Saturday, January 31, 2009

Prayer as a Weapon

The last piece of equipment for the successful soldier, and the second offensive weapon, is prayer. It's our only means to communicate with our commander-in-chief. Prayer is the means by which we put on the armor. Prayer is also the power that makes the armor work. Paul states that the Lord wants us to be "praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). Complete knowledge of the enemy and using the best of equipment have no value unless the soldier possesses the energy necessary to face the enemy and use the equipment. Prayer keeps us connected to God's power. People who drift away from God are never prayer warriors. In that sense, the armor offers no help to us unless we are living in a growing love relationship with Jesus Christ. Only as we walk in fellowship with Him do we receive strength and power from Him. Our prayer lives to a large extent define our Christian lives. A good case of this was Joey. He was plagued with anxiety about his two children. He was age thirty-two and worried constantly that one of them would be badly hurt or die. Only two years earlier, he had lost his only other son in an auto accident. After the death of this three-year-old, Joey's concern for his children became an obsession. The fact that one of his children had died two years earlier stoked his concern and turned it in an obsession. As Joey and I prayed together, the Lord brought to his mind the fact that he was believing a lie. The enemy's lie was "God really doesn't care for your son and daughter like you do. If you don't constantly have them in mind and worry about them, one of them might die again, or be severely injured-and it will be all your fault." When that lie was exposed. Joey's mind exploded with affirming Scriptures, such as "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1). Joey thought about another compelling verse: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). Joey knew these verses applied to his children as well as himself. He realized that he had not been taking to his Father in prayer the need of his children's safety. I reminded him that God, who created them, loves Joey's children-loves them so much that He could not take His eyes off them. Later Joey told me, "That day my life changed. I saw that through prayer I could take my children to the Lord and He would keep them safe in His arms. Each morning I rededicated my two children to the Lord, I asked Him to place a hedge of protection around them, and I have learned to trust Him in a whole new way. Since that day in your office, my anxiety is gone. My children truly belong to the Lord. "Through prayer I'm constantly reminded of this truth that God loves my children." He added. "My wife and I try to be wise stewards of these precious lives the Lord has trusted us with. But thanks to God; He is their protection." Author and speaker Warren Wiersbe has reminded Christians of the importance of wearing all the armor. Concerning the when and how of putting on the Christian armor, he wrote, "My own experience has been that the morning is the best time to put on the armor. After I have given God my body, mind, and will, I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me, and then I, by faith, put on the pieces of the armor by prayer." The Strategy of Satan, 1985. I cannot think of a better pattern to follow. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Wielding The Sword of the Spirit

The sixth piece of the soldier's equipment is his first offensive weapon. All previous pieces-the belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, and helmet-are defensive and protective. With this next piece, we actually gain the ability to advance on the enemy and drive him away. It's the sword of the Spirit. Paul writes, "And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). The term for "Word" here is rhema, which indicates the spoken rather than the written Word. That is a crucial distinction. It calls for speaking the written Word to others and ourselves. A word like this has power only as the Holy Spirit energizes it. How do we gain the power to use the sword of the Spirit in this manner? The primary method is to hide the Word in our hearts, as Psalm 119:11 indicates. I like the psalmist's focus in this verse: "Your word {the best thing} I have hidden in my heart {the best place}, that I might not sin {the best purpose} against You." We must not think of the Scriptures as if they were magical words to chant or shout. Simply reciting the Scriptures without comprehension is meaningless. But when we understand and use them according to their true meaning, they become powerful truths to believe and apply in our lives. Jamie has learned the power of wielding this sword of God's Word. She came to my office in a state of hopeless despair. Five years earlier she had experienced a major emotional breakdown. She spent several weeks in a treatment facility for emotional and mental disorders. When she stabilized, she went home with hope,-really believing the Lord would help her. Jamie told me, "The next four years were wonderful. I could sense the Lord's presence and I functioned quite well." That was all to change abruptly. "Doubts kept coming into my mind," she said, "doubts about my salvation, God's love, His ability to keep me, and my ability to persevere to the end." One morning she woke up and sensed God was gone. "He left a huge emptiness, nothing else in its place." Jamie felt lost, abandoned by God and beyond hope. I was sure this wasn't true; sometimes God uses this sensation to wake people up to the truth that they aren't truly saved. But in her case, I was sure it was an emotional sensation, not a reality. That pointed me to the problem: Many people base their spiritual well-being on how they feel. It sometimes takes hours of counseling to help such people see that emotions are quite subjective and can be affected by many things. I tried to explain to Jamie that our Christian life is to be obedience-oriented rather than feeling-oriented. This didn't seem to register. The Lord then led me to Philippians 1:6, which mentions God's power to take us from where we are and help us arrive safely in heaven. I turned to the passage and handed her my Bible. I asked her to follow the verses with her eyes as I read, "{For I am } confident of this very thing, that He who begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." I personalized the verse using Jamie's name for "you" and requoted it. Then I asked Jamie, "How long will the Lord work in your life?" "Until Jesus comes, or I go to heaven." "Is this verse true? I asked. "It must be true," she answered. "It is the Word of God." Then I asked, "Is it true for you?" She began to weep as she said, "Of course it is true for me, because God said so." That opened a window in her mind. She saw for the first time that her salvation and perseverance were from God, not from her. Her protection was twofold: With the sword of the Spirit-the Word of God she was reminded to wear the helmet of salvation. Indeed, remembering her salvation chased away many doubts she had about God's love and His ability to keep her. Today Jamie knows she is a child of God. She is also confident that the Lord will continue to work in her life. Because she feels it is true? No, because the Scriptures say so. This is now the foundational bedrock for her belief in the faithfulness of God. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings

The Helmet of Salvation

The fifth piece of armor is the helmet of salvation. The helmet, of course, protects the head from attack. It signifies the hope of deliverance in trouble and ultimately from hell. It protects my mind from enemy attacks suggesting that I'm not really saved, that I will not make it to heaven, and that God does not love me. Satan targets our minds here because he knows the power of keeping us unaware of God's truth. If the enemy can control the mind, he can control us. However, if Satan cannot take control of all your mind, he will control whatever he can find. He knows that if you surrender some of your mind today, more will follow. We need the helmet because a wound to the mind can cause serious damage. Through our minds we grow in holiness, character, love, and faith. That's one reason Paul asked believers to "set your mind on things above" (Colossians 3:2). For us to grow spiritually and have real victory, our minds must be fixed on things above. Only when the mind, heart, and will are working together can we serve the Lord as we ought. In earthly battle, the two most vulnerable targets are the heart and the head. A soldier who is wounded in either of these places usually dies. For this reason no soldier would go into battle without his helmet or his breastplate on. When we have that helmet on, we: 1. are assured of our salvation; 2. have confidence that death, if it comes, is the door to heaven; 3. know that God ultimately is in control, even if we are not; 4. can trust in God even when things go wrong; and 5. become willing to sacrifice our all for His kingdom. Melvin found the helmet indispensable against Satan's attacks. I had counseled with Melvin one hour per month for five years. For several years he had been in the homosexual community, and one day I had the privilege of leading him to Christ. He grew quickly as a new believer; the Word fed his soul and he would grasp large portions of the Bible daily. Melvin said during one session, "I love to bite off a large chunk of the Bible in the morning and chew it all day." Melvin reconciled with his parents, who had rejected him for his previous sexual orientation, and joined their church. He was warmly received by the members of the congregation and now actively serves the Lord there. One day Melvin came to counseling with a perplexing problem. The enemy was attacking his mind by saying, "You're not saved. You had a lustful though about a man, and that shows who you really are. You have lost your salvation." The great deceiver had clearly planted that thought. Satan's number one strategy is to suggest thoughts to us. When the lustful though came, Melvin took it captive and confessed it, but Satan still accused him of being a sinner God had not truly saved. That was when I encouraged Melvin to put on the helmet of salvation each day (along with all the armor). As I explained the fact that we are saved apart from any any works we might do, I also explained that the helmet of salvation protects our mind from the lies the enemy tries to tell us concerning our salvation. "By the helmet we are reminded that we are delivered from the wrath to come," I told him. "As blood-bought children of God, we are saved from the penalty of sin and the power of sin in this world. One day in heaven we will be saved from the presence of sin;" Melvin grasped the helmet and put it on. Later, recalling our session, he told me, "From that day forward I have put on the whole armor of God daily. The helmet of salvation reminds me that I am secure in Christ because He has won and given me salvation, not because I've earned it. I am truly saved because of Calvary." The helmet protects our minds, the very point at which Satan most often strikes. Over and over, as I've helped Christians understand this amazing piece of equipment, I have seen them change from saints in a pit to saints with a peace. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Spiritual Protection During Tough Times

Terry found the shield of faith his ally through a terrible event. Driving home after working the night shift, he saw a cloud of smoke as he approached his street. That is close to my home, he thought. As he reached his long driveway, he saw flames shooting above the tree line-from his house. Moments later, to his horror, he learned that his wife and four children had perished in the fire. Terry told me this terrible story, and I learned he had found Christ as a nine-year-old but soon wandered from God. "During my teen years I sort of forgot about the Lord," he said. "I pushed Him into the background. I married after high school. When our first child was born we went back to church to dedicate the baby. I promised the Lord I would start reading the Bible and attending church. However, I didn't follow through with my promise. After the birth of our third child I began to realize that God's blessing was upon my life in spite of how I was treating Him." "At this time I began getting serious about the Lord. Soon our two oldest children received Christ." "My wife Jan had grown up in a nominal Christian home. Her childhood church did not preach a clear gospel. She believed herself to be a Christian until one Sunday morning the Holy Spirit showed her how lost she was. On that day she went forward to receive Christ at our church. We were growing as a couple and growing as believers. Just when things came together in our lives, she and the children were gone." So often in situations like these the best thing I can do is listen. What words of consolation can anyone offer? As Paul said, "Weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15), and that is what I did. Then Terry added, "I don't understand what God is doing, but I do know the Scriptures tell us to 'set our affections on things above.' I can confidently say all my treasures are now in heaven." Our session took place several months after his terrible loss. Among other things, we talked about the shield of faith. I explained how the shield keeps us from being destroyed. I explained how as believers, when God in His sovereignty allows one of the enemy's arrows to come through the shield, it is like a refining fire. Even in a terrible situation like the loss of life he'd experienced, I assured him we can trust God, who never errs. We can cling to Him and be confident that He is walking with us even through "the valley of the shadow of death." Terry picked up the shield of faith and walked on with the Lord, resolving to deal with his grief honestly but also to trust that God knew what He was dong. Now, five years later, Terry has married a fine woman who loves the Lord. They recently adopted a little girl whose first word was "Daddy." Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Shoes of Peace

We can confidently place upon our feet the third piece of armor, the "shoes of peace." Knowing we shall survive, and indeed that Christ shall triumph, allows us to march into battle with inner peace. Significantly, the Roman soldier wore shoes with cleats on the bottom. These gave him an advantage in battle, for his shoes (sandals) would not slip on almost any kind of turf. Paul chose the image of these shoes to suggest we would be assured and secure when we have this peace. Putting on the shoes of peace meant standing sure in the peace of God. Thus Paul wrote that we should "shod {our} feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15). Such genuine inner peace enables us to stand and walk with a sense of assurance that God is not only with us, in us, and guiding us, but on our side, supporting us and cheering us on. Without such peace, the battle looks endless and overwhelming. But with it, one knows, "God is working His plan and I'm part of it. In the end, all will be well." How then does Christ's peace work here? Christ's peace in this war sits enthroned in our hearts and functions like an umpire. When we face decisions about serious matters in our lives, we are often drawn in opposite directions. This is where God's peace becomes most helpful, because God gives us peace when our choice, if done in harmony with the Scriptures, is the correct one. Before I was able to open the session with prayer, my new client Glenn stammered, "I've lost my peace, and I can't find it. Where did it go?" We began to talk about his walk with the Lord, and eventually Glenn concluded, "I think I lost my peace when I become angry with my new neighbor." He explained that shortly after new neighbors moved into the home next to him, the parties began. The neighbors had big Saturday night parties, Glenn explained. They would rent a hot tub and even an outdoor toilet for their guests. Glenn described the scene. "About nine in the evening their friends would start showing up. By midnight fifty or more people would have gathered to drink booze, dance to extremely loud music, shout obscenities, and throw empty beer cans and whiskey bottles into my yard. I tried once to reason with my new neighbor, but all he did was mock me. The next morning all the tires on my truck were slashed." I told Glenn I sympathized with his plight. Certainly he was bearing a hard load. I have known many people with neighbor problems that continued for years with no respite. It's a difficult circumstance to work out. However, I also explained to Glenn that his anger and bitterness offended God and grieved the Holy Spirit. I explained that God in His sovereignty had allowed these people to move next door for reasons He had and that would lead to good. We looked at some passages about loving our neighbors. As Glen began to agree, he saw the wisdom of simply following God's truth in the matter. With head bowed, he chose to forgive his neighbor and those who partied with him. He repented of his anger and bitterness and asked God to take back the ground he had surrendered to the enemy. The peace of God flooded his soul. Now he had a decision to make. How would he respond to his neighbor when the next weekend party erupted? The peace of God directed His steps. Glenn told me later, "The next Saturday evening was party time as usual, but this time God gave my wife and me rest. We slept all night. The next morning I had a song of praise in my heart as I picked up two garbage cans of trash off my lawn. The next week my neighbor's wife was hospitalized. We sent flowers and a sympathy card. I began to smile and wave at my neighbor, and in time he began to wave back. "We would always pray for them as a family. At Christmas time we bought them presents. Last summer his wife gave birth to a little girl. At this time the parties abruptly stopped." As if this wasn't miracle enough, Glenn went on, making me choke up a bit, "Just last week I was able to share the gospel with him. I sensed the Lord was working in his life. He hasn't accepted the Lord yet, but I feel that's coming." Then Glenn himself choked up and said, "But the greatest work is in my life. I have the peace of God that passes understanding." The shoes of peace caused Glenn to become a peacemaker. He is learning to love his neighbor as himself. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Are You in the Battle

One of the most dramatic and critical military maneuvers in the twentieth century occurred on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. On June 6, 1944, American soldiers stormed the shoreline, machine guns armed by Nazi soldiers blazing in their faces. With buddies falling all round, bullets pinging off their helmets, it would have been easy to turn and run. But no one did, and more than three thousand soldiers of the first and twenty-ninth divisions died in the mission. Two things kept them fighting. The first probably was the fear that the commanding officer would have them shot for desertion. The greater motivation, though, was knowing that they were fighting for a worthy cause, the preservation of the free world. Many soldiers have kept their courage in the midst of battle not because they fear the punishment of desertion, but because the believed in what the war was all about. For the Christian, though, things are turned around. First, you know you will never be shot for desertion. If you lose your courage, the Spirit of God will draw you back, restore you, and strengthen you so that you eventually learn to face your foe, unafraid. Second, in spiritual warfare you're fighting not just for America or against the Nazis, but in the greatest battle in world history: against forces of darkness in heavenly places. It's a personal battle that calls for your utmost every day. It's a heroic battle, because you are engaged in performing heroic acts every day. And it's a consequential battle, for it's part of God's plan for history. Perhaps the greatest difference in a spiritual battle, however, is in the risks and the outcome. For the America soldier in World War II, the risk was great-to his life and the lives of those around him. In addition, he didn't know whether this war would end in defeat and destruction or victory and honor. For the Christian, however, these two things are already decided. No one loses his life; instead each believer gains it, even if he dies in the process. More importantly, the war has been won! Jesus won it at the Cross. (Many verses declare this victory; for example, see 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 5:9-10). We're just cleaning up the mess at the moment, until He comes to right everything at the end. In that sense, the suspense is less: We still know we're part of the winning team, that our efforts are never in vain, and that ultimately our enemy, even if he fells us now, will be felled himself in the end. This makes this war utterly worth entering and fighting with all you're worth. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Antidote to the Devil's Accusations

What is the antidote to the enemy's accusations? The breastplate of righteousness. As we wear it, we hear the truth of God in our hearts each time Satan slings an arrow of accusation at us: "I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10; 43:1-2; Matthew 28:20b). "Do not be troubled. I have every thing under control" (Psalm 115:3). "Believe in Me. I'll get you there" (John 14:1-3; Philippians 1:6). "Don't give up. It's difficult right now, but My plan is working" (Jeremiah 29:11-13; Romans 8:28-29). As we listen to the truth of God, spoken in our hearts from memorized Scriptures, the Spirit's voice, and friends in the local church, Satan is sent running. His accusations have no power against the truth, so long as we believe the truth and reject his words. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Truth about the Breastplate

The second piece of armor is equally important, but can be put on only after the truth is accepted and believed. It's called the "breastplate of righteousness." What exactly is this? This is righteousness that Christ has given to us through His own perfect life. (Theologians call this "imputed righteousness.") The breastplate wards off the accusations of Satan. If the enemy is not foisting some lie off on us, he takes a second stance in which he accuses us. He tells us we're "vile," "foolish," "rejected," and even "hated by God" because of our sin, bad attitudes, and evil actions. He says we're "not worthy of God's love" and that God Himself has given up on us." These are both lies and accusations meant to destroy our confidence and hope in God. Sins and failures provide Satan with much ammunition. God's constant assurance, though, is that if we will confess those sins, He will cleanse us. How can that be? Because of Christ's righteousness. Jesus lived a perfect life in our place. When God looks on us, if we are His children, He sees Jesus and all His goodness, wondrous deeds, and perfection. We are covered with the robe of His righteousness (Zechariah 3:1-5). That is what it means to put on the breastplate of righteousness. It's not our personal goodness and "perfection" that makes us acceptable to God; it's Christ's. Therefore, when we put on this piece of the armor, we protect ourselves against Satan's accusations. We are righteous in God's eyes because of Christ, not because of our keeping the rules, great acts of mercy, or giving to the church. What does this righteousness do for us? Ultimately, it means there is no death sentence hanging over us. We are not condemned by God because of our sin, but forgiven and completely accepted by Him (see Romans 8:1). And as Paul wrote, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). I saw the power of the breastplate of righteousness in Kendra. When I first meet her, I thought, "This woman really has her act together. She is single, in her thirties, has a master's degree in psychology, and is the director of a progressive woman's ministry." I really wondered what she was doing in my office. As her story unfold, she shared with me that she felt "emotionally crippled." Through a veil of tears she explained, "I accepted Christ in my mid twenties. During my high school and especially my college years I was extremely promiscuous. I've received the Lord, and He is changing my life. Yet I still feel defiled and dirty. I often ask how He can use me. I know the Bible says I am forgiven of my sins, but I don't feel clean." With tears, she listened as I shared the truth of the breastplate of righteousness and told her, "Today you are righteous. You are as pure and clean as Jesus Christ, because He was the One who cleansed you." Working deep inside her, the Holy Spirit opened Kendra's heart to receive that truth. She wrote to me later, "That day in your office was the second most profound day in my life. On that day I received in my heart the truth about the breastplate of righteousness, that I have been declared righteous and made, through the blood of Christ, as pure and clean as Jesus Himself. I now know I am clean and I feel clean. The devil has no right to use my sinful past against me, because in Christ I have no sinful past; I am redeemed." It's a powerful, emotion-filled truth. We are righteous, pure, and clean in God's eyes, now and forever. If I could instantly impress this on all my clients, I would be out of business! Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Truth about the Belt

In Ephesians 6, the apostle Paul begins the discussion of the armor by describing a belt of truth. What is this? It's our truth system in Christ. "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth" (verse 14a). We are to gird, or encircle, ourselves with four great resources of the truth: 1. Jesus Christ, He is called the truth (John 14:6; 1:14; 8:31-32). 2. The Word of God. Again, it is the "Word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). 3. The Holy Spirit. He is called the "Spirit of truth" (1 Corinthians 2:10-12). 4. The local church. It is called the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Each of the four resources can help us spot a lie and help us see the truth that will destroy that lie. Whenever the "father of lies" assaults us, the lies will become apparent as we seek Christ, learn from His Word, allow the Spirit to work in our lives, and give the church a chance to speak. Often such attacks are frontal, right at a basic point of doctrine. Bart and I were talking about the belt of truth in a counseling session. Being desperate for the victory in his life, he took notes as fast as he could. Bart is a medical doctor, so I asked him, "Bart, how are your going to read your handwriting at the speed you are writing?" He laughed and said, "I will get a pharmacist to read it to me." When I mentioned the church as being part of the belt, he blurted out, "The church has failed." We have church at home, just our family. We watch preaching videos." I explained to Bart several New Testament passages about the function of the church. We talked about the fact that it is Jesus who builds the church and walks in the midst of the church. I explained that the church represents authority and the church leadership will give an account to God as to how they watched over our souls (Hebrews 13:17). As we talked, Bart's eyes fell and he nodded with repentance. "I really don't have a true church at home; it was just my excuse for not being part of a local assembly." Bart saw the lie he had been believing: that the church had failed so he need not be part of it. Bart repented of his rebellion toward God's church and confessed that he had been deceived about the place of the church in his life. His repentance did not prove empty, either. He began attending a Bible-believing church, took the same kinds of notes he took for me (I don't know whether or not he has to take them to his pharmacist to decipher), and he realizes well the power the church brings into his life, giving his family harmony, friendship, and love. Today, he actively serves the Lord there as an elder and Sunday school teacher. Moreover, he and his family are growing Christians. Our entire life must be held together by God's truth. When we were saved, the Lord gave to each of us the belt of truth. We all have it. This is the first piece of the armor, and, as a result, it's the first thing we must buckle on each morning. Without truth, Satan's lies will not seem at all like lies, that's the way "things really are." That is the subtlety he works toward. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Truth is We're in the Battle

While God does allow Satan and his demons to "wrestle" with us, that wrestling can always be redeemed, and God is always ready to step in on behalf of a repentant believer. The truth, though, must be applied specifically, not just bandied about in general terms. Like it or not, we are in the ring against satanic forces. Every believer. The truth, though, must be applied specifically, not just bandied about in general terms. Like it or not, we are in the ring against satanic forces. Every believer is involved in spiritual warfare, even though he or she may not know it. Spiritual warfare cannot be fought at a distance, as if you can let others do it for you. No, it is hand-to-hand combat. The way to succeed in the battle is found in the verses surrounding the biblical warning of Ephesians 6:12. The victory is ours if we "put on the whole armor of God, that {we} may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil," if we "take up the whole armor of the evil day" (verses 11,13). The enemy is no passive observer. When we are commanded to "stand against" the enemy's lies, our position is active, confrontative, and direct. Being watchful is the critical element for becoming engaged in the battle. Many Christians simply avoid or refuse to recognize this truth that they're in a spiritual battle and needful of spiritual armor. Their refusal to recognize the battle is often the thing that keeps them bound in chains to the tortures of the enemy. How that do we wrestle effectively against this enemy of our souls? We find instructions in Ephesians 6:10-18. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Dealing with Jealousy and Bitterness

Norman worked for a large manufacturing company. By his own admission he said, "I am from the old school and at times I am a little bullheaded." For several years he eyed the foreman job. He knew the foreman would retire at age sixty-five. Norman worked diligently and felt certain the job would soon be his. He arrived at work early, stayed late, and produced more than any man in the plant. When the big day came to choose a new foreman, though, Norman was passed over for someone much younger; in fact, a recent hire. "They brought in a runny-nose college graduate to do a man's job," Norman told me. Some of the adjectives he used to describe the new foreman and the decision are unprintable. Norman had learned the company chose to computerize some of the machinery as the old foreman retired. That resulted in the need for a man with computer training as well as people skills (which I discerned Norman lacked). Norman became jealous of and bitter toward the new foreman. His bitterness didn't stop there. He also became bitter toward the Lord. He resigned his Sunday school teaching position, asked to be taken off the deacon board, and quit reading the Bible. "How do you like those apples?" he said as he finished telling me his story. I answered his question with a question: "Norman, where is God in all of this?" I waited in silence for several seconds. Norman seemed to calm down and really think about the question. "I pushed Him out!" he finally answered. "Are you willing to invite Him back in?" He paused. Then with tears in his eyes, he answered, "Yes!" Norman confessed his sin of bitterness, pride, and desiring control of his life. He then asked the Lord to take back the ground the enemy had been given through his sin. Norman was now willing to reason scripturally. He admitted that he wouldn't fit the foreman job, but he desired the prestige, title, and power he thought it would bring to him. He could now clearly see God's protection in keeping him from getting a job that would lead to frustration and eventual failure. Norman could also see that what God intended for spiritual development the enemy attempted us use for destruction through bitterness. Norman learned a whole new appreciation for the armor of God. He says, "My favorite part is the shield of faith. It puts out those burning arrows that Satan shoots at my heart." Today Norman is serving the Lord with a new excitement because joy and peace have replaced the bitterness in his heart. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and the Armor

The Scriptures teach that we are personally involved in spiritual battle. This war will continue the whole time we live on earth. The war ceases when we die. At that moment, the Lord strikes the final victory bell and our homecoming, with a song of triumph, will begin. Until then, though, the battle rages. Satan's attacks usually are subtle. After all, he is the great deceiver. But his power on earth is considerable, and he can undertake a direct attack on those who give him a stronghold. I remember, for instance, the day Jonathan came for counsel. Two days earlier, he had tried to take his life. We began our meeting with some friendly chitchat; I sensed a warm relationship developing as we visited. Then I asked, "Jonathan what sin in your life do you feel the enemy is using against you?" Jonathan answered, quite honestly, "I am a heavy user of pornography. I believe it is an addiction with me." He described for me the kind of hold it had on him and many other details about it. I finally asked if I could pray for him. He seemed to welcome the offer. I prayed, "Dear Father, your child has sinned by making a naked human body an object of worship. Please grant him the gift of repentance." I wasn't expecting anything dramatic, but when I said the word "repentance," the most amazing thing happened: a spirit threw him on the floor as if it were gagging him. I immediately prayed for Jonathan, "Heavenly Father, this evil spirit is harassing your child. Plead bind him and set him aside." At that point Jonathan relaxed and was able to return to his chair. Seconds later, a prayer of repentance and confession poured out of him like few I have heard. In only moments, he appeared free of his bondage. He then asked me, "Do you know why I was thrown on the floor?" "Please tell me," I said. "I didn't believe in demonic powers. I thought I could be a Christian and indulge in pornography, and somehow get away with it." I stared at him, quite amazed. He added, "Today I have become a believer in the existence of the enemy." I smiled happily at the change and encouraged Jonathan to read the Bible regularly and apply it in his life. He followed that advice consistently. Jonathan's parents later reported to me. "We have a new son, one who loves the Lord and who obeys His Word." In this case, God let demonic powers drive Jonathan to such an extreme that he finally turned back to God in desperation. Clearly, that was God's purpose all along. The lie in Jonathan's life could only be vanquished by his seeking God with integrity. God had to apply the truth to Jonathan's specific need like a torch to metal. Mere candlelight would not have done anything. Most Christians will not confront the enemy or his forces so directly. But they will still engage in spiritual battle. The reminder-and warning-from Scripture is that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against...powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places," (Ephesians 6:12). The spiritual battle may involve resentment, showing disrespect to authority, jealousy, or even verbal fighting between parents and kids. We need the armor to withstand all satanic attacks, including feelings of inferiority, selfish ambitions plans, and attitudes of indifference to those in need. No matter the sin, we need spiritual weapons to confront and defeat it. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Martha's Sunrise

The Spirit's primary work is in guiding us into God's plan for our lives. I saw the Spirit work in this way in Martha. Martha, age thirty-five and a believer in Christ, was suffering from deep emotional pain. During a counseling session, I asked the lord to bring to light the lies Satan had hidden in her inner being. As I prayed, the Lord brought several lies to Martha's mind. "I believe I am really evil," she soon noted. I showed her then what God actually says about her. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Martha thought about this and said, "Then according to the Bible I am washed clean." The next lie the Holy Spirit brought to her mind was "God can never love me because I am so awful." I then read the wonderful truth, "We love Him because He first loved us" (I John 4:19). Her eyes lit up as the truth of God's love for her sank into her heart. A third lie soon came to mind: "I can never change: I will always be sinful, dirty, and awful." At this time I personalized 2 Corinthians's 5:17 for Martha: "Therefore, if Martha be in Christ, she is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things for Martha have become new." I must start acting on the truth that I am a new person in Christ." Martha said. I continued to pray that the Lord would reveal the enemy's lies, and even more were revealed. It was all most as if we were in Sunday school and I was asking a class of children these questions. Except in this case, my class was one, Martha, and not a little child but an adult. And yet, as she sought the truth through the Holy Spirit, the truth shone through in that way Jesus spoke of when He said, "Unless you...become as little children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:3). As we explored the lies that were more deeply ingrained in Martha's thought processes, she said, "If I serve the Lord, I will never be able to serve people because they will become idols to me." The Lord destroyed this lie through Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." "So a true servant worships God, and part of that worship involves serving people," Martha replied. The last lie the Lord showed her was "I can't face truth because it hurts too much." A number of Scriptures served here, but I read John 8:32 "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. It was as if a sunrise suddenly appeared to someone on as desert island. The pain simply melted out of Martha's heart, and she began to reveal the real nature of what she'd endured. She had been abused beyond description by her parents and siblings. Amazingly, despite the sin in this household, Martha was taken to church every Sunday. During that time, Martha would often pray, "Please, God make my family stop hurting me." Yet the most severe physical and sexual abuse would take place on Sunday afternoons, after attending church. Part of Martha loved God and part despised Him. Martha would hear the pastor preach on answered prayer, but then the enemy would whisper, "God doesn't answer your prayer, now, does He?" Another sermon explained the "peace that passes all understanding," Martha would cry out for such peace, but when it didn't come Satan seemed to say, "You will never have this peace, only pain, because God hates you." Still a later sermon title was "God Can Get You Out of Any Problem." Satan loved this sermon; he said, "Anybody but you, Martha, because you are not worth it." During counseling, I looked with Martha at Scriptures that described God's good plan to have His children serve Him because He loves and accepts them. Knowing the truths that God makes no mistakes and uses all things for our good (Isaiah 40:10; Romans 8:28-29) sets a person free from the past. It frees him or her to walk confidently in the present. Maratha is now able to search the Scriptures on her own, and often the Lord gives her special insights. Several times she has explained a passage to me in ways that no one had ever been able to. I often marvel at the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives her through His Word. The guidance of the Holy Spirit gives us confidence, and His teaching in truth makes our lives truly worth living. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Truth about Lies

By now, you can see the real power of the lies of the enemy. Lies are his greatest weapon. The degree of control he exercises over us is proportional to the lies we believe. The more lies we believe, the more the enemy will control and enslave and destroy us. The lies can come from anywhere: the attitudes and beliefs of society, what coworkers and friends say, our parents, even our own minds. Satan uses them all to try to defeat us. The solution is to know the truth about God and us, found in Scripture. A lie had enslaved John, a good father who loved the Lord. He was serving on the pastoral staff of a growing church. The Lord had blessed him with a wonderful wife, great children, and much fruit in his ministry. John's major problem was his weight. He had been grossly overweight since his preteen years. Many times he had joined various weight-loss plans and several times lost close to one hundred pounds. Within a short time after coming off a diet, though, he had always packed the weight back on. The strange thing was that John exercised tremendous discipline in all other areas of life. He maintained a rigorous spiritual life. He led in his ministry most effectively. His wife and children were happy and committed to their lives together. So why couldn't John control his eating habits? In counseling I asked the Lord to bring to John's conscious mind what lie the enemy was using to drive John to eat so out of control. The Spirit of God illumined John's mind and as we talked and prayed together, he recalled a traumatic event and saw quickly its relationship to his eating problem. "I was molested sexually by a teenage boy my parents kept for foster care. He would put a knife to my throat and molest me. Then he would threaten to kill me if I ever told anyone. This went on from the time I was six years old until I turned eight. At that time the foster boy turned eighteen and left our home." It's astonishing to me how many lies Satan fixes in the minds of Christian people. They often stem from abuse: physical, emotional, and spiritual. But what was the lie Satan used on John? He believed that when he lost weight he would become sexually vulnerable to men. Homosexuals would select him as a "closet gay" and do the same unspeakable acts to him that his foster boy had done years before. This overeating became his way to protect himself from future male sexual advances. this might strike you as strange-why would he think that?-but that's the power of a lie like this. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you! As the Lord revealed that this lie lay behind John's overeating, he gained new freedom over food. He told me, "The next morning I began to eat my 'normal size' breakfast. I was only able to finish half of it. The powerful desire to overeat was gone." Today, he continues to control the problem, and he has not experienced advances from gay men. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Truth about the Truth

The solution to any lie is the supernatural illumination that comes from the Holy Spirit and the holy Word of God. Only truth can dispel a lie. But what is the real power of that combination, the Holy Spirit and the holy Word? Jesus revealed it in a few words from John 14. The disciples of Jesus had been shaken by His revelation that He would soon leave them (see John 13:33-37). For three years, He'd lived with them, eaten with them, spent time with them, as some say, "24/7," meaning twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. These men had left their jobs, homes, and security to follow Jesus. And now He was leaving them! The disciples were terrified. What would they do? Where would they go? They'd put everything they had into the life and times of Jesus Christ. Now, seemingly, He was leaving them stranded! It was then that Jesus brought out the greater truth, a truth that would truly make these men invincible: He would give them another comforter, the Holy Spirit. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us, in us, going ahead of us and behind us. The Holy Spirit is our resident comforter, teacher, encourager, and friend. He's Jesus living in us. It's perhaps the greatest truth of the Bible: Wherever we are, Christ is. We cannot be anywhere that He isn't. Through the Spirit of God, Jesus takes what is in the Word of God and makes it practical and effective in our lives. He answers our questions, shows us how to deal with difficult situations, and guides us through the "valley of the shadow of death" when necessary. In spiritual warfare, that valley can open up before us and seem to swallow us before we even know it. But with the Spirit in us, we cannot fail. The average evangelical church in America acts like the Trinity is made up of the Father, the Son and the Holy Word of God. We need to invite the working of the Holy Spirit back into our churches and our lives. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Power of the Truth

My spiritual life is dead. I've lost contact with God. I feel like I'm running on empty." I knew Larry was serious about his problem. He had waited four months for an appointment, and then he and his wife drove six hours to reach our office. After I opened the session with prayer, those were the first words out of his mouth. Larry could not understand why his spiritual life felt so empty. He began telling me about all the "right" things he was doing: "I get up at 4:30 A.M. I power walk six miles, shower, pray for an hour, spend time with my wife and children, go to work, come home, pray with my family after the evening meal, spend time with my wife and family, and go to bed." He went on to explain how he was a trustee at church, did mechanical work on church equipment, drove the bus to pick up elderly people, and so forth. I almost got worn out just listening to him. I thought to myself, "There is nothing like a good example. With discipline like this he is going to ruin it for the rest of us! After all, God doesn't grade on a curve." (the fact is, God doesn't grade at all, but at that point I was too stunned by this man's obvious spiritual prowess to think about that.) But he had not mentioned one element, so I decided to ask a question. "Larry, do you ever read the Bible?" He gave me that "deer in the car headlights" stare. After what seemed several minutes, he said, "No, I don't." His frantic life included hours in prayer but no time in the Word of God. I explained to Larry the dangers of all prayer and no Word. "Larry, prayer apart from the Word can lead to mysticism." I went on to show how the Scriptures are foundational to our relationship with the Lord. "My brother, without the nourishment of the Word, you are starving spiritually," I explained. "No wonder I have dried up spiritually," he replied. "I have been deceived." I further explained how the Word and prayer can't be separated. I warned him of the danger of getting out of balance. Reading only the Word is one way the enemy keeps us off center. Reading the Word without prayer often leads to legalism and its offspring, coldness of heart. Praying without spending time in the Word leads to a reliance on "spiritual" feelings. Larry had fallen into the second trap. Larry is now reading the Scriptures, praying the Word, and growing in Christ's likeness. He still get up at 4:30 A.M., and when I'm around him I'm still a little worried that if God looks too hard at him and then me, I might be in trouble. But I'm still glad he has restored balance to his life by reading and reflecting on God's truth, the Scriptures. Spiritual warfare can be best understood as God's truth against Satan's lie. As believers we have the written truth, God's holy Word, and the living truth, Jesus Christ. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

The Power of Forgiveness

What about the circumstances of life when bad things happen to "good" people? Frequently, the Lord does things that stretch my understanding of who He is and how He works. But in Christ we gain the ultimate picture of God; not an answer man, but a man who answers when the need arises. His answers, though, are not always what we expect. He gives us the wisdom and power to deal with our troubles; He does not always tell us why the troubles happened in the first place. For good reason Sally could not understand why men had raped her many times during her early teens. But an abusive father participated and even permitted it (by his friends), and a passive wife, fearful of losing her marriage, ignored it. Even Sally's older brothers had attacked her. The anguish of Sally's vain attempts to resist, of the physical and emotional pain that followed, showed in the tears pouring down her checks as she described the horrors. Now in her forties, her life felt shattered. She wanted inner wholeness from the very depth of her being, but that wholeness seemed to elude her. What I am about to say is something that doesn't often happen until several counseling sessions have taken place. It's also something that most counselees rebel against deeply. I never offer it lightly, nor as a panacea that will supposedly cure everything. But at times, I see it as the essential ingredient for spiritual health. It's the issue of forgiveness. In many cases, the things separating a Christian from God's peace is a simple act of forgiveness, wiping the slate of an abuser or tormentor clean. That's not to give the offender an easy way out, but to lead the counselee to find true freedom and to honor God by keeping His command that we forgive others. I have never found an easy way to say it to anyone, because often the horrors some people have perpetrated on others are truly unconscionable. But that is probably why forgiveness is the only way out-because no amount of restitution, confession of sin, or "doing good to make up for the bad" can rebuild a wounded soul. As my counseling session with Sally progressed, I decided to open up the issue of forgiveness. In Sally's case, one of her abusers was her father. I knew this would make forgiveness especially difficult. But I tried to say as gently as I could, "I believe the only way you can truly find freedom and peace in the midst of this atrocity is to forgive your father first." Sally immediately screamed, "I can't forgive him, what he did was awful." After I calmed her down, we talked about this a length and her response remained the same. I wasn't sure what to do, but she knew Jesus and I did, too. I have learned in such situations that having Jesus at our right hand is the greatest source of help, hope, and healing. He is truly the "Wonderful Counselor" of Isaiah 9:6. Thus, in counseling, I sometimes just try to introduce the counselee to (or remind the counselee of) this friend. With Sally, I stopped and simply prayed aloud, "Lord Jesus, please show my sister how she can forgive those who have so deeply wounded her." I have seen Jesus care for such people in a deeply tender and personal way beyond anything I could conjure up with words. In the moments that followed my prayer, the Lord spoke to Sally's heart and directed her attention to the wonderful truth that He understands us even when we don't, as He did with Paul in the story of the thorn in his flesh (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Sally told me in that instant light seemed to flood her heart, and she saw something in her mind's eye that opened her spirit to this truth. She said, "Jesus showed me His cross. I was hanging on the cross with Him and those who abused me were standing around the cross. In my spirit I heard Jesus say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Her voice broke and she said, "I knew then that because I was crucified with the Lord Jesus, I , in Him, had the ability to forgive all of those people." It was a remarkable picture I know only God can give, but I have seen it in counseling many times. Christ our friend gives us just the right piece of wisdom and strength to do what must be done. It was then that Sally, by God's grace, could forgive-every one of her abusers. She told me, "As I forgave my abusers, God's peace and joy rushed into my heart." She hadn't been able to do it on her own willpower, but as the power of the Holy Spirit and her new understanding of what Jesus did on the cross filled her mind and heart, she was set free. Jesus became Sally's Jehovah Shalom, "the Lord is peace." I have found over and over that even when we don't completely understand the reasons behind certain pain in our lives, Christ can open our minds and give us His understanding. That is often all we need. Something else happened in the counseling room that day. As Sally vividly described what the Lord was showing her, I also gained a new understanding of the Cross. I saw that because I am crucified with Christ, I have the same ability (through the power of the Holy Spirit) to forgive others as Christ does. When we forgive, we defeat Satan's grasp upon us through fear and bitterness. It's almost shameful to admit, but sometimes my counselees offer me the very counsel I need to solve a problem in my life. Prior to my session with Sally, there was one person whom I could not forgive. I had prayed, released, and scripturally done everything I know to do from a counseling standpoint. Yet there was still some bitterness in my heart toward this person. As Sally quoted Jesus, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do," it was as though I suddenly understood forgiveness on a new level in my heart, I spoke the words in my soul, "I forgive, Lord," and with astonishing force the bitterness melted away and a new love for this person took its place. I have found that God burns biblical truth into my heart by trials, pressure, meditation the Word, and time. That day, the Holy Spirit used a vivid picture of the cross to do a permanent work in the depth of my being. It's amazing it works that way, but I can tell you with real fervency that it is true. Jesus can even work in a melodic an calculating counselor's heart now and then! Remember, this battle we have entered is terrible. There are casualties on every side, and sometimes it seems as if Satan is winning on every front. But the greatest source of strength, understanding, personal integrity, holiness, and victory is there, in Jesus our friend of friends. He promises to be there no matter where we are or what we're facing. That is to me, both as a counselor and as a Christian, the bedrock truth of fighting back the forces of evil in this world. Truly, without Him, we can do nothing. But with Him, nothing is impossible. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spiritual Warfare and Holiness

Jesus is called the "Holy One' in Psalm 16:10. God tells us, "Because He is holy, we are also to be holy" (see I Peter 1:15-16). God has called us to be holy (pure and blameless) and like Jesus in every way. Nonetheless, this offers another place for the great deceiver to spin his atrocious lies. How does he do it? By equating holiness with keeping rules. He drives us to do religious things, and he is quick to tell us that if we do just a little more God will accept us. This is the essence of "legalism," a false doctrine that says keeping a list of does and don'ts is the way to become acceptable to God. For many Christians, this system becomes a monstrous burden that they cannot carry. Some give up. Others become judgmental and hypocritical, condemning everyone who isn't practicing the same laws they are, whether it be wearing their hair a certain way, saying prayers at certain times during the day, or attending certain church services "without fail." Satan is the father of this legalistic, performance-oriented, burnout-for-God belief that permeates many churches. We need to understand that true holiness comes by obeying God out of love. Indeed, He calls us to obey Him out of restful love relying on grace to empower us. Jesus despised the legalists during His days on earth. He confronted the greatest legalists of all time, the Pharisees, who had helped devise and enforce hundreds of laws for holy living that even they didn't keep, but pretended to. They had become classic hypocrites, saying one thing in public and practicing another in private. They commanded all Jews to embrace their system of legal holiness. One of Jesus' greatest invitations was to come out of this burdensome system of false religion. In Matthew 11:28-30, He said, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." In this classic statement, Jesus proved for all time that He was not a legalist. He offered us rest and freedom, not a long list of dos and don'ts. Yet, many Christians come to me out of such a system, pleading for relief. I am only too happy to point them to the true friend of friends, the One who can make us holy only through the power of God. As a professional woman who dressed well and radiated confidence, Lynn looked supremely elegant and in control. In my office, however as she related how as a child her mother was never home, she wept uncontrollably. The reason: Mom was always working for the church. Her mother often said she was "frantically seeking acceptance by the Lord" and that was what drove her to do so much around her church. Unfortunately, this led Lynn to feel deep rejection by both her mother and God-she had not done as much for the church as her other had-as well as feeling unloved and unlovable. As we studied Scripture together n my office, these "lies" were dispelled, and not only did this lady find acceptance in Christ, but she also was able to forgive her mother. Another lady told me how awful life was after she "lost her salvation." Her sin: She remarried after her abusive husband divorced her. Because of some hard and legalistic teaching she'd heard in her church, she believed that her second marriage constituted perpetual adultery. Her pastor told her, "Adulterers all end up in the lake of fire when they die." This is not an uncommon teaching in the church today, and it disables many Christians emotionally and spiritually. I was able to offer this lady some straight forward scriptural teaching on God's grace and mercy, as well as what constituted adultery and divorce and how God's forgiveness for even the worst cases was always available. As she read the truth of Christ's forgiveness and compassion in her own Bible, her assurance of salvation came back, and through that the Lord confirmed that He loved and accepted her. She told me later it was the most life-changing experience she'd ever had. In my estimation, legalism is the greatest battleground for deceiving Christians today. We have to remember that it is not merely hard to live a holy Christian life; it is impossible! Without the filling and power of the Holy Spirit, no one can possibly please God. No list of rules and trying to keep them (and failing) can generate real holiness. But through the Spirit, the power to live out God's real rules, beomces resident inside us. We can please God as we walk in the Spirit. We will follow the rules because they're written on our hearts, not on our Bible flyleaves. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Spiritual Warfare and Mercy

Jesus, the Son of God, is a friend full of mercy, just as His Father is. He is ready and able to restore those who have fallen deep in sin, whether from pornography, substance abuse, even murder. Earl sought such forgiveness after one life-changing evening. Earl was drunk; he knew it was wrong to slip behind the wheel of his dad's car. Moreover, his license had been revoked a month earlier when he was arrested for, yes, drunk driving. When his seven-year old sister begged to go for a ride with him, even in his drunken state he was aware the answer should have been no. Earl says he doesn't remember running the red light and he has no memory of the truck hitting the passenger's side of his father's car. However, he says he does remember the gurgling sound his little sister made as she died before the rescue crew could get her out of the car. The eighteen months Earl spent in prison gave him a lot of time to think about his actions on that tragic day. He was in my office several days after his release. The most astounding thing for Earl was what I told him about Jesus-that all could be forgiven in Him through faith. Earl said he was amazed that "Jesus died for my sin, my rebellion, drunkenness, and my responsibility for the death of my baby sister. All of that was paid for on the cross." He knew he didn't deserve deliverance for his sinful actions, but that's what Jesus offers all who come to Him confessing sins and inviting Him into their lives. He gives grace and, in withholding ongoing punishment, He shows mercy. That day Earl asked and received the forgiveness of our heavenly Father. He invited Jesus into his life. His joy was heightened as he realized he would see his sister once more. He told me that his sister had trusted Christ as her Savior one year before the deadly accident. "She's in heaven now, waiting for me. I know that one day I will see my sister." Such faith nearly always brings tears to my eyes. But it also reinforces in me the power of Christ's forgiveness. Through it, we can gain real peace. This is another reason I believe Christian counseling is the only kind of counseling that can truly work. Christ's forgiveness is the reality that opens the door to all the other truths about Him. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.


Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions: Why did God make mothers? 1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is. 2. Mostly to clean the house. 3. To help us out of there when we were getting born. How did God make mothers? 1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us. 2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring. 3. God made my Mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts. What ingredients are mothers made of ? 1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean. 2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think. Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom? 1. We're related. 2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me. What kind of little girl was your mom? 1. My Mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff. 2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy. 3. They say she used to be nice. What did Mom need to know about dad before she married him? 1. His last name. 2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer? 3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs and YES to chores? Why did your mom marry your dad? 1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot. 2. She got too old to do anything else with him. 3. My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on. Who's the boss at your house? 1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball. 2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed. 3. I guess Mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad. What's the difference between moms & dads? 1. Moms work at work and work at home and dads just go to work at work. 2. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them. 3. Dads are taller & stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friend's. 4. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine. What does your mom do in her spare time? 1. Mothers don't do spare time. 2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long. What would it take to make your mom perfect? 1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery. 2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet, maybe blue. If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be? 1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that. 2. I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it and not me. 3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.

The Friend who Sticks Closer than a Brother

In the classic hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." writer Joseph Scriven asked, "Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer." Jesus, the "friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24), is one with us in the battle against Satan. Jesus is particularly powerful when people despair, even to the point of thinking about suicide. Satan uses suicide as the ultimate strategy to stop someone from loving, serving, and knowing Christ. Indeed Jesus said this thief, Satan, comes "to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" (John 10:10). On numerous occasions I have sat up all night with someone who wanted to take his life. Typically, when a person reaches this point, he or she has lost all hope. To have real hope, one must believe that "help is coming even though I'm at a crisis point." When a person loses all hope, believing that no help is there, was there, or will ever be there, the individual considers suicide. To help such people realistically takes more than fine words or a list of things to do. The only real workable answer is to connect this person with the One who can give hope, our friend the Lord Jesus. When a Christian despairs of life, the only answer is to reconnect him with the great love of the Savior who laid down his life for his friends; (John 15:13), and to the truths of His Word-that He accepts us fully, as we are. That's how Anna found consolation. In the twenty-four hours before I met her, she tried to take her life twice. Her father had ridiculed her appearance as a teenager; she told me in our first session that her father, who loved to read lewd magazines, "would frequently walk into my room while I was getting dressed and make fun of my body. Often, he would hold up the centerfold from a pornographic magazine and say, 'this is what a real woman looks like. It's too bad you are not a real woman.'" As Anna wept about the things she was telling me, I could see the emotional pain from that abuse was overwhelming for her. She said, "I felt dirty, trapped, hopeless, and abandoned." Her father's obvious addiction to pornography affected her relationship with men. Anna ended up marrying a man who had the same addiction as her father; but in less than two years, this man left Anna for another woman. In time, Anna married second man who on the surface seemed different. He seemed to be living a victorious Christian life. He loved and accepted Anna and invested his time and energy in their children. All seemed to be going well until one day Anna found several pornographic magazines her husband had hidden in the basement. She said "My world was shattered. The feelings of rejection were devastating. I felt wretched and hopeless. Once again those awful feelings of extreme shame and inadequacy swept over me. My father's awful remarks about my body rang in my ears. I was tormented by the thought of my husband comparing me with the women in those magazines. I asked myself, 'Why does he need them? Why am I not enough?' I could not bear to look in the mirror. I loathed the person God had 'miscreated'. The only way out was to take my life. The mental torment was unbearable. I was desperate to die." It was at that point that the impulse to suicide began to take hold. She tried several times and failed, as is typical among women who face this type of abuse. She came to me with little hope of ever seeing the light of day again. But as we talked, my heart went out to her and after hearing more of her story, I began to talk her through some Scriptures about God's view of us as His people and as His personal creations. Anna had come to believe many lies of Satan, including: "I am worthless." "God made me ugly." "No one loves me or could ever love me." "The only way out is through killing myself." We talked in depth about these lies and what Scripture said about them. One day, Anna revealed major change had taken place in her heart. "I saw that the Lord totally accepts me as I am. He, by design, created me the way I am." After so many sessions trying to see God's truth, something had broken through! At that moment, I too felt joy in her discovery. She continued, "I am beginning to understand that my father's remarks were lies. The shape of my body does not determine my value and worth. His wicked comments were really slander against my Creator." I asked her about her husband's situation with pornography, and she said, "The Lord showed me that I was not the cause of my husband's problem with lust. It was a choice he was making. I always blamed myself for his sin. Sometimes in the past, I would repeat in my mind, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," as you told me. But sometime in the early morning hours, the Holy Spirit brought the truth of that verse to my heart. God enabled me to thank Him for my body. For the first time in my life I was able to accept myself as the Lord had made me." In a moment, Anna had come to a riveting truth. Christ had broken through the wall of lies Satan had built in Anna's mind, and light shone through like sun through the eye of a hurricane-only the hurricane was over. "Peace has replaced the torment in my soul," she told me later. "The enemy on occasion tries to bring back the old lies and feelings, but I have found that standing with Christ and resisting the enemy with truth causes him to make a hasty retreat. I know now I am truly a child of God and my identity is found in Christ." Anna is just one of many women I know who experienced the torment that results from deep feelings of inadequacy compounded by their husband's addiction to pornography. Without the Word of God and the power of Christ, I personally would have had no ability to help her. But Jesus truly is a "very present help in time of trouble" (Psalm 46:1). By the way, pornography is a monumental battle zone for many Christians; it's not just nonbelievers who struggle with his snare from Satan. I believe the problem begins with wrong attitudes of dissatisfaction with God's provision in their lives through their wives. Many men and even women enslaved to pornography and all the sins that go along with it begin to think there is no way out. Their marriages get worse and they may even end up divorced as Anna did. But as a counselor I can tell such people that our friend, the Lord Jesus, can cleanse us from all immorality. When we walk in Him and let Him live in us, we can begin day by day to live free of our lust and sin. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Christ in You and Spiritual Warfare

"Christ in you {is} the hope of glory," wrote Paul the apostle in Colossians 1:27. Christ in us is the first step to victory in spiritual warfare. For those who are reading this article and living without Christ, realize that faith in Jesus Christ is as vital piece of armor-the helmet of salvation-that we put on to withstand Satan's attacks. (see Ephesians 6:17). When Jesus becomes our Savior, the deliverer from our sins, we enter into a relationship with God that, among other things, makes us "children of God" (John 1:12). "If anyone is in Christ," the Scripture says, "he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The transition from being outside of Christ to in Christ often has amazing consequences. A person can literally "change overnight" from being addicted to a life of sin to being free to serve Christin a new and hold lifestyle. This is what happened to Charlie. He called me out of desperation. He said his problem placed his marriage and his job on the line. He went on to explain that he was employed as a hospital administrator and that he was using drugs. He had tried to quit many times; however, he would always return to them during times of pressure. His question was to the point: "Is there any power of earth that can set me free from this hell I live in?" I told him I believed there was, and he made an appointment. We sat down with an open Bible, and in a matter of ten minutes he received Christ. He left my office beaming. He then read through the entire Bible in the next two weeks, and he and his wife became active in a local church. No longer addicted to drugs or any other artificial stimulant, Charlie says, "When Jesus saved me. He also delivered me from drugs. I have never used them again; moreover, I have no desire to do so." Sometimes God in His wonderful grace instantly sets a person fee like that. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Jesus our Faithful Friend

Joan showed up at my office desperate and scared. Before she came, she had explained that she heard condemning internal voices and felt hopeless and worthless. She added that she was addicted to alcohol and wanted to die. When she walked into the counseling room, Joan began with this disclaimer. "I'm an agnostic." The look on her face as she told me this said, "I have really been wounded by someone religious." After some get-acquainted chitchat, I said, "Would you entertain a 'what if' question?" "Of course," she said. "What if there is a God?" She said , "I am very uncomfortable with that statement." After talking for a time abut the possibility of the existence of a supreme being, I asked permission to go a step further. I asked her, "What if there is a God who is a personal God?" "That thought frightens me!" she exclaimed. This resulted in a thought-provoking discussion concerning the possibility of a personal God. I then asked if I could take the discussion one step further. She agreed. I said, "What if there is a personal God who loves you?" "That's impossible!" she retorted. I sensed something deep and possibly horrible lurking beneath this outburst, and I asked more questions, probing her and waiting for honest answers when she deliberated. Soon, a floodgate of emotions welled out. She exclaimed, with a level of intensity I rarely see, "I grew up in an evangelical home and was taken to Church on a regular basis. At the same time my parents were engaging in drunken orgies in our home. As she described her childhood experiences, I began to understand the horror lurking inside. Joan had been exposed to the most vile sin and abuse at an early age. As a result, she grew up confused and cynical about religion and God. The god of her parents was a dirty joke. She recoiled at the thought of knowing such a god. In further conversations I was able to present the living and true God, citing specifically the character and person of Jesus. Using many Scriptures, I showed Joan four truths about the caring and vibrant life of Jesus of Nazareth: Jesus came down from a perfect home in heaven to a sinful earth not only to show people how to live abundantly, but also to make it possible for them to have that abundance in reality (from John 10:10). He gave up all His possessions in order to identify with men and women and be like them so that people would know He truly understands their plight (from Hebrews 2:17-18). Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings. He purposely chose not to show His glory to people, but was like them in every way, experiencing poverty and pain, rather than glory and power (from Philippians 2:6-8). Christ became a servant to those around Him, even to the point of washing His own disciples' feet so that He could show them He was not only willing to put them before Himself, but to set an example for how they were to behave toward others as well (for example, Luke 22:27; John 13:3-16). Through these truths, I was able to show this counselee that Jesus is the God who prays for me, loves me, lives in me, and serves me. Joan was astonished at these revelations, finding them attractive but difficult to accept. When we finished, I asked, "What will you do with the true Jesus?" Joan didn't know and continues thinking about that question. Not all counseling situations lead to a conversion, and I continue to pray for her salvation.

Spiritual Warfare and the City of Refuge

It's in the context of suffering that I often tell my clients about the biblical idea of a city of refuge (Numbers 35:9-28). IN ancient Israel, if a person killed another person by accident, the offender could run to a city of refuge. There he would be safe from avenging relatives. He had to stay there, though, until the death of the high priest, but the offender always had some hope when caught in a horrible circumstance: God gave him (and other transgressors) the city of refuge to protect innocent people from sinful avengers. In the same way, Jesus is our city of refuge. In Hebrews 6:18 we read, "We...have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us." Just as each city of refuge was chosen so that every Israelite would be close enough to flee to one when necessary, so Jesus is near to all who call upon Him. He is the true friend we can trust in every circumstance. A client I'll call Marty had his life changed when he ran to the city of refuge. He called me one day and was direct. "Dr. Copley, my daughter told me to call you. She works full time with a Christian ministry. She thinks you can help me. My problem is I am a chronic alcoholic. I would love to become born again, but I thing I am an atheist. My wife became born again two years ago, but no matter how hard I try I can't believe." I met Marty the following week, and he said he was still an atheist. I took him through the gospel. He understood it quite well, on account of his wife and daughter testifying to him. In the process I told Marty that Jesus was our high tower and refuge. "You can run to Him and be saved," I said, explaining the idea of a place of refuge for the lost. "I would love to do so, but I'm not sure I have enough faith," Marty answered. I believe the enemy was trying to deceive him about faith. I knew he had faith; it took faith for him to call me, faith to come to my office, faith to seek the Lord. I asked him if he was willing to put his imperfect faith in the perfect work of Calvary. He said was and he did. It happened so quickly, I almost had to ask for a replay! But it was real. The concept of the city of refuge hit the mark, and Marty understood this was what Jesus was in reality. The change in his life was radical. Marty said, "For the first time in my life the Bible speaks to me. I now read the Word with understanding. One night I was tempted to drink again. I ran to Jesus for help and He was there. It was as if He reached into my heart and took away the desire to drink. I am so thankful to be His child." Jesus truly became Marty's city of refuge. Once again we see the power of Jesus to be our friend in suffering. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Suffering and Spiritual Growth

What about suffering? Is there any benefit to it? Absolutely. Suffering is often God's way of perfecting us. Hebrews 5:8 tells us that Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered. James wrote that suffering leads to endurance, which results in maturity in Christ; therefore we should rejoice in it (James 1:2-4). Thus, much suffering has redemptive value. But what about the mental and emotional suffering we've been discussing? Is that suffering also redemptive? Once again, Jesus our friend sets the pattern" He experienced suffering of all kinds so He could identify with us and we would know He understands our plight (see Hebrews 4:15-16). He learned obedience through suffering (see Hebrews 5:8). God brought Him to human maturity not through memorizing a few truths, but through a day-by-day process of learning to obey even when it didn't seem to make sense. He promises to be "with us" in the midst of our suffering (see Isaiah 41:10-13). We never need fear being alone. One of my client I'll call Robert demonstrated the redemptive aspects of suffering after he came to me in deep anguish. As a child, he suffered harsh discipline and even abuse. This led him into the homosexual lifestyle. He told me that because of his long-term childhood abuse, "I rejected God's ordained gender for me. I believed I was a woman trapped in a man's body. I considered myself to be an abomination to God rather than a son." He often called himself a "sideshow freak" and didn't think God could possibly look on him, let alone love him. Over time, he grew into an adult who sinned habitually in the homosexual lifestyle, breaking the commandment of God. He told me, "The sin in my life led to emotional withdrawal and attempted suicide. This put me in the hospital many times where I suffered hopeless thoughts and feelings, convinced I was incurable." The idea that he was truly a woman in a man's body was actually reinforced by counselors, psychiatrists, and hospital staff. One Christian psychiatrist told him he was hopeless and should simply reconcile himself to his condition. He kept trying, but real purpose, love, peace, joy, hope, and faith eluded him. He was deeply depressed and suicidal when I began to work with him Robert's freedom came through a process. He and I met one hour per week for a year. Each time we met I would ask him to give me a report about what the Lord was teaching him through the Scriptures that week. One session Robert exclaimed, "Jesus really likes me. This past week He said that to me through His Word." He reported two passages were especially helpful, Psalm 73:23-24 and Isaiah 58:11. Believing that God can help. For the first time, at age forty-five, Robert began to believe God could help him, and even do the impossible of enabling him to overcome his obsession with feeling like a woman inside. He began to see that nothing was impossible with God. He told me later, "I believed the lies that my problems were far too great for the Lord and that I was so wicked that the Lord would never want to have a relationship with me." Satan had bound him in a terrible prison of lies that could only be broken by the truth of God's love and Jesus' fellowship in his sufferings. He entered a steep battleground, but at the end emerged whole and renewed. The strangest part of the story is that Robert's father was a pastor and denominational leader. For years, Robert saw his father's religion as superficial. Inside the home, the father was angry and abusive. The effect on Robert was that he believed salvation was something external, never reaching the inner man. I spent much time convincing him that Christ cared about everything in his life and that He wanted to be a part of every aspect of his life, to transform him into the image of Himself. One day, Robert gave me a letter in which he described the transformation that was underway. It said, in part, "The Lord is repairing the gate of my heart, rebuilding the walls, removing the obstructions to the fountain, cultivation the garden, cleansing the sanctuary, taking His seat in the throne room, fortifying the armory, and filling the treasury. For the first time in my life I have hope. While I cannot say right now that I am fully restored, I am growing in faith and have peace and joy for the first time in my life." Robert is being renewed in his mind as he lets the Holy Spirit control his life. Robert now knows he is a man and feels he is a man. Some questions. Using Robert as the example, let's ask some questions: Did God send suffering to Robert because he was a vile sinner? No, he was a child when these things began happening. Did God inflict him because God ceased to love him? No, rather He used Robert's suffering to lead him to Himself and to that love. Did God tell Robert he didn't have enough faith? No, instead God led him to real faith. God used Robert's suffering in a redemptive way. Robert was responsible for his sin before God, yet God did not condemn him, but rather used that sin to bring conviction and lead Robert to real faith and a real relationship with Him. Through Jesus his friend and counselor, Robert saw that his suffering has a purpose in the eyes of God. It was profitable and good for him, not something to be ignored or brushed over as worthless pain he should strive to escape as soon as possible. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Spiritual Warfare and Suffering

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. "That's one way to look at times of hardship; pull yourself up by your bootstraps and move along. Hang in there. Or there's another way to look at difficult times of suffering and setback: "God works out His good purposes in our lives through unjust difficulties we endure." That's the biblical way of dealing with suffering and problems of this life (see Romans 8:28). Be assured: Anyone who follows Christ will experience pain and suffering. The suffering comes at the hands of the devil, our own sinful practices, and the world itself. It's part and parcel of what it means to serve and love Christ in a sinful, lost world bent on following falsehood. Nonetheless, though Scripture clearly warns us of suffering, persecution, and illness in this world, the devil perverts this truth by telling us that we should never suffer or go through hard times as Christians. If we are, it's only a sign we don't have enough faith, or that we've sinned in some way, or even that God is angry with us for some reason and is punishing us. Counselors see Christians in a steady stream who believe their emotional and spiritual problems are a result of sin, when in reality they're often a result of the lies of Satan meant to stymie and subjugate them in spiritual misery. What is the truth about suffering-mental or physical illness-and how does it relate to spiritual warfare and Jesus as our first and final friend? First, recognize that all Christians, even those walking closely with God, can and will suffer. The great deceiver will tell Christians that they should never suffer, be ill, or experience deep pain if they're living a committed Christian life. This teaching is prevalent and common in the church today, even from respected teachers and preachers. The problem with such teaching is that Jesus Himself provided ample proof that this cannot be true. He experienced every kind of persecution possible during His life and on the cross was subjected to the worst forms of torture, mental and physical. Yet He certainly had no lack of faith or spiritual sin that could account for His troubles. About our bodies. We should also realize that much of the suffering we have from physical and emotional disorders is not the result of unbelief, worry, sin, or failure to trust God. We have human bodies that malfunction. At times we need medicine and the help of doctors. A psychiatrist can often help people with "mind" sickness-not mental illness, but a sickness of the thoughts and mind that debilitates them emotionally and spiritually. It's true that psychiatry, like other sciences, contain truths, half truths, and pie-in-the-sky fantasies. But with Spirit led-discernment, there are times when we must seek a competent psychiatrist's or psychologist's help. AS common example is found with clients experiencing psychosis. I have seen psychotic believers who, after being prayed over for weeks, go to the hospital and with proper medication function with a clear mind in forth-eight to seventy-two hours. This is also true with more common maladies like depression, anxiety, food disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and many others. About God's wonder-working power. But say you have no problem visiting doctors or believing that Christians, like everyone else, will face real suffering in this world. It's here that Satan provides an opposite lie that is just as sinister.He spreads teaching that says there can be no supernatural physical healing in this present age. These preachers and teachers do not believe God heals or can heal today, and thus they and their followers rely only on human intervention. This can be as sinister and evil as calling on God alone for healing and forsaking all medical help. In these matters I find that balance is needed. On the one hand, God tells us that suffering happens to all in this world for many different reasons. It can't be avoided. On the other hand, God encourages us to seek Him when we are ill, for He is capable of supernatural healing and does so in some cases. It's possible to have a biological brain malfunction that has nothing to do with demons, faith, or obedience to God. Frequently, medication or some kind of chemical therapy heals these people quickly and completely. Extremism is Satan's byword. But through our friend, the Lord Jesus, we can find the balanced way to real peace. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

Spiritual Warfare and Temptation

Jesus is not only our Savior from sin; He is our Savior from ourselves. Through Him we find the right tactics, guidance, and words to counteract the lies of the devil. In spiritual warfare, it's easy to get off track, to think we're alone, out there playing the Lone Ranger, and it's up to us to succeed or fail. For the Christian, the greatest truth of all in such warfare is that we're not Lone Rangers and we're not alone. Jesus is with us in every trial and every battle, ready to offer counsel, help, and power to overcome. Through Him we'll learn the proper and effective way of dealing with the lies of the enemy. Jesus Temptation in the wilderness. One of the high moments of spiritual warfare in the Bible occurred when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. The story is found in Matthew 4:1-11; take a look at it now. As we read the Scripture passage and understand its inputs, we learn one of the greatest truths in fighting the enemy of our souls: Our friend Jesus has fought Satan before in every possible way, and won! This event on the spiritual warfare calendar in Jesus' life occurred shortly after His baptism. Matthew says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness "to be tempted by the devil" (Matthew 4:1). Note that happened after the wondrous "mountaintop" experience of Jesus' baptism when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him and God spoke from heaven in the presence of John the Baptist and his disciples (see Matthew 3:13-17). Undoubtedly, this grand moment inspired Jesus, much as a "mountaintop" moment can instill new passion and resolve into our lives today. But that's the danger! Satan often strikes at the moment when we've achieved a great victory for the kingdom of God. Just when we're about to celebrate, Satan begins firing his flaming arrows. Over the years, I have counseled many Christians who have suffered the most grievous attacks just days after major moments in their lives: a conversion, rededication, great ministry, and the like. So it was with Jesus. But in this case, note that Jesus was "led" by the Spirit into the wilderness for the specific purpose of being tested. This says to me that God the Father wanted Jesus to experience the same kinds of temptation all His people go through at times. This is so that we can be sure Jesus has "been there" and thus can offer us stout counsel when we're in the midst of the battle. At the Father's direction, Jesus fasted for forty days, going without food. In that respect, the enemy dueled with Jesus at His weakest moment physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Jesus stood on the edge of starvation. That brought with it all kinds of discomfort, anxiety, and distress. When a person is hungry, he or she ofter loses focus and becomes obsessed with the hunger barely able to think about anything else. The one who has fasted will often grasp at anything that will slake that hunger and thirst. Satan knew Jesus was more likely to be vulnerable at that moment than any other, so that is the moment he chose to sling his best stones at Him. Why did the Father put Jesus in such desperate straits? In spiritual warfare, our worst time is always the enemy's best time. He studies us to expose our points of vulnerability. He looks for the chinks in our armor and always fires his sharpest arrows there. Thus, striking Jesus at His weakest moment physically was not just Satan's strategy; it was God's too. God the Father put Jesus in the absolutely worst situation. Why? Because by being in the worst circumstances, He could completely identify with any trial we may go through. Remember, Jesus was not only tempted to be proven, but also so that we could know He understands precisely what we're facing-having gone through it Himself-and thus find in Him real help. This give us the power to trust Him without question, an essential outlook in any form of warfare. So where did Satan fire his first dart? In an area I like to call "selfism," those issues that involve satisfying and gratifying ourselves without considering God or His purpose for our lives at that moment. As Jesus stood in the shade or a rock in the barren, steaming wilderness, Satan probably hovered nearby. Looking healthy and well fed, the tempted pointed at a a stone at His feet and said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread" (Matthew 4:30). Here we see some most revealing elements of Satan's normal attack strategy: 1. Goad the person into taking personal action, to accomplish things by himself. He started with a sarcastic put-down designed to prod Jesus into action. "If You are the Son of God," Satan began. That was a deliberate attempt to motivate Jesus to prove Himself. Which of us hasn't been goaded into doing something evil to "prove" we're not "goody-goodies" or to show we aren't afraid of some little thing the Bible calls Sin? How many young people have turned to drugs because someone said, "Prove you're man or woman enough," or tough enough, or cool enough? So it is that Satan often appeals to our pride in order to get us to take other sinful steps that could lead to disaster. 2. Urge the person to accomplish something easy to do. The first temptation involved something Jesus could easily do. While no normal person could turn stones into bread, Jesus possessed that power. Similarly, Satan always tries to get us to do something we can do easily and even effortlessly, even though we know it's wrong. This is why the temptation to steal in a time of need, lie in a moment of exertion, or commit other sins in tight situations often looks like the "easy way out." Satan wants it to look that way because then it won't seem so "bad" to do. And even if you give in, you can give a supposedly reasonable excuse: "I just didn't see that much wrong with it!" This is the strategy Satan frequently uses with us. He appeals to what he can do or would like to do, so we can accomplish the goal. What were the real issues at stake here? First, would Jesus obey His Father in a seemingly trivial matter (not eating until given the go ahead)? Second, would Jesus' sense of pride make Him take the quick, sure way to show who He really was, or was He willing not to defend Himself and let God take care of that matter? For us, similar temptations arise whenever we: Feel compelled to defend ourselves in wrong ways. Think obeying God in a little thing isn't that important. Believe we should take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God's timing. The actual sin, of course, occurs when we give in to those feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Jesus countered Satan's suggestions with as deft quote of Scripture from the book of Deuteronomy: "Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" (8:3). Jesus didn't reach for common sense, public opinion, or even the modern findings of the "experts," the Pharisees and Sadducee's. No, He went straight to the best source of all, the Bible, chose a verse appropriate to the situation as a source of guidance, quoted it, and obeyed it. That's a very simple procedure and of us can easily follow. It also reveals how important it is to know and apply God's Word in dealing with the enemy. A second temptation: Let God deliver you. The second temptation concerning Jesus flinging Himself off the pinnacle (highest point) of the Temple in Jerusalem. Satan used the "If You are the Son of God" goad again, and then added that God would send His angels to catch Him before He struck bottom. Again, we see a couple of elements in Satan's strategy: 1. Goad more. If at first Satan doesn't succeed, he'll try, try again. 2. Quote Scripture. Perhaps Satan figured that if Jesus wanted to use the Bible then so could he, even though what he said was slightly out of context and left out certain words. This may indicate a subtle trick on his part, or a cavalier attitude toward Scripture; both were probably true. But what was the real temptation here? It was the issue of trust. Would Jesus trust His Father implicitly, or would He "test" His Father by doing something to force God into action to protect or save Him? We are similarly tempted when we consider doing the following: Take wrong actions rather than wait on God in a serious matter. Tell God we won't believe in Him unless He does something we consider important to "prove" Himself. Do something that is probably wrong because we believe God really wants to help us and will forgive us anyway. This happened with Abby, a single woman who had prayed for a husband for many years. All through Bible college she prayed, "Lord, please bring Your choice of a husband to me." However, Mr. Right never showed up. Abby entered the workforce and began climbing the corporate ladder. She also became active in a large church. However, she still longed for the contentment she believed a husband would bring to her life. As she entered her thirties, she began to grow bitter toward God. As an attractive, intelligent woman, why would God withhold from her the only thing her heart truly desired? In the midst of her despair she met Preston. In her words, "Preston was sort of charming and sort of strange." She went on to explain. "The positive thing about him was that he claimed to be a Christian, and he attended church regularly. The negative that I should have seen but overlooked was that he had been through three divorces. More that that, none of his children wanted anything to do with him." Withing weeks after their wedding, Abby said, "I understood why three other women divorced him. He would qualify for Hitler's younger brother." Preston's affair with a high school girl was the final straw that brought Abby to my office. Abby said, "I gave up on God and decided to create my own life. I really believed Preston would become the loving husband I dreamed of. Instead, I now believe that I know what it means to live a life that is hell on earth," Abby believed the enemy's lie that she could create a kingdom for herself apart for the will of God. In time, Abby repented of her bitterness and willfulness. Preston repented of his adultery and a list of other sins too long to list. They are still together as husband and wife, and I believe God by His grace will strengthen their relationship. Abby says she has hope. "It will take a lot of work and grace to bring us up to the place where a relationship ordained by God should start." Abby believed that if she made a jump (got married), God would have to catch her (make the marriage the wonderful relationship she always dreamed of).It didn't work that way. Jesus' response in the wilderness reminds Abby-and us-of the solution: Draw on the Scriptures for guidance."It is written again. You shall not tempt the Lord your God," Jesus told Satan (Matthew 4:7), citing Deuteronomy 6:16. While Satan "rolls with the punches" and changes tactics to suit his purposes. Jesus is strong and steady, not veering from His successful counter punching. A third temptation: Get what you want-without God. Satan was clearly reeling and frustrated, so he decided to go for the big one. He took Jesus to a mountain and "showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory" (verse 8). Then he said if Jesus would only fall down and worship him, He could have it all. This was the classic "power play." Satan was "giving it everything he had."This is a pattern in spiritual warfare, too. When you refuse to give into "lesser" offerings, Satan will up the ante and try to snare you with bigger and better trinkets in his bag, so long as you do it without God. You won't give in to pornography, so he'll throw wealth or power at you. You're not buying that "you're a dope" line, so he'll nail you with an attack on your pride as you overhear someone "commenting" on your skills or integrity. What was the real temptation here? Satan wanted Jesus to get God's results without following God's plan. Jesus came to take back the ground Satan had stolen-the whole world. In that wilderness meeting, Jesus could have taken it all back in one little act of worship. He wouldn't have to endure the pain of the cross or any of the other indignities He faced at the end of His life. No, He would get the world back for one small genuflection toward Satan. Of course, worshiping Satan meant giving up His soud to Satan, too. But the devil didn't really want Jesus to think about that! How does Satan tempt us in this way? By offering us something-pleasure, power, wealth, prestige, honor, popularity-through following anything other than God's methods. That's what happened to Mark, a seemingly successful pastor, yet a shattered man with broken dreams. His story came out in bursts of protracted sobbing. In his words, "As a child I was short, over weight, and not very smart. I worked frantically to earn good grades in college and seminary. After graduation my wife and I were called to a small church in a growing city. I always felt overwhelmingly inferior. Shortly after taking my first pastorate, my older brother came for a visit. He was serving on the pastoral staff of a three-thousand member church. His parting comment to me was "You are wasting your time pastoring a two-bit church." "I was crushed. I idolized my brother, and his mockery was almost more than I could bear." Mark then explained how he thought of a plan the very day his brother left. The plan was simple and workable. It unfolded as follows: "You will become somebody when the church attendance reaches a thousand. You will feel good about yourself; your brother will finally accept you. All you have to do is triple the size of the church auditorium, start a Christian school, add a number of new programs, and purchase three more buses." It sounded rather awesome to me, but it happened. In the next eighteen months most of Mark's dreams came true. "On one 'big day' the attendance was over 1,200," Mark recalled, "My brother and a lot of other people took notice. I was frequently asked to speak on how to build a big church. Finally I had become somebody." However, this kind of success can carry a tremendous price tag. "I built a monstrosity," mark said, "The ministry grew far too quickly; I became nervous and driven. The church had become like a huge machine that demanded my constant attention. I was working eighteen to twenty hours a day. I constantly criticized my wife and children. I was blind to what was happening in my own family." Mark was learning that when we allow the devil to crawl into the vehicle of our life, the Evil One will often say either, "Put the pedal to the metal" or "Put the brake to the floor." Either one can kill you on the freeway of life. Satan, the god out of balance. "When my wife filed for divorce, I woke up," Mark said, "I snapped out of my dream world only to embrace disaster." Mark's wife refused to reconcile, and the divorce went through. In counseling Mark repented of taking total control of his life with hardly a thought about God and His will. He began to ponder passages of Scripture that gave him understanding about who he is in Jesus Christ. During one session he exclaimed, "Flesh, flesh, everything I was doing was in the flesh!" Today Mark works behind the scene with a mission agency. He raises funds and helps with administration. He is living a balanced, relaxed and productive life in the will of God. In contrast, we see Jesus in the wilderness avoiding all the trouble of carrying out personal plans without God. He did so by simply following Scripture. When the devil offered Him everything in the world (as he did to Mark above), Jesus quoted another verse from Deuteronomy (6:13) and said, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord you God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Jesus' strategy. From Jesus' wilderness temptation we see several elements of Christ's overall strategy for counteracting the enemy during spiritual warfare. First, He relied not on His own common sense, wisdom or personal integrity to deal with Satan's attacks; no, He relied solely on Scripture. From that we see that a working knowledge of the Bible is essential in our warfare with the devil. The Word of God is the sword that the Holy Spirit uses (Ephesians 6:17). Second, we note that Jesus actually quoted the Bible aloud to Satan. Even when the enemy's temptations are mere thoughts in our minds, it may be wise to quote the Word verbally to repel a taunt. Third, and most important, Jesus obeyed what the Bible said. He not only knew it and quoted it; He acted on it. Even the most knowledgeable Christian, when he fails to act on what God has said, sets himself up for failure. Melissa had come to me because she was struggling with her thoughts. A psychologist diagnosed her with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Months of therapy did nothing to relieve her condition. As we talked, Melissa explained that she began having thoughts about performing repetitious behaviors after her mother died. Two nights after her mother's death she walked into the house and a thought entered her mind that said, "Turn the light switch on and off twice or someone else will die." The next day while driving onto the freeway the thought came, "Turn your signal off and on twice or someone will have an accident." In time, Melissa became completely controlled by her obsessive thoughts. "I would have an unsettled emotional pain until I would switch, check, and wash everything again and again. Then peace would come, but it would never last." I explained that the enemy wanted to control Melissa's drives. The enemy was seeking to control her with the lie that she had to do things a second or third time to obtain peace. This all changed as Melissa learned to combat these lies with God's truth. She later told me, "When I quote appropriate Scriptures such as 'All things are lawful for me but I will not be brought under the power of any' (I Corinthians 6:12), God's peace does come. As I draw closer to the Lord and verbally take my stand against the enemy, I live in Christ's victory." Melissa recited the truths of Scripture whenever such obsessive thoughts came. Through such verbal "stands," Melissa learned the power of the Word in her daily battle with the enemy. As a result she no longer suffers from OCD. What is the lesson here? Scripture, rightly used, is a powerful weapon against lies; it declares the truth to us and to the accuser of our souls. This is what Jesus did during His three temptations. When we follow Jesus' example, we are following someone who has "been there" and found the Word of God reliable. Jesus, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, is the source of our hope and insight. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.