Plato urges us: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” If you are breathing, you are under a spiritual assault. The question we face is not, “Are we under attack?” but, “What is the heart of the attack?” Let me tell a recent story of mine. See if you can recognize the field of battle for the spiritual warfare.
Two friends and I host a weekly podcast on various spiritual topics. Last Thursday we planned to discuss (I kid you not), How to Recognize Spiritual Assault in Our Lives. Schedule conflicts and illness had caused the cancellation of our two previous podcasts. We didn’t want to call off a third.
To complicate matters, one of my friends was still under the weather, the other was swamped with work, and I had a longstanding 6:00 pm dinner date with great, out-of-town friends. I planned to leave the dinner at 7:30 to make our 8:00 call.
That was the situation going in; this is the story that followed:
- Late in the afternoon, my wife and I had a tense discussion. I missed much of my podcast planning time, leaving me irritated, distracted and unprepared.
- Our dinner reservation was changed from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, leaving me little time for conversation, and even less time for food.
- The closest parking spot was half a dozen blocks from the restaurant, and I arrived five minutes late.
- As I left the restaurant, a torrential downpour greeted me with open arms, and I splashed and waded the six blocks back to my car.
- Three different traffic jams—three!—delayed me further. I arrived home with two minutes to spare, soaking wet and freezing.
- I began the call in a frenzied, intense, and distracted state of mind.
Do you recognize the frontlines of the spiritual assault?
The speaker was persuasive and moving. He asked us to hug a friend, stomp on the floor, and even pinch our own forearms. It didn’t hurt that he could have been a GQ model: six foot three, blond-haired, blue-eyed, and funny. When he looked each of us in the eye, we felt his personal care.
(This is not the actual speaker, just a photo of an unknown preacher I found on the web.)
The conference theme was Knowing God. Its most popular presenter was this man with passion for feeling God’s love:
- He asked, “How can we know God’s love?”
- He answered, “We feel love in the hug, we sense the solid floor in the stomp, and we experience pain in the pinch.”
- He argued, “God knows our frame, our need for hugs; he longs for us to detect his touch. And that is how we’ll know his love. When we feel it.”
He scorned the old evangelical formula, “Fact–Faith–Feeling” with its mundane illustration of a train: the locomotive represents “fact,” the coal-car “faith,” and the caboose “feelings.”
If we put our faith (fuel) in the facts (locomotive), our feelings will follow. He snickered at its antiquated answer.
“That perversion,” he laughed, “is completely contrary to the God-man of the gospels. Jesus was a man of compassion. We know his love only when we feel it. Feelings teach us facts.”
When I was ten years old, bell-bottoms flooded the fashion world like a tsunami. They were everywhere, but my mother wouldn’t let me wear them. Her lame excuse was something like, “You shouldn’t be a slave to fads.” (I think she just disliked them.)
Children always tell their parents that they are the only kid at school without an “X”: a cell phone, an iPad, or a personal condo in the Cayman Islands. Well, I checked. I was literally the only kid in my class without bell-bottoms, except for the one girl who wore a dress.
One day an older boy at school stopped me and asked why I wasn’t wearing bells. To a ten-year old boy, the only thing worse than being wretchedly uncool was to miserably admit, “My mom said I can’t.” So I just stood there, head down, conflicted and dejected.
As the older boy stared at me, wonder washed over his face, and he exclaimed, I know what you’re doing, you’re sticking it to the man, aren’t you? You’re sticking it to the man!
I had no idea what “sticking it to the man” meant, but I sensed a ray of sunshine pierce my storm. Not wanting to lie, I simply smiled. Sort of knowingly.
Three or four years later, bell-bottoms had the fashion-appeal of last week’s lukewarm latte.
Last week, a delay by God disappointed me. It also shocked me awake like smelling salts.
For ten years, I’ve wanted (and waited) to write a book on hearing God. Last month, I finally finished it. And I’ve paid a professional to edit it, commissioned an artist to design it, and found a proofreader to fine-tune it and a marketing expert to promote it.
I originally planned to publish Hearing God in Conversation last May, but I was hindered by a month-long bout with pneumonia, friends with unexpected needs, and my first ever (hopefully my last ever) IRS audit.
After months (and years) of postponements, my book was finally ready for release September 1st.
Then a friend slipped a copy of my manuscript to a publisher. The publisher invited me to meet their management team. And the team offered me a contract last week. But a contract with a hitch (because we missed an important publishing industry window). If I sign their agreement, my book’s release date will be deferred by yet another year. Argh!
I was disappointed, dismayed by another delay (though thrilled that they liked the book). I asked myself: Should I publish it myself in three weeks or wait another twelve, long months?
And then one of my smart-aleck kids (never mind which one) commented, “Gee Dad, you’re writing a book about hearing God; have you asked him what you should do?”
When I first began Beliefs of the Heart, all my blogs were videos. Below is my very first take, shot and published March 19, 2010. I’m on vacation, and I hope you find my first blog interesting.
It asks the question: How does God think of us? What does he see that we don’t see? Scripture’s answer is surprising.
(My early production standards were simple: If it recorded, ship it. See if you can identify out dog Puzzle, the gale-force winds, and the reversing dump truck).
Length: 3 minutes 27 seconds
Over the last month or so, I have heard of, witnessed, and (sadly) perpetrated several damaging acts of offering advice, examples where the counsel backfired and the recipient was worse off than before.
And I’m talking about examples of good, sound, wise, practical advice. Instead of strengthening the listeners, the guidance pulled the rug out from beneath them; instead of encouraging, it discouraged:
- A grown man told me how his father’s advice on how to handle school bullies made him feel like a lifelong coward;
- I saw a man offer his wife excellent principles for dealing with her incompetent boss, and his advice shriveled her spirit;
- I suggested to a friend three guidelines for strengthening a daily prayer habit, and the man’s prayer time went from ten minutes to two.
How many times have you received unsolicited advice and you wonder, Do I really look that stupid to you? Why does advice—and I’m talk about good, practical guidance—so often boomerang?
A couple years ago I had an awful day in the middle of a horrible week in the midst of a bad month. A sniffle turned into post-nasal drip which turned into bronchitis—for the third time in five months. When I inhaled, it felt like shards of glass shredding my lungs.
I canceled everything so I could have some recovery time. But, later, that same day, I ended up with six hours of unexpected, unscheduled, and exhausting meetings.
Now I was both sick and tired.
That same night an organization I belong to sent out its weekly email. Hidden in the email was the description of a decision that I considered a tactical blunder. So I dashed off a short email to the leaders asking them to reconsider.
Alas! I ended the email by shooting off a nasty, sarcastic barb:
“Why don’t we think first? For a change.”
The next morning several people emailed back, correcting me for my caustic comment.
My initial response was self-defense: I was sick. And their decision made little sense. And my day of recovery had been stolen. By one of those leaders. And besides, in their haste they had failed to consider a crucial element.
But that was just defensiveness. The truth was I had been a jerk. No one forced me to pen those final words. They were unnecessary and inflammatory. And no one had a gun pointed at me when I hit “send.” The gun was in my hand, pointed at others.
Why didn’t I just think first? For a change.