At precisely twelve noon on September 16, 1893 a cannon's boom unleashed the largest land rush America ever saw. Carried by all kinds of transportation - horses, wagons, trains, bicycles or on foot - an estimated 100,000 raced to claim plots of land in an area of land in northern Oklahoma Territory known as the Cherokee Strip. There had been a number of previous land rushes in the Territory - but this was the big one…
By the time of the Oklahoma land rush of 1893, America was in the grip of the worst economic depression it had ever experienced. This was one of the factors that swelled the number of expectant land-seekers that day. Many would be disappointed. There were only 42,000 parcels of land available - far too few to satisfy the hopes of all those who raced for land that day. Additionally, many of the "Boomers" - those who had waited for the cannon's boom before rushing into the land claim - found that a number of the choice plots had already been claimed by "Sooners" who had snuck into the land claim area before the race began. The impact of the land rush was immediate, transforming the land almost overnight.
I often wonder about times like these, how utterly dramatic they must’ve been for all those involved, including the original occupiers of the land, the Indians - the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole. One would have to be a buffoon to imagine this time in America as anything but chaotic. I think about how many times I’ve seen fraternal fisticuffs as the result of an argument over the last donut or slice of pizza or whatever. How much greater the tension over upwards of 160 acres of free land! I’m glad I wasn’t subjected to it. And that’s just land, my friends!
How much greater, still, is the struggle for “real estate” in the human soul! The most precious possession of all is a person’s soul, after all. Our Creator knows this, and so do we. But then again, so does Satan. The greatest “land grab” of all time, for an individual, is carried out on the “plains” of one’s soul.
We know that the Word of God is omnipotent and that there’s nothing more powerful in the Universe than it. In a tug-of-war, the Word of God would always win.
I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
— Job 42:2
In a fair contest, which is the only way God contends with His opposition, His Word always wins. On the plains of the soul, this means that His Gospel seed would be planted on fertile soil every time, and all would be saved and given eternal life, flourishing spiritually in time. But we know this doesn’t happen. We know, from scripture, that Satan is like a “Sooner” in the 1893 Land Rush. He’d rather set up camp dishonestly in an effort to stake an ungodly claim to a person’s soul. The world and the flesh concur with his tactics, too, of course. If our enemies are already squatting on the precious soul of an individual, the soil isn’t going to produce anything good because it has been spoiled.
And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”
— Matthew 13:3-9
One of Satan’s most effective strategies, then, is to be like a “Sooner” and stake a claim to all or parts of a person’s soul long before the Gospel ever shows up, under fair circumstances, like the “Boomers” did back in 1893.
You might be saying, “Well, all of that sounds theologically good, but what does this mean to me, and how might ungodliness stake a claim in my own soul?” That’s a great question - thank you for asking (wink, wink)! One of the greatest methods our enemies use, even with believers, is to “capture” something as fundamental as a definition. For example, think about the word “Christian”. How is it being taught to children? Is the average so-called Christian actually Christ-like? How about so-called Christian religions…are they abiding in His Word? If you’re honest, you know that the word “Christian” has been hijacked, redefined over the years. Today, it’s a complete mess…to the point where I, personally, have stopped referring to myself as a Christian, for fear that whomever I’m speaking to apply some perverted definition to my person. When this happens, the soil where I might have been able to plant the Gospel seed becomes spoiled, “rocky” (ala Matthew 13:5). And that’s only one
word! The average adult has roughly 15,000 words in their vocabulary…that’s a lot
of real estate up for grabs.
Our enemies love to pervert definitions because in doing so, they’ve staked an ungodly claim to whatever portion of our souls that definition applies to. As we know, we use words to define words, sort of in a circular way. Get one word wrong and your entire vocabulary is “leavened” (Galatians 5:9). The Bible warns us vehemently against allowing such things to take place, even after salvation.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
— Colossians 2:8
One of the most fruitful, consistent exercises any believer can go through is the re-evaluation of their own definitions, especially concerning the doctrines of God. Definitions have a tendency to “drift” over time under the pressures of the world system. Before we even suspect it, our own may have taken us significantly off course. Satan’s an incredibly crafty creature, and he’s patient, too.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
— Ephesians 6:10-11
While our enemies are like the “Sooners” of 1893, those who give us the good news in the Word of God are like the “Boomers”, arriving under the premise of integrity. It’s a hard-fought battle for the Boomers at times, for the Sooners may have been there for quite some time, having already cultivated the land to their own liking. Since God gave you your life, you get to decide who’s right and who’s wrong in any dispute over the real estate in your soul. We find resolution in the “supreme court”
in Heaven (Matthew 5:22
), where “God, the Judge of all”
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
Love in Christ,