Pandemic Lessons from My Back Porch

Psalm 19: 1:  The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. (NKJV)

Matthew 10: 29-31:  Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (NKJV)


As I sit here on my back porch on this beautiful Spring morning, the world of Nature all around me is carrying on as usual for this time of year. Surely no one has told God’s creation and furry creatures about the dreaded Carona Virus, a/k/a COVID-19, which has stopped mankind in its tracks.

Amazingly, the trees and flowers are in full bloom, unabashedly exposing themselves to the clear blue sky and billowy clouds overhead. As they reach upward toward the sun in a magnificent display of unmasked beauty, they offer no hint of protection from the silent killer suspected of lurking here, there, and everywhere. Will they come through this pandemic season unscathed?

Has no one told the birds to “shelter in place” and cover their beaks? Just listen!! They are merrily singing their various songs in unison, just as they always do. Don’t they know the church doors are closed and human choirs and orchestras are not meeting together to raise their voices in praise and worship to their Maker? What about that old crow? Doesn’t he know about the perilous pestilence as he opens his mouth wide, crying, “Caw, caw, caw”?

Didn’t Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel get the Memo? Haven’t they been following the news? Would you believe they are scampering around, climbing trees, munching on their breakfast with their little paws actually touching their faces–no masks, no gloves, no social distancing? Don’t they know? Haven’t they heard that the world as we know it may be ending?

Dear Lord, thank You that Nature’s story is unaffected by this pandemic that is holding mortal man hostage. Even as I do my part by taking precautions and “sheltering in place” on my back porch, I can still enjoy Your creation’s undiminished beauty. Thank you for reminding me that You and only You are in control. I know that, despite the Carona Virus, the world will not end until You decree it, and You have a far better one waiting for your children anyway. In the meantime, day after day, creation continues to declare Your glory. Please help us to do the same, and quiet our fears as we learn to trust You more and more.

Depending on Egypt

Isaiah 31:1: Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong. But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek the Lord!*

Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 121:1: I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

In Old Testament days, God’s people were continuously fleeing down to Egypt when times were perilous in their Land of Promise. Sadly, time after time, it did not work well for them.

Though Christians of today live in a different dispensation than the Old Testament believers, the temptation to take the safe and easy highways to the Egypts of this world remains an ever-present threat to our spiritual well-being.

Many times the highway to Egypt is a faithless road laid with the foundation of compromise. When we put our trust in the Egypts of this world for deliverance, we’re beholden to adjust the counsel of God’s word and the leading of His Holy Spirit to align themselves to the principles of our newly found deliverer. Lest we forget, our God is a jealous God who will not share our allegiance. Just as the Israelites of the Old Testament, if we choose to depend upon anything other than Him, we do so at the peril of traveling out of the land of His will and away from His hedge of protection.

In hindsight, can you identify any pathway of life you’ve taken that you now realize might be characterized as a roadway to Egypt? Instead of earnestly seeking God’s will, perhaps you took a shortcut, trusting in earthly wisdom based upon a worldly map that highlighted a road that looked easier and more promising than the road that depended solely upon walking by faith with God.

I must admit, I’ve been there. Though the Lord is so gracious that He’s never forsaken me and I did not cease to be His child, I don’t want to repeat the trip. The only future in the past is what we can learn from it, and I have learned that only He knows the best path, and I cannot afford to trust anyone or anything but Him to lead and direct me. He’s also taught me that when I commit my path solely to Him, amazingly, He can even take my past Egypts and bring good from them. (See Romans 8:28.)

If you are facing a difficult, life-changing decision today, and you are weighing the options, then I offer these simple yet profound words I once heard a wise preacher say, “We can’t trust Jesus and something else at the same time.”

It’s an ongoing quandary–Egypt or Jesus,–but day after day the choice is one only we can decide.

*All scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Bible

Coupon Mania Stress Syndrome

(Just to warn you, there’s not much spiritual application here, but Proverbs 17:22 does say, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…”  With this in mind, I hope this far-fetched, tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted spoof about a make-believe affliction/addiction I call Coupon Mania Stress Syndrome will make you smile a little. Though the story is mostly fictitious (especially the part about the coupon lady), the flashbacks are real, and I believe the story is riddled with just enough truth to help some shoppers identify. Though I’m poking fun at myself, during the stress of Christmas shopping, after-Christmas sales, and other high-volume sale events, you too may have felt the symptoms. I wrote this a few years ago as a writing assignment, and the focus is grocery shopping with coupons, but, I could easily take it to a new level by including experiences with department store and retail coupons that leave customers roaming around like zombies looking for something to buy that is not excluded from the coupon list–and before the early-bird or night-owl deadlines.)  

Crossroads take many forms and sometimes occur at the most unsuspected places. Never in my wildest dreams, however, did I imagine one awaited me on Aisle 4 of my local supermarket during Triple Coupon Week. That’s where my love/hate obsession with coupons and my basic disorganization gene came face to face with one who has her coupon act perfected to an art form. I call her the Coupon Lady, and our nearly disastrous collision proved to be a turning point in my life. That fateful day I finally admitted that I have a coupon problem.

Despite the never-ending saga of my coupon struggles, the clip and save mantra of marketing, along with a compelling inner voice of frugality, coaxes me onward. Clipping is no problem, but locating and actually using the pesky little vouchers is another story. That fateful day I multitasked, awkwardly fumbling through a handful of them, with a list buried somewhere in the middle, while searching for my reading glasses in order to verify that the prospective product was labeled exactly as indicated by the fine print on the coupon.

That’s when I encountered the Coupon Lady in all her organizational splendor. Oblivious to me or my fumbling, she confidently flipped through the pages of a large black notebook that rested in the child seat section of her shopping cart. I marveled at the rows of coupons encased in plastic and watched in awe as she, pen in hand and reading glasses perfectly positioned, examined her list, the coupon, and the product.

Immediately putting two and two together, my erratic mind raced. I’d seen her picture in the newspaper. She was the one who used coupons to buy over $200.00 worth of groceries for less than $10.00!

I’m still attempting to rationalize what happened next. Suddenly years of frustration with organizational struggles, especially the coupon battle, flashed before my eyes, culminating in the face of this unsuspecting woman in her all-togetherness. A very out-of-character train of thought threatened to derail my normally, mild-mannered temperament.

What if I ran her down with my rickety cart, raced away with her coupon notebook, and left her defenseless in this marketing jungle? Before my apprehension and arrest, would she, without her coupons, also lose composure? Perhaps she would frantically stack items back on the shelf or even abandon her cart and flee the scene. Maybe she would limp to the checkout counter, shrieking hysterically when faced with paying full price for her purchases.

Luckily, at that moment the Coupon Lady’s eyes met mine. Crisis averted, we exchanged polite smiles and proceeded to Aisle 5, she with her coupons intact, and me with my misguided, unsettling thoughts, at least for now, in check.

It’s said the first step to recovery is admitting the problem, and my chance meeting with the Coupon Lady brought me to that crossroad. As I pondered the question: “What could transform an even-keeled, fairly sane woman into a would-be shopping cart assailant?” I acknowledged the depths of my dementedness and knew I needed help.

Could it be that what began as a mild preoccupation with saving money with coupons, when coupled with my organizational shortcomings, had escalated into a dreadful affliction? For want of a better term, could I have Coupon Mania Stress Syndrome? Furthermore, is there a cure?

Needless to say, physicians for this disorder (if they exist) are not around every corner and would certainly not be covered by my insurance plan. I realized it was up to me to resolve the problem and that perhaps telling my story might be both therapeutic and helpful to others.

Flashback after flashback, I relived the progression. Time and space does not allow full disclosure, but a few watershed incidents are worth recounting.

The first one occurred in my younger, more lucid days when the nearest supermarket was twelve miles away, and grocery shopping was a once a week, Saturday event. Even then, coupons were making headway. That day I made a list and shrewdly assembled my coupons before making the journey. Just before entering the market, I performed a routine checklist: coupons: yes; grocery list: yes; checkbook: NO. The painful drive home without any groceries is my first memory of a stressful, coupon-related incident, but it certainly would not be the last.

I recalled a more recent Triple Coupon Event. That day I spent an hour clipping coupons and assembling them in a newly purchased folder. I verified the ready accessibility of my in-store card, which one must have at most stores these days to take advantage of their specials. I had my reading glasses. Yes, I was armed to bargain shop with the best.

But, alas, upon my arrival, the coupon folder with the list enclosed was nowhere to be found. After grudgingly buying groceries anyway, I pulled into my driveway only to be greeted by a smiling, well-meaning neighbor as she waved, of all things, my coupon folder. “You dropped something,” she sweetly chimed. Did she sense my despair as she obligingly returned the tidy packet? I hope not.

Another such incident almost took me to the edge. That day I made a list, clipped coupons, and stuffed them into my jeans pocket so I wouldn’t lose them. Arriving at the market, I simultaneously reached for the shopping cart and checked my pockets. Imagine the panic when I detected no coupons or list. How in the world could they have gotten out of that tight place?

Have you ever thought you knew exactly where you parked your car but when you returned for it, it wasn’t there? As you searched in disbelief (and embarrassment), for an instant you actually suspect someone has played a cruel joke by moving it. Well, that’s the way I felt, until a vague memory of changing jeans at the last minute penetrated my delusion. With the mixed emotions of disgust and relief, I aimlessly roamed the aisles once again, coupon-less, with only the sketchy memory of a list.

The marketing world only adds fuel to the fire of this affliction. Is it just me, or has the coupon gimmick practically assumed a life of its own during the past few years? We see coupons in newspapers, coupons in the mail, coupons on the internet, coupons with cash register receipts–coupons, coupons, coupons. It seems wasteful, foolish, and almost sinful not to use them. So what is a  discombobulated coupon junkie to do?

Allow me to summarize some humble observations gleaned from my Triple Coupon Week Crossroad:

I have concluded that coupon shopping has a way of bringing out the best and the worst in people. Unfortunately, my ravings are a prime example of the latter.

Further, I believe shoppers might rightly be divided into categories. Although the degrees may vary and some may waffle at times, most will fall into one of three groups.

First, there are the organized ones, such as the Coupon Lady. They eagerly embrace the challenge of Triple Coupon Week and are at their best as they adorn themselves in their organizational strong suits, amass their armory of well-sorted coupons, fine tune their ongoing lists, and hit the stores early and running.

Next, are the indifferent ones. These shoppers, for whatever reason, do not play the coupon game. Triple Coupon Week means nothing to them. They calmly shop as usual, feel no pressure, and will probably outlive those in the other two categories.

Last, is the category of which I am a sad member–the disorganized bargain-seekers. We, too, clip coupons and occasionally make lists, but where are they when we need them? Even with coupon in hand, the shelf is usually empty, the product already taken by the early-bird, organized shopper. Taking a rain check is out of the question; one trip to the market is all our coupons can handle. They will never be seen again, or at least not until after the expiration date. Indeed, Triple Coupon Week is the ultimate stress test for this group.

How can this unconventional knowledge benefit me or others who may succumb to the Syndrome? I’ll close by offering my highly unprofessional, but common-sense ABC prescription:

Acceptance: Accept limitations. Even though my hat is off to the Coupon Lady and those of her ranks, I will probably never join them. Likewise, my basic frugality and excitement in finding a bargain will always set me apart from the indifferent category.

Balance: Seek Balance within the parameters of your own nature. Even the disorganized can find a method to the madness. A tiny step in the right direction often brings a sense of accomplishment that lessens stress. For example, those with bifocal issues might invest in a necklace to keep track of reading glasses, or, better yet, wear real glasses when grocery shopping. Even I can do this.

Cope: Learn to Cope with the Syndrome by keeping it in proper perspective. In the scheme of things, how much does it really matter? Does it merit worry, stress, and, worst of all, obsessive, compulsive thought patterns? I think not.

An occasional spoonful of this simple concoction should minimize outbreaks and hopefully keep the affliction/addiction in remission. Although the condition may not be entirely curable, it need not be debilitating.

Who knows, perhaps I will even make friends with the Coupon Lady?* After all, I know where she shops, she has a nice smile, and I could certainly use some pointers.

*Any resemblance to an actual coupon lady living in my vicinity or assaulted by a shopping cart is purely coincidental.

Plant Talk and Spiritual Gardens

Ephesians 4:29: Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification that it may impart grace to the hearers. (NKJV)

Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there be virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. (NKJV)

My husband talks to his plants. I look out the window and smile as he walks around the beautiful yard he has tenderly cultivated and stops to have these one-sided conversations with plant after plant.  Though the plants can’t talk back, I do believe they bask in recognition and respond by growing into all that God has designed them to be, sharing their beauty with all who take a moment to notice and their sweet fragrance with all who take the time to drink it in.

Aren’t people a lot the same way? Though God is the Creator who tenderly plants His children in various gardens of life, we all long for a kind, encouraging word. We all want someone to take a moment to notice something admirable about us–something we are actually “getting right.” So often these good traits are overlooked while only our faults are addressed.

Instead of fault-finding, what if for this one day we look for all that is right and offer a few praiseworthy, grace-filled comments to someone whose spiritual garden may be floundering for lack of encouragement? Just for today, we could try it. It might be just the boost someone has been needing to help them become all God has designed them to be.

Prayer Wheel

Hebrews 11: 6: But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.*

Hebrews 4:15-16: For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Matthew 6:13: And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

James 4:7: Therefore submit to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Do you ever earnestly go to the Lord in prayer, then a few minutes later discover that your thoughts have wandered? Do you ever find yourself perfunctorily repeating a prayer, and although it is a good prayer that you began in all sincerity, by the time your heart and mind catch up with your auto pilot switch, you realize that you have only been repeating words? Do you ever begin a prayer before you fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning before you’ve said Amen?

I must be truthful and answer yes to all these questions. In one way it seems like such an affront to the great God of the universe to call upon His wonderful Name and then drift away. Why would He even bother to listen? And yet, I’m so glad He knows that though I’m His child, I’m still a child of the dust, living in a tent of flesh (see Psalm 103:14). Like Jesus’ disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane who fell asleep when they should have been praying, my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. As Oswald Chambers describes in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (August 23rd), often when I begin to pray, “the plague of the flies” and the “mental wool gathering” begins.

Several years ago my church entered into an intense time of prayer. A prayer wall chart was designed listing each day and hour of the week. Members were asked to sign up to pray for one hour on a specific day of the week, the goal being that someone would be praying around the clock. We had a Prayer Wheel divided into five-minute increments to help us organize our prayer time by incorporating different elements of prayer, beginning and ending with praise. Yes, all was good with the plan and the prayer wheel.

The problem came because by the time I got around to signing up, the best slot left that would remotely fit with my work schedule fell at a very early hour (between 4 and 5 A.M., I think.)  The last person to pray was supposed to call the next person, but, if I remember correctly, I didn’t get a call because it was so early. It was up to me to set the alarm early enough to begin my hour of prayer. Unfortunately, I’m not a morning person, nor am I very organized or structured. I wake up slowly and rarely jump out of bed to do anything. Despite my best intentions, you can probably guess what happened. I didn’t exactly follow the prayer wheel guidelines, but, even worse, I sometimes drifted back to sleep and barely woke up in time to call the next person.

I remember having a similar dilemma as a child and asking my Granny about it. I told her that sometimes when I said my prayers at night, I would fall asleep in the middle of praying. My sweet, precious, Godly little grandmother, just looked at me with her twinkling blue eyes, smiled, and said, “Can you think of a better way to go to sleep?” I’ve never forgotten those comforting words.

And yet Oswald Chambers also makes a great point in that same devotion mentioned above when He says, “Jesus did not say–“Dream about thy Father in secret, but pray to the Father in secret.” The reason Jesus asked the disciples to pray was so they wouldn’t “enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). We know they fell asleep instead of praying, and they did enter into temptation. The same thing can happen to us.

As I began to write this, I also began a search for that prayer wheel until I finally found it.  I know we don’t need a chart to help us pray, and strictly depending on one could be legalistic and hinder more that it helps. Still, beginning and ending our prayers with praise and thanksgiving is always the best plan because it places our focus on the one to whom we are praying. Though my flesh is weak, my heavenly Father never grows weary or sleeps. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. As we pray in the Name of Jesus, we are affirming His role as our great High Priest, the one who took on this weak robe of flesh for a while and is qualified to make intercession on our behalf.  Giving praise for the Holy Spirit’s role, who also makes intercession for us with the “groans that cannot be uttered,” sets the stage for praying in the Spirit. (See the above verses.)

Though I didn’t see it on the prayer wheel, I’ve found one thing also helps me stay on track when praying. I often ask the Lord to deliver my prayer time from the forces of evil. Satan also knows about the weakness of our flesh, despite the willingness of our spirit. If I had to guess which one of our Christian endeavors intimidate him the most, I would guess it is when we get down to the serious business of prayer. It’s natural that he would do anything to hinder us, whether it be encouraging our “mental wool gathering” or unleashing that “plague of flies.” But when we enter into the presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with praise and thanksgiving, his weaponry is to no avail and surely he must flee.

*Scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Bible

LOOKING BACK

Luke 9:62:  But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” *

Psalm 130:3:  If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you; That you may be feared.

1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jonah 3: 1-2:  Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.”

I once worked in an informal workplace with a mischievous man who, as well as being my supervisor, was a die-hard practical jokester. As he gave me my assignment, one of his favorite antics was to combine the roles. He would wait until I walked away, and then, from a distance, call me back. As his deadpan look changed into an impish grin, he would tease, “Just think how far you would have been if you hadn’t come back.” Being young, inexperienced, and on my first job, I hesitate to count the times I fell for that line.

Except for a few changes in character roles, I could say the same thing about my Christian walk with the Lord. First, my heavenly Father is the one handing out assignments, and although He is not a hard taskmaster, and Jesus will ultimately do the work through me if I submit all to Him, the Father is still the one with the marching orders. The problem, however, is not with the Supervisor. The problem comes as I begin to walk away, sure of my assignment. That’s when a third-party entity arrives upon the scene.

You know who he is, don’t you? No doubt he dogs your path too. I’ll give you a few clues. Instead of being mischievous, he is sinister, and he’s not the least bit funny. His favorite one-liner, which dates all the way back to the Garden of Eden, surely must be, “Did God really say?” Yet I’d hate to count the times I have gullibly fallen for his twisted antics as he diverted me from the Lord’s path by either distracting me to chase his hell-bent rabbits or slyly motioning me into his tricky trenches to hear his perverted counsel. Then come the doubts, questions, and second-guessing. Finally, after trying everything else, in desperation I find myself in need of going back to the Father for reinstruction.

It’s always good to go back for clarification when in doubt. Yet I often wonder how far along I could have been in my Christian walk with the Lord if I hadn’t had to keep going back? How many good assignments could I have completed if I’d simply trusted my Father the first time and stayed the course instead of wasting my time chasing rabbits down into a rabbit hole or falling into the enemy’s trenches, only to have to crawl out and call upon the Lord to dust me off and forgive me? How far could I have been had I not retraced my tired footsteps along the same wilderness way, back to the starting point, for reinstruction concerning an assignment I should have already finished?

Yet, I’m so thankful that, unlike any earthly supervisor, our divine Supervisor’s dual role is that of our loving heavenly Father, always waiting, always looking for His prodigal children to make their way back to Him. Just as He did with Jonah who found himself in the belly of a great fish (see above), God wants to rescue us and give us clarification. Not only is He willing to forgive us and restore us into right fellowship with Him, but He’s faithful to recommission us to accomplish His good purposes. Whether we’ve been chasing rabbits down into a rabbit hole, stuck in the enemy’s trenches, wandering in the wilderness, or even in the belly of big fish, our Father knows how to incorporate all those life lessons into new assignments when we make our way back to Him.

Maybe you feel like a failure today, and you wonder if the Lord can ever use you again. If he rescued a runaway Jonah out of the belly of a big fish and sent Him to preach a message whereby more than 120,000 people were saved (Jonah 4:11), He can still use me, and He can still use you.  Even our failures are not lost in His economy of second chances. If we love the Lord and earnestly seek to get things right with Him, He’s always faithful to apply the Romans 8:28 promise into our circumstances by “working all things together for good.” I’ll never understand such amazing grace, but, looking back over my life, I’m thoroughly convinced of its truth!

*All scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Bible.

The High Stakes of Church Services

Hebrews 10: 24-25: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.* 

Do you believe the devil goes to church? Before you label the question as heretical, read Luke 4:31-35, an account of Jesus casting an unclean spirit out of a man attending a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath. If a synagogue meeting with Jesus as the teacher is not immune from demonic visitors, it’s not a far stretch to imagine these evil entities adorning themselves in their best “angel of light” attire on the Lord’s Day and heading to church. After all, if the devil’s Plan A is to hinder God’s people from going there, then it makes sense that Plan B might be to follow them there to create contention.

We know they are not coming to worship. They had the perfect opportunity to do this in heaven’s ideal worship scene and blew it. They couldn’t bow down and thus were cast out. They are not coming to hear the sermon, at least not if it’s a genuine message from God delivered by His faithful servant. They know the message and they don’t like it. They are not coming to hear the choir sing, not if it leads the congregation to worship and praise the Lord or prepares hearts to hear the message. This is definitely not music to a demon’s ears. They are certainly not there to fellowship with believers since there can be no real accord between those possessing the Spirit of God and demons.

So what possible motive could they have for attending an environment so hostile to their purposes? Could it be that the devil knows that at no other gathering of the people of God are the stakes between his domain and God’s kingdom this high?

What if the people of God actually worship Him in spirit and in truth as the Apostle John describes in John 4:24? What if the minister has a message straight from the heart and mind of Almighty God? What if the choir is so perfectly orchestrated by and in tune with the Holy Spirit that the heavenly music defies all evil chatter? What if the congregation is so filled with God’s Spirit that His awesome power is unleashed? What if the attendees heed the message of God and their lives are forever changed? What if their eyes are opened to see as God sees? What if they are empowered by the Holy Spirit to head out the doors of the church building and into life’s mission fields equipped with the gospel message of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection? What if they are so in fellowship with each other that they become one army for the Lord?

What if, heaven forbid for the enemy, sovereign God is working this day to answer a mother’s decades’ long prayer to see her son Jimmy saved? What if Jimmy comes to church, hears the gospel message, and is translated from Satan’s bondage and into the Kingdom of Light?

Oh yes, the devil and his forces are very likely to take their places at many worship services, along with the true believers. The stakes are exceedingly high.

What do they do once they get there? Since the establishment of the church, the dark prince of this world has been attempting to incorporate his influence into its every aspect, from the worship experience, to the study of God’s Word, to the music, and especially into the message from the pulpit. If he can cause confusion or friction in any area, it is a step in the right direction in accomplishing his malevolent purpose of causing us to take our eyes off God. When he plays his cards right, he’s been known to create so much discord among true believers that many churches have split or even closed their doors. His tactics are endless, and he will work with any wandering mind or optional circumstance because he knows what is at stake.

If this could be happening in the heavenly realm and in light of the high stakes of our church services, what can the child of God do? Does this mean that our worship experiences are doomed because the devil and his minions insist on showing up when we assemble ourselves together? This is far from the truth.

Though we should be discerning, we should never be discouraged. Jesus declared in Matthew 16:18 that “the gates of Hades will not overcome His church.” Jesus knew how to disarm the enemy and cast him from the synagogue, and we, as Christians, are His true Church. He is still present to cast out demons treading on holy ground. James 4:7 directs, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Though we cannot resist him in our own flesh, the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of each believer, making us one with Jesus who caused demons to cry out and flee. If we, as the church gathered together, draw so close to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords that we are cloaked in His protective armor (Ephesians 6:10-17), the dark prince and his emissaries will be forced to fall back with fear and trembling.

The gates of Hades will no doubt continue to storm the church door as long as we are on this side of Heaven. However, as we take up the battle, resisting by taking our rightful position in Jesus, we can make their visits so uncomfortable that they will be few and far between.

*All scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Bible