Spiritual Warfare: The Ultimate Reality

Angels. Demons. These beings are not spoken about too much in churches today (at least not the ones I’ve been in). Pastors and teachers like to focus more on positive edification, rather than talking about spiritual warfare. Focusing on the positive is good, but knowing our enemy and his tactics will help Christians to walk out their faith victoriously. Ask a seasoned Christian who has experienced ministry and they will likely have stories to tell of a spiritual war, of demonic attacks. When I was in high school, my youth pastor specifically spoke about the topic every year. Since then, I have heard more first hand accounts from Christians who were sharing the Gospel in dark places and have picked up bits and pieces about demonic powers and bondage. There is so much I do not know, but one thing I do know for sure: it exists.

The American culture is so loud and “practical” that anything unusual easily gets explained away. Miracles and demonic oppression are mostly invisible because of this fact. It could also be because we have been blinded as a culture to the spiritual reality. There is a spiritual war going on, whether it is seen or not. God and Satan are pitted against each other. God is for mankind and has reached out for a restored relationship with us, offering us life. Satan rebelled against God and now wants to bring as many people as he can down with him to his eternal punishment. Each person is on one side or the other. There is no in between. You and I are either friends of God or enemies of God.

If we are friends of God, then Satan and all his demons hate us. Their goal is to destroy, kill, and create as much chaos as possible before their damnation. Even the people who are on their side will be ultimately destroyed because that is what Satan does.
Satan does not have total power, though. God is more powerful, as Creator, and is perfectly able to keep the chaos in check. In fact, we see in Job 1:6-12, Satan has to ask permission to sift Job.

In 1 Peter, the character of the devil is given, along with plenty of commands for us in relation it it: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). Something else to note is that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is appealing. How else would he get so many followers and lead so many astray, including Christians?

Paul explains this spiritual reality further in Ephesians by saying, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:10-13).

There are many examples of how this spiritual warfare plays out in every day life. Something to note is that people and what we see are not the enemy, but against the spiritual enemy. The most general form of demonic power would be blindness to this spiritual reality.  Materialism, accomplishments, and surface level are what people focus on, never stopping to ask if there is something more. Anything odd, in a good way or a bad way, is often explained away or simply ignored. Another way this is seen is how people desire to fill every minute with entertainment and productivity. It’s all distraction from the spiritual reality. There are also very specific attacks on people who are pushing back the darkness bringing many to salvation. Multiple Christian leaders have told stories of waking in the night to find a demon in their room. What woke them was a heavy weight upon their chest which was severely hindering their breathing. After commanding the demon multiple times in Jesus’s name, the weight would lift and the demon would leave. In between these two extremes would be demonic strongholds and opposition to us seeking Jesus or living the life He asks us to. These are varied and common. (And also things I don’t know much about, so I recommend you read a book about them to find out more.)

Not only did Paul explain the spiritual reality in Ephesians, but he also told us how to fight in the war. He describes a suit of armor. When these things come, we are to “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people(Ephesians 6:14-18).

Did you notice that “Be alert,” “Be sober-minded,” and “Be watchful” are the attitudes that we are to have? How can we make sure to stand firm if we don’t even know there is something pushing us? We are commanded to be aware of this war to watch for where the attacks are happening. After explaining the suit of armor example, Paul says twice to pray. The first time, he says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Eph. 6:18). The second time, he applies the whole war and armor analogy to how we should be thinking of our fellow Christians: “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18).

My youth pastor specifically said not to ascribe too much credit to Satan and demons because that could become worship. As children of God, we have a mighty King who we can look to constantly for our security, for eternity! We have been commanded to have a certain attitude and mindset and to stand, though. Understanding that the enemy does want to destroy our lives and our witness will help us to recognize an attack when it comes. When we have recognized it, we can stand firm and pray to Jesus for help and freedom.


The Dream of Marriage: Waiting, Trusting, and Letting Go

In looking back through my journal entries from the summer, I found this:

“Help me remember Your goodness and be patient-  WAIT.  How strange that I’m learning to wait during a season when You’re giving me so many long-desired gifts…”

I could see God’s merciful and gracious hand in so much this past summer. I was truly blown away at how many good provisions were made for me to walk in- many were ones I had dreamed about for years. Yet, there were places that I wrestled with God. Anxieties threatened to overtake my body on many occasions so that I was left to cry out to the Lord seemingly constantly. At the time, it was very frustrating, though I could see how it was drawing me closer to God. This was one verse (of many) that was given to me during that time:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 11:12)

The big thing that was being broken up in me was my strong desire for a serious relationship/ marriage. I was reading through ‘Passion and Purity’ by Elisabeth Elliot. It is the hardest book I’ve ever digested. Strong emotions were brought up by each tiny chapter. The main point that stuck out to me was that God may not have marriage in our individual plan.. if so, will we say, “Yes, Lord”? Elliot included this quote in her book and its truth struck me:

“The fair new petals may fall, and for no visible reason. No one seems enriched by the stripping.

“And the first step into the realm of giving is a like surrender–not manward a Godward: an utter yielding of our best. So long as our idea of surrender is limited to the renouncing of unlawful things, we have never grasped it’s true meaning: that is not worthy of the name of “no poluted thing” can be offered.

“The life lost on the Cross was not a sinful one–the treasure poured forth there was God-given, God-blessed treasure, lawful and right to be kept: that there was the life of the world at stake.”

It was a hard truth to hear, and like I said, it produced a struggle. It made me examine how much I trust the Lord’s heart toward me. Honestly, I found that I didn’t trust Him as much I as thought.

God was so gracious to send people into my life to speak words of comfort and truth to this area when it seemed unbarable. Someone told me, “Most people will meet someone special at some point in their life and get married.” On one level this was a comfort, even though it did not address the possibility of God asking forever singleness of me. Still, the person who said it made a good point that the gift of singleness is usually only for a season of life.

Another encouragement was the current testimony of a godly woman at my church. She shared about how she was being pursued my a kind, incredible man of God and God was/ is very clearly orchestrating the relationship. It is much better than anything she had ever dared to dream of! Hearing her tell of what God was doing renewed my trust that God does love to give the good, great gift of serious relationships/ marriage (in the perfect timing). Also, seeing how God is the center of their relationship renewed my hope that it is possible to stay focused on God and bring Him glory through a dating relationship.

So God is good. Believing that to the core is the key to trusting God with any of our deepest hopes and dreams. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (All things within His will, of course.) And yet, God asks hard things of us and does not contradict His own character. I love this quote by Ruth Stull that Elisabeth Elliot included in her book, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a lad.” When we give up the good in our lives, God can use it in the best way possible to serve others and bring Himself glory. That often will look different than we have envisioned.

The dream of marriage is only one (fairly big) area where I must release my hopes and dreams to the will of God. God has been so gracious in the journey thus far, though! So yes, when God led me to write “WAIT” in my journal, there was a reason. I still have need for patience in the good times. I have need for patience as I wait for the Lord’s will. I also have need for trust in the Lord’s unfailing love and His good, great plan so I can focus on pouring out my life. He is providing day by day what I need for this journey called faith, though, and that is possibly more encouraging than anything else!

Intentional Seasons

I like to think of life as a series of seasons. Each one has it’s own set of specific values. Also, each person’s season will look different from anyone else’s, even if they look very similar on paper just because we each have beautifully unique lives. 

Social media often feeds off of the similarities in our seasons, though, and can influence the choices we make during our own personal seasons. For example, being a college student is villianized by social media. High school students are trained to think that college life is full of late nights, Ramon noodles, coffee, stress, and partying. Well, most of those things can be cut out if you are intentional; it’s all about priorities, not what “everyone else” is doing. This is not a guilt post trying to get you to quit social media, though. Social media is an awesome tool for connection, encouragement, and spreading knowledge. Sometimes I think we just need to be reminded that it is influencing us in a lot of ways. Are those good or bad ways? Are we letting it make our daily decisions for us? As my professor asked us today, “Are you more influenced by others or by yourself?” It’s something good to consider when examining what decisions we are making.

If we want to get better at anything, we should study the right way to do it, versus the wrong way. This applies to living each season well. I think we tend to know most of the time when a season starts and ends. (That’s not to say we don’t try to fight the change at times.) Something changes either in life or in our hearts and we know it’s time to move on in one way or another. 
As a college student, each year is split up into mini seasons: two semesters and summer. The classes I take change each semester. My schedule and the people who are in my life (to varying degrees) change with each one of those mini seasons, as well. 

I think there are two words that will help us live every season well: seeking and intentionality. Both of these are verbs. There’s a reason for that: We must take action to live well.

When we are seeking God, He will let us know what we need to know when we need to know it. We must have an open heart and be quick to prayer. There will be plenty of confusion along the path called life, but if we keep seeking, we are sure to find answers! (Also, there is a constant tension of faith. We won’t have clarity very often as to what God I doing, but none less, we must trust that He is working. Our job is to live out the next action asked of us and trust.)

Living with intention is the difference between being happy or unhappy with your life when looking back. Seasons of life can take over and make our decisions for us if we let them. We have to make time for the things that are important, or else they will slip away.

I encourage you to write down what your values are for the season you are currently in: what do you feel are the most important things for you to focus on? That list may fluctuate throughout your season and that’s okay. God’s leading changes with time, in my experience, and following His most recent guidance is more important than sticking to the list you started with. Yet, it can bring a lot of clarity to actually write out on a piece of paper the things we want to be intentional about in the season were in. 

So what are you going to value today and in the coming days?

Community College and Writing

I struggle with what this blog should look like. What is worth writing about? What is worth sharing about? In my experience, secular authors write more about the emotions and deeply horrible things of life, while Christians try to find some root meaning and then put a positive spin on it. I’m not ready to say either one is bad, though I’ve definitely taken notes from secular artists. (Plus, the fact that I have never been one to shy away from subjects people often avoid…)

For example, this past semester, I was published in my community college’s yearly book of writings and art. There was a ceremony in which all the authors and artists were invited to read or tell about their work. I was actually shocked at how graphic some of the artists got. They were portraying the raw side of life and often a very free morally view of living. No cuss words were left out in these explanations, either. Not things you would want a kid to hear. This kind of expression shocked (who am I kidding- it still shocks me) because it was not what I experienced growing up.

I look into the eyes of these people, though. My professor; my fellow tutor; my fellow student. What I find there is a hurt and emptiness. Cuss words aren’t the problem. Finding satisfaction in another person is not the problem. Focusing on the negative feelings is not the problem. In fact, they as a person are not a problem to be fixed. Instead, they are a person to get to know.

The issue is actually one of the heart. Someone could cuss and do drugs and be closer to a relationship with Jesus than someone who has lived the model “Christian life.” Or, they could have a relationship with God and are just still breaking chains and habits.

Being at community college has shattered my view of what it means to be a Christian. I was homeschooled and was a part of a fairly Christian co-op and my church before college. If I’m being honest, being at a secular institution scared me to death at first. But I have learned a lot since then and love where I am. People there don’t put on faces. At least not nearly as much as those in Christian groups tend to. They are what they are and they’re not usually ashamed of it. But the thing is, I’ve also found that they also leave space for others to be who they are.  Thankfully, I’ve found people also leave space for mistakes and learning! An awful lot of people who don’t know Jesus give grace so well. This challenges me. My life should be a clear picture of love and grace because of Jesus. Yet, there are plenty of times when it feels like I’m being outdone in this area by someone who has not experienced His love and grace. (Which is one thing I love about the Church when it’s working properly. We are challenged and encouraged as we watch each other live for God.) It really is a great motivation to live right when you are doing life with people who could see God’s love and grace at work in you. The thing about being at a college with a bunch of people who don’t claim the name of Christ, learning subjects like biology from a professor who does not honor God, is that you have to know what you believe, why you believe it, and how it effects your day-to-day life.

So what is worth writing about? That really depends, which is part of the reason I go back and forth on the answer. (And is part of the reason why my topics vary so much!) It’s important to be able to write something that is not clearly Christian-based, because being a skillful writer who is knowledgeable about many subjects is important when building report with people who may not know Jesus. But encouraging fellow Christians by reminding them of God’s Word is also a thing of great value. God’s Word never returns void and is a powerful weapon. So who am I writing to and for on this blog? Probably fellow Christians. Though I dearly hope that these posts may be used to help someone who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus to understand how much they are loved by God.

Instant Spirituality

We Americans tend to be a people addicted to instant results. Smartphones with data answer every little question we have in just a few seconds. Restaurants offer ready made dinner to customers. Microwaves heat up food in a fraction of the time an oven would take. Social media provides instant access to contacting a friend or catching up on their life. Yet, some of the most important things in life take more time and patience.

Doing something as quick as possible can drain the fun out of it and often, when I take the fast-track to get a result or answer, it doesn’t mean as much to me. I’m more prone to be dissatisfied with my accomplishment or even forget the question I was seeking an answer to! Quick just does not make as big of an impact.

Maybe that is why Jesus said, “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (Matthew 13:5-6).

Jesus’ disciples were confused by the parable that these verses are a part of, so there is actually an explanation of exactly what it means!

“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).

What strikes me is the word “immediate.” This person’s decisions are made in the moment. They immediately receive the Gospel with joy, which you would think was a good thing. Yet later, he immediately falls away.

Our instant culture has trained us to think immediate results are a good thing. Here we see that they fall short, though. When a habit, skill, or way of thinking is not given a good foundation of understanding and time to grow slowly, it will likely disappear just as quickly as it appeared. Over time we become who we are. Over time faith becomes part of who we are at our core. Nothing can replace the role that God has given time in our sanctification. Consistently saturating our mind with the Word and spending time in community will bring about lasting change.

29. St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. But you already knew that. The evidence is everywhere! Long before all this commercialism, the entire month of February was known as a month of love. In fact, it has quite the complicated history. The current holiday is the Christian version of a pagan holiday which first world citizens would find a little crude.

I like Valentine’s Day. As a homeschooler, I wasn’t surrounded by couples (or people, usually..) so it wasn’t even that big of a deal. It has proven to make my birthday month that much more pink, purple, and flowery, though. Yay for beating those winter blues!

For being a celebration of love, Valentine’s Day brings depression to a number of people. Yes, it is generally advertised and thought of as a day you celebrate with your significant other, but that doesn’t have to be the case. What if we all saw it as a day to simply love the people around us?

Last February, in Biology lab, a quartet came into the room and sang to my teacher. It was soo sweet and while it did embarrass my teacher, I’d say it made everyone’s day who experienced it. My teacher’s husband had set up the surprise. After seeing how happy it made her, I regretted not having thought of something to give her.

As Christians we are to be known for our love, and even on Valentine’s Day we should be the ones most strongly portraying the love mapped out to us in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient and kind;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

All actions of love have those motives at heart. We can be creative with how we work out how to specifically show love.

An unexpected letter arrived in the mail for me a few days ago. It completely made my day. While there are so, so many creative ways that you can show love to those around you, I’d like to suggest that we all place a few letters in the mail this month. Let’s flood the post office! There is nothing quite like getting a letter of encouragement from a friend or family member. And hey, you’ll get to practice your handwriting!

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What are some creative ways you like to show love?


25. BBC’s Sense and Sensibility

First things first, I have decided to take the plunge. Having a set schedule for posting material is recommended for bloggers. Seeing as I have the coming semester off, why not set up a specific time to post? So every Thursday there will be a post.

Now, on onto the meat, I watched the BBC episodes of Sense and Sensibility with my neighbor a few weeks ago. The film(s) definitely made an impact. Every part- from the storyline, cast, and camera angles- works to create a film experience worthy of the three hours invested. You’ll find mystery, romance, adventure, culture, history, morals, and laughs! What more could you want from a film?

Elinor’s patience and self-control inspires me, while the comparison of Marianne’s blatant actions drives the point home. At the same time, though, Marianne brings a touch of beauty and innocence to every part of the film while showing quite dramatically that love must first die to be realistic and valuable.

Love has self-control and patience for the good of the beloved. Pressure in these ways will make the bond of love so much stronger if the person has the character to contain such love. Marianne must learn these lessons before entering into a serious relationship.

Another thing that stuck out to me was how often silence was spoken. It added mystery and suspense. Maybe there is something to be said for not laying everything out there. Marianne was the one who spoke the most, we must remember.

I don’t usually write out reviews for entertainment but this one was quite moving. BBC proves again and again that they are most excellent at creating a good story on film. A Sharp eye for lessons to be learned and views insenuated keeps many movies off my recommended list. This one makes the list, just be prepared to fast forward through the first few minutes of the first episode.

How do you judge film as good? Do you think every movie and show should teach morals?