Spiritual Warfare

Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psalm 1: 1, 2


The proverbial phrase, “You are what you eat,” has been around for a long time. It has been adopted and adapted into the title for books, lectures, television programs, songs, and other forms of popular expression. I think that its wide-spread use is an indication of the fact that there is truth contained in these words, for it may not be literally and absolutely accurate but it does convey a sense of functional reality. What we put into ourselves does directly and significantly effect how we live and even, to some extent, who we are. The author of this psalm is talking about something more important and considerably greater in its life-altering capacity than any of the meat or vegetables that we might encounter. He is speaking about the consumption of truth, righteousness, and all the rest of what is entailed in truly knowing God.


We all face this same choice. We can listen to the voice of God or we can select other ones to fill our minds and hearts. In fact, we will hear a wide range of input as we go about life, and we will all be subjected to good ideas and to poor ones in this process. Not everything that is said in the name of God will be true and useful, either. However, all of God’s Word is true, everything contained within it is holy, and the counsel of the Holy Spirit is unquestionably reliable. So, even when the words come from within the context of the church or out of the mouths of people who share a profession of faith, there needs to be a form of testing of the validity and the value of those ideas and concepts. That testing always involves holding the idea or direction up to the template of God’s Holy Word of truth, allowing His Spirit to reveal the application of that truth, and then in evaluating all of this prayerfully within the fellowship of trusted fellow followers of Christ.


The Lord has provided His followers with a truly marvelous banquet feast of truth, and the life that we are given by ingesting it is remarkable as it makes all of the difference in the joy and the peace that we will know in our journey through our days. Yet, at times we still decide to dine at the table of the unwise or, even worse, we fill ourselves up on the deadly counsel of those who stand in opposition to God and to His righteous way. In these times, Christ’s invitation to turn to Him, to repent, and to take a seat at His table of grace, love, and life remains open for us. The Lord invites each of us to come, sit in His presence, and be filled to overflowing with the law that brings life and by its hope and promise of eternity. This is a place where we are granted the opportunity to meditate deeply upon Christ, to be filled with His presence, and to prosper and grow stronger for this day of service to God’s kingdom.




Thus sys the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is, and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

Jeremiah 6: 16


When we consider these words from the Lord, it is easy to see our day and age as depicted in them. Yet, Jeremiah wrote them down about 2,600 years ago, and people have been making the same comparison ever since then. So, it may not just be our times that are out of synch with God’s will and desire for the way that we live, but, instead, it is the fallen nature of people’s hearts and minds that is the problem. We should not take any comfort in the fact that our generation is not uniquely guilty of deviating from God’s righteous path, either; rather, we should take our Lord’s words of warning to heart and also seek out His promise of rest for our souls and the deeply felt peace that accompanies that rest.


Now God’s path of travel through life does not always seem to be so peaceful or rest filled. In fact, it takes us in a direction that heads straight into conflict with many of the values that our world holds as important. It also compels its sojourners to be on guard at all times as enemies of righteousness stand ready to assault God’s faithful people in order to attempt disruption of our faith and with ill intent regarding the stability of our fellowship of belief. There are also many times when the road signs and even the path itself are obscured or even completely covered over by ideas, concepts, and revised and newly enlightened ways of understanding God’s Word; yet, all of this new interpretation tends to be misguided at best and formed up out of dark desires at its worst. The true and ancient roads are still with us, and their footing is secure and solid when we search for it and step out in faith for our daily journey.


The discernment that we need in order to walk confidently along these foundational ways is found in the presence of Christ with us in that pursuit of truth, grace, and righteous love. We come to know these essential elements of life for the traveler along the Lord’s road by knowing our Savior and Lord well. God’s Word, read in its entirety and believed with a faith that holds its contents and their authorship as both sacred and mystical provides direction, counsel, and comfort for our days of travel. The Holy Spirit brings us the companionship of Christ for each step of the way, and He also provides insight and understanding into the direct and tangible application of all that is contained within that living word and also into God’s will as it pertains to the place and the times of today’s path. In choosing to follow Christ and stride out along His path of redemptive truth, we are moving away from the mainstream flow of our world, but in so doing, we are settling into God’s will in a manner that brings our souls to a peaceful place that brings both true rest for the night and strength for the new day to come.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

whom he has redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Psalm 107: 1-3


Those of us who know Christ fit into the group of people that are being called upon here to join in praise of the Lord. Each of us might initially want to disagree and say that I have not come from far away, for I was born and raised in this place that is under the direct protection, guidance, and blessing of God. Although, I could also assert that I agree with the fact of Christ’s saving sacrifice on the cross and that His salvation from sin has been given to me by and through grace, I could still bristle at the concept of my life as being one that was plagued by trouble. This world where I dwell is just not that disturbed or chaotic; it is not like some of the other places in this world where real trouble dwells. Although I could attempt to put myself and my experience outside of the hard and the difficult world that the writer is calling out in these verses, that attempt would be futile, and it would also be false.


No one is born into anything more elevated than trouble and distance. It doesn’t matter if we are born into wealth or into deep poverty, and the language and the customs of home have no real impact on our status and situation, either. Trouble in imbedded in the DNA that our mothers and fathers provided for us. We are influenced by its effects from the day that we first draw breath, and the air that fills our lugs at that moment and from it onward is tainted with trouble’s irritating sting. Nothing that we can do will ease the pain of its presence, and no form of relocation or change of external environment can adequately improve the conditions that surround us as the sort of trouble that crushes souls and that steals life is too pervasive to be eluded by means that we own and control. Trouble in its most fundamental and elemental of forms grows out of our sinful rejection of God and rebellion against His will. So, also, true distance is defined by the separation that our sinfulness has caused to necessarily exist between each person and our Creator. It is something that we desire and maintain and that Christ continually seeks to bridge.


It is this desire to draw near to each of us that we celebrate and give thanks for. Despite all that we have done to turn away from God and from His righteousness, He continues unceasingly to come after each of us. Christ certainly enters into our days of trouble and our times of distress, but He also goes with us into the routine and the normal times when all seems to be going smoothly and predictably along the course that we have charted for ourselves. For even these good days are heading toward times when challenge and grief become real and too present as we dwell in this world with its broken structure. Christ is here with us in and through all that life brings our way, and He is also fully ready to bring us and our lives into the center of God’s redemption and security for our souls, hearts and minds. All the Lord asks of us is to turn to Him and accept the grace that Christ suffered upon that cross to perfect and complete. Yet, in accepting Christ and the salvation that He brings, we have entered into a relationship with God that is cause for joy such that all of life, even its trials and grief, becomes an ongoing cause for shouting out in thanksgiving and praise to our Lord and Savior!



“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” Jesus

John 10: 10


If you have ever had anything stolen from you, you know how it feels. Although the circumstances of the theft and the personal importance of the items that were taken dictate the magnitude of the impact, there is always a very real and highly personal sense that someone has harmed you and that your world has been invaded, and it is the sort of feeling that lasts well after the event is done and the visible damage is repaired. This must be how God felt when Satan invaded His relationship with people, for evil literally broke in to the sacred heart of that relationship, and through deception, lies, and our own weakness, he took light and life from us, and Satan caused distance to come into that marvelously close connection with God that had been its essential nature.


However, the Lord is a lot like one of the characters in any number of films where someone is grievously harmed and then proceeds to search out the evil doer and to take them out; you know the story type, the revenge genre. Yet, God is even more into the thought and the actions of rescue rather than those of revenge, for He comes after everyone, every soul, which is taken from Him; therefore, the Lord comes after you, me, and all of the people that have ever or who will ever live. He is relentless in His pursuit, His plan is perfect, and the Lord will not stop trying to rescue us until we draw our last breath on this earth.


This rescue story doesn’t stop there; for, God wants us to live our lives in a state of peace, joy, and blessing that is like what He originally intended in the garden. The Lord wants us to be continually close to Him, and He continues to work to defeat Satan’s ongoing attempts to rob us of that quality of life. When there are things in our lives that interrupt and that disrupt that close relationship with God, they are usually caused by unresolved areas where sin has taken root in us. These are the aspects of ourselves that we need to submit to the Lord, and these are the issues that we need to open up about with our spiritual family so that we have the support, accountability, and strength to defeat the robber’s attempts to break into our lives. Jesus has already won the victory over Satan, and He has won that same victory for us; therefore, we simply need to trust Him and to claim what Christ intends to be ours.

For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

1 Peter 2: 20


For most of us, the idea of being beaten for our faith is rather abstract. We have heard of people who have received this sort of treatment and worse, but we have never come close to anything more severe than hearing some harsh words or being dismissed as irrational or foolish by people who do not agree with us. I am not ignoring the possibility that physical harm or danger can and might come the way of followers of Christ in our world today, but I do believe that this sort of thing, in its literal sense, was more directly a part of Peter’s first century environment than it is a part of our twenty-first century one. Yet, the idea that he is expressing here still applies to us, and I think that it is valid in some important ways when it comes to our witness for Christ in our world.


In truth, there is much to be endured for us today. We even are exposed to beatings; however, the pummeling is just of an emotional, spiritual, and mental nature rather than being applied to our flesh. Some of this abuse is directed at our faith and comes our way as a direct result of the conflict that exists between God and His adversary, and much of it is more generally caused by the work of that same adversary in the cultural flow of life around us. The challenge for each of us who follow Christ and for His church is to remain fully and truthfully engaged in the discourse and the dialogue of our culture while not falling prey to its methodology and its hopeless self-reliance. This is a hard balance to maintain when the blows of unjust, unloving, and self-focused society are reigning down upon the lives of those who are least able to defend themselves and upon any of us who would seek to speak and to live out righteousness in the face of these various forms of rejection of Christ’s Gospel of love.


Thus, when we walk in righteousness, we also must be prepared to enter fully into Christ’s grace, for it is this grace that holds us up when others reject our point of view, and it is during these hard times of opposition to what is occurring around us that we also need to be prepared to enter into the conflict with grace as the foremost quality that we demonstrate. This is the point of contact where endurance is tested most severely, for this is where a very personal and rightfully heartfelt passion for what is just and holy is placed in direct conflict with ideas and values that others hold as necessary, appropriate, and even as God-honoring. Winning these discussions is really not the point, but speaking and demonstrating truth while pouring out Christ’s redemptive grace onto those who oppose our view is what the dialogue is actually about. This process often feels worse than a physical beating would, and it lasts much longer, too. Yet, Christ provides the strength to endure it all while not surrendering God’s values and our drive to see that His justice prevails in our world. In this process, Christ also pours out His grace upon us so that we can, in turn, bring His peace-making love into the center of the conflict.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer’s,

he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3: 19


Some people really like heights, but most of us would prefer to be much closer to the ground. Those few are always the first to agree to climb up the tree, to walk near the cliff’s edge, or to place the topper on a Christmas tree while standing on a shaky old stool. From my point of view, it is good to have these folks around, for they can have any of these tasks or adventures and serve as my representative in doing them. So, I think that the point of this verse is related to the idea that high places are not the most natural location for people to walk about. It also points to the fact that those challenging locations provide some of life’s most spectacular vistas as they take us out of the haze and the clutter of the world and grant to us a perspective that is close to that from which God evaluates and processes that same world.


The clear air and the all-encompassing outlook make that difficult climb worth the effort, and the way that we are required to trust in the Lord for showing us the path to the top and for guarding our steps from slipping or falling is in itself an important aspect of the journey upward. The climb up God’s mountain is something that we all should undertake on a regular basis. At least it seems to me that most of my life is spent in dwelling in a valley of one sort or another. These are not bad places, and they are not indicative of living outside of God’s will. Instead, this is where almost all of us are placed by Christ, for these lowlands are where most people reside and where the Lord wants us to live out His love, truth, and deliver His message of hope and redemption. This is where we are placed in order to contend with the forces of this world for the souls of many.


Yet, in order to more clearly see God and also to be able to more fully testify to who He is and to what He is calling people, it is important to make the pilgrimage that the prophet describes. That high place may not always be elevated in altitude, however, for it can be found in the presence of the Lord regardless of where we are located. What matters is that we take ourselves out of the clutter and the noise of the day and turn all of our attention onto listening to God, to speaking out what is on the heart to Him, and to allowing the Spirit time and mental and emotional space to guide us into truth, understanding, and wisdom. Even doing this requires faith in a God who desires to be close to each of His people, and it demands that we trust Him to enter in with us when we devote ourselves to growing closer to the Lord. As I have seen it, these high places of the Lord are always worth the risk and the effort that it took to get to them.

Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

3 John 11


John is giving us a proverb here. He is setting out a very simple and direct statement about an aspect of living in conformity with God’s will. This is the sort of thing that is intended to guide a follower of Christ into engaging with the world in a manner that will actually make a difference in this place and that demonstrates Christ to the people that we meet. What John tells us might seem to be very easy to agree with, for most of us would say that we do not go about looking at evil actions and embracing them as the model to follow for the day at hand. Yet, is that really true for the manner that each of us does, in fact, conduct life?


If I give it some careful thought and consider each interaction that happens during my day, I start to lose confidence in the nature of some of those engagements. Then, when I play back my internal audio track that records what I was thinking during some of those moments, it gets worse as I hear the negative, defensive, and down-putting words and feelings that went unspoken during those instances. So, it would seem that there are times during the course of my days when I am imitating the words, manners, and way of that which God deems to be evil, and if that is true then I am certainly not imitating Christ, who is the totality of goodness, during these times.


John’s proverbial warning is essentially a cautionary statement for each of us as we seek to live out our days as a follower of Christ. It is very easy to get caught up in a moment in the sort of worldly thinking and acting that pulls us off of our Lord’s righteous path and that, in so doing, diminishes the credibility of our witness to the love, grace, and redemptive nature of His Gospel. Evil does surround us, and its words of negativity and death saturate the very air that we inhale; so, it is easy to be influenced by it. However, God and His word of truth is even more present and is much more powerful than all that evil can throw at us. God’s Word itself provides guidance and encouragement to love others and to engage with creation as Christ does. The Spirit dwells within to speak truth and grace into each encounter and engagement that we face during our day, and prayer is our way and means for bringing all that Christ provides to us by way of goodness to bear upon every moment of the journey that our Lord is taking us on. So, the goodness that we are called upon to imitate is with us, and in so imitating it, we truly do see God and so does the world around us.

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