Don’t Fight Your Battles Alone

Maybe you’re trying to fight your battles by yourself. Do you feel like you’ve been under attack lately? Drones dropping ammo at you from work and then home and then the bank?

This might help. Scripture says that we are to “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

“Resist” is a military word. You would use it to describe one army getting ready to “set itself against” their opponent. Think Davy Crockett and his friends getting ready for Santa Anna’s troops at the Alamo and you’re thinking of their resistance. They set themselves for a battle against their enemy.

But the writer of those words isn’t talking about the Alamo. He’s talking about our battle against Satan. This battle is a cosmological battle between Satan and his troops and God and his people. It’s a battle that was happening in the first century and it is happening today.

In battle you resist an opponent who attacks. We can “resist the devil.” We resist him by active faith in God. And when we resist—when we put up a fight—guess what happens? “…he will flee from you.” You and I don’t have the power to cause Satan to flee us on our own. We have it when we “draw near to God.” It’s then that God draws near to us. Satan knows he cannot win and so he “flees.”

My brother and I were in third and fourth grade and decided to open up a refreshment stand in our neighborhood. We would walk to the 7-Eleven and stock up on candy and lemonade mix and then sell it for a few cents more at our stand. We were happy to save our friends the walk or bicycle ride to the store.

We were on our way to offering our blueprint for franchising when a big Jr. High bully on a dirt bike showed up. He pulled a knife on my brother and wanted our money. I had already started to the house to get more supplies and saw what was happening. I got our Dad and he started out towards the Jr. High biker bully.

The bully took one look at all 5’7” of intimidation my dad was bringing and took off. We closed the stand down but my brother thought he had scared off the bully. (At least that’s how I like to remember it and I’m the one blogging about it. J) The bully decided to “seek safety by running away.”

That’s what Satan does when we resist him. But we would be foolish to think he leaves because of us. He leaves because when we draw near to God, God draws near to us. Satan may not be intimidated by us but he fears the Father that is near us.

Next time you feel under attack, resist. Set yourself against whatever it is. Give it your effort. But most importantly draw near to God. Through prayer. Through loving God. Through loving your neighbor as yourself.

You’ll see the dust from your enemy running away from you.

Question: What “attacks” are you facing today? How are you resisting them?

The First Question You Need to Ask to Answer a Question About Scripture

“Who is Jesus to you?” That is the question I learned to ask from a man named Stanley Shipp. When I was a young guy of about twenty years of age Stanley was the old guy at about fifty-five years of age. (That’s my age now, so I probably look like I belong in Jurassic World to college age students today.)

Stanley was a minister who specialized in mentoring young people in the faith. He trained would-be-ministers not so much in the art of preaching but in the art of living like Jesus. It was my privilege to spend some time around him in those formative years.

I vividly remember a story he shared with me and a few others once. He talked about going into a restaurant in St. Louis with a few other people from his church. They cozied up in a booth and carried on a conversation about faith they had been having.

They didn’t know it but the people in the booth behind them were listening. A young couple was there and started eavesdropping on this faith discussion. I can guarantee you they had not heard anyone talk about faith in the way Stanley would. And they had never met someone with a heart as big as his. He was all about being a servant. In fact his business card read, “Stanley Shipp—Your Servant.” (I wish I still had one.)

At some point the couple’s curiosity got the best of them and they leaned around and asked, “Are you talking about Jesus?”

“Yes we are,” Stanley replied.

“Can we join you?” they asked.

I’m sure Stanley about jumped out of his seat to pull up a couple of chairs for them. He was always eager to talk about Jesus. “Anything on your mind?” he asked them.

“Well, we were wondering what Jesus would say about two people living together that aren’t married?” was their question.

When Stanley told us this story he paused long enough for us to think about how we would have responded. Being one who was working on a Biblical studies degree I started running through the passages of Scripture I knew that might be applicable.

That’s when Stanley told us how he answered them. He answered their question with a question. (Which I later realized was something he learned from Jesus.) He said, “Well, before I answer that, let me ask you: Who is Jesus to you?”

The couple was caught off guard. They just wanted a quick answer: it’s either right or wrong. I don’t know if they were up for a debate that night or if they were sincerely looking for some guidance, but Stanley’s question took the conversation in an entirely different direction.

“Why does that matter?” was the response his question prompted.

Stanley replied with a heart as big as the Midwest where he lived. “Well, you see, it really matters who Jesus is to you. If he isn’t the one you are following in life then it won’t matter very much what he says about marriage. But if he is the one you are following and learning how to live life from, then it makes all the difference in the world because you’ll trust him that what he is teaching you is the best thing for you.”

I’m a follower of Jesus. And I know from experience that there are times I have known what Jesus says but it didn’t make much of a difference in my actions. I learned from Stanley that those moments are a reflection of who Jesus is to me. If I truly believe that he knows what the good life is and he is the Teacher of my life, then I’ll listen to what he says in a way that transforms my behavior.

And I learned something else from Stanley’s question. When someone that is not a follower of Jesus asks me what the Scriptures teach about something, answering their question with that question is not a bad starting place. It helps both of us realize that the foundations of our belief systems are completely different. And because they are we are most likely going to have very different ways of seeing things. We can have a lively, respectful discussion. But it helps us both to understand why we see things the way we do.

“Who is Jesus to you?” If you haven’t answered that question already spend some time thinking through it today. It may come in handy next time you’re in a restaurant.

Question: How well do you listen to the questions of others? Have you learned to answer questions with questions that are helpful to the discussion?

Love…Infinity and Beyond

When our boys were very young they were taken by the movie Toy Story. (I was too. I miss the days when our boys were young and I could take them to Pixar movies that I wanted to see under the pretense they were dragging me along since they couldn’t drive or pay for the movie.)

They especially liked Buzz Lightyear. The phrase “To infinity…and beyond” was heard routinely around our house by our oldest son. He was captivated by the word “infinity.”

Maybe it was the idea of “endless-ness” or the reckless abandon of “boundless-ness.” Whatever it was that seized his imagination and made this his favorite word it soon became our favorite word.

So one night I was putting the boys in bed. Our routine would have me squeezing in between them both and telling them a story. This particular night, after the story I crawled back out and tucked them under their covers. The bedsheet and comforter were pulled right up under their little chins.

Then I asked them, “Do you know how much I love you?”

The answer came back with great confidence: “Infinity!”

“Do you know how much ‘infinity’ is?” I asked.

“No Daddy, how much is it?”

I had them take their arms out from under their tucked positions and said, “Stretch your arms out as wide as you can!” They did until I thought their shoulders might come out of their sockets. I said in a somewhat secretive voice, “Now, let’s get you tucked back under the covers and I’ll tell you how much ‘infinity’ is.”

I tucked them under and leaned in close. “You know how far you stretched?” “Yes, Daddy,” came the reply. “Is that how far ‘infinity is?”

I paused. “No. Can you believe it’s even further than that?” I asked them. “It’s so far it never stops.” Their eyes were wide as the ocean.

Then I added, “Do you know how much God loves you?”

They looked at each other. Then at me. Then in unison a little louder said, “Infinity!”

Sometimes life gets busy. And sometimes we forget to tell the people we are closest to how much we love them. We need to show them how much we love them. But we also need to tell them.

So tonight before you go to bed tuck your kids in and take a few extra minutes to tell them how much you love them. If they’re grown maybe you could make a phone call or two. Tell your husband or your wife. Call your parents.

And while you’re at it listen to God. That’s how much he loves you too. So much, in fact, that He cannot love you more than He does right now. So much, in fact, that He will not love you any less. God is love. And He loves you…Infinity!

Question: Who do you need to tell that you love them?

 

 

McKinney and Me

The internet, Facebook and Twitter are blowing up again this week. All because there was a blow up in McKinney, Texas.

If you think I’m about to weigh-in on that incident you’re right. But maybe not in the way you think I will. You see, I wasn’t invited to the party. In fact, I was on vacation. So I wasn’t there and I don’t have my own first-hand view of what happened.

Sure, I have the short video that everyone and their uncle have seen by now. I have the other short videos of other people reporting what they saw or what they think.

But I was not there. And I don’t know what all the facts are. And I have not talked to any of the people who were involved. And I don’t even live in McKinney.

But I do have some thoughts. Maybe it’s because I am in the middle of listening to a short book in the Bible called James that these words come to mind: “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

What if we all followed that admonition?

  • We would slow our pace.
  • We would wait to hear the entire story before forming opinions.
  • We would wait even longer before making some pronouncement about something that just happened miles away from where we live…pronouncements that often have to be retracted once more of the story is known.
  • And we would turn the flame on our fires down so that we will be slow to anger.

From the social media feeds I’ve seen this week I think we are just the opposite of what James teaches. We are: slow to hear, quick to speak, quick to anger.

I haven’t been angry as much as I have been sad.

  • Sad that there is another situation where race becomes the issue.
  • Sad that some kids were probably scared about what might happen to them in the hands of the police.
  • Sad that police officers were put in a situation that, from their angle, might have looked dangerous.
  • Sad that some people—teenagers, parents, police—handle these situations better than others and there aren’t enough of the ones that handle them well.

So here’s what I have to say. What if some of us in each of our communities learn to do what James teaches?

  • What if we start listening first? We might be able to understand each other better. The word “hear” means more than just being able to recognize sounds. It means being able to perceive and understand. We need to be quick to hear. To really hear takes time. Let’s be quick to take the time necessary to hear. That’s the first task for any of us.
  • Then what if we practiced being slow to speak? We would hold our words until we knew what they should be. We would offer more helpful speech rather than language full of “off the cuff” remarks and vitriol. We might find constructive dialogue that would transform the conversations.
  • And what if we could master the art of being slow to anger? There would be fewer incidents of escalating anxiety in our homes, schools, communities and countries.

Maybe I’m just dreaming out loud. But I’m willing to do my part. What about you?

Question: What can you do to help bring conversation and calm in your community?