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Tearing his costume off!

costumeIt’s that time of year again… Halloween… with all the “Harvest Festivals” and “Trunk or Treat” alternatives.

But as Christians we have such a diversity of “views” regarding Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

For some, there’s a casual nonchalance… like, “well, you know, life goes on and I don’t know how any of this religious stuff works so… whatever.” For others there’s a nearly unhealthy terror and fascination about darkness stuff, almost like the constant making of gestures to ward off the “evil eye” of the Enemy, lurking in every dark corner.

This Halloween, I just want to put something out there with which you are welcome to agree or disagree, embrace or cast away as you feel led…

If we accept that the scriptures of the Holy Bible are true, then we accept that “intelligent others” exist… including both angels and demons. We are told that Lucifer exists. We understand that creatures of darkness, demons, roam the world and seek our harm. All right then. That is a simple statement of fact, one fact of life, not to be focused upon to the exclusion of all else. In fact, a great deal of the impact of the Incarnation and coming of Jesus’ Kingdom has to do with His having freed us from that dominion and domination.

Nonetheless, we “deal with the devil” every day in some form or another. He seeks to rob us of our joy, our peace, our focus on love, light, and truth. THAT is his primary purpose. Not simply to “get us to do bad stuff of darkness”, but rather to “stop us from focus on light and good”.

I once had a pastor phone me and ask, “Is it necessary to name a demon in order to cast it out? Do you have to know its name?”

My immediate answer, thinking he was involved in some ministry of major occult deliverance, was, “Um, no. In fact, you seldom know the name, unless they reveal it. In general, we know the names of very few demons, and the studies needed to acquire that knowledge are not ones I recommend to anyone unless called to that type of ministry very specifically. Why do you ask? What is the need?”

And he went on, clarifying… He did not mean specific entity name, he meant things like,  lust, or greed, or covetousness, and so on.

Ah, I got it. Well, the answer, in my experience, was pretty much the same. When temptation is consistent and methodical, and a spirit is oppressing one’s soul, the real “power and authority” for its dismissal is that of Christ, of love, of light, and the power of the Cross. One releases one’s hold on the temptation, rebukes the darkness itself, and grasps Jesus instead. Often, one may not even recognize what the darkness was, until it is gone and light fills that part of the heart. There may simply be the sense of something being “off”… or the recognition that one’s heart and attitude is far from that of Christ within. Then, back away from that shadow, release it, rebuke it, and intentionally turn towards light, love, and Christ. When one is under the influence of the shadow itself, the discernment can be fuddled, and recognition impossible.

We deal with such mundane interactions with shadow all the time. We take them in stride.

But we seldom recognize them as “suits” or “costumes” worn by the Enemy, Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

If we did, at least many of us, would run off screaming in terror. (Please note: the enemy certainly DOES do some more “dramatic manifestations”, especially when doors are opened through occult or arcane practices. Recommendation? Don’t do those things.)

But this Halloween I just wanted to take a moment and recognize that the pitchfork, horns, and pointy tail costume of the “scary Devil” is far less common than his ordinary business suit, flowered frock, or jeans and T-Shirt. We’re perfectly willing to recognize the Enemy in the dramatic, but far less likely to grant him the credit he deserves in the mundane. Even though it’s still well and truly him and his who are at work.

Here’s the Apostle Paul with some timely teaching to the Galatians…

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. [Galatians 5:13-26]

That’s not a bad list of “Devil Suits”. And we see them all the time, don’t we? In our homes, our communities, even our churches? Paul gives the antidote, even before naming the toxins…

Love your neighbor as yourself, and SERVE one another in that love. (Bear in mind, the Lord’s clarification of “who is my neighbor”.) Don’t freak out. Don’t get focused and fascinated. Just love, serve, and trust Jesus in both His authority and His love.

Let’s defrock the devil, and send him home!

Grace to you, Gentle Readers!

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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Sermon Seeds

 

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Tripping over Aglets

screwtape 1Don Merritt made a fabulous comment on the preceding post that made me roar with laughter… certainly not at DON… but at myself, and frequent memories of the dilemma he poses here.

His comment brought to mind this passage from The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis (and if you’ve not enjoyed this work, you’ve missed a wondrous joy in this Kingdom!)

MY DEAR WORMWOOD, The most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion. No more lavish promises of perpetual virtue, I gather; not even the expectation of an endowment of “grace” for life, but only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation! This is very bad.I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed. (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter XIV)

For the Christian (Believer, Disciple, Minister… anyone) who is determined to grow in grace and truth in Christ, one of the most frustrating and ironic features of this life is the apparent inevitable aftertaste of pride in moments of grace.

Here is Don’s comment, that dropped the pebble for these ripples…

  1. I’ve tried that challenge in the past, and when I did, I had a new appreciation for old Ben Franklin, for when I began to succeed, I discovered that pride got the better of me. Yet, a challenge is a challenge; let’s see if I can keep my tongue under control and my pride under control at the same time… but must I try this all on my own? Can I get His help on this one?

I laughed because I live in that same mantrap. I seek to yield to the transformation, the regeneration, from old to new man in Christ. In those moments where I manage not to sabotage the effort, and the Lord actually gets to let Jesus be Jesus in me, the enemy can hold up a mirror to my face in a heartbeat and go, “Lookie Lookie here! Behold your Self and glory in your nanosecond of selflessness!”

Ugh! And I feel as defeated as ever. The second thought comes hard on the heels of the first… “Well, if that’s what it’s always going to be, this endless cycle of futile irony, why even bother to try?”

And that’s when the Lord cuts in with His accustomed clarity to say, “Because the mirror wasn’t yours, and that’s not what it’s about anyway. I’m not ‘keeping score’.”

Lewis says it so much better than I can, I’m not sure how I dare comment on it, but my heart’s response to Don’s comment (from my own ironic reflections) were three fold:

  1. God truly isn’t keeping score on “seconds selfless”, “seconds prideful”. Rather, there is simply LIFE in the time we fill from Life Himself, rather than focused on ourselves. Self-feeding is like trying to fill a bucket by siphon from the same bucket… eventually it all just dries up. The very SEEKING to be pleasing to Him, to transform, to perform in accordance as His child, heir, ambassador, prince… the HEART of that desire, is itself the source of His pleasure. He’s not nearly so concerned with how “well we perform” in such things, as He is that we simply truly and sincerely desire to perform so in the first place, and commit our steps in that performance (faith through committed action, not just lip service).
  2. God and grace are contagious and radioactive. The more often, the more deeply, the more reflexively we walk in grace (the more we let Him be Him IN us, not just WITH us), the more of Him we transform into. Therefore, each and every occasion of grace we “commit” (even if followed by a pride backlash), bears fruit of transformation in us (even if only for seconds at a time).
  3. (And this one was/is just sheer joy at the humor of Jesus). The enemy will play his games, but we ourselves have to decide whether to let him win at them! The Lord showed me this little ploy… this Lewis/Merritt/me ironic backlash strategy as being the enemy losing his unending battle to focus us on ourselves rather than light, and responding afterwards with a “sour grapes” tactic of “tying our shoelaces together” to trip us up as we walk on. The Lord seemed to say, “You just ignore that, laugh at the trip, and carry on as if irritated by gnats or a mosquito.” Every time we do this, when we refuse to give the enemy the further and secondary payoff of our failing to thank God for the ORIGINAL moment of grace, and acknowledge the joy and wonder of being His… when we focus on our shadows instead of our Light… the enemy feels like he regains some territory. IF, on the other hand, we walk on through the shoelaces, stumble or not, retie them (Grab those aglets!) setting things straight again… then as this happens time after time:
    1. Our legs grow in strength and resistance to tripping, and
    2. The enemy’s “ties” become weaker and weaker. Eventually, the things that readily tripped us up, tempted us to pride and self-adoration, become commonplace non-issues. The tripwires become as spiderweb and gossamer.

Now, this is not to say we ever get where we are “trip proof” and “sin free”. I sure haven’t, and I’ve not met any but One who ever has. But I can say, I DO know, the tolerances get smaller and smaller. The issues more sensitive and the conscience much more responsive to grace.

Given time and practice, we can come to wound one another vastly less, and flow grace forth vastly more. The enemy still plays his games and we still get to grow and strengthen, but the “playing fields” get much much smaller, and more private. The relationship with God gets stronger and stronger, and more intimate.

Anyway, bottom line… Keep on keeping on, retying our shoes as often as necessary, and laugh at the prank intended as a disastrous distractor. Jesus always knew the trip was there, and He steadies our elbows every time, when we let Him.

Grace and joy to all! The Little Monk

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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