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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

Tempted? Here Are 15 ‘Inoculations’

2 May

I am a courageous woman … except when it’s time to get a shot at my doctor’s office. I’m like a little kid!

So, as I read about some of the things people do to help make “getting shots” less scary for children, I wondered if these ideas might work for me!Inoculations_HelpfulChoices

  • Practice giving shots to a doll.
  • Ask the doctor to use a numbing cream on the injection site first.
  • Distract! Take a sweet treat to focus on while getting your shot, or put a song on your iPod, or play “I Spy” during the process. Anything to keep from looking at the shot!
  • Remember “owies” survived in the past.
  • Ask for a kid-friendly nurse.
  • Help your child feel more in control. Put her in charge of something (like what Band-aid to apply).

Hmmm…. I could practice jabbing my hubby, take a sedative before going to the doctor … and a cookie … and some music. I could remember past visits, and how I survived the high blood pressure episodes before the shots. I could look for a really smiley nurse. And I could even bring my own Superwoman Band-aid, right? LOL!

I’m basically a needle wimp. Before I married my husband, I went to his aunt’s office for my blood test. When she approached me  with the needle for the test, I passed out! “Oh, she’s a real winner,” his auntie said.

I’m not the only one in the family with “shot jitters.” I took my dog to the vet in April for his annual inoculations. Roscoe has a love-hate relationship with his vet. He loves Moses, our friendly vet; he hates the nasty needles. Poor dear … he just about “trembled himself” off the examination table! I comforted him with hugs and a bit of bacon when we got home. (Hmmm… bacon … I could take that with me to the doctor’s office too!)

Now, I know inoculations—for people as well as animals—are necessary to produce immunity against diseases. They are good for us. Helpful.

So I was thinking today …

I wish I had a one-time inoculation against temptation. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Temptations are so daily. Yes, I have been freed from the penalty of sin, and someday I’ll enjoy freedom from the presence of sin. But in the meantime, during the sanctification process, I have to deal with the temptation to sin. But I do believe there are some proactive, intentional things I can do to reject sin and become more like Christ.

Might we consider them something like “INOCULATIONS” to help in the daily battle against temptation?

So here are my 15 inoculation suggestions:

1. Recognize Your Tendency to SinJames 1:14 explains how we are led astray by our natural desires. So don’t be surprised. Instead, get prepared!

2. Identify the Roots – We spend lots of time examining the “shoots” of sin, but seldom the “roots.” The enemy delights in using the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life  (1 John 2:15-16) to entice us to sin daily. These are the basic roots of all sins. So, what temptation do you really need to resist? Get to the core cause.

3. Figure out the Triggers – A trigger on a gun enables its firing. The power behind a trigger is the thoughts and emotions that arise—usually from a past experience. Triggers that pull us toward a sinful response can be almost anything:  fatigue, an intense desire, something visual that draws us, a sound or smell … almost anything! Because we are made in God’s image, we can respond to triggers in godly ways; but knowing our triggers can help us prepare to deal with them. Don’t try to figure them out alone; listen for God’s voice (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5).

4. Expose any Lies You Believe – Many, if not all “triggers” have a false belief connected to them. For example, if you were once betrayed by a friend, Satan—the Father of Lies who desires to devour you (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8)—would like you to believe you will always be betrayed by friends, and you might react in sinful ways to perfectly normal statements or circumstances. We give “power” to the trigger through the lies we believe.

5. Embrace the Truth from God’s Word – Attack the lies by bringing the light of God’s truth into your situation (Psalm 119:130; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Counsel your heart according to His Word. Discover the commands, values, morals and ethics in God’s Word, and determine to live according to His truth. The Word and Spirit can help us discern lies in our hearts and then “take captive” every thought to make it obedient to Christ (Hebrews 4:12-13; John 16:13; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

6. Think through the Consequences – “Sin” has wages that are deadly (Romans 6:23). “Sowing to the flesh” reaps “corruption”—a crop of worthless weeds (Galatians 6:7-8), and sin separates us from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:2), because He cannot tolerate our sin (Habakkuk 1:13a). Our sin will eventually be exposed (Hebrews 4:13). Sadly, when we tolerate sin, we can become blind to spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:14) and develop an insatiable desire (lust) for more sin! (Ephesians 4:18-19).

7. Ask God for Help – Don’t think you can stand against temptation by yourself. Eventually, if not right away, it will catch up with you. Pray for discernment, strength, courage, etc., and especially, sanctification (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; Luke 22:40). Learn to depend on God in prayer.

8. Resist Temptation* with Scripture – Don’t just know the truth that counters lies; use the Word of God to help you choose a new response to your triggers. You can even conquer hurtful memories from the past that entice you toward sinful responses as you renew your mind with scripture (Romans 12:1-2). Jesus used the scriptures skillfully as He battled temptation, and so can you (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:12, 2 Cor. 10:4-5).

9. Check Your Armor – Study the parts of the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18, and learn how to use it. Put on each piece—the offensive and defensive weapons! Why? “That you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (v. 11). There are spiritual forces of evil that are determined to bring you down. You need the armor so you can “stand firm” (v. 13). It’s always too soon to stop fighting the battle.

10. Plan for Victories, Not Defeats –  “Make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). In other words, don’t enable temptation. Don’t plan for defeat. Get rid of those things that lead you into sin, or put safeguards in place to help you conquer in holiness. How? The first part of Romans 13:14 says, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Freedom and victory are entirely possible in Christ (Galatians 5:1; Romans 6:4; 8:31, 37; Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 2:10).

11. Look for the Way Out – We’re told to avoid every kind of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but sometimes we’re thrown into situations that tempt us to compromise our purity. God’s advice then is to look for a “way of escape”—perhaps by running away, changing the conversation or using truth to diffuse lies (I Corinthians 6:1810:13-14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22).

12. Replace “Sin Opportunities” – David was tempted to sin (and he fell) with Bathsheba when he stopped ruling in righteousness and allowed himself to be give in to the opportunity for lustful sin (2 Samuel 11:1-4). We fight against temptation by replacing “sinful opportunities” with more worthy distractions or pursuits. Consider some positive activities. Have ready some “quick distractions” (scripture memory cards, a photo of your spouse, a hymn book, etc.) that would help “counter” your triggers. Note: you may need to embrace change in your current surroundings.

13. Seek Help to Win – Remembering we will all give account to God (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13), an “accountability partner” can help us stay on track and encourage us to do right when we are tempted (Galatians 6:1-5; James 5:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Proverbs 27:17). Seek the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit—He guides, counsels and helps us in our weakness (1 Corinthians 2:13; John 14:26; 16:13; Romans 8:26); but  when patterns of addiction are present, a godly, biblical counselor can also help.

14. Repent When You Fail – It’s not a matter of “forgiving yourself” for failings; it’s a matter of repenting of sin and receiving the forgiveness of God (1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:14). Any shame you feel is not from Him—it’s a lie from Satan. The biblical pattern is: recognize, repent, receive (forgiveness) and then recommit to walk in obedience to the Word of God.

15. Thank God for Every Victory – Our ultimate victory is bound up in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Corinthians 2:14), and our daily victories are possible in Him (Philippians 4:13; Romans 6:14; 8:37).

Did you notice that all of these “inoculations” are a CHOICE?

See all those action words? You do not have to be a victim. You can choose, in every situation, a powerful way to deal with temptations as they come.

Are any of these “inoculations” missing in your life? What can you do to better prepare for your times of temptation?

– Dawn

* NOTE: In some circumstances, we are not dealing with a temptation. God does not lead us into temptation (James 1:13), but He may be testing us to refine us (Psalm 26:2; Job 23:10; Jeremiah 9:7a). John Piper offered a short post on the difference between temptation and testing. Regardless of whether we’re facing a temptation or test, these “inoculations” are useful in helping us make choices between obedience and disobedience.

 

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