Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stewarding My WHOLE Self

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Mark 12:29

I don’t think I’ve been loving God very well with my strength this week. I have been relying much on my own wisdom of what I can and can’t do, and haven’t been listening to God. I’ve pushed very hard when He may have been calling me to rest. I’ve strained myself so much physically that it has sucked the life out of my heart, soul, and mind. That’s loving myself (and following my own wisdom and pride) more than my Dad. That’s not how God wants me to live. He’s given me these 4 areas, gifts, and He LONGS for me to enjoy each one of them. He Himself deeply enjoys each – my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. Loving Him well would, first of all, involve being able to love Him in each, not shutting down 3 so I can exasperate myself in one.

I'm realizing this week how I've prioritized my strength (what I'm physically doing) over the other parts of my being. I saw this after reading this note in my Text: “A good harvest is not the achievement of endless toil but the result of God’s blessing.” (referencing Ps. 127:1-2)
I thought that for me, making Dad proud was persevering through all that was on my plate, with a joyful heart, and falling into bed 'victorious' (but exhausted) after each day. I thought I was doing really well at "laying down my rights" to comfort by "picking up my cross" through my physical hardships each day. 

I have been dwelling a lot this trip on how I am a soldier in a battle. However, I realized this morning that when I think of a soldier, all I think of is the physical aspect. I see a chaotic battlefield where the greatest soldiers, though painfully wounded, still march courageously on. But maybe that isn't the full picture. For Paul does say that our fight is in fact not against flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces in this world (Eph. 6).

So, if I am going to be an effective soldier in this unseen battle (both in Gateway and the world), I desperately need the health of all 4 areas – heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is not a war of brute strength. Rather, each area is essential and will be strategically tested and applied in action.

I see now the ease with which Satan leads us to believe our fight, like those in the world, are of flesh and blood – of our strength only (or even just primarily). OH yes! How he has hindered our mission! Stunted our victories because he deceives us every time into believing it is by our deeds that the battle is won! We often think, 'how are people going to know God if we don’t do something to take the gospel to them?' TRUE. Completely true. But one may also ask, 'how is the gospel going to change anything if we are not fighting with our heart, soul, and mind – which are the avenues the Spirit works through?' It seems as though our hearts may even precede the use of our strength. We can do, do, do all we want with ALL our strength and still have 0 fruit to show for the entirety of our lives. We need to incorporate our hearts, souls, and minds with the power of our Spiritual-Being-Daddy, so that He can save. When we choose to fight by strength alone, God is seriously limited in what He can do through us. God only does so much by physical means in this world. He is a spiritual being, whose war is in the spiritual world, who’s trying to redeem the spirits of our world. Thus we, as His soldiers, need to engage our spiritual weapons, A LOT. If we are, then God can and will do so much through us, because we’re finally playing on the right field with the right weapons.

I imagine it’s similar to entering battle with an impressive tank, but no weapons. You can use the strength of the tank to do some damage, maybe clear some paths, get some guys on the front lines, but you have no way to disarm the enemy, let alone defeat him. You need guns if you are going to WIN, not just survive. We have been given all the spiritual weapons needed to defeat our enemy. We need to USE them!

Now, I *know* all this. I would tell you that I did, and I could have told you this all before this morning’s quiet time. But, it dawned on me in yet another way through being here in country and dealing with illness.

In country I have been pushing with all my strength, enduring through all that we’ve been asked to do. It has turned out alright – God’s strength and grace is always enough! But it has come at a cost. I have had to play this game on low-battery all week. I live most days at around 20-30% of my full energy. I’m on power-saving mode 24-7. I leave no room to “waste” energy on thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. I don’t have much time or energy to spend in Dad’s Text, talking with Dad, or pouring into my teammates. I have no room to engage my heart, mind, or soul in what is going on here, dangerously disarming me and hindering my efforts. Spending all of myself in one of the four categories drastically limits what God can (and hopes to) do through me. This week I have only been playing on the physical battlefield, leaving me vulnerable to attack and weak in in offense in the other three (important) areas of life and war.

My team and I have been experiencing definite spiritual warfare here, especially in the last couple days. From dreams, to weird health issues, to severe fogginess of mind and heart, to having close calls with dangerous situations/people, Satan is scheming with a variety of cards. If we are not prepared to fight in heart, soul, mind, and strength, than we can not advance our work nor even stand for long. We need the entire armor of God… (again, Eph. 6)

-       Belt of truth:  you can’t fight for your team if you’re operating under the wrong orders. You could hinder your team’s advancement, or even play into the enemy’s hands. You need to operate and fight under the right rules, orders, and intel. You need the truth to guide you, inform you, and assist you. You need the truth to be unified, to plan attack, and to be victorious.
-       Breastplate of righteousness:  both a defense and a weapon (2 Cor. 6).
-       Helmet of salvation:  key.
-       Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel:  our strength and our doing is essential, it is the advancement of the message.
-       Shield of faith:  this is how we break down all Satan’s schemes. “Extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Our defense.
-       Sword of the Spirit:  this is our offense, our plan of attack. It is not our strength and how hard we work to fight that wounds, it's the fact that it is the Spirit. The spirit cuts and dismembers its enemies. The spirit is the weapon, not our strength. It is The power. We need to lay down our own efforts and wield THAT. 

But my favorite part is how the passage of the armor of God ends:
“And pray in the Spirit with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Our greatest strategy is prayer

... A good note for me right now. If I'm so tired I cannot keep myself awake enough to pray, I need to reorganize my life and my fight immediately.

To love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I need to obey Him in all these areas. (Love is obedience.)
I need to surrender myself in all of these areas (“Love has no one greater than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”). 
I need to take care of them, maintain them, and honor Him in them. 

And right now, I think that means I should take some time to rest...

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