Bad Move, Devil

Why it was really stupid of Satan to quote Psalm 91 to Jesus.

  

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

Psalm  91:11-13 (ESV)

I’ve loved using Desiring God’s Fighter Verse app to grow in the discipline of Scripture memorization (If you want to know more about it, I love telling people about it!) For the past few weeks, I’ve been working my way through memorizing Psalm 91. And this week, we come to verses 11-13. Many Christians are already familiar with verses 11-12, because this is the Scripture the devil tried to tempt Jesus with in Luke 4:9-11.

But here’s the thing: Satan should have known better than to quote that verse out of context. He should have known that Jesus would know ALL of Psalm 91, especially verse 13:

You will tread on the lion and the adder;
    the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

And here’s the thing about the other thing: Psalm 91:13 isn’t the first or the last time God’s Word says something about trampling a serpent underfoot. The first time is all the way back in the Garden of Eden. The first sin has been committed. Adam and Eve have fallen. God is about to banish them from the Garden. But tucked in the middle of this narrative, in God’s curse of the Serpent, we see the first messianic prophecy–what theologians and all lovers of lots of syllables call the protoeuangellion:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

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“Virgin Mary Consoles Eve” painting by Sister Mary Grace Remington (notice the serpent!)

God, speaking to the serpent, says, “There will come a day when an offspring of this woman (other translations call Him “her seed”) will crush (“bruise”) your head. Where else besides in a virgin birth would one ever talk about the seed of the woman? This can only be talking about Jesus!

Can’t you imagine Jesus thinking of that prophecy every time he read Psalm 91:13? And don’t you imagine Jesus immediately thinking of Psalm 91:13 the minute Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Him? And don’t you think Jesus was already anticipating when the Holy Spirit would inspire Paul to write, in Romans 16:20:

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. 

Satan knows Scripture. But he doesn’t know the story. Let that not be true of us today!

Remembering my Aunt Helen: Leave the Pear Alone

Aunt Helen was never happy with this painting. But my mom wisely told her to leave the pear alone.

This past Saturday (June 4, 2016), I was with my mother, my brother, and one of my sisters in Parkersburg, West Virginia, to bury my aunt. Helen Hartshorn Youngblood: artist, wife, mother, deacon, sister, aunt, friend. My Aunt Helen had a profound influence on me. This is the first of what may be several blog posts I write as I think about what I learned from her.

2016-06-05 12.57.49There is a painting hanging in my mom’s kitchen that Aunt Helen painted. For years, every time Helen would visit my mom, she would want to take the painting back to Parkersburg with her and work on it some more. She was never happy with it. Specifically, she wanted to re-do the pear. But my mom wouldn’t let her. “This represents who you were when you painted it, not the painter you wound up being,” she told her. “I like it just the way it is.”

If you’ve lived at all, you have a few regrets. You have a few pears you wish you could paint over. Nobody paints it right the first time. And artists can look at paintings they did early in life and say, “But I’ve learned so much since then!” Poets cringe at the sappiness and naivete of their poems from high school. People who journal can look at entries from a certain day (or even a certain season of days) and be tempted to rip those pages out. In those times, we can all do well to remember my mom’s advice to her sister. The artist we were is not the same as the artist we become. Leave the pear alone, and don’t think twice about signing your name to the work.

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Paul tells us, in his letter to the Philippians, that he is confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Consistently in Scripture, we are reminded to forget what lies behind, and to press on to what is ahead (Philippians 3:13-14). That what we will be has not yet been revealed (1 John 3:2). And if there is a sermon you would have preached differently, or a poem you would have written differently, or a pear you would have painted differently, or a day you would have lived differently, then let them all stand as a testimony to where God has led you.

Jesus’ last words on the cross, according to John’s gospel, were “It is finished” (John 19:30). In the Greek, the word is τελέωIt carries the meaning of an action being fulfilled or accomplished according to a command. It’s the last act that completes a process. Significantly, τελέω is also the root of the word for “perfect” that is used in Philippians 1:6.

There will come a day when our work is accomplished, because there has already been a day when Jesus’ work was accomplished. When we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. My Aunt Helen had her work completed this weekend, and she heard her Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, come and share in the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:23).

pearUntil that day, we keep painting, composing, singing, dancing, building, sculpting, and journaling. We are artists, every one of us; contributing our stanzas and quatrains and couplets; our still lifes and studies and portraits and landscapes to God’s great masterpiece. The artists we were are not the artists we will become. But if we are gentle with ourselves, and if we leave the pear alone, we can see how far our God has brought us.

Here and Now, Not There and Then

Are you depending on what’s next for your happiness?

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stand firmThanks to Stand Firm magazine, a daily devotional for men published by LifeWay Christian Resources, for getting me thinking in this direction during my quiet time this morning. 

Psalm 16:5-11 is a great affirmation of the “immediateness” of satisfaction in the Lord:

Lord, You are my portion[c]
and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord who counsels me—
even at night my conscience instructs me.
8 I keep the Lord in mind[d] always.
Because He is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad
and my spirit rejoices;
my body also rests securely.
10 For You will not abandon me to Sheol;
You will not allow Your Faithful One to see decay.
11 You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.

Notice all the present tense verbs in this passage: You are. You hold. I have. I keep. He is. Is glad. Rests. Reveal. Is. Are.

I confess that more often than not, I have a Chicago Cubs approach to happiness and contentment. I am always waiting till next year. The next promotion, the next recognition, the next change, the next phase. Why can’t I be happy in the here and now?

Matt Chandler has said, “No change of job, no increased income, no new electronic device, or no new spouse is going to make things better inside you.”

I still remember the first sermon I ever preached, when I was sixteen years old. The title was “Heaven Ain’t All There Is.” The text was John 10:10, about the abundant life. The opening illustration was about a 19th century immigrant who had saved all his money to buy a ticket to America. He had no money left over to buy food on board the ship during the voyage. Every night he looked through the windows at the passengers in the first class dining room, feasting at the captains table. His stomach growled, hunger gnawed, but he held on, knowing that once he got to America, everything would be better.

But finally, the night before the ship was to dock, his hunger got the best of him. He went to a ship’s steward and begged him for some scraps from the captain’s table. The steward asked to see his ticket, examined it, and said, “Sir, this is a first class ticket. You’ve been able to dine at the Captain’s Table for the entire voyage.”

Why was it easier to believe I could experience abundant life in the here and now at age 16 than it is at age 49? Am I waiting for the next big thing, believing that is what it will take to experience satisfaction in the Lord? I claim to believe that “heaven ain’t all there is.” Do I live this life as though peace and joy and satisfaction are only to be found in the next life?

Lord, let that not be true today. Today, let me claim that “my soul finds rests [there’s that present tense again!] in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2)

Today in Christian History: May 4

How a Catholic priest demonstrated Christlike ministry.

41f-kynl07l-_sx331_bo1204203200_4“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’

Matthew 25: 40

Okay, aside from being Star Wars Day (If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand), today is a pretty cool day in Christian history as well. This was my gem from J. Stephen Lang’s Christian History Devotional for the day.

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Father Damien 

On this day in 1873, a Catholic priest named Father Damien won a free trip to Hawaii! That’s not as glamorous (nor as trivial) as it sounds. At that time, the island of Molokai, Hawaii, looked like the setting of a horror movie. It was home to a large leper colony. The church had asked for volunteers to minister to the lepers, knowing that the assignment would likely be a death sentence for anyone that volunteered. But the 33 year old Damien, a handsome, healthy Belgian, took the job. When he arrived on the island, he found the conditions to be literally inhuman. Not only was the disease rampant, but the lepers seemed to have forgotten they were human beings. Rape was pervasive, and stronger lepers were throwing the weaker ones out of their shelters and taking them over. In  time, Damien helped them build new huts, a cemetery, schools and farms. Most importantly, he led many of them to Christ.

Inevitably, the priest contracted leprosy himself. But rather than heading back to the

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Damien, after contracting leprosy

mainland for treatment, he stepped up his activity, wanting to do as much as possible before he died in 1889. 120 years later, he was made a saint by the Catholic church.

The comparisons to Jesus don’t stop with the fact that Damien was 33 years old when he came to Molokai. Jesus stepped into our world and showed us a better way. He took our disease of sin upon Himself, and it killed Him. I am so challenged by Damien’s example of incarnational ministry.

A Blind Man Was Begging

blind-man

Yesterday at First Baptist Prattville, our pastor, Travis Coleman, preached about “What spiritual sight will do for you.” Although his text was Matthew’s version of the story (Matthew 20:29-34), I’m a little partial to Luke’s version (Luke 18:35-42). Here’s what struck me about the passage:

35 As He [Jesus] drew near Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. [Luke 18:35 HCSB]

 

Admit there’s a problem.

Even before Jesus showed up, this guy knew how to beg. Maybe that was all he knew. What a difference there is between “a blind man was begging” and, say, “a rich man was driving.” Or, “a smart man was teaching.” “A blind man was begging” tells me that he knew what his problem was, and he knew to ask for help. Often, I miss one or both of these things. I’m not willing to admit there’s a problem. And when others see I’m struggling, I will tend to blow them off and say, “No… I’m good.”

38 So he called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 Then those in front told him to keep quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” [Luke 18:38-39 HCSB]

Be Persistent.

The blind man was persistent. When told to quit, he shouted more. What keeps me from being so persistent? Pride? Fear of being embarrassed? Or worse, fear of being ignored? Am I afraid others are too busy to help? Is that my biggest fear when asking God for help?

40 Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him. When he drew near, He asked him, 41 “What do you want Me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” [Luke 18:40-41 HCSB]

Be Specific.

Finally, the guy was specific. His petition wasn’t some vague request that God would bless him. It was, “Lord, I want to see!” Am I specific in what I ask of God? Do I hold back from telling Him exactly what I need so that if I don’t get it, I’ve given God a loophole? I’m afraid that characterizes a lot of my prayer. And maybe vague requests yield vague results.

So, some takeaways for today. What can I learn from this blind man begging?

  1. Know what’s wrong with you.
  2. Humble yourself to ask for help.
  3. Don’t stop asking for help.
  4. Be specific about the kind of help you need.