The Spanky Chicken

Spanky was a very cool chicken.

I'm not necessarily a fan of chickens as pets, but Spanky was an exception. Laid-back and friendly, she preferred socializing over egg-laying.

Our flock had thinned out one at a time until only fat, red-feathered Spanky was left in the coop.

We felt sorry for her and put her in the back yard.
Our two dogs hardly knew what to think, but she made herself right at home. She ate out of their food dish, drank from their water bowl, and when they stretched out in the sun, Spanky squatted right next to them, soaking in her share of rays.

It didn't take long until Spanky the chicken thought she was a dog.

The scene in animal kingdom was funny, but it is not funny when it happens in the human realm. God knows our tendency to assimilate into whatever culture we find ourselves and that's why He sternly warned his people the Israelites not to take on the customs of the pagan nations around them. Every time he gave them victory over their enemies and more of the Promised Land, he also gave them instructions:

" shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you...
I have abhorred them...
I am the LORD your God,
who has separated you from the peoples
." (Lev. 20:23-24)

Some of those customs didn't seem all that bad by themselves: haircuts, fabric choices, etc. What was the big deal?

The big deal was that God knows how we are. Compromise always starts easy. It looks harmless. The more the Israelites tried to look, act, and sound like their pagan neighbors, the further they withdrew from God. It was only a generation or two until the entire nation was enslaved in idol worship and pagan rituals and God had to bring painful consequences on them again.

The modern church has so assimilated itself into our pagan culture that it is hard to tell the difference. We spend a great deal of time and energy defending our "right" to do whatever we please, never realizing we are only a generation or two away from complete degradation and its accompanying consequences.

What worldly customs have you grown comfortable with?
Do you look like a slightly-cleaner version of this world?
Or are you willing to keep yourself separate in word, deed, and thought as fitting for one bearing the name of Christ?

Wondering what became of Spanky?

We think she froze to death when winter came. With no warm coop or the feathers of other hens, she couldn't survive. And apparently, eating dog food isn't the best thing for a chicken either. She assimilated all right, but it was to her detriment.

Get the connection?


Suit Up--Part 2

Eph. 6:11-13 "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."
The Apostle Paul urged the Christians at Ephesus to suit up. One thing stands out clearly: If you have to put the armor on, then it can be taken off.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that because they believe in Jesus and have accepted him as Lord, they are automatically wearing all the defensive armor they need. What a shock when Satan knocks them flat!
The presence of armor implies that we are engaged in active warfare. Scripture is clear that an unseen battle rages all around us---good versus evil. And our minds and bodies are the battlefield. You didn't have to sign up or be drafted. You are already involved whether you know it or not.
Do you find yourself reluctant to admit that life is a battleground? Does it feel like "negativity" to focus on spiritual warfare? Can't we all just hold hands and weave daisy chains?
Satan will be glad to hand you the daisies because he knows that any soldier who has let his armor slip off is a prime target. Armies at war watch for signs that their enemy has relaxed its vigil, removed its armor, and is unsuspecting. Satan and his cohorts operate on the same principle. He knows better than you do whether your armor is secure.
God could have left us to Satan's devices. After all, we often choose his self-serving ways with eyes wide open, just as Adam did.
Thankfully, God is far more compassionate than we deserve. He has supplied us with everything we need to stand firm against the enemy's onslaught. But we have to pick it up and put it on. Day after day.
The key to the sufficiency of this armor is its stamp of ownership. A soldier's gear is issued by the country he serves and remains the property of that government. If every soldier had to provide his own weaponry, most would be sadly unprepared.
Our spiritual armor is stamped "Property of the King of Kings." You are not wearing YOUR armor. It is His armor. We are under the authority of our Supreme Commander and our armor comes with His stamp of authenticity--a stamp Satan recognizes quite well.
This armor also comes with directions for its use and if not followed properly, won't function well. But when kept shiny and oiled, buckled tightly and kept at the ready, all the forces of Hell cannot make a dent in it.
Ready to suit up? We'll look next time at the first piece and why it is foundational for the rest of the armor. Don't head for battle in your underwear!


Suit Up!

Imagine this. You are standing in your yard, pondering the crab grass, when a truck roars to a stop ten feet away. An army of Vikings sprays from it like birdseed from a shotgun.
Covered in furs and armed to the teeth, they roar with fury as they charge toward you. Their ten-foot spears flash in the morning light and hatred rims their bloodshot eyes.
They keep coming, hundreds of them. Angry, roaring, powerful and mean.
You stand frozen to the spot. The dirt-covered spade in your hand is not even worth considering as the army advances for the kill. You are the picture of complete helplessness.
Every one of us has felt that way at some point--weak and defenseless against the flaming missiles and slashing sword of our Number One Enemy. He slashes with mental confusion, fills us with doubt, whispers suggestions that make our skin crawl, and when we start to go down, he moves in for the kill.
"Why don't you take your own life. You're no good to anyone anyway."
As Christians, we've heard about the Armor of God, but it's hard to wrap western minds around the idea of wearing armor. A nice thought, but isn't it just imagery? Most of us have never stepped into a suit of real armor, never waged war on the battlefield, and we've certainly never considered ourselves ruthless attackers.
In fact, the concept of armor makes us slightly uncomfortable. Seems so insensitive. So aggressive. Just look at that sword! That's one sharp stabbing tool! You don't need a sword like that if you're only trying to protect yourself. Isn't the armor metaphor overdoing it a bit?
To our tolerance-worshipping minds it does seem harsh. Haven't we reached the enlightened age where we can use our intellect and reasoning powers to overcome evil?
Go ahead and try.
There. That didn't take long.
Satan has been around far longer than any of us and is craftier, trickier, and more evil than we can imagine. And he hates you. To try to fight him off alone is asking for trouble. The Bible is clear that he will attack, ruthlessly and often, and we are no match for him.
So let's take a close look at exactly what it means to wear the "whole armor of God." (Ephesians 6)
It's far more practical than you might think. And more important than Satan wants you to know. Even more than the crab grass issue.

Here we go, so stay tuned...

Are You on the Plane?

You can't wait to get to New York!

You've never been there and heard it's fantastic. The sleek jet is waiting for you and you admire it's crisp lettering, shiny silver body, and powerful engines readying for takeoff.

You get on and peek shyly down the aisles. Flight attendants move briskly about, looking efficient. You stand in the doorway and take note of the colors, the seating arrangements, the refreshments offered on the cart. You settle in the open doorway, one foot on the ground, and memorize the exit plan.

Your cell phone rings and your friend asks, "Are you there yet? How's New York? How was the flight?"

You frown in disgust. "I don't understand this. I heard this was a great airline. Other people have gotten on these planes and been in New York within a couple of hours, but we're just sitting here! This is ridiculous! I must have gotten a bad pilot or something."
You snap your phone shut and glare out the open door,
where your one foot still rests on the ground.

"Ma'am, you have to get on the plane if you want to take off," says the flight attendant for the tenth time.
You glare at her. "I AM on the plane, can't you see? What's wrong with this bucket? Why aren't we going anywhere? I guess flying just doesn't work for some people."

She smiles a tired smile. "We're not going anywhere until you get on the plane. You have to be on the plane ALL THE WAY or you may as well not be on it at all."

In order to get where God wants to take you in life, you have to get on the plane. 

However, most of us spend our lives with one foot on the ground wondering why God's plan just isn't working for us.

We think we can maintain a teensy bit of control, hold the Veto power, 
clutch that habit, that passion, that sneaky little sideline...
and still get where we want to go.

It doesn't work that way.

If you're weary of trying to get to New York by yourself,
if you can't figure out why life is not working for you,
if you're afraid you'll have to walk the whole way by yourself,
just get on the plane.

All the way.

And shut the door.

Trust me, the pilot is the best,

and you'll love the ride!


Where is Your Path Leading?

As I was reading in the book of Matthew this week, something new struck me.

We've all heard about Jesus being tempted by Satan and about his 40-day fast, but a little phrase caught my eye that adds a new dimension to it.

Matthew 4:1 says Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit "to be tempted by the devil." I'd never thought about the fact that he went there for that purpose. He knew as he trudged over the rocky crags and left civilization behind that he was about to encounter his archenemy face-to-face. And he had to win or all creation would be condemned forever. Your fate and mine rested in his meeting Evil head-on and finding the power to resist.

Have you ever thought about your challenges that way? Have you ever considered that while you are doing your best to follow the plan of God for your life, that plan may be leading you directly into Satan's path? When we suspect a trap, we usually bolt and run the other way. Surely God would never want us to tread that close to temptation. Or would he?

It's important to note that Jesus didn't seek Satan, didn't tread in his territory, didn't go looking for it, but temptation came to him. And he was prepared. Knowing what was coming, he prepared himself with fasting and prayer.

I've always wondered at that too. He was God's Son, yet even he did not feel adequate to face the ultimate evil without equipping himself with the fullness of God's power.

So why do we do less? Why should we think for a moment that we are any match for temptation on our own? Why do we so arrogantly think we can live the way God wants us to in our own strength? We toss token prayers toward the sky, dutifully run through our list of Christian do's and don'ts, and think we're equipped to resist evil. And Satan laughs.

If we had any inkling of what goes on night and day in the spiritual realm, it would probably terrify us. Maybe we should be terrified. If we saw how much ground we were losing every day to evil without even realizing it, we would be stunned.

But it might change us.

Ponder this today: If the Son of God had to spend 40 days gaining strength to resist Satan, then what are you doing to equip yourself?


Are You Holding the Shovel?

Anyone who's ever held a shovel knows you dig a hole one scoop at a time. Some ground is harder than others. 
Sandrock? You're gonna build some muscles!
Sometimes trouble is like that.
Many people find themselves wringing hands, sobbing into tissues, angry, hurt, ready to give up on life. Many times, they're angry at God for letting this happen. Doesn't He care? Why didn't He stop this? How could I be in such a deep hole?
Too often they don't see the shovel in their own hands. They started digging waaaay back there. Just little spadefuls at first. Nothing that caused much of a problem. Nothing they couldn't handle.
They thought.

It may not have been anything bad. Sometimes we can get in a big mess trying to do God's will, thinking we're on the right track, but doing it in our own strength or for the wrong reasons. Christian work can be as big a pit as any if it isn't being done in God's strength for God's pursposes and with the right attitude.

Little spades have a way of quickly becoming snowshovels when we've decided to do it our way rather than depend on God. One wrong choice leads to another. A compromising situation leads to lies, which leads to...

Have you been there? Suddenly, you're in too deep to see a way out and you're ready to scream for help. But by then, the damage is done. There is no easy way out. You're gonna get dirty.

Thankfully, God doesn't leave us in the hole when we're serious about doing it his way. However, His way usually does not include a rope ladder and a helicopter. His way usually forces us to dig our way out the same way we dug our way scoop at a time.

One shovelful after another, we start filling in the hole with right choices, good advice, wise counsel, and a huge dose of humility. God's way easily separates the ones who mean it from the ones who just want a quick exit. But don't worry about the others as they give you a jaunty wave from the sky. The ones swinging from the rope ladder will be back in the hole soon. God's way out leaves an indelible impression--one not easily forgotten.

What hole do you find yourself in today? What prison bars are you rattling, demanding an exit? Are you angry at God? At someone else?

Before you cast any blame, look in your hand? Are you holding the shovel?