The Adversary

The Adversary

The evil one seeks to trap you and keep you from being productive in the work that God has called you to do. God is not the only one who has a plan for your life. Oh, we have an adversary, Satan, who has schemes, traps and tricks. He tries to get us off track and prevent us from completing the work that we have been called to do by God.

His primary tool is the temptation of self-sabotage. Remember when the Devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted Jesus to throw Himself off? He challenged Jesus to take a suicidal self-destructive leap! How many times do we self-sabotage? The evil one does not change his tactics. He is always trying to move us in to self-destructive behaviors. The problem is that we fall for it.

Some of these temptations come in the form of opportunities, actually. They can be distractions. He tries to get you to do things in improper timing. Remember when Jesus’ mother tried to get Him to do the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana and He had to say, “Mom, it’s not the right time?”

When Jesus was very clear with his disciples what He had to do, the work that He had been called to do? When he said “I am going to suffer at the hands of the chief priest and the scribes. I’ve got to go to Jerusalem. I’m going – I’m going to die and then three days later, I’m going to rise from the dead.”

What did His best friend say? “This should never happen to you, Lord.” In other words, “I’ve got some advice and my advice is that you should just call off the Crucifixion. That doesn’t sound like a good idea Jesus.” Those who love you the most can be like that– they’re looking out for you, but sometimes they can take you off task for fear of risk. Jesus threw Peter’s words off instantly.

Get behind me, Satan.

Yes, Peter was a friend, but at that moment, Peter was a friend speaking the Devil’s sabotaging words into Jesus’ life. His words come in the form of human solutions, earthly kingdoms, quick fixes, and even protective concern. Sometimes Satan’s sabotage comes through our own fears, our own avoidance of pain, hard work and struggle.

He is sneaky and tricky and he wants to tempt us so that he can stop us from fulfilling God’s call in our life, and he does it in very subtle ways. The bottom line for Satan is that he does not want us to finish. Don’t ever underestimate him or deny him. He does not want you to finish, he will stop at nothing to stop you!

“Save yourself,” they said to Jesus on the cross. “Save yourself if you are the Son of God.”

Rather they should have encouraged the One running the ultimate race on behalf of all humanity: “If You are the Son of God, finish the work that You have been called to do! Go Jesus, Go!”

The voice of Satan is always tempting and taunting you to quit. How is Satan tempting you right now to give up on the race that is set before you? What are the things that Satan is using, his strategies, the little temptations to sin in your life? What is he doing to distract you from fulfilling your call?

Let the words of James encourages you…

Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. –James 4:7-8

It is finished, not I am finshed.

It is finished—not I am finished

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
–Hebrews 12:1-2

Consider Jesus as the supreme example of a finisher.

Notice that our Lord did not say “I am finished”. Jesus had that pure undivided heart focused on the joy that was set before Him. He would not be hindered by the “sin that so easily entangles,” but rather was able to say in victory:

It is finished.

Jesus demonstrated a focused heart that would not be sabotaged by His own pain, struggle, weakness or distraction. His deep desire was only to please the Father and win the prize.

Paul called a young leader Timothy to have an undivided heart for God like a soldier whose aim is only to please his commanding officer. “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) because Satan wants to capture Timothy to do his will! (cf. 2 Timothy 2:26)

Get rid of all the things that might entangle, especially your own sin.

That’s why the writer of Hebrews describes it as that “the sin that so easily entangles,” it is so easy to get caught up in the weeds of our own untended sin garden. A trait of a finisher is the undivided heart.

How many times have you said: I am finished. I am done. I just cannot do this anymore. I quit.

Having the undivided heart to please only Jesus will free you to see clear to a focused pursuit that never quits. How can you regain that pleases God alone? What sin in your life is so easily entangling your heart? Is it your own sin? Or is it the sin of others? The Lord would hear you say with Jesus: “It is finished.”

Finishing Well

It is Finished

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
–John 19:28-30

On Finishing Well

I want to explore with you the traits of one who finishes well reflecting on Jesus’ words: “It is finished.”

Don Sweating, the new president of Reform Theological Seminary has a pastor’s heart. His dad is also a pastor like he is only his father is in his 80s. Don went to him and said, “Dad, I want you to write a book.” His dad said, “Oh, I’ve written books.”

Don said, “No, you need to write another book”. His dad had written two books already. One was how to begin the Christian life. The second book, how to continue in the Christian life.

Don said, “Dad, you need to write a third book, finish the trilogy: How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I already wrote a book on the joy of getting older,” and Don said, “No, that’s not it. It’s a little too self-help.

Dad, you need to finish the trilogy, “How to finish the Christian life.” Don’s father said: “Well, I don’t even have a computer to do any of that and I don’t know how to use them, but I’ll do it.” So they wrote it together, a great little book, called Finishing the Christian Life.”

Americans are not finishers anymore. We used to be. We used to be very strong finishers. We would finish everything that we started. In these last decades even, we don’t finish well. We don’t finish well like we used to and it’s the great generations that understand how to start things and finish them.

Many of us have a multiple projects that we have started and they just keep growing in numbers, projects that we’ve started that is. But, do we finish them? In Jesus, we see a driving intensity. In Luke’s Gospel we read an interesting verse about the resolve of our Lord:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. –Luke 9:51

Jesus is a person of steel and backbone. He would go to the Cross and complete the work that God had given Him to do. He had a determination to do it. If we are to be a person who finishes, we must be like the Energizer bunny. We just keep going and going and going.

The Apostle James calls it “steadfastness”:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1:2-4

How do you see the traits of a steadfast finisher in your life? Are you “lacking” anything?

Reunion with God

Reunion With God

My fondest memories of my childhood are of huge family reunions. My great-grandfather Holt was a father of six children. They and their progeny would gather ever year for a massive tubing party down Santa Fe River at my Uncle Manuel and Aunt Virginia’s house. We had great food, fun and fellowship–for me it was a glimpse of the reunion of heaven.

Jesus informed his disciples that the was leaving them to go be reunited with the Father:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. –John 14:1-3

Jesus knew that the days, weeks and years ahead for the disciples would be incredibly difficult. Not only was he leaving them, but they would undergo the same persecution–the ruler of the world would marshal his force against them. Jesus said,

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” –John 15:20

In this world there will be trouble, trial, temptation, and tribulation. Jesus has overcome the world in his cross and resurrection. What awaits those who commit their lives completely to him is a joyous reunion. In my Father’s house are many rooms. Jesus is preparing a place to receive us when it is time to be home.

Do you long for reunion? Every Sunday morning, we gather corporately in worship and fellowship for a brief time of union with God and one another. Those moments of gathering are to be times of joy and mutual strengthening as we go through the time of trial.

The Scripture promises that one day we will be reunited in the great multitude of our eternal family. It says that the reunion will be a joyous celebration like Wedding Feast. Only at that Wedding Feast, we will be the ones getting married and will be drawn right into the center of the celebration. Jesus will be united with his Church for eternity in the home where righteousness dwells.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.

‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’
–Revelation 7:9-10, 13-17

The Father’s Good Gifts

The Father’s Good Gifts

I love the TV show Extreme Home Makeover.

Our lives are like a multi-roomed house, a house made disorderly and run down by the sinful destructive forces of the world and our own unhelpful stewardship. God would have us surrender our homes over to him in order that he might give us a spiritual Extreme Home Makeover.

Now, we may let him on the front porch, or even in the front door. It may be that we give him a little latitude to rearrange a few pieces of furniture in some of those more public and unsightly places. But, the Lord purposes an extreme renovation of the whole house beginning with the renovation of the most secret recesses of the heart–the back rooms, the ones where the doors stay shut so no one can see the mess!

The silly thing with our closed doors to God is that He knows the secrets of our hearts. Every Sunday we pray at the beginning of worship: “Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit…”–BCP, p. 355.

Even though, he sees and knows the secrets, we still hold back huge portions of our lives from his transformational will. Why is it so hard to trust God with ALL of our lives?

It has a lot to do with the pain from a myriad of betrayals of trust by other people, and it has to do with the many experiences with hurt and violations that everyone incurs. People become very guarded after being hurt. Intimate relationship is risky. The issue is control, or should we say, we all have control issues. Letting in and letting go of control of our lives to The Lord, especially the secret places of our lives, is scary, because it opens up to tremendous life change.

Paul succinctly sums the call to completely and totally surrender all of our lives to the will of God and his transformational process:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
–Romans 12:1-2

God’s design is for us to commit to him alone like a living Sacrifice—total surrender. That is what Jesus models to us on the cross,

Father into your hands I commit My Spirit.

Our natural tendency is to conform to the worldly patters around us exemplified by our friends and family, by the cultural environments we live. He would see us transfigured into his good, acceptable and perfect will.

Will you please trust him with every room of your house? His will is good. In order for you to receive His total transformation, you have to welcome the Holy Spirit of God into the deepest and darkest places of your life–no closed doors to the ugly places. Let him in!

Jesus promises that the Father only purposes to give you good things. He has no intention of killing, steeling or destroying you (that is Satan’s plan for you). Jesus came that you might have life, abundant life (John 10:10)! The key to receiving the life of God is in surrendering our spirit to his Spirit that we might be mysteriously united in the wonderful mystery of his will.

Jesus taught us how when he said,

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
–Luke 11:9-13

The Father loves you and has good gifts for you, he desires to fill you with his presence—every room of your life transformed! Entrust him with all of your life, today!