Remembering the True Enemy

“Katniss, when you are in the arena, you just remember who the true enemy is.”
― Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

When I visit with my Mom at her nursing home, we talk about a variety of topics. Often these topics are the same ones we covered in previous visits, although from her perspective they’re all new.

Despite her loss of memory, I’ve noticed that almost every visit incorporates some type of discussion around spiritual matters. We’ll talk about various passages in the Bible that she will bring up; each of us sharing our thoughts and ideas about a particular passage.

The last time we met, we spoke of a passage in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus encountered a woman from the Samaritan town of Sychar.

Jesus of course was a Jew, and she was a Samaritan. Historically, these two peoples did not see eye to eye, in fact, a great deal of animosity and friction existed between both groups based upon events far back in history. Things were so bad that they could hardly be in proximity to one another, and would not typically speak to each other or accept food or drink from one another.

Jesus initiated conversation with her, and in doing so, broke social protocol by simply asking for a cup of water. With this, their dialogs begin, and soon thereafter she learned who Jesus really was, the promised messiah; God who came to save those that would place their faith in Him. She quickly saw his love and compassion, how it spanned and overcame all of the history of hate, hurt, and mindless harm that had come between the two people groups.

As my mom and I shared about this passage, we begin to imagine what a scene that must have been. What peace and joy that must have existed in that town as they experienced firsthand, the love and grace of God. Many lives were forever changed in the days that followed as the townspeople came to recognize and place their trust in Jesus. Old ways of thinking died, and new ways begin.

For some, it may have been the first time they’d realized that their common enemy was not found in their history of hate and distrust of each other, but rather, it was sin, a condition that caused an absence of a personal relationship with God, and allowed the effects of evil to cloud their minds and hearts.

Scriptures remind us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood,” rather our struggle is truly against the “spiritual forces of evil.” It was evil that kept hatred and anger alive between the Jews and Samaritans for many years, blinding them to the truth about God and His love for them.

As I’ve looked at the headlines during the past few weeks, my heart has been profoundly, yet unsurprisingly saddened, to see how little we have progressed in two thousand years since that unique encounter in the town of Sychar.

Regrettably, sin and evil feature prominently in our news and daily lives, but the scriptures offer hope, news of a different sort. The real Christmas story, is the story of God coming to this hurting world in the person of Jesus. He went on to overcome evil at the most basic level, and to bring us into a right relationship with Him.

I pray that as we celebrate Christmas this year…that we not only remember the real reason we celebrate, but that we also never forget “who the true enemy is.”

(“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – Excerpt from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia.)

Followers

An interesting phenomenon has developed over the past several years.

It’s the idea of “followers.”

It’s really quiet an interesting study of social behavior.

Internet sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vines, blogs such as this one, and others have built into their structure, this idea of having “followers.” People in the internet world simply click “follow” as an indicator that they are interested in what you are publishing or saying.

They then become a follower.

The system has become so normative across so many social platforms that it has been monetized. In the case of YouTube for instance, users with large followings can actually be paid for growing the number of followers that are active on their account.

Gaining visibility is the name of the game, and in our society, it would seem that the stranger, the more bizarre one can become, the more followers one can obtain.

It has been said that one of the strongest and most important psychological traits for the average person, is the importance of being accepted by others. Many have stumbled on this one trait. We often mistakenly attach it to our self-worth.

There are those whose measure of success in life is counted by the number of followers they have attracted. Such a perspective appeals too those who believe their personal value lies in the quantity of the followers they have accumulated.

Now that we have made “following” a metric on the internet, by monitoring and in some cases receiving payments for the number of followers we have, one has to wonder about the effect on the individual, and eventually society as a whole.

Yet the idea of social popularity and followers was a struggle long before the internet showed up.

The Scriptures record this about Jesus; that “a great crowd of people ‘followed’ him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick.” (John 6:2)

Many followed Jesus in His day because of what they saw him doing. It was unusual. Healing the chronically ill or feeding thousands from a few meager loaves of bread and a few fish, that type of news traveled fast, even in AD 33.

Thankfully Jesus was not the selfish and insecure individual that needed to do whatever he could do to get more people to follow Him. In fact, scriptures record that he didn’t go with the popularity model; rather he lived in reality and presented truth, truth that was often hard for a self-centered society to hear. (Some things haven’t changed much…)

When it comes to popularity, people are fickle creatures. A few verses later in the same chapter, we see that when Jesus began to share on a deeper level, a level that required life changes, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (John 6:66)

The tendency today is to focus on fitting in at all costs. The internet has brought to the social table great visibility, and to a certain extent, another channel of social pressure to help us conform to the latest social cause or fad.

It takes real strength of character to be willing to follow Jesus, to not worry about what others think. It takes fortitude to stand up against the majority who believe that “might makes right”, that truth is whatever fifty-one percent of the people think is truth.

I think one only needs to see the news to see how well that system is working.

Thankfully Jesus is always available to us. He is the God of “do-overs” and “fresh starts.” Jesus tells us that we need only to choose to follow Him, and by doing so, we must choose to un-follow the alternatives.

Take a moment right now, think about your life. How’s it going? Are you taking the wide easy road, the road that everyone else is traveling on? Deep down, how satisfying has that choice been?

Do you want to start over, do a do-over in your life?

Here’s how:

  1. Admit to God that you have been traveling on the wrong road of life. That you’ve been living a life that has not been honoring to Him.
  2. Agree to do a total U-Turn in your life. To abandon a lifestyle that has never really satisfied you down deep. Redo your priorities, so that God is at the center of every part of your life. Tell God that you love Him and that you will follow Him all the days of your life! (Even when it’s not the popular thing to do! )
  3. If you do this as an act of faith, then the scriptures tell us that “Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever!”

You can talk to God by praying, using your own words. There is no special formula. Just pray from your heart to God, and He will save you. If you feel lost and just don’t know what to pray, here’s a prayer of salvation that you can pray:

“Dear Lord,

I admit that I am a sinner. I have done many things that don’t please you. I have lived my life for myself. I am sorry and I repent. I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you died on the cross for me, to save me. You did what I could not do for myself. I come to you now and ask you to take control of my life, I give it to you. Help me to live every day in a way that pleases you. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that I will spend all eternity with you. -Amen”

 

Get Out Of Jail

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” -Colossians 2:8

It was many years ago as a teenager, sitting on the deck of a small mountain cabin on a warm sunny day. The pine trees whispered quite nothings as the gentle breezes passed through their green needles.  Around the sturdy redwood picnic table sat my family and I. It was early afternoon, and before us was the game board. To be exact it was a Monopoly game board. My parents, brothers, and little sister would take turns laughing and playing this game for hours at a time. This was all part of our yearly summer trek to Lake Tahoe on a family vacation. Dad was pretty good and won his share of games…but as we kids got older, and started to figure it out, he had to work a lot harder to stay in the game with us.

For those not familiar with this classic game, each player would be given the same starting amount of cash, and a playing piece. We all started from the same place. Players in turn would roll a pair of dice and move their piece around the perimeter of the board a corresponding number of squares. The squares depicted property with an associated sales price. In simplest terms, the winner was the person who purchased the most property and had the most cash at the end of the game.

Along the way however, there were two types of squares one could land on that were called “Chance” and “Community Chest.” Landing on these squares required the player to draw a card of the same name from one of two card decks placed on the board. The cards contained either good news or bad news. A player might have to pay some type of tax, or perhaps they would receive a bonus. Fortunes could be changed depending upon these occasional random cards one might get. One particular card was a “Get of Jail Free Card.” Coveted because one square was a “Go directly to Jail” square, and getting out of Jail cost something.

Once in “Jail” a player would no longer be able to participate in the regular goings on of the game. Opportunities were missed while everyone else who was not in jail played and enjoyed the challenges faced during each turn. But having a “Get out Of Jail” card was the ticket to freedom and the ability to enjoy the game to its fullest without missing a turn.

Many years later, as my son and I played this game during a Thanksgiving Holiday break, I pondered how much life was a bit like a game of Monopoly. We all start as captives (Romans 5:12) held firmly in the grip of our fallen nature. As a result, while yet captives; we cannot enjoy the life that God designed us to enjoy. He desires for us to live our lives to the fullest, (John 10:10) but as captives we cannot. Unless of course we had a supernatural “Get out of Jail” card. In this case we do! His name is Jesus. Only He can give us lasting eternal freedom from captivity.

You see, God loves each of us…in fact He pursues each of us with a passion that goes beyond anything we can describe in mere words. (John3:16) And if we respond to his gentle voice, we can each have a personal relationship with Him. That relationship is what will set us free to live our lives to the fullest each day. Rather than roll the dice of life and rely upon chance and our own strength, why not go with a sure thing and receive Jesus into your life right now? Start the healthiest relationship you will ever have, be free and live your life as God intended for you to live it…to the fullest!

Do we live a life that overcomes…or are we overcome by life?

.”…having the form of godliness but denying its power.” -2 Tim 3:5

Today we are under remarkable pressure to dilute God. To qualify Him so that what is left is a façade of godliness without power. It is no wonder that when we face hardships and temptations, we often grow frustrated and powerless to bring meaningful change to our lives.

Jesus shared that His coming from the Father was so that we “may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Yet for many there is a reluctance to fully embrace all that God is.

Perhaps we accept the life of Christ…but have not claimed the transformational power of Christ. Perhaps we have received Christ as our Savior, but have not given Him the full reign of our life.

If so, then we are denying God the foothold needed to bring His full power into our lives..

Without accepting fully the power of God, we are assured to face the same struggles time and again with victory remaining forever elusive.

In a tangible way, while we cannot see electrical power we know it exists. One only needs to touch a live wire to verify its existence. For obvious reasons of safety, we don’t touch live wires, instead we believe the experts and take if by faith that such power exists and can harm us.

Scriptures tell us that “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)

Lasting transformation comes only through the power of God, and that can only be received through faith, and while we cannot directly “see” the power of God, we can see our lives changed in ways that we know would not have been possible on our own.

Take a moment now and pray. Ask Him for the faith to receive His power into your life, only then will you begin to live a life that overcomes.

 

Copyright 2013