Plato urges us: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” If you are breathing, you are under a spiritual assault. The question we face is not, “Are we under attack?” but, “What is the heart of the attack?” Let me tell a recent story of mine. See if you can recognize the field of battle for the spiritual warfare.

Two friends and I host a weekly podcast on various spiritual topics. Last Thursday we planned to discuss (I kid you not), How to Recognize Spiritual Assault in Our Lives. Schedule conflicts and illness had caused the cancellation of our two previous podcasts. We didn’t want to call off a third.

To complicate matters, one of my friends was still under the weather, the other was swamped with work, and I had a longstanding 6:00 pm dinner date with great, out-of-town friends. I planned to leave the dinner at 7:30 to make our 8:00 call.

That was the situation going in; this is the story that followed:

  • Late in the afternoon, my wife and I had a tense discussion. I missed much of my podcast planning time, leaving me irritated, distracted and unprepared.
  • Our dinner reservation was changed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, leaving me little time for conversation, and even less time for food.
  • The closest parking spot was half a dozen blocks from the restaurant, and I arrived five minutes late.
  • As I left the restaurant, a torrential downpour greeted me with open arms, and I splashed and waded the six blocks back to my car.
  • Three different traffic jams—three!—delayed me further. I arrived home with two minutes to spare, soaking wet and freezing.
  • I began the call in a frenzied, intense, and distracted state of mind.

Do you recognize the frontlines of the spiritual assault?

It’s not what we normally think

When I later reviewed that story with a friend, he exclaimed, “Whenever I speak on spiritual warfare, the same stuff happens to me: my wife and I get into a fight, my car breaks down, the PA system shorts out, and I’m an emotional wreck. We’ve got to pray against Satan’s evil orchestration of events.”

But the inconvenient incidents weren’t my problem. The battlefield of my spiritual warfare was not the events. They were just triggers.

The bullets that leave us bleeding on the battlefield are the warped beliefs that burrow deep in our hearts.

The book of Job may be the best spiritual warfare manual ever written. And in it, seven verses describe Satan’s evil orchestration of events: marauders, natural disasters, enemies, weather, and illness (Job 1:14-19 and 2:7). That’s it, seven verses out of forty-two chapters.

The rest of the book of Job reveals the distorted thinking—the warped beliefs—of Job, his wife, and his friends. The book of Job concludes with God revealing himself, and it is God’s self-disclosure—displaying how reality really works—that brings the healing Job needed.

It’s the lies that we buy that kill us

Scripture’s depiction of Satan underscores his messages, not his physical power. He’s called a liar, the father of lies, a deceiver, an accuser, and a blinder of our minds. Scripture doesn’t call Satan the demon of thunderstorms, the terrorizer of technology, or the evil spirit of illness.

He may cause some of these, but he always lies about them. He offers us false interpretations.

Satan’s objective is to distort our view of reality about God, others, and ourselves. Once we believe Satan’s lies about God (others or ourselves), he has us in the palm of his hand. It is those false beliefs that make us act in fear, rage, timidity, domination, misunderstanding, and oppression. Satan’s attack on Job was to get him to “curse God to his face” (Job 1:11).

I could have handled that call differently

The changed reservations, poor parking, and bad weather triggered inner responses: intenseness, distraction, and forcefulness. I thought: “Why does this always happen to me? At the very worst times? Now I’ve got to make this call work, even though I’m unprepared.”

What if, instead, I believed that God works out all things for the good? Even poor podcast prep.

I would have approached the call with peace not frenzy (Success doesn’t depend upon me), and delightful curiosity not distraction (What is God up to?). Everybody would have had more fun. Including me.

Instead of fearing thunderstorms, we can learn to dance in the rain as we wonder, “What great marvel is God up to now?”

Sam

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PS: I have been invited to speak at my first ever retreat on Hearing God in Conversation,based on my upcoming  book. The host organization is a terrific Christian Community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

They wish to open the doors to anyone who would like to come, so please consider attending the retreat on Hearing God in Conversation, Friday evening through Saturday evening, October 2-3, 2015.

I hope to provide each attendee with an Advanced Reader Copy of my upcoming book.

You can register here.

Feeling God’s Love

The speaker was persuasive and moving. He asked us to hug a friend, stomp on the floor, and even pinch our own forearms. It didn’t hurt that he could have been a GQ model: six foot three, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and funny. When he looked each of us in the eye, we felt his personal care.

The conference theme was Knowing God. Its most popular presenter was this man with passion for feelingGod’s love:

  • He asked, “How can we know God’s love?
  • He answered, “We feel love in the hug, we sense the solid floor in the stomp, and we experience pain in the pinch.”
  • He argued, “God knows our frame, our need for hugs; he longs for us to detect his touch. And that is how we’ll know his love. When we feel it.”
fact faith feeling

Carrie Koens http://www.carriesbusynothings.com

He scorned the old evangelical formula, “Fact–Faith–Feeling” with its mundane illustration of a train: the locomotive represents “fact,” the coal-car “faith,” and the caboose “feelings.”

If we put our faith (fuel) in the facts (locomotive), our feelings will follow. He snickered at its antiquated answer.

“That perversion,” he laughed, “is completely contrary to the God-man of the gospels. Jesus was a man of compassion. We know his love only when we feel it. Feelings teach us facts.”

Well, I feel a bit unsure about his answer; and that’s a fact

The truth is, our feelings are always little helpless cabooses, pulled about by greater powers. They alwaysfollow whatever we believe to be reality:

  • We feel unimportant when we believe we are unimportant to others, so we’re sad;
  • We feel rejected when believe that everyone will reject us, thus we’re angry;
  • We feel we will fail at our next job application because we believe we will screw up the interview, the result is we feel scared.

Our thoughts about reality inflame our emotions. Always. Emotions, however, take milliseconds to react to our beliefs, so our emotions feel like they reveal reality. But they don’t.

Our emotions are signposts to hidden beliefs, they are not revealers of truth.

Our emotional-perceptions are terrible observers of reality

A few years ago I wrote a blog that few people read, fewer people shared, and almost no one commented on. Thoughts race through my mind: my season of writing is over, no one resonates with what I say, and I better return to the world of business. I was dismayed.

I’m sure you recognize what happened: I experienced a single bad blog, and Iovergeneralized it to paint my entire life in black and white; I used one event as a crystal ball to forecast all my future plans; I jumped to the conclusion that this single rejection represented all of reality.

Our emotions are real, of course: we really do experience sadness, anger, and isolation. But as graphic artists, emotions only know how to draw distorted caricatures.

Which path will we take?

Julius Caesar claimed that “All men willing believe what they want to believe.”

We choose which reality we will trust. Emotions argue that feelings paint the world as it really is, and we should put our trust in them. Wisdom argues the opposite.

Christianity is the only religion in which the facts of history are central. If you doubt the miracles of Buddha or Mohammed, you can still live a good religious life by following their teachings. But Christianity rests on historical facts: that God became human, he died out of great love for us, he rose from the dead, and he sent his Spirit to live inside of us.

What emotional “truth” will solve our despair when our feelings tell us we will never be loved, or we will always be rejected, or we will never find satisfying work? Looking for emotional answers to resolve emotional dismay is like trying to extinguish fire with a gallon of gas.

Our only hope is the fact that God loves us without us lifting a finger. Choose to believethat and your caboose will follow: “If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our hearts.”

We always choose: either to believe our feelings even though God’s truth screams otherwise, or to believe God’s promises even when every feeling in our being mutinies.

A week after my ignored blog, my next article received twice as many reads, twice as many shares, and three times as many comments as any blog I had ever written before.

As revealers of reality, our feelings have the truth bearing capacity of a gnat. But as revealers of our unconsciously chosen beliefs (which are dragging us down), our feelings are more powerful than a locomotive.

Sam