Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Step into the Garden

So, array yourself with the full armor of God, so that when evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground no matter what comes.

Evil can be staggering.

You can call it “Satan,” if you like, or “the enemy,” or the “devil,” and thus personify it. It makes no difference; evil is still evil.

There are three sources of evil as I see it: Satan and his emissaries, then there is you. You can be evil. I don’t need to remind you of that . . . my apologies. Finally, and by no means least, there is me. I can be as evil as you. Sort of like choosing up sides and smelling armpits.

It is an interesting observation, perhaps even a compelling observation, that we all have the need to blame Satan, or others for evil deeds. It is painful to look inside ourselves, but that is where we find the greatest evil of all.

It is this third source of evil with which we have the most trouble.

The survival instinct – so called, may have a legitimate function, but it can also be, and often is, our worst enemy. It is impressive, the lengths to which we will go to give ourselves comfort. Our consumerism, our secular ethic, our need to entertain ourselves, our seeking out of palliatives to assuage discomfort; these things often spring from less than pristine motivations.

In a word, it is the evil within ourselves against which we most need to armor ourselves.

There was a time in my life when I did seminars. A lot of them. The seminars were week-long affairs where I would speak no less than four times a day for 45-60 minutes per session. In between the lectures, I conducted hour-long small-group sessions. At the end of the day, I was tired. By the end of the week, I was exhausted.

One time, at the close of one of these days, I made the mistake of complaining of the soreness in my lower back. People responded by gathering around me, laying hands on me, praying with the view toward asking God to cast “the demon of the sore back” from my body.

It worked.

I went back to my lodging, got a good night’s rest, and behold, the next morning, the demon of the sore back was gone!. Unfortunately, at the end of the next day’s sessions, it had returned with a vengeance. This time, however, I managed not to complain. A very sensible part of the “armor of God,” is the common sense of eating right, exercising and getting enough rest. Still, even common sense has its vulnerabilities.

So, what did I take away from that little episode?

First, lest your amusement misguide you, I learned to appreciate the love, care and concern others had for me. These were kind, good people who meant well.

Second, I learned – at least partially -- how to engage and manage evil. It forced me to find a place where I didn’t have to protect myself from evil. A place of rest and renewal.

Many years ago, I enjoyed jogging. Through the mountains, hills and valleys, and along the pebbled beaches of Catalina Island in California. Tore up my knees – a painful annoyance for which I pay dearly today. Do you suppose this is what Paul meant when he said, “bodily exercise profiteth little?” I wonder if he liked to jog? Clearly, there are downsides to everything.

You can tear up your knees jogging, get an ear infection swimming, strain a muscle lifting, or sprain an ankle playing tennis, but I have never heard of anyone hurting themselves while seeking God’s presence, or enjoying the warmth of his love.

There are those who do mean-spirited, brutal, evil things to others, all in the name of God. Jim Jones comes to mind, David Koresh, Osama bin Laden and those who disrupt the graveside services of fallen soldiers. Isn’t it amazing how manic and fanatical human wickedness can become when one does it, ostensibly, in the name of God!? You can certify yourself. Those who do such things have not sought God, and have no part with him. They are an embarrassment to God, and an embarrassment to his people. What they do is a massive contradiction to his nature.

So, the psalmist speaks. He speaks of dwelling “in the secret place of the most High,” and “abiding under the shadow of the Almighty.” It is a place, if you can wrap your mind around that, a place where God “covers you with his feathers.” It is a place -- a place “under his wings.” Jesus employed this same imagery when he cried out to Jerusalem. The writer of Hebrews used it when he spoke of “entering God’s rest.”

What a place is this! A place of complete security, and comfort, refuge and safety. A place defended by the wings of the Almighty! A place where his truth is my shield. A place of absolute trust and rest from attack.

In such a place, what need is there of armor? His wings are my armor. In such a place, I need not fear even myself.

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