Satan and Bathwater Theology

hell.jpgRecently, 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).

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What the New England Patriots and Satan Have in Common

bradyNote: This post’s first half is tongue-in-cheek, folks. If we can’t have a sense of humor in the comments section, I’ll be throwing penalty flags on you. Because heaven knows they won’t be thrown on the Patriots.

I personally suspect that it might be amongst the lowest-rated Super Bowls in NFL history. I’m writing this several hours before kickoff, so I don’t know if this prediction is true as you’re reading this. But it’s my guess.

And not just because of this year’s well-intended but broad and self-defeating player protests, though that’s part of it.

No, it’s because it’s the Patriots.

Again.

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This Could Really Be the Last Day You Fail

Stop struggling with your sin and kill it!We all have something dogging us.

And we’ve had so many go-arounds with this particular enemy – some weakness, some vice, some habit seemingly iron-wrought or seemingly genetically hard-coded – that it’s turned the idea of victory into distant foolishness…even though you know that victory is God’s will, and that with his commands comes the power to obey.

Perhaps victory seems attainable during moments when we’re in the clear, when temptation is at bay. Or at church, or after the prayer of repentance, when you’re bowled over by God’s grace and power.

But once the bell rings again, and you’re standing in front of the refrigerator or the computer or that person at work who needs your patience rather than your anger, the optimism fades fast. A deeper layer of doubt is revealed in your heart. I can’t do it. If we succeed for a little while, it switches to, I can’t possibly keep this up forever. Or the urgency fades after a week and our treacherous minds convince us that one surrender won’t hurt and…it ends up being more than one surrender.

Don’t you sometimes just wake up and want to be free of all that? For good?

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The Ache of a Cubs Championship

celebrateHere’s the 0-1…this is gonna be a tough play…Bryant!…the Cubs!!!..WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!! Bryant makes the play!! It’s over!! And the Cubs have finally won it all, 8-7 in ten!!”

Joe Buck’s words reverberated across the nation, Chicago erupting into bewildered revelry, a 108-year-old curse shattering into pieces. The Chicago Cubs, known for generations as the “lovable losers” who could find a way to choke in any circumstance, were now the undisputed top dogs – winner of the 2016 World Series.

“No more waiting until next year,” as Buck so eloquently put it – no more next game, no more tough practice session tomorrow, no more drowning in negative headlines. The players could finally let it all go. You could see the worries drop from their shoulders, the internal pressures released. Kris Bryant, having nailed the final toss, leaping across the field like Neil Armstrong on the moon; Anthony Rizzo pocketing that winning ball and flinging his glove aside to leap into a bouncing throng of teammates; fans nationwide collapsing in relief as they watched, their blood pressure dropping just as quickly. Their team…not a newly adopted playoff favorite, but their long-cherished team…had finally won it all.

For me, the most heartwarming moment of the night was watching YouTube videos of elderly folks reveling in their homes. There was none of that when my Seahawks won the Super Bowl; they’re a younger team in a younger sport, no fans in their nineties to watch a lifelong dream come true. That night, ninety-year-olds Cubs fans clapped gleefully like kids from their rocking chairs, their bodies even remembering how to dance for a few moments. They had hung on, disappointment after disappointment, for almost a century. At long last, they had been rewarded.

And thinking of that, I felt…an ache.

It was not the ache of worrying about next season. (By the way, while I have you here – don’t do that. Don’t let your thoughts start turning to whether they’ll repeat next year, to worrying about the draft and free agency, to wondering whether this was all a fluke. Not so soon. They just won the World Series. For goodness’ sake, rest and enjoy it. That’s my advice, from someone whose football team won it all three years ago. Some fans will never know this joy.)

No, this ache was something else.

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Stop Struggling with Your Sin and Kill It!

myswordOne April during my Air Force tour, our squadron commander handed us a goal: a 100% off-duty safety record for the summer.

I raised an eyebrow. Our squadron was based in college-town Phoenix and consisted of twentysomethings brandishing motorcycles, ATV’s, jet-skis, and a love of drink. Expecting no off-duty accidents for a whole summer seemed as likely as deciphering a Newsboys lyric.

Later, that commander visited the flightline and happened to strike up a conversation with my work group. Being a little (too?) bold, I asked if he realistically expected the 100% goal to be reached. His gracious reply:

“Well, what results would I get if I only asked for 80%?”

I am among many Christians struggling with certain sins. (The rest are just quiet about it.) We sincerely want to please God, cut the garbage out of our lives. The first thing I often say to teens who say they’re struggling is, “Good. Struggle is good. It’s better than surrender.”

But eventually we have to face the results. Longings to become gentler and kinder, with little to show for it. Years of bondage to sexual sin. Constant failed attempts to be more honest. Our flesh doesn’t just roll over; it weighs us down, and our hearts sink with it.

One day, I heard a talk that transformed my approach to sin.

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