Monthly Archives: August 2013

10 Ways the Enemy Attacks

We all have various leadership roles in life. Whether those roles be formal or informal or whether they are at home, work, church or somewhere in between, we all exert some influence over those we interact with. And the fact is, the greater our influence and effectiveness (especially spiritual influence) the greater will be the Enemy’s attacks.
Chuck Lawless writes of 10 attacks we should be alert for:
1. Encouraging leaders to live in self-reliance. Most leaders are in leadership positions because they can lead. I realize that statement sounds obvious, but it’s strikingly important when thinking about spiritual warfare. Because most leaders can lead, they are always susceptible to leading in their own ingenuity and strength. Creativity and strategizing trump prayerful dependence on God . . . and the Enemy relaxes in glee.

2. Distracting leaders from their devotional life. Regardless of a leader’s position (whether church-based or secular), the Christian leader must lead from his knees. What the leader does when no one is looking – when he or she is alone with God in Bible study and prayer – matters much. At the same time, though, leadership demands focusing energy toward organizational plans and results. Who has time left for God?

3. Destroying the leader’s family.  Leaders tend to be task-driven more than people-driven. Rewards and recognition come from accomplishments rather than relationships. In fact, relationships are private and intimate, often uncomfortable for people who excel in the public arena. Leaders who lead their organizations while neglecting their families are not inviting spiritual warfare; they are already losing the battle.

4. Enticing leaders into email relationships. The Internet is a marvelous tool for leaders, but it’s also dangerous. It’s easier to talk about intimate issues across cyberspace, and flirting seems less risky. After all, “we’re not even together,” I’ve heard leaders say. The affairs that often develop, though, are no less damaging.

5. Drawing leaders into sexual sin. Needless to say, this strategy is at times related to the fourth one above – though not always. Leaders are by nature hard workers, and they at times wear themselves down physically and emotionally. Relationships are home are sometimes strained by workaholic tendencies.  That attentive person at work suddenly looks more attractive, and the Enemy’s trap is set.

6. Focusing leaders on their kingdom.  After all, leaders deserve attention and recognition, they think. They would not be in their positions were it not for their abilities and intelligence. If the organization they lead is not large enough, or if their name is not recognized quickly enough, it must be time to start looking for the proverbial “greener grass on the other side.” The distracted focus then weakens the leader in his or her current setting.

7. Isolating leaders in loneliness.  It happens all the time. The leader who looks so relational, so “together,” so popular is actually secluded and isolated. Those who long to walk in his shoes don’t realize his footsteps are lonely ones. By nature, though, leaders often choose not to reveal their weaknesses, and they remain alone. Men and women who fight battles on their own are destined for defeat in spiritual warfare.

8. Diverting a leader’s attention away from evangelism. It might seem that this strategy relates only to church leaders, but I don’t think so. All believers, regardless of their position, are to be Great Commission Christians. Leaders, in fact, may have as much opportunity as anyone to influence others with gospel truth. The Enemy is not alarmed when leaders focus more on their own goals than on the spiritual needs of others.

9. Encouraging leaders to live by comparison. Christian leaders have one person to emulate: Jesus Christ. It is the Enemy who directs a leader’s eyes to somebody else’s popularity, opportunities, and recognition. “I don’t understand why he gets all the attention,” the leader thinks, even if he never states that opinion publicly. “I know I could do better if I just had the opportunity.” The Enemy delights when somebody else’s fame becomes another leader’s idol.

10. Convincing a leader that failure won’t happen to him. It’s not hard to do, actually. Leaders are often leaders because they don’t accept failure and defeat. Others may give in, but not a true leader. Here’s what I’ve learned through the years: no leader expects to fail, and few recognize their own dangerous steps in the wrong direction. They come to their senses only after failure has cost them much.

 

May we all be alert and watchful!


Fear: The Monster Under the Bed and the Light of the Gospel

As I finish my children’s bedtime story, I close the book and hop up from their bed. We run through the usual routine of hymn-singing and bedtime prayers, and everyone gets their good-night kisses in as they all think up one “last” very important thought that must be voiced before I can leave the room for the night. As we muddle through the twenty “goodnight” farewells, the last words spoken are always the same.

“Leave the light on! Leave the door all the way open,” they remind me.

This is not an unfamiliar step of our bedtime process; I am very well acquainted with their desires. As we turn the main light off, we turn on the Spiderman nightlight, the Buzz Lightyear nightlight on the adjacent wall, both the bathroom lights, and of course we must always leave the bathroom door open. The special stuffed turtle night light, “Turtle Stars,” projects tiny glowing star-shaped light from the foot of the bed to the ceiling. Last but certainly not least, the bedroom door must remain all the way open.

Needing Nearness

Around 2:00 a.m. I hear the pitter-patter of little feet rushing to my door, followed by the sound of the turning doorknob and the familiar words, “Iiiiiii’m scaaaared.” Half-asleep, I would love to shoo them to their room, with a groggy “Don’t be scared, go back to bed,” but I know it won’t work. They need more than a a Spiderman nightlight and more than a quick reassurance. They want my nearness.

In the middle of the night, my frightened children need to be near us and will only be calmed and quieted by our physical presence. Some nights we scoop them up and return them to their bed, tuck them in and stand by for the few moments it takes for them to return to peaceful slumber. Other nights we give them permission to build a pallet on the floor beside our bed. Knowing our nearness and feeling our closeness quiets their fears in the darkness of the night.

Bigger Monsters 

As an adult, I’ve long since conquered my fears of the dark. But I still have monsters under my bed and they taunt me night and day:

  • I’m not feeding my family all organic food: I’m probably poisoning them. 
  • Our car needs a new_________. How will we ever afford it? 
  • I accidentally left he oven on this morning, I bet our house is burning down. 

Whether it’s running errands around town or standing over the kitchen sink washing dishes, I can easily drift into fearful worry. The smallest things can lead me to draw ridiculous conclusions.

  • My husband’s not answering the phone – maybe he was in a car wreck.
  • I have a stomach cramp – It’s probably cancer.
  • My friend never called me back – she must hate me.

These crafty shifting shadows steal my comfort and my peace of mind. But even worse – they threaten my faith. Fear takes my eyes off of Jesus and His faithfulness to redeem (Titus 2:14) anything and everything. Fear keeps me from trusting God’s promises (Psalm 115:11) and paralyzes me from taking steps of faithful obedience (John 15:10), showing love to others (John 13:34), and sharing the good news of the Gospel (Matthew 28:19). My actions and lack thereof, prove I care more about “playing it safe” than I care about trusting God.

His Light & Nearness

Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and scripture says whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness (John 8:12). He offers His life and the light of hope for every fearful sinner who believes. Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death perfect life expelled the darkness of this sinful world. Shouldn’t it also expel all of our rational and irrational fears? Each time I fear, it is a reminder of my own need for the gospel to redeem my brokenness.

In Christ, I have nothing to fear in death or life. Because Christ lived a perfect life and died a sinner’s death to pardon my sinful disbelief, I no longer need to fear any “what if” situation; my fears of this world are no longer justifiable. In the Light of Christ, I can also see His nearness. Through His forgiveness, He draws me near – keeping me and protecting me from harm.

Like my little nighttime snugglers find midnight refuge and peace at the foot of our bed, I too find refuge in the light of the gospel and the nearness of Christ.

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”Psalm 118:6


A Game Plan for Combating Worry

Do you want to hear a good description of what happens with anxiety? “A man who has no control over his spirit is like a city broken into and without walls.” That’s Proverbs 25:28. How do you get a grip when barbarians are rioting in the streets of your mind? Terrorist attackers, a gang of criminals, suicide bombers, cities invaded, fires everywhere, a lion in the street, chaos. Your mind loses its grip. Fear and anxiety have taken over. Nothing’s safe or certain.

Anxiety is a universal human experience, and you need to approach it with a plan. Notice this is not a formula. When Andy Reid coaches the Philadelphia Eagles, he doesn’t know a single thing that’s going to happen after the opening whistle. He doesn’t even know who’s going to kick off until they flip a coin. But he’s not unprepared. He goes in with a game plan, a basic orientation to the game ahead. I want to give you six things as a game plan for when you start to worry and obsess.

First, name the pressures.

You always worry about something. What things tend to hook you? What do you tend to worry about? What “good reasons” do you have for anxiety? The very act of naming it is often very helpful. In the experience of anxiety, it seems like a million things. You’re juggling plates, round and round and round and round. But really, you’re juggling only six plates—or maybe obsessing on just one. It helps you to name the one thing or the six that keep recycling. Anxieties feel endless and infinite—but they’re finite and specific.

Second, identify how you express anxiety. Spot the signs. How does anxiety show up in your life?

For some people it’s feelings of panic clutching their throat, or just a vague unease. What a huge step forward when you stand back and say, “Aha, a red light on the dashboard!” Rather than just indulging your worries, you can name them. For some people it’s repetitive, obsessive thoughts: “Oh, now that’s the fourth time I’ve repeated that scenario in my mind.” For some people the sign is anger. They get irritated, but when they work back, they realize, “I was fearful and worried about something.” For other people, worry shows up in their bodies (e.g., a tension headache) or in the cheap remedies that sin manufactures to make us feel better (e.g., gobbling ice cream, or an overpowering desire for a stiff drink). Spot the signs. How can those things become cues to you? “I’m losing it, I’m forgetting God, my flashlight is going dim.”

Third, ask yourself, Why am I anxious?

Worry always has its inner logic. Anxious people are “you of little faith.” If I’ve forgotten God, who or what has edged Him out of my mind and started to rule in His place? Identify the hijacker. Anxious people have fallen into one of the subsets of “every form of greed.” What do I want, need, crave, expect, demand, lust after? Or, since we fear losing the things we crave getting, what do I fear either losing or never getting? Identify the specific lust of the flesh. Anxious people “eagerly seek” the gifts more than the Giver. They bank treasure in the wrong place. What is preoccupying me, so that I pursue it with all my heart? Identify the object of your affections.

Fourth, what better reason does Jesus give you not to worry? What were those promises we just talked about? Go back and pick one to take to heart.

I listed seven for you, seven things Jesus guarantees about how God runs His universe. We highlighted the sixth, “Your father is God,” because it was the best of those better reasons. But they’re all good reasons. That’s why Jesus mentions every one. We’re pretty uncomplicated people. It’s tough to remember seven things at once, so pick one. For me, over the last month, the most helpful one has been, “If God feeds the crows, won’t He provide for you?” It makes me laugh even to think about it, and anxiety can’t coexist with hearty laughter! Those Crow Boys intercepted a lot of temptations to anxiety; they did me good. Grab one promise and work with it.

Fifth, go to your Father. Talk to Him.

It’s not as though your Father doesn’t care about the things you worry about: your friends, your health, your money, your children, and so forth. Your Father knows what you need. You can go to Him with the things that concern you. Cast your cares on Him, because He cares for you. You’ll have to leave your worries with Him. They are always outside of your control! How will your kids turn out? Will you get Alzheimer’s? What will happen with the economy? Will you ever get married? Will there be an anthrax attack? Will your dad come to know the Lord? Will you have money for next month’s bills? You have good reasons to be concerned about such things, but you have better reasons to take them to Someone who loves you. Like that toddler whose mom trailed her, even the deep end of life is safe.

Finally, give. Do and say something constructive. Care for someone else. Give to meet human need.

In the darkest hole, when the world is most confused, when there are barbarians in the streets, when life’s the toughest, there’s always the right thing to do. There’s always some way to give yourself away. The problem might seem overwhelming. You could worry, worry, worry, worry. But what you’re called to do is small, just a little itty-bitty thing. There’s always something to give yourself to, and some way to give. Jesus said more about this in Matthew 6, the parallel passage to ours: “Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day thereof.” Give yourself to today’s trouble. Be about the business of today. Leave tomorrow’s uncertainties to your Father.

by David Powlison


“But He’s Not My Neighbor”

Luke 10:29-37

It seems to me that we have, perhaps, inadvertently reversed the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus’ point in the parable is that our neighbor is anyone in need. In order to make this point clear, he tells the story of the Samaritan coming across a man who was beaten and robbed. Even though this man was culturally his enemy, he takes action and helps.

Jesus’ point is: don’t let yourself off the hook of the command to love your neighbor as yourself by limiting it only to a narrow group of people. Love even your enemies, do this sacrificially (as the Samaritan did), and be willing to risk (as it was a dangerous road).

I think precisely because of this parable, few people in the world who are familiar with the teaching of Jesus would be callous enough to walk by a person bleeding on the side of the road. Or, if they did, they would know it was deeply wrong (unlike the religious people in the parable, who apparently didn’t even get that).

But that’s only half the point. In fact, I would suggest if that’s all we get from the parable, we’ve totally missed the point — even if when presented with the exact circumstances of the parable, we would stop to help.

The reason is this: we don’t very often come across people who are bleeding on the side of the road. So how does the parable apply to us the rest of the time?

I think we’ve inadvertently taken the parable and restricted the meaning of our “neighbor” in the other direction, thus doing the very thing Jesus is forbidding. We’ve come to think that our neighbor is only a person in extreme need — the person bleeding on the side of the road.

But what about the person who is not bleeding on the side of the road, but has other, much smaller but still very real needs?

We tend to just pass on by. “He’s not my neighbor — my neighbor is the person bleeding on the side of the road.” And yet it never crosses our mind to say, “Hmm…; isn’t it strange that I’ve never actually come across such a person in my entire life?

Jesus told this parable to teach us something that is to apply to us every single day of our lives. He gave an extreme example to counter the common notion of the day that limited the scope of who we are to love. But then we’ve strangely seized on the example he gave and limited the meaning of “neighbor” in an entirely different direction, to mean only those in extreme need. That was not Jesus point.

Overlooking seemingly ”small,” everyday, and ordinary needs is also a great sin. Your neighbor is not just the person in extreme need, but the person right before you at work, in your neighborhood, in your community. Your client, business partner, employee, co-worker, person who comes off the street into your business asking for directions, or person who attends your church and has a concern. Anyone and everyone who has any need is your neighbor.

If you think you’ve got it together because you don’t pass by people who are beaten up on the side of the road, but overlook issues of everyday need in the people right before you, you are missing it.

And don’t we all need to hear this? I know I do.

So, let’s get with it. Let’s about the world with our eyes and ears open to seek out, identify, and meet all types of needs that the people have whom God brings across our paths. Let’s ditch this notion that our neighbor is only someone in extreme need. Let’s be proactive in meeting less extreme needs as well.

And, as we do that, then we will be truly obeying the point of the parable, even if we never literally come across someone beaten up and bleeding on the side of the road.

And, we just might come to see that this seemingly “small” needs aren’t quite so small after all.

By Matt Perman