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Posts tagged ‘deception’

Spiritual Abuse: What it is and Why it Hurts

SOURCE:  Dr. Phil Monroe

In 21st century United States, does spiritual abuse really happen? Can’t we all just choose churches where we feel safe? No one makes us (adults) go to church so shouldn’t spiritual abuse be nonexistent in this day—or at least happen only once (e.g., fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…)?

Sadly, spiritual abuse happens in all sorts of churches and for all sorts of reasons.

What is spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse is the use of faith, belief, and/or religious practices to coerce, control, or damage another for a purpose beyond the victim’s well-being (i.e., church discipline for the purpose of love of the offender need not be abuse).

Like child abuse, spiritual abuse comes in many forms. It can take the form of neglect or intentional harm of another. It can take the form of naïve manipulation or predatory “feeding on the sheep.” Consider some of these examples:

  1. Refusing to provide pastoral care to women on the basis of gender alone
  2. Coercing reconciliation of victim to offender
  3. Dictating basic decisions (marriage, home ownership, jobs, giving practices, etc.)
  4. Binding conscience on matters that are in the realm of Christian freedom
  5. Using threats to maintain control of another
  6. Using deceptive language to coerce into sexual activity
  7. Denying the right to divorce despite having grounds to do so

For a short review, consider Mary DeMuth’s 2011 post on spotting spiritual abuse.

Why it is so harmful

If someone demands your wallet, you may give it but you do not think they have a right to it. You have no doubt that an injustice has occurred. You have been robbed! When someone abuses, it is a robbery but often wrapped up in a deceptive package to make the victim feel as if the robbery was actually a gift. Spiritual abuse almost always is couched in several layers of deception. Here’s a few of those layers:

  1. Speaking falsely for God. Spiritual leaders or shepherds abuse most frequently by presenting their words as if they were the words of God himself. They may not say “Thus sayeth the Lord” in so many ways but they speak with authority. When leaders fail to communicate God’s words and attitudes, they are called false teachers and prophets. Some of these false words include squelching dissent and concern in the name of “unity.”
  2. Over-emphasizing one doctrinal point while minimizing another. Consider the example of Paul, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). In three other places in the NT, Paul says similar phrases. The application is that our leaders are to exemplify the character of Christ. Sadly, it is easy to turn this into, “do what I want you to do.” Paul does not say to imitate him. He says to imitate him whenhe imitates Christ. There are other examples as well: forcing forgiveness, demanding victims of abuse to confront their abusers in private so that they will meet the letter of Matthew 18.
  3. Good ends justifying means. It is a sad fact that many victims of other kinds of abuse have been asked to be silent for the sake of community comfort. Indeed, community comfort is important. But forcing a victim of abuse to be silent and to forego seeking justice is a form of spiritual abuse.
  4. Pretending to provide pastoral care. I have talked with several pastors who crossed into sexual behavior with those they have been charged to counsel. All too commonly, the pastor deceived self and other into thinking that the special attention given to the parishioner was love and compassion. In fact, their actions were always self-serving. However, the layer of deception made it feel (to both parties) like love in the beginning stages.

The reason why spiritual abuse hurts so much is that it always fosters confusion, self-doubt, and shame. This recipe encourages isolation, self-hatred, and questioning of God. When shepherds abuse, the sheep are scattered and confused. They no longer discern the voice of the true Shepherd.

This is exactly why the Old Testament and New Testament speak in such harsh terms against abusive and neglectful Shepherd: Ezekiel 34:2; Jeremiah 50:6; John 10:9. Words like, “woe to you…” and “you blind guides…” reveal that spiritual abuse for any reason is destructive and is not of God. And it gets no harsher than, “better than a millstone be tied to your neck and thrown into the sea” to illustrate the depth of evil in harming vulnerable people.

Whose “Whisper” Are You Listening To?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

The Sound of a Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. -Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this. Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (1 Kings 18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (1 Kings 19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (1 Kings 19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (1 Kings 19:4ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

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. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

Madison was such a person. She was bound by fear. Some call it insecurity. That is a fair term. She was an insecure young woman who was preoccupied by the arguments that swirled around in her head.

The controlling opinion of man was a stronghold that seemingly could not be broken. Even though she knew God’s opinion of her, as understood through the Gospel, should be the dominating opinion of her mind, it was not.

She had learned early in life that performing for others was the way to be accepted. Her daddy taught her this by his passive parenting model and in the brief moments when he did say something, it was generally discouraging.

This helped to shape her as a people pleaser. She was motivated not to disappoint others and incur their displeasure. She became all things to all people with the hope of being accepted.

In time, she became what others expected her to be. Though her early years with Christ were met with excitement, eventually the old argument came back.

The stronghold was never broken.

She never learned how to take every thought captive. She learned how to be saved, which she was, but she never learned how to grow into a new creation. Her former manner of life, which was corrupt through her deceptive desires to be liked, still had control of her mind.

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds. – Ephesians 4:22-23 (ESV)

She was still living the way she always lived and had not learned how to renew her mind according to true right living and true holiness. She was what I call an unbelieving believer–a Christian who still lives according to an un-Christian quality of life.

And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)

It’s a spiritual warfare

Madison was in a warfare of the mind. It was her mind that was under attack. According to Paul, this was more than just a human, living in a human body, being attacked by the negativity of other humans.

Though that was true, it was more than that. We live in a spiritual world where there are real demonic forces who are out to destroy the knowledge of Christ that resides in us.

The evil spiritual world cannot utterly destroy us because Satan is not God’s evil equal. But there are demonic forces who would enjoy nothing more than to derail a child of God from making God’s name great in this world.

Paul called this a spiritual warfare in this passage. He tended to view his Christian life as a life of spiritual warfare. Knowing where the main battle comes from is huge when you go to war.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. – 2 Corinthians 10:3 (ESV)

Do you know you are in a spiritual warfare? Do you know there is a relentless spiritual battle happening in this world and you’re part of it? You’re not a sideline reporter, but an active participant.

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. – Job 1:12 (ESV)

What Paul is teaching us here is not new. Spiritual warfare has been going on since Adam and Eve took their first bite of disobedience. The Devil tried to knock them off and he succeeded to a degree. He and his are trying to circumvent the work of God in your life too.

Do you know you have weapons to fight these spiritual battles–weapons that are divinely empowered? Do you know these weapons are designed with the power to destroy the strongholds in your mind?

Madison did not know this. One of the tricks of the evil ones is to disorient and deceive you. This is what Satan did to Eve. This is what was happening to Madison. She had bought the lie.

She believed there was something wrong with her. Owning her faith and living as a new creation in Christ were nice theological words that had no effect on her life. She was so wrapped up in her own fear, she did not know how to live in the freedom and good of God’s Gospel.

What is a stronghold?

The forces that are against you in the spirit world are no different than the forces that are against you in the physical world, in that they both desire the same thing–to take your mind captive.

The real question is how are you going to respond and fight against the forces that are against you, regardless of what the forces are. You have the power resident within you to fight against the strongholds that seek to take your mind captive.

These weapons of warfare are the divinely empowered truths of the Gospel. The real deal for you is whether you will use these weapons to destroy the strongholds–arguments and arrogant opinions raised up against God as revealed in Christ.

A stronghold is an argument you believe that contradicts the person and power of Christ. A stronghold is athought fortress of arguments that take you captive and hold you as a prisoner. These fortresses are designed to negate the person of Christ and His power (the Gospel) in your life.

Madison had bought the lie of insecurity or fear of man (Proverbs 29:25). Her fear ensnared her to a life of bondage, as manifested through people-pleasing, peer-pressure, and worry and anxiety about what others thought about her.

She was overly focused about nearly everything regarding herself. She second-guessed her thoughts, questions, and comments. She doubted her choices and actions. She anxiously controlled how she looked in public and what she wore.

Satanic forces could not destroy her soul, but they could influence her mind until her usefulness in making God’s name great was marginalized. Taking every evil argument captive and making it bow to the name of Jesus was an illusionary theological pipe dream.

What sinful thought fortresses are in your head

God is truth and His purpose for coming to this world was to transform us so we could walk in His truth. The Devil’s job is to disrupt the truth God provides and motivate us to believe a lie. He hopes to set up deceitful strongholds in our minds.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4 (ESV)

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. – John 16:13 (ESV)

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. – John 17:17 (ESV)

What lies keep the Gospel from dominating your thought life? What strongholds have been setup in your mind, that hinder the sanctifying work of God in your life? What sinful thought fortresses reside in your head?

  1. Lies you tell yourself–I have to be perfect. I must be happy. I need people to agree with me. I can’t shake my past. I deserve better than this.
  2. Lies the world tells you–You must be true to yourself. You are number one. I’m only human; everybody does this.
  3. Lies you say in your marriage–It’s your fault. If I had not married you. You make me so mad. Why can’t you be like so and so? I wish I was like so and so.
  4. Lies that distort the Gospel–I must earn God’s love. God won’t protect me. God does not love me. I can do what I want and God will forgive me. If I were more spiritual I would not struggle like this. God will bless me if I obeyed.
  5. Lies from the questions we ask–Does God really hear me? Does God really love me? Has God abandoned me? Why does God not stop the pain?

When these types of thought-fortress-lies continue to roll around in your head, they will take your mind captive and will move you out of line with the Gospel. This will ultimately reduce Jesus to become less than what He should be and the Spirit’s power in your life will be reduced to less than what it can be.

Fighting the fight with God’s truth

It is essential you arm yourself with God’s truth to overcome. You cannot arm yourself with fleshly weapons. If you do, you may feel as though you have won the battle, but you have not. Or, you will win a particular battle, but lose the ultimate war for your mind.

Fleshly weapons come from your own strength. Here are a few that are commonly used to fight some of the lies listed above: adultery, porn, alcohol, anger, medication, shopping, un-forgiveness, bitterness, and gossip.[1]

There are plenty more. Anything that is sinful is a fleshly weapon enlisted to fight a spiritual battle. None of them will work. They will further enslave you, while creating more dysfunction in your relationships.

Spiritual warfare looks different. Spiritual warfare is contextualized in the Gospel. The Gospel is the person and the work of Jesus Christ on your behalf. He is the one you need for this battle.

I’m going to take each lie noted above and run it through a Gospel filter. I’m going to lay the Gospel hammer on it, to crush its head (Genesis 3:15).

  1. Lies you tell yourself–I have to be perfect.

     

    You do not have to be perfect. In fact, if you try to be perfect, you are rejecting the righteousness of Christ, choosing to hold up your own righteousness as the answer. Not accepting Christ’s righteousness is another Gospel–your own gospel of self-atonement. Not admitting the truth of your imperfection makes you a liar (1 John 1:8).

  2. Lies the world tells you–You must be true to yourself.

     

    You must be true to Christ. He is the one you live for, not for yourself. Living for yourself is the lie of the world, a self-centered, anti-Christ way of thinking. You are to die to yourself and fully trust another, who knows better than you do.

  3. Lies you say in your marriage–It’s your fault/I deserve better.

     

    You will never be happy if things always go your way. You will implode through your continual imbibing of self-centeredness. You’re called to be content as you learn how to be sufficient through Christ rather than your fleshly desires (Philippians 4:11-13).

  4. Lies that distort the Gospel–I must earn God’s love/God won’t protect me.

     

    Jesus Christ died for you on the cross. He, who was in the form of God, took on the form of a servant to rescue you. There is no greater love than a man who will lay down his life for another. (Read Philippians 2:5-11Romans 5:6-9John 15:13)

  5. Lies from the questions we ask–Does God really hear me?

     

    The answer is similar to what you just read in #4, plus a true understanding of a theology of suffering. We are called to suffer, but if you equate suffering to God distancing Himself from you, then you don’t understand God the way you should (1 Peter 2:18-25).

Madison’s battles were not primarily against the people in her world. Sure, her daddy did her a raw deal. She’s had some other bad things happen to her–caused by others.

Her battles go much deeper than what has been done to her by other humans. She is in a spiritual battle with the evil influences in this evil world. When Satan tempted Christ there would not have been a temptation if Satan could not have come through with what he was offering.

The way we are tempted is when our desires are influenced by Satan and the temptation is real because he can give us our evil desires. This is John’s definition of worldliness in 1 John 2:15-16. It’s our desires that are influenced by evil forces to love things in this world.

When your desires cooperate with evil influences, you can rest assured a stronghold will be setup in your mind. When those lies take your brain captive, then your body will follow suit.

When most of your life is immersed in the things of this world and its influences, then you will be influenced, controlled, and captured by the things of this world–and that warfare will be in your mind.

A Gospel informed mind can easily take renegade thoughts captive to obey Christ. Take the battle in you seriously because your enemy takes it seriously. We should be influenced by the Spirit to desire the things of God.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us

 SOURCE: Adapted from an article at:   Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Addictions – the Stone Gods

As kids, none of us set out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction.

Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, that is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors: enslavement.

Addictions make us slaves to that object. Some people can feel the enslavement very specifically. Others are fooled into thinking they aren’t enslaved, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a big chunk of time. The reality is, we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us. Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the enslavement pathway.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face.

For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parent tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless. Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble, yet you still do them. That is enslavement.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered life as an understanding resource, tool, friend, or savior quickly became a cruel master.

The problem with idols is that they are chosen because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, so we give them our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long term relief that going to God will actually bring in-full.

Today, know and spread the news that for believers there is great hope. We are not alone in our addictions. No matter where we are, the Holy Spirit is within us and intercedes for us before God.

When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ, therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.”

This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us, and in Him we are free. When we are focused on Him, we can find the strength we need for freedom and victory over all our addictions. Your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, dreams, and hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Galatians 2:20

Trapped by a Life-Controlling Problem?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”

James 1:14-15 CEV

When we choose to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for help only God can provide, we have chosen to follow an idol—and we find ourselves dealing with a life-controlling problem.  Life-controlling problems usually trap a person slowly and progress through a predictable pattern.

A person is often lured into experimenting with a dangerous substance, behavior, or relationship because it provides a feeling of exhilaration. We call this pattern “The Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is happening.

Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee, founder of Living Free, states, “Addiction is death on the installment plan. No one ever plans to be trapped by a life-controlling problem, yet it happens all the time.”

Consider this … 

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:

(1) experimentation,

(2) social use or practice,

(3) daily preoccupation, and

(4) practicing just to feel normal.

Not everyone progresses through all these stages; however, there is no way to predict which people who begin the pattern will continue to stage four. The best time to deal with a life-controlling problem is before it begins. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves.

Is there an issue in your life that is tempting you and dragging you into a trap?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Prayer
Father, search my heart. Help me see anything within me that is developing into a life-controlling problem. Forgive me, and help me turn from it. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div. 

Our Soul Enemy

SOURCE:  Tom Eisenman/Discipleship Journal

The first rule of war is to know your enemy.

When the satellite TV company offered us—their “preferred customers”—a three-months-free package of movie channels, my wife, Judie, and I said, “Sure, sign us up.” If nothing else, we’d save a bundle on movie rentals while the kids were visiting us over the holidays.

What were we thinking?

Judie and I had known we’d need to make discerning choices about what we watched. But we totally underestimated the tsunami of violence, nudity, bad language, and unabashed affronts to a godly lifestyle that would flood our home once we got hooked up. Two days later, we called and cancelled.

This experience brought to mind again the Apostle Peter’s warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In this case our relationship with God was at risk of being devoured with each image and sound bite.

Devilish Tactics

The Bible clearly teaches that a powerful evil being called Satan rules over dark powers in this world and also over forces of evil that inhabit the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). He appears to be motivated largely by anger and envy; he was banished forever from the very paradise to which we, as God’s children, are now heirs. And so he aggressively opposes both the people of God and the work of God (1 Thess. 2:18,Mt. 13:37–39).

Satan’s aliases suggest the typical strategies he employs against us. He is called the tempter (Mt. 4:3), the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), and the accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). He is always looking for ways to wreak havoc in a believer’s life and will employ any or all of the above tactics—tempting, deceiving, accusing—to diminish or demoralize God’s people. Knowing his tactics will help us stand against him.

How tempting! First, let’s look at Satan’s role as tempter. How does Satan entice us? James describes the evil process this way: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas. 1:14).

James leans heavily on fishing imagery in this verse. We are like hungry fish, lured by the bait. The evil fisherman knows us well: our appetites, our obsessions, the potentially dangerous power in our suppressed angers. His lure will be personal and powerful. Whatever our particular desire, he will dangle it in front of us to entice us and drag us away from God.

If you are captivated by sex, Satan will make certain that opportunities to satisfy your fantasies are readily available. If your battle is with envy or jealousy, you will meet people at every turn who have more than you do or who have succeeded in areas where you have failed. If you are susceptible to anger, you will struggle to forgive a person who has offended you, finding it nearly impossible to get the incident out of your mind.

Weapons of mass deception. One can visit the Garden of Eden for a revealing picture of Satan’s next role: deceiver. The entire entrapment of Adam and Eve is a network of lies, deception, and half-truths (Genesis 3).

Satan asks Eve what God said about the tree in the center of the garden. She says God warned them not to eat of it or they would die. Satan responds,

You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

—vv. 4–5

In two brief lines he calls God a liar and implies that God has ulterior motives for withholding His best from the first couple. Further, Satan deceives Eve by suggesting that she can gain equality with God by taking things into her own hands.

Satan will similarly engage each of us. He will subtly invite us into dialogue about what God actually said or, more slippery yet, what God might have meant by what He said. We may find ourselves rationalizing why something we’ve always considered to be wrong might be acceptable in this particular case. Or an inner voice will convince us to indulge in something that will ultimately deliver only grief and pain. I deserve it, we reason, as hard as I’ve been working lately. Besides, everybody else is doing the same thing, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.

Remember, the devil has been around aeons longer than we have. He has been studying human nature and behavior from the beginning. He knows what lies we are most likely to believe. And he will not hesitate to use them against us.

I stand accused. Accusation is Satan’s third attack strategy. He uses this tactic to demoralize us and make us feel unworthy of a relationship with God.

Satan moves to the “accuser mode” after he has succeeded at tempting and deceiving us. In his roles as tempter and deceiver, the evil one whispers how sweet sin will be. “After all,” he reminds us, “God is a God of grace, mercy, and love. Nothing to worry about! You can always repent. Forgiveness will be easy.”

But once we take the bait, Satan changes his tactics. We’ve sinned, the glow has dimmed, and now reality hits. In that moment when the shame and emptiness of sin strikes, we’ll likely also hear a sneer within: “And you call yourself a Christian!” Now Satan is all over us about what losers we are, how unworthy we are to name the name of Christ, how undeserving we are of His costly love.

Have you noticed the common thread in these three strategies of the enemy? Whether he is acting as tempter, deceiver, or accuser, all these assaults are launched as attacks on our minds.

Messing with Our Minds

Let’s look at some specific ways Satan may try to invade the territory of our minds.

Commandeering our imaginations. Imagination is a wonderful gift from God. I believe it is given to us so that we can envision all we might do and become according to God’s power at work in and through us. But our imaginations are also vulnerable to Satan’s enticements, lies, and accusations.

Consider Eve. Satan shrewdly set her up to fantasize about grasping equality with God. The image was powerful, exciting, irresistible; any thought of following God in obedience and devotion paled in comparison. She ate, and then she became the devil’s advocate by inviting Adam to join her.

Fostering obsession. Another common strategy Satan employs to keep us off-balance is to feed our tendency to obsess. He will do anything to get our focus off of God and onto ourselves or our problems.

For instance, one person’s obsession might be guilt. As Satan keeps the image of her failures vividly alive, a healthy, active conscience is usurped by obsessive thoughts about how bad she has been. Remember, Satan is the accuser. His barrage of condemnation locks her inside herself and blinds her to the light of God’s forgiving grace.

One of my weaknesses is out-of-control worry. When my concerns are infected by the evil one, it’s like I have a video tape in my mind that won’t shut off. Over and over I replay an ugly list of what-if’s: What if this happens! What if that happens! Satan is playing on my fears, and fear always takes my focus off of God and places it on myself.

We are all vulnerable in some area. The evil one is prowling around, looking for host cells in which to plant one of his powerful obsession viruses.

Confusing our sense of what’s right. As we have seen, the deceiver loves to convince us that taking an action that is against God’s will can actually produce something good.

A person may conclude that it makes perfect sense to murder the doctor at the abortion clinic to save the lives of unborn children. Another might slip into a sexual encounter with a coworker, thinking that a temporary fling is just what’s needed to recharge the romance in a lackluster marriage.

Supersizing the initial pleasure. Satan also messes with our minds by ensuring that a first foray into sensual sin yields the greatest possible pleasure. By supersizing that initial experience, he hooks us into a pattern of committing the sin again and again in an attempt to recapture that first-time intensity. When indulging in the same experience doesn’t do it any longer, we up the ante.

A friend of mine started down this road when she tried marijuana. Over time she wound up addicted to heroin, which gave her the rush she could no longer get from other drugs. Finally clean after years of struggling with the addiction, she described her experience to me as “one big high, and the rest was killing pain.”

This is the nature of bondage to Satan: He works to produce in us a greater and greater appetite for a steadily decreasing pleasure. In the end, there is no pleasure at all. Only the raw hunger remains.

Encouraging isolation. In another mind-messing tactic, Satan tries to convince us that we can deal with our struggles on our own. Once we buy into this deception, we are less inclined to seek help and prayer support when we need it most. So we fail, and fail again, and fail again—and tell no one. Ashamed, we slip away altogether from fellowship with other Christians. Finally, isolated and alone, we pose no threat to the evil one’s deadly devices.

Distorting the truth about the reality of evil. The most effective mind trick of all is to downplay the truth about evil. If we don’t believe we have an enemy, we will spend no time preparing for spiritual battle. The truth is, as soon as we name Jesus as our personal savior we pick up enemies—all those evil beings pitted against the purposes of God. A spiritual battle is raging, and we are in the thick of it. If we refuse to believe it, we play into Satan’s hands.

Master Minds

Though these tactics may sound harrowing, we haven’t been left defenseless. Following are a few biblical strategies for defending ourselves against these attacks on the mind.

Guard your thought life. The Apostle Paul was apparently no stranger to assaults on the mind. He wrote,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

—2 Cor. 10:5, emphasis mine

In Phil. 4:8, Paul urges us to fill our minds with those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This is strong encouragement to make choices that strengthen and guard the territory of our minds.

This strategy helped me recently with a man I have struggled to forgive. He pretended to be my friend but behind my back was spreading rumors about me that helped advance his career. The evil one loves to use a situation like this to plant anger and bitterness. Yet I remembered Jesus’ admonition to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:44). Praying for an enemy is a powerful way to stake out the territory of our minds for the Lord.

Every time ugly thoughts about this man popped into my head and I felt anger rising again, I chose to pray for him. More than once, right after praying for the man and his family, I ran into him in a store or saw him drive by. Encountering him in person helped me sense immediately and thankfully how my thoughts had changed for the better.

Remember who you are. Often we don’t realize the full range of spiritual resources that has been passed on to us. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that Christians will

know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

—vv. 18–19

If we know the truth about our victory in Christ, nothing the evil one does can steal our hope. A growing knowledge of our heavenly inheritance will sustain us when Satan loads on the doubt or tempts and accuses us. And if we know and really grasp the fact that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to each of us, we will not fear the enemy’s attacks.

I have found it helpful to fill my mind with the truths in Ephesians 1. I’ve not only read this chapter repeatedly, I’ve also committed it to memory so I can carry it with me at all times. When temptations, doubts, or accusations assail me, my immediate response is to choose to remember who I am in Christ and all the heavenly resources that are at my disposal through my relationship with Him. When compared to the reality of God’s truth, the counterfeit pleasures of Satan grow dim. Instead of a one-time supersized thrill at the front end, the pleasures of true intimacy with God keep growing through time.

Give and receive prayer. Nothing will keep our minds more focused and actively engaged against evil than intercessory prayer. Prayer for one another was the mainstay of the early church. For instance, Paul mentions Epaphras, saying, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). Intercession is the primary ministry through which the community of faith can stand shoulder to shoulder with each other while joining with Jesus in our mutual struggle against the powers of evil.

Never give up.

It is important to remember that, no matter how much we learn about Satan’s strategies, we will not be victorious in every struggle against temptation, deception, or accusation.

As I wrote this article, I was often aware that I had—again—fallen short in some area. As always the evil one was right there to accuse me: How can you write about guarding your mind? Look what you’ve done. Yet I did not stop writing.

Yes, I’ve sinned. Yes, I still sin. But I get up, dust myself off, and keep going because I know my security does not lie in a perfect record. I take comfort in God’s promise through Paul: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The Spirit gave Paul this breakthrough insight as he was lamenting his own repeated failures (Ro. 7:14–25).

So yes, it is wise to know the tactics of our enemy. This knowledge will help us stay in the fight and make headway. But the enemy should never be our focus. Our focus needs to be on Christ, who saves us and in whom we have our victory. We finally and fully rest our minds and hearts in the truth that “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).

Divorce Begins With Deception

Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

by Cheryl Scruggs (Author of: I Do Again)

Marriages ending in divorce are at a pandemic level. Lies lure us away from God’s plan for marriage, as we depend more on what our culture says rather than what the Bible instructs us. This being the case, why are we so surprised by the number of divorces?

Many types of deception lead us into the hands of divorce. Again, John 10:10 reminds us: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy … “, and Satan desires to destroy your marriage.

What types of deception are we talking about?

When we begin to feel disgruntled in our marriage, negative or faulty thoughts begin to formulate about our spouse or our marriage. We begin to believe the lies swirling through our head. We convince ourselves that “the grass must be greener on the other side”; that “this is not the same man or woman I married”; or that “I must have married the wrong person.” When this begins to happen, it is important to remember 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Many times, blinded by love, we falsely perceive the object of our affection as nearly flawless. Yet in marriage, our weaknesses, and our spouse’s, eventually surface.

Deception #1 – We married the wrong person

Instead of accepting these “less than attractive” things about our spouse, we often feel duped. We may begin to convince ourselves we married the wrong person. Warning: Allowing these thoughts to fester and penetrate your heart could cause your thoughts to spiral out of control and can set your marriage up for failure! You might begin to pull away from your spouse emotionally and/or physically, without even knowing it. I experienced this. Part of the deception, for me, was not addressing my thoughts properly, and not realizing how I was pulling away. My heart was growing hard, yet I was oblivious.

We all, at one time or another, wonder if we married the right person. We must guard our hearts when feeling disconnected from our spouse. If disconnect happens, we often convince ourselves that we somehow messed up and missed out on marrying our “soul mate.”

Is there such a thing as a soul mate? A soul mate is someone with whom we can share deep feelings and attitudes. Marriage takes work, and learning to share deep feelings and attitudes is part of the work necessary to enjoy intimacy in marriage. Jeff and I frequently remind other couples that when they got married, their spouse became the right person! According to Scripture, when you said “I do,” you became a one-flesh union, and, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:6).

Deception #2 – We misunderstand love

Often we think we understand what love is supposed to look like, and enter marriage with our own definition. This definition may have been influenced by the examples we had growing up, the shows or movies we watched, the music we listened to or even relationships we’ve experienced. We tend to spend a great deal of time comparing our fabricated definition of love with the love we think we are experiencing – or not experiencing – in our marriage. How we judge love is often based on our own definition, rather than the Bible’s definition.

Deception #3 – We believe we deserve to be happy

Focusing on our own happiness is a shallow approach, especially compared to God’s greater plan for our life. God is OK with us being happy, but His greatest desire is for us to seek Him and glorify Him in all that we say and do. With this in mind, as we seek to glorify God with our lives, joy and contentment become a byproduct of this obedience.

I prefer the word contentment over “happy,” because I believe discontentment prevails in our culture. Is it realistic for us to be content in all circumstances? Philippians 4:11(ESV) says: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” It is possible to be content, but it takes hard work.

How does this play into your marriage? When you feel discontent or unhappy, what do you do with it? Do you start making a laundry list of all the things your spouse is doing wrong? Do you emotionally and/or physically disengage? Do you try to fix things by passively addressing it without your spouse knowing of your discontent? Have you ever entertained the idea that you need to examine your own heart? Do you ever go to God with your discontentment and ask Him what He is trying to teach you?

Asking yourself these questions can help you discern your own heart and confront these lies before they potentially destroy your marriage. Why do we believe these lies? Many times, it is because we want to. Romantic movies, TV shows, music – and our sinful thoughts – cause our thinking to become distorted. Many people (yes, Christians) convince themselves that they are hearing a message from God telling them to get out of their marriage, or that there is a better spouse out there for them. They often feel they deserve freedom and happiness. Yet where in the Bible does it say we deserve anything?

When and how do we succumb to deception? We are capable of giving way to temptation at anytime. When we do not understand God’s plan for marriage, are not reading God’s Word, are not in healthy Christian community, are feeling unloved, or are emotionally or physically deprived, we can succumb very easily.

Lastly, we must guard ourselves into thinking we are incapable of being deceived.

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