Surprised by Satan

During my short stint in seminary, I once found myself arguing with the teaching assistant for a class I was taking. What were we arguing about? Satan.

Why on earth were we arguing about Satan? We were arguing about what Satan’s purpose is and whether or not he has a plan for our lives.

Twice today I found myself reminding two different friends that we have an enemy. I remember a conversation from last week as well. Our enemy doesn’t walk around dressed in red, with horns and a tail as some would depict him. He’d be so easy to spot if he did!

There seemed to be no question in the minds of the early followers of Jesus that Satan exists, as demonstrated by these passages:

 “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” Matthew 4:24

 

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him.” Matthew 8:16a

 

“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” Matthew 12:22

 

“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’ ” Matthew 15:22

I could go on. Suffice it to say that the word “demon” is used 66 times in the 4 gospels alone. It’s clear to me that the early believers understood there was a real enemy.

Why does it seem so unclear to us?

I was out of town for the weekend, and at the church I visited Sunday, we sang this powerful song, “Lion and the Lamb.” I sang as loud as everyone else when we got to this line:

Our God is a Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring in power
And fighting our battles!

Do you guys know the song? I bet you’re singing it right now!

I absolutely love that imagery! But I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate.

Something I think many of us struggle to grasp is that Satan came to steal and kill and destroy the abundant life that Jesus came to give (John 10:10). The enemy came to steal your overflowing life – as in the specific plan and purpose for which God created you.

So why did the line from the song bother me?

Most Christians live as if Jesus defeated the devil once and for all at the cross. Therefore, there is nothing else we need to know about Satan or need to be concerned with. If this is the case, why does Paul write to believers about the possibility of being taken advantage of by Satan? Why does he also admonish the church in Ephesus to take a stand against Satan’s schemes? Why does Peter remind us that the enemy is prowling around, seeking someone to devour?

If God is fighting all our battles for us and all we need to do is sit back and watch, why is Paul telling us to put on battle armor?

As I prayed for a friend this week, I felt led to remind her that she has a real enemy, an enemy who lies in wait, looking for a weak moment. You also have the same enemy. We are not to live in fear of him, but simply with an awareness that he exists.

I can’t say I completely understand spiritual warfare, or what power or authority Satan does have today in the post-resurrection life of a believer. I’m still learning. I’ve been reading about this in Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, and Waking the Dead by John Eldredge has an entire chapter on this idea. But I’ll just close with this one line from Eldredge’s book: “You don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exists or because you refuse to fight it.”

Have you been surprised by Satan recently? How so?

What Are You Reading These Days?

What books are you reading these days? What is encouraging you and challenging you?

Two biographies I recently finished:


High Adventure in Tibet: The Life and Labors of Pioneer Missionary Victor Plymire by David V. Plymire


David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed by Gary Wilkerson

I’ve read High Adventure in Tibet before, years ago, but then I had trouble locating a copy of it. They have it at CBD for $2.49. I found David Wilkerson while searching through the virtual “sale rack” at CBD. Really loved both these books and their honesty about the lives of these two heroes of the faith, albeit one well-known and one unsung.

And slowly working my way through this with a friend:

Intercessory Prayer: How God Can Use Your Prayers to Move Heaven and Earth by Dutch Sheets

What are you reading? I’m looking for good biographies of Christians in particular.

My Favorite #EmptyShelf Books of 2014

I finished 20 books in 2014 as part of the #EmptyShelf challenge. You can see them all lined up below.

This was difficult to do, as I read a lot of great books this year. Click the link below the book’s image to hear my thoughts on each.

Looking back on my choices, I see I didn’t pick a lot of variety! I didn’t read any fiction. I also didn’t pick much non-fiction than wasn’t a religious book, or that had a faith component (not all that surprising, I guess!). I definitely read more biography/autobiography than usual, which I enjoyed.

So here are my top 5:


The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears


If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency


The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times

And honorable mention:

The Cross and the Switchblade

Here are all 20:

           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #20: “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God” by Lysa TerKeurst

I finished my 20th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


What Happens When Women Say Yes to God: Experiencing Life in Extraordinary Ways by Lysa TerKeurst

This New Year’s morning, I have been frantically trying to finish listening to the Lysa TerKeurst book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. I really wanted to reach 20 books in 2014! I figured since I listened to most of it in 2014, I could count it. But as my husband asked me if I had read any other Lysa TerKeurst books, I realized I had listened to “What Happens When Women Say Yes to God,” but I never recorded it here.

The main speaker at a recent conference I attended is a missionary to India. She works in the Red Light District with the girls and women who are trapped in prostitution. Something she shared at the conference has stuck with me: every time we say “yes” to Jesus, it lays the foundation for the next “yes.”

Since I listened to this book about 8 months ago, I’ll just share a short review. Lysa had me in tears as she shared various stories of God’s faithfulness. It is amazing what can happen when we respond “yes” to God’s call. Not only does it give us the opportunity to bless someone else with our obedience, every “yes” declares that we will follow God wherever He leads.

An enjoyable and challenging book.

I plan to aim for 12 books in 2015. It’s a bit more challenging with a baby to get reading in, but I think this is a reasonable goal.

The books I read in 2014 as part of the #EmptyShelf challenge:

           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #19: “Run to Overcome” by Meb Keflezghi

I finished my 19th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Run to Overcome: The Inspiring Story of an American Champion’s Long-Distance Quest to Achieve a Big Dream

Everyone reading this knows I’m a runner. I talk about it quite often.

But what you might not know is I’m a running fan girl 🙂

I’m one of those people who thinks the Boston Marathon is the biggest sports event of the year. I had to work in the afternoon of Marathon Monday in 2013, but I was home long enough to see the elite athletes come in. Once at work, I was receiving text messages and Tweets from my friends as they crossed the finish line. My friends Robin & Colleen had already finished when my friend Dani started tweeting about a possible explosion shortly after crossing the finish line.

You likely know the rest of the story.

Thankfully, Dani and her family, as well as all my other friends, were safe. Many others were wounded and killed on that day. So on Marathon Monday in 2014, I knew where I would be: parked in front of my computer, watching the Boston Marathon.

As the elite men neared the finish line, my 6 year-old and I were jumping up and down, yelling, “Go Meb! Go Meb!!! Ggooooooo MMMMEEEEBBBB!!!!!”

Meb Keflezghi, a man who would turn 39 in just a few days (that’s “old” in the running world), became the first American man to win the Boston Marathon in over 30 years.

That was one of many reasons I was excited to get this book from the library.* I knew Meb was a man with a strong Christian faith. I also knew he overcame much hardship in his life (from Amazon.com):

Meb is the living embodiment of the American dream. His family came to the U.S. to escape poverty and a violent war; 12-year-old Meb spoke no English at the time and had never raced a mile.

This book takes the reader through Meb’s life with its victories and defeats. While the book does not have the captivating writing style of Unbroken, the simple way Meb describes the ups and downs of his life draws the reader in. His gratitude at the sacrifices of his parents challenged me. And the perseverance that brought him back from major injuries to win the Boston Marathon the year after such tragedy inspires me.

This book is definitely worth reading.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

           

*I read the original edition of this book because that’s what the library had. It was updated this year to include his Boston win.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #17: “Please Don’t Say You Need Me” by Jan Silvious

I finished my 17th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.


Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency by Jan Silvious

Please Don’t Say You Need Me was mentioned in the back of a little booklet entitled Emotional Dependency, another resource I was reviewing for the ministry. Since emotional dependency and codependency are common struggle in the people I work with, I figured this book would be worth reviewing.

I’m so glad I read it! This was another book that I dog-eared like crazy. It’s truly a powerhouse of wisdom. It covers the roots and symptoms of codependency, as well as how codependency manifests itself in different types of relationships, including friendship, marriage, parent-child, and even in the workplace. It also has a chapter on how to maintain healthy relationships once you have recognized these patterns in yourself. The author does a wonderful job of weaving biblical truth into this struggle and healing from it.

If you have struggled with codependency or work with people who do, this book is for you.
My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #16: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

I finished my 16th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who later enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served as a bombardier. In 1943, he and his crews’ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing eight of the eleven men aboard. One of the crash survivors died after over a month at sea, but Louis and his friend Phil survived for 47 days, only to then be taken as prisoners of war in Japan.

I read this 400-page book in just over 2 days. It certainly helps that I’m on maternity leave 🙂 But the story is so compelling that it was difficult to put down. It is also excruciatingly painful to read. The abuse that Zamperini endured in the various POW camps was astounding. Story after story of injustice and suffering as Hillenbrand, the author, recounts Zamperini’s two long years in captivity. Even after the war ended and he was freed, he endured nightmares and fears that drove him to use alcohol to cope.

This book certainly put my problems in perspective, and challenged me as I considered all that one man can endure and still come through, forgiving.

The story does have a happy ending 🙂 But you will have to read it to find out! I got this book through Paperback Swap (of course!), but I’m sure it’s available at the library.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #15: “Destiny Bridge” by Frank Worthen

I finished my 15th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Destiny Bridge by Frank Worthen

This book is the story of Frank Worthen, written in his own words. Frank Worthen is considered one of the founders of the “ex-gay” movement, after living as a gay man for 25 years. This was another book that I read over the course of a weekend.

It’s compelling, disheartening, shocking, and encouraging. Don’t let the back cover of the book dissuade you. I didn’t find it a particularly inviting synopsis of what was going to be described in the book. In fact, if it weren’t for the recommendation of a friend, I might not have read it. But I’m so glad I did!

It’s certainly a compelling story of how a young man was led by his spiritual authority directly into sin. More importantly, it’s a story of a loving, persistent God who spared no expense in calling Frank Worthen back to Himself. It’s a story of a man who, out of his small steps of obedience, impacted thousands of lives in the name of Jesus Christ.

What a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic of same-sex attraction.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:
           

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #14: “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg

I finished my 14th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

I’ve actually finished 18 books at this point due to being wicked pregnant and encouraged to stay off my swollen feet. Today is the baby’s due date, so I’m trying to finish up a few of these posts before she arrives 🙂

I was  introduced to John Ortberg almost a decade ago. I don’t remember who encouraged me to read his books, but I’m so glad they did!

I know I had started this book previously, but I’m unsure if I ever finished it before. I ‘m so glad I did now! It was a very appropriate book for the season that we’ve been in for over 2 years now, almost 3, when God called us to make the big step of moving to Virginia. Though we are now back in Massachusetts, that was another big step in choosing to trust God when we’re not sure what He could be doing.

The premise of the book is based on Matthew 14, where Jesus walks on water toward the disciples and beckons Peter to come to him. The book outlines several other stories from Scripture where people are called out of their comfort zones and into a life of faith and trust.

I’m not much for underlining in books unless it’s a text book. I’m more of the dog ear type. Well, this book is more dog-earred than any other I’ve read this year. Just so many relevant and challenging points. So many little takeaways. Here are a few.

“What am I doing that I could not do apart from the power of God?” pg. 79

“If I had it all to do over again – I would have trusted Christ more.” pg. 88

“Your heart is revealed and your character is forged when life does not turn out the way you planned.” pg. 100-101

“Worry is fear that has unpacked its bags and signed a long-term lease.” pg. 123

“It is fear that threatens to keep people from trusting and obeying God.” pg. 124

And there were many more.

If you are in a season where God is calling you to do faith-filled scary things, this book is for you. If you simply want to learn to rely on God more in everyday life, this book is for you. If you are tired of fear dictating your choices, this book is for you.

I imagine that pretty much covers everyone 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge: