Who is Writing your Story?

Recently, I have become aware that I was reading a counterfeit version of my life story. When I would wake in the middle of the night or have a difficult time during the day, Satan kept voicing a narrative where nothing I do matters. In this account, nothing will ever change and no one really understands. In this sad story, because I am always lacking, so I have no hope of living a fulfilling or wonderful life.

Maybe it is set on auto-play or that story plays more loudly than my Heavenly Father’s quieter whispers. However, no matter how loudly or how many times it is played, this false narrative never becomes the epic story written by the author and perfector of our faith. In the true version I am chosen, loved and unconditionally accepted by God. How can I be helpless or my life be pointless when the same power that raised Jesus from the grave dwells in me? The light of the world shines through me. In God’s account, He works in ways I can’t perceive bearing fruit in the midst a seemingly mundane life. In His book, I am not defined by my failures but by Jesus’ perfection, so my identity is spotless blameless and free. Who I am becoming is more important than anything I do.

It has been established that Satan lies, steals, and kills. The English word devil comes from the Greek diabolos which means slanderer or “back-biter.” That was exactly what was happening when I was forgetful or caught off guard by his strategies. The devil was in the shadows falsely accusing God and slandering the new creation God made me. Since I was listening, I was unfortunately giving credence to these lies. The voice I believed impacted my daily experience. However, the reality has never changed. I was never who Satan claimed and my life will never match his plans for me, but I lost strength and confidence.

I’m getting a little better at recognizing those first lines from the tale of woe Satan weaves. Before I get sucked into the evil plot, I slam that book closed and refuse to read one more line. Which version of your life are you reading and re-reading?

The Right Answer

The scribe approached Jesus with a question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asked how he would answer, the scribe replied, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.” Having the right answer was not enough for this man who wanted to justify himself, so then he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

I think this man probably was very generous toward his fellow Israelites – to those who lived and thought like he did. He wanted Jesus to pat him on the back and wish him well as he sent him on his way. He wanted to gain confirmation for what he already believed so he could continue in self-righteousness. Instead of commendation, Jesus challenged his thinking and his heart.

Who is my neighbor? My answer reveals the extent to which God’s love has penetrated my heart. I imagine the scribe in this account would do his duty, but he was not motivated by the kind of love God has for us.  He wouldn’t go out of his way or use his money or time for someone he considered a distraction from his “real” purpose. Ironically, the Samaritan, whose actions aptly fit the description of neighbor would be considered inferior by those listening to the words of Jesus. Contrary to public opinion of the day, Jesus portrayed the Samaritan as the hero of the story because of his sacrificial love.

Do I want life as Jesus promises or do I want to be right? When researchers approach a topic to study, they consider something called confirmation bias which is seeing information through a certain lens that agrees with what the researcher already believes to be true. I can fall into this pattern as I listen to teachings, read books, or even study God’s word. As Jesus demonstrated to the scribe, abundant life is not characterized by how much I know but how much I love.

I found this quote by an unknown source, “ The difference between a wise man and a fool is not that the wise man is right and the fool is wrong but that the fool always assumes himself right and the wise man wonders if he would be wrong.”

Lord, instead of having the right answer, I desire humility, a teachable spirit and to be a conduit of your boundless love to whomever you bring into my life.

Following Jesus is not a Virtual Experience

I have a confession. I have become lazy in the last 12 months. In the early months of the pandemic, our church did not hold in person services, so if I wanted to connect with the body of Christ, I had to participate on-line. As the restrictions eased, I found it is so much easier to watch church on-line from the comfort of our living room. Then this morning, I joined the prayer time with both my audio and video off. I did not want to be seen or heard. While those things are fine on occasion, I realize following Jesus and being in fellowship with other believers is not a virtual experience. It is not watching a you tube video of a great sermon (and there are many) and getting on to the next thing in my day.

I worry I am in danger of becoming like the person in James who looks in a mirror and comes away unchanged – a hearer of the word and not a doer. When I hear and hoard, I am not really following Jesus. It is not how much I know or how much that message spoke to me but how the word of God transforms me to love God and others. As appealing as it is to remain in the shadows, I feel God’s prodding to be present and participating not merely observing and listening.

I have no doubt God hears me and is present with me as much when I am alone as when I am with others, but I find there are things that happen in community that don’t happen in my living room. I see others experiencing joys and hurts who are following Jesus through the mountains and valleys which strengthens my own resolve to persevere and to keep my focus on God. I may encounter someone (perhaps I have never spoken to them) to encourage or to simply look into their eyes to communicate that they are valued and matter very much to Jesus. Sometimes being with people is hard because their personalities or opinions rub me like sandpaper, but even in this God can refine me.

Admittedly, I will continue to watch services on-line at times and may not always speak or show my face during our prayer times, but I will also not choose comfort over being present. Following Jesus together strengthens me, challenges me, and shines light on my blind spots in ways that being alone with Jesus does not.

Gather Your Weapons

We are living in perilous times. It is not the time to stand on the sidelines but to prepare for battle. When faced with the option of holding your position or retreating, what will you choose? Perhaps the weapons you are considering are not the ones I have in mind.

My first recommendation for maintaining an offensive position is praise. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read of King Jehoshaphat who successfully employed this strategy beginning with prayer and continuing into battle. The singers preceded the warriors. As a result, the Lord made an end to their enemy. When the opposition of this world seems huge, re-read God’s words to his people.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. …. Stand firm, hold your position and you will see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…go out against them and the Lord will be with you.

We also engage with simple acts of love toward others. Bringing light into another’s world, whether it is a megawatt stadium bulb or a little night light, casts away the darkness. Don’t minimize the impact of small kind deeds to advance God’s purposes. Additionally, these acts may keep us from falling prey to self-focus and defeat. 

Moreover, I advise you to employ the sword of the spirit – the word of God. Jesus used this as the devil assaulted him again and again in the wilderness. The devil convincingly twists the words of God, but when we know God’s word and character, we have the ability to fight these attacks and prevail. Our enemy uses a kernel of truth but weaves it with a destructive lie. For example, he may say, “Gods promises are true, but that one is for someone else and not you.”

Finally, we have a large arsenal of the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. God’s methods are dissimilar to the ways of the world since it hardly seems like these qualities will change the world, but they can and do. If we belong to Christ, we are not of this world.  If each of us who calls upon the name of the Lord abides in Him and allows him to produce His fruit in our lives, we may not see the systems of this world topple, (until Jesus returns!!!) but again and again we will see God change hearts and rescue his lost sheep from the jaws of the enemy. We won’t live cowering in fear but overcoming through His strength.

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