In Ecuador, if you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford it, you live in a house surrounded by a high concrete wall fringed at the top by broken glass or barbed wire with a steel door for going in and out. If you are even more fortunate, you and your neighbors build a small guard shack and hire a guard to scrutinize every car/person who turns onto your street. The rationale is that the police are corrupt, so you shouldn't call them if there is a theft. You have to protect your property as best you can on your own. We were never victims of any violence when we lived there, but we did have several incidents of robbery. It felt bad.
When our kids were young, our house was burglarized three different times. One of those times it was also ransacked. We weren't home when those burglaries occurred, thank goodness, but I well remember the feeling of being violated although I never saw the faces of our thieves.
Some robberies occur from the outside. Some happen from the inside.
Just this week, Steve got a notice that the information on one of his credit cards had been used fraudulently. He called the bank, the card was canceled, and a new one is on its way.
Then yesterday, I got an email, supposedly from Paypal, revealing a rather large payment to a company I didn't recognize and certainly hadn't authorized. I made a stupid mistake. Rather than contacting Paypal directly (isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?), I called the phone number on the email to dispute the charge. That led to 2 hours of chasing rabbits and even more potential fraud. It felt bad, very bad. And maybe that's why I'm typing this blog at 4:00 a.m.
It is a terrible thing when someone picks our pockets right under our noses (that has happened to both Steve and me at different times). It's awful when someone breaks down a door to come in and steal your material possessions. But these days a more common type of theft is identity theft and getting at your "stuff" from inside a computer. Sinister. Alarming. Upsetting.
All of this has made me think about what a thief Satan is. Here we are in the month of December, a time when Christians are celebrating the very reason for our hope, joy, love, and peace -- the birth of our Savior. Satan must hate that. His goal is the opposite of hope, joy, love, and peace. He wants to deliberately rob us of those special treasures. If we're not very careful, he'll be successful.
How about if you and I make a pact? Let's not let him do that to us this Advent season. Let's cling to the hope, joy, love, and peace we have because of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Let's find ways to enhance family relationships. Let's have meaningful, affirming conversations. Let's look for gifts that we know will bring a smile to someone's face. Let's show kindness to friends, neighbors, and strangers, too. Let's be vigilant about Satan's attempts and ask God to give us the strength to be victorious.
John 10:10 -- (Jesus said) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Isaiah 68:1 -- "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them."
Proverbs 20:17 -- "Food gained by fraud tastes sweet, but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel."
Exodus 20:15 -- "You shall not steal."
1 Peter 1:8-11 -- "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen."