Arm Yourself



Earlier this week Stacie shared a great post encouraging us to go beyond survival and instead choose to thrive where we are planted.  (If you missed it you can read it here.) Survival is a mode that we too often find ourselves idling in.  We do the same thing, day in and day out...forgetting that complacency leads to defeat.  It is the difficult things in this life that bring about growth.  It is realizing that there is a battle being waged around us between good and evil, a battle in which the enemy seeks to either defeat us, or better yet keep us out of the fight by making us complacent.  And yet Peter encourages us to join the fray, to arm ourselves for this battle.  And yet, how do we arm ourselves?  It isn't like we can just visit the local pawn shop and pick up our tools for spiritual battle. 

I wanted to share a few pointers that I have picked up in my own battles.  Hopefully they will help you in yours. 

1)  Research the enemy.  Take the time to read God's word.  When we do so we can see what tactics the enemy has used previously, what weak spots he looks for.  Understanding the enemy gives us an advantage over him.  And the good news is that in the end....we win!

2)  Gather ammunition - memorize God's word.  Jesus used scripture to battle the enemy in the desert.   (Matthew 4:1-11)  In His weakest moments He was able to hurl God's truths and protect himself from temptation.  We can do the same, but only if we have stockpiled the ammunition before hand.

3)  Practice makes perfect.  To develop a skill you practice it, whether it is playing the piano, making a three point shot, or mastering a new craft technique you have to keep at it.  Thomas Edison failed several thousand times before inventing a working light bulb.  Rather than be discouraged he kept trying and reportedly told a colleague that he had not failed, he had simply discovered several thousand things that did not work.  You will be involved in many battles in this life.  Some you will win, others will be learning experiences that you can use to improve yourself.  Don't let the "failures" keep you from the fray.  Instead use them to prepare for the battles to come.  What can you learn from them?  Which leads to ....

4)  Recognize your weaknesses.  None of us are perfect. (Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23)  We each have areas of our life with a target on it for the enemy.  If you aren't sure what yours is, pray and ask God to reveal it to you.  Do you gossip?  Do you doubt God's love for you?  Are you prideful?  We each have different targets, but the enemy is excellent are discovering them.  And yet we tend to try so hard to cover them up, even from ourselves.  This makes us very vulnerable to attack.  

And finally 5) protect and fortify your weaknesses.  Once you know your weak spots don't leave them weak.  Take steps to strengthen those areas.  Read scripture about them, pray for help with them, not only from God but pray that he sends people into your life that can support you as well.  There is a reason we are told to gather with fellow believers! 

By no means is this an exhaustive list.  What do you do to "arm yourself" against the enemy?

Don't just survive...Thrive!

 

Wisteria. I love the look and the scent of it. So much so, that I planted four vines around my deck out back. But, it’s been four years, and it still won’t bloom. Talk about frustrating. I prune, I weed, I nurture; I even put up with listening to my husband grumble that it’s taken over and in his way, and the destruction it has caused. And all for seemingly nothing. Nothing but hope that one day it will blossom like it’s supposed to. It has grown like crazy, new leaves and vine branches sprout out daily. It’s taking over much of my decking. But no flowers!

I did some research on how to cultivate it properly to get it to bloom. See, I’ve heard that it can be easy to care for, requiring little work (which is partly why I got it- I don’t have a green thumb). But after some digging (no pun intended), I discovered that while it is hardy and fast-growing, it is also temperamental to acclimating and producing. It doesn’t bloom when there is excessive fertilizer and it doesn’t bloom until it is considered mature (which could take decades). The interesting thing to note about maturation in wisteria is that it can forced, by means of root pruning, drought stress and by literally chopping at the main trunk. Sounds like a good way to kill it, if you ask me…but again, no green thumb…

And then I realized that Christians are like wisteria to God. (I’m not usually big on comparisons like this—but hang in there with me for a few moments). When we’re blooming properly (mature), we are beautiful and cast an enticing aroma. But when we’re just a seedling? Our Faithful Patient Gardner has to tend to us, pruning, nurturing, and training us which direction to grow. But our lives aren’t as simple as taking root and blooming (or at least we certainly don’t allow them to be). We often have planted ourselves amongst manure, latching on to anything we can grasp to attempt to grow, but missing our whole purpose: to bloom. We become so complacent with ourselves and our Christian walk that we don’t really thrive in it. And maybe that’s where God is forced to physically stress our trunks.

Sometimes He allows some pain to snap us out of our contentment. But that pain is not to harm us, it’s to grow us. (Jeremiah 29:11) It’s merely a blip of anguish to reap the eternal reward. (1 Corinthians 4:17-18) Once we’ve matured in our Christianity, we’re ready to fully bloom. We can start spreading and growing, entwining everything around us; choking out the bad and sprouting the good. (Matthew 28:19-20)

When I think of the frustration I have that my wisteria, despite all of my nurturing attempts and desire for it to blossom, refuses to bloom, I am saddened at the sorrow I in turn cause my Father, despite His own nurturing and desire for me. I didn’t plant my wisteria so it could just be an entangled vine; just as God didn’t plant me here to be caught up in this world. I envisioned beautiful blooms cascading around my deck. He wants us to be beautiful blooms, gushing all over as well. (Philippians 2:13) He wants us to thrive, not just survive.

Pet Parrots


There are three things you can be sure of about us Coffee with Christ gals.  First, we are girls who strive to be totally sold out for Jesus.  Second, we really like our coffee.  Third, we both struggle with taming our tongues.  

I don't own a pet parrot, but I have the next best thing - a 6 year old.  Those of you who have small children understand that statement.  Those that don't, let me explain.  Young children shadow their parents constantly.  Even to the point that for some of us going to the bathroom alone is a luxury.  They see and hear everything you say - and they often repeat it at the most inopportune times.  

Have you been talking on the phone to a dear friend about Mrs. So-and-So who said such and such?  You can bet that when your little darling sees Mrs. So-and-So she is going to ask about it!  Did you get cut off in traffic and let some less than nice words fly with your child in the backseat?  I can guarantee that isn't the last time you hear them.  They are going to fall out of your child's mouth, and probably while you are standing in front of your pastor.  

It is easy to get upset at the one repeating, whether it is your child or a friend in which you were chatting with sharing your conversation with another.  After all, they are sharing things that were spoken to them (or in front of them) privately.  But the real issue isn't what they are saying, it's what came out of your (my) mouth to begin with.  And it is an age old problem.

Proverbs 21:23 says, "whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble".  If you never said it, it could never be repeated.  It could never create a problem.  Matthew 12:34 takes it a step further, reminding us that our words are a reflection of our heart.  Ouch!  And he goes on to warn us in verses 36-27 that we will be judged for every careless word we speak.  Double ouch!  If that isn't enough to make you want to be more careful about the words you (I) speak I don't know what will!

The good news is that we have help with this.  2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that God is making us into a new creation since we have accepted the gift of salvation.  The old is gone.  Ezekiel 36:26-27 tells us that He has given us a new heart, and a new spirit that will help us to live according to His statutes.  All we need do is listen for that Spirit to whisper to us, and then respond appropriately.  You know, that voice that tells you you shouldn't be saying what is spewing from your mouth.  The one that prods you to talk TO that person rather than about them.  That is the Spirit of God attempting to direct you to the path you should be walking.  

So don't live as if a parrot were in your house, rather live like the Spirit is in you....because He is.