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Entangled | Trapped

#storychanging

Entangled | Trapped

Monday No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:4

Entangled. The word makes us think of spider webs, knotted yarn, and a pile of necklaces in a hopeless jumble. If Millie wants to wear a specific gold chain, the last thing she wants to find is a knotted pile of jewelry. Disentangling the one she wants may be more trouble than its worth. If Matt wants to use his power tools, the last thing he wants to find is a knotted tangle of electrical and extension cords. He’d almost rather saw the boards by hand. God feels the same way about our spiritual and emotional entanglements. When He looks for a person to carry out His plans on earth, the last thing He wants to find is a pile of His children knotted up with worldly entanglements like political wrangling, denominational quarrels, and pity parties.

It’s difficult to stay spiritually balanced when a thousand magnets are pulling at us. “Be mad with us!” calls the angry pile. “No one’s respecting you!” calls the pride pile. “This church is wrong and so is that one. Make a big deal out of the differences!” cries the churchy pile. Walking free of entanglements is a full-time job, but one we must master if we are going to be useful to our King. Hobbies, careers, mortgages, and kids stretch their octopus arms into our lives and demand that we bow to them. And we easily justify pushing God’s plan to the bottom of the pile because our entanglements keep us so busy. A goal may not be wrong in itself, but when we become entangled by it, it steals our time and energy from pursuits that have eternal value.

Final Thought: What entangles you? It doesn’t have to be sin to be a distraction from all God wants you to be.

Prayer: Father, what is entangling me these days? The clamor on social media is deafening. The news is distressing. Family drama is exhausting. Show me how to free myself from entanglements so I am useful to you. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Tuesday  And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.  2 Peter 2:20

Billy had done so well for so long, it was heartbreaking to hear he was staying drunk and living with his girlfriend.

Angel had seemed on fire for God when she started going to Recovery. Then she met a new guy, dropped out, and moved in.

Drugs had nearly destroyed Blake until Jesus delivered him. But once the new wore off, old friends and habits took over.

What happens to people who seem to have found Jesus and then return to their old ways? We’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, hoping the relapse is short-lived. But many have simply returned to the identity they never renounced. We’re nervous about judging anyone’s salvation experience, but Peter was not. He explains in verse 21: “It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.” Wow! Why does Peter say that? Because the Bible does not present holiness as optional. It’s a command. Jesus did not come to earth to save us from hell alone. He came to save us from sin’s entanglements. When we return to the very sins Jesus died for, we are throwing God’s divine pardon back in His face. We’re saying, “God, I want what you offer, but I don’t want you.”

Final Thought: Are you someone who professed faith for a while and then returned to your sin? Check out Matthew 7:21-23.

Prayer: Lord God, this kind of scares me. Peter’s not talking about my imperfections. He means lifestyle sins that I’m choosing to continue. Am I fooling myself about my standing with you? This is too important. Help me know the truth about me. Amen.

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Wednesday Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding… Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.  1 Timothy 6:4-5

One guy obliterated the Bible’s teaching on hell with the book Love Wins. Another teaches millions how they can have their best lives now without the cross, without repentance, and without surrender to Christ. These aren’t atheists bent on destroying Christianity. These are preachers, so-called Christian ministers who attract crowds and sell out the bookstores. And they’re everywhere, whacking gullible people on the head to cure invisible illnesses, pleading for “seed gifts” so they can buy bigger jets, and assuring the multitudes that they can be healthy, wealthy, and wonderful if they’ll only donate a little more money.

One of the biggest traps in modern America is the religion trap. This trap has hijacked the word “Christian” and redefined it as someone who appreciates Jesus, has a Bible, and likes a couple of worship bands. These people love the false teachers who clog the airways with their new-and-improved understanding of God that makes everyone feel better about their sin. These teachers assure us that Paul didn’t know what he was talking about when he condemned homosexuality, and Jesus got hell mixed up with heaven and, as it turns out, we’re all going there anyway. Great! So party on! False teachers are nothing new, but now they have a worldwide platform. They are being used by Satan as traps to entangle people desperate to find God.

Final Thought: Despite how wide the smile and how popular the podcast, anyone tampering with truth is a false teacher.

Prayer: Father, help me evaluate the teaching of those I listen to and read. Have they tampered with your word in any way? Are they preaching a message the apostles would not recognize? Help me not to be fooled by them. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Thursday Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments…you know they produce quarrels. 2 Timothy 2:23

Did Paul have social media? Apparently, we don’t need Facebook or Twitter to argue over stupid things. They were arguing in the First Century too. They’d never heard of Trump, coronavirus, or face masks, so what were they arguing about? You name it. We love to argue when we think we know something the other person doesn’t. Unfortunately, that sinful tendency to argue barges right into the church. Instead of fighting over taxes and new buildings, church people fight over minor doctrinal points, Greek and Hebrew root words, and who should be the leader of the community group. Paul warned Timothy to avoid it all.

But Bible discussions are how we learn, so what’s the difference between arguing and discussing? A discussion becomes an argument when the topic is more valuable than the person. An argument becomes a discussion when the person is more valuable than the topic. Read that again. In discussion, we appeal, persuade, and reason for the other person’s good. But in arguments, we attack by tearing down the other person in order to win. Discussions build; arguments destroy. Arguments can destroy relationships and that’s why Paul warned Timothy to stay away from them. They weren’t worth the price.

Final Thought: Assess your own interaction style. Do you pursue discussion or do you turn everything into an argument?

Prayer: Father, I need your help to evaluate my own speaking style. Do I troll the internet looking for arguments? Do I bait people so I can entice them into a fight that I will win? I confess my pride. Help me interact with grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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FridayI forgive whatever needs to be forgiven…so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.  2 Corinthians 2:10-11

-“I’m NOT bitter!” shouted Marty. “I’m over it, but I never want to speak to them again. They’re jerks just like everybody else!”

-“I don’t go to church because a preacher hurt me 20 years ago and I’ll never forget it,” said Larry. “They’re hypocrites.”

Can you identify Satan’s evil schemes in each of their lives? They were hurt by someone and they refused to forgive.  So Satan fanned that spark into a roaring inferno that continued to devour their peace, their influence, and their spiritual growth. Satan doesn’t need to utilize many supernatural tools in order to entangle us; we provide our own traps by rejecting God’s counsel and choosing sin. We justify unforgiveness—licking our wounds and rehearsing the pain—but never realize that our enemy is cackling at us and sharpening his dagger. Paul chose to forgive every person who wronged him (and the list was long) because he knew that Satan was waiting for an open door into Paul’s life. Unforgiveness opens that door. When we withhold forgiveness, our heartache quickly becomes bitterness, rage, depression, paranoia, and distance from God. It’s impossible to live out the fullness of all God wants us to be while staying entangled in unforgiveness. Hurt and disappointment are part of living in a fallen world. We’ll suffer from them, but they need not entangle us. We can lift those wounds up to God and let go of them. Now our hurts are His problem. He’ll work on them while we are free to embrace joy, influence, and ministry

Final Thought: Are areas of bitterness keeping you from being all God wants you to be?

Prayer: Father, search my heart. Am I harboring unforgiveness? You know how unjustly I was treated, but you invite me to offer it to you and let go. You will take it from there. So here it is. I refuse to let bitterness entangle me. In Jesus’ name, amen.