Four Ways to be Easily Conquered (Pt. 5)

4 | Be Isolated

(Four Ways to Be Easily Conquered, Pt. 5)

Strength in Numbers

Interesting fact: termites cannot digest wood. Instead, they rely on millions of microscopic organisms of over 100 different species living in their stomachs to digest the cellulose in the wood for them.

MEET THE PEEPS: Just some of the

MEET THE PEEPS: Just some of the “friends” termites rely on to live.

Termites require community to survive. A termite without its comrades starves to death, no matter how much wood it consumes.

This is not only true for termites. Humans, too, thrive in community and starve in isolation. While this may look different for different people (e.g. introverts suffocate on too much community but still need a network–albeit smaller, more selective network than extroverts–of deep, meaningful relationships), even a strong person, if isolated, is vulnerable and easily defeated.

This is evident in many areas of life.

Want to lose weight? A diet and workout plan coupled with determination can still be easily defeated in time. However, procrastination and compromise are less likely when the plan is done with a trainer, a partner or a group.

Likewise, addicts who participate in support or recovery groups have greater success of overcoming their addictions than those who attempt to fight alone.

Within helpful communities (specifically those whose members are intentional about contributing to each other’s well-being and success), a person finds strength, support, encouragement, counsel, accountability, and even very practical help (e.g. financial, physical, etc.).

Unfortunately, many are intentionally or unintentionally becoming isolated from these vital communities.

The Exodus from Church

The following info is from: Tyson, Jon. Sacred Roots: Why the Church still matters, part of Barna Group’s “Frames” series. (Zondervan), 2013; particularly pages 22-27.

It seems fewer and fewer Christians recognize the Church as God’s solution to our need for community. Research from a Barna Group study in 2013 exposed some disturbing trends.

wpid-haveyouattendedchurchinthepastsixmonths.jpg.jpeg

More than one-half of American Millennials (born between 1981 and 2000; 15-34 year olds) and Gen-Xers (born between 1965 and 1980; 33-50 year olds) have not attended church or a church-related function in the last six months.

In fact, only 2 out of 10 Millennials believe church attendance is important. Of those who do go, only 1 out of 10 says they go because they believe the Bible says to gather with other believers.

Oddly, when asked what factors help Americans grow in their faith, church was not even named among the top 10 factors.

Compare these numbers to older generations–for instance, 40% of the Mature/Silent Generation (born 1927-1945; over 70) rating church as “very important”–and the decline is obvious. The practice of believers consistently gathering as a meaningful community is in jeopardy.

Some churches have responded by making their worship, sermons and resources available online. This addresses people’s need for solid biblical teaching but cannot forge human interaction. People have the need for both the content and the community of the Church, and options other than gathering with believers may satisfy the former but cannot satisfy the latter.

The result is much like a termite who eats plenty of wood but has no companions to help it digest.

The Reason to Bother

What’s the big deal? Is it really so bad to be withdrawn from consistent participation in a community?

Ask the antelope who is not careful to stay within the safety of the herd.Hunted

Ask the inhabitants of Laish.

The Danite scouts observed that the inhabitants “lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationships with anyone else” (Judges 18:7). We’ve already seen how their city was prosperous, well-fortified and suspecting no trouble, so why worry about relationships? Why do the extra work to maintain connection with surrounding peoples?

No doubt, relationships take time and effort and can be messy. So why bother?

Because attack and hardship will come eventually, and when it does, having no one to help will practically ensure defeat.

[The Danites] attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else” (Judges 18:28).

Gather Your Team

Just as a lion preys on the antelope who gets separated from the herd, so our enemy preys on those who are not connected to a helpful community.

We have already learned from Laish’s defeat about how to be victorious rather than victims.

The best investment in our security is not money, insurance, alarm systems, etc., but an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Keeping in mind that hardship is imminent, we must remain vigilant, disciplined and dressed in the full armor of God.

We must train ourselves not to rely on any luxury for contentment, most effectively by voluntarily denying ourselves what we crave most through the discipline of fasting.

And finally, we must cultivate “a herd,” a network of companions committed to each other’s well-being who will fight for one another, celebrate victory together, provide for each other, encourage, support and counsel each other.

This commercial perfectly depicts God’s design for how a community of comrades can literally mean the difference between defeat and victory.

[2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Big Game Ad: Team (Extended)]

Do you have a team, a herd, a community of people who have your back?

Parents, do your kids have that? Have you helped them develop, not just acquaintances or friends, but a community of peers and adults purposefully invested in their success?

If not, a great place to start is to find a local church with children and youth ministries, family/adult small groups and recovery groups. If you live in Lewisville, Flower Mound, Highland Village or any of the surrounding areas, Garden Ridge church of Christ would love to be that community for you and your family. Find out more at http://www.gardenridge.org. (Explore the “Ministries” menu for various groups to fit your needs.)

Tell Your Story

We would LOVE to hear what your helpful community means to you and how they’ve come through when you needed them. Please add a comment to share your story with us.

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Four Ways to be Easily Conquered (Pt. 4)

3 | Lack Nothing

(Four Ways to Be Easily Conquered, Pt. 4)

Prosperity seems to be an advantage, but in fact, it may be the very thing that keeps us unprepared for attack.

Disproportionately Blessed

It certainly made Laish unprepared for the Danite assault. We are told twice that Laish lacked nothing and was prosperous (Judges 18:7, 10), no surprise because of its ideal location.pampered

The city was situated perfectly at the foot of Mt. Lebanon and the Hermon mountains, whose melting snow provided the majority of the water for the Jordan River. This made Laish uniquely lush and fertile in an otherwise arid region.

Also, they had apparently faced little or no mistreatment since another way to translate the Hebrew phrase for “lacked nothing,” is, “no oppressive authorities taxing them.”

No doubt, this city–like many people–seemed disproportionately blessed.

The Misfortune of the Fortunate

How could such prosperity be a bad thing? I can think of two reasons.

1 | Wealth becomes a target on the wealthy person’s back.

Capture01People who are perceived to be more privileged evoke the envy of others who feel unfairly deprived, making them targets of hostility or theft.
Wealth may have the advantage of providing for greater safety measures–high-tech home and car security systems, insurance on expensive possessions, living in gated communities, etc.–but a disadvantage of wealth is that it makes such measures necessary.

Proverbs 13:8, says, “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but the poor hears no rebuke” (NASB).

The Amplified Bible expounds,

“A rich man can buy his way out of threatened death by paying a ransom, but the poor man does not even have to listen to threats [from the envious].”

Whether wanted or not, prosperity naturally calls attention to a person, making them the object of admiration to some and a more compelling target to others.

Including spiritual foes. If Job was singled out by Satan because he was so fortunate and untouched by hardship, we too may expect to be harassed for our good fortune.

2 | A person who lacks nothing becomes dependent on having everything.

The longer we live in prosperity, the more it becomes our norm. Before long, having everything feels so normal that it feels necessary.

When something is taken away, we panic at the thought of living without it, even if it is something many people easily live without. Maybe even something we ourselves were previously content living without.

This is true for me and cell phones.Capture02

I did’t have a cell phone until I was a junior in college, and I didn’t have a smartphone until four years ago (2011). Before that, I lived actively and even did youth ministry without a phone with internet, GPS, texting, camera, cloud storage, etc.

naked-smart-phone-addiction-dependency-confession-ecards-someecards-300x167Now I shudder to think of having even one of those functions taken away, much less trying to live without any cell phone at all.

The more we have, the more we require to “survive” and the greater our shock when we are forced to go without.

Boot Camp

Misfortune can be good for us, then…so good, in fact, that we should intentionally inflict hardship on ourselves if we hope to overcome difficult challenges that will inevitably befall us.

Our success in battle depends on how we train in boot camp.

In boot camp, if soldiers “lacked nothing,” it would be quite a shock to them in combat when they have to live on very little and they’re under attack.

Training conditions should mimic actual battle conditions so there is familiarity, not shock, when suddenly forced into the discomfort, deprivation and danger of battle!

Soldiers can withstand, even succeed in, the worst battle conditions because they have trained themselves NOT to be dependent on favorable conditions or good treatment to do their jobs.

Maybe the Monks are On to Something

We can do this ourselves with a practice called “fasting.”

Many believe fasting to be an antiquated discipline practiced only by extreme pious nuts in monasteries. It seems outdated and irrelevant for modern disciples, but I believe fasting is needed now more than ever.

If we are not careful, the attitude of entitlement will infect our minds.

It is an epidemic in the American church, if not globally. Many Christians feel entitled to a certain level of comfort, prosperity and protection. When these expectations are not met, when hardship comes, they are easily conquered by discouragement, despair, bitterness toward God, compromise, or maybe even all-out surrender and defection.

Fasting is our way to practice having nothing so we will be prepared for times when we indeed have nothing.

Essentially, fasting is merely voluntarily removing something we have come to depend on for fulfillment other than Jesus.

We can fast from food, of course, or maybe a particular food/type of food (sweets; Starbucks; a “Daniel Fast” of only fruits, nuts, and vegetables; etc.).

Some fast from a certain activity that has, or could, become too important to their happiness.

Couples can agree to fast from sex for a spiritual purpose (I Corinthians 7:5).

Many modern “fasters” have chosen to challenge themselves by abstaining from digital entertainment and/or social media for a time.

A person might even fast from money, determining what income is absolutely mandatory and choosing to give away everything over that for a certain amount of time. This benefits the people, families, churches or organizations they give to and allows the person to practice finding contentment on a tighter budget.

What to fast from is different for each person. To determine what would have the greatest impact for you, evaluate (honestly!) what would be hardest to give up.

Coffee? Netflix? Sex? Facebook? Dating? ESPN? Extra spending money?

Whatever you would be most defensive about giving up if someone suggested it is probably the thing you benefit most to fast from.

I know what it is for me. What is it for you?

Enough Prayer

To paraphrase someone much smarter than me, it is in times when God is all we have that we discover God is all we need.

Do you want that kind of unshakable faith?

Do you want to be able to say, as Paul said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12)?

Then rather than praying for prosperity, pray simply for “enough,” and nothing more.

Proverbs 30:8 is the Enough Prayer:

“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.”

May the Lord use both blessing and hardship to train you so you will be successful under any and every type of combat conditions.

Four Ways to be Easily Conquered (Pt. 3)

2 | Be Unsuspecting

(Four Ways to Be Easily Conquered, Pt. 3)

 

Sleeping in the Enemy’s Lap

How was Samson captured?

dont-be-complacentEasy. He fell asleep on the lap of the woman who had already tried three times to subdue and overthrow him.

A sleeping person is easy to conquer, even one who is otherwise strong when awake and motivated. All the strength and skill in the world benefit a person nothing if they are asleep and oblivious to the presence of the enemy.

Being unsuspecting is a great way to be defeated.

Demilitarized Zone

The scouts for the tribe of Dan reported excitedly that the city of Laish could be captured despite the impressive walls. A reason this fortified city was so vulnerable is noted in their description: “When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people” (Judges 18:10).

Sounds like many people, including many Christians. We may have, at one time, been very intentional about our defense and preparedness, but we have now become, for all intents and purposes, demilitarized.

No more training.IMG_7069

No more watchmen vigilantly scanning for potential threats.

No more self-discipline to stay in shape for action.

Prayer, which was once an urgent survival mechanism, has become an optional “To Do” item.

The sword of the Word of God has rusted from lack of use.

And rather than carefully suiting up in the full armor of God first thing in the morning, we casually slip into sweats, dressing for comfort instead of conflict.

And who could blame us? After all, why all the vigilance and preparation if we don’t expect an attack?

The Devil’s Greatest Trick

zewJjFrench poet Charles Baudelaire said, “The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.”

And he is very persuasive!

There’s a reason for the popular saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” We deeply want to believe we are safe and secure, and many would rather be oblivious than to acknowledge the reality of an enemy whose sole purpose is to steal, kill and destroy.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, British novelist J.K. Rowling gives us a vivid embodiment of blissful ignorance in the character of Professor Umbridge. See the short video below.

(You can watch the full 2:42, or skip ahead to :50.)

Umbridge, teaching the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, announces that a theoretical knowledge of defensive spells rather than experience and practice will be sufficient for the students. The students object, arguing that only experience, not theory, will prepare them for attacks. Umbridge scoffs and naively assures them there is no real enemy, so they need not prepare so rigorously.

It certainly is more pleasant to believe there is no enemy.

But what we don’t know can still hurt us a great deal. In fact, being unsuspecting makes us all the more vulnerable, Samsons sleeping while the enemy cuts our hair and binds us.

A Call to Arms

So when you have enjoyed peace and favorable conditions long enough…

When your days no longer feel like warfare…

When you have had enough victories to feel strong, almost invincible…

When you have ample resources and safeguards in place to give you peace of mind…

When you are finally enjoying prosperity and security…

… BE CAREFUL!

an-american-soldierThese are the type of conditions that put Laish to sleep, and they are exactly the types of things that make Christians lose their vigilance and, therefore, lose their battles.

If you want to continue being easily conquered, remain unsuspecting and at peace.

But if you want to be unconquerable, remain watchful, disciplined and vigilant, especially when there seems no reason to be.

“If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).

Keep your guard up, and you will never be caught off-guard.