Ready For Battle

I was reading Bible stories to Kaylia and Everett a few nights ago. We started at the beginning with the story of creation, and moved on to the Garden of Eden and the snake with the fruit. I’ve read those stories so many times, it’s easy to go into auto-pilot, and not even think about what I’m reading, but Kaylia pulled a question out from the depths of her mind which stopped me in my tracks. Our conversation went a little like this:

Kaylia: “Why did Eve listen to the serpent?”

Me: “Well, he lied to her and tricked her.”

Kaylia: “Does that mean I will listen to Satan, and he will trick me like he tricked Eve?”

Me: “Sometimes we do get tricked, but we have Jesus to help us.”

Kaylia: “But didn’t Adam and Eve spend time with God? Why didn’t He help them?”

Me: “Hmm. Well, yes, they did spend time with God – He went into the garden and walked with them all the time.”

Kaylia: “If He spent time with them, but they were still tricked, how will Jesus help me not to get tricked?”

This has stayed with me. Although I remember the conversation clearly up to this point, I can’t actually remember what I said in response to this, because I was suddenly aware of a new realization: I see myself as smarter than Adam and Eve. Somehow, in my great familiarity of this story, I’ve stopped putting myself into it, and started seeing myself above it. Obviously, I wouldn’t make the same mistake – I would see right through the lies, and choose to stay close to God instead! Wouldn’t I?!

But Kaylia’s question brought it down to the root of it all – how are we any different? Isn’t this the story of humanity? We long for God, but we have doubts. We start to think, “Does God really love me? Is He holding anything back from me? I need to take control, because I feel safer when I am at the wheel.”

How will we avoid Satan’s schemes and see through the little lies he whispers to us in those moments of weakness? It’s only by the grace of God, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. This is interesting, because in my mind, actually walking in the Garden of Eden with God sounds as close to heaven as we could get on this earth, and yet the Bible tells us it’s better to have the Spirit right inside of us. But how often do I take that for granted? The Holy Spirit covering me, protecting me, opening my eyes to truth, softening my heart, increasing my sensitivity, growing my hunger for the things of God, causing me to long for more awareness of His presence?

It’s the only thing making me any different from Adam and Eve. It’s the only thing, and it’s everything.

I’ve been stuck on the Armour of God passage in Ephesians for the last week, and Kaylia’s question has made me think about how I take God’s protection for granted. A wise friend of mine prays this passage over her family every day, and I’ve started to do the same – not out of fear, but rather with joy and confidence. How much stronger and more intentional could I be each day if I purposely, intentionally put on the protection of the Holy Spirit?

The passage starts with this verse: “Finally, be strong in the Lord….” Not my own strength. The point was never to make it on my own. I stand firm against the devil’s schemes because I’m ready for battle. I’m not smarter, I’m not stronger, I’m not more deserving. I’m just ready, because I have the Holy Spirit.

strong in the Lordsource

I love how The Message says it:

“So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way….Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them.”

Tools waiting to be used, set out before me, available at any moment. But I’ve taken God’s truth and peace for granted, and I haven’t been using these weapons to their full potential. I do use them, but not the same way a seasoned warrior would – not with the same earnestness as if I were really seeing this struggle as a fight, every moment. But thoughts, temptations, little annoyances and frustrations of life are all able to pull me away from the presence of Jesus, to distract me from what truly matters, and get my attention off the things of Christ. I don’t want that anymore. I want to be strong, focused, intentional, while still being joyful, peaceful, and full of grace. Isn’t that such an interesting combination?!

I was reading a book about a warrior to Kaylia last night, and it described him as feeling fully alive and charged up as he prepared for a fight, because “it was what he’d been made to do.” He didn’t feel fear or doubt and uncertainty. He felt the rush of adrenaline and confidence as he got ready for what was to come, fulfilling his destiny and purpose.

So this morning, like every morning, I take up my weapons. I choose to focus on the feelings of joy and confidence, because the final battle has already been won, but there’s these daily fights I need to rise up against. I’m made to do this, with the Holy Spirit inside of me, and God’s weapons laid out for me. It’s a good fight.

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The Point of Temptation

I love chips.

I love to inhale chips.

It is completely dangerous for me to be around a bag of chips, because I will eat it all, by myself.

The big problem is that chips make my tongue very, very happy, and my digestive system very, very unhappy. I’m on a fairly strict diet for health reasons, and if I stick to it, I feel great.

If I inhale a bag of chips, I do not feel great. It takes me a day or two to recover.

But, oh, when those chips are being shoved rapidly into my mouth, I don’t really care how many days it will take to get back to normal. It seems worth it all.

Until the second after I’m done inhaling the bag of chips. Then, I am usually overcome with guilt and remorse, and it does NOT seem worth it AT ALL.

Obviously, I have issues with chips.

I was thinking about all of this awhile ago when I was leading a session on resisting temptation. Eating chips is not usually considered sinful behaviour, but for somebody like me, sometimes I wonder….

Those moments of pure indulgence do not do good things for self-control, and they also don’t do good things for my family. My mood is affected by what I eat, and if I feel sick and crabby for a day after an encounter with some chips, it really doesn’t seem fair for everyone involved.

But what happens so often is that we focus on the actual act of wrong-doing, and feel bad about what we’ve done, but we don’t see the big picture. We don’t recognize all the little steps that led us up to the big moment when we caved.

For example….My moment of weakness did not happen when that bag of chips happened to be sitting there in front of me in all its salty, greasy glory. It happened already when I was at the store, and I was pushing my cart past the chip aisle. When I paused there, and started to imagine how delicious a bag of chips would taste…THAT was my moment of temptation.

And resisting in that moment would be a lot easier than later on. At my first point of temptation, all I would have to do is keep my cart rolling straight, instead of turning down the chip aisle.

(Totally outdated picture, but it’s the only grocery shopping picture I have! And I find it funny that although it’s taken two years ago, there’s a bag of ripple chips in the cart!)

Later on, I would have to resist that bag of chips in many other more difficult situations – like when I see it sitting in my pantry repeatedly, day after day, until I break down and eat it. Or I would have to resist it at a party, when the bag is sitting open on the counter. Or I’d have to stop myself in the moment when my hand was in the bag, reaching for another handful, after already consuming half the chips.

But it’s soooo hard to stop then! I want to keep eating until they are gone! (I realize that at this point, you might be thinking I’m completely crazy, and needing some serious help. I would just like to point out that people are either moderators or abstainers – they can do things in moderation, like eat only one cookie, or they are the “all or nothing” type, meaning they would eat the entire bag of Oreos. I would eat the entire bag of cookies.)

I once read a fantastic article about bad habits and how to break them. When you have a problem area in your life, it helps to identify not just what the area of temptation is, but also what leads up to it.

When specifically do I crave chips? Can I stay away from the chip aisle completely when I shop? Can I make sure not to shop when I’m hungry?

When am I most likely to be led into temptation, and how can I avoid those situations in my life?

Today I had to explain to Anika what it meant to “flee from the devil”. After clearing up the difference between “flee” and “flea”, I explained that when we feel tempted, God tells us to RUN. As fast as we can, in the opposite direction.

I must flee from Ripple Chips, as fast as my legs will take me.

I also need to recognize the little choices I make, and be aware of what direction they are taking me.

Okay, confession time! What’s your weakness? And what leads you to the point of giving in?