The deadline to Sign Up for the Spring Break Mission Trip is this Sunday, March 4th. You can find the application here. If you have any questions, email Nick Wilkes at firstname.lastname@example.org. You don’t want to miss out, this is going to be an AMAZING week!
An XP3 Devotional
by Sarah Anderson
(Before reading this devotional, re-read Luke 15:11-32.)
Have you ever arrived somewhere and thought, “How in the world did I get here?” Maybe you zoned out one day and walked from lunch to your next class with no recollection of what happened in between. Or maybe it happened in some bigger stuff.
Maybe you felt that way at the checkout line when you handed over the credit card or the cash to buy another pair of jeans, another video game, another thing to satisfy your appetite for more. Or maybe you felt that way when you lied to your parents for the umpteenth time about where you were going and what you were going to do when you got there. Maybe you felt that way one night when you found yourself, again, on the web site you know you shouldn’t be looking at, but the urge to go there felt uncontrollable. Regardless of how, we end up in these places saying, “How in the world did I get here?”
I read a Chinese proverb recently that said, “If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.” When I first saw it, I thought, yeah, no kidding–not exactly profound. But it got stuck in my head. And it resurfaced again and again over the course of the next few days. And suddenly, it seemed a lot more profound than I first thought. Because sometimes we live like that isn’t true. Sometimes we hear a voice that tells us differently, and sometimes we listen to it. Sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, we start out in a direction and we truly believe that the outcome will not reflect the choices we are making.
When we first overspend and overindulge, do we actually believe the things we own will end up owning us? When we first lie to our parents, do we honestly think it will become a habit? When we first go to the inappropriate web site, do we truly feel it will turn into an addiction? Or do we listen instead to the voice that lured us there in the first place? That if we don’t do these things, we are missing out, that there is something available to us that looks far better than our current circumstances. And as poor, as unwise, or as flat-out stupid as our current choices may seem, we think that when we arrive at our destination it will be totally different. Do you think it ever really turns out that way? Ask the younger son.
“If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.” True. But do you know what might be even more true? If we keep listening to the voice of the Enemy, we will end up nowhere near where he has promised to take us. Our poor choices, influenced by a misguided voice, will lead to a poor destination. So the younger son ends up in a pig pen. And you and I end up imprisoned by our bad decisions. An addict. A slave. A liar. And we ask ourselves, how did I get here? By thinking that the voices we listened to were true, by thinking that the choices we were making were going to get us some place different from where we arrived. We end up confused, overwhelmed and possibly defeated.
Maybe one of the best things we can do in learning to overcome the Enemy is begin to work backwards. Where do you want to be? Where do you want to end up? What dream do you have for your future—a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now as a full-fledged adult? And then decide if the voice you are listening to is going to get you there. If you keep going the way you are headed, will you arrive where you want to, or come to your senses in the pig pen?
No one wants to wake up one morning asking, “How did I get here?” with the realization that we have a lot of cleaning up and a lot of making up to do. The younger brother had a long walk home to his father. He had a lot of backtracking to do. A lot of time to think through all the things that had gotten him to where he was. And he ended up right where he started: back on the farm. But this time with no cash, no inheritance and some hard-learned lessons under his belt.
So what can you do to make sure you don’t have to make the long walk back to the farm? What can you do to start quieting the Enemy’s voice today, so you don’t end up in the pig pen tomorrow? What can you do now to make sure that the direction you are headed in will get you to the place God has designed for you?
Questions to ask yourself:
- What do you think was going through the younger son’s head as he walked back to the farm? If you were in his place, what would be going through your head?
- Evaluate different areas of your life: friendships, relationships with your parents, studies, sports, relationship with God. Based on the Chinese proverb, “If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going,” where are you going in these areas? How do you need to change your direction?
For a long time when I heard the word “Satan” or “devil,” I had a very grade-B horror movie image come to mind. Isn’t that typically how we imagine this Prince of Darkness? Hard to take seriously, tough to see as a real threat, someone you are more inclined to see as a bunch of smoke and mirrors, an illusion that may have been scary at one point, but is much less believable in the 21st century? It can be challenging to give serious consideration to the idea of a red man with pointy ears ruling a sulfurous and fiery cavern under the earth.
So let’s not. Scratch that picture. Those pictures don’t make for good movies, and they don’t make for good reality either. Consider this instead. What if the Enemy, what if Satan was much more like the really scary movies, the ones that make you sleep with the light on? What if you threw out the idea of ghosts and goblins and opted instead for a picture much more realistic, but much more threatening, much more intentional?
You can thank a guy named Dante who wrote The Divine Comedy for coming up with the modern picture/image we have of the devil. The Bible itself doesn’t have much to say when it comes to the appearance of the Enemy, but he shows up in Scripture at the beginning, the very beginning, in Genesis. Are you familiar with the tree, the fruit, the snake and the bite that changed it all? And while that may mark one of his longer cameos on the pages of Scripture, his story doesn’t end there.
We learn lots about him simply by reading what other people say about him. His name itself is quite telling. Satan means “accuser”. If he has one aim, it is to accuse you, to accuse me and to accuse God. The apostle Peter refers to the devil as a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Jesus had some strong words to describe the Enemy and those who listen to his voice: “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!” (John 8:44-45 NIV).
In the Bible, there’s not one mention of a tail. Not one reference to a pointy goatee and eyebrows. Interesting. It is easy not to take that storybook image seriously, but much harder to dismiss the idea of someone out there is has made me his target, who’s objective is to deceive me, accuse me and destroy me.
C.S. Lewis, one of Christianity’s greatest modern thinkers said this, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” I think that for far too long we have let the image of Halloween costumes with red plastic masks and rounded off pitchforks define the image we have of Satan. We dismiss him as childish, outdated and no longer relevant. We start to, as Lewis suggests, disbelieve.
And this can be dangerous. We’ve all seen the movies where the telling music, the darkened rooms, and the oblivious soon-to-be victim falls prey to the manipulative and strategic moves of the villain. The longer we act like there is no Enemy, there is no threat, there is nothing to be concerned about, the more prone we are to be caught-off guard, to be lured unknowingly into Satan’s traps.
In 6th century BC a Chinese treatise was written called The Art of War. It is considered to be one of the oldest books on military strategy, and one of the more famous quotes it is credited with is, “know your enemy”. I think the proverb could apply to us as well. We need to know our Enemy. We first need to be willing to acknowledge he exists. Then we need to learn how he works. What are his tactics? What is he known for doing? What has he done in the past, and how is that a predictor for how he will act in the future? Where are you vulnerable? Where do you need protection? How well do you know the Enemy? It may be that you need to take another look, and live a little bit more alert of his workings and his intentions.
We need to be motivated in finding the balance between the two errors Lewis refers to—to disbelieve, and to over credit. We can’t walk around like there is a boogey man around every corner, but neither can we live clueless to the Enemy’s goal for our lives. It is a delicate balance, but it is something we need to care enough about to find, otherwise we lose. Too little attention to the Enemy makes us more susceptible to his plans for us, too much attention and we live more focused on him than on Christ, distracted from the purpose God has for us. The idea is to learn to live aware of a real and dangerous Enemy, but not to live in fear. To live with Satan’s objective in mind, but not to live paralyzed. To live with an understanding of the spiritual realm at work around us, but not to live dominated by the drama. Live like you know your Enemy.
Here are some questions for you to think about:
- What kind of picture comes to your mind when you hear the word “Satan?”
- Do you take that representation of him seriously? Why or why not?
- When you start to view the Enemy the way Scripture describes him (for example, John 8:43-45 and 1 Peter 5:8), how does that change the way you perceive him?
- How would “knowing your Enemy” change the way you live?
It’s no secret that middle school and high school students are dealing with identity issues. They want to know who they are, why they matter and where they fit in. The trouble is that while their natural self-awareness is heightened, comments that are intended for discipline and correction are easily interpreted as personal character attacks.
Maybe this sounds familiar? You are frustrated because your son brought home a progress report showing multiple homework zeros. You try to correct him, but he gets defensive and starts telling you that he’s sorry he’s not smart enough for you or sorry you think he’s such a worthless son. Maybe nothing so dramatic has happened in your house, but that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there—it may be just under the surface.
Discipline and correction are an important part of parenting, and they sometimes seem almost impossible with a teenage son or daughter. But don’t give up. Your child needs you to be involved and alert to what is happening in his or her life, and actively correcting behaviors that could lead your child to places he or she doesn’t want to be. However, the language you use when correcting him or her can make a big difference.
Because we are human, we are wired to react to our children out of frustration when we see them making choices that are inconsiderate, lacking in self-control or potentially self-destructive. When we respond this way, we often make “you are” statements: You are so lazy. You are so selfish. Or we will make broad sweeping “you never” and “you always” statements. What we really intend as correction ends up sounding a lot more like an attack on the value and worth of our child.
Understand, we all do it. It’s a natural reaction to the frustration and hurt we feel as we navigate the tumultuous waters of adolescence with them. But there are better words for us to choose.
This month, try to be especially alert to the words that you use when correcting your son or daughter. You may need to allow yourself time to step back from a particular situation before you enter into a correctional conversation. That’s okay. You can let your child know you are going to discuss it after dinner, or tomorrow when you come to pick them up from school. Then when you do have the conversation, try to use specific language to address the behavior that you want to correct. You can think of it as using “You are doing” statements. Words that let them know that while what they have chosen to do or say in this particular instance is not okay, that doesn’t affect who they are, how you love them and whether you believe the best about them.
When you are intentional about the words you use when you discipline, you can have a positive impact on your son or daughter’s self-image and help them make wiser choices.
To see the rest of this month’s Parent Cue, click here.
There are voices in your head. Whispers when you look in the mirror or at people around you. Words luring you to find something better than where you are. In fact, it is the pull of these voices that get us off track. Behind the voices is an Enemy, Satan. His mission is your destruction. His whispers and words can completely mess with how we see ourselves and our world—unless we start listening to a better voice, God’s, and work with Him to silence the voice of the Enemy.
Join us this month in The Vine and Life Groups/CRUX as we dig deep to figure out which voice is God’s and which voice is not.
To access the PARENT CUE for this series, click here.
Join us tonight at THE MIX @ 7pm in the Foyer. Come dressed in clothes you can paint in and come ready to serve! See you tonight!