Tag Archive | fiery darts

Faith Must Grow!

Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise from several degrees of prayer, that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow,… quote from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Is our faith growing?

I think the answers to the above questions can be revealed by the following comparison.

When a baby is born it’s expected that growth and development will follow. Let’s say the child starts off healthy and with a nourishing milk diet the expected growth and development ensues. Wonderful, we are off to an encouraging beginning. Yet soon the child needs to transition from milk to solid foods. If the transition isn’t made and the child remains on a milk diet, then healthy growth will be arrested.

That’s exactly the analogy that is made in the following Bible verses:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.Hebrews 5:12-14

Though, we have been born into God’s family, far too many of us are still on a spiritual milk diet.

Troubles happen and when they do, we find our milk diet insufficient to provide us with the strength and wisdom we need. So we default to whatever source is handy. At which point the enemy enters to begin his deception. As a result our ability to recognizes the enemy’s lies has been seriously compromised.

This is where seeds of deception take root. Our desire to spend time in prayer and God’s word slowly deteriorates. Not being familiar with God’s truth, we filter out thoughts, attitudes, and actions through false assumptions and human reasoning.

Daily spending time in God’s word and prayer is the same as eating a healthy diet for those who desire to be healthy spiritually. But our enemy has convinced us that isn’t required and we can get along just fine without that consistent discipline. Remaining in the milk stage of our growth for too long, we can easily be convinced of such lies (fiery darts, remember).

After we have lived a hit and miss life for so long, we can’t see that there is a better way to live life. Because our growth has been stunted, we are unaware of our desperate condition. We aren’t even aware that a better life exists. A growing faith equals a better life.

Filters and fiery darts

What do filters have to do with fiery darts? Well, recently it has come to my attention that there is a distinct relationship between the use of filters regarding fiery darts. How we process the thoughts that are formed in our minds before they take the form of the spoken word relies on what we use to filter those words. Likewise, how we process those spoken words relies on what we use to filter those words as we ponder how to receive them.

How we use our words or how we receive words depends on the filters through which they pass. As it applies to this post, a filter is what we use to recognize fiery darts so that we can reject them and replace them with truth thoughts.

Allow me to illustrate

Negative teasing when passed through the filter, ‘I don’t really mean that, I’m just teasing,’ justifies the tearing down of another. However, when using the filter of Scripture we are instructed to make sure that what comes out of our mouths should build up our listener/s in that particular situation. Therefore, our words should benefit those who are listening.

Let no corrupting talk (some translations use course jesting) come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 ESV

Take another example.

I’m 73 years old and the other day a loved one said to me, “Janet, you are beginning to look your age.” Their filter allowed them to express the first thought that came to their mind in expressing their concern for the stress I was under. However, if they had been familiar with the following verse (filter) they would have reconsidered that initial thought. Seasoning it with graciousness. (“Did I look that bad!”)

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 ESV

Ever heard of the word, hijacking

as it applies to conversations? Someone is talking and what they says sparks a memory. We can hardly wait for them to pause so we can interject our thought. Sometimes we don’t even wait for a pause, we just blurt it out. That’s hijacking a conversation. What’s happening here is we are not really listening to the other person. We are not thinking about what they are saying. Scripture has a very effective filter for this problem (that often we aren’t even aware we are guilty of it).

“With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…” Philippians 2:3

Additionally, James 1:9a, ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak…‘ exhorts us to focus on what the speaker is saying and give them our full attention.

The Scriptures are designed to filter our words, thoughts, and actions. Just the ammunition needed to extinguish fiery darts!

Honoring as we Care…

You tolerate what you must when it becomes your reality. C S Lewis

The dramatic shift in the course of my life (October 24 post?) has brought to the forefront of my thoughts the above statement. As it settled there, the profoundness of Mr. Lewis’s quote sank deep. While my new reality isn’t something I’m excited about it’s encouraging to know that I will be able to tolerate it. Not only will I be able to tolerate what has become my reality, but according to God my life and the lives of my family will be enriched.

Yet even for those of us who have chosen God’s mandate, the actual doing of it is difficult and at best, challenging. We need God’s help in order to honor those who become the recipients of our concern. Having to care for elderly parents, especially within our home, has a huge impact on the family dynamics. Therefore, we must be on our guard for the fiery darts that will be sure to come against us. Fiery darts that are designed to view our caretaking of our elderly parents as a burden prevent us from responding with love, patience, and understanding as we seek to meet their needs

No one desires to be a burden to their adult children, least of all me. But how my future unfolds on this subject, must be surrendered to God. In the meantime, my children and grandchildren are learning valuable lessons in the shaping of their attitudes as they watch and help us care for their grandmothers/great grandmothers. Valuable lessons such as learning to appreciate the elderly as they share their wisdom gleaned through years of highs and lows. The love they are so willing to shower upon their children and grandchildren produces blooms of respect and admiration.

Make no mistake, it’s no picnic taking on the responsibility of someone who like many elderly parents have health and even mental issues. It requires a huge dose of selflessness, strength, and faith. If we seek these from God, then our reality indeed becomes tolerable, teaching us how to honor as we care.

What does it feel like to be a double decker sandwich?

Not so good actually! Blocked in on both sides. Feeling bad about this situation makes you feel bad about yourself. Most days are dark. Most people don’t understand how you feel. Feel taken advantage of! God is the ONLY thing that offers light or hope. And much of that light or hope comes from faithful children.

Caring for an elderly mother and recently an elderly mother in law defines my double decker image. Not a place I ever expected to be but here I am. It’s a day by day of putting one foot in front of the other, or stumbling over my own feet.

Then there are those from whom I need the most help, seem to be clueless as to what that should look like. Thank you’s are meaningless, when really what I need is some empathetic act that will lessen the load, relieve the pressure, or cheer me up. You know like repairing something that’s been broken for way too long. Or completing a task that has been all but forgotten. Oh, and I’m going to be blunt here, doing something nice for me just because they know I like it so much (though they don’t)! Sigh……

While I certainly feel tested during this time (the demands are overwhelming), my grade hovers around a ‘C’ sometimes but a ‘D’ most often. At least, that’s my take on it. Yet Romans 8:1 contradicts those fiery darts of condemnation I am so swift to embrace right now.

I’ll just hang on, though I’m making no great strides. Just can’t muster the strength to handle this like I know I should or like others think I should. So, I’ll just keep getting up in the morning and go through the motions of what is expected of me. God continues to whisper to me that all this will work together for my good.

Well, the only sure thing in all this is God’s truths that apply to my situation. And though the light is dim, I will continue to walk toward that light. Eventually………

Dispelling dark clouds!

For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. Deuteronomy 20:4

Somedays it seems I just can’t shake this dark cloud that seems to follow me every where I go. Keeping me in the shadows where the warmth and comfort of the Son is diminished. These times occur more often than not when I am alone. When I do not have the helpful and healing distraction of the presence of friends and/or family. Even during my quiet times while enjoying the rural scene and accompanying melodies of the birds from my front porch, the dark cloud can intrude. Casting its shadow over my time alone with God.

The words that clamor for dominance take the advantage as the cloud hovers. And when I take a look at 2020/21 and the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, along with chaos within our own nation, the suffering in Afghanistan, and my personal failings, I grow weak under the weight of it all. How does one find joy and peace in the midst of such a dark cloud of suffering?

Then yesterday during my quiet time the above verse caught my attention. And today, as I was listening to a podcast that very same verse was highlighted. I’ve been a Christian long enough to recognize when the LORD desires to get my attention. So I began focusing on that verse.

I came to realize the dark cloud was a tool of the enemy. Manipulating my thoughts by having me dwell on the realities of suffering all around me. In that verse, God reminded me that I wasn’t fighting this tool of the enemy on my own. God was fighting with me for me to give me victory over the fiery darts of the enemy (dwelling on the suffering). When I grasp the vision that God is in this battle with me, then His victory becomes my victory! The dark cloud is dispelled!

Goldfinches: God’s little messengers!

                                                                                                       

For two years I have actively tried to attract Goldfinches to my yard.    I hung thistle socks and  even dressed up a thistle feeder with a yellow ribbon. My desire to attract these yellow charmers was fueled by the fact that they frequented my sister in law neighbor’s yard regularly. I concluded, if they gathered in her yard, why not mine? 

Last year was a bumpy road. Potholes of problems were a constant contention. While the end of the year revealed the removal of one major issue, others stubbornly remained. Thankfully, the removal of that major issue gave me some breathing space. Though difficulties remained, God was true to His promise in Isaiah 43:2 that they would not overwhelm me. 

I recall a time early in this present year, when discouragement threatened me at every turn. Negative thoughts, aka fiery darts, tore away at my resolve to allow God’s word to direct me. 

Just as soon as my path led me to a clarifying high point, it would be followed by a dip into dismay. I grew weary of this up and down existence. Yet, the truths of God’s word sustained me and kept me on track.

Often, I would plead with God to intervene and guide me along straighter paths. The fiery dart of doubt invaded my thoughts repeatedly. The highs and the lows were too close together and my peace was dwindling. 

It was during such a time that I sought God in prayer to affirm that He was listening. He gave me Psalm 66:19-20, “However, God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. May God be praised! He has not turned away my prayer or turned His faithful love from me.”

In my desperation to stay on track and follow God’s lead, I made a particular request. I asked God to direct the Goldfinches to my yard. Nevertheless, I was prepared to believe God was listening whether the Goldfinches showed up or not.  

6/21/20 first sighting

It was while I was sitting in my kitchen talking to my daughters, that one of my grandchildren exploded into the room shouting, “Nammy! There’s a Goldfinch on your feeder!”

Running to look, I asked, “Are you sure?” 

And sure enough, hanging on the thistle sock in the crepe myrtle bush positioned by the deck, was a bright yellow male Goldfinch. Tears spilled down my face. God’s little messengers had accomplished their mission! And the bonus is that since that first sighting, daily appearances of God’s little messengers continues to assure me.

7/4/20 Now they even feast on sunflower seeds!

Undeserved Gifts

 

I would like to give my readers a break today. Let’s focus on something other than the out of control violence running rampant in our land. After you read this, those concerns will still be there.  But may this respite of a read introduce some calmness into those concerns.

      I get to live on a farm! I’m 71 years old (next month I’ll turn 72 but that’s irrelevant). Sometimes, I feel guilty about getting to live here. Why?  Because I don’t contribute to the maintenance of the farm. But my daddy (Daddy has 4 children, 3 of us live here on the farm. We still, even in our 70’s and 80’s, refer to this man as Daddy. It’s our farm culture. The way we speak.)

     But I digress. I live here because it is a gift from my daddy. I didn’t do anything to deserve this acre of land I live on, other than being a child of my father’s.

     Wow, does that remind me of something! Isn’t that the way of things in the spiritual world, too? Let’s examine the parallels. As Christians, we are born into God’s kingdom. That spiritual birth entitles us to the abundant life and eternal life that Jesus died for. It’s our birthright as God’s children. We did nothing to deserve this life. It is ours due to our spiritual birth into God’s family and Christ’s sacrifice.  

     My life here on the family farm was ultimately provided by my Heavenly Father. It was about 26 years ago, that my family of 6 moved onto the homeplace. This was made possible by a gift from my earthly father.

     Stepping out onto my front porch while enjoying the welcomed coolness of a late spring morning, I heard the revving of the mower’s engine, signaling the first hay cutting of the season.  I won’t go into all the beautiful details of why this is one of my favorite pleasures of living in the corner of a big ole hayfield. Yet my reverie of thoughts was waylaid with the intrusion of thoughts of guilt. I was reminded (and we all know the source) that while my brothers and nephews work hard for this farm, I can make no such claim. 

     Why, on earth, you may ask would I spoil this picture of drawing in the sweet fragrance of new-mown hay, as I watched the birds perched on electrical lines anticipating the goodies the mower uncovers for them? Well, it’s Satan’s way. Attacking us with negative thoughts, for the purpose of undermining the perspective God sacrificed to give us. 

     But I know something too. I don’t have to give into such thoughts. (I call them fiery darts) My perceptive daughter in law reminded me (not long ago) that I have what I have because of who I was born to. And when I take on that perspective then I am at peace about enjoying this undeserved gift. 

    So, Satan be forewarned. Every time you try to plant that fiery dart thought into my head, I will remind you that like the undeserved gift of my salvation, my home here is an undeserved gift as well. I choose to honor both my fathers with a thankful heart for the undeserved gifts that my birth permits me to enjoy. 

Spoiling our Perspective

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It’s all in how we look at it!

For example:

     My eyes watch as delicate snowflakes accomplish the task of blanketing the landscape outside my window. Winter birds flit and flutter around the birdfeeders grasping for the sunflower seeds, now that food is in short supply. A lone little squirrel scampers to and fro searching for hidden acorns. From within, the fireplace offers an accent of crackling burning wood. 

     Such a scene has the power to call forth a variety of emotions. Positive flavored emotions of peace, calmness, serenity, thankfulness, or a sense of well-being may settle upon us. On the other hand, such a scene can bring forth negative flavored emotions of unrest, sadness, loneliness, or a sense of despondency.

     If the recent circumstances of our days have been troubling, don’t be surprised if our emotions default to the negative. If that’s the case, it’s not an easy matter to suppress such emotions. Satan, remember, comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Therefore, he will design fiery darts meant to manipulate and deceive how we perceive our world.  

      But we have but to remember that our loving God has come to give us life more abundantly. Therefore, when fiery darts assail us we have but to call upon our shield of faith to extinguish all those fiery darts.

    Something our enemy doesn’t want us to realize is that we can choose to embrace a positive perspective or a negative one. Yep, we don’t have to be victimized by fiery darts. It may take a lot of meditation on God’s Truths to send Satan packing, but it can be done. We don’t have to allow him to spoil our perspective. 

What do fiery darts have to do with making disciples?

Recently I was privileged to speak to a group of ladies highlighting the connection between fiery darts and making disciples. Here’s some excerpts from my presentation:

image_e0cd94a2-91ee-495f-a44d-4233da788f56.img_7328     Satan has very cleverly devised fiery darts aimed to create confusion concerning how evangelism and making disciples work together to fulfill the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:19)

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     Terms Satan does not want us to understand:

Conversion which leads ultimately to salvation begins with an awareness of sins that we’ve committed, as well as the fact that we have a nature inclined to sin.

Conversion makes us a follower of Christ; not necessarily a disciple.

Discipleship is about teaching; teaching new converts how to obey the commands of Christ.

A disciple is one who learns from another disciple how to live the Christian life, then shares what they are learning to produce more disciples, who share and produce more disciples. . . (But a disciple must be a convert)

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What is Satan up to by concealing from individuals the importance of making disciples?

His plan is to manipulate us into thinking that once we are born into God’s family, then that’s all there is. (thus concealing our need to be discipled) John 10:10a

By not being discipled our spiritual growth can be hindered thus rendering us weak and ineffective as Christians. A weakened Christian looks no different from a non-Christian. Matthew 5:13

Due to the lack of training in understanding the truths from the Bible and how those truths apply to our daily lives, our foundation lacks stability. And the assurance of our salvation becomes sketchy. John 10:28

Without discipleship, we are uninformed on how to handle life’s problems. We are doomed to be manipulated and deceived by the enemy. Ephesians 6:16

Christianity becomes something we consume for ourselves; for what we can get out of it. Bible study after Bible study, without applying those truths and sharing those truths with others, benefits no one but ourselves. Matthew 5:15

Satan doesn’t want our foundation to be established upon the Rock; no he plans for it to be formed on sinking sand (without discipleship this is a real possibility.) Matthew 7:24-27

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Next time, let’s delve into what is accomplished by concealing the importance of discipleship in our churches. 

How to keep from being devoured! Or how to not give up when you have lost hope.

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    There are seasons in our lives when in spite of what we read in the Bible, we feel abandoned by God. (and if we aren’t reading our Bible then we, for sure, feel abandoned and even hopeless) We walk around in a cloud where hope is vague and happiness is something we grow more unfamiliar with by the day.

So what should we do? How do we survive such desolate days?

Keep a proper perspective

     We all have a singular enemy! He is called Satan! He has plans to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10). He influences false assumptions, prideful thinking, and deceptive human reasoning. (2 Cor 10:3-5)

Then how is it that we are so easily devoured by Satan’s plans? 

     I’ve been told that the lion stalks those who are distracted and weak. Therefore, Satan is on a constant vigil to detect the weak among us. Those who rarely feed on God’s word, are most vulnerable to his manipulation and deception. Those who have become more familiar with the lies of the world than the principles declared in the Bible are easily led astray and distracted. 

     Without a healthy understanding of how much we are loved by God, of His good plans for us, of how His plan is for all things to work together for our good, we can easily be consumed by the burdens of life. Therefore, Satan’s foremost attack is to make us ignorant of such understanding. By doing so, he can easily convince us that God has forgotten and abandoned us. He feeds our thoughts with negativity and lies. Our hope soon gives way to hopelessness and despair. 

How do we counter Satan’s attack?

    Satan attacks us first in our thoughts. A weapon referred to as fiery darts. If we don’t know how to recognize those fiery darts, then we are doomed to falling prey to their poison. How we feel will be filtered by the fiery darts we have allowed to take root in our thinking. Consider the following excerpt from my book, Fiery Darts: Satan’s Weapon of Choice:

First we entertain a thought. That thought will cause certain related feelings. Thus, our behavior is influenced by our thoughts and feelings. Psychologists say that if behavior is to be changed, then the flow must be interrupted, either at the initial thought or at the feeling point. p. 28 3rd ed FD’s

     Satan must be defeated at the first thought level. When we accomplish this, then the darkness will diminish. We won’t succumb to the deception of the enemy. We may have to deal with unhappiness but our joy remains. And instead of becoming overwhelmed we will discover that

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-16 NLT