word “incongruous” as I read some familiar scriptures.

Romans 6:2 says, “… How can we who died to sin still live in it?” This entire chapter reminds the believer that we no longer need to obey our passions and impulses to sin. We are to consider ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (v. 11).

It was incongruous to Paul that a Christian should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (v. 1),  present their bodies to unrighteousness (v. 13) or live as slaves to sin (vv. 17-18).

Yes, there is an ongoing struggle with the presence of sin (Romans 7:15-23), but the power of sin over us is broken (v. 25) because Christ has redeemed us. We have life in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-11) and are heirs with Christ (8:12-17).

Our reality is, we are headed for glory with Him (8:18). We are “conquerors (overcomers) through him who loved us” (8:37) and will never be separated from God’s love in Christ (8:38-39).

I’m grieved by Christians’ light-hearted attitude toward sin today.  I grieve that I accept my own sinning so easily. I forget I’m a foot-soldier in the Lord’s army, obliged to obey His every command.

We need to remember the battle we’re in. We need to:

  1. Take Up Our Armor (put on every piece, Ephesians 6:11-13);
  2. Endure Hardship and strive to please our Commander-in-Chief, Jesus! (2 Timothy 2:3-4, 9-10; Matthew 16:24);
  3. Fight the Good Fight (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12), proclaim the truth of God’s Word and living for Him – no matter how difficult;
  4. And Stand firm against the attacks of Satan (1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 4:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The world needs to see Jesus’ life manifested, demonstrated, in our day-to-day circumstances. Too often, all it sees is an incongruous picture – “Sinning Saints.” This should not be.  The Holy One calls us to holiness (1 Peter 1:15-17a; Leviticus 11:44-45).

Yes, I know. We won’t be perfect until we get to heaven. But that’s no excuse to continue in disobedience. We have hundreds of opportunities to decide for God every day, and we need to stay engaged.The battle is the Lord’s, but He expects us not to slink away from the battlefield!

What could be more incongruous than a soldier sitting out the biggest battle of his life, fiddling with lesser things and failing to obey his Commander’s instructions?

You might want to ask, with me: “Father, is my life a picture of incongruous living? Where am I a hypocrite? Where am I not obeying your commands?”

Let’s recommit to taking those four steps to become victorious in Christ!

  – Dawn

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