Archives for posts with tag: J. Robert Hanson

SoundCheck_Title“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” – Psalm 42:5 ESV

Nine or so months ago I decided I wanted my guitar to sound as good as my son-in-law, Ben’s. So, I purchased the same fancy rig he uses, matching identically the name brands of gear. I was so happy! When I first got it, I spent a few hours dialing the sound in. Playing, turning knobs and getting the guitar’s resonance and tone balanced. I use the same rig every Sunday. I can practically set it up in my sleep.

Over the months, somehow with the activity of plunking it down, plugging it in and putting it away, the settings and dials that were once so carefully adjusted, moved. I’ve never noticed it. I’ve just been putting it together and playing music without detecting any differences. However, my son-in-law distinguished a change. At our last rehearsal I think he’d had enough of listening to my flatly “E-Qued” guitar. He looks at me very meekly, and asked, “hey, do you mind if I mess with your box a bit?”

I really hadn’t been thinking about how the guitar sounded, I’d dialed it in once before and and just expected everything to sound great. I was just doing my thing—how bad can ‘cowboy cords’ sound anyways, right?

So, he has me play the instrument, all the while he’s down on the ground, bent over, adjusting knobs. Honestly, I’m thinking, “why?” All of a sudden he finishes, I play a sound check and notice that this instrument is sounding really cool again—Ben fixed it! I’d just grown accustom to it sounding like it was in turmoil, not realizing the guitar was performing poorly. Ben messes with the dials, turns up the presence of the guitar, and voilà—a new improved sound emerges that I’d forgotten this ‘axe’ was capable of producing.

Sometimes that’s how we can get with the spiritual life. We’re just doing our thing day-in and day-out, not really realizing something is slightly off. We’re grumpy not knowing why. We ask the same question as the Psalmist: “Why are you cast down, o my soul, why all the turmoil going on inside?” It may just be we need a simple adjustment; one that we’d not noticed was necessary. Other see it—we don’t. We’re just playing the same old ‘cowboy chords’ thinking all’s right with God and the world. Yet, at someplace we’ve stopped experiencing a full life—an abundant life.

Songs of praise can make a simple adjustment in our lives. How many times have I gone through the day, sort of blah—not realizing what that blah was—until I started praising God! Psalm 147, verse 1 says:

“Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

I can ‘T.G.I.F.’ all I want, but it’s not until I start with praises in His presence that the fullness of joy and at pleasures at His right hand kick in. The abundant life starts when true praises before God begin. Just take a few moments to adjust the knobs and then ‘sound check 1, 2, 3.’ When praises begin, the turmoil of soul ends!

J. Robert Hanson

What_title“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” – Psalm 8:4 

Somewhere in the universe, there’s an angelic onlooker seeking to comprehend God’s fascination with man and asks the question, “What?” It almost sounds like a petulant teenager upset at a parent for an imagined inequality. The amount of attention the Almighty sets upon humanity seems out of balance when compared to man’s contemptible nature. Again, the verse reads:

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Curiously, the Hebrew language uses two different words for ‘man’ in this verse; here’s their meanings:

  1. Man 1.0

The first place is in the first clause, “What is man that you are mindful of him.” The Hebrew word used is ‘enoshe’’¹ and it means ‘mankind’ with images of weak, frail, and sickly mortals. The thought is of humanity’s condition. Man universally is fragile and corrupt. He’s bereft of any possibility for self-correction. Sin has left man destitute in a permanent state of hopeless mortality.

To this condition the angelic being utters in disbelief something like, “What?! If you knew man like I do, you’d have nothing to do with him.” Why does the Almighty bother with weak, frail and sick mortals? The question asked in verse 4, “Why [Oh, God] are you mindful of him?” looks for answers.

Ever had a cheap watch quit working? Attempting to repair something broken and of little value makes no sense. It doesn’t take long until the effort and time outweighs the cost of a new watch. So, unless one is inclined to tinker with such devices as a hobby, it’s a short time until we ask, “Why am I doing this?”

Fortunately, God is not like men—nor angels for that matter. Somehow the Almighty sees value in weak, frail and sickly mortals. In fact, when reading verse 4’s question to God, “What is man that you are mindful of him,” ‘mindful’ is the idea is of being possessed of a thought! In other words, God can’t stop thinking about you—He’s got to fix it! Even in your weak, frail and sickly condition, God has His attention focused on you and can only think of ways to repair your problems.

  1. Man 2.0

The second use of the word ‘man’ is located in the second clause with the expression ‘son of man,’ or, ben-‘adam.²’ It literal means ‘human being,’ but identifies with the physical, natural condition of humanity—though still limited by mortality. To put Psalm 8, verse 4’s question in perspective, the writer asks: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” Even in man’s natural estate, he is physically overwhelmed and outmatched in comparison to God, or even angels. In fact, the mystified questioner continues the disparaging pace in verse 5 by suggesting incongruously:

“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” 

Since man, on his best day, is temporary and fleeting, why would the Eternal One care for humanity at all?

There’s a little verse in 1 Corinthians 9, verse 26³ where Paul uses the analogy of a boxer. If such an athlete where in the ring of a boxing match and finding himself on the losing side of a fight, a friend’s simple reminder, “I’m in your corner” conveys an inspirational thought that someone is “on your side.” That friend would be wiping sweat from your brow then sending you back into the ring with renewed support! Sometimes all it takes to be encouraged is just knowing that one person is in your corner caring for you.

That second clause of Psalm 8, verse 4: “What is…the son of man that you care for him?” spiritually means God is in your corner! He’s not giving up on any ‘son of man’—no matter how helpless, week, frail, or physically exhausted you’ve become. In fact, in The Message Bible, Hebrews 2, verse 17 reads of Jesus Christ:

“That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life.”

Metaphorically speaking, the thought is Jesus came, got into the ring, and took our place in the fight when we were physically drained and broken. When the angelic beings of heaven ask “What?” The answer is to point to the ‘Son of Man,’ Jesus Christ! He is the demonstration that God is mindful and caring toward man.

J. Robert Hanson

¹ Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, H0582, enoshe’: mortal and frail, hence, a man in general.

² Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Ben-‘Adam; Compound phrase from H120, ‘adam: ruddy i.e. A human being (an individual or the species, mankind, etc.), and H1121, banah: a son (as a builder of the family name).

³ “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.”

Living_Letters_title

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV)

When someone seeks employment, generally there are letters written communicating why a business should hire an applicant. If you need a letter of recommendation, you don’t go to an antagonist and ask for one. You want someone you know of stature and experience, ideally in your field of industry, to write something positive.

For Paul, the whole church at Corinth was a living letter of recommendation for his ministry. The two verses above point out that his labor was a story of living transformation, enough weight to show the success of his work.

Again, Paul writes in verse 3: “…you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” Essentially he’s saying you’re the living letter of our ministry written by the ink of the Holy Spirit.

The Ink of the Holy Spirit

Later in his writings, Paul points out that the experience of transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3, verse 6 reads that it’s God:

“…who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

The competence to minister occurs at the efforts of God; it’s the Spirit that gives life! There are gifted ways to say things, there are great methods to apply things, there are even glorious purposes for attracting commitment, but ultimately the only process that accomplishes an enduring transformation of soul is the work of the Holy Spirit!

Transformation isn’t something left up to men—this task is so important that God, the Holy Spirit, takes personal responsibility to get the job completed. He begins the project when He takes up residence within the very life of the believer in Jesus Christ. Paul pointed this out to the Corinthians in an earlier letter; 1 Corinthians 6, verse 19 reads from the English Standard Version:

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”

The ‘specifics’ of how the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the body is a mystery. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit lives inside the believer and the opportunity for lasting change is made available to everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. When it comes to transformation, no one is beyond hope. The thought that someone can’t be changed is not in God’s vocabulary. He is the God of change making every soul He touches a living letter through the ink of the Holy Spirit. Practically, there is only one thing capable of hindering that work.

The Restricting of the Holy Spirit

As rain delays can hinder homebuilders, the process of God’s true transformation can be held up and restricted. Paul warns the Thessalonians that this problem exists when he writes to them in 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 19 the simple words:

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

The thought behind the word “quench” is that of extinguishing a fire. The metaphor is meant to illustrate the stifling and suppression of the divine influence—the Holy Spirit! The fastest way to break the process of transformation is to behave in ways that quench the fire burning in you—so to speak, throwing cold water on the Holy Spirit. Sure, God’s promise to us is that He’ll never leave nor forsake us! But, we can surely hinder, restrict and rain-delay His work in our lives through careless behavior.

What does that restricting behavior look like from a practical sense? Paul gives a hint of example when he writes in Ephesians 4, verses 30 and 31:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Paul lists six-destroying emotions that can grieve the Holy Spirit and bring a work-delay to the transformation effort. But, the whole renewal processes can immediately start again through the simple act of putting away the six-destroying emotions. How can we do that? By acknowledging and confessing that we’ve slipped into any of these six-destroying detriments! Immediately following the work of the Holy Spirit is rekindled, the fire is relit and the ink of the Holy Spirit begins writing a living letter on our tablets of human heart again. We are The Living Letters written by God’s hand.

J. Robert Hanson

Galaxy_QuestWhen I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4 ESV

Never give up! Never surrender! These words are the tagline of Commander Peter Quincy Taggart of the Starship Protector that’s featured in the science fiction action comedy, Galaxy Quest. The 1999 hit movie is a parody of the television series, “Star Trek.” The difference being—GQ’s crew knows they are actors living on borrowed time feeding off the devotedness of cult-like followers. That is, until space aliens show up mistakenly interpreting weekly TV broadcasts as historical documents. These other ‘worldlies’ perfectly replicate the TV space ‘stage-setting’ in a real planetary existence. Soon enough the aging actors become astronauts and a new reality is born into time and space—a clever piece of Hollywood writing!

Humankind’s quest to understand and live in the cosmos is intriguing—Galaxy Quest is just one fantasizing example. Since man learned to record his thoughts, the inability to access space has never quenched the human desire to romanticize interstellar admittance. In comparison to earth’s overall history, the ability to send humans into orbit is a relatively new experience. And since the capability to enter space is still young there are many unresolved themes to author, such as the prolonged effects of space upon the human physiology and social psyche.

This ‘human galaxy quest’ can be found penned all the back to Psalm 8, verses 3 and 4. These words reveal man’s longing:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

The thought is that one good peek at the heavens is enough to create a thirst in man that he/she was made for something higher than “Never give up! Never surrender! The creator of the stars and the galaxies has a personal interest in the life of all human beings. The Psalmist sees this vastly rich purpose of man and wonders why a creator would take such interest in someone so much smaller and seemingly insignificant. What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? God cares for you! He will never give up nor surrender on your behalf. In fact, similarly God promises in Hebrews 13, verse 5:

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Our galaxy quest begins and ends in the arms of the everlasting one. He is the Lord of the Galaxies! So, if I may alter Commander Peter Quincy Taggart’s tagline just a little, I would remind us, ‘Never give up! Never Surrender by looking to the Living God in Heaven!’ He is our ‘Galaxy Quest.’

J. Robert Hanson

Messenger_Title“…And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Romans 10: 14-15; ESV

There are people who are natural born salesmen. They know the challenge of marketing and are able to convince folks to buy. And then there are individuals who passionately promote because they’ve discovered something has improved life. These don’t look at souls as if they were marks with ‘bulls-eyes’ painted on the back of heads; they reach folks because they’ve discovered something life changing.

Selling is not for everybody, but a passion behind a transformed life is. To someone who’s received the infinite value of salvation helping others becomes second nature—they are messengers of good news: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Let’s think about the anatomy of this ‘new-life’ messenger. In Isaiah 53, verse 7, we begin with:

  1. The Feet

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’”

The point being—all good news begins with a publisher of hope and peace! God is looking for publishers, folks that will ‘walk’ the message of The Writer to others. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re carrying the good news to a remote village in India or a fashionable living room in Beverly Hills; the idea is to move your feet and spread your passion: “your God reigns!” Secondly, we have:

  1. The Knees

The messenger must have the knees of prayer. Even the apostle Paul realized this! In Ephesians 6, verses 18 and 19 he formulates: “…making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,”

Are you shy about sharing the good news! You’re not alone! Paul needed folks on their knees to add boldness to his words. Publishing good news isn’t as easy as Paul made it look. A messenger needs knees. The third element of the anatomy of a messenger is:

  1. The Hands

When writing to the Thessalonians, Paul puts this third thought this way; 1 Thessalonians 2, verse 9:

“For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

He’s saying something like, “you saw firsthand our hands working and involved in your life.” There’s something about working side-by-side with others, with our hands, that’s proof of the life of Christ. Now, it can’t be only our hands doing good deeds for others, there also must be the fourth element of the messenger’s anatomy:

  1. The Mouth

We actually need to engage words with our hands. This can be a tough one. Generally I find it’s difficult because of a lack of something significant to say at the right moment. Isaiah seems to indicate he learned a secret. We read in Isaiah 50, verse 4:

“The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.

What I hear from God I can speak with my mouth throughout the day—why not? Starting the day with a verse from heaven can create something of significance for others. It gives the mouth a weighty word to speak. And the final element, and most important of all the anatomy of the messenger is:

  1. The Heart

We read in 1 Corinthians 13, verses 1 and 3:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

All other parts of the messenger’s anatomy hinge around this one key—the heart of love. I can have feet to walk mountains, knees to pray up a storm, hands of action, perfect words—but without a heart of love there is nothing. I can burn all my hours as a messenger of Christ, but without love it’s futile, nothing is gained.

Here are five elements to experiment with and put the passion of new life to work—it the “The Anatomy of a Messenger.”

J. Robert Hanson

Conspiracy3And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Ephesians 6:10-13, The Message Bible

In the final episode of The Taciturn Conspiracy, it’s most important to remember the battle is the Lord’s! I understand the tendency to struggle back when knocked down. No one likes the sense of humiliation. But, as The Message Bible paraphrases verse 13, this conspiracy is “far more than you can handle on your own.” In this case, it’s crucial, lastly:

c) Don’t forget who The Victor is

Jesus Christ is the victor! We stand only in the power of His might. Verse 10 reads:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

There is no one like our God! The battle is the Lord’s, not ours. He has won the victory, not us. We are weak and helpless in the face of any and all great satanic conspiracies. Even the famous Job, righteous and mighty as he was, could not withstand the whiles of the devil when he was tried. Let me explain.

Though we discover in reading the book of Job that the man did not sin in speech through all his afflictions,¹ Job does seem to lose perspective in light of his sufferings. In Job 31, beginning with verse 3, we find Job’s words about his crisis were:

Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he [God] see my ways and number all my steps?

In short, Job’s problem was he thought he deserved to be saved because he was so righteous. Job understood the truth that his crisis was not a result of sin—he makes that case clear to his three friends throughout the book. But, his error was in thinking he was strong and mighty because he was righteousness—in short, he deserved salvation. In this Job justified himself rather than God. He fell directly into the devil’s schemes by concluding his circumstances were of flesh and blood—people were his problem—and not powers of spiritual darkness in high places.

As long as we believe we’re battling with flesh and blood we’re not able to see our need for help, a Savior, or that Jesus is victor. That’s why it’s imperative to see who the ultimate conspirator is. For this we put on the whole armor of God day-by-day! Plus, don’t ever forget who the victor is! This conspiracy is far more than we can handle. To think we can “go it alone” is exactly what the devil wants us to believe. Satan wants us taken up with the world’s surveillance cameras surrounding us. He wants us believing we fight against flesh and blood. He wants us to consider victory as up to us—just inches away from grasping. It’s not so! In his hubris, Job found that out and was rebuked by his young friend, Elihu. In Job 32, verse 2 were read:

“Then Elihu…burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God.”

And then in Job 33, verses 26 through 28, we find Elihu cuts lose in correcting Job. Beginning with verse 26 we read Elihu tells Job:

“…then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’

Job learns his suffering were more than he could handle. He finds he was only deserving of judgment and then his plea matches the state of his weakness with the words: “I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me!”

When we forget that our true adversary is the devil, we become like Job thinking we deserve help because we are so righteous in our cause. But, salvation is all about what we can’t handle and then finding Jesus as the victor. This discovery is what the devil truly fears most. All his taciturn conspiracies are in coordination to keep us from this truth—Jesus is victor.

That’s the whole deflection of the devil—to get us thinking we are mighty and we can fight against flesh and blood, when in fact, we are nothing and in desperate need of God’s help! So, please remember we have powerful adversary in the devil. But God has given us an armor to put on to discover the strength we have in Jesus!

Ephesians 6, verse 10: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

J Robert Hanson

¹ Job 2:10, ESV: “…Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Conspiracy2“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:13-18, ESV

To stand against Satan’s stratagems—what I called The Taciturn Conspiracy—this little passage reminds us to “Take up the whole armor of God”! Keeping us from falling prey to the schemes of the devil, there are several things Paul mentions in chapter 6—I’d like to mention three of them. First:

a) Don’t confuse who your adversary is

That is a primary strategy of the devil. He wants to get you thinking your issues are a result of your fellow human being. He can manipulate people to do terrible things, but those of flesh and blood are not the main cause of any of your problems. The devil wants you wrestling with flesh and blood. He wants you yelling at people. He wants you believing your predicament in life is because of an incompetent bumbling government. If the devil can get you mad at another human being, he’s done a great job of deflection and distraction—his taciturn conspiracy is working!

There’s nothing worse than fighting against an enemy you don’t know. To be mad at the wrong person and mix up opponents is the ultimate in victory. In this condition the devil can get you mad, discourage you, overwhelm you, and devastate you by making your fight seem like it’s against flesh and blood.

Your fight is not against any system of humanity; it’s against an organization of demonic enterprise. Paul says that ultimately any fight with City Hall is one in which you’re wrestling with rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. And, the Apostle should know. Remember, the man wrote this epistle while locked up in a Roman jail cell! Paul realized his arguments with the empire were ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. Don’t become confused and fall into the trap of thinking your adversary is ultimately human—Paul reminds us that’s not the case. Secondly:

b) Don’t overlook what your adversary is

Never forget that Satan is much stronger than you! You are not a superhero with a cape! You absolutely need the strength of the Lord’s might because you can’t go it alone! You need God and the support of other believers standing with you. That’s why Paul says in verse 18:

“…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

Even the great Apostle Paul realized the ancient foe is a formidable adversary. And as such we’ve got to each other’s prayers for help. Yes, the devil is very strong—but we have a mighty God that has given us armor to wear to withstand the evil day. Beginning with verse 13 we read:

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,

If you need a superhero costume, this is it—no cape attached! In fact, this is the only superhero costume to believe in. It’s the spiritual SWAT team’s uniform—don’t leave home without it. Your only opportunity to defeat the schemes of the devil is to learn to put on the superhero costume of faith everyday!

Next episode finishes with the final aspect of this armor.

J Robert Hanson

ConspiracyFinally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12, ESV

I love a good conspiracy. Area 51, UFOs, grassy knolls, it doesn’t matter—the intrigue of figuring out plots and connivers sparks my curiosity. To be clear, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,¹ a conspiracy is a secret plan made by two or more to do something that is harmful or illegal. For creating a conspiracy, it takes two-to-tango.

Ephesians 6, verses 10 through 12 is about a dark taciturn conspiracy between the devil and other spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Paul writes these thoughts because it’s so easy to forget our struggles are not against individuals—flesh and blood—but the silent schemes of an insidious devil and his legions. The one known as “the prince of the power of the air”² is an exceptional watcher and soundless strategist against humanity. He is able to control situations and make them look like others are responsible. His favorite patsy is humanity. When enduring suffering we can be fooled into thinking we’re fighting men. But, while gazing at marionettes—tools of the puppet master—the real power pulling the strings is Satan.

We think Big Brother is our government, a Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwellian nightmare come alive. But Big Brother isn’t the video camera on the street corner. It’s the demonic powers lurking in the quite darkness of spiritual highlands! The devil and his legions are watching and observing what we do. Our true loss of anonymity isn’t from modern technical advances. The Bible notes privacy was lost centuries before. You don’t think so? Just read Job 1, verses 6 and 7:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”

Satan walks the earth observing what’s going on. In fact, God asks Satan if he’d scrutinized His servant, Job; verse 8:

“…the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

And Satan replies to The Almighty with a complaint—verses 9 and 10:

“Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

Satan’s grievance: he can’t seem to assault Job as the man is too protected! The devil was well aware of Job’s life and activities—he’d been monitoring the righteous man for quite awhile! And, the frustration was that nothing could touch him as the Lord’s protection prevented any overt or covert attacks. “It’s not fair” was the devilish argument!

Satan has been eavesdropping on humanity since the dawn of time beginning way back in the Garden of Eden. He knew exactly what God had said to Adam in light of the prohibition of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil understood how to twist that conversation just enough to fool Adam’s spouse. Do not underestimate the devil’s surveillance program!

The good news is the devil has limitations. Though he does tirelessly walk throughout the whole earth, he can’t be everywhere at the same time—only God is capable of omnipresence. The bad news is that Satan has legions of fallen angels—demons—capable of covering every inch of this planet and reporting activities through a well-established demonic hierarchy—hence, the taciturn conspiracy. This is the true Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwellian nightmare come to life!

Paul’s goal in Ephesians 6 is to unmask the adversary and reveal to humanity that a satanic strategy is at work! The evil tactic is networked in such a way that it can cause huge disruptions in your life and fool you into believing others are liable. Paul calls this conspiracy the schemes of the devil—the one conspiracy that humanity needs to be aware of so that it doesn’t fall prey to massive deception. As humankind, the worse we can do is misjudge the devil and be duped into believing we’re wrestling with flesh and blood—other people!

There are several things that Paul mentions in Ephesians 6 that will keep us from falling prey to the schemes of the devil. Satan has fatally underestimated the effect of the whole armor of God, the same armor we’re called to put on everyday.

Next episode I’d like to mention three aspects of this armor.

J. Robert Hanson

¹ http://www.learnersdictionary.com/definition/conspiracy

² Ephesians 2: 2 ESV; in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV

I want to focus on that little phrase: “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Discovering the will of God can seem like such an enigma! There’s nothing worse than making a decision that leads to chaos and trouble. The great thing about the will of God: it’s good, acceptable and perfect. By design, the will of God won’t lead you into something bad. Sure, it is inevitable bad things will happen while in the will of God, but the difference is Romans 8, verse 28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

When living in the will of God even a bad situation comes together for good. The end may not be the expected, but doing God’s will guarantees the perfect outcome.

Very often great things begin with one small desire. There’s an aspiration to do something. Commit it to the Lord and trust Him.¹ Even before making a decision, express to God that if He doesn’t want that desire, neither do you! Tell Him, “Lord, if you don’t like the idea, then I don’t like it.” And afterwards, be flexible to change.

Now you’re ready to conduct the test. For discerning God’s will, I’d like to suggest testing your will with His by asking 3 questions.

Test #1: Does the decision contradict God’s Word?

This is a key! What does God say in His Word about the desire you have? I had a friend who became convinced God called her to minister in Africa. She had promises galore! She had an incredible love for the people of Africa. But, she also had just one problem—she was married and her husband didn’t share the same burden. He was a youth pastor and together God called them both to serve in this specific pastoral ministry.

It was a most difficult decision for her! She really wanted to go help others in Africa. Emotionally, it was killing her. That is, until she discovered the Bible said her desire was in contradiction to what God says about marriage and leadership. She told me she’d found out God’s order was that the man is the head of the wife and that wives were to submit to their husbands. It was then she decided that if her husband didn’t want to go to Africa, neither did she. Point being, the will of God never contradicts the Word of God. Plus, it helped save their marriage!

Test #2: Does the decision dishonor God’s Character?

Sometimes we desire to do things that are not so black and white in God’s Word. What school do I go to? Where should I live? Should I take this job? What career choice is the best for me? These are personal questions that we want to make sure sync with God’s will.

The test: If the desire dishonors God’s character, than it’s not the will of God. Here is where we can ask that age-old question, “What would Jesus do?” Does the decision dishonor God’s character? If we’ll end up compromised in holiness, then it’s not the good, acceptable and perfect will of God. The romance of doing something unique and new sometimes sways our judgment. The question of dishonoring God’s character is great to have answered before acting upon an option. There are consequences to actions that need to be thought about—find answers reaching beyond immediate gratifications.

Test #3: Does the decision discredit God’s Witness?

God has a witness in this world! Our choices reflect on that witness. There are resources that can help get us make good decisions in light of what the will of God is. The last great thing to ask is, “What do others think?” I’m not saying you’re bound to do what others say about a thing. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one to decide on what a person should do or not do. I don’t want the responsibility for an errant plan.

However, I will offer the good and bad about a choice. Proverbs 15, verse 22 reads:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

Again, Proverbs 20, verse 18 says:

Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.

The church is a great resource for figuring out God’s will before actually doing something. We get so worried of people telling us what to do that we forget God can actually use others to help make decisions. Without counsel plans fail! Success comes with many advisers.

Knowing and discovering the will of God is important for all believers. The goal is that His will becomes our will—this is how the will was won!

J. Robert Hanson

¹ Psalm 37:5, ESV: Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

Over a period of many years, God spoke to Abraham about fathering a son that would bless many nations. Five times the promise of nation building came to the patriarch and in every instance of conversations there were lessons of faith. At ninety-nine years of age, in Abraham’s the fourth encounter, God gets specific! In Genesis 17, verse 16 we read that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is connected to the promise:

“I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

God wasn’t executing this promise without Sarah’s involvement! Abraham was flabbergasted. Verse 17 tells us:

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

As if Abraham’s 100-years old was anymore reasonable than Sarah’s 90! Then Abraham presents to God his doable option, an “already-in-motion” strategy, a “Plan B” so to speak. Verse 18 reads:

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

Who’s Ishmael? Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son by the concubine, secondary wife—nothing good ever comes from polygamy, Hagar. It was a plan hatched by Sarah to give Abraham an heir. God’s answer to Abraham’s “Plan B” is in verse 19:

“No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”

And for the first time, in any of God and Abraham’s discussions, the patriarch learns God is set on using Sarah to create an heir. His wife is at the heart of God’s promise! And, in typical male fashion, Abraham is shocked the promises, in fact, didn’t circulate around his world! In fact, God even goes the next step in the naming of Sarah’s child Isaac! The Lord finishes the point in verse 21:

“But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

Still, apparently Abraham decides to keep Sarah out of the discussion. He mentions nothing of God’s plan to his wife. In fact, she only finds out the info by eavesdropping in on God’s fifth conversation with Abraham. In Genesis 18, verse 10 we read God tells the patriarch:

“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

And while Sarah’s eavesdropping in on the topic, she gives off a little snicker of doubt. God hears her; she’s caught listening in—verses 13 and 14:

The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

That little act of eavesdropping makes all the difference in this event. Seemingly, Abraham hadn’t been too open with his wife about the topic. Who knows why? Maybe he’s afraid she’d think he was nuts! I mean, what’s he going to say to her? “You’re 90, I’m 100 and we’re going to have a kid. We’ll be the only couple at the store buying Depends and Huggies in the same shopping cart.” I understand why that might be a tough conversation to have with your spouse! For whatever reason, the memo of a child had not trickled down to Sarah and she needed to get the message on her own terms, in her own way, and God allowed it to happen by her eavesdropping on their conversation. It happened this way because Sarah needs to know the promise firsthand to be capable of believing God herself for the impossible! Do you need proof of that? Hebrews 11, verse 11 reads:

“By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

It wasn’t until Sarah got the message that things began to roll. She needed to believe to receive the power to conceive—not Abraham. She needed faith! Up till now she had no idea the child of promise was connected to her—and the promise remained unfulfilled. Along with Abraham, she had to consider God faithful to fulfill His promise.

Sometimes I can tell my wife things of promise until I’m blue in the face. Sometimes she can tell me things until she’s blue in the face! Point being—we both need to get before God to find faith to believe. You just can’t create faith for someone else—not even your spouse. I wish we could, but according to Romans 10, verse 17,¹ faith only comes by the personal hearing of the Word of God. The completeness of the promise was dependent upon the belief of both Sarah and Abraham—Sarah every bit apart of the process. This is how Sarah’s eavesdropping led to faith!

J. Robert Hanson

¹ “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”