Jesus can make satan’s lies tell the truth

2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV84

 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

My mental illness doesn’t present itself as voices, either inside or outside my head.  What I contend with are feelings and thoughts.  Painful, hopeless, anxious feelings that sometimes leave me thinking that I should give up.  I call them satan’s fiery darts.  And I used to give in to them.  Then I battled them unsuccessfully.  Now, after thinking about the preceding verse, I ask Jesus to take these thoughts captive and make them tell the truth.

The truth is that Jesus loves us.  He has taken care of everything.  We do not have to perform up to standards for Him to accept us.  He accepts us just as we are.  When we trust Him to save us from the punishment we deserve, we become His children.  Two thousand years ago He took our shame and blame and suffered the punishment for it.  There is nothing else to pay.  He freely gives us His righteousness, Spirit, and life.  There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

The evil one, satan, attacks us when we are weakest, and attacks the weakest part of ourselves.  That’s different for each one of us.  What is a constant though, is that satan’s attacks are lies.  They may contain some parts that are true, but the message that he conveys is always a lie.

Before I had a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, I thought I was “pretty good”.  I thought I was a Christian, which was a lie of satan (I liked Jesus’ philosophy but I did not know Him personally).  I thought the few sins I had were no big deal, which was a lie of satan (they were not few and they were a huge deal).  Satan had me completely deceived and so satan just kept telling me I was “pretty good”, I kept believing him, and so he didn’t need to do anymore to insure I was going to hell.

But once I surrendered to Jesus satan went on the attack.  I was now a threat to him.  He couldn’t change my new eternal destination (heaven with Jesus) but he could try and stop me from taking anyone with me.  My experience has been that the more closely I follow Jesus, the more I notice satan’s attacks.  And it seems like most of the time those attacks are thoughts and feelings, that is, satan’s fiery darts.

Jesus dealt with satan by appropriately quoting the Word of God, the Bible.  We can too.  Next time, I’ll post some verses that I’ve found helpful.

From nothing to everything

God, the Father of Jesus, respects us, His creation, made in His image, so much, that He does not force us to love Him.  In fact, He has created this world in such a way that we can go through our whole life denying His existence and His rightful claim on our life.  God does not demand worship.  He is love, and love does not force others to love.  In fact, love cannot be forced.  He simply loves us continuously from before we are conceived until we die; and He orchestrates circumstances and relationships in hopes that at some point we will see that He loves us and that as a response we will freely choose to love Him in return and others as ourselves.

But, why would God send good people to hell?  What if no one ever told them about God?  God would be unfair to reject someone who was never told about Him, wouldn’t He?

Romans 1:18-20, NIV:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Before I knew Jesus and surrendered my life to Him I was scared to death of dying.  Occasionally, I thought the rapture (Jesus taking all of His people from the earth) had occurred and that I was left behind.  When I thought I was going to die, or I thought I was left behind, I had a brief moment of clarity.  I knew God was holy, I knew I was sinful, and I knew He was just to reject me.  And after those brief moments I rejected what I knew to be true and “closed my eyes” and went back to my life as usual.

I knew God was real but I didn’t care.  I had no love for Him.

But God had love for me.

He gave me mental illness, which might seem like hate, but it was really love.  The mental illness struck at my biggest source of pride and self-sufficiency: my brain.  I was paranoid and could not think logically and I could not emotionally relate to others.  Because of my mental illness I was rejected and alone, even in a crowd of friends and family.  After ten years of this “hell” I was still rebellious toward God and still did not respect or love Him.

But He loved me.

And, when I had absolutely nothing left to lose, God offered me a relationship with Him.  And it was only when God had taken away everything the world had to offer: intellect, money, jobs, cars, friends, family, that I grudgingly accepted Him; specifically because I had absolutely nothing left to lose.

Thinking that I was naturally “pretty good” I could not have been any more disrespectful to God.  And He humbled Himself and endured me until I accepted Him and His love.  He has transformed me from someone who hated love to someone who rejoices in love.  I have been forever changed by Jesus’ love and all the credit goes to Him.

If you want to know Jesus the way I do all you have to do is to reach out for Him with all that you are.  He said He will be found by you.  Tell Him that you have sinned against Him and that you are sorry and that you accept that His death on the cross paid for your sin debt in full.  Then tell Him that you believe He rose from the dead on the third day to make you just, forgiven, and holy.  And tell Him that He is now your Lord and Master and that you will follow Him for the rest of your life when at last you will meet Him face to face.

Next, tell someone what Jesus has done for you.  And find a church that believes and preaches the Bible.  Find someone who is farther along in their walk with Jesus and who’s life is worthy of imitating and ask them to mentor you.  And always read the Bible and pray, because God loves you most of all and He can help you most of all.

God protects more than crops and fruit!

Malachi 3 NIV

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse —the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, ” says the LORD Almighty.  
12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

 I interpret Malachi 3:11 to mean that God is interested in protecting more than just my crops and fruit (I don’t have either).  I interpret the verse to mean that if I honor God with my tithe He will protect, among other things, my cars from rusting and wearing out.  I know they won’t last forever but they each are over ten years old, each have over 120,000 miles, and each have very little, if any, rust.  The 2002 Pontiac Montana needs a perennial repair of the heater core thermostat (or something like that, I’m not a mechanic) and may need an engine gasket replacement in 40,000 miles.  The 2003 Toyota Camry has only had the tires, windshield wipers and battery replaced; (but soon needs something like a timing cover gasket replaced).

What I think is most significant is that God has protected ME!  God has kept me safe and free from accidents that were my fault.  I have been in two accidents that were not my fault since I gave my self to Jesus, and He saved me from much harm in both.

You will only find out how God will bless you if you accept His challenge and put Him to the test by tithing.  Try it and see!

Putting God to the test?

Malachi 3 NIV

6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings.
9 You are under a curse —the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me.
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, ” says the LORD Almighty.  

12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

Until you experience the blessing God gives in response to tithing you may be reluctant to give God back His ten percent of what He gives you.  At least that’s what I think my sons are experiencing.

Several years ago I challenged my older son when he was about 12 years old, to test God and see what God would do if my son tithed. My son tithed seven dollars and we watched what God would do.  God said to test Him in this and so we did.  Within a few days I was given four free tickets to a first run major kids’ movie.  God blessed not only my son, but his brother and mom and dad.

I didn’t stick with teaching this to my son and now, ten years later,  my son is not interested in tithing.  I don’t plan on giving up on teaching him and his younger brother though.  My wife and I are going to double tithe and ask God to bless my wife and I doubly (so that we doubly don’t have enough room for it) so that my sons will see that God can be tested and also see that God comes through on His promises.  This test will be for the month of September 2013.  I will report back with developments.

Let’s change the world

 Deuteronomy 8  (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.  
11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down,
13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied,
14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock.
16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”  
18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

Though my university selectively showed me facts that imply otherwise, I believe our nation was founded on Jesus and the Gospel.  (Other faiths enjoyed freedom of expression, and that is attributable to the characteristic of being a predominately Christian country).  Because Jesus permeated the new culture, God blessed this nation just as He blessed Israel when Israel obeyed God.  However, God did not spare Israel, His “treasured possession”, when they did not obey Him.  He sent droughts, floods. storms, and lastly, invading armies, to get their attention.

The parallels to what has been happening to the USA is striking.  America has suffered droughts, floods and storms in increasingly greater severity.  Why?  I believe because America has gone far from God and God is trying to get our attention.

God has a great heart for justice for the oppressed, for the helpless.

Racism causes great injustice: educationally, socially and economically.

Abortion literally chops up helpless living babies and sends them to the garbage.

And our money driven culture doesn’t care.

For a few brief moments American’s priorities were exposed by 9/11.  We suddenly saw that ball players were not the heroes that the commercial culture makes them out to be.  The real heroes were firefighters, police officers, and military personnel; and the countless ordinary citizens who have also sacrificed themselves by helping others.  Churches saw many new faces…briefly.  President George W. Bush said that the rest of America moved on from 9/11 but that he stayed there.  I wish all of America would have stayed there long enough to pay attention to God.

God said to Israel that if they obeyed Him they would be the head and foreigners would be the tail.  And if they did not obey Him foreigners would be the head and Israel would be the tail.  Similarly, hasn’t our own economic health paralleled our moral decline since the 1960’s?  We used to lend to other nations.  Now we are in massive debt to other nations.  And the debtor is servant to the lender.

What is next for God to use to get our attention?  As terrible as 9/11 was, it only woke up America for a few weeks, a few months at best.  Since then it has been no different than before.  When Israel refused to acknowledge the One that won their wars and gave them freedom from their enemies, God stopped helping them.  In time of war after 9/11 our nation prayed.  And we saw God help us using technology.  If we do not acknowledge the One who loves us and protects us, all our technology will be useless.

You may be asking, what can we do, the problems are so big and I am just one person?  God says one person praying is like a thousand and two like ten thousand.  Let’s ask God to first change us and offer ourselves to Him each day to do whatever He asks.  Then let Him lead us.  Margaret Mead is attributed as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

Why not judge others?

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  
We are to judge actions but not motives.  We judge the what and not the why.  The Bible judges many actions: murder, adultery, theft.  But the person was created in the image of God and only God is all-wise and all-knowing enough to truly know why someone did something.

2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  
When you judge someone what you are really saying is that if you were in that person’s circumstances and you did what they did you would be thinking a certain evil.  This would be based on the fact that you had a similar experience in the past.  And so the measure you use for them is the measure you gave yourself.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  
Instead of looking at your brother’s fault, look at his need.

4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  
If you don’t see your brother’s need you cannot meet your brother’s need.

5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  
Forgive your brother his fault, assess the need and address the need.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.
Unbelievers will reject God’s wisdom (and you) until they are ready to receive it.

(Jesus words from Matthew 5:1-6, NIV84)
(My imperfect understanding of the passage.)

Practice what I preach?

The Pharisees, religious and political leaders of Jesus time, failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah their beloved Moses talked about.  This was because they did not believe or obey the Scripture they had memorized and talked about each Sabbath.  They were, as Jesus pointed out to them, hypocrites.

What does that mean for me?  It is easier to write about Jesus than it is to actually follow Him.  I get convicted while I type the words to some of these posts.  How much time do I spend in meaningful conversation each day with my wife? with each of my sons?  Do I give my best at church? at work?

I realize that I need to let Jesus order my world, let Him set the priorities and manage my schedule.  And I do that by obeying Him when He nudges me to set the computer aside and listen to my family.  Jesus will give me the time to write, that is not the problem.  The problem is that I not use my family’s time as writing time and crowd out what is more important.  My family, my church, and my work come first.  In that order.

I believe this struggle of priorities will be ongoing.  I also believe that by putting into practice what I already know to be true from the Bible, the way will get clearer, if not easier.  And by relying on the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower me, the end result will be the balance that God is looking for from me.

Please feel free to hold me accountable to this.