Monday, January 28, 2013

Watch Out for the Eggs in Your Nest!

 I have struggled with guilt all of my life. That probably seems funny to most people who know me because I have always been a type A personality; a leader; an achiever; one who can always be depended on. I have spent more that three-fourths of my life teaching Bible studies, discipling others, and doing "things for the Lord"! So why is it that I struggle with guilt when there are many people who never do anything and don't feel the slightest bit of guilt? Good question!!! I have asked it many, many times and wondered why the concept of "grace" was the hardest one for me to get into my heart as much as I tried to serve the Lord and please Him.

 As "Christ-followers" we all have an enemy and he is very powerful. In fact, he is known as the "enemy of our souls" or "satan". But his power is infinitely smaller than the power of our Savior and  Lord, Jesus Christ. I grew up in a family that loved the Lord and His Word and so I heard about Him as far back as I can remember. I never had a doubt that what I was hearing was true. That is a very secure way for a child to grow up and I believe ideally it is how God would have all children to grow up. It doesn't happen that way because He gave humans free choice and so some children suffer due to the decisions their parents make.

There is a pitfall to never knowing anything except Jesus. That pitfall is that you really don't experience the dramatic change that people who lead a radically sinful life apart from Christ and then come to Him feel. I had to make a conscious decision "for Christ" just like they did but I was very young; too young to even know about many of the sinful lives that some people live.The enemy uses this lack of dramatic change on countless people who grew up that way in my opinion. I know that as a first born child to a minister with high expectations for myself and from others, I always felt a great sense of responsibility. Responsibility, if not channeled in the correct way can lead to bondage. And that is what happened to me. I became enslaved to guilt big time.

How is that? The enemy comes in to these believers and whispers in their ears that they haven't done enough for the Lord. If they are sick or not doing all that much at the time or if they are "working their head off", the tactic or strategy is the same. Heap on the guilt!!!! Make them feel that God is not pleased with them and that no matter how much they do, He never will be. Tell them that they were not really sincere when they gave their heart and life to Jesus or they would have more to show for it. Keep hammering them with these negative thoughts until they think that they cannot stand it one more day! And it will work most every time until we "wake up" and realize that the guilt is coming from the enemy himself and not from our Lord! Satan is known as "the accuser"! That is not God's strategy for working in the life of His children. Satan likes for us to believe it is the Lord chastising us when all the time it is him making us feel a paralyzing guilt that is hard to describe but extremely effective! He is often even successful in making us doubt our salvation because of all of the guilt. But, as you will see below, salvation is a free gift from God and not something that we can earn.

Today I read an article from the online magazine "The Illustrator". I found it to be absolutely liberating. I read it several times and promised myself that I will save it for those times when I find myself under attack again. Having been homebound for the better part of three years, his strategy had begun to start up again by trying to make me feel guilty that I am not teaching or speaking right now and that there are days when I really don't come in contact with people to minister to although I have fought that one with the very real truth that I minister online, by phone and in prayers whenever I am able and have the opportunity. But this article felt like it was written just for me and I am guessing that there are others out there who will feel that it was written for them so I am sharing in in the author's own words because it cannot be said any better: Please take the time to read this short little illustration. It may just set you free!!!
                 "The Infiltrator. Radical Grace from the Book of Romans (3: 28)"

"The enemy is on the loose, and his greatest goal is to distract our troops from what is truly important!

Imagine making believers feel guilty that they don't do enough in their neighbourhoods! It would be easy enough to do. People are easily fed by guilt. If we push a bit harder, they might even come to believe that they don't qualify for heaven. There is no way anyone can live on works alone, and thus, they doubt that they will ever be able to enter Heaven! A master plan from the evil one himself!

This is why Paul insisted: "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Gal 5:4 NIV) In other words, if we believe these lies from the evil one, and if we try to earn our way to Heaven, we will fall short. Ouch! All that work for nothing! In fact we have completely erred and "have fallen away from grace"!

Let no one ever tell us that anything we "do" will earn us Heaven. Works is NOT grace! Grace means mercy, clemency, pardon. It wouldn't be grace if a contingency was attached to the price-tag: to be obtained only after having done 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 community hours. Oh! Did I forget a few zeros?

This is why the following message is being broadcasted 24 hours a day throughout the entire New Testament: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." (Rom 3:28 NIV)

Salvation is an act of faith, not of works. We either believe in what Jesus has done for us on the cross, or we believe that we can somehow save ourselves. In reality, we should not see works as a way to Salvation. Rather, it should be a manifestation of our gratitude towards our gracious Heavenly Father.

The same enemy is manifesting himself all over the world. Take for example the brown-headed cowbird. It makes other birds believe that they are not up to their task, that they need to work harder than ever. To help them with this, the female cowbird lays her egg in an occupied, but temporarily-empty, nest. The parents are either out doing their "outhouse activities", or they are looking for a snack. Soon the parent birds come back to find that they have an extra egg to take care of.

Maybe they miscounted?

The cowbird chick generally hatches one to two days before the others. It grows quickly, and is an aggressive beggar, often stealing food from its younger (and smaller!) Nest mates. Its host parents truly have their wings full! How can they manage?

The evil one uses the same tactics, real infiltrators, to make us believe lies.

Some host parents don't put up with such shenanigans. Vireos birds, for example, bury the cowbird egg at the bottom of their nest, and yellow warblers either abandon such nests or build a second nest on top! In other words, the infiltrator can be defeated! But only by standing firm against it.

In the same way, we must also stand up to the infiltrator! Bye bye intruder!

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV)

This is serious business. Our eternity depends on it. Who will we believe: the cowbird tactic one or the One who conquered death?

What's that egg doing on my porch?"

Many thanks to the author of this piece, Ron Chaffart!!!! I certainly believe that it was inspired by our living, loving God. Thank you, Ron!

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