Checking Levels

Keeping an eye on levels is important business. Checking fluid levels in our vehicles is especially important. Just try not doing it and see what happens. Sooner or later we’ll pay for our negligence.

Because my hubby has always taken care of car maintenance issues, I have to admit the only fluid level I keep an eye on is the gas. I don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road and have to go through the humiliation and hassle of trying to find gas for my car. And in today’s world, it’s just too dangerous to risk being easy pickings for some unsavory character who might happen along.

Don keeps an eye on the other levels in our car, though. Not only does he make sure we get regular oil changes, he checks other fluid levels before I take off on out-of-town trips. He doesn’t want me to have unexpected trouble because of low oil, antifreeze, or transmission fluids—and neither do I! I’m thankful he’s watching out for me. Without him, I’d have to get educated on car maintenance in a hurry or pay the price through some painful and likely expensive lessons.

Keeping levels in an appropriate range is vital in other areas of our lives as well. That’s why the doctor orders blood tests and makes us get on the scale when we go to see him for our annual check-ups. That’s why others test our drinking water, soil, and air quality. And let’s not forget the levels of expertise that must be met to qualify for most jobs. When you think about it, levels are important in almost everything.

What about our spiritual lives? Any levels there that need to be examined periodically? Sure. If we fail to feed on the Word of God or neglect our time with him in prayer, we’ll soon find ourselves spiritually parched or feeling distanced from him. Our hearts may even grow hard.

What about the level of love in our lives? What’s the motive behind our worship, our confession of sin, and our acts of service? Another level to keep an eye on is the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. How well are these qualities being displayed in our lives?

Let’s not neglect to keep an eye on our levels—spiritual levels included. We don’t want to find ourselves sidelined or distanced from our heavenly Father. We don’t want to be easy pickings for our unsavory Enemy. Let’s not find ourselves paying for our negligence. Let’s stay watchful. Let’s check our levels.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

 *The next issue of Life Notes, my inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in each quarterly issue , comes out next week. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a gift valued at $20 (shipping included) from Beigetone Soaps and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by Pat Hawks, Creative Commons License

One Way to Pray Against Our Spiritual Enemy

2172772997_4d1ae0c7e1“‘A farmer went out to sow his seed . . . The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.’” Luke 8:5, 11-12 NIV (see also Matthew 13:19)

The enemy of our souls—that old serpent the devil—is a liar, a thief, and a con-artist who even at times masquerades as an angel of light. He employs whatever tactic it takes to defeat and discourage the children of God and to also keep unbelievers in darkness and chains.

This low-down thief can rob us of many things—peace, joy, our marriages and families, our good reputations and witness for the Lord, our time, our health, the list goes on. Scripture tells us he also snatches away the life-giving seed of God’s Word planted among those who do not yet understand and believe. Because of its eternal impact, this treachery is even more evil than stealing food from the starving.

One way we can fight for the souls of those who’ve had the Word planted in their lives is to pray against Satan’s tactic of snatching it away. This is not something I’ve been savvy to in the past and I need to be alert to future opportunities to do such battle in prayer.

Why not join me? Let’s take a mental inventory of those unbelievers we know who’ve recently had the Word planted in their lives.

Have we shared scripture or biblical truth with someone personally or through social media? Have we given financial gifts to help spread the good news among a particular group of people? Do we know of a mission team at work right now? Are we aware of any unbelievers who have recently sat in church and heard the Word preached? Have we heard prayer requests voiced for specific people who have been exposed to God’s Word lately?

Let’s pray against the enemy’s efforts to snatch the planted Word of God away from these precious people. Let’s ask God to place a hedge of protection around his planted Word so that the devil won’t steal the truth and hope of eternal life that it can bring. Let’s put up a fight. Let’s go to battle.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.Ephesians 6:11 NIV

*Who can you pray for this week? If you’d like me and others to join you, please tell us in the comments.

*Flickr photo by W. Visser, Creative Commons License

The Trickster

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No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That’s a picture of a shirt hanging in a garden. My dad’s shirt in his garden in Missouri a few years ago, in fact. I actually took this shot on a July visit, but as long as anything was left growing in the garden through early fall, the shirt stood guard.

Back then we never knew what project Dad might be at work on or what problem he might be solving when we arrived for a visit. Kelli will never forget the year she and I pulled in the drive and caught Grandpa on the tail-end of a squirrel skinning. He was stretching the hide on some kind of contraption out by the wood pile. The shirt in the garden is tame by comparison but still a sight that made me take a second look and start asking questions.

As some of you may have already guessed, this was Dad’s version of a scarecrow. He’d been trying to trick some pesky garden-eating deer into thinking someone was standing there—and it worked.

Not just the sight of a potential enemy kept the deer away, but the scent as well. I didn’t realize scent was part of Dad’s scheme until I heard one of the grandkids announce one morning, “Grandpa’s stripping down outside!” Come to find out, it was just his shirt (thank goodness!) He was replacing the one that had been hanging in the garden for a few days with the sweaty one he had been working in. Tricky, tricky Grandpa. The result? My dad outwitted the deer.

Too bad deer aren’t the only ones susceptible to trickery. The Bible teaches we have an enemy, an enemy to our souls, who is doing all he can to scheme against us—to keep us from knowing God, to keep us from living for him. Ephesians 6:11 speaks specifically of the devil’s schemes, and 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to stay alert because “[our] enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Sometimes he’s hard to recognize, though. The apostle Paul taught that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Are we wise to Satan’s schemes in our lives? Or is he managing to outwit us with his tricks and his masquerades? Like my dad, let’s put our problem-solving skills to work and outwit the enemy instead.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

*What are you doing to stay alert to the tactics of the enemy? How do you take your stand against him? What has God taught you about dealing with Satan?

*Hope you were blessed today by this updated encore post from October 2008!

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early November. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo

Obscured Vision

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Is anything obscuring your vision today? Anything interfering with seeing something clearly? Perhaps foggy conditions or unwanted objects marring the perfection of your view? I can relate. I’ve had a couple of view-related nuisances to deal with lately, too.

I love to take photos, and a couple of years ago something started marring many of the images I shot. First I noticed a dark spot in several of my photos as I looked at my camera’s display screen, and of course those spots showed up in the actual prints as well. This frustrated me to no end. I didn’t want any dark spots ruining my photos.

When I finally got a chance to take the camera into a camera shop, they told me a fiber had become lodged in the lens. It would be quite expensive to fix so I decided to live with it until I’m ready to get a new camera.

Since then the fiber has changed positions from time to time, but it really only presents a problem if it happens to be on a light-colored area of any particular shot taken from a particular angle. And so, I adjust to it. I shoot from a different angle, focus on a different area, or accept the fact that I won’t be able to get the shot I want. I don’t like the sometimes obscured vision I have to contend with because of this photographic intruder, but I deal with it.

Believe it or not, around the same time my camera started giving me fits, a floater started interfering with my eyesight as well. I’ve had to wear glasses since I was in third grade so I’m used to my vision being obscured when I’m not wearing the fix. But this was something new. Something the glasses couldn’t fix. Something I didn’t like. But as with my camera’s lens, I’ve learned to live with it.

Obscured views aren’t limited to physical vision, however. The eyes of our hearts can also experience obscured vision. Unwanted objects and conditions can get in the way of seeing what the Lord wants us to see or can keep us from seeing things clearly. Our view is hampered. Our mental, emotional, or spiritual vision is marred.

So what kinds of things might interfere with the vision of our hearts? Perhaps unwanted fears and worries, perhaps grief or pain or illness. Pride or unforgiveness might be the culprit or possibly even feelings of guilt or low self-esteem. Stubbornness or sin can play a role. Bottom line, Satan will use any number of tactics to keep us from experiencing all that the Lord desires for us. Yes, our enemy will rob us of abundant life every chance he gets.

The good news is that with God’s help, we can make changes and adjustments to fix or improve our mental, emotional, and spiritual vision. We can ask God to help us remove or see around the hindrances to the view of life he wants us to have.

If the cause of our hampered view is rooted in a physical problem, we can see a doctor and get the physical help we need to start seeing life clearly again. If our heart vision is being marred by mental, emotional, or spiritual factors, we can deal with them by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), which includes, among other things, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and the Word of God. We can also seek out wise counsel and the prayer support of friends.

Yes, friends, we can take a stand—and gain the victory—against obscured vision, against the evil one who seeks to discourage and deceive us by distorting and obstructing the clear vision God wants us to have. Our God can handle any roadblock the devil throws at us. And our God stands ready to help.

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18-19a

*When has God helped you regain the clear vision he wanted you to have?

*My photo (Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Midweek Morsel: Attended by Angels

11248586324_e55d800f60_z“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Mark1:12-13

Did you know angels attended Jesus during his days in the desert? Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly how they attended him, but they were on duty.

The gospel of Matthew specifically mentions angels attending Jesus after Satan tempted him (at the end of a forty day fast), and here in Mark’s gospel we hear that wild animals were part of the scene. My NIV text note says that in Jesus’ day there were many more wild animals, including lions, in Palestine. I guess Satan wasn’t the only danger in the desert. Wild animals posed a threat—and I’m sure the elements did as well.

The Israelites also experienced angelic attendance during their desert days. In Exodus (23:20, 23; 32:34), we’re told that an angel went ahead of them, guiding and protecting them. I wonder if the angels who attended Jesus did the same for him. Perhaps they even ministered to other needs he had.

If God sent angels to attend Jesus and also the Israelites during their desert days, don’t you think he might send them to us as well in our times of need? When we are faced with temptations, dangers, dry and barren days, as well as need in extreme situations, will God leave us to struggle on our own? No, he will minister to us. And it might just be through angels.

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” Psalm 91:11

*Have you ever felt that angels were attending you?

*Flickr photo by  www.carloscherer.eu, Creative Commons License