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29 November 2012

Spiritual Warfare - November 29

On Monday we saw God holding Job up to Satan as a righteous man and giving Satan permission to bother Job – but not touch him personally. Here’s what Satan did:

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said,

·       “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,
·       “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,
·       “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,
·       “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.  Job 1:13-22 (ESV)

Talk about a bad day! If that had been YOUR day, would your first act have been worship? For most of us, the honest answer is “no”.

Satan is very powerful. In a short time, with God’s permission, Satan was able to take everything away from Job except his health and life. However, Job didn’t respond as Satan predicted, and Satan went back to God.

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:1-10 (ESV)

Satan gets another try at Job, and this time he’s allowed to make Job sick. Job’s wife was amazed that Job didn’t curse God and die. Job knew there was a plan and that he had to trust God, and he refused to say anything against God.

Have you ever gone through a trial and had friends or family members tell you to turn from God? How did that make you feel? Were you convinced you needed to stand by God, or were you tempted to listen to your friends?

So far we’ve seen some pretty vicious attacks against Job. Who was really in control? It wasn’t Satan – he needs permission to do anything. God is ultimately in control!

Now for some navel-gazing. If Satan went to God today, would God have enough confidence in your integrity to let Satan do what he wanted? If your honest answer is “no”, what areas of your life need some strengthening? Do you think that your weaknesses make you generally more or less vulnerable to attacks by the enemy? Are there areas in your life where you frequently succumb to temptation?

When you go through trials, how does your behavior compare with Job’s? What parts of your life need to change so you can go through trials with the integrity of Job?

We’re coming closer to the new year, and people frequently start to think about resolutions. Perhaps your resolution for 2013 would be to develop more integrity so you can withstand the enemy’s attacks like Job.

See you Monday!

26 November 2012

Spiritual Warfare - November 26

When we think of spiritual warfare in the Bible, one of the first places we think of is Job. His story shows that Satan has authority on this earth, but only as God gives him permission.

Job had it all – a beautiful wife, wonderful kids, sheep, camels, oxen, donkeys, servants. He also had faith that God was in control.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Job 1:1-5 (ESV)

Job also had character! He was upright. Blameless. Turned away from evil.  Offered burnt offerings daily in case his kids sinned. We’ll see the tragedies that occurred in Job’s life on Thursday. Today, we’ll find out how those tragedies came about.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he 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 1:6-12 (ESV)

Did you realize that Satan and God have conversations?

God was proud of Job’s righteousness and pointed him out to Satan. Satan told God that the only reason for Job’s uprightness was God’s hedge of protection. God granted Satan the power to do evil against Job. Satan couldn’t move a finger without God’s permission, and God specifically said that Satan wasn’t allowed to touch Job personally.

Does it cheer you to know that Satan couldn’t do anything without God’s permission?  How does that apply to your life, today, in 2012 or 2013?

On Thursday we will hear more about what Satan did after God granted him permission to go after Job. Between now and then, take some time to thank God that there is nothing Satan can do to you without God’s permission – and that God is always there, watching to see that Satan doesn’t overstep his bounds.

See you Thursday!

22 November 2012

Spiritual Warfare - November 22

Do you think that what you go through is unique? Does it sometimes seem that no one understands or cares? Those feelings are all a part of Satan’s plan to make believers feel unloved, and that is a form of spiritual warfare. However, it’s not true! Today is Thanksgiving in America, and I am thankful for this…

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV)

Jesus couldn’t have become our merciful high priest without experiencing our temptations. God sent Jesus on a mission to earth to save us, to suffer for us – and to learn what it is to be human by being tempted just like us. Because Jesus suffered, He was able to conquer death for us. Our sin gives the devil power of death:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)

Jesus takes Satan’s power when we accept His free gift of eternal life. If Jesus could take away Satan’s power of eternal death and damnation, don’t you think He can protect us when Satan wages war?

If you are a Christian, you belong to Jesus and live in God’s kingdom (light). You are promised eternity in heaven. You can’t earn heaven.

If you have not accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, you belong to Satan and live in the kingdom of the world (darkness). You are promised eternity in hell. You’ve earned hell because the wages of your sin is death.

Satan is alive and well today and fulfilling God’s purpose. It doesn’t always make sense, but then again, we aren’t God so we don’t have full view of His plans. Jesus took away Satan’s power by making payment for everyone’s sin when He died on the cross. Only those who have accepted the free gift of Jesus’ salvation have had their bills marked

“paid in full”

If you have already accepted Christ, thank Him today for paying your bill in full. If you have not yet accepted Him, today is the perfect day. You don’t need to do anything fancy. All He asks is that you tell Him you’ve sinned and that you want to turn your life around. Tell Him that you want Him to be Lord of your life, and ask Him to come into your heart. Then – go tell! Tell your family and friends as you gather for your Thanksgiving meal. Find a Bible-believing church (not every church believes that the Bible IS the inspired, inerrant Word of God). Denominations don’t matter. What matters is that the pastor and staff fully accept that:

1.       The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
2.       Jesus Christ came to earth fully human and fully man.
3.       Jesus Christ was born of a virgin in fulfillment of Scripture.
4.       Jesus suffered on the cross and died – actually died – and was buried.
5.       Jesus rose on the third day in fulfillment of Scripture.
6.       Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.

Find that church and you’ll find help when you need it AND you’ll hear uncomfortable sermons that will cause you to grow!

We’ll talk on Monday about God’s role in the devil’s schemes. May your weekend be blessed with faith, family, and friends – and above all, with the knowledge that you are on your way to heaven!

19 November 2012

Spiritual Warfare - November 19

If you were a 60s kid and went to Sunday School or Vacation Bible School, you sang songs based on Scripture and you may remember singing about the armor of God. As a kid, it was fun to “put on the armor” and pretend to fight. As an adult, we realize that although the armor is not literal

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with TRUTH, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; Above all, taking the shield of FAITH, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the WORD OF GOD: PRAYING always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all PERSEVERANCE and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:11-18 (KJV)

Our spiritual struggle is with the devil. It takes place in high places – in the heavenlies. Satan constantly wrestles with God, and as we will see later, occasionally God allows Satan to do terrible things to people to prove their faithfulness and to further God’s plans.

Satan is always out to get believers. If he can get a pastor (or you) to have an affair which is uncovered and plastered all over the news (or to ruin your testimony), he is gleeful. If he can get you to do something that “proves” the hypocrisy of Christians, his demons have a field day. If he can simply put things in your way to keep you out of God’s word, he is happy, for if we don’t have the Sword of the Spirit, we don’t know what God expects of us.

In what ways does Satan work in your life? What temptations or trials does he place in your path that will keep you from the Word, from prayer, or from being a good testimony for Christ? Take some time this week to pray and ask God for His help in overcoming those devilish schemes. The way we live DOES matter to God, and the apostle John discussed that with his disciples.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:7-10 (ESV)

As Christians, we are to stop making a practice of sinning. This does not mean that we are perfect, and it doesn’t mean that if we sin we aren’t a Christian. However, if we are (for instance) a bank robber before we find Christ, He expects us to turn from our life of crime. Same goes for any intentional sin. Paul discusses intentional sin. We were all something that caused us to be unrighteous, and we still are today. But we are expected to live as Christ-like a life as possible, and that includes turning away from our most cherished sins.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (ESV)

Can you see why we need to put on the whole armor of God every day? We need to have protection from practicing sin each day and we can’t do it on our own.

I know many people who won’t get out of bed in the morning without reading Ephesians 6:11-18 and “suiting up” by pretending to place a helmet on their head, etc. it’s not a bad way to start the morning!

On Thursday, I will talk a little about how Jesus rescued us from our own depravity. Americans are preparing for our Thanksgiving holiday, where family and friends gather around a table and thank God for His provisions. Take some extra time this week to thank Him for the completion of the work His Son did on the cross.  I’ll see you Thursday.