Category Archives: Life2

Stand Against the Devil

by Richard Pelfrey

but what’s confusing you is just the nature of my game” – Mick Jagger

For this lifter, on the outside looking in, it seems absolutely absurd. God turns on the lights and the water and then builds a paradise for his two most-prized creations: Adam and Eve. They have no worries. They don’t know work or pain or hunger or aging. They’ve got it made down there in Eden, walking unashamedly naked with the Lord. And only one rule: don’t eat the fruit from that tree. Then what do they do but break the one rule – cursing all of us.

How stupid can you be? Adam and Eve knew clearly what they could and could not do to stay in God’s good graces, and all it took for them to forget was two little prods from a beast (whom they were rulers over!). “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” and “You will not surely die…” But imagine being there. Imagine how much different it would be if it were you down there naked talking to a snake. He is, after all, the most crafty of the animals, and he knew how to get us. He knew to cause confusion and doubt and to introduce the possibility of more power.

Here’s the thing. When we are immersed in our selfish desires and stupidity, we have a hard time seeing it. Others can see how stupid what we are doing is, but to us it makes perfect sense. We are blinded by the opportunity to increase our earthly status or pleasure, and faith and reason easily go out the window. This is why we need each other. This is why we have fellowship and intercession, because we have the power to reach into other people’s bubbles of absurdity and pull them out.

Let’s look at what Adam did. It is clear that he was right there next to Eve while this whole thing was going down. He knew the rules as good – no, better than she did. And what does he do? He just stands there, he doesn’t make a peep. When the apple (or whatever it was) gets passed his way, he doesn’t hesitate to take a bite. Now when God confronts Him – “who told you that you are naked? Did you break the rule?” He gives the Almighty an excuse and tries to pass the buck – “this woman that you gave me, she talked me into it.” Adam had the direct connection to God, he knew what was going down was wrong, but he took no stand. This silence is what caused the fall of man and everything that came with it. It was a great victory for team Hell.

How many times have we let our fellows fall into sin, or even gone there with them, because we didn’t have the courage to speak up? On the street, we fear being thought of as a goody-goody and say things like “I ain’t no snitch”. However, the same thing happens in the Church. Only difference is we don’t want to be accused of intolerance and we say things like “that would be Pharisidical”. We half-quote Jesus saying “judge not…” When Jesus really says in Matthew 7 that we are to judge, just carefully and in love; with God’s conviction, not Satan’s condemnation. Galatians 6:1-2 expands on this idea: “…if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”.

We can not sit idly by and watch our brothers and sisters fall victim to the persuasions of the serpent and then blame them for our own shortcomings when confronted by God at the time of Judgement. We must take the shortcoming of Adam and Eve and use it as a lesson. Let’s make an effort to speak up. Let’s bring each other back to the path when we get caught up in our temptations and confusion. Let us carry each others’ burdens lifters, and in this way not get caught in the garden with a snake who would like to confuse our faith.

Peace.

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The Thorn

by Richard Pelfrey

I’ve been feeling very convicted as of late, and I take comfort – joy even – in the assurance that this means I am growing. But still it can be very rough. I’m under attack. Questions arise like “why am I still so ‘unclean’?” and “why can’t I rise above these worldly temptations?”…I wonder at times if I’m just paying lip (and ink) service to this deal. But then I look back on the way things were just two years ago, and I see amazing progress. That notwithstanding, when I mess up I still can’t help but feel like I’m doing “it” wrong. C.S Lewis speaks on this in “Screwtape Letters”. The devil doesn’t go after people who aren’t living for God, he’s already got them. No, instead the devil sends his little minions after those who are pursuing rank in God’s army, to make them feel unworthy.

Our weapon as soldiers of the faith: the Word. Remember, we’ve all got (if we choose to believe it) God in our backpacks, desks, nightstands, or wherever we keep our Bible. Paul refers to it in Ephesians as a sword, to be used in hand-to-hand combat against the principalities and powers of darkness.

During Church the other night I was led back to one of my favorite pieces of scripture and allowed to see it in a new light. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. As I write this, it speaks directly to my heart, as if God heard my cries and is answering through my favorite Apostle.

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”(v.7). OK, God loves us, right? If He didn’t we wouldn’t stand for Him. We’re too selfish to worship something when there’s nothing in it for us. So why would He want to torment me? I believe it’s a Holy reminder; one without which we would become way too proud of our spiritual growth and maybe even start to think we were as Holy or even Holier than God Himself (sound familiar? See Isaiah 14:12-15). God says “OK, you’re doing good, but slow down, there’s a hungry lion out there, don’t lose focus”. We must remember how we got here and how easily we could return.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”(v.8) This is what I’ve been stuck in. It’s almost as if I’m thinking I can be as pure as Christ. I’ve done it way more than three times. I’ve had intercessors, I’ve had counsel – one friend suggested I pray in tongues. But the temptations do not stop. If anything, they get stronger.

But He said to me, ‘ My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ”(v.9) I don’t have to be perfect, in fact I shouldn’t even be thinking about personal perfection. Christ reminds us here that all we should be pleading for is His Grace (and really there’s no pleading there, just receiving). If we come to God in any other state than total weakness, His power in our lives will be less than perfect. Remember, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. I must cast aside the proud supplications that amount to me saying “I should be better than this”, just as a fisherman throws away the bad fish from the net. God wants me to acknowledge my sinful nature and to feel the strength of the devil; to be reminded of it daily like a splinter that I can’t remove – every little while it gets rubbed just right and reminds me it’s still there. The more try to fight the temptations through some delusion of personal power, the stronger the temptations will be.

Paul concludes “That is why…I delight…in difficulties. For when I am weak then I am strong.”(v.10) I’ve been frustrated about my inability to be clean (for lack of a better word). But today I realize that this is exactly where the enemy wants me. When I’m frustrated, even if I don’t give up, I’m taking my focus from loving God. When I do this the darkness gets a wedge in, and before I know it I’m out of God’s grace. The opposition wins. When I realize I am nothing but filthy rags, undeserving of any grace, and delight in the fact that it’s given to me in spite of this, the floodlight of His power is switched on. My spirit, through Christ, is way too strong for any darkness Satan can think of to throw at me.

Peace.

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Temptation

by Richard Pelfrey

In one of the best Christian books I’ve read (and I’ve only read a few), Phillip Yancey devotes a chapter to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He says some things in here that have greatly influenced my salvation. In it he concludes that Jesus had every opportunity to destroy the devil that day – once and for all; no more evil in the world. But He didn’t. Christ chose to rebuke Satan and to keep him around as well. God knows that we actually need the devil. After all, the almighty doesn’t do anything without a purpose. And the purpose of old Beelzebub, I believe, is to make us realize how much we really need God.

So sin is never eradicated. Yes I’m forgiven, but that is not a free pass through this earthly life. In this life, we never become exempt from temptation. And temptation in itself is not sin, but the acting out or entertaining of these temptations is. Temptation is a reminder that I need to have Jesus in my life. If we act out on temptation and turn to sin for long enough, we experience our little pieces of hell here on Earth, and ideally it brings us back to the cross. To quote C.S Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasure and shouts in our pain”.

God – according to James 1:13-15 – does not tempt anyone. Instead we are tempted by the evil that lives in our flesh (see Romans 7, we should never act as though we are innocent, because there is something in our fallen nature which makes us unrighteous by default). Temptation comes when that nature pulls our gaze from the face of God and entices us. This temptation is still just a seed, and when we choose to water that seed instead of cultivating the light inside of us, we get sin. Then, as James says, “sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”

It’s a test. To see if we are willing to do what it takes to stay on the straight and narrow. In this world we will have trouble – take that one to the bank, it’ll pay. Satan will come at us with temptations every single chance he gets. Lord knows I am tempted in certain ways every single day, and I don’t always pass the test, lifters. But see, my shortcomings bring me back to the cross. My sin brings me to my knees and keeps me humbled in repentance, and this is where He can use me the most. All things work together for the good of those who love Him!

When I’ve got Jesus in my heart it’s just a little thorn, no big deal. Just a reminder that I still have flesh. But the minute I start entertaining the spiky temptations which Satan continually slides my way, I begin shutting the door on Christ and opening my soul to the outer darkness.

Let us pray what Christ taught us to: “Our father who art in Heaven…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Otherwise, we will get picked off. It’s like Peter says: “Be sober, be vigilant, for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I didn’t have to look that one up, it’s committed to my memory and I walk with it in my heart today. When we recognize this fact and pray the word of God just as Jesus did in the desert, we get the same power that He had on that day. With this, even though we may lose little sin battles, we emerge victorious – covered in blood and victorious.

Peace.

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Holy, Part 2

By Richard Pelfrey

Most of my friends don’t read the blog. I don’t even try to get them to read it anymore. In a way it’s cool. I have them and I have you guys, separately. I do have one friend down here who takes an interest in these little columns though. In response to the post on Holiness, he suggested that a part two was justifiable; people (me) should need to know how to be Holy or to walk with the Holiness of God inside of us. Here it goes Barry:

If we have the holiness of God inside of us, then we should expect to resemble God in our lives at least a little bit, right?. But how? We can’t begin to approach the big three: omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. In the words of John Donne “no man is an island, entire of itself”, so I’m not sovereign. I’m not supposed to take revenge, so I can’t be wrath. I am definitely “mutable”…so how, in the face of such an awesome commandment by God for us to be Holy, can we do that?!?

It’s LOVE. The Bible says that God is (among other things) love. Paul says without love we are nothing, Jesus says to “love one another”. John Lennon said “all you need is love” (ok that maybe doesn’t fit, but I gotta shout out to my boys at least once). 1 Peter 4:8 says “Love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” OK, but what is love? What do you have to do (beyond saying “i love you” to people”) to have love and be love and love deeply?

God says “if you love Me you will obey Me”. So there’s a start. But obviously none of us obey God fully all of the time, and He knows this. This is where His love comes into play. Our love for Him begins when we start trying to humble ourselves and seek His face and follow His commandments, and then when we mess up He loves us by forgiving us.

There’s this song that says we only hurt the ones we love. It says “if I broke your heart last night, it’s because I love you”.Love is an investment. It’s a decision to make oneself vulnerable to all kinds of pain in exchange for the opportunity to do something for someone. Think about it. We don’t really get our feelings hurt by acquaintances, but we get our hearts broken by parents, children, best friends and lovers. We open ourselves up to betrayal for the possibility of something wonderful. Sometimes we may become enamored with people for a while and then we see their “warts”, the things that are not so likeable about them. When we choose to love somebody, we choose all of them – warts and all – because we can see the beauty at their core.

I believe God is the ultimate example of this. “for God so loved the world….” that He gave up His only son. Not just gave up, but watched without acting as he was bet up, ridiculed, spat upon, nailed to a tree, and laughed at some more. He did this just in the chance that some of us would appreciate it and love Him back, and when we do we get to be in His pure and Holy Love for eternity. He took a chance with the world, and it brings Him pain every day. His heart breaks daily; when we mock him and spit in His face by hating each other, disobeying Him, or acting like He isn’t even there. Our father Loves the world so much that he opens Himself up to this pain, in the hope that some of us will receive Him. He loves our flaws.

It’s the ones we love the most whom we hurt. Let’s choose to love God the most. He can handle the pain and will forgive us, not if but when we let Him down. We choose to love people despite their warts, just as it is a choice to love God and “be joyful always”, whatever He causes to happen in our lives. We continue to love Him no matter what storm is raging on the outside of our lives, and we love each other deeply through joy and pain.

John wrote that “if anyone obeys His Word, God’s love is truly in Him”. So it’s our love for God that brings us into righteousness. We open our hearts to whatever He has for us, and he gives us the power to obey Him. It is through this righteousness which springs from love that God’s Holiness is shown in us.

Peace and Love, Lifters.

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Holy, Part 1

by Richard Pelfey

Growing up, I was around “holiness” a lot, but I never really knew what it meant. It was just synonymous with Church for me. We always sang “holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty” (or something like that). There’s Holy water, Holy week, Holy Communion, Holy moley, Holy Grail, Holy of Holies, Holy smokes, etc. It seemed to be just a word you put in front of something to show it was located inside a church or to add intensity.

For most of my life I’ve not really known what the word Holy means, only that it is associated with God. You know like “you better not break that, it’s Holy. Respect it. Matter of fact, don’t even look at it for too long”. Or “put the Holy water on so God don’t hurt you”. It seemed things had to be really old to be Holy as well. Sort of like the Hall of Fame, where you have to be retired for so long and have a little gray and maybe a belly going before you get inducted. Really, HOLY always just seemed to be a Biblical word like smote or unto, old-fashioned and of little significance.  Oh, how wrong I can be. In reality this word is alive and powerful and deeply connected to our savior.

What is God? What can we definitely say about Him? We don’t know what He looks like or how He reasons. But there are some defined attributes of God, and it turns out Holy is the most significant of them. I heard the other day that on more than occasion in the Bible God is called ‘holy, holy, holy’ and that never does it say he is love love love (that was the Beatles) or just, just, just. So God’s holiness is placed above all else, and actually is intrinsic in everything that He is; Holy Wrath, Holy Mercy, Holy Sovereignty etc.

What, then, is holiness? A friend of mine defines it as white-hot, 100% righteous,moral purity. Light so bright that us fallen humans are unable to stand it (see: the face-melting climax of Raiders of the Lost Ark). Webster’s says “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness”. The Hebrew word for holiness,“kedushah”, mean separateness. This is more like our word sacred – meaning set apart for veneration. So the way I see it, Holiness is the essence of God, perfect in every way and set above and apart from our earthly imperfection to be venerated and revered.

I did a little research here. There are different levels of Holy places, all converging at “Kodesh Hakodashim”, the Holy of Holies – the earthly HQ for God. In it dwelled His presence inside of the Ark which was in the middle of the Holy room which was in the middle of the temple which was in the middle of Jerusalem which was in the middle of Israel—well, you get the point– it was at the center of it all. It was the holiest space on the planet, the belly button of the universe. This place was so full of the Holy purity of God that it would kill anyone who got too close. Maybe not so much as punishment but just because it is too much for our fleshly bodies to take. Back in the day one person, the high priest, could go in there once a year to offer blood for the atonement of sin. He’d tie a rope to himself and if he came out alive he’d be glowing. He would actually risk his own life to go in there and make the blood sacrifice for his people. It was at this center of holy power where forgiveness used to happen.

We don’t have to do that any more though. Now, the holiness of God is within us through the one-time blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have become children of the holy light, and it flows out from inside of us to be spread into the world. When we have the presence of Christ within us, his holiness radiates out of us through our actions; naturally and without thought, we become examples of holiness. We are set apart for the world to experience and receive. The holiness of Christ is like a gentle magnet that pulls us away from temptation and towards righteousness. We can’t ever be perfect enough to experience the full spectrum of the light, but we get enough to be better people. Everything that God does in our lives and in the world around us is permeated with His Holy essence, and if we stay open to receive, it keeps our spiritual batteries charged. The holiness of God is infinite and inexhaustible, so we need not worry about running out of juice; He wants us – no He requires us – to let our lights shine bright like the stars of the universe. The more we do this, the more people can get hooked up to the Holy power grid.

I have more thoughts on this, so check out the blog tomorrow for HOLY PART 2.  – Peace

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Father vs Dad

by Richard Pelfrey

I forgot it was Father’s Day this weekend.  You know that saying “any man can be a father but it takes a special person to be a Dad”?  Well, I have a father.  This can make me resentful and jealous, even hateful, if I allow it to.  For years I had hate for the relationship between us. There were many times growing up when this hate turned into rage.  I once punched my Father in the face…my own father.  I’ve cursed him.  I’ve hustled him for money.  I’ve acted with no consideration for his feelings or interests for years.   Praise God that, although it hasn’t been restored completely, the feelings here have progressed from total hate to just an absence of Love.  We have a difficult time loving each other.  This is progress.

God won’t just heal this relationship for me. It is me who has to take action with God in my heart to start this healing – if there is to be any healing at all.  You know I still wonder sometimes why He gave me this father.  Why did other kids get to spend time under the hoods of cars and fishing and playing ball with their Dad’s, while I fought and plotted against my Father?  But if I’m to trust God, I’m to believe what He says in Romans: “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him”.  All things.  We are too small to know the plan, too tiny to see the big picture and its end result.  If I’m complaining or comparing or coveting the relationships of others while cursing my own, then I’m not trusting God.  Who knows, maybe He will give me the power to reconcile things with the old man.  Then again, maybe He won’t.  Either way, my faith has the power and the promise to make it OK.  It’s all part of the plan.

For a long time my relationship with my Heavenly father was a lot like the one down here on earth.  Full of fighting and frustration.  Today I realize that there are many gods out there (anything we covet really) but it takes something powerful and special to be an “Abba”.

I used to walk around with so much weight on me.  So much anger, resentment and frustration.  With my back turned on the Father, I was miserable.  I think I knew that God could take it from me all along.  But I was too proud to ask for help, just like years ago I became too proud to ask my Father for anything.  Life got so bad.  I was out of control, ending up in jails, hospitals, dopehouses, dark alleyways…but I never asked either of them for help.  Even at my most broken, it seems I was unable to humble myself just that teeny amount (mustard seed small) that it would take to turn things around.

And then one day some people saved my life.  I was a stranger and they took me in.  They loved me without judgment.  They showed me that my Father in Heaven also loves me, that they had learned to love from Him, and they taught me how to love Him back.  They taught me about forgiveness.

All I can do is take responsibility for my part.  Please don’t let me demonize my father in you eyes, lifters.  He is a good man.  For a long time it’s me who has been the monster.  But Jesus has showed me that there is redemption in this life.  There is forgiveness.  I have been blessed with the opportunity to turn away from the old life and toward the face of God, who has forgiven me.  God tells me that as He has forgiven me so I must forgive others.  Jesus has changed in my heart from a frustrating, punishing being to a loving and forgiving “Abba”.  The light he’s put in me is too strong for the black resentment of the old life, and so today I can forgive my father…for whatever.  But just as I had to ask forgiveness from the Lord, the time is soon approaching when I’ll have to ask forgiveness from my earthly father.  I can’t make anything happen beyond this simple (but not easy) action of humility and love.  Whatever happens, I walk with the Lord’s prayer to our Father in my heart…”thy will be done”. It takes a strong man to say “I’m sorry”, but if that’s what God wants, that’s what I will do.  Maybe one day, the Father of lights – my Abba – will bless me with a Dad.

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Solid As A Rock

By Richard Pelfrey

There’s this old Eastern Maxim: “you can never step in the same river twice”.  It’s always changing, constantly in a state of movement; it is never the same thing from one moment to the next.

Like this river, every living thing in the universe is in perpetual flux.  And so, we are never the same person from moment to moment; we are always changing, growing older, evolving.  Essentially, you will never meet the same Richard P. twice.

This concept of impermanence was an important and life-altering realization for me.  Nothing stays the same.  In the words of the poet Yeats “Things fall apart; the centre can not hold”.

Everyone we know one day will die…It’s important to know that nothing lasts in this world.  It helps me to take advantage of things, enjoy them while they’re here.

But is there something at our core that remains static? Our soul?  Does it change?  Or does it stay the same as it passes through a bodily life, like on a little vacation.  I believe the only thing in all of existence that remains unchanged for all of infinite time is God, and if so our unchanging soul is actually a piece of God planted in us.  He says it Himself in Luke 17:21: “the kingdom of Heaven is within you”.  He has gifted us this ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night, as the Poet Allen Ginsberg calls it.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”, we’re told in the Book of Hebrews.  He does not change.  He does not evolve, adapt, or reform himself according to our human intellectual development.  God is Holy, set apart from us in His perfection and completeness, and as such nothing we do or believe can ever change His being.  His precepts, teachings, laws, and qualities are the same today as they were at the beginning of time and will be the same forever and ever.

Jesus is immutable.  He does not grow old, He does not die (well, not permanently anyways).  He is our eternal rock in a life full of swirling rapids.  An anchor amidst the turbulent impermanence of our days here on Earth.  Like a beacon we can choose to fix our sights on down here so as to not lose our way. He is (among other attributes) unchanging and unconditional love.  All the stress, trouble and temptation in life comes and goes, and we choose how we will react to it.

If we build a foundation on the permanent solid rock of Christ, we are able to weather all storms.  Our feet are kept on solid ground as the world swirls on around us. We always experience the same God, and everyone always will until the end of time.  The only thing that changes is us. He is the way the truth and the life, holy holy holy from everlasting to everlasting. It’s up to us to build on the truth or on the shifting sands of self-will and convenience. I choose to grab onto some permanence, to have stability of spirit and the promise of eternal life.

Peace.

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