Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 2 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 2 - Massive Offense

In Chapter 2, the author of The Bait of Satan states that we are living in the end days, the time period Jesus describes in Matthew 24:10-13.

One of the signs that Jesus gives us of the end times is that Christians will be offended. He tells us that false prophets will rise up and deceive Christians who are living in offense by telling them what they want to hear versus what they need to hear.

The Bible says we need to show love to others even when we don't receive love in return. Spiritual law says that we *will* reap what we sow, though the harvest doesn't always come in the manner we expect. Therefore, in order to avoid offense, we should love others without expecting anything in return.

We build walls around ourselves when we become offended. Love does not go out and love does not come in, which results in selfishness, betrayal, and hatred. Offended people justify their behavior rather than repent of unforgiveness.

Jesus did not take revenge on those who did Him wrong, but rather repaid evil with good and trusted in God to judge righteously. We need to follow His example.

Chapter 2 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Matthew 24:10-13 - Jesus said in the last days that "many will be offended." The "many" Jesus refers to are Christians. Then Jesus states that "false prophets will rise up and deceive many." The false prophets will deceive those who are offended and whose love has grown cold.

Galatians 6:8-9 - When we sow love, we will eventually reap love, though it may take a long time and the harvest may come in an unexpected way.

Matthew 5:44-47 - If we only love those who love us, we are no better than non-Christians. We must love, bless, and pray for our enemies.

Proverbs 18:19 - When we are offended, we build walls around us to keep others out. Those walls eventually become our prison. Love neither comes in nor goes out and we become self-centered & useless to the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 - The New Testament describes our walls as strongholds.

Numbers 23:19 & Isaiah 55:8-9 - God cannot lie. His ways and thoughts are not like ours.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 - Knowledge without love is destructive and deceiving. Offended people often justify themselves by incorrectly interpreting Scripture.

Matthew 7:15 - Jesus refers to false prophets as wolves in sheep's clothing. "Sheep's clothing" means that they give the appearance of being Christians, but are wolves in their hearts. They win people over by telling them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:3-4 - In the end times, people will claim to be Christians, but they will deny the power of Christianity.

2 Timothy 3:7 - People will have a hunger for knowledge, but won't apply it to their own lives. The author says: "If you are offended and in unforgiveness and refuse to repent of this sin, you have not come to the knowledge of the truth."

Matthew 24:10 - Offense leads to betrayal and betrayal leads to hatred. After betrayal, a relationship cannot be restored without true repentance. Betrayal is the ultimate abandonment of covenant.

1 John 3:15 - Those who hate their brother are a murderer.

1 Corinthians 6:7, Matthew 5:44, Philippians 2:3 - The laws of love.

1 Peter 2:21-23 - Jesus did not repay wrong with wrong, but committed Himself to God who will judge righteously.

Day 3 and Day 4 - Devotionals:

Days 3 & 4, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 2 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 3

Put an X on the line to indicate your level of offense for each statement:

This is hard to demonstrate online, but each statement has a horizontal line. At the far left of the line, it says "Usually True" and at the far right of the line, it says "Seldom True." We are supposed to put an X somewhere on that line to indicate our level of offense for each statement.

- Church people seem to be easily offended. My X was towards "Usually True."
- I offend easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- Friends seem to offend easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- People at work get offended easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- Relatives get easily offended. My X was towards "Usually True."

On a scale of 1 (very little) to 5 (very much), how would you rate each of the following statements in your own life?

- I expect much of others: 3
- I am easily disappointed: 2
- I love conditionally: 3
- I bless to be blessed: 3

Write a prayer asking God to replace your expectations of others with unconditional love for them.

Dear Father, Help me to love unconditionally. Help me to give love to others without expecting anything in return. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 4

Check any attitudes you find in yourself: From within our walls, we become:

I checked: Selective about relationships, Less open and vulnerable to others, Closed to those we fear will hurt us.

Complete the following lists, listing both those who have the right to hurt you and those you have shut out with walls.

Those who can hurt me: I listed 7 people
Those I have walled out: I listed 3 people

Write a prayer, asking God to help you tear down your walls, become vulnerable and repent of any offenses.

Dear Father, Help me to tear down any walls that I have up and help me to repent of any offenses I hold in my heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 2 - My Thoughts

Wow! This was an extremely insightful chapter for me. I've heard of false prophets deceiving people in the end times, but I always thought the people who were being deceived were non-Christians. Because of that, I believed that I could not and would not be deceived.

John Bevere explains that not only will the people deceived be Christians, but the false prophets will also claim to be Christians! Now I see that I could easily be deceived if I have offense in my heart.

Another big insight for me was that just because someone quotes scripture and claims to be a Christian doesn't mean that they are a Christian. We need to ask God for discernment so that we can recognize these false prophets. The author says that many of these false prophets are in the pulpit and in the pews. Satan loves to infiltrate the church.

Another thing that moved my heart is that the author pointed out that we need to love people unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. We have to trust that God will make sure that we reap what we sow. That's a tough one to live out, and something that I will have to work very hard at. I have no doubt that I will experience failure in that area at times.

This past week, I tried to put what I learned in this chapter in action. Two people who are on my "deeply offended me" list (that we wrote out in the devotional section of Day 1) had birthdays. I bought these people birthday cards, got them signed by the appropriate people in my family, and mailed them. It really wasn't that hard for me to do, as a matter of fact, it was actually a lot easier than I anticipated. That's probably due to the fact that I know I cannot expect anything in return from these people.

What insights did you find helpful in Chapter 2? Do you think that you can repeatedly extend love to someone who doesn't give it in return?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 1 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 1 - Me, Offended?

The Bait of Satan deals with the issue of personal offense. In Chapter 1, The author explains that offense is "bait" that Satan uses to try to "trap" us with. When people - especially those closest to us - wrong us in some way, we are deeply hurt and feel betrayed.

Sometimes, due to inaccurate information or miscommunication, we perceive that someone has wronged us, even though that might not actually be the case.

Either way, we are offended and if it's not dealt with we live our lives with bitterness, anger and resentment festering in our hearts.

Chapter 1 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Luke 17:1 - "It is impossible that no offenses should come." Jesus Himself said we are going to be offended at some point in our life; there's no getting around it.

Psalm 55:12-14 - In this verse, King David cried out that the sting of betrayal from someone he was especially close to was unbearable for him. The author, John Bevere, points out that "The closer the relationship, the more severe the offense." How true that is!

2 Timothy 3:2 - In the last days, Christians will become selfish and self-centered.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 - Pride can cloud our minds and harden our hearts. It prevents us from seeing and dealing with the truth and keeps us trapped. Pride causes us to view ourselves as victims and to justify our actions.

Revelation 3:14-20 - Pride caused the Laodiceans to be deceived.

Hebrews 3:13 - If we don't deal with the offense, it will produce more fruit of sin and further harden our hearts. We need to examine our hearts and ask God to reveal it's true condition.

1 Peter 1:6-7 & Isaiah 48:10 - When gold is refined, it is put through a purifying process that uses intense heat to remove the minerals that harden it and make it unpure. As a parallel, sometimes God allows us to go through trials and tribulations so that our sins will be revealed to us. We can purify ourselves through repentance.

Revelation 3:18 - We need to open our eyes and see the true condition of our hearts and stop blaming others. The author states: "Often when we are offended we see ourselves as victims and blame those who have hurt us." The truth will bring us freedom.

Day 1 and Day 2 - Devotionals:

Days 1 & 2, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 1 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 1

In the following list of the fruit of offense, circle the feelings you have experienced when offended in the past:

I circled: hurt, anger, bitterness, resentment, & hatred.

List 5 (with 1 being the closest, & 5 being the most distant relationship) the names of 5 people who have offended you:

I ended up actually listing 9 people who I've felt a deep offense with at some point in my life. While I am on good terms with about half the people on my list and believe that I have worked through forgiveness with them, I recognize that I still hold some degree of bitterness and resentment towards several of them.

Write a prayer asking God for help and wisdom to avoid the bait of Satan.

Dear Father, please open my eyes and give me wisdom. Help me to use compassion when dealing with people and situations that could cause offense. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 2

Read 1 Peter 1:6-7 and then summarize how God purifies us:

He purifies us by allowing us to go through trials and tribulations that test our faith.

Think about your own life. What are the impurities in your heart that are hindering the character of God from growing in your life?

Impatience, irritation, resentment, bitterness.

Write a prayer repenting of blaming others and asking the Lord to give you eyes to see the condition of your heart.

Dear Father, Please forgive me for the times that I have blamed others for situations and offenses that I should have taken responsibility for my part in. Help me to examine my heart and reveal to me it's true condition. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 1 - My Thoughts

I think the author, John Bevere, is on to something here. In reflecting upon my own life, I can see that it is very easy for me to allow myself to get offended over minor things or make negative assumptions.

Just recently I went through a situation where I had called someone and left a voice message for them to call me back. A week later, I hadn't heard back, so I sent them a text message with the question I had for them. A few days later, I hadn't gotten a reply, so I emailed them. At that point, I was starting to get annoyed and frustrated.

It turned out that the person was just really busy. They did get back to me shortly after I emailed them and everything was fine, but it's easy to see how a simple situation like that can cause offense. Satan uses situations such as this to plant seeds of doubt in my mind. It's easy to start questioning my relationship with that person and start making assumptions.

What is your perception of what we've learned so far in The Bait of Satan? Do you struggle with offense on a daily basis? Are there people that you have been holding onto offense with for more than 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

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Monday, October 8, 2007

The Power of a Simple Gift

Christmas is a time to reach out to other people who are less fortunate and show them the love of Christ and offer them hope. While many people turn a deaf ear to "preaching", hearts are opened when we show other people kindness and love.

Let me tell you about one Christian ministry that has been a true blessing to me and my family.

Operation Christmas Child is a mission project of Samaritan's Purse, headed by Billy Graham's son, Franklin. Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for people and families to reach out and touch a child's heart at Christmas time...through a simple shoebox.

A few years ago, my youngest son, Cody, and I decided to do our very first shoebox. We chose to do one for a boy in Cody's age group. Once we got started, we had so much fun with it that we actually ended up doing a total of 3 shoeboxes!

Some of the items we put in the shoeboxes were: crayons and pencils, stickers, baseballs, toothbrushes and toothpaste, handheld games, hard candies, beanie babies, washclothes, socks and more.

Rather than using a cardboard shoebox, we bought shoebox-size Sterlite plastic containers and filled them up. We figured they were more durable and would hold up better than a cardboard box. When we dropped our shoeboxes off at a drop-off location, we noticed that other people had used them as well as regular shoeboxes.

Cody is a teenager now, so this year we are asking his girlfriend to get involved with us. It's truly a great way for us to spend quality time together and make a difference in a child's life at the same time.

Drop off week is November 12 - 19, 2007, so now is the time to start getting them ready!

This Christmas, reach out across the world and bless a child...through a simple shoebox! (See the Samaritan's Purse web site for complete details.)

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14