Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

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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What do you see?
Woman or a face?

I get a little tired of people treating Eve as though she had a “blonde moment” and impetuously grabbed the fruit from serpent (who was probably a beautiful creature and not some slimy looking snaky thing – I mean really, who would trust a talking snake?). And why is symbolized by an apple? She ate “some of it” … she ate the “fruit thereof,”; it could have been cherries or nuts for all we know.

Genesis 3:6-7a
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened . . .

But here’s my point. The interaction between serpent and Eve could have been over time. She may have even pondered what it would mean to “know good and evil” since all they knew up until then was good. They were, after all, made in the image of God who is all good. So, the draw here was the wisdom, I think, not the temptation to disobey. Personally, I’m a big fan of wisdom. We are even encouraged throughout scripture to desire wisdom and to ask for it. And for me, here’s the real loss. If Eve would have asked the Creator for wisdom to solve this conundrum, she would have received all that she needed.

There is some part of human that is still unsure of our place in the universe. Are we truly beloved of the Creator? I’ve made so many mistakes: is it too late for me. No, no one is unreachable. Even eating the fruit of the tree doesn’t kill, but there are consequences.

Adam and Eve experienced consequences. And so do we, every day.

When they ate of the fruit of the tree (whatever it was that the tree produced freely in the garden), they saw everything differently. Before, they were looking with God’s eyes; perhaps they looked within more readily and saw the beauty of all living things; perhaps they were able to communicate freely with God’s creation. But, upon seeking beyond the boundaries of God’s gifts for that time in their lives (who is to say they wouldn’t have received more and more later?), they saw something they had never seen before: Not God.

Now, as a follower of Christ, I am trying to teach myself how to see the old way, with the eyes of God, to bypass the “not God” parts of humans and focus on spirit within.

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Painted by Hans Baldung Grien
16th Century

In a previous post, I spent some time thinking about the idea of choices and boundaries for human in the Garden of Eden (a decidedly perfect environment) and yet, within that garden stood a tree with forbidden fruit. Human had to choose whether to honor God’s boundary (“do not eat”) or not. Now, it appears another kind of choice was there as well, whether or not to believe the “crafty serpent.”

Genesis 3:1aNow the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman . . .

Another thing occurred to me today. Why are so few people concerned with the concept of a serpent that could a) talk and b) interact with human? Some might reason that this was possible because it was really Satan in the guise of a serpent, but still, a talking critter is talking critter. And apparently, human (Adam or Eve) was not particularly surprised by this talking faculty either. Is it possible then that other animals or creatures in the Garden could communicate? I know, that sounds fantastic. (Is that any more fantastic than the idea of a Garden with only two people who named all the animals and walked around naked?) After all, the Garden is not supposed to be Dr. Doolittle’s domain. And yet, isn’t it fun to consider? Perhaps this ability to communicate with other species was lost to us in the “fall.” In some ways, it makes perfect sense that we make up so many stories about talking animals in our children’s stories, fairy tales, and movies. If only, we think, if only my dog could tell me what he really wants. If only my cat would explain why she is so angry with me. And so on.

A few years ago, Carolyn Parkhurst wrote a novel called The Dogs of Babel, in which a man’s wife dies after falling from a tree and the only witness was their dog. The man, a linguistics professor, is so embroiled in grief that his only hope for recovery is to get the truth about his wife’s death from the dog . . .  by teaching him how to talk. To me, that story captured the longing of inter-species relationships.

But, enough about talking animals. What I really wanted to investigate was the logic of the serpent for challenging humans. I believe he really wanted to undermine God’s authority and the best way to do that was by usurping the human role in Eden. The serpent, as a creature of the Garden, had been placed under the authority of human (see Genesis 1:28) just like all the other animals and creatures. To me, this is the reason the serpent was so crafty. He had a bone to pick with Creator and for this reason, he tricked humans, those most beloved of God. Otherwise, why bother?

This breakdown of the chain of command works in today’s world too. What better way to break things up than to hit the “middle manager.” In this way, the organization (or the church) suffers both up and down the ladder. Those below the middle manager begin to distrust that person’s reliability while the administrator above is seen as a poor leader, unworthy of respect. By encouraging human Adam and human Eve to break the boundaries of the Creator, the serpent broke himself free as well. The serpent’s goal was and still is bigger than human.

Evil has an agenda that is beyond mere “search and destroy” missions of human beings. Ephesians 6:12 says “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.” Same for them.

What is my role then today? See the big picture. Believe in the boundaries of God. Believe in the reality of a secret agenda of evil. Trust the sovereignty of God.

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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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When Paul describes “these people” with a long list of attributes, I think we forget that the list needs to hold together in its totality, not pointing fingers at folks who may demonstrate one or two or even a few similarities. This full list is someone wholly trapped. And apparently, the worst version of this kind of person is one who “teaches” this way to others.

II Timothy 3:6a, 8
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women [or men] . . . Just as Jannes and Jambres [traditionally believed to be Egyptian magicians] opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men [or women] of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.

Let’s review the list of behaviors or attributes:

  • lovers of themselves
  • lovers of money
  • boastful
  • proud
  • abusive
  • disobedient to their parents
  • ungrateful
  • unholy
  • without love
  • unforgiving
  • slanderous
  • without self-control
  • brutal
  • not lovers of the good
  • treacherous
  • rash
  • conceited
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
  • having a form of godliness but denying its power
  • [II Tim 3:1-4]

This is a comprehensive list and not one to treat lightly. I don’t know anyone like this in my world. I just don’t . . . or do I? Of course, I know people who are rash sometimes or conceited, I even know people who act with no self-control and they can boast or be unforgiving, and certainly I know tons of young people who are disobedient to their parents. But none of my acquaintances fall into the morass of the list as a whole. Do they?

But we are warned here that there are people like this. And because there are, we need to be wary because this description is not necessarily of the terrorist or the killer or the drug lord. This array is about secret sins. This catalog describes someone whose internal life has been ground up and rearranged. This person is living a lie.

It’s one of the reasons why Paul specifically says, “They are the kind who worm their way into homes. . . ” [vs 5]. This person is a chameleon who adapts to the environment, cunning and crafty.

I’m not even sure, such a person is conscious of it, but instead, justifies all choices with a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement.

And yet, my greatest defense remains the same: right living, faith in God, love of others, and the making of peace.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment. Protect me, my family, my community, my nation, my world.

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