Remove the Toe-Hold

Years ago, while trying to explain to someone how the devil can get a grip on our lives, I came up with an analogy that seems to be helpful. I used this in the last few days to assist a young person to understand their situation, so I’m sharing it with you, in the hope it is helpful.

I have often seen trees with a sleeve of smooth metal wrapped around them, so possums and other climbing animals can’t get up the tree. The unwanted animals can’t get a grip or a toe hold, so they slip off the tree trunk.

Our lives are like that tall tree trunk. If there are many indents in the tree trunk it is easy for things to cling to our life. If the enemy finds toe holds in our life then the enemy can cling to us. Such things as fear, anger, hurts, shame, jealousy and the like, can stick to our life and seem to be unshakable.

One of the ways to deal with those things is to remove the toe hold. 

So imagine there is a tree with smooth, shiny skin and no toe holds. It is safe from the climbing animals. But if a truck was to drive too close to the tree and scratch large gashes into to skin of the tree, then there are places for creatures to grip our life.

Similarly, when our life is scratched up by things that hurt us, or make us afraid, or stir up wrong responses inside us, like jealousy, hatred, lust or the like, then toe holds are scratched into our life and the enemy can jump on and hold on tight.

For the tree to be free from the climbing things it would need healing of its skin, making it shiny and slippery again. In our case we need Jesus to heal us from those scratches, hurts and damaging experiences, so we can be restored to a shiny surface that does not allow the enemy to keep grip in our lives.

There is a godly way to respond to nasty things that happen to us. We are to keep a humble heart and repent of anything we did to bring the problem into our life.

We are also to forgive all those who offend us, no matter how nasty they were to us.

We then need to make a spiritual break with the evil that scratched up our life, and any evil that seems to want to come out from inside us.

Let me explain that point more clearly. You may be offended and insulted by a stranger. Maybe that offender is angry and aggressive and speaking abusive language. They look at you and say some horrible things, with aggressive tone and vile language.

You are offended and hurt, scratched and wounded by what they did.

To completely clear up this experience, so the enemy can’t get hold of it, you need to be sure you didn’t do anything to bring that problem onto you. You may have been an innocent victim, but you might also have seen the offender and spoken something to rebuke him, causing him to target you with his abuse. Or you may have looked scornfully at him. If you have done anything to prompt the problem you need to be forgiven for that before you try to fix the problem.

You could pray, “Lord, I have been offended. If I have done anything to cause this attack on me please forgive me. I repent of all attitudes, thoughts and actions that I may have had that opened me up for this offence.”

You then need to forgive the one who offended you. “Lord, I forgive that person for what they said and did to me and all the hurt and pain they caused me.”

Next you need to break from the evil they dumped on you, and the evil that seemed to come up from inside you. They dumped on you their aggression, vile language, hurtful words, insults and anger. So, what came out from inside you in response?

Did you respond by cursing them, or being aggressive in return, or by threatening them?

Even if you didn’t respond outwardly was there an internal response? Did you decide to despise and distrust people who were like them (males, or from their nationality, or people in their social standing)? Did you respond with inferiority, shame, resentment, bitterness, hatred, vengeance or anything else that offends God?

As I said earlier, you need to break from the evil they put on you and the evil that comes from inside you. So you might pray something like, “Lord, I now break off the evil that came from that experience, including all the evil they put onto me, such as their anger, aggression and vile language. And I repent of and break off all the evil that came up inside me, of resentment, despisement, anger, retaliation, (name all the things that you responded with).”

The next thing to do is to give all the hurt and damage of the experience to God, which is putting our cares and concerns onto Him, instead of carrying them ourselves.

“Dump all your worries and cares on God, for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

You might pray, “Lord I give you all these hurts and issues in my life. I dump them on You because You love me and only You can take them out of my life.”

The process I have outlined is like a legal process for getting rid of toe holds. Once you have carefully covered each of those points the next thing to do is to resist the devil, telling the problem that has attached itself to you to get out of your life. You might pray something like, “In the name of Jesus, the Christ, I speak to the problem in my life (name it, such as fear, shame, evil thoughts, etc) and I command it to go in Jesus’ name. Get out of my mind, my emotions, my body and my whole life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

I also encourage you to find Christians who have strong faith in God to join you in prayer, agreeing with you and praying for you to complete the process of setting you free.

What should result from that is the healing of the scratches and dents in your life, so the devil no longer has a Toe Hold in your life.

I have found for some people that repeating the process is needed, especially when the hurts and offences have been very deep or repeated over time. Allow God to prompt you to anything you left out of any part of the praying process.

God bless you as you put these suggestions into practice in your life.

Stinky Kid

Imagine a small child playing on a farm and slipping on fresh cow manure, ending up covered in the sticky smelly stuff. Imagine then that the child, distressed by this, runs to their parent for comfort.

As they run toward the parent, arms outstretched, they desperately want to be picked up and comforted and to know that the problem is well in hand, because parents are good at solving such problems. The child knows that all will be well once they get to the parent.

However the parent has seen what happened and the parent does not want to be painted with the stinky sticky stuff that is all over the child.

The child runs to the parent, hopeful and crying, but the parent pushes them away.

That would be a great shock for the child. The child may assume the parent no longer loves them. The child may think their accident has not only made them smelly but unlovable as well.

Do you think the parent still loves the child? Of course the mother and father still love their child. But there is a problem. A stinky problem puts a barrier between the parent and child. No matter how much the parent loves the child, the parent cannot pick up the child in that condition.

That simple allegory reflects our problem with God. 

God, our loving creator and the Father of all life, loves us deeply, as the Bible assures us.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” John 3:16

But as we try to approach God we are offensive to Him, by the stink of sin in our lives. 

We are not allowed in His presence while we are covered with our stinking sin.

“Your iniquities have shut these things away, and your sins have kept good from you.” Jeremiah 5:25

“Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:2

People, seeking God, have done amazing things. Not that many years ago young westerners would travel the Guru trail of the East, seeking wisdom to connect them with God. Others have joined works-based religions that have had them out on the street notching up points toward their approval with God. Others have even become missionaries and given up all hope of normal life, hoping God will see their sacrifice and accept them.

Today people try to better themselves with education and self development, religion, philosophy, good works, upholding high standards, giving to the needy and so on.

Their problem is that, for all the good things they do, they bring their stinky sin into God’s presence and are rejected.

We can’t get to God by means of these seemingly valuable things. Those things may be very good to do, but they can’t remove the stinky stuff from our life.

So getting a high distinction in Religion and Ethics, with a Double Major on Philosophy, combined with a gap year at a third-world orphanage, while busily blogging about your high ideals, doesn’t get you one inch closer to God than being a drunken no-hoper.

Just as drowning yourself in drink can help you forget your mess, but not solve it, drowning yourself in your own efforts to please God won’t solve your sin problem either.

Wonderfully God has solved the problem for us.

A loving parent with a stinky child would not leave the child in that rejected state, but would step in and actively solve the problem for the child. They may turn on a hose or carefully lift the child into a pond. They may get a bucket of warm soapy water brought outside, hand the child to someone who would clean them up for the parent (especially if they had servants).

In the same way our loving God is willing to free us from our stinky sin problem, so we are no longer locked out of God’s presence. Sin had to be washed away, and only the blood of a sinless person could do that. So God became human, Himself, and lived sinlessly, to then die and pay for our sins.

Christ died for sinners to set them free from their sin and make them fit for God.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 1Peter 3:18

“But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence.” Colossians 1:22

“So much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, purify our consciences from dead works, so we may serve the living God.” Hebrews 9:14

“In Him and through faith in Him we may enter God’s presence with boldness and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12

So we are made clean through Christ and are acceptable in God’s presence.

That wonderful acceptance we enjoy, to enter God’s throne room whenever we want, did not come through us cleaning ourselves. We could not remove the stinky sin from our lives. God did it for us by sending Christ to die for us and pay the penalty for sin.

Now our Heavenly Father welcomes us into His embrace when we come running to Him. There is nothing to keep Him from picking us up and being our most wonderful heavenly Daddy.

Enemies Defeated

You may think you have various enemies in life, including people who oppose you in some way or other. You may even feel some of your family members or work associates are enemies.

The Bible reveals three main enemies you need to have defeated for your eternal good.

The very first enemy mankind encountered was the Devil, when he came to Eve in the Garden of Eden, through the serpent, tempting Eve to sin against God.

The last book of the Bible confirms who that is.

“The great dragon was hurled down; that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads astray the whole world. He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:9

The second great enemy is Sin. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit they came under the power of Sin. Sin rules in the hearts of mankind, so that people who want to do good can’t.

“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” Romans 7:14

So natural mankind must deal with Satan and with the power of Sin.

But there is a third terrible enemy, which the Bible refers to as the ‘last enemy’.

“Jesus must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1Corinthians 15:25,26

So our third great enemy is Death.

Whatever issues you think you are having with problem people around you, or even governments or institutions that are at war with you in any way, your real enemies are Satan, Sin and Death.

Satan is determined to bring you under the power of sin and keep you from connection with God.

Sin is the power you were born under, thanks to all mankind being sold to sin by the actions of Adam.

Death is the penalty of sin. And death is not just the passing away from this life, but eternal separation from God. We earn death by our sin, as if we have been working for it.

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Each of these three enemies has been defeated. Although they are fighting against and controlling you, it is not up to you to defeat them, because you wouldn’t be able to anyway.

Christ has done the fighting for you and defeated each one.

Jesus defeated the Devil.

“Since the children were made of flesh and blood, Jesus likewise took the same form; so that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:14

Jesus paid the price for our sin. Through Christ we are able to come free from the control of sin, so it does not rule over us anymore.

“Sin will no longer have dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

And Christ defeated death, as proved by His resurrection.

“Christ was truly raised from death, the first-fruit from the grave. Since death came through a man (Adam), resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (Jesus)” 1Corinthians 15:20,21

Jesus healed various people during his ministry time on earth, but those people were not ‘resurrected’ but ‘revived’. They came back to life, but still under the power of death, so they would die once more.

Those who are resurrected are free from death. Death has no more sting or control over them, because their new body is unable to die.

“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” 1Corinthians 15:55

Note that we could not defeat Satan, but since Christ has already defeated him, those who put their faith in Christ can resist the devil and make him flee.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

We could not defeat sin, since it ruled our hearts and lives. But now sin has no more authority over us.

“Sin will no longer have dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

We cannot defeat or cheat death. It is one of the certainties in life. But we can be raised from the dead, with a resurrection body that will never die.

“Your body is sown in dishonour; and raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” 1Corinthians 15:43,44

All this is done for us, if we put our faith in Christ. We don’t do the fighting, it is done for us. But we have to make Christ our saviour and Lord. We have to be on His side, in His family, to receive the benefits of these victories.

As believers in Christ, those who have received Him, you have no need to ever be afraid of the Devil, but resist him and he will flee.

You never need to fear sin, for it doesn’t have the power to rule over you. With every temptation God makes a way of escape for you.

And you never need to fear death. Your body will eventually pass away but it will be raised, immortal when Christ returns.

There are no more terrifying enemies, since Christ has set you free for each of them. Praise His Name. Be sure you put your faith in Christ as your saviour and Lord, and are a child of God, so you will enjoy these wonderful victories.

What’s Bugging You?

Do you find that little things annoy you at times. Apart from any big issues in your life, there may be smaller things that just annoy you.

My daughter recently had a situation where her old car increasingly gave her trouble. So she decided to sell it. But then she found there was no interest when she advertised it. She dropped her price and there was still no interest. She then decided to let a friend use it, but it wouldn’t start.

In the grand scheme of things the car isn’t worth much money and if she were to trash it there would be little loss, but the series of frustrations began to get the better of her.

That reminded me of how little things can build up in my life. I have several weaknesses, including that I hate to let people down. If they express to me their hope, I feel keen urge to help them see their ambition fulfilled. However, I can end up overwhelmed by the feeling I might let people down. It’s not a big deal, but it wears away at me.

We probably all have areas where little things irritate us. Many things are fine to cope with initially, but can wear thin over time.

The bible talks about little things and how annoying they can become.

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vines have tender grapes.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Little foxes are not as serious as famine, fire or flood but they can spoil things for you.

“A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike.” Proverbs 27:15

Dripping water is not a big deal at first, but when it does not cease it can drive us crazy.

There are two main considerations when you face little things bugging us.

One is to see if God is trying to highlight something in your life for you to deal with. 

The other is to cast your cares on the Lord and wait, patiently, on Him.

Maybe the reason you get annoyed with your spouse, children, parents, job, car, equipment, etc is because there is an underlying issue in your heart you need to deal with.

One such issue could be fear. You may fear that things will go bad or not get any better. Every time you think you see evidence for that, you feel not just the weight of the small incident but the crushing weight of your fear. You may fear that your marriage or home will never be happy, or that you’ll never get ahead in life, of that your limitations will trap you in an inferior existence to the one you want.

God can use these little annoyances as a way to shine His spotlight on your area of vulnerability.

Another issue could be pride. Maybe you despise certain things around you because they are not as good as you feel you deserve. You might think those things make a poorer reflection of who you think you are than you want. 

Maybe you are struggling with feeling outperformed by others, shown up by them, and so you react to little things they could use to highlight their superiority over you.

Maybe you struggle with feelings of helplessness and you hate being in situations where your limitations are put under test.

There could be a multitude of hidden inner thoughts and agendas which make you vulnerable to reacting to little things.

Most of these things are idols: things you elevate as highly important in your life. The Bible advises that if you have an idol in your heart you will cause pain to yourself.

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” Proverbs 15:13

The original Hebrew text could be translated “By having an idol in your heart your spirit is crushed”.

So consider the example. If a person held material goods as idols in their life, such as wanting to own a shiny new car, then every time they see someone in a particularly impressive new car they will feel stung. The idol will be a source of pain for them.

Obviously, then, the solution is to remove the idol from your heart, so you can be glad for those who have what you previously wanted, and you can be joyful with what you have.

Take a moment to audit those little things that get under your skin and annoy you. Ask God to show you what they are linked to in your heart that you need to deal with.

When it comes to casting your cares on the Lord, you are invited by God to give Him your concerns and issues, and let Him deal with them.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

Those things that make you anxious, fearful, frustrated, feeling vulnerable, undermining your peace and joy, are all things you are to put in the hands of the Lord. He cares for you and He cares about the little things as much as the big ones.

My daughter’s car issue was handed to the Lord. My concern over people’s demands was handed to the Lord. 

Once issues are handed to the Lord they don’t belong to you anymore. They are God’s problems, not yours. You can rest easy, confident in faith that God has everything under control.

So, with those reflections in mind, let me ask you this question. What’s Bugging You?

A New Deal

On the night Jesus was betrayed He introduced a new element of worship, that we call the Last Supper, or Communion, or the Lord’s Table.

Jesus had just completed a Passover Meal with His disciples. He picked up the bread and broke it, blessed it and passed it to them, saying it was to be eaten in remembrance of Him. He also picked up a cup of wine from the table, blessed it and passed it to His disciples.

The Apostle Paul was personally told about this event, after it happened, by Jesus Himself.

“I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you, do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1Corinthians 11:23-26

Let me draw your attention to a phrase Jesus used, “the new covenant in My blood”.

Here is the same statement recorded in Doctor Luke’s historical record.

“Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:20

Notice that Jesus is referring to something new. It is a new covenant, or a new agreement.

The old covenant, the old agreement which the Jews were subject to, was based around the Law given through Moses, and the offerings and sacrifices of the Jewish religion.

At the time Jesus instituted the Last Supper / Communion He was about to die for our Sins. His death would completely do away with the Jewish Religious obligations of sacrifices, because Jesus was God’s sacrificial lamb, about to be killed to pay for all our sins.

On the cusp of this new situation Jesus asked His followers to remember Him in a simple ceremony of eating a piece of bread and drinking a sip of wine. The bread represented His body, which would soon be beaten, abused and killed. The wine represented His blood, which was about to be poured out through multiple points of injury, such as His hands and feet, and the spear thrust into His side.

The old covenant, the Jewish religion, was based on animal sacrifices. It was a covenant sealed in animal blood. It obligated the people to ritual, offerings and prescribed works they had to do. So it was a covenant dependent on the actions of the worshipper.

The new covenant, Christianity, is based on the Blood of Christ, shed as our sacrificial ‘lamb of God’, paying for our sins. It is sealed in Jesus’ blood. It is a covenant dependent on the actions of our Saviour, not us as the worshipper. We are free from having to earn our salvation in any way. We simply receive it by faith.

So Jesus could announce, “This is the new covenant”, and He could announce the basis of that covenant, as something other than the works of the Old Testament Jewish religion.

“This is the new covenant IN MY BLOOD”.

The new covenant is anchored in the Blood of Jesus, not the blood of animals, and not in the acts of devotion of the worshipper.

We are wonderfully invited into this new covenant. We are now wonderfully free from the obligations of religion. We are wonderfully adopted into God’s family as His children. We are wonderfully released from slavery to religious form and ritual. We are wonderfully allowed the new, instead of the old. We are wonderfully saved by Jesus’ blood.

So, in the Communion celebration feast, we celebrate Christ’s body given for us. 

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

His body was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised (or crushed) for our iniquities. The whipping Christ received brings us physical healing.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; the disturbance of our peace was put on him, and with his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

So we celebrate Christ’s body and remember what He has done for us.

And in the Communion we also celebrate the Blood of Christ, because it is this blood that established a New Covenant (New Testament) in which we are made right with God by the blood, not by anything we can do.

Rather than Christianity being a religion of works, where things we do bring about our salvation, like offering sacrifices, there is nothing for us to do. We simply receive Christ’s salvation made possible by His blood. We believe that Christ has done it and we receive Him as our saviour.

“God gave to all who received Jesus, who believed in his name, the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

So, on the night when Jesus was betrayed, only hours before His crucifixion, Jesus announced the New Deal. He presented a new covenant, a new agreement between God and man. This one was not based on physical things, like circumcision or sacrifices, but on blood. Not the blood of animals but the blood of Christ. Not based on man’s actions, but on one eternal act by the Son of God.

Jesus says, “This is the New Deal – the new agreement – the new covenant, and it is IN MY BLOOD.”