the dangers and possibilities of each new day

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.

Psalm 5:1-3

Listen, God! Please, pay attention!
Can you make sense of these ramblings,
my groans and cries?
King-God, I need your help.
Every morning
you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning
I lay out the pieces of my life
on your altar
and watch for fire to descend.

Psalm 5:1-3; MSG

We as humans are very experiential creatures. And the psalms are lock stocked with the language and sentiment of experience. We often go from lows to highs and then back to lows. Some of us experience this quite pronounced, others of us not that much variation, and probably most of the rest of us somewhere in between.

Psalm 5 is a good passage to remind us how to start each day. I think both the evening before we go to sleep, and the morning when we arise are important in how we do this. To read Scripture, maybe a liturgical prayer book for night (Compline) is good. To arise and be in Scripture and prayer, morning prayer and reading is good. We can’t take for granted that a good day at least in how it worked out will carry over into the next day.

It’s not about us having a good time, and that’s it. Instead it’s about living in God’s grace and all that means in terms of forgiveness of sins and new life, and having the vision to see what God might have us do, or be pleased to help us do in the new day. And even if it’s just filled with the routines of what we have to do, to do that in the breath and love of God.

At any rate, for some of us this is a matter almost of survival, at least of experiencing and living out this salvation from God well. Growing in that. So we have to take this seriously. Every day is God’s and for us that’s a good and ultimately happy prospect. We bring ourselves to God each new day, and look to God for his answer and help to us. In and through Jesus.

a refresher on spiritual warfare

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, 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.

Ephesians 6:10-20

Whether we like it or not, in this life, we are in a spiritual battle, pure and simple. Fortunately, it might ebb and flow, I mean go in and out in terms of its intensity. And there are those days, if we interpret “evil day” to mean special times, when it is especially trying and difficult. Maybe when all of our sense of God and of goodness is emptied, and we’re being attacked in ways which experientially is hard to describe. But not good.

But such occasions can help us return again to a passage which actually should be a staple passage for us, as those in Christ. To help us stand firm in the Lord in his strength, putting on God’s armor, so that we can emerge and be victorious.

The entire passage is important, and we do well to memorize it, and more importantly, meditate on it, and take it to heart and life. The part I want to consider a bit today, is the idea of the devil’s schemes, which we are to take a stand against in the Lord’s strength, and with God’s armor, along with prayers.

It is the Greek word μεθοδεία, transliterated, methodeia. From scholar and Bible translator, Bill Mounce

Gloss:
scheming, craftiness, strategy
Definition:
wile, scheme, scheming, craftiness

To be forewarned, as they say, is to be forearmed. If we can realize what we’re up against, it will help us get ready, and be ready when the time comes.

It might be that “the evil day” mentioned in the passage refers simply to the time we live in (see other translations and Greek and the link above). I think it actually could mean a bit of both, that yes, we live in the time of evil when this is taking place, and yes, there can be especially trying, even excruciating times.

We are no match for the devil, the demonic, and their schemes. But they are no match for the Lord and the truth of the gospel, which is actually the point of truth, the real point of God’s word, of scripture, which sends them packing. Remember that after Satan’s temptation of our Lord in the wilderness, at a certain time he left until an opportune time ahead. They plan, they strategize. Of course they’re quite intelligent, even though warped, and only in an evil sense, such intelligence. They are bent on destroying our witness at least, even on destroying us if they can, or could.

To simply learn to pick up the scent will help us return in the Lord’s strength to what we should have on already, God’s armor, which essentially is gospel armor (this hymn gets it right, or instructs me, fourth verse). When we sense the enemy and its wiles, that should put us on full alert. And we need to anticipate that as well, or at least be ready for it.

Yes, our focus needs to be on Christ and the gospel, and never on the devil, or our troubles, or anything else. Yet as our focus is on the Lord and his triumph, we don’t hide our face in the ground, or deny what trouble we face. Instead we take up the truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation that is ours in Christ through the gospel (see The Message).

God will help us to resist and stand and be victorious in and through Jesus.

something of the devil’s schemes

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6:10-20 is one of my go to passages I have memorized in the past, which I can go back to and repeat at least nearly verbatim. And sometimes I find that I really need to. There are times when all of the sudden it seems like I am stuck in a place I really don’t want to be in terms of spiritual warfare.

This passage could mean that we live in the evil day, or that the evil day will hit us along the way (NIV). I don’t know. I tend to want to include both, that we should be ready all the time now, and that we’re to put this into practice when we know we’re under attack. I remember that Christians have actually made a regular practice of “praying on the armor.”

Of course we have to take to heart, as well as put into practice all that the passage means, and that’s saying quite a lot. We have to find our strength in the mighty power of the Lord and put on the armor of God, what God provides for us in Christ through the gospel to stand firm. Too easily I can be duped by being taken in by the devil’s schemes, so that I give in to something less than God’s will or best.  It can be in terms of defending one’s self, rather than being open to truth, and taking the way of the cross in following Jesus. Oftentimes it’s a subtle, yet outright denial of God’s word, or God’s goodness, just as the serpent tempted Eve in the garden (Genesis 3).

At any rate, we do well to realize that this is the point in which we live, and why in part there’s so much trouble in this life. Particularly so in that we are followers of Jesus in the face of that which is in direct opposition to Jesus and the good news in him. Although in this day in our culture it’s mostly quite subtle. And the schemes of the devil include getting us off the mark of God’s will for us in Jesus. So that it might be all about defending ourselves, or something less than Christ and the gospel, rather than standing firm in the faith, and for Christ and the gospel, come what may.

Something I was not simply reminded of yesterday, but thrust into. And through which I am seeking to learn, and do better, in and through Jesus.

the bad days

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-20

There are good days and pretty good days, not bad, and then there are the bad days, hopefully not too many. Actually the passage quoted above may well be referring to the time in which we live, simply because we face the onslaught of the enemy. I know there are plenty of believers in Christ nowadays who chalk up the notion of the devil and demons to simply evil in general. When you consider everything, there’s something going on which defies an easy dismissal or explanation. Which is why in a world which denies truth, the word evil is still used, pointing, I think to something more beyond the relativism so prevalent. And to our personal lives, some days there seems to be an uncanny sense of an ongoing struggle and darkness at work, which casts a shadow on all that is good, so that we have trouble seeing the good. The Apostle Paul (click the link above) had no difficulty describing precisely what he believed is going on.

Scripture is rich with many places in which the person of faith is struggling, and all but left for dead in their mind, even with a sense of being abandoned by God. See especially the psalms to find plenty of that, and elsewhere.

As we’ve said before, and it is worth repeating, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. To know the problem, and what one faces is half the battle. The rest of it is to take up what God gives us in Christ and the gospel, and learn to stand in the midst of it all. Interpreting the spiritual warfare passage linked above as something for this present evil time when evil is so prevalent and active in the world is probably the best explanation, or sense of the passage. The thought the NIV gets across, that there may especially be a day that is evil, is also appropriate. But even with the NIV rendering, we are told to always be ready, so that everyday we are learning to live in the mighty strength of God, taking up the armor of God in and through Christ and the gospel.

Every day has a certain struggle to it, but bad days do come. And they go. And in the midst of it all, we need to remember the resources provided for us. And approach it as those who not only can face evil, but resist it. Knowing in the end it will someday be done away with forever. In the meantime we can be prepared for the day of evil in and through Jesus.

satanic opposition

We don’t do well to downplay or write off the reality and danger of the satan. Actually, those of us in Christ particularly, won’t go very long until we experience something of it, a force and spirit, indeed personality (although steeped in an evil which nearly cancels, denigrates or changes that personhood), at work in the world in subtle and not so subtle ways.

This spirit in scripture is called Satan, that old serpent (of the garden in Genesis) the devil. Satan means adversary or opposer, while the devil seems related to slanderer. The devil is hell bent on the destruction of humankind, those made in God’s image, even standing in opposition against God. Of course the devil is only a creature and no match whatsoever for God, indeed owing his very existence to God.

It seems from scripture that the devil may well have been created as an angel, who somehow became enamored with itself, and lured other angels (perhaps one-third of them) to join it in its rebellion against God. Those angels would comprise the demons which are active and often cast out of humans by Jesus and his followers in the New Testament.

The whole world lies in the power of the evil one, that is, the devil. For the most part, this is a rather friendly alliance, even while the intent on the devil’s part is nothing less than malicious. The world, the flesh, and the devil has been called “the unholy trinity,” and does seem clearly from scripture and in experience, in league with each other. Getting on in life in the way and ways of the world is part and parcel of the devil’s ploy. We remember the devil showing Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and their glory, and offering them to Jesus if the devil would receive Jesus’ worship. Of course Jesus rebuked it with the words, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only, shall you serve.'” The world appeals to the flesh, the sinfulness and weakness of fallen humanity. In fact the world and the flesh go hand in glove with the devil fueling the fire. Some of the time the result is indeed ugly and spirits are evident, especially in societies which believe in their existence. But by and large where we live, in the west, they are well hidden, indeed part of the fabric of society, and what problems might surface because of them is chalked up to naturalist explanations, such as mental illness, or social ills, etc. Such matters are indeed important, and deserve careful consideration on their own part. But the spirit at work in the world needs to be unmasked and indeed cast out. That is done only in and through Christ.

Ephesians 6 mentions “the evil day,” which may refer in some respects at least to this present era. But in context, it may refer to especially troubling days and times. While we in Jesus need to be strong in the Lord, putting on the armor of God, we do so, so that when the evil day comes we may be able to stand our ground, and having done everything, to stand. Of course that is not easy, and no fun, in fact quite uncomfortable at times. We may seem weak, but we stand with the strength and armor that is ours- in Christ. When I experience those days (thankfully, as a rule, not that often, although maybe in some respects we face something of this every day), I am rather amazed at all the other days, or that there is not more of this. Only God’s grace and power in Jesus protects us from that, I would think. I remember Paul’s words, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil attack, and bring me safely into his eternal kingdom.”

Satanic opposition is not merely something about us, about “me.” But we must get a handle on it, and learn to cope with it, and more than that, to learn how we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Of course in a spiritual warfare, not physical. This is not only about us, but about the world God so loved and sent his Son to redeem. Our world and the world at large, both with reference to people and systems. God’s kingdom come in Jesus factors into everything, even while its base is from God’s people in Jesus, the church. Not to say that God isn’t at work in the world in all kinds of ways beyond that. But to say that in some mysterious sense, through the church, God’s manifold wisdom is being made known to the rulers and authorities of this world. And it’s through Christ, his death and resurrection. We proclaim that and live that out in this life. Only “in Christ”(King Jesus) and all that means do we both triumph and bring light into the darkness, goodness into what at its core not good.

This satanic opposition is ongoing, but our victory in Christ is ongoing, as well. By the Spirit in the way of the cross, the way of death and resurrection.

continuing on

Sometimes life seems to consist of simply putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to move. There are some jobs, especially one, I have at work where a key to me is simply to keep moving, doing something pertaining to it, so that I stay on top of it with some relative ease. There are those days when I feel blah, when I am doing what I am doing because I have to. Ordinarily at work the adrenaline kicks in enough (the caffeine, too, I suppose) that I get in the groove there. But there are those times when life in general seems cumbersome and uphill. And then there’s “the evil day.” Some say that’s throughout this time when we’re in continuing warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil. Probably some truth there, but I see it in terms of those days here and there, hopefully not often, when all hell, or at least a small part of it seems arrayed and pitted against us. When so much doesn’t seem to be working, and we don’t seem to be working all that well, either. Or when life itself seems to have not only passed us by, but has wounded us, perhaps even mortally in a sense, in the process.

There is no way around it, life will present all kinds of challenges along with pitfalls surrounding them. This all ends up being, and we could well say is a challenge to our faith, directly or indirectly. That is why we must learn to rest in the Faithful One, God. And learn to live well by faith in him, in his promises. As well as to know from that, his immediate presence, power and help by the Spirit, yes in all our weakness, we could say, especially in our weakness. To live in his daily provision. As our days are, so shall our strength be. God will give us all we need to fulfill his calling to us, to do his will. Together in Jesus in this for the world.