Response to Spiritual Warfare

Continued from here.

The best way I have found to deal with the raining of flaming arrows is to pray this to God: “Thank you for this opportunity to trust you more.” This is a lesson I learned from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. The Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. Note that it does not say to feel thankful: I certainly did not feel thankful as one electronic device after another was blowing up around me. An effective way to give thanks when we are feeling quite unthankful is to follow Young’s advice by thanking God’s for this opportunity to trust Him more.

I wish I had remembered to do this last week, but I didn’t. Alas! I have done this in the past with much success. It’s not that thanking God in the midst of the flaming arrows puts those arrows out, but it shifts your perspective from your problems to the God who is bigger than your problems. I have now written “Thank you for this opportunity to trust You more” on a whiteboard by my desk to help me remember what to do the next time flaming arrows are raining down on me.

What I did was not quite as effective because I was not reacting with thanksgiving, but I did go to God in prayer. Here was my prayer:

God, you love this ministry more than I do, and you love the people this ministry serves more than I do. You know that I cannot serve these people without working equipment, so I need You to intervene. Please move at least some of these mountains so I can do what You have called me to do.”

God led me to a solution that fixed the work printer, and the ministry came out ahead with two free ink cartridges. Unplugging the work computer seemed to correct that problem (after the weird sounds ran their course). I ordered a new personal computer – I’ve been having issues with this one for a while now, and because I am a full-time student in divinity school, I was able to order one at a discounted rate. I was unable to do an even-exchange for the personal equipment that did not work, but the saleslady led me to a less expensive model that met my needs, saving me over $60. So, God ultimately worked it all for good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

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Purpose of Spiritual Warfare

Continued from here.

One of the lessons I learned from Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God is that the Satan’s plan in spiritual warfare is to keep us so distracted that we stop advancing for kingdom purposes. She bases this on this Bible verse:

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” ~ Eph 6:16

Each of the annoyances I dealt with during this brief period of time was a “flaming arrow” intended to distract me from doing what God has called me to do. Shirer said that in Biblical times, enemies would shoot flaming arrows (literally arrows that had been set on fire) around the soldiers in the hopes of setting things on fire around the advancing army. This could prevent the army from advancing because they needed to stop and put out the fires. Their focus shifted from moving forward to having to deal with the more immediate need to preventing a fire from spreading around and behind them.

The Bible tells us that the shield of faith is the weapon we need to use when we are being attacked in this way. Per Shirer, the advancing armies would join their shields of faith together, creating one large shield out of the many, which would prevent the flaming arrows from being able to hit a target around them and start a fire.

To apply this to my day of every piece of technology appearing to blow up as soon as I touched it, I needed to have faith that God was in control, no matter how many technological issues I experienced. As if that wasn’t enough, the enemy played dirty by the added distraction of not feeling well and also being focused on balancing out obedience to God with obedience to husband. While none of these issues is earth-shattering in themselves, the totality felt like flaming arrows were raining all over my life. Thankfully, I recognized that I was under spiritual attack. The question was how to deal with it?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Armor of God. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Dealing with Spiritual Warfare

viseLast week was a difficult one for me spiritually. To be honest, the last two years have been tough. Ever since we learned in March 2016 that our son needed major back surgery, my life has been filled with one pounding after another. I have no question that this is all spiritual attack. What I do question is when it will ever end!

The purpose of this blog series is not to whine about my problems. Instead, I want to give you a snapshot into what spiritual attack looks like in the life of a believer so you will recognize it when this is happening in your life and so you will have some tools to fight back.

I’m going to give you a glimpse into my life from last week, which you might find amusing since it’s not happening to you. I assure you that none of it felt amusing as I was living through it! Also, I am only sharing one snapshot. I had already been enduring spiritual attack from multiple directions and in much more difficult ways before these events unfolded.

My husband felt strongly about my not participating in a ministry-related endeavor, which is my job that I have no question that God has called me to. I prayed for God to show me how to balance submitting to my husband in everything while being obedient to God’s call in this ministry. I awoke the next morning with a milder version of my husband’s cold. When I tried to print an email on my personal computer, my email program crashed. I tried to fix the program and got a new error that I couldn’t find a solution for online. After I repaired the program, I ran into software registration issues. Once those were resolved, I got the email program open, but when I opened my last backup, none of my electronic to-do list had been saved – I lost a year’s worth of electronic to-do’s that I rely on in my personal life, despite backing them up multiple times.

I logged into work, and anything I tried to print came out illegible. Then, my work computer froze up. I could only “unfreeze” it by unplugging it, and it made scary sounds when it booted back up. After work, I received a package for an electronic device I had been waiting for. I set it up, and it simply stopped working. I decided to drive to a local store that is two miles away to exchange it, but that turned into an 8-mile drive because the main road was closed down for an unexpected reason, and I had to get to the other side of that road to get to the store.

None of what I just wrote about is earth-shattering, but the succession of one obstacle after another can be very frustrating and distract my attention from what God has called me to do, which is the point of spiritual warfare. I had a choice to make – would I allow this series of frustrations to steal my joy and peace?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her head in a vise. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Spiritual Warfare and Christian Leadership

toucheContinued from here.

One of the most challenging aspects of Christian leadership for me is dealing with spiritual attack. I have learned that the more ground I gain for the Kingdom of God as a leader, the more spiritual attack I can expect. Some spiritual attack is more annoying than anything else, such as when my The Armor of God Summer Bible study at my church experienced a wide variety of technical difficulties whenever we tried to air the video for that session. Other spiritual attacks, however, come at a much larger scale.

The spiritual attacks I find most challenging are those aimed at the ones I love. I expected to get slammed personally when I accepted a position as the executive director of a statewide Christian ministry. However, I did not expect the lives of my family and friends to blow up. It’s one thing to endure my own pain to follow God. It takes a deeper level of trust to continue leading in obedience to God as you watch those you love experiencing spiritual attack because of your own choices, especially when those under attack do not have as deep a relationship with God, leaving them much more vulnerable.

As your relationship with God deepens and you are placed into larger areas of leadership responsibility, I encourage you to build a strong prayer base. Recruit people to be prayer warriors on behalf of you, your loved ones, and your ministry (whether it is big or small) so all you do is saturated in prayer. Being covered in prayer provides a safety net when the enemy’s attacks knock you off your feet.

Most importantly, count the cost of following Jesus and decide once and for all whether the cost is worth it to you. This was the advice that Jesus gave. Once you decide that a relationship with God is worth the cost, never again question your commitment, no matter how many times the enemy slams you down. I have learned firsthand that a close, deep, personal, and intimate relationship with God is worth any cost, which is why I am willing to walk into the pain of others. He is worth it.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace being touched by a fencing sword and saying, “Touche.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why Walk into the Pain of Others?

whyContinued from here.

After reading my last blog entry, you might be asking why anyone would be willing to yoke together with another person who is deeply in pain and walk into that pain voluntarily. The short answer is love.

As you grow to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you grow to care about what—and who—God cares about. God deeply cares about the people who are in bondage to deep emotional pain, and He knows the only way for them to walk out of this bondage is for someone to walk God right smack dab into the center that pain. This requires a sacrifice from you, which is why Jesus said “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The cross we must bear is walking into the pain of others so they can walk out with a relationship with God.

Only love will motivate someone to walk into someone else’s pain, and that love comes from God. The authors of my textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), offer these words of wisdom:

Given all this pain or potential pain, why would any sensible person voluntarily stand on its receiving end? The only reason that makes any sense is the call to emulate the Savior, who offered himself as a ransom for many…Only a heart like that of Jesus can bear the pain.”

Only a true disciple of Christ is going to be willing to walk into the pain of others because there’s nothing else appealing about the process. Life brings each of us enough pain. Why would we want to voluntarily walk into someone else’s pain as well? The only reason is love – pure and simple love.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called into leadership – to influence others to seek the same God you have found. Your call might be at a worldwide level like Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer, or it might just be for your own children, friend, or neighbor. Either way, you are a Christian leader and need to take that responsibility seriously.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Leadership Challenge: Bearing the Pain of Others

cryContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared six reasons why people shy away from Christian leadership, as identified in my Global Missions textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). The final point was bearing the pain of others. This is the one that God has been teaching me about over the last several months, so I’d like to devote an entire blog entry to this topic.

The textbook includes the following quote:

You can exercise and sustain personal leadership only to the extent of our capacity to bear pain.”

What exactly does this mean? When you chose to lead (or influence) someone toward a relationship with God, you yoke together with that person, which connects you with that person’s pain. For example, let’s say you choose to yoke together with someone with an addiction. Addiction does not happen in a vacuum – it’s a way to manage and avoid pain. The addiction itself is the symptom: the root of the problem is the pain that only God can fully heal. Leading an addict to Christ involves yoking together with that person and being willing to walk into that pain with him. As you do, you bring the power of God with you, which is the only solution to the problem of the pain.

Many people don’t want to walk in the pain, so they resist becoming a leader of someone in deep emotional pain. However, that’s not how Jesus lived. He was willing to walk in the pain with the Samaritan woman at the well. As a result, not only did he walk the power of God into her pain, but the power of God extended to the entire city!

While some people might be reached through evangelistic efforts that don’t involve yoking together in the pain, many will not. The “noise” of their pain is so loud that it drowns out the evangelistic message shouted from a distance. For those in deep emotional pain to “hear” the gospel, they need a leader to yoke together with them and walk into their pain with God so they can walk out of the pain together and into freedom.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying and kneeling in the tears of a large crying emoticon. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Challenges of Being a Christian Leader

Continued from here.

Why do people shy away from being Christian leaders? My textbook for my Global Missions class, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), lists several reasons for this reluctance.

First, people see the role as fatiguing. The leader has to fill in the gaps when others won’t do a task that needs to be completed, so Christian leadership can be tiring. In other words, leadership seems like too much work to many people.

Second, the leader is responsible for sorting out conflicting duties. I’ll share an example I have dealt with as leader of a Bible study in my local church. One priority is ensuring access to studying God’s Word to everyone. Another priority is ensuring the needs of the participants are met. I was leading a women’s Bible study that a man wanted to join because he was interested in the topic, and the church did not offer any men’s Bible studies at the time. Several women in the group were not comfortable with having a man in the Bible study because they wanted to talk about topics were not appropriate in mixed company. As the leader, I had to make the decision about which priority outweighed the other.

Third, people don’t want the responsibility of being the “bad guy.” In the example I just shared, I had to be the “bad guy” either to the man who wanted to join the group or the women who did not want a man in the group. No matter what I decided, I bore the responsibility of sharing the “bad news.”

Fourth, leading people is not always fun, particularly when they make the job a chore. This is why the Bible tells us to behave in a way that leading us is a joy and not a burden.

The fifth point ties into the second – the leader is responsible for making decisions in times of crisis. While those being led react to their floods of emotions, the leader must stay calm, despite how s/he feels, and make tough decisions in less-than-ideal circumstances.

The final point made in my textbook will be the topic of my next blog entry: bearing the pain of others.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). Courtesy Amazon.com.]