Posts Tagged ‘devil’

sunday-school-jesusWhat does that really look like? Sometimes, my imagination carries me away and I think of my body as some kind of hollow, yet intricate cave where the Jesus of Sunday School paintings sits around and chats up all my body parts and memories. Absurd, I know. Or, how about one of those alien movies where the creature pops out of the chest or stomach? Yuk.

Now I have found the freedom to truly live for God. I have been crucified with the Anointed One—I am no longer alive—but the Anointed is living in me; and whatever life I have left in this failing body I live by the faithfulness of God’s Son, the One who loves me and gave His body on the cross for me. I can’t dismiss God’s grace, and I won’t.” [Galatians 2:19b-21a, The Voice translation]

The scriptures about Christ’s Spirit, that also being called the Holy Spirit or Spirit, is the stuff of non-traditional thinking. The Christian experience, the believer’s life, with the Presence of God within, is supernatural. It is just as “woo-woo” as any other Eastern beliefs or “new agey” talk. The walk with Christ is the stuff of transformation. Because it is full of paradox, it requires faith . . . of things not seen or even understood. Miracles are things that happen outside of the natural order. That’s the point.

Jesus withinThe difference is the affiliation. Do you engage with the other powers or do you engage with the power of the One God, manifest through the Christ and offered to the faithful . . . freely. The sacrifice is in letting go of “self.” But the “other powers” want the same thing. Who do you trust with your soul?

“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.” [Ephesians 6:12, NIV] And when you see “heavenly realms,” think spiritual realms, the world within.

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 servingThe devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”  [Luke 4:5-8]

This is a disturbing passage; not because Jesus resists the enemy but the devil’s claim that the earth belongs to him. In essence, until the great coming of the Christ, there was little opposition to the presence of evil. The prophets would warn and encourage the following of God’s laws as a bulwark against the arrows of Satan and his demonic forces. But, this was a losing proposition. The longer evil ruled, the more difficult the light was to find and follow.

And so, God sends the Son to become the ultimate sacrifice for everyone. Grace instead of the law is offered to the people. The presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the new way to fight the good fight against evil.

But still evil is not defeated. The Hitlers (Germany), Mugabes (Zimbabwe), Gadhafis (Libya), Husseins (Iraq), Castros (Cuba), Jong-ils (North Korea), and Stalins (Russia) poured out much bloodshed; the terrorists continue to frighten and murder; people die of hunger [25,000 a day] and disease such as AIDS [1 every 20 seconds] all over the world. Where is hope for victory? Where is the new Ruler of this Earth? How much longer will the earth groan [Romans 8:22]?

I can choose to keep my head in the sand and pretend that my extravagant living makes no difference in the world (one of the techniques expounded in C. S. Lewis’s wonderful book, The Screwtape Letters, or I can stop. I can open the door of my heart to the pain around me and touch it with the truth of the Spirit in me. Do I believe that God within, Christ died and risen, changes every day life or not?

Joshua asked, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . ” [Joshua 24:15] but really, this is the question I am asked every day.

Perhaps I can’t transform the whole world, but I can metamorphose my use of time and impact my circle of friends, colleagues, and family by being a vessel for Spirit. I can pray with intent and not just lists of names. I can show up. I can be present. I can be open. I can choose life.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20]

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Who is that devil? Who likes to talk about the “devil,” “Satan” or evil? Culture has morphed the devil into a red-horned little man with a pitch fork at Halloween, or a dark looming evil suction machine ready to drag me into Hell, or the scapegoat for everything wrong with us.

I Peter 5:8
Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

In Peter’s voice, the evil entity takes on a very personal nature: that “enemy of yours.” It’s a specific adversary who is lurking around my world, ready to take advantage of some negligence or self-indulgence, ready to ruin a situation, break apart a plan, or discourage a goal.

The NIV translation is simple, “be self-controlled and alert.” Therefore, in the face of Peter’s recommendations, it means behavior that is out of control, intemperate, or incautious, will be a set up for a fall, a slippery slide at the water park. Interestingly enough, I think these moments of imbalance are specific to each person. They are my battles and my particular challenges. “My” enemy may not be your enemy. My indulgences may not be yours. That means, the other guy or gal over there, may have equally unique hazards or threats that may not look all that difficult to me.

I believe this “personal enemy” works from the inside out, just like everything else. Oh, there may be some global enemy who hates the Earth, let’s say, and brings on tsunami’s and famines. Why not? But right now, I’m considering how this enemy of mine gets a foothold inside me.

It doesn’t take long to figure this out. There are several easy “ins” for that enemy of mine such as my issues of food, weight, exercise, and discipline. Or what about those procrastinations that expand from a few minutes to days, weeks, or even months? And in relationships, what about consistency and honesty? I can see how an imbalance in any of these spheres play heavily on my sense of worth and well-being, my trust in God.

So often the imbalance is not just in “not” doing, it’s also in doing too much. Perfectionism and performance-based choices are equally distracting. I’m like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between the two and that enemy of mine swings right along with me.

And so, I ask myself, how do I achieve true balance? How can I be vigilant without being controlling? How can I be cautious and yet be a risk-taker? How can I find the “de-militarized zone” where there is no condemnation and no fear?

Time away. Prayer. Forgiveness. Each day: manna.

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In our 3-D world, the Devil (I know, I know, that label is “oh so old-fashioned”) has the power of death and as a result, the ability to cultivate a fear of death. If I succumb to that fear, I am enslaved by it. The Christ mission broke death-power and its sidekick, fear.

Hebrews 2:14-15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Christ] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

As long as we fear death, audacious faith is more difficult to grasp and hold and act upon.

Supposedly, the Christian norm has been to look forward to heaven, that eternal reward promised when we die. And yet, there are few who rejoice when a loved one perishes, few who can face their own end without navigating the stages of dying and grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and only, at the last, acceptance. Christian or no, most of us still fear the unknown of body death.

I think it has to do with a bit of tenuousness in the faith journey. If I put all my faith eggs in a basket and actually pray/expect a miracle, what if . . . what if . . . it doesn’t happen? If I put my faith on the line like that, won’t it break? If I am disappointed again and again, won’t my faith suffer? Better to be safe and secure and lukewarm. Not.

No surprise here . . . I don’t exercise my faith in the majors much: you know what I mean, things like raising the dead, healing the terminally ill, bringing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and so forth. I fear the death of my faith. And so, the “Devil” wins again.

The Devil is not a man but an entity. We can no more understand what/who the Devil is than we can understand the transfigured Christ. To say the Devil is an “angel of light” [II Corinthians 11:14] on one hand and a fallen angel [Isaiah 14:12, Luke 10:18] on the other isn’t much help either.

We live in a world of balancing opposites like night and day, darkness and light, yin and yang etc. But the most potent set of opposites are love and fear. That’s right, the opposite of love is fear, not hate (which is merely a subset of fear). If I want to do battle against fear, that includes the fear of anything–including death, I must enfold, exude, swell, manifest, embrace, share, and trust the power of love. I’m thinking that miracles, birthed by the Holy Spirit, must be an outgrowth of this powerful and singular energy.

“[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!” [Ephesians 3:19, Amplified]

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” [I John 4:8]

I am no longer a slave to fear by the authority and work of the Christ. Isn’t it time I stopped acting like one?

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Most of my understanding of the nature of God is downright murky; how much less my understanding of that opposite force/entity: the Devil? And yet, I see the consequences of evil everywhere, even prevalent. How do I still get trapped?

II Timothy 2:25-26
You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.
[The Message]

What is the trap of the devil anyway? I’d say it has more to do with a state of the mind than anything else. After all, it’s in the mind that I make decisions, that I initiate my actions. I choose inside the mind. So, I confess, some “traps” I choose. I choose to judge others; I choose to gossip; I choose to sin. Like any woman on a perpetual diet, I still eat the wrong foods and exercise little. I perpetuate my condition.

Now, that’s not to say that some traps don’t catch me off guard too. Like a mousetrap, that is laden with scrumptious cheese. It looks so good. It looks so harmless. I am presented with such snares in the media and while shopping: buy, buy, buy. I am offered credit cards with “cheap” interest. I am told I can afford a much bigger house than I thought. I am encouraged to upgrade everything and anything. Super size it!

And what about the gambit that slowly bewitches me if I am not watchful, like the little frog in the pot of water, getting hotter and hotter? Will I jump out in time? Not always. I become desensitized. I no longer notice the brutal lyrics, the foul language, the abusive behaviors. I am able to watch tsunami scenes and it’s like watching a Hollywood movie, all unreal. “How sad,” I say, “how tragic,” and then I blend up my smoothie or pour a glass of Pinot Noir and watch a DVD to get away from the news.

They say that people who are abducted actually begin to attach to their abductors. Their limited lives develop a pattern, a norm, and slowly, the whole idea of escape is numbed out of them. Isn’t this the most insidious trap of all?

And if I get trapped, so can anyone else. When I’m caught up in a web, it means so much when someone reaches out to me, tells me to “watch out” before I step on the trigger, helps me climb out of the pot of water, gives me clarity where I can no longer see, and draws me into truth with love.

No one likes being slapped across the head like an idiot and told to “wake up! You’re deluded.” No one likes to discover they’ve been fooled or tricked.

The people who have made a difference in my life are the ones who were consistent and patient; those who were authentic in their faith and transparent in their sharing of self.

This is my goal as a follower of the Christ today. This is the role that makes it possible to change a path, to walk beside, to love, to stay out of traps by walking the road corporately.

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Want people to feel really uncomfortable; drop the words Satan or Devil around. Maybe it’s too much Halloween or sports teams or movies with vomit that looks like pea soup, but very few people want to talk about this evil aspect of our lives. He is truly “the one who must not be named.”

I Thessalonians 2:18
For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way.
[NIV 2011]

Don’t get me wrong. I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of a Devil. How powerful is this evil? Can this evil interpret my thoughts and actions? Can this evil slay me, trick me, seduce me? Apparently that is all true.

Ultimately, I know that I am also protected by the Presence of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that I am sure my relationship with God and Christ is through the presence of the Holy Spirit within, then doesn’t it make sense that the opposite force, in spirit, is also present?

But Mr. Mayhem (like the new Allstate commercial anti-spokesman) is still busy: “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.” [Ephesians 6:12]

All is not well with our world. Most of the evil that is perpetuated upon us is human to human: violence, torture, starvation, poison, destruction, or isolation, just to name a few. These have power in our lives. And they are fueled by Satan.

There are a lot of different ways to “do battle” against the Enemy. Some choose direct attack, railing and invoking and commanding that evil leave. Some destroy other humans in the name of destroying evil. Some clump all kinds of vessels together and assume all are tainted by the Dark One. Some are like ghost hunters or McCarthyites in their search.

In this brief reference to Satan, Paul identifies their circumstances as “blocked” and does not say that they participated in a huge effort to unblock. Instead, they worked within the confines of the circumstances and put emphasis on what God was doing and could do and would do.

God is still sovereign.

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Who is the god of “this” age. Paul referenced the power of the god of his age who blinded the mind and heart, is it the same god? Is this that scrappy scapegoat “the devil,” or is it we ourselves? Aren’t we mini-gods, manipulating the world around us with our knowledge and discovery?

II Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

In an age where logic and science rule, evidence and observation reign, is there room for faith in paradox and the miraculous?

How do we believe in mountains can be moved by “faith as big as a mustard seed?” How do we believe that the Lazarus’s of this age, can rise from the dead by command. How do we embrace the peculiarities of Christianity where the meek inherit the earth, turn the other cheek, die to live, give to receive, and so forth.

In Mark 10:50-52, Jesus asked the blind man what he wanted. It was up to the blind man to actually ask to see.

Lord, where I am blind, allow me to see.

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