“Stratego”

After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.

When you’ve been around church and church people for a while you can’t help but become fluent in “Christianese.” You learn all the catch phrases and all the theological presuppositions of the various camps within the Tribe. And sometimes, if you’re not careful, you can ignore a legitimate spiritual principle as a reaction to the abuse of said principle you have witnessed. Reading about King Hezekiah this morning, I was reminded that while no, there is not a demon behind every bush; there is an Enemy, and He does employ definite strategies to attack and discourage God’s people. Let’s talk about one of those.

If you’re not an astute student of the Bible you may have never heard of King Hezekiah. But way back, when Israel had been split into a Northern and Southern Kingdom, Hezekiah ruled the Southern kingdom of Judah(a southern man like me). He had been one of the few good kings who had followed the Lord with all of his heart. He cleansed the temple, organized the priests, and restored temple worship. And there had been, what we call in “christianese,” REVIVAL!! And then, “after these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself.

One of the things the Enemy loves to do is to attack immediately following times of spiritual renewal. So often, after God has brought revival into our lives or following a time of spiritual breakthrough or when prophetic words of promise and encouragement have been spoken in/to us; the Enemy will launch immediate “counter measures.” His hatred for God and we who bear his image is provoked when he perceives that spiritual renewal has “fortified our cities.” He comes like Sennacherib and blasphemes God, seeking to bring discouragement, doubt, and eventual demoralization. He tells us that our faith in God is misplaced, that we will fall before him like countless others have before us. But he lies!!

And Hezekiah prayed this prayer before the Lord: “O Lord, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Listen to Sennacherib’s words of defiance against the living God.”

Through the cross of our Lord Jesus, God has disarmed all spiritual rulers and authorities. He has already won the victory, and in Him nothing can separate you from God’s love. “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And he will lead you into victory, fulfilling his words spoken in/to your life. Thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere!!

And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword.  So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side.

What About Bob?

I received a text yesterday from someone who, for the sake of anonymity, we’ll call Bob. The text read simply, “I’ve lost my way.” The moment I read it I knew what he meant. You see, Bob has had experiences with God and has as we like to say: “Made a profession of faith.” But his whole life has been in again, out again, in again, out again, and now-he’s pretty much “out.”  Shortly after receiving Bob’s text, we talked on the phone. We talked about many things, and I don’t feel like I did a particularly extraordinary job in giving my counsel. So Bob, if you’re reading; this one’s for you. (And all us other “Bobs” out there as well.)

When it comes to having “lost your way,” you are not alone my friend. I have been EXACTLY where you are!! Even now, after walking with Jesus all these years, I still lose my way. There are times in each of our lives when we blow our own minds and freak our own selves out. We look around and ask ourselves, “Where am I, and how did I get here?” Sometimes, it’s nothing we’ve done or haven’t done, it’s just life. The way gets dark and confusing. It happens to all of us. But there is a reason why He’s called the Good Shepherd Bob- He comes to seek us out! He loves you and desires you to be filled up with His love. The mere fact that you reached out to me proves He’s still working, and that you’re not too for gone. This time in your life is one more instance in which He is saying, “I love you Bob. Follow me.” Let Him, bring you to Himself. He wants to.

So, what about the addiction problem. Bob, you know I KNOW.  I can’t count the times in the past when I threw the drugs away, out the window of the car or whatever and then turned right around to find them. And yes, the complexity of addiction encompasses a lot more than I can go into in a single blog article. But I’ll give you the first thing that comes to mind, from one addict to another if you will. Ready? Here goes: the drugs aren’t your problem. The drugs are the way in which “the problem” manifests itself. And like I said, the complexities of addiction are vast, but allow me to TRY and simplify it.  Our lives are made up of things others have done to us and things we’ve done to ourselves, and in some of us the hurts play out in addiction. But Bob, let me tell you, addiction is no match for the love Jesus has for you.

The Holy Spirit can heal you of the hurt and the pain that has lured you into addiction in the first place. I know it has become a “stronghold” in your life, but he can demolish it, along with all the other strongholds. You don’t have to be ashamed. Let the addiction be a reminder in your life that you so desperately need the grace and love of God. And remember, his grace can shine through your weakness. And as He keeps on freeing you, saving you, and LOVING you, you will be used by Him to show others the way. This brings me to the part where we talked about relationships.

Like I said on the phone, I know the Enemy is whispering in your ears, telling you that if you give yourself to Jesus you’ll have to forfeit the relationship you’re in. I know the deceiver is paralyzing you with fear when it come to this issue. You can’t imagine letting go, and perhaps you’ve told God, “I won’t let go.” Well, whether or not it will come to that, I don’t know. But I have observed in my own life that the things I “instinctively protect” and make off limits to God are definitely areas that need addressing. This may sting a little. The Bible calls it idolatry. Again, I don’t know, but I’ll bet that you do. It would seem that we always do. But I do know that whatever giving yourself to Jesus entails, His love will empower you to do it. Know this: this person can’t fill the place in your heart that was created for the Great Romance. That is a fact.

Lastly, you said on the phone that you didn’t know how to “give it all” to God. Well, it’s really not all that complicated. It’s another lie we tell ourselves. Let me ask you, how have you given yourself to addiction? How have you given yourself to your “person”? Think about it, we all know how. And the cool thing is that He will give you the grace and faith and love required to do it!! He is able to do more than you can even imagine. And believe me, I know first-hand how great an imagination you have.

I love you “Bob.” And any faithfulness, loyalty, compassion, gentleness, etc… that you’ve seen in me is only a small reflection of the perfect LOVE He has for you. You will make it. He is working in you RIGHT NOW. Give yourself over to Him. Just say, “Yes.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.