Resisting Temptation ~ The Sword of the Spirit

 I'm blessed to be contributing again at Do Not Depart today!  

You get up early. You pray, you study, you are inspired.

You know that today, this day, you will do it, you will walk that narrow path.

And then the sun comes up, and the kitchen gets messy with breakfast, the clock keeps ticking, the bills still need to be paid, the people you love are still sinners... and it turns out that so are you.

Perhaps you are more self-controlled or spiritually mature than I am, but I can tell you that my faith is much easier to live in my quiet time than it is to walk out in the messiness of real life.

Daily I find myself tempted to be impatient, to complain, even sometimes to despair.

Temptation was no stranger to Jesus. Early in His earthly ministry He experienced far greater temptation than any of us will ever face.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread along, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’"

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning you’;
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

Matthew 4:1-11 nasb

Did you notice how Jesus responded every single time? With the Word of God! Each of Jesus' answers is a passage from Deuteronomy.

Jesus set the example for us. He knew that the scriptures held all that He needed to respond to temptation.

And note that He didn’t grab a temple scroll and say, “Wait, um, hang on, where was that verse, uh...” Jesus knew the scriptures. We too will be better equipped to handle temptation if we have hidden God’s Word in our hearts. It is hard for scriptures to come to mind that aren’t there in our minds to access! And I don't know about you, but many of my most challenging moments occur when I am nowhere near a bible.

Is there an area in which you find yourself consistently tempted? Focus on memorizing scriptures that address your temptation. If you are in need of ideas for specific scriptures, leave a comment and I will search some out for you. Odds are good I face the same temptation and have already had to find them for myself!

Did you know that God has also provided us with spiritual armor against temptation? Ephesians 6:10-17 outlines the pieces of our God-given armor:
  • belt of truth
  • breastplate of righteousness
  • boots of peace
  • shield of faith
  • helmet of salvation
  • sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God
Of all six pieces, the only piece which is offensive (as opposed to defensive) is the sword of the Spirit... God's Word. We abide in Christ's truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation, but we are called to actively use His Word, His sword.

I find it helpful to speak scripture aloud when I am in a difficult moment, even if it is a whisper. There is nothing wrong with extemporaneous prayer, but praying scripture is an especially effective way to pray when you are in crisis.

God’s Word has a power that is inexplicable. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that...

...the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Miraculously, God has granted us free access to this powerful gift!

Do Not Be Anxious About Anything

This was written as part of the Philippians bible study at Do Not Depart and posted there on July 22, 2011. I encourage you to check out this wonderful site for encouragement and tools for your quiet time, scripture memorization, and much more.

Ever since I was a child I have wondered what it would be like to be a bird, soaring high above the earth. I’ve dreamed of the remarkable view of God’s world I would have, of the freedom to fly at will and unhindered.

But not long ago, I remembered my fear of heights. I was sitting on a mountain top watching a bird flying over a canyon, periodically diving for bugs, and as I imagined myself looking down from the bird’s vantage point, I had that sudden lurch of fear that I get when I peer over railings. For the first time in my life the idea of soaring like a bird sounded unpleasant.

Worry. Fear. Anxiety.

Most of us have struggled with these peace-crushing emotions at one time or another. For some, anxiety is an ongoing, life-sucking burden.

I have grappled with anxiety and fear throughout my life. Even now I find it lurking around the corners at times, waiting to trap me emotionally.

As I have spent time in Philippians 4:1-9 this week, I have been overwhelmed by the richness of the passage.  Philippians 4:8 alone is worthy of its own book… a veritable treatise on the thought life.

But my eye and heart keep being drawn back to Philippians 4:6-7…

 … do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God’s word is clear. There is nothing, nothing, about which I need be anxious. Do not be anxious about anything.

Instead, in everything (no exceptions!) I am to turn to God in prayer. With a thankful heart, I must offer all my requests and worries to Him. The remarkable promised result is Gods’ peace… the very opposite of anxiety. When I offer every bit of worry and fear to God, I am living the truth that I can trust Him to always have my best interests at heart.

God’s peace is not just a gift for my heart, it is also for my mind. His peace guards my heart and mind. God desires to protect and soothe not only my emotions, but also my thoughts. This is a supernatural peace, found only in Christ Jesus, and not dependent on circumstance.

God created each of us for a unique purpose in His world. Just as He created that soaring, diving bird I watched over the canyon. The bird had no fear, because it was equipped for the very thing it was doing. It was not afraid to fall, because God had given it wings and the knowledge to use them to preserve its life.

Like the bird, I have been equipped, and so have you. The bird was given wings that not only helped it soar to higher heights, but also brought it safely to the ground. You and I have been gifted prayer not only to lift us up, but also to guard and guide us to a safe landing, in peace, through Jesus Christ.

Photos by Carol Carpenter

She is coming!

Photo Credit

I am sitting in a still dark house. Unfamiliar noises sing the night song of this place, keeping tune with my waiting.

She is coming.

Brand new person... longed for, prayed for, waited so very much for... she is coming.

Her mother called me not long ago, the special ring I set just for her waking me from sleep like a double shot of espresso.

“Looks like baby girl is going to come tonight.”

Adrenaline flew me through the house, gathering bags and keys and whispering the news and goodbyes to my family.

The dark road seemed so very long. Country roads near midnight when a baby is coming are long and windy and full of surprises. Not far from my house I veered to barely miss a newly dead deer in the middle of the highway.

Half way there little one’s father called.

“Just checking where you are.”

I told him and heard, “We may be having a baby at home.”

My hands gripped the steering wheel as I fervently prayed and pressed a little harder on the pedal. Nine days overdue, and she had waited long enough. She wanted out!

A minute or so from their house he called again. The neighbor had stepped in to sit with the sleeping older children and they were on their way to the birth center. Our silver vans passed in the night, lights blinking a greeting. Those two flicks of my hand on the light switch held my whole heart.

The house seemed expectant somehow. Father's coffee mug was still warm on the table. The neighbor and I exchanged hugs... I had met her only once before, at a birthday party, but in the dead of night with a baby coming, we were sisters. Two mothers remembering and rejoicing.

After she left I walked onto the porch to stare at the bright moon shining through the trees. I wondered and prayed. Back in the living room, the cradle and bouncy seat and swing and stroller all lined up like servants waiting to greet their mistress as she entered the castle hall.

And now I sit and I wait with the sleeping house. Wait for new life to enter here, for two little boys to wake up to the best surprise of their lives, a baby sister. And I pray and pray.

Come into the world gently, little one. You are so wanted.

Update: Little Emma entered the world just 13 minutes after this posted. Her birth was smooth and peaceful.  She is beautiful just like her mama.

Our Magic Mountain

It's two weeks today. Two weeks that the children and I have been on this mountain, breathing deep the cool air, smelling the pines, listening to the birds and breeze weave a summer symphony.

We left behind heat and brown and the crunch of dead grass. We don't miss it. But husband/father, selfless man, who works so that we can be here, who stayed home to tend the animals... him we miss.

We arrived here close to midnight after winding our way precariously up switchback turns of dirt road, in the heavy dark of mountain night. I prayed as I steered, having seen massive elk mere feet from our wheels. At last we crunched to a gravelly stop in the driveway.

I unlocked the house door, returned to the van to retrieve sleepy children, and dropped my keys through the cracks of the porch. We peered down and knew... no more driving tonight. Relief.

The next day was a whirl of unpacking and readying, so much anticipation for what was to come... the reason for our visit. Balloons went up, signs were hung, miniature bouquets assembled. But still there was time to find old friends in the rocks.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. Fifteen minutes after I woke, still groggily getting dressed, an excited voice called, "There's a hummingbird in the house!"

Tiny flutterer, green with bright red throat, careened between high windows. For four hours. He kept us home from church. He knew, just knew, that the way out was up. But he was wrong. The doors were down. Finally I found hummingbird feeders in the garage and hung them in the open doors. He couldn't resist. Down he flew, and waiting on the other side, freedom.

Then the cooking began. And the questions.

"When will they be here?"
"How much longer?"
"So what is the earliest possible time they could arrive?"
"What would you say is the absolute latest they would come?"
"Do you think they are driving toward us now?"

Soon. Soon.

I was standing at the sink when I saw a tall boy walk by the window, and I confess, I screamed.  Because that boy was my first godson, my son's best friend, who lives 3000 miles away from us.  And behind him came his sisters and my dear dear friend, his mother.

I was not the only one who screamed.  The squeals and the laughter and the jumping... no bears would trouble this house on the mountain!

It was a chorus of love, a bursting out of a longing met and a hope fulfilled and old friends holding and beholding, and oh it was so very good.  Yes, a taste of heaven, that reunion.

And then, of course, we ate.  Because food always seems to be at the center of celebration.

The evening turned to night, the night to day, the days to weeks, and here we are together still... a tribe of vacationing loved ones.  There have been plays performed and walks taken and outings made.  There have been movie nights and cherry pit spitting contests and three-legged races.  Puzzles pieced, games played... even a birthday party with presents.

We'll part one week from today.  We'll exchange hugs and tears on the rim of the Grand Canyon, then one van will drive east and the other west.  Three thousand miles is a long way.  We don't know when we'll meet again.

But, and I know it sounds so cliche, but it's true... there is no distance in the heart.  We'll drive away in body, but we'll stay with each other somehow.  This mystery, this gift... that when you love, you don't have to be together to be together... all I can do is accept it gratefully.

And for now, give more hugs while I can.

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