Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tools of Satan

Lies, deceit, mistrust, or more of these enter our lives on a daily basis. Some of them come boldly and some come disguised...but they do come. Why you may ask... well, that's an easy question to answer. It's because Satan wants us to focus on the things around us instead of keeping our eyes fixed on Christ. He knows if he can get us to pay attention to things that speak to our flesh- emotions, physical needs, etc. that we won't focus on the things that truly matter...the spiritual things...the things of God.
Satan is the great destroyer. He gets satisfaction from causing pain and anguish in our lives. He is a manipulator who plays on our weaknesses and causes us to make rash decisions based on what we feel instead of on what we know to be true. He is a master of trickery and often uses temptation to bribe us into acting upon it. Don't be deceived into thinking that he doesn't understand our fleshly desires because he certainly does! He observes our behavior and uses that to devise evil plans custom tailored for each of us. But don't lose heart! He does not have "absolute power" over us! He can only affect our lives in areas that God allows him to touch. He is on a short tether and God ultimately determines how short that leash is and when it will be reigned in. 
 One of the key areas that Satan loves to attack is our minds! One of his best tools is to plant seeds of doubt and mistrust. He loves to inflict jealousy, lust, and fear into our minds and as he does...he keeps our eyes focused on our immediate circumstances. How many times have you had a thought come into your mind that was not a good thought? You may not have recognized the thought immediately as being a tool of Satan. You may have just imagined something or felt a small bit of panic or fear for a moment, but remember this...God is not the author of confusion or fear! The Bible tells us that we are to capture every 2 Corinthians 10:5 "[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One." Every thought that comes into our mind is not from God! The mind is the gateway to both good and evil. We can choose whether we want to dismiss those unpure, fleshly thoughts or whether we will act on them. We have the power to choose!
So how are we to know which thoughts are from God and which are from Satan? The Bible tells us exactly what to think about! In Phillipians 4:8 we read, " Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." So any thought that is not true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable is not from God! Those thoughts of jealously, lust, hurt, fear, division, mistrust...those are all thoughts planted by the father of lies himself...Satan. The best way to combat those lies is to know the truth! The Bible says in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And how can you know the truth? Only by reading the word of God, the Bible.
We are in a war daily and that war takes place in our minds. Our mind is the battlefield! So we need to be well equipped to fight in that battle and the first place the battle begins is at the door to our mind. Stand guard at that gate and hold every thought captive. In doing this, you will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and you can combat those lies with truth! Stand firm and be on guard because those lies straight from the pit of hell are bound to come your way in subtle, deceitful, sneaky ways today and in the days to come. But take heart! You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ, your savior! Satan has no power over you because He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Something smells rotten in Denmark!

Smells...we're bombarded with them daily...some good and some not so good. This morning, as I was about to enjoy my breakfast, my daughter pointed out that a stink bug had gotten into the house. Immediately, I jumped up from the breakfast table and grabbed a can of bug spray. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said. I asked her why and she said stink bugs emit a foul odor when threatened. "I'm going to spray him before he has a chance to emit his odor," I said as I began to vigorously spray that little devil. Within just a few seconds, the room was filled with an offensive odor...was it the bug spray or was it the stink bug??? I really couldn't say but it was a powerful smell and was not pleasant.

I began to think about it as I sat back down to enjoy my breakfast and immediately, a verse of Scripture popped into my mind "For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?" 2 Corinthians 15-16 NIV
We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ...hmmm. What did that really mean? Did that mean that when we allow Christ to live in and through us and permeate our beings we smell pleasant in the nostrils of God? And if that's true, then when we are sinful, walking in the flesh, doing our own thing without regard to how Christ wants us to we smell offensive to God? I had to do a little more research to be sure, so I went looking in my Bible.

Aromas and fragrances are mentioned many times throughout the Bible. Many of the aromas came from burnt offerings of sacrificed animals laid on the altar to atone for sin. It was the burning of the offering that made it a pleasing aroma to the Lord which, in turn, caused it to arouse a certain kind of response from the Lord. According to Genesis 8:20-22 it was the pleasing aroma of the burning meat that led the Lord to promise that he would never again destroy the earth and mankind as he had done in the flood. The burnt offering was a way of calling on the Lord to pay attention to the needs, requests, and entreaties of his worshipers either independently or in association with the peace offering.

While those burnt offerings surely wafted into the nostrils of God, this tiny stinkbug's odor was wafting into my nostrils and I didn't like it. I wondered how many sacrifices and offerings were brought to God that emitted a foul odor? Many times in the Bible there is mention of a sacrifice not meeting the strict standards of God. A lame animal may have been presented or with perhaps one with another defect that caused it to be unacceptable; but more likely, it was the heart of the person offering the sacrifice that was unacceptable.

We are to God the pleasing aroma of me, that means that we carry Christ with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. When we enter a room, heads ought to turn just as they do when a woman enters a room wearing a heady perfume...everyone notices it immediately! Without ever having to say a word, they should be able to tell that we belong to Christ because we carry His aroma (His likeness, His love, His standards).

That smelly stinkbug smell is still lingering in my kitchen but it's not so bad right now. I am thankful for it because it reminded me of a valuable always be about my Father's always carry His love wherever I always emit a pleasing fragrance of Him amid a world of lost people. Yes, there are so many smells that bombard us daily but just knowing that my character, my attitude, my odor wafts into the very nostrils of God reminding Him of Christ overwhelms me. I surely don't want to send an offensive odor of my sin, my flesh, my own selfish desires up to God, do you?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Are you ready to die for Him?

A few days ago, I read an article in the Washington Post that greatly disturbed me. The article explained that the North Korean president, Kim Jong un, had ordered 33 Christians to be executed. These Christians had been accused of the crime of trying to overthrow the government but in actuality, their only crime was their desire to spread the gospel of Christ by helping to establish underground churches.

In 2009, I had the opportunity to travel to China as a missionary. Webster's dictionary defines missionary in this way: "a person sent on a religious mission,  one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country." I left the USA headed to China with the intention of sharing my faith with those I met along the way. Upon arrival in China, I faced a huge shock as I witnessed armed guards throughout the airport. Although we'd been forewarned, I'd never traveled to another country and had no idea what it would be like to be in a Communist country. It was hard to grasp that our every move was being watched, that our conversations were being overheard, but we pressed on...I didn't face real persecution while there other than the ordinary surveillance that the Chinese government gave tourists, however I came to realize how little religious freedom really existed in China.

One afternoon, while working with high school and college students in a tiny apartment, several of our group decided to take students outdoors and talk with them. I grabbed my Bible and headed to the elevator ready to share the gospel with my students in a casual setting. As the door to the elevator opened, our missionary host stood in the doorway and gently removed my Bible from my hands. With a puzzled look on my face, he knew that I didn't understand why he was taking my most prized possession from me. He explained in a hushed whisper, "you cannot take your Bible out in public. Guards are everywhere and you could be imprisoned." The stark reality of being in a Communist country hit me square in the face and although I was very hurt that my Bible had been taken away from me; I was also grateful that God had timed perfectly for the missionary host to be at the foot of the elevator.

When I became a Christian at the tender age of 8, I made my profession of faith in Jesus at a small, Southern Baptist church. I went boldly before the church body and presented myself as a firm believer. Through the years, as my faith deepened and I have grown to know more of the personhood of Christ, my boldness has grown as well. I have learned that no matter what, I will never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  Even without my Bible in hand, I knew the Scriptures well for I had hidden them in my heart through years and years of Bible study.

My students and I walked across a grassy knoll and into a nearby pagoda. As we sat down, I whispered a quick pray asking God to give me the words to say. I wanted my students to understand that God is love and that He knows them by name. I wanted them to know that Christ died for them so that they might have eternal life. We sat and talked for hours as the guards with their machine guns walked the perimeter around us. I never felt afraid because I knew that God was with me and would protect me, but I was forced to ask myself if I was willing to die for the cause of Christ and my answer was emphatically YES!

I was able to see first hand that religious freedom isn't widely accepted in China. In fact, the Chinese people are encouraged to attend "Three Self churches" run by the Communist party. The three ‘Self’s are Self-governance, Self-support, Self-propagation, and respectively reject foreigners' influence on the church leadership, foreign financing and foreign missionaries, while “Patriotic” indicates the church's loyalty to China. Underground churches exist and many brave Christian converts do all they can to help spread the gospel without being caught and punished. They know that their punishment can be either imprisonment or death.

All over the world, missionaries are working to share the good news. In many countries, their crime is punishable by death. Does this deter the one who loves Christ? No! We, as Christians, are commanded to go into all the world and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Our obedience to this command brings great blessing. So why, you may wonder, aren't people willingly working to propagate the gospel in our own country? It could be because many have "waxed cold", they've chosen to turn away from Christ and go their own way...the way of the world. They have learned to accept and tolerate ungodly behaviors instead of standing for the truth but woe unto them! God will not allow this to continue forever! He has given us a season...a season of choosing...choosing to be obedient or choosing to be disobedient.

The faithful 33 who have been sentenced to death in North Korea may soon be leaving this earth at the hands of an evil ruler via a trumped up charge; but their reward in heaven will be more than they could ever imagine. It will come at the hands of the God of love who will pronounce a new sentence upon each of them..."well done, thou good and faithful servant! Now you will reign with me forever!" They will never fear again...they will never hide again...they will worship freely 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at the feet of the one who died for them, Jesus Christ...and they will be truly free!

Will you say a pray for those 33 today? Will you ask God to give them the strength they need to endure what lies ahead? It isn't a surprise that God is allowing them to walk this path...He has ordained it, but please pray that they will be surrounded by His love and they will stand firm. Are you ready to die for Him? Would you be willing to face imprisonment or death for Jesus? Think about it...that day may be just around the corner....