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#SpiritualWeapons for Gospel Identity

Christians are waging war, but not according to the flesh. We wage spiritual war, not like the crusades in the Middle Ages. Satan wounds our minds and souls with lies, not cuts. Although evil takes human forms, we are waging war against the demonic realms of Satan and his angels beyond the human and unseen to the human eye (though present and real).

Satan is a the father of lies and he deceives, tempts, and slanders us frequently. What we fight against are his strategies or devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), which are twofold; temptation and accusation.

Satan’s Two Main Devices: Temptation and Accusation

1. When we overestimate our identity and believe God is all grace and less holy, we are vulnerable to Satan’s temptations.

2. When we underestimate our identity and believe God is all holy and less loving, we are prime candidates for Satan’s accusations.

People’s Two Main Errors: Overestimate and Underestimate

1. When we overestimate Satan we ascribe too much power to him, and we become fearfully superstitious.

2. When we underestimate Satan we ascribe too little power to him, and we become secular.

In C. S. Lewis’ introduction to Screwtape Letters he wrote how the demons “themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.” (Lewis, C. S.. The Screwtape Letters . HarperCollins. Kindle Edition).

We are not dependent on specialized “super” ministers to work their magic for us, nor do we believe the secularist spin that every explanation is due to natural and scientific causes.

In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 we are taught how to fight with truth/Gospel and prayer/faith to wrestle down Satan’s lies in our minds, taking them captive. We renounce the “thoughts, arguments, and lofty opinions” raised up against what we know of God and our true identity with authority and confidence in Christ.

  “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of  God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (Emphasis mine).

Do you want a Spiritual Father? Ask God. I did.

I love coming to meet with a “father in Christ” regularly. Do you have one or two? I don’t know a better way to gain godly wisdom than from Christian sages, who love me.

They emphasize what I already know, and inform  me about what I don’t.

Sometimes I wash my hands, and I look at this humorous list from an OT scholar’s wife. Now, my mentor has written many, many scholarly books on the Old Testament, and has taught worldwide from the bible. So this list of “home rules,” I assume is from his dear wife. She often provides the treats for our hours together.

I love Willem. He is Dutch born, and is a gift from God. He teaches me from wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Although he travels to teach, he & Evona are often at Christ Church where I have to preach to them! (Pray for me, no, them.)

Do you have a “father” or a “Paul?” Do you seek wisdom? Do you want the good life? Do you want a harvest of righteousness? (Psalm 112 & 2 Corinthians 9:8-9). Ask God for a spiritual father or two.


#Luther #ReformationDay

Martin Luther was incognito as a knight, named Sir George, on his way back to Wittenberg University from the Wartburg Castle. He stopped in the Black Bear Inn for dinner.

Two Swiss students had dinner with Luther, not knowing it was him. At one of the tables sat a man alone dressed as a knight. He wore a red cap, “man capris” pants, and a short, snug-fitted jacket; his right hand rested on the pommel (top) of his sword, his left grasped the handle. His eyes were fixed reading the book opened on the table, but at the entrance of these two young men, he raised his head, waved to them warmly, and invited them to come and sit at his table; then, presenting them with a glass of beer and noticing their accent, they began a conversation. The two students mentioned that they were determined to study under the great Martin Luther.

How did Luther end up dressed as a knight in 1522?

Five years Earlier (1517) the Indulgence Controversy Erupted

It was not over food & beer, but over Pope Leo X’s financial problem, having exhausted the Church’s money in wars and in the massive building project of St. Peter’s and the Vatican.

Indulgences were certificates sold by the church that guaranteed the purchaser, or the designated beneficiary, relief from a stipulated period of time in purgatory.

The sale of indulgences was entrusted to a Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel, a profane man and a brilliant salesman, who used jingles (according to Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses) such as the gem: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs,” and made the assertion that even if one had raped the Virgin Mary, one of his indulgences would be sufficient to cover the sin.

Luther preached against indulgences, but the standard academic protocol for announcing a debate was to nail to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg theses. Luther nailed his 95 theses against the practice of selling indulgences. (The printing press published it & hit the Church’s revenue dept even harder!)

The Diet of Worms 1521

The church had now exhausted its options for handling Luther. Excommunication was the final sanction – April 1521 – excom-munication meant that Luther was a nonperson. Thus, in April 1521, Luther arrived in Worms to face his greatest challenge so far. Here, at age 38, Luther stood before Charles V and said:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.”

As he left Worms to return to Wittenberg, he was surrounded by a group of armed men and kidnapped. (After nearly four years as the center of attention for both church and empire, Luther would vanish from the public eye for the better part of a year.)

1521 Sir George, the resident knight of the Wartburg Castle

Luther spent the rest of 1521 incognito on a mountain over the town of Eisenach, translating the New Testament into German. He would sneak into town occasionally to meet Philip Melanchthon for dinner. He said:

“All I have done is to put forth, preach and write the Word of God, and apart from this I have done nothing. While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with Philip…the Word has done great things. I have done nothing; the Word has done and achieved everything.”


God’s Power in Human Weakness

In Genius & Grace, Dr. Gaius Davis records how 9 heroic Christian leaders manifested God’s grace in spite of painful handicaps. Leaders such as Luther, Bunyan, Cowper, CS Lewis, and Amy Carmichael, Davis argues, suffered with obsessive-compulsive disorders like anxiety, depression, guilt, darkness, & doubt.

Davis’ thesis can be summarized in two convictions; namely, that:

One, grace doesn’t change our personality or temperament. (If you were an extrovert before conversion, then you will be an extrovert after. You’ll be easier to live with. If an introvert before, then an introvert after. It will be easier to live with yourself.) And . . .

Two, grace doesn’t render us immune to physical or mental illness. (Conversion does not remove because they show that God’s grace is sufficient for us in them.)

This month Christians remember the Protestant Reformation 500 years later. I have been assigned to teach on Luther, Calvin, and Knox both at my local church and at a nearby seminary. As i do i remember 2 Corinthians 4:7: We have this treasure (the Gospel) in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.


“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.”

John Calvin in preface to 1534 French translation of the New Testament

Where are the Sweetest Spots?

“Sweet are the spots where Immanuel has ever shown his glorious power in the conviction and conversion of sinners. The world loves to muse on the scenes where battles were fought and victories won. Should we not love the spots where our great captain has won his amazing victories?” Robert Murray McCheyne

Some times we find ourselves in dreadful spots where despair and the sentence of death is all we may expect from looking at our circumstances. God is near to all who call upon His Name in Jesus, however, and He raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He is our rescuer! God is glorified in rescuing us and changing dreadful spots into the sweetest spots in our stories.

This song makes me rejoice and exult in Christ, our Rescuer 🙂

Artwork by Will Coats

Identity in Christ

Identity in Christ

Our identities, besides being one of the most precious things to protect from theft, crisis, or loss, are extremely important to God. The Father has given each of His children a personal identity in Christ that will shape them on their journey to heaven. If, in the process of identity formation, we ignore what God says concerning our identities, then we may expect confusion in the other three seasons of spiritual formation, from adolescence to old age (see chart below for Calling to Christ, Intentionality for Christ, and Legacy from Christ).

Robert Davis Smart

Embracing Your Identity in Christ:: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Kindle Locations 116-121). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.

Spiritual Failure: The Unlikely Path to Christian Success

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61).”

When is spiritual failure predictable? The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was seriously and deliberately going to get in big trouble and difficulty. The situation was intensely dangerous when Peter felt led of the Lord to say something like: “Master, I know things are getting rough around here, but I want you to know that under no circumstances will I let you down. If every single one of these guys let you down, you can count on me. I won’t.” (I don’t think this made the other disciples happy, and they made sure to record this account in the gospels.) Jesus told Peter that before the crack of dawn Peter would fail him.

Spiritual failure is predictable when we rely on the strength of our own commitment, when we think we stand, when we underestimate Satan’s desire to sift us like wheat, when we lack watchful prayer, and when we presume that we can hide and blend in with nonbelievers without having to admit we love Jesus. All this was true of Peter.

How does spiritual failure happen? Spiritual failure happened to Peter so fast. Surprised by the servant girls’ questions and trying to blend in unnoticed, Peter denied Christ three times. The rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered and wept with the sting of Jesus’ rebuke, the look of compassion, and the promise Jesus made about Peter’s aftermath of failure to strengthen the others. Spiritual failure is predictable and happens fast, but it need never be final.

Peter posted his sign, “Gone fishing.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the others fished all night and caught nothing. “Did you catch anything?” Jesus asked them from the shore. “Nothing,” they replied in admitting their lack of success. Peter knew it was Jesus and struggled towards shore to sit by another fire where Jesus again turned to look at Peter. Three times Jesus asked: “Peter, do you love me with deep intensity?” Jesus asked this three times in order to remedy Peter’s three denials.

On that day Peter became a success because Christ makes spiritual failures into his special instruments and endows them with power from the Holy Spirit for victorious living. Whereas Satan wants us to take the occasions of our failures and make it our identity: “You are a failure,” Jesus defines our identity by his victory. “You are Simon (Pebbles), but you shall be called Peter (a Rock).” Although we all have spiritual failures, Christ refuses to let them define us. All God’s heroes have spiritual failures on their resumes.

Spiritual failure may just be the path to success for the Christian.

Christian Identity Leans into Something Lasting Like “Planting Trees” by Andrew Peterson


We chose the spot
We dug the hole
We laid the maples in the ground
To have and holdAs autumn falls
To winters sleep
We pray that somehow in the spring
The roots grow deep

And many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn, hmm

He took a plane
To Africa
He gathered up into his arms
An orphan son

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
This tree will spread its branches out
And bless the dawn

So sit down and write that letter
Sign up and join the fight
Sink in to all that matters
Step out into the light

Let go of all that’s passing
Lift up the least of these
Lean into something lasting
Planting trees, hmm, yeah

She rises up
As morning breaks
She moves among these rooms alone
Before we wake

And her heart is so full
It overflows
She waters us with love
And the children grow

So many years from now
Long after we are gone
These trees will spread their branches out
And bless the dawn

These trees will spread their branches out
And bless someone, hmm

A Page on Identity from Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Danish Philosopher-Theologian Soren Kierkegaard’s Definitions of “Sin”

  • “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God. . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God” (The Sickness Unto Death, 1849, 162).

  • “Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him” (TRFG, 162).
  • “Sin is building our identities and self-worth on anything other than God” (162).
  • “It is seeking to establish a sense of self by making something else more central to your significance, purpose, and happiness than your relationship to God” (162).
  • “[Kierkegaard means that] everyone gets their identity, their sense of being distinct and valuable, from somewhere or something . . .“Sin is the making of good things into ultimate things” ” (162).