Monday, June 27, 2016

AFTER THE BATTLE, TO STAND


The last few weeks of life have been tough.

Exterior situations, interior battles.

And just maybe (!) a whole lot of spiritual growth!

There have been two very familiar verses that have strengthened me greatly, and today I want to share them with you.


First verse:

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13, NIV)

I love all references in the Bible that contain soldier/warrior imagery.

They always inspire me to be stronger, more courageous.

So this verse has always been a favorite.

But as I've read over it the last couple of weeks, I've noticed something different.

It's the fact that the word *stand* has been used two times, and in seemingly different ways.

I want to explore this.

First of all, I am not a Greek scholar, nor do I posture myself as being an expert on doctrine.  But when I have an insight that proves helpful to me, I always feel like the Holy Spirit is in that.  


So, here's my thoughts.

In the first instance I read: "stand your ground."

The phrase implies that there is an opposing force, an enemy attacking you from the other side.  There is no need to stand your ground if there isn't someone or something on the other side trying to knock you down.

In legal terms, there is something known as the "stand your ground" law.

A "stand your ground" law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat when faced with a reasonable perceived threat.

All of this makes a great deal of sense to me.

The enemy of our souls does his best to oppose us.

He desires to infiltrate our territory.  To steal spiritual ground.  To insert his kingdom purposes into our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Therefore, standing our ground is actively fighting against his schemes.

It is an offensive position.


It's the second part of the verse that strikes me most:

"After you have done everything, to stand."

I am struck that there is a reason for this added thought.

Oftentimes after a particularly hard battle against the devil, I am tempted to relax and take it easy.

But honestly, does anyone ever sit on the battlefield?

A soldier who is battle-ready never lays down his weapons.  And after a battle is won, he remains on alert.

After fighting the enemy and standing my ground, it is oh-so-important to then remain standing!

To be firm and resolute, on guard, prepared for the next onslaughtfor it will indeed come.

It even happened to Jesus:

"When the devil had finished every temptation, he [temporarily] left Him until a more opportune time." (Luke 4:13, AMP)

Opportune: (of a time) well-chosen or particularly favorable or appropriate; done or occurring at a favorable or useful time; well-timed.

Yes, this is our enemy – *that* guy.

The one who never ceases to look for the perfect opportunity to strike.

He can wait, if it serves his strategies, but he will never go away.


So here's how I read this verse from Ephesians for me:

"The enemy is going to come after you.  So when he does arrive, put on the whole armor of God so that you can stand your ground.  Don't yield an inch; oppose him in the strength that God gives you.  And when you have done everything against him, don’t relax your guard.  Stay standing firm, always alert for his next attack."

Yes, amen.


The second verse is this one:

"Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7, ESV)

I am struck by the difference between "oppose, fight" and "resist."

Resist: to remain strong against the force or effect of (something); to not be affected or harmed by (something).

Therefore, resisting the devil is standing against him.

It is a defensive position.

We are always threatened by the enemy, or by the imminent possibility of his attack.  

We are always subject to his harassment, his assaults, his aggression.

We must remain defensively strong.


Sometimes it's difficult to do, as sometimes the battle involves an inner struggle in which our will is divided.

The devil has a sneaky way of trying to get us to do what we naturally want to do in the first place.

Bitterness wouldn't be such a temptation if anger wasn't so easy.

Hatred wouldn't be so persuasive if it didn't feel so good to stand up for what we think is right.

Lying wouldn't appeal to us so much if self-protective fibbing didn't feel so instinctive.

Worshiping money wouldn't be so enticing if the need for security didn't drive us so much.

Fill in your own blanks.

Satan is subtle, and I sometimes think that the most effective evil is really just twisted good.


So, resisting.

I find it interesting that this verse does NOT say, "Fight the devil, and he will be defeated."

Why not?

Two things come to mind:


1) The battle is not ours to fight alone

In Ephesians and in James, we are counseled to stand our ground, to remain standing firm, to resist.

But we cannot fight the enemy in our own power.  

He is a supernatural being, and therefore, it requires supernatural ability, heavenly allies, and the LORD of Heaven's Armies Himself to fight against him.

"You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you…" (2 Chronicles 20:17, NIV)

Yes, contextually this verse was given to the Israelites upon the occasion of an impending battle.

But I think God uses this message to speak to our own hearts even today.


2) We cannot defeat the devil

Again, this outcome belongs to the Lord.

We can resist the devil, and we are admonished, encouraged, commanded to do so.

But we cannot defeat him.

This is completely up to the Lord.

However, I think it's very important to remember that our enemy is already a defeated foe.  He "lost" at Calvary, and he's just frantically working now on borrowed time.

Somehow he's deceived himself into thinking that he can change the inevitable.

But he cannot.

In the meantime, all his *roaring* is really just squeaky squawking, just feeble fussing, only useless yakking.

One day he will be silenced forever.

By Jesus, the Victor who gives us victory.

The One who conquered the devil's ultimate weapon – death – and destroyed his power forever.

"[God] canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.  In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities.  He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross." (Colossians 2:14-15, NLT)


So, here's how I read this verse from James for me:

"Submit to God, for He’s the One with all the power.  Push back when the devil pushes you.  Take a defensive stand.  He will be surprised at your resistance, and he will run away."

Yes, amen.


I'd like to add some extra thoughts that I came across as I explored these verses.  I think they help expand the concepts of opposing, fighting, standing, resisting:

   to stand opposite or against
   to take a complete stand against – a 180 degree, contrary position
   to establish one's position publicly by conspicuously "holding one's ground"
   to refuse to be moved or pushed back
   to forcefully declare one's personal conviction where they unswervingly
      stand
   to keep one's possession
   to ardently withstand, without giving up or letting go


And, some more information I discovered as I did a little research about the Greek words that I've looked at:

The Greek word "anthístēmi" was a military term in classical Greek (used by Thucydides, etc.) meaning "to strongly resist an opponent" and to "take a firm stand against."

The Greek word translated "withstand or stand your ground" in Ephesians 6:13 is "antistēnai" – and it is found in these other verses: Matthew 5:39, Luke 21:15, and Acts 6:10.

The Greek word translated "to stand" in Ephesians 6:13 is "stēnai" – and it is found in these other verses: Mark 3:26, Acts 8:38, Ephesians 6:11.

The Greek word translated "resist" in James 4:7 is "antistēte" – and is only found one other time in 1 Peter 5:9.

(See, maybe I'm not a Greek scholar, but I like being a Greek searcher!)


And I thought these commentaries were quite interesting, and very helpful:


"Spiritual strength and courage are needed for our spiritual warfare and suffering.  Those who would prove themselves to have true grace, must aim at all grace; and put on the whole armour of God, which he prepares and bestows.  The Christian armour is made to be worn; and there is no putting off our armour till we have done our warfare, and finished our course.  The combat is not against human enemies, nor against our own corrupt nature only; we have to do with an enemy who has a thousand ways of beguiling unstable souls.  The devils assault us in the things that belong to our souls, and labour to deface the heavenly image in our hearts.  We must resolve by God's grace, not to yield to Satan.  Resist him, and he will flee.  If we give way, he will get ground.  If we distrust either our cause, or our Leader, or our armour, we give him advantage…Our enemies are mighty, and we are without strength, but our Redeemer is almighty, and in the power of his might we may overcome.  Wherefore we must stir up ourselves." 
(Matthew Henry commentary on Ephesians 6:10-18)


"Resist the devil, and he will flee from you – while you yield to God in all things, you are to yield to the devil in none.  You are to resist and oppose him in whatever way he may approach you, whether by allurements, by flattering promises, by the fascinations of the world, by temptation, or by threats…Satan makes his way, and secures his triumphs, rather by art, cunning, deception, and threatenings, than by true courage; and when opposed manfully, he flies. The true way of meeting him is by direct resistance, rather than by argument; by steadfastly refusing to yield in the slightest degree, rather than by a belief that we can either convince him that he is wrong, or can return to virtue when we have gone a certain length in complying with his demands.  No one is safe who yields in the least to the suggestions of the tempter; there is no one who is not safe if he does not yield." 
(Barnes' Notes on the Bible, James 4:7)



So yes, the last few weeks of life have been tough.

But oh, how the Lord is stretching me and strengthening me.

He is teaching me the nuances of battle the truth about how to do it well, how to rely on His power to fight a supernatural war, how to stand my ground, how to resistand how to stand strong and firm in the aftermath.

And speaking of the aftermath – the *to stand* part – one of my devotionals last week added this important knowledge to what I like to call *the fight after the fight.*  

Every victory must lead to occupation.

It does not take the enemy long to recognize an unguarded post and take advantage of it.

I must follow up triumphs with seizing the territory so the enemy cannot recapture it.

I must nail down my victories so that counterattack is impossible.

There must be no vacancy after victory!

(Thoughts taken from "Daily with the King" by W. Glyn Evans)


Dear friends, none of us are in this battle alone.

We battle together, and God fights for us.

Let's withstand the attacks.

Let's stand our ground.

Let’s resist.

Let's remain standing after the battle is done.

Let's claim the *new ground* of victory.

Let's take the banner of Christ, the Victor, and plant it firmly in our hearts.


And let's never, ever give in, give over, or give up.


"Possideat terram."

(Latin for "possess the land.")


"Yahweh-Nissi."

(Hebrew for "the LORD is my banner.")



Having done all, let's stand.




What is your battle today?  Are you standing strong?






O enemy of mine
You will not cross this line,
Here I take my stand
And claim it as "God's land." 




"Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The [enemies] you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV)

"He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me." (Psalm 18:17, KJV)

"'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'" (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

"Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid.  Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident." (Psalm 27:3, NLT)

"O LORD, how many are my foes!  Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.   But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.  I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me…

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.  Arise, O LORD!  Save me, O my God!  For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked." 
(Psalm 3:1-4, 6-7, ESV)

"Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith…" (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV)

"A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground…" (Ephesians 6:10-14, NLT)

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NLT)

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:37-39, NLT)



Linked with:

SMALL WONDER, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, LIFE GIVING LINKUP, GOOD MORNING MONDAYS, MONDAY OF MANY BLESSINGS, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY, THE ART OF HOMEMAKING MONDAYS, MAKING YOUR HOME SING MONDAYS, MUSING MONDAYS, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, LIVING PROVERBS, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, MOMENTS OF HOPE, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, TITUS 2 TUESDAY, UNITE LINKUP, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, RA RA LINKUP, TEACHING WHAT IS GOOD




BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, June 20, 2016

UPROOTING WEEDS OF BITTERNESS


It's been a tough week.

So, I hope you'll understand today's repost of something I wrote three years ago.

It's timely for me to revisit these thoughts, and to try to realign my feelings with what I know is Truth.

May God speak to us all again.



Ever been disappointed, rejected, betrayed?

I'm thinking if you've lived long enough, the answer to that question is yes.

People have a way of hurting other people.

Sometimes it's intentional, often it's not.

Mostly it doesn't matter.  

Hurt still hurts…a lot.

And though hurt often leads to sad, sometimes it leads to MAD!

If I'm honest, I find that most of the time I get angry, it's really because I've gotten hurt.

Why is that, I wonder?  

I think it has something to do with vulnerability – about how being vulnerable makes us feel smallvictimized, dismissed, invalidated, diminished.  

And we are, perhaps, never more vulnerable than when we've been hurt.

That's understandable.

But woe to the angry one!

Because anger is like a weed in our hearts – a weed that can quickly grow roots of bitterness.

And bitter roots are dangerous, choking thingsthey are deadly.


I've been thinking about this lately.

Been going through some new hurtsnew hurts that are also stirring up some old hurts.

I am dismayed at how easily I have become an emotional bookkeeper.

Yup, I'm a good little accountant – keeping tally of perceived wrongs.

Keeping careful track of all the hurts inflicted on me.  Recording the wounds, checking off the snubs and slights, adding up the words and the attitudes and the actions.

Marking them all down in red – until, before I know it...

I'm seeing RED!

Ugly admission, but true.


The enemy is quite happy about this. 

After all, he's pleased when people visit *H & R Beelzebub*.

"Bring those receipts to me.  Yes indeed.  Let's add things up here.  Sure enough, people have wronged you.  You've been shortchanged.  People OWE you…"

The fine print?  "Those shallow, selfish, evil people.  You're better than they are.  You should hate them…"

His math?  

Hurt + Anger = Bitterness.

Oh, what a battle it is when you feel *entitled* to your feelings.

Now, I'm not one to dismiss those feelings.

Feelings are real.  

But they don't need to rule.

That's the secret, and that's the challenge.

Learning how to face the feelings, feel them, and then to let them go.

But, it's the only thing to do.

Because once those roots of bitterness begin to grow, they grow deep.

They cut a wide path of destruction.  

They kill good plants, and thwart any growth of new fruit.

Like I said – deadly.

It's why God warns us so much about anger.  

He knows it's a seed planted…

"And 'don't sin by letting anger control you.'  Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27, NLT)

"Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." (James 1:20, NLT)


So, is anger wrong?

No, Jesus Himself got angry.  

But God warns us against being angry…and sinning.

It's not the feeling that causes the problem.  

It's the underlying reasons for the anger, and the indulging of anger that leads to problems.

It is *feeling the feeling* and letting it fester.

Ruminating upon it.

Feeding the flames.

Letting it lead us to bitterness.

Forgiveness?

No room for that in a bitter and resentful heart.

And God calls us to something biggersomething behind the act of forgiveness.

He calls us to love.

And love requires poor bookkeeping:

"It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)


God calls us to forgive the debts AND the debtors...

...the debtors AND the debts.

Sigh.

I am facing a battle inside myself lately.  

Knowing that the enemy is trying to inflame my hurts.

Trying to stimulate my anger.  

Trying to make it feel righteous. 

He's trying to water the roots…

Me?

I'm trying to face the feelings – without feeling the fireworks.

Praying to let go.

Allowing myself to feel the hurt, yes – but through the pain, learning to turn to the Binder of Wounds, the Friend of the Brokenhearted, the Champion of the Crushed.

Using my will to battle my injured heart, even though I am sorely tempted to give in to bitterness.

Remembering that Jesus bore wounds for me.  

My precious Savior – hurt, disappointed, rejected, betrayed Jesus.  

He was wounded for me.


So, I'm taking His precious blood and crossing out the debts in my *red column* of wrongs.

Giving Him the books.  

Thanking Him for getting rid of the books that keep track of MY wrongs against other people.

Asking Him to forgive me for the many ways that I hurt HIM – for all MY marks in the *red column*.

Praising the Love that made it possible for my name to be entered into the only book that counts – the Book of Life.


Are you feeling disappointed, rejected, betrayed?

Has someone hurt you?  

Are you reacting in anger?

Do you feel choked by the weedy threat of bitterness?


Oh dear friends, don't let the enemy get rooted…

Attach yourself more tightly to The Vine.




Is there any bitterness in your heart that God needs to uproot?







A bitter root
can destroy
the mightiest tree. 



"'But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.'" (Matthew 15:18, NIV)

"The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil…It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell." 
(James 3:6, NIV)

"A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire." 
(Proverbs 16:27, ESV)

"'The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.  But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.'" (Matthew 12:35-37, NASB)

"'It is written:  'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'  So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.'" (Romans 14:11-13, NIV)

"Peace has been stripped away…I cry out, 'My splendor is gone!  Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!'  The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.  I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." 
(Lamentations 3:17-23, NLT)

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)



Linked with:

MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, LIFE GIVING LINKUP, GOOD MORNING MONDAYS, MONDAY OF MANY BLESSINGS, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY, THE ART OF HOMEMAKING MONDAYS, MUSING MONDAYS, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, MOMENTS OF HOPE, TELL ME A TRUE STORYUNITE LINKUP, TITUS 2 TUESDAY, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, RA RA LINKUP, TEACHING WHAT IS GOOD, WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, COFFEE & CONVERSATION, WOMEN WITH INTENTION, SITTING AMONG FRIENDS, GRACE MOMENTS, GROWING IN GRACE, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, LIVE FREE THURSDAY, THURSDAY FAVORITE THINGS, PARTY AT MY PLACE, SHINE BLOG HOP, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, FROM HOUSE TO HOME, GRACE AT HOME, THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS, LITTLE THINGS THURSDAY, COZY READING SPOT, NO RULES WEEKEND BLOG PARTY, 100 HAPPY DAYS, FUNTASTIC FRIDAY, BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT PARTY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, EVERYDAY TESTIMONY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, FAITH 'N FRIENDS, GRACE & TRUTH, DANCE WITH JESUS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP & FAITH, REWIND FRIDAY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, TGI SATURDAYS, WEEKEND WIND DOWN PARTY, LET US GROW, WORD OF GOD SPEAK, SMALL VICTORIES SUNDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SOCIAL BUTTERFLY SUNDAY



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, June 13, 2016

IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?


Hellooo…

Is anybody out there?

Sometimes I feel this way – like I say "Hello" and all I hear are crickets answering me

Chirp, chirp.

Seems to me like Blog Land has been kinda quiet lately.

Which leads me to wonder – is blogging dead?

If you google this question, you'll find various opinions on the matter.  But most people agree that its *heyday* has come and gone, that its peak popularity is in the past.

I certainly know that many people I became acquainted with when I first started blogging have long since left.

I get it.

It's hard to keep up with it.

Inevitably, if you blog long enough, you'll face either writer's block or burnout, or both.  And life happens.  Other things take priority.  I know that there have been a few times when I seriously considered discontinuing my blog.

I felt like my words were dry, my inspiration was lagging, life got complicated.

But somehow I felt like God wanted me to stay, and He kept giving me one more idea at a time.

So I'm still here.

But I firmly believe that God is the only one who can tell us whether we need to stay, or that it's time to leave.  

And we should heed His voice.

It's just that I miss some of my old blogging friends.


Losing contact is a hard thing.

Sometimes it's nobody's fault, it just happens.  People move out of the area (like I did), or life gets busier, or we add other people to our lives.

But still…

There are times when I feel like my voice echoes back to me when I cry out…

"Is anybody out there?"

It’s hard enough to feel this way with people, but sometimes I feel this way with God.

Like He's moved somewhere and neglected to give me His forwarding address.

Hellooo…

Are You out there, God?

Chirp, chirp.

I have often wondered to myself – why is it that sometimes when we need God the most, He seems silent or hidden?

I have heard this referred to as the north face of God.

(Though I have not read this book yet, I find that it's highly recommended: "The North Face of God" by Ken Gire.  Also great, a book that I have read, "Disappointment with God" by Philip Yancey)


What does this mean?

The north face of a mountain in the northern hemisphere is generally the coldest, iciest and most formidable route to climb.

I like the word picture of our faith journey being like a long trek up a steep mountain.  There are so many apt parallels that can be drawn.  But perhaps my favorite of all, is the treacherous ascent to the summit.

Climbers on Mt. Everest have a name for it – the Death Zone.

"At the higher regions of Mount Everest, climbers seeking the summit typically spend substantial time within the death zone (altitudes higher than 26,000 ft), and face significant challenges to survival.  Temperatures can dip to very low levels, resulting in frostbite of any body part exposed to the air.  Since temperatures are so low, snow is well-frozen in certain areas and death or injury by slipping and falling can occur.  High winds at these altitudes on Everest are also a potential threat to climbers.

Another significant threat to climbers is low atmospheric pressure.  The atmospheric pressure at the top of Everest is about a third of sea level…resulting in the availability of only about a third as much oxygen to breathe. Debilitating effects of the death zone are so great that it takes most climbers up to 12 hours to walk the distance of 1.07 mi from South Col to the summit." (Wikipedia)


Yes, sometimes the walk of faith is dangerous – fraught with trials and temptations.

And sometimes it can be a lonely walk.

Because sometimes, when we are in the midst of adversity, this is exactly when God seems absent.

Why is that?

I went on a search for answers, and found many interesting verses about the seeming "hiddenness" of God.

And many of these verses speak about times when God tests our faith (I've included them in my Scriptures at the end of this post).

At first, quite honestly, these verses kinda riled me up.

My reaction was like, "C'mon, God.  I'm in the midst of difficulty and You choose this time to feel far away?  Not fair…"

And then I started to think about His promise to never leave me nor forsake me.

Is that what He's doing – leaving me?

Grrr…

But then, as I pondered this more, I began to realize that there is a big difference between God's promise and my perception of it.

Just because God "feels" far away doesn't mean that He is.

And the sense of His absence is actually a way for God and I to draw closer to one another, and a way for my faith to grow stronger.


Let me put it this way.

When my sons were little I hovered over them like a crazed helicopter pilot.  Not wanting them to get hurt or scared or sick, I was right by them all the time.

"Whoop, whoop!"  (Rotor blade sound effects...)

But as they grew older, I realized that it was important for them to launch out into life.

My toddlers ventured farther away from me.

My preteens moved even more.

My teenagers traveled into the far reaches of independence – testing the boundaries, learning their own.

And now, my sons have developed into mature adults.

Strong in their values, their decision-making, and their wisdom.

Did I ever abandon them?

Of course not!


In much the same way, God works for our spiritual maturity.

He tests us along the way, allowing us to build our faith stronger in times of trouble.

And sometimes that means that He will feel far away.

I am consoled knowing that I am not alone in these feelings.

David felt them:

"Why are you so far away when I groan for help?  Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.  Every night you hear my voice, but I find no relief…Do not stay so far from me, for trouble is near, and no one else can help me." (Psalm 22:1-2, 11, NLT)

And Jesus quotes David's words from the cross:

"'My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'" (Psalm 22:1, NLT)

No, we are not alone in feeling alone.


The north face of God.

The chilly silence.

The icy hiddenness.

The formidable sense that we are all alone.

Hellooo…

Is anybody out there?

Are You out there, God?

He is.

Ponder this –

Those mountain climbers who dare to ascend the north face of Mt. Everest rely on one thing more than anything to make it to the summit…

Oxygen.

The very stuff that keeps them alive.

"…he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:27-28, KJV)

"For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being." (Job 12:10, NLT)


Yes, though my sense of His presence can be faulty at times, though He may seem distant for a time of testing, the Truth remains the same:

He is with me.

Every step of the way.

So I keep climbing…




Have you ever felt like God was far away?






He's as close as my heartbeat,
As near as a sigh,
A part of each breath,
He is ever nigh. 



So where is God hidden?
He's here, in my heart,
Directing my pathways
As He has from the start.

Where is God hidden?
He's not! Don't you see?
The Most High of the Universe
Dwells within me.

(© Sharon Kirby, October 4, 2000)




"However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart." 
(2 Chronicles 32:31, NLT)

"Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (Deuteronomy 8:2, NIV)

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.'" 
(Exodus 16:4, NIV)

"The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man." (Psalm 11:4, ESV)

"'I will refine them as silver is refined and test them as gold is tested.'" (Zechariah 13:9, Holman CSB)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my…thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

"I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.  Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness." 
(Psalm 26:1-3, NIV)

"But he knows where I am going.  And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold." (Job 23:10, NLT)

"For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried." 
(Psalm 66:10, ESV)

"Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine.  Test yourselves.  Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith." (2 Corinthians 13:5, NLT)

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." 
(James 1:2-4, NLT)

"So be truly glad.  There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." (1 Peter 1:6-7, NLT)

"God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.  Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12, NLT)

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (James 4:8, ESV)




Linked with:

SMALL WONDER, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, LIFE GIVING LINKUP, GOOD MORNING MONDAYS, MONDAY OF MANY BLESSINGS, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY, THE ART OF HOMEMAKING MONDAYS, MAKING YOUR HOME SING MONDAY, MUSING MONDAYS, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, LIVING PROVERBS, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, SHARING HIS BEAUTY, MOMENTS OF HOPE, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE LINKUP, TITUS 2 TUESDAY, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, RA RA LINKUP, TEACHING WHAT IS GOOD, WISE WOMAN, TELL HIS STORY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, COFFEE & CONVERSATION, WOMEN WITH INTENTION, SITTING AMONG FRIENDS, GRACE MOMENTS, GROWING IN GRACE, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, LIVE FREE THURSDAY, THURSDAY FAVORITE THINGS, PARTY AT MY PLACE, SHINE BLOG HOP, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, FROM HOUSE TO HOME, GRACE AT HOME, THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS, LITTLE THINGS THURSDAY, COZY READING SPOT, NO RULES WEEKEND BLOG PARTY, 100 HAPPY DAYS, FUNTASTIC FRIDAY, BLOGGERS SPOTLIGHT PARTY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, EVERYDAY TESTIMONY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, GRACE & TRUTH, DANCE WITH JESUS, TGI SATURDAYS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP & FAITH, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, WEEKEND WIND DOWN PARTY, LET US GROW, SMALL VICTORIES SUNDAY, WORD OF GOD SPEAK, GIVE ME GRACE, SOCIAL BUTTERFLY SUNDAY




BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, June 6, 2016

ONE, TWO, KNOCKOUT FAITH!


This last Friday, a sports legend passed away.

Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, died at the age of 74.

I've never been a boxing fan, but I have to admit that Ali was gifted with incredible athletic ability. 

He was an innovative and strategic fighter (who could forget "rope-a-dope"), a flashy and quick-witted character ("float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"), and became perhaps the first boxer to bring celebrity to the sport.

His death made me think of a post that I wrote five years ago (with some 2016 *tweaks*), and I hope you don't mind me sharing a re-post of it.

The original was titled, "Two-Fisted Faith."  


Faith is tough sometimes, isn't it?

And yet, we need to have tough faith.

Faith that stands against the enemy's attacks.

Faith that stands strong…

But are you like me? 

Sometimes I struggle with faith – struggle with what it requires.

You know that little red-and-white bullseye logo for a certain company? (Target…)

Paint one of those right on my back.

And it always seems like the enemy seeks us out when we are least able to fight.

When we are weak or tired or sick or hurt or overwrought.

It's like our vulnerability draws him in – like a heat-seeking missile.

He zeroes in – waiting for the perfect, unprotected moment to strike.

And strike he does…over and over…


I'm being bombarded.


Suffice it to say, the attacks are coming on various fronts, and my family has had more things happen in the last month than has happened in the last year…

Sometimes it makes me feel like I just want to run and hide. 

It was easier flying "under" Satan's radar.

It is so easy to doubt God's presence and His plan, when our eyes are so short-sighted, our minds so limited by human understanding.

Sometimes we have doubts and fears and they seem overwhelming.

After all, we're still walking through "the valley of the shadow of death."

And it is in that valley that the devil whispers one of his worst taunts…

"Is God really good?"

Sometimes, the evidence seems to point otherwise.

I think this is the believer's greatest battleto believe, no matter what.



A few years ago, at my church down-the-hill, the pastor gave a message that talked about this battle, and about the kind of faith that we need to fight it.

The pastor called it "two-fisted faith."

He used this Scripture to explain what he meant:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power…" (Daniel 3:16-17, NLT)

That's one fist…

"But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you…that we will NEVER serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." (Daniel 3:18, NLT)

That would be the second fistand I'd say it's the one that delivers the knockout punch.


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted God to deliver them. 

BUT, they were determined to be faithful regardless of the consequences.

This is crucialwe must be faithful to serve God whether He intervenes on our behalf or not.

OUCH.

That's such a tough one for me.

But I am asking the Lord to increase my faith muscles. 

To strengthen my shaky legs, and restore my spirit. 

To enable me to stand strong, in spite of the attacks. 

To give me a sense of His presence and peace.


We are never alone.

Remember that fiery furnace?

Catch this dialogue:

"But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, 'Didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?'

'Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,' they replied.

'Look!' Nebuchadnezzar shouted.  'I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!  And the fourth looks like a god!'"

(Daniel 3:24-25, NLT)



Let me tell you this, fellow fighters...

There will always be that fourth person in the fire…standing alongsidekeeping the fires of adversity from burning us up.


God is good.

He has a Master Plan that is unfolding, though it may be unknown to us.

We must ground ourselves in the faithful promises of God, not in our feelings.

We have to allow our doubts and fears to lead us closer to Him.

We must fight strong.



So, even though I have a target on my back, I'm asking the Lord to help me raise two little fists in faith.

One punch – I believe God will save me...

Two punch – and even if He doesn't, I will never bow down...

Knockout!!



Will you join me in the fight?







Pow!
Kaboom!

The enemy
hits the mat,
down and out,


Ten count...


and...

Victory!!




"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign LORD is my strength!" (Habbakuk 3:17-19, NLT)

"The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.  I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!' The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD." 
(Lamentations 3:19-26, NLT)

"'Fear not, 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; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.'" (Isaiah 43:1-3, NLT)

"Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.  You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance." (Psalm 32:6-7, NASB)

"He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me.  They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me.  He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me." (Psalm 18:16-19, NLT)

"...if the Lord had not been on our side when people attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive when their anger flared against us; the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.  Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth.  We have escaped like a bird from the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.  Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (Psalm 124:2-8, NIV)

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13, NIV)

"Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you." 
(James 4:7, AMP)

"And the satraps, the deputies, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered around together and saw these men – that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scorched or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them.  Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him!'" 
(Daniel 3:27-28, AMP)


Linked with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, MONDAYS AT SOUL SURVIVAL, LIFE GIVING LINKUP, GOOD MORNING MONDAYS, MONDAY OF MANY BLESSINGS, THANK GOODNESS IT'S MONDAY, THE ART OF HOMEMAKING MONDAYS, MAKING YOUR HOME SING MONDAY, MUSING MONDAYS, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, US, COFFEE & JESUS, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE LINKUP, TITUS 2 TUESDAY, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, RA RA LINKUP, TEACHING WHAT IS GOOD, TELL HIS STORY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE & CONVERSATION, WOMEN WITH INTENTION, WONDERFUL WEDNESDAYSITTING AMONG FRIENDS, THE LOFT LINKUP, GRACE MOMENTS, GROWING IN GRACE, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, LIVE FREE THURSDAY, PARTY AT MY PLACE, SHINE BLOG HOP, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, GRACE AT HOME, THOUGHTFUL THURSDAYS, LITTLE THINGS THURSDAY, COZY READING SPOT, FROM HOUSE TO HOME, FUNTASTIC FRIDAY, BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT PARTY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, FAITH 'N FRIENDS, GRACE & TRUTHMAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, DANCE WITH JESUS, TGI SATURDAYS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP & FAITH, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, NO RULES WEEKEND WIND DOWN PARTY, LET US GROW, WORD OF GOD SPEAK, SMALL VICTORIES SUNDAY, GIVE ME GRACE, SOCIAL BUTTERFLY SUNDAY



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"