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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

A Perfect Substitute

3 Apr

PeepDynastyI love Peep “creations,” like this “Peep Dynasty” diorama (left) created by Minnesotans Liz, Maddie, Drew, Matt and Ryan Mulcahy to resemble the “Duck Dynasty” TV show.

My sister-in-love, Janice, loves Easter “Peeps” candy and we’ve shared some of those squishy, sugary chicks or bunnies with her every spring. But they don’t belong in her healthy diet, so she firmly told my husband and me last year, “No more Peeps!”

JansBirthdayPeep_2015_croppedWe complied, until we saw this huge stuffed “Peep” (right). Jan’s birthday is two days before Easter, so Miss Pinky Peep was her special gift this year!

LOL indeed!

The stuffed Peep was a good substitute in place of her more tempting marshmallow version, don’t you think? It brought nothing but joy.

I’ve been thinking about “substitutes” lately — how the Bible mentions at least two kinds of substitutes. Here’s what I’m thinking . . .

1. It’s a good thing to find acceptable, even beneficial substitutes when we are tempted. The reason temptations are successful is, when they connect so deeply with our desires, we often choose to give in. As James, one of the disciples, wrote,

“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:14-15).

Actually, temptations arise from the world (1 John 2:15-17), our sinful flesh (Galatians 5:16-21) and the devil (1 Peter 5:8). So we can’t just say, “The devil made me do it,” or blame the culture. We are responsible for our choices.

Our example of dealing with temptation is Jesus Himself.  He was tempted as we are, yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). When tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11), Jesus substituted God’s truth for Satan’s lies.

God wants us to do the same.

When tempted, we must not rely on our own skill, our own wisdom or our own strategies. We must appeal to, quote and rest in the sure Word of God.

The Lord uses His Word to correct and transform us (Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 3:16). We can rejoice in that!

And we can ask the Lord to show us how to stand against temptation, perhaps by choosing an alternate activity or a godly option. Remember:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

When faced with temptations today, we must learn to use the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and the Word of God (Psalm 119:9, 11), to defeat our enemy. We must be watchful in prayer, discovering and becoming more alert to Satan’s strategies (Matthew 26:41). [A good resource for this is Warren Wiersbe’s book, The Strategy of Satan: How to Detect and Defeat Him.]

We must not be ignorant of Satan’s tricks (2 Corinthians 2:11). Our crafty adversary twists scriptures (Genesis 3:1-5) as he masquerades as “an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). He seeks “opportune” times to tempt us (Luke 4:13). We need the Holy Spirit to show us how to recognize and defeat the devil through the power of the Word.

We can always rely on the truth of the Scriptures to show us how to substitute healthy, godly, wise choices for spiritual growth and victory.

And then . . .

2. Jesus is my PERFECT Substitute. That’s another “substitute” concept that truly blesses me this Easter season.

God promised Adam and Eve a Savior would come (Genesis 3:15), but ironically, He spoke those words to Satan. From that moment, Satan knew he was headed for defeat. He likely sensed it again, before the cross,  when Jesus defeated him in the wilderness through the power of the Word. But that doesn’t keep Satan from trying to destroy God’s children. We must remember the promise of Genesis 3 and how God fulfilled it in John 3:16!

Yes, every believer has counted on God’s promise of a coming Savior since the Garden of Eden.

The blessing of Good Friday and Easter is that Jesus kept the law perfectly his 33 years, then died on the cross and rose to victory as our gracious Substitute.

JesusTheLambOfGod_OurSubstituteThe perfect Lamb of God died for our sins and rose that we might have eternal life, if we trust in His substitutionary sacrifice for us.

He took what we rightly deserved, and gave us what we could never deserve in ourselves. This was spelled out in Isaiah 53:5, which prophecies Christ’s “substitutionary atonement,” as well as many New Testament passages, like:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness . . . For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. to bring you to God . . . “ (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

Yes, Jesus, our Champion — Jesus our Substitute — rose from the dead and won the victory. And by faith, the victory is ours as well.

In summary, remember:

1.  To find victory over besetting sins, learn to substitute God’s truth for Satan’s lies.

2. We cannot save ourselves; we need a substitute to take our place. We must rest in God’s grace . . . in our Holy Substitute, Jesus.

Have you placed your trust in the perfect Substitute? Are you learning to find victory in the Word of God?

– Dawn

 

Why Not Say ‘Yes’?

9 Jan

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, two young church members were going door to door to invite people to visit their services. When they knocked on one door, it was immediately clear the woman who answered was not happy to see them.

She told them in no uncertain terms that she did not want to hear their message, and before they could say anything more, she slammed the door in their faces. To her surprise, however, the door did not close; in fact, it bounced back open.

She tried again, really putting her back into it, and slammed it again with the same result – the door bounced back open.

Convinced these rude young people were sticking their foot in her door, she reared back to give it a slam that would teach them a lesson.

Just then, one of them said quietly: “Ma’am, before you do that again, you really need to move your cat.” [1]

CatStuckInDoor_cropped_LOL

For many years, opportunities knocked on my door and I refused to answer. Even some opportunities I believe came from the Lord.

I was either too afraid to get out of my comfort zone, too afraid of what people might say if I “blew it” or too afraid of failure.

I hate to admit it, but it wasn’t a Bible verse that inspired me to answer those doors. It was a movie. And I didn’t even see the movie.

I read a review about a silly Jim Carrey movie, “Yes Man.”

In the 2008 film, based on a book by Danny Wallace, Carrey’s charactera lonely manattended a motivational seminar and heard the speaker tell the audience, “Say ‘yes’ to everything.” The exercise was designed to build self-confidence and greater purpose.

According to the review, Carrey’s character acquired new skills as he continued to say “yes”which leads to a happier life.

For me, a Christian, saying “yes” means a lot more, especially when it involves the Lord. It’s a matter of obedience, regardless of my fears and potential discomfort.

When opportunities come, I still pray for discernment and check to be sure the opportunity doesn’t violate scripture, but then I pray, “Lord, I’m going for this unless you give me a clear ‘no’ or ‘wait.'”

Refusing to walk through doors God prepares for us means we’re willing to settle for the blessings of the past.

God told Israel:

“. . . I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

God, the Creator, may want to do something new in and through us! And He will strengthen us for whatever He calls us to do (Ephesians 3:16).

Canadian author Connie Cavanaugh wrote a book in 2011 that gave me more insight for my new-found “say yes” freedom.

In Following God One Yes at a Time, she wrote (emphasis mine),

“Fear can become a barrier behind which we cower, too afraid to say the next yes. Or fear can be the pathway on which we move forward, one yes at a time, perhaps slowly and painfully, but hand-in-hand with God.

“Every time we choose to believe God and say ‘yes’ with our feet,” Connie said, “a brick comes off the wall fear built and gets placed squarely in front of us to become a stepping-stone that takes us toward fulfillment of God’s dream for us.” (2)

Connie explained the kind of follow-ship that leads to fulfillment of our dreams and God’s will for us. “Following him,” she said, “requires the simple trust and immediate obedience of a child who believes God will make the way to Him simple, immediate and possible.” (3)

I still have so much more to learn about following God, but now I’m eager to say “Yes!”

In fact my focus word for 2015 is “dauntless,” which means “fearless determination.” I’m determined to walk through every door God opens with fearless faith and freedom!

How about you? Are you ready to walk through the doors God opens for you?

Is there a door you’re refusing to walk through right now? If so, what is keeping you from obedience and a fresh adventure with God?

(1) “Prospecting for the Lord,” http://www.broadcaster.org.uk/section2/jokes/christianjokes.html
(2) Connie Cavanaugh, Following God One Yes at a Time (Harvest House Publishers, 2011), pp 150-151.
(3) Cavanaugh, ibid., p. 14.

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