The Blessings of a Long Battle, Part 3

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From Jonathan Coe’s website at http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you gracious brother! (I’m so glad you are my friend.)

As I look over the last two posts on the blessings of a long battle, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians about the importance of not being ignorant concerning the schemes of Satan (II Corinthians 2:11). After reading those posts, I realized a word of balance was needed in discussing the relationship of formulaic Christianity to spiritual practices lest the devil distort the truth to his advantage.

Both posts encouraged the believer to move beyond canned formulas to a restful trust in and radical dependence on Christ. A common formula for someone who finds themselves in a protracted struggle with sin, weakness, or some thorn in the flesh is “Read the Bible, pray, and attend church and that will solve your problem.”

These are wonderful spiritual practices but the problem is that people begin to trust in the formula more than the Person who can heal their inner leper. The formula can become a religious idol.

The biblical view of spiritual practices (prayer, Scripture study, church attendance, fellowship, fasting, meditation, and the sacraments) is that they are both avenues of renewal and bridges to intimacy with the Living God. They are sacramental; they are a means of grace.

Christ is the Vine; we are the branches. One of the primary ways that the branches stay connected to the Vine is through spiritual practices. That is how we abide in him and apart from abiding in him, we can do nothing.

This next part is crucial, and, if you only get one thing out of this post, this is it: when the believer gets frustrated enough to forsake impotent formulas, the devil’s primary agenda then is to get that person to forsake authentic, life–giving spiritual practices too.

That’s why the Christian should ask for wisdom every day so that he or she can tell the difference between the two. Satan is more than happy to allow us to forsake the false as long as we don’t replace it with the real.

It’s part of the human condition that, in our anger and frustration, we often throw out the wheat with the chaff. And a person who is involved in a long, difficult battle is going to need all the grace–filled spiritual practices they have time for!

I’m convinced that when the devil sees a believer, who is involved in a long battle, leave anemic formulas and begin to become engaged in regular, soul–nourishing spiritual practices, it fills him with uncontrollable rage. He will come to that Christian with many false voices in an effort to separate the branch from the Vine. Here’s a small sampling:

  • “ You tried this religious stuff before and you still have the same addiction/weakness/problem. What makes you think it’s going to work this time?”
  • “If you have your quiet time with God in the morning when you don’t feel like it, you’re being a phony. You should only do it when you feel like it.”
  • “If your quiet time with God becomes a regular thing, it will become a dead religious ritual. You don’t want to become legalistic. Keep things spontaneous. Just do it when your heart moves you to do it.”
  • “Regular spiritual practices aren’t the real you. You can find God in every day life without them in a way that fits your personality.”
  • “You’re a person of action not of contemplation. You get things done without all this navel–gazing and spiritual stuff.”

These are just a few plays out of the devil’s playbook. May God give us the discernment to recognize his voice and the wisdom to reject his counsel.

Reposted from http://www.openheavensblog.com/. Thank you Jonathan for your great teaching.

Memories Haunt in the Light

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For many who have struggled with depression, as I have, often suffer from an underlying brokenness that stems from past tragedies that we can’t seem to completely forget. We try to understand why and pray for forgetfulness that never seems to come. But even so, when we know Jesus as our Savior the Light is never extinguished.

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Memories Haunt in the Light

I stand upon the solid Rock
I’ve found my firm foundation
Living each day in the Light
Being sure of my salvation

I know His words of grace are true
‘Cause I feel them deep in my heart
I rise each day, out into the world
And that’s when the memories start

The sky is blue, the sun is bright
A chill wind stings my face
I should be happy and light, but cold
Triggers thoughts I seem to chase

Like Paul with his thorn, I pray the Lord
Would remove the pain today
“My grace is sufficient,” He replies
As over and over I cry and pray

But what if grace is not enough
As this memory haunts the light
This is when I must trust and believe
To escape the darkness of night

He uses this memory of pain
To teach me compassion and grace
For the bruised and the broken
Haunted by memories of disgrace

He’s made me merciful and kind
This lesson is not meant to destroy
But some days I’d rather be less caring
And remember only love and joy

My Rock remains firm beneath me
In spite of my doubt and fury
His grace will suffice, I rest in His Light
One day this memory He’ll bury

aasignLinda

A Peace That Teaches

“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God!”

Colossians 3:16-17, The Message

At times, there has to be a forceful unity in us and through us.  The idea of “tuning” yourself to someone else is a bit rattling, and even scary.  “What if they are confused, or indifferent?”  There exists a real fear of combining our hearts with another. It is a special challenge in our culture that stresses individual rights. We think ‘me’ when we should be thinking ‘we.’  We need to fall in step with someone else.

There also exists a need for us to cultivate thankfulness and gracefulness. To be blunt, this is not an easy thing.  It is most hard.  Cultivation implies so much– long days of work under a hot sun. But, if it works we will take it. For many of us, this could become our very next step in our discipleship.

This passage in Colossians seems to emphasize our real need to let the Word run furiously throughout our lives.  I have watched “The Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona. We are being chased.  But what I have seen is both beautiful and frightening.  The Book of Colossians can be like this.  So many challenges, and yet also very wonderful ones.

God’s Word however, is penultimate, it is to be supreme.  It simply demands total control of us. We are charged in these verses, to let the Word go crazy in our lives.  But it can’t rest stagnant and alone.  Rather we are to become belligerent and insistent voices that directs everything to Him. We stand, and then we reflect all of the glory to Jesus.

We learn in these two verses on the need for us to sing.  Singing can be something we grind out.  A great deal of effort exists before we can really make this take place.  But I still don’t think this is what the Apostle Paul has in mind.  Music is bound to happen inside our hearts.  We are to become saints of praise– singing saints.

Dear one, be a believer that sings.  Find your voice, and then lift it up to Him. If you have come to this point, I must believe you have truly understood His exceptional grace to you. But we also need to sing for our brothers. Countless times I have been encouraged by the songs coming from my companions of this amazing journey.