When the devil hijacks your hashtag

Show of hands: How many of you know what a hashtag is? Need a hint? A little bird told me it looks like this: #

For those of you who don’t use Twitter (I don’t either), a message sent through Twitter is called a tweet.

Basically, tweets are short messages about what’s on your mind. They’re limited to 140 characters, and so you can’t ramble on about a topic. (The last two sentences were exactly 140 characters, to give you an idea of how short that is.)

A hashtag helps you identify keywords in tweets, and hashtags can help you find communities discussing the same topic. For instance, you’ll often see Webcast producers provide a hashtag so viewers can tweet live with each other and submit questions to the speaker during the event. If I were to present a webcast based on my blog, I might create this hashtag for my blog readers to use: #flourishingtree. 

There – now you know what I know about Twitter.

A hijacked hashtag
The whole topic of hashtags came up Monday night at the first meeting of a small study group I’m a part of. One of my friends in the group is involved with Elevation Church and was telling us about Elevation’s recent 12-day Code Orange Revival. The revival was webcast live each night, and participants were encouraged to tweet their thoughts in real time.

What concerned my friend – and lots of others – was the explosion of criticism and negative comments that showed up using the hashtag during the revival. And that led to our conversation about the devil hijacking hashtags.

You see, my friends, spiritual warfare is real. And you’ll encounter it most clearly at a time of intense spiritual transformation, such as Elevation’s revival. The devil never wants to lose any souls to the other side and will therefore battle with whatever tools are available, even the twitter feed on a church’s revival webcast screen. Perhaps especially there, because that’s where lives were being transformed. That’s where new Christians were giving their lives to Christ – the devil’s worst-case scenario as he lost the souls gained for God’s kingdom.

Protecting the hashtags in your head
Whether or not you tweet, I bet your mind is a lot like a twitter feed. Short thoughts one right after another, sometimes transitioning from one to the next but often jumping around among lots of different, unrelated topics. Mine is. I joke with my husband that it’s like a pinball game in my brain, with thoughts bouncing around everywhere, rarely stopping in any one spot for very long.

And sometimes, whether I like it or not, the devil tries to hijack the hashtags in my head. These can be tiny little moments I might miss: a whisper of doubt, a choice to be lazy for a couple of hours when I should be working, a friend’s behavior that makes room for distance to creep in between us. Other times, the attempts can be louder.

Take Elijah, who went from the confidence of triumphing over the false prophets of Baal in a fiery demonstration of God’s existence and power to immediately running in fear from a queen – a human – because she had threatened to kill him. It took more than 40 days in the desert and another encounter with God before Elijah would clear his mind and return to work (1 Kings 18, 19).

Remember Judas. He was a disciple of Christ, witnessing the miracles and lives transformed in Christ’s presence. At the last supper – a most holy moment – the devil enters Judas and convinces him to betray Jesus (John 13:2, 27). Judas went mad after the betrayal.

Let’s not forget about Peter, either. The rock of the early Christian church, Peter had sworn unbreakable loyalty to Jesus, but then some men recognized him and questioned him. Fear gripped him. He lied. The rooster crowed three times. And Peter wept (Matthew 26, Mark 14, John 18). He had to wait until after Jesus’ resurrection to be reinstated to his earlier call.

Perhaps that is why Peter is so quick to remind us of the danger we all face:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a
roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing
that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren
who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
– 1 Peter 5:8-10

It’s understandable that we don’t want to think about the devil. Some of you may have even been reluctant to read this post because of its title. But we do better to be on guard, as Peter admonishes us, than to ignore the threat lurking. As Peter promises, God rewards our resistance and struggle.

C.S. Lewis’ novel The Screwtape Letters is an enduring account of how the devil weaves his way into our thoughts (thanks to Enuma Okoro for reminding me of this wonderful book just this past weekend). Told in letters from a senior demon instructing a junior one just learning the ropes of winning souls, the book will make you laugh, but in the laughter, may also indict your heart in places where you need to be especially vigilant.

If you have read The Screwtape Letters, I’d love to hear your reactions and your favorite lines from the book and hear how they may have helped you in navigating your own path in life.

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