You know the handful of pioneering saints who carried the name of Jesus on such vast scale that we sit envious in church hearing about them? St. Patrick was one of them.
Recently, I was emailed a question by a follower basically asking, “is Satan real, or an illusion?”
I can’t believe I’ve reached this stage of blogging to where I’m being asked questions – yeeeeeeeeeeee, what do I know? – but fortunately, we have Scripture to reveal truth to us. I’ll just go there.
Satan is real. He is a conscious being with intelligence and personality. And he is a (limited) threat.
And just mentioning this subject makes people sensitive. It immediately evokes fear, anger, and irritation. There’s a lot of (pardon the expression) heated opinion about Satan and his precise role in the Christian’s life. Good teachings, bad teachings, and bad teachings that spring off both the good and the bad.
This is a chance for me to share a fierce core conviction of mine, if you’ll permit me a quick rant: I want to know Scripture, straight-up, as it truly is. I don’t want man’s “compensational” teachings. I don’t want Scripture tossed aside or marginalized by anyone going “people will run the wrong way with this teaching” or “this teachings doesn’t match up with my preferred image of God’s sovereignty”. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater, in other words. The term “bathwater theology” describes this phenemenon well, and there’s a lot of it out there.
No. Let us take the Bible as it is, without shying away from or massaging anything. Then we can build around it with other Scriptural teachings so that we may be properly equipped.
Here’s what I find in Scripture (and may God lead me well in this).
This weekend, I served as a counselor at a youth retreat, out of cell service.
I woke up Sunday morning at 8:30am feeling most refreshed. I’d initially worried that I wouldn’t get enough winky-winky because I’d gone to bed late (12:30am), but nope…8 hours of sleep. It felt good and I was happy. (You know you’re coming up on middle age when these are the things you think about.)
Until a little while later, when I overheard that Daylight Savings Time had started that night. I hadn’t heard about it during the prior week, and didn’t see the usual Facebook memes the previous day because we were out of cell service.
So I’d actually slept only 7 hours.
The moment I realized this, I kid you not, I started feeling tired. Over one hour.
And it got me thinking: Our reality determines our thoughts and feelings to a great degree.
Where the ten scouts saw only Anakites and a bloody repayment for their obedience, Joshua and Caleb saw the power of God.
You’re confronted with a choice.
The wrong choice is obvious, but it looks better in the short term; you can see the reward.
The right choice is also obvious, but you don’t see any gain to it. All you can see down that road is losing out for the sake of being good. Being honest on your timecard when nobody would know either way; breaking up with that person who’s apathetic towards God; clamping down on that beer habit when it feels like the only thing keeping you going.
I’ve written along these lines before, but…how the church would change if we remembered that God promises rewards for obedience?
I should say this right away: the greatest reward of obedience is God himself. Tim Keller recently said it well: “Don’t obey God to get stuff. Obey God to get God.” More of his peace, his power, his unfettered presence…
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I’m on board with this – with the caveat that God also operates on grace, and does give to those who are not worthy, because that’s all of us.
God wants to bless people, but God can only bless a person if their heart and prayers are for the right reasons. There are some people who desire things only because they see other people with things, […]
There was a period last year in which I could seemingly get almost nothing right at my primary job.
The nature of my job is such that errors lent themselves to a nice paranoia. They’d take long stretches of time to come back and show themselves, so I’d spend weeks worrying over any large batch of work I sent out. They also had a habit of clumping together for some strange reason. So when it would rain, it would pour – come in Monday and a huge batch of mistakes from two month ago, sitting on my desk.
My boss was decent about it. He’s a good guy to work for. But this went on for months, and he eventually let me know in no uncertain terms that improvement was needed.
God had a lesson in it.
But it wasn’t what you think. It wasn’t just the lesson of “work harder, be diligent, be the best at your job in order to glorify me,” although that Scriptural lesson is always before us.
It was about how hard I am on myself.
Reading: Psalm 89
But you have rejected, you have spurned,
you have been very angry with your anointed one.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant
and have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken through all his walls
and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
All who pass by have plundered him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
and have not supported him in battle.
You have put an end to his splendor
and cast his throne to the ground.
You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with a mantle of shame (NIV).
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