But Why?

You've got it made.
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The world is at your fingertips. Thousands adore you, sing your praises, rush to do your bidding. You have everything you want, including outrageous joy, peace, and harmony with everyone who matters.
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Yet, your heart yearns for something. That dirty beggar on the wrong side of town has captivated you. You spend your days searching for him, calling out for him, investing everything you have to find him. You long for the day you can stroll together and talk. Just enjoy each other's company. You'd do anything for him, but he doesn't understand. And he doesn't seem to care.
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"Why?" your adoring fans ask. "Why on earth? Him? You can't be serious. There are thousands like him, not worth a dirty penny. Why would you...?"
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Don't we struggle with that one when it comes to God? We hear that God desires an intimate, loving relationship with us individually. We profess to believe it, but isn't there a little voice inside that continues to doubt? Why would God want to hear from me?
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That big Why often becomes a stop sign. A hurdle that cannot be vaulted. It halts our progress toward God and sometimes makes us turn around and go back.
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We lap up the stories of Jesus, chant the Bible verses, and grasp the generalities of God. Yet, deep down the big WHY remains and keeps us from pursuing God the way He wants us to. We just cannot fathom why the Creator of the universe--One who could part the Red Sea, bring people to life whenever he felt like it, and stop the sun in its course--would care one bit about an insignificant creature wandering about on one of His planets. It just boggles the mind.
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Once we start asking WHY, we've taken a dangerous detour. It's not wrong to ask; just wrong to demand an answer before continuing on this journey toward God. There are too many whys and not enough answers that will fit inside a finite brain. God's mind is infinite, so it's no wonder we are incapable of comprehending all His WHYS.
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So rather than slam on the brakes when I hit a WHY, viewing it as a stop sign in my pursuit of God, I'd rather see it as a cattle guard. A cattle guard demands that we slow down, proceed carefully, endure a few bumps, but it doesn't have to stop us.
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So why in the world would the Most High, Almighty God, Creator of Time care to walk and talk with me? I have no clue. I'm not worth it. I have nothing to offer. It's a little like me giving business advice to Bill Gates--not necessary.
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But Scripture makes it clear: God does desire it. He pursues me, talks to me, gives me insights, wisdom, peace, and best of all--His presence.
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Satan loves to keep erecting those WHY stop signs to keep us at arm's length from a God who longs to shower us with love and affection. So ignore those WHYS. Treat them like cattle guards and bump right on past, secure in the knowledge that if it was imperative that you understand, God would have explained it to you.
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Spiritual Warfare


"We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against...spiritual wickedness in heavenly places..."
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Ever since The Exorcist, modern society has been intrigued by the prospect of unseen forces wielding power. The eternal fight between Good and Evil.
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But the problem with this fascination is that tends toward the scintillating. Evil is presented as either a dark power with tantalizing possibilities or as a wild force that cannot be contained by anyone. Neither approach is truth.
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The Bible has a great deal to say about the realities of the unseen world and I have dealt personally with it for the past two weeks. Not by choice, but by appointment. And the battle is far from over.
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As the teacher of a Sunday evening spiritual growth class, I felt led by God to delve into the realm of spiritual warfare. I have had frequent dealings with it lately as part of my counseling ministry and am becoming aware of how much demonic forces are involved in holding mankind captive.
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It began the day I decided that the next week I would teach on the person of Satan and how to recognize his tactics. Out of the blue, deep depression hit me like a swarm of bats. For three days I struggled under the weight of thoughts, moods, and suggestions that were not mine. Wave after wave of emotional and psychological darkness flooded me until I could hardly think.
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I'm ashamed to admit that it took me so long to figure out what was going on. Here I was preparing to teach a class on Satan's devices, and I was all but ready to quit my class and the counseling ministry because of one of them. Then the light clicked on.
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"Wait a minute! Wait just one minute..." Clarity hit as forcefully as the depression had done. "I get it! I'm about to teach on spiritual warfare and somebody doesn't like that."
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Once I understood, I knew what to do. By the next morning, it was all gone.
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The next week, things were fine. I wondered if he'd given up until Sunday morning. During services, pain struck my abdomen. An old pain I had not had trouble with in 15 years struck with a force that took my breath away. I was doubled up all day, praying it would leave before 6:00.
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"Lord? Do you want me to cancel class tonight? Is this from you?"
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"No and no."
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"Then, Satan, you're up to your tricks again. God has told me not to postpone the class, so I'm going if I have to prop myself upright. You cannot defeat me. God will be my strength."
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I hurt right up until I stood before the class, then the pain left for the hour and a half that I taught my little flock about spiritual warfare and wearing the Belt of Truth. Three ladies came up to me afterwards to tell how desperately they needed to hear this teaching, as they were struggling with such oppression.
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As I walked to my car after class, the pain hit like a sledgehammer again. All the way home, I debated going to Urgent Care. I took two steps into my house and crumpled to the floor and cried out as twisting pain shot through me. Then it was gone. Completely.
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When I rose, I was fine. Satan had his last kick before taking off.
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When we set our hearts to seek God and serve him, Satan screams with hate. Defensive battle is hard enough, but when we go on the offense, speaking God's truth into the lives of others, he goes crazy. I know for a certainty that there are some in my class who desperately needed this information. Some who are under Satanic oppression and feel helpless to resist. To learn how to stand firm, how to defeat the enemy was like I'd thrown them a life raft. Satan was about to lose them and he was determined to stop it.
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Taking on the enemy can be difficult, painful, and irritating. He is not a gracious loser. How thankful I am to know that "the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but spiritual for the destruction of fortresses."
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The enemy may get a few jabs in, but God always wins. New hearts were freed, more shackles fell off, and victory continues to spread like wildfire. Spiritual warfare is worth it, but don't expect it to be easy.
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Wasting Time?


Water running down the drain...
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The refrigerator left open on a hot day...
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Backdoor standing open while the central air unit tries to churn out enough cold air...

Waste.
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I hate it. I was thrifty, frugal, and waste-conscious before it was politically correct to be so. I got it from my parents, who got it from theirs. My mom was still reusing 20-year-old plastic bags right up until she died. I'm not that bad, but close.
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I also hate wasting time. I like that feeling of accomplishment when I finish something worthwhile. Time well spent, even if it was only for my benefit: furthering my education or just relaxation.
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How the Apostle Paul must have hated being stuck in a Roman jail, wasting precious time. Accused by a bunch of self-righteous bigots who didn't even know their own law, he was forced to bring his exploding ministry to a screeching halt while he waited for them to get their act together. And waited. And waited.
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For nearly 3 years he sat, feeling useless, while the fledgling churches he had planted cried out for help. How he must have physically ached to go to them, straighten out their messes, comfort and chide them as a loving father would. But all he could do was pray for them...and wait.
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And write letters.
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It was during this forced wait that he wrote what became much of our New Testament. Letters to his friends at Ephesus, Colossae, and Phillipi--all written while he "wasted" time.
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Clearly he used even this forced confinement as a time to draw closer to God, lean on His strength, and listen as the Holy Spirit spoke words of truth and wisdom into his heart. Words that Paul would pass on to others and in doing so, change the world.
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What are you facing right now that feels like such a waste?
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Family falling apart? Kids out of control? Job loss? A bad medical report?
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God doesn't view waste the way we do. He promises that nothing in our lives is wasted when given to him to do with as he pleases.

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We see what we might have accomplished, if only this hadn't happened.
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But God sees the supernatural outcome He plans bring from that loss---once it is His to use.
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Waste is a bad thing, no doubt about it. And nothing is more wasteful than going through life, experiencing all its joys and sorrows, and never giving God free rein to transform your mess into His masterpiece.
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So give it to him. All of it. The bad reputation, the huge mistake, the failure, the sin stronghold. And watch what He does with it. Because God never wastes anything that belongs to Him.

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If You Really Are...


Remember those taunts in the schoolyard at recess? A big bully daring you to prove something you'd said. Those taunts and challenges that sometimes shook your very identity:

If you can run faster than me, prove it!

If you're really NOT adopted, prove it!

If you really can walk that fence, then prove it!
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Jesus faced those same kinds of taunts from his enemy. "If you really are the Son of God, then jump off this building and prove it."
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Ever hear those kinds of taunts echoing inside your heart?

"If you really are a child of God, then you would wouldn't mess up so much."
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"If God really loved you, He wouldn't have allowed this in your life."
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"If there really was a God, wouldn't He....?"
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Just as those schoolyard bullies loved to watch you quake in fear, so does the enemy of your soul. He watches for any sign of weakening, any hole in your fence that he can slip through and attack your identity, your strength, and your future.
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Our only recourse is to follow our example: Jesus. When his very identity as the Son of God was attacked, he didn't take up the argument and try to prove otherwise. He merely responded with the ageless truth of God's Word: "It is written..."
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If you're trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus to pay for your sin, then you are a child of God and nothing the Devil says about it makes a bit of difference. The Creator of the universe knows your name, loves you, and has a plan for your life. No amount of ridicule or taunting from the Enemy will change that--and he knows it.
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If you're finding yourself stuck in the valley, pelted with stones, doubting your identity, respond as Jesus did: "Satan, it is written..."
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"...there is therefore now NO condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus..." (Rom. 8)
"...the Lord has not given me the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind." (2 Tim. 1)
"...I am a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus..." (Gal. 3)
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Just as those schoolyard bullies fled when the principal showed up, so will your bully leave in the presence of God's living Word. Lies quake in the presence of timeless Truth.
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And as he flees, give him a parting kick in the pants for me, will you?
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Shattered Glass


Smooth and unmarred. That's how we like our lives.
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If we could choose, most of us would have a history that looks like this ball.
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Yet, we want our lives to count for something. To make a difference. To leave our mark on the world.
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It can't be done with a life like this. There's nothing there to catch the light. It may be smooth and unbroken, but it's also dull and makes no impact.
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God specializes in mosaics. He often takes our smooth life and shatters it. Then with the skill of a Master Craftsman, he pieces us back together just the way he wants us.
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No mosaic masterpiece is exactly the same. Each is created from hundreds of broken pieces, pressed together to create beauty--just like our lives. Where we were dull and lifeless, God adds color. Where we were smooth, he adds the thinnest ridge, a slight bump that will catch the light in a unique way.
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The finished product is a life that sparkles. A life filled with vibrant color, intriguing design, and unlike any other. We were designed to reflect His Light. To impact the world. To demonstrate God's creative and restorative abilities.


So your life is filled with mistakes, tragedy, and hurt. You've been broken. Shattered by your circumstances.
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Good. You're about to become a masterpiece. God specializes in mosaics.
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What Is Your Isaac?


Finally!
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He'd waited over a hundred years, but there he was. The fulfillment of the Promise! A son.
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From that moment on, nothing was more precious to Abraham than that little boy. He taught him how to wrap his baby hands around a staff, how to treat the servants, and how to love his mother.
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Thank you, God. Thank you! The praise must have flowed continually from Abraham's heart as he delighted in his wonderful son. The promised son.
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And then the command: Give him to Me.
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Abraham's stomach clenched. Surely he'd misheard. God couldn't mean that, could he? Why would he ask such a thing? Why, after all he'd gone through to get this boy? Anything else, Lord. You can have anything else, but please not that.
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The crossroads.
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Abraham had a choice to make, the same choice we all make. To obey God or to turn away and follow what feels right to us. To say "I'll go this far with you, God, but no farther. I can't go there."
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We know the story, how Abraham took his son to the mountain and prepared to offer him there as a sacrifice to God. But God intervened and did not require it of him after all. But Abraham didn't know that when he went. He had no idea how this would turn out, but he knew he trusted God more than he trusted his own heart.
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What about you? What is your Isaac?
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We all have that little area of life where we're afraid to let go. God might require it of us and we don't know that we could give it up. Anything else, Lord. You can have everything else, but not that. Please, not that.
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So why did God choose Abraham's beloved son as the sacrifice? Abraham was wealthy and famous. There were so many other things God could have requested.
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God knew Abraham's heart. This was the most precious thing in his life and if he could offer Isaac to God, he would withhold nothing. He could be trusted. His faith was secure, his hope unwavering and his love for God was unshaded by anything on earth.
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What about you? What earthly love shadows your devotion to God? Is it your children? Your home? Your career? Your future plans? What is it that you believe deep down that you cannot entrust to God because he might require it of you and you couldn't handle that?
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Anything we withhold from God becomes our god. That precious thing we keep back when offering our hearts will rise up to take a greater place in our hearts than it should. It becomes an idol and God will not tolerate idolatry in any form. Abraham proved to himself that God was the only God in his life and from then on, God could use him to accomplish amazing things.
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What might God want to do through you, if only you would place your Isaac on the altar? What peace and joy might be ready to flood your heart the moment you let go of your idol? What power might flow from God's hand to yours when you unclench your fist and give him what is most precious to you?
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What is your Isaac?

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