Dealing with Spiritual Warfare

I have some friends that are in the midst of some heavy spiritual warfare. I (and probably a lot of you) have been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

I can’t say it was a pleasant experience. It was anything but. Looking back, I’ve found a few nuggets of wisdom that helped me to get through that dark night of the soul.

First of all, make Zephaniah 3:17 your mantra. Read it as often as you can in as many translations as you can. Write it down and post it in as many places as you’re liable to go  during the day. Memorize it. Let every word of that verse sink in deeply and meditate on the fact that God is speaking those words directly to you.

Next, I recommend praying out loud. I for one am normally not one to pray out loud when I’m alone. It feels strange and awkward. But there’s something about declaring with your voice the blood of Jesus and claiming the victory He’s won over the spiritual foes you’re facing.

I personally tend to shy away from prayers about how I’m going to take down the devil myself. I think of that verse where even in the book of Jude the archangel Michael didn’t confront the devil head-on, but instead said “The Lord rebuke you.” I know that by myself I am no match for Satan but under the protection of the blood and the name of Jesus, Satan has no power over me whatsoever.

Finally, I’d say to surround yourself with people who will encourage you, who will speak life into your darkness, who will pray unceasingly for you and be strong for you when you are weak. People who will gently correct you when you’re tempted to believe your overwhelming feelings above God’s promises.

I want to remind you that God is faithful even now when it seems like He’s a million miles away. God can take even this dark and dry season and turn it into something more than worth any struggle and pain.

God is good. All the time. All the time, God is good.

Darkness Defeated

I used to be absolutely terrified of the dark. As a child, I suffered though nightmares and anxiety and phobias, all associated with darkness. I even dreaded going to sleep at night because of my fears.

Eventually, I overcame those fears through the normal process of growing up. That and I would cram every stuffed animal I owned in the bed with me when I went to bed at night.

Lately it occurred to me that if a single candle can dispel all the darkness in any given room, then darkness is revealed to be powerless and impotent.

Jesus stated that He is the light of the world. He has already overcome darkness and everything associated with it. In fact, He has already overcome anything we could ever possibly be afraid of.

That’s a very comforting notion in a world where anxieties run rampant and fear rules the major part of the lives of the majority. In fact, both the news and social media are driven by fear.

Fear has no place in God’s economy. Perfect love casts out fear. The more one truly knows and understands how much he or she is loved, the less place there is for fear, because love and fear cannot co-exist within the same human heart. One displaces the other.

The ultimate destiny of darkness is defeat. There is no scenario where darkness ultimately overcomes the light. The only way darkness wins at all is in the absolute absence of light. The only way evil wins in this world is when good stays silent and hidden.

The final victory of light over dark is found in heaven where there is no need of sun or moon or stars, because Jesus is the light there. There is no more night or darkness or shadows because there is no place where the light is not present.

Here, we are the light of the world. May we not only find deliverance from our own anxieties about darkness but be instrumental in helping others overcome as well.



A Certainty that Cannot Be Shaken

“We say, then, to anyone who is under trial, give Him time to steep the soul in His eternal truth. Go into the open air, look up into the depths of the sky, or out upon the wideness of the sea, or on the strength of the hills that is His also; or, if bound in the body, go forth in the spirit; spirit is not bound. Give Him time and, as surely as dawn follows night, there will break upon the heart a sense of certainty that cannot be shaken” (Amy Carmichael).

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what happened in Paris.

Granted, I didn’t even hear about it until I’d gotten home from work.

I turned on CNN and saw where at least 153 people had been killed in what looks like ISIS terrorist attacks on innocent civilians.

If it happened there, it could happen here. But still, the fact that it happened anywhere matters. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Attacks on liberty are a threat to liberty anywhere and everywhere.

I still don’t know why things like that happen. I know it’s a fallen and broken world. I know that people are capable of the worst acts, as evidenced by the Holocaust and Slavery and a million other atrocities.

I also know that God is in control.

I know that God can take the worst tragedies and turn them into something beautiful.

I still believe that in the end, Love wins. Jesus wins.

I know and believe with all my heart that, try as it might, darkness can never truly drive out the light. The only failure is a failure of the light when it refuses to shine.

I’m praying for Paris. I’m praying for all those who are burdened by oppression and injustice tonight.

May God have mercy on us all.


When The Lights Go Out at Christmas

His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
  A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched” (John 1:4-5).

I had an interesting experience at work today. The lights went out.

I was in the middle of my last mail delivery run when all the lights went out for a split second, long enough to catch everybody by surprise and get them freaked out before the backup generators kicked in and some of the lights came back on. It was weird.

Suddenly, everything seemed more sinister. There’s something about not being able to see everything that unnerves me a little. Maybe that’s from all those scary movies I’ve watched. Maybe that’s from when I was little and was deathly afraid of the dark.

Sometimes life feels like that. It’s like someone switched off the proverbial lights and it’s hard to see where you are or where you’re going. You can’t prepare for what’s coming because you can’t see what’s coming. Sometimes you can’t even see the next step.

Advent is all about a light coming into the darkness. Some translations of John 1 say that the light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. Some say that the darkness could not comprehend it. I’m pulling a Forrest Gump and saying maybe both are right.

You can’t overcome what you do not understand. You will always be overpowered until you gain wisdom and learn a better way.

I love that it only takes one candle to defeat darkness. Or one little night light. I also love what a pastor said. The present state of things in our world isn’t due to the victory of darkness but from a failure of the light to shine. We’ve been silent when we should have spoken and sometimes we’ve spoken when we should have been silent (and maybe more discerning about what and when to speak).


My Occasional Soapbox Post Strikes Again

I have to admit something. I’m a little concerned about evangelical Christianity in America.

I hope I’m wrong about this, but it seems we’ve sold out. In order to get along with everybody and to be at peace, we have compromised our convictions and doctrines in order not to be offensive. We’ve come to the point where we believe that all lifestyles and beliefs are valid and true and where no one can ever say that anything anybody else says or does is wrong. At least not if we don’t want to be labeled as “judgmental” or “bigots” or “hate-mongers.”

From what I know about Christianity, the gospel itself is offensive. It’s scandalous. If we’re faithful to proclaim it and to strive to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, we will be rejected. And ridiculed. And persecuted. How do I know that? Because He Himself promised it would happen.

The Bible says that we apart from God love darkness and hate the light. We hate the truth and anything or anyone associated with it. It takes more than just convincing of our logic. It takes the love of God invading our hearts for us to be transformed.

I think part of the problem is that we interpret what the Bible says through the lenses of emotion or sexuality or politics. It should be the other way around. The truth is not politically correct and it isn’t always the popular opinion. In fact, many times, the truth will be in the minority.

I do believe in the Bible the same way orthodox believers have believed in it for centuries. My faith is the faith of the apostles and saints through the ages. That is Christianity. Anything else is not. You are free to believe and practice your belief however you choose, but if your faith has stepped outside of the boundaries of orthodox faith, you are believing in something other than the Christ of Christianity. I don’t say any of this out of pride or arrogance. In fact, I’m a fairly lousy Christian at times, saying one thing and living another. Or in my case, not really saying anything at all.

I still believe that Christians are called to love those who think and act differently, regardless of whether they ever change. Jesus loved those who opposed Him most vehemently, yet still proclaimed the truth boldly, calling a spade a spade. Jesus died for the ones who murdered Him.

Love is still the way to go, but not love that has no standards. That’s not love. That’s just permissiveness. God’s love says in effect, “I love you just the way you are right now, but I refuse to leave you that way. My love will make you everything I created you to be.”

As always, I’m just a ragamuffin out there telling other ragamuffins where to find the Bread of Life.



Jesus Is Your Peace


This is just a reminder for those weary and worn ragamuffins who occasionally stray from the road and get lost in the dark from time to time. There’s always a Voice calling your name to lead you back. And the name of that Voice is the Prince of Peace.

When you’re tired and you can’t sleep, Jesus is your peace.

When the one you really like prefers someone else over you, Jesus is your peace.

When your spouse wakes up one morning and decides he or she doesn’t love you anymore and doesn’t want to be married to you anymore, Jesus is your peace.

When a friend whom you trusted hurts you and the wound goes deeper than pain, Jesus is your peace.

When your good intentions get maligned and people ascribe you malicious motives, Jesus is your peace.

When you have a week of Mondays at work and nothing seems to go right, Jesus is your peace.

When you’ve been out of work for months and begin to wonder if you even have anything worth offering to anybody, Jesus is your peace.

When you’re bending over a sick loved one and your only prayers are tears, Jesus is your peace.

When your child hovers between life and death and you are powerless to help, Jesus is your peace

Through whatever storms or calm, joy or sorrow, victory or defeat, gain or loss, Jesus has been, is, and will always be your peace.



Contentment and Gratitude

despicable minion

I’m learning lately how valuable contentment and gratitude are. This very consumeristic society may write off such virtues and this ever increasingly competitive world may look down on these attributes, but to me they are everything.

I’m in a friendship where I like the girl a great deal. I’m also in the place where I’m grateful to know her and very much content with the friendship. If it develops into more than friendship, that’s fantastic, but if not, I’m still blessed.

Gratitude and contentment bring rest. There’s not so much striving to get more and be more than the next guy. Comparison truly is the thief, not only of joy, but also peace.

So I’m in a good place. God is truly enough. If he says no, it only means he’s preparing me for an even bigger yes down the road. He denies me the good only because he desires to give me the very best.

So that’s where I am. Right now, I am loving being me, quirks and all. Everywhere I look the grace of God coloring all that I see. I see healing and freedom in places where only fear and bondage lived before. I see light where I couldn’t see anything before because of overwhelming darkness.

God is so very good. And it is true that eucharisteo, thanksgiving and joy expressed and poured out, always precedes the miracle.

I’m living out my miracle right now.

Hang In There


You’ve seen one of these. I know you have. It might have been in someone else’s dorm room or on some random bedroom wall (but of course never on yours). The infamous poster of a ridiculously-cute kitten hanging onto a tree branch with some variation of “Hang in there, sport!”

Those have become somewhat of a joke these days, kinda like the “Baby on Board” signs in backs of cars or the “Honk if you love. . .” bumper stickers. But sometimes you’re in a place where you really do need that reminder.

Maybe you’re in a place where it seems like every molecule in your body is telling you to quit. 100% of your emotions are telling you to give up, that it’s just not worth it, and to stop trying anymore.

Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Don’t believe the lie that it’s not going to ever get any better. Don’t for one second fall for the notion that the world would be better off without you. Don’t ever listen to the voices that tell you you’re not wanted or welcome.

I don’t have secret wisdom or profound insights on this. I do know that I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve been in a place where I didn’t think it would ever get better. But it did.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is rest. Get some sleep. Don’t try to figure out your life when you’re tired or upset or not feeling well. It’s amazing what better perspective you have in the morning.

When you can’t believe, God has faith enough for both of you. When you can’t go on, he has more than enough strength to carry you. When you don’t have words to pray, he hears your sighs and counts your tears. He knows.

So, as cliched as it may sound, hang in there. It may be dark right now, but daylight is coming.

Small Comforts


Tonight, I went for a walk around historic downtown Franklin. I ran into a friendly cat who let me pet him (or possibly her) and even purred. It reminded me of a scene from The Horse and His Boy.

Shasta had escaped from Tashbaan and is waiting for the others near the ancient tombs that are reputedly haunted. He is alone and afraid until he notices a large cat who brings him comfort. The cat, as it turns out, is Aslan in one of his many incarnations. And for you who are not familiar with Narnia, Aslan is a type of Christ.

Also, I remembered the scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Trailer where the ship is in the midst of the island of darkness with little hope of ever getting out. Lucy whispers a prayer and Aslan again shows up, this time in the form of an albatross who says in a voice that only Lucy can hear, “Courage, dear heart.”

Sometimes, the dark seems overwhelming. Sometimes, hope seems hard to find. It seems that nothing will ever change and it is futile to go on hoping for anything better or different.

That’s when God shows up. Often it’s not in a flashy, parting the Red Sea kind of way. It’s not fire coming down from heaven or a burning bush. Often, it is a very small voice that we can only hear when we are still and silent.

Often, God shows up in small ways. A kind word or text at just the right moment. A smile from a stranger. A beautiful sunset at the end of a hard day.

It can look a thousand different ways, but if you and I can look not just with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of faith, we can find these little reminders that God has not forgotten or forsaken us.


A Good Reminder to Myself

I talk to myself sometimes. Out loud. I tend to use a British accent so it’s more fun and less creepy.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself of certain things. Repeatedly.

1) You are not your job (or lack of one). You are not your salary. You are not a title or a profession. You are exactly who God made you to be. And He said you were good.

2) God’s in the past where you messed up and where you got hurt, healing your wounds so they no longer bleed into your present (thanks to Mike Glenn for that one. He’s right there with you in your present. And He’s already in your future, waiting on you with plans that will blow your mind.

3) It’s okay to feel scared and unsure. It’s okay to have doubts because faith by its very nature comes with doubting. If we knew with 100% certainty, we wouldn’t need faith.

4) If you are loved and if you have friends, you are not a failure. If God loves you and calls you friend, then you have already won.

5) Whatever happened today, be it good, bad, or ugly, tomorrow is a new day filled with fresh possibilities and a clean slate. You can start over.

Maybe you’re having a great day and you’re loving life and everything is going your way. That’s wonderful. Maybe not. But everybody will at times go through storms. Everyone will go through deserts where your faith seems dead. Everyone will go through dark nights where God seems impossible to find.

No matter what your feelings or senses tell you, no matter what your circumstances tell you, God is there. He has not left you. He has not forgotten you. And He never will.

By the way, this blog is best read with a British accent. It sounds so much more sophisticated that way.