Well folks, I'm coming to the close of another "theme" month. Every time I commit to a specific theme for an entire month, I get really nervous. I wonder, "How in the world am I going to blog twice a week about that same topic?" And some how I pull it off.
Actually, the truth is -- God pulls it off. He puts my spiritual antennae up, and everywhere I go I see, hear and experience things that line up with my theme. This month that I've focused around ministry (for Pastor's Appreciation Month) has been no exception.
Before I share a short word about what God placed on my heart today, can I ask you for a few favors? First of all, I'd love to hear from you if you're reading. I've been told my comment form hasn't been working for some reason. Well, I plan to fix that today for sure. And you can always leave a comment on Facebook as well. Hearing from you feels natural, like a two-way conversation.
Secondly, please share my blog with others that you think would be interested. I read books, articles and blogs all the time and think, "So-and-so would be so blessed by this." And I usually send that link right to that person. Please feel free to do the same with my blog.
Lastly, don't hesitate to share some ideas of what you'd like to read about, especially if it's in line with my blog. My blog has evolved over the months into something I never planned. God has awakened a desire in me to deal with popular culture from a Christian perspective. For instance, when Steve Jobs passed away, everyone was talking about him. I found myself wanting to talk about him too. Yet I immediately thought, "Now what does Steve Jobs' life teach us about the Christian walk?" Although Steve Jobs never professed to be a Christian, I was amazed at the illumination God gave me on the topic. I blogged about that here in Steve Jobs: Lessons From His Legacy, and even submitted my thoughts to a Christian publication. I'll let you know how that goes.
So if you love to read about things going on in the world right now, but you're wondering if and how those things apply to the Christian life, check my blog out on a regular basis. Or better yet, subscribe to receive it in your email every Tuesday and Saturday. Join my list of "Followers" to the right of this post. And tell other like-minded folks about it too.
I think that's it for favors. I know I'm asking a lot, but good grief, I do write this thing twice a week! Surely, you can help a sister out, right? :-)
So on to today's topic...
I handled this topic in depth in last year's post Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life: Part III. However, it bears repeating that perhaps the most difficult thing for those of us in ministry is spiritual warfare.
For those new to the Christian faith, spiritual warfare is the strife and difficulty experienced due to our spiritual enemy's, or Satan's, activity in our lives. Now, don't leave this blog post petrified over this. First of all, I'm not talking about the uncanny outward manifestations that we might see in the horror flicks popular this time of year: doors shutting by themselves, framed portraits mysteriously knocked off the wall, ghosts and monsters chasing people through grassy fields. (Can you tell I watched a lot of those during my teen years?)
No, I'm dealing with the more subtle spiritual warfare that happens behind the scenes. There are three tricky things about this kind of spiritual warfare:
- It can only be seen with spiritual eyes
- We can only fight it with spiritual weapons
- The opponent in spiritual warfare often looks like other people or ourselves
Spiritual warfare cannot be seen with the naked eye, just like our enemy cannot be seen that way. For example, Satan doesn't roam around in a red jumpsuit, carrying a pitchfork. The Bible states that he "masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) Yet the closer we grow to the Lord, the more we'll be able to detect him and his devilish activity in our lives and the lives of those around us. Hebrews 5:12-14 says it well:
"...Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."Must be Fought with Spiritual Weapons
Unlike military combat, spiritual warfare can't be fought with physical weapons. According to Ephesians 6:17, from "The Armor of God" chapter, our only offensive weapon is the Word of God, or the Bible. And prayer goes alongside the Word in the next verse. As we fight spiritual battles, we must soak ourselves in the salve of the Word of God and pray our way through the battle. Spiritual weapons are our only hope in spiritual wars.
"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10:4Our Opponent Looks Like Other People Or Ourselves
Perhaps the trickiest thing about spiritual warfare is that my opponent often looks like those around me or myself. I'll share an example. When Anthony first became a pastor, I was amazed at how often people in the church had conflicts. At any given time, there was someone offended by someone else. When these conflicts weren't handled quickly and thoroughly, they often escalated into what seemed like World War III.
It didn't take me long to realize that there was constantly something going on behind the scenes. Even though people often fought over personality differences, opposing opinions or even blatant sins against one another, there was usually a deeper, more complex conflict going on. And the more involved in ministry the people were, the larger the issues grew. I could clearly see the enemy lurking behind the scenes, determined to tear down specific ministries. Even today, I often want to stand in the middle of the opposing sides of a conflict, with my hands crossed in a "T" for time out. I want to scream, "Hey, everybody! Remember we're all on the same team -- God's team!"
Another difficult situation is when the enemy looks like me. For me, this usually happens late at night. I suddenly feel confused, distraught or hopeless. The interesting thing is I can't put my finger on what I'm confused, distraught or hopeless over. Of course life's never perfect, but during these times, things are pretty status quo. I usually feel kind of crazy at these times, and wonder if I'll need to be committed the next morning.
At some point, however, I usually come "out of myself" enough to assess the situation clearly. And I realize I'm under heavy spiritual attack. That's when I get to praying hard, and reading scriptures like Ephesians 6:12:
"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."And I sing songs to myself like Selah's "I Bless Your Name." Read the lyrics from the second verse and chorus: