Tug of World

During the approximately 81 hours of pep rallies I experienced (translation: endured) during my high school teaching years, Tug o’ War between the classes was one of the most popular games played. The freshmen developed school spirit by competing against the sophomores. The seniors usually triumphed over the juniors, of course. What was up with that?

Even this non-athlete knows that Tug o’ War starts with each side determined to win, taking a firm, strong stance. In a good game, things appear equal on both sides as players flex muscles, lean back, and grit teeth. Slowly, the balance of power changes as one side gains the advantage. If it’s still a good game, the advantage might shift again. In a less-than-equal contest, one side wins suddenly with a mighty tug.

In yesterday’s sermon, our pastor tackled the subject of spiritual warfare, beginning a series entitled Winning: Put on the Full Armor of God. He’s dealt with this before, and one of the most useful aspects of his teaching was the technique of naming our spiritual battles. Earlier, I shared how I applied this technique in Battle of Loopy Lie Valley and The War for Independence. Once I identify what mind games the enemy is using in my spiritual battles, it’s harder to ignore them. Sometimes I’m in the middle of full-blown conflict without realizing it, and having a list of battles won previously with God’s help wakes me up and calls me back into the fight. It just occured to me that Could I Interest You in an Appetizer? grew out of my facing The Day of Distraction, another frequent battle.

So what is Tug o’ World and what do I do about it? At first, I’m standing firm, Kingdom priorities in order, viewing the world around me from a relatively mature believer’s perspective. I’m making an effort, with the Holy Spirit’s help, to stay on mission. “This world is not my home” is a growing reality in my life, not just a song.

And then I listen to the news just an hour more one day. And the next. The familiar voices and faces are comforting. And then I leave the television on as I do things around the house instead of listening to Christian music. The tug of the world is so subtle. I scroll mindlessly through Facebook, duped that something there will inspire me–still watching the news, of course. Gradually, my world is very different. If I’m not careful, I might find myself in the Skirmish of Imagination Inflation before I know it, worrying about being an invisible senior locked away forever “for my protection” or plotting a dystopian novel I do not intend to write.

A friend is having a new home built nearby. She’s immersed in design details and appliance purchases, and runs her ideas by me. Recently, I got my neighbors together to have our sad, sagging townhome fences replaced and I had my treacherous front steps rebuilt. Fun, positive conversations and projects providing a welcome distraction from current events. I watched HGTV instead of the news. But then I started salivating over appliances and flooring samples in Home Depot and dropped into bed still thinking about my next project. Tug o’ World had shifted from politics to material things, but I was still losing the battle.

Praise God that He does not leave us alone, wandering about the battlefield like soldiers with amnesia! Much more patient that a drill sergeant, He teaches the same lesson over and over in different ways, presenting me with weapons and showing me how to use them.

Here are a few of these scripture weapons:

Hebrews 12:1-3, in particular the command to “fix my eyes on Jesus” from verse 2. Sometimes a reminder is enough to prepare me for the next tug of the world. Way back when I was taking driver’s ed, one of the students in my car needed a constant reminder to “watch the road.” Scary! Those prompts kept us alive, though. Fixing my eyes on Jesus helps me win the battle.

When Proverbs 3:5-6 “insisted” on becoming my 2020 verse of the year, I admit I was disappointed. Why this oldie instead of something new and challenging? Ha! I had no idea how pertinent this advice would be in 2020! I can’t pretend to understand what’s going on right now or know how it will play out, but God does, and I need a constant reminder to lean on Him. I need to submit to Him in everything–not an easy task, but so important for straight paths and winning my battles. (Preaching to myself again–I’ve forgotten this verse lately!)

The book of Revelation has encouraged me lately. In particular, Chuck Swindoll’s Living Insights Commentary has helped me see in more graphic ways the reality of what’s become a platitude: God is in control. Oh, how the enemy wants me to think I need to be in control, or certain politicians should or shouldn’t be in control! There are so many weapons here in skirmishes of Imagination Inflation that I had trouble choosing. Here’s a sample from page 107 in the application of Revelation 5:1-14:

The One who is worthy to exercise judgment and rule over the earth will accomplish His will through your life. Human history is littered with the wreckage of failed attempts to fix humanity’s problems, but we can turn to Christ, who has paid the price to bring about a glorious future. When we trust in Christ instead of ourselves, the evil and opposition of the world seems much less daunting. It’s all subject to Him! When we see His brilliant splendor looming on the horizon, we can endure this present darkness with ever-increasing hope.

Enough said!

Stay in the battle. Preaching to myself.

Battle of Loopy Lie Valley

 

peru-2287008_1920The Battle for Independence is probably tied with the Battle of Loopy Lie Valley in deadliness. As mentioned earlier, we actually need to lose the Battle for Independence. All our other spiritual battles must be won. The great news is, we are guaranteed ultimate victory–we are more than conquerors! (Romans 8:31-39).

Generals in the Pentagon name their “operations,” probably before they start. Some of the operations have cryptic names for obvious reasons. Others have names that hint at their purpose.

But what is Loopy Lie Valley, and why did I name this battle in the first place?

In a study on spiritual warfare, our pastor recommended naming our spiritual battles. I don’t recall that he explained why, but it didn’t take long for me to see the wisdom in this idea.

–The enemy (Satan) isn’t terribly creative and original. He tends to use the same deceptive tactics over and over.

–If something has a name, it’s been identified and it’s easier to fight.

(The pastor probably didn’t anticipate the fun I’d have making my different battle names sound like cheesy westerns. Here too, the more memorable the better.)

The action in Loopy Lie Valley has the potential to last for days, and often did, when I didn’t know it was happening!

So what are “loopy lies” anyway? They are those sudden negative, condemning thoughts that won’t let go–things you thought you’d dealt with long ago. Suddenly, there they are haunting and taunting you! Know them and call them out for the lies they are!

They thrive on endless loops. Don’t bother trying to analyze your way out. Applying logic to squelch them won’t work either, because another random lie will jump in and keep the loop going. The enemy will use anything in a pinch, and I’ve found he resorts to the same loopy lies or slight variations thereof.

The loop usually starts when I recall a past sin for which I’ve repented and received forgiveness. If I attempt to deal with this in my own strength (my flesh), I will get sidetracked by attempting some sort of cleanup operation (legalism)–trying again to do what I never could do outside of God’s grace–make myself acceptable to Him again. I will feel like an imposter and wnt to hide from other believers. (After all, they have it all together and I’m the only unworthy one, right?)

This lie sounds so spiritual. Don’t let the enemy fool you–it’s anything but! Remember how he quoted scripture when he tempted Jesus?

The specific weapons I use against this loopy lie are Romans 8:1 and I John 1:9. Shout them aloud if necessary and take that thought captive to the control of Christ. If legalism has crept in and I need to remind myself that I am free in Jesus, I wield Galatians 5:1.

Another lie I fight is the lack of assurance of salvation. It used to be way too easy for Satan to get me to question and worry about the fact that I was saved at age four after hearing a talk about hell in children’s church. What more vital weapon for the enemy to steal than my helmet of salvation? What better way to halt the progress of the gospel than to make a disciple apologetic about her own salvation experience?

Mentally, I put on that helmet of salvation every morning–thanking God aloud that he authored my faith (Hebrews 12:2) when I was four and had held onto me (John 10:27-29) through my ups, downs, rebellion, and repentance ever since. Lest I dare worry about the future, I often remind myself that my salvation is a done deal (Romans 8:29-30) and that God will keep me firm to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Rehearsing the truth every morning as I don my “helmet” has made this loopy lie rare and almost laughable. If I need to use the weapon at other times, it’s close at hand. Although I’m not as outspoken a witness as I’d like to be, I am working on boldly sharing my faith journey with believers and unbelievers.

Don’t panic if the loopy lies hit!

–Know the most common ones the enemy uses on you.

–Counter them with the antidote–truth from God’s Word.

–Don’t become self-absorbed and indulge the lies–take them captive.

–If the loop doesn’t evaporate, don’t hide from fellow believers. Enlist their support through prayer.

Remember, God gives you the victory!

The War for Independence

independent-woman-3566942_1920“I REFUSE TO BE DEPENDENT,” proclaims an inspirational poster in the physical therapist’s office.

Amen. Why else would I be torturing myself twice a week and committing (more or less)to exercise at home?

Americans have always had a reputation for being fiercely independent. We celebrate the anniversary of our War for Independence from Great Britain every July. Much of our youth revolves around “growing up” and milestones such as getting our first job and our first car, then moving away from home.

That’s normal, right? Even preferable to being dependent on someone else.

We even let this attitude infect our spiritual lives: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re up for following a short rabbit trail, check out the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia. The final section, which covers how many people think this statement is in the Bible, and whether this idea is actually biblical, is fascinating!

In my life, the “War for Independence” is one of my primary spiritual battles. Winning this battle means I must lose my independence. Just as I rely on the Lord for salvation, I must learn to rely on Him for my other needs. Unfortunately, when my sin nature flares, I find that I don’t really like to be dependent on God. I want Him to be there when I need Him, yes, but I’m not wild about needing to need Him!

Does that make sense?

Adam and Eve apparently felt the same way. They opted for trying to become as wise as God. Abraham got tired to waiting for God to make Him the father of a great nation and took matters into his own hands. Satan may have been counting on Jesus to cease being dependent and submitting to His Father’s will when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

On my fleshly and feisty days, I dislike being a clay pot in the hands of the Potter. I’m like a terrible two-year-old, stomping my foot and saying, “No!”

But it’s the Potter’s job to make sure I learn to rely on Him and remember the good results when I do. Despite their Ebenezer stones, various festivals, and scriptural records, the Israelites struggled to remember and rely on God’s faithfulness. I journal and rely on scripture to remind me that God is always faithful and utterly reliable. As I review these and listen to fellow believers recount their own stories, the Holy Spirit strengthens me in my battle to depend on God.

I can adopt the posture of dependence more easily when I think of my relationship to God as a child to her Father. He invites us to bring our all anxieties to Him, which requires humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.

Why be dependent?

Only works done by the Spirit will last.

It glorifies God instead of ourselves.

It prevents lapsing into legalism and works-based religion.

We will grow in grace and become more like Jesus.

What better reason do we need?

Preaching to myself again!