Monday, January 30, 2012

The Enemy's Stamp of Approval

Among the greatest compliments a forward unit can receive is evidence that the enemy finds them threatening. Let's face it, they will not expend limited resources on you if you represent no real opposition to them. If either you are giving them ground with your retreat or occupying ground they don't want or need, you might not be attacked at all. A microcosm of this is pictured in the film "Saving Private Ryan" when Cpl. Upham was near the combat, but was so overcome with fear that he sat paralyzed in a stairwell unable able to contribute to the fight or come to the aid of a fellow American soldier. In the tragic scene, the Nazi soldier won the desperate hand-to-hand knife fight at the top of the staircase, then walked down the stairs to rejoin the battle underway in the streets. Half way down the stairs he encountered the cowering Cpl. Upham who was tearful and shaking in fear. The German rifleman delivered him the ultimate insult by walking past Upham, leaving him unharmed. Upham was so clearly not a threat to the enemy, or anyone else for that matter, he was not worth expending the energy to dispatch him; though the German could have easily killed him without breaking his stride.

In like manner, it's possible for the enemy of our souls (the Devil) to offer the "compliment" of an attack. He would not have attacked if he found you no threat at all. Unlike God, the Devil does not have unlimited resources to spread as widely as he wants. He must be strategic to target those places of The Church that he finds most threatening to his chaotic war against God's redemption for the world. His wiles attempt to erode the cohesion, shake the morale and destroy the confidence of God's people so as to render impotent their obedience to Jesus' Great Commission.

Recently our church suffered a break-in from trespassers. They rifled through the offices looking for any loose cash, but found very little. The mess they left was disheartening for two reasons: (1) the scattered papers and emptied drawers were a time consuming cleanup process, and (2) the sense of violation can be disconcerting for us when we have a reasonable expectation that all is secure. The event did, however, begin the conversation in earnest regarding installing a security system. Calls began to companies to receive quotes on installation and monitoring for an alarm package. All seemed to be proceeding well in terms of seeking to rectify the weak security in a timely manner...

...that is until we arrived at the church on Sunday morning, approximately a week later(!), to find that not only had another break-in occurred, but a generous amount of vandalism was the goal this time. The ubiquitous spray-painting left all manner of vulgar and profane messages on the interior walls of the perish hall. Hardly a surface was left unmolested by the trespassers (gang members?). Their mess included fire extinguishers that were emptied into the office rooms as well. Basically, Sunday school was obviously cancelled since the perish hall was rendered un-usable for the immediate future (at least until a proper cleanup could ensue). The children's room seemed hit the hardest, receiving spray-painted Satanic imagery clearly meant to shock religious people into dismay. When families arrived for Sunday school, some were understandably upset that their children, walking in unsuspecting, were subjected to imagery that their parents would have much rather spared them.

Some were angered by this event. Others were saddened and shaken that such a violation would be perpetrated against their beloved church. I was disappointed, to be sure, but also had to mute my satisfaction in receiving "the enemy's stamp of approval." Clearly the Devil finds us a threat to his operations in this community such that he would see fit to offer this type of resistance. "Bring it!" I muttered under my breath. Knowing that the "gates of Hell" will not be able to withstand the advance of the Church that Christ is building anyway, I was calmly pleased to be part of the action. Certainly the enemy believes us to be NO "Cpl. Upham" after all. I imagine if the enemy is so threatened by the church's ops in that community that he would offer that "push back," that just means we'll push back harder. Lashing out in fear of what Christ might perform through our church, the enemy has revealed his concern over our efforts to follow Christ in this location. Sharing the Gospel and dispensing the love of Christ to those around us, he needs to put on his "big boy pants," because all he's done is to galvanize an already committed people.

Game on!

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