Spiritual Life Church

 "Having God in Your Life Improves the Quality of Your Life" - Rev Daniel Hodlin


Spiritual Life Church
Rev. Daniel Hodlin  
Ordained Minister

Bible Studies

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God the Creator
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. “ Genesis 1:1-2.

”These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…”  Genesis 2:4.

Two different accounts, two different perspectives. Some scholars today believe that by presenting two contradictory creation stories, the editors of Genesis were making it clear that nothing written by humans, even that which is inspired by the divine, can ever describe divine truth. We simply don’t have the words or the scope of understanding.

There are many people who believe that the first chapters of Genesis are a factual account. Ironically, this is a reflection of the scientific nature of Western culture. Those who reject the scientific view we call evolution, are themselves reading the Bible from the literal standpoint of a scientist.

Creation or evolution? Each is told in the language of its time, in context with prevailing culture, and based upon the body of knowledge available. Events move quickly in Genesis—or so it seems to the reader. Evolution occurs over millennia. But God’s time line is not ours; and God’s methods are impossible for us to comprehend.

Still, in both accounts, the earth is lifeless at first. Then, incredibly, life! Over time, that life takes many forms, each more complex than the last. Humankind appears on the scene, and over time, changes. As Cain slew Abel, so did the first modern humans slay the Neanderthals. Horrific natural disasters wipe entire species from the planet. Evolution, like Creation, is a story of trial and error on a divine scale.

God the Creator fashioned an extraordinary planet, God the Creator was the Divine spark that brought forth life on that planet, and God the Creator continues to be involved in that creation. Creation and evolution—perhaps they’re different only in the words people from two different ages use to describe them. What is extraordinary is how closely the Story of Creation told by the ancient writers parallels the story of evolution as modern scientists tell it today.

The true meaning of the Scriptures can’t be found in a literal reading of the text. Our pitifully inadequate human language is simply not up to the task of describing God or God’s actions. Sacred Scripture should inspire us to seek a reality beyond ourselves, truth and beauty and goodness so awesome we can’t comprehend it, let alone put it into words. Words can lead us into the presence of God the eternal, but we must allow them to become more than words. When we read scripture, we need to stop thinking like scientists. We need to seek the true meaning beyond the words.

How long has it been since you’ve read The Book of Genesis?

The Two Greatest Commandments – Part I  Part II
In Matthew 22:34-40, when one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, tests Jesus by asking him which commandment in the law is the greatest, Jesus responds, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

This second of the greatest of God’s commandments may be the most difficult of all for most of us to follow. Certainly the state of our world today – not so different from our history – is overwhelming evidence that God’s children don’t play well together.

From one end of the scale to the other, from petty acts of spite to world war, we are always finding ways to avoid, disrespect, neglect, injure, put down, label, maim, fear, hate, kill our fellow human beings. Sadly, we learn how to do these things at an early age. The accepting innocence of childhood, the Eden occupied by those too young to know how to be uncaring and cruel, has a short life. How quickly we become preoccupied with separating ourselves from those people we perceive as “different”.

But think—aren’t we all “different” or strange to someone, somewhere? Just as we judge others, they in their turn judge us. Just as we label others, they in their turn label us. We are all “different” to each other. But not to God. In God’s eyes, we are one. We are God’s children, created in God’s own image. Every time we mock another person, every time we injure someone, emotionally or physically, every time we lower ourselves to violence, we commit an act against God.

Christians have been and continue to be right in the thick of this arrogant and dangerous disregard for the first and second greatest commandments. Christians gave us the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the destruction of entire peoples and cultures in the New World. In Ireland, Protestants and Catholics kill one another—in the name of religion. Various hate groups call themselves Christians in the same breath they espouse the ugliest forms of racism and bigotry. Christians have earned a reputation for a self-righteous, intolerant, unforgiving attitude toward the rest of God’s children. Can we honestly say that, in some respects, this reputation isn’t well-deserved?

In Galatians 3:28 Paul tells us, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  Similar messages are found throughout Galatians: 5:13-14; 5:22-23; 6:7. But the most powerful message of all comes from Jesus himself, who taught not by words alone, but by his every action. Jesus, indeed, practiced what he preached! Can we say the same for ourselves?

As we approach Easter, perhaps it’s time to re-discover the message of the Gospels. Perhaps it’s time to die to our old selves, so that we can be re-born with a new attitude, more in keeping with the greatest of God’s commandments. Like the disciples, we won’t get it right the first time, or even the second, but we can view each new day, each re-birth, as a new opportunity to give it our best. As Christians, we who have presumed to take the name of the one who loved so deeply, so perfectly, he died for our sins, can we do anything else?

In Part II, we’ll take a closer look at some of the Scriptural references to Christ’s message of love, acceptance and forgiveness.

The Two Greatest Commandments – Part II
Jesus taught in many ways, by preaching, by using parables, but above all else, Jesus taught by example. He didn’t say one thing and do another; he actually lived – and died -- what he preached.

As we read the Gospels today, it’s important for us to remember the culture of the time and place in which they were written. In this context, the example Jesus sets is extraordinary for its radical acceptance of people of every description. In those days, much of what Jesus said and did would have been unthinkable. As we follow his ministry, we see that he spends time with sinners, Gentiles, women, the mentally ill, the diseased, the deformed, “foreigners”, children, beggars— even his disciples are often shocked by his actions. And every time, Jesus rebukes The Twelve for their pettiness, the smallness of their faith and vision.  What, we wonder, would he have to say to us?

In Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman, a Gentile, speaks to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. He says that he has been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But her personal faith in Jesus’ message is so great that he heals her daughter. Although his mission – to call Jews back to God – is clear, Jesus shows us by example his willingness to respond to faith wherever it might be found.

In Mark 5:25-34, Jesus heals a woman who dares to touch his cloak. Not only has she approached a rabbi in public, she has a “hemorrhage” of many years; she is therefore ritually unclean. Does Jesus snatch his cloak away, or chastise her? No. He heals her-- because her faith is so great.

In Mark 10:46-52, the crowd tells a blind beggar, to be quiet when he calls out to Jesus. Today we would call Bartimaeus a “homeless person”, or simply a bum, or worse. We, too, would tell him to shut up and get lost, or ignore him altogether. But Jesus stops, and tells Bartimaeus that his faith has made him well.

When the “woman who was a sinner” enters the Pharisee’s house where Jesus is eating in Luke 7:36-50 and bathes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and anoints them with ointment, Jesus’ host says to himself that if Jesus is a true prophet, he would know what kind of woman was touching him. Jesus responds with a parable, and then rebukes the Pharisee, who has shown no such courtesy to his guest.  “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, love little.”

We see another example of forgiveness for past sins in John 7.53-8.11, the familiar story in which Jesus challenges a crowd bent on stoning an adulteress to death: He tells them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. Jesus is soon left alone with the woman. He tells her he does not condemn her, and to go on her way and not to sin any more.

Luke 17:11-19, Jesus cleanses 10 lepers, one of them a Gentile “foreigner”. In those days, lepers were feared and hated– they were, in fact, treated like lepers. But Jesus extends his acceptance and love even to the “foreigner” among them. Throughout the Gospels, we also see Jesus driving demons from the “possessed”, people we recognize as suffering from severe mental illness. One of the most dramatic examples is found in Mark 5:1-13, in which Jesus heals the demoniac of Gerasenes. 

How do we treat those among us who are diseased or physically imperfect, foreign, or simply different? Do we judge them by their behavior, condition or appearance; treat them with fear, hate and distrust? Or do we treat them as Jesus did, with love and acceptance?

In Jesus’ time, Rabbis avoided speaking to a woman in public (note the disciples’ astonishment), but in John 4:7-30, Jesus has an extended and serious conversation with a woman about salvation. The woman is also a Samaritan, a people the Jews held in contempt, and, after five marriages, lives with a man who isn’t her husband. Still, not only does Jesus talk with her, he identifies himself to her as the Messiah! She then goes on to testify to other Samaritans who come to listen to Jesus themselves, and accept him as their Savior.

Finally, Jesus sets the ultimate example. In spite of our flaws, his love for us was so great he died for it. 

Mary of Magdala Part I and Part II
“There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him [Jesus] and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.” Mark 15:40-41.

The Book of Mark is generally recognized as the earliest of the four Gospels, and it’s here, at the end of Christ’s life on earth that Mary Magdalene is first referred to by name. It is Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses who see where the body of Jesus is laid, and when the Sabbath is over, it is Mary Magdalene, this time with Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who bring spices to anoint Jesus’ body in accordance with Jewish tradition.

The women wonder who’s going to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance of the tomb, but when they arrive, they find the stone has already been rolled back. “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:5-7.

The story of the events after the crucifixion is essentially the same, with minor variations, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. The same women are present, with Mary Magdalene common to all three. In Mark and Luke the women go to the tomb to anoint the body; in Matthew they simply visit the tomb. In Mark, Mary Magdalene alone sees the risen Christ; in Matthew, Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” return to the disciples and meet Christ on the road; in Luke, the women tell the disciples what they’ve seen and (in all three cases) are scoffed at for telling idle tales. 

The Gospel of John is different. The women who watch from afar are gone. In John 19:25, John states, “Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene”. It is Mary Magdalene alone who discovers the empty tomb and runs to tell two of the disciples, who race to the tomb to verify her discovery. The disciples return home, but Mary stays. Peering once again into the empty tomb, she sees two angels who ask her why she’s weeping. She tells them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”.

When she turns away, the moving and dramatic story of her recognition of Jesus in the garden unfolds. Calling him Rabboni, a term usually reserved for God, she attempts to embrace Jesus, but he tells her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Mary then follows Jesus’ instructions to go to the disciples: “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things her”. John 20:18

In John, Mary Magdalene is clearly described as the first witness to the Empty Tomb and the Risen Christ, the cornerstone of Christian belief. As the first recipient of an apostolic commission -- from Jesus himself -- she becomes the first Apostle.
How and why did Mary of Magdala, first Apostle, become the “reformed prostitute” of the Christian religion? We’ll look at the answers to that question in Part II. 

Mary of Magdala – Part II
”The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…and many others.” Luke 8:2

The other reference to Mary Magdalene’s “seven demons” occurs in Mark 16:9. She is never referred to as a sinner, prostitute or harlot. She is one of many people in the New Testament, male and female, young and old, from whom devils or demons are cast out. In not one of these cases is the “unclean spirit” sinful or sexual in nature. These “possessions” were most likely seizures or psychological disorders.

Mary also had the misfortune of coming from el Majdel, a prosperous fishing village on the lake of Galilee notorious for its excesses; however, this doesn’t automatically make her a sinner any more than it would a resident of one of today’s cities known for its excesses. Neither is there any evidence in Luke 8:2-3 linking Mary Magdalene to the “sinner” mentioned in previous verses. She is simply described as one of the women traveling with Jesus and the disciples “…who provided for them out of their own resources.”  This would seem to describe a patron of the Jesus movement, not a sinner.

From this handful of references in the Gospels grew the Mary Magdalene of myth and doctrine. Over the next two thousand years, she would be whatever the times demanded she be, defined by men and women alike to suit their own needs, both personal and institutional. But the role assigned to her by the leadership of the early Roman Church is the one that remains with her today, the role of repentant whore. How and why this happened is as complex as the relationship between religion, politics and power.

Within a few generations of Christ’s death, the orthodox Church declared it was Simon Peter to whom Christ first appeared. The cornerstone for the apostolic succession and male authority within the Church had been laid. In spite of the example of Jesus’ radically enlightened treatment of women, and the virtually co-equal role women played in the early days of Christianity, the Church quickly reverted to the patriarchy of the pre-Christian era.

By A.D. 200 Christianity was headed by a hierarchy of bishops, priests and deacons who considered themselves the guardians of the “one true faith.” This catholic (universal) church gained military support after Emperor Constantine became a Christian in the 4th century. The efforts of this empowered majority to destroy every trace of the early Christian writings they considered heretical and to attempt to suppress them even into the 20th century were highly successful. The New Testament we know today is a very small set of writings selected and arranged by Bishops at the direction of the Church of Rome that only those writings supporting the apostolic chain of authority from Jesus to the Apostles to the Bishops could form part of the scriptural canon.

Among the writings that disappeared were the Gnostic gospels, many of which, including the Gospel of Mary, feature Mary Magdalene as a central figure, often with a closer relationship to Jesus than that enjoyed by the twelve male disciples. When these texts vanished, so too did the Mary Magdalene who was chief disciple and “companion of the Savior”. As time went on, many of the leaders of the now celibate Catholic Church came to view women not only as inferior to men, but also as dangerous sexual creatures to be feared and hated. There could be no role in this Church for a First Apostle who not only represented a challenge to the very foundation of its considerable power, but who was female in the bargain. Because she couldn’t be ignored entirely, Mary Magdalene was deliberately re-cast as the redeemed whore, a symbol of repentance. It is a label that sticks to this day. It is also a label without scriptural basis. As we approach Easter, perhaps its time to take a new, fresh look at Mary of Magdala.

The Jesus Movement  (The Divided Church)
The first followers of Jesus were not Christians. The evidence tells us that Jesus, like his followers, was a devout Jew. He was a gifted teacher and healer. Many believed that he was the Messiah. It wasn’t until after his death that some of his followers decided he was divine, that is, that he was the Son of God, but the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form didn’t become final until the fourth century.

There is nothing to indicate that Jesus intended to found a new religion. In the beginning, while Jesus was still alive, there were differences among his followers, just as there are differences of opinion between people today. But they were all followers of Jesus. This evolved into a “Jesus movement”, which itself evolved into what one scholar calls “the Christ congregation”.

“One of the scribes…asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:28-31

About two years after the death of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, who had been a Pharisee until his conversion, began to preach that Christ had died for our sins, and was resurrected. Paul also saw himself as an Apostle to non-Jews. The idea of conversion as a personal transformation also came out of the Christ congregation, as did many other concepts that are unique to Christianity. In fact, Paul is considered the creator of Christianity as a religion. 

Paul’s ideas were radical. Although there were already many varieties of the Christian experiment, the biggest split, one of many hundreds to come in the future of Christianity, was between Jewish Christianity, with its roots in the Jesus traditions, and led by Jesus’ brother James; and Paul’s Christ congregation, with its appeal to non-Jews and based on the shocking idea that Jesus had been resurrected.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

This early split set the pattern for the next two thousand years. Christianity would divide itself again and again over everything from theological and philosophical arguments to issues of property and politics.

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  Ephesians 4:4-6

By 235 Christians were speaking of a Great Church with a single rule of faith. It began to appeal to a broad cross-section of people, including the brilliant Greek and Roman thinkers of the time; women; and pagans. To survive, the Church built a masterpiece of organization run by efficient bureaucrats. In 313, Christianity became a legal religion within the Roman Empire with the conversion of Emperor Constantine. When Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380, the Church and the men who controlled it began to amass property, wealth, and power.

As the Church grew, so did its lack of tolerance for the views and practices of others. The adoption of so-called “correct” symbols and rituals became mandatory. The Church became obsessed with doctrine, symbols, laws and rituals rather than with the divine. Fourth century theologians began to develop the concepts of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. The Latin theologian and philosopher Augustine (354-430) , founder of the spirit of Western Christianity, defined the Trinity and described the terrible God of the fall of Adam. The Christianity the Romans called “a religion of women” began to reflect the contempt and hatred its leaders had for the female gender.

“He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.  Jesus in Mark 7:6-8

The Church split into the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church around 1054. The Western Church favored a strong central church, while the Eastern Church accepted a looser alliance.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the cults of Mary and of the saints reached a peak. Relics and holy places were all the rage. Western Christians saw Satan everywhere. The Roman Church had become corrupt. The printing press had been invented. This was the Renaissance, the dawn of the Scientific Age and the birth of capitalism. People began to see themselves as individuals who could think for themselves. The time was ripe for yet another division within the Church, and this time it would be explosive. The after-shocks still rock us to this day.

The Reformation split Europe into Catholic and Protestant churches. Martin Luther, a German Catholic broke with the Catholic Church in 1517 over issues of religious doctrine. Luther was the first “protestant”, but it wasn’t long before the Protestants themselves began to splinter into sects and denominations. A Swiss, John Calvin, established an international denomination that inspired the Puritan revolution in England and the colonization of America. Calvanism shaped the very soul of America – the Puritan work ethic, and conviction that theirs is somehow a favored nation. The Reformed and Presbyterian Churches were born of the teachings of Calvin and John Knox.

“…But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”  1 Corinthians 12:24-26

The English branch of the Catholic Church broke with Rome in 1534 over the issue of the Pope’s jurisdiction. The Church of England, or Anglicanism was established with the King, not the Pope, at its head.  In America, the Anglican Church would become known as the Episcopal Church.

In 1738, John Wesley was “born again” – a uniquely Protestant experience – while attending a meeting in a Moravian chapel. He believed he had received a direct mission from God to preach this new kind of Christianity, which stated that religion was an affair of the heart, not of doctrine. This denomination came to be called Methodist after the undergraduate society Wesley had founded with his brother at Oxford, a society that emphasized discipline and method.

The Anabaptists, who were originally rejected by both Catholics and Protestants, became the forerunners of “Free Churches.” Some believe the Anabaptists also gave rise to the modern Baptist Church.

Today, as we enter the Third Millennium, there are well over 250 Christian denominations, despite re-unification efforts by such groups as the World Council of Churches. Perhaps this is a good time to remember Jesus’ words of warning in Mark 3:24-25:  “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Good versus Evil – Part I and Part II
For Christians, evil is personified by Satan, or the devil. He’s very real and he’s always present, ready to sneak up on us at the first opportunity. The Gospels tell us that the devil tried to tempt Jesus himself. The devil failed, but notice Luke 4:13, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” The message to Christians is clear: Satan never gives up.

The theme of Good versus Evil has been at the heart of tales told by men and women for centuries. As modern as we like to think we are, we’re still fascinated and often inspired by stories of Good triumphing over Evil. Our popular culture is filled with examples. Stephen King’s book, The Stand, pits the devil and his minions against God and the faithful. The movie The Devil’s Advocate, starring Al Pacino as Satan, tells a frightening tale of temptation. The television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, follows Buffy and her mentor and friends as they battle demonic forces in a small town.

Sometimes it’s easy to tell who’s who in a story. The good guy wears a white hat, and the bad guy wears a black hat. But the best stories are more like real life. True evil may be hiding under that white hat. That’s because Satan is a master of disguise. He’ll use every means available to draw us in. He may even work through our friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers.

It’s Satan’s voice that tells the alcoholic that just one drink to celebrate can’t hurt. It’s his voice that urges the diabetic to treat himself to just one piece of cake. His voice that cajoles teens to smoke or do drugs, because all their friends do. Satan works on the theory of the slippery slope. If he can persuade us to take that first small step. his work is almost done. In Matthew 7:13, Jesus warns us to ”Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction.”

Satan also works from within each and every one of us. He preys on our weaknesses, finds our most vulnerable spot. He sows the evil seeds of self-doubt, self-pity, self-hate. When we hear that recording inside our head telling us we’re not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, that voice that tells us we’re stupid or ugly or worthless, that’s Satan talking. And he can be mighty persuasive, as King David learned, when he committed adultery with Uriah’s beautiful wife Bathsheba, and then sent Uriah to his death as told in 2 Samuel 11:2-26.

Evil is all around us. In Part II, we’ll look at some of the ways Christians can recognize and deal with it.

Good versus Evil – Part II
As strange as it may sound, the first thing we all need to do before we wage war on evil is to know ourselves. With God’s help, we must take an honest inventory of our strengths and weaknesses. This can be painful, but it’s absolutely necessary. Jesus tells us why in Mark 7:21-23: “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice (greed), wickedness, deceit, licentiousness (extravagance), envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within.”

If we know our weaknesses, we can be on guard against Satan when he tries to use them against us. This takes us to the second thing we need to do to protect ourselves from evil influence. We need to learn to take responsibility for our own actions. We need to stop making excuses, stop blaming others; otherwise we’ll never grow into mature Christians. As Jesus clearly warns us, evil intentions come from within. It’s up to us to choose whether to give in to temptation or not.

Most of us know when we’ve strayed onto Satan’s slippery slope. We hear that little voice that tells us we’re wrong. We just choose to ignore it. We take a few pencils or nails home from work, excusing our actions by saying we’re not paid enough anyway. We join a gossip session, or cut other people up, telling ourselves we wouldn’t fit in if we didn’t. We surf the Web on the job, stealing hours from our employer because he deserves it. We join our buddies for a drink, and then get into our cars and drive home, telling ourselves it’s okay, we’ve just had a few beers.

In a world becoming numb even to graphic reports of genocide, mass starvation, and the decimation of entire populations by AIDS and other diseases, it’s easy to make excuses for own acts of wrongdoing, even the big ones. They seem so trivial by comparison to what’s going on around us. And this is exactly what Satan wants us to think. But with each small transgression, we’ve chosen to listen to the voice of evil that comes from within. We’ve chosen to let Satan into the house of our hearts.

The third thing we need to do to protect ourselves from evil is to know the Enemy. Evil is easy to see when it manifests itself on a large scale, as it did during the Holocaust. It’s easy to see when people give in to temptation and commit murder, adultery, theft, assault, abuse. But most of the time, Satan is a master of covert operations, creeping in through the small cracks of every day life. Listen to the character of Satan in The Devil’s Advocate when he tells the young attorney that people never see him coming because he blends in with the crowd. As we learned in Part I, Satan lurks in the small things. To protect ourselves from his influence, we need to be honest and see those small acts of wrongdoing for what they are. We need to heed that little voice telling us we’re wrong.

Most importantly, we need to humble ourselves before God and ask him for his help. He knows none of us are perfect. He asks only that we depend on Him. Luke 10:27 instructs us: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  We must live in obedience to God. We must listen to God, and then obey him. We must do what’s right and keep doing it until Satan lets go. We must stand fast, no matter what.  “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

The rules for us as Christians in the war against Evil are simple -- “Trust the Lord and do good” (Psalm 37: 3), but the way can be hard. Jesus knew this. Time and again, he warned his disciples and those who came to hear him teach that they would be mocked and even hated for their beliefs. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you and defame you on account of the Son of Man,” Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 6:22.

As we grow as Christians, we may meet resistance from friends and even family members. Growth can be painful. We must resist the temptation to become self-righteous, unforgiving and harsh. Instead, we should lead others by our example, knowing each of us must find his or her own way, by choice. Evil can find no foothold when we live in obedience to God, when we do what we know is right, when we live with joy and celebration in the fullness of Christian compassion, charity, kindness and love for others.
The way may be hard, but the reward is no less than eternal life!

Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter.

Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance.

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