The Art of Spiritual Warfare (Pt. 1)

In times of trial, when spiritual battle becomes necessary, the best defense is a great offense. And there is none better than can be found through faith in Him. This is particularly true in times of what seem to be extended adversity when you reach the brink of despair.

Remember always #WhoIAm in Christ and that —

Everything is possible for [her] who believes. (Mark 9:23, NIV)

“Don’t Quit,” Author Unknown

When things go wrong as they sometimes will;
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit-
Rest if you must, but do not quit.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you can never tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit-
It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit.

Today’s Verse

Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the LORD your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and He won’t abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, CEB)

Exploration

This verse comes from a passage wherein Moses, in contemplation of his impending death, announces that Joshua has been chosen to see the journey through, and seeks to assure his people of the constant presence of God — to encourage them to continue their journey in faith and hope.

Looking deeper at the meaning of key words:

  • Fearless = courageous, bold, determined and confident; brave
  • Afraid = apprehensive, frightened, or hesitant
  • Scared = full of worry or fear
  • Abandon = renounce you or leave you behind; won’t fail or forsake you

Said another way, the promise is full in its magnitude — the strength, courage, and confidence found in total reliance on Him will dispel your apprehension, hesitance, and fear. You are always assured of a victory.

Stay strong! Be courageous, bold, determined, confident and brave! Don’t be apprehensive, hesitant or frightened, because the LORD your God is marching with me always. He won’t let me down, and He won’t renounce me, won’t forsake me, and won’t fail me.

Affirmation

There are numerous passages throughout the Scriptures that reinforce this particular promise, some of my particular favorites are included here:

Be strong — (trust his promises)

But now, says the LORD— the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the LORD your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior. I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in my eyes, you are honored, and I love you. I give people in your place, and nations in exchange for your life. Don’t fear, I am with you. From the east I’ll bring your children; from the west I’ll gather you. (Isaiah 43:1-5)

Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Hope in the LORD! Be strong! Let your heart take courage! Hope in the LORD! (Psalms 27:14)

Fear not — (there is no need to entertain negative emotions or thoughts)

The LORD is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The LORD is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything? (Psalms 27:1)

Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

He will say to them: “Listen, Israel: Right now you are advancing to wage war against your enemies. Don’t be discouraged! Don’t be afraid! Don’t panic! Don’t shake in fear on account of them, (Deuteronomy 20:3)

He will not abandon me or let me fail

because the LORD your God is a compassionate God. He won’t let you go, he won’t destroy you, and he won’t forget the covenant that he swore to your ancestors. (Deuteronomy 4:31)

I am the LORD your God, who grasps your strong hand, who says to you, Don’t fear; I will help you. Don’t fear, worm of Jacob, people of Israel! I will help you, says the LORD. The holy one of Israel is your redeemer. Look, I’ve made you into a new threshing tool with sharp teeth. You will thresh mountains and pulverize them; you will reduce hills to straw. When you winnow them, the wind will carry them off; the tempest will scatter them. You will rejoice in the LORD and take pride in the holy one of Israel. The poor and the needy seek water, and there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will respond to them; I, the God of Israel, won’t abandon them. (Isaiah 41:13-17)

I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. (Romans 8:39)

Reflection

By placing all of my trust in Him, I can overcome trial and adversity, be strong and confident in any situation, win all battles, and ultimately attain the rewards inherent in His Word.

deuteronomy 31 6

 

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#AConfidentHeart: The difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ

Today’s Truth

Eph 3 - 17,19

Exploration

Today’s truth comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. This particular verse is embedded in his prayer for spiritual blessings.

One of the questions that arose in the course of my current bible study is: “What is the difference between salvation and satisfaction in Christ (Swope, p. 64)?”

Because I often struggle with my journey toward satisfaction — I decided to explore this further for this post today, and in brief, some of the conclusions I reached were:

Renee’s statement on p. 61, “Salvation is a one-time decision, but finding satisfaction in Christ and living in the security of his promises is a daily process,” resonated deeply with me.

Very simply put, salvation in Christ is the Father’s ultimate promise, and only required that I be baptized in order to benefit by it; while satisfaction in Christ requires me to commit daily to living my life in accordance with His Will, in compliance with His Word, and in the arms of His love.

Affirmation

The affirmation of my very simple conclusion above comes from my reflection on the Word:

Salvation

  • Salvation is a gift that comes through His grace, and not through anything that I or anyone else do/does; For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NRSV)
  • the sign of this gift was the passion of Christ; But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NRSV)
  • this sacrifice represents the unfathomable depth of His love and magnitude of His promise; For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16, NRSV)
  • and He has guaranteed that I cannot lose this gift; I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28, NRSV)
  • The acceptance of this gift requires the one-time decision Renee talks about – a declaration of faith and true contrition for my sins; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. (Romans 10:9-10, NRSV). This was done for me through Baptism, which I have affirmed.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction in Christ requires a commitment on my part to demonstrate my gratitude for the gift of salvation. It is carried out daily in actively seeking to develop a fuller understanding of the full dimensions of His love: to become “rooted and grounded” in His love, to trust in His promises, and to live according to His Word (Ephesians 3:17-19).

In practice, this is far more difficult, but I am starting to develop a framework to keep me on track – some of the steps I take include:

  • (1) remembering the “Why?” and the “Who?”– Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, NRSV)
  • (2) taking Paul’s prayer for spiritual blessings seriously and seeking guidance from the Spirit on the “How?” – I ask for the gift of the seven graces (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear) so that I may
    • act daily in accordance with His will; Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NRSV);
    • and have the ability to deal with trials and adversity as they come with the knowledge that nothing can compromise His love for me; For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, NRSV);
    • and the assurance that He will see me through anything: I will be with [her] in trouble, I will deliver [her], and honor [her]. (Psalms 91:15).
  • (3) always reminding myself that even when I falter, I can move forward – because he will never let me fail completely; though [she] stumbles, [she] shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds [her] by the hand. (Psalms 37:24, NRSV)

Inspiration

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Prayer

Lord, even when I stumble, You never let me fall headlong; rather You are always with me, always deliver me, and always honor me. Please know that knowing this truth gives me confidence and a desire to seek my full satisfaction in You. Almighty Father, I am grateful for the gift of my salvation, which I recognize as an expression of the unfathomable depth of Your love for me. Let me always remember that this gift was afforded through Your grace and the ultimate sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus. Let me remain cognizant of its enormous promise – that of eternal life. Let me reaffirm my acceptance of, and gratitude for this gift daily – by allowing Christ to dwell in my heart through faith; through seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit to further my knowledge and understanding of the Divine Truth; and by striving to comprehend the dimensions of the love of Christ – knowing that nothing will be able to separate me from Your love. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN 

Exchanging fear for faith: #priceless

I have spent my entire life in a big “shadow of doubt” created by insecurity that developed at a very early age (Swope, p. 21). Insecurity arising from my perspective of how others’ viewed or valued me, which in turn, determined my self-worth  and has continued to do so. That shadow always looms, as the insecurity manifests itself in many ways and many situations — its symptoms are not pleasant — fear, anxiety, depression, defensive and offensive behavior and caustic speech, to name a few. I have desperately sought to get rid of that shadow and its consequences in a variety of ways — some of which I am not terribly proud of. I have tried, over and over, in many different ways and many different arenas to prove that I am “perfect,” or at least well above average, when in reality I am flawed, and average. I have pretended that everything is fine, and that my life is going well and that I am satisfied, because some of my “successes,” by most standards should have been enough. The pretense has been very costly at times. So, I now take great comfort in the fact that “because His love is perfect, I don’t have to be (Swope, pp. 29-46).”

I have been seeking to prove my worth to and through others, through my jobs, promotions, new cars, new technologies and gadgets — and it hasn’t worked. I love my family and friends, and I know that they love me. But, I still keep seeking, “what a person desires: unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22).” So, I want to believe that, as Renee Swope (2011) states, “[I] was made for love that isn’t measured by my last accomplishment, but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62).”

There is indeed an emptiness in my heart. No amount of validation from others, no single accomplishment (or even a compendium of all of them), no possession, no career path, promotion, accolade has or will give me value or a true sense of significance — nor will any of these fill that emptiness. Why? Because I guess I finally realize that material goods wear out or lose value quickly, and performance-based measurement of my worth, is dependent upon the opinion, action, or behavior of others (who are likely seeking their value in the same fashion). I also don’t like who I am very much when I seek my worth in this fashion. The realization that the emptiness can ONLY be filled by God, because reliance on any other validation will never provide the abiding love and acceptance marked by His grace is a big, and welcome “wake-up call,” at a time when it is much needed. It implies that “His love will not fail, even when I do (Swope, pp. 47-64).” That type of love is #priceless (Pure; Redeeming; Inexhaustible; Comforting; Energizing; Liberating; Enduring; Supportive; and Sustaining)!

In my quest for #AConfidentHeart, I want to move from “fear-filled thinking to faith-filled believing (Swope, p. 228).”

The following When I/Then He statements address my “Top Ten” doubts and insecurities — they serve as a basis for replacing my doubts and insecurities with His truths:

  1. When I find myself seeking validation of my  worth through the 4 Ps (people, performance, possessions, or position); Then He will remind me that what I really desire is the unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22) that can be found through the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. When I feel as though life has filled with adversity and has become too difficult; Then He will remind me that He is with me in times of trouble, that He will rescue me, and honor me (Psalms 91:15).
  3. When I sense doubt creeping in and worry becoming all-consuming and non-productive; Then He will remind me that he cares about me and I can surrender my cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. When I think that I have no strength left to face the latest trial; Then He will remind me that through His strength I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
  5.  When I perceive that others are against me and feel beaten down, or defeated; Then He will remind me that no one can be against me if He is for me (Romans 8:31), and that I am a conqueror through His love (Romans 8:37).
  6. When I start to worry about finances, and finding a job that will provide the basic necessities; Then He will remind me that He knows what I need, and it will be provided (Matthew 6:32).
  7. When I begin to feel as though I will never find a sense of peace and contentment; Then He will remind me that I can find peace and confidence in Him (John 16:33); and can learn to be content in any situation or circumstance (Philippians 4:12).
  8. When I am tempted to pretend that things are fine, when in reality I am FINE (Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted (Swope, p. 31)); Then He will remind me that He can give me rest (Matthew 11:28), peace, and confidence (John 16:33).
  9. When I feel as though I don’t know what to do next; Then He will remind me that I simply have to ask him, and He will give me wisdom (James 1:5).
  10. When I find myself feeling uncertain about my next steps or my purpose: Then He  will remind me to rely on Him to guide me (Proverbs 3:5-6); and that His major goal is that I enjoy the full riches of complete understanding of the divine truth. (Colossians 2:2).

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

#priceless love: it quenches thirst and satisfies hunger

Today’s Truth

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. (1 Chronicles 16:11; from Psalms 105:4)

Exploration

Today’s truth is lifted directly from Psalms 105:4 and lies in the chapters of the Chronicles dealing with the reign of King David. In chapter 16, the Chronicler is recounting the establishment of David’s kingdom.

The Chronicler, provides idealized versions of both David and Solomon in the first Chronicles. He is recounting history through interpreting the writings of others — drawing from the Books of Samuel, Kings, Judges, Ruth, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and others, including the Psalms. It is, some say, almost as though he wanted to paint a vivid picture of the Messianic ideal that he sought.

Given the thought of a Messianic ideal — I looked for and found theological interpretations of the words strength, seek, and face.

Force/power (strength) = a source, something that we can draw on to gain the physical capacity or emotional toughnness required to endure and carry out demanding tasks or to deal with stressful or painful situations.

Pursue (seek) = suggests a commitment to actively seeking solace and relief in Him

Manifestation = rather than defining “face” as countenance, which suggests seeing Him as we would a human, this references the mercy and divine or perfect love of God (agape) that is unconditional, unfailing and can only come from Him

On this basis, I rewrite the verse as follows:  Look to the LORD and his force; pursue His manifestation (mercy, divine love) always.

Application

In dealing with inevitable trials that come along, I  often succumb to self-pity, begin to find ways of laying the blame on others rather than understanding that I am in the midst of a learning experience. I then feel parched, and as though there is nothing that will quench my thirst.

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. (Isaiah 41:17a)

I can get the same feeling as I stumble on my walk with Him. Not only am I thirsty, but there is also often a hunger that needs to be fed.

O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalms 63:1)

Yet, He assures me there is hope. He will never forsake me, and I can take action accordingly, I can learn what each experience is trying to teach me. I can strengthen my relationship with him. I can quench my thirst and satisfy my hunger.

But I the LORD will answer them; the God of Israel, will not forsake them. (Isaiah 41:17b)

I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (Matthew 6:35)

Inspiration/Affirmation

Through review of all of the blessings which have been bestowed on me — I know the capacity of His love and mercy. Thus, I just need to develop a habit of mind that will allow me to be more consistent in applying the strategy of active pursuit of his force and its manifestations.

I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory. (Psalms 63:2)

The same holds true for reaching a goal of living a life that will ensure sharing in His promised rewards.

Blessed are those who thirst for righteousness; they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)

Prayer

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. (Psalms 4:1, NIV)

LORD, Let me remember that my quest for righteousness will yield tremendous rewards. If I actively employ a strategy of pursuing your force in all its manifestations — I will never go hungry, and if I believe, I will never go thirsty.  Let me always remember that in my many blessings, I have seen You first as my refuge in the sanctuary and then have beheld Your power and Your glory, so this reminds me that there a ray of hope in any situation. When I am feeling insecure or lacking in confidence, let me attain the emotional toughness needed to deal with stressful or painful circumstances through Your force. When I am feeling defeated because of my doubt or impatience, let me remember that You will never forsake me, and let me seek Your mercy and love so that I can keep going until I understand what I am supposed to learn and am able to apply it. . In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN. (See Matthew 5:6; Matthew 6:35; 1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalms 63:1-2; Isaiah 41:17)