Life can be a funny thing... not funny ha-ha (although it has its moments) but I mean funny-strange. When you get up in the morning there is no way of knowing what the day may bring. I'm sure that Adam had no idea, when he awoke one morning in the beautiful garden, that before the day was over, he'd take a nap and wake up with a wife!

He was so elated, he never mentioned if his side hurt. He just exclaimed, "This is IT!" (according to one Bible translation). He at last saw in the flesh, what his heart had longed for. He had felt empty. He noticed the other creatures in Eden had a mate. The Bible doesn't say if he prayed about it or not, it just says that the Father noticed that it was not good that man should be alone. (Gen. 2:18-23)

In this case, the day brought a happy surprise... that's not always the outcome, though. Sometimes, weird things happen and we are just dumbstruck... which leads me into today's lesson. (How's that for a segue?)

I was born and raised in the foothills of a small town. Foothills are located at the foot of a mountain range, so I guess you could say I'm something in between a mountaineer, and a suburbanite! In the 'hollow,' nothing much changes. The few houses here are handed down to the succeeding generations. Some folks may move out of state for better jobs, but most return to their homeplace, sooner or later. That is what happened to me.

I love the country life. It is so quiet, you can hear the creek flow. Every day, wild critters walk through the yard, which is so huge that it takes two days to cut the grass. The deer and wild turkeys feel safe enough to come out of the surrounding woods and graze close to the house. Even though most people in the area are hunters (even the kids can shoot), the homeplaces are off limits. Hunting is not permitted and the properties are posted to warn any outsider. We love our woodland creatures, and for the most part, are protective of them.

However, living in such close proximity to the wildlife can have its drawbacks. For example, some critters lose their fear of humans, and think they own the place. Last spring, I began to notice holes under my porch. The wooden lattice-work that went from the floor to the ground, had been eaten through in one spot and the dirt was dug out as if something wanted in. It was a good size opening, therefore eliminating the possibility of it being a mouse or even a rat that wished to take refuge under my abode. It truly was large enough for a grown cat or a small dog to pass through, although neither of those animals would have the need nor inclination to do such a thing. When I closed one hole up, another would appear the next morning. What in the world could this be, I wondered.

After watching and waiting, I saw something roaming around the yard, one morning. I got up from the breakfast table, picked up my rifle (I told you that even the kids can shoot), and crept out the back door. I couldn't make out the object at first, but then it stuck its head up... it was a GROUNDHOG! Whodathunkit?!

None of the old timers had ever heard of a groundhog actually living under an inhabited house. They just don't live that close to PEOPLE. Nobody knew what to do or suggest. The game warden was no help, either. I called a veterinarian, a gun club, scanned the internet, called the county extension office and asked every hunter I knew. The only ideas that anybody could come up with were, "box-trap him," "poison him," or "shoot him." I didn't want to poison him, lest he would crawl under my house to die, and if I trapped him, I had no way of disposing of him, unless I shot him. So it seemed the logical conclusion was just to shoot him.

Having made that decision, "the game was afoot." Every morning, I was up early waiting for him, knowing that mornings and evenings are when groundhogs like to feed. And there he would be... happily munching away at whatever groundhogs munch on, and I would stealthily attempt to sneak up on him. Just when I would get close enough to draw a good bead on him, he would hear me, pop his head up for an instant, then flatten his fat little body to the ground, and run like the wind on his stubby little legs (which appeared to suddenly jut out at his sides) and disappear into the woods!

Each morning, it was the same routine. Oh, every once in awhile, I'd give chase. You can imagine the spectacle of a crazy-looking woman running through the field in her tennis shoes and housecoat, shooting at some poor beast which was fleeing for its life. One time, I even chased him behind the neighbor's barn, and watched him vanish while I was trying to get disentangled from a briar patch.

Every afternoon, I would place another obstacle in or over the latest hole under the porch, only to find a fresh hole cut the following morning. It got to be a rather odd decor, and I'm sure the view from the road was quite curious... a cement block, a hefty log, a stack of stones, a small stump, each placed without symmetry around the entire base of my front porch.

Spring stretched into summer and summer into fall... the wily groundhog got fatter, preparing for his winter hibernation: a long winter's nap that he had planned to take UNDER MY HOUSE, NO DOUBT! I intensified my resolve... I redoubled my efforts. I sat on the front porch at twilight, with my gun across my lap, watching the road like an old Injun fightin' pioneer woman, defending her homestead. A young couple, out for an evening walk, stopped dead in their tracks when they saw me. (Wouldn't you?) I quietly motioned for them to go on by, which they quickly did.

And then I saw him... easing out of the creek-line, heading for my house. He heard the gun click, as the bullet injected into the chamber. He turned on a dime (he was getting quite good at this), and scurried back to the creek. Down the bank he ran, but I was in hot pursuit! I leaped off the porch, darted across the road, jumped up on the bank... just in time to see him escape into the underbrush on the other side. I got off a couple shots into the foliage, but knew it was to no avail. He had beaten me again.

When the snows came, I knew that he was fast asleep snuggled warmly under my house, and there was nothing to do but WAIT TILL NEXT SPRING! I knew I had lost the battle, but I had no intention of losing the war. I WOULD prevail.

It takes this kind of tenacity to overcome many of life's struggles. The enemy of our soul would vex us unto surrender, if we allowed him. But God's Word says, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Since Satan cannot rob us of our salvation, (John 10:27-29) his next hope is to render us powerless to save and educate others. Christians and the devil have the same objective: to take as many souls with us as we can, for eternity. If we get bogged down in our own problems and needs, we lose that objective. We become self-centered, instead of Christ-centered. We can forget that we have been put on earth to serve God, and to present Him to as many people as we can. Being ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) unto the world requires self-sacrifice, sometimes even to the point of death (John 15:13).

Relinquishing our own desires, for the good of others, does not come easily. It goes against our basic nature of selfishness. It is hard work being a true Christian. Sometimes, we fail... we lose the battle... but God is faithful to finish the good work He has started in us (Psalms 138:8), and when we repent, He forgives and gives us another chance (1 John 1:9). The process is repeated for as many times as it takes for us to overcome, and gain the victory in whatever area we are battling.

All who have been saved through the death of Christ have been bought with a price, and we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is because of this and the joy and peace we have found from belonging to Him, that we are constrained to share Him with others. We are all called to be missionaries to those within our circle. From God's perspective, the whole world is a mission field... even your family, your neighbors, your coworkers and your friends. You may be the only bearer of Light they will ever personally know. There are those whom only YOU can reach.

The Spirit of truth dwells within every real believer, and you are equipped with all the power and wisdom you need to do whatever God has called you to do (1 Corinthians 2:16). He will open doors for you to witness to others about Jesus, and He will cause people to believe you. The Holy Spirit is our co-worker to assist us in bringing salvation to the lost (Acts 1:8). Great rewards await us at the end of this life, just for obeying and working with Him, even though HE does most of the work! (Matthew 16:27) People get saved from an eternity in Hell, Satan is defeated, and we get blessed... it's a win-win situation for everybody! (Except the devil!)

God commends us to stand in the face of adversity, and He will overcome through us (Ephesians 6:13-14). He WILL deliver us from evil! In the end, Christ's kingdom WILL prevail! (John 16:33)

I also prevailed, over that pesky groundhog, by the way. When spring returned this year, sure enough, he emerged as a lean, mean, gnawing machine. Evidently, living under my house wasn't enough... now he was chewing on the floor joists, trying to get INSIDE my house. "THIS MEANS WAR! WHATEVER I HAVE TO DO, YOU'RE GOIN' DOWN, YOU VARMINT!" (I had regressed into "Yosemite Sam" mode, complete with flaring nostrils and smoking ears.)

I ended up purchasing the "humane-type" steel trap (which he eluded for a week), repositioned it in front of his last escape hole, baited it with corn, and he obligingly walked into it! A hunter friend of mine quickly disposed of him, and I thanked God for the sweet victory. I reset the trap a few days later, in case he had a room-mate, but she must have headed for the hills. I have had peace and quiet ever since. Hopefully, I'll have the porch bricked up before another devil-hog is tempted to take up residence.

This is what we have to do in life, as well. When the evil spirit departs our dwelling, we have to fill that vacuum with God. If we don't, the demon will return and bring seven more with him, and we will be worse off than when we started (Matthew 12:45).

Life offers us so many Biblical object lessons. Some people suffer addictions. They feel powerless over whatever craving that binds them. These bondages begin so subtlely; the person can take it or leave it. But after awhile, they CANNOT leave it. The enticement has woven its tentacles around their soul and they can't imagine ever being free.

Perhaps the demon isn't a substance; perhaps it is a relationship. It is possible to be bound to a person, a lifestyle, a group, or even a religion which is destroying you. You feel helpless and hopeless. The Bible tells us to sever it (Matthew 5:28-30). The Son of God had already defeated every demon and devil in Hell when He walked this earth as the Son of Man. Jesus the Christ imparted His Holy Spirit unto those who believed in Him after He suffered, died on a cross, and arose from death three days later (John 20:19-23). That Power is available to you.

Whatever situation you find yourself in, there is hope through Jesus. He has the power to set you free. If it is a physical hold the devil has over you, a mental illness, or a psychological pit you have fallen into, you do NOT have to stay in your dependency. God's Word declares, "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils..." (Mark 16:17-18). And again, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). The greater "He" that is referred to, is the Holy Spirit. If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, just ask Him to forgive you of your sins and failures and come into your heart. When you do that sincerely, the Holy Spirit comes into your spirit, and makes His abode in you, never to leave you... EVER! (Hebrews 13:5)

Get an easy to understand Bible and read it; you have to get to know your Savior, and His Word is as strengthening to your soul (mind) as food is to your body. Find a Bible believing church; you need to be with older Christians who can help you on your heavenly journey. If you don't have anyone to share this new experience with, please email me, and I will do everything I can to assist you.

Welcome to the family of God, new Christian. Christ has ALREADY delivered you from evil... and you're in for an awesome ride!

Rev. C. L. Moser -- 6/1/03