How to Avoid Attacks by Satan

India shows us the key to avoiding spiritual attacks. I’m not referring to anything in the Hindu religion which dominates the country, but rather to a tidbit from their military history.

In northern India, the Rajputs were the warrior class in the 6th-12th centuries. Apparently they took their fighting very seriously. Even the women joined in battles.

History records battles in which the Rajputs rode Marwari horses, horses with funky ears and particularly adept at handling desert heat. What was unusual about these horses was how the Rajputs would dress them up. They dressed them to look like elephants.

That’s right. Elephants.

Some armies used elephants in battle. It does something to a soldier’s morale when a herd of elephants comes charging against him. It’s hard to stand and fight with six tons of elephant charging at you and an enemy on his back chunking spears.

But elephants won’t attack other elephants. So here came the enemy on the elephants and the elephants would stop because …. oh, look at the cute baby elephant! Only it was a horse dressed up to look like an elephant. The horse would rear up, place his front hooves on the head of the elephant, and the Rajput warrior could easily attack the enemy.

If you look like an elephant, you can avoid being attacked by an elephant.

And if you look like the world, you can avoid being attacked by Satan.

Why should Satan attack? His desire is to keep the believer from living for Christ, from conforming to the image of the Son. Unfortunately, too many believers make Satan’s work easy. When we already look and act like the world, he has no reason to tempt or attack.

So if you’re tired of being spiritually attacked, just give in to the ways and enticements of the world. Satan will leave you alone.

But if you do, know this …

You’re no friend of God.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

I’d rather stand with God.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (v. 17).

Yes, it’s a battle, but we don’t stand alone. Jesus stands with us. The Holy Spirit is in us. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is with us (Eph. 1:19-20), giving us the strength to withstand temptation even as Jesus did.

“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).

So no horsing around (pun intended) with the ways of the world. Stand strong in Christ. It’s worth it.

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Battle Plan” in Bible Studies for Life.

 

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Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

In light of hurricanes and flooding in recent weeks, a familiar question has popped up, one that resurfaces anytime people face tragedy.

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

This is not only a familiar question, it is an old one. Ancient, in fact.  It was essentially the first question asked in the Bible. The Book of Job was very likely the first biblical book penned, and the heart of this book centers on the question of why good people suffer.

Job, who likely lived during the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was a righteous man—yet God allowed Satan to take away his children and his great wealth. Job’s response?

Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:20-22).

Satan said Job would lose his integrity and curse God if his health was attacked. So God allowed Job to be struck with nasty boils all over his body. Again Job responded without accusing God.

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

Job’s response doesn’t mean he was content with the situation. He wanted to know why God judges our actions when He can just as easily change things. He asserted his blamelessness. He wanted to know how to appease God’s justice.

It’s at this point a lot of people would simply write God off. While believers hold to the truth that God is both all-powerful and infinitely loving,  the skeptic says:

  • If God is all-powerful, He must not be loving, because although He has the power to stop evil, He doesn’t care enough to prevent it.
  • If God is loving, He must not be powerful, because as much as He cares and loves those suffering, He is powerless to do anything.

Interesting premise, but there is no doubt of God’s power. Look at the universe around us. There is nothing too great for Him or beyond His scope.

And I have no doubt about His love. My own experience confirms His love and grace.

Job wanted to question God, and God responded. He asked Job a boatload of questions to show how little Job knew.

“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…. Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this…. Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?’” (Job 38:1-4,18,33).

God’s point? Job knew so little of the physical world he could see, so how could he possibly understand the vastly more complex moral world he could not see?

In the end, God never directly answered Job’s question! Admittedly, we don’t like that. We want a full explanation complete with charts and diagrams. But do we really want a God we can explain? Frankly, if we could explain all God does—and doesn’t do—He wouldnt be much of a God.

I will state the one reason we know for sure bad things happen: we live in a sinful fallen world. We are sinful people—all of us. Bad people do bad things. Evil people inflict evil on others.

God stepped into the world in Jesus Christ to address the problem of a sinful world. Granted, not everyone responds to His solution, but through the death and resurrection, God guaranteed a life to come that will be free from pain, suffering, and evil.

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

That answer sounds like a cop-out to some. It’s easy to talk about the by-and-by, about heaven someday, but why doesn’t God keep the innocents from suffering now?

I don’t know.

But I do know this: I’ve learned to trust God even when I don’t understand. Please don’t view that as a blind, naïve faith, but what I know of God—what I’ve experienced at His hand—gives me confidence to trust Him when I don’t understand.

When I became a parent, I never wanted to give my sons the pat answer, “Because I said so.” It didn’t take me long to realize sometimes that’s the best answer you can give a small child. Their developing brains cannot yet grasp the full complexities of, say, why you just can’t use that plastic card to buy whatever they want. Sometimes you just have to leave it at this. “I’m the parent and you can’t have it—because I said so.”

We need to trust God even as a small child must trust his parent when he doesn’t understand. That’s what Job did.

  • “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13).
  • “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (13:15).
  • “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (19:25).

OK, I’ve been fairly academic to this point. Christian, it’s time to get personal.

Where is God when tragedy happens? He’s there—in us.  We are the body of Christ. We are His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:17), and when people see us, they see Jesus.

So when hardships hit, we step in.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

We show the world who Jesus is—not through our doctrine or religious habits—but as we live and love like Jesus.

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Cheap Gimmicks Will Not Work in Spiritual Warfare

Can we please take the Christian life a little more seriously than this?

Faith is not a breath spray. It is a piece of spiritual armor! When Satan and his angels press their spiritual attack, I need more than minty-fresh breath. I need a shield.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

When those spiritual forces presses their attacks, my faith—my trust and total reliance upon Jesus Christ—serves to protect me as a shield. I am protected by my confidence in the power and victory Christ has secured for me.  When I take up the shield of faith, I am able to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (v. 16), because I am holding up my unshakable belief in the truth of Christ and who I am in Christ.

Satan and the spiritual forces of evil will attack—and they will attack subtly by diminishing the reality of the battle and the power of biblical faith. He does it with things like “Believe in God” breath spray. The folks behind this may be well-meaning, but I see nothing more than a financial play for the money of gullible believers or the spiritually minded.

They may be after our dollars, but Satan is after our faith. He wants to reduce confidence in God to nothing more than confidence that our breath smells good. Confidence in God has been reduced to confidence in our breath—which simply translates into confidence in ourselves. And that’s dangerous.

Faith is part of the spiritual armor we need, but even the armor has been reduced to a gimmick to secure our money. Parents can even buy a plastic spiritual armor playset.

Oh, sure, it’s meant to teach junior about the spiritual armor, but kids are concrete thinkers. They take things literally, and they will equate the helmet of salvation with something you literally put on your head! And, parents, how do you teach them the armor is symbolic of what God gives us to battle the spiritual forces of darkness? C’mon, we know what kids are going to do with this: they’re going to fight each other!

Maybe this is the modern-day version of playing Cowboys and Indians. “It’s your turn to be Satan! I was Satan last time. It’s my turn to smite you with the sword of the Spirit!”

Yeah, you’re right. I have issues with products like these. We have taken the incredible gifts God has given us—righteousness, truth, the gospel, salvation, faith, His Word—and reduced them to cheap imitations for a buck.

In light of the battle believers are in, I’m sure Satan is quite happy with the way faith has been reduced to a gimmick. I can’t help but wonder what God thinks.

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Battle Armor” in Bible Studies for Life.

Candid Camera and Your Reputation

Before there was Impractical Jokers, Punk’d, and a host of other hidden-camera realty TV shows, we had Candid Camera. Candid Camera started it all in 1948. For over twenty years, the original Candid Camera showed ordinary people encountering something unusual or peculiar and recording their reactions.

If you’ve ever seen the show, I’m sure you can say the tag line:

“Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!”

The creative brain behind it all was Allen Funt, whose birthday we celebrate on September 16. Funt hosted his show, so he was a familiar face to the public. That familiarity—and his reputation as a prankster—helped a tense situation in 1969.

1969. Before the days of tight airport security, it was easy to walk onto a plane with a gun. Or to enter the cockpit and make threats. In a five year span (1968-1972), American planes were hijacked 130 times! In his recent book, The Skies Belong to Us, Brendan Koerner called this the golden age of skyjacking. And a popular destination was Cuba.

It was February 1969 and Allen Funt was flying with his family to Miami.  During the flight, the captain came over the loudspeaker and announced they had hijackers and the plane was now headed to Havana.

It would be a tense situation for sure. But then some of the passengers recognized Allen Funt and laughed. They were on Candid Camera! Of course, not everyone bought into it, but a small group of passengers relaxed and even gave kudos to Funt for his stunt.

But it wasn’t a stunt. Allen Funt and his family were just as concerned as others, but in spite of his assurance that this was no prank, a few of the passengers blew it off as part of the gag—and for the rest of the flight to communist Cuba, they enjoyed the experience.

Allen Funt’s reputation colored some people’s perception of what was really happening.


Your reputation precedes you and colors everyone’s perception of you.

I have an overactive sense of humor. I am notorious for bad puns and dad jokes. For several years on April Fools, I’d slip into my co-workers’ offices and place a small post-it note on the bottom of their computer mouse. The post-it note covers the optic sensor, and the mouse stops working. Yeah, I know. Hardy-har-har. I was always the first person suspected. My reputation preceded me.

Other things in life I take far more seriously. For example: my integrity and my walk with Christ. I want people’s perception of me to be colored by a reputation for being loving, gracious, and a man of my word—because their perception of me reflects on their perception of Jesus Christ.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches” (Prov. 22:1). 

Why is a good name so desirable? Because I am an ambassador of Christ. My name—my reputation—reflects on Him.

You are the light of the world…. let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:14,16).

Based on your reputation, what do people perceive about you? What do they perceive about Jesus?

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Before Satan Stakes a Claim …

Just because Satan says it’s so doesn’t make it so.


Few people outside Arizona probably know who James Reavis is, but in the 1880s, he owned over 18,000 square miles in the Arizona Territory. That’s about 12 million acres stretching from Phoenix to New Mexico.

It was a shock to the settlers already there to discover that the land they thought they owned belonged to someone else. But Reavis let them stay—at a price. He sold the settlers quitclaims, deeds that transferred a claim of land from one person to another. Reavis sold quitclaims for $25 apiece, but he kept the water rights. The Southern Pacific Railroad paid handsomely for the right to lay track through his land.

James Reavis became quite wealthy off his land, the water rights, and the quitclaims he sold. There was only one problem.

He didn’t own any of it.

James Reavis may have been a liar and a fraud, but he had facial hair that hipster millennials would envy.

Reavis had forged documents and fabricated an elaborate story of how he inherited this huge land grant. Elaborate, yes, but totally false.

Reavis took in, by today’s standards, over $150 million dollars before one newspaper editor’s diligence proved Reavis to be a fraud. The “Baron of Arizona” was busted. He was sent to prison and died a forgotten man in 1914.


 

Satan tries to lay claim to our lives, but if you are a follower of Christ, Satan has no right or claim to you. Unfortunately, too many people accept the lies of Satan as fact and live defeated.

  • You’ll never amount to much.
  • God can’t love you because of what you’ve done.
  • You tried to live for God but failed, so you’re mine.
  • You can’t stand up to my temptations, so just give in.

Lies, lies, lies.

We act on what we believe is true. Do not accept the accusations and deceit that come from Satan. He is the father of lies (John 8:44).  Bask in the truth of God’s Word. If you are a Christian, you are …

And I could go on. The truth is that you have nothing to fear from Satan—neither his lies nor his power “because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “Fear Not!” in Bible Studies for Life.

Survivor Guilt and Hurricane Harvey

I grew up in the Houston area. Although Houston has not been my residence since 1980, it’s my old stompin’ grounds and I still consider it home. A lot of you have asked about my family in the area, and they are doing fine. Their home was spared from any water damage.

Others were not so fortunate. And that’s where the guilt kicks in for me.

In less than two weeks my wife and I are moving.

  • We sold our house in one day for more than we were asking.
  • We found a wonderful new house that perfectly fits our needs.
  • We are closing on both houses on the same day.
  • We are literally moving from one house directly into the other.

We have continually thanked God for His graciousness in how wonderfully and smoothly things have progressed and come together.

So after the hassle-free tasks and logistics of buying and selling houses, I sit down and turn on the TV. The news is filled with tragedy, suffering, and loss. My wife and I are moving because we want to, yet so many in Houston are moving—or more accurately, evacuating—because they have to.

When bad things happen to some people, they ask, “Why me, God?” I do something similar when good things happen. “God, why are things going well for me when it’s not for others?”

I am experiencing comfort while others are not. But I am not to rest in my comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

God has blessed me, and I can turn around and be His blessing to others. Regarding the massive recovery work on the Gulf Coast, I don’t know what all that means for me yet, but I don’t want to sit idly by. Join me in this.

1. Work with your local church to give finances, supplies, and specific items needed.

2. Partner with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  In size and scope, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is third behind FEMA and the Red Cross. This well-organized volunteer program uses any funds donated solely for disaster relief—not for administrative costs. Work alongside them because they have done their homework, and know exactly the kind of help needed and where. Check them out at: https://www.namb.net/send-relief/disaster-relief.

We can represent Christ to others and be the comfort they need.

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When Interest in the Paranormal Becomes Normal

Why are we so fascinated with the paranormal?

As I was developing a study on the paranormal for the Bible study curriculum I work on, I was blown away by the wide-spread practice of things associated with the occult and the paranormal. My team developed this poster/visual:

The House of the Devil from 1896 was the first horror movie—but it wasn’t the last.

And then there’s the movies. Movies about ghosts and the paranormal have been around since the earliest days, but these days we’re flooded with them. Just consider the popularity of films like Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and their three thousand sequels.

Ask someone why they’re interested in the paranormal, and most of them will say, “It’s just for fun. It doesn’t mean anything.”

But they still haven’t answered the question. If it doesn’t mean anything, why the fascination?

Interest in the occult and the paranormal boils down to three reasons.

  1. An interest in powers and forces beyond ourselves.
  2. The potential to use those powers to manipulate our circumstances.
  3. The desire to use those powers to see and control our future.

At the heart of these three reasons is the root problem in our sin nature: we want to be in charge.

God has placed a desire in each of us to seek Him. He is the only power we need, but we seek to fill that need with everything else but Him. Along comes the occult and the paranormal, and it points to powers beyond us that we have the potential to control. I can’t control God, but if I can learn to control these supernatural forces, well, maybe I can get what I want.

There’s a problem with that. The paranormal and the occult never deliver. Never.  And any time we take our eyes off Christ, it’s dangerous.

God offers us something far better: Himself. After condemning occultic practices in the law, Moses said:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).

Look to His Word which He spoke through His prophets. And look to the ultimate Prophet and Word: Jesus Christ.

We don’t come to God as a power to control or manipulate—even though He has all power. We come to God for a relationship. We come to know Him, to walk with Him, to discover in increasing measure the joy and fulfillment Jesus Christ brings into our lives. If we trust Him and rest in His control, we have all we need and will ever want. We don’t need to know the future or manipulate our circumstances. We trust and rest in the One who is Lord over our circumstances and future.

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

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This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “The Paranormal” in Bible Studies for Life.