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Posts Tagged ‘the enemy’

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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It’s not too often I’m challenged on my way into church—but that’s what happened this past Sunday morning. After one of our ministers greeted me as I arrived, we had a brief conversation that, rightly or wrongly, kind of took over my mind during the service itself!

You see, we had talked about how amazing our brains are in that we can be fully engaged in one activity, yet be able to take in something else entirely that is happening at the same time. In the process, I had commented how, on occasions, I have found myself speaking from the heart on an important topic in a church or to a group somewhere else, only to find another section of my brain is busily involved in thinking of practical details that have nothing to do with what I’m sharing. I can be in the midst of trying to connect on a deep level with those present, but somehow my brain can be busy on another parallel track as well. For example, in mid-sentence, I can find myself noting how someone is smiling or looking upset—or, worse still, bored! Or I might realise I am taking too long with my input and begin deciding what I will need to leave out. Or part of my brain might even be sending me little messages such as ‘This isn’t making sense! It’s rubbish! You’re making a fool of yourself!’ And if I then notice someone get up and walk out, for whatever reason, these doubts are very quickly confirmed in my mind!

But the profound question my minister friend then asked and that I carried with me into our service was this: What if we used all our mind in whatever we were attempting to do, particularly speaking? What would the results be then? Hmmmm!

Well, much as I hate to admit it at this point, my immediate response was, ‘Oh, we might change the world!’ It was not so much what I said but the facetious way I said it and what I was thinking as I did that makes me shudder now. I say that because, the more I have reflected on my response, the more I have realised that, if our minds were totally filled with God’s message for those present and totally filled with the Spirit of God as we spoke, then yes, it’s entirely possible we could change the world by the power of God at work in us.

In that same church service, we were reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:18-20:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Wouldn’t it be better if, next time I speak, I focus on the One Who is with me forever, the One Who has all authority and can very well deal with any of those extraneous thoughts of mine? Wouldn’t it be better if I were to shut out those destructive messages from the enemy that invade my brain and listen to God’s loving, empowering voice instead?

Yes, in God’s power and by God’s presence within us, I believe we really can change the world!

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