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Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

IMG_20180710_143310824I glance up from my desk and notice a rather impressive visitor sitting on our balcony railing about a metre from my study window—a kookaburra, looking as if it owns everything within view! I move to take its photo through the glass and it turns its head slightly, as if to say, ‘I know you’re there, but I also know I’m safe from you out here!’ Some smaller, noisy birds do not like that larger, alert presence nearby and try to frighten it away by squawking loudly and bombarding it. Yet it remains immovable, save for a slight shuffle along the railing and a few sharp turns of its head. Its eyes are on a nearby prize—perhaps something for dinner that those other birds also want?

As I watch, I marvel at how still that kookaburra seems to be. No doubt it is extremely alert to what is happening around it—and that soon become obvious, when it suddenly flies down to ground level, then plucks a poor, unsuspecting worm from the soft soil. In a few moments, that worm is no more. All that stillness and watchfulness on the part of the kookaburra have paid off—it has found its dinner.

At that point, I begin to suspect God has an important lesson to teach me about being still. I might be physically still, as I sit gazing at that kookaburra—but I am not mentally still. Even as I watch, my mind is darting this way and that. I wonder whether what I am writing makes sense or will amount to anything in the end. And I am not still deep inside me either. Instead, I feel somewhat stressed—I am worried about someone I care about who is facing many difficulties and also about an upcoming speaking engagement, not to mention my writing project. I am aware God knows about all these issues—yet I am struggling to stay in that place of stillness and peace with God and of complete trust that God has it all in hand.

I move my hands off my keyboard and lay them in my lap. I breathe deeply, letting my body relax. I picture God’s loving arms holding me close and sink back into them, sensing God’s Spirit both in me and around me. I still my mind and my heart, knowing it is enough to be in this present moment with God. Then I hear again some words read out at church only days earlier:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea … “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:1, 10

In the stillness too, a gentle voice reminds me I am in a daily battle with an age-old enemy and need to remain so very vigilant.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Yes, I need to be alert and watchful like that kookaburra—yet also deeply still, so aware my loving, almighty God is with me at all times, don’t you agree?

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Jo 17I smiled as I watched a hide-and-seek game unfold before us in the park where our grandchildren were playing. A young woman had pressed herself flat behind a large tree, while a boy searched everywhere for her. At last he made his way towards the tree—but as he circled it, so did the woman. Eventually, the boy hurried to search elsewhere, looking slightly panicked. I felt so sorry for him, but thankfully, the young woman must have too, because she soon went after him and all was well. Phew!

This event must have inspired our grandchildren because, back home, they decided they too would hide from each other. Zain hid first, while Maxine quickly began counting to fifty.

‘I don’t know if Zain’s had time to hide yet,’ I warned her.

‘Yes, I have! You can look upstairs and downstairs!’ a voice boomed out from nearby. Little did Zain realise he had given the game away! In no time, Maxine darted in the direction his voice had come from—and there he was, curled up under the lounge.

When Maxine’s turn came, however, she fared no better. As Zain counted, she tore upstairs to find a good spot. But in her hurry to hide, she omitted to shut the door of the linen cupboard where she had squeezed into a corner—a dead giveaway, to say the least!

For me, age and size often determine how many good hiding spots I can find when trying to trick our grandkids! Yet when it comes to hiding from God, I am much more expert. I know and believe God is all-seeing—so why do I bother hiding at all? And I also know God is eternally loving and gracious and forgiving—so again, why bother hiding? But sometimes I listen to that insistent little voice inside my head that seems to hiss at me, ‘Go ahead and think mean thoughts about that person! Don’t forgive him—he doesn’t deserve it! Don’t offer to help her out—why should you? And why bother praying for those other people, even though you promised to? God won’t notice—you can keep it a secret.’ On and on it goes, until I give in and do the things I truly don’t want to do. Then, rather than coming to God and talking about it all, I try to hide.

It’s a bit like Adam and Eve in the garden, isn’t it?

Then the man and his wife … hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10

What if, instead of feeling ashamed and trying to hide, you and I came willingly before God, knowing that, as God’s beloved children, we will be fully accepted and understood and forgiven? What if, instead of holding onto our guilt or anger, we let it all go and truly trusted God? What if, instead of listening to the tempter’s voice, we were to listen to God’s Spirit who is always there to help and to guide?

Let’s not try to hide from God any longer. Instead, let’s allow ourselves to be found and known and loved—perfectly and completely.

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I wonder if you have ever had the unnerving experience of waiting to speak in public somewhere and, at the last moment, wondering whether you have anything at all worthwhile to say. You may have prepared well and sensed you have just the right input for the occasion. But then those horrible doubts begin to surface …

I have spoken many times in public now. I always try to prepare well and to say what I believe God wants me to say. Sometimes I even deliver my talk out loud to the four walls of my study because I want to ensure I stick to my time limit. I know it won’t come out the same way on the day, but I always see something that needs changing and gain confidence in the process.

But on two occasions recently, that confidence has been tested. At one meeting, I sat there listening as the MC introduced me. I felt excited about what I was to deliver. I believed God had guided me as I thought and prayed and organised my notes. But then I heard the MC give an overview of the content of my upcoming talk—and, to my horror, it sounded quite different from what I was about to share! What had happened? Had I misunderstood the topic I’d been given? I could feel my legs beginning to shake. I even debated about changing my talk then and there and speaking more along the lines this lady had indicated. After a brief whispered conversation with her, however, I was assured what I planned to say was fine—which I should have known, since I felt God had guided me throughout my preparation. Later, she apologised for making assumptions about my input rather than checking with me. And both of us acknowledged that the enemy had clearly had a hand in it all.

Then recently, as we drove interstate for me to speak, with each kilometre we covered, I became less and less certain about the two talks I had prepared for a special women’s event. As I reflected on them and rehearsed them in my head, that old, niggling, self-doubt began to surface. What if we drove all this way and my input wasn’t even worth listening to? What if it was far too basic for the women who had given up a whole Saturday morning to be present?

At last I came to my senses and recognised the enemy’s handiwork yet again in all those niggling, negative thoughts. Then I remembered some beautiful words from Scripture I had read just prior to leaving home:

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand—I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’ Isaiah 51:16

While God is speaking here to Zion, I am sure this verse was meant for me too. With such grace, even before I began my trip, God, the mighty Creator of our universe, was filling my heart and mind and mouth with his very words and guarding me with his own hand.

Do you and I therefore have something of worth to say? Of course we do!

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A couple of weeks ago, I began preparing two talks for an up-coming teaching morning. The first took many more hours than expected, but, after changing my approach entirely, it seemed I was getting there. The second came together quicker—yet I felt a little uneasy about it. I knew they would still require more work, but at least I now had something substantial on paper.

This week, I began checking the first of these talks again. But as I reached the second page, I became very confused. My notes did not seem to tie in with the accompanying power point presentation I had prepared. What had happened? I seem to have ended up with all these extra points in a strange order. I began crossing out one whole section—how could I have possibly have got it this wrong?

Finally, I stepped back from it all to gain some perspective. Then in a brief moment of clarity, I noticed the heading on the section that seemed so confusing and out of place: ‘The enemy brings doubt and confusion.’ (!)

You see, these two talks are about spiritual warfare and spiritual discernment, about what Scripture says concerning the enemy and what we can learn from this for today. No doubt I should have been ready for the confusion that ensued, but I’m so thankful God graciously opened my eyes to realise what was happening.

Then that night, I had a vivid, disturbing dream. In front of a huge crowd, I was given some music on the spot and asked to play the piano accompaniment as everyone sang. I tried my best, but it all fell apart. Then the master of ceremonies called up someone else from the audience who took my place and played it perfectly, as I stood there in great humiliation.

This time, however, I realised the enemy was up to his old tricks of trying to tap into my pride and my fear of being judged inadequate in some way. I quickly decided that, rather than wallowing in embarrassment, I would ask God to deal with the whole situation.

Later that day, as I again looked over these talks, I began to feel so much doubt sweeping over me. Was what I had prepared really suitable? What if I had completely misunderstood what the women had asked me to do? What if I offended those present with my material? Eventually, I woke up to what the enemy was trying to do. He was heading straight for that self-doubt in me that has been such an issue in the past, trying to make me feel as if I had nothing of worth to share with anyone.

I wonder if you, like me, sometimes forget we are in the midst of a battle each day as we try to stay true to the Lord? In Ephesians 6:12 we read:

Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Yes, the enemy is real. But so is God. Yes, the enemy is strong. But our God is stronger! One day, as Paul tells us in Philippians 2:10, every knee will bow at the name of Jesus and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord!

I can’t wait. How about you?

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