The Temple and the Spider’s Web: Part 2

Having written about the temple, I’ll now move on to the web. I’ve never taken much interest in a spider’s web, but apparently, the spider is always moving along the edge of it. Then, as soon as a fly goes into the web, the web vibrates and the spider can zoom in and attack.

“Be alert and of sober mind” (1 Peter 5:8). With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be like that spider whose feet are on the edge of the web. As soon as something comes in, it’s captured. We capture the good things from God. It’s the Holy Spirit who (as Berni Dymet puts it) lifts a verse right off the page and plonks it into our hearts, but we can also apply this to any unwelcome intrusions. “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As soon as we’re tempted, we can say, ‘No! I’m not doing that, because God says …’ like Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil. Turn these stones into bread? No! It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:2-4).

Have you ever pictured yourself standing guard at the door to your heart, like a spider on the edge of her web?

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Doubting his Calling?

I was reading the beginning of Acts 11 this morning, and it got me thinking. You know how in those stories you know really well, an earlier part can remind you of what happens later? Yeah, it was a bit like that.

I was reading about when Peter returned from telling the good news about Jesus to Cornelius and watching his household being filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people thought this good news should only be told to Jews, and Cornelius wasn’t a Jew, so Peter came in for a bit of criticism. Fresh from witnessing God’s power, this opposition didn’t faze him at all. You see, Peter himself had been reluctant to associate with non-Jews, but in Acts 10:9-20, God had shown him a vision of animals Jews were forbidden to eat and said: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean.” So, Peter described the vision he’d had in the previous chapter as his reason for visiting Cornelius. Great! What a transformation!

But later on, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he writes that Peter ate with non-Jews, but when some strict Jews came along, he started to back away from them. In typical Paul fashion, Paul opposed Peter to his face ‘Because he stood condemned’. (I love how Paul confronts these issues.) Why did Peter stand condemned? Because God had already revealed how He wanted him to treat people: “Don’t call anything unclean which I have called clean”, but instead of being led by the Spirit of God, Peter was acting in fear – backing away from the non-Jews because he was afraid of those who were Jewish like himself.

What about the vision? What about the power God had given Peter to communicate with non-Jews? Perhaps it’s not dissimilar to that day in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent came along. “Did God really say …?” As time passes, it can be so easy to let doubt creep into our minds, but Paul tells us: “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Instead of walking in the flesh (in our fears or doubts), let’s walk according to God’s Spirit and be faithful to our callings.

The Devil is not Defeated

Maybe this sounds a strange title for a post, especially this week when people everywhere are remembering what Jesus did for us on the cross to destroy the works of the devil, but the message of the post is simple:  If we don’t act on that, the devil is not defeated.

In the Bible, James 4:7 tells us:  “Submit yourselves then to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  When Jesus died and the Holy Spirit was sent to live in His followers, that same Spirit gave us the power to resist; but unless we resist, the devil is not defeated.

Does that sound harsh?  Are you a follower of Jesus who feels you’re being sucked back into slavery?  I’m not writing this in anger.  I write because your friends (the ones who love you) are deeply, gut-wrenchingly sad when they think about the pain you’re in.  You know the Bible-verse that talks about the Holy Spirit praying with groans that words can’t express?

Please, please, resist.  Don’t let the devil destroy your life; let Jesus destroy him.

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If this hits home for anybody reading, will you do something about it?  Jesus loves you and wants to help you; please, let Him.  “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength” – Isaiah 40:31.

When You’re Tempted to Break the Rules

A friend told me this lunchtime that he couldn’t imagine me breaking any rules!  He obviously didn’t know me when I was a teenager.  I’m sure that had I got in with the wrong group of friends, I would have stolen from shops and whatever else, but I didn’t.  Anyway it got me thinking about rules, and one area where I’ve been tempted to break them.

Compassion have a very strict rule:  Children and sponsors aren’t allowed to contact each other except through Compassion.  Well, last year, I had a friend-request on Facebook – from the mother of one of my girls.  I was so excited!  I talked on the phone to Compassion, who advised me against accepting.  They said they couldn’t stop me, as we were both adults, but we weren’t allowed to talk about my sponsored child.  I thought about this a lot.  The mother lived away from the family and if anything like a typhoon had hit and she’d asked about her daughter, I couldn’t have said a thing.  I decided that would be much too difficult for both of us, wrote her a message to explain and have never heard anything back.  The friend-request is still there, waiting for me to confirm or delete it.

Quite recently I had another request, this time from one of my sponsored children.  I looked at his friend-list:  His older brother was on there; a cousin I remembered him writing about …  It had to be him.  That request reminded me of my girl’s mother, and I had a thought.  My girl is a teenager now.  I looked again at her mother’s friend-list, and there she was.

How I’d love to make contact with all 3 of them, but what would that mean?  I think first the project-staff would meet with the children and remind them of the rules.  Then, if they and their families decide not to agree to those rules, they can leave the project.  But my boy has said in a letter that he wants to finish his studies so he can help his parents!  How would he do that without Compassion?  What a poor show it would be if my desire for more contact meant their having to leave their centres and squander the opportunities they’ve got.  Shouldn’t I instead set them an example and wait?  In 10 years, they’ll be adults and probably at the end of their sponsorship.  I’m free to contact them once they’ve left Compassion, and what’s a few years really?

I think those are the main 2 things that put me off breaking rules:  The consequences, and wanting to persevere; but I wonder if God likes either of those.  Does He want us to be Christians just so we’ll escape going to hell?  Does He want us to strive and strive to finish well and do what’s right, because they’re the rules and we know we should?  Or would He rather something else:  Would He rather we have such a deep love for Him, doing what’s wrong just doesn’t seem to fit.

Do you know something?  When I’m most tempted to break rules is when my love for God is in most danger of going cold.  I’ve been hearing about Peter this week and how Jesus turned someone who was out of courage and out of passion into a bold, enthusiastic Christian.  I’m sure He can do the same for me and for you, so whenever we feel we’re going cold, let’s ask for His help.