2.Don’t make a deal with the devil…or with a man who does not Believe. When the oath that has been made is broken or the rules are changed mid-game we should have expected as much. “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” Fool me again and again and again? It’s bound to happen. Remember, “A tiger doesn’t change its stripes!” What other than concern for temporal appearances (Ego and Pride) keeps an Unbeliever accountable?
3. And…Praise God anyway. The devil, his friends and ferocious claws and teeth are not a concern. Remember Daniel in the Lion’s Den? Or hear the Word in Matthew 10: 26 -28 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Love doesn’t kill. Truth doesn’t kill. And I don’t belong to the one who can destroy my body and soul in hell! I don’t live in the darkness! I am a child of the Light!
1 Thessalonians 5: 12- 28 gives us
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Grace. What a beautiful word. It makes me think of gliding swans or ballet dancers pretending to be swans…it makes me think of Olympic ice skaters and gymnastic floor exercises done to the theme song for “The Young and the Restless”. Graceful is a Southern Lady…a seagull riding the breeze…the quick response to being accidentally wronged, “Oh, it’s OK. It was an accident.”
Grace. What is this “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
The dictionary says that grace is indeed “simple elegance or refinement of movement.”
And also “(in Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. “
Free. Unmerited favor. Of GOD! We don’t deserve anything…because even the best of us are pretty bad. Yes. Be honest here. What are some things that have popped into your mind today? Good for you if you didn’t actually act on any of them! And maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t do anything…at least that anyone knows about. Maybe you just thought things that you KNOW were not good thoughts? Perhaps? Maybe? Did you? If you say that you only had good thoughts at all times is that true?
I am not here to judge you. I am here to give you the Good News that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” That is all. And Believe that when we do the two things about…the declaring and the believing…that we will be transformed! Ephesians 4:22-24 tells us “ You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
It starts in our mind. What do we want to think? I love what Philippians 4:8 suggests… “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
This is what my mind told me on Saturday afternoon as I was driving down the road from the church where I work to my house. I was already in a “Happy Frame of Mind” because I had been setting up for Sunday Morning Children’s Church and Sunday School Classes for the youngest people in our congregation…and for me that is like getting ready for Easter or Christmas morning!
So…As I am getting in my car, a huge breeze begins to blow. I pull out of the church parking lot and it seems like a big storm is about to pass through. As I am driving down the neighborhood road, the leaves from the tall trees that line the road begin to pour down…thousands of leaves falling down from their swaying boughs. If you live somewhere flat like Kansas or Texas you can not really picture the sight…so let me describe the road and the trees and the view of the sky with falling leaves for you. The road is a narrow two lane road with steep hills to either side thickly lined with mature maple , oak, pine and other trees. There is about a 15 degree visibility of the sky…almost no sky…but the sky that is typically there at this particular moment was heavily blotted out by the leaves.
And I had to stop my car.
Right in the middle of the road.
There was no one coming behind me or toward me for what seemed like several minutes but was probably 45 seconds.
And I smiled…and watched…and was giddy. Because the leaves were falling in August. And I was getting to view it. Falling leaves mean something to me…and they were dropping like large confetti at a New York Parade. They were catching a breeze and flying straight upward like the snowflakes did on the day that my Daddy John died… they swirled and spun in little tornadic whirling dervishes that are like my Grandfather and his Angel friends walking along my path with me.
The falling of leaves has a voice for me. It tells me clearly and plainly that God sees. And that God is here with me. And that everything is going to be alright…no matter how it may appear.
It was glorious to me. Even though it was messy. Even though it was a little bit scary. It was wild and out of control. And yet it was glorious.
It made me giddy.
Because I know that Tigers and Leopards and the Devil and anything else that may come my way can try to harm me…but I am in the hand of the All Knowing Creator of All. And at this very moment He is working things out. By His Grace I am saved. From anything that comes my way. And He gives me rainstorms of leaves in August that fly upward toward the sky because He knows that sometimes I need to see Him present and working things out… even when things seem messy and out of control to me, everything is a breeze to Him.
So, Praise God in it and through it all.
No matter what.
It’s all gonna be alright.
Everything’s Gonna Be All Right. Believe.
One final thought: A tiger can’t change his own stripes…and a leopard can’t change his own spots…but people are not tigers or leopards and people are not demons (although they can be possessed by them and make deals with them) so people can change. We can be reborn! Into a new creation! But not by our own will or strength. Through God all things are possible. Mark 9:22-24 says, “…’But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Galatians 2:20-21 puts it like this, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law,Christ died for nothing!”
We are not saved by following laws which we do in our own power. We are saved by accepting the free gift of God’s grace that washed away the stripes and spots and banished the demon possessions….something we did not nor ever could do for ourselves. And the devil we see doesn’t have horns or a pitchfork…at least not that are visible. But in the battle of dark and light or good and evil, light and goodness may sometimes lose a battle but the War has already been won. What side are you on? There are no fence-sitters or spectators to the battle. “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:19-22
We are all victorious. Declare it and Believe.