30 January 2006

The Devil and Sun Tzu Part I

When the enemy strikes at you, look for two lines of attack first and foremost:
  1. Disrupt communication
  2. Divide and isolate


We cannot afford to be on this battlefield without constant contact with our CIC.

Because this battle is so fluid, so unpredictable, and so delicate, the boots on the ground, Christians, need up to the moment information at all times. This information comes from two main sources:
  1. Scripture
  2. Revelation through the Holy Spirit

Bear in mind that these two sources need to work together, neither is complete on its own. As a generalization, we should lean heavily on scripture as we’re learning how this all works. Scripture teaches us the timeless, invaluable principles we need to navigate the long-period ebbs and flows of the battle. For example: “Reprove a fool and you will get only disdain. Reprove a wise man and he will love you.” That’s a good principle on which we can base real world action. It’s the same kind of advice as we get from Sun Tzu in The Art of War, axioms like “When you are weak, appear strong. When you are strong, appear weak.” The advice doesn’t necessarily speak to a specific situation, but rather states a principle that a wise soldier applies as the need arises. But principles will, at best, prevail in a war of attrition. They will fail us when we need more granular guidance. Many, many Christians stall at this phase in their development by relying to heavily on the scriptures – which is rather ironic, because I hope to point out that it’s scripture, not me, that points to the need for something more immediate.

As we mature, as our security clearance is raised, we come to value divine revelation more and more. As our ability to discern God’s voice improves with practice we come to information that is custom tailored to a particular situation. Instead of the principle, “Go the extra mile.” we get “John’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer and he’s overwhelmed. Help him paint the rest of this new drywall, not just the baby’s room.” It’s also the Holy Spirit that breaks the deadlocks we can find with competing principles. The ‘Good Steward’ principle might tell you that you must take that $100 and put it in your kid’s college fund. But the ‘Good Samaritan’ principle gives that same $100 to your buddy who’s car just dropped dead. But it’s the Holy Spirit that will tell you how to break the tie. The danger to revelation is that we can lean too far out on that branch and lose our balance. We can get so ‘spirit lead’ that we take every whim of our heart to be God’s voice and never look for confirmation in scripture. I can’t tell you how many earnest young men and women at George Fox University find themselves saying “God told me we’re supposed to get married....”

Here are two Scripture stories to illustrate my point. Remember Gideon raising and army? Any military advisor, and good principles of war say that more soldiers is a good thing. So the advice of principle says, “We have 30,000 soldiers – awesome!” But God tells Gideon - “No...you want fewer.” “Huh?” If you remember the story, Gideon’s giant army is eventually pared from 30,000 down to 300 – and he wins. Without his ability, and willingness, to listen to God’s immediate, this-time-only counsel, Gideon would have missed a huge opportunity. Principle, including all his Biblical wisdom, wasn’t enough. Now on the other side, we’ll look at the un-named exorcist in Acts. Caught up in the power of the Holy Spirit, probably way pumped after previous victories, this fellow finds himself face to face with a demon way out of his league. The demon says with disdain, “Jesus I know, and Paul I’ve heard of – but who are you?” The poor fellow then has his ass promptly handed to him. This guy needed to cool his jets and check his targets.

OK – if this is the kind of information we absolutely NEED to fight in this battle, this is exactly the information the enemy will try to keep out of our hands. Without it, we’re just swinging blindly if we’re swinging at all. This is also when we find ourselves on the giving end of friendly fire. So how will the enemy try to break communication?
  1. Sin
  2. Pride
  3. Distraction

We we fall into sin our pipe to God’s voice closes down from a fire hose to a water weenie. Now before this goes any farther, I want to be really clear about something. I’m not talking anything condemning here. The reality is that we live in a messy world and the battle is fierce. Sin traps the best soldiers on the battle. We need to be mature and wise on these matters, when sin happens to you you must know the danger you are in and the danger you pose so you can act appropriately. Specifically, don’t teach, don’t pick a fight with spiritual forces, and avoid major decisions. Recognize that you’re flying blind.

While pride is also a sin, I wanted to break it out here as  separate issue because it has some unique characteristics. Pride doesn’t make us vulnerable in the way other sin can, instead it makes us stupid. It’s the prideful warrior who breaks formation and goes racing off after the orc scout on his own...right into an ambush. It’s also the prideful warrior who observes his buddy take an arrow and reacts with disdain instead of compassion. It’s the prideful warrior who thinks, “God has placed a powerful anointing on my life and I can face this new challenge just like I did the last dozen.” The first half of that statement might well be true and it’s not prideful to recognize God’s hand in your life, but pride looses track of where the power really comes from – we claim the strength as our own.

Distraction is like that dreadful Gift of the Magi story. It’s the bills, the kids, the career, the soccer games, the Bible studies, the accountability group, the marriage counseling weekend...and when was the last you just sat before God and rested? Our lives can get so crowded with stuff, even really good, valuable, Godly stuff, that we no longer have room for God. It’s like the husband who spends all his days at work to buy nice things for his wife...who only wants to sit and talk to him. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of pressure to fill our lives with books, and groups, and studies and potlucks. I’m not saying any of those things are bad – but if they crowd out God himself, and the essential down time in His courts – then it’s all nothing. When the crap falls and we recognize that we’ve been operating with no contact to him, this can be a bitter pill – to look back at weeks, months, or years of futility without even the drama and momentary pleasure of some sin tsunami...instead we miss our Gideon moment because we never bothered to pause a moment and ask, “So God, what do you think?”

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