Spiritual Warfare Part 2: The Fight

I don’t know if the lost woman in my apartment was mentally unstable, possessed, or just lost. What I do know is that she wasn’t the enemy. It was the lies and the voice that spoke them that was the enemy. The enemy was–and is–Satan.

Scripture tells us that our enemy roams the earth looking for someone (weak) to devour. Therefore, we must resist him by being vigilant, watchful, alert to what’s going on in the spiritual realm and keeping a clear head about it.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  –1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV

When the lost woman started to listen to the voice of the enemy, she had a choice. She knew God. She had heard his voice, his gentle correction that she was wrong, but what the enemy was saying to her sounded better. The enemy tempted her to follow a different path by speaking to her needs and wants in a way that pleased her. He offered her a way to have power and prestige and romance by stealing it.

One of the give-aways of the Devil is that he is focused on the present. In his voice comes the urgency to please yourself now with no care for the consequences of that “pleasure” to your future. Satan entices you to sin and become a slave to that sin. He knows the consequences of sin are death–spiritually and, in some cases, physically.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 6:23, NIV

Satan’s choices are strategic. He leads us on a path of death and destruction for a reason; he wants to win the war he started with God.

According to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19, Satan was an angel of high importance in Heaven long before the creation of the world. He grew envious of God and wanted to be him. He attempted to overthrow God, but he was shot down. It must have been a violent and significant beat-down because Christ himself said he saw him fall “like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18). He was cast to Earth where he pesters mankind in order to steal, kill, and destroy their purpose in the Earth.

And I will put enmity (open hostility) between you and the woman,
And between your seed (offspring) and her Seed;
He shall [fatally] bruise your head,
And you shall [only] bruise His heel.”–Genesis 3:15, AMP

The thief’s (Satan’s) purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness. –John 10:10, TLB

God created us to have fellowship with Him, but Satan wanted to break that bond and keep us from the closeness we were meant to have. Why? Because he didn’t get what he wanted when he tried to overthrow Heaven, and he can’t win his way back into God’s good graces to go back there even if he was humble enough to beg for it. Revelations 20 tells us that Satan, Lucifer, is destined for fire and he will take as many with him who are willing to go along with his lies.

We, humans, are not just helpless pawns in this spiritual struggle, we are the prize that both sides are fighting for.

For we are His workmanship [His own masterwork, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].–Ephesians 2:10, AMP

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We are the prime achievement of all God’s creative endeavors. The Grand Canyon, the magnificent Appalachian mountains, the stars and the planets, everything beautiful that God created pales in comparison to the greatness that lives in each of us. I love the way the Message Bible puts it: “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing (Ephesians 2:10, MSG).”

Satan may try to get in the way of our purpose here on Earth, but he has no power to stop us. Christ overcame the Devil and any power he had when he became a human, took on our brokenness, and became our bridge to God.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.–Hebrew 2:14-18, NLT

We are called to live our lives in freedom and dignity. Our freedom comes from accepting this message, that Christ died for us, and accepting Him as our personal Savior. Then, we change how we live. We pursue God through his Word because we honestly want to know Him more. We turn away from sin as he reveals our sinful behaviors through His Word, the Bible. Our freedom comes from living through the Spirit and denying our sinful, fleshly desires. We have to stay alert about the war we are in. Galatians describes what this war looks like in our everyday lives.

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. 

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.–Galatians 5:19-23, MSG

It is a war of the flesh led by the Devil vs. the spirit led by God working in and through us. When we begin to understand this, the enemy is no longer your boss, your husband, your co-worker, or the lost woman in your apartment. No, the enemy is Satan. Instead of yelling at that lost person, yell at the Devil. Take authority over the situation by putting on the whole armor of God.

We will finish this discussion by looking at the full armor of God in Ephesians in my next post. Until then, think about these questions.

How has your attitude been lately? Are you mad at the world or are you loving the world?

How do you see yourself? Are you a priceless treasure or are you a mistake?

Spiritual Warfare Part 1: The Lost Woman In My Apartment and My Association With Her

There was once an older woman in my church who needed a ride home. I saw no harm in helping her; she seemed well put-together. She dressed in fancy suits and silks. Her hair, jewelry, and make-up displayed knowledge of both the latest fashions and what was confidently best matched to her. She was an international woman of culture, sophistication, and beauty. I saw no harm in her, so I took her home.

But one ride led to more rides. And more rides led to dinners and teas in her home.

It didn’t take long to realize that she was not normal. Her once well-furnished home had been cratered; she’d sold off much of it to maintain her lifestyle. She was existing on whatever she could sell and whatever people would give her. Though she was quite talented, she refused to work. She said she felt “called to seek God in prayer and Bible study”. She had a “yeah, but…” excuse for every Scripture you quoted for this including “…the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

All of this I did not know when our friendship began, but I learned it over time. I knew her lifestyle was not a calling of God because God doesn’t call us to do things that don’t line up with his Word. Nevertheless, I didn’t do much to push back against the falsehoods she was believing. I would casually mention a scripture countering her belief and ask her what she thought about it. I then let it be, and I told her I wasn’t going to judge her. This kindness grew our friendship and, like an unchecked garden, her weeds filled my life.

I have always liked being able to offer a spare room in my house as a getaway for my friends. Sometimes just a short break from their status-quo was all it took to give my friends a fresh, encouraged perspective. My townhome had a perfect space for this, and I remember inviting this lost friend into my home as a getaway retreat for her.  I remember her stay landed on a weekend where I was obligated to help with a church yard sale. I invited her to come along, but she declined. I left her alone in my apartment. When I came back to my apartment, something felt off from the moment I walked in the door. My friend had been “seeking” and wrote what she felt God told her in her journal. She had left her journal out where I could see what she wrote in it. I knew it was an invasion of privacy to read her words, but I also knew that the truth of whatever had happened in my home would be there. So, I read it. The words seared me: “the pastor is supposed to be my husband”.

Everything holy within me rose up in anger against her in that moment. She had written poisonous LIES…in my HOME….about the MARRIED man of God leading our church! I was so livid that I was visibly shaking. Nevertheless, I recognized that the Devil–not God–had been whispering in this woman’s ear…in my house…and I had to tread carefully over the next few things I would say to her. I felt danger lurking in my apartment and, I’m ashamed to say, I was scared. Nevertheless, I confronted her.

I told her that I saw what she wrote while I was gone, and I asked her if she really believed it. She smiled and said she was glad that I read it because she didn’t want to hide it anymore. “Anymore!” I thought, “How long has this been going on?” I thought that; I didn’t ask that. I told her that she was wrong to say those things because God would never tell her to break up a marriage to be with a man. I told her she was not hearing from God; she was hearing from the Devil. She became viciously angry and spewed hurtful insults at me. I don’t remember what she said as much as the burning hatred in her eyes. The woman was wholly sinning and defiantly fighting hearing the Truth. It was the closest thing to a possessed person that I have ever seen.

Because this all happened in my home, I felt responsible to right the grievous wrong being done here. I argued with her for quite some time, but she would not relent from her belief that the pastor was supposed to be her husband. I had her pack up her things, and I took her home. That was the end of our “friendship”.

I knew what had happened in my home was no idle threat. I could not keep it to myself because I was certain she would try to hurt the pastor’s wife. Consequently, I went to my church’s pastoral staff and the pastor’s wife herself and told them everything. I told them about the lost woman in my apartment and all she did and said there. I remember bowing like a failed knight before her king because I felt like I had failed them. I felt guilty for not knowing better. I felt guilty for letting it get that far. I felt guilty for being close friends with her and letting the sickness grow. Though I was abused, misguided, and betrayed, I felt responsible for this clear and present danger. I let those feelings consume me.

The lost woman did not go quietly into the shadows. She continued to listen to her lies and they told her to shave her head and present herself to the pastor during worship–naked. She showed up one Sunday to do just that. Her lovely hair shaven, she had wrapped herself in a silk sari with nothing on beneath. In front of an audience of over a thousand people, she attempted to disrobe in front of the pastor. Security swarmed in and carried her out, however, before she was able to get the job done. They took her out, thankfully, before anyone really knew who she was or what she was trying to do. They were able to do this because of what the pastor did prior to her entrance.

It was customary practice for the pastor to be in prayer before going on stage before a service. The time before services was so important, in fact, that the pastor was guarded to reinforce his conviction that he needed to remain focused on the task at hand. In these prayer-prep times, the Holy Spirit would speak to the pastor about things he needed to say and attacks that were coming against him. The Sunday that the lost woman came in, the Holy Spirit had already prepared him for the attack and told him to direct everyone in the audience to close their eyes in worship. The Holy Spirit saw the attack coming and enabled the pastor to protect his flock. We sheep were directed to close our eyes and keep worshiping until the pastor told us to open our eyes. Because I was one of the obedient sheep, I never saw the lost woman come into the sanctuary. I never saw her attempt to disrobe or her shaved head screaming as she was carried out of the building. All of that was told to me later along with the news of other failed attempts to hurt the pastor’s wife.

Her failed attempt to get at the pastor brought scrutinizing eyes on me. People that knew about my friendship with her and the incident in my apartment then associated me with her. I was now the woman that knew the woman that tried to kill the pastor’s wife and take her husband. I could not be trusted. I was guilty by association.

Because of the lost woman in my apartment–and the sinful lies she wrote there–I believed I could not trust myself to hear the voice of God again. I believed that I could serve the house of God–in volunteer positions in the church–but I could not hear from God personally. I held myself in this prison for many years.

Because of the lost woman in my apartment, I became a lost woman too.

I went into a dark depression. I questioned myself and everything I thought I heard from God. I doubted everything to the point that it became impossible for me to make decisions for myself. I remember people close to me were recommending I get professional help and calling my parents to come and check on me. I didn’t need professional help; I needed a friend to believe in me and pull me out of my mess. My mom was that friend.

I remember coming to the end of myself. I had been working temp jobs and applying for “real” jobs for over a year. Some weeks I was applying to as many as 100 jobs a week. Still, no doors were opening for me. Even the part-time jobs that had been sustaining me for two years were beginning to dry up. I felt so hopeless and lost.

I called home and begged my mom and dad for guidance. “Just make the decision for me,” I pleaded, “I don’t know what to do.” Without hesitation, they said: “Come home.”

Coming home, at first, felt like defeat. My parents had been empty nesters. My room had become storage. There was no place for me. I knew that coming home meant a lot of work for my mom to make a space for me. Nevertheless, mom and dad knew I needed the family to get through my dark time. My mother especially knew this because she had weathered many such storms herself and knew what it took to break through. Her gift to me, in that moment, was going into my old room and clearing it out so that I could come home. She not only cleared out my room, but she also cleared space in the living room and kitchen for parts of my furniture and kitchen tools. It’s not easy for a woman to give up part of her haven to another woman…even when that woman is her child. It’s not easy for two women of age to run their own separate homes to share a home together, but mom and I embarked on that journey together. Almost ten years later, I can say it has been one of the strongest and best moves of my life. The beginning was a mess. The middle was a bit brooding and rocky. The later years have been a blessing.

It took almost ten years for me to stop beating myself up for what happened with the lost woman. It took almost ten years for me to believe I could seek God and trust that I was hearing his voice again. That trust came from knowing the difference between the voice of God and the voice of the enemy, Satan.

In my next post, I will go into that in more depth. For now, let me ask you to think about these questions:

In what ways has the enemy attacked you and made you feel unworthy?

What lies has he spoken to you that you accepted as truth?

Why Art Matters

Over five years–and five lifetimes–ago, I was on the streets making art with the homeless. I can’t remember how I learned this, but I learned that there were homeless artists on the streets no longer able to make art because they couldn’t afford their supplies. What I did after that was a series of intentional choices that made me feel fully alive.
Let me explain.
I became very intentional about finding a way to empower the artists to create again. I found ways to use throw away things like coffee grounds and flowers to create paints and dyes. I found cheap colored pencils and wood (less than a dollar each) from a local craft store to create with. Then I talked to some church leaders about what I was doing and I was asked to teach a class. I took what I’d discovered–and my own craft supplies–and taught them about ways to be creative with stuff they see on the street. I told them God had a plan and purpose for their lives and for their gifts to be used to bring Him glory.
The class was such a hit, I was asked to teach again at an outreach event. This time, I took a bag of wooden apples I got at a yard sale and told every artist in my class, “you are the apple of God’s eye. He loves you and has a plan for your life. Now paint or decorate this apple any way you choose. This is your apple, your reminder of how God feels about you.”
At the event, the class was so popular that I ran out of supplies in the first day. I was given a small budget to buy more supplies and continue classes.

There were other events and holidays and days when my church intentionally stepped out into the community with art as an outreach tool. I look back on it now, and think it was so effective because it was doing Christianity in a way people weren’t used to but could grasp.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is an expression of the soul. It is a pulse on the thoughts, ideas, and passions of our culture. Other fields like medicine and business may be necessary, but art is the only field that captures what all of us are working for. As we are trying to discover our place in the world, art gives us a voice and a guiding light along that journey.

That’s why Art is so important.

That’s why Art matters.

Art is also a gift from God to intimately connect with Him. Creativity has a source, and the best artists have been the ones with a God-given knack to do what they do.
Sometimes, however, they get distracted by other influences and lose the ability to really project God’s heart. Sometimes they are shunned by the church and feel equally shunned by God.

It’s time art was reclaimed for God.

It’s time artists felt they had a place and purpose in the church.