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Our Enemy may destroy what he can, but he cannot touch the soul of saint.

Throwbacks to an era of the past, small towns exemplify life’s experiences in microcosm. Simple stick-built homes of varied colors stand testimony to the men, women and children whose families have forged a living from blue-collar industry or the fragility of seed and soil for more than a century.

The gnarled, callused hands of old men gathered in the local coffee shop curve around steaming mugs of liquid and some tip their heads back in laughter at a one-liner. Friends since youth, they share a brotherhood of unspoken bonds that traces itself through the towns’ past like the purple veins intertwined beneath thin, worn skin.

Women mingle in the honey-colored community center to celebrate the blossoming of a young woman’s stomach; her cheeks stained pink as generations–both children she babysat just a few years ago and friends of her grandmother–congratulate, tease, and praise. Blue and pink paper streamers drape from the ceiling as she carefully peels tape and wrapping paper from the package resting in her shrinking lap to reveal a delicately crocheted blanket. Tears gather on her lashes as she thanks someone dear for stitching love into each tiny loop and chain.

Still, the Enemy plots ill-will against those whom he hates and the lives within small towns are no less an object of his wrath than those without. One awful day, he marshals evil and sends it ricocheting among God’s people–stealing breath from infants with souls fresh from heaven and aging saints raising hands in worship.

He is like a lion devouring and destroying wherever he roams. His roar reverberates through small towns like Sutherland Springs, Texas as he claws and maims the innocent. The powerless. The defenseless.

But, God is the great Lion of Judah. His rule and reign are eternal while the Enemy belongs to a temporary coalition of spirit rebels who will bow a knee in submission to the Defender. The One who pronounces guilt and brings justice. The One who swallowed up the little lion by His revolutionary resurrection and assurance of eternal life for His children.

Our Enemy may destroy what he can, but he cannot touch the soul of saint.

 

Father, 

Our hearts ache for the lives of those lost and for their friends and families. We know the Enemy thinks he has had his way with your people, but You are the Mighty One who saves and we thank you for being with your children even in that last moment before they stepped into the throne room of heaven. Not one has been lost. (John 17:12) We pray for mercy and healing in the broken lives of families and a community ravaged by evil. Reveal yourself to the people of Sutherland Springs and heal our land.

In the powerful name of the Lion of Judah,

Amen

 

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woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood motionless…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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