Will You Fight?

In one of the beginning lectures from our study this semester, Heart of a Woman, Laurie used an analogy that the Lord has continued to use throughout these eight weeks of study thus far. She related the battle that each believer in Christ experiences this side of heaven, the battle between our sinful flesh that still remains and the Spirit that is God in us, to our military fighting in Afghanistan. She created a scene of soldiers running through an attack—bullets flying, bombs going off around them, the whole terrifying scene that we can all imagine to some extent. She then went on to describe a soldier who was so terrified in the midst of the battle that instead of continuing the fight, the soldier hunkers down in a corner, covers their head with a blanket and just says they need an easy night with their favorite drink and TV show. Clearly, this would never happen, it’s hysterical to think about really. No soldier would be so lazy to just give in to the battle that is raging around them. I’ve realized, however, as I’ve gone through this study, that I have been that soldier. In the midst of the spiritual battle that goes on in my mind mostly, I give in. I am lazy and give in to the feelings. I want to be comfortable and don’t want to put in the effort to fight. I think it’s ridiculous to picture of soldier in Afghanistan doing this so the more I think about it now, why is it not ridiculous that I do the exact same thing, just in a different sense of battle?

And truly, this battle that I’m referring to, that goes on in my mind, the lies that fill my head, the emotions that make way to point my eyes to the things of this world instead of my Savior, this battle is even more real than the battle in Afghanistan. “…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

This week in our study we were instructed to read through Psalm 119. As we read we were instructed to confess to the Lord anything that we were reading that may not be true of us. The Psalmist says many times that he delights in the word of God, loves His testimonies, etc. I did this same study about a year ago and had written in the margins of my Bible my confessions and I’m sad to say that the things I confessed a year ago, I was still confessing this week. I was so discouraged. I was still confessing the sinful roots of pride, idolatry of comfort, laziness, self-focus and unbelief. I’m so thankful though. As I prayed through my discouragement I saw more clearly my laziness and how it manifests itself. I thought of the soldier that hunkered down in a corner in the heat of battle and saw so many examples of how I’ve been doing that. Just this week, a small example for you is that I have put reminders in my phone to stop and pray specific scriptures. It’s only three times a day, nothing crazy, but when those reminders pop up, something else is much more pressing of course and the prayer can wait—lazy. I’m hunkering in the corner and finding comfort in my planner and organization and tasks for the day instead of my Savior and the truth of His Word.

I was thinking this morning about the Psalmist and how he was able to speak with such confidence of his trust and commitment to the Lord and I was wondering how it was possible for him to do that. The Lord sweetly answered my question. I am able to do that as well because Jesus is in fact in me and has already accomplished all this for me! God looks at me and sees perfection, because He sees Jesus. He sees perfect trust and obedience, perfect love, perfect righteousness, ALL because of Jesus and what He did for me! I’ve heard another analogy about a soldier. A podcaster posed the question, if you were a soldier in battle and you knew at the beginning of the battle that you were going to be victorious, wouldn’t the way you fight look differently? Maybe you would have more confidence? Maybe you wouldn’t fear? The soldier already knows the outcome. Friends, you and I already know the outcome of the real battle that is taking place between the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We are victorious because Jesus has already been victorious! He has risen again! And He now lives in me and He lives in you if you are His. We win. So why would I hunker in the corner in fear over my sin? Why would I seek the most comfortable? Why would I let the sinful thoughts and lies take over? They do not win, I have the one who is the victor in me and I have the confidence to actually fight in me because of Him. Such an amazing truth and grace. There’s no need or room for discouragement. What grace to even see my laziness and myself in the fearful soldier!

The battle, it’s fought moment by moment every single day as a believer in Christ and so of course, this is much easier said than done. Our flesh is so weak and indwelling sin remains in each of us until we are in heaven, but the Victor of this life, Jesus, is in us and He is worth it. Other things around us every day seem so much more real than the reality of Jesus sometimes, for me at least. I have been finding so much comfort and pray you do today as well as you contemplate your own battle with the sin within you that remains, “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’” (John 11:40)

Lord give us grace to believe. Do you ever see yourself as the soldier that runs away in fear during the height of battle?

Planted for His Glory

Decisions Decisions

How do you wake up most mornings? Do you use an alarm of some sort?  Do you hit snooze once, twice, seven times?  Do you lie in bed to “thaw out” for a few minutes or do you get right up?  There are obviously many ways to awaken, but I would venture to guess that most of us lie in bed for a moment to orient ourselves.

At this point, do you begin to think about your day?  Where do your thoughts go as your mind becomes alert?

During our study Heart of a Woman this week, Laurie asked us to think about this very question.  She told us we have a choice to make everyday, every morning we wake up: Choose this day whom you will serve (Josh 24:15). Will it be God or will it be self?

This was so enlightening to me! I realized how quickly I can make myself, my schedule, or my to do list first in my mind and life!  I think of myself first, and at some point, I may give a passing thought to God, whom I proclaim as Lord and Savior. Why is that?  How can that change?

First, I think it’s necessary to remember that we all have a desire to follow our flesh and think or do whatever “feels” right or seems easiest. As Paul wrote, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God (Rom 8:5-8 NLT).

Paul underscores the fact that we have a choice by saying we “let” our sinful nature control our minds, just as we “let” the Spirit control our minds. As Joshua told the Israelites, we can choose.

I am one of those people who wakes up before my alarm goes off.  I usually spend a few minutes gathering my thoughts for the day. I confess I choose to think first about my day, what I need to do, my schedule, who needs to be where…and before I know it, I fall prey to the lies of the enemy and begin dreading my day or feeling overwhelmed by it.  What if, instead, I were to choose the Lord, to by His grace fight my sinful flesh, put it to death as God’s word instructs us in Colossians 3 and think on His way instead of allowing my thoughts to run amok?  What if I were to pray first, thanking the Lord for the gift of a new day, acknowledging that He alone is Sovereign, that He is in control, not me—no  matter how much I think about my day or my agenda.  The day is His.

I have resolved to place the Joshua scripture on a 3×5 card next to my bed and on my bathroom mirror so I can be reminded first thing in the morning to choose God, so that my mind can immediately see truth and be able to focus on it instead of the temporary things of my day.  I need God’s grace and want to be reminded that I can choose to set my mind on God or I can choose to set my mind on self.  I know what it’s like to awaken and allow my thoughts to be consumed by self.  What do I feel in the end?  Discouraged.  By contrast, I know what it is like to pray and seek the Lord.  There is peace.  Hope.  Renewal.

Remember, you can choose each day whom you will serve and it will probably be a moment by moment reorienting of your mind, let’s be honest here. Trust in the One who created the new day, you, and your mind by His grace.

What are some practical ways that you reorient your mind to focus on the truth of God’s word instead of your sinful flesh? Do you see the battle taking place throughout your day right now?

Growing in Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Unfailing Love

You know how, when you are going through a tough time, your close friends and family members tell you to call on them for anything, that they will always be there for you?

The Lord is showing me that really, only He is the One who is always there.

Recently, life has been hard, and I’ve felt the need to call a friend to talk to. But something has kept me from doing it.  I think it’s because God wants me to turn to Him first. No matter how sensitive, smart, Godly or wise the friends I seek out are, they are not God, and they simply can’t be.

Now, I’m not advocating we don’t talk to our friends and family when we are hurting or struggling.  Our God is a relational God, and we are meant to be in relationship with Him and others. God gives us the gift of friendship so we can “do” life with other people.

God just needs to be the first person we talk to.

So, it is with this mindset that I turned to my homework one day last week in our current study, Heart of a Woman. We were asked to read and meditate on Psalm 107.  It starts with:

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1).

Steadfast love is a love that is not only resolute and firm, it’s faithful, constant, devoted, and a committed love.  It is not fickle.  It does not change.  And on top of that, the psalmist tells us our good God’s steadfast love endures forever!

Much of what struck me about this psalm is that over and over, the psalmist gives examples of the Lord’s people sinning against Him, rebelling against Him, turning away from Him, and suffering the (just) consequences of their sin.  Yet, when they cry out in distress, the Lord answers them.  Consider some examples of the Lord’s reactions in the psalm:

He delivered them from their distress (vs 6) and destruction (vs 30)

He led them by a straight way (vs 7)

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death (vs 13) and to their desired haven (vs 30)

He burst their bonds apart (vs 14)

He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron (vs 16)

He sent out His Word and healed them (vs 20)

He made the storm be still (vs 29)

He raises up the needy out of affliction (vs 40)

I also noticed that every action in the psalm is ascribed to God.  Not us.  In other words, the psalmist does not say, “We made the storm be still” or “We burst our bonds apart.”  The psalmist says “He.” The Lord.  We cannot do any of this on our own or by ourselves.  It is only by God’s grace.  God’s strength.  God’s love.

It saddens me to say this, but I think I sometimes take God’s love for granted.  I know it’s there, but I’m not living my life in grateful response to it. I recognize myself in the Israelites.  I think of calling a friend when life is hard, rather than talking to God and listening for His voice throughout the day.

Psalm 107:21 says, “Let them (us!) give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind.”  May we take to heart the truth of God’s unfailing love and what it means for our lives.  May we remember Who God is and all He has done.  And may we cling to the promise of His steadfast love, knowing it endures forever.

Growing in Grace