The weather here in Indiana, PA, has gotten cold. And yet I have certain friends who guard their thermostats as if they were nuclear launch keys (you know who you are). This video goes out to you.
And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that (Job) has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12
Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Job’s suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin. But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith. We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.
Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful. “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”
When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits). In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self- pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon. I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.
Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.
He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership. We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.
When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job. God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job. Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.
Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite. Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.
If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being. A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs. Above dogs are monkeys, then humans and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation. The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.
Satan is a tool of God , and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).
So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.
It’s been a rough couple months for me. As some of you may know, I’ve struggled with intense anxiety for a number of years. And just to clarify, phsyical anxiety and sinful worry are two very different things. When we worry, it often manifests itself in a sense of physical anxiety. I often (95% of the time) experience physical anxiety when I’m not worried about a thing. I feel like a large hand is squeezing my chest. I need to breathe deeply. It’s hard to concentrate. Worry is a sin. I’m not worrying about anything when I feel anxious. Something is malfunctioning in my body. Neurons are misfiring, or serotonin is not being properly absorbed by my brain.
Thankfully, God has given men and women wisdom to create various medicines that can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Over the years I’ve taken different medicines that have really helped me. But here’s the thing: sometimes these medicines quit working. It’s like one day the medicine says, “You know what, I’m sick of doing my job! I quit!” Recently one my medications turned in its resignation. So, for the last month or so, I’ve felt like a piece of dirt.
But in the midst of feeling like a large animal is sitting on my chest, and being unable to concentrate, and generally feeling awful, I’ve been particularly reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:
…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The great Apostle Paul was given a thorn in his flesh. He pleaded with God to remove it. He begged. He cried out. But instead of removing the thorn, God did something better for Paul: he gave him sufficient, powerful, sustaining grace.
God has used this thorn of anxiety to teach me some things. He’s taught me that I’m a weak, frail, fragile, easily broken creature. He’s taught me that I can’t do anything apart from him. I can’t breathe, or preach a sermon, or utter a prayer, or play with my kids apart from the empowerment of God. He’s taught me that if I have any success in ministry, or in being a dad, or in being an author, or in being a husband, it’s because his grace is at work in me. I need to learn and embrace these truths. These are hard, yet sweet truths. The anxiety I am experiencing is a severe mercy.
God may take away my anxiety. I pray that he does. But if he doesn’t, I trust him. I trust that he will give me sufficient grace for each day. I trust that his power will be sufficient for me. I’ll embrace the thorn, because I know the thorn is ultimately held by my Father.
+photo by jenny downing
Another Review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Tim Keller’s wife, Kathy, has written a very thorough, helpful, critical review of Rachel Held Evans new book.
Skeletal Rocking Chair - Jen would never let me get this, but I personally think it would fit well with our current home decor.
Branding the Presidents of the United States – This is a really cool blog. The author seeks to create a special “brand” for every past President. Very creative.
How to publish your book — An infographic - As an author I found this to be pretty funny.
The Pumpkin Maestroes – I love the passion and creativity these guys put into their pumpkin carving.
Fantastic Mouth Trumpeting – While I may not agree with the message of the song, this guy is an incredible musician. Watch escpecially for the part where he harmonizes his mouth trumpet with his guitar. Unbelievable!
On July 8, 1974, Chuck Colson went to prison.
Only a couple years before he had been chief counsel on the Nixon White House staff. He was nearing his 44th birthday when he went to prison for his involvement in Watergate. On January 31, 1975 he was released after serving seven months. “When I arrived in prison, my caseworker told me, ‘Just settle in, accept it. This is where you live now. Don’t think about your home.'”
But Colson refused to settle in and accept it. He lived every day as if prison was not his home.
“I drove myself to work as hard as I could. My entire day was consumed with writing, studying, doing my job in prison laundry, and exercising, and helping other inmates. I seldom allowed myself any recreation. More than anything else, I feared doing nothing.”
The New Testament calls believers strangers, exiles, and sojourners.
I’ve never been exiled, but have done some minor sojourning – traveled to a few other countries. By the end of my short stays I’d be itching to get back home. Once I went to Mexico for a week and I couldn’t wait to get back to the US so I could get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I spent another week in a nation with few good roads and the craziest drivers – there didn’t seem to be any laws, though I’m sure there were – at one point I just had to stop looking (I wasn’t driving). I was so happy to get back to normal traffic and stoplights and speed limits and nice highways. But what I always miss most when I travel is my wife and family and friends and my own little home. There’s something so comforting about coming back to your own home.
Strangers, exiles, sojourners. This world is not our home. This life is not our final destination. We have deep inside us a longing for our true home, heaven, where we will be with Jesus forever. Sojourners don’t plan on staying where they are. Chuck Colson didn’t plan on staying in prison so he refused to settle in.
I believe Randy Alcorn illustrated this by saying if you lived in the South during the Civil War and you could see that soon the South would be defeated you wouldn’t stockpile as much Confederate currency as you could, for any day it would be worthless. Any day now, the things we work so hard for and spend so much time maintaining are going to be worthless, like Confederate dollars.
But God is keeping an eternal glorious inheritance in heaven for us. 1 Peter 1:4 says God guards “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”
Ultimately our inheritance is Jesus and the riches in him. We’ll enjoy this inheritance for ever and ever. The things of this world tarnish, fade, break and rot but God’s inheritance will be as delightful 10,000 years from now as it will be the day we receive it.
May we live for that imperishable and unfading reward!
Carry on exiles! Your sojourn is almost over.
When I was a boy, I loved to climb trees. There was one particular tree in my yard that was a favorite for aerial acrobatics. With dazzling originality, we called it “The Climbing Tree.” It was perfect. There were branches just the right size for boyish hands to wrap around and perches that looked like they’d been made to cradle an eight year old boy. The limbs started low to the ground, so it was easy to access for even short legs. And there were a few spots just the right height so an adventurous soul could swing out into space and drop nimbly to the ground without harm. The Climbing Tree was a boy’s best friend.
It was only in my teenager years that I discovered my climbing tree was a bush. A largish bush, but a bush nonetheless. I could see my boyhood “perches” at eye level. The branches were smaller than my wrists. With a modest vertical leap of two or three inches, a chap could touch even the limbs that had once seemed so dizzyingly high. What had once seemed enchanting and so much bigger than me now seemed sad, small, and slightly pathetic. I had outgrown my boyhood entertainment.
It’s impossible to go through life without similar experiences – but thankfully not in relationship to God! No matter how much you change, no matter what you accomplish or experience in life, you will never outgrow God.
He will never be smaller than you once remembered. He will never be left behind by the speed at which your seasons of life change. No matter how deep your knowledge of God, he will always be more grand, more glorious, more awe-inspiring than you have even begun to fathom. Though he is not unknowable, he is certainly indescribable. And no matter how much your life changes – another child, a new job, increasing strains on the budget, relocation to a new home – you will never surpass God’s ability to care and provide for you.
Christian, you will never outgrow your God.
As you walk through each minute of each day you really only have two options:
OPTION #1 - Keep your eyes fixed on your circumstances. Your difficult coworker, your sickness, your tight budget, your child who isn’t doing well spiritually, your strained relationship with your spouse.
When Peter walked on the water, he took his eyes off of Jesus and immediately began to sink. His faith in Jesus was overwhelmed by what he could see with his eyes. By the circumstances that surrounded him.
OPTION #2 - Keep your gaze fixed on the Lord.
- Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Psalm 34:5)
- Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
- Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19)
- You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
- Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7)
Today, our peace and joy and gladness hinge on where we fix our gaze. Lord, fix our gaze on you.
Louis Coulon and his 11-foot beard that holds his cat - I would suggest that the only person allowed to post cat pictures on the Internet be this man.
Denny’s Featuring a Middle-Earth Menu Inspired by The Hobbit - Now you can finally get the Middle Earth breakfast you’ve always wanted.
How to grow a mustache – Single guys take note…girls love mustaches.
Improv Everywhere – Meeting In A Staples
Stephen Miller is the worship leader at The Journey St. Louis and just released a new album of redone hymns. The album is appropriately titled “Hymns”. He has graciously agreed to give away three digital copies of his album. I’ve embedded the album below so you can listen to it, then you can simply put your name and email address in the form below to enter for a free copy.
We will all be criticized at one time or another. Sometimes justly, sometimes unjustly. Sometimes others’ criticism of us is harsh and undeserved. Sometimes we may need it. How do we respond to criticism? I haven’t always done well and I’m still learning, but here are a few things I try to think of when others criticize me.
Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)
This can be hard to do because our emotions rise up and our minds begin to think of ways to refute the other person. To be quick to hear means we really do try to listen to and consider what the other person is saying. We don’t just write it off. Even if it seems unjust or undeserved.
Be slow to speak (James 1:19).
Don’t interrupt or respond too quickly. Let them finish. If you speak too quickly you might speak rashly or in anger.
Be slow to become angry.
Why? Because James 1:19-20 says the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger won’t make someone do the right thing. Remember, God is slow to anger, patient and long-suffering with those who offend him. How much more should we be.
Don’t rail back.
“When (Jesus) was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). Talk about being unjustly accused – Jesus was, yet continued to trust the Lord and did not revile in return.
Give a gentle response.
“A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Be gracious even to those who offend you, even as God is gracious to us when we offend him.
Don’t defend yourself too quickly.
Defensiveness can rise out of pride and being unteachable.
Consider what might be true in the critique, even if it is given in a poor way.
Even if it is given with the intent to hurt or mock, there still might be something worth considering. God might be speaking to you through this person.
Remember the Cross.
Someone has said that people won’t say anything about us that the Cross hasn’t said and more, which is, we are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. So actually, anything anyone says about us is less than what the Cross has said about us. Turn to God who accepts you in Christ unconditionally despite your many sins and failures. We can be discouraged when we see areas of sin or failure but Jesus has paid for those on the cross and God is pleased with us because of Christ.
Consider the fact that you have blind spots
We can’t always see ourselves accurately. Maybe this person is seeing something you can’t see about yourself.
Pray about the criticism
Ask God for wisdom – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
Ask others for their opinion
Your critic could be right or completely off-the-wall. If this is an area of sin or weakness in your life, then others will have seen it too.
Consider the source.
Don’t do this too quickly, but consider the other person’s possible motives, their level of expertise or wisdom, etc. They may be criticizing you to hurt you or they may not know what they’re talking about.