Don’t forget to put your armor on

armor-fighting-spiritual-warfare_1170x350

Samurai were scary people. Many of the popular movies about them have been toned down to make them sympathetic characters, but in reality, they were a brutal, unyielding segment of a society. They had no pity and no mercy, and while I’m sure they had some concept of love, it wasn’t the same as a Westerner like an American would comprehend.

That being said, the samurai fascinate me. They always have. Japanese culture in general is one of my favorite topics, but samurai in particular captivated my interest from the time I was a child. And if you want a really interesting read, there’s a book called Code of the Samurai, which is actually a fast, in-depth read about samurai culture (for any of you culture nerds out there).

A samurai was always ready for battle, always ready to take up arms against an enemy. They were ever-vigilant. And they were obsessed with honor and respect. And nothing is more samurai than the samurai armor, but how long did it take to actually get into one of those rigs? Hours probably. But would a samurai go into battle without his armor? Very unlikely. A samurai’s armor was the symbol of his family, his heritage, his honor, and, honestly, it was just common sense. Who goes into battle without armor?

Unfortunately, I do it every day, and I’m not supposed to.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you have access to armor. And not just any armor—God’s armor. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12-13, “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.

There’s a war raging around us every minute of every day, and we can’t see any of it with our eyes. It’s a struggle for our attention, our faith, our belief. Demons and angels. God and Satan. Granted, God already dealt Satan a fatal blow when Jesus saved us on the cross, but Satan hasn’t backed down yet. He still thinks he can win, so he’s throwing everything he has at us.

So God has given us everything we need to fight back. We just have to choose to accept it.

Truth. God’s righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word. God has given these things to us to fight against what Satan throws at us. If we use them, nothing can hurt us. So why don’t we use them?

Honestly? I forget I have it. I get into the groove of living and think that I’m on my own. I think I have to do it all myself, and that’s a lie.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.[/su_pullquote]

Christians, remember that every day is a battle, and we’re not fighting against what we can see. We don’t fight against our coworkers (no matter if they annoy us) or our family (even if they frustrate us) or our government (even though The Man is getting a little big for his britches). We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.

Don’t forget to put your armor on. Cling to truth. Hold tight to what God says is right. Seek peace and faith. Trust God’s salvation and His Word. And don’t listen to what the devil whispers in your ears. The devil has already lost this war, and when we draw on the power of God’s armor, we’ll win the battle too.

Don’t be afraid, even if you can’t see what’s coming

We’ve got a new batch of kittens at Safe Haven Farm–seven of them! And other than several of them having some issues with runny eyes, they’re all healthy and hilarious. Yesterday I went out to play with them, and I had to laugh. It was a particularly windy day, and every time a gust of wind would come along, all seven would scurry into the shadows of the garage again. When the wind would stop blowing, they’d creep out to play some more, until the wind gusted again. Then they’d scatter.

Being afraid of the wind in Kansas is going to limit their experiences, because it’s always windy here. Eventually they’ll learn not to run in fear when the wind blows, but I couldn’t help but think about how strange it must be. If you’d never felt wind before, it would be pretty scary. You can’t see it, but it can knock you clean over if you aren’t paying attention.

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Jethro, one of the new kittens at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Deuteronomy 3:22.

Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.

When the children of Israel were preparing to go into the land God had promised them, after they’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God turned command of the army over to Joshua. Moses had done his job. And this was one of the messages God left with him: that the people shouldn’t be afraid of what they would encounter on the other side of the Jordan River because God would be there fighting for them.

And that’s a promise God kept over and over again.

We all face moments in our lives when we’re uncertain about what’s coming. In those moments, I always feel like I have some invisible enemy that’s going to sneak up on me when I least expect it. None of us knows what tomorrow is going to bring. It’s difficult to face a day sometimes when you don’t know where you’ll be at the end of it. Some people don’t know if they’ll still have a bed to sleep in. Some people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.

None of us know what’s coming. Like the Children of Israel who’d never seen the land they were going into, we face troubles and frustrations on a daily basis that go above our heads. There are circumstances and situations that we’re not prepared for. There are confrontations and accusations we have to face that we don’t know how to respond to.

It’s all unknown and uncertain, and there’s nothing more terrifying than the unknown. But what God told the Children of Israel back then is the same thing He’s saying to us know. You may not know what’s coming, but He does. And He isn’t passively sitting on the sidelines judging our performance. God is actively involved in our lives and in our world, and He will fight for us.

Granted, if you want God to fight for you, you need to be on His side, which means you need to be doing what He says is right. If you’re there, then you have nothing to fear. If you’re not there? You might want to think about getting there.

Just because I can’t see what’s coming doesn’t mean I should fear it. Most of my future is completely uncertain, but I will choose not to be afraid for one reason and one reason alone–my God is certain. I belong to Him, and He will fight my battles for me.

Finding the courage to face yourself

Have you ever had to face someone who screwed up? Maybe you had to ride in an elevator with them. Maybe you had to carpool with them. Whatever the situation, if you’ve ever had to talk to someone you know has failed miserably, what did that conversation sound like?

Maybe it was work. Maybe it’s their behavior in general. Whatever they’ve messed up in their life, it makes them very difficult to talk to, unless you’re just really good at pretending that nothing is wrong. Or if you’re oblivious.

It’s hard enough to try to have a conversation with someone you’re uncomfortable talking to, but imagine if that person you couldn’t face was yourself. So many times we talk about how difficult it is to face people we don’t like, but have you ever imagined what it would be like if the person you can’t live with is yourself?

How often do shame and regret get the better of people? How many times does failure convince us that we are worthless? Is it possible to have the strength to face ourselves when we know who we are and what we’re capable of?

379470_5874_brokenmirror3Today’s verses are Psalm 130:8-12.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.

It’s really easy to believe that God is a harsh, tyrannical dictator in the sky, pointing out our errors and holding them over our head. It’s easy to believe that He doesn’t care. It’s easy to believe that He doesn’t love us. It’s easier to believe all of that than to accept the truth: He loves us even though we’ve given Him every reason not to.

Haven’t you noticed how much easier it is to hate yourself than to accept the gift of forgiveness from someone you hurt? Maybe that’s just me, but I’d rather beat myself up for ten years or so than to willingly accept forgiveness I don’t deserve. But that’s not what God calls us to do. He doesn’t call us to roll around in our sorrow and grief when we’ve repented.

God has promised that when we turn our lives over to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, He takes our sin–all the things we’ve done wrong–and removed them. They’re as far away as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more.

God isn’t up in heaven pointing out all the things you’ve done wrong. Sure, He knows about them, but if you believe in Jesus, God only sees Christ’s blood on you and not your sin. That doesn’t give you a free pass, of course. You still have to deal with consequences of your sins, but that’s a whole different issue.

If God doesn’t remember our failures anymore, why do we? Why do we get stuck on the past and what we’ve done wrong?

Revelation 12:10 calls Satan, “the accuser of our brothers and sisters.” Do you know what that means? Most of us know that we have an enemy in Satan, but I don’t think we stop to think about what that means. Satan hates us because we belong to God, and he’ll do anything to get us to give up on our relationship with Christ.

Have you sinned? Have you done wrong? Well, join the club. We all have things in our lives that we’re ashamed of. Have you asked forgiveness? If you’ve asked God to forgive you and you’ve chosen to see your actions the way God sees them, you’re forgiven. God promises that. He won’t remember them anymore.

But Satan does. And he will use our past faults and failures to beat us bloody. The easiest way to get someone to fall back into the sin they’ve turned away from is to remind them that they’ve already done it and to convince them that God doesn’t really forgive. Because we have to deserve forgiveness, don’t we?

If you’ve given your life to Christ, if you’ve turned your heart over to Jesus and asked forgiveness for your sin, you are washed clean in Christ’s blood. Period. So when that voice in the back of your brain rises up to condemn you for the things you’ve done, recognize that for what it is.

Our enemy. Trying to derail you. Trying to distract you. Trying to get you to fall.

You have a choice. Don’t listen.

No one deserves God’s grace. No one deserves God’s forgiveness. That’s the point. It’s a gift.

Don’t let Satan beat you up with his lies. Turn to God and remember His grace. He has forgiven you. He promised you He would, and He always keeps His promises. Remember that and you will find the courage to face yourself, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from.

Discouragement is our enemy’s greatest weapon

Pretend you’re a bad guy in a novel or a stage play. What’s the best way you can think of to stop the hero from accomplishing his task? Tie his girlfriend to a set of railroad tracks? Kidnap his daughter and sell her to a human trafficking ring? Manufacture ten thousand nasty, disgusting orcs and send them marching on your ill-prepared fortress?

Every story out there has bad guys in it who do everything in their power to stop the good guys from winning. But every tactic they take usually has one unifying purpose–to discourage them. The intent is to throw so many obstacles in their path–physical, emotional, relational–that it’s not worth it for them to continue.

But the irony of that tactic is that heroes overcome obstacles. That’s what makes them heroes.

Today’s verses are Psalm 19:7-11.964357_95421930_attached2

The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The commandments of the Lord are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
giving insight for living.
Reverence for the Lord is pure,
lasting forever.
The laws of the Lord are true;
each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to your servant,
a great reward for those who obey them.

Christ-followers have an enemy. You knew that, right? And it’s not the non-Christ-followers. It’s not other religions. It’s not any person you can see face to face. No, our enemy is far more deceptive than that, though he’d love us to attack the people around us.

Our enemy is a fallen angel, Satan, who hates God and hates everything God loves. And that includes us. But his tactics are the same as any other enemy in any other story–distraction and discouragement. If he can get us off topic, if he can get us off track, he will, and he’ll use any weapon in his arsenal to accomplish that.

For me, it’s my emotions. If Satan can twist my emotions and discourage me, I’m much more likely to get off track. I lose focus. I lose direction. I lose purpose.

He tells me nobody likes what I write, and I feel discouraged. So I stop writing. He tells me I’ll never be able to get healthy, and I feel discouraged. So I stop living a healthy lifestyle. He tells me that I’m not good enough to have friends, and I feel discouraged. So I stop reaching out to people.

Giving in to discouragement is so easy. It doesn’t take effort or intention or planning or anything. You just give up.

And that’s exactly what he wants. Why? Because God has a plan for you. God has a plan for your life, and God can use you to do amazing and tremendous and miraculous things that will help other people find Jesus. And that’s the last thing Satan wants.

So instead of trusting what you feel, start trusting what you know. I know my emotions deceive me. Satan can use my emotions against me, so I can’t trust them. Instead, I need to trust God’s Word. I need to hold on to what God has said is true, not only about my life but about me as a person.

God’s instructions are perfect and revitalizing. His Word makes people wise. His directions bring people joy. He’s never vague, and He never fails to reward people who follow Him. That’s fact. That’s truth. And if you ever doubt it, that’s not Him speaking.

So what do you do when you’re fighting discouragement? How do you handle it when the enemy is throwing obstacle after obstacle in your path?

Just stop.

Stop right where you are.

And rejoice.

Look at that obstacle and see it for what is–a sign that your enemy doesn’t want you to succeed but that your God is bigger than he is. And if that isn’t reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

When the enemy tells you you’re worthless, you remind him that God gave the most precious blood in all the universe to pay for your life. When the enemy tells you you’re talentless, you remind him that God made you to do something awesome. When the enemy tells you you’re unlovable, remind him what God sacrificed for your soul. When the enemy tells you you’re hopeless, remind him Who you belong to.

Don’t trust what you feel. Trust what God has told you. God’s Words are the best weapon you have to fight the discouragement our enemy throws at you. So use them. Remember what God has done for you. Mark it down, and the next time Satan comes after you, shove it in his face in Jesus’ name.

And sing. Or dance. Or spin in circles and jump up and down. Whatever.

Just celebrate. Because if you’ve got obstacles, that means you’re human. If you overcome them, that makes you a hero.

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Fight worry and anxiety by making a choice

 

Why is it so hard to let go of things you can’t control? Where does the desire to control everything come from anyway? Is it pride?

I couldn’t tell you. What I know for sure is that me trying to control everything is a bad idea for a lot of different reasons. To really be able to control everything, I’d need to know everything. I’d need to be everywhere at once. I’d need to be able to do several things at once. And I obviously can’t do either of those things, and that’s just the start.

I know I can’t do any of that. So why—why?—do I still keep trying to take over things? And why do I insist on worrying about stuff anyway? Why do I let my stomach knot up and my shoulders go tight? I don’t believe that worrying about things actually changes anything. So why do I do it?

Today’s verse is Philippians 4:6.

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Bright yellow flower at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Worry is one of the greatest deceivers in our lives. It masquerades as something useful, when it’s actually useless. It wears a mask to disguise itself as “something you can do” when more often than not worrying prevents you from actually doing anything at all.

Worry is the great time waster, the greatest distraction you’ll face in your everyday life. At least, that’s what I’ve discovered. I can be having a perfectly fine day until something crops up that I feel the need to worry about. Then good luck getting me focused again. If I’m worrying about something, I’ll run myself into the ground pacing. I’ll turn my own hair gray stressing, if I don’t pull it out by its roots.

So what do you do when you feel the need to worry? Is there some magic word you can say that makes the desire disappear? Is there something you can do that relieves you of the burning need to fuss and fret and pick yourself or others apart?

If there is, I haven’t found it.

The truth about worry is that it’s a choice. You make the choice to worry or not to worry. You choose to spend your time that way or not. Nobody comes up to you and forces you to worry about something, but our enemy is really good at whispering all the things that we should worry about in our ears.

Our enemy knows what we’re afraid of. He knows how to scare us. He knows how to unsettle us and distract us, and worry is one of the best tools to accomplish all of that. The best course of action when he starts whispering his lies is to recognize them for what they are. Lies. All lies. All of them.

And once you recognize them, take steps to neutralize them. Have someone you can talk to who will encourage you and remind you that our enemy is a liar. Have evidence for yourself to prove that you’re not a failure, that you aren’t generally disliked, that you’ve actually managed to accomplish something with your life.

You have the choice. You can either sit still and let worry turn you inside out. Or you can take steps to remind yourself that worrying doesn’t accomplish anything.

Will that make the worry go away? I wish I could tell you it did, but in my experience even recognizing that worrying is foolish doesn’t make it disappear. What it does accomplish, though, is that it keeps you from making spontaneous, foolish decisions while you’re emotionally distraught.

God says don’t worry. So don’t. When you feel yourself starting down that path, stop. Identify what it is that you’re worried about and give it to God. Tell Him you’re giving it to Him, and you’re not going to worry about it anymore. And ask Him—seriously—to help you remember that. So when you try to take it back, He’ll thump you on the nose.

He’ll do it. Figuratively, of course. But He will.

He’s got everything under control, and He CAN be everywhere and do everything and know everything all at once. So there’s no one better to control everything than God. And even if it doesn’t feel okay right now, trust me, He’s working it out. And eventually it will be okay.

***alwayspeachy***

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A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It never rains, it hails

I live in Kansas. Have I mentioned that? Because I do. But I don’t just live in Kansas. I live in a small, remote area of wheat fields and sheep farms that tends to attract the most extreme weather in the state. And Kansas is a land of extreme weather.

I have multiple friends who are trained weather spotters, and one of them calls my house the Bermuda triangle of weather. Generally speaking, if there’s bad weather going on in Kansas, the strangest weather will be right over my house.

Take Wednesday night for example. The whole state had storms, yes. But the big, glaring red spot with Ping-Pong ball size hail was where? You betcha. Centered right over my house. And yesterday morning I got up for work and looked at the house, and in the morning light it looked fine. My brand new vinyl siding had weathered the storm! Hooray!

Well, hold your horses. I didn’t check the south side of the house where there were a dozen holes in the siding–some the size of tennis balls. Brand new siding–totaled. Brand new window screens–totaled. Brand new gutters–dented and dinged.

And this isn’t the first time this has happened. This same thing happened in 2007. We had a horrible storm, Broke windows, destroyed the siding, totaled the roof. So we got it fixed. And the week after–maybe even the day after–the last bit of work finished, another storm blew through and did twice as much damage.

And don’t think I’m complaining. This is life in Kansas. And we got off easy this time, honestly. None of the windows broke. The cars were all under cover. And all the trees that could have come down have already come down. If I wasn’t willing to handle this kind of life, I would have moved years ago.

But what struck me as I stood in the back yard, gawking at my Swiss- cheese-formerly-known-as-vinyl-siding is the timing. Oh, the timing of this storm is just amazing. Smack dab in some of the busiest months of my year. I’m running wild. My parents are running wild. And in the last few days, it feels like everything has just blown up.

What do you do in moments like that? How do you keep moving forward? How do you press on when it feels like every step you take is just the prelude to taking three steps backward?

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A rather large hole in my brand new siding at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Peter 1:6-7.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Life here isn’t perfect, and it’s never going to be perfect. If we think it’s going to be, we’re just asking to be disappointed. And, let’s just face it, Christians, we have an enemy out there who doesn’t want to see us succeed for the cause of Christ.

Now, that doesn’t mean we should start jumping at shadows. I’ve met people who like blaming their difficult situations on Satan when it’s usually fairly obvious that their own bad choices have led them to where they are.

So don’t hesitate to examine your life. Check your heart. Check your attitude. See where you are with God. Before you start blaming all your life’s problems on Satan, make sure that you haven’t made decisions that have led to your current trouble. And if you find out that you have made mistakes, stop.

But, if you examine your life and you find that you have done the best you can, that you have held to what the Bible says, that you’ve put God first in every aspect of your life–and you’re still having crazy insane issues that don’t seem to stop? Well, then it’s a good chance that the Bad Guy is trying to slow you down.

And in that case? Don’t let him.

When you can step back and recognize that what you’re experiencing is simply our enemy picking on you, his petty schemes are easier to spot and they’re much easier to laugh at.

Yes. Laugh at.

And honestly that’s the best thing you can do. If he has to resort to throwing sticks and (hail)stones at us to upset us, he really must be desperate.

Don’t let him win. Don’t give in. Yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, it’s overwhelming. But think of the big picture. Remember who’s already won this war. And when you put the whole thing into context, you aren’t in as much trouble as you feel like.  Because God is bigger than anything Satan can throw at you.

So remember that the next time it hails on you. Siding can be replaced. Houses can be repaired. Lives can be rebuilt. And, in the end, Satan has already lost because he can’t take the things that really matter away as long as they already belong to Christ.

Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you can drive like an idiot

People in Wichita don’t know how to drive. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s never more obvious than when the weather is bad. The worse the weather, the worse the drivers out in it are. They either go too fast or too slow. I usually get to see the colorful variety of Wichita’s most inept every Monday through Friday morning as I drive into work. It’s an odd mixture of people and an even odder mixture of vehicles.

One morning last week, I drove a couple of miles with a big white van riding my bumper. I was going five over, and I couldn’t see their headlights they were so close. I got over out of their way as soon as I could, and they shot around me like I was standing still. Not a big deal—except that the conditions were somewhat treacherous. That same day, a newish SUV with big tires and bright lights crept along the highway, hovering in the middle of both lanes, taking up too much room on both sides and not letting anyone pass. The guy was going at least 30 under, which is never a good idea on K-96 on a weekday morning around 7:15.

I thought it was ironic, the giant under-tired white van was clipping along like it ruled the road and the new SUV, designed for foul weather conditions, was afraid to accelerate. And that got me thinking about how many circumstances we encounter in our own lives that are exactly like that.

Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 18:39.

You have armed me with strength for the battle;
    you have subdued my enemies under my feet. 

Have you ever charged into a fight when you weren’t prepared for it? Have you ever walked into a situation you weren’t equipped to handle? I have. There’s no worse feeling in the world than realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Why? Well, it’s not exactly like you can bow out; you’ll lose respect. But at the same time, you don’t know what you’re doing, so you can’t help but fail, which means you’ll lose respect. But have you ever considered the flip side of that situation?

How many times, as Christians, do we hang back and fear our own inadequacy when we are more than capable of doing what needs to be done? This is me. This is me all the way. All my life I have struggled with feelings of insufficiency and inadequacy. People laugh at me when I say that, but it’s the absolute truth. My greatest fear is failing to perform to the expectations of people I love and respect, and that fear has kept me bound in silence many times when I probably should have spoken up.

Mentor a child? I’m not good enough. Share Christ with someone who doesn’t believe? I don’t know enough. Volunteer for a church ministry? I’m not talented enough. Any of those sound familiar? This isn’t really a Christmas post, but what better time of year to consider this issue?

How many of us live our Christian life like a fully equipped SUV crawling along in the snow? How many of us Christians are so burdened and weighed down with fears of our own inadequacy that we never even try to run? We’re so afraid that we never move faster than a walk, and we don’t get nearly as far as we might have if we would have used our gifts to their fullest. This is a reminder to me today. I convince myself that I’m not good enough, not talented enough, not fast enough, not brave enough to do the things that God has called me to do. But those things that I tell myself aren’t true. God has promised to equip me to accomplish everything He’s planned for me to do.

As it usually works with things in my life, my life isn’t about me; it’s about God and what God wants to do with my life. Now, that doesn’t mean we should be like the rickety old van, barreling down a snow-covered highway when it’s not designed for that kind of speed. God has a plan and a purpose for all our lives. Like me. I’m a writer, a communicator, a storyteller. I’ve known that since I was little. So if I try to make a living using mathematics, not only am I going to fail miserably at my job, I’ll be miserable. God has equipped us for whatever task He intends us to complete. We just have to be willing to take Him at His Word.

So ask yourself what you’re afraid of this morning. Are you crawling along when you could be running? Or are you running down a road you should be walking? Personally, I prefer speed. I’ll always go fast if I can, but pushing my limits on an icy road when my car has bald tires is more than irresponsible. It’s just plain dumb.

So don’t be dumb. Know your limits, but don’t be afraid to push them when you know you’re where God wants you.