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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Vicious

Old men, especially old Christ-following men who have tried to live the life for years, recognize that spiritual battle is the normal Christian life. No one who claims the name of Jesus gets out of being a target from time to time. Especially true, when what he or she does pushes back the darkness and challenges the rulership of the adversary. It just comes with the territory.

Sometimes spiritual attacks take on a particular viciousness designed malevolently to destroy faith, kill resolve, and enmesh someone in confusion with countless enervating obstructions. Ultimately they seek to enshroud people in crushing despair. All of it is aimed at turning aside the Christ-follower who is pushing back the kingdom of darkness and establishing the Kingdom of God in its place.

Many times, these attacks target weakness because of besetting sin or vulnerability, the result of spiritual immaturity. They seek to enslave people in sin and shame, neutralizing them for vigorously following Jesus. There are times, however, when they seem to come out of the blue like being slammed from the blindside with great ferocity. They mean business. They are big league and not for the spiritually squeamish or naive.

I know afresh about such attacks. I experienced another one this week. There had been broadsides fired over the last few weeks, but I would take the hit and rebound fairly quickly. The attacks this week came in waves seeking to discourage and hamstring me in fear, self-condemnation and anger. Like a large wave that works to knock you off your feet, they sought to knock me off my feet emotionally and get me to surrender to despair. It was hard. I felt slammed and pummeled.

Ephesians 6:10-18 reminded me to locate these as "schemes of the devil," and to follow the command to "be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might." Regrettably, I did not "take up the whole armor of God," in the midst of the waves so I could withstand and repel them. The flaming darts of the evil one pierced and hindered me far too easily this time and way too long. I was not strong.

What made them vicious to me was they sought repeatedly to cut at the value of the Kingdom work I have tried to do for over 20 years, and they slandered my character unfairly. I know I am broken and in utter need of the finished work of Christ everyday, no one needs to remind me of that, but I also know I am not a profligate ne'er-do-well. The vicious insinuations schemed to cut at the value of my call, and the fact that Jesus mercifully took someone as broken and lost as me, and actually let me serve his Kingdom interests.

I suffered a wounding because of the meanness of the attack, but it seems to be healing. On the bright side, the scar from it will make me all the more strong for the launch and building of imagine/northampton if I stay the course with Jesus and not look or listen back. I also know there will be more attacks as we move nearer actually helping people in Northampton find Jesus. It's part of the deal. His cause is worth the struggle and the wounding that might come again. I am pretty sure everyone who serves the Risen Lord wholeheartedly is covered with scars when they finally go home.

Thinking about this last week, I find it helpful and bracing when Peter reminds me in his first letter, chapter 4, that I should not be surprised by "the fiery trial when it comes to test me," but rather that if it represents me sharing in Christ's sufferings then I should "rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." I hope the vicious attacks I experienced from the adversary represent this kind of suffering and lead to his glory. It means what I'm experiencing counts for the Kingdom.

That's what I'm here for.
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