Fighting Something You Can’t See

Choosing to follow God means we’re walking in harmony with Him. And that means we’ll be walking out-of-step with this world and with “the god of this world,” as Yahweh’s adversary is called (2 Cor. 4:4). In many ways, our Christian walk is one of warfare and struggle.

One of my ongoing struggles is with anxiety. My mind wants to loop through worst-case scenarios and imagine all the “what if?”s in a given situation. I’m often nervous, jumpy, and preoccupied with what’s going on in my head. My anxieties are something I can’t see, and unless I tell people about them or have a panic attack in public most wouldn’t have a clue how much it impacts my life (they call this “high functioning anxiety”).

Scriptures tell us that as Christians, the battles we face have spiritual components. These sorts of battles are difficult whether they’re visible to other people or not; whether they’re internal or external. But even when we feel like we’re battling something we can see — a nasty coworker, a disease, a failing relationship — Paul reminds us that we “do not wrestle with flesh and blood.” There are spiritual forces behind all the battles we face (Eph. 6:12). And we can’t see the full extent of our battles, or fight them effectively, without God’s help.

The Usual Type of Battle

It’s often a struggle for me to answer the question, “How’ve you been?” or “How was your week?” Unless something electronic breaks or someone I care about is going through something, my weeks would usually look pretty good from the outside. And I don’t want to tell most people that I’ve been struggling all week with something that’s only a problem inside my own head.

There’s a stigma against admitting you’re struggling. You might be seen as a saintly example of endurance if you’re facing a physical trial. But in many churches it’s a different story when you’re battling something mental or emotional. So many people see interior struggles as either a lack of faith or something that you could just “get over” if you prayed about it enough. However, there’s a passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul makes it sound like struggles within ourselves are the kinds of battles Christians usually face.

For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, WEB)

Our warfare isn’t primarily a physical battle. It’s a spiritual and internal one that can also spill over into our outer lives. Even when the Adversary uses outside attacks it’s still part of a battle for our minds, hearts and spirits. It’s well past time for Christians to recognize this and start supporting each other through the invisible battles we all face. Read more

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One Week To A Better You

My friend Cody is launching a startup business called Affirmations Coffee. Part of that project involves an encouraging blog and a short e-book titled Be Awesome: One Week To A Better You. You can get the e-book by supporting his Kickstarter, along with some other really cool rewards like this mug:

Affirmations Coffee Kickstarter

I’ve been curious about the e-book for a while now, so when Cody asked me to review it for my blog I jumped at the chance. It’s a motivational 30-page devotional with repeatable weekly tasks to help you move forward in life. I spent a week working through the book and writing down something for each day.

Survey Sunday

Sunday’s task is to plan out a schedule for the rest of your week. I’ve been using The Freelance Planner to help keep track of assignments each week, so I spent some time Sunday morning filling out my main goals for the week. Mine is a very different sort of planner than the one recommended in the e-book so my planning took a less detailed form, but it was helpful to actually fill out all the days at the beginning of the week (something I don’t always do). I also spent some time journaling that morning — a habit I’ve been meaning to get back into.

Motivation Monday

E-Book review: One Week To A Better You | marissabaker.wordpress.comMonday’s challenge is to think about what motivates you to achieve your goals. For me, it’s often quotes, scriptures, or songs that resonate with something deep inside.

This might seem odd to non-writers, but for quite some time one of the most motivating things I’ve encountered has been the song “Non-Stop” from Hamilton. That picture on the left is hanging over my desk right now, alongside John Keats’ poem “When I have fears that I may cease to be.” I suppose you could say I’m motivated by the idea that I’m running out of time to write all the stories, articles, and studies overflowing my mind.

Tranquility Tuesday

I already have a morning routine designed to build focus and calm, so Tranquility Tuesday started out with prayer, yoga, breakfast/reading (yes, those go together), and Bible study. We all need to take time for ourselves and I find that’s a good way to start every day if I want to be more productive and engaged.

Wisdom Wednesday

The Wednesday chapter reminds us to actively seek wisdom. As I mentioned before, I start every morning with Bible study so I suppose I could have just left it at that. Because of today’s theme, though, I determined to spend some extra time taking in other peoples’ perspectives, knowledge, and experience. I began reading an Enneagram book because I’ve heard the theory layers well with Myers-Briggs to give more complete pictures of personality. I took some time to read deep-thinking posts from other bloggers. And I read a chapter in Proverbs before bed.

Thankful Thursday

E-Book review: One Week To A Better You | marissabaker.wordpress.com

For today’s focus, I made a list of five things I’m thankful for. It’s not necessarily my top 5 (more like what came to mind first that morning). I’m thankful for

  • The Lord’s love and the fact that He offers us the chance to be friends with Him
  • My blog readers, family, and friends
  • Having the opportunity to dance and to help teach dance at my Messianic Congregation
  • Books. Every single one of the 1,100+ on my shelf, plus others
  • My boyfriend ❤

Fearless Friday

I really didn’t know what to do with this day. The books says to go outside your comfort zone and overcome a fear. But Friday is a whirlwind of article due-dates, blog scheduling, and baking for Shabbat. How’m I supposed to find time to identify a specific fear and conquer it today!? (somewhat ironically, I started feeling anxious just thinking about it.)

One line did resonate with me, though: “Live purposefully, not fearfully.” So my goal for Fearless Friday became not letting the little fears and anxieties that pop-up throughout the day control me.

Sabbath Saturday

Ah, the Sabbath. My favorite day of the week. Most of the day isn’t particularly “restful” for me since I leave at 9:15 to get to my morning church and pretty much go non-stop until getting home from my afternoon church around 5 or 6 that evening, but it’s a wonderful time of learning more about God and fellowshipping with brethren. And the Saturday that I worked through this book, I had a chance to spend some time after church chatting with two friends and my sister at a coffee shop, then come home and spend time with both my siblings.


I enjoyed this e-book’s daily suggestion to take time and focus on connecting with God and exploring an aspect of personal growth. You can get the book and support Cody’s Kickstarter at the same time for just $5. I also highly recommend you follow Cody’s blog and Facebook page. His positive, encouraging focus is something I think many of you would enjoy reading and appreciate seeing in your inbox or Facebook feed.

Once again, here’s the link to his Kickstarter:

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The Incredible Reasons God Gives Us For Not Being Afraid

It’s all well and good to say, “God doesn’t want you to be afraid,” like we did in last week’s post. But that doesn’t actually help much with getting rid of our fear. Even knowing He’s patient with our fearfulness doesn’t take the fear away.

Thankfully, God’s doesn’t just order, “Fear not,” and leave it at that. He offers specific promises that give us tangible reasons not to be afraid. And when we are fearful, those promises can help us overcome to act in faith despite our fears. This past week, I went through the Bible looking for all the reasons God gives for us not being afraid. There are many, but I’ve sorted them into four main categories:

The Incredible Reasons God Gives Us For Not Being Afraid Looking At Scriptural Mission Statements For People Following Jesus | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: HarveyMade via Lightstock

God Is With You

Before Moses’s death, God inspired Him to share these words with Israel:

Be strong and courageous. Don’t be afraid or scared of them; for Yahweh your God himself is who goes with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you. (Deut. 31:6, WEB)

The number one reason we have for living without fear is that God Himself is with us. And not just as a church or a group of people. Individuals can also receive this promise, as did Isaac (Gen. 26:24), Joshua (Josh. 1:9), David (Ps. 23:4), Solomon (1 Chr. 28:20), and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:8).

Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. (Is. 41:10, WEB)

God promises not to let us down or leave us alone. That means the most powerful being in existence is at your side through everything. He doesn’t leave us to figure things out on our own nor abandon us in our struggles. Read more

What Does God Have To Say About Fear?

Is being afraid a sin? I think most of us, me included, would say it isn’t sinful in and of itself. Fear is often a natural gut reaction to things happening around us, and it serves a self-preservation role. It only becomes an issue if we act on it wrongly or let it paralyze us and prevent right action. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m letting my own fears cloud my perspective on this issue. Because it seems God takes our fearfulness more seriously.

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Rev. 21:7-8, KJV)

Some translations say “cowardly” instead of “fearful,” but the Greek deilos really does mean timid or afraid. Strong’s dictionary adds that it implies faithlessness. Hence Jesus’ question, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” to the disciples in a storm (Mark 4:37-40, WEB). Is it really the case that God sees our fears and timidity as lack of faith?

What Does God Have To Say About Fear? | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: HarveyMade via Lightstock

The Right Kinds of Fear

The Bible talks about fear in both positive and negative ways. The kind of fear that is connected with reverence and respect for God and His authority is good. In fact, it’s essential.

This is the end of the matter. All has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil. (Ecc. 12:13-14, WEB)

Fear of God has long been a commanded part of following Him (Deut. 5:29; 6:2; 10:12). And in the New Testament, the apostles tell us to perfect “holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1, WEB), to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12, WEB), and to live our lives on earth “in reverent fear” (1 Pet. 1:17, WEB). Read more

Lessons From Sukkot

My family and I just got back on Thursday evening from a wonderful Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) gathering in eastern Pennsylvania. While it was packed full of spiritual lessons, there wasn’t much time for the sort of personal Bible studies that typically end up becoming blog posts on Saturdays. So today I’m just going to share a few lessons I learned this past week:

  • I can organize people. If I’d known agreeing to plan a singles/young adult activity would have ended up involving 30+ people doing 5 different activities I would have probably wanted to hide under a desk. But it all went really well and I had lots of help from people who volunteered (or had someone volunteer them) to lead some of the activities.
  • The only ancient text with anywhere near as many copies still around as there are for the Bible is Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Stacked together, the existing copies for both those works would only be a few feet tall. In contrast, a stack of all the surviving Biblical manuscripts would be so tall it’s nearly outside earth’s atmosphere. Wow! (One of the speakers shared this fact in a Bible study about the reliability of the Bible.)
  • Spending a week with my boyfriend (who joined my family and our church group for the Feast) does not make living an 8-hour drive apart any easier. I suppose it’s a good thing that I miss him so much, though, since otherwise I’d have to re-think whether or not we should be dating. In related news, my new favorite love song is “Over And Over Again.” They played it at the dance our church group hosted and not only is my boyfriend a really good dancer but he also sings ❤
  • The “fear not” reminders just keep coming at me. On the second day of Sukkot someone gave a message about why those who are “fearful” are lumped in with murderers, sorcerers, etc. as people who won’t be in God’s kingdom (Rev. 21:8). The Greek word means “timid” or “cowardly” and carries the implication of faithlessness, as in a Christian who is too scared to act in faith doesn’t trust God enough. Thankfully, we serve a God who embodies the kind of love that casts out fear and who has the strength to help us overcome fears. That’s a reminder I need as I prep for giving my second seminar (I’m actually speaking in front of people again!) in a few months.
  • It’s always interesting to look back on sermons, Bible studies, and conversations at the Feast and find common themes. This year, I noticed an emphasis on shifting our focus as we move toward God’s kingdom. Instead of just focusing on, “How can I get into God’s kingdom?” we should be thinking about, “How can I be the kind of person God wants to bring into His family?” Those thoughts are related of course, but one’s focused on what we get out of our Christian walk and the other is focused on becoming like God in how we live our lives and interact with other people.

I’ve got a few other thoughts on things I learned and heard this Feast/Sukkot, but they’d be better served by each having a blog post all to themselves so we’ll wait on that. I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week and have a fantastic weekend! I should be back to more of my usual posting routine by Monday, so I’ll “see” you then 🙂

Spiritual PTSD

Why did Elijah flee? It’s a question I’ve heard asked quite often in sermons, typically with some laughter. Elijah just faced down all the prophets of Baal, saw God work a mighty miracle, and finally got the people of Israel’s attention. Then he runs for the hills when a woman threatens him. Really? What an appalling lack of faith, right?

A few weeks ago, my sister asked, “Do you think people can have spiritual PTSD?” Post Traumatic Stress Disorder “is a serious potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed” a traumatic event such as “exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation.” That could very well be something Elijah was dealing with in this story.

click to read article, "Spiritual PTSD" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Image credit: “Elijah In The Desert” (1818) by Washington Allston

Elijah’s Traumatic Day

The first time Elijah steps on the Biblical scene, he tells one of the scariest kings to ever rule Israel, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1, KJV). We know nothing of his background save that he was a Tishbite from Gilead. What we do know is that God promptly sent him into hiding first by himself and then with a widow’s family (1 Kings 17:2-24).

I don’t know why God hid Elijah. Perhaps God wanted him to learn patience and trust. Or maybe He wanted to keep Elijah safe. Whatever the reason, there’s no indication Elijah was hesitant to come out of hiding when the Lord said, “Go” several years later. First Elijah presents himself to King Ahab, then he calls the famous meeting at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:1-20).

We often read this story and focus on God’s awesome work in demonstrating that He alone is God. Today, let’s try to see it from Elijah’s perspective. Read more