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?

Worshipful Wednesday: Can’t Get Enough of You

For much of my life, I was paralyzed by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of the walls that I’d so carefully constructed falling down around me.

Fear of trusting God and having Him disappoint me, too.

Though I had worked through some of this, I carried much of this fear into my marriage. I would at times ask my husband not to go out without me, such as an occassion where he was going to hear music with friends. I was totally gripped by a fear that something would happen to him while he was gone. This, thankfully, happened very infrequently, but when it did, it was as real and oppressive as anything I could remember experiencing.

In 2004, my husband and I were involved in an amazing church plant. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It really felt like this was how the church was supposed to be: real, welcoming, warm, convicting – just full of Jesus. I was the worship leader, and personally, I felt as if I was finally walking in the fullness of my calling: to use my songs to glorify God and to lead people to Him. I signed up to attend a local worship conference with Andy Park, Rita Springer, and some other well-known leaders.

Just weeks before I was scheduled to attend this conference, the church plant closed when the pastor chose sinful behavior (a sin that he had struggled with for years but had had several years of victory over) above his calling.

I went forward with my plan to attend the conference, though I had no idea why. It felt as if all my dreams had come crashing down, once again.

The conference was amazing, but on the morning of the last day, that dark voice began to beckon: You need to leave. Something awful is going to happen. You need to go home NOW or something will happen to Roy.

I called Roy, sobbing in my car, telling him I needed to come home RIGHT NOW. It didn’t matter that there were only a few hours left in the conference (something Roy pointed out). I replied, “Right! There’s only a few hours left! I might as well just leave, so nothing horrible happens! It won’t hurt to miss a few hours!”

Thank God for my patient husband. He talked me down, and we hung up. And as I remember the story, I sat in my car, crying out to God, weeping, so desperate for Him to show up.

And at that moment, this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, flowed out of me. It begins:

I come to You in desperation

On our last Sunday at our beloved church in Virginia, I was asked to lead worship, as our regular worship leader was out of town. I lead the congregation in this song, Can’t Get Enough of You, for many reasons. For one, I have lead worship numerous times at the church, and it is a team and a congregational favorite. And I sang it for myself because of the special place it holds in my heart: in times of desperation, in places where I am stepping out in faith, the song reminds me of God’s faithfulness. I needed to be continually reminded, is times of ease and trials, of Jesus’ wordsApart from Me, you can do nothing.

My husband captured this video on his iPhone. The lyrics are below, as well as a link to the chords.

Can’t Get Enough of You
By Brenna Kate

I come to You in desperation
I wait for You with expectation

I wouldn’t want to take even one single breath without You
I don’t want to make even one little step without You

Without Your touch, without Your breath, My life is meaningless
I need Your power, I need Your love, I just can’t get enough

I just can’t get enough of You, more of You
Lord, You’re the one thing I desire
I can’t get enough of You, more of You
I need Your passion and Your fire

God, take me in Your arms and fill me with Your love
My heart wants more and more, I just can’t get enough

© 2005 Unveiled Faces Music

Here’s the chord sheet: Can’t Get Enough of You in C#m. I wrote the song in B minor, but it seems to be easier for the congregation to sing in C#m.

I also want to mention that this was the last time I had one of those dark episodes. God is able.

Freedom Friday: The War for Your Identity

I’ve been thinking a lot about spiritual warfare.

Part of the reason for this is I’ve had several opportunities to share Freedom Step 4 from my book  Learning to Walk in Freedom lately with groups of people. Freedom Step 4 is Think Like a Free Person. Freedom Step 4 states that most spiritual warfare takes place in our minds.

As humans, we walk through different types of spiritual wars. There is a war for our souls. There is the first battlefront. Jesus said “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). Satan tries to convince us that there is no God, and even if there is, we don’t need Him. We can be successful in life through accomplishments, strong relationships and power or wealth.

Once we come to believe in Jesus, there is a second battlefront. This battle concerns the obstacles we face, and our struggle with sin patterns in our lives. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,” said Jesus, as recorded in John 10:10. Jesus didn’t want us to know Him simply so we can go to heaven when we die. He desires that we live life to the full, throwing off the “sin that so easily entangles” as mentioned in Hebrews 12:1-3.

And yet there is another battle, one that is far more insidious than the others.

It is the battle for our identity.

Even after I laid down my sexuality at the cross and chose to walk in obedience in that area, even after I stopped starving myself and began to be more at peace with food (a much longer and more painful process), even when the urge to self-injure had mostly subsided, I was still left with – well – me.

I still experienced quite a bit of self-loathing, insecurity, worthlessness, depression and deep core beliefs that maybe God really wasn’t who He says He is. I was still left with all the ways my thoughts and perceptions and speculations affected me.

God led me through a process of learning to recognize the lies I believed and how they impacted me. He taught me how to go to war against my false beliefs and make them obedient to Christ.

Yet the battle continues.

I no longer struggle with self-loathing and worthlessness to the degree I did in the past. Now, I struggle with self-limiting thoughts.

Those self-limiting thoughts that say things like, What have I gotten myself into? I thought this dream was from God, but nothing is turning out the way I planned. I should be safe and keep my hopes reined in. 

But here’s the thing. You’re not really limiting yourself; you’re limiting God.

Years ago, I set part of Isaiah 49 to music with an intro I added. I sang this today as I went to war in worship and praise for some friends who need Jesus to show up in a mighty way. This is sung from God’s perspective.

I gave it all up for you 
So I wouldn’t have to live without you 
(repeat) 

Zion says, “The Lord has forgotten me.” 
Oh, they say, “The Lord has forsaken me.” 
(repeat) 

Can a mother forget the child 
who is nursing at her breast? 
Will she have no compassion 
on the baby that she has given birth to? 
(repeat) 

Though they may forget you, 
I will never forget you! 
(repeat) 

Look; you are written on the palm of my hand! 

Father God and His Son Jesus gave up everything for you. And yet we tell ourselves we will never be able to walk out the dreams God has put on our hearts. We tell ourselves we are too weak, too insubstantial.

Those are lies from the pit of hell.

Where do we find our identity? Where do we find our worth? We find it as declared in the cross and nowhere else.  Jesus fought the battle for us so that we could walk in the fullness of all He created us to be.

Where do we find our potential? In the God who is able to raise from the dead.

Peter, when addressing the crowds on the day of Pentecost, stated, “But God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).

That is what God is capable of doing. In your life.

“We deem ourselves too inconsiderable to be used even by a God capable of miracles with no more than mud and spit. And thus our false humility shackles an otherwise omnipotent God.” William J. O’Malley, SJ

We need to stop limiting God by believing the lies the enemy has told us. We need to go to war for our identity.

Freedom Friday: The Battle for Your Gifts

There is a battle raging.

It’s a battle for your gifts.

It’s a battle for the unique things you have to offer the world.

We hosted a guest worship team at church a few months ago. The worship leader shared something that I’ve been thinking about since then:

“The enemy wants to destroy the call on our lives.”

Oh, friends, how I’ve felt this intimately over the past few months.

I was certain 2012 would be “the year of the book.”

Then, I was positive that it would be done by my 2013 birthday (almost 4 months ago now).

I have lots of excuses.

As I try to grieve the loss of my father in the midst of life carrying on…

As I fill out death-related paperwork that I’ve put off until the last minute…

As I once again try and stuff my emotions with food (something I’m quite good at, apparently)…

And God is His faithfulness keeps poking me, every month or so.

You know, my love, I still want you to finish that book.

Sometimes He’s not so gentle. In fact, He told me in December (yes, almost 9 months ago) to get over myself because the book isn’t really about me anyway. It’s about Him. It’s not about how awesome I am (because Lord literally knows that apart from Him – yeah, not much to impress anything); it’s about how awesome He is.

Well, the book is at the copy editor, and all I have left to do is write the back cover.

It has been a battle.

God has given you something unique, something particular that He wants you to offer to the world.

What is stopping you? The enemy? The negative self-talk? All the excuses about why we’ll do it later?

Here’s the thing about your gifts: they’re not for you anyway.

You may not think you have much to offer. Well, that’s a lie. That is where the battle rages because that’s exactly the position Satan wants you to stay in. Satan easily convinces us that we can’t make an impact and thus paralyzes us from doing the little (or lot) that we can do.

It’s time to declare war on the lies you believe.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

What is standing in the way of using your gifts today? What can you do today as a step of obedience toward God and what He might be calling you to do?

Freedom Friday: A Time For War

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

Everyone walks through different seasons in life. Even the weather goes through seasons (in most places, at least!). Here in northern Virginia, the last few weeks have been unseasonably cool. There was one day when I headed to a group run at 5:45 AM, and I had to turn on the heat in my car. Now we seem to be back to the hot, humid weather of late summer. But the nights are getting longer. It was still not fully light when I got out of my exercise class this morning (around 6:25). Soon, the leaves will change, and autumn will be upon us.

If you continue reading in Ecclesiastes, you find there are many types of seasons. There is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to plant and a time to harvest. There is a time to tear down and a time to build up. Have you considered what type of season you might be in?

Read the first 8 verses of the chapter now.

I shared before about a season I walked through in 2004. I was desperate to know God’s plan for me, to know what the future would hold. God did confirm that He had an amazing plan in store for me, but that I wasn’t ready to walk out that plan.

Instead, God called me to a season of quiet (v. 7). He called me to rest in Him, to soak up His heart and His Word and all the amazing things He thinks about me as His adopted child. So rest, I did. It was also a time to tear down some faulty ideas I had about God and about my identity in Him, and a time to build up the foundation of His truth that I needed in my life in order to maintain a healthier relationship with Him.

In the past few years, there have been deep seasons of grief. First, my grandmother and my aunt. Then, the baby I miscarried, Bunny Boo (who was due in August of 2009 and would have been 4 this week). Several uncles, my grandfather, and most recently my dad. It has been a time to grieve and cry, as well as laugh, remembering all the amazing moments I shared with these people.

Yet with all the transitions of the past several years, I am tired. I am in a season where everything seems hard. I just want to return to that season in 2004 and beyond, take time to rest in God and let Him tell me all the things He loves about me 🙂

But He spoke to me specifically a few weeks ago as I lamented about how tired I am. He said, “Brenna, this is not a time for rest; this is a time for war.” It’s time to go to war against all those not-God-honoring thoughts that have crept in during this time of uncertainty. It’s time to take those self-limiting and God-limiting thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. It’s time to think like a free person once again.

What type of season are you in? Is it a season of rest? Or do you need to declare war on some habits and thought patterns that have slowly worked their way into your life?

Monday Morning Meditation: God’s Character (end of Psalm 25 series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 19-22):

See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.
Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!

I decided to group all these verses together rather than split them up, so this will be the final installment of the Psalm 25 series.

What have been some of the themes of the Psalm so far? Let’s take a look at the blog post titles.

Safe with the Lord
Dealing with Shame
All Day Long (HOPE!)
How Does God See Me?
Need Help? Ask For It
Embrace Grace Again
Friendship with God
Off the Snare and On the Lord (your eyes)
Turn to Me

God’s character is revealed throughout this psalm, as well as the promises that are available to us because of who He is.

Safety. Help. Hope. Protection. Friendship. Grace. Hope. Focus. Perspective. Unashamed. Help. More hope.

In today’s passage, we find David surrounded by enemies. He continues to put his hope in the Lord, trusting in God’s character as well as his friendship with the Lord and his own obedience.

Yesterday in church, we sang “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies).” So many of the themes of this Psalm are highlighted in the lyrics, but I will simply highlight the chorus.

I know Who goes before me
I know Who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The One who reigns forever
He is a Friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

Enemies will rise up. We will grow weak at times from battle. As the song says, “though troubles linger still,” God was won the battle. He is a friend who is also Protector and Savior.

Hope in Him – all day long.

Monday Morning Meditation: Off the Snare and On the Lord (Psalm 25 Series)

Here is today’s passage in the Psalm 25 series (v. 15):

My eyes are ever on the Lord,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.

In times of trials or problems, what do you tend to look at? On what do you focus?

This is easy for me to answer. I tend to focus on my problems. In the past, this was my typical pattern:

First, I would stare at the trap or potential trap.

Second, I would try to think up a solution I could do myself.

Third, I may begin to think about how the God of the impossible could probably help me out with this situation.

Fourth, I generally end up talking myself out of God being able to really do anything because isn’t this problem just too big for God?

When I say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But this is what we do all the time.

Today at church, my pastor said, “What is impossible for God?”

And all of us good Christians answered, “Nothing.”

If only we acted as if we truly believed this.

We say it, but we don’t live and act as if we believe it.

We limit God.

As I read this passage a few months ago, I realized how often I fix my eyes on the snare. I analyze it. I imagine all possible outcomes and how I can avoid it or fix it. I lament at the difficulty of the situation.

And often I end up expending so much emotional energy evaluating the snare that I practically fall into it.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord….”

What would happen if we instead fixed our eyes on the One who is able to release us from the snare?

God does not tell us to evaluate the snare. God calls us to look on Him. I’ve included some past blog posts at the end to encourage you in looking to God.

Pray this with me:
Lord God, forgive me for trying to fix things all the time, as if that is within my power. You call me friend, and yet I am slow to ask for help. Your Word says, “You have not because you ask not,” and so, I ask. Help, Lord. May my eyes ever be on You, the Rescuer, and not on the snare. I pray this in the mighty, powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

Several blog posts that might be helpful:
Seeing with God’s Eyes
Look Beyond Your Mountains
Watch for God

Freedom Friday: Avoiding Moral Failure

This is a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while. This is due in part to things I’ve been reading in the Bible (Isaiah, Acts & James right now, with a little of Hezekiah’s story mixed in), assignments I’ve been working on for grad school (a big essay on plagiarism), and partly because of life events I see occurring around me.

I also just needed to write this for me. It’s a timely reminder that we don’t just “fall into” sin. We will sin. Otherwise, we’d be perfect like Jesus 🙂 But there is a difference in the way various sins impact your faith and your life. I may lose my temper with my spouse today, and that may break trust a little momentarily (especially if it’s a pattern of mine), but if I were to have an affair, that changes our relationship in a different way.  All sin may be equal in the eyes of God (in the sense that there aren’t particular sins that are more difficult for Him to forgive or required Him to hang from the cross longer), but some sins are inherently different because of the way they impact our lives.

There are things we can do to actively avoid finding ourselves in major situations of compromise. Here are some suggestions.

1. Be watchful over your thoughts
Your thoughts matter. Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

In the article 5 Lies that Lead to an Affair, author Julie Ferwerda shares her experiences about how she ended up choosing to have an affair. She writes, “Few people fall into adultery overnight. As with other ‘big’ sins, having an affair is usually the result of a series of small compromises in our thoughts, choices, and behaviors.” And the place it began for her was in her thoughts.

It begins with a thought, a temptation. Temptation isn’t sin, as I’ve written before. It’s our choice to nurture that temptation that can become sin, rather than choosing to lay it before the Lord.

One of the Freedom Steps is Think Like a Free Person. I share there how God commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The battle of freedom is a battle that begins in our minds.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV1984)

Be watchful over your thoughts.

2. Be honest with your intentions
James says that we have “evil desires at war within you” James 4:1 (NLT). Believers are not immune from this. James writes earlier in his letter, “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; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 (NIV1984)We need to dig deep inside of ourselves and pray that God would help us be honest about our intentions in every challenging situation.Toward the end of 1999, I had been a Christian less than a year when I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home but whose family had walked away from God. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do that, and I desperately wanted to help her. I do believe that initially, my intentions were pure; however, my resolve for purity quickly faded, and we entered into a physical relationship.

Jeremiah writes (17:9 NLT), “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

I wanted this woman to know Jesus, but I was still deeply broken beyond my own understanding. This is why I wrote Who’s Got Your Back? The disciples went out two by two for a reason. This is why we need community, to lay ourselves as honestly as we can before others, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), including truth about ourselves.

Be honest with your intentions.

3. Be upfront about your actions
I don’t like the phrase we often use in Christianity to describe our sinful actions. We say we “had a fall” or we “stumbled.” To me, those phrases do not take responsibility for the choices and compromises that led to that “fall.” It’s not as if we are walking down a path and all of a sudden, sin jumps out and grabs us! No. That’s in direct contradiction to the end of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT): “When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

In the relationship mentioned above, I didn’t simply “fall” into it. I made a series of questionable choices (not all of them sinful) that ultimately led to grave sin. This is why we need to, once again, stay connected to believers, honestly sharing about our choices and actions, and even the things we are thinking of doing.

Be upfront about your actions.

4. Be desperate for the Lord
God is able. Really. He is able. He is strong enough, He is big enough, He is loving enough. He is enough. Say it with me: He is enough.
So often we live our lives, making our plans, living as we wish (and not even in a sinful way, necessarily), inviting God in occasionally. We simply forget to include God in every decision, every thought, every actions.

We need to cling to God as if our lives depended on it – because they do. “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus said (John 15:5).

Later in James 4:4b-5 (NLT), James writes, for emphasis, “I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful? He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires.”

Sin is crouching at our doors, always (Gen. 4:7). Through God’s strength and power, we can subdue it and be its master.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.” Isaiah 50:7

Satan deceives; that’s his nature. Sin is always crouching at the door, desirous of us. Yet we can receive God’s help, determine to do His will, and know we will triumph.

Lord, help us.

Freedom Friday: Satan Has A Plan For Your Life

There are many ways that we have tried to share the Gospel, the “good news” of Jesus, over the years.

Back in decades past, Christians would often challenge non-Christians with questions like these: “If you died tonight, where would you go?” We would pull out the Four Spiritual Laws and show the person their need for Jesus to be saved from sin.

Or we would take our unsaved friends to a tent meeting or to see a known speaker. My mother speaks of going to an evangelistic crusade as a teen that scared her to pieces, but not enough that she “got saved.”

Today, we are more apt to hear a feel-good message, stating we don’t have to be alone or wandering aimlessly. You can live in hope if we believe in Jesus because God has a plan for your life.

I believe this is true. I’ve even blogged on a past Freedom Friday about how God does have a specific plan for us.

There is another message out there that I don’t often hear. I imagine it’d really get some folks’ attention if we started our evangelistic messages with this statement:

“Satan has a plan for your life.”

I suppose to those who believe in good and evil, to those who know there is a real enemy, this isn’t a very encouraging message. And to those who think of Satan as a little red guy with a pitchfork and horns, it just seems downright outrageous.

My mentor Mike Olejarz, dressed up as Satan,
to sign copies of CS Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters”

The Bible tells us that Satan is real. Given that he fell from heaven and was believed to be an angel (Luke 10:18, Isaiah 14, Jude 1:6), I doubt he has red horns and a pitchfork.

What do many Christians believe about Satan?

We like extremes in Christianity, and this is not exception.

One extreme sees a devil around every corner. Someone with this mentality stubs his toe and screams, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

The other extreme knows there is an enemy, but pays him no mind. When they think of Satan, they imagine that little red, horned creature hanging out in a fiery place somewhere far, far away.

Neither perspective is particularly helpful or accurate.

What is Satan’s plan for us?

Jesus stated clearly what Satan’s plan for us is:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

Satan’s plan for us is to steal, kill and destroy God’s best.

We see this throughout the Bible, first in Genesis, when the serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” In convincing her to eat the fruit, her connection with the Source of Life (God) was broken, her intimate relationship with Him ended, and she and the man had to leave the garden, where they had walked with God in the cool of the day.

Satan incited David to take a census of Israel, which was not requested by God or blessed by Him (1 Chronicles 21).

Satan came alongside Joshua the high priest to accuse him (Zechariah 3:1-2).

Satan tempted Jesus during His 40-day fast in the desert (Luke 4), and then left Jesus until an opportune time.

Satan spoke to Peter somehow in order to try and convince Jesus to avoid crucifixion (Mark 8:33).

Those are just a few examples.

How does Satan affect us today?

It’s unlikely that most of us will have Satan come and speak to us, as Jesus did. But Satan can still influence us today.

How?

Despair. Hopelessness. Defeat. Discouragement. Doubt.

He is the dream killer, the hope stealer, and the life destroyer.

He does these things by asking us to question God’s goodness. The serpent’s question in the Garden of Eden was really, “Is God withholding good things from you? Is He really trustworthy?”

How should we respond to Satan?

We can respond as Jesus did in the desert: with truth from God’s Word.

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

We don’t need to walk around in fear of the enemy. As I shared earlier this week, God gives us protection from him. But we are called to be aware that he exists. This is the middle ground of the two beliefs I shared above.

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NLT)

We are children of God and through Jesus Christ, we have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:14).

Jesus’ statements about Satan’s purpose are not the end of the story:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

That’s good news indeed!

Freedom Friday: Keeping Vision Alive During Challenging Times

Lots of reflections these days, friends.

Our family is currently in a challenging season. There are a lot of potential changes on the horizon, but when I look around, I see stillness. There is very little movement toward whatever the next thing is (God has not shown us clearly).

We are also in a season where many things are wide open. Lots of questions, soul-searching. What do I want for my life? For my marriage? My family? My ministry and calling?

More importantly, what does God want for our lives as a family? How does He want to work in all these areas?

I know that my deepest desire is to see individuals walk in the fullness of the freedom that is available to them through Jesus Christ, to live with a full understanding of who God created them to be. I don’t have much time to work on my goals surrounding and connected to this vision right now, but the vision God has given me has not changed.

I’ve been asking, how do I keep this vision alive during this challenging and exhausting season?

1. Keep your vision visible.
Write down your vision and post it somewhere you can see it every day. Read it out loud to yourself. Set up an email reminder that sends you the vision daily. Remind yourself of why you are passionate about this vision, and thank God with a heart of gratitude for giving you the vision.

2. Find ways to feed your vision.
As is the case with me right now, you might not have time during this season to actively work on your goals related to the vision, but you can still keep it fresh in your mind. While doing mundane tasks, brainstorm in your head ways you will accomplish your vision. Listen to sermons, podcasts or music that would continue to fan your vision’s flame during your commute. Call a friend and chat about the vision, praying together that God sustains it during this challenging time.
3. Be on guard.
My tendency during times like these is to fall into a very negative attitude. I start feeling sorry for myself. That leads to questioning of my vision, which goes something like this: “Did God really call me to this vision? Maybe I should start brainstorming other ways that I should be living, different choices I could be making, because clearly, I cannot carry out this vision right now. Maybe I thought I heard from God when I really didn’t.”
How does this questioning start for me? “Did God really say…..”
Sound familiar?

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

During a recent episode of this, God brought this above passage to mind. He knew I was tired, worn out, and confused. And he knew that I tend to be easily discouraged during these times.

The following scripture came to mind:

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:7-9 (NIV1984)

The way these verses are put together is strategic. First, we throw our concerns at God. During these times where we feel anxious, He calls us to be self-controlled and alert because the enemy knows we are struggling and is looking for a way to devour us. We must resist him. And we resist him by doing step 4.
4. Cling to what you know.
During times like this, I pull out my encouragement file. I remind myself of those stones of remembrance. I grab my journal and remember all the ways God has confirmed this vision for me. And I don’t make any drastic decisions unless they have been thoroughly prayed through AND confirmed by people who love me, love God and know us both well.

Also remember what you know about God and His character. Remember His promises, His love for His children, and that He takes impossibilities and makes them possible.
I am reminding myself that God is faithful. He is good. He is my strength, my shield, and my sustainer. And He is giving me renewed vision for this season.