Monday, July 11, 2016

CHATTING WITH GOD


Friends, I am at a loss for words this week.

So, I am re-sharing something that I wrote over four years ago in a weekly feature called, "Saturday Stroll."  

It speaks to the trials that have entered my life as of late, and I hope that it has meaning for all who read it.  (I know that I needed to read it again...)


Welcome to "SATURDAY STROLL!"

In these posts I will be interacting with Scripturemaking it a conversational walk of faith.

God and I speaking...

So put on your walking shoes you know we can all use the exercise!



(Words and thoughts taken from Job 23, Zechariah 13, Psalm 139, and Job 42 - NASB and NLT translations)



A DIALOGUE FOR TIMES OF TESTING


I'm afraid my complaint is rebellion.  But it is still a bitter one.  Not that I'm bitter, Lord.  I'm not resentful (maybe a little) – but life is a bitter pill to swallow – difficult to accept, often unpleasant.

I try hard not to groan aloud.

But Your hand is heavy despite my groaning.

Why, Lord?

I just don't get it.  It is so hard to understand You when life is difficult – when I have turmoil – when loved ones are suffering – and circumstances are impossible.

Oh, if only I knew where to find You, where You might be.  If I knew that, I might come to Your seat!

Yes, I would go to Your court.

I would present my case before You, laying it all out.  

And I would fill my mouth with my arguments.

Then I would listen to Your reply.  I would learn the words that You would answer, and perceive and understand what You say to me.

Would You contend with me?

Would You use Your great power to argue with me?

No, surely You would pay attention to me.  Surely You would give me a fair hearing…

…wouldn't You?


So, I search for You.

I go forward, but You are not there.  I go east, You are not there.  I move backward, but I cannot perceive You.  I go west, but I cannot find You.

When You act on the left, I cannot behold You.  I do not see You in the north, for You are hidden.  When You turn on the right, I cannot see You.  I look to the south, but You are concealed.


Where are You, Lord?

Why are You silent when I need You?

Why are You hidden when I need You?

Why do I feel so alone…when I NEED You?


But I am consoled and comforted and strengthened by this one Truth.

You know the way I take.  You know where I am going.  And when You have tried me, tested me, I will come forth as goldpure and unblemished.

For I have stayed on Your paths.  

I have held fast and followed You.  

I have not turned aside.

I have not departed from the commands of Your lips.  I have treasured the words of Your mouth more than my necessary food.


But You are unique.

And You're a little (a lot) scary, Lord.

Once You've made a decision, who can change Your mind?  What Your soul desires, whatever You want to do, that is what You do.

I know that you will do to me whatever You have planned.  You will perform that which is appointed for me.

You control my destiny.

I guess my heart struggles with Your sovereignty, Lord.

And sometimes I am just so scared, and hurt, and despairing.

Darkness is all around me – thick, impenetrable darkness is everywhere.

Deep gloom covers me.


But I am not silenced by the darkness.

NOR AM I.

Lord, is that You?!

I will bring you through the fire and make you pure.  I will refine you like silver and purify you like gold.  When you call on Me, I will answer. 

I will say...

"This is My child."

Will you trust Me?


Oh Lord, I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my very own eyes.

You are the LORD, my God.


I AM.




Have you had a conversation with God lately?






Bent but not broken...

...still reaching for the Son. 




"You have been my God from the moment I was born.
Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.
My enemies surround me...
Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey.
My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me...
I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat...
O LORD, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
Save me..."

(Psalm 22:10-17, 19-20, NLT)



"Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant –
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever."


(Psalm 73:21-26, 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 MONDAY, MUSING MONDAYS, MODEST MONDAY, MOTIVATION MONDAY, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, LIVING PROVERBS, MOM-TO-MOM MONDAYS, MOMENTS OF HOPE, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE LINKUP, WONDERFUL WEDNESDAYTITUS 2 TUESDAY, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, TUESDAY TALK, TELL IT TO ME TUESDAYS, RA RA LINKUP, TEACHING WHAT IS GOOD, TELL HIS STORY, THE HOMEMAKING PARTY, 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, WEDDED WEDNESDAY, THE LOFT LINKUP, GRACE MOMENTS, GRACE MOMENTS, GROWING IN GRACE, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, THURSDAY FAVORITE THINGS, LIVE FREE THURSDAY, PARTY AT MY PLACE, SHINE LINKUP, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, FROM HOUSE TO HOME, GRACE AT HOME, THANKFUL THURSDAYS, LITTLE THINGS THURSDAY, COZY READING SPOT, NO RULES WEEKEND BLOG PARTY, FUNTASTIC FRIDAY, BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT PARTY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, EVERYDAY TESTIMONY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, FAITH 'N FRIENDS, GRACE & TRUTH, DANCE WITH JESUS, TGI SATURDAYS, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP & FAITH, FRIDAY FEATURE PARTY, WEEKEND WIND DOWN PARTY, WORD OF GOD SPEAK, LET US GROW




BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, July 4, 2016

NOW LIVE IN FREEDOM!


It's the Fourth of July!

Sparklers for everyone!!

****************

Today is the 240th birthday of our United States of America!

It is a day of fun and celebration, but it's also a good day to reflect on the concept of freedom.


Freedom is: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved; the state of being physically unrestricted and able to move easily; the state of not being subject to or affected by (a particular undesirable thing); the power of self-determination attributed to the will; the quality of being independent of fate or necessity; unrestricted use of something.

(Synonyms: independence, self-government, self-determination, self-rule, home rule, sovereignty, nonalignment, autonomy, democracy, liberty, liberation, release, deliverance, delivery, discharge, exemption, immunity, dispensation, impunity, right, entitlement, privilege).


Every war the United States has fought in has been over the issue of freedom  (at least in theory, let's not get stuck talking about political agendas here!).  

We seek to maintain it for ourselves, and we fight to secure it for others.

There is nothing frivolous about freedom – even when we sometimes take it for granted.

Today we should take the time to remember what it cost, and continues to cost, to maintain freedom in our country and in our lives.

We should remember, and be thankful.

But let's also expand on the idea of freedom, and ponder the concept as it applies to the believer's life.


Last week I talked a lot about battling in the spiritual realm.

I talked about *standing* after the battle.

About the importance of not only winning spiritual territory, but also in occupying it so the enemy can't take it over again.

This is what I want to focus on today.

I have a picture in my mind –

A war-torn, battle-weary soldier standing in a muddy battlefield.  He's dirty and scraped and bruised, maybe a bit bloodied by the fighting.  He stands, barely balanced, but he stands strong nonetheless.  In his right hand he holds a pole with a flag attached to it reading, "The LORD is my Banner!"  This he has firmly planted in the soil, claiming the new land of victory.

Then I see the General quietly approach him.

The General looks long and hard at the soldier.  

Finally, he gives him a firm handshake as he states, "Well done."  

Then he gives the soldier a hearty salute, and just before he turns to leave, he issues this command:

"Now live in freedom!"


You do see the spiritual parallel here, don't you?!

I think of how often the Lord and I win a spiritual battle, just for me to cede the territory again at a later date.

I talked last week about following up, about occupying the *just-won territory* with something other than what the enemy wants.

And part of this *occupation* must certainly be the idea of living in the newfound freedom that the battle won!

We all know what it looks like when it fails.

A battle won, a victory secured, freedom is established.

But then, occupying forces leave.

And all too often, the country and its people return to their old ways.  And sometimes this leaves them in a position to be overrun by enslaving powers once again.

Take politics out of it, and we can see the same principle occur in our spiritual lives, too.

That's why today I'm thinking about this *fight after the fight* idea.

I'm thinking of the General who tells us, "Now live in freedom!"

It's no use if we are set free, if we don't use that newfound freedom to live free!!


Thinking about this idea of being set free, and then not living free, I thought it might be interesting to see how many prisoners who are set free actually return to a life of crime.

I found a report from the U.S. Department of Justice (2005) that detailed the recidivism (relapse into criminal behavior) rate of federal prisoners upon release (about 400,000 prisoners in 30 states):

More than a third of released prisoners were arrested again within six months of their release.  That number rose to 56.7% by the end of the first year, 67.8% within three years, and 76.6% within five years.

I find that staggering, don't you?!

But are we any different?

How often do we win a battle against sin, only to be tempted to sin in the same area once again?

And how often do we succumb, once again falling into the same trap of enslavement?

Rhetorical questions, because we know the answer is – we do it all the time.

How come?

Why do we return to enslavement, imprisonment, reoccupation?

I can think of several reasons:

1. The outside world is too tempting
2. We don't think we deserve freedom
3. We don't know how to function in freedom
4. The old ways and old places are too familiar
5. We associate with the wrong people
6. We're afraid of new choices
7. We return to comfortable, instead of making change
8. We try to do it all alone


On the surface, we might think it foolish that anyone who, once having tasted freedom, would willingly return to a life of captivity and restriction.

It's easy to point fingers at people who fail in this area, who "relapse" into old habits and sins.

(My opinion?  We all tend to be a motley bunch of "log in the eye" pretenders who delight in bringing to attention the "motes" in others...)

Sometimes I think it's because we're so ingrained in our propensity to "rate" sins.

We like to reproach the alcoholic or addict who falls into addiction again.  Or the cheater who gives in to infidelity again.  Or the criminal who keeps committing crimes.

However, if we're honest, we do the same thing, because we turn a blind eye to our own shortcomings.

For how often do we return to gossiping, or lying, or self-righteousness, or criticizing, or complaining, or anger, or...the list goes on.

We don't judge our own "minor" sins as harshly as those we point out in others.

But there is no such thing as a *sin scale* in the eyes of God.

SIN. IS. SIN.

It's ALL falling short of His standardno matter if it's practiced in big or little ways.

Therefore, *reoccupation of the land* can occur with a marauding army of invaders, or by one little voice that sows doubt and discontent.

This is why it's very important, very necessary, to attend to our hearts after a battle against the enemy.

Especially when we start feeling too secure in our victory.


So, how do we occupy the land?

Our pastor recently gave a message about God's peace, and about how He promises that it will guard us.  It was a study on the first part of the 4th chapter of Philippians.

Let's listen in to Paul’s words:

"…in this way stand firm in the Lord."


OK, Paul, tell us how to do that!

(Verses taken from The Amplified Bible)


1. "Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, take pleasure in Him]; again I will say, rejoice!" (verse 4)

2. "Let your gentle spirit [your graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience] be known to all people." (verse 5) 

3. "Do not be anxious or worried about anything…" (verse 6)

4. "…in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God." (verse 7)

5. "Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God's word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart]." (verse 8)

6. "The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life]…" (verse 9)


Fantastic!

What's the payoff, Paul?

"The Lord is near…and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you…And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]." (verses 4, 7, 9)


I am beginning to see…


Go back to my image of the soldier on the battlefield.

The General has just said, "Now live in freedom!" – and he is turning away.

If the soldier lets him go, he's left alone to hold the territory, in his own power and strength.

This scenario most likely ends in reoccupation by the enemy.

End of story.

But wait!

What if there's a different ending?!

What if, as the General begins to walk away, the soldier shouts out:

"Wait!!  I cannot maintain this victory alone.  I need a guard, a trustworthy sentinel who will protect the borders of this territory.  I need someone who will keep watch, and warn me of impending danger."

The General turns back...

The soldier speaks once more, "Please send help."

At this the General smiles.

"Yes, it is the wise soldier who understands the importance of a watchman."

At this, he motions forward another person.

"I present to you the one who will guard and protect you.  Always listen to him."

You do know who the *watchman* is, don't you?

The Holy Spirit.

Might these words from Paul also be the parting words of the General?

"Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me – a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you." (2 Timothy 1:13-14, NLT)

Oh yes, amen.


In that all-important aftermath of battle, in that *fight after the fight,* in that time of victory, might we recognize our deep need of The Watchmanor as my pastor called Him, the "Silent Sentry."

And might we depend on Him to guard and protect us.

For the enemy will approach once againloudly and softly, with an army or a whisper.

Tempting us to cede territory, and to return once again to a state of occupation.

We must not listen.


Focus on these things (from my pastor's sermon, reflecting Philippians 4:8):

What's real vs. what's phony
What matters vs. what's frivolous
What's right vs. what's convenient
What's clean vs. what's dirty
What's unifying vs. what's divisive
What's helpful vs. what's harmful
What's best vs. what's inferior
What's positive vs. what's negative


Happy Fourth of July, my friends!

May you have a wonderful day doing what you do to celebrate!

Barbecues, pool parties, fireworks.

Maybe even a main street parade like our little town!

But might we take a moment or two (or many) to reflect upon the idea that this is a day when the cause of freedom in our country became a reality.  

Therefore, let this be a day when we ponder the meaning of freedom.

It's a day that's also called Independence Day.

And in every real sense of the word, our own *Independence Day* occurred when we believed in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Having won His victory on the cross, He now encourages us to fight on as conquerors.

To battle for the faith, to stand our ground, and to claim our territory.


I hear His parting words…

"Now live in freedom!"


Yes.



Are you living in freedom, or are you ceding territory to the enemy?






Here in the power of Christ
I stand.



(From "In Christ Alone" by Stuart Townsend) 




"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NIV)

"So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me…Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" 
(Romans 7:21-25, NIV)

"Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning?  Of course not!  Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?  You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.  Thank God!  Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you.  Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living." (Romans 6:15-18, NLT)

"When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us,…evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power.  Now we can serve God…in the new way of living in the Spirit." (Romans 7:5-6, NLT)

"'For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe – until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.'" 
(Luke 11:21-22, NLT)

"'…if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out!  Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you.  But you must subdue it and be its master.'" 
(Genesis 4:7, NLT)

"…you are not controlled by your sinful nature.  You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you." (Romans 8:9, NLT)

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1, NASB)

"'…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.'" (John 8:32, 36, ESV)

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT)

"'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.'" 
(John 14:16-17, NLT)

"…for the Holy One has given you his Spirit, and all of you know the truth." 
(1 John 2:20, NLT)

"I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost.  There I will wait to see what the LORD says…" (Habakkuk 2:1, NLT)

"Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong." 
(1 Corinthians 16:13, NLT)




Linked with:

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




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!"