Category Archives: evil

Living Faith-Attentive

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“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

God’s voice couldn’t have been clearer in my spirit yesterday afternoon while I was out for an afternoon stroll. His certainty forced my immediate, audible response.

“Yes, Lord, I’ll be watching for the snake.”

One lap around the block, then two, almost three before a thunderstorm blew in and interrupted my search. No snakes in sight, just a caution in my spirit that lingered inside of me throughout the nighttime hours.

“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

Morning came, this Sabbath morning. My body ached, and my heart was heavy. Not today, Lord. Can’t I just call in sick … sit this one out? I’m not feeling it. I want to live in, not out; stay close, not expand.

“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

There it was again. A reminder to stay vigilant. Watchful. Faith-attentive.

And so I did something I don’t normally do on Sunday mornings. I grabbed a pen and began counting the fish—the blessings in my life. I kept writing and writing until it was time for us to make our way to corporate worship. My body still groaned its resistance, but my heart was lighter. Faith had taken the lead, while my feelings took a break.

With the van loaded and spirits lifted, we backed out of our garage. It was then that I saw it out of my driver’s side mirror. A water moccasin slithering its way across my driveway and up the Crepe Myrtle planted next to the basketball goal. I watched it for a long time. Thought about it for a long time. I’m thinking about it still on this Sabbath afternoon – a time normally reserved for napping.

“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

And I’m thinking on it. Pondering snakes—the ones that slither through our front yards and the ones that slither through our hearts. How often they go unnoticed in our lives, camouflaged and quiet in their approach. Real and present danger close at hand and, most of the time, we’re caught off guard because we’ve missed the warning.

“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

Oh the vigilance of the faith-attentive heart! For eyes to see, ears to hear, and a willing heart ready to receive and believe the voice of God’s Spirit as he speaks.

I don’t want an overgrown heart full of weeds and worries and wickedness that block the ear-splitting whispers of the Holy Spirit. I want the thunderous clap of God’s clarity ringing in my soul as I walk this earthen sod. I’m weary of the world’s words—those clattering, clanging, and banging cymbals of nothingness. God save me from those hell shrieks—those sounds that will never speak me into the folds of heaven but, instead, hasten me into the bowels of permanent torment.

“Be on guard, Elaine. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.”

Be on guard, friends. You’re going to see a snake. Be looking for a snake.

It will come quietly in the night; boldly in the day.

It comes now.

May God grant you his voice, his protection, his direction, and his strength to stay faith-attentive as these days are growing shorter. The kingdom draweth nigh. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.

Peace for the journey,

Image credit: mihtiander / 123RF Stock Photo

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an opportune time . . .

15141523_sA couple of nights ago, I called my older boys and offered them this caution:

“Be on guard, sons. Apparently our family is now Satan’s new, favorite chew-toy.”

The next morning, my mother called with a similar warning:

“Elaine, I’ve been standing here in front of the mirror, curling my hair and thinking about all that’s been going on in our family over the past couple of weeks. We’re fighting something we cannot see, a battle of spiritual proportion.”

It seems as if my family is standing up against a formidable foe in this season, feeling the constraints of our faith in overload. Accordingly, I go to God’s Word this morning and allow it to speak truth to my soul. In thinking about Christ’s struggle against the enemy, I am strengthened in my own efforts at resistance.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” –Luke 4:15

Two things strike me about this verse:

  • An opportune time known as desert testing.
  • An opportune time yet to come.

There’s a plurality to the devil’s scheming. Funny how often we’re surprised by this reality. It’s not as if one opportune time is more difficult than the other. Opportune times are straining times, all of them stretching the comfortable boundaries of faith and requiring a step beyond what feels reasonable. I don’t imagine many of us go looking for opportune times (especially ones involving a forty day fast in the desert or a gut-wrenching surrender to nails and a hammer); instead, they seem to find us, pulling us in without notice. Almost accidentally.

Almost.

Opportune times. The Greek word kairos, meaning “season, opportune time. It is not merely as a succession of moments, which is “chronos,” but a period of opportunity (though not necessity). It is a critical or decisive point in time; a moment of great importance and significance; a point when something is ready or favorable, a propitious moment.” (NIV Key Word Study Bible, 1635-1636).

Read that again slowly and consider Christ’s conflict; consider your own. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Opportune times are not accidental occasions. Instead, they are orchestrated, carefully selected, and purposely planned. Whether schemed by the devil for our destruction or willingly allowed by God for our perfection, opportune times are those hinge moments in our life’s history that swing faith in one of two directions: a right one or a wrong one. Really, there’s no middle ground in opportune seasons. Either we live them right—live them forward and in faith—or we live the lesser road. A road of regression, wrongful conclusions, and regrettable distrust.

I don’t want to live on the side of distrust. I want to live rightly on the side of faith, fully believing that no weapon forged against me will prevail. That, in fact, victory is my heritage as a servant of the Lord (see Isaiah 45:17). Accordingly, I must pick up the sword of the Spirit and strap on my spiritual armor, because the opportunistic arrows of the enemy will not be quenched by feeble, weak-minded, and weak-willed faith. No, to stop his forward progression, I must stand in the strength of who I am in Jesus Christ.

I am God’s child. I am his chosen bride. I am the apple of his eye.

So are you.

4479118_sBe on guard, friends. If you’re not in the middle of an opportune season right now, I imagine one is waiting for you down the road. Don’t fear its advent; rather, recognize it as it arrives and for what it has the potential to be—a hinge moment in your faith’s history that will strengthen your understanding of God and will catapult your witness forward for the exponential increase of the kingdom.

Satan may have come to me and my family in what he thought to be his opportune time. However, he seems to have momentarily ignored that my times (opportune and otherwise) are in God’s hands. They all belong to him, and his purposes for my life override any schemes to the contrary. God holds the chain to the short leash attached around Satan’s roaming, and today my Father has willingly and forcefully yanked it a few times so that the devil remembers who’s in charge.

I am grateful for God’s strength in this season and for your prayers that have, undoubtedly, tightened the noose around the devil’s neck. What privilege there is in standing alongside you, my mighty warrior friends! As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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the song still sings . . .

a flame for Newtown . . . a song still sings
a flame for Newtown . . . a song still sings

My daughter could barely get through the final paragraph. Her tears prevented her progress, her heart tenderly wrapped around and invested in the story of the faithful saint, Corrie ten Boom. Corrie finished her earthly chapter on her ninety-first birthday, only to begin her next one—her everlasting witness. It’s still breathing, still shaping hearts and defining souls. Still sowing kingdom seeds. Still putting notes to the musical scores of our faith, even twenty-nine years beyond her peaceful, home-going.

In thinking about Corrie and in absorbing the tremendous and present pain in our world, I am reminded of a line I spoke to a group of cancer survivors not long ago. It has staying power; at least it’s stayed with me. Why? Because it’s connected to a staying truth:

Being a survivor isn’t solely about defeating the disease. Perhaps, greater still, being a survivor is about defeating the silence that surrounds the disease.

Corrie wasn’t a cancer survivor. She was, however, a Holocaust survivor and was able to defeat the silence surrounding her captivity. She didn’t allow the enemy to confine her voice after her physical chains fell to the ground. Instead, she mined the treasures of her faith and her God throughout the course of her imprisonment and beyond. In doing so, she was never really held captive. In many ways, her chains freed her to be a greater witness, a brighter light, a harbinger of the good Gospel that will always sing and that can’t ever be silenced by the harshest of evils in this world. God’s Word cannot be chained. And today, Corrie’s song lives on in the heart of a ten-year-old girl and her forty-six-year-old mom because of the staying power of God’s eternal song.

Two thousand years ago, a soul-defining cry was heard in Bethlehem’s silent night. Many would take note of the witness; many would attempt to hush the melody. Not a lot has changed in 2000 years. Bethlehem still sings its song. Some will hear it; some will refuse the chorus. Regardless of our responses, whether acceptance or rejection, the music continues. God’s still scoring his masterpiece, and because of his amazing grace, our voices are added to the refrain.

Being a soul-survivor isn’t solely about defeating the evil in this world. Perhaps, greater still, being a soul-survivor is about defeating the silence that surrounds the evil.

I’ve sung it before; I’ll sing it again.

Live forward, ye pilgrims on the road of faith! Fight forward, ye warriors of Christendom! Sing forward, ye heralds of the Gospel! Our best days are ahead of us. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

PS: The winner of the Starbuck’s gift card and one of my books is Karin Ripp. Karin, please send me your snail mail via my contact form and your choice of book. I’ll have this out to you this week; hopefully, you’ll receive it in time for Christmas.

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a right word at the right time {part two}: muddied and still willing

2137413_s“Not until halfway through the feast did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to preach. . . . Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.’” –John 7:16-19

Dirty. Soiled. Polluted. That’s how I feel this morning, not because of what I’ve done but because of what I’ve allowed the world to do to me—slap me in the face and in the heart with untruth.

Speaking God’s truth comes at a price, because whenever his truth is spoken, the enemy stands ready and willing to defend the ground he’s temporarily claimed and cultivated with his lies, his native language (John 8:44). Satan’s lies always start with a question . . . a thought . . . a probing not unlike the one he leveled at Eve in the Garden of Eden:

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’” –Genesis 3:1

Did God really say?

Isn’t this the point at which all detours off the road of truth begin? When we initiate inward dialogue about what God said . . . says? When doubt muddies the waters of truth with opinion rather than fact? When we believe our own billing and trust our own instincts over the knowledge and character of God?

We do it all the time. This happens whenever we tiptoe around God’s truth and lean in to our own understanding—those inklings that scratch the itch of what’s comfortable, what feels good, and what allows us to keep living the sin, doing the sin, all the while calling it something else. Calling it personal preference; calling it a justifiable choice because, after all, no one should have to change who he or she is to suit another human being.

“For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. The will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” –2 Timothy 4:4

**NEWS FLASH: We’re not here to suit one another. We’re not here to suit ourselves. We’re here to suit God. To honor him with our lives and with our willingness to bend our sin-sickened hearts to the process of holiness. It’s never been about us—these years we’re allowed on planet earth. It’s been about God and his allowance of those years for each one of us. We’re wasting precious time, friends, arguing about truth. Truth isn’t relative. Truth is truth; there cannot be multiple versions therein. There is only one way, one truth, and one life—Jesus Christ, Son of the living God (John 14:6). When we begin our search for truth with him, our confusions and personal preferences bow to the firm conclusions and preferences of God. When we begin our search for truth anywhere else we bow to our flesh, we serve it, and we risk permanent and eternal separation from God. . .

F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

Is that a risk you’re willing to take? If so, keep living unto yourself and keep slinging your mud at those who bravely speak truth to your soul. It might feel good to get a little dirty from time to time, to enter the pit of confrontation all in the name of personal preference. To rub a little sludge in to your neighbor’s eye and to throw in a few kicks to the gut for good measure. Go ahead, live your independence and call yourself brave. Stand for intolerance and carry the flag of self-preservation. Shout loud. Shout now. Shout for all you’re worth. Give it all you’ve got while you have some got to give because the time is fast approaching when your stage, your platform, and your voice will be silenced by the stage and voice of the King. And when he speaks, there will be no denying the truth. Instead, there will be hell to pay.

F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

Did God really say?

Yes, God really did say.

And so must I . . . say truth, say a few words from time to time. Why? Because I love God, and I want to honor the King with a life of service to his truth and his cross. And secondly, because I love you, and because hell is too high a price to pay for the lies you’re willing to boldly and self-assuredly live on this side of eternity.

There are right words and a right time to speak those words. Today is that time for me. Accordingly, I risk your confusion, your anger, your mud, and your condemnation. Better to risk yours than to know God’s . . .

F.O.R.E.V.E.R.

Peace for the journey,

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hell-bent…

hell-bent…

Hell-bent. Are you? Am I?

 

I know. A heavy question, but since I used this phrase in my last post, I thought it deserved some further exploration. Merriam Webster defines hell-bent as “stubbornly and often recklessly determined.” The earliest mention of the phrase in our English vernacular dates back to a line in the poem The History of Colonel Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia by Benjamin Coleman (1673-1747):

 

“Ab-origines in Arms…did then resort,

In Haste to Susquehanna Fort,

Hell bent on Thoughts of Massacree.”

 

Apparently, there was a price on Colonel Bacon’s head, some “ab-origines” stubbornly determined in their pursuit of justice cloaked in massacre. I wonder if we’re prone to the same sort of behavior. A stubbornness, recklessness that resides within our hearts and that pushes us toward destruction—a massacre of the body, and ultimately the spirit, that lands us smack dab in the middle of hell.

 

Hell-bent. A phrase that, in my opinion, dates much further back than Coleman’s imagination. A truth that dates back to the beginning.

 

“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden, and there he put the man he had formed. And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. … And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’… When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” –Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17, 3:6

 

Hell-bent. Determined sin, stubbornly and recklessly chosen from the very beginning. Adam and Eve, massacring their flesh, bending their will in the direction of hell.

 

We cannot escape our genetic and our spiritual DNA. Without the transformational, sacred work of the cross, we remain hell-bent. With the cross, we overcome our stooped stature to bend our knees in another direction. With Jesus, we bend toward heaven—heaven-bent. With Jesus, our knees fall to glory rather than destruction.

 

So what’s the gain of a life that is heaven-bent? Well, to understand this we must visit its contrast. It’s much easier to digest the wonder and witness of heaven, but to study the wilderness and witness of hell? Few will go there; it’s just too barren a place for those of us who are focused on the goodness of God. But that’s just it… therein lies the core definition of hell. To live in God’s goodness, is to live with the understanding of its contrast.

 

“He [God] will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power….” –2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

 

Hell is the absence of God and his goodness… completely. Yes, we talk about “hell on earth”—seasons of life seemingly void of God’s presence and his goodness, but truthfully, “hell on earth” is nothing compared to hell for all eternity. Whether you’re a Christian or not, if you’re upright and moving today, then you’re experiencing the goodness of God. Life belongs to the Creator. The fact that you’re actively participating in this privilege is a testimony to God’s love for you.

 

Have you enjoyed a cup of coffee today? A walk? Creation—flowers, scents, and sunshine? Have you been blessed by the love of a friend, spouse, child? Been hugged lately? Had a good conversation? A good nap? A good thought? Are you educated? Employed? Free to choose your habits, consumptions, neglects? Have you known the warmth of a blanket, a bath, an intimacy with your husband, your wife? A good book? A good movie? A favorite television show? How about a delicious plate of food… even a stick of gum? Music, money, and merriment of a wide variety?

 

Anything good in your life today? Then thank God. Whether or not you’re willing to recognize him as the source of all goodness doesn’t mean that all goodness doesn’t begin and end with him. All goodness begins and ends with God… every blessed thing that we experience in our lives.

 

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” –James 1:17

 

To be hell-bent is to determine in our hearts that we are willing to live without it all in the end. Without God. Without goodness. Complete and utter emptiness except for the very deep realization of just how far that emptiness extends. A massacre of the soul that will not recover… ever.

 

I don’t tell you this to shame you; heaven knows there was a time in my life when I was hell-bent, bowing low and bowing often in the direction of sin and eternal destruction. I don’t tell you this to judge you; judgment belongs to the Father. No, I write you these words to warn you, just in case there are some of you who’ve never accepted the fact that there is a life beyond this one. Heaven is for real, but so is hell. There isn’t anything you’ve experienced on earth that comes close to matching the actuality of what awaits you if you continue to bend your heart in opposition to God’s truth.

 

I cannot imagine a life apart from God. I’m glad I don’t have to, but there are those who claim not to see him; not to feel him; not to know him. I would tell those people (maybe even you) to look at the multiple goodnesses in your life. In them, you will find God… a fleeting glance of what you risk losing should you continue in your hell-bent determination to do life your own way. You may think that you’re living apart from God, that there is no God, and that you are free to live without consequence. But you would be wrong.

 

No one lives apart from God; no one lives without consequence. This is our Father’s world, and God will have the final word on our eternal residency. He, alone, holds the key to forever.

 

Hell-bent; heaven-bent. In which direction are your knees bending this day? Choose wisely. Choose soberly. Choose today. An earthly tomorrow is not promised to us, but an eternal one is. As for me and my heart, I choose a forever with God and all of his goodness. I pray you choose the same. As always…

 

Peace for the journey,
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PS: For any of you who are struggling with your hell-bent tendencies and would like prayer or to discuss things further, please feel free to contact me by clicking on this link. Shalom.

 

 

 

 

 

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