Tag Archives: Enemy

A Matter of Respect

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:17 (NIV)

A few weeks ago I ran into a person whom I’d not seen in quite a while. I confess that I don’t particularly get along with this person, and this person has made it very clear that they  don’t like me. I’m glad you are not privy to the spiteful thoughts and vengeful desires that welled up inside me when I  ran into them. The actions  of this person that I’ve witnessed over the years have been deceptive and have stirred up trouble in ways that have been destructive to community and relationships that I care about. The words of this person have been false and deceitful. The foolish behavior of this person has been mischievous and self-seeking.

Nevertheless, when I ran into this person in a public place amidst a crowd of people I smiled and addressed them respectfully. We had a brief interchange and I chose to keep my affect respectfully positive and my conversation respectfully benign.

I observe that the polarization of political and cultural thought in America has led to what I deem a general erosion of respect. I remember a time when  politicians, even bitter rivals, continued to treat one another with respect. Now I witness politicians who choose to be publicly disrespectful, malicious, and insulting to their opponents in order to maintain the support of extreme factions within their respective parties. I grew up being taught that freedom of thought, education, speech, religion, and the press came with the societal expectation of respectful public debate and discourse. Now I observe university campuses reduced to destructive chaos and physical assault on those who do not march lock-step with their particular beliefs and opinions.

Perhaps that’s why Peter’s simple command jumped off the page at me this morning: “Show proper respect to everyone.”

I believe I need to treat others with respect because we are all members of the human family descended from the same mother.

I believe I need to treat others with respect because we are all imperfect people in need of forgiveness and grace.

I believe I need to treat people with respect because I am constantly growing and needing the grace of others. I have to extend grace to others who are in process as well.

I believe I need to treat people with respect because it affords the best opportunity for strained relationships to find some kind of mutual understanding, reconciliation and redemption.

I believe I need to treat people with respect because the path of disrespect is harmful both to myself, other individuals, community, and humanity.

I believe I need to treat people with respect because it’s the way of Jesus, and as a follower I’m compelled to adopt His teaching and example.

This morning I’m thinking about the simple act of being respectful to others. A few weeks ago when I respectfully addressed my deceptive and foolish acquaintance I knew that I couldn’t control their reaction to me in the moment nor their continued words or actions. I can’t control others. I can’t control our current culture. I can only control myself.

I’m going to continue to pursue the path of being respectful. Who knows. Perhaps it will go viral.

Temptation’s Basic Appetites Playbook

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Matthew 4:1-3 (MSG)

Wendy and I spent a few days at the lake this week opening the place up in preparation for summer fun with family and friends. I keep the basics I need at the lake so that I don’t have to pack clothes back and forth each time. So it was that I went to put on a pair of “summer” jeans for a trip into town and had to face an undeniable fact. Ugh. Once again my winter appetite has gotten the best of me.

Oh it’s the holidays. Just a little bit more.

Family potluck. Haven’t had that in ages. I’ll have another helping.

Man that’s tasty. I’ll take two. They’re small.”

One thing I’ve learned along my life journey is that our spiritual enemy has a very thin playbook for tripping us up, and it begins with turning our own basic appetites against us. It has been that way from the beginning:

When the woman  [Eve] saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food (appetite of indulging our flesh) and pleasing to the eye (appetite for acquiring shiny things that strike our fancy), and also desirable for gaining wisdom (appetite for feeling superior), she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

In today’s chapter Jesus has arrived on the scene to address messy at its core, and the first thing He must do is face the same spiritual test as Adam and Eve, who started the mess in the first place.

You’re hungry. Turn these stones to bread and indulge the natural appetite of your flesh.”

Throw yourself off the pinnacle and let your angels catch you. Indulge your appetite to proudly prove yourself and your power to me.”

See the kingdoms of the world? I can give them to you, and indulge your appetite to acquire all the shiny new things you could possibly desire.”

Each time, Jesus responded to the temptations of appetite with God’s Words spoken, as we like to say, by heart. His appetite for the Word and for relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit had been fed and nurtured so that when the enemy opened his basic temptation playbook, Jesus’ appetites of flesh were checked by His willful obedience to the appetites of the Spirit.

This morning I have to confess that I have indulged my basic appetites for food (meaning I have regularly eaten too much) and sloth (meaning I haven’t exercised) more than I care to admit over the past several months. As Wendy and I discussed this on our drive home from the lake yesterday we acknowledged that this happens time and time again because I simply want to do what I want to do. I want to eat what I want eat, as much as I want to eat it, whenever I feel like it eating it. Add the appetite of willful pride to my appetite for food and drink. Welcome back to the Garden. As I said, the enemy’s playbook is pretty thin.

As a follower of Jesus, I’m also reminded this morning of my need to follow Jesus’ example in the most basic of things. Time for me to feed and nurture my appetite for communion with Christ, my appetite for consuming His Word and seeking after the things of the Spirit. When I do that, I know that I am better able to face the temptation of all the other appetites.

 

Siege and Parley

But the [Assyrian] commander replied, “Was it only to your master and you that my master sent me to say these things, and not to the people sitting on the wall—who, like you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?
Isaiah 36:12 (NIV)

It was a day of doom. The walled city of Jerusalem was under siege just as everyone had feared; The city was surrounded by the Assyrian army. The Assyrian army of which so many rumors had been whispered. The large army, well-trained and well-equipped that had swept through the region swallowing up every city in its wake. The army that tortured their enemies mercilessly. The army thirsty for blood. The army bent on violent destruction.

In today’s chapter we have front row seats in witness of what historians call siege warfare. For many centuries of history cities were surrounded by walls to protect the residents from invading armies. In order to conquer a city, armies would lay siege to it. Besieging armies would completely surround a city to cut off the inhabitants from food, fresh water, and supplies. They would then wait (sometimes years) until the people of the town were starving, weak, despondent and desperate.

In siege warfare it was common for envoys of the besieged city and a commander of the besieging army to have a series of an ancient version of a diplomatic meeting, called a parley. The city’s envoy(s) would do their best to display confidence that the city would not fall. The besieging army’s commander would do his best try to play psychological games with threats, intimidation, and insults.

Shakespeare, in Henry V, dramatically stages one of the best examples of a parley as, between attacks, King Henry of the invading English army parleys with the mayor of  the besieged French town of Harfleur …

The field commander of the Assyrians in Isaiah’s recounting uses the same classic parley tactics in taunting the envoys of Jerusalem’s King Hezekiah. He insults them and threatens them. He threatens their God, and tries to instill fear in the common soldiers on the wall. It’s a fascinating exercise to deconstruct the envoys speech and discover all of the psychological tactics he employed in his two speeches.

This morning I’m thinking about the ways these very base tactics are still employed. From trash talking on the athletic field to advanced siege and interrogation techniques of the modern battlefield  in which subjects are bombarded with negative audio stimulation while not being allowed to sleep or rest.

This isn’t very different than the way our spiritual enemy continues to attack on an on-going basis. Spiritual attack is an attempt to lay siege to heart and soul. The enemy attempts to isolate me from any network of support, surround me so as to feel there is no escape, then bombard me with an steady attack of messages designed to heighten my shame, shake my faith, cast doubt, and instill fear.

I am reminded this morning that, along life’s journey, I’m going to be spiritually besieged. Recognizing the enemies tactics is the first step in thwarting them. Once recognized for what it is, sometimes the best response (just like Hezekiah’s envoys employed in today’s chapter) is silent assurance.

chapter a day banner 2015

Featured image by MKorchia via Flickr

Truth, Trumpets and Cracked Pots

So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled.
Judges 7:20-21 (NRSV)

It’s amazing how our perceptions and perspectives affect us. God didn’t need 10,000 men to defeat the Midians. He needed 300 men with trumpets and jars to make the Midianites think there were 10,000 men. Once they were given to fear, they were easy to defeat.

The question I am asking myself this morning is this: How is the enemy trying to use this same tactic today against the people of God?

Wendy and I have begun to notice something each morning we sit down with the newspaper and every time we watch a news program on television. We hear the subtextual message “BE AFRAID! BE VERY, VERY AFRAID!” being trumpeted in the headlines and news stories until we feel surrounded by a giant unseen army in the cacophony of crack pot events and statistics misconstrued in the torchlight of political agendas. When headlines trumpet “God Isn’t Fixing This,” the spiritual assault has moved from subtle to frontal.

The resulting fear and anxiety gets absorbed by ourselves, our friends and loved ones. It seeps out on social media, in conversation, and in our behavior. We feel defeated, discouraged, pessimistic, fearful, defeated, and on the run. Which, I realized as I read the chapter this morning, is right where the enemy wants us. I perceive the prince of this world, who cannot make but only mar, using God’s playbook against us.

Today I am determined to find rest in knowing that “greater is He who is in me, than he who is in the world.” A spirit of timidity and fear does not come from God. That is a by-product of our enemy’s design preying on our own shame and doubt. God, however, provides power of which the enemy is ignorant, love that overcomes hatred, and self-discipline to perceive and believe Truth amidst the din.

 

The Battlefield of Job

spiritual battle for job

“where then is my hope—
    who can see any hope for me?”
Job 17:15 (NIV)

We find ourselves in today’s chapter back on the ash heap with Job and his three friends. The friends have all had a chance to address Job and they all express their own taken on the same theme: “You must have done something wrong and your suffering is God’s just punishment. Simply confess and repent and God will restore you.” Job, in response, continues to plead his case: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve done nothing to deserve my sufferings. God refuses to answer my requests for explanation. I have no hope. Let me just die and be done with it.”

In today’s chapter, Job both expresses his utter hopelessness and then invites his friends to have another go at him. I don’t hear Job’s invitation as a challenge as much as it is a gesture of futility and despair. It as if he’s saying “I’m just waiting to die. I’ve got nothing better to do, and nobody better than you blowhards to keep me company. Go ahead and take another shot at me while I’m down.”

Job continues to express his feelings of isolation. His suffering has singled him out from the rest of the world. I think back to the beginning of Job’s story and the root of his suffering:

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Job 2:7

I never want to forget that the story of Job is a story about spiritual warfare waged to claim the territory of an individual’s spirit. Job was a righteous and blameless man. Job was a King’s man. Satan, the enemy, desired to break Job, make him curse God so as to raise his black flag of victory over Job’s soul . Any student of history and war knows that one of the most basic military tactics is to isolate your enemy. Cut your enemy off from supply lines and make them despair, and you usually find yourself victorious. Satan has done just that. Job feels isolated, alone, and in utter despair.

Today, I am reminding myself that the enemy uses the same tactic on me that he did with Job. Feelings of isolation lead to despair, despair leads to hopelessness, hopelessness sucks faith and life from our soul. Parched and starving for faith and hope, we are rendered spiritually impotent. On the other hand, continuing to choose faith and hope in the midst of inexplicable suffering is a powerful spiritual weapon through which eucatastrophe springs.

 

Stand Tall and Carry On

walking alone

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 59

But as for me, I will sing about your power.
    Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.
For you have been my refuge,
    a place of safety when I am in distress.
Psalm 59:16 (NLT)

Yesterday I spoke to a friend who, like David in today’s psalm, is experiencing a full frontal assault on their character. Having done nothing wrong, they are suddenly at the center of a maelstrom of ill intent and malicious slander. I’m sure many of us have experienced being the victim of false accusations, and I’m feeling all sort of compassion for my friend.

I could not help but think of this person as I read Psalm 59 this morning, it prompted me to have a conversation with God about their predicament. Nothing reveals our heart and character more than how we respond when we are falsely accused. Natural human inclination is to either fight or flee. We can go on the attack (e.g. American pre-election and political advertising), or we can slink away to lick our wounds and medicate ourselves with any number of unhealthy diversions.

But, as discussed the other day, we also have the option of choosing to swim against the tide of circumstance and respond to our attackers by placing our confidence in God. I’m reminded this morning that in the original Greek language, God’s Holy Spirit is called a Paraclete. Literally translated it means Advocate. Think of Advocate as an attorney; the person who pleads our case and defends us. Pretty good counsel to have on our side.

When faced with false accusation, I’ve learned over time that the best thing to do is resist my natural urge to fight back or to flee. Instead I tell myself to stand tall, trust God and carry on faithfully. I’ve got the best Advocate on my team, and time tends to reveal the truth of things to those who matter.

 

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 27

“I’m the one who made the earth, man and woman, and all the animals in the world. I did it on my own without asking anyone’s help and I hand it out to whomever I will. Here and now I give all these lands over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.” Jeremiah 27:5 (MSG)

The story of Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar is a curious one. He was not a good man. He was arrogant, proud, idolatrous, brash and selfish. He was a murderous tyrant. He made his own people worship him as a god.

And, at the same time, God was at work in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. God loved Nebuchadnezzar, and used Nebuchadnezzar to accomplish His will. Read the first four chapters of Daniel if you want more of the story. Just when I want to hate Nebuchadnezzar and dismiss him as an evil character of history, God confronts me with the truth that He had His own purposes for Nebuchadnezzar. He went to great lengths to reveal Himself to the man.

Sometimes, I look back and shake my head at the person I remember myself being many years ago. When I was younger, I’m pretty sure I was convinced that I had God all figured out. I’m sure I still act like I do at times. Forgive me. The further I get in the journey, the more I realize how foolish I am to put God in a box. God’s sovereignty is beyond the reach of my finite thoughts. His purposes are greater, deeper, and richer than I can possibly fathom.

How cool that God cared about a godless, corrupt King. How awesome that God’s purposes extend beyond even those who are graciously given the title of “God’s people.” How radical to stop thinking of my “enemy” as an enemy and start thinking of my enemy as a person God loves and for whom God has a special purpose. Isn’t that exactly what Jesus was getting after?

God, forgive me for trying to hold you inside the comfortable confines of my own limited perspective.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and origamijoel