Monday, June 25, 2012

Not Flesh and Blood

I grew up knowing about spiritual warfare.  We studied verses like 1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  But, even still, those people who seemed to attribute everything to the work of the devil and prayed constantly against his plans made me a little uncomfortable.

So, it has been much to my surprise that I in recent weeks I have begun to sound just like them.  For several weeks now I have been feeling the gravity of what Ephesians 6:12 says, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Since taking on the role of the church plant coordinator I have increasingly become aware of how small and how powerless I am.  But I have also become increasingly aware of the bigness and strength of the God we serve.  When I take my little self out of the center of the picture I can see the great cosmic battle between God and the Evil One...which does two things for me.  First, it makes me acutely aware that there is indeed powerful forces working against us.  Second, it makes me cling to the work of Jesus Christ as our only victory over them!

Not only is this true in our community but also in our personal lives.  For several weeks I have seen person after person on our staff and church plant team struggle against, what on the surface looks like flesh and blood, but underneath I am convinced is the work of the devil, who is prowling "like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  It has caused confusion, fear, disunity, guilt, discouragement and a miriad of other things with both small and large implications.  It is no coincidence that these things have flooded into our midst as we make plans to push back the spiritual darkness through church planting.  The devil is prowling; the spiritual forces are waging war.

But, I refuse to let us be devoured.  I refuse to walk in defeat when we are covered in victory.  We have been given the weapons of the winning army and I am praying earnestly that we use them in victory each day.  Stand in the strength of the Lord and pray we do the same!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might.   Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.  Ephesians 6:10-18

Monday, June 18, 2012

Like Heaven

I was focused on stuffing my face with BBQ hamburger and potato salad but then Andrew said, "I think this is what heaven will look like."

I looked up from my plate at the families that surrounded us.  Foster families, adoptive families.  Children, parents, friends...connected, not by blood or ethnicity or background, but by commitment to each other.  As I took note of the people, I realized the mixture was almost startling.

We are used to homogeneity.  Even in places we think diverse.  I think of my life as diverse.  I grew up in southern California, in a predominantly white neighborhood, but surrounded by predominantly Hispanic ones.  I now live in a neighborhood which is 98% African American.  I step in and out of different cultures on a fairly regular basis.

This was different.  This was a trail mix of humanity.  I scanned the park and meditated on the thought that Heaven would indeed look like this and it made me smile.

In Heaven no one will be surprised that no one looks the same!  The varying colors and backgrounds of our spiritual adoptive family will perfectly reflect the glory of God as we stand before His throne. 

I just feel blessed that our family is part of a community that reflects the varying shades of God's glory in heaven here on earth!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Carried to the Table

All of us struggle to live a redeemed life. 

Some of us forget it can't be done in our own power; others worry even Christ's power isn't strong enough for their particular brand of brokenness.  Some of us count on being competent people and trust that life and ministry can be checked off of our to-do list.  Still others shrink back in fear feeling unworthy of participating in God's plans. 

All of us forget.  We forget that it isn't about us.  We forget the goodness, the greatness, the love of our Savior.  We let ourselves eclipse the Son.  Whether you trust too much in your own power or trust too little in Christ's, we have all forgotten that "in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).

Last night I heard "Carried to the Table" by Leeland for the first time.  It made me remember.  I am alive. I am saved, I am part of God's plan, because Christ made it possible.  You are alive, you are saved, and you can be part of His plans because Christ made it possible.

None of us belong in the warmth of His majesty, but we are here.

Take a moment and remember who carried us there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer in the City

Sidewalk rainbows scrawled in chalk.  Kids bouncing from one foot to the other as they excitedly ring, two, three times!  Loud conversations from a nearby porch.  The smell of barbecue down the street.  Cars with soap and water running off until they shine.

The city comes alive in the summer.  Sometimes in the winter you can walk down the street and see no one, but warm weather fills the houses until people spill out onto their porches and into the street.  It is easy to spend hours with kids in the neighborhood and talking to adults who walk by.  Ministry opportunities abound in the summertime. 

But, along with the laughter there can also be flaring tempers.  Violence becomes the next resort.  People crowded together in the summer heat can get caught up in angry exchanges.  Under the cover of darkness people seek an empty satisfaction in revenge.  Pop! Pop! Pop! Gunfire becomes the solution.  In the face of violence, ministry opportunities abound in the summertime.

Whether at a neighborhood cookout playing beanbag toss with laughing kids, or standing with neighbors in the wake of violence, there are so many opportunities to share Christ's love with our neighbors in the summer.  Pray for our safety and for boldness to speak the love and truth of Christ to those around us.  Pray for our neighbors' safety and for their hearts to be softened toward the Gospel.  Pray for our summer programs and neighborhood cookouts to be successful in sharing with people the only One that can bring true joy and true healing...Jesus Christ.