The Good Fight

The fight of faith is something I’ve been pondering.  What is it?  How does it work?  I have snippets of reflections spread all over pages of random days… I’ve tried in vain to push away distractions and get down to pasting them together into a coherent understanding but this project is eluding me.  Grandbabies are nearby—sleeping, wiggling, making little dream smiles…posing for pictures, wanting to see Grandmom’s pictures, ready to read a book…how is a Grandmom to concentrate, or even want to? 

And there are the ongoing conversations with skeptics that actually fuel my motivation to put faith in coherent words—these ones who are pawns in the battle without knowing it, who are defenseless against the evil one’s darts.  These conversations too have drawn me away from organizing my notes…So today I will submit to you the snippets I have gleaned, a mosaic of thoughts on the fight of faith.  And I welcome your gleanings on the subject.  How involved are we in this fight?  How can we be better warriors?  How do you fight the good fight of faith?

Here are some of the verses I’ve been pondering:
“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.” (Eph.6:12)

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (IICor.10:3-5)

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” (I Tim.6:12)
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one:” (Eph.6:16)

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, (I Pet.5:8,9)

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (Ja.4:7)
So we’re in a battle, unseen though it be.  The objective?  To lay hold of LIFE–that eternal abundant sort of life of which we are heirs!  What’s going to deter us?  Fiery darts seeking to implant… Unbelief. Fear. Worry. Doubt.  They come like flaming suggestions to our minds at the worst of moments: “Oh no! What am I going to do?!” …Did God really say…?  Is He really good?  Can you trust Him for this situation? Where is He in this anyway?!  Don’t you think you’d better ‘do’ something! …and on and on.  What is one to do?

How to deflect them?

By lifting up the shield of faith.

How’s that?  Well, how about if I respond by taking captive my run-away thoughts and making them submit to this truth:  ‘I know whom I have believed and that He is able…to keep, to rescue, to provide, to heal, to do whatever is best in and through my life in this very moment.’  This is a declaration of faith.  I belie my unbelief when I am wracked with worry, fear or guilt.  As a favorite writer of mine puts it: “Every time fear freezes and worry writhes, every time I surrender to stress, aren’t I advertising the unreliability of God?  That I really don’t believe?” (Ann Voskamp)

Her recommendation is to start by giving thanks for every evidence of God in this moment.  That makes a great faith-starter.  Giving thanks too for a million moments of God’s faithfulness in the past increases my trust for the future.  [These thoughts are from her first book, hot off the press: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are]

I was just reading a negative example of this in the adventure of the disciples at sea with Jesus when the big storm blew up. (Luke 8)  Their reaction: Panic!  “We’re gonna die!”  After all, Jesus was asleep and the storm was a doozer.  They knew boats and water but apparently not too much about their Master.  Jesus woke, calmed the seas and asked bluntly: “Where is your faith?” What would I have done?  Likely the same thing.  But what sort of response was Jesus looking for?  What would have been the indicators of a stalwart faith in the middle of a terrifying storm? Whether the temptation is to fear, to worry or to panic how do I combat it?  Yes, they were in real danger and yet, the Lord of all creation was with them in the boat!  Easy to think they were pretty silly and short-sighted but then again…that same Lord who possesses all authority in heaven and earth and sends me out to represent him to the world with the unending  promise of  “and behold, I am with you always, right to the end of the age”…that same Jesus is with me.  Unseen, maybe. But as I learn to look for the evidences of His presence, with thanksgiving, and declare His words to be true, my focus will change and faith will rise to ward off fear.

It’s all comfortably theoretical when I see it in someone else’s story. The ‘proof of the pudding’ will be in the storm.  Or maybe just in the day-to-day thought patterns that crisscross my mind?

One other thing I noticed in this story was the exchange of fears.  First the disciples feared the storm. Then when Jesus calmed it they were afraid, and they marveled, saying…’Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’”  Could it be that a rightful fear of God, an awe of His power, will help us in this fight of faith to which we’re called?  When the darts come there’s opportunity to let them stick and ignite all the wrong responses—or to turn my attention to the greatness of my God, and His presence with me in everything.  The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and of knowing the Love of God that is without end.  Any other fear is nonsense in the light of who He is

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Rev.1:17,18)

We are blessed to know an unseen reality.  For the skeptic who denies God’s existence or even the theist that acknowledges an uninvolved irrelevant god, there is no shield of faith.  The only reality is what can be seen and measured, reasoned and calculated.  Beyond that is nothing.  So they stand confident where they should tremble.  Their enemy and ours is unseen and no friend of their souls.  But unaware of his wiles, blindfolded to his tactics, they whistle along in the dark, pawns on a battlefield without defense.

I can be a practical atheist, responding to what I see, oblivious to Kingdom interests in my every day matters.  George Herbert put it this way:

“The man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or, if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heavens espy.”

That is to say I can get hung up on my circumstances and see the ‘flesh and blood’ around me as the trouble.  I can view the physical aches and pains and storms of life as obstacles to LIFE as intended or I can look through the physical woes, the people and circumstances and discover God at hand, permitting, controlling, fighting my battles as I submit by faith to His rule in my life. I’m convinced that learning to see rightly is a huge part of the battle of faith we are called to fight.

I’m reminded of the meat section of the grocery store where we shopped when I was a child. The glass separating the shopper from the work of the butchers is a mirror on the shoppers’ side.  All the shopper sees is the tidily packaged meat, the fellow shoppers, the groceries to buy.  But behind that mirror lies the source, the crucial activity that stocks the shelves, the blood and the guts.  Mind you, sometimes, if you were standing at just the right angle, you could dimly see through the mirror to this other world your parents said was there…

That’s how the eye of faith sees, believing in the world that lies behind our mirrored glass.

It sees the unseen—the reality of God with us, even when His presence can’t be felt.
It trusts that God is good and in control.when ‘bad’ things happen…

It holds fast the Word of God in an honest and good heart, patient for the fulfillment…(Luke 8:15)

Fenelon was a saint of the 17th century.  I just picked up a modern update of his letters titled:  Let Go.  I like his analysis of faith:

“There are two peculiar characteristics of pure faith.  It sees God behind all the blessings and imperfect works which tend to conceal Him, and it holds the soul in a state of continued suspense.  Faith seems to keep us constantly up in the air, never quite certain of what is going to happen in the future; never quite able to touch a foot to solid ground.  But faith is willing to let God act with the most perfect freedom, knowing that we belong to him and are to be concerned only about being faithful in that which he has given us to do for the moment.” –Fenelon, Let Go,27.

And for this moment, that’s the sum of my ponderings on the fight of faith.  I close with one last word from Fenelon:  “Above all things, be faithful to the present moment, doing one thing at a time, and you will receive all the grace you need.” (p.29 ) 

Must be off to capture the present moment, by faith.


Postponing the post…

For what are you waiting, hoping, daring to believe? An unexpected late snowfall has dumped a chill on the first signs of spring at our house. They say hope deferred makes the heart sick. (Prov.13:12) So what’s the antidote? I suppose it’s something like being patient, and establishing our hearts in the truth of what’s to come…I have been considering this week a related idea: the fight of faith. What’s that about? Unfortunately, these thoughts have not materialized into a post for two reasons:

One is that I was busy composing a book review of The End of Reason, an excellent resource for addressing the  underlying inconsistencies of the ‘new atheists’.  [Click the title to link to that review]

The other is that today, the day that these thoughts on the fight of faith were to have materialized in print, we woke to a phone call saying our grand-daughter is about to be born in a far-off city… and that’s where we are heading with hopes in hand tomorrow, so the post proposition was pre-empted till a later date…..

The fight of faith.  It remains an on-going battle, even today, for peace and trust, and coherence of thought minus the fears, minus the tumult of rushed plans.  For God has given us a spirit of love, power and a sound mind–all we need for today.

Thanks for stopping by.  I hope you’ll check out the book review and keep it in mind if you ever need to say a  timely word in defense of your faith to one who thinks it’s all magic and dangerous delusion.


What’s the Difference?!

I was challenged this week to consider what the difference is between me and ‘the Lady’, that is, between one who professes to ‘know’ Jesus and be indwelt by His Spirit—a ‘believer’, and one who has chosen to live a prudent and moral life as much as possible but denies the existence of any god.  She knows plenty of mainline ‘Christians’, lots of religious people but claims to see no difference between us— I quote:

“As I say often, what interests me greatly is why it is so important for some very intelligent people to so willingly accept these myths. There is no difference in the lives of people like you who believe and people like me who do not. Your life is not any richer or happier or free from strife and problems.”

This seemed such an audacious claim that I of course set about contesting it. In part my response was:

“It is true that we are all made of the same genetic ‘stuff’. We may even share certain interests (chatting about books for instance) but your ‘phone’ is dead (referring to a prior conversation on the subject of prayer). Until that connection is made live you will never know the dimension of life you are missing, and the quality of life comparison becomes mere wishful thinking…from my observation there is nothing compelling about denying the reality of God in this world. Even if my belief were mistaken I would rather have lived with the joy, purpose and hope that come of knowing there is a God who holds my life in His hands, calls me by name and keeps count of the hairs on my head–who indeed loves me without conditions, than to trade these in for denial, which offers a transient show of ‘freedom’ but ends in lonely bondage to the tyranny of myself as my only god.  That’s the way I see it.”

Well, that led to a barrage of responses from the defenders of the god-less viewpoint which sobered me to realize something more… but first some excerpts—

What an atheist (with regards to the Christian God) does get is intellectual honesty and freedom to wonder if “God” may take some other form than the unimaginative and limiting deity conceived by religion. I don’t think denial applies to an atheist. –George

Joy, purpose and hope can be achieved without an outside force.
If a belief in God gives comfort to those who have none, or love to those who have none, then yes, a belief in God may have some merit. But, that merit is only an imaginary coping system. As an individual, I take full responsibility for my circumstances. It does not give me comfort, or hope to blame my circumstances on a God, or to expect a God to change them. The thought that a God holds my life in his hands is a bit scary actually. It takes all control away, it takes all choices away. I am responsible for how I choose to live my life and the actions I choose to make.–Suzie

If I select five atheistic friends and compare them to my five siblings, I see no difference in the morality of their lives, their human frailties and weaknesses, their kindnesses and generosities. The only difference is the lack of Church and God in their conversations and of course attendance at religious services. Also the atheistic are more accepting of the religious beliefs or lack thereof of others in their lives. –the Lady

Skepticism is a virtue, but faith is not. I’ve seen too many good people duped into believing false things over and over and over again, and being seriously financially or physically harmed.—Mr.Brain

There is no difference between the lives of those who believe and those who do not. When Katrina hit New Orleans it did not separate believers from non-believers to impact.
I do recognize that there are some differences between us because I assume you spend much time either in church, saying prayers or thinking of God and Jesus and asking for guidance from them which you then implement in your life and the lives of those for whom you are responsible. I would imagine the biggest difference is that you attribute the decisions you make for running your life to God/Jesus and I accept the responsibility for myself.
I don’t know that joy and (can’t remember your quote exactly) are exactly quantifiable in this way. So many other factors enter into such evaluations. No matter how deep your faith, don’t think you would be so joyful in the presence of a dying family member or if you are prone to depression or ill yourself etc.—the Lady

And all these heart-felt missives led me to do some thinking too.  How different are we as Christians because we believe there is a God we can know?  Does it really just amount to church attendance and time spent praying?  Is this what people perceive? 

I read a research report suggesting that the ‘new atheism’ is in part a protest against organized religion.  It is people observing ineffective religion and opting out altogether. Could it be they have never seen authentic Christianity lived out?  In Acts I see a very different story.  The first followers of Christ turned the world upside down. Their faith and boldness to speak in Jesus’ name were unstoppable! Onlookers were converted in droves.  These believers  knew their God and really believed.  They were living evidence of His unlimited power.  What’s happened to us?  What witness does the average person see to the power of the Gospel to transform lives?

One idea that I proposed to this group of staunch un-believers was that in denying a God, they in effect make themselves to be god.  Have we as believers done the same thing? Have we forgotten our God and put ourselves in His place? For whose pleasure do I live?  Whose interests do I promote?  How different am I from someone who claims there is no god and lives by their own intuitions?  Are the ‘christians’ these folks see virtual atheists in the way they live?  Am I?  How deep is  my joy anyway?  I don’t mean to sound overly introspective here but I’ve been rolling these questions around in my mind even as I pray the Lord will plant authentic believers in these ones’ lives and help the rest of us to be that sort of believer to those around us.

This has been a very interesting on-line community to be involved with. [Incidentally, though I have changed the user names above to protect the privacy of these real persons,  they do represent a virtual community who rally together to defend their rights to think outside the box and I do appreciate their willingness to interact with me and put up with my objections and clarifications.]  Having said that, I’ve had to correct some of my assumptions about ‘atheism’.  I assumed that atheists would all be a gloomy lot since the logical end to their beliefs leaves no option but despair.  But classic atheism is apparently a rather rare commodity nowadays.

The genuine atheist who seriously lives out the implications of his non-beliefs will always end up with despair.  Nietzsche is a notable example.  He came to the conclusion that “a universal madness would break out when the truth of what mankind had done in killing God (i.e. denying his existence, saying ‘God is dead’) dawned on us.” (Zacharias, The End of Reason, p.27)  Incidentally Nietzsche spent the last thirteen years of his own life in insanity being watched over by his godly mother.

Other notorious atheists have come to their senses and escaped this snare.   Jean Paul Sartre, to the embarrassment of the intellectual elite atheist, recanted on his deathbed, acknowledging himself to be the product of a Creator God. And more recently Anthony Flew authored his own story: There is a God: how the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007)

When pursued to its legitimate ends an atheistic worldview is un-liveable, and yet here is this community of  people, living quite contentedly it would seem.  The ‘new atheist’ wants his morality, in fact exalts it above God’s moral standards– (after all, look at the suffering God allows!).  He toots his own self-righteous horn all the while denying the Source of moral absolutes.   He’s inconsistent—talking one way, living anothernot really living up to the label he has chosen.  How does that work?  But should this discovery have come as a surprise?  Am I not also human and often inconsistent?  In fact this scenario of not living up to one’s labels sounds all too familiar.  How did Paul put it?  “…having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” (II Tim.3:5)

Where else might this apply?

It dawned on me one day this week that we who believe there is an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, personal God who is intimately acquainted with all our ways and promises to work in every detail for our best good…we above all people, should be filled chock-full and overflowing with contagious JOY, not to mentions unfathomable peace and boundless hopeThe atheist has every excuse for despair.  We have none whatsoever.  We believe in what we do not see.  We hope in situations beyond hope.  We live and are renewed when death is imminent.  We are confident of a destiny that reaches beyond our physical lives.  To the atheist, ‘destiny’ is “no more than a popular name for girls.” They have no expectation beyond the grave.  To us it is the hope that lights our present lives, the lighthouse we can see through the storms, the sight on which we fix our eyes.  And as we live with a sense of our destiny we will be brilliant lights for people stuck in uncertain aimless lives.
On the other hand, if my joy is not evident… if my kids don’t see it leaking out on my face…  If my peace is riddled through with the worries of this life, how is what I believe different than ‘the Lady’?  I don’t wish to be a practical atheist.  I want to fulfill the calling to which I have been called, to live what I say I believe, to walk by faith in a power beyond my own.
I was challenged by an excellent commentary called “Stretch out in the Spirit” by T.Moore from the Colson Center. ( ) He says,

 “…But if the Spirit of God lives in us, and if He is, indeed, able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, should we not expect more of ourselves than merely what we’ve ever known or endeavored in the past? Shall we be limited by our experience when an exceeding abundant power is at work within us?”  

So, for perhaps the first time I am looking at ‘holes’ that need to be filled and wondering if God could possibly prepare me to be able to fill them… I don’t see the details yet but I’m daring to pray that He will make a way for His Kingdom to be advanced in these spots by my ‘living sacrifice’.  It’s a start in making a difference… He’s invited us to ask and He will give the nations as our inheritance (Ps.2)… to ask and He will do through us greater works than He Himself did while on the earth (Jn.14:12-14)…To dare to ask, is a starting place. 

And yes, there will be a noticeable difference, not because of who we are, but because of WHOSE we are.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  AMEN!”

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”



This past weekend, we went into the big city to check out Missions Fest for the first time.  Was it worth the time, expense and energy?  Without a doubt!  Rather than rehearse all the details I put together these impressions.  I was struck by the incredible privilege of being part of the family of God, standing en masse (1500+) to worship God together as one, and in contrast I thought of how very different is the atmosphere when people gather to pursue their own pleasure irrespective of God’s Kingdom.  There’s no comparison.

A gathering from hither and yon’ of saints-the church-His Body
Eagerness to hear
Tears welling
Awe of God ——Attentiveness to hear His instructions

“What does the Lord require of me?”

Acquaintances made
Earnest Discussion
Kingdom strategizing
Bold Words
Heartfelt messages
Seeking to put God’s Kingdom first

God IS alive!——God is MOVING!——-GOD IS AWESOME in this place and all over the world!

Renewed faith
Opened Eyes
Fresh Vision
Expectancy to see God at work in our sphere of influence and join in!
To confirm His calling

in our lives
in our times.

This was the celebration rightly called MISSIONS FEST!

It could hardly have been in greater contrast to the atmosphere of the ‘fertile plain’ we’d just glimpsed, the strip of imitation ‘life’ we caught a glimpse of on our recent trip to Las Vegas.

Crowds flock there too.  Conventions gather.
But there is no glory, only transient glamour.
No music of heaven, only noise—the incessant drone of casino din (ding,ding,ding,ding,ding,ding…)

The smoky haze of worship misdirected yields no purpose that energizes
Only drained countenance, weary of life,
Bored to death with pushing buttons,
playing chips,
tossing dice
watching outcomes in vain.

Hope dulled by disappointment
Despair settling on shoulders, dismal

Passion is here traded for lust—
No kingdom to live for, die for, celebrate
But my own.
Greed, lust, appetite for more, 
Turns to gluttonous disillusionment.
Stuffed but not satisfied.
Spent but nothing gained.
Entertained, titillated, and wowed senseless.
This is the ‘life’ of the fertile plain.
Abraham chose differently.  Moses too.
Both willing to deny the pleasures of sin for a season in order to stake their lot in future glory.
The world will pass away and the lusts thereof
But he who does the will of God will live forever.(IJn.2:17)

In His right hand are pleasures forevermore.(Ps.16:11)

An inheritance that neither spoils nor fades, kept in heaven for you who……..through faith and patience inherit the promises…(I Pet.1:5)(Heb.6:12)

Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.(Mt.6:33)
And I consider, “What does the Lord require of me?”
To do justly
To love mercy
To walk humbly with my God(Micah 6:8)

All              the           days           of               my             life
And then to dwell in His House forever
In unending awe 
At what He has done.
God, you are amazing!

“Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and He is to be held in awe above all gods!” (I Chron.16:24,25)