Spiritual Housecleaning: Distraction

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Do you have any idea how many unfinished projects I have around my house? No? Me either. There's too many to count. I have good intentions, but I'm easily distracted. There seems to always be something else that needs to be done. For example, I've been bombarded by distraction after distraction just this morning. I sat down at my computer like a good girl, ready to get my blog posts done. Oh, I need to check my email. Well, what's this? Ooh! Look at that. I need to check that out. Let me look into that. I need to respond to this one, or I'll forget. Two hours later, I find myself still sitting in front of the computer. I've gotten a lot accomplished, but none of it had anything to do with my initial goal: to write my blog posts.

In the world we live in, distraction has become inevitable. With computers, television, cell phones, radios, playstations, cars, books, etc., there's simply no end to distraction. As if that weren't bad enough, our own minds constantly distract us from our immediate tasks. What are we going to have for dinner? Did I put the laundry in the dryer? I wonder what time my hubby will get home tonight? I need to pay the bills. Hmm, is there any money in the bank account? Should I get another job? On and on it goes.

I believe distraction is one of the devil's most valuable weapons. With just this one weapon, he can get us to stop doing the work of the Lord, not because we don't want to serve, but because we're too distracted to notice we're not serving. While we're quietly trying to go about the Lord's work, Satan is sending flashing neon signs to draw our attention away from our true goals. With most of us, it works like a charm every time. We're so gullible!

There is a story involving Yogi Berra, the well-known catcher for the New York Yankees, and Hank Aaron, who at that time was the chief power hitter for the Milwaukee Braves. The teams were playing in the World Series, and as usual Yogi was keeping up his ceaseless chatter, intended to pep up his teammates on the one hand, and distract the Milwaukee batters on the other. As Aaron came to the plate, Yogi tried to distract him by saying, “Henry, you’re holding the bat wrong. You’re supposed to hold it so you can read the trademark.” Aaron didn’t say anything, but when the next pitch came he hit it into the left-field bleachers. After rounding the bases and tagging up at home plate, Aaron looked at Yogi Berra and said, “I didn’t come up here to read.” - "Nehemiah, Learning to Lead,"J. M. Boice, Revell, 1990, p. 38

Oh, that we would be more like Hank Aaron. When the devil comes to us with distraction, we say, "I didn't come here for that. I'm here to do what the Lord called me to do." It will take focus. It will take discipline. It will take constant monitoring. But we must avoid distraction at all costs.

For more on the subject of distraction, check out my book, The Deadly Darts of the Devil.

Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
— Proverbs 4:25-27

A Small But Powerful Weapon

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I’m sure we are all familiar with the passages in the Bible where Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness. Many devotions, lessons, messages, and songs have been created from the many critical points within the story. But it wasn’t until a recent reading that I noticed one of Satan’s most potent weapons hidden there in plain sight. Such a small thing. So easy to overlook. And even easier to fall for.

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
— Matthew 4:1-11

Did you see it? That little word “if,” the keyword for Satan’s tool of doubt. “If thou be the Son of God, change these stones to bread.” “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.” “You can have all of this if you’ll bow down to me.” With that seemingly insignificant two-letter word, Satan questioned both the identity and character of Jesus and strove to get Jesus to do the same. And he assaults us the same way on a regular basis.

If God really loved you, He wouldn’t allow this to be happening in your life.

If you’re really saved, you wouldn’t be depressed, so you must not have gotten the real thing.

If God were on your side, you wouldn’t feel so alone in this world.

If God really watched out for you, He would have kept your family together.

If your husband loved you, he wouldn’t work such long hours.

If your wife loved you, she would want to stay home instead of working a job.

You can have everything you want in life if you’re willing to break a few rules.

If you follow me, I’ll show you what you’ve been missing by being a goodie two shoes.

All your problems will float away if you take this new drug.

See what I mean? And for every “if” statement I listed, there are hundreds more. Whatever your situation or mood, the enemy has an “if” for you. Here’s the tricky part. During that heated moment or discouraging situation, those “if” statements make sense. They seem logical and right. But they’re not. They result from the father of lies playing to our emotions and trying to get us to turn our backs on God. If he can make us doubt who we are in Christ, how much God loves us, and the other promises of Scripture, he’s well on his way to defeating us.

That’s why it’s imperative we fight these attacks the same way Jesus did—with the TRUTH. For each of the enemy’s “if” statements, Jesus quoted a Scripture back to Satan. Not just any verse, but one that addressed Satan’s claims. Jesus fought with the Word of God, and we should too. When the enemy gives us an “if,” let’s fight back with the truth of God’s Word. Find a verse or a few verses that relate to your situation, and when Satan comes hissing with all those “ifs,” give him an earful of truth. If you don’t know where to begin or can’t find a Bible verse to help you, ask your pastor or spiritual mentor. I’m sure they would be happy to help you. Or you can contact me, and I’ll help you find one. I know I’ve searched the Scripture often enough for my own weapons, and I’m always amazed at what God shows me.

Don’t fall for the enemy’s “ifs.” It’s a trick, a tactic, but never the truth. Be strong, and don’t fall for the attack. But when it comes (and the attacks will come), be armed with the Word of God. Satan has no defense against that, and he will have no choice but to flee. Before I close, though, I feel I better say this—Don’t expect to win the battle with Scripture if you don’t believe what you’re quoting. It’s not about letting words fly. It’s about claiming the truth and applying it to your life where you are. So, I urge you, get in that Bible. Find those weapons and believe them with all your heart.

Shake It Off

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And when they were escaped, then they knew that the island was called Melita. And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.
— Acts 28:1-3

Poor Paul!  He's already been imprisoned multiple times, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and now bitten by a snake.  To the average onlooker, it might seem God was trying to get Paul's attention.  I mean seriously, how much bad can happen to one person, right?  But those thoughts are derived from our warped sense of tribulation.  When bad things happen in our lives, we automatically assume that we've done or are doing something wrong.  We assume that the trial we're facing is a punishment from God, and sometimes that may be the case.  But if we take a closer look at the life of Paul, we'll see that such is not always the case.

With the exception of his call on the Damascus Road, Paul's difficult circumstances always followed on the heels of his doing the Lord's will.  He was preaching.  He was testifying.  He was being a witness.  He was helping others.  He was being a true servant.  Take the example in the passage above.  Paul was gathering firewood.  He could have sat there and allowed others to serve him, but he didn't.  He chose to serve, and what was his reward?  He was bitten by a viper.  I don't do snakes!!!!

If we're going to make it through this life with our joy intact, we need to realize that bad things in our lives don't always indicate punishment.  In fact, if we're doing our best to serve God, we can rest assured that we will face hard times.  Why?  Because Satan doesn't want us to serve God.  He wants to distract us.  He wants to discourage us.  He wants us to grow so weary that we throw up our hands and quit.  Even when we're serving God, the snake still bites.  The key is how we respond.

Like Paul did with the viper, our response to difficult circumstances should be to shake them off.  And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (Acts 28:5)  Paul shook it off and went on with his business.  We need to do the same.  I won't insult your intelligence by telling you that the process will be easy.  It won't.  It will take strength.  It will take consistent effort.  And above all, it will take faith.  Faith that God knows what He's doing.  Faith that God is in control and is working in our lives to bring about a greater good.  Faith that God will keep His promises.  It will also take focus.  As long as we're staring at the circumstances surrounding us, we will find no peace.  But if we get our eyes on Christ, then like Paul, we will feel no harm.  With our eyes on Christ, we will be able to say without reservation, "Thy will be done."

Have the snakes been biting you lately?  Are you distracted and discouraged?  Does it seem like all your efforts to serve God have been rewarded with heartache and pain?  If so, take comfort.  God knows what you're going through.  Talk to Him to discover if your current trials are chastisement for sin in your life or the deadly darts of the devil seeking to throw you off course.  If you discover it is the former, get it right and move on.  If it is the latter, shake it off.  Don't allow Satan to steal your peace and joy.  Shake it off and get back on track!