Co-Opted by Fear: Adventures in Overthinking Prayer, Part II

fear(This ended up becoming a series. Here’s Part 1 and Part 3.)

The Neurotic Self-Examination Department is still hard at work, somewhere back there in my brain, outperforming their quotas for the 131rd quarter straight. I’d love to know what productivity methods they’re using, because I could make millions sharing them – I just cannot stop thinking about stuff. For example…should I include the nine months before my birth in that quarter count? If so, it’d be 134.

Anyway…

My pastor belted out another terrific sermon last night. I could sum it up in one sentence of his: “Gratitude doesn’t just sit there. It accomplishes something in our hearts. Gratitude gives way to hope.” It was about reminding oneself of God’s previous works and displays of power in our lives to gather hope for the future – relying on his prior and proven faithfulness to reassure ourselves for tomorrow.

And  thought, that doesn’t work for me. Not for matters in this life.

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7 Ways the Enemy Wants to Poison Your Singleness

(Part 2 of this incoherent rambling can be viewed here.)

desert-dry-path-track.jpgIn The Screwtape Letters, as he narrates a fictional demon teaching a protege to draw humans away from God, C.S. Lewis takes a fascinating turn in his view of love:

Leave them to discuss whether “Love”, or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are “good” or “bad”. Can’t you see there’s no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us.  …this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. 

Fascinating. Maybe a bit of a downer to we who dream of “God writing our love story”, but Lewis’ view – that sometimes things just happen, and God and Satan engage in a cosmic tug-of-war to turn it to their uses – does carry one marked advantage. It opens our eyes to Satan’s involvement. It keeps us from being “unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

Bringing Satan into our travails sounds unpleasant, certainly inconvenient, and possibly melodramatic. I understand. (I also would say that that’s his first line of attack – “I’m not here”). But we need not be disturbed or worried by his operations in our lives. (That fear is his second line.) We need only be informed, and respond with the truth of Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard that Satan attacks marriage. That’s easy enough to believe – just look at the institution now. The divorce rate, the poor reputation – it looks like Mordor. You, Christian single, have already committed yourself to beating the odds there. You know a God-centered marriage will thrive.

What you might not have heard is that the enemy also attacks singleness. I’ve seen this to be true in my own celibate journey and that of many others. Basically, he’ll use anything he can get his hands on. I say this not to frighten but to equip. God has given us everything we need to resist Satan. But you can’t resist an attack you don’t see.

My testimony: I allowed Satan to poison my singleness for many years before I let God open my eyes to the symptoms. I want you to avoid the same traps. Here I will list three of them, four in the concluding post, and I agonize that I have only two blog posts’ length when each of these could merit its own book.

But the occasion for joy and relief and bouncing off the walls? Each of these lies has an antidote, formulated straight from God’s Word.

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On God, Doors, and Enemies: The Story of a Friend’s New House

AClosed_door_01 while back, a friend of mine was trying to buy a house.

At first things were falling into place. Then, as so often happens with a home purchase, they started stampeding south. Renovation needs were discovered. Her loan officer bolted. Inspection after inspection failed. It became a drawn-out trial, and the burden was greater than living arrangements. She was trying to escape a demoralizing roommate situation; she needed to get out of her apartment for the sake of her heart.

But as the obstacles stacked up, Christian friends and advisers in her life started falling back on a familiar refrain: “These obstacles are probably God trying to stop you. You should let go of the house.”

Deep breath.

Okay. Let’s start at the beginning.

As Christians, we know God does place obstacles in our path to turn us aside from unforeseen dangers and bad decisions. Given our limited visibility in life, we should always keep a weather eye out for these signs.

But it was striking how these Christians in my friend’s life arrived at their assumption – that it must be God doing the blocking – so quickly and naturally. It’s a sign of another assumption, one shared by a lot of believers, especially in the last few generations of the church: the idea that God is the only source of opposition in this world.

It’s not a true assumption.

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