Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rules of Engagement--Part 1

My husband has always said that my red hair is just a symptom of my being a red head. My fiery temper and feisty spirit are the true causes behind it, and I believe that his smirk as he says it belies his attempts at acting put out. He wouldn't want a wimpy woman standing by him, and, quite frankly a eye-lash-lowering gal wouldn't make it as Jonathan's wife! I needed a backbone!

But there's a flip-side to that light joke. James says that our tongues are not set on fire by our feisty spirits but by hell itself, and if you've ever experienced a season of contention in your marriage, or even just had a fight (and if you've been married for more than a week you have--or your a liar), you'll know exactly what he means.

Listening to Mark Driscoll's podcast a few months ago, Marriage, Ministry and Mistakes, he said that if you're entering the ministry and especially church planting, when it comes to spiritual attacks, you better buckle up. Even if you've experienced some attacks on your marriage before, you haven't seen anything yet compared to what you will experience when you accept a call to ministry or church planting. I remembering chuckling at that (I usually chuckle at Mark), and wondering exactly how that might be playing out in our lives.

Boy, was he right!

I don't know where you stand on spiritual attack, but I'm sold that it happens. I'm convinced it happens regularly to Christ-followers. I'm assured that it happens daily or even hourly to ministers, their wives and their families. We are certainly experiencing it in our home. There are many different ways I see it playing out, both at home personally, and in the lives of other Christ-followers and ministers I know. Here are a few ways I see it happening.

1. Health--what is normally a healthy family with just a few regular illness a year, suddenly can't seem to get on top of the health cycle. Before they are fully recovered from one virus or infection, another one sets in, or they pass it around endlessly never having the whole family well at the same time. Sometimes, and I'm thinking of the Village here, there are HUGE diseases that, for no apparent reason and against all odds spread like wildfire among a church, staff or family unit. The enemy loves to attack our health and our children's health. It keeps us on our heals, at our lowest resistance, prone to feeling overwhelmed, scared and sorry for ourselves. The last thing we're interested in when our kids are running 102 or we have cancer is making sure that our discipling is going well. Illness is an excellent distraction.

2. Finances--if mammon is our most sought after idol, then this is the easiest thing to attack. Suddenly, the numbers don't add up anymore, there's a layoff, a cut back, business drops or drys up. The car breaks, the taxes are due, the roof leaks. We have no padding or maybe we can't even pay the bills. We are walking to the grocery store, sewing up holes in jeans cause we can't buy new ones and politely excusing ourselves from play-dates at the zoo cause we just can't afford the gas or price of admission. This is a great tactic for the enemy with me because fear is my weak point, my button. I start panicking and racing around, selling the kids toys and trying to drum up ways to pay people. We become stalwarted in our efforts because we can't afford to go out to dinner with other families or send flowers to the sick. We want to hide in our houses. Especially when this attack comes through layoffs, we are embarrassed and hear the enemy whisper, "If a man cannot manage his own household, how can he manage the household of God?

3. Bickering and arguing--suddenly everything is annoying. Everyone is on everyone else's nerves. The least thing grows to hurricane proportions in 2.5 seconds and then you want to run away or scream or runaway AND scream. You read ulterior motives into everything your spouse or children or parents or friends say. You take everything personally. There is absolutely no grace given, no room for "Seeing the other side". You dig in your heels and defend to the death whatever point you are making.

4. Doubt--you begin to wonder, "Did God really call us to do this, or did He call someone else and we just answered the phone?". It seems overwhelming and impossible, the task set before you. You seem like the absolute worst pick for the job (by the way you ARE and there's a reason for that), and God must be crazy to choose you for this (He is--and I can defend that biblically). It's going to fail miserably and you're going to fall on your face and all the "I told you so"s will gather around you and wag their heads.

5. Discouragement--those that are closest to you, whom you love dearly, who you were SURE would support you, question everything you say about what you're doing. They come up with brilliant arguments about why you absolutely should not pursue this course of action and even seem spiritually aware that God is NOT calling you to do THIS. They point out all the flaws in your plan and are the first to raise their eyebrows when the money gets tight, or disappears and the first to jump on the bandwagon when you voice doubts.

There are a "legion" of other ways that the enemy attacks. He is insidious and sly and he is NOT by any stretch of the imagination a gentleman. He wants to mess with you and the last thing on earth he wants is an effective minister and family. The problem with these things are that they all deal in lies. He is the father of lies and the accuser. He whispers a lie, you buy it and then he immediately accuses you of believing the lie and how horrible you are for thinking this.

I've been going through this and more. I've been walloped a lot, and I'd like to think I've dealt a few blows myself. What I'd like to do is discuss spiritual warfare, especially in regards to the areas mentioned above and I'd like to share my experience, my beliefs and most importantly (perhaps the only one of real importance anyway) the Biblical response to these.

I'm going to be real and honest here. If that makes you uncomfortable that a minister and his wife fight or yell or sin, then please don't read on. But I am a firm believer that "the saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." 1 Timothy 1:15-16

So come along. Watch Jesus display his perfect patience in me. Put on the armor and get ready to strap on your piece and do business with our enemy!

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