Satan Hates Me

“A great door for effective work has opened for me and there are many who oppose me” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Satan doesn’t like me. Want to know how I know? He has worked overtime this year to break me and to stop the work God has called me to do. He has hammered my family, taken away my husband’s health and livelihood, and brought tension and frustration between the three of us. He has caused financial hardships. He has tried to destroy my confidence in my calling, telling me that I spent four years in seminary for nothing and I will never be in ministry. He has shaken my faith and battered my joy. And I almost believed him, that is until he attacked the heart of my calling.

Last week my 4-year-old laptop died. The one I write on. The one I use to write blog posts and words of encouragement and Bible-study lessons. The one I used to start writing my first book. That’s when I recognized that the enemy had declared war on God’s purpose for my life, and like Paul, I realized that was a sure sign of God’s calling. I am not a young person who can type on my phone with great speed and accuracy (I’ve been at this simple post for more than an hour!), but if this is the only way I can fulfill my calling, so be it. Satan will not win.

Beloved, I don’t know what God has called you to do with your life, but I do know that the enemy wants to discourage you and make you give up. He will use every avenue he can against you, but do not let him win. You stay the course. You keep the faith. You do it to the best of your ability with whatever you have left and you do it with fierce determination and conviction. Because the enemy only opposes what God blesses, so if Satan’s got you in his crosshairs you can know that you’re doing what God created you to do.

Satan doesn’t like me – in fact he hates me. But he hates me because he’s afraid of me and what God intends to do through me. And in the Bible, that’s the clear, bold mark of God’s calling. Let’s get back to it friend – you and I have a purpose to fulfill!

Advertisements

Advent Day 21 – What’s on Your Christmas List?

 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

What Do You Want for Christmas? Jewelry? Clothes? Something for your house? (Maybe a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle?J) Or you just might prefer the one-size-fits-all cash gift.  Sometimes our wishes are pretty big – my son wanted a LEGO® Star Wars Death Star (retail 499.99) – needless to say, he did not get it.  Some of us are satisfied with a bit less.  When I was a little girl, I just wanted paper and pencils – guess I’ve always been a writer at heart.

Or maybe your Christmas list is less tangible – something that can’t be wrapped up and put under the tree.  If you wrote it out it might say “peace” or “joy” or “hope” or “love.” Maybe your list includes “acceptance” or “freedom” or “rest.”  You and I know that we can’t buy those at the mall or order them online.  There’s only one place for these Christmas wishes.

To the one who asks for peace, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27).  Peace in our hearts only comes through Jesus Christ.  For the one who has lost their joy David wrote, “You will fill me with joy in Your presence” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy is found in Immanuel – the God who is with us.  If you need hope this Christmas, hear God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  In the Lord’s hands we have hope – for this life and for all eternity.  Do you wish for love? “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God” (1 John 3:1).  Not just a little, not even a “bushel and a peck,’” but poured out on you lavishly, without measure and overflowing.  In fact, this same verse fills your desire for acceptance – God calls Himself your Father and He accepts you as His child.  If freedom tops your list you can find release – the Psalmist says “O Lord, truly I am your servant . . . You have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:16).  The blood of Jesus breaks the chains of this world.  Maybe you just want a little rest this Christmas.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).  Just sink back into His arms and let Him carry your burdens and you.

Whatever you long for this Christmas, you can find it in Jesus.  There is nothing on your list that He cannot provide. He is the greatest Gift of all and your heart’s deepest longing.  No, this gift isn’t jewelry, toys, or clothes wrapped in paper and ribbons sitting under your tree.  It is the peace, joy, hope, and love of God wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

Advent Day 20 – The Gift of Peace

Note: I am pulling this devotional from the 2013  Advent series because I need this reminder in this season of my life.  I hope it blesses you too!

“Peace! Do not be afraid.”  Judges 6:23

At Christmas we celebrate our loved ones with gifts.  We consider the recipient and choose carefully something that will have special meaning or significance to them.  I enjoy giving gifts that I know someone would love, but that they wouldn’t get for themselves.  When God considered us, He chose to send us a gift that we couldn’t give ourselves – the gift of peace.

One of the biggest barriers to peace is fear.  We have all experienced fear of some kind.  I have a fear of heights. One of my friends has a fear of crowds, another a fear of tight spaces.  Some fears are good for us, like the fear of snakes.  Some are common to most of us as in the fear of the dark.  For some people fear takes on irrational proportions and becomes an unhealthy psychological problem.  We live in a world that breeds fear and causes us to look at others with a question, “Should I be afraid of you?”

There is also fear that invades our minds and hearts – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of death.  With so much to be afraid of, is there any way to be at peace?  Yes, because we have a Prince of Peace and His word to us is “Do not be afraid.”

In fact a quick and non-exhaustive search of those words shows at least 76 times in Scripture that we are told “do not be afraid.”  God knows us so well.  He knows that we will become fearful at times, and He knows we need His peace.

How can we have peace when we are afraid?  Psalm 56:3 is the perfect answer: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust, I will not be afraid.”   The answer to fear is trust.  We can trust God and rest our fears because He is faithful.  His Word is filled with His promises – promises that will bring us peace if we will trust in the Promise-maker.  We have His promises that He will always be with us – “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9); “the LORD your God . . . will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We have the promise of His strength – “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  We have the promise of His deliverance – “Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose” (Jeremiah 15:13). We have the promise if His blessing:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

And if all that were not enough, we have this promise from Jesus Himself: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

This Advent season hear the angels proclaiming the greatest news man can ever know:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:14 (KJV)

Read Psalm 29

Advent Day 19 – Promise Maker – Promise Keeper

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come and has redeemed His people” Luke 1:68.

When our son was born 25+ years ago, my husband and I were thrilled.  We had experienced seven years of infertility and heartache, but God heard our prayers and this little baby boy came bursting into our lives.  But in those seven long years of waiting I watched with an aching heart as my friends became Mamas – I hosted their baby showers and bounced their sweet babies in my arms.  I cried and prayed and cried some more.  I know God heard my prayers and saw my tears, but the time wasn’t right.

The Jewish people lived under the bondage of Roman rule and they cried out for a savior.  The Messiah had been promised for hundreds of years yet they were still oppressed by a cruel and heartless enemy.  Would God ever fulfill His promise?  Would salvation ever come?  Generations of Hebrews prayed the same prayer for relief, yet they went to their grave without ever seeing rescue.  Yet the God of Heaven had not abandoned them or His promise.  He had heard their prayers and saw their tears, but the time wasn’t right.

Until that moment when the angel visited Nazareth and spoke the words every Jewish girl had hoped to hear: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).  Until all of heaven held its breath as the Son of God became the son of a young woman.

That day in the Garden sin came rolling in like a dark cloud of destruction and despair.  The human race was placed under the bondage of evil and death.  Even the planet felt the weight of the curse as it groaned for relief (Romans 8:19-22).  Yet even before man could cry out to God He promised to send Someone who would crush the head of the evil one.  He promised to redeem the world from the curse of sin and death. He promised to save the souls of men and women and break the chains of human bondage.

The first part of that promised was fulfilled in a stable in Bethlehem.  The final fulfillment is yet to come when the Lord Jesus Christ – that baby in the manger – stands on the Mount of Olives and ushers in the end of evil and sin and death.  God kept His promise when Jesus was born.  He will keep His promise of final redemption.  Don’t despair beloved, but keep your eye on the sky.  The God who promised is faithful. It is as good as done.

Read Zechariah 14:3-9

Advent Day 18 – His Name Will Be . . .

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:31).

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’” – which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23).

When my son was young, he loved to go to the playground at the local park which was almost always crawling with boys and girls.  He would join in with one or two children and for some reason he called all the other kids “dude”.  I told him over and over, “Ask them what their names are.”   One day on the way home I gently lectured him on the social grace of using people’s names.  He replied, “I only seen them today and I won’t see them tomorrow so I don’t need to know their name.”   Lecture over as I tried to stifle a laugh.  But he had a point – to know someone and call them by name indicates a relationship, ranging from playgrounds to the intimacy of lovers.

God spoke volumes in the name He assigned to His One and Only Son.  “Jesus” – Iesous in the Greek, yehosua in the Hebrew (translated Joshua) – carried the meaning “Yahweh saves.”  The Jewish people would hear Jesus’ name (and it was a common name at the time) and remember that the Lord had saved His people in the past and He had promised to save them again.  They recalled Joshua in the days of the exodus from Egypt, a mighty military leader and warrior who lead the armies of Israel against multiple enemies on the way to the Promised Land.  They clung to the hope of salvation and restoration from Roman rule.  Jesus was a name that spoke of the power of God.

But Matthew records another name that would be bestowed on this Child – Immanuel – God with us. This name speaks of God coming physically near to His people.  In the Garden, God walked with Adam, until sin came between them.  In the desert, God’s presence was in the cloud of fire, in Jerusalem His presence dwelt between the cherubim in the Temple.  But now God Himself once more walked among his people.  He shared the street with His creation, broke bread together with men, and laid the hand of God on their children’s heads.  He lived among men – and died among them.

In a perfect combination of names, He personally brought the salvation of God to all humanity.  He is the victorious power of God and the intimate love of God.  He is Jesus – Immanuel – the God who came near to save us.

Let the Name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore – Psalm 113:2.

Advent Day 17 – The Real Date of Jesus’ birth is . . .

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son” (Luke 2:6).

One of the great theological debates centers around the time of Jesus’ birth verses our traditional celebration of December 25th.  The Bible does not identify the specific date nor season and scholars and astronomers have attempted to track the date by presence of the shepherds and the star that guided the wise men (Matthew 2:2).  The early Christian church did not celebrate the birth of Jesus for three centuries.  History reports that the church in Rome designated December 25 in the late 3rd Century, and many historians note that the day coincided with existing pagan festivals, possibly as a way to appeal to the citizens and ease their acceptance of Christianity.[1]  That is not to suggest that the Christian church should abandon the celebration of Jesus’ birth – it marks the incarnation of the Son of God and is an important doctrinal and theological statement.

I think God is very wise in not identifying the date.  Even without a specific date the world has turned the traditional day to honor Jesus’ birth into a less-than-holy season of materialism, commercialism, and revelry. But we can identify when Jesus was born.

“When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might received the full rights of sons.”  Galatians 4:4

“When the time had fully come.” God had the exact date of Jesus’ birth circled on His calendar – but it is not a paper calendar of grids and numbers like I have hanging near my desk.  As I look at my calendar, Christmas is only 6 days away, the car payment is due in 3 days, the rent is due in 13 days.  I’m planning when to leave this morning to be at work on time.  But God is not restricted to days and hours.  His is a calendar of a divine order and a timeline with every detail of human history already mapped out from “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) to “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  Events are not planned according to schedules (Do NOT plan your wedding during college football season!), they are planned according to His perfect wisdom and sovereign authority.

Beloved, you and I are part of God’s perfectly ordered plan.  He has designated certain things to occur in and around your life and mine according to a greater schedule than T.V. shows, football games, birthdays or days of the week – and He has a plan to bring these things about.  That brings me tremendous comfort and I hope it does for you too.  Perhaps you, like me, are in a waiting season – a holding pattern if you will.  God has spoken a promise to you but in the present moment it seems more like a long-lost dream.  Hold on.  Wait with confidence.  Keep your hope alive.  He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  God will bring about what He has planned – when the time has fully come.

Read Ephesians 1:3-14

[1] http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-is-christmas-celebrated-on-december-25, accessed December 19, 2017.

Advent Day 16 – Prince of Peace

“And He will be called . . . Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)

I would guess that most of you reading this devotional are, like me, from the Western Christian tradition, that is, not a member of the Jewish faith.  Therefore, words and phrases in the Bible such as “Prince of Peace” don’t ring with the same significance to as they did to the descendants of the Hebrews.  Taken separately, these two words simply mean Prince as a ruler or leader of a nation and PeaceShalom – or in the ancient Hebrew – salom – means safety, prosperity, wellbeing, wholeness, and contentment. But when a Jew heard these words, they spoke volumes more – of the long oppression of the Hebrew people and their struggle to survive.  And they spoke to the hope of the promised Messiah.

The nation of Israel cycled in and out of oppression and blessing because of their hot-then-cold devotion to the Lord.  In 607 bc, after falling deeper and deeper into idolatry and disobedience, God took the nation of Israel away from the Jewish people and for seventy years exiled them in Babylon.  When they returned to Jerusalem, their homeland was under foreign rule; they were subjects of the Persians, Greeks, and, at the time of Jesus’ birth, the cruel Romans. They would continue under foreign rule until May 14, 1948 when they were once again recognized as an independent state.

The Jewish people longed for a descendant of the line of King David – the Prince of Peace –  who would free them from oppression and re-establish their nation.  He would reign on “the throne of His father David, and  . . . over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:32-33).  At the time of Jesus’ birth they expected a warrior-King who would defeat their enemy and restore the kingdom.

They were right about the Messiah’s mission – yet they were also wrong.  He did come to defeat their enemy.  But their enemy was not Rome – the real enemy that had enslaved them was the curse of death and sin – the same enemy that has oppressed every human being since Adam and Eve. The same enemy that has enslaved you and me.  The Prince of Peace – the Messiah – came to break the power of that curse.  His mission was much bigger than freeing a nation; He came to free all of humanity.

You may not trace a Jewish heritage, but you can proclaim Jesus Christ as your Prince of Peace, the One who set aside His crown in heaven to wear a crown of thorns on earth that you might be free and reconciled to your Creator.  The mission of Messiah was to rescue you and restore you to the family of His Father.  At the cross of Calvary Jesus accomplish that mission.  For you.

 

Read: Colossians 1:19-20

Advent Day 15 – Everlasting Father

“He is able to save forever those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25).

Genealogy is big business these days.  And entire industry has been created to help people track down their ancestral roots and national origin.  Spit in a vial and you can find out if your heritage is African, Asian, Scottish, German and so on.  We want to know where we come from. Still this is not a new fascination – the Middle Eastern tradition has long held to family lineage.  The Old Testament frequently pauses to review family history.  This was an important aspect of Jewish history.  Genealogy assured rights to land and position.  Two of the Gospels present the earthly genealogical record of Jesus as proof of His royal roots (Matthew 1:1-17) and His humanity (Luke 3:23-37).

As we dive further into the proclamation of Isaiah 9:6 we find the designation of this Child as “Everlasting Father.”  This title corresponds to our discussion of ancestry because the prophet is focusing on the Messiah as the timeless originator of our eternal salvation.

Let’s clarify one point that always seems to hang us up here: Isaiah is not trying to say that the Messiah is the Heavenly Father.  Anytime we study Scripture we need to remember to look at the original terminology as the speaker or author would have used it – context is vital.  In the original Hebrew, the phrase “Everlasting Father” is speaking to eternity from before the world began and of Messiah as the forefather and founder of our eternal security going forward.  John the Revelator expresses this powerfully in calling Jesus “The Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).  Jesus’ death on the cross was not a knee-jerk reaction by God to the unexpected sin of mankind.  It was planned and completed before God said “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3).

Jesus is rightly our Everlasting Father because He is “the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the Originator of eternal salvation and everlasting life.  He is Everlasting as from of old and he is Everlasting for ever and ever and ever.  He is “the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).

Nothing and no one can take away what Jesus has done for you as your Everlasting Father.  He secured eternal life for you long before you ever entered the world, long before you fell into sin, long before you ever knew you needed a Savior.  He established the future from days of old for all the days yet to come.  Because He is our Everlasting Father.

Read Hebrews 7:21-28

Advent Day 13 – Blue Christmas

“And He will be called Wonderful Counselor . . .” (Isaiah 9:6)

It is well known that Christmas, the most joyful season of the year, is also the most prone to bring on bouts of depression.  When your family Christmas doesn’t measure up to the Norman Rockwell standard or the Hallmark ideal . . .  When the truck repairs take all your Christmas money . . . When your company skips the Christmas bonus and gives you the boot instead . . .  When crazy relatives show their worst side . . . When you are just tired of the cultural “Happy Holidays!” . . .  Well I think you get the picture.  Depression seems worse this time of year because you know you’re supposed to be full of joy, joy, joy but the reality is you’re having a “blue Christmas.”

My friend, you need a counselor – but not just any counselor – you need the Wonderful Counselor.  You need the Counselor who knows you inside and out, who knows your past, your present, and your future.  You need the Counselor who has perfect insight into your state of mind and heart and knows exactly what will bring you peace and joy.  You need Jesus.

He is the Wonderful Counselor because He has perfect wisdom.  His Word is full of righteousness with not even a hint of error.  His counsel is perfect – He will never steer you in the wrong way.  His ways and words are true as He leads you through the darkness and into his marvelous light.  His counsel is without cost – in fact – He Himself has already paid the full price for you with His own life.

Beloved, if your heart is not ringing with joy this Christmas, may I suggest you get into counseling with Jesus?  His office never closes and He is never too busy to meet with you.  Your Wonderful Counselor is only a whispered prayer away.

Read Isaiah 9:1-7