In The Middle

And, now, Just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. [Colossians 2:6-7. NLT]

God lives in us. Yet, sometimes he seems far, far away. And other times he feels very close.

Have you ever heard God speak to you? Have you ever gotten a love tap from him? And, how about getting some “concrete” guidance; or a clear clue to where he wants you to live? The job he wants you to prepare for; or take? Here’s three biggies—God, is this the person you want me to marry? Questioning your salvation; or, wondering if you’ve finally gone too far and he has forsaken you?

Do not become discouraged. Remember this: God is not in control of everything that happens on earth. God is in control of the heavenly realm. God will be in control of everything on earth when he returns.

The last statement will be very good news for Christians who are living when Christ returns. That same statement will be horribly bad news for everyone who has rejected Christ or put-off making a decision for him.

Let’s go back to the part about God not having control of everything happening on earth. It may not sound right, but it is true. Yes, Jesus does have possession of the key(s) Adam turned over to Satan in the Garden of Eden. But, for a reason known only to Christ, he bides his time. I think he wants to give more people time to find him, and accept his offer of forgiveness for their sins and restoration into God’s family.

In the meantime earth remains a broken planet—moving from bad to worse. Satan knows he has already lost the war; but, he is driven to attack God by using mankind in general, and often, you and me as his pawns. He is evil, and the father of lies. To Satan (and his demons) the fact his time is growing shorter only means he must work harder to create as much disturbance, mayhem, havoc, and death as possible. The tragedy is, he is good at what he does. To see this you have only to look around. Maybe even, at yourself….

You see, being a Christian is not always easy. Far from it. Have you noticed almost everything we do, or participate in, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, lets start at, “beginning”. Beginnings are usually pretty upbeat and exciting. You’re excited, glad and confident of your plan/idea. You just know this plan/project is going to succeed. Time passes. Maybe a little, maybe a lot; either way, as you approach the end it’s usually with either excitement, contentment, and joy; or with relief, possibly dismay, or worse.

If it’s the latter, what happened? The “middle” happened. You see, it is in the middle of our dreams and plans that Satan has set up his workshop! It is in the middle that you are likely to run into one or more of what I call the 5-Deadly D’s*: doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat, delay. For discussion purposes, let’s look at the first three D’s, and then tackle the last two.

Doubt: It’s subtle, and operates insidiously. It starts oh, so simply: “Did I remember to…”? Or, “Did I miss something? This isn’t feeling quite right”. Well, doubt leads to more doubt. Doubt of yourself, others and ultimately, if left unchecked, you will begin to question God. “Why is God letting this happen to me?”

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. [Ephesians 1:4-5. NLT]

Just think what it means to be a part of God’s family—and a co-heir of Jesus. Remembering this, is my number two response when I find myself in doubt.

Discouragement: Usually a result of doubting yourself. It can grow to include others who may have a stake in the plan. Regardless, you will likely concentrate on the problems instead of engaging the one who can fix anything and everything. Re-read the opening Scripture, and remember…

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. [Philippians 4:6. NLT]

This is my Number one response. Get use to talking to God. You can talk about anything. God is actually listening for your “call”. Talk to him as you would to your best friend. How great is that.

Diversion: Another one that is subtle, and insidious. It is right on the heels of discouragement. Satan diverts attention to all the wrong things. It’s a case of making the wrong things seem to be the right things. You spend your resources on the wrong goals, …usually making things worse. If you ever get the chance, ask Eve (that’s Adam’s Eve—found in Genesis 2) about diversion.

26aAnd the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. 28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [Romans 8:26a, 28. NLT]

Whoa! Does that mean even as Satan is trying to destroy me, God can cause Satan’s efforts to somehow end-up helping me or others? Yes! But do not stop reading at, “…those who love God”. That last period is mine. And the last nine words are critical.

The first three Dangerous D’s are pretty straight forward. And, if you have run your thoughts and ideas past Jesus, asking for his insight and help; then listened for, or found help by reading your Bible or in daily devotions, or other ways that God can “speak” to you; then you have already gone a long way to insure you are walking God’s path. Experience is a good teacher. So expect that in the future you will learn to recognize the first three D’s quickly and immediately engage Jesus.

A couple of cautions: First, be open and honest. Tell God if you think you made a mistake. Remember God knows everything. You cannot hide anything from him. But he wants to hear it from you. Second, be careful if you get advice from others. If it is biblical or “right” in God’s eyes that’s one thing. If it is from any worldly source, be skeptical! Anything you’ve read in any secular text, or gotten from social media, or from the television, radio, news paper, or just plain word-of-mouth must be examined critically. Then consider throwing it away.

Now, let’s look at the last two Deadly D’s…

If you are facing either or both of the last two Deadly D’s it is usually an indication of not recognizing the first three Deadly D’s and not engaging Jesus either soon enough, or at all. You are on dangerous ground as I noted above. Satan has a foothold—if not a stronghold. This is not a battle you can fight and win by yourself. Satan does not play fair. He is the father of lies. He is also not human. He is a fallen angel, a supernatural being. He has a large group of other fallen angels in his service. If you want to live, and I mean this literally, you must have God on your side.

Defeat: Feelings of failure. You can get to the point of, “…why try”. It’s a failure of faith. You’ve been beaten so low, you just give it up. Think about that and what it means to Satan, to God, and to you. It’s a dangerous place to be; but far from hopeless. In fact it’s also a place of high potential.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” [Hebrews 13:5. NLT]

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. [1 Peter 4:19. NLT]

Satan is rubbing his hands together and laughing. He figures he’s as good as got you. You, on the other hand realize that what you are seeing and feeling are not ways that God works. It is Satan who lies, cheats, steals and murders. It is Satan who has led you to giving-up. Quitting. And, yes, your relationship with the only person who has loved you from before you were even conceived is in limbo. It is your move!

But first, I want to discuss the last Deadly D.

Delay: Delay makes you put off something to the point that it never gets done. I think delay is the main tactic Satan uses when someone is being called to accept Christ as their savior, redeemer, and restorer. In other words being called to become a Christian and follower of Christ.

Satan whispers little things like: Come on, you know your going to hate all those rules and laws. You’ve already got a pretty good life going. I mean you got a job, a car, lot’s of friends, parties, the sex is great—even with your wife. Hey, you’re not hurting anyone. You’re a sly fox. And, you can’t show me even one so called Christian who hasn’t gone off the wagon in one area or another. The hypocrites! Besides you’ve got lots of time for fun before you might want to do something else. And, there are lots of religions. So don’t be too quick to jump. Let the good times roll. Yes sir, lots of time—for lots of fun.

That’s only one example, and for Christians we have to assume that putting off God’s plans for our lives is absolutely not going to have a good outcome. Think of Jonah! And ultimately for non-Christians, it will be fatal, …for eternity.

Remember those last nine words from Romans 8:28, where we were discussing being diverted. By living the life God has mapped out for us we are not buying blessings. Rather, we are following Christ by loving God in all we do, and loving others as Christ directs us.

Jesus replied,”’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment, A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37- 39. NLT]

If you are a Christian it is highly unlikely that you will die, because you have been forgiven, renewed and restored. When I said your relationship with the only person who has loved you from before you were even conceived is in limbo, I meant that God is ready to help you, but you must engage his support.

To open the door all you need do is ask. A simple heart-felt, “Father, I need your help.” will open the line and get things moving. Remember confession is the best place to start and while he knows it all, you really need to get it out into the open, as it were. It may take some time and there may be some unavoidable consequences; but with God, you will persevere. And just think, one minute Satan thought he had you ready to renounce your God, and the next thing he knows you’re not joining his team. And, Jesus has used him to give you a stronger testimony. Oh, the irony.

If you are not a Christian, it is likely that God is still waiting for you. Actually, God would rejoice if every single person on earth would come to Jesus for Salvation. Truly. (There is an exception. But more about that in a bit). When you realize the Holy Spirit is talking to you, nudging you, and encouraging you to accept Christ as your Savior, go to Christ by telling him you know you can’t save yourself and you are ready to receive his free offer of salvation and a new life. Confess your sins, and accept that Jesus is the Risen Son of the One True God. Ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live in you as you begin your new life—free of all your previous and future sins. A new life that will become perfected when you reach your departure date from your current life and move into eternity in the presence of God, and all the saints that have previously made the same journey. (That’s everyone who has died in God’s Grace.)

Now, about that exception. God is a just God. Remember that, as I talk about a subject I’ve found a lot of ministers tend to talk around, instead of addressing head on. It’s not easy to talk about. And, God is the only one who knows it’s threshold. But it is, or should be, of extreme importance to all who are not Christians. It’s called “hardening of the heart”.

That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden you hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath. ‘They will never enter my place of rest’”. Be careful then, my dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning away from the living God. [Hebrews 3:7-12. NLT]

I used to say, when speaking of my temper, “I have a very short fuse—that is very hard to light.” I think that is a bit like what happens with hardening of the heart. Renouncing or rejecting God would seem to be a common factor. God may give you a lot of rope; but, at a point only he can see, your option for salvation is canceled, period.

The take-away is this. While “the middle” can be a very dangerous place, it does not need to be. As a Christian you will still sin. I’m sorry, but it is inevitable while we live on this broken planet. But, as a Christian you are forgiven and not carrying a burden of sin. You have unlimited resources at your side. Talk to God constantly, and keep him at your side. If you do this, God will take care of you. You have his promise. You may have rough water while in “the middle”, or any other time for that matter. By engaging Jesus, you will prevail and come out stronger, as a result.

If you are not a Christian, no amount of self help books or any New Age religion is going to help you—long haul, or short. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to a new life; and, an eternal life. That is the long and short of it. Your time is ticking away.

Abba – Father,

Thank you for your saving Grace.

Father your plan for salvation and restoration is so easy for some and so hard for others. I wish everyone could see the overall completeness of your plan for mankind. And believe.

Lord, thank you for showing me that Satan was destroying me. That I was destroying myself by listening to him instead of the God I had known. Even though I had done nothing to deserve another chance, and plenty to deserve a lightening bolt; you had a plan for my (new) life.

The part that I am still in awe of, is the many blessings you have given me after my return. And the blessings you have made me aware of receiving even during my dark period. That was,… I find no appropriate words. But I know you understand.

Father, I pray for every soul that is still undecided or has fallen away, as I did. Somehow they must be brought to an understanding of the futility of the path they are on, and the glory and blessings they can yet receive by simply asking.

I love you Abba,

Larry

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* The Five Deadly D’s are found in the Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream. Illinois. In my large print edition they are on page 13, in the third chapter of Genesis. The chart calls them, “Satan’s Plan Against Us”. For use in this blog, I called them the The Five Deadly D’s.

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