Know Your Enemy

Who is my enemy? An “enemy” is someone who seeks to do you harm. Doesn’t it seem wise to id these people, the ones who want us harmed? So whom can we name as an enemy?

Well, let’s start with the obvious. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 So Peter tells us that Satan is an enemy. Kind of hard to argue with that. He wants to, and tries to, do me harm. I guess I would put him as number 1 on my enemy list.

Obviously all of ISIS and the others out there who want to kill me because I’m Christian or just not a muslim. Not much doubt they go on the list. Some others who burn my country’s flag and protest against America. I would have to say they go on the list.

Certainly all those of different political parties from mine are enemies. It’s pretty troubling, but I’m thinking maybe the whole government is my enemy. It certainly seems to be seeking to do me harm. It wants my money and wants to use it for purposes with which I don’t agree. It seems intent on harming things and people whom I hold precious. I don’t want to believe that the government that I served for 11 years is my enemy, but the evidence seems to be overwhelming. I know that the government is made up of people, surely they aren’t all enemies. If, however, they aid and abet in the seeking of harm, I guess they have to go on the list as well, each and every one. I have voted for some of these, but yet they still seem to want to do me harm or to stand by as others do so. I think they have to go on the list.

What about all those people in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue? They are trying to sell me a harmful lifestyle and products that might kill me or at least won’t make me any better off than I am. That sounds like they want me harmed. On the list they go.

I’m thinking some of my enemies are sneaky. They won’t come out and admit they want to harm me. They may even deny it,  but they certainly don’t have my best interests at heart. Their beliefs are so radically different from mine and they are so passionate about them I have to believe they would rather if I weren’t around. I think they belong on the enemies list.

In fact, lots of the people who claim to be on the “same page” with me are suspicious. I know leaders of groups I have served passionately are willing to throw me “under the bus” if someone has the slightest thing against me. On the list they go.

Frankly, the more I think about it there are so-called “friends” and even family members who talk a good game about love and support and all that but won’t tell me what I need to hear, that start to play with their phones when I try to tell them something and when I’m hurting they seem to look for salt to pour on the wounds or just prefer to talk about their own “problems.” The list is really getting long, but it’s important to be thorough.

The bottom line is I think the enemy list may include every person of flesh and blood on the earth. In some way, either by their obvious hate or by their benign indifference when I really need them, belong on the enemies list. This sure is a lonely world, when everyone is against you.

Is it possible that Paul was serious when he said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Is it possible that my enemy list should just have Satan and his minions on it? I mean the demon minions not the flesh and blood ones I have discussed. Could it be that from those who would kill me if they could to those who just don’t always treat me as they should, that they all are just, at least sometimes, tools of the real enemy? 

Could it even be that sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, I’m just a tool as well? Am I on everyone else’s enemy list?

It’s important to know who is your real enemy and who isn’t.

 

Before – Beside – Behind

On our recent trip to Branson, we hadn’t left Lafayette long when we moved into hill country. In hill country, driving is exciting. The road rises and falls and and seems to be one turn after the other. Around every turn and over every hill, there are surprises. You may come across a breathtaking vista or just another set of twists and turns, so much like life.

These are really challenging days. It seems everyone I know is dealing with something. Not only that, but when one situation seems to settle down, another arises. Yesterday I finally was able to try a case in which I represent a friend. The case has been going on for five years. It’s been a real challenge. You always want to do a good job, but there is extra pressure when the client is a friend and there is much on the line. Just as I was approaching the top of the five-year old hill, I received a phone call that presented yet another troubling situation. I check the mail box every day for the next step in yet another challenge. Like the road to Branson, there are twists and turns, ups and downs and surprises past every bend in the road.

It was in this situation that I was encouraged by this graphic. “God never sends  you into a situation alone. God goes before  you. He stands beside you. He walks behind you. Whatever situation you have now, be confident. God is with you.”

Never alone.  All of our lives are unique. Sometimes they seem more unique than they are. That feeling that we are the only ones traveling our particular role can send us into fits of loneliness.  The state of loneliness is where Satan wants us. The banana that leaves the bunch is the first to get picked. Predators focus on those who drift from the herd or the flock. When that sense of loneliness begins to set in, fight it. God is with us always. He is with us spiritually and he is with us through our brothers and sisters. God is available to us in the physical presence of others who walk with Him. Through others we can put flesh to the God we know in our heads and spirits is present. 

Before you. When we say that God goes before us we mean that nothing we experience is foreign to God. He came as a man. He personally knows and has experienced every situation we face and every battle we fight. God going before us also means that he is in control of the situation. We are surrounded by Forces of evil surround us and humans who can exercise free will are everywhere. That doesn’t mean that God ever loses control over the situations his children are in. No matter how it looks or feels. No matter how many forces come against you in how many forms, God is there before you, sheltering, shielding and supporting.

Beside you.  In the worst moment God is right there. In fact, often his purpose in allowing this twisting and turning life, is to put us into situations which force us to seek Him and see Him work. God is always speaking to us and most of the time he is saying, “I am here.”

Walks behind. One of the frightening things about life situations is that we seem to leave a trail of destruction in our path. We worry that the mistakes we are making are leaving behind hurt and junk that can’t be fixed. God is behind us. He is there with a broom sweeping up our messes and cleaning up our mistakes. I don’t mean that there aren’t consequences for what we do. There certainly are, but particularly when we repent, God has awesome power to fix stuff. Even the messes we make.

Be confident. As I write this I am waiting for news of the birth of my great-grandson. He is loved by many before he even appears. We are imperfect lovers. God does it perfectly. If you are His child, He loves you and always has and always will. How can we be anything but confident? How can we be anything but fearless? The God who loves us, is with us.

 

Gonna Miss Paul

I haven’t posted since the theatre shooting. I’ve been busy and didn’t really know what to say. It seems almost everything has been said. Much of it I already knew. I knew that Lafayette is a great community that I’m proud to call home. I knew Lafayette people are different in a good and special way. I knew that every death is tragic and the violent death of young people, especially so. I knew there are disturbed people who can wreak havoc in their pathetic attempts to be significant or meaningful. I knew that the national media would flock to a story like this. So what could I add?

I have chosen to speak about another death. One that will affect me more personally and that will stay with me longer. My friend Paul Landry died this week. His service will be the same day as that of at least one of the victims of the theatre shooting. It will not get nearly as much notice. That’s the way life is.

Paul was a good man. Even as his health was failing he was faithful to his ministry. Every month he would call those of us over 55 in our church, Amana Christian Fellowship, to remind us of our monthly SALT meetings. I looked forward to those calls because Paul always had time to talk. I enjoyed hearing about his life and the news he had about others. He was always interested in what was going on in my life. I will miss those calls. I will miss seeing him at church. I look forward to giving Norma a big hug not just tonight when I see her but at every opportunity as her loss sinks in and becomes part of her life from here on.

On the day after the theatre shooting, things were different as I moved about town. The words, “be safe” were added to the normal “Have a nice day.” greetings I received. People spent a bit more time talking with each other. There was more listening, more concern, more thoughtfulness. People talked more about God and were less reluctant to pray and to encourage others to do so. God has designed life to include periodic shake ups. There are national tragedies and personal losses. It seems we need repeated reminders of what’s important.

Our feelings of safety are illusionary. Our idea that we will have plenty of time to do those things we keep putting off is nutty. Our failure to express our love at every opportunity is sad. Our priorities are chaotic and just plain messed up.

Let’s review. We live in a great town. We have great friends and family. We serve (or should be serving) a great God. This life is just the tiny entry hall into eternity. We have things to do which aren’t the things we are doing. God thank you for the reminder. Sorry it took national tragedy and the loss of a friend to remind me. I promise to do better.

Thanks for all those calls, Paul. We will talk again. Count on it. I do.

 

Ten Times We Should Just Shut Up and Listen

There are times I just need to shut up and listen. I experienced two of them yesterday.

  1. When someone else is talking. I guess this is the big one. I had prepared a great lesson for the folks at the Abbeville Nursing Home. The folks who are normally quiet, non-responsive, even comatose, just seemed to want to talk. I’d smile and let them talk and then try to get back to the lesson. It didn’t work. The lesson was on choices. I finally made the choice to shut up and listen. It was the right choice. When you are in a nursing home, no one listens. In fact, most of us feel that no one ever really listens. So when someone is talking, especially if they are normally quiet, give the greatest gift you have: just shut up and listen.

  2. When you are hurting. Yesterday was not a good day. It went down hill from the nursing home. At one point my daughter asked how things were and I made the mistake of answering honestly. I had just heard Joyce Meyers talking about not saying anything when we don’t have anything good to say. When we are hurting, we are likely to worry folks with our words. No matter what we are going through, someone is going through worse. Maybe that someone is the one we are unloading on. When our day sucks, we should just shut up and listen. What we hear might make us feel better.

There are several more times when we should shut up and listen.

  1. When someone is talking politics. Politics isn’t the answer. I think deep down we all know that. When someone starts babbling about politics, I have decided the best response is none. A smiling face and an occasional knowing nod is best. Otherwise, just shut up and listen.

  2. When someone is talking religion. Religion isn’t the answer either. I think fewer of us know that. Just listen. Not just to the speaker but to the Holy Spirit. If you need to say something, he’ll let you know. Otherwise just shut up and listen.

  3. When your wife is talking. This one is too obvious to need comment. Just shut up and listen. She’s smarter and has more vocal endurance. Even if you do talk, she’s not going to listen. Just shut up and listen.

  4. When you don’t know what to say. This one should be obvious. Why do we feel we have to say something, especially when we don’t know what to say. What are the chances we will say something great by accident? Let’s try just try shutting up and listening.

  5. When watching TV or a movie or playing on a computer, phone or iPad. This is a pet peeve. Why do some people talk to the screens in our lives? Talk about no one is listening. Just shut up, and watch or play and listen.

  6. When the boss is talking. Okay so he’s not as smart as he thinks he is but he still writes the check. Just shut up, listen and plan a career somewhere else.

  7. When a politician or preacher is talking. These people have hearing deficits. Don’t waste your time.

  8. When God is trying to talk. I shutter to think how much guidance I’ve missed by violating this one. Since God is always trying to get through to us, I guess we should always JUST SHUT UP AND LISTEN.  The chances are better that I will learn something if I’m not talking. I am less likely to say something stupid if I’m not talking. I have almost no chance of offending if I’m quiet. There is already way to much talking in the world and not nearly enough listening.

Think I’ll just shut up now.

Pawns of Satan

Today someone commented on a post from three years ago. She said “That may be the most powerful article I have ever read in my life.  It definitely couldn’t be more timely. ”
That made me think I should repost it. Here it is.

Ephesians 6:12

New Living Translation (NLT)
12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
 
Satan uses people like a chess player uses pawns to carry out his schemes. There is no doubt about it. He tried to use Jesus. He will try to use us. 
 
This leaves us with two challenges: 1. To recognize it’s a spiritual fight and see the real enemy. 2. Not be pawns ourselves. 
 
The key to this is to recognize that satan uses folks when they are tired or hurt or discouraged or frightened, when they feel trapped, AND when they are not in Christ. When we are in Christ, people will see Jesus in us. It just happens. It’s not something we do. Jesus acts as our shield and our fortress.
 
When Satan is using someone, he tries hard not to be seen. We need to use our spiritual eyes and recognize the person causing havoc in our lives as a tired, hurt, discouraged, frightened, trapped and lost person. We need to see the manipulator and not the pawn. The pawn needs our prayers and love. (Yea, I know that’s a tough one.) Jesus takes care of the “great” manipulator; that’s a fight that’s already won. 
 
Our second task is not to be a pawn. When we begin to feel tired, hurt, discouraged, frightened, and trapped, we need to remember we are in Christ who fights our battles and has already won. It’s tough not to get dragged in. We need to be alert and stay fresh, encouraged, courageous and free in Him. 
 
Peace and joy and safety is in Christ and no place else. Those who find themselves outside of Him need our prayers. They are victims, just like we used to be. They are not the enemy, although they sure can seem like it.
 
Stand and be blessed.
 
Nick

Untitled

Check out the results of a recent survey:

The question was — “What is the greatest struggle that Christians in their 20s and 30s face today?”

Here were the top 10 answers that were repeated the most:

  1. We lack mentors and being mentored in the deeper things of God.
  2. We lack being connected with others who are serious about growing in Christ.
  3. We struggle with spiritual loneliness and lack of community. We long for connection and deep relationships with serious Christians.
  4. We lack understanding of the Bible and knowing how to read it with profit.
  5. We struggle with distractions and being free from the influences of the world.
  6. We struggle with compromising with the world’s false narratives because of fear of persecution, being labeled haters, bigots, intolerant, closed-minded, idiots, and losing friends.
  7. We struggle to find authentic friendships based on knowing Jesus, loving Him and serving Him.
  8. We struggle with finding our purpose in the world.
  9. We lack inspiration and motivation and get distracted and discouraged by the cares of this life.
  10. We really don’t Jesus that well, so we need true discipleship.

So what do  you know, twenty and thirty somethings are just like the rest of us. Refreshing, isn’t it? There is something universal and timeless about this list of struggles.  I’m sixty-six and this is pretty much my list of struggles.

Isn’t it amazing how successful Satan has been at making us think we are the only ones. Guess what? We aren’t the only ones who struggle with connection. Look at the list and note how many are really about connection. As long as Satan can keep the Body of Christ in broken, unconnected pieces, he wins.

We need each other. We need real Christian friends. We need some who are struggling like we are. We need some who have struggled and can guide us. We need some whom we can help by sharing what we’ve been through.

Isn’t that what the church is supposed to offer? It seems to me that the first step is that we quit saying how blessed we are and start admitting how much we struggle. It won’t take long to realize we’re not alone and that there is hope and help in sharing that knowledge and the connections just knowing we are not alone will forge.

All you in your twenties and thirties, welcome to the world of struggle with the rest of us. And, by the way, that number one concern about needing mentors, well here we are. We’re the ones with gray hair or, sometimes, no hair. Just ask.

 

My Negatives – The Map for Ministry

I have just completed the first of six weeks of nursing home ministry. I am filling in for my good friends who are taking a much-needed six-week break. The message I shared for the first week came pretty easily. Since turning sixty-five last year I have struggled with issues of aging. I have asked questions like, “Has my opportunity for ministry passed?” “Is this the beginning of the end?” “What’s left for me?” Okay so I can be a bit of a drama queen.

It dawned on me that my struggles put me in a perfect place to minister to the mostly aging population of the nursing homes. Having struggled with the issues God had shown me some of the older folks he used in scripture like Moses who was eighty when he stood before the burning bush and Noah who had already passed 600 of his eventual 900 year life before the ark became an issue.

It seems a mistake to look at our “talents” and the “highs” of our lives when considering ministry. Sure it makes a lot of sense to take a stock of our positives to decide what we have to offer to others. The thing is that God doesn’t work that way. He takes the least likely and least talented to carry out his missions. In part, I suppose He wants the glory. When an ill-equipped saint is the vessel for blessings, it’s easy to give God the glory.

Even more, I think he wants the vessel to realize that it is only when God is working through us that we do anything really worth while. I know that seems heresy in our world that glorifies self-reliance and achievement. The problem is that we are called to live, not by the world’s rules, but by Kingdom rules.

In the Kingdom, everything is done for the glory of the King, through the power of the King. In the Kingdom, joy comes from sacrifice and service, not self and success. In the Kingdom, it’s all about our usefulness to Him, which is measured by our own uselessness. It’s a bit disorienting, getting use to Kingdom rules, but never forget, the Kingdom Rules, and that’s a very good thing.

If we want to be of service, we need to survey the stumbles, staggers and stupid things we have done. Face it, there are a lot more of those than there are successes, sweet accomplishments, and super hero moments. It’s in those “negative” times that we learn humility, compassion and thanksgiving for the one who pulls us through. That’s where mighty missionaries are made.

Looking back at my own “rap sheet” I am filled with ideas I can share next week with those who are older and, just maybe, wiser.  Since all have sinned and fallen short, most will relate better to tales of our actual gory days than our imagined glory days.

I Can Choose

Yesterday I discovered that Facebook comments can be deleted. This was life changing. I choose to delete comments someone had made and not engage them. It was awesome. I have choices. I don’t have to deal with every irritant out there. I don’t have to ruin my day because someone has issues. I don’t have to be controlled by others. I don’t have to be controlled by circumstances. I have choices.

I realize that this is all very obvious. It is, however, one of the key truths of life that I often forget. I have written about this before: http://www.nicksigur.com/choices/, more than once, http://www.nicksigur.com/choices-2/.  Here I go again.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

I love those verses. I love the possibilities within them. Every day, in fact every moment, is a new chance, a new possibility. I can choose to grab on or let it slip by.  I don’t have to be governed by circumstances, history or habit. I can choose different paths.

This isn’t easy for me. I have discovered I have an addictive behavior. If I don’t do something I usually do, I become uncomfortable. I haven’t written a blog since Wednesday, when I was just chillin’.  I have been writing for so long if I skip, something just isn’t right. It doesn’t take me long to become addicted. I have been swimming for a month. I missed yesterday and my swim place is closed on Sunday. No swimming for two whole days.  I’m uncomfortable.

The secret is to know those habits and addictions which take me to good places and to recognize the ones that don’t. For now, writing and swimming are good things. I will continue to choose them. Other stuff, some habits of many years, not so much.

Happiness, joy, peace aren’t places we are taken to by circumstances. They are choices. So are misery, disappointment, sadness, and despair.  When’s the last time you read something from Habakkuk?

17Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. 19The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 3

God is good. I can choose to remember that or not. I can choose to rejoice in the newness of each day or wallow in the weight of many yesterdays. This day, I will choose the Lord and his hope, and possibility and joy, for the rest I will just hit “delete.”