War within

It's almost bedtime. I'm tired and I finally see the text sent three-hours ago. The message sends waves of disappointment and loneliness pulsing through my veins. Disappointment morphs into anger. Sensing a a fork in my path (one path toward the chocolate and the other to God's rescue) I choose to grab my New Living Translation and nestle into bed by the lamplight with the psalms.
Though it's hard to focus on the meaning and depth of the words, my mind distracted and emotions searing. Yet, these words stand out boldly:
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I am trusting Him. Psalm 91:1-2
Read and reread but I can't concentrate. I take a bath and try to repeat the words from the verse the best I can, "refuge, safe place, I am trusting Him." This is only half my brain really. Anger had given way to fear and anxiety in a situation I could do nothing about. And I know this is Satan.
God most often appeals to my will by reason.
Satan most often appeals to my emotions. Satan attacks my reason and confuses an issue.  (The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges.)
I feel a full out battle raging within me: truth of God vs. the lies of Satan. In retrospect, I had no reason to fear. It wasn't logical to fear. There was no evidence that should lead to fear. Yet, in that moment, the fear and anxiety were so real. Fear smells like Satan's weaponry.
Hot and sweaty from my bath, I return to my bed and reread the words of the Psalm, trying to pray while drifting off to sleep. It's hard to turn off emotions. To choose to echo the true words of the psalmist: God's weaponry.
In the morning, I feel better and I visit with God about what happened. (I have a friend that asks God, "What was that about?") And suddenly I realize though I was home alone that night, I never felt alone. Spiritually, I wasn't alone. God's Holy Spirit was with me the whole time saying, This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21); Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). And I realize that in the morning, my thoughts aren't so muddled. Suddenly my reason returns. God most often appeals to my choices by reason.
The battle was intense. At one crossroad, I choose God's way, yet at another, I fell victim to Satan's emotional attack. Though in the morning, I totally choose God and He responds to my choice in Psalm 91. Read these verses putting your name in the blank. God wants to respond to your choice. 
Because _____ holds fast to me in love, I will deliver her; I will protect _____ because she knows My name. When ______ calls to Me, I will answer her; I will be with her in trouble; I will rescue her and honor her with long life I satisfy _____ and show her my salvation. Psalm 91:14-16


They've caught the fever: fairy garden fever. The golden heads each want their own and the dollar signs rack up in my mind. How many plants at $4 a piece? For a fairy garden? You can't even eat that! One of the little branches of a minature $4 plant cracks off and I'm wondering if I can sprout that branch and grow another mini plant. It works with most house plants, why not this one? So for about three weeks, I've been nurturing this little stub of a plant, giving it just enough water every day to keep the bottom immersed. Today, I got sick of that little stub and plastic cup in my window sill and tossed it out.
How often do I get frustrated in pursing the fruits of God's presence in my life and just throw those out: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? (Yes, I'm typically tossing self-control and patience out with the trash.) Yet these are evidence of God's residence in my life. Further, I'm suppose to be done with the impatience, anxiety, harshness and living for self-pleasure.
We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:6-7
If I am promised my old ungodly habits have no more power over me, why is it so hard? Why do I have to wait? It seems that when I came to true saving faith and trust in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, the old habits and patterns should have almost instantly vaporized. Like making a bag of microwave popcorn: wait 2 minutes on high power and ding: popcorn's ready. I want ding: no more struggles with sin.
In his book, Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges explains holiness as a growing process that takes time and I must choose to be committed. I must repeatedly choose to
  1. Renew my mind (Romans 12:2)
  2. Set my affections on things above (Colossians 3:1)
  3. Submit my will to God (James 4:7) (I like to think of this as choosing God's way in all I think say and do.)
As I feel the desire to act according to my old unhealthy habits, I can be saying these Scriptures aloud. Some additional concepts Bridges teaches are also helpful for me.
  • God most often appeals to my will by reason.
  • Satan most often appeals to my desires.
  • Satan attacks my reason and confuses an issue.
I've seen this happen just this week. It was Sunday night, and I had too much for dinner; my stomach was full. But with the kids in bed and knowing "Monday Monday" was around the corner, I began to desire the last bowl of popcorn sitting in the corner of the room. Oh, wouldn't that taste so great? And it's just a little bowl. Oh, and I can sprinkle nuts and M&Ms on top. I deserve it! Tomorrow is Monday. Sitting there I realized, this is Satan appealing to my emotions, my lust for food, and trying to cloud my reason. If I would listen to reason (God's typical method), I'd hear. Hey listen, your stomach is so full it still hurts from dinner. The popcorn will be there tomorrow. 
Another helpful arrow in my armor I heard this week is to envision God's glory in the midst of attack. In my mind, begin to imagine heaven and it's perfection and wonderfulness and think, I want to be there! And even though this struggle with sin and temptation is hard, I want that more.
The truth is sometimes I win this battle in my mind and sometimes I don't. No, it's not like the bag of microwave popcorn, but more like that little fairy plant that takes weeks and weeks to sprout new roots. This process will be on-going until the day I meet Jesus face to face. It's part of my journey. But I don't do it alone.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
He provides the power within me, in the Holy Spirit to make choices, daily, hourly choices that look like Jesus. I can expect growth as I make wise godly choices. So, like the cabbage and cucumbers that I haven't given up on, I'll be growing.
After a six-month choice to rest from writing, I feel freedom to resume my written musings. I'm thrilled that God's allowed me this choice and can't wait to see what He reveals in these summer months.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17