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Don’t Let It Happen to You

Photo by Bess Hamiti from Pexels



It can happen so easily to any one of us. It lays in wait and catches up with us. We let the feelings and hurts, and misperceptions stay stuffed inside. Then we fall prey to the enemy’s devices. He wants to disconnect us from one another, ourselves, and God and the enemy is cunning and waits for just the right moment.

C.S. Lewis gives us a perfect example in his powerful story set in Narnia, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Life was hard in London during WW II and there was special concern for the children. So, hundreds of them were sent into the English countryside away from the relentless bombing for protection. Can you imagine being put on a train to travel to an unknown place to live with strangers without any idea of what would happen and if you would ever see your family at home again? It was fertile ground for so many taunts of the enemy.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy had already been dealing with the absence of their father and by now the oldest siblings had taken on a somewhat parental role. Little wonder that Edmund might chafe when Peter and Susan started giving him direction. Not unusual for that to happen among siblings under the best of circumstances.

Lucy seemed to be unruffled by that, but Edmund was trying to find his place and absent one, he was prone to behavior that showed his anger. The feelings he didn’t actually express festered in the darkness inside of him and as they did, the enemy saw his longing. Edmund had no idea who Aslan had called him to be or what lay ahead if he did not yield to the darkness growing in his heart.

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When Edmund stumbles into the winter of Narnia and discovers Lucy has not lied about this country beyond the wardrobe of the professor’s house, he is easy prey to the white witch. It might seem he is just fond of Turkish delight, but he is really looking for something more than that to satisfy the hunger inside of him to feel important, valued, and capable. If somehow that nagging emptiness had not been there, there would not have been room for the anger, bitterness, jealousy, and rebellion to grow. Perhaps then he would not have been foolish as to accept the false promises of the white witch masquerading as the Queen of Narnia offering him candy and rulership of her kingdom one day, if only he would comply with her request to bring his brother and sisters to Narnia to meet her.

The trap was perfectly suited to Edmund, and it would lead him to betray those he loved.

This wondrous tale written as only C.S. Lewis could write can quickly cause us to not feel much affection for Edmund. Perhaps we need to look closer to what moved him to take those steps and consider whether we also could be duped. Evil seduces us by appearing to be good and offer us something yummy and appealing without telling us the cost.

The seduction was easier because the children didn’t know the prophecy, had never heard of Aslan, or what the call on their lives was to be.

It’s vital for us to know the Bible and the truth that fills the pages from Genesis to Revelation and it is even more important than we may realize to teach these things to our children from the time we hold them in our arms and rock them to sleep. For it is God’s story and the most important story they will ever hear or learn. It can show them the right path, help them make the best choice, and save them from the evil conspiring to seduce them. If this story isn’t woven into the fabric of each of our stories, each of their stories, we and they can be duped not unlike Edmund.

Holding onto the hurts, misunderstandings, comparisons, judgments, unmet longings, and more can tempt us to look in all the wrong places for something to make us feel better. If we don’t know the story, God’s story, we will never know that He is the only One who can satisfy those longings, meet us in our hurts and emptiness, and do for us what only He can accomplish.

The enemy’s lies that we will never be accepted by Him if we tell Him the truth of what hides within us are meant to isolate us and deceive us from recognizing He already knows and is just waiting for us to come to Him so He can clean it all out and make us whole. Only if we have a steady diet of the words He left for us can we overcome the hunger that can be stirred in the confusing daily lives we live. He wants us to not initiate with evil and the imprisonment it brings, not to be deceived by the angel appearing as light.

What are you really hungry for?

Only One can fill the emptiness you feel.

The Truth of Our Story

Our stories are woven together one stitch at a time. Some stitches are tight, others loose. Each stitch adds a new color or shade, a new texture, or guide for the design.

Some would say that we are adding the stitches, but that would mean the patterns that develop are entirely of our own making. Some might say that others add the stitches or God Himself does, but that would mean we have no part in the creation of our stories.

Perhaps it is better said that our stories are actually an interweaving of stitches of our Creator, God Himself, as well as stitches that we also add to the fabric being created.

Though the patterns may appear random, they are made up of a collaboration of designs between God and ourselves. Some are purposeful and well thought out while others happen almost accidentally.

But all of them are important for it is our stories that we not only remember but also the stories that remember us.

We may think that others add stitches as well, but the fabric is always ours and it is our choices or lack of them that determine the weave.

Stories, true legends, begin in the midst of a setting, a context that tells us something about how the stories begin.

Some stories begin with “once upon a time”, but those are only the ones we call fairy tales, made up of imaginings.

‘Once upon a time’ stories seem always to have certain qualities and characteristics that pull us forward toward what we believe will be a certain end where the heroine of the story is rescued from the villain.

The trials of the heroine, the circumstances of birth, the twists and turns, which take her into danger, may vary from story to story, but the result we are looking for is always the same.

We look for the hero, the white horse, the one who makes all things right again.

Perhaps our own stories do not begin with those words because we have no belief, we are royalty or that a prince has already rescued us. Therein lays the snare for us all, for the exact opposite is the truth.

We are indeed royalty but have forgotten who we are (if we ever knew) or the truth has been hidden or stolen from us.

So, our stories take us on paths that are often rocky and full of danger, and we lose our way with no hope of any rescue. It is the tale the true villain of all our stories desires us to believe. It is the tragic fairy tale we come to believe is reality.

The true story is that we are betrothed to the prince, now king, who will come for us to lead us into the banqueting hall beneath his banner and celebrate his love for us and ours for him. The true story is that we will ride into battle together to defeat the villain whose lies we have believed once and for all and the end of the story will be grander than any fairy tale ever written.

Our stories are far grander than fairy tales for they are made up of real moments. Some are lavish and ornate. Some are dull and gray. Some are bold and dramatic. Some glitter and sparkle with life. Some are dark and foreboding. Some are airy and delicate. Together they become the history of us, the present of who we are, and the hope of who we are becoming.

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The Key to Trust

Photo by Pam Ecrement

Trusting can be so difficult for us.

Our life experiences oppose trust.

The reasons are many. They echo off the walls of pastors and counselors’ offices. They fill the pages of books and journals, and they are the subject of conversations over coffee between close friends.

Inside of us there are mixed messages about whether we should trust. The messages come from training and teaching about so many people or things we should not risk trusting. They also come from disappointments and betrayals that cause us to question whether anyone or anything is trustworthy.

It is very difficult to feel safe when we cannot trust.

At present, we live in a world where we feel increasingly unsafe. Terror lurks around the corner haunting our steps. Deceit and untruthfulness are common coins of the realm. Failed promises and guarantees leave us filled with doubt.

One of perhaps the hardest things is how often those we have deemed trustworthy turn out to not be. It happens with spouses, parents, bosses, companies, organizations, governmental officials, and even pastors.

As these things, these experiences, stack up, our mistrust grows as does our doubt and uncertainty. Gradually we find it difficult to trust even those we want to trust or those we need to trust.

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Photo by Pam Ecrement

Even defining what trust is becomes foggy and blurred. 

Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

As I was reading in Romans 10, I saw Paul shares some significant truth about what gets in the way of trust.

“But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted?”

Romans 10:14 (MSG)

Clearly in the context of this verse, Paul is talking about the importance of hearing the gospel and the value of being sent to preach it. Otherwise, the conflicting messages disguised as truth could result in distrust.

The key to the issue of trust begins with listening and more specifically, what we are listening to.

You see, the root word for listen and obey come from the same root word. In Latin, obey would not exist without listen.

Our heart and our thoughts tend to follow what we hear or what we are listening to. Most of us would recognize we hear a lot of “junk food” for the mind, heart, and spirit. Over time, it becomes background noise, “elevator music”, but it seeps into us and can slowly erode the truth that should be guiding us.

How can we learn to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ if what we are listening to is cluttered with static from ingesting things that are like “junk food”?

We can often say that we aren’t really listening and that might be true if we were given a quiz on the content of what we hear. The problem comes from the reality that what we hear is going through that sensory organ into our brain. Our brains can process something threatening in less than a second. Even if we cannot recollect the words or the lyrics or the music exactly, it’s all in there and potentially impacting us.

Is it any wonder that we find trust increasingly difficult?

If I am going to learn perceptive trust that helps me wisely discern what I am listening to, I need to choose a nourishing diet of truth daily that can sustain me when doubt assails me, when my world falls apart, and when I don’t know which way to turn.

It means I need to silence the voices within that have picked up lies and distortions that can play unendingly without action on our part.

We all have a tendency of replaying old tapes and these very tapes can keep us mired down and isolated from healthy relationships with others and also with God.

Listening to truth will then be what influences what I believe and act upon. It will lead me to trust wisely.

“A Lord who speaks truth to me is good and right; a Lord who listens to me is grace and mystery and glory.”

Adam McHugh

That is the key to building or rebuilding trust…listening to the One who is Truth.

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Butterfly on Coneflower, Blackberry Farm, TN

Old, But Always New

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Do you ever have one of those times that you are reading a biblical passage that you have read many times and suddenly see something new? I am guessing you have! I have experienced that many times and it never fails to delight me.

The incredible thing about scripture is that it is not new and yet always new at the same time.

I am currently reading the book of Judges and as I was reading the opening of the third chapter, I had one of those moments that caused me to pause and reflect.

In those first two verses, the writer states that the Lord had left nations after Joshua “to test Israel by them”. Even with Joshua leading, the children of Israel had often faltered in their faithfulness. Now they would be absent that leadership and a series of judges appear to guide and lead.

The verses go on to say the testing was for those in Israel who “had not experienced all the wars in Canaan”. Because they had not experienced those things, they hadn’t seen the hand of the Lord over and over again at the parting of the Red Sea, the collapse of the walls of Jericho, and so much more.

The second verse adds this; “It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.”

We so often talk about peace and our desire for it. If we have read much of the Bible, we know what it says about it and where it comes from and still, we wish for the idyllic peace of Eden.

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When I consider what that might have been like before the fall, I wonder if we forget to remember that Adam and Eve were untested prior to the serpent. Was the serpent allowed in the garden to test them to develop their character?

Over and over again I see that testing produces character and that tends to come from two primary things. First, we learn more of the truth about our own condition and ourselves at that time. Secondly, we invariably learn more about the Lord and who He is.

Each testing time in my life has never failed to do both. Each time has also taught me more about warring against those things within me that are not like Him as well as how to be more effective at warring against the enemy who still seeks to defeat and destroy each one of us who are called by His name.

In the Judges passage the Lord used physical enemies and battles and wars that allowed testing. I think that sometimes occurs today as individuals are involved on physical battlefields and countries are forced to determine what actions they will take when evil seeks to overtake them. We also see that many who are not serving as soldiers armed with physical weapons are caught up in the battle, but for many of us the battles are not as graphic. Even so Paul reminds us of the armor we are to wear in Ephesians 6.

The truth about armor is that it will never be effective if you try to put it on when you are under attack in the midst of the battle. It must be put on before you go into battle.

Too often we do not remember that and are trying to put it on in the midst of a battle that needs our focus. Not a very beneficial strategy at all and yet it is too often our default position. Paul reminds us in I Thessalonians 5 how true that will be at the end time when the Lord returns. It suggests clearly as do other passages that we are to be watchful, ready, and already dressed for battle.

Peter reminds us as well about our need for preparedness:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)

I am not eager for testing, never am I eager for that. I also do not believe the Lord is sadistically planning for pop quizzes and crushing exams to trip me up. I believe He is wanting each of us to be aware that we live far from Eden in a world that is far from perfect, often evil, and even more so as His return approaches.

It is His great love and care for us that cause Him to use any and all things to prepare us so we can stand and fight as His army alongside Him. He does not want us to be unprepared. Before David ever met Goliath, he knew well how to use a sling in other dangerous experiences. He was tested and so were his weapons. Should it not also be true of us?

We may not embrace the trial or test, but may our hearts echo these words:

“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.”

Job 23:10 (ESV)
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Loving Out in the Open

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I heard a sad story recently of a man who was dissuaded from accepting Christ because he had heard many words spoken or written about the Lord but had not seen those same persons demonstrating those words in their lives.

It caused me to pause. Is that ever true of me? What would my neighbors say and what about the person who last served me in a restaurant?

Jesus made clear there are two things we are called to be and do: Love God and love others.

I love how this description:

“The secret sauce of life with God – the secret of doing the right thing 100 percent of the time – came down to making a commitment to God and a commitment to other people.”

Kenny Luck

What does that look like? 

We can say this, but what does it look like?

Most of us could come up with a list of things we believe answer the question. Things you would find on the list would include praying, reading the Bible, going to church, giving, and more. But it really all boils down to one basic thing: Do what pleases God.

That sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

I think it clearly means being obedient to Him. But to really become skilled at loving God and pleasing Him, I need to ask Him (more often than I sometimes do) what He thinks about something I am planning to do. It means conversing with Him on a broad array of things to learn what He says about that in His Word. It means when we ask Him during times of prayer that we also take time to listen to how His Spirit speaks to us. The more time I spend in my relationship with Him, the better I will know Him and learn what most pleases Him.

How well I do any of that will depend in large part on my conviction to discover what loving God looks like and how to do it well.

The second thing that Jesus taught is to love others.

It’s the best relational advice He could ever give.

Most of us are more challenged in that part than we wish or would like to admit. It can be so much easier to say it than to live that out (assuming we might know what that looks like).

Why is that very often true?

We all have a bent toward some degree of selfishness that can get in the way of loving well. We also have preferences for certain types of people and things we enjoy doing. If those preferences rule us, are we really loving well or does that stem from that sticky selfish part of us?

Most of us would need to agree we prefer to be with and do things for people whom we like. Doing things for those we may not like as well, may not be like us, may not think like us or look like us can be a different story.

If we love others out in the open, we will be attuned to those God leads us to as well as those whom He wants to discover His light and love shining through us.

Jesus modeled all this so well. He loved people first no matter what their status or heart condition. If we follow His lead He can show us the way and He will be glorified.

To love others well requires us to set aside our selfish natures and our preferences and think about how we would like to be loved. Kenny Luck calls that “the principle of reciprocity.”  The truth is that none of us can do that very well unless we are focused first on loving God. Both things Jesus requires of us are connected.

Loving out in the open and being/doing these two things is just that simple.  It is also impossible unless He is at work within us and we are relying on Him.

What are our convictions?

That will make all the difference.

“Convictions will be the kindling. Belief will be the spark. Faith and trust in the moment will be the wildfire that turns the horizon reddish orange in a worldwide movement of God’s Spirit.” 

Kenny Luck
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