Not Alone

Look to my coming on the first light of the fifth day, at dawn look to the east.

Gandalf – Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the battle of Helms Deep looked grim as the enemy surrounded the only entrance and there seemed no hope for victory. It was a long night, but at dawn, Gandalf arrives with reinforcements just as he promised. The Bible is full of God’s promises to His children, but sometimes we have to wait for it to be fulfilled. The waiting time can see like an eternity, but if we keep our eyes focused on God, we will always have hope.

When we are waiting, it is easy to get distracted by the world around us. For example, in 1 Kings we find the story of Elijah who has just prayed down fire from Heaven and wiped out the prophets of Baal. When he hears of Jezebel’s threats, Elijah feels like he is alone in a battle he cannot win and he hides in despair.

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away…18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:14, 18

After some rest and nourishment, God tells Elijah that he has seven thousand who are still loyal to Him and that he is not alone in the fight. From our vantage point, we might wonder how Elijah could go from boldly confronting the prophets of Baal to hiding and whining, but it is often after great victories that the enemy will attack us with doubts. Winning a tough victory takes a lot of energy: physical, spiritual and mental. We need to remember that like Elijah we are not alone.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.

Psalm 68:11

Being a writer is often solitary work, but I am not the only one writing the word God has given. He has many other writers, each with their own message to share. Writing groups allow writers to share and encourage one another so that we know that there other people who have been through some of the same issues and some who have had success. By sharing our stories, we build each other up. The trick is to find the right community for you.

Besides finding a like-minded community to offer support and accountability, we also need to ensure that we also take care of ourselves. First, we need to rest because we are more vulnerable if we are tired. Also, we need to make sure we have proper nourishment because hunger is another point of attack. Finally, or maybe firstly, we need to pray so that we are connected to our true source of energy.

Once you have strengthened yourself, then it is time to get back to work. If we sit idle too long, we are subject to remaining idle, which can lend itself to wallowing. This weekend I battled another round with those pesky fleas, which included wrangling two angry cats into carriers and to the vet followed by a thorough cleaning of the house. I took Friday and Saturday off from writing this blog as a result, but I rested, I ate, and I went to church. Now, I am finishing my assignment. So eat, rest, and pray, but don’t wallow. If you lay down with dogs, or cats, and wallow you just wake up with fleas. So, get up and get back to work. It’ll make you feel better.

Suit Up

I know several motorcycle people, and all of them are into wearing protective clothing when riding. I usually see them putting on jackets and gloves as well as goggles and helmets. They are always wearing the proper clothing and shoes for riding. I found the following acronym on a biker lingo blog:

ATGATT = All The Gear, All The Time (helmet, gloves, vest, trousers and boots).

Some even talk about armor, or specially reinforced gear. I thought it was a great reminder that has spiritual implications:

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesian 6: 11-17

The reason we put on the armor of God is the same reason bikers put on their gear: protection. When I took martial arts, I wore gear when I was sparring to reduce the chance of injury. Bikers and martial artists suit up as protection  just in case there is an incident. Even more so, we should wear our spiritual armor because we are going into battle every day. It isn’t a chance of battle; it is a foregone conclusion.

Not only should we wear it every day, but we should also wear every piece of armor. Each piece protects a different part of our being. Whatever we leave undefended, the enemy will target. For example, if I want to retrieve something from my car but I don’t want to take the trouble of finding my shoes. I tiptoe out over the hot concrete, and while I am digging around in my car, a fire ant bites my foot. It’s the same in our spiritual lives. Every piece has a purpose.

We wear a helmet to protect our mind, we wear the breastplate to protect our heart, the belt of truth keeps us grounded, the shield of faith protects us from the enemies weapons, and our feet are prepared to step out to do God’s Will. Our only weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word. People often say talk is cheap, but not this talk. God’s Word is powerful, more powerful than a two-edged sword because it can cut to the heart of the matter. Not only that, God’s Word also brought the world into being. What He says happens. When we wield His Word wisely, no foe can stand against us.

So, before you leave the house, or maybe even the bed, suit up. You never know what the day will bring.

The Next Step

 “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

(Proverbs 13:12)

I recently entered a couple of writing contests, and I am about to send off a couple of proposals to publishers. I am reluctant to get my hopes up because being a writer, by nature of the beast, means getting rejected on a regular basis. Still, it can be tiring to get up and try again and again. It can make your heart sick, but when you do get published, it replenishes your spirit and the desire to keep working. The result is worth all the work I put forth, but it still requires effort on my part to reach my desired goal.

The book of Joshua tells the story of how the children of Israel have finally left the wilderness to take the Promised Land. The goal is in sight, but there are a long list of opponents between them and the finish line. They start out strong and have great success, but as they move into the land they lose momentum. Maybe the battles were starting to take their toll, or the people lost sight of the goal. So, Joshua tries to fire up the Israelites.

 “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” (Joshua 18:3)

They needed to complete what they had started. This scripture was in my daily reading just as I was struggling with some writing deadlines. Starting a project is always exciting, but the difficult part is to keep plodding through the middle. I realized that if I ever wanted to see the desire of publication come to fruition, I had to keep moving forward. I couldn’t let fear of failure or apathy keep me from my goal. I needed to take the next step, complete the next task, until I finished the assignment.

We all have those days where apathy gets the better of us. There are days when we would rather be a sloth on the couch than a tortoise that moves steadily toward the finish line. On those days we need to stop thinking about all the things that need to be done to reach the goal. Instead, we need to just focus on the next step. If every day we take one step, then every day we are one day closer to the finish line. 

When you find yourself struggling to take the next step, imagine what it will be like when you cross the finish line. Then we will realize that all the days we struggled were worth the effort. So, as you look at the day ahead, what one step can you take toward your goal? Do that. The satisfaction that you get from completing that task will compel you forward to the next one until you see the finish line ahead.

The Power of Naming

 

2011-09-26 21.31.06When a little bobble-headed, tuxedo kitten showed up in my yard howling for help, I picked her up and felt ribs. She hissed when her feet left the ground but by the time she reached my shoulder she was purring like an Italian sports car. It took less than a week to realize she had chosen me as her human, so I set about trying to come up with a name for her. I tried Squeaker for a week or so because the way her cry sounded, but she categorically refused to answer to it.  She was extremely vocal and sounded like Beaker from the Muppets, like she was actually having a conversation in a high-pitched voice. It sounded like a series of “meeps”. One day as she stood with her back to me I called “Meep.” She turned around and looked at me and that was that.

There is something powerful in a name. In Genesis chapter one, God created the world by calling it into being by name. God said let there be light and there was light. Then he created man and woman and named them Adam and Eve. God even granted man the honor of naming things in the Garden of Eden. Then as Adam and Eve had children, they chose names for them as well. In Old Testament times, and even still today, great thought was taken in choosing a name. The Israelites called God multiple names based on different aspects of His character, such as Our Father or Our Provider. There is power in asking for something in God’s name and in God’s will.

There is also something about naming something that takes away fear. The unknown is scary and full of worst case scenarios. However, when we can finally name our fear or disease or problem, it calms us because until we can name it we don’t know how to fight it. I was watching a television show called Chasing the Cure. The guests were people with mysterious conditions that their doctors had been unable to identify or cure. Many had suffered for years. On the show a group of doctors work with a network of medical specialists and the general public to try and put a name to their illness and then hopefully find a cure or at least a treatment. For many of them, just finding a diagnosis was freeing after so many years of uncertainty.

The same can be said about sin. When we name our sins before God, then we can ask forgiveness and move forward.  When we just say a blanket forgive me, the “hidden” sins still taunt us as if God doesn’t already know about them. When we admit them to Him, then He can heal us and help us move forward. Identifying a problem is the first step to a solution. In this case, naming the sin and admitting it is the first step in battling it.

The same can also be said about our enemy. In the series Harry Potter, people refuse to say the name of the evil wizard Voldemort out of fear. Harry refuses to fall prey to that fear and says his name out loud, unwilling to give Voldemort any power over him. While Voldemort is a fictional character, our enemy is not. Ephesians 2:6 says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” There is power in identifying the enemy and knowing that we are fighting against something more than other humans. We are fighting a battle at the spiritual level.  When we name our sins and ask forgiveness and we name our enemy and claim God’s victory, then we know we can win the battle we are facing because God has already won the war.

Not My Battle

Money Troubles

On more than one occasion in my life, I have come to a problem where I couldn’t see a solution. I have looked at a stack of bills and a list of income and thought that will never work. There is no way to stretch the money to cover all of that. I would worry and fret and try to think of ways to expand my income or reduce the bills, but it never worked. Eventually, I would remember to pray. Usually I had to get to the point where I honestly said, “Lord, You’re the only one who can do this because there is no human way possible. I leave it up to you.” Then the answer would come and everything would get paid and always in a way I had never imagined. It was a God thing.

These kinds of situations show up as frequently in the Bible as they do in my life. For example, Judah was about to be attacked by a vast army, and the king was afraid, so he sent for a word from God. In 2 Chronicles 20 a prophet replies, “15 And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s…17 Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.” The people stopped and worshiped God, and in the meantime, their enemies killed each other without them lifting a finger.

Notice the words “…for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” As humans, we are prone to be independent and control freaks, but God calls us to depend on Him. Sometimes, or quite often, He has to put us in situations where we realize our need for Him; otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of security. We think, “I got this.” In reality everything we have we owe to God, including our very lives. He is the one who is in control.

Battles is the LordsThe worry will get you nowhere. Luke chapter 12:25-26 says, “ 25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit 26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?” Worry accomplishes nothing except raising your blood pressure. It doesn’t solve anything and makes your life miserable. John 10:10 says, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The enemy wants you to be scared and to steal your joy, but Christ came so we could live the abundant life.

So, the next time you face a situation or a problem start with prayer instead of making it a last ditch effort. Relax and let the Lord fight the battle. Do your part in being obedient and then watch to see what He will do. Take a moment and listen to some advice from a man who knew about seemingly hopeless situations:

The Battle’s Not Mine by The Freemans