Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Taking back the yard

The mole in my yard is winning. I mean, absolutely kicking my butt. He’s creating havoc, tearing up the yard and leaving his mark. I’m not happy. 

And he’s gloating about it, the little vermin. I saw him doing what appeared to be something like a touchdown dance. There should have been a flag for taunting. 

I think he’s got friends, too. Maybe a whole team. The kind of team that plays dirty (pun intended). Like the Oakland Raiders of the 1970’s, whom Steelers coach Chuck Noll called “the criminal element of the NFL.” If that reference is too old for some of my younger readers, think an entire roster of players like Ndamukong Suh. 

But he doesn’t belong here. He’s not welcome. We don’t put up with that type of behavior in this league. I’m the commissioner of my yard and it’s past time to do something about it. We’ll see if I have any more authority over the situation than Roger Goodell had over Tom Brady in the “Deflategate” debacle. 

It’s not like I haven’t tried. Really, I have. But apparently my efforts have been too futile for such a conniving, scheming rodent. A friend gave me two of those sonar traps that are supposed to drive away moles and gophers. They’ve become nothing more than “base” for a friendly mole game of tunnel tag. 

Another friend loaned me a spring-loaded trap. I set it where I knew the critter was digging, but no luck. I think the pesky creature is using it as a work out gym, doing some push-ups with the spikes, getting stronger to impress his lady friends. 

I even bought some poison peanuts and dropped the pellets into the tunnels around the yard. Eats it like popcorn while watching the game and left me a thank you note for hooking him up with the snacks. Nothing fazes this guy. 

Well, I have had enough. I’ve been too tolerant. I’ve given up too easily. But no more. This is one enemy that’s going down. Whatever it takes. I’m taking back my yard! 

You know, there’s a greater enemy than moles invading our territory. Our chief adversary is the devil, and he is a cruel foe. He’s caused enough damage to our families and homes already. He’s wreaked havoc in our communities and cities. He’s torn up plenty of patches of this nation’s landscape and has an appetite for even greater destruction. He’s tunneled into the fabric of many churches and left mounds of dirt in his wake. He’s burrowed his way into the soul of America’s culture with wicked schemes, evil intention and detestable lying. And he’s kicking our collective butts. 

My fellow Christians, we have been too complacent. We’ve given in too easily. We’ve allowed Satan a foothold, and now he’s gloating over dead babies killed in the womb, a growing cultural acceptance of homosexuality and all things sexually immoral, the confusion over gender identity and increasing suppression of religious freedom, along with his many other sinful victories over the collective conscience of this nation. 

Well, I’ve had enough. Satan doesn’t belong here. Not in my yard. Not in my life. Not in my home. Not in my church. And unlike the NFL commissioner, I have authority in Christ to do something about it. James 4:7 says: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” I also have the power of the Holy Spirit within me and the sword of God’s Word in my arsenal, and the truth is that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. 

Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus took care of that battle on the cross and by rising from the dead in resounding victory. That victory belongs to all who belong to Christ. 

It’s time to live in victory over Satan and his schemes. Let’s take back our yard in the name of Jesus!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prayer for the Umpqua Community College family

Lord God in heaven, we’ve witnessed this scene way too many times already. The school shooting last week in Oregon leaves another community devastated by grief and sorrow. And though we’re separated by 2,000 miles we feel the heartache of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors who are staggering in sadness from such a senseless act of murder.

But God, it’s almost beginning to numb our conscience. The news hardly surprises us anymore. We’re not losing any sleep over this. There are other stories to cover. The Umpqua community will deal with their loss and move on. And soon we’ll hear of another deranged madman killing children in some other school somewhere else. 

I’m asking you, Father, to please keep our hearts compassionate for those who are suffering. It’s been reported that these victims were targeted for their Christian faith. They are brothers and sisters in Christ who were not ashamed to declare their trust in Jesus, even when it meant they would die. Thank you for giving them the courage to honor You with their dying breath. May You reward them richly for their sacrifice. 

Let us, as a church, not fail to weep with those who weep and suffer together with those who suffer. As one body in Christ may we encourage them and care for them in their time of need. Father, I pray that Your grace will be sufficient in their weakness. I pray that Your strength will help them and that You will uphold them with Your righteous right hand. I pray, O God, that You, the Great Shepherd, will lead them by Your goodness and mercy, that You will comfort them with Your protection and provision, and as they walk through this valley of the shadow of death, may they know that You are with them to comfort them every step of the way. 

O Lord, our Rock of Refuge, our Shelter in the Storm, our Strong Tower and Mighty Deliverer, we pray further believing that You will somehow work this evil out for good. May salvation arise from the desolation. May beauty rise from the ashes. May joy come in the morning and dancing replace the sorrow. Lord God, for what You are doing and will keep doing to bring healing and hope and peace to those who seek Your face, we praise You and give You thanks. It just may be, Father, that multitudes turn away from sin and come to faith in Jesus through this tragedy. May it be so. Amen. 

Abba, our Father, we live in a broken, sinful world, full of anger, hatred, confusion, chaos, and despair. We confess that we have brought judgment on ourselves because we have rejected Your commands. We have gone away, like sheep, and turned to our own ways. We have stubbornly rebelled and chased after the desires of our evil hearts, and all the while refused to listen to Your voice calling us back to the paths of righteousness. And our nation lies in ruins. 

Jesus, You are our only hope! We don’t need new laws. We don’t need band-aid solutions that mask the underlying problems. We need major surgery. We need a heart transplant. We need to recognize our sin, confess it and repent, and return to You before it’s too late. O God Almighty, I am pleading with You to drive us to our knees, seeking Your face and turning from our wicked ways. O Lord, make us desperate as we pray, desperate for Your help, desperate for Your presence, desperate for Your salvation. 

Apart from You, Lord Jesus, we are sunk. We’re seeing the ship sinking deeper and deeper as we take our eyes off of You. But Your Word gives me hope, and my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus, our Savior and King. For our nation, for our communities, for our children and their families, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.