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Beauty In The Battle

"Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to our holy name and glory in your praise."  Psalms 106:47

Holy God, the heavens are your battleground!  You fight against the cosmic forces over darkness.  Your power and majesty are at work all around me through the unseen world of the spirit.  And through my earthly worship I take up your sword each day to withstand any evil, in your Son’s name.  Amen

One of my favorite lines by Jesus in the Bible is, “Get behind me, Satan!” as He rebukes Peter for having the wrong mindset about Jesus’ work. His exact words are repeated in Matthew 16 and Mark 8.  Jesus also uses similar words in speaking directly to Satan in Matthew 4:10 with “Be gone, Satan!”  I jokingly use these phrases when donuts appear in front me.  Recently, however I heard teaching about spiritual warfare and I realized I had the completely wrong approach to it.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7

We so often talk about rebuking Satan or fighting our “Goliaths” when in reality we shouldn’t be speaking to the devil at all.  It’s dangerous work that I would venture to say most of us are not prepared to withstand.  Even the archangel Michael used God as his shield rather than his own words.  Instead, we should be relying on the incredible power of the Trinity to fight our spiritual battles.  

Along this same line I once told a friend we shouldn’t be asking, “What would Jesus do?” but rather what would Jesus want me to do? We are not fully man and fully God.  We are just man.  And we need to acknowledge that alone we only have the power given to us through the Spirit.  God, through His great love for us, will take care of the rest.  Isn’t that beautiful and amazing?

So what do we do?  We enact the famous lines from Ephesians 6 and put on our armor of God.  We stand firm in God’s truth.  We fit our feet with Jesus’ gospel of peace.  We arm ourselves with the shield of faith and the sword of God’s Word.  In other words, we allow God to fight His glorious fight with the devil while we do the seemingly mundane acts of worship, studying our Bibles, praying for intercession, baptizing in His name, and spreading His Word of peace and salvation.

Friends, we need to start saying, “Get behind my Lord and Savior Jesus, Satan.”  He is the blinding shield, the kryptonite against evil.  He is the most powerful weapon we could ever imagine to ward off the arrows lobbed at us.  Each time we open our Bibles, go to church, show love to a stranger, speak the Gospel truth into a friend we place that shield firmly in place for God to enter into battle.

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Hemmed In

You hem me in behind and before, and 
you lay your hand upon me. 
Psalm 139:5

My BSGs were talking the other day about sensing God’s presence.  More specifically about the times we felt God was far away from us.  So often when we are experiencing difficult trials we think “where is God?”  But I’ve come to realize in my faith journey that the real question is the one God asks, “Will you come back to me and rest in my love?”

God surrounds us each and every day.  In our verse today it’s expressed as “hemming us in.”  For some that might seem restricting.  But to me it evokes the concept of wrapping a baby tightly in a swaddling cloth.  We do it so the baby feels the warmth and safety once felt while inside the womb.  And that’s what God wants for us. 

I will not leave you comfortless: I will 
come to you. 
John 14:18

Those are Jesus’ words.  He sent us the Holy Spirit to always be in us.  We don’t need to go looking for it.  We don’t need to beg for it to descend upon us.  God indwells.  So, what is truly required of us when we experience difficult times is to rest in what is already available to us.

“It may look like I’m surrounded but I’m surrounded by you!”

Upper Room, Surrounded (Fight My Battles)

When I think about the times I felt distanced from God I also think back to when the Israelites were out in the desert.  They could actually see God’s spirit hovering over their camp day and night.  And yet, they asked, “Where is God?”  I don’t have the benefit of seeing a cloud follow me around day and night.  And, I don’t have the physical Jesus to sit down with at dinner to share my problems.  So, I give myself a bit of grace when I forget He is always with me. 

When I rest and tap into the strength and love and goodness of the Holy Spirit I find that promised peace.  It most likely won’t change the circumstances of the trial I’m experiencing.  But knowing He is with me, with His hand laid upon me, gives me the strength to continue.

My friend Betsy is an avid, extreme hiker.  Last year, at 70 years old, she set off to tackle the John Muir Trail solo.  She came to a particularly difficult portion and her body starting giving her troubles.  She has dreamed of this trip for years – and attempted it a few times.  She became distraught that she couldn’t go on.  With her, in case of emergency, was her Iphone.  She made the decision to use it to listen to some Christian music in the midst of this struggle.  As she reached the crest of the difficult portion, filled with the music of the Holy Spirit, her mind was transformed.  She had plugged back in to her closeness with God.  

Betsy wasn’t able to complete her goal.  But she gained so much more.  A confirmation that God never leaves us.  We just need to rest in that “hemmed in” space He provides.

Here’s a prayer from Sparkling Gems from the Greek to pray when we feel separated from God:

Lord, I thank you that I am not a spiritual orphan in this world.  You did not abandon me or leave me to figure out everything on my own.  You sent the Holy Spirit to me to be my Teacher and Guide.  So right now, I open my heart wide to the Holy Spirit, so He can be the Helper You sent Him to be in my life.  I give You thanks for sending this divine Helper and I ask You to teach me how to lean upon Him more and more in the course of my life.  I pray this in Jesus’ name!