Archive for December 2, 2011

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything that goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus and not to focus on the defeated one. Yet, I’m fully aware that Satan loves to destroy…or attempt to destroy…a church. Obviously Satan is a limited being and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started, but Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing.

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Church conflict – Satan loves business meetings that get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Doesn’t matter to him. Show him a good argument potential and he’s willing to stir the fire.

Burnout – Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or that they no longer have anything to offer…he feels he’s winning part of the battle.

Rumors – Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community…sometimes even the pastor or staff…and watch them quickly spread through a church congregation or community. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes that too.

Busyness – Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity that produces little results in Kingdom-building.

Lies – Satan attempts to interject what he calls a “half-truth”; just a hint of false doctrine and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know that half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered.

Scandal – Satan loves a good, juicy, gossipy news headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body…even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work…he’ll take that too.

Marriage and family disruptions – Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages; even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.

Thankfully, there is good news:

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?


A Love That Never Fails · Max Lucado.

Never Too Busy

Posted: December 2, 2011 in Our Daily Bread

Never Too Busy.

And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Today, we encounter the so-called “Second Word of Jesus” from the cross. It is one of the most astounding, unsettling, and encouraging verses in all of Scripture. Even as it energizes theological debate, the “Second Word” fills us with hope.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. (The Greek of Luke 23:32 identifies them as kakourgoi, literally, “workers of evil.”) When the leaders who crucified Jesus mocked him as a failed messiah, one of the criminals joined in: “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” (23:39).

But the other criminal did not follow suit. Rather, he objected, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong” (23:40-41). Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom” (23:42).

Jesus responded to him with a stunning word of grace and promise: “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (23:43). The word paradise, from the Greek word paradeisos, which meant “garden,” was used in the Greek Old Testament as a word for the Garden of Eden. In Judaism of the time of Jesus, it was associated with heaven, and also with the future when God would restore all things to the perfection of the Garden. Paradise was sometimes thought to be the place where righteous people went after death. This seems to be the way Jesus uses paradise in this passage.

As you can imagine, the second word of Jesus has perplexed theologians for centuries. The criminal shows at most a half-mustard-seed’s bit of faith in Jesus. Yet, to the desperate thief who cries out to be remembered, Jesus offers a word of confident hope. “You will be with me in paradise.”

There are other times and places to figure out the theological implications of this statement.

Today, I want to underscore the extraordinary grace of God in Christ. We don’t have to pray perfect prayers for God to respond to us with favor. We don’t even have to have right theology or selfless motivation. Rather, when we call out with a mere speck of faith, God’s grace is poured out upon us in abundance.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you need to cry out to God today? What helps you to do this? What holds you back?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, how I thank you for your amazing grace. I cannot begin to fathom it. How glad I am that I don’t have to in order to receive it.

Thank you, Lord, for hearing me when I cry out to you for mercy. Thank you for remembering me, even when I forget you. Thank you for the promise of being with you in paradise. Thank you for being with me right now, through your Spirit. Amen.

P.S. from Mark: I have written a series of devotions on the Seven Last Words of Christ. They are intended for Holy Week, but are just as useful in Advent. These devotions include some of my wife’s marvelous watercolor paintings of the Stations of the Cross.

P.P.S. from Mark: I have put up on my blog some photos of the places where Christians believe Jesus was crucified. There are two primary locations in Jerusalem that are held to be the actual place of the crucifixion. You can see both of these in my collection of photos of Jerusalem.

Marked by Christly Fragrance

I also long in the tender mercies of Christ that among us there may be the following: . . . 7. A presence of Christ that is as the fragrance of myrrh and aloes. When you become accustomed to the smell of His garments you will be spoiled for anything less. If we never smell the myrrh and aloes out of the ivory palaces, we may go along a lifetime and not miss it. But one beautiful whiff of the fragrance of these garments and we will never be satisfied with anything less. When my wife and I were first married we attended a church of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Akron, Ohio. There was something on that church, a sense of the fragrance of God. The great Dr. Gerow preached there in those days. The church had some sweet Christian brethren, some wonderful men and women of God, and there was a fragrance on that place. I have never forgotten it. I was between 19 and 21 for the three years I spent in that church, and I do not remember getting help from others of my age. But how I remember getting help that is with me to this day from the older saints whose garments were fragrant with the myrrh, aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces!


Posted: December 2, 2011 in Oswald Chambers


The Daily Spurgeon: Attentive Discipleship.