Between Satan, God and a Hard Place

A question from last week’s 7 AM Bible Study and prayer on Monday.

Theresa looked up from her Bible and asked, “In all the attacks against us in our homes, in El Paso and the dinner that we had for SAEM and in Guatemala and the minister that was immoral then attacked the mission, and in our church with several of the adults blaming each other for the problems that are coming down, are we being attacked by Satan, or put on trial by God?”  It was real early in the morning, and everyone was still on their first cup of coffee; this was not going to be an easy question to answer. I looked at the study group that had all fixed their eyes on me; I responded, “The answer is, ‘Yes’”.

That is going to take some explanation.

Jesus is talking to Peter on the night he was betrayed and he said, ‘“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’  Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’”

What we find in the Gospels and the rest of the Bible is that Satan is a lion on  a leash, and even though he is free to devour the secular and do with them as he pleases, when it comes to God’s children, he has to ask permission to attack them. Satan was going to attack Jesus and his disciples that night.  Peter was the main target of the attack as Jesus was arrested. Peter buckled in the prayer garden; he knew he needed prayer time from what Jesus told him in the upper room, but he went to sleep several times that he was asked to pray.  Sure enough, the rooster crowed, and Peter had just denied Jesus a third time as Jesus walked by in chains and looked at him. He went away in tears.  We hear nothing more personally about Peter, except running to the open tomb, until Jesus corners him on the beach in northern Galilee.  In the beach after fishing all night, Peter avoids the three questions of Jesus about loving him. Jesus finally gives up and realizes that it will take the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to get Peter back in line with Jesus.

This dichotomy between God and the created Lucifer that fell from heaven, and became known at Satan, aka, Devil, the accuser of the brethren, the dragon, the old serpent, and leader of the fallen angel band of billions of demons, evil spirits and Jesus pegged him as the father of liars. Lying is his native language, a murderer from the very start, as recorded in John 8.

God knew that there was going to be an on-going war between Himself and his created lion on a leash, Satan. And guess who was going to be caught in the middle? Yep, you and I.

For this reason, while Moses was vegging out while watching Jethro’s sheep, God revealed to him the account of Job and the land of Uz that was just north of Mt. Laws, where later Moses would receive the Ten Commandments and the rest of the law.  Job is the first book of the Bible to be written and it was Moses during his shepherd years that penned the book that began the sixty-six books of our Bible.

I believe God had a very real reason for the drama that transpired between Job and three friends that was all over a hypothesis contrary to fact. No one of them understood, or knew what was going on. Job was in the dark as were his very

religious and upright, and uptight, friends that were struggling with “What caused all this trouble in Job’s life?”  Since they were not sure, they were blaming it on Job’s secret sin life, and Job was trying hard to defend himself. Now, Job’s life reads like the sermon on the Mount by Jesus. You and I know the cause and the outcome, but neither Job, nor his friends, understood during the drama that was played out in the trash heap of Job’s home town.

The one that really gets the dirty rap is Job’s wife that was also in the total dark about what was going on. She plummets from the heights of society, wealth, political and social elite to sitting broke, childless; having lost everything her husband had lost, and now was watching him die as far as she was concerned, before her very eyes.  Little wonder the delicate one, as Peter calls the helpmate, collapsed for a few seconds as recorded in Job 2, crying out in sympathetic pain for the husband of her youth; in total desperation, she cried out, “Are you going to hold on to your integrity? Curse God and die,” She is shouting for some relief, “Get it over with!”  “I can’t go on hurting like this.”

In the middle of the unexplainable drama from Hell, Job forgets his own pain and loss for a few minutes, and I can see him showing all mankind how to be the spiritual leader of a family in the way God wants.  I see him put his arm around Mrs. Job, pulling her close to him, and he calms the hurt and anger for a few minutes, saying, “You are talking like a foolish woman, darling. I know you know better than that. Shall we accept good at the hand of God, and not trouble?”

In times of family stress, it is the God-given duty of the husband to rise above the pain and be the spiritual leader.

A hundred and forty years later, my sanctified imagination can see Job and Mrs. Job sitting in rocking chairs on the veranda of their ranch house, looking out over a spread that most likely covered nearly a hundred miles north and south along the Gulf of Accaba. Including a hundred thousand or more acres of dry land farming, thousands of acres of sheep, donkey and camel grazing land. Incorporated near the ranch house and the city where the ten children and their children for four generations are living, and the wool processor building, the butcher buildings for the meat processing, the caravan warehouses for international trade and his mining operations.  This just might be the largest multinational operation in one place in the history of the pre-twentieth century AD world.  As the old folks, Job and Mrs. Job are rocking away, I can see Job reaching over for the hand of Mrs. Job and saying as he squeezed it so ever softly, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t curse God and die?”

Back to the drama and this time we go to where it is known what is happening, the very halls of heaven at the throne of God, the angels came and Satan came with them to stand in review before God almighty. God asks Satan if he had considered his man Job, how there is none like him in all the earth. Satan, the accuser, answers back that Job’s goodness is all because of God having blessed him with everything.  This sets up the dichotomy that God wanted understood before any of the rest of the Bible was written. Satan was the accuser, Satan was the enemy, Satan was evil and had evil intent, but he was not allowed to go beyond what God allowed. Job was good, but God had more in store for him as one of the triumphant trio that would rule the confederacy of Uz, Edom andMoab in his latter years. The writings of Egypt fill in the blanks for us. God strengthened both Job and Mrs. Job for even greater things by putting him through the meat grinder of Satan and all his evil plots against God’s people.

This is the reason I believe that God had Job written first and it is the lynch pen that holds the rest of the Bible and God’s story together.  Job standing firm on his belief in God, on his knowledge of what God wanted of him and he would not allow his religious friends to move him from the truth that he knew no matter how bleak the circumstances. It is important to understand that 98% of what his three friends said in the long discourses that make up the extensive dialogue in Job is far more Jehovah-God correct than most of the stuff that passes for Christian preaching on Christian Radio and Television today. The friends, Job, Mrs. Job and Elihu’s only real problem was not being versed in the best information that they had about God at that time; they were flying blind as to Theresa’s question at morning Bible study, “Was Satan attacking him or was God testing him?” The error across the board was not knowing and assuming that they did. Job won in the end, not because of his goodness, but because he held firm in his faith in God and God’s word that he knew in spite of a multitude of evidences in his own and in his family’s lives to the contrary.

I want to jump about 1900 years to Jesus at about 32 or 33 years of age. He is in Jerusalem in the temple debating with the religious leaders of his day. They have no respect for him; they repeat their common attack on Jesus that He was a Samaritan, a bastard child, a product of fornication, and evil (John 8: 41b and 8:48).  I want you to get the picture of how Jesus saw these religious persons; he is not judging them by their religious garb, or the name plates on their office doors, nor the self proclaimed importance on their business cards. He looks them right in the eye and lets them understand that he knows that they have totally capitulated to Satan and his control of their lives. In verse 34 and 35 he makes it plain that these religious persons all are slaves to sin and Satan, and he speaks truth to them in 35, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36, Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” What Jesus is telling the religious leaders of  the “House of God” in the contest between God and Satan, and the attacks and the trials, Satan, in their lives, has won completely. They were totally slaves of sin, and Satan was now their full fledged father. At this point their only escape was to be set free by the Son of God.  Of course you understand, that choosing Jesus is a personal choice that has to override circumstances, evidence to the contrary, and often the bad advice of well meaning friends that cannot know everything that is going on. The truth is, most of the time, you may not fully know or understand everything that is going on either; you have to hold tight to what you know is the truth and the ultimate will of God in your life and the life of those entrusted to your keeping.

I would like to examine a couple of very familiar Bible accounts about good men that I believe were caught in a Job type trap of a contest between Satan and God. Satan seeking attack, evil and destruction and God testing the resolve, faithfulness, and loyalty of good men. The results had worldwide influence and consequences.

First go to Dothan and the nomadic sheep pasture of Jacob’s sons. The smart mouth kid that had weird dreams and was daddy’s favorite showed up to check out the things being done by the brothers. I see it that dad was concerned and the 17-year-old brother was the one sent to report back. The brothers saw it as the kid was spying on them again, and no telling what he will tell daddy when he goes back to ground zero and the family compound.

They acted on their feelings and stripped him to his undergarments, took his coat of many colors, and tossed him in a dry cistern well until they could decide what to do with him; there was no agreement as to what to do.  On the horizon came the answer to the problem and the chance for some pocket money. A caravan of Midianites and Ishmaelites were slave trading and on an international trade trip to Egypt. They bought the handsome and strong, healthy, young man for twenty shekels of silver. They took him to Egypt and sold him for a profit on the open slave market. He was bought by Potiphar, an important leader of Egyptian military that was often on field trips and away from home. Potiphar’s over-sexed wife was a willing tool to be used by Satan to seek to throw a monkey wrench into God’s plans for this young man that now is far away from home and family with a real bad taste in his mouth for brothers and kinfolk.

God has plans for this young man named Joseph, and he needs to mold him, and strengthen him to be ready for a fantastically tough job in the years to come. He also needs to mature his thinking about family, and renew his total commitment to the God of his father. The kid has a lot of good raw material, but it is un-tested, un-strengthened, and un-tried.  So a school of hard knocks is established in the high rent district of Egypt.  Satan and Jesus both have their sights on this young man that is doing a fantastic job in the house of Potiphar and is soon promoted to the top of the house servants/employees. Satan has a trap in mind, and evil consequences. God has a spiritual muscle building program in mind and he has lined up the white collar Egyptian prison and the warden to be a part of the school of hard knocks program of spiritual muscle building. Joseph is completely ignorant of the days and years ahead of him. In fact, he is quietly enjoying his job and is doing, with God’s help, a great job and keeps getting kudos.  Then the hammer falls, slowly at first in shy looks and hidden remarks; Potiphar’s wife wants Joseph in her bed and as her romantic partner. He is young, handsome, and a challenge.  Joseph whisks off the sexual advances and the-on-the-job sexual harassment for weeks and then one day Satan is getting impatient, and the sin maker woman grabs the opportunity of being in the house alone with Joseph and grabs him and propositions him, “Come to bed with me!”  Joseph realizes that no one at home will ever know he is lonely and is at the height of his sexual strength. Potiphar is a long ways away, and no one is there to discover his giving in. After all, she is the boss when Potiphar is on the road.” I have to obey her; she is my owner as well; I have no other choice.”  The excuses go through Joseph’s mind in rapid succession. Then they hit a wall. Like Job, he will not allow circumstances to go against what he knows about God and he shouts out, “How then could I do this wicked thing and sin against God?” Satan is losing, Joseph runs, Mrs. Potiphar grabs Joseph’s coat and yanks the buttons off as Joseph flees in his under garments again. Satan curses, God smiles with joy, and Joseph goes to prison. I am convinced that Potiphar did not believe his wife, but he had no choice but to punish at her lies, and Joseph goes into graduate courses in the school of hard knocks. God is pleased with the results so far and Satan is going back to the drawing board. Joseph is standing a little taller; he is being buffed up for the job that is ahead.

Over the next few years, Joseph is promoted to trustee in the prison, has time to interpret dreams as God directs for fellow white collar prisoners. They make promises and Joseph is again forgotten and back to the behind bars grind. Satan is seeking a way to get Joseph out of prison, and God is keeping him there on ice

until just the right minute for eternal plans and reasons. God knows that if Joseph gets out one day too soon, he will high-tail it to home and God won’t have him available for the most important job in Jewish history so far.  So, it is another couple of semesters in the school of hard knocks. Then the knock comes to the door of the prison.

The butler remembers Joseph, Pharaoh is in need, and Joseph is told to shave, put on these clean clothes, and come before Pharaoh, and the rest is history. God had buffed up the spiritual, moral, physical and mature life of Joseph in the school of hard knocks. Satan had done his best and all that he accomplished was to help God get Joseph ready to go from prison to number two in the land in less than four hours. Joseph was made ready and did God a fantastic job. God’s lion on a leash had done well. Joseph, like Job, had done fantastically well. Again, it was based on hanging on to the word of God and not allowing circumstances to alter your convictions and faith.

Jump with me several hundred years and back across the Nile river to the hill country of Judea, and the new city being built by the popular and handsome king David.  God and his lion on the leash had fought over this young man many a battle by this night that he is walking on the roof of his newly completed palace. He had not gone to war with his military men as he had for years, but was feasting in the luxury of being powerful, important, and rich.  His bedrooms were full of women, some really good ones, but this night he was restless and wanted something, and he was not sure what. Satan was really working on him and he was looking out over his hilly city that was to bear his name, the city of David.

God goes on alert; he realizes that his lion is on the prowl and David was in danger. It was too late; David had spotted the beautiful woman bathing on the roof of her home down below the palace. One of the advantages he thought, of building at the top of the hill, he had a great view of all that went on in the city day and night. The passion of lust takes over, the lion is doing his job well, God seeks to bring some scriptures to mind, but David’s eyes are now spent into that long, last, lusty, gaze at the nude body in the shadows below him. He can’t see much, only enough to arouse him and he sends a servant to fetch the beautiful woman whose husband is away across theJordan, fighting for the king.

Hollywood is thrilled at Satan winning here and as David takes Bathsheba’s hand and leads her to his private bedroom, and the rest is history and hot movies out of Hollywood exclaiming another of God’s men sold out to Satan, letting go of all they held dear and generations would be affected by David not holding on to God’s word, and allowing the lion on the leash to win.

Now, back to 2012 and the month of May. What are we to think of all of this? We had been on a plateau for several years after coming back from the death bed and the church about folding. We have reached a lot of people, and many have moved on. We have helped a lot get on their feet, and as soon as they did not need us any longer for daily bread and a place to live, they were long gone to greener pastures and larger buildings and programs. We had people coming and going. Lots of street people that were far more costly than they could compensate for with offerings; that is good work, but digging the hole deeper and hurting the working people that are carrying their share.  A year ago we started to pray for victory and began to work for victory.  We refused to take defeat and when things were going wrong we stepped in and sought to redirect what was happening with relationships, especially. It did not matter if we got them coming back to our church or not, if we could get them back in church and

talking to us again. God began to work with us and we saw damaged relationships repaired and prayers answered. We began to have new people come and stay, we opened ourselves to self study each month with the How to do it manuals that were being prepared by Pastor Herb, and the majority of our folks began to fill out and work the manuals and a noticeable change began to take place in our congregation. We became more other-centered and not so worried about ourselves. Satan began to get a knot in his drawers and before long he was renewing attacks on us from every side. God was taking notice and realized that we needed to buff up our giving spirituality and our service outreach. We began to take on monthly projects to help others, and more and more of our people began to come back. New people were coming and loving what we do. We set up a schedule for everyone to lead in congregational opening prayer, and in the communion meditation. The Point of View was passed around so many got to share their point of view. People began to come without my fussing at them to Bible study and prayer meeting. We opened outreach businesses and Satan was getting fighting mad and God was realizing we need a lot of spiritual training that comes from allowing Satan to attack, and he was testing us to find where we needed a spiritual buffing up. So, it seemed we were being constantly attacked by Satan. Not so; God is working on us and is proud of how we are doing and bringing his blessings.

We took on a major job of the annual banquet for SAEM and asked to use the Celebration Christian Church; both groups are old time friends with Herb, and the week before, Satan threw a land mine into the mix and liked to shut down our dinner program. I was good friends, and bosses of all those involved, and Satan thought he could get me to take sides and destroy all that we were doing, but taking Job and Joseph’s example, I held onto the Word and promises of God, and did not allow friendship to cause me to go to the right or to the left, and God strengthened us and all involved. Since Satan could not cancel the dinner, he got into the clean up and caused several women that had done an excellent job to come to near blows and we had to again stick with the clear word of God.

Satan was really trying to hit me hard at my home. My commitment to Melba as my wife and my only sex partner for life was a decision Melba and I made sixty years ago, long before we stood before Minister Ben Tollen and spoke our vows, long before we had children and made a home together. I claimed her as my Wanderette for life and all the rest was dressing on the cake. That will never change. I have had to make some decisions about what wars to fight and what battles were important to win. Melba and I have not always agreed on every- thing. But the word of God has been one of the strong agreements between us. Satan has attacked that by seeking to make peripheral matters of dress, Biblical matters, while God was helping me find the more important answer to finding a way to stop the running away, getting the obedience back to time and place and school work and church work. Not only has she taken on the job of Biblical education of a talented young man, and the two of them are helping me with reaching and changing someone that has drifted back into an addiction and they think they are hiding it from me. I may not be handling this the way others think I should, but I am sticking as close to actual scripture as I can, not to cultural prejudices. This has been the same with having to confront adoptive grandparents about allowing non-Christian influences in their home get between their kids and Biblical training. What you need to know, God and his lion on a

leash has us between them and a hard place right now. The only escape is to stick tight to Jesus and his making you free by the Word, and sticking to the Word, and not being drawn into the lion’s traps by getting involved with the “Such likes.”

Satan has used a lot of peripheral things seeking to get us off Word, and off track, and God has strengthened us to stay on target.

This past week Theresa had an opportunity to be yanked by the nose by Satan and get her off the track she is learning to walk along. About five months ago a Roman Catholic lady came to our care center, and I gave her a ride home with what she had picked up. We soon had her coming to church. She got mad at our young people and after we mostly furnished her new home and moved her, setting up her outdoor clothes lines, and many other things, she got mad at our young people requiring adults to pay attention when the children are praying in Sunday School opening. I went to her house and calmed that one. A month later, she was helping in the mail-out room and took offense at something said and stormed out and took the bus home. We had just bought her $175.00 worth of propane to have heat in a mobile home in winter time. I tried to call on her, and got a cold shoulder. I found that it was something said by a couple and they wrote a very nice apology letter. We had taken her portrait pictures and I printed off 8x10s and 5x7s and wallet size for her to send to family that she had been astringed from for two decades. I sent mail-outs that were returned. She wanted nothing to do with us. So we dropped it. This week she saw Theresa on the city bus and she called her some very graphic names and Theresa did not take the bait and respond. She just took it. Satan was using her to get us off track.  We are not taking the bait. The church is better off without her until she changes.

Justin and Jessy had their Alma d Arte charter high school prom last Saturday night. We went dress shopping and Jessy chose to go to Savers, and we found a formal dress she really liked for $6.50.  I never remember getting off dress shopping with one of my girls that light. She had everything else needed for a good time. I gave them a few dollars for incidentals at the dance, and they bought an evening portrait of the two of them and one of Jessy and a school friend.  Now, this is a very secular art school. I attend parent meetings to plan programs where the grandparents of the other kids are younger than my older children. It is an adventure as I am approaching 78-years-of-age.  I really get along well with her teachers and I am excited about how things are going. The theme for all the kid’s prom was black and white. Her running buddies all decided to make it a zombie night to be different and they all took on the look of the dead. I am no fan of a lot of makeup, body piercings, tattoos, or the like, but if I have to settle on one of the rebel marks, makeup washes off. Both went with enough eye shadow to look like they had been up for 80 hours. It washed off. The prom pictures showed it, and the pictures went on Face book, and the comments came flooding in. No, I never allowed Dale, Lori, or Linda to go somewhere looking like that. They never asked, nor sought to. It was a totally different time, society and set of problems. There was no drinking, no pot, no running the roads that night, Melba and I picked them up at 11:30 PM and we all went out for supper at the Village Inn and had an enjoyable evening, make up and all. I got to bed at about 1:30 AM, and the Sunday morning alarm went off at 4:30 AM. That I had to handle. Satan is not winning, he is mad as hops, and is throwing everything into the party including the kitchen sink. In spite of many not thinking so, we are seeking to stay close to the Word. Satan is mad about it. God is pleased, and God is padding the hard place.  Good job, good example Mr. Job!