Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Adversary

Hi everyone! I come to you tonight via blogger to share vital information about this war we are in. We, as followers of Christ, are in a war. This is not a physical war for the most part, although sometimes it can be; no-no, this is spiritual. When Satan was kicked out of the Kingdom he took with him some friend-angels who also decided to revolt against God. When Satan fell he was condemned to death (spiritual: separation from God)and an eternity in hell. I am convinced, dear friends, that Satan is hell-bent (pardon the pun) on bringing us all down with him.

The Bible describes our enemy in various ways. In the book of Job whenever Satan approaches God he is called by his name, Satan, but the original Hebrew calls him The Adversary. Peter describes him in 1 Peter as a prowling lion looking for anyone to devour. Our Father says of him that he crouches at our door and that his desire is to have us. (Genesis 4)Our enemy is cunning, he is tireless-he never rests. Just as our loving Father, Satan never sleeps nor slumbers and his task is to destroy us-to steal, kill and destroy (John 10).

This Wednesday (Dec. 21st) I was given an amazing opportunity by my Father to speak the Good News of Jesus Christ of Nazareth to a group of middle school and high school kids. I was eager when I got the text about a month earlier inviting me to do this, and I began to pray and think about what I would say that night, but I never thought to pray for protection for myself.

In the two weeks leading up to the sermon I experienced some major spiritual attacks and they came in many forms. The foremost of these attacks were in feelings of laziness and grogginess. I have never experienced such exhaustion as I did the weeks leading up to my sermon. It seemed the more I prayed for strength and that the Gospel would be received, the more I became lazy. I had no desire to think about the sermon, to pray, to spend time with the Lord. I didn't want to study for finals at school nor did I care to spend quality time with anyone that mattered to me. All I wanted to do was put on my pj's and sit in front of the TV all day and night.

Now, I have definitely experienced some of these days prior to this and I have always written it off as human nature. It's normal to feel lazy, right? Well, Biblically speaking- no, it's not. In Proverbs chapter 6 the Spirit prompted our author to write these words:

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.

The Spirit uses words like sluggard to describe a lazy person. He describes this person as being poor, grasping for resources and exhausted. This person sleeps all the time and gets nothing done. Folks, I can say with confidence that being lazy is not acceptable-although human it may be. Yes, at the fall we became natural born sinners, so it is in our nature to be lazy-but that's no reason not to fight it. I digress...

This was the first form of attack I experienced-laziness. After this came cranky attitudes (Jess can attest to this) a frustrated spirit, sleepless nights and a discouraged heart. I didn't realize it as attack until I spent more diligent time in the Word. My Father announced to me that I was being taken hold of by the enemy and blaming it on myself. I was cursing myself and my own attitude because I should be doing so much better. Thanks be to God for reminding me that we are in a war and that the Adversary wants to steal my heart.

This is how our enemy works. He uses our own weakness- a proneness to laziness or to overindulgence of rest, a broken heart from previous wounds- to make us feel and believe that we are worthless and that we should just quit on life. Thankfully my Savior Jesus gave me encouraging words as I continued to pray against attack and spend time in His Word.

The night of the sermon time flew by. I prayed all day before and the afternoon leading up to the talk and when I gave the talk I lost track of time. The Spirit took hold of me (as I gave Him permission to do) and spoke to those students. At the end of the message I gave an altar call and three kids rededicated their lives to Christ that night! AMEN!

After all was said and done I spoke with my mother and girlfriend who told me their thoughts on my sermon. "It was wonderful!" they said. "You are so talented! I'm so proud of you!" Then came my question, "Honestly, how did I do?" I should know myself better than this. I was exhausted from weeks of praying and praying for the night and for the students. I was spiritually drained from speaking the Word against the onslaught of my fiery enemy and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to handle any criticism in that moment. Later, yes, but not then. Like a fool I asked my family and friends to be honest and they were. "You spoke really fast" they said. "The message wasn't fit for this audience" they replied. "Maybe you should have given this sermon on a different night".

All of this is good feedback and for those reading, please understand that these people love me and I respect their opinions and thoughts more than ever. In that moment, however, I was weak and too tired to think. The enemy, the Adversary, took that opportunity to tell me of my lack of worth. He used my weakness to tell me that what my friends were really saying was that I gave a terrible sermon, that no one heard the Good Word, and that I shouldn't have even come.

Satan has a way of twisting people around in my heart and making them against me. He sets my heart toward sadness and depression for his own gain because he loves to see me suffer; and I was too weak to fight it. I was too stubborn to listen to my Father say "Jacob, you're tired, don't ask that question" (Which, by the way, I heard Him say) The enemy went crazy all over me. He tore me to shreds and by the end of the night I really hated myself. I would hear no encouraging words from my love, Jess, my mother or even my Father. I was frustrated and exhausted and I just wanted to sleep and cry.

Our enemy is a snake. He is seedy and desires to hurt us in our weakest moments. He took my weakness in that moment and turned me against everyone that I love, so much so that I became angry with them all. Fortunately for all of us this is not how the story ends. My girlfriend Jess is a sweetheart and would not let me beat myself up. She told me the truth over and over again, making sure that I knew how well I did and that the kids heard my message. My mom told me that I am a powerful speaker and that my voice is strong and commands attention. Most importantly my Father said to me that I am dearly loved and that I did His work. The enemy did not win.

Even today I am healing from this fresh stab wound from the Adversary. Today I had to speak truth into my own soul so that I would rest in the hope of my Savior. God is so good, He gave me one last moment of encouragement. Just moments ago, as I was writing this blog, my love called me with some amazing news. She had met up with a friend and had the opportunity to share Jesus with him. She told me that during the conversation she used an illustration that I had used the previous night for the sermon and that her friend was blown away by it; she said that he really responded to the illustration.

Yes, maybe my sermon was a little mature for such a young audience and maybe a lot of them didn't get it. But truth be told, Jesus says this: "...do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your father who speaks in you." (Matthew 10:19-20)

Our enemy is crafty, ruthless and wants our hearts. Our Savior is loving, kind, powerful and He WILL have us. Jesus offers us a wild opportunity to fight with Him in the battle for our souls. He warns us of our enemy so that we may have ammunition against him. This last week I experienced attack like I've never known, but my Father-my Glorious, my Glorious- got me through because we fought together. Sometimes we are too weak to fight for ourselves as I was last night, but He carried me through. He covered me with His shield of faith so that the flaming arrows of the enemy could not pierce me too deep. He protected my mouth so that I did not damage relationships with those I love. He carried me through this rough patch so that my faith in Him, in my blessed Father, would increase.

Please, when you are attacked fight. FIGHT the good fight! Our enemy will never rest because he hates us with all of his being, but we can win this fight against him with God on our side. Please spend time with Jesus every day. If you're not in the habit of daily time in the Word go for 3-4 times a week- 10 minutes. Jesus wants to be with you, He wants you to know Him as well as He knows you. He wants to fight with you, but you cannot fight a war without training and I can tell you both from experience and from the complete truth of the Scriptures that we train by spending time with Him in His Word. It's easy people, and our enemy makes it hard. Satan tells us that we really should get some extra sleep in the morning. Our Adversary tells us that watching Tebow score is much more valuable than our time with God. He puts things in our way so that we miss out on opportunities with our true love. Don't listen to him. Balance your life, but put Christ first, and everything else will be given you.

I love you and I long to see you fight well and win with our Father. Remain in Christ, and all will be yours.

In Him
Jacob

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fullness in Christ

Wow it's been a while since I've posted. I think the last one was in June...? I'm not sure. I know it was that poem by Ayinde, but that's it. haha. I'm not sure who's out there reading this mess, but I find it rewarding to blog simply because it's a space to empty my mind.

A lot's gone on in my life since my last post, and to be completely honest in order for me to tell you everything it would take a looooooong time and a lot of typing; something I'm not up to at 3am. Why am I up this late anyways...

Regardless, something has been pressing lately. As you may recall, two summers ago I interned at a church I grew up in to do some preaching and a lot of learning. Well, almost a month ago one of my dear pastors sent me a text inviting me to preach the Gospel (the good news of Jesus) to the youth there this Wednesday! (Dec. 21) Boy howdy am I excited to do this! I definitely have a passion for speaking the Word of Truth to people, and I'm so thankful that God has granted me an opportunity to share His word with His children!

Since I'm up anyways, and this is on my mind, I figured I'd lay down a piece of what the sermon will be. Basically I want to center around Colossians 2:9-10 which, in the NKJV says "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power." What does this mean? That in Christ we have been given fullness-fullness of joy, fullness of life, fullness of hope. We are full. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that we are new creatures (5:17) and he tells us this gem in Colossians.

Folks, this news, when properly considered, is ground breaking. I remember my high school years, and even my last year. haha. Things in this world certainly haven't changed. the world, including myself, fights for fullness. We fight to be accepted, to be loved, to live inspired lives-to be quoted by someone, anyone! We desire to be full. We are constantly seeking the next thing that we think will give us life. For many of us it's relationships. I know that was my filler. I was in a relationship from my sophomore year of high school to my sophomore year of college. Four years. Not that I regret any of it, but I know that I was trying to find who I was during those years, and a lot of what I found was buried deep within that relationship.

I wanted to know that I could do it. I wanted to know that in a relationship I could be the "man". I had to know that I could satisfy the needs of a woman, all the way from physical needs to emotional needs. Pardon me for the depth of information, but honesty is key here. In that relationship I learned a lot of things, but something I never grasped was that my life could never be complete EVEN IF I learned to satisfy ALL the needs of a woman! I am not designed to be complete from that type of relationship. Sure it may feel nice, it may be comforting and bring some peace-but fullness? No way Jose.

Women, I know it is not much different for you. You see, men desire to know that we CAN do things. We can satisfy our wives or girlfriends, we can do our jobs well, we can provide for those we love. We can buy Christmas gifts. This is something extremely deeply rooted in the heart of man-to know that we have what it takes. Women you aren't like this, are you? According to a woman I hold dear to my heart (my lovely girlfriend Jessica) women long to be desired; to know that you are worth pursuing. Woman ache to be loved deeply and in the heart. You long to know that you matter to someone, that you're beautiful, that your hard work and effort is not forgotten in a haze of extracurricular activities. On the surface these heart desires seem to differ-and they definitely do on the surface-but deep down they are both rooted in the same issue. Fullness.

Men seek fullness in relationships and ability just as women seek fullness in relationships and beauty. But Christ wants us to know that we ARE full in Him. When He died on that cross and rose three days later he not only gave us eternal life and the Holy Spirit to connect us with God forever. He gave us fullness. He gave us a sense of peace, of belonging. He showed us that we don't have to look for things anymore to fill us, that we have it in Him. Christ's image of us is not based upon what we do, how many relationships we have or how beautiful we are, because for Him we are beautiful, we do count, we have the ability. He has made us whole again. What was broken and lost in the fall has now been found in Christ and through His precious blood shed on the cross we can be full once again. We can now return to the foot of the cross missing nothing because we have been given fullness and completeness in Christ alone.

Folks, if nothing else is heard, please hear this: You are enough. Men you can do all the things that God puts before you to do because you have the abilities through Christ. You are whole. Women you are beautiful and worthy to be loved. Precious children, do not look for life in that which will only break and leave you empty, but look for life in the spring of Living Water, where you will never become dry, for He never dries up. With Him you will never dry up, you will never be found wanting, you will never lack because in Christ YOU ARE FULL!