Thoughts on “STANDING FIRM” without regard for the outcome…

In 1992, theBean & I were visiting friends & ended up tagging along to an event at their church where Dick Mills was speaking to the church leadership. If you aren’t familiar with what that would entail, Dick would usually do some sort of Bible-rooted message & then have people in the gathering stand up if he had a specific word of encouragement for them… & those encouragements ALWAYS came in the form of Bible verses (which he would quote from memory,) & then he’d apply it to his targeted person(s.) TheBean & I were there just as observers, but Dick didn’t know that, & sure enough, he stopped his message & had us stand up together. He quoted 2Samuel 23:11,12:

When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it & struck the Philistines down, & the Lord brought about a great victory.

He then said something to us about being made/created to people who “stand firm,” & that we’d come out of all sorts of situations “smelling like a rose.”

Both of us really didn’t know what to do with all that… but we’ve also found what he said to be a hallmark of our lives, both personally & in the context of our ministry service/church lives. I read everything I could on “STANDING FIRM” in the Bible, & spent a lot of time trying to work out what it might mean & how it might look for us to STAND FIRM. I came to understand that part of the standing firm was worked out in our lives when we’d be in a hard spot, seemingly alone, with not much hope or encouragement, other than the promise of God being WITH us as we’d stand with/for/in Him. We both got the sense that our STANDING FIRM was about contending for a coming inheritance/the promises of God, & that part of the STANDING FIRM was for a people who weren’t there yet… people who would come later.

And for us, it made sense. So when we’d find ourselves in situations where STANDING FIRM through hard spots, that encouragement from Dick Mills served as a little bit of extra push of purpose, like we were doing not only what we were SUPPOSED to be doing, but what we were MADE to do. And that was enough.

We stand firm.

Over the last several months, I’ve been sensing something more for our call to be STANDING FIRM… & that is a call to STAND FIRM, but without holding on to an expectation that somehow, as a result of our obedience, there would be a specific, desired, EXPECTED outcome. Like, “we stand, God brings victory.”

But what if STANDING FIRM is the point & there’s no promise or expectation of a desired result? Check out the full text of Ephesians 6:10-20: 

Now, what stands out (no pun intended) to me are these verses especially:

Finally, be strong in the Lord & 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 & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world & 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, & after you have done everything, TO STAND. Ephesians 6:10-13

Notice anything about that passage (the whole thing, in context)? I did… I’d been reading something into it, an outcome, an expectation, a desired result of the STANDING FIRM. Victory. Awesomeness. Good stuff. Cause & effect(?).

But there isn’t one.

All that is promised is that as we are strong in the Lord (His version of strength & power) & as we put on the full armor of God, we will be able to STAND against our enemy, the devil, & his schemes. And that WITH this full armor of God, even through the coming of the day of evil, we’ll be able to STAND OUR GROUND, & after doing everything we can, to STAND.

That’s not bad news. It’s good news.

It makes me reconsider & rethink that my (our) call from God to STAND FIRM doesn’t hinge on me/us seeing a specific outcome; it hinges on my/our obedience. It doesn’t stop the day of evil or keep the attacks of the enemy from coming, but obedience to God’s call allows me/us to remain STANDING THROUGH it all & AFTER it all.

In His strength. In His mighty power. For His glory. For His purposes. And that is enough.

A partial list of my favorite ThoughtFormative books… & other musings… pt. 1

Sitting in my office at the end of the workday, waiting for myBean to get off so we can grab some dinner… And I’m thinking about the things that have shaped many of my thought processes & formed a bit of who I am/am becoming. And I coined a new word: ThoughtFormative. I’m looking into trademarking it, but feel free to use it royalty-free for the time being. Try doing that with “3-peat.” Pat Riley (C’mon ! Really?)

Anyway, one of the ‘things’ that have been so ThoughtFormative in my life are books. Books have always been my 1st “free time” choice… & I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pass some information (or a point of view, or a new idea, etc…) & I’ve done it by giving someone a book. If you’ve ever gotten a book from me, you can know it is one of the Best ways I can think of to say, “I love you. I care about you. This has helped me, & I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”

So, I’m going to do a very, very, partial list, 5 or so..(consider it part 1?) of the most ThoughtFormative books I’ve ever read… (or of the books that have read me. Dr. Evil face with my pinky curved by my mouth*(I wonder how pretentious that sounds. In my head I picture it more as a little bit funny way to say something & then make a , which would have been preceded by an imaginary mic drop. But I digress.) DISCLAIMER: I am not going to include the Bible on my list. For a similar reason that I wouldn’t include Jesus Christ on a list of “People From History I’d Really Like To Meet:” I KNOW Him. I HAVE met Him. And I talk to Him all the time, & a part of me *double-facepalms  every time I hear a well-meaning follower of Christ say, “I’d really like to have met Jesus…” Maybe it’s that we’re such Thomas’ that we want to SEE, in the flesh… which would make it like really MEETING Him. But I usually keep those thoughts to myself, because when I say stuff like that out loud, I am inevitably misunderstood & thought to be a Pagan & a Judger (both of which are not true. Mostly.) The Bible IS my list – & all of the books on my list point to or remind me of, or illustrate something beautiful, some Scriptural concept, some life-giving way of ThoughtFormative-ness. (Not saying I’m equating my list with the Bible, or claiming these titles are God-breathed. Felt I had to say that.)

The plan is to list a book with one of the reasons I believe it is/was so ThoughtFormative to my life… or a something (or 2) that I immediately think of when I see the book’s title. So here goes:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis – These kids classics from CS Lewis were the 1st real books I can remember reading through. I immediately think of a quote from the 1st book, The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, in reference to Aslan, Lewis’ Christ figure:  “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about SAFE? ‘Course he isn’t SAFE. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Reminds me that Christ is NOT a Christian bookstore bumper-sticker version of Himself, easily grasped, understood, & known in His entirety. He is fierce. He is gentle. He’s not safe & life following Him is anything but… But He is GOOD.
  • The Space Trilogy – C.S. Lewis – I’m struck by how the main character, Elwin Ransom (referred to as “Ransom” 99% of the time,) finds himself in situations not of his own making or choosing where he gets to stand for good & against a malevolent evil. Standing firm is a big theme for me & my life. (Finding out Ransom was based on Lewis’ dear friend Tolkien only makes me love this more.)
  • A Wrinkle In Time – Madeline L’Engle – A phenomenally written book (series) with a conflict of good & evil, where power, intimidation, & hate are overcome by love.
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien – I didn’t read these books until I was in my 30s. Now I try to read through these once a year – esp. when I’m traveling. My lot in life, my calling reminds me a lot of Frodo, & is summed up in an exchange Frodo has with Gandalf about WHY he, a small, seemingly inconsequential hobbit, is the one that will carry the One Ring to Mordor to destroy it in the Cracks of Doom: “Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
  • Love, Acceptance, & Forgiveness – Jerry Cook – This book transformed my (warped/undeveloped) view of Church & the purpose for her existence. It isn’t about building a big gathering. It isn’t about celebrating a few talented individuals. It isn’t a social club. The Church are Jesus’ ministering representatives on earth, meant to guarantee His love, acceptance, & forgiveness to EVERY person encountered. Sometimes people had an issue with this stance, believing the Church instead was supposed to take a STAND for righteousness, making sure to “love the sinner & hate the sin,” etc…  What gets missed in that kind of a STAND, is that people will fall through the cracks because they don’t measure up to be able to enter such an institution. That kind of a STAND makes the Church a little more exclusive, a little more ‘holy’ than Christ intended it to be. (By ‘holy’ I mean the Church not associating with the kind of people with bad reputations & obvious sin issues… the very people Christ came to save.)  Jerry said: “Love is NOT license. Acceptance is NOT agreement. Forgiveness is NOT compromise.” This book started a life-long journey for me, a life of practical, applicable, LIVED OUT Christ-likeness. And one of my life highlights happened on my birthday a few years ago, Jerry told me in front of the church I pastor, “You, Louie, are a little piece of Jesus. And you live this love, acceptance, & forgiveness as good as anyone I know.” I will never forget that. And it inspires me to keep living it.

What books have been the most ThoughtFormative to you in your life?


Forgiven. Think about it.

If we confess our sins, our God, through His Son Jesus Christ, forgives us, cleanses us, & justifies us (makes it as though we’d never sinned at all). 1John 1:7-10; Romans 5:1

Forgiven. Made right with God. By His grace. Through faith. Not a feeling. A fact.

The problem is, we have an adversary, our enemy the devil. Revelation 12:10 reveals that this enemy stands before God, day & night making accusations against us. What does he accuse us of?

The things we’ve done wrong. Our failures. Short-comings. Inadequacies. Unfaithfulness. Unworthiness. Our sins.

He digs through our past/present & throws things at us in the form of thoughts, flinging them our way like fiery darts. He uses people – all kinds of people – Christian people to taunt, provoke, accuse, defame, & malign.

It is going to happen – so what is our response? What do we do when a very real area of sin is thrown back at us to attempt to remind us of ‘who we really are?”

We remember.

We are forgiven. Not according to our merits. Not because we earned it. Not just until we mess up again.

Forgiven. By grace. Through faith. In Christ Jesus.

When I’m assaulted with the condemnations of the accuser, I renew my mind (Romans 12:1,2). To me, this means I revisit & rehearse Scripture  (Psalm 119:9-11). I pray, thanking God for His gift of grace to me & His work of grace in my life (Ephesians 2:4-10). I pray in the Spirit, building myself up in my heart & mind. (Ephesians 3:14-21). I actively submit myself to God, & actively resist the accuser (James 4:7), speaking out loud saying, “I’ve been washed, sanctified (made holy) & justified (made right with God) in & by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 6:11)

Forgiven. Think about it. Thank the Lord for it.